Saturday, December 20, 2014

Doctored Up!

One of my favorite Instagram hashtags lately has been #ilearnedthisfrommymama.  It usually accompanies some 10 minute meal I've made with whatever random crap happens to be in the cupboards because I've been too lazy to go to the store. Plus, sometimes I like the challenge of turning some seemingly boring pre-packaged thing into a full blown, home-cooked meal. My mom used to do that all the time and she always has jars of gourmet product which looked "interesting" to her at the Korean store or wherever she happened to visit that day for fun. I do that too...wander into cool looking ethnic grocery markets and pick up containers of things I can't pronounce. Our habit is probably going to go horribly wrong one day, but so far it's worked for both of us. Some people jump out of parachutes...we do this. #wecool #likemotherlikedaughter

Can you tell I'm really in love with hashtags? I totally used them before they were a "thing."

One of the easiest pre-packaged freezer items which can be passed off as home-made are the Asian stirfry packets. I had the Kung Pao Chicken one from Trader Joe on hand the other day. Upon opening the bag, I was not impressed. The chicken seemed alright, the sauces looked way too thick (which made me think they were full of corn syrup and salt), and the veggies were very freezer burned. Veggies are a tricky thing with frozen stir fry meals because typically the vegetables one uses - bell pepper and onion - have a lot of water in them and so freezing and unfreezing tends to mess with the flavor and texture.

This is taken from a fellow blogger's website: my vegetables were BrrrrNED!
So, how do you fix this? First off, don't be afraid to think outside the bag. Yes, I understand you bought the dang thing to prevent having to pick up a knife. But to be honest, I don't mind putting in a little work if it means making something super tasty. And on the particular day I was doctoring up my bag of TJ KP Cxn, I was in a VERY good mood, super relaxed, and enjoying a wonderful afternoon of planned hooky. Because we've already talked about my admittedly over-zealous planning tendencies.

The first thing I did was cook the chicken as directed (stir fry in olive oil). I added salt, pepper, garlic powder, and some red pepper flakes. I started about 1 1/2 cups of short-grained rice in the rice cooker so that could work while I did (get it - hardy har har). I had some frozen Parisian carrots in the freezer so I steamed those off (take a shallow sauce pan, fill with 1/2 inch of water, bring water to a simmer, set in a heat-proof strainer, add the vegetables, cover and cook about 10-15 minutes until they are tender). Then I steamed some edamame (also frozen) and shelled those (you could also buy them pre-shelled).

After all the fresh vegetables (well, frozen turned fresh-tasting) were done, I added them to the chicken along with the cooked rice. A couple dashes of soy sauce, some Korean oyster sauce, and a bit more salt, pepper, and garlic power later I had an amazing meal which was ready in about the time it takes a person to have a phone conversation with a colleague and move a car before it's parking time limit expires. You kind of had to be there...

My apologies for not having pictures - the finished meal looks very similar to fried rice. And I pinky swear it was yummy!

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