Gift Basket Clean-Out

This marmalade  Plus This  the main players 
Equals  ↓dinner

Whenever you get those gift baskets at the office or home, all the good stuff is immediately eaten. (cookies, crackers, nuts and candy) But the little hotel size jars of jelly and marmalade always seem to get left behind. Maybe because making toast at the office just isn’t an option! I like to use them to make a sauce or glaze.

I grabbed a few things from the cupboards to mix in and you can basically take any direction…I went a little Asian with my last one. Soy Sauce, vinegar, chili flakes, Chinese 5-spice and ground ginger powder (not shown) and some crushed dried rosemary… just because. Unfortunately a sesame allergy prevents me from using any type of sesame oil but that would be just perfect to add to this sauce for a distinct Asian flare.

The Recipe

6 oz orange marmalade

1/4 cup warm water

1 1/2 tbsp champagne vinegar

2 tbsp low-sodium, gluten-free soy sauce

2 tsp ground ginger powder

2 tsp chinese 5-spice powder (divided)

1 tbsp dried rosemary

1 tsp chili flakes

2 large chicken breasts cut into 1″ pieces

1/4-1/2 cup diced onion

2 tbsp oil of choice for saute

1 1/2 cups +/- diced onion

Whisk the top 8 ingredients using just 1 tsp of the Chinese 5-spice powder. Coat the chicken pieces  in the remaining teaspoon of Chinese 5-spice and salt/pepper to taste. Sauté the chicken and onion in the oil on med-high heat till each side has a bit of brown. Add the sauce and cover for a few minutes to let the chicken cook thru. Remove cover and add peas and let sauce reduce for a few minutes more. Serve over rice.


Slow-Cooker Chinese Food

Yup. Chinese food in the slow-cooker!

I was inspired by Lydia over at The Perfect Pantry to try my hand at this crazy mix of flavor and easy cooking method.

And it was easy. She was doing chicken – but I had stew beef in the freezer so that is what I went with. I added some water chestnuts and fresh broccoli florets in the last 30 mins and cooked some rice on the side in my trusty rice cooker and voila! Beef and Broccoli. A fine staple of any Chinese-American restaurant around.

It was "sauc-ier" than it looks the rice absorbed all of it! yum!

It was “sauc-ier” than it looks, the rice absorbed all of it! yum!

Production Notes

1.5 +/-  stew beef

2 Tb finely minced garlic

1 Tb rice vinegar

2 Tsp brown sugar

2 Tsp ginger (fresh, minced is nice; I used dried, powdered)

1/3 cup soy sauce

1 Tsp +/- grated orange zest + the juice of the orange

1/2 Tsp ground black pepper (or to taste)

1 Tsp Chinese 5-spice

2/3 cup chicken or beef stock

1 small onion sliced

1 Tbsp Cornstarch or Arrowroot dissolved into 2 Tbsp water

Several “crowns” of fresh broccoli chopped into bite size or 1 small bag of frozen (defrost but don’t cook first)

Combine garlic, vinegar, sugar, ginger, soy sauce, orange zest/juice, black pepper and Chinese 5-spice with a whisk. Pour over meat and onions which you have already placed in the slow cooker. Cook on high 4 hours or so OR low for 6-8 hours. Whisk in the cornstarch or arrowroot slurry about an hour before serving and add the broccoli about 30 mins before serving.

If you wanted a thicker sauce and was feeling like the extra work – you could remove the beef from the slow cooker (without adding the slurry and broccoli yet) strain the sauce and heat it to a boil in a sauce pan. Than you could add the slurry to the sauce, cook for a bit  and make it thick and rich. Add everything back in (beef, sauce and now add the broccoli) and serve once the broccoli is cooked to your liking – just keep any eye on the heat so you don’t burn. ( i.e. turn slow-cooker down) This would be great to bring to the office potluck!

Do’s And Don’ts

1. DO put your brown rice in the slow-cooker/crock-pot first

2. DON’T marinade your meat too long if you are cooking long and slow. DO marinate it longer if you are in a hurry and you are only cooking for a few hours on high.

3. DO cut your veggies big but DON’T put them in too early or they will breakdown too much. Last couple of hours is enough.

4. DON’T put your cabbage in too soon – Last 1/2 hour is plenty unless you like your cabbage really well done.

The recipe

1.5lbs +\- pork meat (not tenderloin and not thin little chops but any other cut would be fine.) I cut mine into smaller pieces. (stew size)

1/2 cup brown rice, rinsed. (shhh…don’t tell hubby it’s healthy!)

1 small or 1/2 of a large head savoy (or Napa) cabbage, sliced into small strands

4 large ribs of celery, largely cut on the bias

1 med white onion, cut roughly into aprox 1″ pieces

The marinade/cooking liquid – I used the marinade as the cooking liquid – if you don’t feel comfortable doing this, than don’t marinade the meat and just use it as cooking liquid.

2 oranges, juiced and zested

1/4 soy sauce (low sodium)

(4) 1/2″ chucks of fresh ginger – fish them out before serving so you don’t eat them

2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder

2  Tbsp  toasted sesame oil

1-2 large cloves garlic, minced or mashed

1 1/4  cup liquid – could be water, could be stock, could be pineapple juice

Add the rice first, the meat on top. Add all of the cooking liquid/marinade. Consult the recommendations for your slow-cooker but I cooked on high for a couple of hours at least and then checked the contents, stirring and checking the rice/meat done-ness. Cook some more and add the onion/celery an hour before you plan on serving and add the cabbage a half hour before serving time.

Goodbye Grillmarks

Unfortunately I am not one of those hardy, middle of January, mitten-wearing, backyard grillers.

Unless of course we are having a usually warm January here in New England.                          – it has been known to happen.

Once the days starting getting dark early (I am not into flash-light grilling either) and the night weather requires a sweater, I start thinking about wrapping up the grill for another season. Oh sure I push it to the limits. I mean I was born, raised and currently live in New England. They would revoke my license if I didn’t grill at least until Columbus Day. And since I live on the ocean, we are usually spared the early fall frosts, extending our grill season nicely into October. (I probably just jinxed the whole neighborhood.)

But I am in the final days and soon it will be goodbye.

Goodbye …to the inspiration found at the farm stand and the steak tips to go along with it.


Goodbye …to garden fresh veggies and herbs and all that fun making up new marinades.


Goodbye …to the endless combinations of grilled meat and delicious side dishes.

Saying goodbye to the grill might just be the hardest on the hubby since he loves a good “grill mark” on his food.

Maybe I should invest in a headlamp and some Thinsulate™ gloves after all? But who is gonna shovel out the grill?

“Honey, the grill needs shoveling when you are done with the driveway!”

The recipe:

For the marinade (because I am darn proud of this one!)

1 & 3/4 lb +/- pork sirloin “tips” – I get these at my local meat market but you could use thick, bone-in chops too. Or beef. Or chicken. Or fish?

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 tsp Chili flakes (Use more if you like.)

1/2 tb Chinese Five Spice powder

1 tsp Kosher salt

1 cup orange juice – freshly squeezed please.

Lots of zest from the oranges you just squeezed

1 large clove garlic, crushed.

Mix well and marinade meat for at least an hour. Grill until done. Serve with grilled veggies that were coated in olive oil, soy sauce, S & P, and fresh chopped herbs from the garden. Don’t forget the buttered rice!


Simplicity is sometimes all you need for a great dish.

I whipped up a week-night marinade for a short but effective soak of some pork. We eat a lot of pork in our house because we like it, it is readily available/inexpensive in our local store and it is actually often leaner than beef. But this marinade would work wonders on chicken and I suspect fish – just cut back the marinade time for fish.

Marinated meat and veggies on the grill is simplicity at it’s best!

Just use whatever you have hanging around. I tossed these veggies in a little Olive oil and Soy Sauce; then I added lots of chopped fresh herbs from this year’s garden. Have I mentioned that I am LOVING fresh sage?!

The marinade:

1/4 Cup Olive oil

1/2 Tablespoon Chinese five spice (Another adventure of mine with this spice here.)

1/4 Teaspoon Chili flakes (more if you like it spicy)

1 Teaspoon Kosher salt

1 Cup Orange Juice + the zest if you are juicing fresh.

1 Large clove garlic, crushed

I used this for approximately 1 3/4 lb of meat.

Now that is a good-looking “one pot meal.”

“Chickity China the Chinese Chicken, You Have a Drumstick and Your Brain Stops Tickin”

Lyric from “one week” by Bare Naked Ladies

What does that lyric mean? We may never know for sure but I do love that band and their whimsical music!

Since I made Chinese five-spice grilled chicken for dinner tonight – that song immediately popped in my head.

Normally we are not totally adventurous around this kitchen but lately I have been making baby-steps. So today as I was reading one of my favorite blogs: The Perfect Pantry and Sunday’s post was all about Japanese 7-spice powder; I decided to be brave and break out the Chinese five-spice blend I purchased a while back. (It will take a while to work up to the Japanese 7-spice!)

What is in Chinese five spice blend?

Well if you ask me, I will tell you it’s a cabinet stew of spices.

If you ask Lydia she will tell you exactly what’s in it.

I took 3 chicken breasts and gave them a light coating of oil and a heavy coating of this mix: (there would be enough coating for 4-5  breasts depending on the size.)

1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice

1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon cumin (because I use it in everything!)

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

I grilled this on medium-high heat until done and prepared a little glaze reduction on the stove to pour on at the end.

Here is what I put in the glaze: Which was a perfectly thick reduction after simmering maybe 15 mins – but I got anxious and thinned it with just a tiny amount of water and it made it too thin. Next time I will leave well enough alone.

juice of 1 small lime

3 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

For a side dish – I would have loved to have some pineapple rice – but there was no ambition for that and besides I must have the nightly dose of cucumbers!!

I finally succumbed to the “wacky mac” ads and boiled up a bag. That is the pasta in different colors because it has vegetables in it. I guess calling it wacky makes it more appealing to kids and husbands. Make sure to not over cook it. In fact I went 8 mins of the 8-10 advised and I would suggest 7 mins.

Add some chopped cukes, tomatoes, and fresh basil – all from the garden.

Mix in salt/pepper, olive oil and red wine vinegar. Delicious!

And the verdict on the flavor of this new exciting chicken?

It was loved by all – a hit! Delicious and unusual – but easy. And thanks to starting this blog – it is now recreate-able because it is written down and photographed.

I thought that the warm cinnamon undertones of the Chinese Five-spice would mix nicely with a little cocoa powder and chili powder added in to make a beautiful dry rub on a future flank steak…. ahh the wheels are turning already!