Category Archives: Main Dishes

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken

Always a family favorite, this stir-fry comes together quickly for a last minute dinner.

Because the dried peppers are left whole in this recipe, it is not spicy. If you like a little more heat, simply cut up the peppers on your plate and eat them along with the stir-fry.

Szechuan peppercorns and Chinese black vinegar can be found in Asian markets or online. The peppercorns usually come whole. You can use any pepper mill/grinder to crush them. You can also use a small coffee grinder to grind the peppercorns.

RECIPE:

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken

3 chicken breasts, diced
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs sherry
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns

2 Tbs oil
8-10 dried small red chilis (Arbols)
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
2-3 stalks celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
½ cup roasted peanuts
1 bunch green onions, sliced diagonally into 1 ½” pieces

Sauce:
1/3 cup chicken broth
3 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs sherry
1 Tbs Chinese black vinegar or rice vinegar
1 ½ Tbs cornstarch
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs sesame oil

Combine chicken with 2 Tbs soy sauce, 1 Tbs sherry, ginger, garlic, and ground peppercorns. Marinate 1 hour.

Combine sauce ingredients and set aside.

Heat 1 Tbs oil in large skillet or wok over high heat. Add whole dried chilis to hot oil and cook until they just begin to blacken. Remove chilis from oil and place in serving dish. Add vegetables to the hot oil in pan and cook over high heat until crisp-tender. Remove from pan and place in serving dish. Add additional 1 Tbs oil to pan. Add chicken to pan and cook over high heat until chicken is cooked through. Reduce heat to medium, add sauce to pan, and cook until thickened (2-3 mins). Stir in peanuts, green onions, vegetables and chilis. Heat for 1 minute.

Serve over rice.

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Ratatouille

Ratatouille 1

The transition from fall to summer is my very favorite time of the year. I love the cool mornings and sunny (but not humid) days. It is the perfect time for making my favorite comfort food: Ratatouille. Like all good comfort foods, it is warm and filling and permeates your house with delicious smells as it cooks low and slow on the stove. And during this change of seasons, I love that I can still get great fresh garden vegetables and herbs to use in this recipe.

Ratatouille is not always the most visually appealing dish, but is bursting with flavor. It is full of hearty vegetables: eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and lots of fresh herbs Then cooked down on the stove until the flavors blend and meld into the most delicious vegetable stew. Eating healthy has never tasted better!

Ratatouille 2

This is Little A’s very favorite side dish. His face just lights up when he smells it as he comes into the house. All of the kids love it except for Little J (but she hardly counts as she turns her nose up to EVERY vegetable in this dish).

Ratatouille makes a perfect side dish to grilled or roasted meats. I love to serve it this time of year, when we still like to grill chicken, pork, or other things outside. Grilled meat is wonderful, but also begs for something juicy to eat with it. Ratatouille fits that bill perfectly. It is also great later in the winter with a roasted pork tenderloin, roast chicken, or beef roast.

This recipe makes a good-sized pot of ratatouille. You could always scale it back if you don’t want to make that much, but I love to have leftovers of this dish. It makes a perfect lunch all on its own the next day. Or as a sauce for pasta for an easy meal later in the week.

I never measure things when I make this recipe. It is very flexible based on your personal tastes. Below is a good approximation of the amounts that I use.

RECIPE:

Ratatouille 2

Ratatouille

½ cup olive oil
1 large eggplant, skin on, diced
2 onions, chopped
1 red/orange/yellow pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 zucchini and/or yellow squash, sliced and quartered
1 tsp salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
3 cups chopped tomatoes
½ tsp Tabasco sauce (adjust to taste)
3 Tbs chopped fresh basil*
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley*
1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme*
1 Tbs chopped fresh oregano*

Heat olive oil in a large saucepot. Add eggplant to the hot oil and cook until eggplant begins to soften. Add onions, red pepper and garlic and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini, salt, pepper, and dried herbs; cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add chopped tomatoes and Tabasco sauce and cook over medium-low heat, uncovered, until mixture is cooked down and thickened (30-40 minutes). Stir in fresh herbs during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Taste and add additional salt, if necessary.

*Or substitute an additional 2-3 tsp dried Italian seasoning for the fresh herbs

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Blackened Cod with Creamy Cilantro Dressing

Blackened Cod 2

Looking for something to serve with your Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw? This blackened cod is perfect. And quick and easy on a warm summer night when you don’t want to heat up your kitchen.

If you are making the coleslaw as well, there will probably be enough extra dressing from that recipe to use for drizzling onto the cooked fish. Recipe for Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw:

Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw 1

I like to serve this meal with Cotija cheese. Cotija is a firm mild cheese with a texture similar to feta, but without the saltiness. It crumbles easily with your fingers.

Blackened Cod 1

This recipe also makes great Fish Tacos.

RECIPE:

Blackened Cod 2

Blackened Cod with Creamy Cilantro Dressing

4 cod fish fillets (you could also use halibut or snapper)
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp Ancho chili powder
1/8 tsp chipotle chili powder
2 Tbs oil

Creamy Cilantro Dressing (recipe below)
Cotija cheese, crumbled
1 can black beans, drained and mixed with 1 Tbs lime juice
Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw

Prepare Creamy Cilantro Dressing and refrigerate for one hour before serving.

Remove fish from refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking. Mix dry spices in a small bowl. Pat fish fillets dry and rub spices onto both sides of fish fillets.

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Place fish fillets in the hot skillet and sear until cooked through (do not crowd pan; cook in 2 batches if necessary). Depending on the thickness and variety of fish, it should take about 3 minutes per side. Check for doneness with a fork: fish should flake easily, but not fall apart. Remove from pan and let fish rest for 2-3 minutes.

Drizzle fish with some of the Creamy Cilantro Dressing and top with crumbled cotija cheese. Serve fish with coleslaw, black beans, and additional cilantro dressing.

Creamy Cilantro Dressing

½ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
3 green onions
1 fresh jalapeno
¼ cup fresh cilantro
2 Tbs diced mild green chilies (about ½ of a 4 oz can)
2 Tbs fresh squeezed lime juice
½ – 1 tsp Sriracha chili sauce (adjust to taste)
½ tsp kosher salt

Place all dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Refrigerate for one hour before serving

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Teriyaki Chicken

Teriyaki Chicken

Teriyaki Chicken is an easy and delicious way to grill chicken. You can also broil it in the oven if summer storms roll in just as you are getting the grill ready.

I like to use boneless chicken thighs when I make this. They are moist and tender and less likely to dry out when grilled.

RECIPE:

Teriyaki Chicken

Teriyaki Chicken

6-8 boneless chicken thighs or 4 boneless chicken breasts

Sauce:
½ cup soy sauce
3 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs sherry (or rice vinegar)
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp fresh ground ginger
½ tsp cornstarch + 2 Tbs water

Combine all sauce ingredients, except for cornstarch/water mixture, in a Pyrex measuring cup. Microwave for 1 minute, or until sugar completely dissolves. Cool.

Place chicken in a Ziploc bag. Add about 1/3 cup of the sauce to the bag and let chicken marinate for 1 hour to overnight. Grill or broil chicken until cooked through.

Stir cornstarch/water mixture into remaining sauce and mix well. Heat in a small saucepan, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth.

Brush cooked chicken with glaze and serve with rice.

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Thai Green Curry

Thai Green Curry

After spending the month of February with temperatures in the 70s, we are having a brief cold snap. Perfect weather for a bowl of hot Thai Green Curry. Although around here, any temperature is good weather for a delicious curry.

Curry pastes vary widely in their spiciness. My favorite green curry paste is this variety from Maesri. It is, however, extremely spicy. As you are adding your curry paste to the broth, add in small amounts,  tasting before adding additional paste, until you reach your desired spice tolerance.

Green Curry Paste

RECIPE:

Thai Green Curry

Thai Green Curry

about 3 Tbs coconut oil, divided
3-4 Thai eggplant, cubed (or 1 medium zucchini, cubed)
½ cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup diagonally sliced asparagus
3-4 Tbs green curry paste (divided)
1 lb chicken breast, thinly sliced
2 cans coconut milk
1 cup water (or Swanson Thai ginger broth)
1 Tbs fish sauce
2 Tbs brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 red chilies, thinly sliced
1 package firm tofu, cubed
¼ cup Thai basil leaves, sliced
Lime wedges
Hot cooked rice

Heat 1 Tbs coconut oil in a large pot. Add eggplant to hot oil and cook for 3 minutes (eggplant will not be completely cooked). Remove eggplant from pan and set aside. If necessary, add an additional tablespoon of oil to the pot and cook mushrooms and asparagus for 3-4 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Set aside in a separate bowl from the eggplant. Add 1 Tbs coconut oil and 1 Tbs curry paste to the pot. Cook until fragrant. Add chicken to pot and cook until outside is no longer pink, but chicken is not completely cooked.

Add coconut milk and water to the pot with the chicken and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to low and stir in partially cooked eggplant, fish sauce, brown sugar, salt, red chilies and tofu. Simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until chicken and eggplant are cooked through.  (If using zucchini, instead of eggplant, do not return to the curry until just before serving).

Add additional curry paste until desired level of spiciness is reached (add in small amounts and taste after each addition). Return asparagus and mushrooms to the curry. Add additional water if curry is too thick.

Stir in sliced basil leaves just before serving. Serve with lime wedges over hot rice, if desired.

Makes 8-10 servings

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Beef Enchiladas

Beef Enchiladas 2

Beef Enchiladas with Homemade Enchilada Sauce. These are a definite kid pleaser, and so much better than the frozen variety.

These are also perfect for make-ahead dinners. Prepare the individual enchiladas and freeze on a baking sheet. Put the frozen enchiladas into a Ziploc bag and return to the freezer. Then pull out as many as you want to cook on a busy night and bake them frozen (no thawing needed).

Beef Enchiladas 1

RECIPE:

Beef Enchiladas 2

Beef Enchiladas

1 ½ lb ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 ½ Tbs homemade taco seasoning (recipe below)
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp salt (omit if taco seasoning is very salty)
8 flour or 12 corn tortillas (heat or fry corn tortillas to soften)
3 cups shredded cheddar or cheddar Jack cheese (save 1 cup for top)
Enchilada Sauce (recipe below)
Toppings: Diced avocado, sour cream, salsa, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×13” baking dish with nonstick spray.

Prepare Enchilada Sauce.

Brown ground beef and onion in a large skillet until cooked through. Stir in taco seasoning, garlic powder, salt and ½ cup of the prepared Enchilada Sauce. Cook for 5-6 minutes over low heat.

Spread about ½ cup of Enchilada Sauce on bottom of baking dish. Place about 1/3 cup (for corn tortillas) – ½ cup (for flour tortillas) down the center of each tortilla. Top with shredded cheese. Wrap the tortilla around the filling and place seam-side down in the baking pan. Pour remaining Enchilada Sauce over filled enchiladas.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Top with additional 1 cup cheese and bake 5 minutes more, or until cheese is melted.

**TO FREEZE: Prepare filled enchiladas, but do not top with sauce. Place enchiladas, not touching, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm, then place in Ziploc bags. Freeze sauce separately in a Ziploc bag. Enchiladas do not need to be thawed before cooking.

Enchilada Sauce
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbs flour
1 Tbs chili powder
1-1 ½ Tbs Homemade Taco Seasoning (recipe below), or use substitution below
1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
1 (15 oz) can chicken broth
½ Tbs brown sugar
½ tsp salt

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and stir constantly until flour just begins to brown. Whisk in chili powder and taco seasoning. Whisk for 1 minute and then stir in tomato sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar and salt. Simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.

Taco Seasoning Substitution: 1 Tbs chili powder, ¼ tsp each: ground cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix
1 ½ cups chili powder
4 Tbs paprika (Spanish smoked or regular)
2 Tbs coarse kosher salt
2 Tbs black pepper
2 Tbs garlic powder
2 Tbs onion powder
2 Tbs ground cumin
2 Tbs dried oregano
1 Tbs Ancho chili pepper
1 Tbs crushed red pepper flakes
½ Tbs ground cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients and store at room temperature in an airtight container. Use about 2 Tbs of seasoning per pound of meat. Makes about 2 ½ cups.

Note: Adjust amount of crushed red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper to make milder or spicier

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Apricot Glazed Chicken

Apricot Chicken 1

You know those days when you run from one activity to another, and before you know it everyone is starving and you haven’t thought about dinner yet? Apricot Glazed Chicken is made for those days. This recipe is one of my favorite go-to last minute dinners. And it helps that it is always a hit with the kids.

The glaze is a simple mix of apricot jam, soy sauce and a few spices. Brown some chicken breasts or tenderloins in a skillet, pour on the glaze and cook for 5 minutes. Add a little rice and dinner is served!

A perfect meal for the dinner procrastinator!

I have also made this chicken with this homemade Peach Vanilla Jam.

Apricot Chicken 2

RECIPE:

Apricot Chicken 1

Apricot Glazed Chicken

2 Tbs olive oil
4 chicken breasts, or 1 lb chicken tenderloins
Salt, pepper, garlic powder
Hot cooked rice

Glaze:
½ cup apricot jam
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs rice vinegar
1 tsp fresh grated ginger (or ¼ tsp ground ginger)
½ tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp crushed red peppers
Heat oil in a large skillet. Add chicken to skillet and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Cook until well browned.

Combine glaze ingredients and pour over chicken. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and glaze thickens slightly.

Serve over hot steamed rice.

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Roasted Greek Chicken Salad

Greek Chicken 1

Looking for a lighter dinner that isn’t bland and boring?

This roasted Greek chicken with onions and peppers and homemade tzatziki is sure to please everyone in the family. You can eat it over a bed of lettuce or stuffed inside of pita bread.

I like to roast the chicken, peppers and onions in the oven to get nice crispy charred edges, but you could also cook them in a skillet.

Greek Chicken 3

Homemade pita bread and hummus is great served with this salad. Instructions can be found HERE.

Tzatziki is a garlic yogurt dip with grated cucumber and dill. It is a great topper for this salad.

Greek Chicken 2

RECIPE:

Greek Chicken 1

Roasted Greek Chicken Salad

Marinade:
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs Greek seasoning (or 2 tsp oregano + 1 tsp thyme)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

4 boneless chicken breasts, diced
2 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 onion, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced

1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
Feta cheese, crumbled
Tzatziki
Hummus
Pita bread, cut into wedges

Mix marinade ingredients in a Ziploc bag. Add diced chicken to marinade in bag. Refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight. Drain chicken in a colander; discard marinade.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place chicken and sliced onion and red pepper on the baking sheet. Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables just begin to char. Broil for 1-2 minutes at the end of cooking time, if needed.

To cook in a skillet: Sauté in large skillet for 5 minutes; drain any excess liquid. Continue to cook until chicken is cooked through and beginning to brown. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside. Heat 1 Tbs oil in skillet. Add peppers and onions to skillet; cook until tender. Return chicken to skillet and heat through.

Serve over lettuce with feta cheese, tzatziki, hummus and pita bread wedges. Chicken can also be eaten inside of pitas with hummus, tzatziki and feta cheese.

Tzatziki
½ large seedless cucumber (or 2 mini cucumbers)
2 cups whole-fat plain Greek yogurt (Fage Total 4% brand is great)
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs lemon juice
4-6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dill
Dash white pepper
Salt

Grate cucumber (unpeeled), sprinkle with salt and drain in a colander until most of the liquid leeches out. Pat dry with a paper towel. Combine yogurt and cucumber with remaining ingredients. Add additional salt (about ¼-½ tsp) to taste. Refrigerate several hours to blend flavors.

Pita Bread
2 ½ tsp instant yeast
1 ½ cups warm water
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Additional flour for kneading, if necessary

If you have a baking stone, place it (ungreased) in the oven while preheating (if you are using a regular baking sheet, place in oven only 1 min before adding bread). Preheat oven to 475°F for at least 15-20 minutes.

Combine all  ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix well and then knead until smooth and elastic, adding additional flour if needed until dough doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

Divide dough into 12 small balls. Leave in covered bowl. Roll 1 or 2 dough balls into circles about 6-inches across and ¼-inch thick. Place on hot baking stone, one or two at a time. Cook 2 minutes, or until dough puffs up. Turn over and cook about 1 minute longer. Remove from baking stone with a spatula. Place on a plate and flatten pita slightly with spatula (don’t completely flatten, or insides will stick together). Cover with a towel while other pitas are cooking.

Cut in half and fill to eat. Or cut  into wedges and serve with hummus and/or tzatziki for dipping.

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Spicy Sausage Chili

Sausage Chili 3

The air is getting cooler, and chili cook-offs are in the air!

Here is a great option for a spicy (but not too spicy) chili that is full of meat. I use chorizo sausage, ground beef and bacon in this recipe. I like to keep the chorizo in larger chunks, so that you can really taste the sausage.

Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce also give this chili a great smoky flavor.

Sausage Chili 1

I may, however, have made an enemy in my new neighborhood, by edging out the 5-time reigning chili cook-off winner. I hope not, as she is a very sweet woman. Stay tuned for a recipe from the other bake-off winner in our family, Little J!

RECIPE:

Sausage Chili 3

Spicy Sausage Chili

2 lb chorizo sausage, broken into medium chunks
1 lb bacon, chopped
1 lb ground beef
2 onions, diced
2 cloves garlic
2 red or yellow peppers, diced
1-2 jalapenos, finely chopped
4 cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
2 cans tomato sauce
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped
1-2 Tbs adobo sauce from chipotle pepper can
1-2 cans dark red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1-2 cans pinto beans, drained & rinsed
3 Tbs chili powder
1 Tbs Ancho chili pepper
1 tsp chipotle chili powder, optional
1 Tbs oregano
1 Tbs cocoa powder
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
Optional Toppings: shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped red or green onions

Cook sausage and bacon until browned; drain excess fat. Add ground beef to pan and cook until browned. Stir in onions, garlic and peppers and cook until vegetables are softened. Place meat and vegetables in a large crock pot (6-7 quarts). Add the remaining ingredients (except toppings) to the crock pot and stir. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours. Taste after about 4-6 hours. Add additional salt or more heat (chili pepper), if desired. Serve with desired toppings.

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Create-Your-Own Stir Fry

Chicken Stir Fry 3

Today’s post comes to you courtesy of Little J.

JGS0917162

For a class assignment, Little J had to make a Family Favorite Recipe all on her own. This included planning, shopping, cooking and clean-up. This is my very favorite type of homework assignment! She chose to make a chicken stir-fry. Definitely one of her favorite meals.

My favorite thing about stir-fries is how adaptable they are to whatever you can find in your freezer and produce drawer. Little J chose to use chicken, fresh green beans, celery, carrots and onion in her stir-fry.

The recipe below is for a basic stir-fry that you can customize to your family’s taste. I also included Little J’s customization.

JGS0917161

I look forward to more amazing creations from this amazing daughter!

RECIPE:

Chicken Stir Fry 3

Create-Your-Own Stir Fry

1-2 lb thinly sliced chicken breasts OR thinly sliced beef (flank steak, skirt steak, or leftover roast beef) OR thinly sliced pork tenderloin

3-4 cups chopped fresh vegetables (onions, broccoli, green beans, carrots, celery, mushrooms, pea pods, asparagus, cabbage, red or green peppers, green onion—whatever is in the fridge!)

2-3 Tbs oil

Sauce:
½ cup chicken broth
¼ cup soy sauce
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs rice wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp grated ginger
2 tsp chili paste
2 tsp sesame oil

Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl or glass measuring cup. Stir until cornstarch and honey are completely dissolved. Place sliced meat in a Ziploc bag and add ¼ cup of the sauce to the bag with the meat. Close bag and set aside.

Heat 1 Tbs oil in a large skillet or wok. Sauté vegetables over high heat until crisp- tender. Work in small batches, removing vegetables from the pan when they are cooked (add additional oil if needed). Place cooked vegetables in serving dish.

Add 1 Tbs oil to pan; heat until hot. Add meat to pan and cook over high heat until meat is cooked through (about 5 minutes). Reduce heat to medium-low and add sauce to pan. Cook until sauce thickens (2-3 mins). Stir in cooked vegetables. Cook 1 minute to heat through.

Serve over rice.

Makes 6 servings.

 

Little J’s Chicken Stir-Fry

4 boneless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
2 cups fresh French green beans, cut into 1-2” pieces
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced
2-3 Tbs olive oil
Hot cooked rice

Sauce:
½ cup chicken broth
¼ cup soy sauce
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs rice wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp grated ginger
2 tsp chili paste
2 tsp sesame oil

Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl or glass measuring cup. Stir until cornstarch and honey are completely dissolved. Place sliced chicken breasts in a Ziploc bag and add ¼ cup of the sauce to the bag with the chicken. Close bag and set aside.

Heat 1 Tbs oil in a large skillet or wok. Sauté vegetables over high heat until crisp- tender. Work in small batches, removing vegetables from the pan when they are cooked (add additional oil if needed). Place cooked vegetables in serving dish.

Add 1 Tbs oil to pan; heat until hot. Add chicken to pan and cook over high heat until chicken is cooked through (about 5 minutes). Reduce heat to medium-low and add sauce to pan. Cook until sauce thickens (2-3 mins). Stir in cooked vegetables. Cook 1 minute to heat through.

Serve over rice.

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