Copycat ‘Ohana Chicken Marinade

This time last year we were headed down to Orlando, Florida for a family vacation at Disney World. *sigh* I’m a bit of a Disneyphile. I think I may enjoy our vacations there even more than the kids do! Hubberman’s two brothers their families joined us last year, as well as their dad. It was a fantastic time. While there, one child from each family was celebrating a May birthday, so for our last day in Disney we had reservations for a big birthday dinner celebration at ‘Ohana in the Polynesian resort. This was the first time we had ever dined there in all our visits to Disney, and it did not disappoint. I was especially impressed with their chicken. The flavoring on that bird was out of this world!

When we returned home, I launched into a full scale internet research project to see if I could find a comparable marinade for chicken. Apparently, the long time chef there has since left, so some recipes seemed to reflect his recipe, while others claimed to be the “updated” chicken. Enough people raved about the recipe below that I figured it was worth a shot, even if it didn’t duplicate what we had experienced there. It ended up coming very close to the flavor I remembered from Disney. Yummy! So here it is!

  • 2 tbl. garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup malt vinegar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 3 dashes tabasco
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup olive oil

Combine the first 7 ingredients in a blender or with an immersion blender. Then slowly drizzle in the olive oil, blending to emulsify. Marinade your chicken for 1-2 days in this mixture.

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Review: Three Sisters Graham Crackerz

I’ve decided to add a review category to my blog, called “Worth the Thyme.” Sorry, I couldn’t resist the play on words. For my first review, I’d like to share my thoughts on a breakfast cereal I recently discovered. But first, a little back story.

Back in the summer of 1992, I served on Summer Staff at a Young Life camp for teens in New York called Lake Champion. For the month of July, I served the campers in the camp snack bar, making super thick milk shakes and sundaes. In addition to building friendships, I built up some fantastic bicep muscles doing all that ice cream scooping! Anyway, one of the highlights of our busy days on staff was mealtime in the dining hall. This dining hall is where I discovered my favorite breakfast cereal, Golden Grahams. Just the taste of them brings me back to that month in July. (As a side note, they made a mean breakfast pizza there, too, but that’s a recipe for another day.)

Nowadays, as a whole foods seeking mom of two, Golden Grahams has sort of fallen out of favor in my household, what with the artificial flavors and BHT contained within. And I don’t know about you, but usually, when I try to duplicate the taste of a old favorite processed food with something a little more healthy, the healthy counterpart will taste good, maybe even great, but not the same.

Now, I know there is a whole host of opinions on “healthy” processed foods. One opinion eschews all processed food, whether it has “organic” on the label or not. Others would still be OK with giving the kids an occasional sandwich cookie, for example, as long as it was Newman-O’s instead of Oreos. I respect all the opinions on this spectrum. As for me, I’m OK with healthy convenience food. We buy organic, pre-packaged cookies, fruit snacks, and mac and cheese among other things. Shoot, I’m willing to admit we sometimes still buy the full on bad-for-you versions in a pinch. The ideal, of course, is convenient and healthy, which brings me, finally, to my review.

Three Sisters Graham Crackerz Cereal tastes better than Golden Grahams. It doesn’t just come close, but actually exceeds the mainstream brand in both flavor and texture. It’s not too sweet, with a perfect graham cracker flavor. So far, I have only had them in a bowl with milk the usual way, but I can’t wait to try other recipes with this like snack mixes and desserts.

Edited to add: Here’s the nutrition label - 

So that was a whole lot of rambling for just a short review, but I hope you will give this cereal a try. It’s scrumptious!

Note: I purchased Three Sisters Graham Crackerz Cereal at Whole Foods, where it is available exclusively. 

Have a great weekend!

7 Lessons Learned My First Year of Gardening

Last year was my first official gardening season. As I journeyed through my first planting and harvests, I took some mental notes on lessons learned for this season. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. It really is so much fresher
It seems like a given, but I was amazed at just how fresh everything tasted. Not to mention the fact that the produce (including tender arugula leaves) would last three times as long in my fridge, since they had not been sitting on a grocery store shelf for a week before getting to me.

to the left, lots of arugula. Lots and lots.

2. I don’t need to plant so much arugula
And speaking of long lasting arugula, I really didn’t need a whole row of it. It was so prolific, I had more arugula than any family could need or want. But we ate it, by golly. This year, I planted half as much. I’ll probably still have too much.

3. Tomatoes do not work in a Grow Camp
Specifically, indeterminate tomatoes. I planted two cherry tomato plants and as I did, I thought to myself, “Self, you know these are going to get too big.” And sure enough, they took over the Grow Camp and turned it into a tomato laden jungle. Never again!

4. I don’t need so many hot peppers
Don’t get me wrong, we like the spice over here. My son, at the tender age of 11, is already the jalapeno king in our family. But even with all the spice loving taste buds in our home, three hot pepper plants were too many for us. They were big producers! I’m going for just one jalapeno plant this year.

5. Buying onion sets isn’t cheating
When my dad handed me a brown paper bag last year with a big smile on his face, declaring that I would LOVE this onion set and to take good care of them, I admit I was a little underwhelmed. I was a bit of a seed snob last year, and figured it was too much of a short cut to just plop some onion bulbs in the ground. But oh, the happy, instant gratification these little guys brought! Within no time, we were enjoying them and I was thanking Dad.

6. Plant more green beans!
Perhaps it was the jungle shade of the tomato plants. Maybe it was the hot pepper plants that were taking up valuable space. Whatever it was, we did not plant enough bush beans last year, and what we planted were not very good producers. It may be delightful to see that one long, tender bean ready for picking on your plant, but one long, tender bean does not a side dish make. This year, I’m devoting a whole section of my raised bed to nothing but bush beans.

7. Gardening draws attention
Our backyard is up on a hill, with no fence to speak of, so we’re kind of on display. As such, any time I walk out to the garden, someone is inevitably watching me. This results in a lot of well meaning questions regarding what I’m planting, how much I’m harvesting, and occasional jokes, like, “What, do you keep your kids in that little green house you open up every morning?” Ha ha. Ahh, No. But really, I don’t mind. Though sometimes I find that song from the 80′s running through my mind…I always feel like…somebody’s watching meeeee…and I got no privacy…woahwoah…

So that’s my list! And with this growing season well underway, I’m already compiling a new list for this season. It would seem with gardening, the lessons just keep on coming. Here’s to trial, error, and hands in the soil!

What are some of your gardening lessons learned?

Gyoza (a.k.a. Pot Stickers)

My mother-in-law is the sweetest, most generous little Chinese woman you would ever want to meet. She’s also got a green thumb. She’s one of those folks that can buy any old tomato at the grocery store, eat half, stick one of the seeds in a jar of dirt on her window sill, and have beautiful, lush tomatoes for the rest of the summer.

Needless to say, she is also a great cook. Not only does she craft wonderful traditional Chinese food in her kitchen, but she makes a mean lasagna, too! I’m always a little intimidated when attempting one of her tried and true recipes in my own kitchen, but she has been kind enough to tutor me through the process of several of her old standbys, which also happen to be my hubberman’s favorites. Yesterday, I finally tackled her gyoza recipe for the first time. Yes, it only took me, like, 5 YEARS from when she taught me the process to muster up the courage to try it myself. Thankfully, they turned out great. Here’s the recipe. Warning – this is one of those “pinch of this,” “bit of that” recipes that allows you a little bit of latitude with the ingredients. Just go with it, it’s worth it!

Ingredients

1 package wonton wrappers
1 lb. fresh ground pork
3-4 finely chopped green onions
3-4 finely chopped sprigs of fresh parsley (my addition)
2 cups finely chopped napa cabbage
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
salt and pepper
flour and water

soy sauce
rice vinegar
hot sauce
sesame oil
(all to taste)

Instructions

1.  In a mixer or by hand, thoroughly mix pork with the onions, parsley and cabbage. You will want to make sure your cabbage and parsley are completely dry prior to mixing so your mixture doesn’t get too loose or moist. Add about three pinches of salt and a few generous grinds of black pepper.

2. Make a thick mixture of flour and water. The consistency should be like Elmer’s glue, and smooth, not lumpy.

3. Take your wrapper and place a small amount of your flour “glue” around the edge of 1/2 of the wrapper.

4. Place a heaping tsp. of your pork mixture in the center of the wrapper. Don’t put too much or it will tear the wrapper.

5. Carefully fold your wrapper in half over the pork mixture, crimping your edges together with little folds all the way around. Make certain that your edges are making contact with your flour “glue.”

6. Continue this process with all your wrappers, keeping the gyoza that are ready under a wet paper towel to prevent them from drying out. When you near the end of your pork supply, place a large pot of water on to boil.

7. Add your gyoza in small batches to your boiling water (I found that 7 at a time worked best) and boil according to your wrappers’ instructions. Mine said 5 minutes and that seemed perfect. You don’t want to overcook, or the wrapper will fall apart.

8. While your first batch is boiling, heat 3 tbsp (I ended up using more than this) of oil in a large frying pan. Once 5 minutes has past, carefully transfer your gyoza one by one from the pot to the pan using a strainer spoon so you don’t get oil/water splatter. Ouch.

9. Fry your gyoza until they are lightly browned and crispy. I found it helped to move them around gently in the pan, lest they live up to their “pot sticker” nickname! Don’t overcrowd your pan, or they will also stick to each other. While you are frying your first batch, you can start your second batch in the water, and so on until you have worked through them all.

For your dipping sauce, you can use a store bought sauce, or simply dip them in soy sauce and call it a day.  We like to combine soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce and sesame oil to taste and dip them in that. Yummo!

And in case you don’t believe my delay in preparing these little guys, here’s a scrapbook page I made from our gyoza tutoring session, back in 2007! Glad I finally worked up the nerve to tackle these little pot stickers!