August 23, 2012

Almost Panda Express Orange Chicken

I was shopping at Costco last month and feeling a bit stressed and also tired of always telling myself no when I want to buy things (probably not a good combination), when I ran across something amazing--Panda Express Orange Chicken Sauce!  And it was only like $5 for a huge bottle.  I couldn't resist.  I bought it.

After looking at several recipes online, here's what I tried out and found to be super tasty and probably as close to the real thing as I'm going to get here at home.  Knock-off Panda goodness!

Almost Panda Express Orange Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 egg, beaten (optional)
1/4 cup oil for frying (although, I suppose it could be baked instead...)
Panda Express Orange Sauce

1. Start preheating a large skillet (or, ideally, a wok) over medium-high heat.
2. In a shallow dish or large ziploc/bread/plastic bag, combine the flour and cornstarch.  Dip or shake the chicken in the flour until it is evenly coated.  Shake off the excess flour.  If you want to be healthy and be finished with the breading, skip to the next step now.  For the rest of us, beat the egg in a shallow dish.  Dip in the floured chicken in the egg and then back into the flour mixture again.  Double breading equals double deliciousness!  
3. Pour enough oil into the pan to cover the bottom, then throw in the chicken.  Don't overcrowd the pan or the chicken will start to steam itself, rather than stir-fry, which will make the breading soggy.  If you have too much chicken to fit in at once, do it in shifts and keep the cooked chicken warm on a cooling rack in a warm oven.  Also, if you're using a stainless steel pan, give it a minute to cook before you try to stir it all around.  If you flip them too early, the breading could stick to the pan, rather than the chicken.  Once the chicken is cooked through, pour on as much orange chicken sauce as you'd like and toss to evenly coat it.
4.  Serve it immediately over cooked white rice and break out the chop sticks.  Panda at home!

August 21, 2012

Tip Tuesday #12 {Soggy Breading? Use a Cooling Rack in the Oven}

Sometimes when you fry breaded chicken, do you find that there's not room enough in the pan for all the chicken at once?  Then do you set the cooked chicken on a plate while you fry the rest, only to find that the chicken on the bottom of the pile is soggy and cold by the time you actually sit down to eat?

Worry no more, my friends.  Just set your oven to the warm setting, and place a baking sheet with cooling rack on it inside the oven.  When you place the breaded chicken on the cooling rack, it leaves room for the warm air to circulate underneath, keeping your breading crisp and your chicken warm.  

And if your breaded chicken is being baked in the first place, rather than fried, you can bake it on the cooling rack to begin with.  That way the whole thing will get crispy and delicious.  Easy peasy.  

August 14, 2012

Tip Tuesday #11 {Measure Out Honey & Oil Together}

Ever measure out honey for a recipe and then spend five minutes trying to scrape it all out and get every last morsel of honey goodness?  Did you know that if you measure out your honey and oil in the same measuring cup at the same time that the honey will slide right out with the oil?  Just pour in the oil, then pour in the honey on top of it.  The honey will sink to the bottom but will not stick to the measuring cup because the oil was there first.

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This is amazing.  My sister-in-law and I made honey whole wheat bread together last week, and I was astounded that this actually worked.  I think my jaw may have actually dropped open.  This is definitely one to remember, folks.

August 13, 2012

100% Whole Wheat Bread

This recipe comes to you only slightly altered from the one in King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking.  I seriously love that cookbook.  This recipe has made me feel like a I've made it as a homemaker.  Not only is it homemade, but it's 100% whole wheat!  And I actually like it, which is saying something, since I normally don't care for wheat.  The orange juice counteracts the bitter wheat taste you can get sometimes.  I make this bread a lot, and I don't want to constantly have orange juice in my fridge just in case, so I make up a batch then freeze it in 1Tbsp amounts in an ice cube tray.  Then I put the orange juice ice cubes in a freezer bag and thaw two of them out when I want to make this recipe.  This loaf works best in a pan that's 8.5"x4.5".  You can make it in a 9x5, but it will make a very wide, short loaf.  All of the tips from my White Bread 101 tutorial apply to this recipe as well.  Alright, on to the recipe!

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100% Whole Wheat Bread

3 cups (12 ounces) whole wheat flour (I personally use white wheat for a more subtle"wheat" taste)
3 Tbsp sugar
Heaping 1/2 cup (1-1/4 ounces) dried potato flakes
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
1 Tbsp vital wheat gluten (optional, but I think it helps)
1-1/4 tsp salt
2-1/2 tsp instant yeast (you can use active dry yeast, but you'll have to proof it in the water first)
1 cup lukewarm water
2 Tbsp orange juice, room temperature or lukewarm
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into several pieces

1. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and stir until combined.  Add the water, orange juice, and butter, then knead it all together until you have a soft, smooth dough.  It probably won't be as elastic as white bread dough, and that's okay.  Cover it, and allow it to rise until nearly doubled in bulk 1-2 hours.  For tips on getting your dough to rise, see White Bread 101.
2. Lightly grease an 8.5x4.5 loaf pan.  Gently deflate (don't punch!) the dough and shape it into an 8-inch log.  Place the dough in the prepared pan, and let it rise until it's an inch and a half above the pan.  Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
3. Bake uncovered for a total of 35 minutes, tenting the loaf with aluminum foil after about the first 15 minutes.  When it's golden brown, remove it from the oven.  After a minute or two, loosen the bread from the sides of the pan (if needed) and turn it out onto a cooling rack.  Brush it with melted butter if you want to keep the crust nice and soft.  Cool the bread for at least 30 minutes before slicing it.
4.  Savor the smell of freshly baked bread, and cut yourself a slice.  Mmm...

August 7, 2012

Tip Tuesday #10 {Too Much Salt? Add a Potato}

Did you know that if you add too much salt to something you can just add a whole uncooked potato?  The potato will absorb excess salt without adding a weird flavor.  When you're ready to serve it, just remove the potato and go.  This works particularly well with soups.  Cool, huh?

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But for other things that aren't as easy to add a potato to, say cookie dough or something, you can actually slice a raw potato very thinly and lay the slices over/among the cookie dough and let it sit for 15 minutes or so.  It may not get all the extra salt, but it should pick up some of it.  Discard your salty potato slices and bake those cookies.  Super cool.

August 6, 2012

Asian Cabbage Salad

Thanks to my wonderful friend Shawna for this recipe!  I love it.  It's super easy and definitely adds variety to my recipe box.  It works well as a meal unto itself or as a side dish.

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Asian Cabbage Salad

1/2 head cabbage or bok choy
1-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked however you want and chopped
1 package ramen noodles (just throw out the seasoning or save it for something else)
2 Tbsp slivered almonds (or maybe even cashews or peanuts)
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 cup oil
3 Tbsp vinegar (I hear that raspberry vinegar is the best, but regular works too--just not apple cider vinegar)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

1. Chop or slice up the cabbage into nice, bite-sized salad pieces.  Put them in a large serving bowl.  Add the chopped chicken.
3. Crunch up the ramen noodles into small pieces (I just punch the sealed package a few times, then open it up). Spread the noodles, slivered almonds, and sesame seeds evenly on a baking sheet.  Broil them until they're just lightly toasted.  Watch it here--I'm talking toast them for maybe a minute.  They brown quickly.  Toss them into the salad
4. In a small bowl or blender bottle, combine the oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper to make the dressing.  Drizzle it over the salad, and serve.
5. Crunchy deliciousness.

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