Diana Ciobanu’s Oregano Chicken

Another recipe I got when I was working at UCLA. Diana is from Romania and of course, she makes dishes that are new to us and we cannot wait to try it when we have potlucks. Lucky that she shares the recipes on all the dishes she brings, just like everyone else.

I believe I tasted this recipe during a 50th birthday party of another coworker. 50th birthday parties were big in Brentwood, and there was this tradition of passing on the Black Rose. You get to keep the Black Rose (and take it to your 50th birthday travels/celebrations, and take photos for the Brentwood collage) until someone else turns 50, and you have to endorse the Black rose to them. I thought that one day I will get to travel with that rose, but I moved so I guess I will not.

This chicken though, is a staple at my house. I love how the salty capers complement the lemon chicken dish perfectly. A big salad and freshly cooked rice will round out this meal wonderfully.

8 chicken breasts, cut into big pieces

1/4 cup lemon juice

1-2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon dried crumbled, oregano

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup sliced olives or capers

Zest of 1 lemon

Original method:

Place chicken in a large bowl. In another bowl, place lemon juice, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic, and olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour over chicken pieces and marinate at least 1 hour.

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes. Add olives or capers and bake 10-30 minutes more.

Sprinkle with lemon zest before serving.

Lazy method:

I do this all the time! 😊

Place everything but the olives/capers, and lemon zest in a saucepan. Add about a cup of water in the saucepan. Simmer until liquid is almost gone and chicken is almost cooked through 20-25 minutes, adding water if necessary. Add olives/capers and simmer 5-10 minutes more, until chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with lemon zest before serving.

This is a great recipe to have on hand since chicken breasts go on sale every once in a while where I live. When that happens, I am happy to make a couple of different dishes out of a package of chicken breasts, that way I would only have to heat dinner for the next day or so.

Electric Lunchbox #26: Shoyu Chicken

Back to my beloved Japanese dishes! This is another recipe that I got from when I worked at Brentwood UCLA. I love making this dish on the stove as you just place everything in a pot and let it boil away till done. Dinner is ready!

On the stove the sauce gets to thicken and caramelize but it doesn’t in the Itaki. If you want a thicker sauce, stir in a teaspoon of cornstarch with the water and soy sauce at the beginning. Or you could boil the sauce on the stove and then add it to your bowl when it has reduced some then continue with the recipe.

*Please note that the word “cup” in any of my electric lunchbox recipe refers to the little itaki cup included with the lunchbox. It holds 40ml.*

1 boneless, skinless, chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

1 clove garlic

1/4 teaspoon minced ginger

1 tablespoon sake

2 cups Japanese rice

2 cups water

3 cups water for the base

Green onions, to serve

In the bottom bowl, mix together chicken, water, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, and sake. *You can reduce the soy sauce and water if you want a less watery dish.*

In the smaller top bowl, place rice and rinse a couple of times. Drain and add 2 cups water. Set on top of the bottom bowl.

Place both bowls on the Itaki base and add 3 cups water to the base. Cover and let steam until it shuts off, about 55 minutes. Check chicken for doneness, adding 1/2 to 1 cup water more to the base if necessary.

Carefully remove bowls from the base and stir the Shoyu Chicken, adjust seasoning if needed. Sprinkle with green onions. Fluff rice and serve!

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1 Hour Hamburger Buns (or dinner rolls)

This recipe came about when we were in week 3 of the stay at home order due to CoVid19. My son wanted hamburgers and fries but my husband doesn’t want us to go out at all. We do not have hamburger buns and I had been reading that bread is almost always out of stock all over our town’s grocery store.

Lucky I know how to make bread. So I decided to make hamburger and fries from scratch…the bread, the patties, and the fries. I added additional yeast to make the dough rise faster as it was already late in the afternoon. The bread worked out really good so here I am sharing it with you. I promise it will be easy and fast to make these burger buns and that they taste great! A lot of work to make everything from scratch yes, but I feel truly blessed to be able to make it.

Now, with the COVID cases on the up swing again, AND 4th of July, I will probably make this today for our little BBQ, so we can stay home and try to avoid going out.

Happy 4th of July everyone! Stay safe!

2 tablespoons instant dry yeast

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon salt

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Water, for brushing

Sesame for topping

  • In a large bowl, mix yeast and warm water. Add oil and sugar. Mix well. Add the egg, salt and enough flour to form a soft dough.
  • Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes. Do not let rise.
  • Divide into 9 pieces; shape each into a ball. Place 3 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Brush tops with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  • Cover and let rest for 30 – 40 minutes, until doubled. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425F. Bake buns for 8-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Thermomix directions:

1. Place yeast and water in the mixing bowl. Set to 2 minutes/37F/speed 2.

2. Add the oil, sugar, egg, salt, and flour. Set to 2minutes/Knead.

3. Divide into 9 pieces; shape each into a ball. Place 3 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Brush tops with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

4. Cover and let rest for 30 – 40 minutes. Bake at 425° for 8-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

This recipe can also be used to make dinner rolls. Divide dough into 24 pieces, shape and let rise until doubled. Bake until golden brown.

24 hour Pizza crust

Happy birthday to my son! Time flies by so fast he is 11 already! Pizza is one of his favorite food (well, aside from mac and cheese and Korean chicken) so I will feature a time consuming but very delicious pizza crust recipe today.

I make pizza for lunch or dinner at least twice a month, so I have been able to try different recipes and tweak them to my family’s tastes. This is Vito Iacopelli’s recipe. He is a professional pizza guy, a pizzaiolo, I saw on youtube who was sharing how to make pizza dough for home use. I scaled down his recipe to make 2 big 14-inch pizzas or 3 smaller 12 inch ones. This is usually enough for my little family of 3 with leftovers for another meal.

I tried baking this crust with the Breville Pizzaiolo, the Napoli wood fire pizza oven, and the Mont Alpi pizza oven (which I modified by adding a thick layer of refractive cement on the interior). Although the Breville gave the best result the easiest way (plug in, dial the temp and that’s it!), I kept the modified Mont Alpi as the Breville is a HUGE, single use appliance that I can not store easily. The Napoli cannot keep the wood burning properly, but I think if I buy the gas attachment it would be easier to use and keep a constant temperature. The Mont Alpi is an outdoor appliance so I just leave it in our outdoor barbeque area.

It takes a day to make this so plan ahead. You could also place it in the refrigerator for the 6-8 hour rest and use it with in 2 days. It is worth it though as the crust is really delicious and perfect for any topping you’d like to put on it!


333 grams water

1.7 grams yeast

3.3 grams honey

8.3 grams salt

16.7 grams olive oil

500 grams 00 flour or all purpose flour

Place water and yeast in a bowl. Mix. Add honey and mix well. Add 350 grams flour and mix well for a couple of minutes. Cover with a dishcloth. Leave for about 1 hour.

Add the rest of the flour, salt, and olive oil. Form into a ball and knead for about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball. Place in a greased bowl, turn dough over, cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 hour.

Form into 2 balls and place in a floured pan. Flour tops and cover with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with non stick spray, then cover with a dish cloth. Let rest 6-8 hours.

Remove covers and drop in a bowl of flour. Take dough out and shape into circle, 14 inches in diameter. Place in a pizza pan or peel and repeat with the other half.

Brush olive oil on edges. Spread some tomato/pizza sauce on top, bake in 500F oven for 5 minutes. Top with desired toppings (mozzarella and pepperoni are my family’s favorites) and bake 10-15 minutes more.


Korean Fried Chicken

This is one of those dishes that my son almost always requests if I ask him “what should I cook today?” I saw the original recipe from https://www.maangchi.com/recipe/yangnyeom-tongdak but decided on the short cut of using frozen chicken tenders as frying is a little too much work, and using brown sugar as I don’t always have the sweetener called for in the recipe.

With all these changes, I am able to make this anytime I need something quick and delicious…as long as I have a package of chicken tenders in the freezer. I serve this with plain steamed rice and a salad or mixed veggies to round out dinner.

I hope you try it!

1 package (25oz) Tyson Crispy Chicken Strips, prepared according to directions

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2/3 cup tomato ketchup

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1-2 tablespoons gochujang (hot pepper paste), add more if a spicy sauce is desired

2/3 cup brown sugar

Sesame seeds

Chopped green onions

Heat the chicken strips, following the directions. I usually use the air fryer for this. I cook the chicken at 390F for 18-20 minutes, until browned and crispy.

Meanwhile, heat a saucepan over medium heat and add canola oil and garlic. When the garlic is fragrant and lightly browned, add ketchup, vinegar, gochujang and brown sugar. Simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes, until sugar is dissolved and the vinegar is not too pungent.

Pour sauce over chicken and toss to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and chopped green onions.

Serve with plain white rice and add some veggies to round out your meal.

With kimchi and takuan

Electric Lunchbox #23: Pineapple Chicken

A special request from Lu Gram! I hope this meets your expectations!

I have recently noticed a couple of readers who truly appreciate my work with the Electric Lunchbox and have granted a recipe request from them. This Pineapple Chicken is from a fellow Electric Lunchbox member Lu Gram, who did make my whole week with a very kind comment made regarding my blog. I truly appreciate any encouragement I am given! It brightens my blogging days!

I hope you guys try and make this. The original recipe is a stir fry recipe so I prepared the sauce separately at first to make sure I get the taste and texture right. However, I am one of those people who loves dump-it-and-forget-it recipes so I started again from scratch to figure out a way to make this recipe taste good with as little effort as possible from our part. After a few disasters, I think this is a delicious recipe given the amount of prep it calls for.

As like most of my main dish recipes, feel free to add what you like to make it your own! Shredded carrots, snow peas, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and broccoli would be good additions to this dish.

I hope you guys like it! I know I really did!

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*NOTE that this recipe uses regular sized measuring cups, NOT the tiny Itaki cup, unless specified.*


1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon minced ginger (I used the one that comes in a squeeze tube)

1/3 cup pineapple juice

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1/2 to 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder

1 tablespoon cornstarch

pepper to taste

275 grams boneless, skinless chicken breast or thigh, cut into 1 inch cubes

1/2 of a small red pepper, cut into 1 inch cubes

1/2 cup canned pineapple chunks, drained

1/2 of a small onion, chopped

Green onions and toasted sesame seeds for garnish

For the little nesting bowl:

2 Itaki cups rice (rinsed and drained)

2 Itaki cups water

Place the garlic powder, ginger, pineapple juice, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, brown sugar, bouillon powder, corn starch, and ground pepper in the big bottom bowl and mix well.

Add the chicken pieces, red pepper, pineapple chunks, and onion in the bowl and stir to coat with the sauce.

In the small nesting bowl, place 2 Itaki cups of rice, rinsed and drained, with 2 Itaki cups of water. Place this bowl on top of the bigger bowl and place both in the Itaki base.

Add3 Itaki cups of water to the base. Cover and turn the electric lunchbox on. Let steam until done, about 50 minutes.

Carefully open the lunchbox and check chicken for doneness. Add water to the base if needed. My dish was done with 3 Itaki cups of water, but I understand steam time varies.

Fluff rice. Stir pineapple chicken and adjust taste if needed. Top with green onions and toasted sesame seeds.

Serve hot and enjoy!

Electric Lunchbox #20: Penne ala Vodka

A wonderful side for any lunch or dinner, this pasta is easy to prepare and is neutral flavored enough to go with fish, meat, or vegetarian main dishes. I sometimes steam some frozen meatballs on the little top bowl to serve with the pasta.

If you would like this alcohol free, just substitute the vodka with equal amounts of chicken broth. Hope you enjoy this quick pasta dish!

80 grams dry penne pasta

10 grams butter

100 grams canned chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon tomato paste

140 grams chicken broth

Pinch of salt

Pinch of sugar

Pinch of chili pepper flakes, adjust to taste

25 grams heavy cream

25 grams vodka

3 Itaki cups water for the base

Place penne, butter, tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken broth, salt, sugar, pepper flakes, cream, and vodka in the bottom bowl of the Itaki. Mix well to dissolve the tomato paste.

Place the bowl in the Itaki and add 3 cups water to the base. Cover and let steam until it shuts off, about 55 minutes.

Carefully remove from the lunchbox, stir and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve hot.

*You can definitely add another dish to cook in the little bowl of the Itaki Pro, or even the 2 other bowls of the Jumbo just be sure to add more water to the base, as needed, to cook everything properly. Ideas would be any of the following: flan, chocolate cake, chicken, salmon, ribs, broccoli, baby bokchoy, etc.*

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Lotus Leaf Bread/Mantou (cua pao/gua pao buns/he ye bao)

So yummy!

Today I’ll teach you how to make Lotus Leaf/Mantou buns. This is the white steamed bread bun that looks like a half moon, usually seen in Chinese restaurants.

These buns are a traditional Chinese accompaniment to dishes such pork or roast duck. Gua Bao, famous in Taiwan, is one style which uses pork belly. A lotus leaf bun by itself is called a “he ye bing” but with filings is called a “he ye bao”. They are found all across China, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong kong.

I always use my Thermomix to make my bread dough as it mixes it and kneads it in 3 minutes. Then the dough is ready for it’s first rise. I find that I’m willing make breads, pizzas, cookies, and such at a moment’s notice since getting the Thermomix about a couple of years ago.

I also included directions for making this recipe without the Thermomix, so that anyone who wants to try can make this.


240 grams water

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

40 grams sugar

500 grams all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon salt

Place water, yeast, and sugar in the Thermomix bowl. Cover and set to 2 minutes/37F/speed 2.

Add flour, baking powder, oil, and salt. Cover and set to Knead/3 minutes.

Transfer dough into a bowl to rise.

Set aside in the bowl, covered, for 1 hour or until doubled.

*To make without a Thermomix: place yeast, sugar, and water in a large bowl and stir. Add flour, baking powder, oil, and salt. Stir until dough comes together. Transfer to a floured board and knead 8-10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place in a large bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Continue with the recipe.*

Divide dough into 12 equal pieces (I weigh them).

Divide dough into 12 equal sized balls. I usually weigh the whole dough and divide the number I get by 12. Then I weigh the individual dough balls to get the same sized buns. Rest the dough balls, covered, for about 10 minutes. This makes it easier to work with the dough as the gluten relaxes a bit.

Flatten the ball using a rolling pin to a circle about 3-5 inches in diameter.

Roll out the balls, one at a time, on a clean surface into a circle about 5 inches in diameter. Fold in half and place on a square of parchment paper. Place this in the steamer basket and repeat with remaining dough balls. Leave about 1-2 inch space between the dough as it expands when steamed.

Fold the round in half and place on a square of parchment paper

*You can also brush the dough with canola or sesame oil before folding over. This makes it easier to open the bread to make sandwiches. If you do this, brush only half of each circle very lightly with oil, then fold the other half over it.*

Place in the steamer rack, cover, and let rise about 1 hour or until doubled.

Cover the buns and let rise for about 1 hour.

Steam over medium high heat for 20 minutes.

Prepare steamer by heating water over medium high heat. When it comes to a rolling boil, carefully place steaming baskets over the boiling pot of water and cover. Steam for 20 minutes. Turn heat off and leave, covered, for 5 minutes more. Do not open the steamer or the bread will collapse and be wrinkly instead of smooth. At least that’s what I was told. I never opened my steamer before the 5 minutes was over so I can’t tell you if it’s true. 😊

Remove buns to wire racks and cool completely.

Fill with your choice of filling: roasted pork belly, roasted duck, char siu pork, etc. or just use as the bread to make any regular sandwich you like!


Fluffy and easy to open!