An Inspiring Focus on Chicken with Plums

Autumn has had a heyday in our corner of the world this year. It goes on and on. Our black maple turned colors for the first time since we’ve lived here. The leaves are a variegated yellow and orange with tints of rust. I’m going to make an arrangement of them for a painting or for our dining room wall.

It’s the first of November, and I think I missed writing a September blog, much less October. Reason: I’ve been immersed in finishing a novel I’ve been working on for years. Title: Catching the Sunlight. Finally it’s done! Now it’s back to the real world.

Dale has a creative chicken entrée with an Oriental touch for us today. Have fun with it!

And remember our cookbook Inspiring Cuisine makes a Great Christmas Gift. Order from Barnes and Noble or or check our Get the Book tab at the top of our home page for more options and info. The byline of the cookbook reads Dale McClure and RuthAnn Ridley.

Dale’s World:

Chicken with Plums

Plums are plentiful in late summer. But if you missed the plums, canned ones will work for this tangy Oriental dish.

You will need:

4 Chicken Breasts                        3 Tbs. Cornstarch

2 Tbs. Canola Oil                        ¾ cup of Water

4 large red plums                        2 tsp. Salt

1 cup of Plum Wine                        2 tsp. Garlic Powder

2 tsp. Black Pepper

2 tsp. Ground Ginger

Fresh Plums

Fresh Plums



  1. Wash the plums and cut them in half around the seed. Twist the two halves until they come apart. Pull the seed out and cut the plums into eight or so segments each. Don’t peel the plums. You need the skins for their sour flavor. The peel also provides the natural red color. If the plums are small get more than four. You can’t get too many.
  2. In a small bowl or ramekin, mix the salt, garlic powder, black pepper and ground ginger.
  3. In another small bowl mix the cornstarch and water.
  4. Heat your oven to 350 degrees.


  1. Heat the canola oil in a skillet. Brown the presentation side of the chicken breasts. Only brown them for color; they will be fully cooked in the oven.
  2. Place the chicken in a baking dish and sprinkle the seasoning mix on both sides of the chicken. Bake the chicken until the breasts reach 165 degrees. That will take 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. In the skillet in which you browned the chicken, pour the cup of wine. If you cannot find plum wine, use any white wine or pink Zinfandel. Turn the heat all the way up and reduce the wine by one half.
  4. After the wine has been reduced add the plums and sugar to the skillet. Place a lid on the skillet; turn the heat down to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. After the sauce has simmered, add the cornstarch and water. Cook over a medium heat until the sauce is thickened and is clear once again.
  6. When the chicken is done. Pour the sauce over the chicken.
  7. You might want to serve this with rice and a small salad of oriental vegetables.


Tangy Oriental Chicken

Tangy Oriental Chicken


Food for Thought

 When we enter our kitchens with the desire to create a fine meal for family or guests, we need Focus. This is not easy for me. If someone talks to me while I’m cooking, I get addled and fuzzy-minded, a perfect set-up for forgetting to put the egg in the pudding or burning the bacon.

We need focus when we’re driving on the Interstate, when we’re grocery shopping and need to stay within the budget, when we’re preparing a speech, when we’re watching a toddler, when we’re taking care of a rose garden.

Suppose you are learning a piano piece you always wanted to be able to play, perhaps Malaguena. There is one line in the piece you never seem to get right. If you keep racing over that section in a stumbling manner and never stop to focus on it, to analyze the fingering, to perfect the rhythm, to practice making big leaps—it will always be a glitch in an otherwise beautifully performed piece. But if you focus for awhile on practicing just that one line or measure, you’ll eventually conquer it.

The need to focus is everywhere. I think of Sully, the pilot who landed his passenger plane on the Hudson River, and everyone survived. What if, in the few minutes he had after a flock of birds slammed into his plane, he hadn’t focused? What if he’d become paralyzed by fear and had done nothing but watch the plane go down? The Power of focus—for a pilot, a chef, a artist

Thesis: If we’re ever going to accomplish anything worthwhile, we will need to learn to focus, to concentrate, to center.

It isn’t easy to focus in our 21st century world.  Cell phones constantly interrupt us, solicitors bug us on our land phones, e-mails keep pouring in, news stations and newspapers bristle with one disturbing event after another. Adolescents struggle with the need o keep up their social media image and identity. The constant barrage gives them little time to focus and contributes to a prevailing depression. What will this mean for the leaders of our next generation?

To focus means to concentrate, to come together at the center, to intensify, to collect. Concentrate means to focus all one’s power or attention on.

If we want to be prepared for emergencies, for example, if the possibility of the grid going down makes us anxious, if we’re thinking what it would be like to have no electricity for an extended period of time—no refrigeration, no heat, no light, it’s time to focus. Perhaps we’ll decide to set aside an hour each day (or a whole morning once a week) to intensify our random thoughts about preparedness. Study about it, look at catalogs, talk to friends about it, budget for it and then begin to shop regularly for the items you need. Then you will begin to accomplish something worthwhile.

Three things that will help us to focus on something we long to do is to prioritize, write it down and put it on the calendar.
1. Spend some time making a list of priorities in a given week, month or year. Look at your list, move things around, then pick one thing you’d like to begin to work on now. When will you work on it? Set a time and stick to it. Perhaps you’re aging and you don’t have a hobby. Focusing on cultivating one could make a real difference in your life. 
2. Writing I have a popcorn mind, so a writing consultant told me once. I wasn’t sure I liked the analogy, but what he meant was that I had all kinds of ideas going in all kinds of directions at any time of the day.  One of the reasons I began to write was to attain more focus, tame those divergent ideas and learn to take one idea and posthole it (go deeper and deeper into that one idea.)
When things are at perfect pitch, the words I birth are clear as images in a crystal mirror, but every thing else floats along the periphery, barely seen, not for this time, not for now.
Focusing in a calming, productive and, almost sacred practice.
  1. And that leads us to focusing on God, the most important focus in the world.  The best thing is to seek God first thing in the morning, read the Word, then let our hearts grow still until we sense His presence and hear what’s the most important thing to focus on that day.

    Focusing brings peace and power into a person’s life. It is a priceless commodity.








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2 Responses to An Inspiring Focus on Chicken with Plums

  1. What a great post Mom! And congratulations on finishing Catching the Sunlight!!! Talk about focus. >!< It's very inspiring to see you finish that, then to read about your techniques for focusing soon afterword. It's helping me to really see how you do it. Because I've had some success doing everything in big huge chunks of time, I tend to think that's how I'm supposed to work. I'm starting to see though that most people accomplish their big projects with lots of small chunks of time.

  2. ruthann1 says:

    Dear Stephen,

    That encourages me so much that you liked the essay on Focus. I feel I could write several articles or essays on it, come at it from different angles, philosophize about it. It’s would be a challenge though.

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