Thursday, July 22, 2010

Helping Hands in the Kitchen

What do you get when you combine Chicago Cares with the Chopping Block? A volunteer opportunity that includes dinner!

My co-worker invited me along to her latest dinner night at the Ronald McDonald house near Chicago's Children Memorial Hospital. Families of the patients are provided a home away from home while their little ones receive treatment. Volunteers sign up for evenings to make a dinner for the houseguests. Pick a menu, split up the ingredients and gather your friends for a night of cooking in a big ole kitchen. Learn more about how you can help out at a Ronald McDonald house here

If you know me at all you know I love a good theme. So I was pleasantly surprised to see a Hawaiian theme put forth with the ingredient list. "Hawaiian Night" kicked off with spinach dip served in a bread bowl - I absolutely love the King's Hawaiian Sweet Bread, so sweet and bready, if I may make up a word.
Next up was rice on the side. Doesn't everything look better with grilled pineapple rings on top?

Hawaiian Rice
1 (20 ounce) can pineapple slices in heavy syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon ginger
2 cups cooked rice

Pour syrup from the can into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil for approximately five minutes. Lower heat and stir in brown sugar untill it disolves completely. Add ginger and soy and allow to sit on very low heat to keep warm. On a grill place pinapple rings and cook for about four minutes on one side and one minute on the other side. You can broil them in the oven, but you should baste the rings with the sauce before broiling to help pinapple turn golden brown. Place pinapple rings on top of rice, pour sauce over rice.
If you haven't had enough pineapple, stay tuned for the Veggie Stir Fry. . .

Hawaiian Glazed Veggies Stir Fry
3/4 large red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup red onions, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 (5 1/2 ounce) can sliced bamboo shoots, drained
1 1/2-2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup fresh pineapple, cut into bite-sized wedges
1 cup broccoli florets
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 3/4 tablespoons pineapple juice

Heat olive oil in a wok over high heat just until smoking point, about 1 minute. Add red pepper and red onion; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add bamboo shoots and cook 1 minute, stirring. Add water to prevent sticking. Add pineapple wedges and cook 1 minute. Stir in broccoli; cook 4 minutes or until bright green. Combine tamari (soy sauce) and juice in a small cup. Add tamari/juice mixture to veggies. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring to coat.
For the main dish, we have the very Hawaii-Sounding Huli Huli Chicken. With everyone bringing a packet or two of tenders, we had quite a lot of poultry on our hands - but when we need to account for serving 20, lotso chicken is needed.

Huli Huli Chicken
2 whole chickens, split in half

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
1/4 cup pineapple puree
2 cloves garlic - minced
1 1/2 inches ginger root - minced to a paste
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar

For Grill:
Combine marinade ingredients and stir until well blended.
Brush chicken halves with marinade and grill over medium-hot coals, turning once every 5 minutes and basting with marinade each time.
Grill for a total of 40 minutes.

For Broiler:
Preheat broiler and put broiler pan on the lowest setting.
Broil chicken halves for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes.
Brush chickens with marinade and continue broiling, turning once every 5 minutes and basting with marinade, for another 20 minutes - 40 minutes total.
At the end of the evening we had fed a room full of hungry families and there were barely any leftovers for the house fridge. I had also drank one more glass of Hawaiian Punch than I probably should have - ugh, that stuff is sickly sweet.

Terese, thanks so much for letting me come out and help with the dinner prep - you are doing some great work and it is clear how much the houseguests value the home cooked meals. I'm happy to help again, you know I'll take a theme and run with it :-)

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