Found on Pinterest: Orange Chicken

I love Chinese food. Unfortunately, my husband does not so ordering Chinese takeout is not really thing at my house. Also, I tend to like the very unhealthy selections which makes it even more of an occasional treat. So, I’m always on the lookout for a fairly easy make-at-home Chinese inspired option.

This recipe for Orange Chicken fit the bill in terms of being easy and also relatively healthy. There is another popular crockpot version of Orange Chicken on the inter webs that uses a sauce made of orange marmalade and barbecue sauce. I chose this one because I actually had some fresh oranges and ginger on hand for a smoothie recipe so I thought I thought it would be a fresher tasting dish.

This dish is supposed to be a copycat of sorts of Panda Express’s Orange Chicken. I’ve only eaten at Panda Express once and honestly don’t remember what I ate but I don’t think it was Orange Chicken so I can’t tell you how well this one stacks up.

If you look at the original recipe and then at my picture, you will see they are not exactly twins. My chicken didn’t get nearly as brown and my sauce also didn’t thicken. Both factors are due to the fact that I kind of rushed the recipe. I sautéed my chicken until it was done but not really that brown. I also only used less than a pound of chicken but kept the other ingredients the same so I’d have lots of sauce. Maybe it was because I had a lot of sauce or maybe it was because I grew impatient but my sauce didn’t thicken.

Regardless, I enjoyed this dish. I served it with PF Chang’s new frozen steamed  brown rice and mini vegetable egg rolls. I boxed up the leftovers for my lunch and I think it was even better the next day since the rice soaked up all of that extra sauce. So, for a quick Chinese night at home, I thought it was pretty awesome!

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Orange Chicken

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup orange juice
zest of 1 orange
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional

Cube the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Heat the butter in large skillet and cook chicken until brown and cooked through.

While the chicken is cooking, prep the sauce. Mix the orange juice, orange zest, oyster sauce, honey, ginger, and red pepper flakes  (if using, I didn’t) in a small bowl.

Add the sauce to the chicken and cook until the sauce has thickened slightly.

 

 

 

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Tofu Stir Fry

The university where I work offers monthly cooking classes during the lunch hour as part of a wellness program intended to keep employees healthy. I attended my second one last Friday. The theme was “Heart Healthy Lunches” and the intention was to learn to cook quick, healthy alternatives to fast food. The classes are set up to where you separate into teams and each team tackles a different recipe. I talked my friend Candace into attending with me and we choose a tofu stir fry dish. We did this because 1) Neither of us had ever cooked tofu so we felt we might actually learn something 2) Candace is a vegetarian and 3) No one else really seemed to want it.

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The ingredients were laid out for us and a graduate assistant working the class advised us on the importance of draining and blotting the tofu well. It turns out that tofu has a lot of water in it. We were supposed to return the blotted tofu blocks to their boxes which we were told would make it easier to slice. However, even though I clearly heard this, I tossed our boxes in the trash in an effort to maintain a tidy work station. In my defense, neither of us really believe putting the tofu back in the box would have improved anything. The texture of the tofu blocks was sort of in between a soaked sponge and a block of jello.

We could our tofu into ½ inch cubes as walnut oil heated in a skillet. (This was another first for me, I really had no idea that walnut oil existed). We tossed it in the skillet and waited for it to brown….only it didn’t. I’m not sure if our oil wasn’t hot enough, our tofu wasn’t dry enough, our burner wasn’t heating evenly or it was a combination of all of the above. So we waited somewhat impatiently for a nice browning effect that never really happened.

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While we worked, curious onlookers drifted by our stove to see what the tofu looked like and to ask us if we actually ate the stuff or planned to eat it. A few people were familiar with it and a couple even admitted to eating it regularly. By far, the most popular comment though was “Ewww.” I accepted the fact that our dish was probably not going to be licked clean by the masses during the buffet that follows the class.

“It smells wonderful!” I said at one point.
“I think you’re smelling the bacon from the bistro salad station,” Candace replied.
Oh.

We eventually gave up on the notion of nicely browned tofu, and completed the recipe with slightly pale blocks of the stuff. The recipe was a simple one, and actually looked quite pretty on the plate.

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So the big question…how did it taste?

I liked it. As someone told us early on, it really has no taste and takes on the flavor of whatever you are cooking it with. So in this case, you got a lot of ginger and soy taste (someone forgot to purchase the garlic-it would have helped). Another taste tester described the texture as being similar to that of scrambled eggs, and I think that’s a fair assessment: square scrambled eggs.

I tend to get very grossed out when preparing raw meat so I could see myself substituting some tofu into a recipe here and there just to add a little variety. In fact, when I later Googled “tofu recipes” and found this nice collection :

The recipe we prepared could definitely use more vegetables, and I would have preferred to have had some rice or noodles to accompany it. Still, it was a good basic recipe. Here it is:

Stir Fried Tofu with Scallions
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes
1 1/2 to 2 pounds firm to extra-firm tofu, blotted dry
3 tablespoons peanut oil or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger (optional)
1 or 2 bunches scallions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths, white and green parts separated (about 2 cups total)
1/3 cup vegetable stock or water
2 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)
1. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch or slightly larger cubes. Put the oil in a large skillet or wok, preferably nonstick, over high heat. When hot, add the garlic and the ginger and cook, stirring, for about 10 seconds. Add the tofu and the white parts of the scallions; cook, stirring occasionally, until the tofu begins to brown, a couple of minutes. Add the stock and cook, stirring, until about half of it evaporates; add the green parts of the scallions and stir for about 30 seconds.
2. Add the soy sauce, stir, taste and adjust the seasoning, garnish if you like, and serve.

So while it might not become a regular part of my diet, it is a food I will try again. Tell me, have you tried or would you try tofu?

Chinese Chicken Pasta Salad

Throughout my entire childhood, my mother kept a subscription to Good Housekeeping magazine. Even as a kid, I liked to flip through them and look for recipes. Some of the best ones weren’t necessarily published by the magazine but instead were part of product advertisements.

This pasta salad is one such recipe. This is one of the first recipes I remember trying. I can recall bringing this to a potluck at the company where I interned in college and calling it my “speciality”.
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I stumbled across my well worn recipe a while back and just happened to have the ingredients on hand I needed to make this salad. I had forgotten just how yummy it is! The ginger, soy, and Miracle Whip make a great combination for the dressing.

The chicken is totally optional, and I have made it without chicken far more than I’ve made it with chicken. I also generally use frozen peas rather than pea pods.

Chinese Chicken Pasta Salad
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1 cup Miracle Whip Salad Dressing
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tsp Ground Ginger
1/4 Tsp Hot Sauce (optional)
3 cups rotini pasta (8 oz), cooked and drained
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 cup pea pods
1 cup chopped red pepper
1/4 cup sliced green onion

Mix Miracle Whip, soy sauce, ginger, and hot sauce in large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix lightly. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Found on Pinterest: Ramen Noodle Upgrade

Like many of you, I’m sure, I’m kind of hooked on Pinterest. I could spend hours there and that’s just on food alone. I’ve been trying to actually cook some of the stuff I find, so I’ve decided to start a new category on the blog to review recipes found there.

When I saw this one, I admit that my first reaction was bleh. Ramen noodles? Never really been a fan. I sort of felt like one of those snooty chefs on Chopped who is appalled to find canned pears in their mystery basket. “Tastes just like Pad Thai!” the pin said. Yeah right. Then I saw the pinned recipe was from Martha Stewart’s site so I thought, well if it’s good enough for Martha

Original recipe can be found here.

Ramen Noodle Upgrade

1 package Ramen noodles

1 pack noodle flavoring

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter

2 teaspoons Sriracha chili sauce

1/2 scallion, thinly sliced (optional)

Boil noodles with flavor pack and drain off most liquid. Toss with soy sauce, peanut butter, and Sriracha. Garnish with scallion. Eat immediately.

My take on it:

I used smooth peanut butter rather than chunky.

Please note that it says two TEASPOONS of Sriracha sauce. If this is your first time using this sauce, it is quite warm.

I also added two teaspoons of Asian chili sauce to add a little bit of sweetness and a touch of additional heat.

I only used about half the seasoning pack to cut back on sodium.

While the noodles cooked, I sautéed some chopped cabbage and matchstick sized carrot slivers in a little sesame oil. Once these veggies had softened, I added in a handful of frozen peas and stir fried everything until the peas were warmed through. Then I dumped the veggies into the saucepan with the noodles and sauce and stirred it all up.

The result: This was FANTASTIC. I loved it. Did it taste like Pad Thai as the Pinterest pin said? I have no idea, I’ve never had Pad Thai. I suspect that no, it probably didn’t. But was it a quick and delicious meal that was easy to boost up on the health meter by adding some veggies?  Yes, yes it was.

Lesson learned: Don’t scoff at Martha.

General Tso’s Chicken with Broccoli

I love Chinese food. Sadly, my favorites are generally the ones that are bad for you. I have tried several “light” Chinese recipes and haven’t been crazy about any of them. This one though from Men’s Health is a winner. Baking the chicken with a cornstarch coating gives it that fried texture without the oil and fat of frying. The sriracha sauce gives it plenty of heat but if you don’t like the spice, you can omit it. It has plenty of flavor without it.

General Tso’s Chicken with Broccoli

1 lb bonless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp cornstarch
2 Tsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp chili sauce, such as sriracha
4 cupssteamed broccoli florets, for serving
Cooked brown rice, for serving

Preheat oven to 375 F. On a foil-lined baking sheet, toss the chicken chunks with 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Spread the cubes out and bake until they’re cooked through, about 12 minutes. (NOTE: I sprayed the foil with Pam first).

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the oil, garlic and ginger on medium for 2 minutes, stirring often. Add the broth, soy sauce, hoisin, vinegar, honey, and sriracha; simmer 3 minutes. Whisk the remaining cornstarch into 2 tablespoons of water; add that and heat until the mixture has thickened, about 30 seconds.

Add the cooked chicken to the pan with the sauce and toss together. Serve alongside the broccoli and over brown rice.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional Information: 311 calories, 7g fat, 41 g protein, 22g carbs, 440 mg sodium