Mandy's Marvelous Meals

Recipes, tips, tricks, and my journey into cooking fabulous food!

Grilled Ranch-Style Chicken


There is truly nothing like going out to your garden and getting the fresh herbs that you need for a recipe, which is exactly what I did when I made the marinade for this ranch-style grilled chicken. This recipe works best with fresh herbs but you can definitely substitute dried, just remember to use less.  Also, I like to put my marinades in the blender (I have the Cuisinart CPB-300 SmartPower 15-Piece Compact Portable Blending/Chopping System, so it’s pretty convenient) when I am using fresh herbs, personally I think it helps get all the flavors into the meat better, plus sometimes I get a little bit lazy and don’t really feel like chopping everything up, so blending it takes care of that!  So you can either just chop everything up and mix it together or throw it all in the blender. Totally your choice! I called this “ranch-style” because it is not your typical creamy ranch, but I still used all the seasonings from my Ranch Dressing.

Grilled Ranch Style Chicken

10 oz. boneless skinless chicken breast

2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tbsp. fresh chives, chopped

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. white vinegar

Salt & pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients except for chicken in a medium bowl and whisk until well combined (or put it all in a blender and blend for a few seconds). Place chicken in a Ziploc bag and pour in the marinade. Seal. Allow to marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Grill chicken over medium high heat for about 20 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.

3 Comments »

Smoked Baby Back Ribs


Finally the weather stayed nice and I was able to use my new smoker! I made baby back ribs and they came out awesome!

After a lot of reading about how to smoke meat I think I did pretty darn good for my first time. They got done a lot sooner than I had anticipated, so they did get a little over done and were just a tad bit dry on some of the thinner pieces of meat, but the flavor was so good and the meat was really tender.

The whole process was actually quite simple.  Choose your meat, make a spice rub, and cook it “low and slow”…that is low heat over a few hours time, checking on it occasionally.

I do have a “pork rub” that I usually make, but since I already had a batch of spice rub made up I just used that and then topped them with my sweet and tangy barbecue sauce.

To prep the meat, I removed the thin membrane from the back of the ribs by inserting a butter knife and pulling it up just enough to get a good grip on it. Then, using a paper towel, I pulled it off. I’ve made ribs before but never did this, but apparently it is an important step so that the flavor can get into the meat and it also makes the meat more tender. I then spread Dijon mustard over both sides of the ribs and added the spice rub (be sure to actually RUB the meat with the spices, just sprinkling it on is not good enough). I then vacuum sealed the ribs with my Food Saver and allowed it to sit over night in the refrigerator. The reason I decided to use my Food Saver is because this allows the spices to really soak into the meat. If you don’t have a Food Saver you can just wrap the ribs tightly with plastic wrap. When it was time to put the ribs into the smoker, I removed them from the wrapping and made sure they were still seasoned well, which they were. If you take off the plastic wrap and notice that the rub is looking thinner or it’s stuck to the plastic wrap, you should go ahead and rub some more of the spice rub into the meat. I preheated the smoker to 200 degrees and then added the ribs bone side down, checking on them every 30-45 minutes. I didn’t open the smoker door each time (wanted to maintain an appropriate temperature), I only checked to make sure the smoker was actually producing a good amount of smoke (I kept having to add water to the pan, the smoke seemed to decrease when the water evaporated from the tray). After about an hour I flipped the ribs over and then let them cook for another hour. I then removed the ribs from the smoker and wrapped them in foil. At this point, however, I noticed that the ribs were looking done so I used my meat thermometer to see where they were at and I was right…they were done. Even though they were done, I still wrapped them in foil and put them back in the smoker for another hour…only because I had anticipated a 3-4 hour cooking time and really wasn’t ready for them to be done in 2 hours. Ultimately this really didn’t do too much “damage” except for a little bit of dryness in some of the thinner parts of meat, like I mentioned earlier. Next time I will definitely make sure to have an oven thermometer and meat thermometer inside the smoker. I had read that these are important but I didn’t have them, so just went by the thermometer on the smoker door. Throughout the cooking process the thermometer remained between 200-220 degrees, but I am thinking that it was actually hotter inside the smoker.  After about a total of 3 hours I did remove the ribs and left them wrapped in the foil to rest. I had made our sides on the grill so right before everything was done I spread some barbecue sauce on the ribs and grilled them for a minute or two on each side just to crisp them up a bit.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with my first attempt at smoking meat. These were definitely the best ribs I’ve ever made!!

 

Smoked Baby Back Ribs

1 rack of baby back ribs (or 2 half racks)

Spice Rub

Dijon Mustard

Barbecue Sauce (optional)

  1. Prepare the ribs the day before you plan to smoke them by removing the membrane from the back of the ribs, spreading the ribs on both sides with Dijon mustard and adding the spice rub thoroughly to both sides of the meat. Wrap in plastic wrap and keep in refrigerator for about 24 hours until ready to cook.
  2. Preheat smoker according to manufacturer’s directions to about 200 degrees F.
  3. Place ribs in smoker and allow to smoke for about an hour. After the first hour flip the ribs over to the other side. Allow to cook for another hour. Be sure to maintain heat between 200-220 degrees F.
  4. After 2 hours remove ribs and wrap in foil. Return to the smoker for another hour.
  5. After 3 hours, check the ribs for doneness. If they are not done, return to the smoker.
  6. If ribs are done, allow to rest in the foil for 10-15 minutes.
  7. If desired, coat ribs with barbecue sauce and grill for about 2 minutes per side.
  8. Serve with barbecue sauce on the side and enjoy.
1 Comment »

Grilled Lemon Thyme Lamb Chops


Well, I’ve decided to put my Smoked Ribs on hold…the forecast includes rain and the last thing I want to deal with is having my ribs cooked halfway and it starts to rain!   So today’s post is of last night’s meal, which I luckily remembered to take pictures of (although I had to use my iPhone because my camera battery was dead!).

This is the first time I’ve grilled lamb chops and they came out great! It also the first time I ever marinated them. Also, I should mention that I don’t eat lamb…I’ve eaten it and I’ll taste it when Hubby has it but there’s something that I just can’t get past when thinking about the poor little baby sheep that I am consuming. It’s totally in my head, I know…because everytime I have eaten it it’s tasted really good. I am a total carnivore and LOVE meat…and I have no problem consuming anything else that was once a cute animal…so I guess it is just one of my many unusual little quirks!

Anyway, I have one “top secret” lamb chop recipe that I typically use to make Hubby his lamb chops. He has labelled them “Restaurant Worthy” and therefore when I do experiment with other lamb chop recipes they don’t live up to the original. Since I am totally in love with my grill I wanted to try something new….I scoured the internet to find something unique, but came up empty so when I was at the farmer’s market and saw all the fresh herbs they had I was inspired to create something on my own.

For this recipe I would definitely recommend only using all fresh ingredients. Do not substitute dried herbs for the fresh and make sure you use real lemons and not bottled lemon juice. Also, make sure to watch your grill closely because the marinade will cause the grill to shoot up flames…which you want because it adds good flavor, but if the fire does not go out it will burn the outside before the inside can get done. If the flames will not die down, simply move the chops to a cooler part of the grill.

I served these with a side of grilled veggies and my grilled twice baked potatoes. These would also taste great with a side of garlic mashed potatoes!

Grilled Lemon Thyme Lamb Chops

4-6 lamb chops

1/4 cup olive oil

1 lemon, cut in half

3 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper

3-4 sprigs of thyme

  1. In a blender or food processor add the olive oil, garlic cloves, thyme leaves, salt and pepper, and juice of half of the lemon.
  2. Blend/process until well combined.
  3. Add chops and marinade to a ziploc bag and allow to marinate in refrigerator for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove chops from refrigerator about 10-15 minutes before grilling.
  4. Lightly oil grill grate and preheat for about 5 minutes to medium heat (around 400 degrees).
  5. Grill chops for 5-6 minutes per side. (More or less time depending on preference of rare or medium chops)
  6. Before serving, sprinkle chops with remaining juice from other half of lemon, if desired. Allow chops to rest for 5-10 minutes after removing from grill.
5 Comments »

Time to Throw in the Kitchen Towel!?!?


Sometimes things just don’t turn out the way you thought they would.

Whoa! That is one big kitchen disaster!

Have you ever had one of those days in the kitchen where you think you’re doing such a great job and then the result is something like the picture above? I’ve always been a good baker, but I suppose that is because I’ve always been one to follow directions and follow them well. But now that I’ve been getting more adventurous and trying things on my own either by altering a recipe or attempting my own recipe I am finally seeing that it’s not as easy as I thought it would be.

Yesterday I was so motivated to try out some new stuff and serve Hubby a great Friday night dinner. I was actually excited that I had lots of extra time to spend in the kitchen. I started by attempting a new muffin recipe, but the result, as seen above, was quite scary. I didn’t let it get to me though…I tried again and this time the result looked pretty good.

Moving along to make dinner I  decided to try this recipe for Vinegar Braised Chicken which I came across in Food & Wine Magazine.  I made Hubby chicken thighs as stated in the recipe and followed it pretty much exact except that I did not add the Leeks. For mine I used boneless skinless chicken breast and substituted lighter ingredients (such as no butter, only 1 tsp. of olive oil and fat free sour cream instead of creme fraiche). It seemed like things were going along ok, but then as I began to cook and the kitchen started filling with a smoky haze it seemed like everything was beginning to go down hill. My attempt at making a side of pasta (which I’ve made before) tasted strange so I ended up throwing it away and just threw some Green Giant veggies & sauce in the microwave.

Whenever I make something new I always ask Hubby to rate it on a scale of 1-5.  I’m sure a lot of husbands out there would not dare tell their wives what they really thought about certain meals, but my Hubby has always been completely honest with me about it. I love this about him…even though I may get a chip on my shoulder for a minute or two I like to hear what he says and see how I can improve.  When we ate dinner last night, I could tell he really didn’t like it and this was confirmed when he said his rating was about a 2.8 (and I’m thinking he was just being generous rating that high). Disappointment overwhelmed me and I don’t know why….I never considered myself a perfectionist. I’ve never really excelled at anything…I was always just average and completely happy with that. But over the years when it comes to cooking I’ve started to become a little neurotic. I can’t even remember the last time Hubby gave me below a “3” rating and I always strive for at least a “4”. Nonetheless, I got over it.

Personally I thought the chicken was ok….it did have a unique flavor due to the tarragon and incase you didn’t know Tarragon tastes like black liccorice….so this dish may not be for everyone.

When we were all done I said to Hubby,  “well at least you’ll enjoy dessert.”

Or so I thought…

Hubby took one bite and made a face. I asked him what was wrong and he said he didn’t like it. He put a paper towel over it and pushed it away. Wow, really? That was a first and that was the point I became absolutely defeated.

You may be wondering why did I share this harrowing story of cooking disaster? I guess to reach those of you out there who have had “bad kitchen days” and to remind you and myself that when you fall off the horse you have to get back on. Don’t give up…there’s no need to go back to ordering pizza every other day…you can do it!

So today is a new day and I’m already thinking about what I will make to redeem myself. Remember…one bad day in the kitchen doesn’t mean you’re not a great cook…

Shake it off and try again.

4 Comments »

Crockpot French Dip Sandwiches


 

There is nothing like the smell of something wonderful cooking in the crockpot all day. There is also nothing like throwing some meat and ingredients into the crockpot and coming home to a cooked meal.

French Dip is probably one of my favorite foods to order at a diner. Since I’m trying to cut back on eating out I decided to try it at home. This recipe is great for cheap cuts of beef since it cooks all day. The meat comes out extremely tender and super flavorful. I picked up some round eye steak since a whole roast was a little too much for just me and Hubby (although I could’ve bought a small roast and cut it down, but quite frankly I didn’t feel like going through all that work of slicing it and freezing it into smaller portions). I used two steaks which weighed a total of just about 2 lbs. but I didn’t change any of the amounts of the ingredients for the rest of the recipe.  Make sure you use low-sodium soy sauce or your meat and juice will be way too salty. To me, Crockpot meals are all about being quick and convenient so I just used dried herbs and spices but you could always substitute fresh since fresh is always better; just remember that you will need to increase the amount (rule of thumb: use three times the amount of fresh for dried). You can slice the meat thin or shred it. I prefer to shred it…there’s no particular reason for this, I just like it that way. Use “Mandy’s Marvelous Sandwich Rolls”, cutting in half and adding some garlic butter to each side and toasting before adding the meat.

 

French Dip Sandwiches in the Crockpot (Makes 12 servings)

1 4 lb. boneless beef roast

½ cup low-sodium soy sauce

1 cup beef stock or low-sodium beef broth

1 bay leaf

¼ tsp. coarsely ground black pepper

1 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. garlic powder

12 Sandwich Rolls

12 slices provolone cheese (optional)

 

  1. Trim beef of all visible fat and place in Crockpot.
  2. In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, beef stock, bay leaf, black pepper, rosemary, thyme, and garlic powder.
  3. Pour mixture over beef and cook on Low Heat for 8-10 hours (cook longer for thicker cuts of meat).  If desired, in the last hour of cooking, take out the meat, shred and return to Crockpot to allow flavors to soak through.
  4. Remove meat from broth and reserve broth for dipping.
  5. Distribute meat on rolls and top with cheese, if desired. Serve with small individual dishes of broth for dipping.
2 Comments »

Slimmed Down Sensation: Cheesy Chicken Quesadilla


This is a really quick, filling, and downright delicious low-cal dish! I often make this for dinner or make it at night and pack it in my lunch…it’s actually not so bad reheated in the microwave. I serve it with a salad or a very large side of seasoned steamed green beans. In the picture below, I used Mission 96% Fat Free wheat tortillas, but the low carb whole wheat tortillas are actually better in regards to calories and carbs and are less WW points.  I picked these up because they were on sale :).

Also pictured is my really old school kitchen scale (purchased at the Dollar Tree for $1!!). This scale has served me well for many years and I am sad to report that it just broke on Sunday! It has now been replaced by a more upscale digital version. I had to replace it quickly since a scale is one kitchen gadget I cannot live without.  If I have learned anything about eating healthy…even when you’re not trying to lose weight, but want to maintain that girlish figure…it is that you should always measure your food. Portion control is so important and especially crucial for losing weight. I know you have heard this before, but I am telling you as someone who has learned from experience. I didn’t always measure everything because I thought I had pretty good judgment of what the serving size of something should be…and with practice I actually do have good judgment, but nothing compares to actually measuring it out. I now even keep measuring cups and measuring spoons at work for times when I eat things that can be kept at the office (i.e. salad dressing, cereal, milk, etc.). Yes, my co-workers look at me like I’m weird, but I don’t care! This time around on WW I religiously measure and/or weigh everything! So far this seems to be working out quite well as I’ve been losing weight at an average of 2 lbs. per week.  Save using your “best judgement” for eating out.

Some of you may wonder, “Should I measure fruits and vegetables?” I typically do not measure veggies because on WW you can basically eat as much as you want, but it is good to know what an actual “serving” of veggies is. For instance, did you know that a serving of asparagus is only about 6 stalks? I sure didn’t…I probably usually eat 20 in one sitting! But veggies have been my savior this time around in my weight loss quest. I fill up on a huge salad or a large side of veggies along with my other food at both lunch and dinner so that I am not hungry. As far as fruit goes, yes it is a better alternative to picking up that candy bar, but it still has sugar, so I do measure my fruit. Remember, the dietary guidelines for fruit is 2-4 servings per day and a serving is considered ½ cup or 1 whole apple, banana, orange, etc.

Ok, ok…that concludes my advice for this post….let’s get back to the good stuff! This amazingly large and yummy quesadilla!

Word of caution…this will be sloppy when eaten!

Cheesy Chicken Quesadilla (Makes 1 serving; 5 or 6 WW points plus, depending on type of tortilla used)

1 Whole Wheat Tortilla

1 wedge Laughing Cow Light Queso Fresco & Chipotle Cheese

2 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast cooked, shredded

½ cup fat-free salsa

1 tbsp. black beans, drained and rinsed

2 tbsp. fat free cheddar cheese, shredded

  1. In a bowl, combine the salsa, chicken and black beans. 
  2. Spread the Laughing Cow cheese over the tortilla. 
  3. Spread the salsa/chicken mixture on half of the tortilla and top with the cheddar cheese. 
  4. Fold over the other half of the tortilla and press down gently, being careful not to push out any of the filling. 
  5. Heat a skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Place the quesadilla in the pan and carefully turn over after 2-3 minutes, or until the bottom of the tortilla is browned and crisp. Cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes until heated through and the bottom of the tortilla is brown and crisp. (Alternately you could bake this. I usually make mine in my Nu-Wave oven and it comes out just as crispy and delicious!)
  6. Remove from pan and using a pizza cutter, carefully cut the quesadilla into 4 pieces. 
  7. Serve with extra salsa and fat free sour cream on the side. Don’t forget plenty of paper towels!
2 Comments »

Slimmed Down Sensation: Sirloin Steak Salad (Friendly’s Copycat)


I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoy eating at Friendly’s once in a while. I know quite a few adults who LOATHE Friendly’s!

But sometimes you just crave some high fat high calorie fried comfort food…and of course you can’t eat there without getting ice cream. So if you’re trying to eat even a little bit healthy this is not the place to go. My current favorite dish is the Bleu Moon Sirloin Salad. Sometimes I just sit at home and crave it…I must have it!

Friendly's Bleu Moon Sirloin Salad

It’s actually one of their more “adult” meals with crispy romaine lettuce topped with Sirloin steak, pepper, carrots, cherry tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles and crispy onion strings. Served with a dijon vinaigrette….ok I am drooling just writing out the ingredients. Of course, like most “entrée salads” at chain restaurants, this yummy dish comes at a costly (including salad dressing) 860 calories, 40 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, and 83 carbohydrates (23 WW points plus). Sometimes I am willing to indulge in this as long as it is my “Faturday” and it won’t send me over my “Points” limit, but then I got to thinking…why don’t I save some money and some calories and make my own?

Of course, this does not taste as good as the original, but it is pretty darn tasty…and when I think of all the calories and fat I am saving, it makes it taste even better! I am still working on getting the dressing to taste like Friendly’s…can’t quite get that one down yet, but the Dijon Vinaigrette I’ve listed in the recipe is still really good on this salad or any salad, for that matter.  One word of caution, though, it is a bit on the thin side and so it’s a bit runny. The best way to use it is to put your salad in a container or bowl with a lid and shake it up. This way it will get distributed throughout and you’ll see that this small amount really goes far.

As far as the steak you can use whatever type you like, as long as it is a fairly lean cut and is trimmed of fat. I suggest sirloin strip, but the steak in the picture above was a filet mignon. Be sure to weigh your steak before cooking it to make sure you are following the appropriate portion size.

As far as Weight Watchers points, the great news is that my version is only 6 points!

Friendly’s = 23; Mandy’s  = 6!!!!!!

Holy Cow, that is a BIG difference!! It means, I can still have some light ice cream along with it and not feel so bad!

Slimmed Down Sensation: Sirloin Steak Salad (Friendly’s Copycat)

(WW points = 6, this is for the whole salad including the onion crisps & dressing)

3 cups romaine lettuce, chopped

1 carrot, sliced or shredded

¼ of green pepper, sliced (more if you really like green peppers)

4-6 cherry tomatoes

3 oz. sirloin steak, trimmed of fat

salt & pepper to taste

2 tbsp. reduced fat blue cheese crumbles

¼ serving, Onion Crisps (recipe follows)

2 tbsp. Dijon Vinaigrette Salad Dressing (recipe follows.)

  1. Sprinkle both sides of steak with salt and pepper. Cook steak either on the grill or under the oven broiler to desired doneness. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes. Slice into strips or cut into cubes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the salad by putting the lettuce, carrots, and pepper in a bowl or container with a lid. Add the dressing and shake well to coat all the vegetables.
  3. Transfer to large bowl or plate and top with steak, blue cheese crumbles, tomatoes and onion crisps.

 

Onion Crisps (WW points plus = 1)

1 small onion, sliced thin

¼ cup fiber one cereal, crushed

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

¼ cup refrigerated egg substitute (i.e. egg beaters)

  1. Slice onion in very thin pieces, preferably with a mandolin slicer.
  2. Crush the cereal by either placing in a plastic Ziploc bag and crushing with a rolling pin or use a blender/food processor.
  3. Put the cereal, salt & pepper in a Ziploc bag.
  4. Put the egg beaters in a bowl and dip the onions shaking off excess. Once you dip the onions place in the bag with the cereal. Once all pieces have been dipped in the egg beaters and added to the bag, shake to coat.
  5. On a non-stick baking sheet, spread out the coated onions and bake in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes until crispy.

 

Dijon Vinaigrette Salad Dressing (1 Serving = 2 tbsp.; 2 tbsp. = 1 WW points plus)

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

¼ cup chicken stock

1/8 tsp. onion powder

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

2 tbsp. olive oil

  1. Combine all ingredients, except for olive oil, in a blender and blend until well combined. Add the olive oil slowly into the running blender to emulsify.
3 Comments »

Slimmed Down Sesame Chicken


So as I mentioned yesterday, I had a craving for Chinese food. Not exactly the best thing to be eating when you’re trying to lose weight! I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to try one of Hungry Girl’s recent recipes, “Sweet ‘n Sticky Sesame Chicken”. She has come up with some amazing recipes and I highly recommend you watch her show and pick up a few of her cookbooks! (Can you tell I’m a huge fan?!)

Anyway, I initially made the recipe exactly as written and it was pretty good but it was just a little bit on the bland side. I played around with it a little bit and came up with this modified version. For those Weight Watchers users out there this recipe is 7 points and makes one serving. Serve with ½ cup brown rice.

On a more personal note, I have successfully made it through three weeks of Weight Watchers…down 2.5 more pounds at today’s weigh-in. Thank goodness for all those other great bloggers out there dedicated to sharing tasty recipes that are low fat, low calorie, and healthy. I love finding great recipes that fit into my diet and I love sharing the ones I come up with as well! So, if you’ve been enjoying my posts please “Like” my Facebook Page.

I’m getting hungry….think I’ll make some more of this yummy chicken!

Slimmed Down Sesame Chicken (Makes 1 serving; 7 WW Pointsplus)

(Source: Hungry Girl)

1/8 tsp. onion powder

1/8 tsp. garlic powder

1 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce

1/2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 tbsp. fat free liquid egg substitute (i.e. Egg Beaters)

5 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed

2 tbsp. whole wheat flour

2 tbsp. chicken stock

1/2 tbsp. cornstarch

1 tbsp. sugar-free pancake syrup

1 tbsp. rice vinegar

1/2 tbsp. ketchup

1 tsp. low sodium soy sauce

1/4 tsp. sesame oil

1/4 tsp. crushed garlic

1/2 tsp. sesame seeds

1 scallion, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a bowl combine the onion powder, garlic powder, soy sauce, vinegar and egg substitute. Add the chicken and make sure all the pieces are covered. Refrigerate and let marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Add the flour in a shallow dish or bowl and dredge the chicken pieces in it, coating all sides. Place chicken on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.
  4. Meanwhile, make the sauce by combining chicken stock with cornstarch and whisk to dissolve. Heat over medium heat and add syrup, vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic. Stirring often, cook until the sauce becomes thick.
  5. Add chicken to sauce and toss to coat.
  6. Serve and top with sesame seeds and scallions.
1 Comment »

Craving Chinese: Sesame Chicken & Pork Fried Rice


Ever wonder why Chinese food tastes SOOOO good? And no matter how hard you try you just can’t make it yourself as good as they do at a Chinese Restaurant. I’m pretty sure it has to do with all the oil and MSG they put in everything. 😉 So, when I had a Chinese food craving I decided we’d have to settle for second best and I’d make it at home…ordering Chinese is just not diet friendly (stay tuned for the slimmed down version in tomorrow’s post!).When it comes to Chinese food, even items that seem like they might be “healthy” usually are not. Of course, some restaurants now offer healthy options, but let’s get real….if you’re going to order Chinese the last thing you’re thinking about is healthy….I mean if I wanted steamed broccoli, I’d just make it myself!

So here is a recipe that is pretty close to being as good as the real thing. I always bake the chicken, but the original recipe calls for you to deep fry it.  You definitely could fry it if you’re not being health-conscious, but personally I think baking it tastes much better. If you do want to fry it, be sure to add the flour with the first ingredients to make a wet badder, instead of dredging it in the flour, as is listed in my version.

As for the rice, you can substitute pretty much any meat for the pork, but since I had left over pork loin, I used that. Chicken, bacon, and ham are all good alternatives. Also, you can add more or less vegetables to your preference.  Fried rice is definitely the best way to use up leftover rice and if you have leftover meat it’s a double bonus. Of course if you don’t have leftovers and don’t feel like making the fried rice, this Sesame Chicken tastes great with plain white or brown rice, just pile the chicken and sauce on top!

Sesame Chicken (Serves 3-4)

(Modified from “Perfect Sesame Chicken” on Allrecipes.com)

1/4 cup flour

2 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 tbsp. water

1 tsp. vegetable oil

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed

½ cup chicken stock

½ cup sugar

1 tbsp. white vinegar

1 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp. sesame oil

½  – 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (more if you want it spicy)

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tbsp. cornstarch

¼ cup water

1-2 tbsp. sesame seeds

4 scallions, chopped

  1. In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, water and oil.
  2. Add the chicken to the bowl, making sure all the pieces are coated with the batter. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Place the flour in a shallow dish or bowl and dredge the chicken pieces coating all sides.
  4. Place chicken pieces on a baking sheet coated with non-stick cooking spray.
  5. Bake chicken at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.
  6. Meanwhile, make the sauce by bringing the chicken stock, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper flakes, and garlic to a boil.
  7. Dissolve the 2 tbsp. of cornstarch into ¼ cup of water, and stir into the boiling sauce. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until sauce thickens and turns clear. Reduce heat to low and keep the sauce warm.
  8. Add the baked chicken pieces to the completed sauce and stir to coat.
  9. Serve chicken and sauce topped with the sesame seeds and scallions.


Pork Fried Rice (Serves 4)

1 tbsp. sesame or olive oil

½ cup pork loin, cooked and chopped into small pieces.

3 scallions, chopped

1 egg

½ cup frozen peas, partially thawed

2 cups cooked white rice, cold

2 tbsp. soy sauce

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat.
  2. Add the pork and stir fry for 2-3 minutes or until heated through.
  3. Add the scallions and stir fry for another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the egg and stir until completely scrambled/cooked.
  5. Add the peas and stir fry for about 2 minutes until heated through.
  6. Add the rice to the pan, breaking up any clumps, and cook for a few minutes until heated through.
  7. Add the soy sauce and stir until well combined. Cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  8. Serve & enjoy.

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Spicy Honey Chicken Thighs


This is a really flavorful & quick chicken dish…perfect for a busy week night meal. You can use either boneless, skinless chicken thighs or regular thighs.  I have a Nu-Wave Oven, which is how I made the chicken in the picture above, but you can bake them in your regular oven and broil for the last few minutes to get them just as crispy.

I originally saw this recipe in Cooking Light magazine and modified it to suit my own taste. Serve with mixed veggies, rice, or roasted potatoes.

Spicy Honey Chicken Thighs (Serves 3-4)

Modified from Cooking Light Magazine

2 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs or 6 regular chicken thighs

6 tbsp. honey

2 tsp. cider vinegar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the garlic powder, chili powder, salt, cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper in a large ziploc bag. Add chicken to bag, seal and shake, coating the pieces of chicken.
  3. Place chicken in a glass baking dish sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 20-30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.
  4. While the chicken is baking, combine the honey and vinegar in a small bowl, stirring well.
  5. When the chicken is cooked through, remove from oven. Set oven to broil.
  6. Brush chicken pieces with half of the honey mixture.
  7. Broil 1-2 minutes.
  8. Remove chicken from oven and turn pieces over.
  9. Brush chicken with remaining honey mixture.
  10. Broil 1-2 minutes or until chicken is crisp.
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