Tag Archives: chinese

WW Chinese Pineapple Chicken

27 Sep

Weight Watchers Pineapple Chicken 015

How many wagons have you fallen off of? Have you fallen off of the sweets wagon? The alcohol wagon? The Friends reruns until 4 a.m. wagon? The “I’m tired of being treated like shit” wagon?

Eventually, we all find ourselves looking at the tread indentations of that friggin’ wagon trailing away from us while mud is kicked up into our faces. We’ve fallen off. A particularly erotic eclair spreads its legs like an elusive crush, or that box o’ See’s candies bares its nickel-shaped nipples like a shameless Brad Pitt seducing Geena Davis; or a bad day requires a friend named Martini and the rest is Absolut history; or a sleepless evening can only be comforted by Ross and Rachel and Phoebe and Janice; or perhaps you don’t know what being treated nicely feels like, so you’ll take shit over nothing.

The expression is an old one (early 1900’s, to be exact), yet we apply it to so many areas in our lives that require restraint, reflection, admission, and determination, at some point. Should you feel misery and self-loathing when you fall off? Fuck no. Get back on when you can and try not to make the same mistake twice, and if you do, get back on and try not to make the same mistake thrice, and if you do, get back on and don’t make the same mistake…..you get it. Keep tryin’, kid. You’ll get there.

I fall off of the Weight Watchers wagon regularly. Do I get pissed at myself? Yeah, but not enough to damage me permanently or make me wallow in a maelstrom of guilt. I’ve learned to enjoy dusting myself off, to be honest. It builds character.

I mention this because this Chinese Pineapple Chicken dish was the first Weight Watchers meal I ever made when finally, at 60 pounds above my “normal” weight, I got on the wagon and actually tried to help myself. I signed up for Weight Watchers, weighed in, went to meetings, stopped being a pussy, started walking a lot, and, fifty pounds later, was healthier.

And I’m glad this dish was the first because it’s excellent. If it sucked, I would have fallen off the wagon within a week. This dish gave me some hope, and it also made me realize that my “cooking” mind was way, way too narrow. There are plenty of ways to enjoy and indulge in good food without feeling after every meal like a goose being prepped for foie gras harvesting.

I got this recipe out of one of the first brochures that I received when I signed up for Weight Watchers. This recipe serves four, and each portion is a 6 on the old WW system (PointPlus and 360° can fuck off non-haltingly).

Note: Asian Black Bean Sauce favors vary, so find one that you dig, and go with it.

Chinese Pineapple Chicken

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Cooking Spray

1 bunch of scallions (green onions), trimmed and sliced thinly

1 tbsp. chopped, fresh ginger (do not substitute for this)

1 tbsp. minced garlic

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

2 cups crushed pineapple or pineapple chunks, packed in juice

1/4 cup Asian black bean sauce

2 cups cooked brown or white rice (I used brown rice in the pictures; it has more fiber, holmes.)

Makin’ It:

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and coat it with cooking spray. Add in the scallions, ginger, and garlic. Saute and stir this for about 4 minutes until it’s nice and pungent. Add in the chicken and saute it until it’s browned and almost cooked through, about 7-8 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add in the pineapple (juice and all) and the Asian black bean sauce. Stir it all together well. Get this to a simmer, lower the heat to medium, and cook it, stirring often, until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 5 to 8 minutes more.

Put 1/2 cup of rice on each plate, and divide the Chinese Pineapple Chicken amongst the four plates. You might get this:

Weight Watchers Pineapple Chicken 010

I put sriracha on the rice because I like spice to kick me in the nuts a bit.

It’s easy, fantastically tasty, and a good place to learn how to stay on the wagon.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

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Garlic Chicken Stir Fry

24 Jul

Garlic Chicken 022

Somewhere along the line, and I am thinking Emeril had a lot to do with this, people started going crazy with the garlic. I mention Emeril because every time he would add garlic to a recipe he was preparing, people started cheering in a “you shouldn’t do that, but fuck yeah” sort of way. In other words, it seemed that adding excess garlic to a dish became the equivalent of a Jagermeister shot at last call.

About 3 hours north of us in Gilroy, California, there is a garlic festival every year which draws thousands of people who get to sample everything from garlic bread to garlic ice cream. The health benefits of garlic have made headlines throughout the years as well. In an excellent memoir called Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years, the two centenarian African-American women attest to eating a chopped raw garlic clove and cod liver oil every morning, which was one of their secrets to longevity.

The Stinking Rose is a restaurant to which I have been both in San Francisco and Beverly Hills, and they specialize in festooning almost every dish with garlic. When you arrive, a jar of spreadable garlic awaits you on the table and the saturation just mounts from there: 40 Clove Chicken, Gnocchi in a garlic cream sauce, garlic fish and chips, and the obligatory garlic ice cream which, for me, works only as a novelty. When my wife and I went there for dinner some years ago, people nosed us for days afterward and seemed to pirouette away from us when we bid them “HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHIiiiiiii” in an”H” heavy, breathy voice. I chased them and my wife shook her head at me.

This garlic chicken recipe is garlicky, of course, but not to a level leading to the ostacization we experienced. I gleaned this from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook and didn’t really mess with it much because it’s solid.  In fact, a portion of this with a 1/2 cup o’ rice is a 6 on the Old Weight Watchers system (PointsPlus and 360° can fuck off interminably). This is quick-to-make, filling, light, and will give you a garlic fix should you need one.

Garlic Chicken Stir Fry

Makes 4 Servings

Old Weight Watchers Value: 6

Ingredients:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1 cup water

3 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. rice or white wine vinegar

1 tbsp. cornstarch

2 tbsp. oil

10 green onions, sliced into 1″ pieces

1 cup sliced mushrooms

12 cloves garlic (or more), peeled and finely chopped

1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts (1/2 of a can drained)

2 cups hot cooked rice

Makin’ It:

Cut the chicken breasts into small pieces (1/2″) and put them in a resealable plastic bag. In a small bowl, stir together the water, soy sauce, and vinegar. Pour this over the chicken, seal the bag, and refrigerate it for 30 minutes or more. Drain the chicken and reserve the marinade. Whisk the cornstarch into the reserved marinade and set it aside for later.

In a large nonstick skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the green onions, mushrooms, and garlic and cook them for 2 minutes or so, until they’re tender. Remove these vegetables from the skillet and set them aside.

Now add the chicken to the skillet, cooking and stirring until it’s no longer pink, about 4 minutes or so. Push the chicken to the side of the skillet, give a quick stir to that reserved marinade (so the cornstarch doesn’t settle at the bottom), and pour it into the center of the skillet. Cook this until it’s thickened and bubbly (like Kim Kardashian), and then push the chicken back into the center and mix it all together. Return all of the veggies to the skillet and add the water chestnuts, too. Cook and stir this for a few minutes more and serve with rice.

Garlic Chicken 011

You can add cashews, too, but the WW points value will go up, of course. Piece of cake.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Sesame Chicken Soba Noodle Salad

13 Apr

Chicken Soba Noodle Salad

I have mentioned many times that joining Weight Watchers yields some exemplary recipes and materials.  What’s interesting, though, is that a lot of their published recipes do not seem to be made by people who cook a lot.  Timing and portion sizes, particularly, are often off a bit, which is fine if you know how to adjust accordingly…or if you read Dinner with Jonny, which seeks to ameliorate those deficiencies.

This recipe a goddamn keeper because of it’s versatility.  It can be a main dish served warm or, served cold, an easy crowd pleaser for a pot luck or a side in an Asian feast.  It’s best if you put it together and let it get happy in the fridge for a while so the flavors mingle and intensify. I love doubling the recipe, portioning it out, and eating it for lunch during the week.  It’s light, filling, and packs wonderful flavors.

The booklet from which I gleaned this recipe gives each portion a 5 on the old WW points system (Points Plus and 360° can fuck off) if you use 2 oz. of noodles.  The noodles are the best part, so I double the noodles and add 2 points, making it on or about a 7. Serve it with a green veggie of some sort to round it all out. Easy as a porn star with a car payment due.

Sesame Chicken Soba Noodle Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients:

5 oz. buckwheat soba noodles (any thin noodle will do, even spaghetti, but adjust the points accordingly for WW)

1 tbsp. rice vinegar

1 tbsp. honey

3 tsp. soy sauce

2 tsp. grated fresh ginger

1 tsp. sriracha (optional)

1 tsp. sesame oil

1 grilled or roasted boneless chicken breast, sliced

1 bunch green onions, sliced

2 carrots, peeled and sliced into very thin coins

2 tbsp. chopped cilantro (optional)

1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

Makin’ It:

Boil the noodles according to the package.

While the noodles are a-boiling, in a small bowl whisk together the vinegar, honey, soy sauce, ginger, and sriracha (if using). Set it aside.

Drain the noodles and quickly toss them with the sesame oil.  Add in the vinegar mixture, the chicken breast slices, the carrots, and the green onions. Toss with well and make sure you get the veggies mixed in there thoroughly (it’s a bit tough to do, as you’ll see). Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and cilantro (if using).

Chicken Soba Noodle Salad 4

This is a perfect spring or summer dish, and it’s virtually guilt free.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Ginger Chicken with Mushrooms

16 Mar

Ginger Chicken with Mushrooms 3

The five or so local grocery stores all know me on a first name basis. I go to the market six days out of the week, sometimes twice a day if I forget something.  I didn’t think much about it until I ran into a former student at the nearest Vons.

It’s amusing to see students, even former ones, outside of the classroom because they usually get nervous as hell and ask me some of the most outlandish questions to fill the uncomfortable air.  I think the idea that a teacher has a life outside of school trips them out, and many of them are just beginning to acquire the social skills necessary to navigate out of the teenage universe, which can be daunting.  I will tell them in class, “I don’t just fold up and go in the closet when you leave.  I actually live.  I wear shorts. I even have feelings.”  The fact that I have a child, I know, makes them realize at some point that I had to have sex at least once, which probably just turns into an imaginative wonderland for them as they listen to me prattle on about how memorizing the beginning lines of Chaucer’s Prologue to the Canterbury Tales is a rite of passage for any English-speaking human. Or perhaps I adopted, so then I never had to “do it,” which would make things easier for them, I’m sure.

Anyhow, the student at Vons had graduated the previous year.  She asked me, “Are you still at Pioneer?”  This is my favorite student question, and I get it often from graduates because they have no concept of a “career” yet; they think that I might just decide to quit teaching and move on whimsically to start working on the Christmas tree lot seasonally or fill in the void at the mall’s coffee shop to make ends meet.  This naivety is among the reasons why they’re endearing to me and why I love teaching them.

She then proceeded to tell me that her friend works at the store and that she said that I come in there every day, and that it’s kind of weird.  I attested that I do, indeed, shop often because I need certain ingredients for what I’m making, of course.  What I didn’t tell her is that going to the store for alcoholic beverages accounts for much of my ubiquitousness on those premises.

After this meeting, I have gotten a bit self-conscious about my shopping frequency, but not enough to change my ways totally.  Still, I will now try to “make do” with what I have in the kitchen, MacGyver-like, and see what happens once in a while.  Such is the case with this Ginger Chicken with Mushrooms.

When I opened the fridge, I had mushrooms and ennui-inspiring boneless chicken breasts.  I did some googling, found this recipe (http://www.cooks.com/rec/search/0,1-0,honey_ginger_chicken,FF.html), tweaked it a bit, and embarked on my mission.  It’s quick to make, easy, and awesome.  Serve it over rice and some stir fry veggies and you’ll be whistlin’ Dixie.

Ginger Chicken with Mushrooms

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 bunch of green onions, sliced into 1/2″ pieces

1 large chunk o’ ginger, peeled and finely minced

2 tbsp. oil

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

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

8 oz. sliced mushrooms

2 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. honey

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Makin’ It:

Heat the oil in a skillet (if you have a wok, have at it) over medium high heat.  Add the chicken cubes and saute them until they are browned all over, about 7 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and set aside.

Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes (if you need to add a bit more oil after removing the chicken, then do so).  Raise the heat, add the garlic and mushrooms, and saute for 2 minutes.  Return the chicken to the skillet.

In small bowl, combine the soy sauce and the honey.  Pour this over the chicken mixture.  Add the ginger and mix it all well.  Saute this for about 5 minutes longer, or until the chicken is cooked through. Add the green onions and serve.

Ginger Chicken with Mushrooms 4

This dish is so simple to make and quite fulfilling.  The ingredients are easy to find too.  If you have trouble with anything, I’ll meet you at the market to help you.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

General Tso’s Chicken and fresh Asian Green Beans

6 Nov

A few years ago, the wife and I started Weight Watchers to shed off the pounds from years of eating too many over-indulgent foods too often.  We have been very successful with the old WW program (as opposed to the new WW Points Plus program), and I attribute this to many things:

  • I learned how to read labels for calories, fiber, and fat content, which really is an eye-opener when you realize what you’re putting into your body, or what you used to, anyway.
  • It also taught me how to cook flavorful and exciting dishes without having to use massive amounts of fatty ingredients, like butter, which was the basis of many of my dishes before then.
  • It taught me that seasonings and spices are what can tranform a blah dish into a kick ass dish.
  • It taught me that fresh veggies and good products are the keys in cooking good food.  The dish is as good as the ingredients you use, which I have heard on every cooking show a million times over, to be sure.
  • It taught me about how portion size is the dirty little secret to losing weight.  Listen to when your body is full, not to your plate that still has food on it that is calling out to you to finish it.
  • Last, it taught me to branch out into new cultures and genres of cooking to find great dishes that are good for you too.  My repertoire expanded at an amazing rate just because I wanted to find new flavors to substitute for the missing fat and bad stuff.  If a dish sucks, don’t make it again.  If it is ok but needs something (which it almost always does), play with it until you find the right formula. If you get it right, you have a new dish in the rotation.

I still follow a Weight Watchers guideline loosely to maintain some sort of self-respect in the weight category, but mostly because it’s ingrained in me now.

In any case, the following recipes are dishes that I regularly prepare together.  General Tso’s Chicken is straight from Weight Watchers, and each serving is 4 points with a  1/2 cup of white rice on the side.  I would estimate that the green beans are 2 points for a 1/2 cup, but I never really did the math on it.

Here is the actual recipe on Weight Watchers, if they let you on it: http://www.weightwatchers.com/food/rcp/RecipePage.aspx?recipeid=92581

If it doesn’t work, google “General Tso’s Chicken, Weight Watchers,” and you’ll find it in a snap because it’s popular.  I only make a few changes in this, like I don’t use low-sodium broth and soy sauce, which probably bumps the points up a bit, but oh well.

General Tso’s Chicken

Ingredients:

3/4 cup chicken broth, low sodium

1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch

2 tbsp. sugar

2 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. rice vinegar

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

2 tsp. oil

3-4 green onions, sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 pound uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 cups cooked white rice, hot

Makin’ It:

In a bowl, whisk together the first six ingredients.

Heat the oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the green onions, garlic, and the pepper flakes and cook for 2 minutes, stirring a lot.  Add the chicken and cook until its brown and mostly cooked, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Now add the whisked sauce, get it bubbling, and let it simmer until the sauce is thick and the chicken is cooked, 3 to 5 mintues more.

Scoop a 1/2 cup of rice and  1 cup o’ the chicken and sauce.  It says it serves four, but that’s bullshit.  It serves 2 and makes a small lunch for the next day.

Note:  For making chicken stock, I use this stuff because it rules:

This green bean recipe I found online somewhere and I have tweaked it a bit.

Asian Green Beans

Ingredients:

1/2 to 1 pound of green beans, trimmed

1 tbsp. chopped garlic, or to taste

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 tbsp. sesame oil

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

3 tbsp. soy sauce

1 1/2 tbsp. rice vinegar

1 tbsp. packed brown sugar

salt and pepper to taste (Or Salt ‘n’ Pepa, if you want music too)

1 tbsp. cornstarch mixed with some cold water

A sprinkle of sesame seeds or sliced almonds

Makin’ It:

In a pot of boiling water, cook the green beans until they’re almost done (how long depends on the size of the bean, so check until it just snaps when you bite one).  Drain them, rinse with cold water, and let them cool and drain more while you make other stuff.

Stir together the soy sauce, vinegar,  brown sugar, salt, and pepper, and set it aside.

In a wok or skillet, heat the two oils over high heat and add the garlic and red pepper flakes.  Cook this for a minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the green beans and stir fry them for a few minutes, like 5.

Re-stir the soy sauce mixture and add it to the green beans and mix it all up.  After 2 to 3 minutes, add the cornstarch/ water mixture to thicken it.  After a few more minutes, scoop them into a serving dish and top with sprinkled sesame seeds or almonds.

This dish is really quick to make, too, if you have everything ready to go.

And that’s it.  This meal is filling, flavorful, and mostly good for you.

Drinks?  A nice, balanced white does the trick here, like a sauvignon blanc.  Again, it’s all about what you like and what kind of money you want to fork out.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out

Image

Easy Chinesey

31 Oct

20121030-183244.jpg

Have you ever tried this stuff?  If not, do so.  Before anyone loses their high-falutin shit about pre-packaged spices and such, let me make a statement about the foodie “I won’t sink to that level” moralistic sort of thing.  If you feel this way, lighten up, Francis.  These spice packets are good for someone who is learning how to cook.  Even though I know a few tricks now, I still love making this.  It’s easy, quick, and delicious….and it’s not that bad for you, either.

I serve this with grilled chicken.  Of course, I wanted to marinade the chicken for flavor.  I bought a bottle of oyster sauce some time ago and I wanted to use it.  So, I googled “chicken marinade, oyster sauce” and that sort of thing, and created a marinade to my liking.

1/4 cup oyster sauce

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

I mix this concoction together and put it in a quart bag with a couple o’ chicken breasts about an hour before cooking.  When the time is right, grill them and let them sit for a while after they’re done.

For the fried rice, I follow the recipe on the packet mostly.  I’m a teacher, so I’m home by 3 o’clock most days.  For the “cold cooked rice” part, I make the three cups of rice and put the pan directly in the freezer for an hour or so.  Then, I transfer it to the fridge until I need it at around 5:30.   Instead of the peas, I will add veggies of my choice.  My sister-in-law left a bunch of frozen stir fry veggies after she watched the house a few months ago, so I used those.  I have to admit, I am 95% anti frozen veggie; once you eat fresh regularly, it’s hard to stomach the frozen ones.  But, in this fried rice, it works just fine.

I pile on some fried rice, top with some sliced chicken, and we’re partying like the opening band for Cheap Trick, although I doubt Cheap Trick drank sangria like we did with this.

And that’s that.

Until later, eat drink, and peace out.