This is my best friend, Harris:
(I stole that from his Facebook, but have seen him be a yoga freak in person as well.)
Long over a year ago, he passed a recipe for his mom’s Chicken a l’Orange to me and I’ve had it on an electronic sticky note on my computer’s desktop for all this time.
I haven’t seen Harris in far too long as he’s been busy galavanting all over Europe for the past 2 years (I’m not jealous at all) and our Skype availability never seems to match up. Staring at this recipe really made me miss him!
Since I haven’t cooked in forever, or so it seemed, it finally felt like the right time to use that recipe since I couldn’t come up with anything better in my useless brain. By the time I got to the grocery store with the recipe in my hand, I decided to change it to a more Asian-inspired Orange Chicken recipe. The original recipe isn’t much different from what I did, but I merely switched out American chili sauce (like fancy ketchup) for Asian garlic chili so-spicy-it-makes-you-die sauce, added a vegetable, and used chicken chunks (appetizing) instead of whole, bone-in pieces. And I sauteed instead of baked the chicken in the sauce.
I’m by no means an authentic Asian cook. I consider myself an aficionada of Asian cooking but this is in no ways super authentic. However it did taste mighty good and satisfied an unhealthy Chinese food craving.
Orange Chicken (serves 3-4)
1.5-2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 6 thighs)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
salt & pepper
3 T vegetable oil
1 cup orange juice
2 T soy sauce
1-2 T garlic chili paste (spicy! be careful!)
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 T blackstrap molasses
1 red bell pepper, chopped
Cut the chicken into small pieces and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine flour with a dash of salt and pepper. Lightly toss the chicken pieces in the flour, covering most of the exposed surfaces. Heat vegetable oil to medium high — ideally you’ll do this in a large wok but I used a Dutch oven since that’s all I had and it worked fine. When the oil is hot, it will glisten. Carefully (!!) drop the floured chicken into the oil in small batches and let it sizzle for a minute or two before stirring it and letting it brown for a few minutes longer. Remove and repeat until all chicken is brown — it will not be fully cooked at this point. Turn the heat down on your oil once the chicken is all removed. Carefully pour in the orange juice, using a spatula/other utencil to gently scrape the chicken goodness off the bottom of the pan with the help of the OJ. Add in the garlic chili paste, soy sauce, mustard, and molasses, stirring well to combine. Add in the chopped peppers, letting them simmer for a few minutes before adding the chicken back to the wok/pot/vessel. Stir everything well and bring the heat up until the mixture is at a low boil. Allow the mixture to cook, uncovered and gently boiling for 10-20 minutes or until the sauce has reduced by half. The chicken should be cooked through and the peppers soft. Serve hot with rice and broccoli, just like the Chinese restaurants!
The other day, while gazing blissfully into the abyss that is my pantry, I noticed the sad little bag of masa harina (MAH-sah ah-REE-na) sitting on my baking shelf. Masa harina is the powdered corn that is used in such delightful things as corn tortillas and my tamales. In fact, the last time I even used the masa was for my tamales!
I hate wasting food so I started thinking of things I could do with it. Eventually I came up with a tamale bake that is kind of like a version of Mexican lasagna (which I also haven’t made in a year! whoops!) but has delicious masa crust.
Masa harina is very readily available these days. Check near the flour in your “baking needs” aisle, and if you can’t find it there, see if your store has an “ethnic” or “Latino” section. Please don’t use corn meal or a corn bread mix, they aren’t the same thing.
My favorite thing about recipes like this is how variable they are — you can add chicken, pork, or tofu and you can pick your very favorite salsa, mild or hot! I like cilantro and I like spice, so I ended up getting a hot cilantro salsa that rocked my world. I also added additional spice on top of all that. What is up with me and spicy foods lately? I am my mother’s antithesis.
So give masa harina a chance and make this great vegetarian dish soon. But perhaps not for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day, as cheese + beans does not equal romance.
Tamale Bake (serves 4)
1 cup masa harina
1/2 cup water
1/2 T chili powder
2 cups cooked black beans (drained!)
2 T lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup salsa of your choosing
1/2 cup Mexican blend shredded cheese
sour cream or Greek yogurt for topping (optional)
Heat your oven to 425*. In a small mixing bowl, combine the masa harina, water, and chili powder. Mix with your hands for best results. When you can incorporate all of the masa into a ball, place in the center of an 8×8 (square) baking dish. Press down and into the corners, creating an even, flat crust. Bake in the oven for 7 minutes to set it. Remove from the oven and turn the oven down to 350*. In another mixing bowl, combine the black beans, cayenne (optional), salt, and lime juice. Once mixed, spread on top of the tamale crust that has just come out of the oven. Top the black beans with a layer of salsa and finish with cheese. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is nice and melted. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt!
I love taboule! Anyone else? If you don’t know what it is, it is basically a very herbacious (just made that up) mixture of parsley, garlic, lemon juice, bulgar wheat, tomato, and magic.
Do you spell it “tabouli” or “taboule”? Or even “tabouleh”? I don’t know which to use! I bought my mix in bulk so that is unhelpful as it has neither a name nor instructions on how to prepare it.
Instead of making it to eat as a dip, I opted to make just a little bit of it to mix into some ground turkey. Turkey breast is, let’s face it, kind of flavorless on its own. But something as flavorful as taboule really punched it up.
If you’ve never had taboule/i/eh, I recommend you go to your local Mediterranean restaurant which likely has it on the appetizer menu. It is great with crackers or pita, and I really like to mix a heaping spoonful into my salads to give them extra flavor. You can also buy it in its prepared form or in dried mixes where you simply add some amount of water, olive oil, lemon juice, and diced tomato and mix to make good things happen. The mixes are widely available, check the part of your grocery store with boxed rice dishes and couscous!
Unrelated side note: do not slice your finger open with an apple slicer while these burgers cook. No bueno. But the Dora the Explorer band-aid is a-okay.
Taboule Turkey Burgers (makes 4 or 5 patties)
2 T dried taboule mix
1 T olive oil
1 T water
1/2 cup diced tomato (remove the seeds if you prefer)
1 1/4 lb lean ground turkey breast
1 egg white
salt & pepper to taste
In a small mixing bowl, combine the dried taboule mix with water and olive oil. Allow to sit for a few minutes while the bulgar wheat soaks up the liquid. Dice your tomato and stir it into the taboule mix. It is important to taste this mixture and possibly add salt and pepper — my mix wasn’t very salty so I added a healthy pinch of both salt and pepper! In a large mixing bowl combine the ground turkey breast, egg white, taboule, and (optional) salt and pepper. Mix well but don’t over mix. Divide the mixture into 4 or 5 equal parts and gently form into patties. You can cook them in a pan or bake them (like I did) at 375* for 25 minutes. They will be juicy and perfectly cooked! Remove them from the baking sheet immediately so any excess fat doesn’t re-coagulate on them. Serve on a bun with plenty of ketchup
I’m back in Austin after a month on the East Coast, where I visited with family for the holidays and stayed with Rahul in DC for 2 weeks. It was so nice to relax and especially to be with Rahul for so long, but I had to return to Texas eventually. And now we’re in the home stretch of my Master’s degree and it will be May sooner than I know!
While hanging out in DC, I cooked for Rahul but nothing blogworthy. In fact, I made this, this, and this recipe because they’re easy and make for lots of leftovers! I know them by heart. And so should you.
However, now that I am back in my own kitchen and a need to have food on hand to pack lunches, I got to cooking a bit yesterday and made a really simple pasta salad. Have I ever told you how much I love pasta salad? I really, really love pasta salad. And this one is simple, healthy, and contains one of my favorite condiments: barbecue sauce.
Note: this dinner seemed a little beige so I added some broccoli on the side at the last minute. Next time, I’d probably add it to the actual pasta salad, but that is your judgement call.
BBQ Chicken & Orzo Salad (serves 4-5)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup barbecue sauce (of choice), divided
1/2 cup orzo, uncooked
1 1/2 cup corn
1/3 cup plain, non-fat yogurt
1 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste
In a bowl, marinate chicken breasts in 3 T of barbecue sauce for 20-30 minutes. Bake chicken at 375* for 30 minutes or until fully cooked. Using two forks, shred the chicken breasts and set aside in a mixing bowl to cool. Boil and drain the orzo, adding it to the bowl with the shredded chicken. Drain the corn (if using canned corn) and add to mixing bowl. In a small bowl, combine 1 T barbecue sauce with yogurt and garlic powder. If you use Greek yogurt, your mixture will be too thick so you may want to thin it out with a touch of water. Pour the yogurt mixture over the chicken, orzo, and corn and mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate at least 2-3 hours and serve chilled.
I left my camera at my mom’s house in Virginia this weekend! Oh no! I’ll get it back over Christmas, rather than have her waste money sending it to me. But until then, I’m very glad I had a few posts written ahead of time with real pictures! When I run out, I’ll have to dig my point-and-shoot out of the depths of my closet… Until then, enjoy this recipe shout out!
I’d like to give a recipe shout out to Back to Her Root’s recent recipe for No Bake Butterfinger and Pretzel Cheesecake.
My friend Mary came over and I swung by the grocery store for the ingredients (including Texas shaped pretzels!) and gave it a try.
It was delicious, but apparently I’m illiterate as I misread a critical step and my filling was way more liquidy than it should have been. Also, my crust may have baked too long so it was pretty hard. It was delicious, but since it doesn’t stay together when not frozen, I’ve been slowly picking at the leftovers straight from the freezer and they’re divine. Make it (correctly) and love it!
Before you get to the food, let me just say: Happy Halloween!!
I have a thing about sammies (or, to use the lay term, “sandwiches”). I hate making them at home because they’re always disappointing, but I am almost always craving one. Why is it that Thundercloud makes a better turkey sandwich than I do? And as far as gyros and pitas go, I stink.
Over the weekend I was watching an embarrassing amount of Comedy Central and there were several commercials for a nasty-looking Taco Bell flatbread sandwich thing. And I knew I wanted one. But not from Taco Bell, obviously. I do not wish that intestinal pain on anyone.
But I endeavored to make a delicious sandwich for myself, inspired by the flatbread and inspired by the fish in my freezer that needed eating. I started by cutting Bobby Flay’s Flatbread recipe in half and baking that up. It tasted great, but it was kind of dense. I think my yeast didn’t develop enough.
Then, I thawed the fish and channeled my inner Mediterranean (non-existant) and came up with a super delicious, healthful marinade to bake the fish in and threw together some other ingredients to put on the sandwich.
The result was a super messy yet super yummy sammie that I will be recreating soon!
Tilapia Flatbread Sandwich (serves 2)
2 pieces flatbread (store-bought or homemade)
2 filets tilapia, thawed
2 T tomato sauce
1 T olive oil
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp oregano
2-3 T plain yogurt
1/4 small onion, grated (use a microplane!)
salt & pepper
In a baking dish, season fish with olive oil, salt, pepper, mustard seed, and oregano. Cover fish filets on both sides with spices and spread tomato sauce on top. Bake at 375* for 10 minutes and allow to cool slightly. While fish is cooling, mix together yogurt and grated onion and spread on flatbread. Top the sandwich with any veggies you want (I used some leftover steamed asparagus — awesome). Place fish on top of spread and any veggies and fold the bread over. Enjoy!
It isn’t a secret that I don’t really care for soup. I have very few recipes for soup and its very rare that I order it at a restaurant. It’s a texture thing. Aside from heavy chowders and chilis, I really only like thick, puree type soups like tomato.
Well I had been staring at a big butternut squash that I bought and was quite unsure about what to do with it since I’ve had a lot of roasted squash these days. I had a flashback to the days when I lived with Mona and Jeff, the parents of my two best friends, Harris and Jeremy — Mona used to make a butternut squash soup that was really yummy!
I had no idea what went in hers but decided to follow my instinct and just make a simple puree soup with minimal ingredients (my new favorite concept) and lots of pure, vegetable flavor.
My only complaint about this whole venture? The mess! I had to blend the soup in my blender in 3 different batches because the blender wasn’t big enough and it just caused a huge mess. But, this mess was well worth it because the soup was great! I packed it up and took a small batch over to my friend’s house for girl’s night of low cal cooking, wine, and Sex and the City!
Butternut Squash Soup (serves 8)
1-1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and roughly chopped into large chunks
1/2 medium white onion, roughly chopped
1 large, sweet apple (I used Pink Lady), peeled and roughly chopped
6 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
Prepare the squash, onion, and apple. In a stock pot, combine all of the produce and cover with 6 cups of stock. Cover and bring to a rolling boil. When the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat slightly for a more gentle boil. Allow the produce to boil for about 20 minutes. When you press on the squash with a spoon or spatula, it should be tender and easily break. When the squash is tender, remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Use an immersion blender or a standard blender and blend the soup, adding pepper to taste at this point — if using a standard blender do it in batches and put a dish towel over the lid because it will still be HOT! Combine the batches of blended, pureed soup and eat up!
A few weeks ago, I discovered that a local farmer is selling his preservative-free, fresh chicken sausage! There are several flavors available, but I opted for the (spicy) Italian sausage variety. After eating one of the links with some peppers and onions, I decided to throw the rest into a pasta salad.
I also had some of my favorite fall produce lying around… butternut squash and asparagus! I roasted the squash with some olive oil and just steamed the asparagus.
Fun fact about that vegetable steamer basket: that is the very same steamer basket I used to pretend was a UFO during bath time as a small child. I was way too cool to handle back in the early 90′s.
After heating the sauce and (pre-cooked) sausage, I tossed it all together for a super hearty, healthy pasta! I ate the leftovers for days and it was still as delicious each time!
Rigatoni with Sausage and Squash (serves 4-6)
3 links Italian chicken sausage (3/4 lb.)
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into small chunks
1-2 T olive oil
salt & pepper
20 spears asparagus, cut into thirds
3/4 lb. (dried) rigatoni pasta
1 1/2-2 cups pasta sauce (your favorite variety)
Peel and cut the butternut squash. Place on a baking sheet and coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper, tossing to make sure every piece is covered. Roast for 35-40 minutes in an oven heated to 400*, stirring once halfway through. Remove from oven and put into a large mixing bowl. While the squash is roasting, cut the asparagus and steam it so it retains just a touch of crispness (5-6 minutes). Put the asparagus into the same mixing bowl in which you put the squash. If sausage is uncooked, boil until cooked through. Slice sausage links into bite-sized rounds and put in bowl with asparagus and roasted squash. Cook and drain the pasta, tossing it in with the vegetables and sausage while still hot. Heat up your favorite pasta sauce and pour over the mixture in the bowl, mixing thoroughly. Serve immediately or cool and reheat when ready to serve!