Pecan-Crusted Salmon with Roasted Carrots & Jasmine Rice
vs.
Peanut Butter & Sunflower Seed Smothered Chicken with Mashed Potatoes

vs.
Broiled Cheddar-Thyme Crab Dip with Toasted Baguette
vs. 
Sesame-Seared Tuna with Flash-Fried Kale and Avocado


 
At Trader Joe's we picked up their frozen sweet and sour chicken tempura.  I love sweet and sour chicken, but our local Chinese joint serves just the chicken and sauce.  No fruits or veggies.  Booooo.  So, I grabbed the frozen chicken and sauce and decided to make the rest myself.  Quick, easy, and with results as tasty as Chinese carry-out, this will be my new go-to recipe for sweet and sour chicken when just the chicken and sauce just won't do.

Ingredients:


  • Trader Joe’s frozen sweet and sour chicken tempura (fried chicken pieces with sweet and sour sauce)
  • White rice
  • Olive oil
  • Canned pineapple chunks
  • Colored sweet bell peppers
  • Yellow onion
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Salt and pepper

Directions: 

  1. Preheat the oven according to the chicken tempura package directions.
  2. Pour the water, rice, and salt into the slow cooker and get it cooking.
  3. Slice the onions and bell peppers into thin strips and slice the cherry tomatoes in half.
  4. The oven should be heated, so toss the chicken onto a jelly roll pan and pop into the oven.
  5. Heat olive oil in a large skillet.  Toss in the onion and bell pepper.  Cook until they start to soften.  
  6. Then, add the cherry tomatoes, pineapple chunks, a splash of red wine vinegar, a sprinkling of sugar, and season with salt and pepper.   
  7. Cook until tomatoes start to soften.  Then, fold in the sweet and sour sauce until evenly distributed.  
  8. Pull the chicken out of the oven, pour it into the skillet, and toss with the veggies and sauce.
  9. Take the skillet off the heat.  Plate a bed of rice and top with the sweet and sour chicken and veggies.
  10. That’s it!

For a side, we had a leftover tropical fruit salad from the night before.  It shares many ingredients with the sweet and sour dish, but it paired nicely without being overly repetitive:

Toss together the following ingredients and let sit a few hours to let the flavors meld:

  • Sliced oranges
  • Sliced kiwi
  • Diced onion
  • Chopped rainbow sweet bell peppers
  • Chopped mango
  • Chunked avocado
  • Halved cherry tomatoes
  • Orange zest from ½ orange
  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • A squeeze of honey 

 
Now that we’re moving into the winter months, I’m cooking with red meats I haven’t cooked before.  Last week it was rack of lamb.  More recently I made filet mignon steaks wrapped in bacon.  Using ingredients from Trader Joe’s, I put together a meat and potatoes meal that was hearty and tasty.

Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon Steaks: Wrap beef tenderloin in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Take out of the fridge and slice through the tenderloin – wrap still on – into 1.5-inch thick steaks.  Season with salt and pepper and wrap each with a slice of bacon.  Heat olive oil in a pan and cook steaks, making sure to sear all sides and the bacon.

Pan-Sauteed  Asparagus: Take Trader Joe’s frozen asparagus spears and cook in butter, salt, and pepper – tossing frequently – until soft and browned.

Mushroom Mashed Potatoes: Boil russet potato chunks in salted water until tender.  Meanwhile, sauté sliced baby portabella mushrooms in butter, garlic, salt, and pepper until soft and brown.  Mash potatoes with cream, mushrooms, and a handful of grated or chunked cheese.

Salad: Dark,leafy green with sliced tomatoes, apple-balsamic pickled shallots, and herbed goat cheese.
Every week or so, I change up my table settings and centerpieces.  I collect vintage linens and like mixing and matching them to create different looks.  The smartest décor purchases I’ve made are those that I can change with the seasons.  I have large glass hurricanes that allow me to swap out the fillers (corks, dried flowers, garlands, ornaments and bulbs, pebbles, potpourri, etc.) and candles with the seasons.  

 
This is a tasty, simple recipe using a mix of fresh and packaged foods to create a meal full of flavor and fiber.

Ingredients:

- Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
- Greek Feta Seasoning Blend from Spice Merchants 
- Dark, Leafy Greens (arugula, spinach, etc.)
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Hummus (Trader Joe’s is the best!)
- Fresh Mozzerella Slices
- Crumbled Herbed Goat Cheese
- Chickpea Salad (Trader Joe’s makes one with chickpeas, mint, red onions, tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, and salt)
- Whole Wheat Pitas cut into halves for stuffing

Step 1: Marinate chicken thighs in lemon zest, lemon juice, the used lemon wedges, smashed garlic cloves, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and the hefty sprinkling of the Greek seasoning
Step 2: Sautee thighs in olive oil with the marinade (minus lemons).  Add butter and baste the chicken with the melted butter sauce as it cooks
Step 3: Remove the chicken from the pan and slice into thin strips
Step 4: Plate the pita pocket stuffers: chicken, greens, tomatoes, hummus, mozzarella, goat cheese, chickpea salad
Step 5: Stuff your pita pockets with an assortment of the stuffings.  If you want more moisture in your sandwich, make a dressing of oil and vinegar (lemon juice, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, etc.)

Step 6: Stuff your face and enjoy!