Better-than-Takeout Chicken Fried Rice

When someone says Italian food,  you think pizza, pasta, risotto, olive oil, pesto, mozzarella etc.,  right? When I lived in Italy, I consumed all of the above, day after day.   It was delicious and admittedly a tad monotonous #firstworldproblems.  My darling roommate, K, wasn’t as concerned with ingesting as much authentic Italian cuisine as I was: enter chicken fri-ri (as the Italians called it.) K would often stop at by our neighborhood Chinese restaurant (really the only one we ever saw in the city) to pick up her fri-ri to go. Dinner time was a fun time in our apartment with some combination of the ten of us eating dinner around our long kitchen table.  Everyone, but K, would be eating some variation of pasta or pizza,  while she tucked into her beloved “Italian” fri-ri. So…this one is for my dear friend K.  Onto the food!  Fried rice is best when made from leftover rice that has been allowed to sit for a day after you cook it.  I had basmati rice leftover from a takeout meal – perfect for a recipe like this.  I threw in the vegetables that I had on hand but you could go a more traditional route with peas, shallots and carrots if you like!

This recipe was inspired by Take Out, Fake Out: Easy Chicken Fried Rice from Iowa Girl Eats. 

To buy:

  • 2 cups prepared rice
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, chopped (i put all the veggies except the spinach in my mini-food processor to make it quick and easy)
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons sesame or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

Better-then-Takeout Chicken Fried Rice: (serves 3)

    • whisk eggs and set aside
    • heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium heat
    • add chicken cooking for about 10 minutes before setting aside
    • heat another tablespoon of oil in the skillet
    • add chopped vegetables and garlic, cooking until tender for about 5 minutes
    • push vegetables to the side of the skillet and add eggs into the center, scramble
    • add cooked chicken, rice, curry paste and soy sauce to wok, stirring
    • throw in your spinach and cook until it wilts down
    • add salt and pepper to taste


Fitzy Blends: Drink Your Vegetables

I am so happy to introduce a new guest blogger, one of my dear friends, Fitzy.  Fitzy’s real name is Ashley but she will always be Fitz or Fitzy to me.  Fitz and I met our freshman year of college but it wasn’t until we lived together in Florence, Italy our sophomore year (with eight other Duke girls) that we became fast and forever friends.
fitz and me in san francisco 

Yes, you read that right, I lived with nine other women for four months and we had a blast.  It is amazing that ten women could get along so well in one apartment, in a foreign country but to this day I have so much respect and love for each of my roommates and I think this feeling is mutual throughout the group.  

Fitzy has a huge heart and is instrumental in keeping our group together.  She is the kind of friend you dream about having:  warm, generous, intuitive, strong and loyal.  She is smart, an accomplished professional and one of the most positive people I’ve ever met.  
Fitz married a wonderful (lucky!) man who loves her fiercely and they are an inspiration to everyone who knows them.  I swear there is something special about people from Colorado and their joie de vivre – maybe it is something to do with the mountains?!  I love spending time with Fitz, just wish I got to see her, her darling family and her sweet husband more often.

Fitz hosted our last reunion this Fall in Denver and served us a vibrant green concoction (in addition to her amazing homemade granola) for breakfast.   It was not only delicious but also makes you feel healthy – what a great way to start your day.  When I asked Fitzy to share her Green Drink recipe with sally cooks, she happily obliged. Thanks Fitz, xo!

F: I’m thrilled to be a part of Sally cooks and thank you for having me!  While I do enjoy cooking, I also enjoy quick and easy snacks/ meals you can make with ingredients you have on hand.  Enter The Green Drink.

I start every day with a green drink  and it gives me such a morning boost!  I can honestly say this snack is both delicious and nutritious and  you can really mix up the ingredients to keep it interesting and work through any produce you have on hand.  Here is a rough guide to ingredients, but I honestly go rogue most mornings and throw something new in there.
Green Drink
  • coconut water (or regular water)
  • LOTS of spinach
  • strawberries
  • 1/2 banana 
  • ice
I basically throw it all in there and just blend it up.  You can see the desired consistency in the photos, but the ratios take a bit of trial and error to accommodate your palette.  Everyone I know likes them slightly different (more/ less liquidy; more/ less sweet; more/ less cold) so I encourage you to tailor the green drink to your desires.  


I’ve recently been sporadically adding new ingredients: kale (which cuts the grassy spinach taste a bit,) cucumber (which gives it a very refreshing moment) and celery (which is apparently great for your skin.)  Since I’ve tried almost every combination known to man, here are some additional hints that might help you reach Green Drink Nirvana sooner:

1) I used to always use coconut water, but it’s crazy expensive and my husband would just drink it plain like it was going out of style.  As a result I could never keep it around and I wasn’t a fan of spending tons of $$ at the grocery on coconut water.  I now just use regular water, but try to add in 2 fruits to keep it sweet enough.
2) I usually only use 2 green vegetables.  Spinach is always the main ingredient, but I usually add only one additional green veggie and to a much smaller degree.  Otherwise things get weird.
3) I also try to only use two fruits.   Strawberries are affordable and give great flavor and a half of banana goes a really long way in terms of texture.  Oranges give it a bit of an Orange Julius edge (work with me) so that’s a fun twist, too.
4) Ice.  Ice is perhaps the biggest debate.  I’m not really a fan.  Mostly because I make my green drink to go at 6:30 every morning and I can assure you one doesn’t feel the need for a chilly beverage at 6:30am in February in Colorado.  I would recommend ice for the first timers as it does give it a more smoothie-like quality.
So that’s it!  The amount of ingredients in the photo made enough green drink to fill the cup that you see as well as a really sexy to-go cup that I didn’t photograph in an attempt to preserve the beautiful aesthetics of Sally Cooks.   So if you’re making a single serving you’ll want to just eyeball it and use about half of what you see in the photos.   
I’m truly addicted (as is my husband and pretty much everyone who’s ever had one.)  Since I’m not the hero that Sal Pal is and I don’t cook three course meals for dinner, this often acts as a salad/ vegetable with dinner when I’m running short on time or don’t feel like chopping/ cooking my nutrients.

Boozy Honey-Jalapeño Chicken

I’ve been on a cooking with alcohol kick lately (Whiskey Steak, Tipsy Turkey Chili)  and this dish joins the ranks.  Simmering the chicken in a beer, honey and jalapeno concoction made it tender and flavorful.   I used jalapeños from a jar which cuts the heat a bit but feel free to go fresh and dial it up.  I served with a heaping side of salad greens dressed with a simple vinaigrette but this would also go great with my Jalapeño Cornbread.  

To buy:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 pound chicken cutlets
  •  pepper and salt
  • 1 beer
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons hot pepper jelly
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup jalapeños

Honey-Beer Chicken: (serves 2)

    • heat a large skillet over medium heat and add butter to pan
    • sprinkle chicken evenly with pepper and salt
    • add chicken to pan and sauté 6 minutes on each side or until cooked
    • in a separate pot, add beer, soy sauce, jalapeños, honey and jelly and bring to a boil, then  simmer for 5-10 min
    • add beer mixture to pan with chicken and stir until chicken is coated 
    • spoon chicken onto a plate and top with the cooked jalapeños (might want to use a slotted spoon, i didn’t and you can see it was a little runny into our salad) 


Cowboy Cooking {Giveaway} {Giveaway Closed}

In 2003 I worked as the cook on my Aunt Abie’s ranch in Pinedale, Wyoming.  Planning and cooking 3 meals a day for about 30 people (without a dishwasher!) taught me so much about cooking and kitchen management.

My favorite time of day on the ranch was 6am when I would share the kitchen with Abie and my cousin Sally.   We would watch the sunrise over the mountains while frying up more bacon and eggs that you would believe.  It was the calm before the storm when the hungry masses would arrive.  After I served breakfast and I’d had many cups of coffee, I would throw on some music or an audio book and get to work on cleanup and lunch prep.  It was a fabulous routine!

The food wasn’t glamorous; I made a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and Oreo Mint Cloud dessert, but     everything tasted better in that altitude and when you’d worked up an appetite working hard.
I am excited to announce my second give-away on sally cooks: a copy of Cowboy Cooking, Recipes from the Trail by Abie Beck, Edited by Jane Dowd with Recipe Coordinators: Kate Lennington, Kim Harrison, Anne Neikirk and Kathy McLain.
my aunt abie
This is a collection of recipes used at Two Bar Spear Ranch as well as up in the mountains on pack trips.  In Abie’s words, “they are basic and simple and good.”
To enter, simply comment on this post or like or share on Facebook:  You can enter once and I’ll reveal the winner, who will receive one of the last copies of the cookbook next Tuesday! Thanks for reading, sharing and entering!

Stay tuned this week for one of my favorite recipes from Two Bar Spear: Monster cookies!

Coco-Loco Chicken Strips with Sweet and Spicy Sauce

I’m from the South where frying food is completely acceptable, even encouraged.  Don’t be daunted by the idea of frying; it is just like sauteing with a little more oil!
This recipe will blow you away – it is sweet, salty and crunchy.  You don’t have to take my word for it,  this is currently Joe’s favorite dinner, knocking off Prosciutto Wrapped Stuffed Chicken for the title.  
I made a sweet and spicy dipping sauce but you could cut your prep time and serve this with ketchup and hot sauce.   You can see from my pictures that the oil doesn’t have to be deep to get a great crispy texture and go for unsweetened coconut flakes if you can find them.  All you need to make this a meal is a spinach salad with a mustard vinaigrette.

To buy:

  • 4 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoon sriracha
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 chicken breasts cut into strips
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • canola oil (about 1/2-3/4 cup)

Coco-Loco Chicken Strips with Sweet and Spicy Sauce: (serves 3)

  • add ketchup, honey, sriracha, bbq sauce, soy sauce, spices and orange juice to a small sauce pot and reduce on low for about 10 minutes
  • heat deep pan on medium heat with oil filled about 1 inch
  • dredge the chicken in eggs
  • mix coconut flakes with bread crumbs
  • then dredge the chicken in bread crumbs and coconut mixture
  • drop the chicken in the hot oil and fry until golden brown about 3 minutes a side

Tipsy Turkey Chili

Beer makes everything better so I dipped into Joe’s beer stash to create this flavorful turkey chili.  He didn’t complain and it also made for perfect weekend leftovers.  

To buy:

  • 1 can each of black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and cannellini beans, all drained 
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 pounds ground turkey
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 small jar jalapenos, drained
  • 1 tablespoon cumin 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes 
  • 2 cups of celery chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 bottles of beer (I used a pale ale) 
  • 2 cups of beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 3 tablespoons hot pepper jelly (or you could use honey or brown sugar for sweetness) 
optional toppings: 
  • guacamole 
  • slivered romaine lettuce
  • grated cheese
  • sliced avocado
  • tortilla chips
  • sour cream

Tipsy Turkey Chili : (serves 6)

  • heat a skillet over medium heat; add the turkey and brown about 10 minutes with the minced garlic
  • season with salt, pepper, oregano, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon and hot sauce
  • pour beer into a large sauce pot and add meat, onions, crushed tomatoes, jalapenos and beans
  • partially cover and simmer about 45 minutes, or until thickened, stirring in the pepper jelly at the end
  • taste and adjust spices 
  • serve with whatever garnishes you like!
again, raw meat just isn’t pretty
lots o beans

Bananas Foster

Think Bananas Foster is something you can only get in a fancy restaurant, served table-side? Think again.
Bananas Foster is simply bananas cooked for a few minutes in a buttery rum sauce, making this a great impromptu dessert you can throw together and feel fancy. Add walnuts or pecans if you like.

What to buy (serves 3-4):

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons rum
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 bananas, peeled and sliced
  • vanilla ice cream
What to do:
  • in a skillet over medium heat, melt butter
  • stir in sugar, rum, vanilla and cinnamon
  • when it begins to bubble, place bananas in pan
  • cook until bananas are hot, 1-2 minutes or longer depending on how “charred” you like them
  • serve over vanilla ice cream

Greek Yogurt Chicken

I think Greek yogurt is awesome and this was better than I expected!  Marinating the chicken overnight (or 24 hours in this case) in yogurt and spices made it very tender and flavorful.  The night got away from me between a yoga class and drinks with friends so as you can see, we had chicken with a side of chicken but if I had planned better this dish would go well with a similarly Greek-themed side like a feta-zucchini bake or spanikopita.

To buy:

  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts

Greek Yogurt Chicken: (serves 2)

  • combine first nine ingredients in a bowl and add chicken, coating chicken with mixture
  • refrigerate overnight
  • place chicken in pan and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes until cooked all the way through and serve immediately 

Parker and Otis: A Happy Place

img_4029Parker and Otis is one of my favorite places in downtown Durham for a coffee, a quick meal, the perfect card, a unique bottle of wine or a gift for a foodie.  Here is their blog, Second Helpings and some pictures that demonstrate why it is a special place! At Parker and Otis, local isn’t just a buzzword and every breakfast is prepared with eggs from Latta’s Egg Ranch in Hillsborough, NC and dairy products from Homeland Creamery in Julian, NC. Sandwiches are made with bread baked fresh daily at the Rue Cler Bakery on Main Street.

How to get there:
  • From Raleigh (or anywhere east of Durham) From I-40 West take Exit 279B onto NC-147 N towards Durham/Downtown. Go 8 miles and take Exit 12C onto S Duke St. Parker and Otis is three blocks up on the left. Parking is available on S Duke St or Peabody St.
  • From Greensboro/Charlotte/Asheville (or anywhere west of Durham) From I-40 East take a slight left onto 1-85 N just outside of Hillsborough. Go nine miles and then take a slight right onto NC 147 S (signs for Durham/NC-147 S/Downtown/Research Triangle Park). Go 4.5 miles and take Exit 13 for Chapel Hill St. At the top of the exit, take a left onto W Chapel Hill St. Go two blocks and take a left onto S Duke St. Parker and Otis is two blocks up on the left. Parking is available on S Duke St or Peabody St.
  • From Chapel Hill (or anywhere southwest of Durham) Take 15-501 N to exit 105A. Merge onto 15-501. After 3.4 miles, take exit 108B (Highway 147). Go 2.5 miles and take Exit 13 for Chapel Hill St. At the top of the exit, take a left onto W Chapel Hill St. Go two blocks and take a left onto S Duke St. Parker and Otis is two blocks up on the left. Parking is available on S Duke St or Peabody St.

Salmon with Lime- Maple Glaze and Spinach Rice

This recipe was inspired by the Epicurious: Asian Salmon Bowl with Lime Drizzle.  Besides being delicious and easy to prepare, salmon is high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D.  
On  a side note, one of the worst movies I’ve seen lately (and I’m a big fan of Emily Blunt) was Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.  According to Greg Quill from the Toronto Star: “The withering political pungency, the commentary on terrorism and the searing critique of nationalism and patriotism that made the book a best-seller in the U.K. are replaced by a comforting surface sheen and a lot of unconvincing nonsense.” 

To buy:

  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 salmon fillets 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cups baby spinach frozen or fresh
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Salmon with Lime- Maple Glaze and Spinach Rice: (serves 2)

  • heat oven to 400
  • cook rice as directed on package, stirring in spinach after rice cooks, if frozen allowing spinach to thaw or if fresh, to wilt, add butter if desired 
  • in a saucepan, melt butter over medium and add garlic and pepper flakes, sautéing until garlic is lightly golden for about 1 minute
  • to the same pan, add syrup, juice from 1/2 of the lime and soy sauce; cook until bubbling for about 3 minutes
  • salt and pepper both sides of the fillets  and add fish to the pan, sprinkling with sesame seeds and spooning the glaze over each one and flipping them after about 3-4 minutes, depending on how you like your salmon cooked
  • serve with limes