Thursday, March 31, 2011

Easy, Guilt-free Chicken Nuggets!

These little and lite chicken nuggets make a great quick snack!  

What you'll need:

- Chicken cutlets
- panko (japanese bread crumbs)
- egg
- seasonings

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 375.

Cut chicken cutlets into bite size pieces (or leave as chicken fingers).  Set aside two bowls: one with egg whites and one with the panko.  In the panko bowl, mix in any other seasonings you would like on your chicken.  I used basil, salt, pepper, and a bit of spicy chicken seasoning.   Dip chicken pieces in the egg white and the coat with the panko mix.   Panko is great and I suggest you keep some in your cubbard if you do not already.  It's a crispy, light Japanese type bread crumb that can be used in place of breading for any recipe!  Place coated chicken pieces on a wired rack placed on top of an oven pan.  I juse used the rack from my toaster oven and it worked great!  Lightly spray chicken with a light vegetable oil spray so the bits can get extra crunchy!  Let bake for 15 minutes and then, using tongs, flip pieces over.  Bake for another 5 or so minutes.  Eat with your fav dips!

Easy, guilt-free, and delicious! 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

No, it was not Sidney Poitier (or Ashton Kutcher). Matt's dad and Karen came to join us for dinner as part of our Christmas gift to them! As our special guests, they deserved a special meal, and what this means is (1) making menu decisions; and (2) planning out exactly how to execute each course and when. So maybe it will seem a bit backwards to you all that I made dessert first but that seemed to be the best way to do it. The reason this was the best way to do it is because I knew that all day on the day-of, I would be slow roasting a chicken... and nothing ruins an apple tart/galette more than the tart smelling like chicken...gross.

all set up for our dinner!

Ok so let me back up a minute and give you all the menu for the evening. Then you can pick and choose what you want to make and scroll down right to it!

Appetizer: Stuffed Mushrooms

Salad: Wedge Salad

Main Course: Braised Garlic Chicken (and potatoes)

Dessert: Apple Galette

As far as timing went, I did the following things the night before the dinner:
Made the buttermilk blue cheese dressing for the salad, as it can be kept in the fridge for up to a week
Stemmed the mushrooms
Made the apple galette

And now for the recipes/photos!

Appetizer: Stuffed Mushrooms
From Smitten Kitchen
(I halved the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, but here are her measurements)
8 ounces bacon slices
1 cup chopped onion
1 10-ounce package chopped frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
2 3/4 pounds button mushrooms (about 48; each about 1 1/2 inches in diameter), stemmed

I made the mushrooms first and planned to reheat them right before our guests arrived...
mushroom filling mixture
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Cook bacon in big pan until extra crispy. Transfer bacon onto a plate with paper towels and sop up excess fat by placing a paper towel on top and pressing down. Crumble bacon. Discard all but 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons bacon fat from pan.

Heat 2 teaspoons of the reserved fat in the same pan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute until tender. Put onion in a bowl and set aside.  Once onion has cooled, mix in bacon, spinach, feta, cream cheese, and crushed red pepper.

Line 2 large baking sheets with foil. Toss mushrooms in the rest of the bacon fat in large bowl to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Place mushrooms, rounded side down on baking sheets. Bake mushrooms until centers fill with liquid, about 25 minutes. Turn the mushrooms over and bake until brown and liquid evaporates, about 20 minutes longer. Turn mushrooms over again and fill with about 1 tbs of filling. (Filled mushrooms can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Bake mushrooms until heated through, about 10 minutes.
fresh out of the oven!

Salad: Wedge Salad
From Smitten Kitchen
I made the dressing the night before...made the bacon and washed/cut the lettuce the day-of
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 ounces crumbled firm blue cheese (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
<3 food processor!

Blend buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor until smooth. Add blue cheese and pulse until cheese is incorporated but not too much because you want the dressing to have blue cheese chunks in it for texture. Transfer to a bowl and stir in chives.

Serve on iceberg lettuce with little pieces of bacon (yum!)
I gave each guest a quarter of the head of lettuce
tastes best if you use fresh bacon recently cooked!

Main Course: Braised Garlic Chicken (with added potatoes)
From Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Slow Cooking
1 chicken, 3-4 lb, cut into serving pieces, trimmed of excess skin and fat
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbs canola oil
4 heads of garlic, separated into cloves, unpeeled
1/4 cup dry white wine such as chardonnay or sauvignon blanc
1 tbs chopped fresh thyme
do not peel the garlic
Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the canola oil. working in batches if necessary, add the chicken and cook, turning frequently, until well browned, 7-10 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Pour off all but 2 tbs of the fat in the pan. Add the garlic cloves and saute over medium-high heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Pour in the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

STOVE TOP: Transfer the chicken to a French oven. Sprinkle with the thyme and add the garlic mixture.  Cover and cook until the chicken is tender and opaque throughout, about 45 minutes. 

OVEN: Transfer French oven to the oven. Cover and cook until the chicken is tender and opaque throughout, 3 hours on the low-heat (175 degrees).

Transfer the chicken to a platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a saucepan and strain the pan juices. Press on the garlic cloves to extract as much liquid and pulp as possible. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the chicken to a warmed platter and top with the sauce. Serve at once.

Chef notes:  This came out tasting a bit too dry and I think that next time I would either (1) cook for less time, (2) cook at a lower temperature, or (3) add about 1/2 cup of chicken broth to add more moisture to the oven.  Other note: YES I forgot to take a picture (easy to do once the company has arrived) but I assure you that I will make this again and update this blog with a photo!

Dessert: Apple Galette
From Smitten Kitchen
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, just softened, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 1/2 tablespoons chilled water

save peels and cores!
2 pounds apples (the recipe suggests Golden Delicious but I opted for Granny Smith), peeled, cored (save peels and cores), and sliced (I had WAY too many apples left over...I probably only needed about 1-1.5 apples and bought 3!  I saved the slices in my fridge to make this again!!)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
5 tablespoons sugar
food processor makes slicing easy as pie...hah! ;)
1/2 cup sugar

I did the following the night before:
MIX flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl; add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Blend in a mixer until dough has the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Add remaining butter; mix until the mixture looks like a bunch of peas.

Pour in a little of the water, stir, then pour in more, until dough just holds together. Toss with hands. If it appears too dry, add one more tablespoon water. Keep tossing until you can roll dough into a ball. Flatten into a 4-inch-thick circle and refrigerate. After at least 30 minutes, remove; let sit for a couple of minutes before you start working with it. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick.

Put dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet to go galette-style with it. Heat oven to 400°F.

Place apples on dough in a ring 2 inches from edge. Keep going until you reach the middle. Fold the dough over the edge of the apples (see picture) and overlap the edges at 1-inch intervals.  Chef's note: apparently in the original recipe by a French chef, there is applesauce underneath the apples.  I did not do it this way so I guess I will just have to make it again and try it that way!  I am so glad I have leftover apples to make this again!

BRUSH melted butter over apples and onto dough edge. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over dough edge and the other 2 tablespoons over apples.

BAKE in center of oven until apples are soft, with browned edges, and crust has caramelized to a dark golden brown (about 45 minutes), rotating every 15 minutes.

I waited until the day-of to do the following:
MAKE glaze: Put reserved peels and cores in a large saucepan, along with sugar. Pour in about 1/4 cup water; simmer for at least 25 minutes.  This did not really work for me (or for many of the other people who tried this recipe and posted comments)... it was far too liquidly to be a syrup.  I remedied this by using powdered sugar to thicken it up a bit and then just took a spoon with slits in it to dribble the glaze over the galette.

Et Voila!

REMOVE tart from oven, and slide off parchment onto cooling rack. Let cool at least 15 minutes.

I dribbled the glaze over the galette and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar that I had stored from when I made snickerdoodles.

Slice and serve with vanilla gelato!
Our beautiful daffodils from our guests... freshly picked by Matt's dad! They also brought a lovely bottle of red! :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Chicken Satay Stir-fry with Orange Rice

I adapted this recipe from with only some minor changes. 


  • 3 3/4 cups water
  • 2 oranges, zested
  • 2 cups jasmine rice, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons canola, 2 turns of the pan
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds chicken breast tenders, 2 packages, sliced on an angle into bite-size pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium yellow skinned onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper and 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, quartered and sliced
  • 1 cup shredded carrots, store bought
  • 1 cup snow peas, a couple of handfuls

Satay sauce:

  • 4 rounded tablespoonfuls chunky peanut butter
  • 5 tablespoons dark soy, Tamari
  • 5 tablespoons honey
  • 1-inch ginger root, peeled and minced
  • clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 orange, juiced


  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) chopped peanuts or nut topping, available on the baking aisle
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

Cooking Directions

I used a rice cooker so I just added the water, rice, and orange zest to the cooker.  Let rice sit in cooker 10-15min after it is done and then fluff with a fork. If cooking rice on stove, add orange zest to water while being brought to a boil.  

For stir-fry, heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat with vegitable oil. Add chicken, garlic and onion, stir-fry 3 minutes.  Season to your liking with salt and pepper.  Add remaining veggies and stir-fry 5 minutes more.  I added soy sauce to the stif-fry for some extra depth in flavor.  

For sauce, heat all ingredients for sauce together in a small pot over low heat, stirring the sauce until all ingredients are combined.  Slowly add water (a couple tablespoons spaced out) to thin out the sauce.  You may prefer it thick, if so do not add water.  

Transfer stir-fry to a large platter and pour sauce evenly over the chicken and vegetables. I mixed the sauce in but you do not need to.  I also had a tiny wait before serving so I placed the dish in a warmed oven.  This helped meld the flavors together.  When ready to serve, sprinkle the platter with chopped nuts, cilantro, and basil
Serve jasmine rice with the stir-fry and bon appetite!  P.s. Makes GREAT leftovers!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Chicken with Shallots and Balsamic Vinegar

As many of you may have seen on Facebook, I recently acquired a "French Oven" (commonly known as a Dutch Oven, but as it is made by Le Crueset, a French company, they insist on calling it a "French Oven" and therefore, I will call it that as well).  Anyway, I was dying to get one of these babies... finally it came on sale at $150 off the regular price.  I HAD to get my hands on one... I needed that tender, fall-off-the-bone meat in my kitchen ASAP.  Well, the day came when my new little baby arrived in the mail.  Then it occurred to me... I knew of no recipes that required a dutch/french oven!  Oh heavens, what was I to do?  Well...I remedied that problem real quick by heading over to Williams Sonoma and purchasing Essentials of Slow Cooking.  Now I was ready to get to work on my first dish.  Which one would it be?!?  There were so many to choose from!  Finally, I narrowed it down to this delicious fixin because I had many of the ingredients already in my kitchen and only needed to pick up a few things.

So here it is!:

These are what shallots look like
2 lb shallots, peeled
1 chicken, about 2 lb, cut into serving pieces (p.s. if you ask them at fresh market, they will cut up the chicken for you!!!)
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbs unsalted butter
2 tbs canola oil
1/4 cup dry red wine (I used a dry pinot that I found at fresh market)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Cut a shallow X in the root end of each shallot. Set aside.

Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper.  In a large, deep frying pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the canola oil.  Working in batches, add the chicken and cook, turning frequently, until browned, about 5 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Pour off all but 2 tbs of the fat in the pan.  Add the shallots and saute over medium-high heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine, broth, and vinegar.  Raise the heat to high, bring to a boil, and deglaze the pan, stirring and scarping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Transfer the chicken to a large French oven and add the shallot mixture.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the chicken is tender and opaque throughout, about 40 minutes.  Uncover, raise the heat to high, bring to a boil, and cook, turning the chicken and the shallots occasionally to prevent scorching, until the liquid has thickened slightly, 5-10 minutes.

Transfer French oven into the oven set between 250-275 (high heat on a slow cooker) and cover and cook for 3 hours (alternatively, cook at low heat for 6 hours).  Uncover and set the tempature to the high setting if necessary, and cook, stirring often, until the liquid has thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.

Transfer the chicken and shallots to a warmed platter and top with remaining sauce (I did nothing of the sort--I served it in the French oven on a little protector for the table--easier and I don't have a serving platter...cue gasp).  Serve at once!

I served this with Simple Spinach:
Boil water.
Add 5 oz spinach to water for 1 minute.
Drain and strain.
Add 1/2 tbs olive oil, some salt and the juice from 1/4 of a lemon.  Delish!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Easy-Peasy Tuna Casserole from Joy of Cooking!

This dish was exactly what Joy of Cooking said it would be...a perfect emergency dish!  From start to finish, this took less than 30 minutes and tasted delicious!

Preheat oven to 450
Take 2 cups of cooked angel hair pasta and distribute 1 cup of it evenly on the bottom of a greased casserole dish.
Take 10 oz of canned tuna and separate (not mince) with a fork. Then spread the tuna evenly over the pasta.
Take the remaining 1 cup of pasta and distribute over the tuna.
Pour one can of condensed mushroom soup (or onion soup) over the mixture.
Pour a little Worschestire (no idea how to spell this) sauce over the mix for flavor (not too much).
Take about 1/8 cup of parsley and season on top.
Cover the casserole with cracker crumbs (I used saltines but I think ritz crackers would be good for next time)
Bake until cracker crumbs brown (about 10-15 minutes)

Eat and enjoy the fruits of your (lack of) labor!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pink Lady Cake for a Birthday Princess!

Well the original creator of this beautiful blog, Miss Becky, just had a birthday! And *obviously* no birthday is complete without a cake fit for a pretty princess! So truth be told, I had my eye on Smitten Kitchen's Pink Lady Cake since I became obsessed with her blog and went through practically every recipe on there. I bookmarked it and thought, "I can't wait for the day when it comes time to make it!" Well, turns out, the day to make it is the day when it's time to celebrate the birth of one of the prettiest princesses you know! So without further delay, here is the making of Becky Flatow's Princess Pink Lady Cake!  (Recipe from SmittenKitchen)

For the cake
4 1/2 cups cake flour
3 cups sugar
5 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups pureed frozen strawberries
8 egg whites
2/3 cup milk
1 to 2 drops red food dye (to make the pink color pop more)

For the cream cheese frosting
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Make the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter three 9-inch round pans, line with parchment paper and butter the paper.

2. Put the first four ingredients in a large mixer bowl. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and strawberry puree (I pureed the strawberries in my food processor) and mix again to blend the ingredients. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. In another mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites, milk and red food dye. Add the whites to the batter in two or three batches, mixing only to incorporate each time. Divide the batter among the three pans.

4. Bake the cakes for about 35 minutes but check after 30, as oven temperatures can vary. You will know it is done when a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack, if you have one.  Let stand until completely cooled before assembling the cake, at least an hour. At this point, I took the cakes and popped them in the freezer for about 30 minutes and then took them out, wrapped them in Saran wrap three times and then put them back in the freezer to use the next day in assembling the cake--word of advice: take them out of the freezer more than a couple of hours before the party so that the cake itself can thaw)

cakes in the freezer!

Make the cream cheese frosting
5. In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar.

Frost and assemble the cake
6. Place one cake layer on a cake board or platter (make sure to level your cake layers so that they are all flat on the top and bottom to avoid an ugly cake and cracking!!). Tucking scraps of waxed paper under the edges of the cake allows you to frost the cake without making a mess on the platter/cake board because then you can remove them. Spread about 2/3 cup frosting over the layer. Repeat with the next layer. Add the top layer and frost the top. 

Before spreading all of the frosting on the cake, I spread the frosting on the cake in a thin layer and popped it in the fridge for 30 minutes. This helps to hide the crumbs when you then go to ice the cake entirely. That, apparently, is the secret to getting a smoothly iced cake. Remove the waxed strips so that the cake is neat on the platter.

7. Decorate however you wish and make sure to have candles for the princess to make a wish!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hand Pies for Pi Day! (3.14)

Well thankfully I was reminded that today was Pi Day!  And luckily it was in time for me to figure out what to make to celebrate-- Bourbon Peach Hand Pies from SmittenKitchen!  Here is the soon to follow!!  P.S. 2 lbs of peaches is WAY to many for this recipe (at least for me)... I used 4 peaches but ended up only needing about 2.  I will figure out what to do with them later, or I will make these again because they look delish cooking in the oven!

For the pastry:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into
1/2 cup sour cream
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup ice water
For the filling:
2 pounds of peaches
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon bourbon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
One egg yolk beaten with 2 tablespoons water (for egg wash)
Coarse sanding sugar, for decoration

1. To make the pastry: in one bowl, combine the flour and salt. Put butter in a separate bowl. Put bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Make an opening in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a fork, mix it up until the substance looks like coarse meal. Make another opening in the center. In a small bowl, whisk the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the opening. Mix in the liquid with hands until you have big lumps. Remove the lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Mush the lumps into a large ball.  Be cautious to not overwork the dough. wrap with saran wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. The dough can be stored in the freezer at this point for up to one month.
2. Divide the refrigerated dough into two halves. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a circular cutter (or the lid to almond butter/PB if you don't have cookie cutters...that would be me), cut seven circles out of the rolled dough. Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Do the same for the second half.
3. Make the filling: Peel and chop the peaches into small chunks (make sure they are quite small so they can fit in the peach pies). Mix in the flour, sugar and pinch of salt, and add the bourbon and vanilla.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature for 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the peach mixture onto one half of each circle of dough. 

Brush a little cold water around the edge of the dough, and fold it in half, making a semicircle. Seal the pie, and use the back of a fork to make little notches on the edge, which are super precious.  Place the hand pies back on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and return to the fridge for another 30 minutes.
5. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Take pies out of the fridge and cut a small slit in each (so they don't explode) and lightly brush with the egg yolk wash to make them crisp in the oven, creating a nice golden flakey crust. Sprinkle coarse sugar over the pies, and bake in the oven. Bake until the hand pies are golden brown and flakey, about 20 minutes. Remove the pies from the oven.  Cool for a few minutes before serving.