Sunday, June 12, 2011

Michael said to me: “One thing I’d say you’re just as good at, if not better than photography, is cooking.”

That type of statement had me soaring above the clouds. Knowing that my fiancé loves my cooking is a wonderful feeling. I hope Brianna loves my cooking as much too.

If I lived a second life I would opt for culinary school. I would move to a foodie city (Denver, NY, Boston, Chicago, DC) to pursue a different dream. I wouldn’t look for love but look for plane tickets; I’d travel the world to taste all of the many tastes. I’d not have a dog, I’d not have a fiancé, and I surely wouldn’t have a baby on the way.

But cooking healthy, tasty, homey, motherly, feel-good meals for my family sounds like a life I’d much rather live. I do try to experiment in the kitchen and thank goodness I am engaged to a man who enjoys my culinary experiments. He not only encourages them but he helps me in the kitchen – he keeps me company, chops onions, slices chicken breast, stirs pots, suggests flavors, and is my sounding board. He is also the Master Griller (do I need to remind you about his mango chipotle chicken skewers, with pineapple and cherries?).

Cooking wasn’t something I was immediately drawn to as a child. My mom would offer to teach me but I didn’t ever want to learn. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties did I realize the complete joy I got out of cooking, and have been rolling along since then. I don’t necessarily expect Bria to love cooking like I do (but I’m gonna sew her her own little apron anyway) – as long as she loves what I cook/bake for her like I love what my mom cooks/bakes for me.

With that being said you may occasionally see a recipe on this blog. I may experiment with something to the point of adding it to my recipe catalog for repeat use. The following was an experiment I did last week that ended up being something that stuck out in our heads.

“This is my new favorite dish,” Michael said to me. A few days later he requested it for dinner. I love when that happens.

Asian Orange Chicken
(Think: Your local Chinese restaurant – I know they all have something like this on the menu. Bytheway, don’t let the long list of ingredients detour you. After making once I eyeballed most of the ingredients – not worrying about measuring cuts down on the time.)

The Sauce

1 ½ cups water
2 tablespoons orange juice (I squeezed an entire fresh orange for the juice once and used concentrate another time. Both are great.)
¼ cup lemon juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar (I used white wine vegar)
2 ½ tablespoons gsoy sauce
2 tablespoons grated orange zest (I zested an entire orange, before squeezing it for its juice)
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger root (I didn’t have any on hand)
½ teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water

2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

1.     1. Pour 1 ½ cup water, orange juice, lemon juice, vinegar, soy sauce into a pan and set over medium-high heat. Stir in the orange zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, chopped onion, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cool 10 to 15 minutes.

2.     2. Place the chicken pieces into a resealable plastic bag. When contents of saucepan have cooled, pour 1 cup of sauce into bag.  Reserve the remaining sauce. Seal the bag, and refrigerate at least 1 hour (2 if you can).

3.     3. In another resealable plastic bag, mix the flour, salt, and pepper. Add the marinated chicken pieces, seal the bag, and shake to coat.

4.     4. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place chicken into skillet, and brown on both sides (try turning as little as possible. Letting the chicken get dark brown and crispy is not a bad thing). Move chicken pieces to a cookie sheet and put into a 200 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes (long enough for the oil to dry, and chicken to be cooked thru). Take chicken out and press with paper towels to remove excess oil.

5.     5. Bring your remaining orange sauce to a boil over medium-high heat. Mix together cornstarch and water; stir into sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 b  I serve this family-style: in a large dish I empty about 3 cups of cooked rice, then add chicken on top, followed by the orange sauce. Let everyone serve themselves out of this dish.

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