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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tis the Season for...Greens!











Here we are, almost to December in the upper Midwest, and I am just finishing the last of the greens from my garden. Little warms a gardener's heart than to be able to serve food fresh from the back yard for months and months.

Even if you are not a gardener, however, now is the time to look for greens in the market. They are often quite reasonably priced right now, and it is not just gardening lore that they are at their peak in the fall. A touch of frost seems to sweeten many varieties of greens, so this is a good time to try them out if you have hesitated in the past.



If you look closely at the picture above, you will see there are two kinds of greens--rainbow chard and kohlrabi. Yup, kohlrabi. Until this year, I had not realized that the leafy tops of this unusual vegetable are perfectly edible. As in years past, my attempts at growing kohlrabi seemed doomed to failure. Instead of forming fat balls on the lower stem, almost every plant grew leggy and slim, kind of like the Abe Lincolns of vegetables. What all the plants did have, however, were lots and lots of leaves.

Not wanting to consider the crop a complete failure, I went searching on the Internet and discovered that lots of people like kohlrabi greens. A few tentative nibbles on the tenderest of the leaves and I was hooked. I started harvesting a couple of plants at a time, getting a few cubes of the bulbs from each for adding to a tray of baby carrots and other fresh vegetables but also having some "bonus" greens to add to stir fries.


And then I discovered something wonderful; kohlrabi seemed as cold resistant as the constantly growing chard and baby collards. (I planted a 4 foot row of rainbow chard in April and have been able to pick leaves from it continuously ever since--unsure of exactly how many meals it has provided, but that little half packet of seeds has paid for itself over and over!) Now, when we have had several nights in a row below 20 degrees (and no measurable rain for weeks, perhaps even harder on the plants), it was time to bring in the last harvest. Kohlrabi and chard--interesting combination, with lots of color and, right now, pretty mild flavors. I ended up using a pretty standard method of preparation--saute onions and garlic, maybe some bell peppers, and then stir in the greens, covering and steaming the mixture until the greens are just tender. This is a great side dish with beans (for vegetarians) or ham. In fact, if you have some ham fat or stock, that would be a great choice for sauteeing instead of oil.

And if you don't have greens from your garden, any of the choices in the market right now--collards, kale, chard--will easily work too. There is a lot of nutrition here, for very little cost. If you are not yet accustomed to trying greens (yes, my friends in the South, there are lots of who didn't grow up with these as a regular part of our menus), now is the time to try them out.

Last of the Garden Greens

canola or olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 red bell pepper, diced (optional)
approximately 3 to 4 c washed and drained coarsely chopped kohlrabi greens, stems removed (see Preparation Note below)
approximately 3 to 4 c washed and drained coarsely chopped rainbow chard stems and leaves
salt and pepper to taste
optional herbs--basil, thyme, and/or rosemary may be added to taste
other optional seasonings--low sodium soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes


1.  Put just enough oil in the bottom of a large skillet to cover with a light film. Add the onions and saute over medium high heat until golden and translucent. Stir in garlic and peppers and continue to cook for another two to three minutes.
2.  Add the greens, with the water clinging to the leaves. (If they are relatively dry, you may want to add another few teaspoons of water, just enough to keep from scorching). Cover tightly, turn to medium and continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the leaves are just tender and wilted.
3.  Add seasonings and taste, adjusting as necessary.

Variations
As noted above, kale, collards, bok choy or beet greens could all be substituted for the kohlrabi and/or chard. 

Kohlrabi Preparation Notes

While the chard stems can (and should!) be used, only the kohlrabi leaves are tender enough to be really edible.
After washing the kohlrabi well, cut off the leaves at the top of each stem. Near the center of the plant will be a cluster of small leaves and "baby" stems--visible in the lower right of the picture below. This entire "heart" section can be kept with the leaves.


Remove the remaining stems and root end from each kohlrabi "bulb,"  the part of the plant most of us are accustomed to using. These "bulbs" can be refrigerated for another few days if you won't be using them right away. Greens, however, should be used more quickly, as they lose flavor and tenderness rather quickly.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Leftover Mashed Potatoes = Potato Soup


Putting away all the leftovers from a Thanksgiving feast can be one of the biggest challenges of the day, and it sometimes is tempting to just toss foods that you aren't sure would work well a second time around.

Mashed potatoes may fall into that category for some of you. After reheating them once with the leftover gravy and turkey, what else can you do?

Potato Soup. Already cooked mashed potatoes can almost seem like a convenience food if you are in the mood for soup. Just saute some onions and celery, pull out the potatoes and you have a great entree just right for a cold winter supper.

The following recipe is more a guide, since the amount of potatoes you have will affect how much of the other ingredients you'll need. One of the great things about homemade soups is the flexibility. Try this and then try your own additions and seasoning adjustments. Following the recipe are a number of suggestions for varying this soup to match your preferences, and possibly other available leftovers.

Who knows--after you try this, you might find yourself making extra mashed potatoes just to have some leftovers for soup!

Leftover Potatoes Soup

For 2 to 3 cups of leftover mashed potatoes, use approximately the following amounts:
canola oil
1 medium to large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
3 to 4 c milk
1 to 2 chicken or vegetarian bouillon cubes, to taste
1 t dried herbs (I like a mix of basil, thyme, and rosemary, crushed together in a mortar and pestle)
black pepper to taste

1.  Saute the onion and celery in a small amount of oil, cooking on medium heat until the onion is translucent and golden.
2.  Stir in the potatoes and then gradually add the milk, stirring the mixture to break up the potatoes and to develop an even consistency throughout. (Cold mashed potatoes are almost always "chunky" but will gradually soften as they are heated.)
3.  Add the bouillon, herbs, and pepper. Taste and adjust for saltiness. Continue heating for a few minutes to meld the flavors.

Variations:

Substitute some of the leftover turkey broth for the milk and bouillon. (You could stir in some nonfat dried milk powder if you want the added bump of protein the milk can provide.) Other reserved (or purchased) stocks can also be used.

Stir in some frozen broccoli florets near the end of cooking for cream of broccoli soup. Other vegetables can also be added in as well. If you have just a little of the classic green bean casserole leftover, stir them in for a wonderful mushroom/green bean/potato soup.

Stir in grated cheese (or cubes of processed cheese like Velveeta) just before serving, long enough to just melt the cheese. Bacon bits (real or veggie style) can be used for a topping with this.

If you had ham as your entree, those odd bits of ham cut off the bone are a great addition to this soup.



Monday, November 19, 2012

Onions, Onions, Onions


After putting up the post about French-fried onions, I realized that many of my friends find preparing onions something to be avoided at all costs. Isn't it inevitable that you will end up with smelly fingers and burning, teary eyes?

Not necessarily! There are of course lots of suggestions out there for avoiding the tears, including some special kitchen goggles just for protecting eyes from the sting. Over the years, however, I have discovered some much simpler ways to avoid the "onion problem." Herewith, ideas that may help you as well:

  • If ever there was a time to have a sharp knife to work with, this is it. Dull knives seem to mash the cells of the onions, releasing far more of the volatile smells that lead to tears. I prefer serrated blades for both peeling and cutting onions.

  • Stand away from the onion!  If you are especially troubled by onion fumes, try to keep them as far away from your face as possible while peeling and cutting. For example, peel them while standing over the sink, with your hands as far down in the sink as you can reach.

  • Cut a small slice off the top of the onion and then begin to peel.  When possible, pull much of the onion skin off with the blade of your knife rather than cutting it. You want to take off only the papery outer skins. The farther in you cut, the more you will be exposing yourself to the source of tear-problems.

  •  If you really struggle with onion odors, you can peel the onion under water at the sink. However, this makes it quite a bit harder to get the skin off. When the onion is peeled, however, you are still going to have to move to the cutting board to do the dicing and slicing.
  • In general, it will be easier to take the peeling off if you do not cut the root end off until most of the rest of the peeling is removed. 



 
  • Use a cutting board! Unless you are making onion rings, cut the onion from pole to pole instead of around the equator. Then lay half the onion flat on the board and cut into pieces of the desired size. If you want onion rings, cut in half at the equator of the onion and then, balancing carefully, begin cutting the onion into rings from the center to the ends.








 
  • If you have a very large amount of onions to chop or slice, you may use your processor (blenders rarely work well to get an even chop). Just be warned--when you take the cover off, the full concentration of vapors will hit you in the face unless you turn your head away!!
  • If an onion has some soft spots, you can safely cut these off and use the rest of the onion. However, do be aware that these onions (usually soft because they are beginning to over-ripen) may have a more pungent odor.
  • In the same way, onions that have started to sprout are perfectly safe to use--and the sprouted sections will have the flavor of fresh green onions. Just cut away any soft spots that may have formed around the top and around the sprouted sections.

Finally--practice, practice, practice. The more onions you cut, the easier it will get--honest!



















Homemade "French-fried Onions," Cream of Mushroom Sauce, and Classic Green Bean Casserole





 It's that time of year again. For many, Thanksgiving is synonymous with roast turkey and stuffing, with lots of pies to follow.

For others, the really mandatory dish at the Thanksgiving day feast is Green Bean Casserole...and please don't try to make any adjustments to the tradition.  Since I have been given the task of bringing vegetable sides to this year's dinner, I will be responsible for making the green beans along with some roasted squash and perhaps one more choice.

So how can a "frugal" cook justify spending $15 or more for a pound of the traditional garnish when I just bought onions for 23 cents a pound? Surely these can't be difficult to make...can they?

Off to the search engines to find methods and recipes, a very simple task with over a million hits for "French fried onions recipe." Blog after blog talked about the ease of making these, along with praise for the fresh flavor and lack of preservatives the homemade crisps provided.

I was hooked. I started out with just two onions, but one was large enough that I ended up with over 4 cups of the thinly slivered pieces or "strings," the name given these on a couple of blogs. In the end, I only fried up less than half of them, still ending up with over 12 oz of finished product.

My results? These were pretty easy, though there are some hints that need to be followed to come up with nicely golden and crisp pieces. The time (and dishes to be washed) was not overwhelming but certainly would be a factor in anyone's decision to make from scratch or buy. And the cost (not including the cook's time) would definitely be less. However, as noted below, there are some "leftovers" from the process that would need to be used rather than thrown away or the overall cost could be quite a bit more.

Here is my overall pro and con analysis--review and then decide for yourself if this is something you would want to try.

Pros
Overall cost, based on 38 cents a pound for onions (the "everyday" bottom price here when there are no specials) and current prices for other ingredients, would be a little over a dollar for the 12 ounces I ended up making. Almost all of this cost is coming from the 2 to 3 cups of canola oil that were required. (Under no circumstances would I reuse this!)  Part of this low cost also comes from using the remaining milk and flour mixture as noted below.

There are no preservatives and you can adjust for yourself the level of salt used. Many of the recipes on the web suggest soy or other gluten-free flours, and that could easily be done, another plus if you have special diets to consider.

The amount of time it took to make this was relatively short, less than an hour from start to finish--and I was able to do some minor clean up chores around the kitchen while watching (closely!) each batch of strings as they fried. This could also be a fun activity to do with others in the kitchen as well.

These will store well if cooled completely before putting in a tightly sealed (preferably glass) container, so they can be made ahead to have on hand for the holidays. They can be frozen, but should be thawed completely before opening the container.


Cons
I really don't like frying things, and this involves the usual frying mess of thermometers, cookie sheets covered with paper towels, and grease to be disposed of. For me, the yuk factor is pretty high.

If you are not very careful about shaking off excess flour, the oil will quickly darken and even begin to taste burned. I used a strainer to dip out some of this between batches, but it takes some practice to avoid problems with this. If you end up with too much browned matter in the bottom, you might want to start over with new oil, but that adds more dishes (you'll need another pan unless you are ready to wait for the first oil to cool) and added cost of oil.

While less than an hour from start to finish may be "short" for someone with time to spend in the kitchen, trying to squeeze in this chore along with all the other holiday preparation could be just too much to add to the cook's to-do list.

If you don't have time, patience, or desire to use the "leftover" milk and flour mixture, the cost will be quite a bit higher and would certainly bring into question any savings you might have hoped to realize.

Bottom line:
This may be a fun thing to try once or twice and it could even be a good option if you are trying for a gluten free topping. Otherwise, you have three options:

  • Convince the traditionalists that they don't need this low-nutrition topping anyway (how about seasoned bread crumbs browned in a little butter with some slivered almonds tossed in instead?)
  • Bite the bullet and buy the smallest container you can get away with
  • Top the casserole with onions simply sauteed in a little butter and bread crumbs. They might not be as crisp, but the flavor will be at least as good, and the calorie content has to be lower.


French Fried Onion Strings for Toppings

1 large or 2 medium onions, thinly cut in julienne slices--about 2 to 3 cups
2 c milk
2 c flour
2 t salt, or to taste
2 t onion powder (or substitute onion salt for part of regular salt)
canola oil for frying--start with 2 to 3 cups

1.  Pour the milk into a flat bowl. Combine the flour, salt, and onion powder in a somewhat larger flat bowl.


2.  To prepare the onions, peel and quarter from pole to pole, not across the equator. Thinly slice each quarter into julienned "strings" and put into the milk. Allow to soak at least 5 minutes or so.









3.  Spread a layer of newspaper on a large baking sheet and cover with two thicknesses of paper towels. (You will want to have more newspaper and paper towels ready for later batches too.)

4.  Pour about 2 inches of oil into a medium pan or skillet and begin heating over medium-high heat. Insert a deep-frying thermometer in the oil (don't allow it to touch the bottom of the pan) and heat the oil to 375 degrees.

5.  When the oil is almost ready, take a handful of onion strings from the milk, drain lightly and toss in the flour. Still using your hands, lift and shake the onion strings to get as much excess flour as possible from falling into the oil. Drop the coated strings into the oil all at once (be careful not to let it splash!) and stir lightly. A "handful" was about a cup or so of the coated strings, just the right amount for my pan. Don't try a larger pan. If you add all the onions at the same time, you will have difficulty getting them to cook evenly, so using the smaller pan and doing only a few at a time will yield much better results--and will require less oil overall.

6.  Allow the onion strings to brown completely and then lift out with a slotted spoon or strainer. Spread on the prepared paper towels to drain and then wait for the oil to return to 375 degrees before adding the next batch.
While waiting for the oil to heat up, you may want to use your strainer or slotted spoon to lift out some of the browned flour at the bottom of the pan. You may also need to add more oil after a few batches--if so, be very sure to allow the temperature to return to 375 before adding more onions.

When finished, allow the oil to cool completely before disposing.


Now, for the extra milk and flour--and small pieces of onion that are still going to be hiding in that flour mixture--use it to make your own sauce for the green bean casserole or any other "hot dish" application where cream of mushroom soup is called for.



Cream of Mushroom Sauce, with Onions

2 T butter and 1 T canola oil (or all oil)
8 oz fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 c seasoned flour from fried onions--include onion bits that may be in the flour
1 3/4 to 2 c milk--use "leftover" milk from the fried onions if you have it
1 chicken or vegetarian bouillon cube
salt, seasoning salt, and black pepper to taste

1.  Saute the mushrooms in the butter and oil over medium heat. Cook until the mushrooms are golden and tender.
2.  Stir in the flour, making a roux--that is, stir the mixture together until it is evenly mixed and the flour has completely"disappeared" into the oils. Continue to cook for a minute or two more.



(Okay, that looks a little scary, doesn't it! Never fear. If you have only the butter/oil mixture and the mushrooms in the pan so far, the flour will blend into the oils in the pan without a problem. Just keep stirring until you can't see any of the white flour. Be brave!)

3.  Stir in 1 3/4 cups of the milk, cooking and stirring until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Add additional milk to reach desired thickness. Taste and adjust for seasoning.



The sauce you have just made can be used wherever a recipe calls for condensed cream of mushroom soup. This will make the equivalent of two of the familiar red and white label cans. The onion in the flour (and flavoring the milk as well) provides a subtle boost very like the familiar canned soup flavor, and without any of the preservatives.

Variation:

If you decided not to make your own onion topping, you can still make this mushroom sauce. Just finely dice 1/2 cup or so of onion and saute with the mushrooms.

With both the French-fried onions AND the condensed soup for the sauce ready, now you are ready to put together the "classic"green bean casserole--the really easy part!

Classic Green Bean Casserole

16 oz package frozen green beans--French cut preferred
1 can cream of mushroom soup OR 1/2 recipe from above
1 T Worcestershire OR soy sauce--optional
1 c (or more if you like) French fried onion pieces

Thaw the beans but do not cook. Stir in the mushroom soup, about a third of the onions,  and Worcestershire or soy sauce if used. Pour the mixture into a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish and top with the remaining onion pieces.
Bake at 350 degrees about 20 to 25 minutes, until bubbly.

Variation--if fresh beans are used, cook until just tender crisp, drain, and then proceed with the recipe.

Slow Cooker Italian Pasta



We had a "CrockPotLuck" at church today, with everyone asked to bring a favorite dish made in a slow cooker. Our wonderful kitchen committee would provide all the homemade desserts, as well as biscuits, corn, bread, rolls and vegetable and fruit trays. Truly a feast to be thankful for.

Though the weather has been warm for mid-November in Minnesota, it seemed likely that there would be quite a few chilis and soups, so I decided to try for something a little different. Looking at the cupboard, I decided on a vegetarian pasta dish. However, I knew this could be a little challenging, since pasta has a way of getting overcooked, mushy, and unattractive if not handled carefully in the slow cooker.

The following recipe turned out beautifully. The method does need to be followed pretty closely, even if you change the amounts of the various ingredients. I would not advise cooking this, even on LOW, for more than 3 to 4 hours. It could be kept on the WARM setting for many cookers for another hour or so. The goal is to avoid ending up with pasta that is mushy, having absorbed all the sauce and leaving a pretty dry, pasty mixture. If in doubt, you might want to try making this or some other pasta dish in the slow cooker at home before planning to take it to the next office or church potluck!

I have added a few notes after the main recipe to adjust for some of the substitutions.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Fettuccini

canola oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 to 2 cups)
1 stalk celery, including leaves, diced (about 1/2 to 1 cup)
1/2 green or red bell pepper, diced (about 1/2 cup)
3 to 4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 small to medium zucchini, grated (about 2 cups)
8 oz baby mushrooms, sliced
2 c cauliflower, broken into tiny flowerets
1 c pureed roasted butternut squash (or 8 oz pkg frozen)
28 to 32 oz prepared spaghetti sauce
15 oz can garbanzo beans--do not drain
15 oz can dark red kidney beans--do not drain
1 to 2 t dried oregano, to taste
1 t dried basil, to taste
1 t Italian seasoning, to taste
black pepper to taste
1 T balsamic vinegar (optional)
1 lb fettuccine pasta, broken into 2 to 3 inch pieces
6 to 8 oz pasteurized processed cheese, cubed
parmesan cheese (optional)

1.  Saute the onion, celery, and green pepper in a small amount of oil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. When the onions are translucent and starting to brown, stir in the grated zucchini and garlic. Continue to saute for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the zucchini begins to soften. Turn this mixture into a 5 to 6 quart slow cooker and begin heating on LOW.

2.  Pour a little more oil into the same pan used for the onions and heat to medium high. Add the mushrooms and cook  until the slices are golden and limp. Add these to the slow cooker as well. Pour a few tablespoons of water into the pan and stir to "deglaze" the pan--use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan and pour these juices and scrapings into the slow cooker too.

3.  Stir in the mini-cauliflowerets, the squash, spaghetti sauce, and beans. Rinse out each can or jar with a few tablespoons of water and add to the mixture in the slow cooker. Add the herbs and taste for seasoning.

 4.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook only until the pasta has barely begun to soften, perhaps only 2 to 3 minutes. It should still be very firm and stiff. Drain, reserving the cooking water.

5.  Stir the pasta into the vegetable mixture, along with the cubed processed cheese. The mixture should be quite "soupy." If necessary, add a little of the pasta cooking water. Taste again for seasoning, adding the vinegar and more herbs or salt as needed.

6.  Cover and cook on LOW for 2 to 4 hours--no longer. If desired, top each serving with Parmesan cheese.

If the mixture thickens too much, add more spaghetti sauce, a little tomato sauce or just a few teaspoons of water.

This recipe serves 12 to 14 and can be frozen. If your plan is to save some for later, it would be best to set that amount aside before cooking in the slow cooker.

Adjustments:

Frozen cauliflower can be substituted for fresh, but this should be added only about 20 minutes before serving

Frozen zucchini can be used, but this should just be added to the slow cooker without simmering with the onions.

Two 4 ounce cans of sliced or diced mushrooms, including liquid, can be  substituted for fresh, adding along with  the  other ingredients in Step 3.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Last Beets from the Garden--a Fall Salad





On a late fall visit to Sekapp's Orchard just outside of town, I couldn't help but envy the baskets of beets, some of which were as big as baseballs. The beets from my garden were, as usual, very small and not very plentiful. In fact, almost the entire crop fit on the roasting pan when I prepared them last week. 
Still, even the tiniest ones have lots of the sweet, earthy flavor I love about beets, and I have been enjoying them completely unadorned.

Today, I was looking for a colorful salad to go with an otherwise "white" meal of mashed potatoes and baked fish. While broccoli would be one spot of color,  the menu still needed something more to brighten the plate.

Those roasted garden beets to the rescue. Combined with a few other colorful ingredients, they became a key ingredient in a bright, easily prepared and, incidentally, high in antioxidants salad and a nice reminder of the garden harvest I have been blessed with this year.

One caution--this is a quick to make salad, but it should be prepared just before serving, since the beets do have a very strong tendency to share their color with the other ingredients, especially the cucumbers. If you do make it a bit ahead, you may want to wait to add the beets until just before serving.



Fall Purple and Green Salad

1 c sliced or diced cooked beets (mine had been roasted, for an extra bit of sweetness)
1 c sliced mini cucumbers; if the larger cucumbers are used, dice them
1/2 c thinly sliced red onions
1/2 large orange, peeled and sliced, with each slice cut in quarters
about 4 c shredded Romaine or green leaf lettuce
prepared or homemade dressing--either raspberry vinaigrette or honey mustard would be good
freshly ground black pepper

To prepare the lettuce: wash and then roll each leaf into a kind of a tube. Cut across the leaf to form fine shreds. Place in a large serving bowl.
Slice or dice the vegetables and oranges and add to the lettuce.
Drizzle the salad with dressing and toss. Pass the black pepper for each person to add.

Variations:  

Drained, canned beets can be used instead of freshly roasted ones.

If you keep mandarin oranges in the cupboard, they could be substituted for the orange pieces here--and would probably be an even brighter addition to the salad.

Feta or fresh mozzarella could be added for extra protein--and flavor--if you need a little boost in that direction.

Dressing

If you want to make your own dressing, I had published a sweet vinaigrette earlier this year. You can find that at:

http://frugalfastfun.blogspot.com/2012/08/farmers-market-day-and-quick-salad.html

Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing

2 T raspberry apple juice frozen concentrate--do not reconstitute
1-2 T balsamic vinegar, to taste
1/4 c canola oil or a light olive oil
1/2 t each dried basil, rosemary, and thyme
sugar to taste
salt to taste
1 T water

Crush the dried herbs in a mortar and pestle or process lightly in a small blender.
Combine all ingredients and whisk well with a fork or wire whisk. Allow flavors to blend at least a few minutes before tossing with greens.
NOTE-You may be surprised at how much sugar you will need to add to reach the sweetness you may have become accustomed to in prepared dressings, perhaps a tablespoon or so.























Monday, November 12, 2012

Marinating Chicken Breasts for Future Stir-Fries




Never be afraid to consider those marked down meats and produce at your favorite store. Check the appearance of the food and how far from the "use by" or "good until" date, but then take advantage of the great bargains to be had.

That is advice I heeded last week when I found a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts marked half off. The pull date was still two days in the future, and the package looked to be without any damage or ontoward signs of neglect. So home I came with almost two pounds of well-trimmed boneless meat for just under $2.50, not a bad deal in today's market.

The problem, of course, is that boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be very dry if not prepared properly, so I set off to the internet to see what kinds of marinade suggestions I might find. I ended up trying a somewhat sweet and fruity mix that I plan to use as a pre-prepared addition to a couple of different stir-fries.

Note that one significant difference from many marinade recipes is that I did not discard the marinade mixture but instead added it to the meat after it was well-browned. The mixture was then allowed to simmer and cook down for about 8 to 12 minutes more (just enough to be sure the chicken was cooked through). This intensified the flavor of the marinade in the final product and should provide a lovely sauce for those vegetables.

...and here is the best part:  I only used two thirds of that package, barely $1.70 worth of meat. This amount will provide enough for at least 6 servings of stir fry, perhaps even 8 if you have enough other ingredients in the mix (or if you include a salad topped with some nuts and/or cheese for a high protein side). Less than 30 cents a serving for meat? Not bad!


The end result of this marinating and quick cooking was moist, flavorful, and tender chicken, with really very little effort. Since this could easily be doubled, it would be a great make-ahead dish for freezing for up to a month or so if tightly wrapped.

Teriyaki Marinated Chicken Breasts

1 T honey
1 T soy sauce (use light if you have it)
1 to 2 T teriyaki sauce
2 T freshly squeezed orange juice (including pulp)
1 to 2 t grated fresh ginger
3 small cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 to 2 lb chicken breasts, cut into nuggets
canola oil 

1.  Mix all ingredients except the chicken. Add the chicken pieces and stir to be sure all are well coated.
2.  Allow the chicken to sit in the marinade 20 to 40 minutes. (The smaller the pieces, the shorter the time.)
3.  Pour enough canola oil into a large heavy skillet (cast iron preferred) to just provide a thin even coat to the pan. Heat the oil on high heat until it is just shimmering. (NOTE:  Avoid using non-stick pans for this recipe, as it is best not to allow them to pre-heat like this.)
4.  While the pan is preheating, drain the chicken, reserving the marinade liquid.
5.  Place the chicken pieces in the pan without crowding, reduce heat to medium high,  and allow to brown on all sides. If necessary, you may need to put half the pieces in to brown, remove them to a plate and brown the rest, adding a bit of oil if necessary to keep the second batch from sticking.
6.  When all the pieces are browned, return any that had been removed to the pan and pour on the reserved marinade. Turn heat to medium-medium low, cover, and continue simmering for a few minutes, until a test piece is fork-tender and no longer pink inside.

If not using immediately, cool the chicken in the marinade for about 15 minutes and then refrigerate with the liquid. You may also divide the meat and juices into meal-sized portions and freeze for later use.


Stir Fry Chicken

approximately 1 cup marinated and pre-cooked chicken nuggets, with liquid
canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 to 3 cloves garlic, minced

Any or all of the following vegetables:
1 to 2 ribs celery, chopped
1/2 to 1 c diced bell pepper, green, red, and/or yellow
1 to 2 c shredded cabbage
1 c broccoli or cauliflower, cut into bite-sized flowerets
1 c fresh or frozen corn
1 c frozen peas
1 c sliced carrots
1 c peeled and cubed butternut or other squash
2 to 3 c fresh greens--spinach, chard, etc. OR 8 to 10 oz frozen greens

Seasonings--choose your favorite mix:
Curry:
1 T curry powder, or to taste
1/2 t grated fresh ginger
1/2 t cumin
(other seasonings like garam masala, etc., may also be added)

"Italian":
1 t oregano
1 t Italian seasoning
1/2 t basil, or to taste
1/2 t black pepper

"Mexican":
1 t cumin--or more to taste
1/2 c chopped cilantro
1 to 2 t chili powder
1 t oregano

1.  Prepare vegetables for cooking and have ready.
2.  Heat oil in large heavy skillet over medium to high heat--I do not have a wok, but this would be the ideal time to use one if you have it.
3.  Add the onions, garlic, (and celery if using) and saute briefly, just to soften.
4.  Turn the heat to medium high. Stir in the vegetables, adding first those that will require the most cooking. Continue to add vegetables, stirring occasionally to be sure they are cooking evenly. About halfway through, add the chosen seasonings. Any greens should be added near the end, cooking them just enough to wilt and tenderize. If using any frozen vegetables, add them in the next step with the meat.
5.  When the vegetables are almost done, stir in the chicken and its juices, along with any frozen vegetables that may be used. Stir well, turn the heat to medium-low, and cover. Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.
6.  Continue to cook only until the meat (and vegetables) are heated through, about 5 to 10 minutes at most. Though there should be enough moisture from the chicken marinade and vegetable juices, you may need to add a tablespoon or so of water to avoid scorching.

WARNING:
The approach just mentioned, with the last few minutes involving reduced heat and  covering for a few minutes will not result in "authentic" stir fry and may produce more of what some purists will call "braised" vegetables. So be it. This approach should still give you only lightly cooked vegetables and a good overall blend of flavors.