Vegan Stir Fry That Even Non-Vegans Will Like

img_2175Some nights even someone who likes to cook is just stumped. My car is in the shop, so I am limited as to how many groceries I can carry home. Since I almost always have a good supply of vegetables and some extra firm tofu around, I thought why not do a stir fry? I quickly looked online and found this recipe which I played with and decided for a little decadence to make some vegan coconut rice to go alongside. After speaking with Frances’ mother recently, I decided to mix my rice up a bit and added dried moong beans to the rice. This may be more South Asian than stir fry Asian, but I’m a big believer in not being totally bound by tradition, and am willing to mix it up a bit, taking the best from complimentary cuisines. And please don’t tell Frances’ mother, but I am not nearly as big a fan of sticky rice as I am of Basmati rice, so my other heresy is to use that to accompany my stir fry!

While I used fresh tofu for this recipe, there is decent shelf stable tofu available so you can always have some on hand for a quick dinner. Cooking the tofu this way gives it a wonderful bite and mouth-feel. This dish was deliciously sweet and spicy and very, very satisfying. I used what I had on hand, but don’t be afraid to play with the mix of vegetables. And if you want to keep it simple or lower in calories, make plain, sticky rice.

Tofu Vegan Stir Fry with Coconut Rice adapted from the Minimalist Baker

Yield: 2 generous portions


Stir Fry

One 14-ounce package firm or extra firm tofu

2 cups roughly chopped green beans ( I used the French haricot verts and just cut them in half)

1 cup each sliced carrots and sweet bell peppers

4 large mushrooms, sliced (I used Cremini, but almost any kind will do)

2 Tbsp peanut oil for sautéing

Toasted sesame oil for drizzling

Possible garnishes

Finely chopped scallions (optional)

Lightly toasted cashews (optional)

Toasted sesame seeds (optional)


1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger

1 rounded teaspoon minced garlic

1 Tablespoon granulated or demerara sugar

1 Tbsp agave, maple syrup (or honey if not vegan)

2 Tbsp cornstarch

2 T dry Sherry

2 T vegetable stock or water

2 generous teaspoons Gochujong or other hot sauce or to taste



1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 C) and begin drying your tofu. Drain, remove it from the package and place it on a plate that has sides and is large than the tofu block. Cover with a piece of parchment or waxed paper and weight the tofu with a heavy skillet or bricks. Leave this for about 30 minutes and then pour off the liquid.

2.  Once dry, chop into roughly 1- inch cubes or  1.25 x 1.25-inch squares.

3. Arrange tofu on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet to prevent sticking and bake for a total of 25 to 30 minutes, flipping once halfway through to ensure even cooking. This will dry out the tofu and help give it a more meat-like texture.

4. Once the tofu is golden brown and a bit tough and firm, remove from the oven set it out to dry a bit more while you prep your vegetables. Ideally, it would set out another 45 minutes or even longer. ( I actually made my tofu a couple of days ahead since my husband ended up working late and I didn’t make this the night I originally intended it for. I refrigerated the cooked tofu and took it out about 30 minutes before cooking it.)

5. If serving over rice, start the rice at this point.

6. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients – set aside. (I actually made the sauce a day ahead and it kept, covered on my counter until I was ready to use it. All I had to do was whisk it together when I was ready to cook.)

7. To a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, add peanut oil and swirl to coat. Then add veggies and toss to coat. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often. Cover the pan and cook on a low heat for about 3 minutes. When the vegetables have some color and have softened a bit, add the tofu and stir through. Then add the sauce down the inner side of the wok. It should bubble and thicken. This will only take a couple of minutes

8. I like my veggies pretty crunchy, but if  you like the softer, cook for another minute or two. When veggies are cooked to your preferred doneness, remove from heat. Serve as is or over rice, drizzle with sesame oil and garnish, if desired.

Coconut Rice With Moong Beans



1 cup rice of choice (I used Basmati)

1/2 cup of dried moong beans (dal)

One 13.5 ounce (or 14 ounce) can of coconut milk

1.25 cups of water

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 rounded teaspoon granulated or demerara sugar


  1. Rinse and drain your rice and moong beans in cool water.
  2. Bring all of the other ingredients to a boil in a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add the drained rice and moong beans and return to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot tightly. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the liquid is all absorbed and the rice is tender.


Easy Ramen at Home


Soup can be as delicate as a simple consomme or as hearty as a mushroom barley; it can be served hot or cold; it can be a first course or a complete meal. No matter how you serve it, soup is always comforting and almost every culture believes in the healing properties of a good soup. This ramen only requires that you have the right ingredients on hand. Some are shelf-stable and you can always have around and the rest you can pick up at most grocery stores. The meat is the only item that you might want to pick up ahead of time and can be on-hand in the freezer. There are no special techniques to learn and it is ready in under 30 minutes. You can play around with the ingredients, but this is my favorite version. It elevates packaged ramen to a dinner that is good enough to serve to family.

Lisa’s Weeknight Ramen

Yield: 3-4 servings


Two 3-ounce packages of chicken-flavored ramen noodles

1 quart of good chicken stock, preferably unsalted

1 Tablespoon yellow or red miso (optional, but keeps a long time in the fridge)

3/4 cup shredded carrot

2 or 3 baby bok choy, split lengthwise

2 large, hard-boiled eggs, peeled and split length-wise

8 ounces of a good mushroom, sliced (Shitake are always available, but try using clam, trumpet or oyster mushrooms if you can find them)

About 3.5 ounces stir-fry baby corn or the kernels from one large ear of fresh corn

5 to 6 scallions, thinly sliced

Either one smoked duck breast, thinly sliced or about 8 ounces of smoked pork belly, sliced (leave the fat on since it adds flavor!)

Asian Sesame Oil for drizzling

Kosher salt or low-sodium soy sauce to taste


  1. Prep all of your ingredients. In a 3.5 quart or larger heavy pot with a lid, place the ramen noodles, the seasoning powder, miso, if used, the meat and the chicken stock. If you prefer more liquid you can add either more stock or up to 2 cups of water. Adjust your salt accordingly. If using unsalted stock, season with about a teaspoon of salt or 2 teaspoons soy sauce. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes.
  2. Add your other ingredients, except for the sesame oil and scallions and simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes, warming everything through and blanching the bok choy. If the egg was just boiled, you can add it at the last minute. If it came out of the fridge then add it with the vegetables.
  3. When ready, place some of each ingredient in a bowl, drizzle with sesame oil and scatter scallions on the top. Enjoy – it’s that simple!

Sticky Asian Ribs

IMG_1641I admit it – I love ribs. I didn’t grow up in a Kosher home and although over the years, I have learned most of the laws for keeping Kashrut, it just is not essential to my Jewish identity. I respect those who do and I will leave it at that.

The apartment we moved to about eight years ago has a lovely large terrace and my husband and I were sure that once we could have a grill we would since we both adore BBQ and grilled meat and veggies. Somehow though each year has passed without our buying one. I have since found ways to make lovely grilled vegetables and meats in a grill pan on my gas stove. So I wondered if I could also make good ribs in the oven. These are wonderful! They don’t have the smoky BBQ flavor of a Texas or Kansas City rib, but they are tender, delicious and REALLY, REALLY satisfying. I call these Asian ribs, but truthfully they are only Asian-inspired. The sauce is also wonderful on chicken so if you don’t eat pork, you can still enjoy the great taste. I used some left-over sauce with a whole chicken and it cooked up incredibly tender and juicy.

The first time I made these I used what are known as St. Louis Ribs. They are flatter and fattier than BabyBack Ribs, which are more curved and usually more expensive. Either one will work in this recipe; the only difference will be in the cooking time. Since Baby Backs are leaner (and what I am using this time around) the cooking time will be about 45 minutes to an hour less than for the St. Louis Ribs. My husband and I decided that while the Babay Back Ribs were meatier than the St. Louis Ribs, there wassoemthing aboutthe extra fat that added flavor and tenderness. It’s personal preference – they both are delicious.

Sticky Asian Ribs

Yield: 2-4 portions depending on the number of sides (I really love the ribs, so for us this is 2 portions!) with extra sauce


One 3 to 3.5 pound rack St. Louis or Baby Back style pork ribs

4 cups of dark brown sugar

3/4 cup of Sake or Vodka

1/4 cup of soy sauce (I always use reduced sodium)

1/4 cup Hoisin sauce

1 Tablespoon Kosher salt

1 Tablespoon minced fresh garlic

1 rounded teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

1 rounded teaspoon ground ginger

4 to 5 star anise

2 Tablespoons Oyster sauce

3/4 teaspoons red pepper flakes OR ground cayenne

1/2 cup orange or blood orange jam/marmalade, with pieces of peel (You could also use apricot jam or Damson Plum preserve imstead.)

1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)


  1. Cut your rack in half or quarters, depending on how many people you are serving
  2. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients for the sauce. It will be a little grainy in texture which is just fine. Separate off about 1/2 to 1/3 of the sauce to save for later. Divide that amount as well to keep some for eating with the ribs or for another use. I kept mine in the fridge in a glass jar for up to a week.
  3. In one or two large heavy-duty plastic bags with a good seal, place your ribs. Pour in one half of the sauce and smoosh around until the ribs are well covered. Seal the bag(s) carefully, place inside an additional bag and refrigerate overnight (or even for 2 nights).
  4. When you are ready to cook the ribs, preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with 2-inch sides with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place the ribs on the pan.
  5. Cook for 3 to 3.5 hours if using St. Louis ribs and for 2 to 2.5 hours if using Baby Back ribs, basting every 30 minutes with some of the reserved marinade. Do not use leftover marinade from the bag where the ribs were after the first 30 minutes. You don’t want to use sauce from the raw meat on the cooked meat.
  6. Once the ribs look done (you will know when you see them, trust me), turn the oven temperature to broil. Turn the ribs over, basting the bottom well and broil for about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn over again and baste one last time. Broil for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. IMG_1637Enjoy! You likely don’t need it, but if you want additional sauce, you have it.

NOTE: I used extra sauce to marinate some chicken breasts that I will cook tomorrow or Wednesday.

Braised Curried Chicken with Star Anise


Week-nights it can be difficult to motivate me to cook for just the two of us – especially when I never know exactly when my husband will be home from work. This comforting recipe from The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook by Gloria Bley Miller is a wonderful choice. The recipe doesn’t require a million ingredients, is not expensive and can be made ahead and reheated. This cookbook dates from before ethnic cooking was so widely popular and is a wonderful Chinese cookbook primer. It’s recipes are very flexible and surely everyone can find things they would enjoy. I have adapted this recipe, but the inspiration is definitely from GB Miller. If you are feeling particularly stressed for time, buy pre-chopped garlic and ginger root. My chicken will be served with some fresh, bright green sugar snap peas that I have quickly stir-fried with a little salt, garlic and sugar and a splash of sesame oil before dishing out.

Braised Curried Chicken with Star Anise

Yield: 4-6 servings


6 chicken drumsticks, skin removed

4 chicken thighs, skin removed and cut in half

2 medium onions, chopped

1 Tablespoon finely chopped garlic

1 Tablespoon, finely grated or chopped fresh ginger root

4 Tablespoons vegetable oil, divided (I used Canola oil)

1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons curry powder (If you want it spicy, use “hot” curry powder)

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 cups chicken stock (I always try to use unsalted stock)

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

4 cloves of star anise

1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice (I used red baby bliss but Yukon Gold would also be good)


  1. Heat 2 Tablespoons of the oil in a Dutch oven and stir-fry the onions until they soften. Then add the garlic and stiry-fry for a bout 3 more minutes.
  2. Add the additional 2 Tablespoons of oil, ginger, flour and curry powder and stir through to blend well over a low heat.
  3. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the chicken. Stir through, turning the chicken to coat.
  4. Add the sugar, soy sauce, salt and star anise. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Then add the potatoes and cook for about 30 more minutes or until the potatoes are tender and the chicken is cooked through
  5. If making ahead, about 35 minutes before serving, gently bring the dish to a simmer and warm through.

Tofu Coconut Curry

Tofu curry2

Some weeks I am so overwhelmed by recipes I read and want to try that I actually end up unsure what to make. I know – it sounds crazy, but I find that I simply cannot make up my mind. Several weeks ago I read a recipe for a quick prawn curry that sounded good and so I printed out a copy for myself and then added it to my “to cook” folder – and forgot about it! One thing that I liked is that it serves two – just enough for me and my husband and no leftovers. I have nothing against leftovers and many, many nights when I get home from work, I am etxremely grateful for them, but sometimes I just wish I could eat a dish once during the week and then move on. I see no reason that this dish couldn’t be doubled, so if you need to cook for more than two people, give it a try. You could also substitute shrimp or diced boneless, skinless chicken breast. It’s quick enough for a weeknight dinner and only requires rice or another grain of your choice.

Shrimp Coconut Curry adapted from Nadia’s Healthy Kitchen

Yield: 2 – 3 Servings but can be doubled


14 ounces of cubed extra firm tofu OR 8 ounces of fresh or frozen uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined OR 3/4 of a pound of diced boneless, skinless chicken breast

1 cup frozen peas

1/2 can coconut milk

1 T coconut or Canola oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon mustard seeds (optional)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Juice of one lemon

Kosher or Sea salt to taste

1/2 bunch of chopped fresh cilantro for garnish


  1. In a frying pan or wok, saute the onions over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until they become transparent
  2. Add all of the spices and garlic and cook for 1 more minute until fragrant
  3. Add the tofu and lemon juice. Stir to make sure that the tofu gets a good coating of the spices and then add in the coconut milk.
  4. Add the peas and season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  5. Cover and leave to simmer for 5 – 10 minutes depending on the protein used
  6. Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro just before serving.
  7. Serve over rice or other grain of your choice.

Tofu Curry1

Stir-Fried Bean Curd with Ground Turkey

Ma Po Tofu

Okay, this may not sound wonderful, but it’s really quite good and simple to make. As I have mentioned before, one of my favorite food websites is Food52. I have found several very good recipes though the site as well as some fun – and useful – kitchen items to purchase. I love Asian food, especially as an antidote to the occasional over-indulgence in some rich foods. I haven’t located a delivery Chinese restaurant that ever seems worth the expense to me and frankly, what could be fresher than homemade.

This recipe is known as Ma Po Tofu in restaurants and is usually made with ground pork. I chose ground turkey, but feel free to substitute ground pork if you prefer. This is an adaptation of an adaptation of a recipe that was originally published in Food & Wine.

Ma Po Tofu (Stir-Fried Bean Curd with Ground Turkey) – adapted from Robin Diane

Yield: 4 portions unless served with other dishes


1 pound ground turkey

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch

3/4 teaspoon five-spice powder

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 bunch minced scallions or more to taste

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

About 1 teaspoon sesame oil (regular or “hot”)

About 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I used Peanut oil)

3/4 cup finely chopped sweet red pepper

1 teaspoon (or more to taste) minced jalapeno pepper

1 rounded Tablespoon minced fresh garlic

1 rounded Tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 cup chicken stock, preferably unsalted

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 Tablespoons oyster sauce

1 pound fresh firm or extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into 3/4 inch cubes (see my instructions on pressing tofu)


  1. Press tofu according to instructions, cut into large dice and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. When ready to cook, combine the ground turkey, egg, 1 Tablespoon of the cornstarch, the five-spice powder, about 1 Tablespoon of the scallions, 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar. 1/2 teaspoon of the seasme oil and the salt. In a wok or large frying pan, heat 1.5 Tablespoons of the oil over high heat until it is shimmering. Then add the turkey mixture and break it up with a wooden utensil until it browns. Stir-fry until it is cooked through – about 3 minutes. Transfer to a strainer over a bowl to drain any excess fat.
  3. Lower the heat to moderate and add about 1 Tablespoon of the vegetable oil until it is hot. Stir in alll of the remaining scallions (except for about 1 Tablespoon that you have set aside for garnish), the red and jalapeno peppers, garlic and giner. Stir-fry until fragrant – about 30 seconds. Add back the cooked turkey and the remaining sugar and mix well. Increase the heat to high, stir in the chicken stock, soy sauce and oyster sauce and bring to a boil.
  4. Meanwhile dissolve the remaining 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in 2 teaspoons of cold water. When well mixed, add the mixture to the center of the pan, stirring as you do it. Gently stir in the tofu and cook for about 3 minutes more until heated through. Serve over steamed or boiled rice and sprinkle with the remaining chopped scallions and drizzle with a bit more sesame oil.

“Thai” Chicken Burgers with Coconut Rice Pilaf

Today was one of those perfect fall days. The air was crisp, the sky was a clear, true blue and there was only a whisper of a breeze. My husband and I took a long walk, meandering through streets and neighborhoods that we normally never go through. It is a favorite past-time of ours and we love to walk until just before the point of exhaustion. We arrived home and I still was happy to make dinner. Tonight I made slightly spicy “Thai” chicken burgers, a green salad and then I had to decide what to do for a side. As Frances said in an earlier post, the sides are what can take something that you make all of the time and send it to a new level. I decided to concoct some coconut rice pilaf. I always have coconut milk on hand because if you are cooking a meal for people who keep Kosher or are vegan, it’s a wonderful substitute for dairy. And I buy Basmati rice in 10 pound bags because we love it that much. Everyone has their own pantry staples and mine always include a nice variety of nuts and dried fruits, so I knew that I had the makings for a delicious pilaf without having to go to the store. I also keep some kind of chutney on hand and this time I had Major Grey Mango Chutney which was a nice accent to the burgers.

Thai chicken burger and coconut rice

“Thai” Chicken Burgers adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow

Yield 3-4 servings


1 pound ground chicken, white or dark meat

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1 bunch finely chopped cilantro

2 shallots, finely minced

1 teaspoon red pepper paste (I used Harissa, but you could use red bean paste with chili or Korean red pepper paste)

2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked ground black pepper

2 Tablespoons of a neutral oil (I used Grapeseed, but canola or safflower oil would be fine)


  1. Using your hands (I know, I know, but you just have to!) thoroughly mix everything except for the oil together. Wetting your hands in cold water, form either 3 patties or 4 patties about 1 inch thick. I made 3, but if you are a very small eater or being good about your diet, by all means make 4.
  2. Heat a grill pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat and then add the oil.When the oil sizzles if you drop a tiny amount of water in the pan, add the burgers. This will spatter so understand ahead of time that you will have to wipe your stove top when you are finished. Get over it.
  3. This part is going to depend a bit on the size of your burger. I made 3 burgers out of 1 pound of chicken and cooked them for 6 minutes on the first side and 8 minutes, covered on the second side. My burgers were pretty thick so they were wonderfully juicy, but fully cooked when I finished. Do allow your burgers to sit in the pan with the heat turned off for 5 minutes before serving them. This will allow the burgers to absorb back all of the juices that otherwise would run right out the second you cut into them. You do not want to undercook chicken. If the burger looks nicely browned and seems firm to the touch, it’s probably done.

Coconut Rice Pilaf

Yield: 6 servings


1 cup Basmati Rice (Texmati rice will do if you can’t easily find Basmati rice. I buy mine from Amazon…)

1 shallot, finely chopped

1/2 cup dried currants or Sultana raisins

1/4 cup of blanched slivered almonds

1 stick of cinnamon bark

1 15.3 ounce can of full-fat coconut milk

2 Tablespoons butter or margarine

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 cup clover honey or other light colored honey

zest of one orange

Vanilla Soy milk, almond milk or regular milk


  1. In a small skillet melt the butter and saute the chopped shallot and currants or raisins until the shallots are softened.
  2. Add the turmeric, cardamom, orange zest and honey and mix through. Set aside.
  3. In a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid, add the coconut milk and enough of the other milk to make 2 generous cups. Add the cinnamon bark.
  4. Bring the milk to a boil and add in the rice and give it a stir. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low so that the liquid simmers. Cook for 14 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  5. Warm the currant mixture just until the honey is liquified and then pour it into the cooked rice and gently mix it through. Let the rice sit for a few mionutes to finish absorbing the liquid.

Vegan Pad Thai

Pad Thai

I have always loved veggies and legumes and after I have had a few meat-heavy meals, it feels good to make something that is vegetarian or vegan. This recipe would be vegan if you were to leave out the fish sauce.

Whenever I am making something for the first time, I try to look at several versions of the recipe by different authors and then I take aspects that I like from several of them. The original recipe that caught my eye appeared at Food 52, a website that I go to several times a day. But like Frances, I also enjoy reading Mark Bittman, so some of this recipe comes from him, with the rest from me. I did read a few other recipes for Pad Thai but these were the two that made me want to try it on my own. See what you think.

PS: Leftovers made for a GREAT lunch!

Almost Vegan Pad Thai adapted from Gena Hamshaw and Mark Bittman

Yield: 4 servings


8 ounces pad thai rice noodles

For the sauce

6 Tablespoons unsweetened peanut butter (chunky or smooth)

1 Tablespoons tamarind paste (You will use this up in Indian food so don’t worry about what you will do with the rest)

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

3 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce or tamari

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

1.5 Tablespoons sriracha or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/3 cup tap water

1 Tablespoon peanut oil

For the stir-fry

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 14-16 ounce block of extra firm tofu that has been pressed for at least 30 minutes (see note below)

1 Tablespoon grated ginger

2 medium carrots, cut into thin sticks

4-6 scallions, halved lengthwise and cut into one-inch pieces

1 small head Napa cabbage, shredded (about 4-5 cups) OR equal amount of snow pea pods

8 ounce package mung bean sprouts

For garnish

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts, chopped

Lime wedges


  1. In order for the tofu to have some “bite” I like to press it under bricks (books or heavy cans will work too) for at least 30 minutes and as much as an hour. This gets all of the excess liquid out and compacts the tofu. I often do this and then marinate and bake the tofu, but that is for another day.  You can even do this a day or two ahead and refrigerate it until ready to use.pressing tofu
  2. Prepare the sauce by whisking all of the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Prepare the rice noodles according to the package. If made ahead, drain them and stir in a healthy teaspoon of toasted sesame oil to keep them from sticking too much. Do not over cook these or they will be like eating mush.
  4. In a large pan or wok, heat the peanut oil and stir in the garlic and ginger. After about 1 minute, add the carrots and scallions. Stir-fry for about 3 minutes. Now add the Napa cabbage or snow pea pods and the tofu and about 1 cup of the sauce.
  5. Stir-fry for 2 minutes and then add the rice noodles. Add more sauce until you have it the way you like it. Some people – like my husband – like LOTS of sauce. After about 2 minutes, add the mung bean sprouts. Stir-fry, moving everything constantly and gently so as not to break up the tofu or noodles, until warmed through.
  6. When warmed through, garnish with the peanuts and cilantro.

Take-IN Chinese food

chicken soong

I guess my cooking goes in phases – all Mediterranean, lots of Asian or South Asian or just plain, delicious comfort food. I have recently been looking through old recipes and came across one that I always loved and which somehow fell off of my food rotation. It’s called Chicken Soong and is Chinese lettuce-wrapped ground chicken. The recipe is hand-written and is probably at least 35 years old based on the note paper I found it on. I have no recollection of where I got the recipe, but I have no trouble recalling that I really liked this dish. I will serve it alongside a comforting beef, mushroom and broccoli dish over rice. It’s possible that 35 years ago, I might have made several other dishes alongside it, but I’m a little more realistic in my expectations now.

The prep could all be done the night before so when you get home from work or school or soccer practice, all you have to do is cook up your rice and throw the ingredients in the wok. The prep for two dishes takes about an hour. Perhaps if I were a faster chopper or more used to making Asian food, it could be done more quickly. The result is delicious and satisfying in under an hour – sort of. And the bonus is that if you have any of the lettuce wraps left-over, they make a wonderful lunch the next day.

Chicken Soong

Yield: This will not be satisfying as a dinner on its own. Combined with another dish like the one below, this will easily serve 6 people. If you make two more dishes, it could easily satsify 8 people unless you are feeding teenage boys – then all bets are off!


10-12 lettuce leaves from either iceberg or leaf lettuce

1 pound ground chicken (I like the chicken to be a mix of white and dark meat so it isn’t so dry)

1 egg white (save the yolk for an omelette or baking pastry)

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1-2 jalapeno chilis, cored and shredded/sliced (Know how much heat you like in your food; you can always substitute 1/2 cup thinly sliced sweet peppers)


10-12 water chestnuts, thinly sliced, then diced

1/2 cup finely diced celery  finely diced celery

1/4 cup finely diced carrots (about 1 medium carrot)

1 rounded teaspoon finely chopped ginger (you can buy it in jars in the produce section to save time)

3-4 scallions, finely chopped

2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic (you can buy this in the produce section also to save time)

3/4 cup oil (Canola or Peanut are good here)

For sauce:

2 Tablespoons dry Sherry

1/2 Tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

1/2 Tablespoon chili paste with garlic (harissa or Gochujang can be substituted)

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (You must use the toasted Asian sesame oil)

1 Tablespoon cornstarch combined with 1 Tablespoon water


  1. Add egg white, salt and 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch to ground chicken and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  2. Combine the celery, carrots, water chestnuts and peppers with ginger. Set asidecarrot celery water chestnut mix
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the scallion and garlic and set to the side.
  4. Combine the ingredients for the sauce except for the cornstarch and water
  5. In a separate dish combine the cornstarch and water and whisk with a fork or chopstick to make sure that it is well combined and there are no clumps
  6. Heat 3/4 cup of oil in a wok or deep skillet. Make sure that the oil is very hot before putting in the chicken so it doesn’t absorb the oil. Add the chicken, breaking up the pieces and stirring constantly for about 1.5 minutes. Drain over a strainer and set aside.drained chicken
  7. Return 2 Tablespoons of the oil to the wok and add the celery mixture. After 30 seconds, add the scallion and garlic. After 10 seconds, add the chicken and cook for 30 more seconds.chicken soong in motion
  8. Add sauce mixture with 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (if you like it HOT, you can use the sesame oil with hot peppers). Cook for 30 seconds and then add the cornstarch mixture. Mix through and immediately turn off the heat.
  9. Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter and the filling in a bowl on the side. Everyone can take a tablespoon of the filling and roll it into a lettuce wrap.

beef and broccoli plated

Beef with Broccoli and Mushrooms

Yield: 4 – 6 servings with anothe rdish like the one above


10 ounces flat-iron steak thinly sliced against the grain (You can use flank steak but it will cost you about 2-3 times more and it really isn’t worth it)

3 cups broccoli florets, separated, with any stems, trimmed and sliced thinly on an angle

1 small yellow onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced

About 4 ounces of mushrooms sliced (any kind will do so it is based on preference and budget)

About 2 Tablespoons of oil, preferably peanut oil divided

2 Tablespoons of water

For the meat

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

2 Tablespoons dry sherry

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon  sugar

For the sauce

2 Tablespoons dry sherry

2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 Tablespoon oyster sauce

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil for garnish


  1. Comine the ingredients for the meat in a bowl or heavy-duty plastic ziploc bag and refrigerate until ready to use. This can even be done the night before.
  2. When ready to cook, add 1 Tablespoons of the peanut oil to a hot wok. Pour the oil down the side of the wok, not into the center where it could easily splash you and burn. Add the meat, separating the pieces and moving them around until mostly cooked through. This only takes a couple of minutes.
  3. Carefully remove the cooked meat to a clean bowl and set nearby.
  4. Add 1 more Tablespoon of the remaining peanut oil to the hot wok and then add the onions. Stir for about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the broccoli and mushrooms together and stir for 3 minutes.broccoli and mushrooms
  6. Then add back the meat and stir through. Add 2 Tablespoons of water. Cover the wok and cook for 3 minutes.
  7. Mix the sauce together so that all of the cornstarch is distributed and absorbed into the liquid. Uncover the wok, push the meat and veggies to the side a bit and carefully pour the sauce into the center of the pan. Immediately stir everything well to distribute the sauce and turn off the heat. The sauce will continue to thicken so do not leave the heat on.
  8. Serve over the rice of your choice. I’m usung brown rice tonight. Just be sure that your rice is cooked BEFORE beginning everything else.