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A Nice Little Italian Minestrone

Italian minestrone

This is called an Italian minestrone — which usually means whatever you have in the fridge made into a soup — and it is a wonderful soup for those occasionally cool rainy days that still show up in April. This came originally from a Bon Appetite article I saw, probably four or five years ago, and with a little tweaking, became a fast friend at my house, at least.

The base for this soup is relatively easy, and it’s very good in just about every situation I can think of. But what’s great, is there are a whole host of other things you can add, which only make it better. I’ve use a little broccoli, some asparagus, some spinach (added late in the soup) and a few other things. I’d stay away from zucchini (courgette) for this recipe, mainly because it drastically changes the taste, but otherwise — go for it. I tend to like the leeks and carrots in this soup. You might try scallions or better yet shallots instead of the leeks, but keep the carrots.

And for the pasta, main thing is to keep it small, little pasta leaves, ditalini, small shells. Just small.

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Spanish Chicken of a Sort

spanish chicken

Spanish chicken is one of those things that make no sense, but it does come out a little Spanish, sort of. This is something else that I picked up on another blog somewhere, made my own changes, and it turns out to be something very good, in fact. That said, I’m pretty sure it did not come from Spain (or Mexico) and apart from some of the flavorings, is just a good Chicken dish.

The best of this dish is the Taco seasoning, which I make myself, but which works even if you have to buy it from the store ready made. Same for the black beans, which you can make or just buy.

In short, it’s very good, even if you can’t let the Spanish thing go bye…

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Cashew Chicken

Cashew Chicken

Cashew chicken.  There are a handful of recipes you can find on almost any Chinese restaurant menu you can think of, yet most of them are very Americanized to say the least. But I spent a great deal of time in China, and yes, I’ve had cashew chicken there, and I can tell you that with a couple of changes in ingredients, you can have the “real” dish on your own menu, in a flash.

Here are the things you’ll want to have before you start the dish: Shao Xing cooking wine, dark (mushroom flavored) soy sauce, and Zhenjiang vinegar. If you have a local Chinese grocery available, these are things that are easy to find. If not, all of them can be found online. You might have to wait a few days, but trust me, it’s worth it. Generally, this would be one of several dishes at a Chinese banquet, but you can either serve with other things or simply serve it itself.

It will be darker, and have a few hints of flavor you might not otherwise expect, and yet it will be the same in most respects. The main thing is it will have nothing but actual Chinese ingredients in it, which is a good thing. How much different is it from Americanized cashew chicken? Well, a great deal of it has to do with how sophisticated your palate might be, but in general it’s richer and a lot more filling than the kind of thing you might find in any but the very best Chinese restaurants. 

For a lot of reasons, I used a wok to make my version. You can use a large skillet, but like a lot of things in Chinese cooking, a decent wok does make a difference (though probably small) in the final recipe. If you’ve got one, use it. If not, don’t worry much about it.

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Huli Huli Chicken, from Hawaii

huli huli chicken

Huli huli chicken? It’s one of those special dishes that somehow manage to come straight from Hawaii, even though they don’t really require any special ingredients or exotic know-how. But done right, huli huli chicken is quite a treat. Apparently, if you know something about trademarks and the literal translation that huli huli means turn, turn, you’ve got the whole idea about the chicken dish underway.

The trademark notion came from Ernie Morgado, the early 50s chef who is thought to have made the first huli huli and a few years later, decided to trademark the name. That meant that every chef or would-be chef in the area had to call his chicken dish something else, even though it was in fact huli huli. As far as I know, that still holds true there. And the key to huli huli, it’s literally to turn the chicken often, to cook it evenly and to even out the browning all around.

The marinade for the chicken is basically pretty simple, and then there’s the little extras that make’s each cook’s recipe a delight, and a great way to tool around the islands, try one huli huli here and another somewhere else. You could almost spend several days trying them all out.

In any case, here’s my huli huli.

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Ham and Chicken Succotash, Easy Slow Cook Recipe

Chicken and Ham Succotash

Succotash is a pretty ordinary side dish, but this chicken and ham succotash makes it into a nice main dish and with just a little tweaking, turns it into something to rave about. And if you’re lucky enough to have some fresh or canned corn and baby Lima beans, the amazing flavors are truly something to dream about. And it actually works best in a slow cooker.

So what makes it different? Start with some great ham and nice chunked chicken breasts (you can do them sous vide if you like), add some fresh cream of chicken soup (I make my own, which I have to condense a bit, but you can certainly find store-bought or better yet, something made fresh from some other source), a little red pepper and a little scallion. Add a little (or maybe more) red pepper to spice it up a beat and you’ve got a good, fresh meal.

Oh, and to be sure, get some (or make some) biscuits. They’re essential.

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Fantastic Chicken Chili

chicken chili

We like to call this our fantastic chicken chili, not because it’s easy or prepares so well, but simply if you’re watching the local sports team or just need a nice “fill you up” dinner, this is a great way to go.

If you’re a “chili” purist, you might want to look aside as we talk about this. Honestly, aside from the term chili and a nice dab of chili powder, it’s a pretty good stew, with lot’s of good stuff inside, but it’s not really a chili as such. But it comes together so very easily and makes a great kind of “warm you up” dinner, who cares? Right?

(FYI, the recipe was having some difficulty working with the recipe card, I went back temporarily to the old version. I’ll fix it up shortly).

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Stir-Fried Chicken with Chinese Cabbage

chicken with Chinese cabbage

I love Chinese cooking. And while the Chinese will often cook three and four smaller meals, all to be served more or less at once, any one of them can also be made into a full single course, if that’s what your looking to make. This stir-fried chicken with Chinese cabbage is one of those dishes. I’ve made this as a one-time serving, but you can also cut the proportions down and serve it with one or two other dishes.

One of the things that I think makes this dish special is that I can use some of the Chinese ingredients that I’ve picked up at the local Chinese grocery store, like Shao Xing cooking wine and zhenjiang vinegar (and while it’s not in the recipe, I also often use a little Sechuan pepper as well). You can use dry sherry for the wine and wine vinegar for the zhenjiang, but if you can get them, the real things are by far much better. I know it sounds a little crazy, but it does change the character of the dish just enough to make it so much better.

And be sure to use Chinese cabbage (also known as Napa cabbage). It’s not something where you can use regular cabbage.

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