I love bartering.  Trading hours with other service-based businesses like photographers, fitness instructors, plumbers, handymen etc is a great way to help a limited budget – and whose isn’t, am I right? – stretch a little further.   Today’s cookdate was spent stocking the freezer for my landscaper, in return for which he kept my lawn nicely mowed all summer.  Little does he know I plan on offering him an entire Thanksgiving dinner this year if he will clean out my gutters and do my fall cleanup.  I kid, I kid.  (Sort of).  Anyway, he’s a young guy who works hard, and he chose some classic, hearty client favorites today.   Keeping him happy and well-fed keeps my yard looking great – win/win!


On the menu:

**Chicken Parmigiana with Toasted-Garlic Marinara**
Lightly breaded chicken breasts with my signature Toasted-Garlic Marinara Sauce and shredded mozzarella.

**PF Chang’s Mongolian Beef**
Lean flank steak stir-fried with lots of scallions in PF Chang’s signature sweet soy sauce with ginger and garlic.

**Gnocchi with Spinach and Peas**
Tender potato gnocchi in a light cream sauce with baby spinach, peas and fresh lemon.

**Southern Style Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia**
Fresh tilapia dipped in buttermilk, dusted with cornmeal, paprika and a little cayenne, and pan-fried until crispy and delicious. Served with creamy homestyle Tartar Sauce with sweet pickle relish.

**Shrimp Vera Cruz**
Large shrimp sautéed with garlic, bell peppers, fresh chiles and tomatoes, finished with fresh cilantro.


And a recipe, courtesy of the Internet, that has become very popular with clients:

PF Chang’s Mongolian Beef
Serves 4

  • 2 teaspoons veg oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil – more or less
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 bunches green onions – cut into 1″ pieces

Make the sauce by heating 2 tsp. veg oil in med saucepan over med/low heat. Add ginger and garlic to the pan and quickly add the soy sauce and water before the garlic scorches. Dissolve the brown sugar in the sauce, then raise the heat to med and boil the sauce for 2-3 min. or until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

Slice the flank steak against the grain into 1/4 inch thick slices. Toss the steak pieces in the cornstarch to apply a thin dusting to both sides of each piece. Let the beef sit for about 10 min. so that the cornstarch sticks.

Heat some additional oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. When skillet is very hot – working in batches so as not to crowd the pan – add beef to the oil and saute for 2-4 min. or until well browned. Stir while cooking so it cooks evenly. Remove with a large slotted spoon or tongs to paper towels or a rack over a sheet pan (to let the oil drain).

In the still-hot pan, add all the green onions and stir fry a minute. Return the beef and the sauce, and cook for 1 more minute, tossing to combine.


Fair trade
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