Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Chinese Orange Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I was out riding my bicycle around town and came across this mini-park with a Chinese motif. It was built to commemorate the Chinese heritage in San Luis Obispo. In the late 1800s, there used to be quite a large Chinese population that was brought in to help built the railroad over the Cuesta Grade. The park is a beautiful tribute to their cultural contributions.
Lion at entrance of Chinese Mini-Park in SLO
All that exercise made me crave some Asian food, for sure! But I have been in a bit of a rebellious mood lately--I've also been craving iceberg lettuce! I know, I know! It doesn't have any nutritional value, the greener stuff has all the vitamins, its what our Mom's used to feed us, etc, etc, but I just want some...for the crunch. You see, I am trying to cut down on breads, and that translates into no crunch. I made a wedge salad last night with a thinned-down ranch dressing and some bacon crumbles and hard-boiled egg wedges, and it was wonderful! My husband refused to eat the iceberg--I had to make his salad with the spring mix he loves so much. C'est la vie!

I was looking a recipes for orange chicken, because my friend just brought us a grocery bag full of oranges freshly plucked from his friends' tree. I might have to juice a bunch of them, but what I really want is some orange chicken! So I was perusing the orange chicken recipes, and found a few "skinny" ones, without breading. Pretty simple, just saute some chunked chicken breast and make a sauce with soy and orange juice (and garlic and ginger, of course!) Top it with sesame seeds and diced green onions and serve over rice. (Cue: vinyl record zipppppp) Wait! How about orange chicken wraps? with iceberg lettuce? or some of that ground turkey that I have some in the freezer? Oh what a good idea! 
Because I am on a new schedule and working weekends with my late nights being Friday and Saturday, I just finished doing a little calendar menu planning that goes something like this: 
   Sunday - Lee cooks something in the crock pot so he can do his chores at home all day and still feed me when I get home
   Monday - Fish, because our SLO Veg box gets delivered and its fresh
   Tuesday - Pasta of some kind, so many possibilities
   Wednesday - Potluck, whatever needs to be cooked up
   Thursday - Salad night (turkey wraps, perhaps?)
   Friday - Pizza pick up has become our Friday night thing
   Saturday - Deli chicken pick up unless there is a better offer, like 
                     someone else cooks

I like having a loose plan for menu ideas. It keeps me more organized and helps with using up the vegetables before they go bad, because I know just what night I can fit them into the meal plan. Also, we usually take our leftovers for lunch, but when we don't have any leftovers, we know what else we can whip up. Lee takes a big salad every day, using a salad bowl I picked up that has a top section with dividers that can be frozen to keep everything nice and chilled. He loads it up with tomatoes and garbanzos and peppers and olives, making a nice sort of Mediterranean salad that draws attention from all of his coworkers. Mechanics aren't usually that gourmet. His lunch also includes tuna salad. I prefer to have my tuna salad without all the lettuce part, maybe in a tortilla wrap or with crackers or veggie scoopers, like celery or peppers. I also like diced celery in mine, and he doesn't. 

Rice, lettuce, orange chicken in sauce, and crunchy Chow Mein noodles
Anyway, what the heck was I talking about? Chinese flavors. Orange chicken. Here is my version in a lettuce wrap:

Orange Chicken Lettuce Wraps

2 chicken breasts, cubed into bite-sized pieces
salt and pepper
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
one head iceberg lettuce, cut into 4 wedges

3 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup orange juice
3 Tbs cornstarch
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp white pepper
zest of one orange
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

2 cups cooked rice or quinoa

Top with toasted sesame seeds, diced green onion and more orange zest, or those crunchy Chinese noodles

Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a glass mixing cup. Set aside.

Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Saute the chicken in olive oil and sesame oil until cooked through and lightly browned, 7-8 minutes. Pour the sauce over the chicken and bring it to a slight boil on medium heat. Cook until slightly thickened. Removed from heat and serve with a scoop of rice or quinoa in a lettuce wrapper.

Cheung Park from the inside

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