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My big kid started kindergarten last week.
Off he went, with his not-yet-4-year-old little body dressed in enormous school uniform (the smallest they make), proudly wearing his backpack and thrilled to be going to ‘real school’. Meanwhile, I kept looking at him and wondering how the tiny 2kg (not even 5lbs!) creature I gave birth to a few short years ago could already be going to any sort of school. I am fully aware that probably every parent in the developed world shares similar emotions about their kids starting formal education – my thought process goes on a loop sounding something like this: hooray, learning! Hooray, another place to direct ALL the questions asked by small children! But they’re so small! What (nut free, healthy) foods can we pack in their lunchboxes every day to keep them interested in eating?! They are SO SMALL to be coping with school!! Too small?? Have we done enough to prepare them emotionally? Will the other kids be kind to mine? Will mine be kind to his classmates? Safe to say it’s a time of adjustment for all of us.
At any rate, it was a blast for the kid until he realised on the second day that this was to be the new normal, the place he’ll go a few days every week from here on out. The tiredness born of the previous day’s excitement caught up with him; it was all a bit much and the days since have been a bit uneven, swinging between tired devastation and glorious happy stories of things learnt at school (so many things in such a short space of time!).
I know this seemingly has nothing to do with providing you a steam oven recipe for the week, but stay with me for a bit – it’s coming. Because of kindergarten, I’ve made efforts to keep everything else about life as comforting and normal as possible. This means I’ve been keeping dinners simple and very child-friendly, to which end we ate this Steam Oven Sticky Sesame Chicken with udon noodles two days in a row. It’s one of those meals which the kids would eat all the time if we let them, though generally I do try to mix things up a bit more than defaulting to chicken and noodles every night. In this time of great change, though, I’d happily serve the same thing for a week if it got us through the extreme tiredness of dinner with a minimum of fuss (thankfully we also have fried rice, spaghetti and meatballs and lots of boiled eggs to see us through).
A few steamed or roasted greens are all that’s needed to accompany this dish. It comes together in a matter of minutes and looks after itself in the oven while you talk to your kids about their day, or play an energetic game with this retro toy – the current craze in our house and just as much fun as when I was a kid. If you too need a very simple steam oven dinner to call your own this week, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Happy steam oven cooking, see you here again soon.
Sticky Sesame Chicken
- 1.1 lb chicken thighs boneless and skinless, cut into 4-5 pieces each
- 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
- 1/4 cup clear honey
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 inch fresh ginger a thumb-sized piece, minced
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tbs sesame seeds toasted
- 2 scallions spring onions, finely sliced
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes chilli flakes, for serving, optional
- Set your oven to 200⁰C/400⁰F on combination steam setting. If your oven has variable steam settings, use 30%. If not, don't worry! Just set to combi steam at the correct temperature and the oven will take care of the humidity.
- Mix all the ingredients except scallions in a baking dish where the chicken will fit snugly in a single layer (I use a large Pyrex dish – I love that it’s clear so I can see exactly what’s going on, and I can just put the lid on any leftovers without transferring to another container).
- Bake the chicken for 20 minutes, then sprinkle over the scallions and chilli flakes if using and serve hot with noodles and green vegetables. We generally use dried udon because they’re thick enough for the kids to handle easily and I always have them in the pantry. Fresh egg noodles would also be lovely.
- You could mix this up in the morning and leave it to marinate in the fridge until it’s time to make dinner, but I almost never do and we still love it.
- The sauce will be sticky but not especially thick – it’s the ideal consistency to give a bowl of noodles a slick coating or soak into some fluffy rice.
- We had this with quickly blanched frozen edamame (soy beans) because that's what was on hand. If you’d like to do veg and rice in the one dish I’d recommend using a slightly larger baking dish and adding some broccoli florets and roughly chopped red peppers about 10 minutes before cooking is finished.
But I don’t have a steam/combi-steam oven! Just bake it! Pop the whole thing in a regular oven set to 190⁰C, fan forced, for around 45 minutes.
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After some other simple steam oven dinner recipes? The Combi Steam Loaded Sweet Potatoes are on high rotation here, or if you want to keep with the Asian food theme, try the Sticky Beef Ribs. There are lots of others listed in the Easy Meals index, too.