If you had asked me when I was 10 if I was a picky eater, my answer would have been no. However, in retrospect (especially now that I am a parent), I would have to say yes, I was. I have always hated ketchup and mustard, though I am softening a little on ketchup IN things as I have aged. I remember being so excited when McDonald's released the Chicken Nugget, although I never needed any dipping sauce. It meant I no longer had to special order my hamburger. I didn't like milk. I remember regarding milk as a necessary evil with breakfast cereal. I would pour as little as possible in the bowl with my frosted mini wheats and scoop out the cereal then pour the rest down the kitchen drain. Not one of my mom's favorite traits of mine, I'm sure. And I ate all of my salads dry - no dressing for this girl.
Which leads me in the next area of my persnickity nature - the world of vegetables. If I could avoid salads entirely, I did. I hated asparagus and spinach. One time my mom made us this strange food for dinner - teriyaki chicken and vegetables. It had zucchini and mushrooms in it. I had never heard of anything teriyaki before and the pile of sliced zucchini on my plate was an abomination. My mom pulled out the "There's nothing else to eat until this is gone" and she meant it. I don't know how long it took me, but I finally got it eaten.
My palate has matured as I have matured, and I find myself continually encouraging our son to try foods that he thinks he doesn't like frequently because tastes change. He is not a fan of rice, which is why I was stunned the other night when he suggested making homemade Cashew Chicken as a way to use up my wet rice. Which takes me to my other child. Our daughter was on one of her, ummm, rampages for lack of a better word. She likes to take things out of the cabinets and find new and interesting uses for them when we're not paying attention. This is what happened with the rice. She took out the rice canister and added water! So we had Cashew Chicken. I combined a couple of recipes to come up with this total winner. The key is to not overcook the veggies so they are still crispy, so it does require a little babysitting and patience. Prep everything first so you're ready to roll. Once you start, it's in full swing until the end! I started cooking my rice before I started the cooking of the Cashew Chicken and it timed out pretty well. Enjoy!
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Hoisin Sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons sriracha (if you like a little heat)
1 to 1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1 green pepper, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup raw cashews
4 tablespoons oil (canola or olive oil work fine)
Salt and pepper
Mix the sauce ingredients in a cup or bowl and set aside. Prepare chicken and vegetables, keeping everything separate. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add the cornstarch to a sealable plastic bag then add the chicken and shake to coat.
Now get ready to roll! Heat a large skillet or wok on high. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and the cashews, stirring constantly until they are browned. Remove the cashews from the pan and set aside. Add the rest of the oil to the pan and add the chicken. Cook the first side until golden brown then flip and add the carrots and celery. Cook several minutes until the chicken is all brown and fully cooked. Add the green peppers, stir fry for 1 minute then add the sauce mixture and cashews. Stir until the sauce is cooked and thickened, then remove the pan from the heat. This is important because otherwise the sauce kind of overcooks and disappears. Serve over rice, topping with sliced green onions if you like.
As a side note, feel free to switch up the veggies. Mushrooms would be good be good. My local Chinese restaurant adds bamboo shoots and baby corn in their Cashew Chicken, so those would also be delicious and only need to be heated through. Lots of options!