Wednesday, December 15, 2010
In between all the holiday goodies we still need to eat real food. I've been on kind of a chicken kick lately, so tonight I made my own version of Chicken Fried Chicken. Yes, I actually thought of a recipe all by myself! What sets this apart from your everyday chicken fried chicken is that I use Rosemary flavored crackers for the crust.
Carr's Rosemary crackers:
You could use any kind of crackers you like, but I love the Rosemary crackers because they perfectly compliment the chicken. The only other seasoning I add is a little salt and pepper on the chicken before I coat it.
Here's what you will need to make this:
Tenderized chicken breasts
1 box Carr's Rosemary crackers
1 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten with a tablespoon of water added
salt and pepper
Oil for frying (I use Canola oil)
Crush the crackers in a ziploc bag using a rolling pin. See how pretty they are with those little bits of Rosemary? Can you even see the little bits of Rosemary? Trust me, they are there. The crackers look and smell so good I almost hate to destroy them.
Crush the crackers as finely as you can. Turn the bag over and crush them some more. Think about someone who made you mad today, it's more satisfying that way. They should look something like this:
Prepare your flour and egg wash. I used 1 cup of flour for the two chicken breasts I used. Adjust the amount as needed depending on how much you are making. Beat the eggs and water together in a separate pan. Heat the oil while you are prepping the chicken. Did you notice the white stuff in the pan of oil? It's true, I confess... I snuck a few pats of butter into the oil. Because I'm sneaky like that. Call it stealth butter.
Lightly salt and pepper your chicken. You don't need very much because the crackers are salted, but this is your only chance to season the chicken. I bought this chicken already tenderized and pre-packaged at my HyVee store, but if that's not available you can ask them to tenderize for you or do it yourself if you like to beat your food into submission. These are bigger than they look, one is more than enough for two people. I made two, but they are great as leftovers, they are even good cold. I'm guessing it will take us about 3 days to eat this.
Dredge the seasoned chicken in the flour and shake off the excess. Next, dip it in the egg wash. The flour helps the egg wash stick, and together they will act like a "glue" that will hold the cracker crumbs on the chicken, giving you a beautiful, thick, yummy crust. Dip it into the cracker crumbs last, making sure every bit of the chicken is coated and then shake off the excess crumbs. Place it in the hot oil and stand back while magic happens. If your pieces are big like these, cook them one at a time. Crowded food doesn't brown as well.
When the first side is nicely browned, very carefully turn it over. You might even want to cut the pieces in half to make them easier to work with. Just be careful that you don't splash the hot oil all over the place.
When the second side is browned (it won't take as long as the first side) carefully remove from the pan and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain the excess oil. When this is on the plate you can really appreciate how big these are. They didn't look that big when I bought them, but by the time you do the crust they are huge!
Serve with your favorite veggies and dig in!
Now... back to the cookies.
Monday, December 13, 2010
I woke up the other day and it was December. I'm not sure how that happened. Anyway, now that the month is nearly half over and next time I blink it will be Christmas, I'm going to get busy and post some of my favorite holiday recipes.
Lets start with some easy stuff.
This is actually the Fantasy Fudge recipe on the back of the Kraft Marshmallow Creme jar. It's easy and takes very little time to make, and you can change it up to make different flavors. Chocolate is the best though.
Here's what you need:
1 1/2 sticks butter
3 cups sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk (one of those small 5 oz cans = 2/3 cup)
1 12oz pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 7oz jar marshmallow creme
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla
Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil and butter the foil, or just butter the pan. I use foil because then I can lift the whole thing out of the pan to cut it.
Melt evaporated milk, sugar and butter in a saucepan.
Bring it to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 5 minutes - set your timer. Keep stirring. When 5 minutes is up, remove from heat. Stir in chocolate chips until melted. Fold in marshmallow creme.
Once the chocolate and marshmallow is thoroughly mixed together, it will be beautiful and glossy like this:
Mix in the vanilla and nuts. Pour into pan, set pan on cooling rack and cool at room temperature. Cut into small squares when cool.
Now, you can leave the nuts out of you don't like them. You can also make different flavors by changing the flavor of the chips. Use white chips and add pecans, Reeses peanut butter chips and chopped peanuts, or use those Andes mint baking chips and substitute peppermint extract for the vanilla. Use your imagination!
Here's another extremely yummy treat that is similar to a fudge. I have been making this every year for all of 2 decades. The recipe came from a former co-worker. We thought it would be fun to put together a booklet of recipes, and then we made everything and had a tasting party. One bite of this was pure bliss. I am providing the original recipe here, but I usually leave out the coconut, and sometimes I have even left out the marshmallows.
Don't ask, because I have no idea why these are called Christmas Bars. Just call it a mouthful of yummy peanut-buttery-butterscotch goodness.
1 stick butter
1/4 tsp Butter Flavoring
1 cup chunky peanut butter
1 12oz pkg butterscotch chips
1/2 tsp Maple Flavoring
1/2 tsp Burnt Sugar Flavoring
3/4 cup coconut (optional)
1/2 10oz pkg mini marshmallows
Melt butter, peanut butter, butterscotch chips and butter flavoring in the microwave. Set aside and cool for about 15 minutes.
Stir in maple and burnt sugar flavors. Fold in coconut and marshmallows. Press into a 9 x 9 inch square pan (I use an 11 x 7 inch pan) and cool until firm. Cut into squares.
You can find Butter and Maple flavoring in most stores. I get the Burnt Sugar flavoring at HyVee.
OK, lets do one more. I got this one about 20 years ago from another former co-worker. It's also very simple and really, really good.
Salted Nut Roll Bars
1 cup peanut butter
2 lbs white almond bark
3 cups Rice Krispies
2 cups dry roasted peanuts (chopped)
2 cups mini marshmallows
Chop the peanuts. It doesn't matter how finely you chop them, it just depends on how big of peanut chunks you like. I just gave mine a quick rough chop.
Melt peanut butter and almond bark in microwave. Mix well.
Stir in cereal, peanuts and marshmallows. Spread into buttered jelly roll pan. Refrigerate until firm. (I let mine set at room temperature and it was fine.) Cut into squares.
That's enough for now, but I'll be back soon with some great cookies!
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
One of the perks of my job as a nurse practitioner is that I get to have lunch in the medical staff dining room on weekdays. They set up a decent salad bar, and several choices of hot dishes and sides.. I won't mention the desserts, because today I want to take a break from all the sweetness that abounds during this time of year. Besides, I need to leave that stuff alone anyway! Unfortunately, it's still "hospital food", and the Chicken Piccata I had yesterday left me really hungry for Chicken Piccata made somewhere other than the hospital kitchen. The hospital version was certainly edible, but the flour coating was falling off in big, sticky sheets, I had to use my imagination to appreciate much in the way of lemon flavor, and I think mine had all of 3 capers on it. I shouldn't complain though, because I could have been eating cafeteria food, and I'm guessing they probably weren't serving Chicken Piccata in the cafeteria.
Chicken Piccata is a really simple dish to make, so I don't know why I haven't tried it at home before. It's really just a tenderized chicken breast simmered in a simple lemony sauce made with either chicken stock or white wine, and some capers.
Capers are what make it special, I think. I love that piquant burst of flavor that fills your mouth when you bite into them. Capers are the immature flower buds of a perennial plant which is native to the Mediterranean and some parts of Asia. After harvesting, the buds are dried in the sun and then pickled in a brine made with vinegar or wine. The ones I used were packaged in balsamic vinegar. Yum! You can find capers in the grocery store next to the pickles and olives.
When it came down to searching for the perfect recipe, I just did a Google search for Chicken Piccata, and got a whole list of sites. This is really because I was too lazy to search through all my cookbooks. I looked at several of them - myrecipes.com, simplyrecipes.com, epicurious.com, squidoo.com to name a few... there are more. The one I settled on, though, came from one of my favorite Food Network stars, Giada De Laurentiis on foodnetwork.com. I liked her recipe the best because it used basic ingredients and looked easy to make. I have 3 of Giada's cookbooks, and her Turkey Meatballs with Marinara Sauce is a staple at my house. Next time I make a batch I will be sure and share it with you! And yes it's true, I was even too lazy to look through my Giada cookbooks.
I keep trying to post links, but for some reason they don't show up in the finished post, so if any of you have any helpful hints for me I would love to hear from you!
Giada's Chicken Piccata
2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
Sea salt (regular salt is fine here) and freshly ground black pepper (or not)
All-purpose flour, for dredging
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or just stick a sprig or two on the side like I did)
You can see here that I already strayed from the recipe in that I had the cute guy behind the meat counter run a couple of chicken breasts through the tenderizer for me. When you use tenderized chicken, you can cut the finished dish with a fork.
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.
In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil.
Seriously now, did you think I was really going to measure my oil and butter? For me, it was more like a couple of turns of EVOO (oops, wrong show...) and cut off a few good sized chunks of butter.
When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. I only made 2 pieces, so that was easy. (It's okay if you don't time this, just cook it until it is a nice golden brown)
When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate.
Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil.
When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat, then remove chicken from pan and set aside on a plate.
Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers.
I used these cute little Meyer lemons I got at Whole Foods.
Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley. I thought a couple of lemon slices made it look even more festive.
As you can see, I strayed from the recipe yet again and got a little carried away with the capers. I used the whole jar. I was feeling deprived. It was a bit much, but I think if I had made 4 pieces of chicken like Giada did, it might have been okay. I do have to admit that my husband made a snide remark today about not putting any lemon on his food... so I guess he wasn't a fan. *sigh* Oh well, that's what I get for marrying a regular meat and potatoes guy. This chicken would be darn good even without the sauce, so next time there will just be more lemony goodness for me!
If the link below is not clickable, just copy and paste into your browser window. Enjoy!
Saturday, December 4, 2010
The only similarity between this and the Red Jello recipe made famous by the Lutheran Church Basement Women, is that this recipe uses red Jello and hot water. My mom has been making this salad for holiday dinners for as long as I can remember. I think she does it just for me because it's always been my favorite. What makes it unique is that it has walnuts in it. There is something about the combination of the nuts, celery and apples that goes mixed in with the cinnamon candy flavored jello that is just too good for words. I could make a snarky remark about nutty jello and the Lutheran Church Basement Women, but I'll be nice. Don't be afraid of nutty jello though, because each bite of this is a cool burst of sweet-apple-cinnamon-nutty-crunchy goodness that will make your mouth very, very happy. Just think, you will be getting your fruit, veggies, and your Omega-3s all in one sweet treat. Sounds healthy to me!
Cinnamon Jello Salad
1 small box cherry Jello (it's okay to use sugar-free jello if you like)
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup cinnamon red-hot candy
1 cup apples (peeled and chopped)
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Pour 1/2 cup boiling water over the red-hot candy in a small bowl, set it aside until dissolved, and then add enough water to equal 1 cup of liquid. Pour 1 cup hot water over jello and stir until dissolved. Add the cinnamon water to jello, and refrigerate. When it is almost set, stir in walnuts, apples, and celery. We make this in a 9 x 13 baking dish and cut into squares to serve.
Love it! Thanks, Mom.