Saturday, February 1, 2014

Orange Chicken and Eggplant - A Healthier Version

Dinner this week was inspired by necessity. Mostly cleaning out odds and ends from the fridge or pantry and this Orange Chicken recipe was no different. There are no fresh fruits and veggies on the farm right now, unless you count the turnips. I am not. But I still try to keep bags of fruit on the counter or stocked in the fridge for a good Vitamin C boost.

My 6-year old is also turning into a bottomless pit when it comes to food...

Despite my best pushing of citrus for nearly every meal or snacktime, I found myself starring at the end of a box of navel oranges. They hadn't gone bad, yet... but it was coming.

I didn't really want to bake with them, no, I needed dinner ideas.

Could I make Orange Chicken, like I enjoy from a restaurant, with the last of my oranges?

Well yes. Yes I could.

Scanning the internet I found that most recipes call for marmalade, jam or a premade sauce. But, I can't even read all the ingredients in most of those sauces. No, I firmly wanted to use real oranges and now I was getting hungry for it.

This recipe was the perfect way to "scratch" my take-out itch, too. It was a healthier and less expensive version than we would have eaten out. This recipe is sweet and has a lot of potential for veggies you could add... or omit if that is what you prefer.

So the juicing commenced. My husband pointed out I do have an electric juicer attachment for the Kitchen-Aid. The problem is I hate washing that stuff. So I went with my beloved glass juicer. Sometimes simple is more glamorous.

I wanted a very simple breading for my chicken. Nothing heavy or complicated. I had some whole wheat flour I ground earlier this week and tossed the chicken in that. Then I also did the same to about a cup of cubed eggplant.

See? Healthier already.

For my children I made the eggplant in place of the chicken and tossed theirs in wheat starch. Their meal was meat-free, but the sauce was the same.

Then came the sauce. This is where my fresh squeezed, and strained, orange juice went. I also threw in some crushed garlic, lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar, salt and orange zest. To make it all tight I whisked in a cornstarch slurry. (Just add a little water to the cornstarch and mix well with your finger - this allows you to feel when all the lumps have dissolved.)

Into my hot skillet I browned up the peices of chicken. I removed them and did the same to my eggplant. I just wanted a little crust on the vegetables before adding in the sauce to thicken. With a little fnely diced red bell pepper thrown in at the end for a pop of color, my dish was ready to go.

Now, if you want a touch of heat, feel free to add some chili flakes to the sauce. Since I was sharing this with the kids and my husband, I kept it mild. If I was making this for myself I would throw in at least a pinch for good measure.

Ready to try it yourself?

Orange Chicken and Eggplant

You Will Need:

  • 2 cups chicken, chopped into bite-sized peices 
  • 1 c. eggplant, cubed
  • 1/3 c. whole wheat flour 
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced

    For the Sauce:
    • 9 oz. orange juice, fresh squeezed and strained
    • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
    • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
    • 2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
    • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, fresh squeezed
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 - 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
    • 1/2 tsp. salt + more to taste 
    • 1 orange zested

      Start by tossing the chicken and eggplant in flour as you bring a large skillet with a few tablespoons of oil up to medium heat on the stove.

      In a medium bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the sauce, leave the orange zest over to the side.

      Brown the chicken on both sides and set aside. Brown the eggplant slightly and then return the chicken to the skillet and add in the sauce. Bring it up to a gentle simmer and make sure all the meat and vegetables have been covered with the sauce. After 2 minutes, add in the red bell pepper and orange zest. Stir for another minute or two and then turn off the heat The sauce will be thicker as it cools.

      Serve over a bed of brown rice.


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