Sunday, April 28, 2013

Chicken Cutlets with Pecan Sauce

How many of you do this? I have a big file folder full of recipes that I have clipped from here and there with the intent to try some day. Some of these I’ve had for years. YEARS. Like 10 years, some of them. I decided that if I truly want this blog to be about kitchen adventures, I should take my cooking adventures in a useful direction and start trying some of these long saved recipes. I might find a real gem, or I could at least thin out this mass of ever growing recipes.

I told Mr. M. that I would reach into my folder and pull out something to cook and he had to eat it and give me his impression of the success of the dish. He agreed! He’s always up for eating.

I pulled out Chicken Cutlets with Pecan Sauce that I got from the February 2011 copy of Southern Living (and I don’t really remember tearing out).

I gathered all my ingredients. I was feeling pretty smug that I had most everything I needed on hand, until I took a look at my bottle of apple cider vinegar. I didn’t realize it goes bad. But this stuff had all this ‘stuff’ in it that didn’t dissolve when I shook it up and looked like slimy and gloppy… I just wasn’t chancing using it. So I tossed it and bought some new.

Toast the pecans. Easy enough.

My problem is always cooking chicken on the stop top; frying. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me. Its like I can never get it cooked all the way through without burning it or at least drying it out like shoe leather. I even butterflied these cutlets cause they were pretty thick. If I hadn’t, I might still be trying to get these girls cooked through.

After it was finally done, I made the sauce. It seemed to turn out well. I made couscous and vegetables to go with it. The Kid was pretty dubious about the whole meal. But his palate runs more toward burgers, pizza and meat in a mostly nugget form.

Mr. M. said he would give the chicken a B-. It was good enough tasting, but not as flavorful as you’d hope. Mostly you tasted the thyme and little else. The chicken had no other flavor, but chicken. The Kid said he’d give it a B, after he scraped the pecans off, cause he doesn’t like nuts. He also suggested that I move my cooking adventures to Sunday night, when he isn’t here.

I would agree with the B- rating for this recipe. It wasn’t very flavorful and I can think of a lot of other ways to make chicken more interesting. So this recipe isn’t a saver or to go into the regular rotation. That’s one cleared out of the file!

If you think you might like a milder chicken dish or can think of what this recipe needs to give it more of a kick, give it a try!

Chicken Cutlets with Pecan Sauce
½ cup pecans
½ cup butter, divided
4 chicken cutlets (about 1 ¼ lb)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
3 T flour
3 T olive oil
½ cup chicken broth
1 T brown sugar
2 T cider vinegar
½ tsp dried thyme

Heat pecans and 2 T butter in a large nonstick skillet over med/low heat, stirring often, 2-3 min or unitl toasted and fragrant. Remove from skillet.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, dredge in flour.

Cook chicken in hot oil in skillet over med heat, 3-4 min on each side or until golden brown and down. Transfer to a serving platter. Top with pecans.

Add chicken broth to skillet, cook 2 min, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet. Add brown sugar, vinegar and thyme. Cook 3-4 min or until sugar is melted and sauce is slightly thickened. Whisk in remaining 2T butter. Serve sauce over chicken.

Coconut Lemon Chip Cookies

I like unusual things. Don’t give me plain, average, boring. I don’t want plain Cheerios! Let’s try the Chocolate ones AND the Peanut Butter Cheerios…. TOGETHER! I don’t want plain hand soap. Give me something that is Passion Fruit Coconut scent with little scrubby beads and moisturizers!!

So, when I saw these lemon chips at a Mennonite store in southern Iowa when I was shopping with my Mom, I decided those were just too neat to pass up. And if you ever get a chance to shop in a Mennonite store, do it! They have so many interesting things in bulk there. I mean, I once saw a big bag of those little marshmallows like the kind in Lucky Charms. Yeah.

I had these lemon chips for a while before I finally decided what I would use them for. Coconut Lemon Chip cookies. Also, Shelly over at Cookies & Cups  (her blog is too cute and I envy it so!) talked about adding a tablespoon of corn starch to cookies to make them bake up more. I thought, I gotta try that! The only thing I will say is that I noticed my dough was a lot dryer. So much so that I couldn’t get everything mixed. I ended up adding another egg to just get it all to hold together. Keep that in mind if you try the corn starch trick.

Anyway, the cookies turned out beautiful! Seriously, I don’t remember when I made such pretty cookies. They were also crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. They didn’t last very many days, but they remained crispy/chewy thereafter. I would say adding corn starch will be a good thing, especially when you have dough that is a bit too thin and your cookies spread out all over the place.

Coconut Lemon Chip Cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 T corn starch
1 cup softened butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
Lemon or white baking chips
1 cup flake coconut

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and corn starch in a bowl. In another bowl beat butter, sugars until creamy. Beat in eggs. Gradually at to flour mixture. Stir in chips and coconut. Bake in 350 deg. oven for 12 minutes.

P.S. I tried adding corn starch to my favorite "Naughty Monkey Cookies" but didn't like how it turned the normally cake like/chewy cookie into a drier cookie. I still say the corn starch trick is great for cookies that tend to do too much spreading out, like traditional chocolate chip.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Coconut Blueberry Cozy Coffee Cake for a Winter Day

Spring is fickle. One day its warm and green sprouts are popping up. The next day there’s a major snow storm. Like today. This is what its doing out there.

A great day to stay home. Except we had tickets to a Comic Con downtown. *grumps* But I can’t exactly be mad about staying inside and being cozy on a wintery day. Yes, I’ll just get my blanket and watch a movie! After I do laundry, clean the bathrooms, and think about dinner. And bake something. See, this is why I don’t rest much.

Once again I had some geriatric fruit that needed to be put out of its misery. So I leafed through my huge stack of “recipes I’d like to try” to find something. I found a Coconut Blueberry Cake with Lemon Glaze. Bingo! (God knows how long I’ve held on this recipe)

In searching my supplies I discovered that my cooking oil had that old, yicky smell. I never like using a whole cup or even a half a cup of oil in baking. I know it’s needed, but geesh, that’s a lot of oil. I decided to substitute apple sauce and one old banana. Also I was suspicious about the validity of my baking powder. It says it expired in January. But that’s what my baking adventures are all about!! Also, I didn’t quite have 1 ½ cups of blueberries, I just used what I had (which was hardly a cup, I’d say)

Everything mixed up nicely and baked pretty well. Except I felt it wasn’t browning, like, at all. So I left it in a total of about 30 minutes. And though it never browned up a lot, it did seem to be cooked all the way through and it wasn’t totally flat, so the baking powder wasn’t completely bad.

To make the glaze it called for lemon rind. Okay, who, outside of people who live in the south and have lemon trees in their yard keep lemons on hand?? I will buy one when cooking plans call for it. But they aren’t laying around here. So I made due with the dried lemon peel and kinda fake lemon juice in the plastic lemon (like that fools anyone). The glaze cooked up fine also, but I started feeling kind of bad about those hard flecks of lemon peel. So I strained them out. If you're savvy enough to keep fresh lemon on hand, you won’t need to do this.

Mr. M. and I had a piece while it was all still hot. It was yum, I gotta say. And Mr. M. agreed. It was a denser cake, which made it seem more like a coffee cake. I feel like you can never go wrong with a nice coffee cake on a snowy day, though, right??

Coconut Blueberry Coffee Cake
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup vegetable oil or apple sauce
1 ½ cup blueberries
1 cup flake coconut

In a bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl beat eggs, milk and oil/apple sauce. Stir into dry ingredients just until moist. Fold in blueberries and coconut.
Transfer to a greased 13”X 9” baking dish. Bake at 375 for 22-24 min.

Lemon Sauce
½ cup sugar
4 ½ tsps cornstarch
1 tsp grated lemon peel
1 cup water
1 T butter
2 T lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and lemon peel. Gradually add water until blended. Bring to a boil, cook and stir for 2 min or until thickened. Remove from heat, stir in butter and lemon juice. Drizzle sauce on pieces of cake.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Fruit Crisp

It’s only taken me two months to get back to food blogging. During that time I did bake. And I did even do some creative stuff. But taking the time to record each step is sometimes too much to even imagine adding to the routine.

Something I have discovered though; I’ve become my mother. Or perhaps more accurately, my grand mother. I hate to waste food. And it isn’t like I just started having to buy my own food! I’ve been buying my own food for over 20 years. Maybe it is a middle-age thing. But I hate to see stuff go into the garbage just because no one got around to eating it. We are SO lazy here. ‘OMG, I have to actually peel a banana before I put it in my mouth??’ ‘I have to cook the meat first?? On the stove?? ARRGGhhhhhh… Too much work. I’ll have cereal.’

Fresh produce is the worst. It takes so much work to fix into something everyone will eat. And most nights, I don’t have that much energy. And when I’m looking for a quick snack, most of the time fruit just won’t do it. Add to that a chronic illness that makes a high fiber diet really uncomfortable and well, fresh produce is just almost a waste for us.

So the Kid says to me that he likes Red Delicious apples. I feel bad that I don’t feed him well enough. I buy a bag of small Red Delicious apples. I don’t like Red Delicious. Apples are not kind to me anymore, but I do love them. Jazz, Gala, Pink Lady, Honeycrisp are my favorites. Red Delicious a mealy, dry and flavorless. Only suitable for baking. But the Kid says….

I ask him later if he saw I got him apples. He said yeah, he tried one, and it was bad, so…. I puffed up like an angry hen. "Sometimes apples have a bad spot! It doesn't mean they’re all bad! What am I going to do with a bag of apples??”

They sit for a while until I need to make a cake for a birthday and decide to add some apples to a box caramel cake (with brown sugar glaze, it was tasty). I cut into four apples and was only able to use three of them and even those were a third or more rotten. I had to apologize to the Kid later for trying to foist off rotten apples on him.

So these apples are still sitting there. Rotten. And I can’t get myself to just pitch them. Then I had a bag of dried figs (I ADORE dried figs) that were dry and fibery and rather nasty. Yet, I couldn’t pitch them. And there were just a handful of shriveled blueberries in my fridge. What’s wrong with me? Do I think I’m saving children from starvation in some third world country if I keep this stuff??

Bake or get off the pot, right?? So I decided to make Fruit Crisp. It is adapted from a pie recipe I found in a cookbook. It’s pretty easy and I think would work for any fruit combo.

One interesting thing is you can use about anything for the liquid. I used 7-Up because its what I had. But I have used Ginger ale and pineapple juice before.

Serve it warm with some ice cream or whipped cream and it will be a cozy, happy thing. But honestly, I ate it plain and even after it had cooled it was very nice!

Enjoy, folks! And don’t be wasteful. Kids are starving in Africa. Eat well.

Fruit Crisp
2-3 Cups chopped fruit (apples, pears, berries, dried fruit)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup - plus ¼ cup 7-Up, apple juice, pineapple juice or Ginger-ale
1 T corn starch

Put chopped fruit in a pan with lemon juice, cinnamon and 1 cup of liquid. Cook till hot. Add corn starch to ¼ cup liquid, stir to dissolve and add to hot fruit mix. Cook until thickened.

½ cup flour
½ cup oats
½ cup butter
½ cup walnuts
½ cup brown sugar

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar and butter, cut with pastry cutter until mixed into small pieces. Add oats and nuts.

Put fruit in 9X9 greased pan and top with crumb topping. Bake in 350 oven for 20 min until hot and bubbly and topping is slightly brown. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Swedish Pepparkakor (Don't giggle when you say it)

When I started my blog I swore that I would share the kitchen failures as well as the successes. So far I've had successes for the holiday season. But yet again I have suffered from my worst habit and probably the main cause of a lot of my kitchen flubs; being in a hurry.

I would love to have nothing else to do but play in the kitchen. As it is, I work full time, care for a couple fur-kids, a part time human kid and a full time cohabitating partner (Mr. M.). Plus I have a dinky little kitchen that doesn't inspire me to spend a lot of time in it. Usually its a battle for space with me cussing at the microwave and coffee maker for hogging up so much room. I see the lavishly decorated cookies on Pinterest that are just way too pretty to simply eat and wonder about the time spent on something that is intended to be chewed up and swallowed like any regular food. That said, I do appreciate some visual esthetics with food.

So, what I'm saying is that since these spice cookies were my last baking project of the holiday season and it was 7pm at night, I had worked the whole day and my giveashit-o-meter was way down, this was not my proudest achievement. They weren't rolled out thin enough and so they spread out all over the too-crowded baking sheets, making trees, hearts and little men look like shapeless blobs. The decorating was just some colored sugars thrown on.

Honestly, if you give yourself a little more time these can be a lovely Christmas cookie reminiscent of old world holiday spices. Even my deformed treats tasted good! A nice change from traditional gingerbread, these cookies have a nice orange flavor and are addictively crunchy. Mr. M. said they are best dunked in a cold glass of milk for a few seconds.

Swedish Pepparkakor (Pepper cake)

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 egg beaten
2 T corn syrup
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cardamom
rind of 1 orange

Cream sugar and butter. Add egg and corn syrup. Sift together dry ingredients, add to creamed mixture. Wrap in plastic and refrigerator for a few days.

Take out of fridge and let come to room temperature or a bit cooler. Roll out thin, cut into shapes. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and decorate with sugar. Bake 350 for 10 min or until edges turn brown.

Other hints: Watch that cook time!! I found 10 minutes was too much. 8 minutes was a little better for my oven. As you can see from the picture I didn't have an orange but a bunch of clementines, which I figured would work. They did.

Since this was my last offical baking item for the holidays, I am done! D-O-N-E. Presents bought and wrapped, cards sent out, decorations up. It is time to just sit back and relax (and watch all the last minute types run around like caffeinated ants at a picnic. So, in case I am heard from no more this season I'll take this time to wish everyone a Very Happy, Merry, Festive Holiday, Christmas, Hanukah, Festivus!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

In Support of Egg Nog: Egg Nog Tea Bread

I mentioned before about a common punching bag of the holiday season, Fruitcake. As promised, I will move on to the next innocent butt of a lot of holiday sneering, Egg nog.

I adore Egg nog! I think a lot of people who claim to hate egg nog have not actually tried it. They keep imagining how straight egg in a glass of milk would taste. That isn't the flavor of egg nog at all (though I know that if you make egg nog yourself you will indeed use a bunch of raw eggs). But disliking egg nog because it has raw egg in it makes no more sense then not eating raw cookie dough (and we all do that!!) because it has raw egg in it. Essentially, you can't taste the egg. The taste is rich, sweet, creamy and nutmeg-y. How can that be bad?

I like it cold served with some nice holiday cookies. A bit of whiskey or rum thrown in is A-OK to me too! And because I'm a hypocrite who will inhale a pound of peanut butter fudge but only drink skim milk, I usually buy 'lite' egg nog. It's a more refreshing consistency (same thing I think about skim vs. 2% milk). Also when it comes to baking, I don't miss the extra fat, but I hope my ass does. I have also cut regular egg nog with some skim milk. Again, it's just a nicer drink, I think.

This sweet bread is a super easy recipe perfect for the holiday season that I found in this amazing little cook booklet my Mom got in a stack of cookbooks one year. This is such an amazing little book!

Each recipe starts with a cake mix. Every one is easy. And I've made many in this book and each one is really good! So this Egg Nog Tea Bread became a staple for holiday baking. It makes great small loaves perfect for giving or pairing up with a cup of coffee. It's not too sweet or too heavy.

Eggnog Tea Bread

1 pkg pound cake
3/4 cup egg nog
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 cup powdered sugar
2 T eggnog

Combine mix, eggnog, nutmeg and eggs in a large bowl and mix with electric mixer for 3 min. Pour into greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 30 min. Combine powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons eggnog and drizzle over bread when cool.

Other Hints: Every time I make this bread I forget how sticky and gloopy the batter is when you mix it up. I always fear I've messed something up until I remember its always that way. I think it's just the egg nog that makes it that way. Remember if you make one or two bigger loaves to watch the cooking time. My 8 small loaves took more like 25 min.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

In Support of Fruit Cake: Cherry Almond Bars

The world is divided into two types of people that become very evident this time of year: People who love fruit cake and people who hate fruit cake. I am of the first group. I do not understand what ISN'T to love about a rich, dense cake with nuts and chewy candied fruit!! Do people hate nuts? Do they hate candied fruit (which is the best form of fruit)? You hear people whining about "mysterious colored chunks of things" in fruit cake and you wonder if people are that paranoid about eating something that they can't immediately identify. Like these folks are giving their Chicken McNuggets a critical once over. Now, before everyone decides to foist off their unwanted fruit cakes to me, let me say that the reason I don't buy or make one for myself is that the only other person I know who likes fruit cake is my Mom and neither of us need to consume an 8,000 calorie cake by ourselves.

Following the "only make it once a year" theme of my Christmas baking is a festive 'almost-like-a-fruit-cake-but-not' bar called Cherry Almond Bars. What I like are the pretty red and green colors and how sweet and chewy it is without being as time consuming or as expensive as a fruit cake. BTW, picky people, the "unidentified parts" of a fruit cake are what usually make it so expensive and heavy; candied cherries (red and green), candied pineapple, dates, raisins, possibly apples and currents, and nuts. This bar uses just the candied cherries and raisins and almonds and the ease of a Magic Seven Layer Bar. And I've even had people who said they didn't care for fruit cake say this was a darn tasty bar!

Cherry Almond Bars

2 cups flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup cold butter
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup chopped red and green candied cherries
1 cup slivered almonds
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Combine flower and brown sugar, cut in butter until crumbly. Press into an ungreased 15"X10" pan. Bake at 325 for 12-14 min or lightly brown. Sprinkle with raisins, cherries and almonds, drizzle with milk. Bake 25-30 min longer.

Save some of the cherries for decorating other treats. I'm using those I've set aside to make hollies for a Christmas cake.

Other hints: I used a standard cake pan. I have no idea what a 15"X10" pan is. My cake pan nor my cookie sheet/jelly roll pans measured that, so I just used what I had. It was probably a little thicker cookie than intended so adjust the baking time. I happened to have just a bit of fresh orange juice left over from another recipe so I added a few table spoons to the condensed milk. Also, after I made this I realized a wonderful change (especially if you don't like raisins) is to swap them out for white chocolate chips! Imagine, a Chocolate Cherry Almond Bar!! Next year.....

Even if people can't manage to choke down something even remotely related to fruit cake they will surely appreciate the festive, jolly appearance of such a holiday-appropriate dessert. Frankly, I'd happily eat most of them myself with a cool glass of egg nog (and more on that abused and besmirched Christmas time drink in another post!)