International Cuisine: Orange Chicken

Orange Chicken isn’t an authentic Asian dish as far as I know, but you’ll find it in many take-out Chinese restaurants. Since take-out Chinese is not a part of our diet, I like to make my own take-out from time to time. This isn’t as gooey, rich, and breaded as you’ll likely find at your local eatery. But it’s tasty, definitely healthier, and best of all can be made at home.

This recipe is from one of my favorite gluten-free cookbooks, Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking by Kelli and Peter Bronski. I added some crisp-cooked broccoli to the chicken and sauce and served it over brown rice.

ORANGE CHICKEN
(from Artisanal Gluten-Free Cookbook)
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2/3 cup orange juice
1/4 cup tamari wheat-free soy sauce
1 Tablespoons dry sherry
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
zest of 1/2 orange, julienned
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed

Mix together the orange juice, soy sauce, sherry, brown sugar, and cornstarch in a saucepan. Stir to dissolve the cornstarch. Heat over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and zest and sauté until fragrant. Add the chicken and sauté until browned and cooked through.

Add the orange sauce to the chicken and heat through.

Market Fresh: Strawberries

I’m so excited that it’s strawberry season and grill season! I combined the two into a Balsamic Grilled Chicken Strawberry Salad. This was so delicious and so summery and the colors are stunning! This will definitely make a frequent appearance on our summer menu!

CREAMY BALSAMIC GRILLED CHICKEN STRAWBERRY SALAD
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1/3 c. olive oil
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. herbs de provence
1 tsp. salt
1 Tb. heavy cream
1 lb. boneless chicken breasts or chicken tenders

Combine first five ingredients. Place chicken in a bag or container and pour marinade overall. Marinate for at least 1 hour. Grill until chicken is fully cooked – juices will run clear.

Salad:
1/2 lb. baby spinach
1/2 lb. strawberries, cleaned and sliced
1/4 c. feta cheese (blue or gorgonzola would also be great!)
1/4 c. pecans, chopped

Arrange on a platter or in a salad bowl. Top with grilled chicken. Drizzle dressing over all.

Dressing:
3 Tb. olive oil
3 Tb. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. heavy cream

Combine all ingredients and shake or whisk well to combine.

Simple Supper: Hawaiian Rice

This recipe is one of Jeremy’s top favorite meals! The original recipe only called for green peppers. I’ve added mushrooms, carrots, onions, colored peppers, and even once a little fresh spinach. So, use whatever veggies you like. If your rice and chicken are already cooked, then this meal comes together super fast!

PINEAPPLE CHICKEN AND RICE
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3 cups cooked rice
1-1 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup mustard (yellow or a mix of yellow and Dijon)
1/4 cup white wine, chicken broth, or pineapple juice
1 cup crushed pineapple
1 green pepper seeded and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4-8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, shredded

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the honey, mustard, and wine. Stir to combine. Add pineapple and veggies. Allow the sauce to heat through and the veggies begin to cook for a few minutes.

Lightly grease an 8×8 pan. Spread the rice in the bottom. Top with the chopped chicken. Pour the sauce over everything. Sprinkle with paprika. Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes until everything is heated through.

Kids in the Kitchen: Chicken Strips

My boys absolutely LOVE helping me cook and it’s a great bonding activity! Recently we did a kids’ pick night. We pulled out all of our kid cookbooks and each boy chose a recipe. We went to the store for the ingredients we needed which they also really enjoyed! The menu was Crunchy Oven-Baked Chicken Toes, roated asparagus (my choice), ants on a log (celery with peanut butter and raisins), angel food cupcakes, and cherry punch. They helped with each part of the dinner and very proudly told my husband what was for dinner when he got home. It was a great evening!  

The chicken toes were so delicious and the dipping sauce (so sorry it isn’t pictured!) was excellent. The boys loved helping to get the chicken ready for the oven – the messy hands were a fun bonus for them. 🙂

CRUNCHY OVEN-BAKED CHICKEN TOES!
(adapted from Cooking Rocks! Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals for Kids)
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1 c. corn flakes cereal, any brand
1 c. plain bread crumbs
2 Tb. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. allspice
3 Tb. oil
1/3 c. flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 lb. chicken breast tenders (you can cut these into 2 inch pieces but we left them as whole tenders)
1/4 c. honey mustard (I make mine with mayo, honey, and dijon)
1/4 c. barbecue sauce

Make the breading: Pour the corn flakes into a pie pan or shallow dish. Crush the cereal up with your hands. Mix in bread crumbs, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and allspice.

Drizzle the vegetable oil evenly over the breading. Toss and turn it to mix the oil all through the bread crumbs and crushed-up corn flakes.

Pour the flour into another shallow dish, and the beaten eggs into a third dish. Coat (dip) the chicken in flour, then eggs, and then in the special crunchy breading. Arrange the chicken on a baking sheet coated with nonstick spray.  Place the chicken in the oven and cook until crisp and brown all over, about 20 minutes (until juices run clear).

Mix together the honey mustard and barbecue sauce in a small bowl. Enjoy with your chicken toes!

Weekend Fare: Coconut Lime Chicken

I’ve recently been experimenting with using coconut milk in cooking and baking and I’m excited with the results! (I am referring to the coconut milk in the can, such as Thai Kitchen brand.) In honor of my recent experience with this versatile ingredient, I wanted to share with you two recipes: Coconut Lime Chicken and Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream.

The chicken is incredibly tender (although the photo shows a whole piece of chicken make sure to cube it because the result is much more tender!) and the almond butter dipping sauce adds a delicious twist. The ice cream is amazing and so simple! It’s unbelievably creamy. I adapted it slightly from a recipe I found online and promptly forgot where I found it. 🙂

Both of these recipes are gluten-free and dairy-free.

COCONUT LIME CHICKEN
(from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook)
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2 large boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
coconut oil, for sauteing

Marinade:
2 Tablespoons coconut milk
2 Tablespoons lime juice
2 Tablespoons wheat-free tamari (or soy sauce)

Almond Lime Dipping Sauce:
6 Tablespoons almond butter
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup coconut milk
1-2 Tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce)
1 Tablespoon agave nectar or honey
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

Place the chicken breast pieces into a bowl and cover with the ingredients for the marinade. Stir together to coat evenly. Let chicken marinate for 30 minutes.

Heat a 10-inch skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add about one Tablespoon of coconut oil. Then add chicken pieces. Saute, stirring frequently, for about 3-5 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Place the dipping sauce ingredients into a bowl and whisk together until mixture is thickened and well combines. Alternatively, sauce can also be warmed on the stove in a small pot over low heat.

To serve, divide dipping sauce into four small bowls and serve alongside chicken. (Brown rice and stir-fried veggies make a great side!) Serves 4.

CHOCOLATE COCONUT MILK ICE CREAM
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1-14 ounce can coconut milk (not light)
1/3 cup sugar or agave nectar (I used coconut sugar)
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend thoroughly. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Pour into the bowl of an ice cream freezer and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Serves 2.

Weekend Fare: Chicken with Wine

I am not an avid drinker of wine. I like it, but I can also pass it up. However, I have a new found appreciation for cooking with wine after the deliciousness that is beef bourguignon.

I found this lightened up coq au vin recipe in the March issue of Cooking Light and decided to give it a try.  I love mushrooms, so the combination of mushrooms, chicken, and wine appealed to me. Although it didn’t photograph too well, I was pleased with the result. It was simple to prepare and tasty to consume.

CHICKEN WITH WINE
(from Cooking Light, March 2011)
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1 Tablespoon flour (I used gluten-free flour)
salt and pepper
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, sliced into 8 cutlets and pounded thin
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
10 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

In a shallow bowl, combine the flour and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Coat the chicken, shaking off any excess.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the chicken and cook, turning once, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes; transfer to a plate.

Add 1/2 Tablespoon butter and the mushrooms to the pan and cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes; transfer to the plate of chicken. Stir into the pan the shallot and the remaining 1 Tablespoon butter. Add the wine and chicken broth and simmer until reduced by one-third, about 5 minutes.

Return the chicken and mushrooms to the pan. Add the thyme and cook, turning, to heat through; season with salt.

Off The Shelf: Poor Girl Gourmet

I recently came across this book: Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget by Amy McCoy.  Overall, I was impressed. The book included delicious, health-conscious meals that are aimed at not costing you a fortune. In fact, the author gives you the estimated cost for each dish and how she figures the cost to break down.

The book includes pictures of most of the recipes, which is always a plus. It doesn’t have the layout finesse of a top-dollar publication, but it is attractive nonetheless and easy to flip through. At times I found the author’s instructions somewhat convoluted, but not to the point of making the recipe too hard to figure out. I  should also mention that the book tends toward the Italian flavors.

Recipes include such things as: Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup, Harvest Salad with Honey-Balsamic Dressing, Tomato Tart, Chicken in Cider Gravy, Roasted Carrots with Thyme, Honey-Mustard Coleslaw, Butternut Squash Risotto, Calzones, Cornmeal Crust Peach Crostata, and Banana-Wheat Muffins.

I chose to try the Chicken, Sausage, and Kale Soup. At first I wondered if this soup would be anything special. By the time dinner was finished I was already looking forward to leftovers and planning to put the recipe in my company dinners file. The soup was really, really good.

CHICKEN, SAUSAGE, AND KALE SOUP
(Poor Girl Gourmet)
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1 whole cooked chicken breast, cut crosswise into 1-inch strips
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used a bit less)
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled, trimmed, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, trimmed, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme, or 1 Tbsp. fresh
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 (6-inch) links sweet Italian sausage (approximately 1/2 pound), casings removed, meat cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, including liquid
1 bunch kale (approximately 3/4 pounds), washed, stemmed, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

While the chicken roasts, prepare the other ingredients. (Bake it covered in a 350F oven until cooked, about 20-30 minutes.)

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot — at least 6-quart capacity, as the kale starts off as quite a gargantuan pile — over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and saute — you are in the soffritto phase of this soup now — until the whole lot is softened and has blended together such that the color is leaning toward orange, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the thyme and crushed red pepper flakes, then add the sausage — you should have in the neighborhood of 24 pieces of 1/2-inch sausage from the two links, in the event that you are curious — cooking until the sausage is lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the broth, the beans with their liquid, and the kale.

Add the chicken pieces to the pot, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the massive pile of kale is fully incorporated into the soup, 20 to 25 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve it forth.

Serves 4.

Note: I served ours with a dollop of pesto on top, but it was equally good the next day without!

Weekend Fare: Carrabba’s Chicken Bryan

For my birthday this past year, Jeremy took me to Carrabba’s Italian Grill for supper. I mmmed over my chicken dish and have thought about it several times since that meal. Imagine my delight when I spied a recipe for that very dish while flipping through a cookbook I wouldn’t normally peruse (Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3). I finally got around to making it myself. Still delicious! With chicken, goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes topped with a basil lemon butter sauce, what’s not to love?!

While the recipe includes lots of ingredients and quite a few steps, I was able to pull this all together in around 30 minutes, not bad for a fancyish dish. As I didn’t have any heavy cream or fresh basil, I successfully used whole milk and dried basil instead.

If you’re staying in to cook a special Valentine’s dinner for you and your honey, this recipe would make a perfect addition to the menu served alongside a green salad, some steamed vegetables, and dessert.

CARRABBA’S CHICKEN BRYAN
(from Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3)
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Basil Lemon Butter Sauce
1/2 c. butter (confession: I only used 1/4 c.)
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp white wine
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/4 c. heavy cream
6-7 basil leaves, sliced

Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets
olive oil
salt
pepper
1/2 oz sun-dried tomatoes (1/3 c. when reconstituted and sliced)
4 sliced of goat cheese

If grilling chicken, preheat grill on high. Broiling works fine, as well.

Make the basil lemon butter sauce by melting butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and slowly saute it for 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice, wine, salt, pepper, and cream. Reduce the heat to low. Cook the sauce for 15-20 minutes over low heat until thickened, stirring often.

Use a kitchen mallet to flatten the thick part of the chicken (or you can just cut the breast in half to make to thinner pieces). Rub each chicken breast with oil, then sprinkle each with salt and pepper. Grill or broil chicken for 3-5 minutes per side, until done.

While chicken is cooking, simmer sun-dried tomatoes in small pan of boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Strain, then slice in strips.

Place chicken on the plate, top with a slice of goat cheese and tomatoes. Stir the sliced basil leaves into the sauce and spoon over the chicken. Serves 4.

Soup Pot: Chili with Chicken and Beans

If you’re planning a Superbowl party for a crowd this Sunday or if you’re just looking for a warming supper during these cold winter days, then you’re in for a treat. This chili is hearty and spiced with enough heat to be interesting, but not overwhelming. And the chicken chunks in the soup bowl are a nice change from your typical beef chili. Topping it with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream adds the perfect cooling touch.

CHILI WITH CHICKEN AND BEANS
(from Power Foods)
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1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
2 onions, finely chopped (about 3 c.)
5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1 3/4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-in pieces
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 dried bay leaf
1 28-oz can chopped tomatoes (if you prefer, use tomatoes with the diced green chiles already added in.)
1 4-oz can green chiles, drained and finely chopped
2 1/2 c. chicken stock (preferably homemade)
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 15-oz cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed (I used black and pinto instead)
1/4 c. plain yogurt or sour cream, for garnish
cilantro leaves, for garnish

In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat 1 Tbsp oil and the cumin seeds over medium, stirring, until the cumin is lightly toasted and aromatic, about 1 minute. Add onions, garlic, and green pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and lightly golden, about 15 minutes.

Push the onion mixture to the edges of the pot, add remaining 1 tsp oil, and increase heat to medium-high. Add the chicken, cooking on one side until seared, 3-5 minutes. Turn chicken pieces and cook additional 2-3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add chili powder, oregano, and bay leaf to the pot, and cook 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and their juice and green chiles, and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer. Add broth, 1/2 tsp salt, and the beans; season with pepper, and stir to combine.

Bring to a simmer. Stir contents, reduce heat to medium-low,and gently simmer. Cook, uncovered, until bean mixture thickens, about 45 minutes. Return chicken pieces, along with any accumulated juices from plate, to the pot and cook until chicken is tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Serve immediately, garnished with a dollop of yogurt and cilantro leaves, as desired.

Off the Shelf: January Magazines

Well, it seems January is the month of double issues – many of the magazines are January/February issues. Frankly, after all of the fun and inspiring holiday issues, I found these a little lackluster. Of the many I perused, Food Network and Cooking Light were my favorites.  Are you shocked that Bon Apetit didn’t make the list? Me, too! But I just wasn’t interested in the recipes – I really tried to be and read the issue probably four times. 🙂

FOOD NETWORK (Alaina) – After looking at all the wonderful recipes, I finally settled on the delicious looking homemade pretzels in this issue. The 3 page article, photos, and recipes were so inviting. And (if we are being honest) I love bread and I have wonderful memories of making pretzels with my mom. I had  illusions of making memories with my kids as we twisted pretzels into all kinds of fun shapes. This was a fail.

My oldest son opted to stay in (instead of sledding) to help me. And part way through, he sweetly said, “Mom do you think I’m a little better at this than you?” I had to laugh and agree with him that he was indeed “a little better.” I think it failed because, despite my familiarity with yeast, my dough was a bit dry and I underestimated the time commitment.

Anyway, we made the pepperoni pretzels, the sweet pretzels, and the everything pretzels. They seemed impossible and took forever but they actually tasted pretty good but they were not the great soft pretzel I was going for.

And I would try making pretzels again but I’m going to get my mom’s recipe because I do love homemade pretzels. Here’s the link to the recipe – use at your own risk – it has not gotten very good reviews on the website either, I’m afraid.

COOKING LIGHT (Alaina) – This issue had 25 different ways to cook chicken and so chicken was the natural choice for a recipe. I opted to use an unfamiliar cooking method which was basically pan frying chicken that I had pounded thin. I know many people love this method because it is quick, easy, and tasty and after trying it, I will definitely be incorporating this into my repertoire. The Dijon pan sauce was incredibly good and the whole family declared the chicken delicious. I served it alongside mashed potatoes inspired by a side dish recipe in this issue that had caramelized onions in them – they were really good, also.

CHICKEN CUTLETS with CREAMY DIJON SAUCE (Cooking Light, January 2011)
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4  (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2  teaspoon  salt
1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
1  tablespoon  olive oil
3  tablespoons  chopped shallots
1/2  cup  fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1  rosemary sprig
3  tablespoons  whipping cream
2  teaspoons  Dijon mustard

Place chicken breast halves between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness. Sprinkle chicken with salt and black pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan. Add chicken; sauté 3 minutes on each side or until done. Transfer to a serving platter. Add shallots to pan; sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth and rosemary sprig; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes. Stir in whipping cream; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and discard rosemary. Stir in Dijon mustard. Spoon over chicken.

EVERY DAY WITH RACHAEL RAY (Stephanie) – The past couple months I’ve been disappointed by Rachael Ray, so was pleasantly surprised to find this issue filled with good sounding recipes I’d love to try: Ham, Ricotta and Fig Tart; Mushroom-and-Marsala Pappardelle; Cashew-Pesto Pasta; Peanut Butter Pretzel Tart with Caramel Drizzle. I chose to make Pork with Rosemary Lentils and Braised Onions, both because it sounded good and because I had all the ingredients on hand and no time to go to the grocery. 🙂

Anyway, the recipe went together quickly and in about an hour I had a meal that could be completed with the addition of a green salad or some steamed broccoli. The rosemary and garlic in this really stand out and make for some good eating!

PORK WITH ROSEMARY LENTILS AND BRAISED ONIONS (Every Day With Rachael Ray, February 2011)
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4 1/2-inch bone-in pork loin chops (about 1 2/3 lbs)
7 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
6 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, halved and sliced
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
1 c. lentils, rinsed
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a resealable plastic bag, rub pork chops with two-thirds of the garlic and 2 Tbsp olive oil; refrigerate. In glass baking dish, combine the onions, vinegar, 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1/2 c. water. Cover and bake until liquid is almost completely reduced, about 50 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine 2 c. water, lentils, rosemary, and remaining garlic. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until lentils are tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Stir in 1 Tbsp olive oil, season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, heat remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add pork chops and cook, turning once, until golden and just cooked through, about 8 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Serve pork chops on a bed of lentils topped with onions. Serves 4.