Last weekend I flew home to Boston to surprise my older brother for his birthday. Living in LA now, I don’t see my family nearly as much as I would like to. We are all very close, and the fact that I am 3,000 miles away from them now can sometimes be pretty tough. I can’t make frequent trips home and keeping in touch can be hard due to the time difference. I like to make phone calls on my way home from work, but usually everyone is in bed on the east coast by that time.
I know that most people say they have the best siblings, but totally straight up, Dave is the best brother in the world.
It is just the two of us. We are 9 years apart in age, so growing up we were always at very different stages in our lives. I remember going on college tours with him when I was only in 4th grade. But, I think this age gap made us closer. We were never forced to be competitive with each other and he always looked out for me, giving me guidance and support every step of the way. Fighting (while it did occur occasionally) was pretty rare for us.
My mom loves to tell the story about when I was born, Dave used to come into my room every morning before he left for school just so that he could kiss me goodbye. That love never stopped. When we were younger, he constantly spoiled me with his hard earned allowance, taking me out to meals or buying me special presents. In middle school it was always a thrill for me whenever he drove to pick me up (which unlike most older brothers, he did willingly, of course). I remember wanting to show him off to everyone because he was the “cool older brother” who drove an awesome car with black tinted windows (and a subwoofer that you could hear from a mile away).
Dave is also the #1 gift-giver I know. He has a real knack of remembering the little things you mention you like in passing and he is always the first to discover new tech gadgets before everyone else. His gifts are always thoughtful and perfect. But, because of this, it’s always really hard to match his gifts, and since Dave got married a few months ago (to the most awesome sister-in-law I could have ever imagined), he pretty much has everything he needs.
So this year, I decided to fly home and surprise him as his birthday gift.
Luckily, he had no clue and was completely surprised and appreciative. Being home was great (although I have to say, I LOVE not dealing with snow and cold temps anymore!). We celebrated over a meal looking out onto beautiful Boston.
I appreciate being home more than anything now. While I love my new life in LA, my family is so important to me and I was so glad I was able to celebrate with Dave this weekend :)
Okay, okay, enough sappy talk. Now let’s talk food.
As you can see, I am on a bit of an Asian kick, so we’re making real deal Kung Pao Chicken.
After picking up some dried peppers from the Grand Central Market in Downtown LA, I was eager to make some authentic Asian food.
These peppers added the perfect level of heat for me. I don’t like things too spicy, but you could certainly add more peppers or use a spicier variety if you prefer you food really hot!
If you have all of the ingredients already this meal can come together fairly quickly. While the chicken marinated in the fridge for half an hour, I chopped and prepared all of the other ingredients.
This was really yummy and I thought it tasted pretty darn authentic! It also stays pretty well - I enjoyed great leftovers for lunch today :)
Kung Pao Chicken
1lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2/4 inch pieces
2 Tablespoons soy sauce, divided
2 Tablespoons dry sherry, divided
1 Tablespoon corn starch, divided
3 scallions, whites minced and greens finely sliced, separated
1/2 cup peanuts (I used cashews because I didn’t have any peanuts on hand)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 Tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 Tablespoon sriracha (or another Asian chili garlic sauce)
2 teaspoons sugar
12 hot Chinese dry peppers, seeded
1 onion chopped
1 bell pepper chopped
brown rice for serving
Combine the chicken, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons dry sherry, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly. Allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to two hours.
In a small bowl combine the scallion whites, garlic and ginger. In another bowl combine the remaining soy sauce, remaining dry sherry, remaining corn starch, white vinegar, sriracha, and sugar and mix until the cornstarch is dissolved.
In a large skillet or wok, heat 1T of peanut oil. Spread half of the marinated chicken in an even layer. Cooking without moving for 1 minute and then cook, stirring constantly, for another minute and remove to a plate (the chicken should not be cooked through yet). Repeat with the second half of the chicken and remove to the plate.
Add another tablespoon of peanut oil to the pan. Add the onion and the pepper and saute for 2 minutes. Add the peanuts and the dried chilies, then add the reserved chicken. Make a center in the wok the add the garlic/ginger mixture and cook until fragrant (about 20 seconds). Then add the soy sauce mixture, stirring constantly until the chicken is fully coated.
Serve immediately with brown rice.