Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Better than a restaurant Sweet and Sour Chicken and Fried Rice...


I give my friends what they ask for- and one friend in particular asked that I post this recipe after I bragged about it on Facebook.

I can't let a complement as awesome as "This is better than a restaurant's" go without telling everyone!

Unfortunately, because I didn't have my camera out, this recipe will be JUST the recipe...hopefully, someday I can update it with a picture tutorial.

For the Sweet and Sour Chicken:

Cut up 3 or 4 chicken breasts into bite sized pieces (this is easier if they are still partially frozen), put them in a bowl, and then pour milk over the top until its barely covered. Let the chicken soak for 5-15 minutes (while the chicken is soaking, add oil into a deep pan- about 1/4 inch, maybe even less, would suffice and heat it.)

Then, put 1 cup of flour and 1/2 tsp of salt in a ziplock bag or bowl with lid...drain the milk off the chicken, add it to the flour mixture and shake, shake, shake

Once your oil is hot enough to fry the chicken, add the pieces and cook until cooked through and starting to get golden brown. Set aside in a bowl or a clean ziplock baggie.

3/4 c sugar
1/2 c vinegar
4 TBS ketchup
1 TBS soy sauce

Let the sauce boil. It will reduce down in about 5-10 minutes (you don't want it very thick because the chicken will be crispy and this coats it like the orange sauce coats Orange Chicken at Panda Express, you'd want it to basically be able to lightly coat a spoon and run off) If you get impatient (which I did) you can always take a tsp of flour and add it to some cold water. Whisk it until there are no lumps and then slowly pour it into the sauce, constantly stirring  rapidly as you pour. This will help thicken it up sooner.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and stir or shake to coat it all.

For the Fried Rice:

Prepare 4 servings of rice as directed on your package. Set aside.

In a fry pan or wok add sesame oil and heat it. Add desired amount of mixed vegetables (I had frozen corn, peas, carrots, and green beans, you could use whatever veggies your little heart desires... I used about 1 1/2 to 2 cups...I don't ever really measure it. Just enough so that I'm sure whomever eats the rice is getting a serving of veggies out of it)

Cover to steam, soften and heat the veggies, remove the cover and allow the vegetables to lightly brown and crisp, then add the rice. Stir together and allow the rice to crisp up a bit.

Next- make a well in the middle of your rice/veggie combo so you can see the bottom of your fry pan/wok, crack 2 eggs into it and let them fry a little (so the whites start to set up) then use your spatula to lightly scramble them.

Once the eggs are almost cooked (still a bit tacky and runny) stir them into the rice and veggies and allow to fry a little more until the egg appears to be all cooked through.

Finally, stir in a splash of soy sauce for color and flavor (it would be about a tablespoon or tablespoon and a half). Stir into rice until all of it is evenly coated. Then sprinkle the top with onion powder and stir again...voila (**Note** this  rice is one of my kitchen secrets! Its one of my husband's favorite things that I make...)

And...there you go... restaurant quality food (or better, according to my family) without the restaurant price tag, or restaurant calories (well, maybe almost as many calories...LOL)

Bon Appetit!

Hugs and Loves until next time darlings!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

An afternoon stroll

The sky is overcast, but the sun peeks out of little breaks in the clouds. I trudge out barefoot into the beauty of the day. I find our double stroller and open it. Its covered in sawdust from all the renovations going on in the house. I brush it off and go back inside. I grab one baby, take her out and harness her in, and then back in for the other. Its warm enough that I don't need  a jacket, but cool enough that I cover my girls with blankets and we're off.

We stroll up the very long lane that you need to drive to get to the house. Its at least a quarter of a mile back. I carefully walk, hoping to avoid as much mud and muck as possible.

Springtime has come to Idaho. It is one of my favorite times of year. The juxtaposition between the warm sun beating down and the cool snow that still covers the ground has always astounded me.

I look down to see little green blades of grass peeking up through the mud and snow. They are awake now, they stretch up to feel the sun's warmth that so easily touches my skin. Oh,  how would it be to be a blade of grass and struggle like that? I count my blessings, blessing 1- I can feel the sun without struggle.

The sunlight reflects off the white snow. I wish I'd remembered my sunglasses. The girls happily babble and look around...I make a mental note to find them some sunglasses the next time I'm at the dollar store. I don't know if they would keep them on, but I can't help but wonder if the walk would be even MORE pleasant for them (which doesn't seem possible.)

I smile as I watch them poke their little hands in between the seats and then over the seats to hold hands. In spite of their young age, you can see their love for each other.

We walk down the road. First, our neighbor's white dog greets us with a bark. Faith is unphased, Phillie just stares at him. The dog stays in the yard but barks the whole time we walk past. We come upon a horse, one of Faith's new loves. She babbles at it and motions for me to pick her up. I would love to, but I just can't. There is a 4 foot puddle and at least a 2 foot deep pile of snow between us and the fence. I walk on and Faith babbles and points at the cows as we pass them. I stop for a minute so she can look at the big bull. I'm surprised he is fenced in with all the cows, but I do realize its spring and some farmers prefer to try to let things happen the natural way before paying for science to help them out...or maybe this bull doesn't really bother the any case, we stop for a look, and then walk on.

About halfway up down 1800 E, I see a large black dog ahead. He is barking and begins to run towards the road where we are. I decide its probably best to turn around just in case he doesn't have the intention of being friendly.

When I turn around, I notice that under the stroller the whole time, etched deep in the mud, are tracks from horse shoes. Someone must have taken an early morning ride. How lovely. In this weather, I'm sure a horseback ride is a very pleasant activity. I follow the tracks, looking down at them and the grass beneath them and think about how lucky I am to be in this beautiful place. I look up at the mountains, still snow covered, with evergreen trees and think how wonderful  it will be to be able to go camping this summer.

I pass the house on the corner. Its for sale and in our price range, but Jeff has said no. He isn't sure he wants to live in the same ward he grew up in.  I walk around it to see what it looks like from every angle in the front, I'm not brave enough to walk around back.

Faith begins to whine. I realize she has seen the horse again and wants to go say hello. I walk around the front of the stroller and stroke her cheek and give her a kiss, promising that we will say hello when our way isn't blocked from the road. Phillie is out like a light, sleeping peacefully in the warm but cool, crisp weather. I smile at her. Faith looks over and begins to pat Phillie's little hand in an opening underneath the bar that separates their seats. She smiles up at me, I can see the tell-tale signs that she too is ready for another nap.

 With that, I push the stroller back towards our current residence. I see my mother in law coming back from town. She turns down the lane and drives slowly over the mud. I stop to get the mail and notice all the birds dotting the sleeping trees. A robin sings a song and pheasants hide in the brush, thinking I can't see them. A big rooster stirs as I walk past him. He almost prepares himself to fly away, but calms and begins to be quiet again...if Jeff were here, he'd probably try to scare him out to get a better look at him.

I look at the huge trees that dot the lane and wonder when they will wake up from their winter slumber and begin to blossom. I walk a little slower, trying to soak this day, and this lovely weather in. I'm grateful for the return of spring, but mourn for the loss of the beautiful clean snow...

I only got a month and a half of winter. Most people would say I was lucky, and that Idaho winters are too long, but after being away from the changing seasons and missing them terribly, I don't mind it so much. I missed the snow. I missed waking up to a still, silent blanket of white covering the earth, making it clean and fresh.

I'm sure this isn't the last we've seen of winter white...generally in Idaho, we can expect snow clear through May...but its the last we will see it in vast quantities until December, after too long, any more snow that falls won't stick for longer than a day...

But then I remember, spring is coming. All the beautiful, tall trees on the lane with bud with blossoms and leaves, the ivy climbs up them will turn green again, and we can walk in the wooded area behind the house without having to navigate through snow that goes up to my hips. Everything will be new and fresh again...thanks to the winter chill.

Hugs and beautiful sights until next time darlings.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Sugar and Spice

Its so odd to think of and watch the bittersweet changes that are happening in my house right now...most of them involve my Little Diva. She is starting to leave that "baby" phase behind completely.  Lately, she seems happiest with a baby doll or stuffed animal to snuggle and a tutu on over her pants...and I've had to learn no to leave the comb out after I finish doing her hair because she decides to be SUPER helpful and comb her hair (in spite of the ponytail that I've just pulled it up into...) She is also completely in LOVE with necklaces. If mommy is wearing one, she INSISTS that I take it off and let her wear it. To combat this, I've purchased a bag of Mardi Gras bead necklaces at Desert Industries for $3. She kicked her legs and squealed with glee when I finally opened them after we bought them at  D.I. and grabbed a silver and blue one and immediately tried to put it on (mommy ended up having to help her.)

She is turning into a little girl.

Part of me loves this. Its fun to watch her try to dance along with actors she sees on the screen in her favorite movies...if Hairspray is on, I've learned that I need to leave her a wide birth for dancing, or else we have bonked heads and tears.

Along with these changes comes a list of new frustrations, though. She still doesn't talk. Not even yes or no...once in a while, I think she knows that I am "mama" but then she will babble "mamamamama" over and over again, and I wonder if she just knows that I will respond when she makes that sound. Its frustrating for both of us. She is starting to get "big girl" desires, and she can't verbalize them to tell me what she wants. This leads to many frustrated tears for both of us. She has figured out simple things like: if she brings me the DVD she wants to watch I will put it on for her...but, that hasn't helped with our lunchtime meltdowns because she isn't ready to eat, or doesn't want what she sees...

I keep trying to have patience and have faith that her verbal skills will start to develop soon. She was a preemie, so I guess I just need to wait it out...but on the other hand, it doesn't stop me from being nervous that we need to talk about early diagnosis for things like Autism...I suppose at her 18 month appointment in April, her pediatrician will be able to tell us what we need to do. We try everything we can to get her to talk and help her learn words, but she just doesn't get it. We know she knows what words like "no" mean (her "big girl" temper tantrums when we say no would definitely be testament to that fact.) she just doesn't use them...

In other news...I had to pull out the 6-9 month clothes for Phillie this about a mamma ready to lose it and cry!

To add insult to injury, she was rolling around on the floor today and I looked away to read Faith a book and looked up to find her gumming Faith's cookies that she'd left on the floor...
Of course, I only looked up and over at her because she was crying...and why was she crying? The cookies she'd been gumming were almost completely disintegrated and gone...she was MAD! She wanted more chocolatey goodness...

Her chocolate covered mug and giant smile were probably a testament to the fact that she enjoyed herself thoroughly...

Well..I should go do some laundry...More recipes and reviews of recipe from my latest meal plan are coming...

Hugs and loves until next time, darlings.