Sweet & Spicy Chicken Wings

Let’s start with the kitchen update: it’s still not finished.

I’ll be honest. I’ve watched enough HGTV remodel shows that I should know nothing ever goes right or on schedule, but the optimistic side of me thought maybe we could bang this kitchen out in a couple weeks. Well, the optimistic side of me is dead now.

We had a damaged cabinet to reorder and a lot of rainy days causing rescheduling. I have my oven and fridge, thank goodness, but can I please tell you how unpleasant washing dishes in a bathroom has been for the past 3 weeks? I will be crying tears of joy when my new farmhouse sink and dishwasher get installed.

Venting aside, I know all this hard work and inconvenience will pay off in a big way. I’m so excited to get it up and running, because I have a lot of recipes I am itching to try out.

Despite our house being a work in progress, we decided to have a couple of friends over to watch the Super Bowl a little while ago. When you have no kitchen and the big game is on, the only logical solution is to set up your deep fryer in the backyard and make wings.

When I made these yesterday, there was a sudden change in the weather. “I’m fryyyyin’ in the rain, just fryyyyin’ in the rain…”

We already had buffalo chicken dip on the menu, so I wanted to stray from the traditional hot wing flavor. I grabbed a bottle of sweet and sour sauce from the grocery store thinking it might be good, but at home I realized it was way too sweet, so I got creative. I threw all this extra stuff in from my fridge and panty (which right now is a bunch of bins in the front bedroom) and the sauce turned out better than expected.

The outcome of the game wasn’t great, but at least the wings were.

I guess you could say I…. winged it. I didn’t take notes that day, but I managed to recreate the magic for today’s post. Let’s get started!

  • 6-8 whole chicken wings, split into wingettes & drumettes (12-16 pieces)
  • oil for frying
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup pickling liquid*
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup sweet & sour sauce (I used this one)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp sriracha
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 lime, zest & juice
  • sliced green onions (optional)
  • pickled red onions (optional)

*I used the liquid from my pickled red onion garnish. If you do not have anything pickled to borrow the juice from, increase the water to 2 cups and the salt to 2 Tbsp

  1. Stir salt into the water until dissolved. Combine with 3/4 cup of pineapple juice (save the rest) and the pickling liquid. Pour over the wings in a large glass bowl or container and cover tightly. Refrigerate for 2-6 hours.
  2. Heat oil in a fryer or a large pot to 375 degrees. Discard the brining liquid and place the wings in large ziploc bag full of flour. Seal the bag and toss the wings around until they are evenly coated. Fry 6 to 8 pieces at a time in the oil for 8-10 minutes, until cooked through and crispy.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, combine the sweet and sour sauce, soy sauce, sriracha, garlic, red pepper flakes, lime zest, lime juice and the leftover 1/4 cup of pineapple juice. Simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to marry all the ingredients.
  4. When the wings are cooked, drain them on paper towels before tossing them in the sweet and spicy sauce. Serve immediately, topped with thinly sliced green onions and pickled red onion, if desired.

If you are having a large party, you obviously need to double (or triple) this recipe. In that case, you can keep cooked wings in the oven on the warming setting while you fry the rest of the them. Also, I highly recommend getting some of those deep aluminum foil pans from the store to carry these babies back and forth in. It makes clean up so much easier, especially if you pour the sauce over the wings in one of those instead of another bowl getting messy.

The first time I made these for the Super Bowl, I didn’t add any onions at the end. I put out some blue cheese for people to dip with, but honestly, I wasn’t feeling it. When I was gathering what I needed for this second trial, I happened to notice I had some green onions to use, so I tried those first. YUM!

I could use a heart-shaped eye emoji right about now.

Then I got crazy and decided to throw some pickled onions on there too, and oh my goodness. The two kinds of onion added another level of texture, aroma and freshness to cut through the sticky, rich sauce. Maybe I’m the only one who’s this in love with pickled veggies, but if you have been following me for a while, you know I always have something pickled in the fridge. Red onions, carrots & celery cut into matchsticks, sweet peppers, hot peppers… all my leftovers end up in a jar.

Here is a great guide to quick pickling if you are interested in trying it out! It’s super easy and then you always have awesome stuff to top off a dish (especially sandwiches).

If you are not into deep-frying or don’t want to deal with mess, you could always bake the wings. Frying really get the wings crispy fast though, which locks in all the flavor. Also, when you are smothering something sauce, I don’t see the point in adding a bunch of seasoning to the coating. Simple flour is all you need.

Wings straight out of the fryer, looking good enough to eat without sauce.

Brining is the other key to having yummy, juicy wings. Even if it’s only a salt water brine, do it. I added the sweet pineapple juice and vinegar-y pickle juice to impart more flavor and because the sugars and acids would tenderize the wings. I swear, when I bit into a couple of them, I got this amazing burst of pineapple right before the spice kicked in.

I’m not going to lie, wings aren’t the easiest, breeziest thing to execute. It takes a long time and some patience. You’re going to make a mess. But once you start eating these, and reap the benefits of all that hard work, it’s worth it.

It’s a little bit like remodeling a kitchen that way.

Boom, mic drop. Tied the wings right back to beginning of my post. Too bad I don’t take myself seriously enough to write a three paragraph poetic metaphor about chicken and kitchens. You’re not here for that anyways, you were here for these:

I’m so glad to be posting recipes again. I’ll be back in a couple weeks with more food and more updates! See you then.

General L’s Chicken

When I was a kid, I dreaded Chinese food take out. I would not even entertain the idea of eating slimy looking noodles and chicken in weird brown sauces out of paper boxes. I didn’t even “like” the rice. (I would say I didn’t like a lot of things that I wouldn’t even try.) If Chinese food was for dinner, I’d opt to make my own food or request a stop at a drive through nearby so I could get some fries instead.

College was when I actually started trying new things. Yeah, I spent about 18 years of my life freaked out by food, always having a plan B in my the back of mind when going out to eat or to friend’s houses. One time very early on in college, a group of us were at a friend’s family home for the weekend and his parents said “Let’s order Chinese!” Oh crap. This wasn’t my house where I could make my own food, I hardly knew the parents at this point. In fact, none of my friends that day knew I had never actually eaten Chinese food.

They passed around the menu, everyone took a look and wrote down their order. I purposefully avoided it until everyone else was done so I could study what they picked. I had no clue what half of the items were. General Tso’s chicken seems to be a popular pick, the menu decribing it as a spicy chicken dish with white rice. OK, that didn’t seem too scary.

The food was delivered, put out on the table, and I had no idea what was what. I waited quietly until someone handed me a small box full of chicken and broccoli, in a weird brown sauce (of course) and told me it was my order. I watched and copied my friends, spooning some rice on my plate first then added some of my General Tso chicken on top. Well, here goes nothing.

WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME? I had spent years avoiding this! Delicious, spicy, sweet, sticky… did I say delicious? I am pretty sure I told my hosts that day it was the best Chinese take out I’d ever had, a little inside joke with myself.

Now, 10+ years later, I have tried a lot of different dishes, but if it’s a new take out place, I always start by checking out their take on General Tso (or Gau, or whatever they happen to call it) chicken. Every restaurant has their own spin on it, so I decided to give it a shot at home. Since it’s the first letter of my name, here’s what I am dubbing my General L’s Chicken:

  • 1lb boneless chicken thighs
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (divided)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 green onions, sliced thin
  • vegetable or canola oil for frying
  • salt & pepper to season
  1. Trim excess fat from the chicken thighs if needed and cut into 1-2 inch pieces. Season with a dash salt & pepper.
  2. Combine 1/4 cup soy sauce, sesame oil, 1 tsp of red pepper flakes and the egg to make a marinade. Add the chicken, tossing to coat and refrigerate for 2 hours to overnight.
  3. In a deep pan or pot heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees. Combine flour, cornstarch and a dash of salt and pepper in a bowl. Dredge the marinated chicken in the flour mixture and pan fry them in batches. Place on a paper towel to drain excess oil.
  4. Put a Tbsp of oil in a wok or skillet over medium low heat. Add the ginger, garlic and a 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes. (Add a whole tsp if you like it spicy.) Simmer for a minute until fragrant.
  5. Pour in the chicken stock, 2 Tbsps soy sauce, vinegar, hoisin sauce and sugar, stirring to combine. Let it simmer for a minute. Add 2 Tbsp cornstarch and continue to stir and cook for another minute or so until the sauce thickens.
  6. Turn the heat to low and add the fried chicken pieces and the sliced green onions to the sauce. Toss to coat. Serve immediately over your choice of rice.

I like to marinate overnight to really get those flavors to soak in

I’ve seen lots of recipes for this type of dish that have a million different ingredients, so I tried to keep mine as simple as I could without compromising the flavors. It worked, because my husband and I inhaled this.

Fried chicken pieces before getting tossed in the sauce

I also think I nailed the texture of the fried chicken pieces. Mixing the flour and cornstarch kept it light, but it still had that slight crunch that stood up to the thick sauce. Actually, the sauce was so thick and wonderfully sticky, there was hardly any left in my wok! It grabbed onto those chicken pieces and wouldn’t let go.

You could use chicken breast for this recipe as well. I like using chicken thighs in dishes like this because, frankly, it’s cheaper and when you have such a bold sauce, it doesn’t really matter what the vehicle for it is. I also opted for green onion to add that fresh veggie element because I’m just not a fan of broccoli. Hey, I have gotten past a lot, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still a little picky.

Next time you are thinking about ordering take out, remember it’s not too hard to make it for yourself. I’ll be thinking about what other menu items I can try to recreate in my own kitchen. Until next time, have a great weekend everyone!

Sweet & Spicy Grilled Chicken

Grilling out goes with summer the way peanut butter goes with jelly. When I was a kid though, I hated cook outs. I don’t eat red meat (honestly almost never have), so I was obviously not a fan of blackened hot dogs and hamburgers. Anything else on the grill I didn’t trust because it probably was “contaminated” by beef. Cook out meals for me were usually some potato chips and maybe a piece of corn on the cob. Not very exciting.

Now that I’m no longer a kid and can cook for myself, the grill is no longer the enemy. I make sure burgers have their own designated area because I am still a little weird about it, but most of my loved ones don’t complain about it.

I really like thinking outside of the box when it comes to grilling. Not everything has to be barbecue sauce, ketchup and mustard. The other day I stumbled upon a list of fruits that are great for grilling and I saw pineapple. My gears started turning and I decided to try a dish that sounds more like it comes from a take out menu than a cook out: sweet and spicy grilled chicken!

Yields 2-4 servings

  • 5-6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp sriracha
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut to 1 inch pieces
  • mango, cut to 1 inch pieces
  • pineapple, cut to 1 inch pieces
  1. Cut the chicken into chunks. In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, honey, garlic, sriracha, ginger and sugar. Add chicken and toss to coat completely. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
  2. Heat your grill (or stove top grill pan) to medium heat. Thread the chicken, bell pepper, pineapple and mango on separate skewers.
  3. Place the chicken and bell pepper skewers on the grill over direct heat and brush both with reserved chicken marinade. Cook for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Move the chicken and peppers to indirect heat, and place the pineapple and mango skewers over direct heat. Brush all skewers with marinade and cook for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally.
  4. Once the chicken is cooked through and the peppers and fruit start to char, remove the skewers and serve immediately over white rice.

OK. Confession. I don’t have a grill right now. I used a stove top grill pan. It actually works really well, and it’s a great option if you live in an apartment or don’t have space for a real grill.We’ve all had versions of sweet and sour chicken, mango chicken, pineapple chicken, whatever. This has all the taste of a take out meal, but with this extra boost from grilling. The carmelization on the fruit from cooking it on that direct heat really brings the flavor to another level.

The marinade unifies all the components. The fruits aren’t too sweet, the chicken isn’t too spicy. Just don’t use the reserve marinade as a sauce at the end, since it had raw chicken in it. Only use it for cooking. Trust me, the pineapple and the chicken thighs are juicy enough that you don’t need to drown this in sauce.I used separate skewers for each ingredient because I wanted to make sure it all cooked evenly. Having colorful, mixed kabobs is a more interesting presentation, but I served this up off the skewer. The serving sizes are a little vague in the recipe above, but I had a large skewer of each ingredient and it was more than enough for two servings. Use that rule of thumb if you want to make this for a crowd.

I hope this inspires you to try something different at your next cook out! This recipe is really quick and just as easy as prepping a burger. Cheers to a summer full of fun and food!

Shrimp Fried Rice

First things first everyone, who is psyched for Leo finally winning an Oscar? I love award shows and yesterday I went all out making fried chicken and waffles. My kitchen is a wreck! So today I thought I’d share an easy recipe that is a great make ahead dish for the upcoming week. No, not chicken and waffles, even though they were great. (I promise I’ll share that one eventually.) Today it’s all about shrimp fried rice!

This is a fast recipe that can yield a lot of food out of one pan. Clean up is easy, you can have leftovers for days and everyone loves it. You know when you go to those hibachi steak houses and they are spinning the egg and tossing shrimp into your mouth? Who isn’t a fan of that? This is all that great flavor without the tricks and having to share your dinner table with strangers.

Yields 4-6 servings

  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 1/2 lb large or jumbo shrimp, cleaned & deveined
  • 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp mirin or rice vinegar
  • 12 oz bag frozen veggies (I used carrots, corn, green beans & peas)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • parsley for garnish
  1. Cook two cups of brown rice according to package directions and set aside.
  2. Heat mirin or rice vinegar over medium heat in a wok or large sauté pan. Add shrimp to the pan and sprinkle with chili and garlic powder. Cook for about 4 minute, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp start to become pink and opaque. Remove from heat with a slotted spoon or tongs and set aside, reserving the liquid in the pan.
  3. Add frozen veggies to the pan. Stir constantly until they are thawed. Make a well in the center of the veggies and add the egg, directly onto the surface of the pan. After a minute when the egg has begun to cook through, scramble and toss it with the veggies until combined.
  4. Add the rice to the pan and mix into the veggies. Evenly pour the soy sauce and sesame oil over the contents of the pan, and cook for another minute until rice is warmed through, stirring occasionally.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the shrimp back into the rice and toss until incorporated into the rice. Add the lime juice, stir it in and cook for about a minute until the shrimp are warm. Serve with a garnish of fresh parsley.

Like a lot of my other recipes, this is great because you can use whatever you have in your kitchen and make your own variation. You can do chicken or tofu as the protein, you can use whatever frozen veggies you and your family like, and it’s an recipe that’s  easy to taste as you go and adjust flavors.

Season the shrimp with whatever spices you love, I just happen to like a bit of heat. Some people may like a little more soy sauce but I prefer a less salty taste than what you would expect from take out fried rice. Sesame oil isn’t necessary but I think it’s the secret ingredient that really brings together that hibachi flavor. Try the rice before and after adding it, you’ll see what I mean. Lime juice also isn’t necessary. That’s my signature at the end, because I like the bright, fresh flavor it adds.

My husband loves when I make this. Whatever we don’t eat is always enough for two or three lunches for the rest of the week. I portion it out into Tupperware and he grabs it on his way out the door. He also likes to drizzle a little sriracha on top. Highly recommended if you are a spicy food fan.

Try this one out a few times until you find your perfect combination. Once you get it down, I guarantee it will be a weeknight winner. And it’s a lot easier than having to fight a bear! See what I did there? Huh!? Sorry, I’m still fan-girling over Leo. I’ll try and control my corny jokes in the future. Maybe.

Sweet Chili Shrimp & Warm Asian Slaw

This is something I would have never considered eating in my super picky days. I decided to make this because I had some zucchini that were too small, and when I put them through the spiralizer they came out basically julienned. They were too short to use as a pasta, so I came up with this.

Yields 4 servings

  • 3 small zucchini, julienned
  • 2 carrots, julienned (I used a peeler for these)
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cut to thin 1″ pieces
  • 1 cup chopped red cabbage
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1lb jumbo shrimp, cleaned and deveined
  • 1-1.5 cups sweet chili sauce

There are great chili sauces you can buy at the store, but if you want to make your own, just stir these ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat until it thickens, about 2-3 minutes:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch (add this last, after other other ingredients have been thoroughly mixed)
    1. In a bowl or tupperware, coat the shrimp completely with the chili sauce and let it marinade, 1-2 hours.
    2. Combine zucchini, carrots, bell pepper, cabbage and green onions in a wok or large skillet. Pour the rice vinegar over the veggies and sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar.

  1. Turn the burner on medium low and continually stir the veggies until they become slightly tender, about 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the lime juice, giving one final toss.
  2. Meanwhile, place the shrimp on skewers. Heat your grill or griddle to medium heat and cook 2-3 minutes on each side, basting with the reserved marinade. Don’t crowd the cooking surface, do this in batches if you have to. Shrimp will become pink and opaque when they are done. (If you don’t have access to a grill or griddle, you could always forget the skewers and cook these over the stove top in a skillet)

This is a really beautiful, colorful dish and fast to put together, once the vegetables are all cut. I had my shrimp marinating and my prep done and waiting for me in the fridge, so when my husband said he was on the way home, I started cooking. He walked in and dinner was ready to go!

Some people might prefer the slaw served raw and you can definitely do that. I’m a little picky (wink, wink) and I prefer the veggies to be a little more tender and warm, so consider it my spin on things.

Also these two components can obviously be paired with other things. The slaw could go with a sesame chicken or used on an Asian inspired sandwich, and the shrimp are great to bring to a BBQ or even just on top of some rice. Have fun with it and make it work for you!

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