Friday, July 18, 2014

Restaurant Style Sweet and Sour Chicken

So sweet and sour chicken is my husbands absolute favorite chinese food meal He loves it and its the dish that he orders to judge the quality of any chinese food joint. There is this place back home in Lincoln Nebraska that is the best chinese food we both have ever had. And every new place we try is measured against them. Well, my husband said this meal brought him back to Fortune Palace and he wants me to make it once a month.

I found the premise for this recipe on AllRecipes. But I made so many changes that I felt I had to blog it .
This recipe isn't difficult, but it does take a little bit of time. I would recommend setting aside about a hour to really complete it.

You could easily substitute the veggies for a bag of stir fry mix to cut down on some prep time. Just steam or cook as directed on the bag

You could easily do this with chunks of pork as well.

I suggest having a cooking rack over a baking sheet and keeping it in a 200 degree oven to place the chicken that has been fried so it stays warm and crisp. You can also put the veggies on a tray on the bottom to keep it warm as well.

Alternatively, you could fry this up earlier in the day (nap time, anyone?) and reheat on a rack over a cookie sheet at 350 for 15 minutes. They reheat very well. You can freeze any extras and do the same. The leftover chicken also makes EXCELLENT chicken nuggets for kids. Delish.

I suggest serving this with rice cooked in chicken broth. You could do some fried rice if you are feeling extra ambitious! 

I preferred to not use food coloring to give the sauce its signature orange pink look. It does result in a odd opaque white look, which may not be for everyone. Feel free to add a couple drops of orange food coloring if you desire. I might invest in some natural dyes or even try a slight pinch of turmeric. I actually think that would work very well. Not too much though.

I would add the sauce to each serving as its dished up so the chicken stays crisp. Also, you don't want to have the "eye is bigger than the stomach" syndrome and have a bunch of soggy leftovers.

With all that being said, lets begin. I really suggest reading the recipe in full before hand to get the steps in mind. Its a lot of steps, but its simple. And the results are worth it.

Restaurant Style Sweet and Sour Chicken


For the veggies:
2 green bell peppers, diced into 1 inch squares
1 large onion, diced into 1 inch squares
2 carrots, peeled and cut into very thin rings
1 head broccoli, cut into small florets (optional. We had it to use up)

For the sauce:
1 20 oz can pineapple chunks and juice (remove chunks and set aside)
1/2 cup white vinegar
2/3 cup white sugar
1 3/4 cup water, divided
1/4 cup cornstarch
food coloring (if desired)

For the chicken:
4 chicken breasts
salt and pepper
garlic powder
onion powder

2 1/4 cups self rising flour (or add 1 tbsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt to 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour)
2 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil (of choice. coconut, olive, canola/veg)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (You can use water if you want. I think the broth added something)

Enough to put 1 inch of oil in your pan. Use a smaller pan if needed, and do in batches. I used a jar of coconut oil. Maybe 14 oz or so? You can use peanut if you want, or even vegetable oil if you must (I'm not a fan, personally.) You can use coconut oil several times over if you strain it.

Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. Pat dry and lay on  a platter. Salt and pepper liberally and then sprinkle with garlic and onion powder. Rub it around and make sure its well coated. Let sit on the counter for 20-30 minutes to take the chill off and let the flavor meld.

For the veggies, steam in a pot for maybe 5 minutes, until softened. If you don't have a steamer insert, you can lightly boil, or even sauté for a few minutes. Keep warm in 200 degree oven while frying.

I would start the rice at this point if you are boiling up some rice.

In a saucepan over medium, stir together the pineapple juice, vinegar, sugar, and 1 1/2 cup water. Heat until boiling. While heating, whisk together the 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup cornstarch (and food coloring, if desired). Once boiling, turn off heat and add in the cornstarch mixture. Stir well until it thickens (it was very quick for me). Keep warm.

Start the oil in a frying pan on one notch above medium heat until it reaches 350-360 degrees or so. No thermometer? Use a wooden spoon.

While the oil is heating, whisk together the dry ingredients for the batter. Add the oil, egg, and water/broth. Mix, but don't over mix, until combined and like a thick pancake batter.

Add the chicken to that bowl and coat stir until well coated.

Carefully add bits of chicken to the pan. Don't over crowd the pan or do too many at once. This will be several batches. Cook a few minutes and flip with tongs. They cook fast, but it doesn't hurt to sacrifice one nugget to make sure the chicken is getting done in the middle, just to be safe. Put the cooked chicken on a rack in the oven to keep warm while you finish the rest.

To serve, dish up the rice, veggies, some of the reserved pineapple and chicken. Drizzle the sauce generously over it all and enjoy the amazing meal you pulled off.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Crock Pot Chicken and Broccoli Over Rice

I found myself with a limited grocery budget, a need to get creative with some pantry staples, and a desire to not heat up the kitchen. This was the result. With some frozen stock (or cans of cream of chicken/mushroom if you prefer), some frozen chicken and broccoli, and some rice, you are there.

Crock Pot Chicken and Broccoli Over Rice

3 chicken breasts (I had bone in and just saved the bone for stock later)
1 can of cream of mushroom (I LOVE this brand when I can't make my own)
1 can  cream of chicken (I always make my own, but you can use the above brand as well. Or Campbell's, of course.
1 pound (give or take) frozen broccoli(toss it in the fridge while the crockpot is going, if you remember)
3/4 cup sour cream or plain greek yogurt

2 cups dried rice
3 cups chicken broth
1 tsp salt

Throw the chicken in the crock pot with the creams of soups. Cook on high 4 hours or low 6. If going for "low", and you have the time, put on high for 30ish minutes and turn to low. Just gets things going faster.

Once the time has past, remove the chicken to a plate. Cut/break the chicken into a few smaller pieces and let cool for for a few minutes until you can handle it. Turn crock pot on high and add the broccoli and sour cream/yogurt. Cover. Shred chicken and add back to crock pot. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until warmed through. Should be good by the time the rice is done

Cook rice in rice cooker or on stove per cooking instructions (Yes, I add less liquid. Its my preference. Do what you want there)

Dish up some rice and top with chicken and broccoli mixture. You could always sprinkle on some cheddar cheese if you desire.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sausage, Peppers, and Onions Over Rice

Pretty much anything with bell peppers and onions makes me happy. Such a delicious combo and I just think about it for days before and after I make it. Yes, I am a foodie freak. I can't help it.

This is a pretty simple recipe, and can be tweaked a few different ways depending on your tastes or what you have on hand. I have made this with kielbasa, Target chicken sausage with garlic and spinach (a fav around here) and with Aidells sweet italian chicken sausage. Really, any precooked sausage would work here. Go with what speaks to you. Or is on sale.

You could make this over quinoa instead of rice if you prefer.

I strongly recommend making the rice/quinoa with broth. It really adds flavor and nutrients for minimal effort. If you aren't making it yourself yet, you should try. Pretty easy and incredibly frugal.

I can make this meal with 1 package of sausage and 2 bell peppers and a onion. And it makes JUST enough for 1 meal for my family of 4. So I double it, so we can have seconds and some leftovers. This recipe is for my doubled version. It reheats well.

Feel free to morph this to your own tastes. Add basil if you want, or italian seasoning. Mince some garlic, or add some tomato paste. Whatever flies up your skirt, or compliments the sausage you have.

Sausage, Peppers, and Onions Over Rice

2 packages cooked sausage of choice, sliced into 1-1.5 inch rounds
4-5 bell peppers (whatever colors you want) sliced thinly
2 onions, sliced thinly
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp worchestershire
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
a few shakes hot sauce
salt and pepper
1.5 cups chicken stock
parmesan for topping, if desired

2.5 cups rice
3.75 cups broth (I prefer a ratio of 1:1.5 rice:liquid, but if you prefer 1:2, by all means, add more broth)
2 tsp salt (less if you use salted bought broth)

Cook in rice cooker or per bag instructions (I never make on the stove, so your guess is as good as mine, honestly)

Get your rice started.

While its cooking, heat a large skillet over medium. Add the butter and sausage. Cook until sausage is warmed up and butter is flavored. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate.

Add the peppers and onions to the butter and cook until softened. About 10 minutes. Add the sausage, worchestershire, balsamic, hot sauce, and stock. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add more sauces if you desire. Simmer on med low until rice is done.

Dish up a bowl of rice and top with peppers and veggies and spoon sauce over rice.