Monday, July 27, 2009

PF Chang's Lettuce Wrap copycat recipe

I love PF Chang's but we rarely go out to dinner because of the cost.  So here is a copycat recipe of PF Chang's lettuce wraps that is basically spot-on as far as taste.  The original link can be found here on Recipezaar but I have re-typed it below with a couple of modifications that I made.  It's a little bit complex and calls for some unique ingredients, but you should be able to find them in the asian section of most major grocery stores. Below is a photo of what you'll need: 

PF Chang's lettuce wraps

3 Tbsp peanut oil (or other high temperature frying oil - preferably not olive oil)
3/4 lb ground chicken (or 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced small)
1 8oz can water chesnuts, diced
3 Tbsp diced onion
2/3 c mushrooms, diced
1 clove garlic, minced (or 1 tsp jarred minced garlic - not garlic powder)
Optional - 1/2 c diced carrots

Stir Fry sauce
3 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp rice wine vinegar

"Special Sauce" 
1/4 c sugar
1/2 c water
2 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp Chinese-style hot mustard
2 tsp hot water
1-2 tsp garlic and red chile paste

1 head iceberg lettuce

Optional crisped noodles
Frying oil (such as peanut)
1 pkg cellophane (rice vermicelli) noodles

1) Heat oil in a wok or large skillet
2) While oil is heating, make stir fry sauce by combining soy sauce, brown sugar and rice wine vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside.
3) Add ground chicken. Stir and break up into small pieces.  When cooked through, add water chesnuts, onion, mushrooms, garlic and carrots (if using). Saute for 1-2 minutes, then add stir fry sauce and saute 2-3 minutes more until mushrooms are cooked and onion and carrot have softened somewhat.
4) For the "special sauce" dissolve the sugar in the water in a small bowl.  Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ketchup, lemon juice and sesame oil and stir to combine.
5) In a separate bowl, combine hot water and hot mustard and stir until smooth. 
6) Add mustard and garlic & red chili paste to special sauce slowly to desired taste. If the sauce is too runny, at 1 tsp cornstarch to sauce and bring to a boil to thicken.

7) If you'd like rice noodles, heat frying oil in large pan or deep fryer to approx 375. Break rice noodles into 2-3" pieces. Add in small batches to the hot oil, they will puff immediately. Remove them from the oil with a handheld strainer or large slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  These will keep up to 1 week in a zip-top bag or longer in the freezer

To serve - place chicken mixture into a lettuce leaf. Top with puffed rice noodles and special sauce.  Roll and enjoy!

So there you go.  Some of the ingredients are uncommon, but once you have them you can make many batches of this with the bottles.  The chicken mixture is not as dark in color as PF Changs, but the taste is very very similar.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Super Cute gift idea!

I was looking on Etsy and found this SUPER cute listing for washcloths made to look like cupcakes!  This would make a really cute shower gift.  I'm sure you could probably make your own if you're craftily-inclined.  If not, buy them from the link below as they're very reasonably priced for a gift and they're super cute!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Welcome & Coupon Basics

I didn't think the gardening blog I have covered quite everything I wanted it to, so I started a 2nd blog.  As if I don't already have enough to do.  This one is going to be more about our daily life and crafting/creating and saving money and whatever else pops into my head to blog about.
One of the things that has been on my mind this week is saving money, since the alternator just went out in my car and that will be an unexpected expense next week when our mechanic gets back from vacation.
So I thought I'd share some couponing tips.  I'm not going to share everything there is about couponing, as there are tons of blogs out there dedicated to couponing.  I'll link to some below if you want more info.  Here are some basics if you're just getting started...
1) get your Sunday paper - there are generally 1-3 coupon sections each week in the Sunday paper.  You can subscribe to just the Sunday edition in most cities, or you could pick it up anywhere that sells a paper.
2) cut out all the coupons (or most all of them).  Even for things you think you might not use.  You never know when you can get things for free or better.
3) organize your coupons.  The super-basic way is to buy a small coupon sorter with about 12-13 pockets and then divide your coupons into 12 categories that make sense to you (ie - canned, frozen, refrigerated, pasta/rice, etc, etc).  If you're really going to start couponing seriously, you'll probably want a 3 ring binder (the kind that zip closed are really nice, but I have a regular one that I already had and didn't have to buy).  Then you'll want inserts to organize your coupons.  I use 3x5 photo pages I got at Staples - I got two 10-page packs, so I have 20 pages, or 60 coupon pockets.  That seems like a lot, but I use them all!  I've heard of other people using trading card pages, but those pockets seem small to me.

This was my first coupon binder. I used a binder I already had. After about a year I upgraded to a zipper binder that I got a good deal on using coupons. :)
4) At the very least, check your grocery ads.  Ours are typically delivered on Sunday morning in our driveway or hanging on our mailbox, but can arrive anywhere from Friday evening through Monday morning.  Take them out of the bag, open them up and look at them.  Also check the Target, Walgreens & CVS ads that come in the Sunday paper.
5) Make a list - I have a friend who doesn't shop from a list, and I am totally baffled by it!  Even without coupons, I don't know how you get everything you need if you don't have a list!  As you're looking through the ad, write down the deals you see on produce, etc that you probably don't have coupons for.  For example this week our Kroger has containers of blueberries for $1.  Since Kate could eat about a pint of blueberries in one sitting, those went on my list right away!
6) Know your store's coupon policies - do they double coupons?  If so, up to how much?  Do they price match competitors ads?  Here in my area, Kroger and Meijer do double coupons regularly (coupons up to and including $.50 are worth double the face value, coupons between $.50 and $1.00 are rounded up to be worth $1. Coupons $1 and up are face value- Meijer doubles the first 2 coupons that are the same, Kroger has unlimited double coupons).  Biggs, WalMart, Walgreens, CVS and Target do not double.  WalMart price matches competitors ads, as does Target.
7) Be willing to shop a couple of stores.  Some people swear this is not worth it.  I beg to differ.  For example this week I ran errands on Monday morning.  I spent $86 at 4 stores (Kroger, CVS, Walgreens & Target) but I saved $123.  It took me about 3 hours and that included the time I spent getting 2 kids in and out of the car, in and out of carts, trying to keep Claire, my 18 month old, from standing up in the cart, etc.  Even figuring the value of gas I spent and my time, that's a deal.  
8) Use electronic coupons.  This is the biggest no-brainer with coupons there is.  These load electronically onto your Kroger-affliated store card, and come off the total automatically when you buy an item.  The best part is that they can also be combined with paper coupons for the same thing - ie a $1.50 electronic coupon for Huggies and a $1.50 paper coupon for Huggies = $3.00 off a package of Huggies.  Here are some sites:
9) Check out some of the following blogs/sites for more couponing info and info on sale/coupoon "match-ups" each week... - Cincinnati/NKY area blogger - obviously Cincinnati area - somewhere in Ohio, not sure where
10) If you don't want to be bothered checking several different sites, then do a trial of - you get 4 weeks of any stores you choose for $1.  You can see if you think it's worth it in the long run.  I used to use this site a lot, but now that I know what I'm doing pretty well and have found the lists on the free blogs, I cancelled my subscription.  But it's definitely worth it to help you get started!


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