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Spicy Chicken in Lettuce Cups The Chinese year 4712 begins on Friday. As a nod to my Chinese heritage, I decided to make “San Choy Bao” or lettuce cups. Lettuce cups, also referred to as lettuce wraps, can be served as a hearty appetizer or as a light main dish. Pine nuts, added to the tasty stir-fry mixture and sprinkled on top, bring an interesting flavor twist and crunch to these lettuce cups. Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Spicy Chicken in Lettuce Cups
Based on a recipe in Chinatown, a cookbook by Ross Dobson

INGREDIENTS
1 lb 2 oz boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons shaoxing rice wine, divided use
4 small dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 green onions (scallions), white part chopped and green part thinly sliced
2 small red chilies, finely chopped
2 tablespoons pine nuts, divided use
1/4 cup water chestnuts, roughly chopped
8 iceberg lettuce leaves, washed and chilled
Hoisin sauce, to taste
Sweet chili sauce, optional

DIRECTIONS
1. Put the chicken and 1 tablespoon of the rice wine into a food processor and process until the chicken is chopped. Refrigerate for a few hours, or until ready to use.

2. Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 20-30 minutes. Squeeze out the excess liquid from the mushrooms, then remove and discard the stems and finely chop the caps. Reserve 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid.

3. Combine the sugar, stock, oyster sauce, remaining rice wine and the reserved mushroom soaking liquid in a bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

4. Heat a wok over high heat and add the oil, swirling the oil around to coat the wok. When the oil reaches smoking point, add the garlic, ginger, spring onion whites and chillies and cook for a few seconds.

5. Add the chicken and half the pine nuts and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the chicken is almost cooked, stirring constantly to break up the chicken.

6. Add the mushrooms and water chestnuts and stir-fry for 1 minute.

7. Add the sauce mixture, pouring it down the side of the wok, and bring to the boil for 2-3 minutes, or until the sauce has almost evaporated.

8. Serve in a bowl, sprinkled with the slivered green onions, the remaining pine nuts, and the lettuce on the side. Assemble these at the table, two per person.

Serves 4 as a starter

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. Chicken thighs are preferred over chicken breasts, because chicken breasts tend to be too dry.

2. I ran out of shaoxing rice wine, so I substituted dry sherry.

3. I followed the instructions and grated the ginger, but next time I will just finely mince it.

4. Toast the pine nuts in a skillet on medium-heat until they are a pale golden in color. This brings out the flavor of the nuts. Keep an eye on them while toasting, because they burn easily. I toasted more than called for, because I served it as a topping option, rather than as a garnish. If you don’t like pine nuts, you can substitute unsalted, roasted chopped cashews.

5. As mentioned above, I used the pine nuts as a topping. I also sliced extra green onions to use as a topping, too. Fresh cilantro leaves would also make another flavorful topping.

6. In my opinion, the meat mixture needed more flavor. That was easily solved by adding some hoisin sauce. It can either be added to the meat mixture before serving or you can serve hosin sauce on the side as a condiment. Sweet chili sauce can also be served as a condiment on the side.

ENJOY!

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Whatever the occasion – raucous football parties, kids just hanging out, fancy dinner parties, brunches and lunches  – you can’t go wrong with these tasty puffs! Flaky crescent rolls wrapped around bits of warm, creamy, garlicky chicken make easy and sophisticated appetizers or filling snacks. These were good, but after tasting just one, I immediately went into my “what about this?” mode. Just about anything can be wrapped in crescent roll dough. Ideas for fillings flooded my head. What about using crab meat or shrimp? And what about curry chicken, barbecued beef, Chinese barbecued pork, taco meat, sautéed mushrooms . . . you see what I mean? With this recipe you are only limited by your imagination!

Garlic Chicken Puffs
Recipe found on Tidy Mom

Ingredients:
4 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup cooked chicken, shredded
2 cans refrigerated crescent rolls

Instructions:
1. Mix cream cheese, garlic and chicken until well-blended.
2. Unroll crescent rolls and cut each triangle into two triangles (when you unroll the crescent rolls, 2 triangles are attached making a big square. I just cut from there following the perforation for one cut and made another cut from the other corners – giving you 4 little triangles).
3. Place 1 teaspoon of chicken mixture on the center of each triangle and fold the corners in over the mixture.
4. Place on cookie sheet, lined with aluminum foil and sprayed with no stick spray. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. For more evenly-sized triangles, I made a minor adjustment in the way I cut the dough. After unrolling the crescent rolls, notice that two triangles make up a rectangle. You will have four rectangles. I cut each rectangle apart from the other rectangles. I gently patted the diagonal perforations together before cutting each rectangle in half width-wise to create 2 squares. Each square was then cut diagonally – from corner to corner. You should end up with 16 triangles.


2. Using kitchen shears, I snipped about ten chive stems from my garden and stirred them into the chicken mixture. I also added 1/4 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce.
3. To prevent any of the filling from leaking out, I sealed each puff by pressing the edges of the dough together.
4. I covered a cookie sheet with parchment paper instead of using foil and cooking spray. Mine were done in about 12 minutes, but all ovens vary in temperature accuracy. You’ll want to check them at least 10 minutes into the baking process.
5. I transferred the puffs to a wire rack to cool – just so the bottoms wouldn’t have a chance to get soggy.
6. This recipe could be made even easier by using a rotisserie chicken or canned chicken instead of cooking chicken yourself.

Enjoy!

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Preparing home cooked meals can be challenging during the holiday season. There’s so much to do and so little time. Isn’t it just easier to order out or grab some fast food these days? Well, what about this – get out that crock pot of yours and cook dinner while you shop or wrap? It’s multitasking at it’s best!

Here’s an easy recipe for chicken cooked in a crock pot. It’s called Linnell’s No-Fuss Chicken. I don’t remember the origins of this recipe, so I guessing that it’s probably a conglomeration of recipes that I adapted. It’s certainly not a gourmet dish, but it’s tasty and easy!

2/3 C flour
1 tsp rubbed sage
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp seasoned salt
1 chicken (2.5-3 lbs.), cut up
3 T butter
olive oil
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 envelope Lipton’s Onion Soup
Approximately 2 cups fat free half & half or chicken broth

Directions: In a shallow bowl, combine flour, sage, basil, and seasoned salt. Rinse and pat chicken dry. Cut chicken into pieces. Coat chicken pieces with flour mixture. In a large skillet, melt butter and a couple of swigs of olive oil. Brown chicken on all sides.

Spray crock liner with a vegetable spray and put browned pieces in the crock pot with largest pieces on the bottom. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir together the cream of chicken soup and the onion soup. Stir in the fat free half & half or the chicken broth. Pour the soup mixture over chicken. Cover and cook on high for 2 to 2.5 hours until the juices run clear.

Serve on a bed of rice or noodles.

Note: This is a clean out your vegetable bin recipe. Any vegetables such as carrots, bell peppers, zucchini, celery, broccoli, onions, mushrooms etc. can be added. Wash, cut, and place veggies on top of the meat before cooking.

Go ahead and go shopping for a couple of hours. Dinner will be waiting for you when you return home!

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