Thursday, April 30, 2015

Orange Chicken with Sriracha

With the exception of In 'n Out Burger (I'm a California girl after all!), I'm not a big fast food fan. Every now and then, however, I'll run to Panda Express and get their orange chicken. Bite-size chunks of fried chicken in an orange sauce, what's not to love about that? When I found this recipe I knew I had to try it, the addition of the spicy Sriracha sauce appealed to my taste buds. I was not disappointed. The orange sauce was amazing, so flavorful, with just a slight spicy aftertaste. It was so good I think I could pour it over pound cake and devour it!
My husband complains that I don't serve the same meal twice, or there are long spaces between rotations.  What can I say?  I get bored cooking the same things! If he likes a new recipe he will tell me it's a "keeper". He proclaimed this recipe a keeper but then complained that he probably wouldn't get served it again for three years.  I promised him I would make it again before then!

Orange Chicken with Sriracha

For the marinade:
1 cup regular chicken broth
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
Zest of one orange
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2-3 tablespoons Sriracha, depending on desired heat level
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolve with 2 tablespoons water

For the chicken:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-size chunks
1 cup cornstarch, in a pie pan
2 large eggs beaten, in a pie pan
1 cup oil for frying

Optional: sesame seeds and green onions for garnish

Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl, and whisk to incorporate well.  In a separate bowl, combine chicken with 1/2 cup of the marinade, making sure that all pieces are thoroughly covered with the marinade.  Let it marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring remaining marinade to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Sauce will thicken as it gets to a boil.  Once sauce is thickened, turn heat off.  Keep sauce warm while you fry the chicken.

Drain chicken and discard used marinade.

Dip chicken pieces, a few at a time, into the pan of beaten eggs. Let excess eggs drip off, and dredge chicken pieces in the pan of cornstarch.  Press to coat well. Repeat until all pieces are coated.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high to high heat, until oil is very hot.  Add chicken pieces, taking care not to overcrowd, and fry until cooked through, about 1-2 minutes. Place fried chicken on paper towels, and work in batches until all chicken is fried.

Toss chicken with warm sauce and serve immediately.  Serve over rice and garnish as desired.

Recipe adapted from

Monday, April 27, 2015

Chocolate Crispy Cookies

My daughter asked for this recipe the other day and I was reminded that it had been a while since I had made them.  Why, I don't know, as they are so easy and I usually have all the ingredients on hand! I've been making these cookies since 1985, when I was home on maternity leave with my daughter. The recipe was found in a Southern Living magazine. They have been a family favorite ever since. They are a nice change from traditional "Toll House" chocolate chip cookies.  These cookies have no brown sugar and the crunch is provided by rice cereal (Rice Krispies) instead of nuts. Kids love them!
Chocolate Crispy Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups crisp rice cereal
1 (6-ounce) package semisweet chocolate morsels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter; gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, beating well. Combine flour, soda and salt; add to creamed mixture, beating well.  Stir in the rice cereal and chocolate morsels.

Drop dough by heaping teaspoonfuls (or small ice cream scoop) onto lightly greased or parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake for 13 minutes.  Cool slightly on cookie sheets; remove to wire racks.

Yield: approximately 3 dozen cookies
My most-adorable baking assistant!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Lemon Pound Cake (and a few strawberries!)

The strawberry patches are open and the strawberries are just wonderful; so big and juicy! We adore strawberry desserts, especially this time of year when we can get just-picked strawberries. Strawberry shortcake is a dessert I make quite often.  We love it and it's so easy to do.  I do mix up the cake selection, however. We never have the store-bought shortcakes. Instead I'll make a country cake, pound cake or angel food cake. A must for us is freshly whipped cream for the topping. It takes just a few minutes and makes all the difference!
My Hubbers loves lemon loaf cakes.  As he is headed out of town for a bike ride, I thought I would bake him a cake to take in the RV.  The recipe makes two loaves, making strawberry shortcake with the extra loaf was a no-brainer! Plus, it gave me an opportunity to use my lemon loaf pan.  I've talked about my cake pan obsession before and this one is one of my favorites!  So cute, with the cutout citrus and leaves!

The recipe comes from Martha Stewart.  It has buttermilk in it which adds a pleasant tang to the slight lemon flavor of the cake.

Lemon Pound Cake

3/4 cup buttermilk
Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in lowest position. Butter and flour (or use baking spray) two 4 1/2-by-8-inch (6-cup) loaf pans.

In a small bowl (or liquid measuring cup), combine buttermilk with lemon zest and juice.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three parts alternately with the buttermilk mixture in two parts, beginning and ending with flour; beat just until smooth (do not overmix).

Divide batter evenly between pans; smooth tops.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes (tent with foil if browning too quickly).  Cool 15 minutes in pan.  Turn out cakes onto a rack; cool completely before glazing.

Lemon glaze

2 cups confectioners sugar
3-4 tablespoon lemon juice

Place confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup; stir in lemon juice (glaze should be thick, yet pourable). Add more sugar or lemon juice, as necessary, to achieve desired consistency. Pour over cakes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Honey-Orange Roast Chicken

I survived another tax season, hallelujah! Now it's time to catch up on work that got put on the back burner during our crazy time and catch up on household chores.  I have some sewing projects lined up, two cross-stitched pieces to get finished, gardening to do, and an outdoor patio furniture piece to be constructed/painted that involves an old door. So many projects, so little time!

I've longed to be in the kitchen and to have a home-cooked meal.  My first day off after April 15 involved hopping on a flight to Las Vegas and meeting up with my son for a divisional drag race.  Home-cooked meals were not a happening there; we ate turkey sandwiches from an ice chest and had to find a restaurant each night for dinner. Once home I had so many things to do that I knew spending a lot of time in the kitchen just wasn't going to fit into my timeline.  So I went to what always works in a pinch, a good old-fashioned roast chicken with vegetables. I adapted this recipe from two that I found online and it worked very well.  I love anything with orange in it and the addition of honey added a nice sweetness to it.  I especially liked the carrots with the orange/honey flavor. This recipe will definitely be made again!

Honey-Orange Roast Chicken

1 3/12 pound whole broiler-fryer chicken
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 shallot, sliced
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup chicken broth, divided
8 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
1/2 pound green beans
1 lemon, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Rinse chicken cavity; pat chicken dry with paper towels. Skewer neck skin to back; tie legs to tail.  Place chicken in a shallow roasting pan.  Brush with butter; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast, uncovered, for 1 hour.  Distribute carrots in pan; roast another 1/4 to 3/4 hour or until drumsticks move easily in sockets and chicken is no longer pink (180 degrees F).  Combine honey and orange zest; brush chicken with half the mixture.  Roast about 5 minutes more or until the chicken has a golden brown glaze.

Remove chicken from pan and tent with foil.  Transfer roasting pan to stove top. Add shallots, orange juice, 1/4 cup chicken broth, remaining honey, and green beans. Simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until juices thicken slightly and the vegetables are tender. Add lemon slices to pan and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes more or until heated through.

Remove vegetables from pan.  Combine cornstarch with remaining 1/4 cup chicken broth.  Stir into liquid mixture; stir until thickened.  Serve the thickened sauce with the chicken.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Strawberry Trifle

Tax season 2015 has been brutal, very long hours, 7 days a week, numbers everywhere.  We are down to the last few days and the end can't come soon enough for me.  I miss being home, I long to get back in the kitchen, craft room and my garden, in no particular order!

Sunday I "only" worked until mid-afternoon so had time to run by the local strawberry patch near my house. It's been open a few weeks now but I haven't had the time or energy to make the trip and to do something with the strawberries.  I brought home three baskets of just-picked strawberries, some of which may have ended up in my mouth on the way home. I wanted to make a treat for the office and decided on a trifle. Trifles are easy to make, transport well, and look pretty, too.  While our dinner was cooking I baked an angel food cake.  This morning I got up a little earlier than normal and assembled the trifle. The berries are so fresh and yummy this time of year, I had a few for breakfast!
Many trifles have jam-layered pieces of pound cake and are often sprinkled with a liqueur. This trifle is very simple...layers of cubed angel food cake, vanilla pudding, sliced strawberries and topped with a layer of fresh whipped cream. It's more like an amped-up version of strawberry shortcake.

Strawberry Trifle

Angel food cake (I baked mine in 2 loaf pans to make it easier to slice and cube)
1 package instant vanilla pudding
2-3 pints strawberries, sliced
1 cup whipping cream

Make pudding per package directions, set aside to thicken some.

Whip cream, adding sugar to taste.

Layer cubed angel food cake in trifle dish, top with one-half the pudding and one-third the sliced strawberries.  Repeat.  For the final layer, layer cubed angel food cake and remaining strawberries, top with whipped cream.

This trifle is best served immediately or within a few hours of assembling as the angel food cake will begin to get soggy after a while.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter Chicks and Friday Night!

My Friday nights with my granddaughter have been sporadic lately. Late appointments on Friday, combined with early Saturday morning appointments, aren't conducive to quality time spent with a 4-year old. In fact, it's been a few weeks and we were both missing each other. Last night we made it happen and we had a wonderful evening!

We went for a long neighborhood walk, she with her doll stroller piled to the top with babies and accessories, and me with Harley on his leash. We chatted, we laughed, we watched birds play in the sprinklers. Once home we headed to the kitchen to bake cookies.  I first spotted these cookies on Pinterest and knew they would be an easy and fun baking adventure for us. Her Papa came home when we were almost done with the cookies so she ran off with him while I finished decorating them. I guess she missed both of us!
After eating a few cookies for dessert, we got her bathed and settled in bed for a movie and popcorn. Then she wanted to be read to. After two Disney Princess stories she told me she wanted to go to sleep.  She rolled over and was instantly out! I looked at the clock and it was 9:30! The night just flew by!

I needed to be in the office early this morning and she was a little groggy, but she reminded me that she was going to take the cookies to her Mommy & Daddy. Due to my schedule it will be a few more Fridays before we have another sleepover.  In the meantime, we made lots of memories to cherish and remember last night!

I found the cookie recipe here. They only use a few ingredients and are quick to put together.

Easter Chicks Lemon Cookies

9 orange candy slices
1 box lemon cake mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup shortening
Yellow food coloring (optional)
1-2 tablespoons mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
small amount of orange frosting (I used a tube found in baking section of store)

The edges of the orange slices sort of form a triangle, which makes for a perfect beak.  Cut off about 1/4 inch of the edge of each orange slice, and set aside to use as beaks.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together cake mix, eggs, and shortening until well-blended.

Add several drops of yellow food coloring if you want the yellow color of the chicks to be brighter. (I forgot this step but they were still quite yellow!)

For each chick, roll two balls of dough.  One ball should be about 1 1/2 inches, and the other should be about 3/4 inches.  Just make sure that one ball is a good bit larger than the other.

Place on a lightly greased or parchment-covered cookies sheet with the smaller ball just touching the larger ball.

Bake at 350 degrees, for 10-12 minutes, or until edges of cookies are golden brown.

Remove from heat, and while the cookies are still warm, press in two mini chocolate chips for the eyes.

Remove cookies from cookie sheet to a wire rack to cool completely, being careful not to break the chicks apart.

Once cookies are completely cool, pipe ** orange frosting onto the bottom of each chick for the feet.

Using a dot of orange frosting, "glue" an orange slice beak onto each cookie.

** I squeezed the tube frosting into a small Ziploc bag, snipping the end, making for an easy piping bag.
Curls, bow and scraped elbow.  That's my girl!