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Tag Archives: ginger

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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Easy Asian Coleslaw

9 May

Asian Slaw 015

I have written a few times that Asian food is like a new frontier for me.  I wasn’t raised eating much of it, and in the 70’s and 80’s, most of the Orange County, California, food scene did not have a wide array of Asian restaurants. Thankfully, an influx of Vietnamese, Lao, and Korean families started populating the area, so it has since exploded into an Asian food wonderland of sorts.  While I will often berate the ubiquitous fake tits and humvees that festoon much of O.C. and which, consequently, led my wife and I to bid it adieu, I will say that now it has some balance by the soul brought in from different cultures and their cuisines.

But in my Carter and Reagan era childhood, Chinese food consisted of magenta-colored sweet and sour chicken from the only local Chinese place, The Golden Something.  Funnily enough, bean sprouts and duck scared me as a kid, but the unnaturally infrared gelatinous mess of carrots, pineapple, and chicken welcomed me with open arms.  I think my teeth looked like a photo negative by the time I left the restaurant, actually.

I have since learned to cook a variety of Asian main dishes, but I am sorely lacking in the side dish category.  Yesterday, I had an extra bag o’ coleslaw mix from a party we had on Sunday.  I knew I was making chicken satay (https://dinnerwithjonny.com/2013/01/24/ww-chicken-satay-with-peanut-sauce/), so I started googling.  I found quite a few Weight Watchers recipes calling for crushed raw ramen noodles for the crunch effect.  As I am not in the habit of having ramen around, this wasn’t going to work.  Instead, I found a recipe here: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe-Tools/Print/Recipe.aspx?recipeID=14297&origin=detail&servings=10&metric=false.

It goes perfectly with satay, as you will see, it is easy to make, and it is altogether wonderful.  I did make some changes, though…

I had no fresh ginger on hand last night.  But what I did have was some crystallized ginger left over from the holidays, which stays good for a decade or something.  It worked marvelously.

Easy Asian Coleslaw

Serves 6, I would think

Ingredients:

5 tbsp. rice vinegar, or white vinegar in a pinch

5 tbsp. oil

5 tbsp. creamy peanut butter

3 tbsp. soy sauce

3 tbsp. brown sugar (how come you taste so good?)

2 tbsp. minced crystallized ginger or fresh ginger

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 bag (about 8 to 10 cups worth or so) coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots)

2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks

one bunch green onions, chopped

1 chopped bell pepper (optional)

chopped cilantro (optional)

Makin’ It:

In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic.  Whisk it well so it’s all combined as a happy family.

In a large bowl for tossing, add the veggies and pour the dressing over it.  Toss this baby like you mean it and so everything is coated well.  Cover this and put it in the fridge to chill if you still need to make the main course, or serve right there. It’s kick ass both ways.

Asian Slaw 007

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino

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

Watermelon Cooler

29 Mar

Watermelon Cooler 5

It’s that time of year when the little birdies sing, the leaves burst forth upon the trees, mosquitoes swarm across nations infecting thousands with malaria, Canada begins to thaw (eh), environmentalists reaffirm California’s drought status, and high school seniors think it’s June already, even though that’s two months away, and plan ditch days regularly.  Ah, such jocund happenings necessitate refreshing cocktails and maybe some low-level shock therapy.

As I noted in a previous post, I was a bartender (rather than a pretentious, dick-like “mixologist,”) at T.G.I. Fuck-All for some years.  Towards the end of my tenure there, infused vodkas became the “in” thing and, I admit, they can be good.  The best part is that they’re easy to make.  Take a fruit or veggie of choice, cut it up, put it in a bowl, pour in a bottle of vodka, and chill it.  In a few hours, you have a new flavor o’ vodka.  Easy peasy.

This watermelon cooler has lots of variations.  I and my wifey tend to prefer the less sweet cocktails, so this one is a bit more refreshing in that I top it with soda water.  But, if you want to sweeten it up, top it with some lemon-lime soda or ginger ale to get there.

Watermelon Cooler

To make a watermelon-infused vodka: Cube up or scoop some watermelon into a big bowl.  Pour in a bottle o’ vodka, cover, and let it chill for an hour or more.  Then, either strain the vodka out or simply remove the watermelon chunks.  Eat some of those soaked watermelon pieces and you’ll be talkin’ to both Jesus AND Buddha, let me tell you.

Ingredients for one cocktail:

a few slices of fresh, peeled ginger

a few basil leaves

1 small ball or scoop o’ watermelon

2 oz. of watermelon vodka (a big shot, in other words)

2 lime wedges

Soda water

Makin’ It:

In a mixing tin or glass, muddle the ginger, basil, watermelon ball, and vodka.  All “muddling” means is to smash the hell out of the ingredients so they combine and all get happy together. For this, I used the thick end of a wooden spoon because I’m ghetto like that.

Fill a glass with ice and strain the vodka mixture over it.  Fill it with soda water, squeeze the lime wedges in there, and garnish with a scoop or two o’ watermelon and even a basil leaf, if you’re sexy.

Again, if you like sweet, use ginger ale or 7Up or something.  You can even add a shot of simple syrup (sugar water) if you have it around.

Easier than Catholic nymphomaniac after Lent.

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

Cucumber-Ginger Fizz Cocktail

10 Mar

Cucumber Ginger Fizzy

Last night, we set the clocks forward and, after a week of cold rain, it has been perfect weather here on California’s central coast (perfect=mostly sunny, 70°, slight breeze).  This paradisaical atmosphere began this morning when I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and thought ’twas Monday.  I started my morning routine of reading both the local and global news and then, of course, getting onto Facebook. It was then that I realized my error.  It’s Sunday, dammit.

To make the most of it until the house woke up, I watched two of the Up series films (28 Up and 35 Up (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Up_Series)), which began my day existentially.  It would follow, then, that a cocktail would need to be made both to embrace the fantastic weather and to enhance my connexion with the universe and life’s journey.  For that, I turned to Martha Stewart, of course.

I have said numerous times that, before I began teaching high school, I was a bartender at T.G.I. Sodium’s for a few years.  During that time, I acquired quite a working knowledge of making drinks.  But nowadays I feel sorely out-of-date.  It seems that “mixology” became the trend at some point in the 2000’s, and dickheads calling themelves “mixologists” were making infusions and syrups and wacky martinis and everything else under the sun to get people’s drinks on.  For the record, I am a bartender, not a “mixologist,” as I consider bartending more than just making drinks; a bartender provides an atmosphere of comfort, understanding, patience, meticulousness, promptness, and jocularity. A “mixologist” sounds like a pompous asshole, truth be told.

My wife and I found this cocktail a few years ago and I make the ingredients a couple of times a year.  It’s very simple, really, and the cocktail itself is one of the most refreshing drinks for which one could ask.  I have served this at cocktail parties and people can’t seem to get enough of them.  I figured I’d share both my existentialism and a great warm weather drink.  Cheers!

Cucumber-Ginger Fizz Cocktail (thanks to Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

Makes a bunch o’ cocktails

750 ml bottle o’ vodka

2 or 3  English cucumbers, 1 or 2 peeled and coarsely chopped, 1 left whole

lime wedges

soda water

ginger simple syrup

Makin’ It:

For the ginger simple syrup, over medium-high heat, bring 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water, and 1 big chunk of peeled, sliced ginger to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cover, turn off the heat, and let it sit for 30 minutes.  Strain it, discarding the ginger, and you have it.

In a glass bowl, combine the vodka and cucumber chunks.  Cover it and chill it for at least an hour.  Discard the cucumber and you have it.

To make one cocktail:

Fill a collins glass (or whatever glass you have) with ice. With the leftover whole cucumber, peel it and shave some of it, but not the seeds.  In other words, make cucumber strips and put them in the ice. Add 1 shot o’ cucumber vodka, 1/2 shot of ginger syrup, and fill it with soda water.  Squeeze one lime wedge into the drink, stir it with a straw, and you have it.

I haven’t had one person not fall in love with it.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013