Garden Salsa

This week was not spent in the kitchen and most of my garden tomatoes are still not ripening. I literally had to google what the heck is wrong with them. Apparently my original thought was completely wrong. I thought my plants were so large and the roots and earth were not getting enough heat. I did not know that some varieties will not turn red on the vine if the temperature is above 85’F.  I had no idea I thought the heat is what they needed most. IMG_4209.JPG
There are a few other factors such as they are spending too much time growing larger plants, leaves and flowers than ripening their fruit. That makes sense to me. We did end up cutting them back a bit; being careful not to lose any of the tomatoes so maybe in a week or so they’ll reward us?  Thank you google!
IMG_4216.JPGMy grandfather had a huge garden in the backyard; I can see him sitting in his chair drinking a Miller beer just watching over it for hours. I wonder when plants were not doing what they were supposed to be doing who did he ask?

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Seed them so your salsa doesn’t get too wet

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chop them as uniform as you can

We have been picking a few cherry tomatoes and some roma tomatoes. So I spent yesterday morning on making some salsa with my onions, tomatoes and jalapeno. My green peppers were too small to pick just yet and I had other garlic I needed to use up before I dig into mine.

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keep the tomato and green pepper roughly the same size –  everything else smaller

Garden Salsa
quick and easy garden salsa, everyone will love
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Ingredients
  1. roma tomatoes; seeded and chopped
  2. green peppers; seeded and chopped
  3. yellow onion; peeled and diced
  4. jalapeno; seeded and diced
  5. garlic cloves; chopped fine
  6. kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  7. balsamic vinegar - a dash or two
  8. 1-2 packets of sweet and low
Instructions
  1. the amounts you use for each ingredient is totally up to you. I will give you an approximate ratio so it will be well balanced.
  2. 12 roma tomatoes, 2 green peppers, 4 jalapeno, 6 garlic and 2 onions seemed to make a nice amount of salsa and the ratio seemed to work out nicely
  3. adjust for how you like your salsa. want it hotter add more jalapeno or leave the seeds and veins in them.
  4. add the sweet and low and a few dashes of the balsamic vinegar
  5. finish it off with a little salt and pepper to taste
Notes
  1. the sweet and low may sound a little odd but even that little amount brings a brightness to the salsa. I would suggest trying it without it and then add it and you will see.
Cooking at Clark Towers https://cookingatclarktowers.com/

Pasta Swiss Chard & Burrata


Pickles are done – sort of! I emptied the fridge and made 19 jars of pickles. I went out to the garage and there was a basket full of them that hadn’t made their way into the house yet UGH! Not entirely sure we need more pickles but looks like I might have some Christmas gifts started wink wink!

My daughter is a cookbook collector and she doesn’t just collect any and ALL of them she likes the ones that tell a story along with the recipes and it must have a picture of the food. At least those seem to be the ones she is drawn too most. For Christmas I bought her Bringing it home by Gail Simmons. I had a feeling she would like it; she wasn’t so sure so she never even opened it until a week or so ago. And um yup she likes it; she has 6 or so pages marked for things she wants to make and there was a page marked for either of us to make and use up some of the Swiss chard from the garden since that is growing like a weed.


After pickling I decided to make the recipe to use up the Swiss chard she picked, washed and left in the sink. I started it around 8-8:30 and I think we were sitting down to eat around 9:30. Which we never usually eat that late but sometimes you get busy and can’t help it.

Pasta Swiss Chard and Sausage
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound orecchietta pasta or similar
  2. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  3. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  4. 4 garlic cloves, sliced very thin
  5. 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  6. 1 pound Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves chopped into medium size pieces
  7. 2 lemons zested, juice from 1
  8. 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  9. 12 ounces buratta cheese
  10. 2 sweet Italian sausage links (opt) casing removed
Instructions
  1. cook pasta according to package directions - reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.
  2. In a medium skillet heat a little olive oil; crumble and brown the sausage and set aside.
  3. In a large skillet add the butter and olive oil, add the garlic, pepper flakes, and a little salt. Cook,stirring occasionally, until the garlic is slightly golden brown, not burned about 2-3 minutes.
  4. add half the Swiss chard and cook down till the leaves are wilted. Add the remaining Swiss chard. the lemon zest and the lemon juice until the leaves are wilted. Remove from the heat.
  5. drain the pasta reserving a cup of the liquid.
  6. Add the pasta and the reserved water, to the Swiss chard,sausage mixture and cook over medium heat for a minute.
  7. Add the grated cheese. Season to taste
  8. spoon into individual bowls. Slice the burrata into cubes. Top pasta with cheese and serve.
Notes
  1. You can find buratta near the mozzarella and feta cheese usually in the specialty cheese section
  2. If you like mozzarella you should try it.
Adapted from Bringing it home - Gail Simmons
Adapted from Bringing it home - Gail Simmons
Cooking at Clark Towers https://cookingatclarktowers.com/

Thankfully it didn’t take too long and it had pretty much everything we like in it lemon, garlic, pasta and cheese. Pretty funny I asked Abbi if she minded that I add some Sweet Italian Sausage; I mean it is her cookbook and I wanted to make sure she didn’t need to make it exactly as written. Sometimes I do that and then the second time around I will tweak it.  It came out great and the sausage is a must in my world. 

Garlic lemon sheet pan chicken thighs

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So I didn’t get to making my pickles last weekend so this weekend it is a must. The cucumbers are still the strongest crop we have this season and both veggie drawers are full.
IMG_4177Last night my son and his fiance were coming over for dinner and to discuss their wedding and reception ideas; yes it is a little over a year away but you have to come up with some sort of plan to give everyone some time to make some of their wishes come true.
IMG_4181I decided that dinner needed to be less hands on so we had plenty of time to chat. Sheet pan dinners are pretty cool and if you have never tried making them you should add it to your list; I bet they will make it into your weekly dinner rotation.
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They are easy, you don’t need a lot of ingredients or do they take a lot of prep time. Your oven does most of the work leaving you time to do more important things. Plus clean up is super quick.
IMG_4183I had a family pack of chicken thighs, my husband picked an onion a turnip some potatoes and a few carrots. Sounds like dinner to me.  Yes I use a few sheet pans but I was making a lot of chicken. And you want to make sure everything has room to roast otherwise your veggies will steam and it’s just not the same.
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Garlic lemon sheet pan chicken thighs
sheet pan dinners
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Ingredients
  1. 8 chicken thighs, bone in skin on
  2. Kosher salt and black pepper
  3. 3 tablespoon olive oil
  4. 1 lemon squeezed
  5. 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  6. 6 cloves garlic, minced
  7. wash, peel and chop 2 or more vegetables of your choice
Instructions
  1. pre-heat oven to 400'F
  2. season both sides of the chicken thighs with salt and pepper
  3. in a large bowl add the olive oil, lemon, sugar and garlic
  4. add chicken thighs and let marinade while you peel the vegetables
  5. place the thighs skin side down onto the sheet pan covered in parchment paper
  6. in a clean bowl add the veggies one at a time or all together, olive oil, salt an pepper
  7. add the veggies to another pan and make sure there is room for them to roast or grab another sheet pan to spread them out
  8. bake for 35 minutes, turn the veggies and flip the chicken.
  9. bake for another 30 minutes until the veggies are cooked through slightly browned
  10. If needed set the oven to broil and brown the chicken skin - I had to.
Cooking at Clark Towers https://cookingatclarktowers.com/

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Bacon Garden Pasta

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I wasn’t sure what to call this dish so I figured I would get more attention if it started with bacon. Because everyone knows everything tastes better with some bacon on or in it. This dinner comes together pretty easy and quite quickly so it would be perfect for a weeknight meal.
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If you don’t want to start up the grill just to char the corn you can totally skip that part and do it right on the stove top like I did. It was super hot and humid out the night I made this and had no interest in sitting outside to do anything let alone stand at the grill. I do have a grill cast iron pan so I got the same affect. By adding a little char on the corn it does bring another flavor to party so you do you and cook the corn how you see fit.

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I could just eat this – tomato and basil with salt and pepper

I do want to mention my garden; it is coming along a lot slower than I think it should be. The broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and swiss chard have so far been the biggest producers. My cucumbers are now the ones out of control and today might be spent making pickles. We’ll see how it goes. I would love to say I used my own cherry tomatoes in this dish but I would be lying. I thought we were not getting any of them till I found out my husband has been eating them before they got into the house hmmmm. So on Friday I got home before him and went out and harvested everything before he got home. NOW we have some cherry tomatoes in the house. I do fear that the other roma and beefsteak tomatoes will probably all ripen at once it seems to happen like that.
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Stove top multi-tasking charring corn, frying up bacon and heating water for the pasta

Bacon Garden Pasta
Serves 4
easy quick weeknight meal
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Total Time
35 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 medium corn on the cob, shucked
  2. 2-3 tablespoon olive oil
  3. 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  4. 8+ basil leaves
  5. 6-7 slices bacon, chunked
  6. 1 medium sweet onion, small diced
  7. package of rigatoni or ziti
  8. kosher salt
  9. freshly cracked black pepper
  10. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Instructions
  1. Char corn with a little olive oil over medium-high heat 7-10 minutes turning occasionally.
  2. Using a sharp knife, remove the kernals from the cobs
  3. cook pasta according to the packages direction
  4. In a small bowl add the tomatoes, torn basil leaves and a little salt and pepper
  5. In another pan saute the bacon until crispy, remove to a paper towel to drain
  6. In the same pan fry up the onions till tender, 4-5 minutes.
  7. Add the tomatoes, corn and the bacon to the pan along with some salt and pepper just till combined.
  8. drain the pasta once cooked add everything to your serving bowl and combine
  9. top with a few more basil leaves and some freshly grate Parmigianno cheese
  10. serve warm
Adapted from Fine Cooking
Adapted from Fine Cooking
Cooking at Clark Towers https://cookingatclarktowers.com/
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Summer Garden Salad

 

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Pretty hot this weekend – so far hottest this summer. Not only the heat but the humidity damn its gross out there! My phone is telling me that it is 91’F out and it also says it feels like 98’F. That means it is gross out there and hopefully you can stay inside with the air conditioner on or you are somewhere near a lake, pool or ocean. I am fairly certain that even I would go into the Atlantic ocean; which I very rarely ever do, it’s way too cold; if I was crazy enough to head to Hampton Beach today.

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Cooking on hot days is not really enjoyable and neither is eating on hot days so that generally means something light and easy. Friday night my husband made us salads and then we went out for ice cream. They counterbalance each other right?

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Best if you can make this first before you start whatever you are serving it with so it has time to meld and let the veggies soak up the dressing.

Summer Garden Salad
Serves 4
quick and easy summer salad
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Prep Time
30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. ⅓ cup cider vinegar
  2. 2 tsp honey
  3. 1 small clove of garlic, minced
  4. ½ tsp kosher salt
  5. ¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  6. 1 cup sliced cherry, grape or like tomatoes
  7. ½ medium cucumber, halved, seeded and sliced thin
  8. ½ medium yellow summer squash, quartered and sliced ¼ inch thick
  9. ¼ medium sweet onion sliced thin
  10. Kernels from 1 ear of corn
  11. 1 Tbs coarsely chopped fresh basil
Instructions
  1. Whisk the first 5 ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  2. Add the next diced/sliced 5 ingredients; stir well to combine.
  3. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
  4. Stirring occasionally before serving.
  5. Garnish with basil.
Cooking at Clark Towers https://cookingatclarktowers.com/

Individual dessert parfait cups

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Being a foodie we tend to eat with our eyes first! Plating a meal or even a dessert does matter and brings a smile to my face when it is does properly. I will admit I am still a work in progress when it comes to plating, I try but sometimes it doesn’t come out as well as I wanted it to.

IMG_4155.JPGI am totally one of those people that takes pictures of my food; when a dish is placed in front of me that looks like a piece of art I just have to snap a photo. I plating envy – sounds like a thing right?
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I was asked to bring a dessert to a friends house that was serving Alaska King Crab Legs and every time we go to their place, you can tell the entire meal was well thought out. Table set with linens, water and wine glasses. I try to reciprocate with the same when they come to our place.
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I ended up making individual parfaits and yes you can definitely spoon all the ingredients in the glasses or cups you are using but I wanted to try to avoid smudges if I could. I also chose to not make everything from scratch; sometimes it just make sense.

Individual dessert parfait cups
Serves 4
quick and easy dessert
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Prep Time
20 min
Prep Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  2. 4 cup chocolate pudding cups
  3. 1 box cheesecake mix or cheesecake flavored instant pudding
  4. 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  5. 2 containers cool whip
  6. 1/2 cup pecans chopped
Instructions
  1. make the cheesecake filing per the box directions
  2. chop the pecans
  3. the cups you choose to fill define how much of the fillings you should add to each cup
  4. add to the cups in order. graham cracker, chocolate pudding, cheesecake, some of the chocolate chips, cool whip and finish with the chopped pecans.
Notes
  1. you can change up any of the fillings. for instance banana and chocolate are great together.
  2. add some fresh raspberries or strawberry's. Change it up for your taste.
Cooking at Clark Towers https://cookingatclarktowers.com/

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Spam Bacon Bites


Just curious if you take a look and judge what’s in other people’s grocery carts? I can’t help myself and when I buy what I would consider “questionable” items I wonder who is judging me? 

believe it or not I did not have any garlic in the house, I did have garlic scapes in the garden so I chopped up a few of those and added them to the mustard and syrup

 

I remember the first time I used a shopping cart at the liquor store I was mortified. It was for a New Years Eve party I was throwing – I just needed to clear that up. A few years ago I was behind someone who was clearly having some sort of function one where they needed like 6 or more 30 packs of Bud Light? I have NO idea when that much of the same beer is necessary but who am I to judge?
Last weekend I was asked to bring an appetizer and I came across one in a magazine that I ripped out and wanted to give it a try. It looked easy and sounded like it would be quite tasty even though it’s main ingredient was one of those items I would classify as “questionable” in my book. This would be the second time in my adult like that I was standing in line at the grocery store with a can of spam in my cart.
I recall when I was younger my Father would chop it up very small and make a western omelette with Spam and I am not positive but I believe my Mother chopped it up for ham salad finger sandwiches? At least I know I have had finger sandwiches that were definitely made with Spam.
I am going to say even if Spam is one of your no no’s these little bites are quite delicious and very easy to make. When I brought them to the party they were gone within the first 15-20 minutes and I will be making them again!

Spam Bacon Bites
Yields 32
a tasty little bite
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 16 strips of bacon cut in half
  2. 1 can reduced sodium spam 12 ounces
  3. 1/3 cup yellow mustard
  4. 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  5. 1 garlic clove minced
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400'F
  2. cube spam into 32 pieces.
  3. in a saute pan cook bacon till partially cooked, make sure not to cook them to far they should not be crispy. remove to some paper towels to drain.
  4. wrap a piece of bacon around a cube of spam and secure with a toothpick.
  5. place each piece on a sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes.
  6. combine the mustard, syrup and garlic and drizzle over each bite.
  7. return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes. Till the bacon is crisp.
Notes
  1. You can use cubed ham if you are afraid to add spam to your shopping cart
Adapted from Taste of Home test kitchen
Adapted from Taste of Home test kitchen
Cooking at Clark Towers https://cookingatclarktowers.com/

Pasta Swiss Chard and Sausage

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I believe I mentioned a few posts ago how I was going to leave the entire garden to my husband. I am basically still being true to my word. I have only harvested a few asparagus and only weeded that bed. He has spent more time out there more this years than in years past and has harvested cauliflower, lettuce, radishes and now Swiss Chard. Which this is the first time we have tried growing Swiss Chard. It is doing great out there and looks gorgeous. My daughter was the one that wanted it to be rainbow chard and that was a great choice too.
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Friday nights dinner needed to include Swiss Chard only because I am not sure how long it will last sitting in the fridge. And it really is pretty cool to pick, cook and eat what you have planted, nurtured and harvested.
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When I told my daughter what we were having she immediately said “yum” some of our favorite things, pasta, sausage, cheese. Pretty fail safe that dinner will taste like it was made with love. And it was!

Pasta Swiss Chard and Sausage
Serves 6
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 12 ounce box of pasta - small shells, rigatoni. cavatappi
  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  3. 3 links sweet Italian sausage, casing removed, crumbled
  4. 4 tablespoon butter
  5. 5-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  6. 1 bunch of Swiss chard, remove stems and roughly chop leaves
  7. 2 tablespoons flour
  8. 1 3/4 cup milk
  9. 1/2 cup grated Parmigiana Reggiano grated
  10. 1 lemon - zested
  11. kosher salt
  12. freshly cracked black pepper
Instructions
  1. Pasta; make pasta as directed on the box. save 1 cup up the pasta water
  2. in a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat add the olive oil and the sausage. breaking up while cooking. transfer sausage to a plate and set aside.
  3. remove most of the fat from the pot and add the butter, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds to a minute being careful not to burn.
  4. Add the Swiss chard and saute until it wilts 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle with the flour and cook for another minute or so. lower the heat to a simmer
  5. Add the milk and bring to a boil. cook for a minute then add the sausage, parmesean, lemon zest and add a little salt and black pepper.
  6. stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens.
  7. Add the pasta to the pot and toss. Add pasta water as needed.
Adapted from Food Network
Adapted from Food Network
Cooking at Clark Towers https://cookingatclarktowers.com/

Sirloin Tip Steak Bearnaise Butter

First day of summer means end of school for some, allergies for most, and BBQ season has officially begun. That doesn’t mean we haven’t fired up the grill several times already. When I plan on grilling out, I try to make sure that if it can be grilled it will be grilled.

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I usually complain how the asparagus in my garden is not producing, it is still not where I think it should be; more like where I want it to be. But I was pleasantly pleased with how many cuttings I was able to harvest. 

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I don’t usually make compound butters and I am not sure why I don’t; they taste delicious and they are very easy to make.

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This is a great weeknight dinner if you need it to be or a date night meal with a nice glass of wine. 

2 large sprigs fresh tarragon
4 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbs minced shallot
1 Tbs dry white wine
1 Tbs white wine vinegar
1 Tbs water
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 ½ lb. beef flap meat – aka sirloin tip – cut so they are uniform sized pieces
1 bunch of asparagus – trimmed
T Tbs olive oil

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Bearnaise Butter

Strip the tarragon leaves from the stems, finely chop the leaves; about 2 tsp. And set aside.

In a skillet over medium-low heat melt 1 Tbs butter along with the shallots and the tarragon stems. Cook for a couple of minutes till the shallots are translucent. Add the wine, vinegar and 1 Tbs of water. Increase the heat to medium, and cook until the liquid is mostly evaporated, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl, remove and discard the stems and let cool complete.

Once cooled add the last 3 Tbs butter, the chopped tarragon, ¼ tsp kosher salt, and ⅛ tsp pepper. Mix with a fork until well combined. Set aside until ready to use.

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Steak and Asparagus
Heat your grill to high about 400’F – 475’F

Using a sheet pan place some plastic wrap down; use one end for the beef and the other for the asparagus. Coat both with olive oil and season generously with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

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Grill the meat turning every 2 minutes. Around 6-8 minutes, you are looking for medium rare 140’F for best flavors.

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Remove plastic wrap place beef on sheet pan cover loosely with foil, while it is resting, cook asparagus turning once till slightly charred 2-3 minutes.

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Thinly slice the meat against the grain, arrange on plates or a platter with the asparagus, top both with dollops of the butter.

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Mangia Mangia!!!

 

 

leftover takeout white rice

If you have ever ordered takeout from a Chinese, Japanese or Thai restaurant you probably ended up with a container or two or even three of white rice. I mean who is not going to eat the fried rice first over the plain, sticky and starchy white rice am I right?
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If you are anything like me you can’t just throw it away. So you put it in the fridge with the rest of the leftovers since you ordered way more than you could ever eat in one sitting and wait for someone to eat it. Until it stays in there a week, or more and you end up throwing it away on fridge clean out day. I too am guilty of this!
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I started out thinking I was going to make fried rice, but with the ingredients I wanted to add to my dish we ended up with a stir fry. You might think they are similar and they basically are. Both using leftover rice, both cooked on high heat with a little oil. You cook them both in a wok but you don’t have to if you don’t have one. Both have some veggies and a protein plus a little soy sauce or oyster sauce; maybe some hoisin sauce top with a few sliced scallion and you’ve got a meal.
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Here is what I threw in my stir fry – you make yours with what you like and what you have on hand.

2 containers leftover white rice
2 chicken breast
2 carrots – match stick
1 medium onion
1 can water chestnuts
1 can baby corn chopped
1/2 bell pepper
handful pea pod
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoon hoisin sauce
3 cloves garlic – minced
1 teaspoon ginger – grated
kosher salt and black pepper

Prep by slicing and dicing all of your ingredients.
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heat your pan with a little oil and add the chicken or whatever protein you are using if it is not already cooked. Remove from heat, add the onion, carrots, pepper stirring constantly around the pan until lightly cooked, add the garlic stirring for another minute or two. Add the remaining already cooked veggies along with rice and chicken. Add the soy sauce and the hoisin. It only takes a minute or two for everything to come together.
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Serve topped with sliced scallions.
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