Archive | January, 2013

Chicken Satay Stir Fry with Orange Rice

31 Jan

Chicken Satay Stir Fry with Orange Rice 009

I want to hate Rachael Ray, I really do.  But I have to admit that I have yet to make a recipe of hers that isn’t good.  For many of the “celebrity” chefs and hosts, it follows that they have to have something that makes them popular or “TV worthy.”  And with few exceptions, when I make one of their recipes, I am usually pretty happy with it, whether or not I dilly and dally with it on a fit of whimsy.   As I get older, I am down with taking a tour bus, just like I am down with listening to someone who has an excellent idea or angle or dish.  In essence, I have no loss of pride or penis size in following a celebrity’s recipe, and neither should you.  So, while Rachael Ray’s scratchy voice might make me run to a cab if I had to engage in pillow talk with it, I welcome her recipes with gusto.

Such is the case with this Chicken Satay recipe (  I took liberties with it, to be sure, and it’s pretty damn good.  I harvested some of my oranges the other day, and I am always down with Thai food with a peanut sauce, so this recipe came out in a search, and it’s a keeper.

I tried to find the nutritional value of it and found little, really.  One website said that 1/2 of my recipe would be an old Weight Watchers 4, but just the stir fry (Points Plus can fuck off).  So, does that mean the sauce too, or just the stir fry?  The bastards, they weren’t specific.  But I would guess that 1/3 of my recipe below would be an old Weight Watchers 8, with rice and sauce.  The reason I say this is because there really isn’t much fat in it; the peanuts and peanut butter, and maybe some of the honey, are the only ingredients that make the calories go up. When all is said and done (and I’m a guy, so I can get away with it on Weight Watchers), give it a 9 or a 10 on old Weight Watchers.

I also learned that this is another great way to cook rice, and I will experiment with it in the future.  I have always been an oil-in-the-pan-and-then-the-rice-and-the-water sort of guy.  But her way works well here.  I did try to forget the scratchy voice telling me what to do, and I thank the local wine industry for helping with that.

The prep work is fun with this.  Just get all of the veggies ready to go, and get the rice cooked, and the rest is easy as pie.  You don’t even have to use EVOO, thank god.

Chicken Satay Stir Fry with Orange Rice

Serves 3 to 4

Orange Rice Ingredients:

2 cups rice, rinsed

the zest of 2 oranges

3 3/4 cups water

Makin’ the Rice:

In a saucepan, heat the water with the orange zest until boiling.  Add the rice and return to a boil.  Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 18 minutes.  Uncover it and fluff it with a fork.  It’s ready to serve at this point.

Chicken Stir Fry Ingredients:

2 tbsp. oil, canola or vegetable or peanut, dude

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1″ pieces, and doused with a few squirts o’ soy sauce for good measure

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, smashed well with the flat side of a knife

1 bell pepper, sliced into strips (take out the seeds and the membranes, wise guy)

2 carrots, peeled, and cut into 2″ matchsticks (totally fun to do)

1 bunch of green onions, ends removed and cut into 2″ pieces on an angle

1 cup green beans (partially cooked) or snow peas (note: I hate snow peas, so partially cooked green beans are a great substitute for them in a stir fry for me)

Makin’ the Stir Fry:

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over high heat until hot.  Add the chicken, onions, and garlic.  Saute this for about 5 minutes until the chicken is browned and the onions are wilting a bit.

Add the rest o’ the veggies and saute this for about 6 to 9 minutes.  I actually covered the skillet for a few minutes because I’m anal about the chicken being cooked, but that’s me.  After about 8 minutes, it should be ready to go.  Meanwhile, get the sauce done.

Satay Peanut Sauce Ingredients:

4 tbsp. peanut butter (if you have chunky, great.  If not, add a few tablespoons of chopped peanuts)

3 tbsp. soy sauce

3 tbsp. honey

2 inch chunk of ginger root, peeled and minced

1 clove of garlic, either pressed or minced finely

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

the juice of 1 medium orange (use one of the ones you zested, wise guy)

Makin’ the Sauce:

Combine all of the ingredients and stir it over medium-low heat.  Use a whisk to really get this mixed and don’t let it burn.

To put it all together, take a scoop or two o’ rice and put it on the plate.  Put 1/4 to 1/3 of the stir fry on the plate next to it.  Take a few good spoonfuls o’ the sauce (1/4 to a 1/3 of it, duh) and drizzle it over everything, or just the stir fry, if you’re weird like that. You’ll get this:

Chicken Satay Stir Fry with Orange Rice 016

This tickled our taints.  It’s filling, flavorful, exotic, nutritious, and elegant.  No sriracha, soy, or any other condiment was needed.  So a big thank you to Rachael Ray, and may your scratchy voice remain at a bar and not in a cab ride home with me after gin and tonics.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013


Meatballs and Sauce #2

27 Jan

Meatballs and Sauce #2 006

Nothing says “I love you” like sauce and balls, except maybe when you say “I love you” out loud.  Go figure.

As I have said previously, I have a few versions of Italian sauce with meatballs.  The meatballs in this recipe are mine; I winged it (I wang it? I had wung it?) based on my go-to recipe, and I came up with a keeper.  Like a lot of Italian cooking, it’s a matter of talking to people, trading ideas, yelling to some degree, drinking more wine, and then putting it all together to get a kick-ass meal for which everyone wants to give you a reach around.

The sauce recipe is from a book my brother bought me for XMas called The Meatball Shop Cookbook (  Like all of the cookbooks I get from my brother, it’s exceptional.  And today is his 105th birthday, so I figured I’d make it a tribute of sorts.

The wife and I are in the midst of doing Weight Watchers, so most good Italian food is out the window.  But, for tonight, I made a low-carb veggie pasta, and the sauce and balls aren’t bad.  We controlled the portions, so we won’t be too off for indulging a bit.

The Sauce (basically the “Classic Tomato Sauce” from The Meatball Shop Cookbook):

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 tbsp. tomato paste

2 28 oz. cans whole, peeled tomatoes, chopped with their juices

Makin’ It:

(Note: I have a big-ass cast iron pot/ Dutch oven that I got at T.J. Maxx that does the trick for everything, especially sauce).

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions.  Cook them for a few minutes, and then add the bay leaf, oregano, garlic, salt, and red pepper.  Cook this for 8 more minutes until the onions are soft and translucent and happy, stirring fairly often.  Add the tomato paste and cook this for a few more minutes, stirring often.  Add the chopped tomatoes and get this to a simmer.  Lower the heat and cook it for another hour, stirring every so often to keep it from sticking to the pot.  If you want to time it right, have the meatballs done after 45 minutes of the sauce cooking, and have the pasta cooked by the time the hour’s up.  Taste the sauce for salt before you serve it.  Pass the parmigiano.

The Balls:

1 lb. ground beef (I even used 90% lean and it was awesome.)

3 cloves garlic, minced well

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp. dill

1/2 cup parmesan

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 tsp. dried parsley

1/2 cup to 2/3 cup dried bread crumbs

a drizzle of olive oil

Makin’ It:

Preheat the oven to 450°.  In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the meat and the breadcrumbs.  Add in the meat, and then add in 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs.  Wash your hands and then mix this with your hand by squishing it all together with reckless abandon.  The key is this:  meatballs need to be wet, to a degree.  If it’s too dry, add some water or milk.  If it’s too wet, add more breadcrumbs.  If it’s right, your hand should be wet a bit after you squish…you’ll know when you feel it.  If it feels paste-y, it’s too dry.

Take a 9″x 9″ baking dish (or something like it),  and spray it with cooking spray or grease it.  Take about a 1/3 cup of the meat mixture and roll it into a ball, about the size in between a golf ball and a baseball.  Keep a glass of water near you to moisten your hands as you do it.  Repeat this until you’ve rolled all of the balls and have them fairly snug in the baking dish.  Drizzle them with olive oil.  Bake this for 20 minutes.

When ’tis done, remove the dish and put the balls in the simmering sauce for another 15+ minutes.  To serve, remove the balls to a separate dish and top with some of the sauce.

These are great for sandwiches or for pasta, so knock yourself out.  Pass the parmigiano.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

WW Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

24 Jan

Thai Chicken Satay 17

If I served this at my house to a guest, they would never know it’s a Weight Watchers recipe unless I told them.  I love when I find new WW recipes that are actually good.  It’s also funny how one ingredient can fuel a search for a recipe, and the result is a dish that I will make regularly from here on out.  Such is the case with this Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce.

I always love when my wife goes shopping because I open up the cabinets or fridge to surprises.  For this day, I had some chicken breasts thawed, so my mind was going through the normal rigmarole of figuring out what to make with them.  I opened the cabinets and, voila! a jar of peanuts there lurked.  Immediately, chicken satay with a peanut sauce came into my head (I sound like that show Chopped about now, which may mean I’m a jackass).

I have said before that I wasn’t raised exposed a ton of Asian food, so I jump at the chance to learn new Asian dishes.  I remembered this Thai restaurant on Bolsa Chica Road in Huntington Beach, California, to which some friends brought us years ago, and I had satay for the first time.  I fell in love with it, yet I have had it few times since then, my present hometown being bereft of most Asian culture to a distressing degree.  Gladly, I will now have it on a regular basis, and with not much guilt, either.

On a side note about the Weight Watchers recipes from their actual website, which this recipe is, I have to say that WW makes me giggle sometimes.  They have recipes that, had I followed them to a T, would totally suck.  For example, this recipe calls for veggies, like bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions, to be interspersed between the chicken chunks on the skewers.  This is stupid.  Everything has different grilling times, so the result would be probably a mess AND a pain in the ass to eat.  I made a skewer of onions and kept the chicken on their own skewers.

Weight Watchers says that each skewer with 3 tablespoons of the sauce AND 1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds is a 6 on the Points Plus system, which I do not use and which can fuck off profoundly.  I would figure it’s a 5 on the old system.  Moreover, as always, I made some changes.  I did not use the sesame seeds, which I know doesn’t change the point value, really, but it has to help.  I served it with 1/2 cup of white rice, which is a 2, and I made some of my Asian green beans (, which adds another 1.  So, kids, it’s an 8 total with one skewer, but it was so good that I ate two of them, so a 13 for dinner ’twas, and I have no problem with that.

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

Serves 2 with 2 skewers each or 4 with one skewer each.

Satay Ingredients:

(get 4 bamboo skewers soaking in water for at least 30 minutes before you start threading the chicken on them)

2 uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes

3 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tsp. cooking oil (I used canola, but it called for peanut oil, so whatever)

2 tbsp. chopped parsley or cilantro (I used 2 tsp. dried parsley because that’s what I had)

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 chunk of fresh ginger (about 2 inches worth), peeled and sliced, if you have it (if not, no biggie)

1/4. tsp freshly ground black pepper

a few sliced green onions for garnish

Makin’ the Skewers:

In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the chicken and mix well.  Add the chicken and mix it well, too.  Cover it and marinade it for at least 30 minutes but up to a day, stirring it every so often.  When ready, thread the chicken pieces on the skewers so that they’re fairly snug on there.  Discard the marinade.  Heat a grill or grill pan (I use medium high here), and grease it with cooking spray.  Grill the skewers for about 16 minutes total, turning them every few minutes so that they are cooked evenly and on each side.

Make the peanut sauce as you are grilling.

Peanut Sauce Ingredients:

1 tsp. olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tbsp. tomato paste

2 tbsp. water

1/4 cup peanut butter

1/8 cup chopped peanuts

(conversely, you can use chunky peanut butter and omit the peanuts)

3/4 cup low fat milk

Makin’ the Sauce:

Heat the oil a small nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add the onions and cook them until they’re soft, about 4 minutes or so.  In a small bowl, combine the tomato paste, chili powder, and the water.  Mix it well so it looks like ketchup.  Add it to the onions in the pan and stir it for a minute so it gets happy.  Stir in the peanut butter, peanuts, and the milk.    Reduce the heat and cook it for about 4 minutes until the sauce thickens. Taste for salt.  Serve this as a dipping sauce in small bowls for the chicken skewers.

Thai Chicken Satay 1

As a garnish, I topped it with sliced green onions.  If you want spice, add some chopped jalapenos or cayenne to the peanut sauce.  I put some sriracha on the rice, but the peanut sauce and skewers were so damn good that they needed nothing else.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Chicken and Mushroom Crepes Made Easy

22 Jan


Crepes used to scare me.  They appear so thin and dainty and vulnerable, like I was when I went to France while backpacking around Europe in my early twenties.  But unlike crepes, I was a pussy back then.  Through time, crepes have stayed the same, but I think I have changed, especially considering that I can and will make crepes whenever I goddamn well feel like it, and with channeled abandon, no less. To boot, I am no longer thin, dainty, and vulnerable.  Crepes daunt me not, and they shouldn’t you either.  They’re just thin pancakes with a French accent, kids.

Dinner with Jonny (more specifically, Jonny) will be heading down the Weight Watchers path for a few months (or longer) in order to negate the lovely pounds I have gained back over the holidays.  This dinner started out as a Weight Watchers meal.  I made a WW chicken and mushroom crepes dish a few years back and we were pleasantly surprised that it was pretty damn good.  I felt like making them again today with a light side salad to round it out.

I found a pseudo-Weight Watchers recipe from a long time ago, and I liked the way it read, so it served as my base, but I really improvised quite a bit on this one.  That’s why I think the Weight Watchers idea for this dish is out the window.  It’s not bad, but if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s probably not a dish to be making regularly.

Make the crepes first, and they can sit in a stack under paper towels for a while as you get the filling together.

Chicken and Mushroom Crepes a la Jonny

Serves 4 to 6

Crepes (taken from the New Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook)


2 beaten eggs

1 1/2 cups low fat milk

1 cup flour

1 tbsp. cooking oil

1/4 tsp. salt

Makin’ ’em:

Whisk all of the ingredients together until it’s a smooth batter.  Heat a small, non-stick skillet, around 6″, over medium-high heat.

Take it off the heat, spray it with cooking spray, and then drop in 2 to 3 tablespoons of the batter.  Tilt the pan and swirl the batter so it covers the bottom (it will look like a thin pancake).  Cook this, without flipping it, until it’s dry on top (almost shiny) and brownish on the bottom, about 1 to 2 minutes for each one.  In other words, you only cook one side.  It takes a few to get the hang of it, so don’t sweat it.  As you make them, re-spray the pan with cooking spray as needed.

Stack them on paper towels as you make them and then set them aside until you’re ready to use them.

Chicken and Mushroom Filling


6 tsp. margarine

1 small onion, diced (about a cup)

2 cups mushrooms, sliced

1/8 cup dry white wine (I used prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine)

1/4 cup flour

2 cups water

1/4 light sour cream

3 chicken or vegetable stock cubes, crumbled

2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I roasted them at 400° for 35 minutes.  I sprinkled salt and pepper on them first, rubbed them with a bit of olive oil, and then put them in.)  You need about 3 to 4 cups of chicken, when all is said and done, however you get there.

1 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 cup frozen peas

2 scallions, sliced, for garnish

Makin’ It:

In a large skillet or medium saucepan, melt the margarine.  Throw in the onions and cook them until they’re soft, about 3 minutes.  Add the sliced mushrooms and saute them for another 3 minutes.  Add the wine and cook it for 2 minutes longer.

Add the flour and mix it in there really well.  Cook this for 3 more minutes, stirring constantly.  It will get to be a light brown at the end of it, and it will be somewhat dry.  Stir in the water, and then the sour cream, and then sprinkle in the stock cubes and stir well.  Bring this to a boil.

Reduce the heat and cook it for 5 minutes or so.  Then, add in the chicken, thyme, and pepper.  Let it cook another 3 minutes (I am noticing lots of threes. Possibly it’s a biblical recipe I remembered from reading the Pentateuch all those years ago…).  Stir in the frozen peas and, get this, cook it for another 3 minutes.

The filling is done now.  Take a crepe and put about 1/4 cup of the chicken and mushroom mixture in it and roll it up nicely.  Spoon some of the sauce over it and then sprinkle the scallions over them.  Bob’s your uncle.


These are savory, filling, and altogether delightful.  I served it with a salad topped with a light vinaigrette, which was perfect.

If you have left over crepes, you can make a quickie dessert, even if it’s just spreading some jam on one and rolling it up.  It’s good that way.  I had one left, so I spread some peanut butter on it, drizzled some chocolate syrup, and rolled it up.  Sounds ghetto, but try it and you’ll see who’s ghetto.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Idiot-Proof Spanish Rice

18 Jan

Spanish Rice 2

There are a million recipes for Spanish rice out there.  The one I found in the New Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook nails it for me, with a few variations, of course.

I think the best part about this recipe is that it is, indeed, idiot-proof.  If you know how to chop an onion and open a can, then you’ve got it.  It takes 1/2 an hour from start to finish, and everyone’s happy when they get it.  If you do Weight Watchers on the old system, it’s a 3 for 3/4 of a cup, which is a good deal because this is filling.

I serve this with any Mexican meal, from burritos to enchiladas to tostadas to whatever.  You can make this a meal unto itself; grill up some chicken or chorizo, slice it up, and put it on top of a portion of this rice, and Bob’s your uncle.

Idiot-Proof Spanish Rice


2 tbsp. olive oil

3/4 cup chopped onion (use a variety, if you have them…it makes it muy sexy)

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper (for whatever reason, I’m always out when I make this, so I just omit it totally and it’s just fine)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 heaping tbsp. chili powder (heaping means a big one, wise guy)

2 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes, undrained (or the equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes, of course, chopped and their juices saved)

1 cup water

3/4 cup uncooked and washed white rice

1 4 oz. can diced green chilies, undrained

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 black pepper or to taste

About 5 dashes of a vinegary hot pepper sauce, like Tabasco (not Tapatio)

1/2 cup green or black olives, sliced

Makin’ It:

In a large skillet that has a lid, get the oil hot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, peppers (if you’re using them), and garlic.  Saute these until they’re tender, about 7 to 9 minutes.  Add the chili powder.  Stir and cook it for 1 minute more.

Add the washed rice and stir it around in there for a minute; it makes the rice happy.  Then, add the rest of the ingredients except the olives.  Stir it well, turn up the heat, and get it boiling. Once it’s boiling, cover it and reduce the heat.  Simmer it like this for 25 minutes, or until the rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Transfer it to a serving bowl and top with the sliced olives, like this:

Spanish Rice 1

Notice that I sliced martini olives for this.  It was a school night, or those olives would have (should have) been in a martini.  Ah, the sacrifices I make…

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Mexican Corn Cake

18 Jan

Mexican Corn Cake 1 (1)

If you’ve ever been to El Torito, especially El Torito Grill, you’ve had this beautifully sweet and savory corn cake.  Speaking for myself (and countless others, I would guess), I could eat this and forego dinner, but I would have cream corn oozing from my eye sockets by the end of the night for sure.

Mexican Corn Cake is totally easy to make and it has a lot of variations.  I found the basis for the recipe below online, for example, and I found many like it just a tad different, like mine will be.  Jiffy Cornbread Mix can be bought in a six pack for next to nothing, but any cornbread mix, I would guess, would work, as would the recipe for cornbread on the side of a corn meal can, sans the liquids.

Mexican Corn Cake

(Serves 2 if you’re greedy, or 5 to 6 if you actually have class)


1 7 to 9 oz. package of cornbread mix

1/3 cup butter, melted

1/4 water

1 15 oz. can creamed corn

Makin’ It:

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Combine the cornbread mix and the melted butter.  Add the water and the creamed corn and mix it well.  Pour this in a 1 quart loaf pan (just the standard one, wise guy).

Bake it for 45 minutes and a toothpick will come out clean.  You want it to be juicy.

To serve, use an ice cream scoop.

Note:  If you want to add a small can of diced green chilies to this, it will work too.  Like I said, there are multitudinous variations.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Chicken Saagwala

16 Jan

Chicken Saagwala 011

Yeah, I never heard of it either when I came across this recipe on the Weight Watchers website.  When I read through it, though, I saw the spices, the chicken, and the spinach, and I thought that it had to be at least worth a shot.  I was right.  I have made this on a regular basis for years now.  It’s good for you, it has roughage, and it’s got a spicy pizzazz, which of course is a word that people need to use more often.  Hopefully, because of reading this recipe, you will integrate pizzazz back into your vocabulary.  More importantly, this recipe manages to make interesting the ever-boring boneless, skinless, chicken breast and give it some soul.

On the old Weight Watchers, each serving is 5 points.  That serving, though, is a giant 1 1/2 cups.  Serve it with a 1/2 cup of white rice, and you have an old Weight Watchers 8, and you will be busting your seams, seriously.  It makes a great lunch the next day, too.

I add a bunch of Sriracha to this when I eat it.  The fresh, chopped cilantro gives this an edge as well.  If you like Indian spice and that “fresh” feeling for dinner, this is your ticket.  This is my variation of the WW recipe found all over the web.  I basically take it and up the spices to make it bitch-slap you a bit more.

Chicken Saagwala

Serves 4


2 tbsp. olive oil

5 tsp. curry powder

1 heaping tsp. coriander (heaping means that it’s a big one, wise guy)

1/2 to 1 tsp. cumin, which smells like sex

3 tbsp. fresh, minced ginger

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 lb. raw boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 1/2″ chunks

2 large tomatoes seeded and chopped, or 1 can of diced tomatoes, drained

10 oz. fresh spinach leaves, rinsed

1 tsp. salt

1/4 cup water (if needed)

fresh, chopped cilantro as a garnish and for flavor

Makin’ It:

Mix together the curry, coriander, cumin, garlic, and ginger.  Over medium to medium high heat, heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large non-stick skillet that has a cover (you will need it later).  Add the mixture and cook this for 2 to 3 minutes until  they get all happy and fragrant.  It will look like this:

Chicken Saagwala 002

The mixture will absorb all of the oil, as you can see.  So you need to add the other tablespoon of oil to the pan and then add the chicken chunks.  Stir this well to coat the chicken pieces in the spices.  The result looks pretty, as you will see.

Add the tomatoes and cover the pan.  Keep this on medium heat.  Let it cook like this for 10 minutes.  Uncover the skillet and stir it well.

Add the spinach at this point, cover it, and don’t stir it, like this:

Chicken Saagwala 005

It might look like a lot of spinach, but it’s alright, even if you have to stuff it down a bit at first. Cover this again and let it cook for 5 minutes more.  The spinach will wilt quite a bit.  After the five minutes, stir it again and add the salt. Add the water if it seems dry; if not, fuck it.

In a shallow bowl, shape a 1/2 cup of rice to your liking.  Spoon the portion of saagwala around it, top it with cilantro and sriracha (if that blows your hair back), and serve.  You’ll get this:

Chicken Saagwala 011


Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013