Lemon & Orange Chicken Skewers

The clock reads close to 8 p.m. and I am ready for bed.

Today was an early day for me. Things have been slow since the holidays but now that we’re about halfway through January, I think it has been picking up steadily.

Mark has been busy at work and with school. As I write this, he’s directly across from me, with the computer propped on his lap, pen laced between his thumb and index finger, brows furrowed and intently reading what I presume is chapters of his history textbook. With two swift snaps, he cracks his neck and is back to full concentration.

He can look so serious sometimes.

 I didn’t sleep much last night. Partly because I had chosen to sleep in until noon (yes, noon) with Mark after he got back but also because of the little excitement I knew I was going to have today while I drop my resume of at a couple of places in the area. Hopefully I will find something to do in the next couple of months.

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten up early to do my hair and make up. I used to dread the early morning ritual of slapping on foundation and coats of mascara just to head into the office but now, I miss it. I’d give anything to trade in my sweatpants for a pair of slacks.

 The rain poured and soaked the entire region for a good part of the day. My backyard now holds what looks like a mini swamp, just enough for birds to bathe in, frogs to leap in and possibly even for us to have a little bit of fun with. Puddle wrestling would be my best guess.

I can’t believe I will be turning 24 this year. I am extremely nervous about everything. Being married, trying to still have a career (whatever that might mean now), starting a family… Gone are the days where the most planning I’d have to do is if I should schedule all my classes in the mornings or afternoons. Now I stress over the next five years and what will I be doing with my life. Where will we live? What would I do for work? Where will my career, if I even have one, be? This is my almost quarter-life crisis everybody.

In between missing home and seriously craving (akin to what a pregnancy craving might feel like I think) every and all Malaysian delicacies, I have spent a majority of my days surfing the web and coming across a plethora of amazing food blogs from wonderful people all over the country! Needless to say, I am amazed at some of the recipes and cannot wait to try them.

Oh if only I had access to a huge supermarket that held within its walls everything from Spaghetti O’s to giant octopuses, I would be so happy! It’d be having the best of both worlds. A combination of everything I love, which ultimately I think, kind of describes who I am. A vast assortment of two very different worlds.

I’ve been wanting to make chicken kabobs for the longest time. I’m a huge fan of Greek food. Falafels, grilled meats, cool cucumber and mint relishes… I am still full from dinner but am already salivating with just the thought of it. But since I live in such a small town in the south, half of the ingredients to make a decent kabob is unavailable. I have even debated doing my grocery shopping online but I know Mark will think I’m crazy.

Back home, we have a similar dish called satay, which is basically chicken or beef, marinated for hours in a spicy, nutty mix and then grilled over a charcoal fire. Put it simply, it is divine. The meat is made to order and comes to you piping hot, succulent and juicy, charred and burnt on the edges and served with a chunky peanut dipping sauce. Most come with slices of cucumber and onion, and sometimes if you’re lucky, you get ketupat with it too! A dense rice cake just made for dipping into the sauce. I think I just heard my tummy growl again…

Dinner tonight was an extremely healthy take on the kabob and satay. No spicy peanut sauce, no cool feta salads, just a bright, citrusy marinade for my chicken. Ultimately, it’s still chicken on a stick. There’s something so fun about having props in your meals. Like it’s an event or a party. Forget silverware, I get to use my hands and drag pieces of juicy meat off a stick into my mouth, slathering sauce all over my cheeks.

I think that’s why babies have so much fun making a mess during meal times.

Lemon & Orange Chicken Skewers

Ingredients:
18 wooden skewers
3 boneless, skinless, chicken breast
1 zucchini
1 yellow, green, orange bell peppers
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 green onion
1 cup button mushrooms
1 tbsp light mayonnaise

Marinade:
1 lemon
5 clementines
1 tsp. dried rosemary
3 bay leaves, crushed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

In a bowl, zest lemon but only juice half of it. Juice the rest of the clementines and add it to the lemon juice. Add garlic, basil, bay leaves and rosemary and mix well. Slowly pour olive oil into mix, whisking the entire time so the oil incorporates with the juice and forms a smooth emulsion. Add salt and pepper.

Clean and slice chicken breast into bite sized pieces and place in a bowl. Pour half the marinade to the chicken, mix well and let marinade in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight. Chop zucchinis into wheels and bell peppers into about 1-inch sized pieces. Clean mushrooms and roughly chop green onions. Place vegetables in a plastic baggie and pour the other half of the marinade. Let rest, refrigerated for at least an hour.

When about to cook, soak wooden skewers in cold water for about 30 minutes to an hour to avoid burning in the oven. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line cookie sheet with foil.

Thread a cherry tomato onto a skewer, then chicken meat, then a green onion. Repeat until skewer is full. Use remaining skewers for vegetables. Place the chicken on a cookie sheet and vegetables on another.

Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked and vegetables are soften.

Tip: I added more cooking time to the meat and veggies by putting them under the broiler to try and get a charred look, similar to what you’d see if you’d grilled them!

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Chicken & Beef Fajitas

The New Year got off to a rocky start for me.

I had spent the first day of 2014 feeling absolutely miserable but glad that once it had all came to pass, I got to find a new little outlook on life and my current situation.

With that being said, I honestly didn’t think about making resolutions this year. What’s the point when all I’d end up doing is breaking them by the first weekend of January anyway. But as I tried to find things to occupy myself today, I realized that I needed goals– a sense of purpose.

In college, I’ve always worked well with having a planner. Scribble down lists, notes and deadlines only to scribble them the day or week after and feeling such a sense of accomplishment once a task (or more realistically, an assignment) is done!

Since I am (unfortunately) no longer in college, I have yet to use a daily planner but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have lists or notes to jot down somewhere. Thus, for 2014 I have decided on three food resolutions.

One. Giving up red meat. I realize that giving up pork such as bacon or sausage or just simply pork will be difficult. Who doesn’t love bacon? Personally though, I am a sausage person. Patties, links, both… That would be my meat of choice at breakfast and giving up red meat would just mean eliminating half the reason I love breakfasts so much. But in an attempt to be more conscious of what I eat, I think this would be a good start.

Two. Giving up (unnecessary) cheese. To put it in the words of Mark, cheese can be unnecessary. I had never heard of such a thing until I met him. I always thought cheese was necessary. Quesadillas, pizzas, dips… I could go on forever but I guess he’s right. I could always go for a sandwich sans the cheese. No cheese in my burritos or tacos. No cheese on my eggs (cries, I love cheesy eggs). It seems like an expensive price to pay, but to quote Mark, “Oh, you’ll live!”

Three. Giving up cigarettes. Yes, yes. I’ve read all the articles, statistics, comments and received more than enough judgmental looks to warrant me to come to this decision. Honestly, I’ve also given some of those judgmental remarks. But this year, I will be making an actual effort to say no. Actually say no when I reaaaally want to say yes. I’m quite nervous to take this on but optimism should get me somewhere, right?

With that out of the way, I was really excited making dinner tonight. Maybe it because the process seemed to tedious so it had to yield a phenomenal result. Or maybe because it’s from one of my favorite Food Network stars. Or maybe because it’s my first time making it all from scratch. Or it’s all of the above! Either way, I was excited.

I’ve never really had Tex-Mex food until I came to the States. We had Chili’s back home but I’ve always stayed on the safe side of the menu. I remember eating my first burrito under the shade of a tree in between class on campus and thinking, why haven’t I had this before? Burritos are yummy but burrito bowls are so much better to me. And don’t even get me started on Chipotle. I’m really starting to think it’s a cult… (not complaining though!)

Tonight I made chicken and beef fajitas with lots of bright, crunchy peppers and warm wheat tortillas. I’m starting to learn my way around Tex-Mex cooking. Chili, tacos and now marinated grilled meat. My meat-loving man does not complain! I took the extra step of making guacamole and dinner was complete.

Chicken and Beef Fajitas
Recipe by Ree Drummond, from The Pioneer Woman 

Ingredients:
12 oz. flank steak
2 chicken breast
1/2 of a medium-sized red, green, yellow and orange bell pepper
2 medium yellow onions

Marinade:
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup lime juice
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp sugar

Directions:

Mix together ingredients for marinade in a small bowl.

Clean and prepare meat. Stab chicken breast with fork to allow for flavors to seep into the meat. Pour 1/3 of the marinade over steak and another 1/3 for the chicken. Make sure to marinade both meat in separate dishes or baggies. Julienne peppers and onions and pour remaining marinade over the vegetables. Leave to marinade in fridge for at least 2 hours.

Heat grill and cook beef until preferred wellness. Cook chicken in a pan or on grill until done. Heat up pan with a some oil and saute vegetables. I like mine a little charred yet still crunchy so I cooked it on high but constantly stirring so it doesn’t burn.

Assemble ingredients on a warm tortilla and serve with cheese, sour cream, salsa or guacamole.

What’s your first memory of a good Tex-Mex dish?