One of my favorite topics of conversation at work is what to make for dinner.  We’re bakers by profession, but most of us love to experiment with savory food at home.  I’m always looking for good recipes, so I regularly hit up my coworkers for new material.  We’ll talk about what we made for meals last weekend and often analyze them; How did it taste? How was it prepared?  Would you have done anything differently?   What did you serve with it?  I usually find myself with a growling stomach, running to the grocery store after work to buy ingredients to make dinner for that night.

The other week, one of my coworkers recommended orange chicken.  That weekend prior, she had roasted a whole chicken with an orange sauce, and the thought of it made my mouth water.   We cook a lot of chicken dishes at home, but we don’t have an orange sauce in our repertoire–this sounded perfect!  While I knew I couldn’t make use of an entire chicken like she did (orange-y chicken salad sandwiches the next day, yum!), I thought this idea would make a great dinner that night.  So, true to form, we analyzed her recipe, preparation and results, and I began to think of ways to adapt it for smaller chicken portions.  Here is what I ended up with:

1 package chicken (I used chicken thighs–they were the cheapest!–but chicken breasts, etc. will work well also)

1 can concentrated frozen orange juice

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

2 Tbsp honey (just give two good squirts!)

Zest of half an orange (the rest of the orange will make a great snack later, too!)

I whisked all these ingredients together in a bowl, then prepared the chicken.  I dredged the chicken thighs in a mixture of flour, salt, pepper, and oregano.  Just sprinkle in your seasonings to taste.  Coat both sides of the chicken, and place in a pre-heated skillet with some olive oil.  Brown both sides of the chicken, flipping once.  Once both sides have some nice color, pour the sauce in the pan over the chicken.  Let the sauce thicken, and cook the chicken thoroughly.  The result will be a slightly sweet, very orange-y, very gooey sauce and nice, moist chicken.  As my coworker discovered, this sauce will also work great when basted over a whole chicken.  You should end up with the same ooey, gooey sauce.  For extra flavor, slice the orange and put it into the cavity of the bird with some herbs and spices.

I served my chicken with some alfredo noodles (straight out of the pouch, the kind where you make the sauce out of the powdered mix and milk–I had a craving!) and butternut squash “fries.”  This side dish was such a hit, I have to share it, too.  I had bought half a butternut squash and wanted to experiment.  I julienned the squash into long, skinny strips, french-fry-style.  Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and season with salt, pepper and cajun seasoning.  Bake at 400 degrees until the squash begins to dry out (they’ll start to look more like potato fries).  I think kids will enjoy eating these!

I’d like to know, where do you all find inspiration for your dinners?

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