Baked Chicken Tenders

Simple and delicious.

Ingredients:

1 lb chicken tenders
2 Tbls mayonnaise
1/2 c breadcrumbs
1/2 c parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425º F.
  2. Mix chicken tenders & mayonnaise in a bowl to lightly coat the chicken with mayonnaise.
  3. Mix breadcrumbs & cheese in a gallon size ziploc bag.
  4. Prepare baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Put 1-2 chicken tenders in the ziploc bag with breadcrumb mixture and shake to coat.
  6. Place chicken tenders in a single layer on baking sheet.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes.
  8. Gently flip each tender and bake an additional 9 minutes.
  9. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

You can use your own spices to vary the basic recipe.

Spicy Chicken Tenders

I used Panko Breadcrumbs and added cayenne pepper to my mayonnaise.

 

Italian Herb & Parmesan Chicken Tenders

I added Italian Seasoning to my plain Panko breadcrumbs. You can alternatively just use Italian breadcrumbs.

Pizza! Pizza!

I loves me some pizza!  Cheese Pizza!  I could eat pizza every day and never tire of it. I love food so you would think to pick just one favorite would be hard. But it’s not. Hands down pizza does it for me.

Scranton, PA

Growing up I would go to Scranton to visit my dad’s family and would always be treated with Ferri’s Pizza. Back in the 70’s we got Ferri’s at their location in Dunmore, Pa but it is no longer open. When I was in Scranton back in 2003 there was a location in Taylor, PA so I was able to enjoy the pizza once again 🙂  I have never experienced anything similar to this “Old Forge” style pizza anywhere else in the country. It is fantastic. Another place that serves a similar pizza is Brownie’s Famous Pizza. It is just as delicious as Ferri’s.

UPDATE: ORDER PIZZA DOUGH – Old Forge Pizza Express Full-Dough Pizza Kit (Makes Two 11″ x 17″ Pizzas)

Boston, MA

I went to Boston a couple of years ago for software training when I was working for a hospital. Naturally I would never travel without planning to experience some local pizza flavor. I hit the web before we even left town and found the Lynwood Cafe in Randolph, MA. As luck would have it, or fate, we were staying at the Holiday Inn Express in Randolph, MA.  I could tell you how awesome this little pie was but I think the experience of going there proves it. We went on a Tuesday night which isn’t necessarily the biggest night in the restaurant biz. But this place was packed. We had to wait for a table. It wasn’t in any way fancy. You could tell the building was old and they had no time for renovations. On top of it the pile of take out orders was stacked so high I couldn’t even believe what I was seeing. It was unreal. They don’t deliver…but the pizza is so good you’ll get off your ass to go get it. They only make one size pie. It’s a 10″ individual pie. I thought it seemed like a small size…but this pie is so rich I actually felt my stomach stretch and I still didn’t finish the whole thing. It was so good I wanted to keep eating but my stomach was like…don’t you dare! The nail in the coffin of convincing is the fact that this place only accepts cash. In this day and age of online shopping and debit card purchasing even that was no deterrent. They were doing business to the maximum. Crazy. If you ever hit the Boston area don’t miss out on this hidden gem.

St. Louis, MO

I grew up in St. Louis so I know the best places. There are actually a lot of good Italian Pizzeria’s in St. Louis if you can believe it. I guess because it is a fairly good sized town with a catholic presence it has been able to get a lot of italian immigrants to settle out in the midwest.  I love Saullo’s. Some people complain the family is cranky but who cares. It’s about the pizza not the service. Unfortunately, they are located in north St. Louis county which isn’t the best part of town. But they are right off the interstate in an older strip mall so they are very easy to get to. The inside of the restaurant is very small but they have a loyal customer base so they do a lot of take out business. Getting a table shouldn’t be a problem. The Serra brothers, cousins of Saullo, have restaurants also. Serra’s Pizzeria comes in first, they are located in Maryland Heights, while Nick & Elena’s in Overland comes in close behind. They are all fabulous. I miss them very much now that I am living on the Gulf Coast. Like many who moved from North County to South County, it is nothing to make the trek for that pizza. It is pleasure to do so. That being said Saullo’s had a kindred spirit on the south side. St. Louis House of Pizza was serving up Saullo’s style pizza and it was fantastic. But apparently Don closed up shop. Fact is, people in South County don’t know what good pizza is. All the good places are up north.

Gulfport, MS

Not a lot of options down here for pizza. But Salute has a very good pie. And they are located right on Beach Blvd with an ocean view. Can’t beat that! It is a very nice restaurant so they actually have lots of delicious food. As for a regular pizza pie the only option in town is Chilli Willi’s Pizzeria. They offer Brooklyn style pies that are available “by the slice” or by the whole pie. I like it both ways. It’s very good by the slice but sometimes it’s nice to just get my own 10″ personal sized pie.

Well, all that pizza talk and the fact that Uncle Sam is in Scranton got me in the mood from some pizza makin’. I don’t really have a recipe per se. I use a frozen bread dough loaf, pizza sauce and mostly american cheese. Obviously you can add whatever other toppings you like.

You have to know in advance if you want to make pizza my way. It takes the better part of a day to thaw and let the dough rise. I picked up some Winn Dixie pizza sauce and had some chunks of white and yellow american cheese leftover. I buy my american cheese at the deli and just have them cut off bricks. I don’t get it sliced. I have a cheese slicer. I like being able to use the cheese the way I want, maybe sliced, maybe grated, maybe cubed. As for the pizza sauce, Winn Dixie’s store brand is very flavorful and if it’s already done well I’m not to good to use it.

The american cheese probably sounds weird but if you actually use “real” american cheese and not “processed cheese food” slices, well american cheese is quite good. It has a low melting point which makes it gooey like provel. Most people have never heard of provel cheese. It is only available in St. Louis. It is a blend of swiss, cheddar and provolone. In other words, it is a processed cheese. But at least is actually made from “real” cheese and not a bunch of oil.

Tip: Thaw the frozen bread loaf in a loaf pan that is coated with cooking spray. Also spray the top of the frozen loaf with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. This will keep the dough from sticking to the pan or plastic wrap after it has thawed and risen.

At this point I turn on the oven and set it to 375º. I don’t have a big cutting board so I just tear off a sheet of Freezer Paper and tape it to the counter with painter’s tape. I spray the freezer paper with cooking spray so the dough doesn’t stick as I roll it out. I then place the pizza dough in a jelly roll pan and form the edges up against the sides because I like crust on the edges. After that I prick the surface of the dough all over with a fork so that I don’t get a bunch of bubbles. I cover the pan with a pastry towel and let it rest on the warm stove for about 15 or 20 minutes so the dough can do a second “rise.”

Topping your pizza is personal preference. I like to do the sauce first and cheese next. Then I hit the top with a bit of Italian Seasoning. I make my own which is perfect for pizza (2 tsp oregano, 2 tsp basil, 1 tsp thyme).

I top the sauce with the white and yellow american cheese. Then I put some mozzarella on top. Sprinkle on some italian seasoning and it is ready for the oven. I bake the pizza for about 20 to 25 minutes. This gives the bottom a nice golden brown color and the cheese is nice and melted.

The cooking spray I use when rolling it out is plenty to keep it from sticking to the pan after it is baked. You can slide it right out of the pan onto your cutting board (if you have one that big) and slice it up!

This is some good stuff! And the best part is that the american cheese and fresh dough crust actually makes it very tasty leftover right out of the fridge. I’m very picky about pizza. It is my favorite food after all. So, only the best pizza tastes good cold. If I bring home pizza from the restaurant I have to reheat in the oven on a parchment paper lined baking pan. No way can it be microwaved! Yuck!

Spicy Chicken and Pasta

Today’s dish comes from a newsletter that I got from Bethenny Frankel’s Blog.  It is called Incredibly Easy and Low-Fat Chicken, Pasta, Peppers & Onions.  I won’t repost the recipe since you can get it directly from the web site yourself here:

http://www.bethenny.com/2010/08/02/incredibly-easy-and-low-fat-chicken-pasta-peppers-onions/

UPDATE: On 12/1/13 I checked the above link and the recipe has been removed from Bethenny’s web site. So I pulled it off the newsletter.

Bethenny’s Recipes of the Week
Incredibly Easy and Low-Fat Chicken, Pasta, Peppers & Onions

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  •  3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 box whole wheat fusilli pasta
  • 16 oz jar or can of favorite tomato sauce
  • 1 ½ large red onions, sliced
  • 1 ½ large red, orange or yellow peppers, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 ½ teaspoons of salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons of pepper
  • 3 teaspoons of Italian seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley

Directions:

  1. Begin by poking the chicken with a fork and adding seasoned salt and pepper on both sides, then cut the breasts into large bite-sized pieces.
  2. In a large non-stick skillet, heat oil over high heat and add chicken.
  3. Cook chicken until lightly brown on both sides (OK if not fully cooked through).
  4. Remove chicken from skillet, reduce heat to medium and in the same skillet add the onion, peppers, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and dried Italian seasoning.  Cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  5. In a separate pot, begin to boil water, lightly salted, for the pasta.
  6. Add the tomato sauce to the skillet with the vegetables and add the chicken back in.  Let simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.
  7. Once water is boiling, add pasta, after 11 minutes, or desired tenderness, drain the pasta.
  8. Add pasta to skillet with sauce.
  9. Serve and garnish with the chopped parsley.

I like to prep all my ingredients first whenever I cook because I am not a chef. This method has saved me from accidentally leaving anything out numerous times and relieves any stress that might arise from multitasking.

I’m going to call Bethenny out on this one because the picture of the dish on her web site doesn’t seem to the be the same dish as the recipie. For one thing I see broccoli and snow peas in her dish and neither of those are in the recipe. Also, where’s the tomato sauce? I don’t really see 16 ounces of it in her picture. That being said it is still tasty and I must say quite spicy. This is due in part, I’m sure, to the ingredients called for and the fact that where I live … Seasoned Salt = Tony Chachere’s (whether it’s Creole Seasoning or the hotter More Spice).

UPDATE: On 7/8/12 I checked the web site and the image is changed out to a picture of fresh multi-color bell peppers. 

That being said, in the future I might play around with it because the picture looks delicious and is what made me want to try the recipe in the first place.

The recipe calls for a skillet but I could tell by the amount of chicken to lightly brown that there was no way all of this was going to fit in a 10″ skillet. That’s the largest I have. So I chose to use a 5 quart pot and that worked out well.

I suggest getting the pasta water boiling while you are browning your chicken. Since this makes almost 5 servings that is a whole box of pasta and that’s a lot of water to heat up! Simmer your chicken and veggies in the sauce while you are preparing the pasta. Once the pasta is cooked to the desired tenderness, drain and add to the pot!

Voila!

I wouldn’t say it is “Slap Ya Mama” hot, but you could serve this to your Mexican friends.

Mmm! Mmm!

Favorite Homemade Sandwich

Fried Egg Sandwich ala Spanglish

Homemade Fried Egg Sandwich

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of sourdough bread
  • 3 slices of cooked applewood bacon
  • one large egg, fried in a little bit of olive oil
  • one lettuce leaf
  • tomato slices
  • miracle whip (or mayo)

I stole this sandwich off the movie Spanglish with Adam Sandler. I haven’t see the movie in years so in reality it’s probably not even close. But the day I was in the kitchen putting together this creation the sandwich in that movie was my inspiration. It is at heart just a BLT with a fried egg on it. Very simple.

It all starts with the bread, as any great sandwich does. I use sourdough but a good wheatberry bread would be just as tasty. But just as important is the treatment of the bread. I brush melted butter on both sides of the bread and toast the slices in my Foreman grill. If you actually have a panini machine then even better. But I find the Foreman grill gets the job done and is one less appliance. I already have way too many!

I bake my bacon in the oven and use only sweet vine ripened tomatoes. Most places have fresh markets where you can get locally grown veggies which I highly recommend. One, you are helping your neighbor, and two, the food you buy there will hands down taste better than anything you can get at the supermarket.

If you give it a try let me know how you like it!

Happy Easter

Happy Easter!

Last night I made Gnocchi and decided to kick it up with some chicken. I found a fabulous pan seared chicken treatment that combines baking and finishing off the chicken by brushing it with a butter slurry and pan searing it.

Since I left St. Louis I have not been able to get frozen Gnocchi. Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s are both good places to find frozen gnocchi but we don’t have either of those on the MS Gulf Coast. The closest Trader Joe’s is in Atlanta which is out of the question. The closest Whole Foods is in Metairie (just outside New Orleans).

Making gnocchi from scratch is a huge endeavor. I think I’d rather just drive to the Whole Foods in NOLA. The option of dried (shelf stable) gnocchi is not ideal. But if that’s all you can get then it is better than nothing. Some people don’t like it but I don’t think it’s that bad. The only place local that I have found it is Harry & David and they are totally overpriced. So my search for an online purchasing option led me back home to a small local specialty grocery.

I make a very simple sauce using butter, heavy cream, parmigiano reggiano and digiorno shredded parmesan cheese. I can’t give you measurements because I just eye it. I start off melting my butter and then I add the heavy cream and the cheeses. I melt and mix the sauce over med/low heat. The dried gnocchi is dropped into boiling water and only takes a few minutes before they start popping up to the water’s surface. At that point I use a slotted spoon to scoop them out and add them to sauce. Adding the chicken was an idea I got from Olive Garden’s Chicken Gnocchi Veronese entree.

I gotta tell you that Pan Seared Chicken Technique is fantastic. I would check that out because the possibilities of what you can do with the chicken are limited only by your imagination.

Carrot Soup

Ginger and garlic make this a warm full bodied soup, one that is ideal in cold weather as lunch or as a first course for a main meal.

Ingredients

1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/4 lbs. raw carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 inches fresh ginger, crushed or grated.
1 teaspoon sea salt
ground black pepper, two grinds
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon raw rice
4 cups vegetable stock

Method

Warm the olive oil in a heavy-based pan over low heat. Add onion, garlic and ginger. Cook gently over low heat until onion appears transparent. Add carrots to the pan and continue cooking and stirring for a few minutes. Then add hot vegetable stock, nutmeg, sea salt, pepper and rice.

Cover and bring to the simmering point. Continue to simmer over the lowest possible heat for 30 minutes or until cooked.

Purée mixture with electric blender or rub through a fine sieve.

Garnish with fresh finely chopped parsley leaves. Serves four.

I use lots of garlic in mine. Literally 6 to 10 cloves. Trust me the fresh ginger can hold it’s own. You are not going be like..”gosh all I can taste is garlic.”  That is not going to happen.  So don’t be afraid to hit it hard if you like garlic in your soups and sauces.

ALSO, beware the wrath of your blender. DO NOT try to blend it all at one time in a 6 cup blender like you see above. I am just stubborn and lack patience. This method will likely have orange soup everywhere! I’m serious. You have to really know how much pressure the blender cap is gonna be under. It is more than you think. And remember the soup is burning hot. Two words…oven mitt…for sure. Attempt at your own risk and most likely with disastrous results. Plus, carrot stains.  Be careful! I’m probably going to get one of those fancy immersion blenders.

I usually divide the servings up into serving savers and freeze the extra for hot lunches.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Cream Cheese and Jalapenos

 This is a delicious entree that is very hearty. It is simple to make as well. There are only five ingredients if you include the Tony Chachere’s you sprinkle over the top before you put it in the oven.

 

Recipe Ingredients
Recipe Ingredients

 All you need to get started is:

  1. Package of boneless/skinless chicken breasts
  2. Package of bacon
  3. Jar of Jalapenos
  4. Package of cream cheese
Fixing up the chicken is easy
Fixing up the chicken is easy

Lay out the chicken breasts. For a more healthy portion I recommend using an electric knife and slicing the thick chicken breasts into two thinner pieces of breast each. This will also turn 3 servings into 6 more healthy servings. This is also a good idea if you are going to be serving a couple of additional side items or having salad (and/or dessert) with the meal.

 

Spread cream cheese on the chicken. I prefer to use diced jalapenos. That isn’t what I happened to have so I put the sliced jalapenos in a bowl and cut them up and then spooned them over the chicken. I think you get a better flavor using diced jalapenos and juice. Notice I don’t give exact measurements for the cream cheese and chicken. That’s because I didn’t get the recipe from anywhere. I just eyeball it. In fact, as you can see I hit it heavy because I don’t make it often and it is what I consider a delicious indulgence. You can go lighter and it will probably taste just as good and be twice as healthy. I know it will smell terrific.
Roll up the stuffed chicken and wrap it bacon
Roll up the stuffed chicken and wrap it bacon

Roll up the stuffed chicken pieces. Use toothpicks to help hold it together as you find necessary. Wrap the delight in pieces of your favorite bacon. Sprinkle Tony Chachere’s on top. You can use ground pepper but Tony’s has the heat that complements the chicken without overpowering it with that black pepper flavor.  Bake in a 400 degree F oven for about 45 minutes to an hour. If you are doing a larger batch then bake for 1 hour to an hour and 15 minutes. Use your judgment. I just keep an eye on it.

Yummy!!
Yummy!!

I wish you could scratch and sniff the monitor. Give this one a try. It’s very good!

Favorite Wine Selection

I just wanted to share my favorite wine. I don’t like sweet wines so if this particular gem hadn’t been shared with me I never would have tried it. It is a dry Riesling so it doesn’t taste anything like any of the other Rieslings I am familiar with. If you like dry whites I highly recommend this particular wine. It is great for entertaining because I have found it appeals to a lot of different palates.

Villia Maria Riesling

It is produced by Villa Maria Estate at their Marlborough, New Zealand winery. I was a little worried when I moved to the Lake that I wouldn’t be able to get it here. But we have a Hy-vee and they have a wonderful wine selection. It is a great supermarket. I am so glad they opened here. It’s not the same as a Whole Foods Market but at least finally we have some decent organic food options and a vast fresh produce selection. I love cooking so it my favorite store here.

UPDATE: I went grocery shopping today and Hyvee didn’t have my wine! I’m devastated. I am going to go talk to them about this! No bien!

UPDATE 2: Hyvee has the wine again but the price went up from $11.99 to $14.69 which I understand. It’s really good. Ah, supply and demand.

UPDATE 3: I live in Louisiana now and I have not seen my beloved win anywhere here. However, they do have sweet tea vodka which is interesting. But, of course, not the same at all. 😦

UPDATE 4: I have been living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for almost a year and the liquor laws here really inhibit my passion to imbide. No Villa Maria in site. You can’t buy anything but beer at the grocery store. All wine and cocktail liquor much be purchased at a premium price at a liquor store. I spoke to the gentleman and his wife who own my local liquor store and they said that the state regulates what spirits they can carry. So sad. Luckily I can get Bogle Chardonnay. And my friends who own the liquor store allow me to purchase cases at a discounted price. They are wonderful!

UPDATE 5: This little vagabond is now living in Austin, TX and I found a great search tool for finding wine. It will tell you where to get wine by winery. So, I still have to see if those location carry my desired varietal. But this is a great resource:  Find Wine USA