Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Orange chicken with some POW!

Do you love Chinese takeout as much as I do? I'm not even picky. I walk into HyVee to shop and see their sesame chicken sitting under the warmers and the drool starts pouring down my chin. That wonderful sweet, thick sauce coating the little fried bundles of chicken joy... mmm...

Surprisingly, I'd never tried to reproduce this magic at home. I had no clue where to even start... I'm not huge into frying food for obvious reasons. The fat, the flying spitting oil, the time... ugh. No thanks. Too much effort, not enough payback. UNTIL NOW!

Two events came together that made me think that I might be able to pull this off and not hate myself in the morning. 1st, split chicken breasts went on sale for .98lb! That's awesome! I immediately started meal planning and trolling my usual blog haunts for yummy chicken recipes... 2nd, I found one! A gluten free spicy orange chicken recipe popped up on my screen and I knew it was fate. Time to dive in, forks and oil at the ready.

And OMG was it worth it!
A couple of quick notes... I adapted this recipe twice. If you look at the original recipe linked here, you'll see that she starts you out with a full batter situation. I didn't want to do that. Who has the time? Not this mommy. So, I use a nice cornstarch coating instead. The first time I made this, I made it a spicy orange chicken with the addition of a garlic chili sauce. YUM. The second time I toned it down because I was making it for a group, and my brother and sister wouldn't have eaten it if it was spicy. I'll be giving you the first recipe, but you can just leave the chili sauce out if you aren't into a little heat. It will still be wonderful! This recipe made enough for Daniel, myself & Milo with a tiny bit extra.

Spicy Orange Chicken

adapted from here

3 Chicken Breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 Oranges, juiced

2 cups Rice

2 cups of your favorite frying oil (I used veggie)

1/2 cup Cornstarch + 2 tsp separate for the sauce

1 tsp Salt

3 Cloves of Garlic, minced

1 TBSP Rice Vinegar

2 TBSP Soy Sauce

1 tsp Garlic Chili Sauce

1/4 cup Honey, heaping (don't be stingy on this!)

1 inch Grated Ginger

2 cups of your favorite stir fry veggies (I used broccoli, pineapple and yellow pepper)

1) First, prep all your meat and veggies by washing, chopping, etc. Set aside.

I fracking love broccoli


.98lb chicken...nothing better.

2) Get your rice started according to package directions. It can be cooking while you work on everything else.

3) Put your 1/2 cup of cornstarch and salt in a bowl and stir together until well blended.

4) Dump all but 1 TBSP of your oil into a wok, dutch oven or medium sauce pan and turn your heat to medium (on our oven that would be 5). Test the oil for readiness by dripping a single drop of water in the pan. If it spits it back at you, it's ready to roll.

5) Throw about 10-15 pieces in the cornstarch and toss to coat. Shake off any excess cornstarch before you put them in the pan.

The magic has begun.
6) Test your oil and once it's ready, go ahead and dump in your pieces of chicken! Don't over crowd. There should still be plenty of room in that pan. If you put in too much, the oil temperature will drop and you won't get your nice crispy chicken bits. Toss them around every few minutes to make sure they get equal time on each side in the oil.

Bubble bubble
7) While those cook, go ahead and get your next round of chicken pieces in the cornstarch to coat. They can just sit there and wait. Let your chicken get a nice golden hue going before you bring them out of the pot.

8) Go ahead and throw them out of the pot once they've got that golden hue going. I just put mine in a glass bread pan. I don't have a fancy rack or something to put things on. What can I say? I'm cheap and I use what I've got. These can just sit. You're going to rewarm them before the end, don't worry.

Soooo pretty...
9) Toss in more chicken! If your oil levels start getting low, add more in between rounds of chicken. BE CAREFUL! That oil is hot. If it gets too hot (your chicken gets brown or burned too quickly), turn it down to 3 or 4. If you get too crazy with your tossing, you'll get to take a picture of your oil burned hand covered in aloe.

10) While your last round of chicken is cooking, prep your sauce. Combine your orange juice, rice vinegar, honey, chili sauce (optional), soy, garlic & ginger into a cup or bowl and whisk to combine. Add the last 2 tsp of cornstarch to your mix and whisk to combine.

My sister's hand, not mine.

See all the garlic & chili bits in there?? MMMM...
11) Once you take out your last round of chicken, dump the leftover oil in the pan into a cup for proper disposal at your convenience. Using a paper towel or dish towel, wipe down your pan quickly and carefully and put it back on the stove. Add in the remaining TBSP of oil and put your heat back at medium or 5. Dump in all your veggies and stir fry them until you get the desired consistency. Milo has to have his veggies pretty soft, so I let mine cook about 10 minutes. If you like more crunch, go 5 or so.

So wonderful. Magic.
 12) Once your veggies are cooked just about the way you like them, add your chicken back into the pot and stir it around so it's all combined and getting heat.

Almost excited!
13) Let the chicken and veggies cook together for a minute or two, then give your sauce one final whisk and dump it in!

Ignore the dribbles of cornstarch in the background.

You can't tell me that doesn't look good.

14) Stir the sauce around until it coats everything, and let it come up to a bubble. Once it bubbles, the sauce will turn into that thick wonderful delight we associate with takeout. Once it bubbles, you're ready to eat! Plate up some rice and go to town!

Holy mother of yum.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sour Cream Pancakes. Do it.

In my last post I promised to deliver many recipes and pictures of said recipes on the double. Here I am, fulfilling my promise...I'm even starting out with something that should be mandated by law as something you eat weekly. If not daily.


See all those nice air pockets forming? Oh yeah...

Now, before your lip curls up like my brother's did and you go, "Ewww, sour CREAM pancakes? That sounds horrible!" Let me tell you, well... you're wrong. Just plain wrong. These pancakes are not weighted down by a ton of flour or sugar... they are light and fluffy and soft and practically melt in your mouth. I actually ate a stack without any syrup or butter, they were JUST THAT GOOD. You must trust me. Do this. For your children. For your children's children. You won't regret it.

Sour Cream Pancakes

recipe by The Pioneer Woman, linked here.

1 cup of Sour Cream

7 TBSP All Purpose Flour

2 TBSP Sugar

1 tsp  Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Salt

2 Large Eggs

1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1) Get your ingredients & your Kindle open to your recipe!

I was ridiculously excited about this.

Now, shanghai your little sister into cracking your eggs into a bowl.


Then have her add in your vanilla.

Nice modelling Shel.


I told her that if she spilled I'd beat her with the whisk. That's what siblings are for, right?

2) In a separate bowl, whisk together all your dry ingredients.

Sugar sugar...awwww honey honey...

3) In a big bowl, plop in your sour cream. I know it looks like a LOT but I was making a triple batch.

I will never use you solely for baked potatoes again.

4) Now mix your dry ingredients into your sour cream until just mixed.


Don't be afraid of the lumps.

Looks kind of like really awesome butter.

5) Now, add your egg mixture!

Now nicely mix all that together. Again, don't be afraid of lumps. They will be there. They will not hurt anything.

Sorry about the horrid lighting...we had not a hint of sun that day.

Now, heat up your griddle to medium-low. DO NOT RUSH COOKING THESE! Spread some butter or oil on the griddle to get some non-stick action. Spoon about a 1/4th of a cup of batter on your griddle and wait. These suckers spread out pretty good, so don't get crazy and go for the full 1/2 cup.

Mmm...the smell.

Wait for it...



I'm not an awesome flipper.

See how nice and golden brown they got? THAT'S what you want. None of this beige barely touched the heat crap. These WILL NOT FLIP gracefully if they are undercooked because they are very soft. Then you'll be forced to eat them directly off the griddle before they burn because you won't be able to scoop them off without destroying them. You'll burn your mouth, you'll decide they are heavenly, go for more, and the cycle of burned mouth abuse continues. After about 2-3 minutes or so, they should be done on the second side. Plate those bad boys up and eat them! EAT THEM ALL!!!

Fork, spoon, shovel... whatever you need. Just get them in your mouth.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Eat all the things!!!

So, this post is going to be short and distressingly food free. I did not get a chance to get pictures uploaded this weekend, and I am morally opposed to recipes without pictures'll just have to wait. Sorry :(

However! I can tell you that this weekend held many wonderful recipe noms! I made orange chicken, broccoli cheese soup, steak fingers and gravy and my FAVORITE sour cream pancakes. Seriously, I may never eat regular pancakes again. These were BOMB and I highly recommend you go check them out HERE. You can tell how serious I am by all the shouty capitals I'm using.

This week, there shall be other wonderful noms. Chicken alfredo pizza, chicken enchiladas, BBQ Pork stuffed potatoes & pasta e fagioli. Stay tuned, there will be pictures and recipes tomorrow!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday! YAY! I get to do laundry, dishes, shopping...oh.

I know, I know... complain when it's Monday, complain when it's Friday... I don't mean too. I just have an abnormal amount of things to do this weekend!

Today I get off work at 2pm. I need to quickly run to HyVee and get 3 or 4 things, then to Dillons to get pasta, chicken (.99 per lb!), and cheese ($1.67 per bag!). Then I have to run home, throw it all in the fridge and get my buns to Eudora by 3pm to pick up Milo for his doctor's appointment. It's a shot appointment. I'm not happy. Milo will be even less so. I may take him out for frozen yogurt afterward just to make him happy. I know I have years to practice, but I really don't handle parental guilt well.

Once we get home, Milo gets to help mommy clean the house! We have company coming! Grandma Carla, Aunt Shelby & Uncle Jack are coming for a visit. Milo and I have a nice system of "pick up." I put Milo in a laundry basket, tie a scarf to it, and I drag him around the house and throw things in the basket that need to be picked up. Milo loves it because he gets to ride in his chariot and because he knows he's helping. Then there are times when we just throw him in a basket and whip him around the living room because he laughs hysterically and it's funny. He's also quite accomplished at laundry!

My big helper!

Saturday... I'm in pain when I think about my Saturday.

6am : Get up and make sour cream pancakes and eggs for everyone!
7am : Farmer's Market (I need honey!)
8am : Dillons for groceries
8:30am: Checkers for produce
9am : Aldis for canned groceries
9:30am : Home - Commence cooking!
Meals to prep include: Broccoli cheese soup x2 for week long lunches, steak fingers with gravy & mashed potatoes, double cheese pizza, orange chicken, turkey meatballs & taco soup! THERE SHALL BE PICTURES & RECIPES!!!
12pm : Shower, change & take off for the library
1pm : Meet my cultural psych class group to go over our project. We'll spend half our time arguing with a single group member and the other half actually working... seriously, every time the guy opens his mouth to draw breath this happens to the rest of us:

Except that we voluntarily do it to ourselves.

The self inflicted pain is the only thing that keeps me from becoming violent.

After that, I'm home free! If I can get all the cooking done before I go, I can spend the rest of the day hanging with my family. I'm confident this can happen if two things occur.

#1, I get an extra pair of hands in the kitchen. I'm temped to haul Daniel (my husband, if I haven't mentioned that) in with me and make him chop things. We NEVER get to play in the kitchen together because one of us always has to entertain Milo. Not with three other people in the house!

#2, Someone HAS to entertain Milo. It is supposed to be pretty nice out tomorrow, so hopefully Jack and Shelby will want to play outside with him a bunch. I swear, he could live out there if we let him.

Milo & mommy getting our outdoor love on.

 From there it's just an uphill climb through mountains of laundry until Sunday when I have a double header! We start at 4pm. I'm actually really happy because my mommy is going to be there to cheer me on! I know that sounds silly, but she hasn't seen me play in about 8 years now. I'll try to make her proud. I don't think my brother and sister have EVER seen me play, so that should be interesting.

Anyhoo... that's the update! We'll see how it goes, but I can promise loads of pictures and awesome recipes. Peace out, y'all! 


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cornish game hens & the weather...more exciting than it should be

Sunday I had a ball game scheduled at 9pm. The entire day leading up to that was cloudy, gloomy and generally fraught with doom. I eagerly watched the weather reports roll in. Phrases like, heavy rain, thunderstorm, & lightening caught my attention. At about 7:30pm, we heard a little plink plink plink from our roof. I gave a girly shriek and ran to the window to see the heavenly game cancelling rain (who has a game at 9pm on a Sunday, honestly?!?), when what to my wondering eyes should appear but HAIL! FLIPPING HAIL! AND THE CAR WE AREN'T EVEN HALFWAY THROUGH PAYING OFF SITTING IN THE UNCOVERED DRIVEWAY WITH THE WINDOWS OPEN! AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

I threw the keys at my husband and shoo-ed him out the door into the maelstrom while I picked up Milo and tried to explain that no, he couldn't follow daddy outside because he might get a concussion. Which resulted in this...

No honey, you can't go outside because flying ice will brain you.

*sigh* Oh well. He's still cute, even when screaming in my face. Anyhoo... five minutes later, the hail stopped and the rain started. Whoohoooo!!!!! I called my coach to get the confirmation that we weren't playing.

We were still playing. Say what now? Apparently there were still teams playing out there and the lightening was far enough off that they thought it was still safe. SON OF A CRACKER! So, in a horrid mood, I grabbed my clothes and my glove and waved goodbye to my husband. We played. We got our butts kicked. I injured my hand during play. Luckily we will be playing them again, so I'll be tripping the batter who hit that particular line drive the next time around. Moral of the story, kids? Don't trust the weather to get you out of crap.

I'm not sure how that ties into Citrus Stuffed Cornish Game Hens adapted from here and mashed potatoes adapted from here, but just imagine I make sense. All the time. That should save us both some confusion. Here you go...

Mmm...golden awesomeness.

Citrus & Herb Stuffed Cornish Game Hens with glaze & Mashed Potatoes

Serves 2

2 cornish game hens (about1 ½ lbs each), rinsed and dried off

Sea salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

1 teaspoons Italian seasoning

8 sprigs fresh thyme (about half a package)

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 lemons, sliced into thin slices

1 small oranges, sliced into thin slices


1/4 cup of your favorite citrus preserves (orange, apricot, etc.)

1 TBSP fresh squeezed orange juice

Mashed Potatoes

1 head of garlic, roasted (instructions below)

2 russet potatoes

4 medium red potatoes

3-4 yukon gold potatoes

2 TBSP butter

1/4 cup of half & half

2 TBSP milk (whatever you have, skim, 1%, etc.)

1 cup of spinach, washed & roughly chopped

Salt & Pepper to taste

1) Start by roasting your garlic. To roast the garlic head, preheat oven to 400 degrees, and cut a small square of foil to wrap the head of garlic in; cut the tops off of the head of garlic, drizzle it lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and wrap it tightly in the square of foil;

Milo doesn't understand "hot" yet.

Roast the head directly on the oven rack for 40 minutes, and remove.

The smell was awesome.

I like this one because you can see the salt on the side... yum.

Once slightly cooled, squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their papers, and set aside.

Squishy, but heavenly.

2) While your garlic is getting its roast on, start on your glaze. Combine your preserves & juice in a small pot and put it over medium, stirring to get it all mixed.

I used apricot preserves because it's what I had. Don't dig in with a spoon. You need this.

Once it starts to simmer, put it on low and let it simmer for 10 minutes or so until it has thickened a bit & reduced. Now, if you can be bothered, go ahead and strain all the chunky bits out and keep the juice on the counter until you're ready for it. If you can't be bothered, just try not to get any chunky bits on the hens when you brush on the glaze.

3) Let's get started on the hens! First, here are the hens I purchased...

They are wet because I was defrosting them in the sink.

Go ahead and take them out of the package. I recommend doing this in the sink. Less chance of spreading germs and there will be a hen juice SPLOSION if you just try and stab it with a knife. Use scissors, then wash them. I speak from experience. Give them a good rinse inside and out and dry them off as best you can with a dish towel which you will IMMEDIATELY go put in the laundry basket so you don't use it again. Move that hen around in the sink a little to make sure there aren't any surprise water pockets waiting for you. Now, lay them nicely on a place where you can prep them. I recommend a cookie sheet with a lip to catch any juice. I however, was an idiot and put them on my cutting board...

See that juice I missed? That did come back to bite me in case you were wondering.

Go ahead and preheat your oven to 375 degrees at this point. Also, throw your Italian seasoning, salt and pepper into a little bowl or cup. Trust me, you don't want to be handling your spices with icky hen hands.

Good stuff happening...

Now, liberally season your hens inside and out. Pull up the skin on the breasts a little and rub that spice on there. Don't be afraid! Now, take your fresh herbs and stuff an equal amount of each into the hens followed by your sliced fruit. You can even shove some under the breast skin if you like.

Full birdies!

At this point, you can either pop them in a container and put them in the fridge for 24 hours to kind of let them "marinade" in their herbs and citrus, OR you can slap some foil on a cookie sheet, spray it with non stick spray and throw some glaze all over them like so...


Now, pop those babies into your oven breast side up for 20 minutes. Go play a quick round of scrabble or something. After 20 minutes, take them out of the oven and spread more glaze on them and put them right back. Do this two more times. Don't forget to set your timer for 20 minutes! So, they should be in the oven for a little over an hour probably... an hour and twenty minutes tops. No one likes a dry bird. Always check the internal temp to make sure it's completely done. The juices should also run clear. If the skin starts to get a little too brown (all ovens are different) take some foil and cover up the tops of the birds and keep cooking.

This was after the 3rd time glazing. Mmmm...

4) In between your glazing, get started on your potatoes.This is what I had to work with...

I'm Irish. I love me some potatoes.
I did not take pictures of me peeling them. But peel them. If you decide to leave the skins on, wash them like there is no tomorrow first. Anyway, peel, rinse, and cut them into 1 inch cubes and put them in a pot. Fill the pot with cold water just until it covers the potatoes, like so...

Oh yeah, starchy water.
Crank your heat up to high until they start bubbling, then lower the temp a little so they don't bubble over. Check them with a fork occasionally, but you're going to mash them so you want those suckers SOFT. I just let mine go and forgot about them for half an hour. Now, the original recipe calls for kale in the tades. I am not a kale person, plus Checkers had fresh spinach on sale for .98 for this big bag!

I practically threw this in the cart.
So, naturally, we're having spinach instead. While your potatoes bubble away, grab a cup of spinach and rinse it off really well in a colander. Then get your hands in there and SQUEEZE all the water out you can! Then, give it a quick rough chop and let it rest on a paper towel or dish towel until you're ready.

Green is good, people.

Once your potatoes are fork tender, drain those suckers and put them back in the pot to let them sweat out any extra moisture. Throw your spinach on top and stir it in. The extra heat will wilt it with almost no effort on your part.

Bad lighting at it's finest.

Meanwhile, prep your butter, milk & half and half. Once your spinach is wilted, dump it in the potatoes and mash like you've never mashed before!

Oh yeah, baby.
Oh! Garlic! I forgot about the garlic! I swear, if my head weren't attached... anyway. Garlic. Grab your soft roasted garlic and a fork. Now, mash the crap out of it until it's a nice garlic paste. Throw it into your potatoes and stir/mash it around until it's all incorporated. I highly recommend adding salt & pepper at this point as well. Potatoes NEED salt, so don't be afraid.

You're all done! Plate it all up! DEVOUR!

Yes, it was as good as it looks.