Orange Chicken with Roasted Bok Choy

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Greg must have been 10, meaning I was about 12, and we were all crammed around our circular kitchen table in what seemed to be a who-could-eat-the-most-the-fastest competition. Mom and Dad had ordered take-out from our favorite Chinese place. My face buried in a bowl of pork fried rice and chicken fingers, I was hardly paying attention to Greg – until he starting screaming.

“Something’s happening in my mouth!” he yelled in panic, his eyes wide with fear. He had mistaken a hot chili pepper for an orange peel in his favorite dish – orange chicken.

You’d think our response would be concern – and initially it was. My mom went to his rescue, giving him a glass of milk to counteract the heat. But once we learned what was going on, we all started laughing. Something’s happening in my mouth? He couldn’t have come up with something more specific to say? Maybe, “I ate something too spicy!”

To this day, every time my family orders Chinese (which is often) the “something’s happening in my mouth” story comes up. Although we laugh at how funny it was and tease Greg for his over-reaction, we all take extra care to examine our plates and avoid those hot chili peppers. None of us want to be the family joke for the next 15 years (notice I skipped the peppers in this recipe!).

Orange Chicken with Roasted Bok Choy
Yield: 2 servings. Per Serving: $3.28, 477 calories, 18g fat, 60g carbs, 24g protein

Cook ½ cup quinoa according to package directions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine 2 tablespoons flour with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cut 2 chicken breasts into bite sized pieces and toss in the flour mixture. Cook the chicken over medium heat in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a nonstick frying pan (this helps reduce the amount of oil you need). Cook about 5 minutes on each side, until the chicken is lightly browned.

While the chicken is cooking, juice 2 oranges. Combine the juice, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and ½ tablespoon honey in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until bubbling, about 5 minutes. Add to the skillet with the (cooked) chicken and simmer on medium-low heat until the mixture sticks to the chicken.

Quarter 2 bok choy and remove the core by cutting the ends off at a diagonal. Put in baking dish in a single layer and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 10 minutes, flipping once, until the leaves are bright green and starting to brown.

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Chicken Fried Quinoa

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When my whole family gets together, we usually order Chinese for dinner. I’m the oldest of five siblings and things can get a little hectic when we’re all in the same place at the same time. Although I love cooking for my family, it can be hard to please everyone. Chinese seems to do the trick because there’s something for everyone. We even have it for dinner on Christmas Day – it’s become a tradition.

For as long as I can remember, my favorite dish from the Chinese food menu has been pork-fried rice. I love the peas, stir-fried scrambled eggs, and the soy sauce soaked rice. But it’s a treat for me, usually something I only eat when ordering in with my family. The take-out version usually has way too much sodium and the rice to vegetable ratio is less than ideal.

To fill my craving for pork-fried rice, I recreated the recipe myself. As I’ve mentioned before, I love recreating take-out meals. It’s a challenge to make something healthier and tastier than the restaurant-prepared version.

When you cook for yourself, you get to control everything that goes into your meal. When making this recipe, I deliberately went easy on the salt and soy sauce and added tons of veggies. It takes all of the guilt out of eating your favorite take-out meals. Oh and guess what? Cooking it yourself usually makes it cheaper. And personally, I think it tastes better.

What’s your favorite take-out meal? Have you ever tried recreating it?

Chicken Fried Quinoa

Cook 2/3 cup quinoa according to package directions, replacing half of the liquid with low-sodium chicken broth.

Combine 2 tablespoons flour, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Toss 1 pound chicken in the flour mixture. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a fry pan over medium heat. Fry the chicken until just cooked, about 2 minutes per side. You’ll know the chicken is ready to flip when it easily comes off the pan. You might have to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan.

In a separate, large pan (preferably with taller sides) heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium heat. Sauté 1 cup diced onion about two minutes. Add 1 cup diced red bell pepper and sauté for an additional 2 minutes. Add 1 cup shredded carrots and sauté about 3 more minutes. Finally, add 1 cup frozen peas.

When the chicken is finished, add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil to the pan and heat again. Add two large eggs, and cook until scrambled and cooked through. Break into small pieces.

Add the quinoa and egg to the vegetables and stir to combine. Add 2 tablespoons soy sauce and serve warm.

Yield: 4 servings. Per Serving: $3.22, 439 calories, 15.5g fat, 36g carbs, 39g protein.