I haven’t cooked in six days. I haven’t made oatmeal, baked chocolate chip cookies, browned butter, or roasted a squash. I haven’t been able to go to my “happy place” because it’s been closed off. Literally, closed off and sealed up with plastic and painters tape. And it’s driving me crazy.
When we moved into our house eight years ago, we took one look at the kitchen and said, “Well, it has potential. We’ll simply knock down this wall, open it up to the dining room, move this here and that there and it will be perfect.” Ah, the naive new home owners…. I’m sure it’s taken you no time at all to figure out that those plans cost a fortune, and so we’ve still been living with our dated 1970’s dark faux wood cabinets, the ones with the chips in the laminate and the little accent buttons missing from half their holes. We did get rid of the pink and green rose wallpaper when we moved in, and have changed the paint color a couple of times, but the dark brown that covered most of the kitchen made it gloomy and a bit oppressive.
So a budget update was due. Really, it was past due. I fantasize about my dream kitchen constantly, and whenever I’m browsing through photos I’m always drawn to the white kitchens. You know, the ones with the gorgeous islands, light marble countertops, double ovens with massive gas ranges on top? I’ve come to terms with the fact that this house isn’t going to have that kind of kitchen, but a few coats of paint and some new cabinet handles will probably go a long way. So I took EVERYTHING out of my kitchen over the weekend, precariously arranged the contents all over my dining room (and spilling into my living room,) and packed my family up to go stay with the grandparents for a couple nights.
We avoided the worst of the fumes, and returned home to have picnic meals on the living room floor on paper plates, simply microwaving take-out pork buns and other such delicious nonsense. I’ll be honest, there’s part of me that has loved the excuse not to cook, freeing up my night to just play trains on the floor and read more stories. But then there’s this other part of me that is itching to make a pot of soup, bake a batch of scones, and get the biscuits made and frozen already for our Thanksgiving dinner. I know it’s because I can’t that I want to so much. I also know that in times of stress, my first instinct is to head to the kitchen and mix something together. It calms me down, brings me back to reality, and just makes everything better. The kitchen and my place in it is something I can control, so to be kicked out leaves me fumbling.
See this picture above? It’s my recipe binder. THE recipe binder. The one with all the recipes I have made in the last ten years that I’ve taken from magazines or printed from online sources. It’s my book of favorites, and it’s organized in ways that nothing else in my life is. It’s got tabs, categories, pockets, and notes. So very many notes. Every recipes has the dates I made it, who it was served to, if it worked, why it didn’t and how I could change it. When everything else seems jumbled, this grounds me. It takes me to my kitchen, and convinces me that in a few easy steps everything will work out. Because I have a whole book to prove that it does.
So it’s only fitting that even if I can’t cook, I can at least share a recipe with you that I have total confidence in. This Honey Miso Chicken is one of my family standards. It’s a go-to weeknight dinner, it’s what I serve when friends come over for lunch, and it’s something I can pull from the freezer when I know the next day is going to be hectic. It takes less than ten minutes to prep, and can sit in the fridge for an hour to marinate, overnight if necessary, or all day when I am at work. It’s forgiving that way, and doesn’t even require making a mess. The only thing you need to chop is some garlic, and if you default to the pre-minced version, nobody will judge. Promise. As you can see from the scribbles on the page, I’ve made it countless times, playing with it to make it my own. The original is from Cooking Light magazine, and I haven’t done much to change it: switched the chile paste to Sriracha, and increased the amounts of the ingredients to have more sauce, because you always want more sauce. (Okay, I always want more sauce; I can’t speak to what you may want. But trust me, more sauce is a good thing.)
You throw together a bunch of ingredients in a Ziploc bag, let it all hang out, and then cook the chicken part way on top of the stove, finishing it in the oven. Super easy. Very little work for a big reward. The chicken is sweet from the honey, tangy from the rice vinegar, slightly spicy from the chilies in the Sriracha, and with a salty balance that comes from the miso and soy. If you aren’t familiar with miso, it’s fermented soybean paste. The white one I use is a mellower flavor, and provides what fancy food people call umani, or a “pleasant savory taste.” It can be high in sodium, so a little is all you need to make a huge difference in soups and sauces. It may seem like an odd specialty ingredient to buy for just one recipe, but if you have it in your arsenal you’ll start adding it to everything. And it lasts for a good nine months if kept in the fridge, so there’s no risk to getting it. Same with Sriracha. Buy it. Use it in everything.
So do you get it? It’s not complicated, right? There’s a recipe that you know works, every time, and it makes people happy. You can make it without stressing. It’s something you can trust. Rely on. Not have to over-think. When everything else in your world seems out of control, or unknown, or just a little too much, you can go into the kitchen and make things right. Well, unless you’re getting your kitchen painted and you’re banned from it, in which case, you have every reason to be off your game. (Wait a second, I’m doing it again. I mean ME, in case this wasn’t clear. I’m banned. I’m off my game.) But I’m not totally crazy, because I know it’s temporary. And in a couple days I will be back in full swing, getting ready for Thanksgiving in my new white kitchen (with the same old dated ivory formica counters, but that’s another story, whose time has not yet come.)
Once it’s done, I’ll show you some before and after pictures. If you want a sneak peek, you can find it on Instagram. I’m just learning how to use it, but I would love for you to start following Tasty Oasis there. There’s a button on the sidebar, or you can just click on this handy link. Or Facebook. Or Twitter. New on that too. Apparently, I am not the only one late to the party on these things. And I’m still getting my feet wet on Pinterest, so if that’s your thing, please find me there! And as always, if you are inspired to leave a comment, I would be thrilled. Let me know if you make the recipe, or if you think formica and laminate cabinets have gotten unfair treatment. Anything! It will make my day. Seriously.
Honey Miso Chicken is a healthy dish that's easy to prepare, only requires a short marinade, and also makes for a simple plan ahead meal. Freezer-friendly, it's sweet and spicy, full of flavor, perfect for a busy weeknight and absolutely company worthy.
- 2 Tablespoons minced garlic, from 5-6 peeled cloves
- 4 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 4 Tablespoons honey
- 2½ Tablespoons white miso paste
- 1½-2½ teaspoons Sriracha (depending on how spicy you like things)
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil (divided)
- 3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts (1.75 lbs. total/ 666 grams)
*This recipe is only slightly adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light magazine.
**If you're a planner, start marinating in the morning, and let it sit all day in the fridge so it's ready to cook for dinner. Or marinate overnight and serve it for brunch.
***When feeding a crowd, I like to slice the chicken into small strips because this amount can easily serve six. Top a salad with it, or dice it up and serve it in a wrap with some crunchy cabbage.
****This is very freezer-friendly. Just wrap left over chicken tightly in plastic wrap, then place in a Ziploc freezer bag. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight and reheat in the microwave. Defrosting in the microwave is going to make the chicken tough, so try to avoid it!