It’s Friday and it’s the weekend before Valentine’s day, so I’m guessing the restaurants will be packed! How about staying in with Chinese food and a movie? Sounds great to me! Any time we eat out, everyone always orders something different – except Chinese takeout. We all get the exact same thing, sesame chicken with lo mein! I’ve got a sesame sweet & sour chicken recipe to help you create takeout in your own kitchen. This is something my whole family loves, so it’s perfect for a Valentine meal in. You can make it with the ones you love or maybe give the regular cook the night off. Either way, I think this will be a hit!
P.S I’ll also show you my finished Valentine mantle at the end. Let’s just say I’m in love with it!
This recipe is based off of a recipe I cut out of a magazine way back in 2006! There was a page with a whole meal planned out – egg drop soup, sweet & sour chicken, and fried rice. It told you what order to fix everything in and I followed the recipe to the “T” for many years. Since I have more time to experiment in the kitchen, I’ve adjusted the recipe more to my families taste. The original chicken recipe is still online, if you want to check that out, just click the link!
Kitchen Tip ~> Use a magnet to hold a recipe to your stove hood while cooking. This frees up counter space for me!
I’ve said before, I like to get all my ingredients measured and ready before I start cooking. This just makes the cooking process faster, so I don’t have to stop and get an ingredient in the middle of things.
I want you to remember this pretty picture of all the ingredients laid out. Why? Because there are two important ingredients not in this picture that I forgot to prepare ahead of time. This caused me some trouble later on, as you’ll see!
Kitchen Tip ~> You can buy pre-toasted sesame seeds, but I buy mine in bulk and toast them myself. This is just a cheaper option if you use them frequently. Just a few seconds in a hot skillet is all it takes to toast them!
Preparing the Sauce
Before I start the sauce, I go ahead and put the popcorn chicken in the microwave. You can heat it in the oven if that’s your preference. Diced cooked chicken breast would also work for this if you don’t want the breaded chicken.
For the sauce, you just strain the pineapple juice into a measuring cup and add water to get to 1 1/3 cups. Add the hot sauce, ketchup, and vinegar to this and stir. Now, here’s where I ran into my first problem. You’re supposed to mix cornstarch and brown sugar together then add it to the juice mixture. I forgot to measure out my cornstarch. So, I grabbed it in a hurry and added it in. This is what happened after I did that.
Let me tell you, my brain did not fully comprehend what had happened at first. Then it hit me – I had added baking powder, not cornstarch! I had to start the sauce all over again and clean up a giant mess! At this point I had started cooking the peppers and onions, so I had to set them aside and regroup.
I also realized, I had forgotten to cut up the broccoli – it should have been cooked first! Man, this is not going well! Luckily I had a can of pineapple juice in the pantry to make up for the juice lost in my mini science experiment. ;p
Cooking the Broccoli
The broccoli finally got chopped up and I had to rearrange my cooking to get back on track. The recipe will tell you to brown the broccoli before everything else, which works better time wise!
You just want to cook it on a higher heat until you get some good browned bits. The broccoli will turn a brighter green, but not be completely cooked. This will give it a roasted flavor without having to turn on the oven!
Put the broccoli in a microwavable dish with a lid and add a tablespoon of water. Microwave on high for 5-7 minutes, just until the broccoli is done. This can be cooking while you finish up the sauce and such.
Go ahead and put the noodles on to boil before adding the sauce to the pan. They should be ready by the time you’re main dish is finished. These are just dressed with a little more sesame oil, salt, and pepper.
If you do everything in the right order, you should have sauce ready to pour on top of the peppers and onions at this point.
Let it come to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for a minute or two. Now add the pineapple chunks and cook for a couple more minutes. I only use half the can so there’s more sauce for the chicken! Stir in the chicken and turn off the heat. I keep mine covered until I’m sure everything else is ready.
I stir in the sesame seeds just before serving. You can combine everything at this point if you like – the broccoli, noodles, and chicken. I like to leave them separate so it’s kind of like eating Chinese takeout that comes in individual containers. However you decide to serve it, don’t plan to have any leftovers!
There might be some noodles left…
And maybe some of the veggies…
But there is never, ever any of the chicken left in my house! : )
Okay, I promised to show you my finished Valentine mantle, so here it is!
Y’all, this makes me smile and tear up a little every time I look at it!
Those are black & white pictures from my wedding album that have just been hiding out for almost 15 years!
I also did another flower with some newsprint and red paint. The little hearts are just brads I stuck on the end.
These are almost all candid shots, which I love the most! The added “love” tag on my metal heart is a Christmas ornament. : )
Seeing all these photos has reminded me how lucky I am to have my family! We have made it through so many things and I’m sure there are many more wonderful memories to come.
Need more Valentine inspiration? Check out my Pinterest board, Valentine Love! Y’all have a “LOVE“ly weekend!
Easy weeknight meal to replace takeout!
- 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
- 1/2 medium onion, sliced
- 20 oz can chunk pineapples in it's own juice
- 25.5 oz bag frozen popcorn chicken
- 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil (plus some to drizzle)
- 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp Asian soy hot sauce
- 2 Tbsp ketchup
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1-2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- 2 heads broccoli, chopped (4-6 cups)
- 8 oz spaghetti noodles
- salt & pepper to taste
- Drain juice from pineapple into 2 cup measuring cup. Set aside pineapple.
- Add water to juice to make 1 1/3 cups. Add vinegar, hot sauce, and ketchup and mix until well blended.
- Mix brown sugar and corn starch. Add to juice mixture and mix until well blended. Set aside.
- Heat popcorn chicken in microwave according to package directions and set aside.
- Add sesame oil to large skillet and heat to between medium & high. Add broccoli to pan, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and cook until browned and bright green. Remove to microwavable dish and microwave for 5-7 minutes.
- Add peppers and onions to skillet and cook until softened and onion is translucent. Start noodles cooking and cook according to package directions.
- Add sauce to pan and bring to a boil. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken. Reduce heat and simmer for 1-2 minutes.
- Add 1/2 of reserved pineapple to pan and cook 1-2 minutes more.
- Add popcorn chicken and stir to coat. Turn off heat.
- Drain pasta, salt & pepper, and drizzle with some sesame oil.
- Add sesame seeds just before serving.
- Serve and enjoy!