Sweet and Sour Chicken

sweet and sour (1 of 1)

Sweet and tangy. I’m pretty sure this type of chicken is what keeps food courts across the country in business, because it’s what the taste buds are made for. But I avoid these like the plague at the food court because even just eating a sample makes me feel like I just ate something greasy and unnatural and I should avoid eating in general for the next day to make up for it.

IMG_4531b

This chicken, on the other hand, is full of goodness covered in a mix of sugar and vinegar, among other things, so it turns into sweet and sour goodness coming out of YOUR OWN OVEN. Sweet and sour chicken is, to me, something that sounds hard to make…but it’s so easy! So eat chicken and be merry. The end.

IMG_4533

Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken

From Mel’s Kitchen Cafe // Makes 4-6 servings
Chicken:
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
Salt and pepper
1 cup cornstarch
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola, vegetable or coconut oil
Sauce:
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (depending on how sweet you want the sauce)
4 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Place the cornstarch in a gallon-sized ziploc bag. Put the chicken into the bag with the cornstarch and seal, tossing to coat the chicken.
3. Whisk the eggs together in a shallow pie plate. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until very hot and rippling. Dip the cornstarch-coated chicken pieces in the egg and place them carefully in a single layer in the hot skillet.
4. Cook for 20-30 seconds on each side until the crust is golden but the chicken is not all the way cooked through (this is where it’s really important to have a hot skillet/oil). Place the chicken pieces in a single layer in a 9X13-inch baking dish and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
5. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl and pour over the chicken. Bake for one hour, turning the chicken once or twice while cooking to coat evenly with sauce. Serve over hot, steamed rice.
P.S. Props to my twin Annie for actually making this while I dashed home from the library.

Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I’m back from a year and a half in Japan, yet I bring to you cashew chicken lettuce wraps.  Not exactly the most Japanese dish.  But, I snagged the recipe from a site I love, and I guess it makes sense that coming back to home would mean coming back to old habits and beloved cooking blogs.  But don’t worry, the Japanese recipes will be coming sooner or later!  But for now: cashews and chicken.

The lettuce is crisp, the tomatoes fresh, and the cashews bring in a nice, deep flavor.  Then add the chicken, soy sauce, syrup, onions, carrots, and garlic and it’s… gone in five minutes.  But the good news is that it takes not much longer than that to prepare.

Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe/makes 4 servings
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced yellow or white onion
  • 1 cup finely diced (or shredded) carrots
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon pure maple syrup *I substituted honey in for syrup
  • 1/2 cup chopped raw cashews (lightly toasted, if desired)
  • Bibb or green leaf lettuce leaves for wrapping
  • Chopped cucumbers and tomatoes for serving
  1. In a large 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion and carrots. Add the garlic, salt and pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften.
  2. Season the chicken pieces lightly with salt and pepper and add to the skillet with the onions and carrots. Cook, stirring often, until the chicken pieces are cooked through, 4-5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the soy sauce and maple syrup and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, letting the soy sauce and maple syrup bubble and simmer.
  4. Stir in the cashews, cooking until they are just heated through. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
  5. Serve in lettuce leaves topped with tomatoes and cucumbers

White Chicken and Spinach Lasagna

white-lasagna1                                                         //Photo from original recipe on Mel’s Kitchen Café//

This lasagna is SO GOOD. So delicious that I was actually wondering how it tasted so good while I was eating it.
And since I’ve said ‘so good’ too many times already (Food Network tells you not to do that) I’ll describe how it tasted when I was eating it: creamy, cheesy, and like chicken. Clearly I will never be hired by Food Network.

Original recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
Sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped white or yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 1/2 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Lasagna:
9 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
2-3 cups cooked chicken
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
3 ounces Parmesan cheese (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups), reserve 1/4 cup for the top of the lasagna
2 (9-ounces each) packages baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9X13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
2.In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent and tender, 3-4 minutes. Stir in the flour and let it cook, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes.
3.Gradually add the chicken broth and milk while whisking vigorously. Continue cooking and stirring for 4-5 minutes until the mixture simmers and thickens. Stir in the basil, oregano, salt and pepper.
4.To assemble, spread about 1 to 1 1/2 cups sauce on the bottom of the prepared pan. Place 3 no-boil noodles on top and dollop with 1/2 of the ricotta. No need to spread the ricotta out into an even layer, although you can press it down a bit, just spoon it across. Add half of the chicken on top of the ricotta.
5.Layer on 1/2 of the chopped spinach. It will seem like a lot but just spread it evenly – it will cook down while baking. Sprinkle 1/2 of the mozzarella and 1/2 of the Parmesan cheese (don’t forget to take out 1/4 cup of the Parmesan for sprinkling across the top!).
6.Place 3 noodles over the top, gently pressing down to compress the layers below. Spread 1/2 of the remaining sauce over the top. Repeat the layers again (remaining ricotta, chicken, spinach, mozzarella, Parmesan).
7.Place the last 3 noodles over the top, pressing down again. Spread the remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle with reserved Parmesan cheese.
8.Cover the baking dish with lightly greased aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes until golden and bubbly. Let the lasagna rest for 10 minutes before serving.

**Modifications I made:
-I cut the recipe in 1/4 and used a tiny, little pan
-I used normal lasagna noodles and had to boil them in advance
-I didn’t use ricotta cheese (because I have bought it before and it is a pain to try to use up the whole thing without feeling like you’re eating cheese in every meal.)

Pizza: Asparagus and Thai

About those tortillas. They are the perfect crispy, thin pizza crusts.  And–instead of having to make dough, wait for it to rise, and roll it out– you can pull out a leftover tortilla and throw together the perfect lunch super fast! 

The number of different pizzas you could make are endless.  Like, seriously, you could live to be 100 and still be whipping out new combinations of flavors and ingredients.  But I’m going to talk about two different options:  shaved asparagus pizza, and thai peanut pizza (AND THEY’RE ALL SUPER EASY, KAYLA, SO YOU BETTER MAKE THESE)

1) SHAVED ASPARAGUS PIZZA (aka the best thing ever)
aspa
When I think of this pizza, I think of one word: fresh. Pizza carries a negative connotation (I mean, come one, it’s on pretty much every temptation challenge on the Biggest Loser). But this is the opposite of a large slab of dough bogged down with grease. It’s fresh. This is a pizza you eat when you want to feel healthy. And clean. And good. So, basically, you should eat this all the time.

from Smitten Kitchen *this is for a full size pizza… reduce the amounts if you’re just making a single serving on a tortilla
1/2 pound asparagus
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 pound mozzarella, shredded or cut into small cubes
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Several grinds black pepper
1 scallion, thinly sliced

1. Preheat your oven to the hottest temperature it goes, or about 500 in most cases. If you use a pizza stone, have it in there.
2. Prepare asparagus: No need to snap off ends; they can be your “handles” as you peel the asparagus. Holding a single asparagus spear by its tough end, lay it flat on a cutting board and using a peeler, create long shavings of asparagus by drawing the peeler from the base to the top of the stalk. Repeat with remaining stalks. Toss peelings with olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl.
3. Assemble and bake pizza: Pile asparagus on top of pizza dough (or tortilla). Bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes, or until edges are browned, the cheese is bubbly and the asparagus might be lightly charred. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with scallions, then slice and eat.

2) THAI PIZZA
I don’t have a recipe for this, I just made it up. It’ll make you feel like you’re travelling the world, even when you’re in Heritage Halls building 29.
thai

 
//Let us all pretend that there is not a plastic bag sticking out in this picture.//

Thai peanut sauce
mozzarella cheese
chicken, cooked and cut into bite-size pieces
bell peppers, cut into bite-size pieces
broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces

1.Spread Thai peanut sauce on your tortilla, or dough. Add mozzarella cheese, chicken, bell peppers, and broccoli.
2. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.