Monthly Archives: May 2012

Orange Chicken

One night this week I came home craving Chinese food. A few weeks prior I had taken a crack at homemade Orange Chicken (http://www.food.com/recipe/panda-express-orange-chicken-103215), and it was pretty good, but the recipe needed some major tweaks. When I made it again I played around with the recipe and it turned out perfectly. I hope you enjoy it too.

Orange Chicken

Preparation:
none

Approximate Cooking Time:
45 minutes

Ingredients:
cooked white or brown rice
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 egg
1 1/2 t. salt
pepper
at least 1 c. peanut oil
1/2 c. cornstarch, plus 1 T. cornstarch (used at different points in the recipe)
1/4 c. flour
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T. minced fresh gingerroot, or 1/2 T. ginger powder
1/2 – 2 t. red pepper flakes, depending on desired spiciness
3 T. soy sauce
8 T. sugar
10 T. white vinegar
zest of 1 orange (about 1/2 T.)
1 T. red wine vinegar
water
1/2 t. sesame oil

Directions:
Begin cooking the rice according to the directions on the bag. Chop chicken into pieces and set aside. In a wide, shallow bowl, mix egg with salt, a bit of pepper, and 1 T. peanut oil. In a separate wide, shallow bowl, mix 1/2 c. cornstarch with 1/4 c. flour. Heat about 1 c. peanut oil, or about enough to cover the pan with about 1/4 inch oil, on medium-high on the stovetop. As oil is heating, put chicken pieces first in egg mixture, then in flour mixture. Coat the chicken with the flour mixture, then add it to the hot oil. Fry until all chicken is cooked. Take the chicken out of the oil with a slotted spoon and set aside. Wash most of the oil out of the pan, and be careful not to burn yourself.


Cooking the chicken.

In the now-mostly-clean pan, add 1 T. of oil if there isn’t much left. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for about 2-3 minutes on medium-low. Next add the crushed red peppers, and cook another 1-2 minutes. While this is cooking, prepare the sauce by mixing the soy sauce, sugar, white vinegar and orange zest. Set aside. Next, add the red rice vinegar to the ginger mixture in the pan. (Be VERY careful as you add this, as the vinegar will immediately begin to cook off and may leap out of the pan to burn you. Stand a good distance away from the pan when you add it.) When the vinegar has stopped bubbling as violently, add the soy sauce and sugar mixture to the pan. Bring the heat up to medium or medium-high until the sauce is at a gentle boil.


The spicy orange sauce.

While that is heating, mix the remaining 1 T. cornstarch with 1/4 c. water, then add that to the sauce and mix. Wait until the sauce thickens a bit, then add the sesame oil and mix. Then add the cooked chicken and stir to coat completely in sauce. Serve the chicken immediately with cooked rice and a vegetable.


Combining the orange sauce with the cooked chicken.

I think broccoli goes well with this recipe. Sometimes with a fast-moving recipe like this it is hard for me to remember to watch the rice and start making a vegetable. But this recipe is worth the fast, frantic pace. Of note, it is smart to set aside (and chop or zest) all of your ingredients before your begin! Enjoy!


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Hubby’s Birthday Treat

It was hubby’s birthday on Saturday, and it was easy to figure out what he wanted to dinner. Hubby is always begging me to make my chicken fingers recipe, but I don’t like to do so often because 1) frying is intense and sometimes painful, and 2) hubby eats a lot of chicken when I make this, so it’s not very economical. But it’s his birthday, so I made up a huge batch and he was ecstatic.

Scrumptious Chicken Fingers

Preparation:
at least 4 hours

Approximate Cooking Time:
30 minutes

Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts, cut into strips or nuggets about 1/2 inch wide
1 egg
1 cup of buttermilk, which can be made by mixing milk with lemon juice or white vinegar (see directions)
1 1/2 t. garlic powder
1 c. flour
1 c. seasoned bread crumbs
1 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
vegetable oil for frying

Directions:
Cut the chicken breasts and put them in a baggie. If you don’t have buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon of either lemon juice or white vinegar to a 1 cup measuring cup. Add milk to the cup until there is one cup of liquid. Add that (or the 1 cup buttermilk) to a separate bowl. Then add the egg and the garlic powder and mix. Pour the egg mixture into the baggie. Close the baggie and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

When you are ready to cook, retrieve the chicken from the refrigerator and drain the marinade. Add the flour, bread crumbs, salt and baking powder to a clean plastic baggie. Heat the oil for frying on medium-high on the stovetop. Prepare a plate with a paper towel on it for the done chicken.

Add some pieces of the marinated chicken to the flour mixture. Close the bag and shake until the chicken is covered. Then add the chicken pieces to the oil. Fry until both sides are golden-brown, then place on plate with paper towel. Repeat until the chicken is cooked. Serve immediately.


Golden-brown and ready to be eaten right away!

I served this recipe with only some baby carrots. I figured that the breaded added some carbs, and hubby was getting more than enough protein!

Some notes on this recipe: I suggested cutting the chicken tenders a bit thicker (about 1/2 inch) rather than super thin because I have found that the super thin pieces dry out and turn crunchy.

When I used to make this recipe for 4-5 people, I would make 8 chicken breasts’ worth and it would not be enough. When I made this for hubby’s birthday I did not expect him to finish it all (about 3 chicken breasts’ worth after I ate my fill), but he did. There must be something about fresh chicken tenders that just makes people go crazy! They can’t seem to get enough!

Also of note, frying these chicken pieces can be extremely difficult. I usually fry on medium-high and then turn it down to medium or even medium-low if the chicken starts to burn. If you’re feeling adventurous or you’re making a larger batch I would suggest changing out the oil once it gets lot of burned black pieces in it. This recipe does not require a huge amount of oil, unlike what the original recipe that I adapted suggests (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/breaded-chicken-fingers/), but it does require enough to make sure the chicken pieces don’t stick. I usually add about 1/2 inch of oil to my pan and use that for this entire recipe.

Finally, please be very careful that the chicken is done when you take it out. I always cut open the thickest piece of every batch to make sure that the chicken is done all the way through. My whole family got campylobacter poisoning once when I was a child, and it was so awful that I remember it vividly even though I was very young. I vow to never let that happen to me again. These chicken pieces may look a little over-done when they finally come out of the oil, but believe me, they taste delicious and do not taste burnt at all.

I have not yet tried frying this recipe in lard, so please let me know if you try that!

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Company Food

So what do you do when you have company over and you want to make something very special, but you have a picky eater to contend with? My solution: make build-your-own food. Hubby’s favorite version of this is crepes: savory crepes for dinner and sweet crepes for dessert.

Crepes

Preparation:
none

Approximate Cooking Time:
15 minutes

Ingredients:
1 c. flour
2 eggs
1/2 c. milk
1 c. water
1/4 t. salt
2 T. melted butter
approximately 4 T. solid butter for pan
ingredients for savory crepes, such as thinly sliced deli meat, lox, cream cheese, thinly sliced cheese, and/or brie
ingredients for sweet crepes, such as nutella or other chocolate spreads, sliced bananas, sliced strawberries, honey, and/or jam

Directions:
Mix the first 6 ingredients together in a bowl and whisk until most of the lumps are out. Heat a flat pan with a base at least 8 inches square on the stovetop at medium-high heat. Add approximately 1 tablespoon of butter. When the butted is melted, prepare to add the batter. For a small crepe 4-6 inches in diameter, add approximately 1/8 cup of batter, and for a larger crepe, add up to 1/4 cup. The size of the crepe you can make depends on how large the flat area of your pan is.

When you add the batter, immediately lift and gently tilt the pan so that the batter spreads out all around the flat side of the pan. Try to form a thin circle with the batter. Let crepe cook for approximately 2 minutes, or until you see small bubbles rising from the uncooked batter on top, then flip. Cook until both sides are just beginning to turn a light golden.

A crepe that is almost ready.

Serve immediately. Put a small layer of toppings on the crepe and roll to eat.

HUBBY’S FAVORITE SAVORY CREPES: low and cream cheese
WIFEY’S FAVORITE SAVORY CREPES: ham and Brie
HUBBY’S FAVORITE DESSERT CREPES: dark chocolate spread
WIFEY’S FAVORITE DESSERT CREPES: nutella and sliced strawberries


My crepe recipe was modified from the recipe at http://allrecipes.com/recipe/basic-crepes/, which I found to be a bit too thick. Too-thick crepes are a bit chewy to me. It is very difficult to make paper-thin crepes, but having an especially thin batter that spreads naturally on the pan makes the task a bit easier.

I spent a great deal of time perfecting this recipe. I had a lot of trouble judging how much butter should be used to grease the pan and prevent the crepes from burning. If I used too much butter, when I tilted the pan to thin out the crepes, the melted butter would slide off the edge and create a mess. If I used too little butter my crepes turned too dark. I also had a lot of trouble deciding what temperature to cook the crepes at. I have a gas stove, so translating this recipe to work on a different stove may require some experimentation. Please let me know what you come up with!

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Lox aka Smoked Salmon aka YUMMY FISHY

Hi all!  Picky Carnivore here, aka Hubby.  I want to talk about fish.

I got home really late from work tonight, and found Wifey getting ready to go to bed.  Obviously, I can’t ask  her to re-open the kitchen and cook me something, and my own cooking skills are dubious at best.  When I’m both tired and hungry, ‘dubious’ nosedives past questionable into outright sketchy.  In conclusion, I needed noms, and wasn’t about to try to cook something and ruin a perfectly good cut of meat.

The solution was in the fridge: A packet of smoked salmon.  There’s lots of ways to eat smoked salmon, and I’m going to talk about two and a half of them.

First, a word on smoked salmon (Lox).  It’s a great food to keep around, because it keeps well and generally requires minimal preparation.  There are lots of varieties, so experiment and find one you like.  Wifey and I get steelhead, which runs at about $10 a pack.  I get about 2 meals out of one pack, while she gets three, so while its more expensive than, say, chicken, its cheaper than fast food.  😛

The traditional way to eat lox is with cream cheese on an onion bagel, with deli cream cheese and a bakery bagel for preference.  Of course, store-brand cream cheese and bagel work just fine in a pinch.  Generally, though, I prefer to replace to bagel with Ritz crackers.

But…..we’re currently out of crackers.  Oh noes!  Now what?

Sashimi!  (Sort of)

Preparation:
none

Approximate Cooking Time:
0-30 minutes (depending on whether you have pre-cooked rice, and if not, how much rice you’re making)

Directions:
1.  Cook 1/2 cup per person of white rice, as per rice-cooking directions.  Let cool, and put in a bowl.

2. Get some wasabi.  Either use powdered or fresh.  Or don’t use it if you don’t like wasabi, which would be sad.

3. Open up a pack of smoked salmon.  Put a piece of a plate, and put a spoonful of rice on it, with a dab of wasabi. 

4.  Eat with fingers.  WARNING: MESSY. 

5. Repeat 3&4 til satisfied.

This is a good dish if you’re in a hurry, or don’t have the energy to actually cook, etc.  It’s also based on using regular rice instead of sushi rice.  If I ever figure out how to make it, I’ll update this with directions and a note to use chopsticks…

😛

(Also, Wifey wanted me to note that she made me eat an apple with this so I get my fruits and veggies in.)

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Puttin’ On the Ritz

I love Ritz chicken. The salt from the Ritz crackers blends perfectly with the chicken, and absorbs the butter flavor without it becoming too powerful. It’s also one of my many chicken recipes that requires no preparation beforehand. Sometimes it’s hard enough for me to remember to thaw something, let alone marinate it overnight! So when I arrive home for dinner, hungry and tired, and I’m faced with a simple hunk of thawed chicken, this is one of the recipes I turn to. Of note, this recipe can be gluten-free with the right cracker.

Ritz Chicken

Preparation:
none

Approximate Cooking Time:
45 minutes

Ingredients:
1 egg
1 1/2 cups crushed Ritz crackers
1/2 t. garlic salt
2 chicken breast halves, chopped into thin pieces the size of your palm
1 stick of butter

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Crack the egg into a wide, shallow bowl and whisk. Put the Ritz crackers in a plastic baggie and crush into tiny pieces, then pour them into a separate wide, shallow bowl. Add the garlic salt to the bowl with the crushed crackers, and mix.



Preparing the egg and crackers.


Prepare a small, square baking dish by spraying with a non-stick spray if desired. Chop the chicken into smaller pieces. Dip the chicken piece into the egg, then roll it around in the crackers until it is completely covered, and then put it into the baking dish. Repeat for all chicken pieces, then chop the butter into 1/2 T. pieces and arrange around the dish. Put the chicken in the oven and cook until the juices run clear or the chicken is no longer pink inside.


Before cooking.


After cooking.

Special Notes:
I chop the chicken breasts into smaller pieces because it helps me watch my portion size. If the pieces are smaller than I don’t find myself with a huge piece, finishing it for the sake of not wasting it. I also find that chicken cooks faster when it’s cut thinner. When it cooks faster, not only do I get to eat faster, but it doesn’t dry out as much as a larger piece would. Usually I cut a standard chicken breast in half to make it thinner, and then chop the those thinner pieces into chunks about the size of my palm. I cut it to about the size of my palm because that’s about one serving of meat. I usually try to eat two a meal. Hubby will usually eat three or four servings because he is much bigger than me.

This recipe was slightly modified from what I found at http://allrecipes.com/recipe/famous-butter-chicken/detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Title&e11=famous%20butter%20chicken&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Home%20Page.

I usually serve this recipe with corn muffins or mashed potatoes because they compliment the butter / salt flavor very well. Enjoy!

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Mistakes and Mishaps

Unfortunately my corn muffin recipe that I was so excited about didn’t turn out very good, so I won’t post it. Perhaps it wasn’t very delicious because I cooked frozen corn cobs and then chopped off the corn, so the corn pieces came out very starchy and chewy. It may also have been a very boring recipe. Maybe putting whole pieces of corn in the muffins wasn’t a very good idea in the first place, or, as hubby would put it, my “corn-pieces-to-muffin ratio” was too high. Perhaps I’ll try it later with fewer pieces of corn. Either way, hubby politely told me, “sorry, but I can’t eat these.”


Corn muffins with whole pieces of corn inside.

The same thing happened earlier this week when I cooked up some frozen chopped broccoli instead of our usual whole broccoli. Hubby tried it and said he couldn’t eat it because he didn’t like the texture. So after these two mishaps I figured this was a good opportunity to share what I do when I make something that hubby won’t eat, because it does occasionally happen no matter how hard I try to “ok” recipes and ingredients with him beforehand.


Leftover shredded cheese plus
rejected broccoli pieces = yum.

When this happens I try not to get mad at hubby. Sometimes I make something that just turns out badly. Sometimes I pick out a recipe that just isn’t very good and neither of us could have predicted that. Sometimes he fails to communicate his needs to me. In any scenario it is pointless to bicker over whose fault it is. So what do I do with the offending food? If I like it as is (as was the case with the corn muffins when I added butter), I throw it into the fridge and eat it slowly by myself. If even I admit it’s boring (as was the case with the broccoli pieces), I make it into something that I love that I don’t usually have because hubby doesn’t like it. I chose to cover those broccoli pieces in cheese, since I love cheesy broccoli and hubby hates it.

So now what do I do about hubby’s no-longer-complete dinner? I find it very helpful to always have backup carbs and fruits and veggies. Often I also store back-up protein sources such as eggs. Hubby knows that if he doesn’t like what I make, he can make his own dinner. Sometimes he starts the dinner from scratch and makes eggs and toast and eats that with some fruit. Usually though he only dislikes one or two dishes and therefore doesn’t have to start over. When that happens he will grab some of whatever food group is missing from his plate. I try to always stock up on whole-grain bread and butter, rice, fresh fruit, and carrot sticks. Generally this means he is covered if he doesn’t like the starch (corn muffins) or the veggie (chopped broccoli) I give him.

The night these two mishaps happened I was serving up Ritz Chicken, which thankfully did turn out delicious. I ate it with corn muffins and broccoli and hubby ate it with dried mangoes (the Ritz crackers already provided some carbs). I’ll be posting my Ritz chicken recipe later today, because it’s definitely a keeper.

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Hearty Chicken Soup

In my last entry I mentioned that rotisserie chickens offer quite a bit of bang for their buck – not only can you make gourmet sandwiches out of them, but once you’re done with pulling the meat off bit by bit, you can dump the bones and leftover meat into a crock pot and make a delicious, healthy soup. There are no rules to this recipe – anything goes! I do always try to include a substantial portion of vegetables and I only add one carbohydrate to my soup, but those are only suggestions. Here’s the recipe I recently made up, but please experiment and tell me about your own ideas!

Hearty Chicken Soup

Preparation:
at least 36 hours

Approximate Cooking Time:
at least 36 hours

Ingredients:
a crock pot
the bones of one rotisserie chicken with leftover meat and skin still on them
some extra cooked chicken, if necessary
water
6 carrots
1 small onion
3 ears of corn
1/2 of a 12-oz. package of egg noodles
salt and pepper
parsley

Directions:
Put bones with chicken meat and skin into the crock pot. Add water until the chicken is covered, or until the water reaches about one or two inch below the top of the crock pot. Cover the crock pot and cook on low or simmer for 24-36 hours. The broth will have turned a light tan color and smell delicious. Turn off the crock pot and let cool for a few minutes. Pull all of the bones, skin and chicken meat out of the pot. Once the pot and broth have cooled a bit you can either drain the broth (be sure to drain it into a container so you don’t lose it!) or fish everything out with a slotted spoon. If you choose to fish all of the bones out, be careful that you don’t miss the smallest ones that will be at the very bottom of the broth. Once all of the bones, skin and meat are in a single bowl, separate out the meat from the skin and bones. The meat should slide off the bones very easily. Be very careful to remove all of the tiny pieces of bone and cartilage. Put the meat back in to the crock pot with the broth and throw out the bones and skin. Add some extra cooked chicken, cut into small pieces, if desired.

Now that the chicken and broth are in the soup, cut the carrots into pieces and add them. Cover the crock pot again and cook on low or high for 6-12 hours such that it will be ready approximately 2 hours before serving the soup. Once the carrots are done, cook the corn in a separate pot, cool, and slice the kernels off. They do not have to be individual kernels. Add the corn to the soup. Chop the onion into medium-sized pieces and add it to the soup as well. Add the desired amount of salt, pepper and parsley. Cover once more and cook on low for 2 hours. As the soup is cooking, cook the egg noodles in a separate pot according to the directions on the bag. Drain and store in the refrigerator while the soup finishes. When the soup is ready, add the cooked noodles and serve the soup hot with crusty bread and butter.


Perfect healthy comfort food.

This is my most complicated recipe yet, and it has to be started way before you wish to eat it. I for one think it’s very worth it, though! If you’re in for a quiet day or two at home this is a great meal to prepare. You can also use up almost any leftovers. I had some corn in my refrigerator that wasn’t very delicious that I wanted to use up, and this was perfect.

I would love to hear your variations on this recipe. In the past I have skipped the corn and instead added celery and/or potatoes. Has anyone experimented with spicing their soup differently? Or perhaps tried vegetables or starches I haven’t yet tried?

So I still have some extra corn left… which means that homemade corn muffins are next!

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