Best General Tso’s Chicken. Ever.

Hi kids, this probably will be filed under the wicked category due to its fat content, but living a healthy lifestyle does not mean you have to ban good recipes – just moderate your diet.

Seriously, this recipe tastes like authentic American Chinese restaurant-quality General Tso’s and you must give this one a try.  You will thank me.

From Diana at appetiteforchina.com.  I am waiting to get permission to put the full recipe up here, but here is the ingredient list and a link to the recipe on her site:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 peanut or vegetable oil for frying, plus 1 tablespoon for stir-frying
  • 8 dried whole red chilis, or substitute 1/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds, for garnish
  • Scallions, green parts thinly sliced, for garnish

Marinade:

  • 1 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 egg whites

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup chicken stock, or substitute water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili paste
  • 1 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

Grandmommy’s Chicken and Noodles

Chicken and Noodles

Noodles

  • 3 c flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • Milk

Mix salt with flour, and place in a pile on waxed paper. Make a well in the center, and add three eggs. Lightly stir the eggs into the flour and add the milk, one-half eggshell at a time. Gently work the dough on the waxed paper, pulling up the sides of the paper to help mix it; if it seems really dry, add more milk. If it’s really wet, add more flour. Dough will be a little sticky at first but should come together into a smooth lump. Let dough rest for 5-10 minutes, covered so it doesn’t dry out.
Cut dough in half or quarters and roll out on a floured surface. Roll out to desired thickness, and cut into narrow strips. Separate the strips of dough and place on cookie sheets to air dry for an hour or so. Can be prepared several hours in advance.

Meat and broth

  • 2 split organic chicken breasts (with skin and ribs)
  • Cut up carrots, celery and onion (about one each)
  • 1 carton organic low sodium broth
  • 1 cup of water
  • A little salt and pepper
  • Small bit of desired seasonings like thyme, rosemary, basil or tarragon. optional)

Simmer everything over low heat in large pan until meat falls apart. Remove meat to a plate and allow it to cool. Strain liquid to remove mushy solids, and pick through for any bits of chicken. Return strained broth to the pan. Pick through chicken to remove skin, bones and cartilage, and rough chop the meat. Place the meat in the pan with the broth.
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To prepare:
Boil lots of salted water in large pan, and add noodles when water is really boiling. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes to “remove the starch” as Grandmommy Nance would say.
Meanwhile, heat up the broth and meat mixture until it comes to a boil. Drain noodles from water and put in the broth and meat mixture. Cover partially, and simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until noodles are tender. Season to taste.

Grandmommy Nance’s Chicken and Noodles

A staple in my family and required for our annual family reunion from my late great grandmother.  Recipe tried and true over 70 years!

Noodles

  • 3 c flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • Milk

Mix salt with flour, and place in a pile on waxed paper.  Make a well in the center, and add three eggs.  Lightly stir the eggs into the flour and add the milk, one-half eggshell at a time.  Gently work the dough on the waxed paper, pulling up the sides of the paper to help mix it; if it seems really dry, add more milk.  If it’s really wet, add more flour.  Dough will be a little sticky at first but should come together into a smooth lump.  Let dough rest for 5-10 minutes, covered so it doesn’t dry out.

Cut dough in half or quarters and roll out on a floured surface.  Roll out to desired thickness, and cut into narrow strips.  Separate the strips of dough and place on cookie sheets to air dry for an hour or so. Can be prepared several hours in advance.

Meat and broth

  • 2 split organic chicken breasts (with skin and ribs)
  • Cut up carrots, celery and onion (about one each)
  • 1 carton organic low sodium broth
  • 1 cup of water
  • A little salt and pepper
  • Small bit of desired seasonings like thyme, rosemary, basil or tarragon. (Optional)

Simmer everything over low heat in large pan until meat falls apart.  Remove meat to a plate and allow it to cool.  Strain liquid to remove mushy solids, and pick through for any bits of chicken.  Return strained broth to the pan.  Pick through chicken to remove skin, bones and cartilage, and rough chop the meat.  Place the meat in the pan with the broth.

To prepare:

Boil lots of salted water in large pan, and add noodles when water is really boiling.  Stir and cook for a couple of minutes to “remove the starch” as Grandmommy Nance would say.

Meanwhile, heat up the broth and meat mixture until it comes to a boil.  Drain noodles from water and put in the broth and meat mixture.  Cover partially, and simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until noodles are tender. Season to taste and enjoy!

Lemon Panko Chicken with Mushroom and Rosemary Sauce (cream-free)

Time to experiment! Though will cave in for a really good recipe that calls for cream, I generally try to make all sauces cream-free.   This mushroom sauce is lighter and though it calls for butter, I’m going to try it as is prior to swapping it out for olive oil on the next try.  For the crispy chicken, I pulled inspiration from my Lighter Chicken Parm recipe below.
  • 1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus extra for serving
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • Table salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 8 ounces each), trimmed of excess fat and sliced into cutlets

For the sauce:

  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 3 oz. cremini mushrooms, stems removed, caps cut into 1/4×1/2-inch strips
  • 3 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps cut into 1/4×1/2-inch strips
  • 3 oz. oyster mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/4×1/2-inch strips
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 Tbs. white apple cider vinegar
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken broth (low-salt canned is fine)
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary

Preheat oven at 475.

Start with the sauce first.  Set a large skillet over medium heat and put in 2 Tbs. of the butter. Add the shallots and sauté until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Add the wine, water, and cider vinegar; raise the heat to medium high and reduce the liquids by about three-quarters. Add the chicken broth and again reduce by half.

Whilst the sauce is simmering, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees. Combine the bread crumbs and oil in a 12-inch skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until golden, about 10 minutes. Spread the bread crumbs in a shallow dish and cool slightly; when cool, stir in the Parmesan

In a second shallow dish, combine the flour, garlic powder, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together. In a third shallow dish, whisk the egg whites, water and juice from half of the lemon together. (slice and reserve remaining lemon for garnish)

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, place a wire rack on top, and spray the rack with vegetable oil spray. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge the cutlets in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip into the egg whites, and finally coat with the bread crumbs, Press on the bread crumbs to make sure they adhere. Lay the chicken on the wire rack.

Spray the tops of the chicken with vegetable oil spray. Bake until the meat is no longer pink in the center and feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 15 minutes. Whilst chicken is resting, add the rosemary to the sauce and taste for seasoning.

Serve over pasta or rice.

Creamy Chicken & Rice Soup

Here’s a much lighter take on chicken and rice that has now become one of my favorite soups of all-time.  Reviewers suggest that the soup is restaurant-quality, even without the heavy cream.

  • 2 tsp. Butter or Olive Oil
  • 2 chopped carrots
  • 1 chopped yellow onion
  • 3 cups of chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
  • Half cup of parboiled rice
  • 1/4 cup butter or buttery spread
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 cup four
  • 1 cup milk (1% or 2% is best)

Heat a large pot or dutch oven to medium. Melt butter in pot and sauté carrots and onion until softened but not browned.  Add broth, water and chicken to pot. Bring soup to a rolling boil, then stir in rice. Cover and remove from heat and rest for 15 minutes.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in pepper, onion powder and oregano until mixture is bubbly. Reduce heat to low, then stir in flour mixture by tablespoons, to form a roux. Whisk in milk, a little at a time, until fully incorporated and smooth. Cook until thickened, 5 minutes.
Stir cream mixture into broth and rice. Cook over medium-low heat until heated through and soup thickens to desired consistency, about 15-20 minutes.

Enjoy!

Amazing Baked Chicken Parm

I love chicken parmesan and have been experimenting with panko (Japanese bread crumbs) and perfected the second attempt with the following recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.  Thank you to browneyedbaker.com for testing this and sharing with the world!

Lighter Chicken Parmesan
(Source: Cook’s Illustrated, October 2006)

  • 1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus extra for serving
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • Table salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 8 ounces each), trimmed of excess fat and sliced into cutlets
  • 2 cups tomato sauce , warmed
  • 3 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees. Combine the bread crumbs and oil in a 12-inch skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until golden, about 10 minutes. Spread the bread crumbs in a shallow dish and cool slightly; when cool, stir in the Parmesan

In a second shallow dish, combine the flour, garlic powder, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together. In a third shallow dish, whisk the egg whites and water together.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, place a wire rack on top, and spray the rack with vegetable oil spray. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge the cutlets in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip into the egg whites, and finally coat with the bread crumbs, Press on the bread crumbs to make sure they adhere. Lay the chicken on the wire rack.

Spray the tops of the chicken with vegetable oil spray. Bake until the meat is no longer pink in the center and feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 15 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the oven. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the sauce onto the center of each cutlet and top the sauce with 2 tablespoons of the mozzarella. Return the chicken to the oven and continue to bake until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the basil and serve, passing the remaining sauce and Parmesan separately.

Per Serving:
Cal 310; Fat 8 g; Sat fat 2.5 g; Chol 75 mg; Carb 20 g; Protein 38 g; Fiber 1 g; Sodium 790 mg

(chicken) Sausage & Egg Breakfast Casserole

Update!  March 2010 and 25 pounds lighter since I originally posted this recipe in July 2009.

I have now discovered a cleaner way to make this casserole that’s super healthy and 70% lower in fat.  We follow the basic recipe below, substituting the usual suspects with chicken sausage (the only sausage we eat now), egg beaters, fresh mushrooms, mushroom broth reduction (in lieu of canned soup), shredded white Irish cheddar and omitting the fried onions.

Sorry guys, you had to go.  I look too good naked to ever take you back.

The Original Sausage & Egg Breakfast Casserole Recipe

Looking for that comfort food recipe that will make you famous in your community? The meal that people will ask you for time and time again, “Oh this is lovely! What’s the recipe?”  Behold THE breakfast casserole.

The most requested meal for the last 20 years in our household!  Though we only generally make it for Christmas morning, as I’m now grown and a thousand miles away from the coup, I still like to whip this up a couple of times a year.  Wicked, for sure, but very satisfying!  Best of all is that you can make this the night before (best that way) and just whack it in the oven when you wake up.

This one is a keeper and as infamous as Dotty’s Bicardi Rum Cake.  Try this out, and your friends and family will come back to you again and again!  Courtesy of Southern Living’s  1986 Annual Cookbook.  Yup, from 1986.

  • 2 and 1/4 c. seasoned croutons (or one box Pepperidge Farm seasoned croutons)
  • 1 Pound of ground sausage, cooked until browned and crumbled. Drain.
  • One 8 oz can of sliced mushrooms, drained (ok, I use fresh mushrooms)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 and 1/4 c milk
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup (we use Campbell’s Restricted Sodium Diet version. Who needs all that salt??)
  • 3/4 t. dry mustard
  • 1 can of French’s Friend Onions (this is optional and really what makes this recipe wicked and indulgent)
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar

Spread croutons in a greased 9×13″ pan. Sprinkle cooks and drained sausage over the croutons. Sprinkle mushrooms over sausage. Combine eggs, milk, soup and mustard, mixing well. Pour mixture evenly over the sausage and croutons.  Sprinkle with onion rings (optional) and cover tight with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove from fridge and let stand on the counter for 30 minutes. Bake uncovered at 325 degrees F for 50-55 minutes. Center should appear “set” and not liquid.

Sprinkle cheese over the top and return to the over for an additional five minutes or until melted.

Variations: in place of sausage, try cubed ham or crumbled bacon.

Chicken Enchiladas with White Bean Sauce and Rice

This is a super easy and very light recipe that I’ve modified over the years, originally inspired by Cooking Light Magazine.  I like bring my staples into my recipes to keep things quick, and this recipe is an ideal way to use J’s Awesome Salsa.

For the Enchiladas

  • 1 cup J’s Awesome Salsa
  • 2  cups  shredded cooked chicken breast*
  • 1/3  cup  (3 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 4 large corn tortillas
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4  cup  pepper jack cheese
  • 4  lime wedges
  • Cilantro sprigs (optional)

Combine chicken and cream cheese in a large bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup salsa. Reserve remaining salsa.

Spoon about 1/4 cup chicken mixture down center of tortilla; roll up. Place tortilla, seam-side down, in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining tortillas, and chicken mixture.

Pour remaining salsa mixture over enchiladas and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 425° for 18 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve with lime wedges. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired.

*For the chicken breasts, simply bake or sauté and let rest for 5 minutes in a large bowl before pulling apart with two forks.

For the rice

Use measurements according to the package’s directions.  Substitute low-sodium chicken broth for water, and add a spoonful of J’s Awesome Salsa to rice and cook according to directions.

White Bean Sauce

I love beans, but refried? No, not so clean.  And we know most clean eating foodies will substitute black beans for refried with most Latin dishes, however, my other half does not care for black beans.  So, in experimenting, I ended up with a clean version of refried beans.  Tastes pretty much the same to me!  Simply take your favorite canned white bean (ours are Navy beans), rinse thoroughly to remove salt, puree and gently heat and top with pepperjack or queso cheese.  Enjoy!

Cheater’s Chicken Pasty

A pasty — the “a” pronounced like in “Cat” — is a British staple that originated from Cornwall.  It’s like a turnover, or a pot pie, (minus the pie part) that can be served hot or cold.

And just a note:

Before people start complaining as to its authenticity, we all know that it’s not Cornish!  Just think about the West’s take on Chinese food, and we suddenly have “Asian Fusion;” my take on a pasty is a healthier chicken or turkey breast in lieu of beef, and a cheat by using puff pastry and gravy mix.  I also prefer not to mince the breast but bake it whole to retain its juices, so don’t tell me, I already know.  Enjoy with brown gravy and roasted potatoes.

Portions:

I did put this in the “wicked” category, but we like comfort food just like anyone else, and sometimes a good meal just calls for butter and pastry.  But I should get bonus points by controlling our portions.  We usually cook this recipe for 2 and split it (eat small portions, often!) but this may be good for one person, depending on the size of the chicken breast. I prefer to use one cast iron skillet for the whole meal so we can deglaze and create a savory gravy with the bits left over in the skillet, so do not clean or rinse skillet as you remove items from pan.  We want to collect all the chicken and veggie juices and reduce for gravy.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • ½ cup bella mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped (just eyeball it)
  • 1/3 sheet puff pastry
  • egg wash for brushing
  • pat of butter
  • ½ cup red wine for deglazing
  • 2 or 3 thinly sliced mushrooms
  • brown gravy mix (okay, so I think this is the only recipe at JTGCookbook that I actually use a mix)

Let puff pastry defrost over night in fridge or out on the counter for 30 minutes (keep covered to prevent pastry from drying out).

Heat oil on medium heat until near smoking, and sear each side of chicken breast (4 minutes or until browned per side), reduce heat and cover for 10 minutes, turning breast once.  Breast will be done once juices run clear.  Set aside to rest.

While the chicken is cooking, roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to about ¼ inch thickness, making a big rectangle.  Cover with a damp paper towel to keep pastry from drying out.

In same skillet, add the veggies (except cilantro) and cook over medium heat until mushrooms exude liquid and onions start to turn clear.  Add broth, bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Toss in the cilantro and stir until heated through.

**A pasty is basically a piece of pastry folded in half, so you will be placing meat and veggies on one side of the pastry, leaving room to pinch or fold the sides in to make a seal.  Check out this video on making a traditional lamb pasty here to see how to assemble.

Remove paper towels from pastry and begin assembling, first by placing the veggie mixture on one side of the pastry, and top with the chicken breast.

Brush egg wash on the edges of the exposed pastry, and fold the other side over the mixture, being sure to fold edges of pastry over tightly.  Take a fork and press down all along its seam.

Brush with more egg wash and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until pastry is fluffy and golden.  Feel free to brush with more wash halfway through the baking process to enhance colour.

As the pasty is baking, add butt to skillet and bring to medium heat.  Add the wine and stir constantly with a wooden spoon.  The wine will bubble and steam briefly before coming down in temperature.  This is deglazing, where the wine and steam help us scrape up the leftover chicken and veggie bits that will make our gravy so savory.  Toss in a few leftover thinly-sliced mushrooms.

Add gravy mix and water to skillet and cook according to packet directions.

Voila!  Chicken Pasty and Mushroom Gravy!

Tender Pulled Chicken Sandwich

After several tests, I have put together a very simple recipe that makes a very tender and succulent pulled chicken sandwich that will now replace sloppy joes when we have the craving. Recipe for 2-3 sandwiches.  Enjoy!

  • 1 tablespoon buttery spread or margarine
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock or broth
  • 1/2 cup favorite buffalo sauce
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • French hamburger buns (or favorite sandwich bread)

Heat margarine over medium high heat and add the onions, sauteing until translucent, but not brown. Add the chicken breast and sear both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Gently break up chicken into chunks with forks, but do not completely shred. Add the buffalo sauce and pepper, return cover and continue simmering 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. 20 minutes prior to serving, mix the cornstarch with a small amount of water until dissolved. Add to sauce and stir. The sauce will continue to thicken until serving time. If the sauce is too runny for your liking, simply cook 10 minutes longer with the cover ajar.

When ready to serve, spoon chicken over lightly toasted buns and serve immediately.