Category: Fun – Hobbies

By request, here is Alya and Marinette get a Cloe makeover by wotpast on @DeviantArt


I documented on earlier posts how I was trying to uncover a recipe for the brown gravy used in Mandarin chicken (found in Louisiana Chinese restaurants) despite the name, it is in no way an orange flavored dish. After a lot of trial and error, I have finally figured out a recipe that gives me great results nearly every time.


All purpose flour – 1/2 to 1 full cup (quantity depends on things like humidity and altitude, you have to play around with it to get the thickness of the gravy to what you want)

5 cups water

3/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup karo syrup (light or dark)

1tsp anise

And optional 1/4 tsp crusted red pepper


1: Crush anise and red pepper in mort and pestle

2: mix flour and 1 to 2 cups of the water

3: add in anise and red pepper

4: pour into pan. Add remaining water. Mix well

5: stir constantly over medium heat until thickens

6: add soy sauce, stir over heat until thickens

7: add karo syrup. Stir until sauce is desired thickness. Take off heat. Let cool.

8: pour sauce over breaded chicken breasts or grilled chicken and rice. Can serve over lettuce for restaurant touch. Add crushed peanuts to top. Enjoy!

And that is it. This is the closest I’ve come to the Mandarin chicken from our Chinese restaurants. Of course every place had its own unique Mandarin chicken, so some may be a little different, but this recipe makes a very tasty dish, nonetheless.

– Amanda

Here is my Fan Fiction based off of the awesome Netflix series, Miraculous: The Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir. Enjoy!


I really enjoyed this writing experiment. It was a lot different than writing my books. My hope is that one day my characters can inspire someone the way I was inspired by this show.



I just went to my first Comic Con this year! It was a lot of fun. We walked A LOT and saw some cool costumes. I got to see Bruce Campbell from maybe thirty feet away as he signed autographs. We didn’t get to see too many other celebrities. They were stuck behind booths and lines of people waiting for autographs and pictures. While it would have been cool to meet a few of them in person, there was no way I wanted to or could spend hundreds of dollars for an autograph and a few seconds shaking a hand, saying hi and posing for a picture. It’s just not worth it.

So we walked around, spent way too much on overpriced lunch, had a few lightsaber battles, and shot a nerf gun at some storm troopers.

Then something magical happened. My kids asked a girl dressed as Anna from Frozen for her autograph. From that point on they were on a mission: Get Lots of Autographs. They asked anyone in a cool costume. We got the Penguin (Adam West era), Darth Vader and many others. As the Flash signed their books, I realized something. Feeling bad I couldn’t afford to have my kids meet the “real” Captain America or any of the others, I looked at the joy on the faces of these normal people and asked myself this question. What made their autographs any less legitimate than the actors? The actors get paid to put on the cowl or mask. We were the costumes because we love the characters. They mean something to us. And it’s fun.

The actors sometimes don’t even like the characters they play. Some refuse to do sequels because they aren’t getting paid enough or are afraid of getting typecast. But besides that, the actors are still just people who wear a costume, just like all the normal people doing the same thing. They get paid. We don’t. Who cares? None of that matters to a child excited to se Baymax or Spiderman.

Maybe instead of us all standing in long lines and paying hundreds of dollars to get their autographs, they could learn something from their smallest of fans and come join us on the floor, walk around, see all our cool costumes and get our autographs. After all, we don’t charge, and that’s got to be more fun than sitting behind a table all day.

So, while my kids didn’t get to meet William Shatner, they did get the Kirk and Spock selling macaroons to sign their books. It made my kids happy, and it made the people happy, too. I call that a good day!

Special thanks to all the wonderful Comic Con fans who happily play along with mine and all the other kids out there. You are what really makes the Comic Con experience great. Oh, and Mr. Penguin, you’re signature was awesome!


–Amanda McLain-Young

(A.D. McLain)

Take a look at my earlier post to get up to speed on my journey to discover the recipe for New Orleans style Mandarin Chicken.

So after many failed attempts I called a restaurant and found out that at least one of them uses a spice called Anise. Let me warn you, a little goes a long way. It is very overpowering in the flavor.

So basically you create a generic flour and water sauce and add anise. I tried some soy to cut down on the anise flavor. I’ll post again when I get a good recipe with definitive measurements. Also, I’m going to scout out some other places to see if everyone uses anise. So far I just know of the one place.


*Update on the Beef and Broccoli sauce, I left the red pepper off my earlier posts.

Beef and Broccoli/Vegetable Brown Gravy Recipe

(I found this recipe first, thinking it was the elusive Mandarin Chicken Sauce and finding a perfectly good sauce for my other Chinese food vegetable dishes.)

2 tbsp. cornstarch

1 1/4 c. water

1/3 c. soy sauce

1/4 c. Karo syrup (light or dark)

1/4 tsp. red pepper

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–A.D. McLain


*update 5/15/13*

Okay, so a couple of weeks ago I tried Warr-Shu-Gai. Not my Mandarin Sauce.

This week I tried a combination of all the recipes. I used way too much cornstarch (8Tbs) but I finally got the consistency right. Alas, it still tasted too much like chicken and didn’t have that missing ingredient to make it pop. I ended up kind of flat and a big disappointment. In the next few weeks I will head on back to the Chinese food restauraant and see if I can’t charm some info out of the waitress. 🙂 Couldn’t hurt. At the very least, tasting it again may help me discover what I am missing. I have a feeling I am getting a lot of the elements right. But is is seriously missing something important. Oh, well, another week, another attempt. We shall see what the next attempt brings.


–A.D. McLain

Okay, so I tried the first of my new recipes and was still unable to replicate the Mandarin Chicken sauce I am trying to achieve. I tried this recipe for Warr-Shu-Gai.

Warr-Shu-Gai/Almond Boneless Chicken

It was a perfectly good sauce, although I still have trouble getting the cornstarch to really integrate into the water without clumping. But it has a strong chicken flavor and is very thin compared to the sauce on Mandarin Chicken. So far, the first sauce I tried is still a little closer, in my opinion.

Beef and Broccoli/Vegetable Brown Gravy Recipe

(I found this recipe first, thinking it was the elusive Mandarin Chicken Sauce and finding a perfectly good sauce for my other Chinese food vegetable dishes.)

2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/4 c. water
1/3 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. Karo syrup (light or dark)

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So I am thinking maybe next time I will combine the two recipes. Maybe instead of the 1 1/4 c. water I will use the same quantity chicken broth and add the bouillon cubes. Not sure if I should continue with the cornstarch method or switch to the flour thickening method, though. My husband wants me to try four next time. Since the Warr-Shu-Gai recipe uses butter, adding flour wouldn’t be much of a stretch. I will have to see. Of course, after all these failed attempts to get the sauce right, I am really craving actual Mandarin chicken from a restaurant. 🙂 I may indulge that impulse just to see if I can get a better idea what I am doing wrong and which I am doing right.

If you have tried any of these recipes, what have your findings been?

What ingredients do you think is in Mandarin Chicken (if you are from New Orleans)?

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–A.D. McLain

When you think of food in New Orleans or South Louisiana, most people think of things like the seafood, beignets, King Cake, Zatarain’s, Tony Chachere’s, gumbo or snoballs. I once saw someone on television make a modified beignet with granulated sugar and felt my hackles rise. They are made with powdered sugar. It’s not a true New Orleans beignet unless you need skill to eat it without being covered in white powder. That is how you know the natives from the tourists. But alas, some things you have to live here to know.

But the one thing people from Louisiana love and don’t even know is uniquely ours is our Chinese food, specifically, Mandarin Chicken. If you aren’t from here, you don’t know what I’m talking about. If you are from here, you are screaming, “Yes!” You see, if you do a search online for Mandarin Chicken you will find a chicken dish made with oranges. That is not what we have here. Mandarin Chicken in New Orleans is made with a creamy brown sauce, different in every restaurant, but almost always delicious. Sometimes it is garnished with almonds or peanuts. Sometimes it is a little thicker or thinner, red tint or darker brown. But wherever you go, and whichever place serves your favorite, it is a staple in every local Chinese restaurant.

I was introduced to this fantastic dish in college. It was my first time eating Chinese food, so I was nervous and someone recommended I try Mandarin Chicken. I am a picky eater, but I loved it right away. I remember going to the grocery store and looking for the sauce, with no success. I looked it up online and couldn’t find it. Years passed and I forgot my search. Then this year I began teaching myself to cook and thought to look it up again. Surely, there must be some information somewhere online on how to make this sauce. What I found was a lot of former Louisiana residents, now living in far away states, all looking for the same thing. Turns out if you go to a Chinese restaurant anywhere else in the world and ask for this dish, they look at you like you are crazy. I found a recipe on yahoo answers that seemed close, but came out more like the thinner gravy used on vegetable dishes and Beef and Broccoli. I tried modifying it with no luck. Then I found the answer I had long been searching for. The reason no one could find this dish is because it goes by other names. We aren’t crazy. It does exist.

Another incarnation is an American Cantonese inspired dish in Michigan called Warr-Shu-Gai, or Almond Boneless Chicken. From what I have found, people in that area are met with the same problem when they venture out, unable to find this dish elsewhere. I found an interesting article, “The Mystery of Almond Boneless Chicken” by Tina Caputo, on the history of this Detroit favorite. (See link at bottom of page.)

In searching through other Chinese food sites I found a couple other chicken dishes that appear to be similar in structure to the ones above. General Tso’s Chicken and Cashew Chicken look like they could be prepared or modified to taste similar or  achieve similar effects. Like Warr-Shu-Gai, General Tso’s chicken is based on a sauce made of soy, ginger, and chicken broth, among other things. It also has sugar, which I found in a Panda Express Mandarin Sauce copycat recipe. I saw an article on Cashew Chicken that says it was fried in at least one incarnation. The use of the cashews, similar to the use of peanuts or almonds in other Mandarin Chicken dishes leads me to believe these two could be related in some forms. Of course not ever restaurant is the same, so if you order cashew chicken thinking to get Mandarin Chicken, you could be very disappointed.

What has been your experience with this dish?

Do you know of any other names it goes by?

Which of the recipes below do you think most capturs the taste of New Orleans Mandarin Chicken sauce?

Do you know of any other recipes/modifications that work?

My discoveries.

I still have to try all these sauces to decide which one I like best, but that is a matter of personal preference, so in the mean time, I put this out there for the world so all of you may learn and experiment with your own Chinese food at home. Have fun.

Warr-Shu-Gai/Almond Boneless Chicken

Panda Express Copycat Recipe

2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch

or – another recipe I found

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce[3]
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice[4]
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch[5]

General Tso’s Chicken Sauce Recipe

Cashew Chicken Sauce Recipe

Beef and Broccoli/Vegetable Brown Gravy Recipe

(I found this recipe first, thinking it was the elusive Mandarin Chicken Sauce and finding a perfectly good sauce for my other Chinese food vegetable dishes.)

2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/4 c. water
1/3 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. Karo syrup (light or dark)

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–A.D. McLain


Baking Adventure

I finally have a hobby.

I know. I know. I’m a writer. For many people, that would be their hobby, since I don’t really get paid enough to call it my career, (yet). But writing is my passion.  I read, and I enjoy it when I have the time, but that feels a lot like writing to me. Gaming has a lot of creative thought and storytelling, so that also fell into the writing category for me.

I’m a full time employee, writer and mother of two children under five. “Free time” is a foreign word to me. So, I’ve never really understood the term “hobby.”

But now I do. I finally found the joys of baking. I tried to bake a few times in the past. I’ve made my share of box brownies and cakes. And I tried baking bread for over two years only to have it always come out doughy. Then I learned my mistake. Too much flour. I was dumbly, blindly following my recipes without knowing what the dough was supposed to look and feel like. So I over did it on the flour (by a lot).

Learning that small thing has opened up a whole new world of cooking for me. I’ve baked cookies from scratch, made my own pasta and alfredo sauce. I make my own pizza crust now, and I like it better than most of the ones I can buy, with the possible exception of Pizza Hut. I just love their crunchy, buttery crust. I still have more recipes I want to try, like lasagna, ravioli, cake, brownies and pecan pie. I have some more sauces I am trying to learn, and I am trying to duplicate the brown sauce Chinese restaurants in South Louisiana use for their Mandarin chicken. It is delicious and apparently not made anywhere else on the country. My first attempt duplicated the thinner gravy they use on beef and broccoli. So, I am trying it again with some modifications to see if I can make the sauce I so desire.

Anyway, I have found, after years of microwave obedience, I have broken into full on baking and cooking, and I love it. With a new recipe each week, I am excited to plan out our meals for once.

I am documenting recipes I want to try and have already mastered on my Pinterest page.

So come join me on my journey into my new hobby.


Tried Mandarin Chicken again, but mine keeps coming out like the gravy from beef and broccoli.

I was using recipe here.

2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/4 c. water
1/3 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. Karo syrup (light or dark)
1/4 tsp. red pepper

Found site that says our mandarin chicken is actually based off a Cantonese dish. warr-shu-gai.

Have to try this next time.


A.D. McLain

Twitter: wotpast