My adaptation of classic Asian Mu Shu Pork is healthy, budget friendly and delicious. I like to double the recipe, cooking in a few small batches to use for super fast-fix dinners and lunches throughout the week. Mu Shu Pork is traditionally served over rice, and recipes call for wood ear mushrooms, Napa cabbage and pork. Served over lettuce, my Magic* version is a one-bowl meal created with the least expensive chicken, cabbage and mushrooms you can find.

8 ounces mushrooms
1 pound cabbage
1 bunch green onions
2 (4 ounce each) cans bamboo shoots
6 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken
1/3 – 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sherry
1 – 2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup roasted sesame seeds

1 large head lettuce
1 jar hoisin sauce (in the Asian section)

This meal usually takes about 30 minutes to prepare. The recipe looks longer and possibly complicated because of prep and presentation options. It’s truly a simple fast-fix recipe.

Prepare the lettuce:
Decide how you want to eat the Mu Shu. Roll-ups are fun for younger ones and those of us who enjoy “hands-on” fare. A more refined and great brown bag approach is salad-style. Please prepare your favorite lettuce for roll-ups or salad-style eating according to instructions at the bottom of this recipe.

If you’re having roll-ups, transfer the hoisin sauce to a bowl and add a small spatula, spreader or teaspoon. Salad-style instructions are at the bottom of this recipe.

Prepare the vegetables:
Clean and trim the mushrooms, cabbage and onions. Drain the bamboo shoots. Slice the mushrooms and cut them into matchstick-sized pieces. Thinly slice the cabbage and green onions. If the bamboo shoots aren’t matchstick sliced, give them a quick rough chop. Set the vegetables aside in a large bowl.

Prepare the eggs:
Crack the eggs into a medium-sized bowl and scramble with the salt. Heat a large skillet (such as a deep-sided chicken fryer) or wok with a bit of the oil and scramble the eggs over medium heat. You want the eggs set but not dry. Transfer the eggs to a bowl and set aside.

Prepare the chicken:
Trim and thinly slice the chicken. Alternately, you can use leftover chicken that has been boned, skinned and thinly sliced. The difference in using cooked or uncooked chicken is when it is added to the recipe during the cooking process.

Please read the Magic** Cooking Tip at the bottom of this recipe before proceeding.

Place your skillet or wok over high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When it is very hot, on the verge of smoking, add the uncooked chicken and stir-fry until it’s no longer pink.

Adding about 1/3 of the vegetables to the skillet at a time, quickly toss and stir to keep the food from sticking, adding a few drops of oil as needed. The total cooking time for the vegetables is only a couple of minutes. You’re keeping the pan hot, not attempting to thoroughly cook each batch before adding the next. Keep the pan hot and fairly dry while you work.

When the vegetables are lightly golden and tender-crisp, sprinkle with the soy sauce, sherry and sesame oil. Add the eggs and break them up a bit as you toss and stir for about a minute to reheat.

For a family roll-up feast, serve the mu shu in a large warmed bowl garnished with a generous sprinkle of the sesame seeds and a platter of lettuce leaves. Grab a lettuce leaf; smear a scant teaspoon of the hoisin sauce across the leaf. Pile some of the hot mu shu chicken into the leaf. Fold the sides over and roll the bottom up a bit.

For salad-style mu shu chicken, follow the directions below to prepare a bed of lettuce in a large serving bowl or individual serving bowls. Pile the hot mu shu chicken on top of the lettuce bed and garnish with a generous helping of sesame seeds.

Serves: 6 – 8

Roll-ups with leaf lettuce:
To make roll-ups with leaf lettuce, remove the leaves from the core and trim discoloration. Rinse the leaves with cool water and gently shake away excess. Place on clean toweling and place in the refrigerator, if you like.

Roll ups with head lettuce:
Head lettuce needs to be cored and outer discolored leaves removed. Simply run a knife around the core at the bottom of the head. Hold the hollow under cool running water for a few seconds and then invert the head to drain the water. Cut through the center of the hollow to cut the head in half. Place the halves down on clean toweling to drain; place in the refrigerator, if you like.

Salad-style mu shu:
Wash and trim your favorite lettuce according to instructions for leaf or head lettuce above.

To prepare lettuce for a salad-style meal, spread a scant teaspoon of the hoisin sauce on one side of each lettuce leaf and stack the leaves. For leaf lettuce, turning the last leaf of hoisin sauce-side down is a little less messy. Using a sharp knife, gently hold the lettuce stack with one hand and slice the lettuce as for salad.

*Magic: this recipe is exclusive to I Love You Recipes. It is from my personal, unpublished collection.

**Magic Cooking Tip:
The point of cooking smaller batches of food is to keep the skillet (or wok) smoking hot. By keeping the pan smoking hot, the natural sugars of the food are quickly cooked on the surface. This concentrates the flavor and preserves contrasting textures. If the pan is allowed to cool, juices are drawn out to pool in the pan. The result is boiled vegetables, which are soft with no distinctive flavor. Meanwhile, the protein/meat becomes rubbery.

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Rum, onions and soy sauce come together to make a tasty meal of inexpensive chicken. Leftovers are a great brown bag option for the office, too.

5 pounds chicken thighs and/or legs
1 cup rum (Captain Morgan!)
2 large sweet onions
4 – 6 chive stalks or 1 tablespoon dried flakes
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper, freshly cracked and finely ground
1 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 can Chinese ginger pickles

You can use legs or thighs. I often purchase the 5-pound bag of legs for less than a dollar a pound and cut them up myself. You can chop between the pieces at the joint with a meat cleaver. I prefer to dislocate the joint by bending the leg and thigh backward and then cutting between with a chef’s knife to separate the pieces. This leaves rounded ends, as opposed to the sometimes sharp ends created when my aim with the cleaver isn’t so good.

Rinse the chicken and place in a large bowl or sealable plastic bag and pour rum over to marinate. Place the chicken in the refrigerator to chill for six hours or overnight, turning a couple of times to redistribute the rum.

An hour before serving time, peel, clean and roughly chop the onions. Peel and trim the hard tip from the garlic and crush. Rinse and thinly slice the ginger. Rinse and chop the chives.

I like to prep and bake in my chicken fryer with its ovenproof handle when possible. If you don’t have a chicken fryer or large deep skillet, you’ll want a pan or casserole large enough to accommodate the chicken.

Preheat oven to 350°. Place the cornstarch in a medium-sized bowl and blend in the soy sauce; set aside.

Place the peanut oil in a large skillet or your chicken fryer over medium heat. Remove the chicken from the rum, reserving the rum. Brown the chicken in the hot oil. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside or place in an oven proof pan or casserole. Add the onions and garlic to the hot skillet and sauté for 2 – 3 minutes until they begin to brown. Add the ginger, salt, pepper and chives.

Transfer the onion mixture to the cornstarch and soy sauce blend and place the chicken back into the skillet. Stir the rum into the soy and onion mixture. Pour the mixture over the chicken.

Place the chicken in the preheated oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes, turning several times to coat. Five minutes before the chicken is finished baking, add the ginger pickles. Turn the oven off and allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes.

Serve over hot rice.

Yield: 6 servings

*Magic: this recipe is exclusive to I Love You Recipes. It is from my personal, unpublished collection.

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Grilled apple and honey glazed chicken is an easy, tasty and budget friendly recipe. A great barbecue option, the chicken marinates overnight, leaving you more time for family and friends.

4-1/2 pounds (8 – 10) whole chicken legs
2 cups apple juice
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly cracked and ground
1/4 cup honey

Peel and mince the garlic. Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Discard paper towels.

Place the garlic, apple juice and pepper in a re-sealable bag that will accommodate the chicken. Add the chicken, seal and place in a bowl in the refrigerator to marinate overnight. Turn the bag occasionally to redistribute the marinade.

Place a drip pan on the fire-grate between the coals or burners or use a water spray to reduce flare-ups. Bring your grill to high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on the hot grill to cook over indirect heat.

Baste with the marinade for the first 20 minutes. Do not continue basting after the first 20 minutes; discard any left over marinade. Continue cooking the chicken for approximately 20 – 30 minutes until thoroughly cooked.

To finish, brush the chicken, top and bottom, with honey. Continue cooking and turning for 3 – 5 minutes until browned. Add salt to taste.

Yield: 8 – 10 servings.

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I love no-fuss grilling recipes. This rum laced molasses marinade is a delicious treatment for chicken breasts.

8 chicken breasts; halved, skinned and boned
2 – 3 tablespoons salt
2 – 3 tablespoons pepper, freshly cracked and ground
6 tablespoons molasses
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup dark rum (try spicy Captain Morgan Rum)
1 tablespoon dry mustard

Start your grill and bring to medium-hot heat.

To make the marinade place the molasses, oil, rum and mustard in a small bowl and whisk to blend thoroughly.

Place the prepared chicken breasts on a board and cover with plastic; pound slightly to flatten evenly. Remove the plastic; generously season with salt and pepper. Transfer the chicken breast to a shallow dish and pour the molasses marinade over all. Turn to coat well.

Place the coated chicken on the preheated grill. Cook for 4 – 6 minutes on each side. Turn and baste the chicken with the marinade. During the last 1 – 2 minutes stop basting with marinade to allow the glaze to cook completely.

Yield: 8 servings.

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Chicken, mushrooms, lemon and cream come together to quickly create a scrumptious entree. Serve over a bit of pasta and add big green salad for an easy, elegant summer meal.

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly cracked and ground
6 chicken breast halves, boned and skinned
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms

In a small bowl blend together 1 tablespoon of the unbleached all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup whipping cream; stir until smooth and set aside.

In a medium sized lidded container or plastic bag combine 1/2 cup flour, salt and pepper. Add the chicken and shake to coat. Place the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter has melted, lightly shake excess flour from the chicken and add to the skillet. Cook on each side for 8 – 10 minutes or until the juices run clear. Remove the chicken to a warm platter and lightly cover to keep warm.

Add the chicken broth to the drippings in the pan. Stir and scrape the pan to loosen the browned bits as you bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the broth is reduced to about 1/3 cup. Stir in 3/4 cup cream, lemon juice and mushrooms. Increase heat to medium-low and cook for approximately 5 minutes.

Give the cream and flour you set aside a light stir and add to the skillet; stir to blend well. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook for approximately 2 minutes or until thickened. Return the chicken to the skillet and turn the heat off. Allow the chicken to stand in the sauce for 3 – 5 minutes to heat through.

Yield: 6 servings.

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