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Italian Party Mix

Sorry about the sporadic posts. In all honesty, it’s just busy around here with Christmas and my husband and I trying to finish our basement before Christmas, and so computer time has been minimal. But I had to go look up this recipe in my ‘favorites’ recipe binder because I realized I’d never posted it here, so I thought I better do so now so I can have this recipe online for the future. We love party chex mix, though because we don’t normally have cereal or pretzels and spaghetti mix on hand, we make this more for a holiday treat around Christmas time. We’ve made this every year for lots of years; in fact, I remember making this with my mom, in the house I grew up in, and bringing it to neighbors. And now we do something similar, though because I have five kids that love this mix, we usually only give away a bag or two so they can eat up the rest. 

 

This recipe is pretty simple and straighforward. You add all your cereal, pretzels and nuts/seeds to a large bowl and gently stir. Then you drizzle it with olive oil and the spaghetti sauce and garlic and gently stir to combine and that’s it! 

We sometimes will double the recipe so we can have more to give  away. We’ll usually gift them in cello bags or christmas tins. I hope you have a merry Christmas and a happy holiday season!

THE RECIPE
*Makes 24 cups. We fill about five cello bags for neighbor gifts.

Italian Party Mix

1 Family size box Chex (or 18c; I like to use a rice and corn chex combo)

8 c pretzel sticks

2 c cashew pieces (or other nut or seeds; i also like sunflower seeds)

8 Tbsp olive oil (about 1/2 c)

1 packet McCormicks dry spaghetti sauce mix (I find this on aisle with other packets for gravy and sauces etc)

1 Tbsp garlic powder

Optional: 1/2 c Parmesan cheese; if you do this, you only need to use half the McCormiks dry spaghetti mix

Combined checks pretzels and cashews in a large bowl. Pour oil over top and stir gently to coat. Add dry spaghetti mix garlic powder and optional Parmesan cheese and stir gently to coat. Makes 24 cups. We fill about five cello bags for neighbor gifts.

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Butternut Squash Soup with Candied Pecans 

I was at a good friends house for lunch last week(we have the same first name, which never happens to me!) and she pulled out some leftovers and asked if I’d like to try her butternut squash soup; I’m always game for trying new things if there’s not meat involved, also, it’s been cold and i’ve been craving soup  but only have a few favorite recipes. So we warmed it up and then she had some candied pecans that she threw on top and, wow, that was such an amazing combination, I loved it! I asked her for the recipe and came home and recreated the soup, making only a couple minor substitutions: I used almond milk instead of half-and-half, I used vegetable broth instead of chicken bouillon and water, and I candied my pecans with pure maple syrup instead of sugar.

As a sidenote, I love candied pecans! This something that my husband‘s mother made often times in the winter for their family and so, early on in our marriage, I learned from her how to make it the way she did, by cooking them in the oven with maple syrup for about an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so. I love that cooking method and I use that most often but if I’m in a time crunch and I want some candied pecans in five minutes, then I do it over the stove, and that’s what I did today. I just took a handful of pecans, tossed them on a pan over medium heat with some coconut oil and pure maple syrup and cooked them up, while stirring, until the pecans had absorbed the liquid and they had crystallized. But like I mentioned, you can also for sure cook them in the oven and you can make them before hand and keep them in an airtight container in your pantry for up to a week ahead of time. If you’d like an recipe for the oven baked candied pecans, click here. 

Now, onto the soup! You’ll need about 4 cups of cooked and cubed, butternut squash. I bought and used this 1 lb. package of already cut up squash to save time. Throw that into a rimmed baking sheet (lined with silicone or parchment for easier cleanup, if you like) along with your carrots and a little olive oil and salt and bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, until tender.

In the meantime, coarsley chop and saute your onion in a medium stock pot(you’ll be adding all the soup back into this once it’s pureed) until it’s translucent, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Once your squash and carrots are tender, add them to a blender jar with half of your broth and the onions. Puree. Empty the blender into the stock pot (where you cooked your onions) and add in the almond milk and salt to taste, and stir together. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Serve warm, topped with candied pecans.

THE RECIPE:

Butternut Squash Soup with Candied Pecans

*Serves 4-6

1 1lb package butternut squash (about 4 cups, peeled and cubed)
2 c baby carrots
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 large white or yellow onion, coarsley chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 c vegetable broth (or chicken broth, or 1 Tbsp vegetable/chicken bouillon in 4 c water)
1 c almond milk (or regular milk or half and half)
1/4 tsp sea salt, or to taste
Topping: candied pecans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a rimmed baking sheet lined with a silicone mat for quick clean up, add your carrots and squash and drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp sea salt. Cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, until tender. In the meantime,  in a medium sized stock pot, saute your onion with 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat, until translucent. Set aside.

Once your squash and carrots are tender, add them to a blender jar with half of your broth and the onions. Puree. Empty the blender into the stock pot (where you cooked your onions) and add in the almond milk and salt to taste, and stir together. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Serve warm, topped with candied pecans, that you’ve cut into smaller pieces.

You can candy pecans ahead of time up to a week in advance. You can find the oven baked recipe I like to use here. To candy pecans quickly, in about 5 minutes, follow these instructions:

5-minute candied pecans 
1/2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1/2 c pecans

Cook over stove on medium heat for about 5 minutes until the pecans have absorbed the liquid and they’ve crystallized.

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Pitaya Bowl

My mom introduced me to these pitaya granola bowls at Jamba Juice several months ago, which I love! So later, when I was shopping at sprouts, and I saw frozen pitaya(or dragon fruit) packets I grabbed some and have made several Pitaya Bowls since! I like to have this for lunch or a late afternoon snack if I’m feeling really hungry. It’s a pretty simple recipe, basically put half a pitaya packet in your blender along with a little bit of milk, strawberries and banana and blend it til its smooth.

Pour this over some granola and add whatever other toppings you like and that’s it!  I make this homemade granola weekly, but any store bought granola would work too.


Pitaya Bowl

*makes 1 large serving, or 2 small

1/2 frozen Pitaya smoothie packet (aka dragon fruit)

1 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk

1/2 banana

1/4 c strawberries (frozen or fresh)

In a blender blend all ingredients together until smooth. Pour into a cereal bowl and top with any of the following:

1/2 c granola

Shredded coconut (I like unsweetened)

Blueberries, sliced bananas, sliced strawberries

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Blonde Brownies

My kids had a piano recital Monday night and they asked if we could go out for frozen yogurt after, but we had just did that last weekend after another special event and taking out a family of 7 for FroYo is not cheap. So I asked them what would be a good in-home alternative and they requested these Blondies. I’ve had this recipe for years and years and we’ve made it multiple times and love it, but because it does have quite a bit of sugar, I save it for special occasions or when we’re going to share it with a crowd.

I like to bake these in my 11×7 inch rectangular pan (2.2 quart) because they cook very evenly and turn out looking beautiful with very few breaks/cracks. But I have also made it in my 8×8 and it works, but I like the way they look better when they come out of the 11×7. So just putting that out there. You could also double this recipe and stick it in a 9×13 pan.

I’ve used both coconut oil and butter in this recipe and both turn out fabulous. Just make sure they are softened when you cream them together with the sugar (10 seconds in the microwave should do it if they’re pretty firm).

For the flour, I wouldn’t try and go all whole wheat, I’d stick with the half and half as I have it in the recipe. If you’ve ever tried this in a chocolate chip cookie recipe, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say they don’t quite look or taste the same. But half and half in this recipe works beautifully.

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Blonde Brownies
*makes 12 bars

1/4 c coconut oil or butter, softened
1 c brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c whole white wheat flour
1/2 c white flour (I like to use an unbromated white)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 c chocolate chips (or white chocolate or butterscotch)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 11×7 inch pan (2.2 quart); can use 8×8 but they bake a little more evenly in the 11×7 and there is less breaking/cracking. In a large mixing bowl, combine softened coconut oil and brown sugar. Using a hand mixer, beat until blended. Beat in egg and vanilla. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix together. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread into your greased pan. Bake about 25 minutes until light golden. Cut into 12 bars. Eat warm or, once cooled, cover and save to eat within a day or two.

*These freeze well in a freezer ziploc bag.

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Eating healthy while traveling 

We are currently driving home from Washington, where we travel each year to visit my family. It’s about a 14 hour drive from our house, one way, without stops. We don’t stop much, just to fill up the gas tank at which time we use the restrooms, and maybe we’ll get one meal at a gas station (subway or something similar) and that’s about it. But even then, that’ll still add about 1-2 hours time when 7 people need to use the bathroom :). 

Because we mostly don’t stop for meals, and because I don’t want us to feel gross when we arrive from eating  junky snack foods, we have learned to pack some healthier foods that we enjoy  and that travel well. 

First off, the only thing we drink is water, unless I also pack a little green smoothie for myself if we’re leaving super early in the morning. Everyone has their own water bottle, plus we bring a gallon of water for refills. 

Sometimes we will pack pb&j sandwiches (whole wheat, natural pb, fruit sweetened jelly) for something more substantial, but since we just drove to Grand Canyon the week before, and that’s what we brought then, the kids were kinda done with sandwiches, so instead I packed some protein bars I know they like, which we don’t buy often because they’re not really a whole food with their many ingredients, some of which are hard to pronounce which means it’s not really a food, but it’s okay for sometimes ;). If we had more time, I would’ve made some granola bars or muffins, but as we are moving soon, time is hard to come by and some of my kitchen stuff is already packed; but that would be another good option (if you need recipes, search under the snacks heading on my recipe tab). 
There are several of us in the family that get motion sick, and I’ve found that snacking on Cheerios (and/or smelling an orange essential oil, and keeping my gaze directed forward) helps to settle my stomach. Now, you can find better Cheerios than these with less ingredients, but we were in a time crunch and didn’t want to travel to a health food store and these are still better than most, so we made do. 

If you, like me, get the munchies on road trips, blueberries are perfect. I’ll eat a handful or put some in a plastic cup and slowly snack while we drive.

If you like roasted seaweed sheets, those are another perfect munchies food. They’re not filling, they’re good for you and super low calorie so you could eat a whole package and be fine. Apples are another fruit we always bring because they travel so well. Bananas on the other hand, get soft and bruised pretty fast so I only bring those if I know we will eat them within the first hour or so. 

These Aussie bites are another more substantial snack. I will usually eat one or two at a time and am good for a bit. Most of the ingredients on the Aussie bites are really good, they are filled with lots of different whole grains. And Scott and I think they’re very yummy; we find them at Costco. 
Rice cakes are another good traveling food, as are cashews, pistachios, sunflower seeds (the shelled ones help my Hubby stay awake  when driving) all nuts really, grapes and the kids always enjoy it when we pack some gum. It’s nice to pack some fun things, but it’s also nice to feel well when we travel and when we arrive and these foods have worked well for us. I hope this helps you as you get ready for your travels! 

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs

Two posts in one week, and in fact, in one day which is not normal for me! That’s because I didn’t have this recipe ready for this morning, when I normally post, so I used another one, but I still wanted to share this with you before Easter since it’s a fun, festive treat that is SO yummy(and a healthier version than the store bought kind)! I made these chocolate peanut butter eggs yesterday and they are sitting in the freezer just waiting to be eaten in a few days, on Easter Sunday :). I covered half of them in white chocolate and half in carob…I would have used chocolate instead of carob but I didn’t have any on hand.

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I made half with creamy and half with crunchy peanut butter and liked them both. The crunchy peanut butter container was full which meant it was pretty oily which made those ones take a little longer to freeze, but they still worked great.

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Once they were all covered in chocolate and I let them freeze for about ten minutes, I pulled them out and individually wrapped them into saran wrap since we want individual servings for the kids to throw in their Easter baskets on Easter morning. Once wrapped in plastic, I put them all into a gallon ziploc bag and stuck them back into the freezer which is the best way to store them.

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THE RECIPE:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs
*makes 12 eggs

1 c natural peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
4 Tbsp pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp whole wheat flour (or coconut flour if gluten free)
1/4 tsp sea salt

1 c white chocolate chips (can also use dark chocolate chips, dairy free, or carob chips; if using unsweetened chips, add 1/4 c pure maple syrup to your melted chips and coconut oil)
2 tsp coconut oil

In a medium bowl, combine the peanut butter, maple syrup, flour and salt. Mix well. Use a spoon to scoop the batter into 12 balls on a small cookie sheet lined with a piece of parchment or wax paper . Use your hands to shape the dough into an ‘egg’ shape(they can be almost touching). Place them in the freezer and allow to chill about an hour. Once peanut butter mix is frozen, melt the chocolate chips (on stove over med-low heat or in microwave safe dish for 30 seconds at a time and then stirring in between) and stir in coconut oil. Remove the peanut butter eggs from the freezer and using a fork, dip each one into the chocolate and flip to cover completely.  Lift the fork and gently tap the edge of the bowl to allow any excess to drip back into the bowl. Return the chocolate eggs to the parchment paper and spoon any additional chocolate over the tops for a thicker coating, if you like. Allow to set in the freezer for at least 10 minutes before serving. For best consistency, store and serve directly from freezer; once frozen you can move to a gallon ziploc bag to save space.

*Because I wanted these stored in individual servings for my kids for Easter, once all covered in chocolate and frozen, I wrapped each one in plastic wrap and then put them in the ziploc bag. Easter morning once the kids are looking for their baskets, I will put one inside each basket.

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Strawberry Cream Smoothie

We like to have this smoothie for dessert on the weekend or any other time we’re feeling like having something sweet.

2016-03-14 14.15.59 It only takes a few minutes to make which I love, and I always have these ingredients on hand (I buy my dates from Costco because they are cheaper there than any other place I’ve looked). Put your milk, frozen strawberries, pitted dates and vanilla in your blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

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THE RECIPE:

Strawberry Cream Smoothie
*serves 2; makes about 12 oz

1 c unsweetened almond milk (can use another milk)
1 1/2 c frozen strawberries
2 dates, pitted
1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

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Alfalfa Sprouts

Sprouts are one of the most powerful foods for cellular regeneration(restoration and renewal) and health. Their nutrients are extremely easy for your body to use and they are full of antioxidants, protein, enzymes and minerals. Sprouts are an amazing food that you should be including in your diet! They’ve become a staple in our home which I like to eat on sandwiches, on salads and in my green smoothies.

Sprouts are easy to make, not fast because they have to grow over a few days times, but easy and you don’t need a sproutmaster to make your own sprouts. All you need are alfalfa seeds(they last a long time because you only sprout 1 Tbsp of seeds), 2016-02-23 14.18.57a quart sized jar, and a screen repair patch (you can buy a small screen repair patch for really cheap; here is a pack of five on amazon for $3.50 and free shipping). Cut your screen to be the same size as the circular lid on  your quart jar and use that in place of the lid. You won’t need that lid anymore, just the ring that goes around the lid.

 

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Put 1 Tbsp alfalfa seeds in your jar and fill the jar with filtered water; I put in about 3 cups water. Put the screened lid on top and allow the seeds to soak on your counter overnight or for about 12 horus.

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Stand over the sink and with the screen on tight, dump the water out. Pour water in the jar, about half full, and swish the water around with the seeds, by moving your hand in a circular motion, drain the water and place the jar on it’s side. You will rinse and drain 2 times a day for 3-5 days until your sprouts have grown long tails and are ready to eat.

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Once they look about like this, they are ready to eat. You no longer need to rinse and you can store them in your fridge for a week or two.

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Sprouts are a great addition to salad,

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to sandwiches like my open faced avocado sandwich, and in smoothies!

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Alfalfa Sprouts

1 Tbsp alfalfa seeds
3 c filtered water
quart sized jar with screen (read above for description on how to make this)

Put 1 Tbsp alfalfa seeds in a quart sized jar and add water. Put lid on and allow seeds to soak on counter overnight (about 12 hours). Drain water and place jar on it’s side on the counter. Twice a day, for about 4 days, you will rinse your seeds with water (swish them around in a circular motion), drain water, and place jar back on it’s side. After a couple of days, you’ll notice little sprouts beginning to form and after a couple of more days they will have grown full size. The sprouts will fill up this quart jar. After 4 days, transfer the jar to the fridge to store and use within the next week or two.

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Shopping at Costco and Sprouts

Happy New Year! I’m one of those people who likes to regularly set new goals for myself, but at the beginning of a New Year, I actually write those goals down and take extra thought and planning into how I’m going to accomplish those goals. I’ll share a couple of those with you today, that deal with health/nutrition. Besides maintaining my current exercise program that I’ve done for years now, I also want to be better about eating a lot more vegetables and greens(with every meal and snack), less sugar, and not eating so often. Ideally, I’d like to have my three meals, one of which is a green smoothie(and which I’ve been having daily for 5+ years now), and one snack; I used to have two snacks, but I don’t feel like I really need it, I just like it :). I’m currently reading and listening to, The Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder, CN, which I am loving and which is helping me understand the science behind how our bodies work and the why’s and when’s and how’s of the foods we put into our body. I’m also having fun experimenting with her recipes in the back of the book; I’ve just borrowed it from our library but I may need to purchase a copy for my personal library.

Now, onto the subject of my post. People often want to know  what I have in my fridge, pantry, and food storage and where I buy these things for the best price. I did my best to write down staples  from the stores I shop at most often, but I’m sure I’m forgetting some things. It’s important to me to have these items on hand and in my storage because it makes cooking and eating whole foods that much easier, when you’re prepared and stocked. Before we go into that list, here’s a quick look at our food storage:

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From top to bottom: Spelt(LOVE this grain; usually do 50/50 with wheat which helps cooked foods  be not so dense and heavy had you just used only wheat ), almond milk, puffed brown rice cereal, Izze drinks for special occasions, Unbromated white flour (used sparingly), molasses, olive oil, coconut oil, pure maple syrup, powdered sugar (I decorate cakes), coconut sugar, rice cakes, vital wheat gluten(for bread making), spices, raisins, brown rice, applesauce, popcorn kernels, parmesan cheese, marinated artichokes, corn tortillas, canned beans and coconut milk, marinara sauce, natural peanut butter, almond butter, almonds, triscuits, canned fruit and tomatoes, more marinara, pasta and on the floor are big buckets of oats and whole wheat berries.

The two stores where I do most of my grocery shopping are Costco and Sprouts. Here is a list of the items I generally buy from those stores:

Costco Buys:

almond butter
peanut butter
wheat buckets
oat buckets
whole wheat bread
coconut oil
olive oil
organic cane sugar
parmesan cheese
marinara sauce (no sugar!)
diced tomatoes
canned corn
tomato sauce
spices
vanilla
nuts: almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, sliced almonds
short grain brown rice
raisins
pure maple syrup
artichokes
raw honey (just the small bottles for drizzling on sandwiches. I buy a big 60 lb bucket from a local bee keeper for baking)
toilet paper
dish soap
laundry soap
Quinoa
salsa

lettuce
almond milk
eggs (no hormones and antibiotics, vegetarian fed, cage free)
2 lb block of cheese ($5) cheddar and mozzarella
vegetable bouillon
spinach, chard, kale mix
rotisserie chicken (large, already cooked, $5; no hormones)
boneless, skinless chicken (no hormones)
butter
frozen berries
hummus
plain yogurt
minced garlic
feta cheese
pesto

Sprouts Buys:
all produce besides greens (I love all of it! and it’s so inexpensive!)
popcorn kernels
chia seeds
flax seeds
pepitas
lentils
carob chips(Chatfield brand)
puffed kamut, brown rice and millet cereal
spelt (sometimes here or sometimes through a website: azure standard, which is usually cheaper)
unsweetned coconut
coconut sugar
spices
Bragg’s liquid aminos (soy sauce substitute)
rice cakes
Friday night treats from the bulk section (we love the lemon covered almonds and the strawberry Aussie licorice; my hubs loves the dark chocolate covered peanuts)

I should have organized my fridge and pantry shelves before I took these pictures, but I didn’t, so you get it just as I see it everyday :). We go through a lot of produce so that’s mostly what the bottom half of our fridge contains, along with some eggs and plain yogurt. The top half has salsa, almond milk and whole cow’s milk, parmesan cheese, almond and peanut butter, hummus, home made chicken stock, pure maple syrup, and various leftovers including black beans, indian brown rice and coconut curry, and oatmeal. On the door we have some fruit sweetened jelly’s, feta cheese, lime and lemon juice, butter, cream cheese, curry paste, minced garlic, coconut water, banana peppers, mayo, hot sauce, newman’s own olive oil and vinegar dressing, ketchup (no high fructose corn syrup), artichokes and a yam.

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In this cabinet I have a shelf with lots of quart and pint sized jars with various grains, seeds etc that I buy from sprouts in their bulk section.

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And Here’s our pantry…sorry I had to do it in two pictures because I couldn’t fit both top and bottom in one picture. Also, not pictured is my big bucket of honey and my big bucket of oats which I keep in my kitchen behind my counter, and my produce that I keep on the counter with avocados, bananas, oranges and more apples. In the pictures below we have my wheat bucket, peanut butter, raisins, triscuits, whole wheat bread, peanuts, corn tortillas, homemade granola, sliced amonds, popcorn kernels, dates, chopped dates, quinoa, spelt, brown rice, puffed brown rice cereal, carob powder, coconut sugar…basically a lot of the stuff that’s down in my food storage.

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I hope this helps you get an idea for some whole foods items to keep on hand which will make cooking and eating whole foods easier.

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Oriental Marinated Chicken

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This is an easy chicken marinade that goes so well over rice and we love it the most when we also serve it with a peanut sauce. I use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos which is a soy sauce alternative, but feel free to use what you have. Put your defrosted, raw, sliced chicken into a gallon ziploc bag or glass tupperware dish etc, add in the soy sauce, olive oil, garlic, molasses and red pepper flakes, mix around, close it up and allow it to sit and soak in those flavors for 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil (for super easy clean up), and place chicken on foil with a little space in between pieces, and cook until done and no longer pink, about 15-20 minutes if sliced thin.

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Oriental Marinated Chicken

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, thawed, sliced into thin, small pieces
1/2 c Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
1/2 c olive oil
1 1/2 tsp(3 cloves) minced garlic
1 Tbsp molasses
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Soak chicken in marinade mixture for several hours or overnight, in a large ziploc bag or covered glass dish. Cook on a foil-lined baking sheet with a rim (so marinade doesn’t drip onto oven) at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until done.

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