THE Salad

The first summer we lived in TN, we invited a couple of students over for dinner to get to know them better.  I put this salad together, and it was dubbed “THE Salad”.

According to R, THE Salad tasted like summer.  Every time R comes home from college, we intend to have dinner and make THE Salad again, but it has yet to happen.  I will forever remember our evening spent talking and laughing around the table while enjoying THE Salad.

the salad 1

THE Salad

Greens & Veggies:
Enough for 4 servings
2 c chopped Romaine lettuce
2 c chopped fresh spinach
1/2 cucumber, diced
2 to 3 celery stalks, diced
1/2 c match-stick carrots
I add tomatoes seperately, husband doesn’t like ’em.

The stuff that makes it THE Salad:
shake & bake chicken  – 3 chicken breasts were enough for 4 servings
fresh sliced strawberries
fresh cubed buffalo mozzarella
pecan halves – toasted or candied
homemade croutons
Poppyseed dressing

the salad 2

For the croutons:  I had some cubed focaccia bread in the freezer to make breadcrumbs or croutons out of.  I tossed them in a couple splashes of olive oil and toasted them in a 400 degree oven for 10 min.

Shake & Bake

I love me some Shake N Bake chicken.  Super easy and super tasty.  When I would make it for my old roommate L, she would always tease me “It’s Shake N Bake, and I helped” as we were cooking.

Unfortunately it is also filled with ‘partially hydrogenated’ this and lots of things ending in ‘trin’ and ‘nate’.  I figured it couldn’t be too hard to make myself.

I found this recipe on, my mixture has been modified.

shakenbake 1

Homemade Shake & Bake Mix

4 c panko bread crumbs
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 tsp to 1/2 tlbsp salt – depending how salty you may like it
1 tblsp paprika
1 tblsp ground celery seed
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp dried oregano

In a large resealable bag, combine all ingredients, mixing well.

2 cups of the mixture will generously coat 4 boneless skinless chicken breast.  Heat oven to 400 degrees and cook for 20 minutes, or until breast is firm and juices are clear.

shakenbake 2

cartoon-strawberry-9This mix is so good!  I burned my mouth scrapping up the little bits of crispy goodness right out of the pan.

On Friday, I’ll share with you what I used this chicken for.

Latin Baked Chicken

Have I mentioned we’re on a heavy rotation of chicken?  I’m hoping as long as I dress it up in different ways, husband won’t mind too much.  And I’m realizing I need to branch out a bit, maybe even try my hand at a few fish recipes.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, June 2010.

Substitution made, noted below.

latin baked chicken 1

Latin Baked Chicken

1/4 c lime juice
3 tblsp soy sauce
2 tblsp honey
2 tblsp minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce
8 – 4oz each bone in chicken thighs, skinned – I used 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast

Combine lime juice, soy sauce, honey and chipotle in a large bowl.  Add chicken and toss well to coat.  Let stand 10 minutes at room temperature.

latin baked chicken 2

Arrange the chicken on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray, reserving marinade.  Bake at 400 degress for 15 minutes.  Place reserved marinade in a blender, and process until smooth.  Place purred marinade in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and cook 3 minutes.

latin baked chicken 3

Brush chicken with half of cooked sauce; return to oven and bake an additional 10 minutes; repeat with remaining marinade and bake another 10 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165.

latin baked chicken 4

cartoon-strawberry-9This is the best kind of chicken recipe.  Minimal ingredients, one bowl and one pan, and very tasty.  If you’re using chicken breasts like I did, you will need to adjust your cooking time.  In my oven, this took 20, maybe 22 minutes.

Extra-Special Dark Chocolate Cake

Last fall, husband and I went out on a Saturday for some wandering.  In our adventures, we came upon a small antique store and decided to see what treasures it might hold.  Not surprisingly, I came home with a cook book.  Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking, Vol 1, A-F.  If I’m reading the inside cover correctly, mine is from the sixth printing in 1957.  It’s a worn out book, the printed spine is about to fall off and the previous owner left notes, newspaper clippings and other recipes tucked inside.  Such a treasure to me.

We had some friends over for dinner a last week, and I thought the “Extra-Special Dark Chocolate Cake” would be the perfect dessert to serve to some extra special people.

No substitutions were made.

dark choc cake 1

Extra-Special Dark Chocolate Cake

2 1/2c cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4c brown sugar, packed
3/4 c shortening
1 whole egg and 3 egg yolks
3 squares unsweet chocolate, melted & cooled
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c sweet milk – from the touch of research I did, ‘sweet milk’ is fresh milk. I used 2%.

Line bottoms of two 9-inch layer pans with waxed paper – grease paper.  Start oven 10 min before baking; set to moderate (350 degrees). – I skipped the wax paper and sprayed my pans with Bakers Joy.

Sift four, measure, re-sift 3 times with soda and salt.  Put sugar through coarse sieve if lumpy.  Cream shortening and sugar with wooden spoon until smooth and shiny.  Remove spoon and use rotary beater to bean in egg and yolks, beating until smooth and fluffy.Remove beater and use spoon.  Stir in chocolate and vanilla. – I used my stand mixer for all beating and stirring.

dark choc cake 2

Add flour and milk alternating in 3 or 4 portions, beginning and ending with flour and beating until well-blended after each.  Turn into prepared pans.  Bake 22 to 25 minutes or until cake tests done.  Cool in pans on cake racks 5 minutes, then turn out on racks, strip off paper and invert to finish cooling.

dark choc cake 3

And what would chocolate cake be without a great frosting??  I used the Coffee Butter Frosting, from this same cookbook.

Coffee Butter Frosting

1/3 c medium grind coffee
1 c cold water
1/4 c soft butter
2 c xxxx sugar (powdered sugar), sifted and packed
1/4 tsp salt
1 tblsp corn syrup

Add coffee to water and heat just to boiling; remove from heat, cover and let stand 2 min, then strain through fine sieve or cheese-cloth to remove all grounds.  Cool before adding to frosting. – I had husband make me a shot of espresso. 🙂

Cream butter until smooth and shiny, gradually blend in sugar alternately with about 3 tblsp of the coffee.  Then beat in the salt and the corn syrup until mixture has good spreading consistency.

dark choc cake 4

cartoon-strawberry-9Oh what a cake.  The batter was almost the consistency of pudding, and I had to rinse out the bowl before I stuck my head in it to lick it clean.  As you can see, the frosting wasn’t quite enough to cover both layers, but there was enough to make them stick.  In the future I’d double all the ingredients for the frosting, except for the coffee and maybe add a bit of chocolate syrup to make more of a mocha flavor.

A slice of this cake and one of husband’s latte’s were a wonderful compliment of each other.  And a perfect treat to share with our Extra-Special friends!

Arroz Rojos

So my lesson in life – If you’re not sure how long a new recipe will take, then don’t take on another new recipe at the same time.  I started dinner late and wasn’t sure how the timing of everything would go, so I asked husband to step in and help, which he did.  What a great guy.

This recipe is from Step-by-Step Italian, Mexican & Chinese Recipes.

Substitutions made, noted below.

arroz rojos 1

Arroz Rojos

2 tblsp vegetable oil
1 c raw lon-grain white rice
1/2 c finely chopped white onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
dash chili powder
2 large tomatoes – peeled, seeded and chopped
1 1/2 c chicken broth
1/3 c shelled peas
2 tblsp chopped pimiento – I used corn

Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add rice.  Cook and stir 2 minutes or until rice turns opaque.

Add onion; cook and stir 1 minute.  Stir in garlic, salt, cumin and chili powder.  Add tomatoes; cook and stir 2 minutes.

arroz rojos 2

Stir in broth.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until rice is almost tender.

Stir in peas and chopped pimiento.  Cover and cook 2 to 4 minutes until rice is tender and all liquid has been absorbed.  Rice grains will be slightly firm and separate, rather than soft and sticky.

arroz rojos 3

cartoon-strawberry-9Red rice.  It looks a little “sticker” than the picture in the cookbook, but it was a great compliment to the Creamy Almond Chicken.  In the future I’d add a little bit of tomato paste to bring out the red color and a splash or two of hot sauce to give it some heat.

Creamy Almond Coated Chicken

We’ve been living on a diet heavy with chicken lately since husband’s doctor has asked him to cut out red meat.  It’s challenging me to find new recipes and get a little creative.

This recipe is from Step-by-Step Italian, Mexican & Chinese Recipes.

No substitutions were made.

almond chicken 1

Creamy Almond Coated Chicken

1/2 c blanched almonds
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (approx 6 oz each)
2 to 3 tblsp vegetable oil
1 tblsp butter
1/4 c finely chopped onion
1 fresh Anaheim or poblano chili – roasted, peeled, seeded, deveined and finely chopped
1 sm tomato – seeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c chicken broth
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c heavy cream

Process almonds, about 1/4c at a time, with a spice grinder to create a fine powder  Place ground almonds on a shallow plate.

Coat chicken with almonds; reserve remaining almonds. – My chicken was a little too wet, so the almonds didn’t stick well.  live and learn.

almond chicken 2

Heat 1 tblsp of oil and butter in a deep, large skillet over medium heat until foam subsides.  Place breasts in a single layer in the skillet without crowding.  Cook 6 minutes or until chicken is light brown, turning once.  Reduce heat if almonds get too dark.  Remove chicken to plate.  Repeat with any remaining chicken, adding oil if needed.

Add 1 tblsp of oil and onion to skillet.  Cook and stir over medium heat 3 minutes or until onion is softened.  Add chili, tomato and garlic.  Cook and stir 1 minute.  Add broth, salt and reserved almonds.  Bring to a boil over high heat.

almond chicken 3

Return chicken to skillet.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes until chicken is tender and juices run clear.  Remove chicken to serving plate; cover and keep warm.

Add cream to broth mixture.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes until sauce is slightly thickened.  Pour over chicken when serving.

almond chicken 4

cartoon-strawberry-9This chicken was good, but I would want to tweak it a little next time.  I expected the roasted chili to add more heat, so I’m wondering if some cumin or chili powder in the sauce would give it the kick I’m looking for.  But the sauce, Oh My, the sauce.  All I wanted to do was add some cheese and make a queso out of it.

On Wednesday, I’ll be posting about the rice pictured here, Arroz Rojos.

Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Honey Apple Cake

My subscription to Cooking Light ran out this month, and I’m not quite sure what to do.  I love getting the magazine every month, gorgeous pictures, amazing food and most importantly, nutritional information.  Husband has Type 2 diabetes, so I need to be aware of the carb amounts in our meals.  On the other hand, I have stacks and stacks and stacks of magazines.  They take up a lot of room and I could cook something different every day from now until forever with just the magazines I have in these stacks.  What would you guys do?

This recipe is from Cooking Light, April 2008.

No substitutions were made.

oatmeal applesauce cake 1

Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Honey Apple Cake

1 c quick-cooking oats
1 c hot water
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 c packed light brown sugar
3/4 c chunky applesauce
1/3 c honey
2 large eggs
cookingn spray

1/4 c butter
1/3 c packed light brown sugar
1/4 c honey
1/2 c coarsely chopped almonds

oatmeal applesauce cake collage

To prepare the cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine oats and hot water in a small bowl; set aside.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  In a medium bowl: combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.  In the bowl of a stand mixer: combine brown sugar, applesauce, honey and eggs; beat on high for 1 minute.  Add oat mixture; beat on low until well blended.  Add half of flour mixture in two halves, combining well each time.

Spoon batter into an 11×7 baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 350 for 48 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Place dish on a wire rack.  If you don’t have an 11×7 baking dish, you can sub a 9″ square baking dish.

To prepare the frosting:

Preheat broiler.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add brown sugar and honey; cook 2 minutes, or until bubbly, stirring constantly.  Stir in almonds.  Quickly pour frosting over cake, spreading evenly.

Broil cake 1 minute or until frosting is bubbly and golden.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Serve with shipped cream, sprinkled with cinnamon.

oatmeal applesauce cake 4

cartoon-strawberry-9I love everything about this dense, sticky-sweet cake.  But it tastes like fall, so it feels a little out of place for dessert in early May.  I’m thinking this will be perfect come mid October when the leaves start to change.

Everyday Brownies

Oh Nigella, can I move in with you and have you cook for me everyday?

This recipe is from Nigella Kitchen.

No substitutions were made.

everyday brownies 1

Everyday Brownies

10 tblsp unsalted butter
1 3/4 c (packed) light brown sugar
3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
approx 6 oz milk chocolate, chopped (or 1 c chips)
confectioner’s sugar, to dust
13×9 baking pan

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Melt the butter over a gentle heat in a medium sized saucepan.

When the butter is melted, add the sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon (still over low heat) to help it blend with the melted butter.

(In a separate bowl.)  Whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda and pinch of salt, and then stir into the pan (butter mixture); when mixed (this will be a very dry mixture, and not wholly blended at this stage), remove pan from heat.

everyday brownies 2

In a bowl or pitcher, whisk the eggs with the vanilla extract and then mix into the brownies mixture in the pan.

Stir in the chopped chocolate and quickly pour and scrape into a foil-lined baking pan, spreading the mixture with a spatula and cook in the preheated oven for approx 20-25 minutes.  It will look set, dark and dry on top, but when you feel the surface, you will sense it is still wibbly underneath and a cake tester will come out grungy.  This is desirable.

Transfer the pan to a rack to cool a little before cutting into 16 pieces and dusting with confectioner’s sugar.  I love these gorgeously warm.  But then again, I love them cold too.  Actually, when cold they are properly speaking more brownie-like: gooily tender within and chewy on top.

everyday brownies 3

cartoon-strawberry-9Um, I think these are called ‘Everyday Brownies’ because now I want to eat a whole pan of these everyday.  I halved the recipe and baked them in a 9 inch square pan.  Half a recipe baked in 15 minutes.  Who wouldn’t want to make a recipe that includes the word ‘wibbly’?

Chinatown Chicken Salad

I am a sucker for bargain books.  Send me to Barnes & Noble with a $20 gift card, and it’ll take me a couple hours to decide which new books to claim as my own.  A couple of weeks ago, I picked up Nigella Kitchen by Nigella Lawson for nine bucks!  The next day was a lazy rainy Saturday and I got to spend a few hours reading through all her tips and amazing recipes.  Here’s the first one I tried.

This recipe is from Nigella Kitchen.

A few omissions made, noted below.

chinatown chicken salad 4

Chinatown Chicken Salad

2 oz (about 12) wonton wrappers (or handful of tortilla chips)
vegetable oil (for frying wontons) – I used peanut oil

If you’re using the wonton wrappers, begin by heating about 1/2 in oil in a frying pan.

Once the oil is hot, peel off the papery wrappers from the pack and add them, in batches of 3-4 at a time, to the pan.  Be careful, they need just a few seconds a side to turn golden and will continue to darken as you remove them to a cookie sheet lined with some paper towels.

Continue cooking the wonton wrappers in batches until you have a baking sheet full of crisp golden squares.  Let cool a little, while you get on with the salad they are to adorn.

chinatown chicken salad 2

Salad Dressing
1 red or green chili, seeded and finely chopped – I used a jalapeno
2 tsp fresh gingerroot
4 tsp lime juice or rice vinegar – I used lime juice
3 tblsp soy sauce
splash sesame oil
1/2 tsp sugar

Mix the dressing ingredients in a jug or screw top jar, stirring together or shaking, to mix.

chinatown chicken salad 1

1/2 c salted peanuts (chopped if desired)
1 head iceburg lettuce, shredded
1 1/2 c (6 oz) bean sprouts – the supermarket was out of sprouts 😦
4 scallions, cut into thirds and julienned
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut inot fine strips
4 c shredded chicken
handful fresh chopped cilantro, for serving – I left this out

In a large bowl, toss together the peanuts, lettuce, bean sprouts, scallions, red bell pepper and shredded cold chicken.

Add half the cooled wonton wrappers or tortilla chips (if using), breaking them into pieces into the bowl, then dress the salad, tossing again to mix before adding the other half of the crispy wonton wrappers and the chopped cilantro, sprinkling both on top.  Serve at once.

chinatown chicken salad 3

cartoon-strawberry-9This is a restaurant style salad, so good.  Because it was just the two of us, I dressed the salads as I served them.  In the future, I’d also wait to stir in the peanuts and wonton wrappers so any leftovers wouldn’t get soggy.  And this dressing is good enough to make and just keep on hand all the time.

Portuguese Sweet Bread

At my church in California, we used Kings Hawaiian Bread for communion.  Taking a small piece from the sweet loaf was a wonderful reminder of the sweet sacrifice made for me.  I really wanted to try this recipe, but put it off because its a 7 hour process.  Seven. Hours.  But I had a free day and thought, “what the heck?”.

This recipe is from The Bread Bakers Apprentice.

No substitutions were made.

portuguese sweet bread 1

Portuguese Sweet Bread

1/2 c unbleached bread flour
1 tblsp granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/2 c water, room temperature

6 tblsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 c powdered milk
2 tblsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tblsp vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp orange extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 c unbleached bread flour
6 tblsp water, room temperature

Egg Wash
1 egg, whisked with 1 tsp water until frothy

To make the sponge, stir together the flour, sugar and yeast in a small bowl.  Add the water and stir until all the ingredients are hydrated and make a smooth batter.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the sponge gets foamy and seems on the verge of collapse.

To make the dough, combine the sugar, salt, powdered milk, butter and shortening in a 4 quart mixing bowl (or bowl of an electric mixer).   Cream together with a sturdy spoon ( or the paddle attachment) until smooth, then mix in the eggs and extracts.  Knead by hand (or switch to the dough hook attachment) and mix in the sponge and the flour.  Add the water, as needed to make a very soft dough.  The finished dough should be very supple and soft, easy to knead, and not wet or sticky.  It will take 10 to 12 minutes with the electric mixer and close to 15 minutes by hand to achieve this consistency. (Dough with high amounts of fat and sugar usually take longer to knead because the gluten requires more time to set up.)  The finished dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 degrees.  Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

The most reliable method to determine when gluten development is sufficient is called the windowpane test, sometimes referred to as the membrane test.  This is performed by cutting off a small piece of dough from the larger batch and gently stretching, pulling and turning it to see if it will hold a paper-thin, translucent membrane.  If the dough falls apart before it makes this windowpane, continue mixing for another minute or two and test again.

Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

portuguese sweet bread 2

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 2 equal pieces.  Form each of the pieces into a boule.  Lightly oil two 9-inch pie pans and place 1 boule, seam side down, in each pan.  Mist the dough with spray oil and loosely cover the pans with plastic wrap.

To form at Boule (Ball)
a. Gather the dough to form a rough ball.
b. To create surface tension, stretch the outside of the dough into a oblong shape, being careful not to squeeze out the gas trapped in the dough any more than necessary.
c. Repeat this stretching motion, bringing the opposite ends together to make a ball. Tighten the surface tension by pinching to seal the bottom of the dough where the creases converge.
d. Seat the boules aside for proofing or to rest for further shaping.

Proof at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, or until the dough fills the pans fully, doubling in size and overlapping the edges slightly.

Very gently brush the loaves with the egg wash.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

Bake the loaves for 50 to 60 minutes, or until they register 190 in the center.  After 30 minutes, check the loaves and rotate 180 degrees, if necessary for even baking.  Because of the high amount of sugar, the dough will brown very quickly, but don’t be fooled into thinking it is done.  It will get darker sa the center gradually catches up with the outside, but it will not burn.  The final color will be a rich mahogany brown.

Remove the bread from the pie pans and place on a rack to cool  The bread will soften as it cools, resulting in a very soft squishy loaf.  Allow the bread to cool for at least 90 minutes before slicing or serving.

portuguese sweet bread 3

cartoon-strawberry-9The name says it all, this is a sweet bread.  Personally, I think its a little too sweet, but then I slathered on some butter and it all evened out.  There is a suggestion in the book to use this bread as french toast, this WILL be happening soon.  I would also like to try and use this dough for either dinner rolls or sandwich rolls.