It started with sweet and sour chicken – “it” as in my kids’ introduction to Chinese food! Few years have passed since then and now their all-time favorite dish to order at a Chinese restaurant is orange chicken – crispy fried morsels of bite size chicken pieces that are lightly coated in an orange and soy infused glaze. If you are lucky to have had the opportunity to bite into one of these perfectly prepared chicken pieces, you can easily see why this dish is so popular with kids and adults alike.
Having said that, not all orange chicken dishes are created equal. Actually not even close! I have had many an encounter with tiny crumbs of chicken clinging to their dear reputation in mounds of soggy breading/batter. There have been instances of good balance between meat and batter, but the meat could have seen better days. And there have been instances when both meat and batter were just right, except for the overload of barely wet dried orange rinds with overly sweet concoction of what is supposed to be a delicious orange sauce.
Hmph! So, having had one of those episodes recently, I figured why not make a version at home that will hopefully not only taste better, but better for you as well. Chicken breast, oven “fried” rather than deep fried, just a touch of brown sugar rather than corn syrup or other concoctions??!! Yep, you got it!
So, armed with all-white chicken meat, fresh oranges (for both the zest and the juice) and panko bread crumbs, I braved myself to trust my senses of taste and smell and recreate a dish that is enjoyed by my family, especially my kids.
This dish surpassed all my expectations, especially when it came to the texture of the cooked chicken and the perfectly balanced sweet-sour-spicy nature of the sauce/glaze. Panko coating left the chicken pieces crispy and held out quite strong even with the glaze on top. I deep fried a small batch of chicken coated in egg and cornstarch but my kids preferred the oven “fried” version with panko because of its texture and taste! I couldn’t be happier! 🙂
So, here is a disclaimer…I have not traveled to the Hunan province of China to really know what this dish is supposed to taste like. So, this is purely based on my experience enjoying crispy battered chicken coated in a citrusy/orange soy glaze. 🙂 Enjoy at your own will!
I think few things go perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea as biscotti. The delicate flavors, the crunchy texture that slowly melds to a soft crumble at the touch of your hot beverage…You get the point.
They are not the most diet-friendly item out there. So, when I do make some at home, I opt for recipes with less butter and sugar – you know, the light kinds which are really hard to come by, especially if you are looking for the typical biscotti texture. This recipe however is a regular ol’ version, softened just so with the use of half Splenda/half sugar and less butter (about 5 tablespoons for about 20 cookies).
Biscotti flavor possibilities are endless. This one is one of my favorite combinations – orange and almond! Combination of the citrus notes from the orange zest and the toasted crunchiness of almonds are pure delight. I am looking forward to repeating this recipe with anise flavor – something I have never tried before! 🙂
You can store these biscottis in a tightly closed container for a week or so. So, what are you waiting for? Bake a batch and make next week one to pause and enjoy!
(NOTE: This recipe is adapted from the original from Bon Appetit, Dec 1999)
2 1/4 cups flour (I used combination of white whole wheat and all purpose)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup Splenda for baking
1/2 cup refined sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1 egg white for brushing the top
Semi sweet or dark chocolate for dipping or drizzling on the baked cookies
Chopped nuts for sprinkling on chocolate.
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
2. Sift flours with baking powder and salt.
3. In a medium bowl, combine melted butter and sugar and whisk to incorporate well.
4. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla and orange zest.
5. Incorporate dry ingredients till a soft dough forms.
6. Fold in chopped almonds.
7. Transfer the dough to the parchment. Form into a roll about 18″ long. Gently press to flatten it to about 4-5″ wide. Brush the top with lightly beaten egg white.
8. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Using a sharp knife, slice the loaf about 3/4″ wide. This should result in at least 20 cookies.
9. Place the sliced cookies cut side down on the parchment and return to the oven for another 10 minutes till they crisp up.
10. Remove from oven, let cool completely and store in airtight container for up to a week.
If using optional touch-ups, melt chocolate over double boiler (or in microwave, taking care not to scorch the chocolate) and dip just the ends or entire one side of the cookie. Sprinkle nuts if desired.
Here is a yummy recipe just in time for your weekend breakfast, although this could be whipped up for a weekday starter as well.
Pancakes are simple yet delicious, especially when you mix in various add-ins like nuts, chocolate chips, diced fruits etc. One of my favorite type of pancake is the one using ricotta cheese. Ricotta goes incredibly well with citrus, specifically orange or lemon – either combination is irresistible. I have made these pancakes with both orange and lemon and I must say each had its own nuances when it came to taste and flavor and I enjoyed both types.
This recipe is a spinoff from the original found on Williams-Sonoma website. I made couple of changes including using a combination of all-purpose flour plus cornstarch instead of cake flour and replacing some of the flour with ground flax. I also used 2 extra large eggs and juice from only 1/2 the lemon – although next time around I will try a whole lemon. Lastly, you can certainly add in some chocolate chips to these pancakes – who can resist the combination of citrus and chocolate?!
These pancake are already slightly sweet, so they just need a light drizzle of maple syrup or honey – or as suggested in the original recipe, raspberry sauce! Yum!
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup 1% milk
2 eggs, separated
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon (could use up to a full lemon)
1 1/4 cups MINUS 1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup ground flax
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt, divided
Chocolate chips, optional
1. Mix ricotta, milk, egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice in a medium bowl.
2. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, ground flax, baking powder and 1/8 tsp salt.
3. Stir in dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until combined.
4. Whisk egg whites till frothy. Add remaining 1/8 tsp salt (I used kosher) and continue whisking until soft peaks form.
5. Slowly fold in about 1/2 the egg whites into the pancake batter and follow with the rest.
6. Heat a griddle over medium heat. Lightly grease and prepare the pancakes as usual.
7. Serve immediately with your favorite syrup or raspberry sauce.
Of late, I am trying to have on-hand at least one “to-go” type of food item for those days when everyone at home is running around like a hamster trying to get ready to start the day. One of my ultimate favorite is Swiss-style muesli (aka overnight oats, chia pudding). Store bought granola bars (and their friends and family) are convenient but they are usually packed with lots of refined sugars and other unnecessary ingredients that are used to extend their shelf-life. So, I have been thinking of alternatives to help us eat a litter healthier.
This is where this recipe fits in. I am not saying these whole wheat muffins are totally healthy at all. They are definitely carb-heavy. Each muffin has about a tablespoon of added sugar (which equates to about 12 grams/48 calories of added sugar in each muffin plus whatever is in the chocolate chips). American Heart Association recommends less than 100 calories from sugar for women and 150 for men. On the other hand, 12 muffins use up only 2 eggs and 1/4 cup of butter, so I guess that may qualify them to be low-fat? 🙂
Having said that, I think these are probably better for you than most of the regular muffins that one might get at a grocery store, school/office cafeteria or at a coffee-shop. If you are used to super moist and light muffins, be forewarned that these muffins are on the denser side due to the small amount of added fat and the denseness of whole wheat as compared to all-purpose flour. However, these are quite soft and full of flavor (especially with the hint of orange flavor in them) and I hope you will enjoy them as much as we did.
Whole wheat chocolate muffin
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup prune puree (homemade or store bought)
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup 1% milk
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flax
1/4 cup cocoa (I used Dutch processed)
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. In a large bowl, blend butter, prune puree and sugar until well mixed and light.
3. Add eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition.
4. Add vanilla and orange zest.
5. Mix all the dry ingredients, except chocolate chips in a medium bowl.
6. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients alternating with 1% milk.
7. Slowly stir in chocolate chips.
8. Pour batter into a 12-muffin pan lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray or lined with paper liners.
9. Bake in the preheated oven for 16-19 minutes and test for doneness.
10. Let cool and transfer to airtight storage container.