Friday, January 28, 2011

Orange Chicken - tastes just like takeout!

I had seen this recipe on a few different recipe blogs - including Annie's Eats - and since I adore orange chicken, I had to give it a try. This is the faux chinese dish you get at Panda Express and other chinese takeout places with the sweet syrupy coating and fried pieces of chicken.

Warning: if you're watching your calories, don't make this recipe. It's awful for you. But, if you're wanting to splurge, this would be worth it.

I thought it was absolutely delicious. Like, one of my favorite meals ever. Matter of fact, I thought it was better than the restaurant version. And since I made it myself, I got to use my own (all white meat) chicken (so no worries about gross pieces sneaking in!) or added preservatives and chemicals.

After my sauce was done, I tasted it and it seemed still heavy on the soy sauce so I squeezed more orange juice into it until it tasted orangey enough for me. So, keep some on hand and taste before serving. If you're concerned about spice, just cut the cayenne.

Orange Chicken

For the marinade and sauce:
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (note: you may need more)
1½ tsp. finely grated orange zest
6 tbsp. white vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
½ cup brown sugar (dark or light)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1½ lbs. boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. cold water
8 thin strips orange peel (optional)

For the coating and frying:
3 large egg whites
1 cup cornstarch
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
3 cups peanut or canola oil

To make the marinade and sauce, combine the chicken broth, orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper in a large saucepan; whisk to blend well. Measure out ¾ cup of the mixture and transfer it to a large zipper lock plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces to the bag, pressing out the excess air and sealing well. Refrigerate and let marinate 30-60 minutes, but no longer.

Place the saucepan with the remaining mixture on the stove and heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth. Add the mixture to the saucepan with the sauce. Continue simmering until the sauce is thick and translucent, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the strips of orange peel, if using.

To prepare the coating, place the egg whites in a pie plate and whisk until frothy. In a second pie plate combine the cornstarch, baking soda and cayenne pepper; whisk to blend. Drain the chicken of the marinade in a colander or large strainer; pat dry with paper towels. Place half of the chicken pieces in the egg whites and turn to coat. Transfer the pieces to the cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly, shaking off the excess. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

To fry the chicken, heat the oil in a 11- or 12-inch round Dutch oven or straight-sided sauté pan until the oil reaches 350˚ F. Carefully place half of the chicken pieces in the oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning the pieces halfway through cooking. Remove from the oil with a skimmer or slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Return the oil to 350˚ F and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

Reheat the sauce if necessary and toss with the cooked chicken pieces. Serve over rice.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pretzel Crusted Chicken

This recipe comes from Fine Cooking. I'd never really visited that site before but my friend, Becky, recommended the pretzel chicken recipe. It was very good - especially the dipping sauce. The chicken had a great crunch to it and was flavorful.
Pretzel Crusted Chicken with Mustard-Dill Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
3 cups pretzels (not low-sodium)
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1-1/2 lb.)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh dill (I used dried)
1 tsp. honey
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Put the flour in a wide, shallow bowl. In another wide, shallow bowl, lightly beat the eggs and 1 Tbs. of the mustard. Process the pretzels in a food processor until a coarse flour forms, about 30 seconds. Transfer the pretzel flour to a third wide, shallow bowl. Line up the flour, egg, and pretzel bowls in that order.

Put the chicken on a cutting board, and holding your knife parallel to the board, split each breast in half horizontally. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken lightly with pepper. Dredge both sides of the chicken in the flour, then the egg, and then the pretzel flour, coating well and shaking off the excess. Transfer to a baking sheet and refrigerate for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the remaining 1/4 cup mustard with the mayonnaise, dill, honey, and 1/8 tsp. black pepper; set aside.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add three of the chicken breast pieces. Cook until the first side is dark brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the second side is golden-brown, about 2 minutes more; if the chicken seems to be browning too fast, reduce the heat to medium. Transfer to a clean cutting board and cover to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Slice the chicken on the diagonal. Divide the slices among four dinner plates and serve with the dipping sauce.

Monday, January 24, 2011

North African Meatballs (over couscous)

I mentioned in another entry that I started recording 10 Dollar Dinners with Melissa d'Arabian after discovering that all the "good" shows were shown on Sunday mornings.

This recipe already has almost 450 reviews on the Food Network website and 5 stars. It sounded delicious so I had to try it.

I truly love just about any cuisine and really enjoy ethnic foods. I haven't met a spice I didn't like (though I'm not as keen on really hot spices) and rarely meet a flavor combination I don't like. Jason is much more adventurous than before we were married but still isn't a fan of things he sees as "weird." I knew he would be cautious about this dish but to my surprise, he ate an entire plate of it and just commented he'd rather the olives not be included. He's not a fan of olives other than black olives but I think they added a salty texture that was important, which is why I didn't just leave them out all together.

I really love the typical African sweet and savory combinations in food. This had much of that feel to it - there was some sweetness but lots of salty taste, too, especially thanks to the olives. I thought it was absolutely delicious and I could have eaten the entire pan. It's a very complex flavor combination ~ if you like Moroccan food, you'll like this.

To cut down on dishes, I made the meatballs first in the skillet, transferred them to a plate after browned, and used the same skillet for the sauce. Worked great!

North African Meatballs
For the North African Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup pitted and chopped briny olives
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken stock or broth (I used stock)
1 (14-ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes (I used crushed)
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
Pinch ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Meatballs:
1 egg
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch ground cinnamon
3/4 pound ground beef (I used a pound)
1/3 cup finely ground rolled oats or fine bread crumbs (I used panko)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, for cooking (I used EVOO)
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Couscous with Dried Dates, recipe follows

To make the North African Sauce: In a large saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion and garlic until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and olives and cook for 1 more minute. Add the white wine, deglaze the pan, and let it reduce for a 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, canned tomatoes, sugar, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon, and simmer to blend flavors, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To make the Meatballs: In a medium bowl, add the egg and tomato paste and stir until smooth. Add the cilantro, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon and mix until well blended. Stir in the ground beef and oats, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and combine gently after each addition. Do not overmix. Rolling with your hands, make about 32 meatballs, about 1-inch in diameter.

In a large saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium heat, and brown the meatballs in batches until golden on all sides. Add more oil, as needed. Transfer the meatballs to the pan with the sauce and let simmer for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve over the Couscous with Dried Dates.

Couscous with Dried Dates
1 cup water
1 cup chicken stock or broth (I used up my carton of stock so it was 1.5 C stock, 1/2 C water)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped dried dates (I couldn't easily find so I used dried cranberries instead)
1 cup quick-cooking couscous
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring the water, stock, and oil to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the dates followed by the couscous. Cover the pan tightly with a lid, remove from the heat, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Creamy Taco Mac

My oven is still broken (it's been over a month now) and I've decided to see how long I can go without one. That decision didn't really come from some desire to challenge my recipe finding skills (because quite frankly, it's annoying to be without an oven) but instead because I'm cheap and don't want to pay for my oven to be fixed.

I am missing roasted vegetables, though, so I may give in before long.

I found this recipe on another blog, Annie's Eats. And her picture is MUCH more appealing than mine so please check it out on her blog. This is truly a healthy, preservative free Hamburger Helper type recipe. This was a great option to make tonight as I worked late and didn't get home until 7:30 to start dinner. Typically, I would have scratched dinner plans and driven through someplace but I knew this dish was easy and fast. I think it took 15-20 minutes total (including water boiling).

You can pick up a packet of taco seasoning or you can throw together your own using spices you already have on hand. I used the recipe on Annie's blog (below) and it was very perfect! Now I have some on hand in my spice cabinet, already mixed, the next time we want tacos or something similar.

We both liked this dish and I'll make it again. It's very flavorful, relatively healthy, and fast. Perfect for a week night meal. And for those of you who pick up Hamburger Helper on occasion - try this instead!

Creamy Taco Mac
1¼ lbs. ground turkey
8 oz. dry pasta shapes
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
4 tbsp. taco seasoning (see recipe below)
3 oz. cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional - we didn't use any and didn't miss it)

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving ½ cup of pasta water. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the ground turkey over medium-high heat until no longer pink. A few minutes before the turkey is cooked through, add the chopped onion to the skillet. Once the turkey is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Mix in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and reserved pasta water, and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit. Remove from the heat and top with shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.

Taco Seasoning
4 tbsp. chili powder
3 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. paprika
3 tbsp. ground cumin (I used roasted ground cumin instead)
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix well to blend. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

To prepare taco meat, use 2 heaping tablespoons in place of a package of taco seasoning (cook approximately 1 lb. of beef or chicken, add 1 cup of water with the seasoning, and simmer until the liquid is almost completely gone.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Salmon Cakes

When I was out recovering from my surgery (which was almost a year ago now!) I discovered that all the good, new shows on Food Network run on Sunday morning! Since I'm always at church, I had no idea. I started recording 10 Dollar Dinners with Melissa d'Arabian after watching a few episodes while I was recovering. I voted for her on The Next Food Network Star and really like her personality on screen. Since I hadn't ever made one of her recipes, I decided to try two of her meals this week.

The salmon cakes were different than others that I've made because they use baked potato instead of bread crumbs. I loved them! The potato is much softer and has a nice flavor to it. We just threw the potato into the amazing potato bag and it made the recipe go that much faster. I also used microwave bacon and skipped the onion to save on time.

Because my oven is broken, I couldn't roast the asparagus so I just blanched it instead and then drizzled the vinaigrette over top. It was very bright, tangy, and tasty. The orzo was really good and creamy. Her original recipe calls for an entire cup of water more than what I used; the reviews online said it was too watery with all the liquid added so I cut it down and just kept an eye on it. It was perfectly creamy with the amount I used.

Salmon Cakes
2 strips bacon, cooked until crispy, crumbled, bacon fat reserved (next time, I'd use more!)

1/4 cup chopped onion
1 egg
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lemon, zested
1 (14-ounce) can wild salmon, checked for large bones
1 baked or boiled russet potato, peeled, and fluffed with a fork
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Heat 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat in a small saute pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Cool the onions for a bit.

Mix the bacon, onion, egg, mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, and lemon zest in a bowl. Add the salmon and potato, mixing gently after each addition. Form the mixture into 12 small patties. In a shallow dish, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and pepper, to taste. Coat the patties in the bread crumb topping. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat, and cook the salmon cakes in batches until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Add more oil, as necessary. Arrange on a serving platter and serve.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sesame Chicken Salad

This was a dish I made in about 15 minutes late one night this week. It's a Rachael Ray recipe and very tasty - the dressing is DELICIOUS. I prepped it all and just put it in the fridge for later. I love that I didn't have to buy very many ingredients for it and you could eyeball almost all of it and it still taste delicious.

In true Rachael Ray fashion, she lists a ton of ingredients but don't be overwhelmed by it - it's mostly basic items that you have on hand (or can be skipped).

Sesame Chicken Salad
3/4 cup pure maple syrup, eyeball the amount
1/3 cup dark soy, Tamari, eyeball the amount (I used regular soy)
1/2 cup sweet hot mustard, eyeball the amount (I used stone ground brown mustard)
1/2 cup sesame seeds, a mix of black and white or all white
1/4 cup vegetable oil, 3 or 4 turns of the pan, total
1 1/3 pounds chicken breast tenders (I don't like tenders so I just sliced bl/sl breasts)
Salt and pepper

1.5 inches ginger root, grated or minced (I just used dried)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup Chinese duck sauce or apricot all fruit spread
1/4 cup vegetable oil

5-6 ounces mixed greens, 1 bag
1/4 English or seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise then widely sliced on angle
1/2 cup shredded carrots
4 scallions, thinly sliced on angle
1/4 pound snow peas, sliced on angle
Fried chinese noodles for garnish

Combine syrup, soy and sweet hot mustard in a bowl. Season chicken tenders with salt and pepper on both sides. Add chicken tenders to 1/2 of the marinade and coat. Set aside. Reserve the remaining 1/2 for dressing.

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Spread sesame seeds on a sheet of waxed paper or into a shallow dish. Waxed paper will speed your clean up. Dip the tenders into the sesame seeds (I found you really needed to press them into the seeds to get them to stick). Coat the pan with a thin layer of oil. Cook chicken in small batches 3 minutes on each side and remove to plate.

Whisk ginger, vinegar and the reserved marinade together then stream in the oil while you are continuing to whisk dressing.

Combine all of the salad ingredients in a bowl. Toss with dressing and serve, topping with sesame chicken tenders. Toss some crunch into your salad with fried noodles.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bourbon Chicken

I found this recipe online. It's a copycat recipe of the bourbon chicken you can order at Chinese restaurants and had great reviews on the website. Though I was sad it contained no bourbon, it was tasty and quick.

It has a sweet taste to it, with a little kick from the red pepper. It reminded me some of the stir-fry chicken and peppers we had once a week growing up, actually. If my husband ate snow peas, carrots, or broccoli in a dish I would have thrown in some stir fry vegetables with it to make it a well rounded dish.

You can make it in about 30 minutes, which is great for a weeknight.

Bourbon Chicken
2 lbs boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1-2 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup apple juice
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add the chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned. Remove the chicken and add the remaining ingredients, heating over medium heat until well mixed and dissolved. Add chicken back in and bring to a hard boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Serve over hot rice and ENJOY.

See Aimee Cook

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