Crispy Orange Chicken with Lemon-Ginger Broccoli Rice
I used to have a rather intense obsession with an American Chinese chain restaurant called Panda Express.
It was an integral part of my ‘tween Saturday nights. Arguably the highlight. As long as I promised to text on my giant Nokia cell phone, bring a sweater in case I got chilly in my Juicy Couture tube top, and be at the meeting spot at 10pm, my mom would agree to drop me off at the outdoor mall in downtown Santa Barbara to meet my friends for an evening of debauchery.
And by debauchery, I clearly mean trying on clothes at Wet Seal (maybe hitting up Claire’s if we were feeling fancy), arguing about which boy in our class looked best with frosted tips, and then treating ourselves to a high class feast of orange chicken and egg rolls at Panda Express. I was LIVING, people, and not gonna lie, I really miss that phase. If I did it again, I’d probably forego the Winona pixie cut and eat even more orange chicken, but hindsight is 20/20.
I can’t remember the last time I had Panda Express, but given the fact that I still salivate involuntarily at the mention of its orange chicken, I was instantly drawn to the version in my friend Liz Moody’s epic new cookbook Healthier Together. I would have made her Crispy Orange Chicken at some point, but the fact that she specifically called out Panda Express as her teen hangout and recipe inspiration prompted me to get on it ASAP. It also reminded me why I like her so much. (Liz repeatedly tells me how much she hates baths, and we are still friends, so I clearly like her a LOT.)
I was skeptical that she could create a good-for-you version of this classic, but after treating myself and my roommate to a Crispy Orange Chicken dinner this week, I’m thrilled to report that my girl delivered. Not only was the chicken (served over an unexpectedly magical base of lemon-spiked broccoli rice) addictively sticky-sweet, but I also felt light and fresh after eating it, which isn’t exactly how I would describe my 12-year-old self post-Panda.
You know I live for healthier comfort foods made with real ingredients, and this recipe—which gets its orange flavor from actual orange zest and juice (shocking, I know) and is thickened with the gluten-free magic of arrowroot powder—speaks to me on a spiritual level. In fact, most of Liz’s recipes do.
We have very similar food philosophies (eat real food that you love, try not to drive yourself crazy with restrictions, have fun, etc.) and shockingly similar palates, so if you’re typically down with my recipes, I think you’ll dig Healthier Together. It’s packed with simple but creative flavor-packed recipes that will make you feel GOOD. A few that are currently at the top of my to-make list: Mexican Street Corn and Quinoa Bowl, Zucchini Noodle Pad See Ew, Falafel Flatbread, Cornflake Fried Chicken with Hot Honey, Way More Veggies Bolognese.
I think what I love and relate to most about Healthier Together is the message behind it: It’s infinitely easier to meet our health and happiness goals if we do it with another person rather than flying solo. Cooking is an act of love and an amazing way to connect with other humans, and Liz’s book encourages you to make and share meals with someone else—whether that’s a partner, friend, family member, coworker. PREACH.
Almost all the recipes in Healthier Together serve 2 (rare in the cookbook world), so the book is great for those of us (me!!) who aren’t cooking for a family. With that said, they could easily be doubled or tripled, and they’re great for feeding the solo chef with one thrilling portion of leftovers. If you choose to cook the recipe with someone you love, Liz provides tips on how to divide and conquer (i.e. in this recipe, one person works on the chicken, while the other preps the broccoli rice), which is pretty damn genius if you ask me.
One more quick note on this fabulous book before I leave you. 80% of the recipes are vegetarian, and most are gluten- and dairy-free. Can you add meat to them? Sure. But I also get a LOT of vegetarian/vegan recipe requests, so if you’re down with veggie meals, this book is right up your alley.
Oh, and I was honored to speak on a panel with Ali Mafucci of Inspiralized to celebrate the launch of Healthier Together last week, and Liz recorded it for her podcast! We talked about what it means to be “healthy,” finding balance in the wild wellness world, food, happiness, and life in general, and it was such an honest, fun, insightful conversation. If you’re interested in hearing your weird blog lady try to control her cursing and talk about her pre-fitness journey potato days, you can listen here.
Crispy Orange Chicken with Lemon-Ginger Broccoli Rice Serves 2
For the chicken:
½ cup vegetable broth
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons coconut sugar (if you’re not a fan of super sweet things, I’d use 1-1½ tablespoons)
1 teaspoon peeled, minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
4 teaspoons arrowroot powder, plus 1/3 cup for coating chicken
1 large egg, beaten
½ cup coconut oil
2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (about 1 pound), cut into 1-inch pieces
Sesame seeds, to garnish
2 green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced, to garnish
Red chilies, seeded and chopped, to garnish (or crushed red pepper)
For the broccoli rice:
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon peeled, minced ginger
3 cups broccoli rice (purchased or from about 1 head of broccoli, washed, trimmed, and pulsed in a food processor until it reaches a rice-like texture)
Fine-grain sea salt or kosher salt
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
-Make the chicken. Combine the vegetable broth, orange zest and juice, rice vinegar, coconut sugar, ginger, garlic, tamari, and toasted sesame oil in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce until it’s reduced by one-quarter, about 5 minutes. Add the 4 teaspoons of arrowroot powder, a little bit at a time, whisking until the sauce thickens (this will happen quickly!). Remove the pan from the heat.
-Set up a frying station next to the stove with the beaten egg in one wide, shallow bowl and the 1/3 cup of arrowroot powder in a separate wide, shallow bowl. Melt the coconut oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Dip the chicken in the egg, allowing any excess to drip off, then into the arrowroot, turning to coat and pressing to adhere.
-Add the chicken to the pan, working in batches (I did three) to avoid overcrowding, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes per side, until deep golden brown all over.
-Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
-Meanwhile, make the broccoli rice: Melt the coconut oil in a large skillet with low sides over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until very fragrant. (Be careful not to burn the garlic!!) Add the broccoli rice and a generous pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 6 minutes, until the broccoli is softened. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice. Taste and add more salt as needed.
-Wipe out the pan, then add the fried chicken and the orange sauce, and toss to coat and warm through.
-Serve immediately over the broccoli rice, topped with sesame seeds, green onions, and red chilies/crushed red
Never miss a post!
Get new recipes and lifestyle tips delivered straight to your inbox.