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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Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings 

I don’t know that any dish represents good old Kentucky country cooking like chicken and dumplings do. Few foods bring out the excitement in people that a good pot of dumplings can. Dumpling making can be intimidating, and I admit that it’s not something I’ve tried very often. When I’d see recipes for slow cooker chicken and dumplings, I’d usually just scroll on by because, well, there ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.

A few weeks ago, my hair stylist told me about her recipe for slow cooker dumplings. “You’ll probably laugh,” she said. “You being a southern girl and all.” (She’s a Yankee, bless her heart.) But it sounded so good, and I had all of the ingredients on hand so I decided to try it.

I browsed Pinterest briefly for a couple of recipes just to make sure I remembered the recipe right and to look for any helpful hints. The recipe I followed was probably most like this one although I omitted the onion (what? onion in dumplings?) and adjusted the cooking speed (more on that later).

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings  

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2 Tablespoons Butter
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast (or 6 skinless chicken thighs)
2 cans of Cream of Chicken Soup
2 small packages Grands Jr biscuits (10 biscuits)
flour for dusting
cooking spray
Spray the slow cooker with cooking spray then add chicken, butter, and soup. Add enough water or broth to cover the chicken up. I halved this recipe. For the water, I used the soup can for measurement, and it took about a can and a half. Use your best judgement based on how much chicken you use and how big your cooker is. Cook on low for 8 hours.
About a half hour before serving, start working on your dumplings. Prepare a floured surface to roll the biscuit dough on. In the comments of one of the recipes I read, I found this GENIUS tip. Spritz a little water on your counter top then lay down piece of wax or parchment paper. The paper will stay put and you can throw the mess away when you are done.

Then roll out each biscuit to flatten it. How flat should you go? Well, it depends on how fluffy you like your dumpling. Cut the flattened biscuits into pieces. The sizes do not have to be consistent. Make sure you give the pieces a little toss in the flour to get them coated. The flour will keep them from sticking.

Remove the lid of your cooker-watch out for steam-and shred your chicken into the desired sized pieces with two forks. Give it a good stir. Drop the dumplings on top of the hot chicken.

Now, my mom always told me to never, ever stir dumplings. I take this as the gospel so I didn’t stir these either. Instead, I held the handles of the slow cooker and gave it a gentle shake to make sure that all the dumplings were touching the liquid. Then I turned the speed up to High and let the dumplings cook for 30 minutes, giving them that gentle shake every 10 minutes or so. I have no idea if this helped or hurt, I’m just telling you what I did.

The end result? I thought they were ok. Not as good as Mom’s or Cracker Barrel but then I knew they wouldn’t be. There are a couple of things I would do differently. I would add more liquid. I would also use a plain biscuit flavor. Mine was butter flavor and it was a little strong. I will probably make these again because while they weren’t like homemade ones, they weren’t bad either and would be a good week night dish.

Found on Pinterest: Chicken Fajita Pasta

I love Mexican style foods, and I have really grown to love one skillet dishes so when I found this recipe on Pinterest, I didn’t waste any time making it. I can’t remember the last time I was so excited to try a recipe. And this one was definitely worth the hype that I had built up for it in my head.

As usual, I have a few things to say about it. Like most of you, I’m anxious to get dinner on the table each evening so I look for as many shortcuts as possible. I cut my chicken into cubes the night before and sprinkled the fajita seasoning on it. Not only did this save me some dinner night prep work, it also added extra flavor to my chicken. I also cut up my vegetables the night before and stored them in a separate container.

For the actual preparation, I didn’t sauté my veggies as long as recommended so mine stayed more of a “crisp tender” instead of the softer fajita style. I also used one of those healthier pastas with extra protein and it didn’t seem to get as soft as regular pasta although that might have been my fault as I may have rushed it.

While I thought the dish was very good the night I made it, I think it was AMAZING the next day. In fact, I think the next time, I’ll make it, let it cool and stick the whole thing in the fridge and serve it later.

If you like, quick easy dinners with a little kick, try it!

Chicken Fajita Pasta
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2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 envelope (3 tablespoons) taco or fajita seasoning
2 cups diced onion (about 1 whole onion)
2 cups diced bell peppers (2-3 bell peppers) I used all red
2 cups chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream
1 (10-oz) can Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles
8 oz (about 3 cups) penne pasta

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Season with half of taco seasoning. (I did this the night before). In a 12-inch skillet (I used cast iron-it seemed mored fajita-y), heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over high heat. When the oil is very hot, carefully add the chicken in a single layer and cook without stirring until one side is browned, about 1-2 minutes. Flip the chicken to the other side and cook until browned. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet with the heat still on high. When the oil is very hot again, add the onions, bell peppers, and remaining taco seasoning. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are slightly blackened. Remove the veggies to the plate with the chicken.

In the same skillet, add the broth, cream, diced tomatoes, uncooked pasta, and salt. Stir to combine and bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 15 minutes until pasta is tender and liquid is mostly absorbed. Add the chicken and veggies back into the skillet and stir to combine until heated through, about 2 minutes. Let the fiesta begin!

From Freezer to Slow Cooker: Chicken Tater Tot Casserole

With my first experience of freezer cooking going so well (read about it here), I was anxious to try the second meal I’d prepared: Chicken Tater Tot Casserole. This recipe also came from New Leaf Wellness.  A few years ago, I might have turned my nose up at the idea of tater tots but the need to provide a quick, toddler friendly meal has knocked me off my nutritional high horse just a tad.

This meal came together really quickly. The biggest time investment was cutting up the chicken. I found a tip online about standing your freezer bag upright in a pitcher to keep the food from spilling out while you work. It was a great tip!

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Meal prep clocked in just under 11 minutes. IMG_2946

Ready for the freezer! IMG_2947

The results? Wonderful! I actually overcooked this one a tad. My slow cooker doesn’t have a timer-I’m going to have to invest in a timer switch if I’m going to keep on keeping on with freezer cooking-so I chose to prepare this one on a day that my parents were babysitting at my house so my mom could turn the slow cooker off as directed. The problem was that I misdirected her on when to turn it off so it overcooked slightly. I actually like slightly burnt cheesy potato type things so I thought it was fine but it would have gone up in smoke if I’d left it for a whole work day. So, the 4 to 6 hour cooking time is no joke!

That little issue aside, this is a cheesy flavorful dish. The big question of whether my toddler would eat it was answered quickly when he tasted a bite then immediately started reaching for his plate for more. The chicken was nice and tender and easy for him to chew. It was a tad salty so next time I will skip the added salt.

Chicken Tater Tot Casserole

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32oz bag frozen tater tots

3oz bag bacon pieces (look out for the little square of paper inside! )

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)

3/4 cup 2% milk (any kind will do)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Add all ingredients into a gallon freezer bag. Put the chicken on top so that it will be on the bottom when you pour all of the ingredients into your slow cooker. Squeeze out all of the air, seal up the bag and freeze for up to 3 months.

The night before you want to serve, place the meal into the refrigerator to thaw overnight. Place in slow cooker the next morning and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.

Chicken Dumpling Casserole

I’m not that big on casseroles except for my beloved holiday side dishes like Broccoli Casserole. And I especially avoid any kind of “easy” chicken and dumpling recipes that I see everywhere on Pinterest. Chicken and dumplings are a sacred thing; no shortcuts allowed. But I was drawn to this recipe during a cold snap a couple of weeks ago on Veronica’s Cornucopia. Like me, Veronica is a new mom so when she said this was a meal you could throw together while tending to a newborn, I thought I’d give it a try.

Around the same time that I found this recipe, I made a life changing discover at my local supermarket: you can buy rotisserie chicken already shredded and in a neat little container. You may be asking yourself, Is she too lazy to debone her own rotisserie chicken? The answer would be yes.

So with my lazy woman’s chicken in hand, I was ready to tackle this recipe. Veronica called it correctly, it comes together super fast. I used chicken stock rather than chicken broth. Stock is a little richer and as this casserole baked there was this delicious smell in the house reminiscent of Thanksgiving. I was excited before it ever came out of the oven!

And it didn’t disappoint. I really loved this casserole. I over baked mine slightly but I enjoyed the brown edges. It’s not like a big bowl of your mom’s chicken and dumplings (or Cracker Barrel’s if your mom doesn’t cook) but it is a delicious main course that a busy working mama (or papa) can throw together quickly. Thanks Veronica!

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Chicken and Dumpling Casserole

3 – 4 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite sized pieces (use rotisserie chicken if desired)
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups chicken stock
1 (10.75 oz) can cream of chicken soup

Preheat oven to 400F. Place butter in 9″ X 13″ baking dish and place in oven while it’s preheating. Once butter is melted, remove the pan to continue with the recipe. Sprinkle prepared chicken over the top of the butter. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, flour, baking powder and salt. Pour over the chicken, but do not stir. In same bowl, after scraping out as much flour mixture as possible, whisk together chicken broth and cream of chicken soup. Pour that over top of casserole; do not stir.

Bake uncovered for 35 – 45 minutes. When done, the top will be beautifully browned and bubbly around the edges.

Yield: about 6 servings

Spicy Chicken Pasta

I found this recipe several years ago on a Weight Watchers message board. It contains more processed items than I normally prefer to use but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. I modified the original recipe a bit and swapped Velveeta Light for reduced fat Cheddar Jack and omitted an extra step of warming the dish through in the oven. Instead, I combined it all in a skillet and warmed through on the stovetop.

This dish reheats well and leftovers make a great lunch. I made this recently and nary a bite went to waste!

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Spicy Chicken Pasta

8 oz uncooked spaghetti or linguine, broken
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 tsp canola oil
4 oz reduced fat Cheddar Jack cheese
1 can Rotel tomatoes
10 oz can of chicken
1 can reduced fat, reduced sodium Cream of Mushroom soup

Cook pasta according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, sauté onion in oil in a large skillet until tender. Add the chicken, and the can of Rotel with juice. Cook until tomato juice cooks down a bit. Add can of soup and mix well. Once mixture is hot and bubbly, add in cheese and stir well to melt the cheese.

Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of the cooking liquid. Add the drained pasta to the chicken mixture. Combine. If the mixture seems too dry, (you want it creamy like an Alfredo sauce) add in some of your reserved cooking liquid, one tablespoon at a time until you get the consistency you want.

Found on Pinterest: Crockpot Chicken and Stuffing

I don’t use my slow cooker as much as I should. Now that my time is more crunched, I’ve found myself looking for more slow cooker recipes. This one was pinned by numerous friends on Pinterest and it looked so good, I decided to try it.

In the last few years, I’ve done my best to avoid convenience foods like Stove Top and canned soup. However, trying to take care of of a newborn has lowered my culinary standards a bit. And hey, all things are fine in moderation, right?

I found this dish to be quite tasty. The soup and sour cream make a surprisingly good gravy. Add a couple of veggies on the side and you’ve got an instant dinner. It would also make a great potluck dish if you were saddled with bringing an entree to an event. I used chicken tenders rather than chicken breasts since that’s what I had on hand.

Crockpot Chicken and Stuffing
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1 lb boneless chicken tenders or boneless chicken breast
1 box of Stove Top Stuffing
1 can of Cream of Chicken Soup
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/4 cup of water

Place chicken in the bottom of slow cooker and pour stuffing mix on top. In a small bowl, mix soup, sour cream and water. Pour this mixture on top of stuffing. Put the lid on your cooker and cook on low for 4 hours.