general tso's chicken, spicy mushrooms, peppers and onions, steamed green beans

***in which i learn that i enjoy Chinese food much more when i make it myself, because it gets rid of the small pieces of mystery meat that often seem to float inside a shell of deep-fried breading***

Did you know that Rachael Ray now makes a dog food? It's called "Nutrish", which I'm guessing is some sort of a play on "Delish", which she always exclaims in glee after tasting just about everything. There must be some dishes she tries that really make her want to spit her food out in disgust, but every single one is accompanied by a moan of pleasure and "OMFG, that's DELISH!". I guess she's an actress, too. That woman does everything!

Anyway, Siri really seems to like the dog food. She inhaled a bowl of it last night in about three seconds flat, which is big news for a dog the size of my shoe. And why am I talking about Rachael Ray's dog food? Well, my mind tends to jump easily from one topic to another, and when I decided to post this recipe I immediately thought of how Rachael Ray refers to meals like this as MYOTO (Make Your Own Take-Out), and then my eyes drifted to the bag of Rachael Ray dog food. Whew.

Anywho, this recipe comes to me thanks to my lovely friend Jenna, which is why I like to call it "Jennaral Tso's Chicken". Get it? Punny, right? But this was really a good interpretation of the beloved deep-fried, 180 Weight Watchers point version of that dish that shows up at your door in a white styrofoam box with little red words on it. It had the flavor of the sauce down pat, and once you overcome the disappointment at the fact that the chicken hasn't been submerged in a vat of (probably dirty) boiling oil, I think you'll like it too. So, without further ado:

Homemade General Tso's Chicken

1/2 tsp ginger, ground
1/3 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp peanut oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped into 2" pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium scallions, chopped
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp lite soy sauce (I used Kikkoman)
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1. In a small bowl, combine chicken broth, cornstarch, sugar, soy sauce, and vinegar; whisk together. Set aside.

2. Heat oil in wok or non-stick skillet. Add scallions, garlic, and pepper, and heat for 2 minutes.

3. Add chicken, and brown for about 5 minutes. Then add liquid mixture, stir until thickened and chicken is cooked through.

The cornstarch helps thicken the sace into that slightly gluey (in a good way, if that's possible) consistency that takeout Chinese food is famous for. I doused this liberally in red pepper flakes, and served with a side of steamed green beans and sauteed mushrooms, red peppers and onions (cooked, naturally, in hot chili garlic sauce and soy sauce).

Thanks, Jenna! This helps satisfy my almost-constant cravings for unhealthy Chinese food.

roasted vegetable pasta with grilled chicken. and an apology.

***in which i learn that people actually read this blog! and that i'm really craving this recipe now***

Well, it's officially been (exactly) three months since I last posted here. And hey, I'm nothing if not precise! I have no excuses, other than the fact that I'm quite lazy and my camera battery was dead for a while and I got sent into the eye of a hurricane for a few days in September.

But I have still been cooking. Pretty much every night, as a matter of fact, although I will admit that things like Steak-Umms and (gasp!) fish sticks have been sneaking into my repertoire a bit more frequently than I care to admit. Isn't it awful how pesky things like work, sleep, school and laundry impede one's culinary prowess?

(I must confess, I faced a choice about 5 minutes ago: fold a load of laundry, or update this blog. I chose the more sedentary action, as I am wont to do, and I'm glad for it!)

So as a bonus for taking a three-month hiatus (from a one-month-old blog, no less), I have decided to include a picture of the kitchen where all the magic happens! This pic was taken during the one 15-minute interval this year when there were no dirty dishes piled by the sink, and no crusty stuff on the cooktop. Behold, my domain:

Of note:
- the shiny glinting chrome apparatus in the corner, my beloved DeLonghi Magnifica espresso/cappuccino machine, otherwise known as The-Coffee-Maker-That-Cost-More-Than-A-Mortgage-Payment. But I'll tell ya, when I stumble bleary-eyed down the stairs at 3 a.m. to head to work and that baby's lit up like a beacon of energy-giving life, I would gladly give my left thumb in exchange for its well-being. 
- the paper towels, which sit upon our counter without the benefit of a paper-towel holder, since the day Scott decided he simply didn't like the one we had and threw it out. Just like that. Threw it out. Who does something like that? And I'm far too lazy to find a new one. 
- the light fixture, which I dislike but am also too lazy to do anything about, as I'm hoping that Clive guy from HGTV will come into my home before I sell it and make changes at no cost to me.
- and before you judge me on the kitschy "Cookies" sign from Ross Dress For Less, let the record show that the sign says "Aunt Kate's Cookies", which has special meaning for me since I'm now an aunt, having inherited a great nephew after my wedding. Feel bad now, don't you?

So, let's get to a recipe. Even though my posting has slackened, I'm still taking pictures of all (cough* only the pretty *cough) food I make. So I've got quite the arsenal. However, there are some pictures that I've been squinting at trying to figure out what the HELL is on the plate.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta with Grilled Chicken

On our anniversary, August 31, we ate at a little avant-garde Italian place nearby and I consumed with great gusto a bowl of red pepper pasta with roasted veggies. It was so fantastic that I made my own interpretation of it just days later. Oh so easy, and extremely delish.

Feel free to choose your own vegetables, or whatever happens to be in season, for this pasta. I think I'll attempt a more wintery version of it soon, with things like carrots and maybe rutabaga (oh, who am I kidding? I've never eaten rutabaga in my life).

One red bell pepper, cut into one-inch pieces
One small Chinese eggplant, sliced into medallions and quartered
Six shiitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
One red onion, cut into one-inch pieces
Ten asparagus spears, cut into one-inch pieces
One baby zucchini, cut into one-inch pieces
1 Tbsp crushed garlic
Olive oil
Sea Salt
Crushed Red Pepper

Two boneless skinless chicken breasts, marinated if you like in Caesar or Italian dressing
One box of spaghetti (I've been using Ronzoni SmartTaste and liking it)
Parmesan cheese for grating

1. Preheat oven to something pretty high. Like 450.
2. Place veggies on cookie sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with a good dose of olive oil, add the crushed garlic and douse with sea salt and crushed red pepper. With your fingers, toss the veggies until they are completely coated in the olive oil and the spices are mixed around well. Place in oven.
3. While veggies are roasting, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente, and then drain well.
4. While veggies are a-roasting away and pasta is boiling, place the chicken on a hot grill and cook through.
5. I really have no idea how long to tell you to roast the veggies for. I'm going to say it was about 20-25 minutes, but keep checking them. They will char nicely in spots and turn extremely fragrant. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Remove from oven.
6. Cut chicken into bite-sized chunks when it is cool enough to handle.
7. Toss together the grilled chicken, roasted veggies and pasta. Grate some fresh parmesan over the top and voila! Dinner's done.

I served this with sliced tomatoes in a garlic vinaigrette and some crusty Italian bread. This would also make a fabulous vegetarian meal if you omit the chicken.