Happy hump day!
It’s already time for the second installment of our Ditto Dinners series. And BOY! Was it a delicious one! (Read about our first-ever Ditto Dinners here!)
Today, we will be featuring a dinner made by Megan (age 12).
For her dinner menu this week, she thoughtfully selected
- Sesame Chicken
- Asian-style green beans
- White Rice, and
- Berry Punch
Let’s just say, we didn’t even have to whip out the tupperware after our meal to put away leftovers. It was THAT good!
We found this yummy Sesame Chicken recipe from a fun and delicious-looking website called Budget Bytes. Beth, the creator and blogger behind the website, has been cooking up fantastic meals for 10 years and even includes video how-tos for many of her dishes. So it was a complete no-brainer to print this recipe out and give it a try!
I had Megan start out by reading the recipe, beginning with the list of ingredients.
It is SO important for kids to learn where to pull each ingredient from and make sure everything is on hand before beginning! You don’t want to be caught halfway through your cooking session and realize you have to run to the store. Or WORSE, have to scrap it and make something different.
I mean, I’VE never done that…but I bet that would be really annoying. (cough, cough.)
We also had a quick-and-dirty lesson on doubling the recipe, because cooking for a family of 8 means there’s no shortage of tummies to fill!
After gathering all the ingredients, she read the directions and got out all the necessary equipment (ex: cutting board, measuring cups, whisk, spatula, etc.)
Looks like she’s ready to get started!
(Not pictured: chicken breasts thawing in the microwave)
As a side note, let me share share a trick we use ALL.THE.TIME for dinner prep.
We always buy in bulk (when possible) to save $$$ (family of 8, remember?). Our local grocery store has large 10 lb. bags of pre-frozen chicken breasts available. But you could also purchase the largest bulk package of fresh chicken breasts or thighs (cheapest).
When we DO buy fresh chicken, or any meat for that matter, I take a few extra minutes to separate into ready-to-use portions and place in freezer bags to freeze for later use.
This technique not only saves us money, but it reduces a lot of waste!
To thaw, place chicken pieces on a plate, cover with a paper towel, and put in the microwave for 8-10 minutes on the thaw setting, flipping halfway through. If not thawed completely, flip pieces over again and set for another 3-5 minutes until thawed enough for use.
If you will be cutting the chicken into smaller strips or 1″ chunks (like in this recipe), you can remove from the microwave when chicken is only slightly thawed. Semi-frozen chicken is MUCH easier to cut because it’s not as squishy and slippery to handle
(To practice knife safety and prevent injury, I have my littlest helpers only cut chicken this way.)
This is what cutting semi-frozen chicken looks like. So easy, right?!
Now, back to the recipe!
The list of ingredients may look daunting, but if you spend any amount of time in the kitchen on a regular basis, then I think it’s safe to assume you have most, or ALL, of these ingredients on hand. (See the recipe for full description and exact measurements.)
- Soy Sauce
- Sesame Oil (Beth recommends using toasted sesame oil to produce a “vibrant, nutty flavor” and create that desired deep, brown hue on the chicken. I keep a basic sesame oil on hand, so that is what we use and it still looked and tasted de-lish!)
- Brown Sugar
- Rice Vinegar
- Fresh Ginger (I remembered to put this ingredient on my weekly shopping list, so we were able to use it fresh this time. If you don’t have fresh ginger on hand, you can always substitute ground ginger from your seasoning stash. **Just remember! You MUST use 1/3 the amount that the recipe calls for, otherwise all you will taste is ginger! An idea that Beth suggests is freezing fresh ginger to keep on hand. I have never personally tried this but it sounds like a great trick. I’ll be stashing that idea away for future use!
- Garlic (You can see from a few pictures above, we used pre-minced garlic, purchased from our local supermarket, that we keep stored in the refrigerator. This is VERY convenient and the real-deal!)
- Sesame Seeds
- Corn Starch
Once your chicken is prepped and ready to go, have your child begin to assemble the other ingredients.
Before grating the ginger, have them cut a small chunk off for easy use, and then remove the thick skin on the outside by placing the flat-side down on a cutting board, and slicing down vertically.
This part took a little while, but it was good practice in learning safety precautions when using the grater. Keep those little digits a safe distance from the sharp holes of the grater!
It’s time to combine the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together, mixing well.
Lookin’ good, Megan! The sauce mixture is now locked and loaded.
Next, have your child whisk together all of the ingredients to coat the chicken.
- Salt & Pepper
Doesn’t get much easier than that, folks! (See the recipe for exact measurements and directions.
Now, drop in the chicken chunks and stir to coat.
Have your child measure a couple of tablespoons into a frying pan and swirl to evenly cover the bottom of the pan. Set the temperature to medium. Explain to your child they want the pan to be RIPPIN’ HOT in order for the chicken to achieve the crispy coat we all love so much.
*FUN TRICK: have your child get their (clean) finger wet from the faucet and flick it into the pan. If they hear it sizzle, the pan is hot and ready for frying!
Now, help your child place the chicken in an even, single layer in the hot pan using tongs.
The chicken will need to cook for a couple of minutes, undisturbed, to achieve a golden, brown color. When one side is browned, instruct your child to flip the chicken over (in sections) using a spatula and allow the chicken to cook again for several minutes until golden brown on the other side.
The chicken will be sticking together in a solid mass because of the egg and cornstarch mixture. Break up the chicken into smaller pieces with the spatula, being careful not to remove the delicious crispy outside!
At this point, help your child dump the sauce in the pan and stir to coat the chicken. I wasn’t able to get a picture for this step, but believe me, it was really coming together!
And the kitchen smelled Ah-mazing!
Before plating, have your child slice up some green onions to garnish.
I wish you could smell this through your screen!
(Our chicken turned out slightly lighter in color because we used standard sesame seed oil. If you use the recommended “toasted” sesame seed oil, you will get a darker color.)
This recipe was a winner for sure! The entire family enjoyed it. And you bet we’ll be adding it to our Menu Suggestions Index!
Pros: The directions were super easy to follow, used basic ingredients that any amateur chef is familiar with, and tasted like chinese take-out without the expense! Also, it came together fairly quickly with very little experience and the use of small hands. 🙂
Cons: The sauce didn’t become as thick as the recipe suggests. Perhaps we mismeasured the amount of cornstarch? Also, it was a little tricky to get the chicken separated in the pan without the coating falling apart, but with a little help from mom it turned out well.
Kid-friendly Hacks: Cutting the chicken into small, 1″ pieces was a heckuva lot easier using our semi-frozen chicken method. Give it a try!
What would we change next time?: This recipe honestly turned out scrumptious! The only thing I might venture to change would be using the recommended Toasted Sesame Seed Oil. I believe it would have added a new depth of flavor that would have really taken the authentic chinese take-out flavors above-and-beyond!
So thank you to Budget Bytes for their tantalizing culinary photos that drew us in and made us want to try the recipe! We have bookmarked several other recipes from their site that we can’t wait to try in the future! Pop on over there and check them out for yourself. You WON’T be disappointed!