Cream Cheese Wontons // Kung Pao Chicken

Today I was feeling ambitious.

I’d spoken to my mom for 2 hours on the phone, patiently listened to her and my dad’s advice on life, marriage and money, and still had the motivation to carry on through the day. That’s kind of a personal win.

I stopped by a small Asian grocer that I happened to discover while driving home one day. I remember the friendly Filipino lady telling me that on Wednesdays they receive shipments of fresh vegetables not usually found in regular grocery stores. So I decided, why not?

True enough, there were an assortment of produce I thought I’d only see in markets back home. Bitter gourds, long beans, plump okras and even a type of leafy green known to Malaysians as kangkung (which happens to be one of my favorite vegetables, lucky me!) It took a lot in me not to splurge on produce. I walked away with a small Daikon radish, a fistful of kangkung and a loaf of pineapple cream bun, which I thought Mark would like.

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I’m so glad Mark’s not a picky eater in a way. I know there are things he likes, things he dislikes and then things he swears by, like pizza and an Italian BMT from Subway. But other than that, I think he’s been pretty adventurous so far. I, on the other hand, have a pretty adventurous palate. I think I would try just about anything once.

I’ve been getting tired of the daily fares here. Don’t misunderstand, I still love a guilty fettuccine alfredo or a juicy burger, even a large, fresh salad but I miss having at least three different dishes on the dinner table along with soup and rice. It’s weird how much variety there is, at least in homes in Malaysia, compared to everywhere else. And now that I actually cook every day, I’m amazed at how my mom was able to get dinner ready on time every night, sometimes even earlier.

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In an attempt to recreate dinner just as it was growing up, I took the time to make three different dishes and rice. I wish we had a dinner table so we could properly sit on something and not have to perch over the coffee table for a meal. But I guess the time will come. Our apartment is small and probably temporary, so I can’t complain. That’s one last piece of furniture we have to move out of here.

It was kind of Mark’s idea to make the cream cheese wontons. I’ve honestly never had them until I dined at a Chinese restaurant here but the ones we made were pretty delicious. They were baked, as opposed to the deep fried ones you find, which took some of the guilt off. We also substituted the crab meat for turkey bacon instead.

The Kung Pao chicken was something I had never tried making before. I looked up some recipes online and finally came up with one that would cater to our taste buds. It was actually pretty easy to make and I think a lot healthier than the ones you find in restaurants that are usually filled with MSG and sitting in a pool of questionable brown sauce.

Kung Pao Chicken 

Ingredients: 
2 chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 yellow onion
Knob of ginger
1 clove garlic
3 green onions, chopped
Handful of peanuts
5-6 dried red chili
3 tbsp canola or peanut oil

Marinade
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp corn starch
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp soy sauce

Sauce 
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1/3 cup water
1tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar

Directions: 

Mix chicken and marinade in a baggie or covered bowl for about 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, heat 2 tbsp of oil in large pan or wok. Fry chicken until almost done and remove from pan. Add remaining 1 tbsp of oil and fry garlic, ginger and dried chili until fragrant. Stir in onions and cook until translucent. Add chicken back to the pan and stir in sauce until evenly coated.

Let simmer for about 5 minutes or until sauce thickens up. Throw in green onions and peanuts. Serve with warm rice.

Cream cheese wontons 

Ingredients: 
4 oz. cream cheese
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
3 turkey bacon (or regular bacon), chopped and cooked
1 tsp honey
Wonton wrappers
1 tsp corn starch, diluted in water

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 375 degree F.

Combine cream cheese, jalapeno, bacon and honey in a bowl. Spoon small amounts of cream cheese mixture into the center of the wonton wrappers. Dip a finger into the corn starch solution and wet the edges of the wonton wrapper. Fold the wrapper envelope and press gently to seal the wonton.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until skin turns golden brown.

Makes about 12 wontons. 

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Vegetable Medley Stir Fry

Weekends in this little town can be quite dull.

Mark and I decided to go to the movies after plans to go bowling fell through last night. I was happy with that but I didn’t think it was going to cost just as much (if not more) than bowling! It was probably close to $40 for two tickets and some popcorn. I thought that was quite a splurge but maybe it’s just because I’m used to watching an unlimited amount of movies on Netflix and over the Internet.

We picked American Hustle over all the other good movies in theaters currently and I really enjoyed the film. I thought Amy Adams’ character and acting was brilliant. It ran a little over two hours but I was hooked the entire time. I’d recommend it as a good drama to watch.

I was lucky to have Mark make dinner tonight. I think he likes cooking every now and then and he’s not bad at it at all! He’s the best at making breakfasts, especially eggs! I can always count on him to make a darn good omelette on the weekends. Mmm…

Tonight he came up with a vegetable turkey stir-fry. We had just bought a bunch of veggies so I guess it made sense to put it all together. He also picked up a cajun-rubbed turkey breast at the store. It came pre-cooked but I figured you could always substitute it with chicken or a meat of your choice. I think shrimp would work well too.

I thought it turned out well for how quickly put together it was. He said it was an original recipe and I suppose he’s right. The only oversight on our part was not seeding the jalapenos before adding them to the dish. Boy… it was spicy! Being away from home for so long and away from spicy food in general have substantially lowered my tolerance to heat. I can maybe only do some Tabasco now so the heat from the peppers kicked my butt.

He was constantly making sure that I took enough pictures of our dinner for the blog and stopped to ask if I had snapped a shot every other step of the way. I suppose it’s pretty fun having him in the kitchen with me. He’s not a picky eater and will eat just about anything (except seafood! sigh…) but it’s interesting to see what he comes up with.

He chose to add some sun-dried tomato dressing, which I thought was a little odd but in the turned out wonderfully because it brought out the sweetness of the tomatoes and toned down the heat from the jalapenos a lot. With that being said, I still highly recommend that the jalapenos be seeded, unless you’re the kind who particularly enjoys the burn.

Vegetable medley stir-fry 

Ingredients:
1 red, green or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 yellow or green zucchini, chopped
1 tomato, diced
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 jalapeno, seeded (optional)
8 to 12 oz. of protein of choice (optional)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomato salad dressing
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

On medium-high, coat the pan with oil and wait until heated through. Place onions, peppers and jalapenos into pan. Cook until onions are tender and translucent then add zucchinis. If using uncooked meat, add meat first and stir until meat is fully cooked. 

Close pan with lid and wait 1 to 2 minutes for the steam to cook and soften the vegetables. Stir in tomatoes, sun-dried tomato dressing and seasonings. Stir until all the ingredients are evenly coated with the sauce. Let simmer for a couple of minutes before removing pan from heat.

Serve warm with rice or quinoa. Or serve chilled with penne pasta as a pasta salad.