Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Winter Birthday and Sweet-and-Sour Chicken

With my daughter Katie's birthday today, our season of winter celebration comes to a close. It's always a very busy December and January for my family. It starts, for us, with Meghan's birthday on December 20, followed by Christmas, then my son-in-law Bill's birthday on December 26. My oldest son Jeffrey's birthday is January 3, and Katie's birthday is today. In between all that are important days for extended family and friends--anniversaries and birthdays in these two months are abundant. Friends Tina and Kristin's birthdays were yesterday. My father's birthday was January 17, and my parents' anniversary was January 8. My grandmother's birthday was January 13. I have two nephews with end-of-January birthdays, and every year there are more names added to the calendar.

With all of this going on, it's important to make my kids' birthdays (though they are grown) special. For Jeffrey's birthday on Sunday, I made a very chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. It followed a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, italian bread, a salad of spring greens with walnuts, blue cheese, and craisins.

For Katie's birthday tonight, I'm making sweet and sour chicken with green peppers and pineapple, to be served with basmati rice and oriental vegetables. My ex-husband's wife is a vegetarian, so I'm making her sweet and sour tofu. It's a first attempt and I hope it comes out well. The salad will be romaine with mandarin oranges, crispy Chinese noodles, shredded carrots, and a ginger vinaigrette. I baked her cake last night and frosted it this morning before work. It's a lemon layer cake with cream cheese frosting. There are fortune cookies to finish everything off.

My recipe for sweet and sour chicken comes from my neice, Lousie Eddy, who used to make it as a kid and that's when I fell in love with it. She told me she got the recipe from an old Betty Crocker cookbook and made some adaptions. I make it from memory and it always comes out great.

Sweet and Sour Chicken


4 chicken breast halves, pounded lightly

1 cup flour for dredging

1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup vinegar (apple cider or white)

1/4 cup ketchup

1/4 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 can pineapple chunks, drained

1 large green pepper, cut in chunks

Make sauce:
Combine sugar, vinegar, ketchup, juice, and soy sauce in medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat.

Prepare chicken:
Place flour on plate. Wash and pat dry chicken. Pound it a bit in a large zip bag using a rolling pin or mallet, just enough to tenderize and to get it to uniform thickness. Cut each piece in half if you prefer smaller pieces. Dredge pounded chicken in flour, both sides. Place in hot oil in large skillet and brown lightly on both sides. Remove to plate while other pieces of chicken are browned. You don't need to cook it all the way through - that happens later in the oven.

Spray rectangular baking dish with oil spray. Place browned chicken pieces in pan. Arrange pineapple and green pepper chunks over and around chicken. Pour sweet and sour sauce over all. Bake at 375 degrees F for 40 minutes or until green pepper just starts to curl and brown around edges. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes. Serve with rice and vegetables. Make sure to spoon extra sauce over everything!

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