Saturday, January 29, 2011

Counter space and chicken cutlets.....

I have to show you all the bane of my existence, my complete and total lack of kitchen counter space.









That picture is all I've got!  It is actually the top of my portable dishwasher.  Well, ok, I do have a little more space but it is in this little tiny room where my sink is so it doesn't really make a difference.  Someday when my kitchen is clean enough to be seen by the world I will take pictures of the whole poorly laid out room.  You will weep for me.

On nights like tonight this lack of counter space can be a big problem.  Tonight's dinner was chicken cutlets and mushroom risotto.  Pretty simple but I used all four burners on the stove and the counter was a MESS!









See?  It was crazy but it was good!  This has to be one of Mr. Lucky's top 10 meals.  He gets so excited for chicken cutlets, he's like a little kid.  I love to see him so happy over something so simple.  I love the risotto more than the chicken so this meal works out perfectly for us.

The chicken cutlets are super simple to make.  This is another thing that I don't have a recipe for but I will use my best guesses for you. 

Chicken cutlets (amount depends on # of servings I used 1 1/2 lbs.)
1/2 cup of flour
1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
garlic powder to taste
3 eggs, beaten
Olive oil for frying

All of these measurements can be adjusted to the amount of chicken you use. 


First you want to set up a breading station.  It is a simple formula: flour, egg, breadcrumbs.  I put the flour and bread crumbs on paper plates so when I am done I can just throw them away.  Raw chicken is bad M'kay! 

See how messy the counter got?










Add the salt, pepper and garlic powder to the flour and mix until well combined.  Coat both sides of the cutlets with the seasoned flour then dip them fully into the eggs.  Finally, coat the cutlets completely in the Panko. 
Please try to ignore the mess!










Once all the cutlets are breaded I put them in the fridge for about 10 minutes.  I just find that this "solidifies" the breading.  I don't have a better way to describe it, sorry!

To cook these you want to put about a 1/2 inch of oil in a heave bottomed skillet.  I use my wonderful cast iron pan that I use for just about everything.









I keep the heat at medium to medium-low.  You don't want to cook them too fast because then the breading cooks but the chicken inside is raw.  Again, raw chicken is bad M'kay! 

These should take about 2-3 minutes per side and be a nice golden brown when you flip them.  Make sure you don't crowd the pan because it will drop the temperature of the oil and they'll be greasy not crispy.









When I take them out I put them on a paper towel just to absorb any extra oil before serving them.  It seems like a lot but these are really pretty simple.  After you've done this once and have the hang of it you'll love them as much as Mr. Lucky.

Tomorrow I will show you the risotto I made to go with these.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

An idea......

Thanks to my snow day today I was very lazy.  I lounged around and got caught up on all my DVR'd shows and contemplated what to make for dinner.  Well, I didn't contemplate dinner all day.  I had an idea and then had to figure out how to make it work. 
We had some center cut pork chops in the fridge and I wanted to do something different with them.  I did need a few more ingredients so I very nicely asked Mr. Lucky to go back to the store, he did.  What would I do without him?

I came up with: Mustard crusted pork chops with caramelized onions and apples on top.  I served it with fries and green beans, not exactly gourmet but it's what I had (and used the least # of pans).  I just winged this so I really don't have an exact recipe but I will try my best to give you amounts so you can recreate this if you want.

For the pork chops:

2 boneless center cut pork chops


1/4 cup flour
1 - 2 Tbsp mustard powder (I used 1 Tbsp but it definitely wasn't enough)

pinch of salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil for frying
Whisk the flour, mustard, salt and pepper together until everything is evenly mixed in.  I did this on a paper plate so I could just throw it away when I was finished.  Coat all sides of the chops with the flour mixture and shake off the excess.

Put about a tablespoon or so of olive oil into an oven safe frying pan.  Heat to medium high, you want the chops to sizzle when you put them in the pan.   Add the chops to the pan and cook about 1-2 minutes each side.  You just want to sear in the juices not cook them through. 

Once both sides are seared pop the pan into a preheated 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  You can cut into one of them to check the doneness (there I go making up words again). My fries were in there at 450 degrees so I just adjusted the time on the meat. 

For the Onions & Apples:

2 Granny Smith Apples, sliced
1 large or 2 small onions, sliced
1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
3-4 Tbsp Maple Syrup (The REAL stuff!!!)
2-3 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Butter, for frying
1 Tbsp Olive oil, for frying

Add the butter and olive oil to a large skillet and heat to medium until butter melts.  Add the onions and apples and turn the heat down to medium low.  
Let the onions and apples saute for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Once the onions and apples are softened add the vinegar to deglaze the pan.  
 
This also gives the finished dish a little tang.  Cook the vinegar off for about a minute or two then add the maple syrup and brown sugar.  Stir the mixture until everything is well combined and let it cook for a few more minutes so the sugar disolves.  And you're done!


You can serve this as a side like an amazing over the top applesauce or on top of the pork chops like I did. 
Please remember that these measurements are just estimates, use what you like to your taste.  Cooking is an art so you have some license. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Blue Ribbon Winner.......


In my last post I told you about my cheesecake that won first place at the National Capital Area Cake Show last year.   I thought it would be nice to share it with you.  

This cheesecake is not at all like a New York cheesecake.  New York cheesecake tends to be very thick and either has a graham cracker crust or no crust at all.  This has a much lighter texture and a shortbread crust.  The recipe calls for vanilla as the flavor but you could add any flavor you like.  As far as toppings go you can go with just about anything!  I, more often than not, eat it plain but strawberries are always yummy and some almonds with honey is to die for. 

Please let me know if you try this recipe, I always love to get peoples' first impressions when they try it.  I have converted my mother in law, an infamous cheesecake hater.

German Cheese Pie

Crust:
1 cup plus 4 Tbsp flour
¾ tsp baking powder
½ cup sugar
¼ lb (1 stick) margarine, melted (I always use butter)

Mix all crust ingredients together, dough will be really sticky.  Press dough onto bottom and about 1 ½ inches up sides of a 10 ½ inch springform pan.  Set aside (I usually put it in in the fridge while I make the filling).

Filling:
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 ½ Tbsp flour
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ cups milk
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all filling ingredients together except milk.  Using electric mixer blend until creamy.  Slowly add milk and mix until thoroghly combined.  Pour into prepared crust.  Bake 40-50 minutes at 325 degrees.  Cool completely on a rack, cover and chill at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Here it is:



Thursday, January 20, 2011

Competition........

I think I might have lost my mind!  Actually, I don't think, I know!  Sometimes I get these crazy ideas and I just have to go with them. 

The last weekend in March is the National Capital Area Cake Show in Annandale, VA.  I am planning to bring seven entries. Yes, seven!  Five of the entries are in the tasting division.  These categories are: Pound/Layer - Any flavored (not chocolate) layer or pound cake (no chunks of fruit, nuts, etc), Chocolate - Any substantially chocolate cake. Chunks, chips, swirls, etc. permitted., Fruit/Nut - Any non-chocolate cake with chunks of fruit, nuts etc. in the batter., Cheesecake - Any flavored cheesecake (chunks, chips, swirls, etc. permitted) Any crust or no crust. Toppings not permitted. Combination - Any flavor combination you like. Cake, filling(s) and icing will be considered as a whole.  Last year my cheesecake recipe one first place in Cheesecake category.  There are no words for how excited I was!  You can ask Chelle, she'll tell you how crazy happy I was.

The tasting division cakes take the most time and attention because I have to find and test recipes to find the best one and to do my own tweaking.  Mr. Lucky and my friends and family especially like this part of my preparations.  I wonder why?  I have already started to compile my recipes, testing will start soon.

The other two entries will be in decorating divisions. I have never done this before!  I am nervous and excited at the same time.  The first one will be a cake in the beginner division using the show theme of "Under the sea".  I have a few ideas but still need to have a brainstorming session.  The final entry will be in the beginner cupcake division.  For these I have two ideas that I can't yet pick from. 

So, I have a little over two months to get my recipes chosen and tested as well as getting my decorating entries done.  Can I do it???  I'll keep you posted.

In addition to the cake show I am also trying to create recipes to enter in the Pillsbury Bake-off.  The top prize for the Bake-off is $1million!!!  How awesome would that be?

The deadline to enter my recipes for the Bake-off is April 18th.  This contest has very specific rules and specific items that have to be included, i.e. Pillsbury products.  You can see the rules and items on their website.  

I think that having to use specific items makes creating the recipe easier and harder at the same time.  I know that probably doesn't make sense but let me try to explain.  Pillsbury provides two lists of products (List A and List B) and each recipe has to include two items, one has to be from List A and the second can be from either list.  Because I have this lists to choose from I have a lot of ideas, the easy part.  Because I have the lists to choose from I have to edit myself, the hard part.  Get it now?   I will keep you posted on my progress here too. 

Off to go fill out my entry paperwork for the cake show!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I have now seen it all........

Last night I was up way too late watching a Two Fat Ladies marathon on Cooking Channel.  Well, during one of the breaks I saw a commercial for the RoboStir.  This thing is unbelievable!  I don't even know how to explain it.  It is a battery operated "thing" that claims if you put it in your pan it will stir your food for you for up to 4 hours and 572 degrees.  Ummm what???  If you're cooking just make sure you have enough time, hands and ability to stir everything and save your money!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A semi-disaster......

I don't know if I have mentioned this but I am a bit of a recipe whore.  I collect them totally indiscriminately.  I have so many I couldn't make them all in two lifetimes. Anyway, I needed a dessert to go with my beef barley soup and I had just seen this recipe for Raspberry Oatmeal Crumb Pie on Tastespotting.com.  The recipe came from For the love of cooking. I love raspberries and the oatmeal crust just sounded so good!  Here is the recipe:

1 cup of flour
1 cup of quick cook oats
2/3 cup of brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup of butter, diced
21 oz can of raspberry pie filling
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a pie dish with cooking spray. (I used the little bit of butter left on the wrapper after I used the stick in the crust)

Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, and baking soda together in a bowl. 
 
Use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter until it resembles a course crumbly mixture. 
 
Measure 1 cup and set aside. Add the remaining mixture to the pie pan and press firmly to the bottom and sides. 
 
Add the raspberry pie filling and smooth out evenly.
 
Add the remaining oat mixture to the top and spread evenly.  I added a handful of sliced almonds to the topping because I love almonds and because I could! (I forgot to take a picture of this step and the fully baked pie, Sorry!)  Place into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the crumb topping is golden brown. Let the pie cool for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.

I think my pie plate was a little deeper than the one the original poster because my top edges came up higher and browned a little more than I would have liked.  Not burnt, just a little browner (is that a word?). 

Now we get to the serving part. This was not very successful.  The pie filling was just too liquidy (another made-up word?). I let the pie sit for about half an hour while we ate dinner so it wasn't because it was too hot.  I don't know what I would do to remedy this for next time.  Don't get me wrong, we still ate the pie and it was DELICIOUS.  It was just a little difficult to serve and it flowed all over the pie plate like a river. 

Any suggestions for a less liquidy filling?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Keeping the hubby fed and watered........

Mr. Lucky does not often ask me to make a specific dish so when he does I try to oblige him.  Tonight I made him Beef Barley soup.  This soup is one of his absolute favorites and it is quite easy.  I usually don't use a recipe for this soup, I just kinda wing it.  I tried to document what and how much I used this time so I could share it with you.  So here is the recipe (according to what I used):

1 1/4lbs lean stew beef
1 large onion, diced (I used 2 small ones)
3 large carrots, peeled & sliced
8 oz mushrooms, cleaned & sliced (I used plain white button mushrooms)
1 cup barley (can be found in most grocery stores)
12 cups of beef broth/stock (reduced sodium if you can find it)
flour (for coating the beef)

Sprinkle flour on all sides of the beef. 

Add a tablespoon or so of oil to a pan and heat to medium high (I used the stock pot I make the soup in).  Put half of the meat into the pan to sear.  When all sides are seared, remove and set aside.  Repeat the searing process with the remaining meat, when done set aside with the first batch.

Add broth to a stock pot and put on medium heat.  (Since I used the stock pot to sear the meat I took one cup of broth to deglaze my pan so all the yummy bits from the bottom of the pan would be in the soup.)  Add the carrots, onions and beef to the stock.

I like to saute the mushrooms in some olive oil with a little salt and garlic to release some of their moisture.  I find that just putting them directly into the soup makes them a little slimy, not a texture I want from my mushrooms.  Feel free to test my theory, of course. After sauteing (or not) add the mushrooms to the soup.

Cook the soup on medium heat until the carrots are cooked through.  Now add the barley and cook for at least an hour.  The barley will take at least that long to soften up.  Just give it a taste test before you serve to make sure the barley is soft enough. 

Mr. Lucky and I loved this soup!  I have made it a few times before but this time it just tasted better, I can't think of anything I did differently.  Oh, well!  It was good and Mr. Lucky was happy.  That is all that matters.

I made some fresh bread to go along with the soup but that is a post for another time.

Try this, you'll like it!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

National Soup Month

I just saw that January is National Soup Month.  I couldn't be happier about that, I love to make soup in the cold weather.  I am planning to make a Beef Barley for Mr. Lucky this weekend.  I will try to remember to write down a recipe for it to share.  I usually kinda just wing it when I make soup but for you I will write something up. 

What are your favorite soups?

Happy New Year!

I hope that every one had a wonderful holiday season.  I definitely did!  It was filled with all of my favorite things: family, friends and food!

I don't usually make New Year's resolutions because I never keep them but this year I have made a promise to myself to be a better blogger.  I get so caught up in everything else that I put off my posts and then don't even bother.  That is going to change!  I hope I still have a few readers.

For Christmas Mr. Lucky gave me "The Pioneer Woman Cooks".  I was so thrilled!  If you have never read Ree Drummond's blog you have to, it is great!  From the moment I opened it I have been reading it like a novel, I do this with most of my cookbooks.  I am a bit obsessed with them. 

For New Year's Eve we had a few friends and family members over for a low key gathering.  We had lots of great snacks/appetizers.  My friend Chelle made Taco Bites that flew off the table!  I made the potato skins from The Pioneer Woman cookbook, some dip, chips, veggies, pretzels and little nibbles like that.  I also made one of my brother Jamie's favorites, Sweet & Sour Hot Dogs.  Many people use this same recipe with meatballs but in my family it has always been hot dogs.  It is the easiest thing you will ever make!  Here goes:

Sweet & Sour Hot Dogs

1 package (8) of hot dogs, cut into about 1/2 inch slices
1 1/2 cups cocktail sauce (I used the store brand, it's all the same right?)
1 1/2 cups grape jelly (the stuff kids love, no need to be fancy here)

In a medium saucepan combine the cocktail sauce and jelly until completely incorporated and heated.  Add the hot dogs and cook over medium-low heat until the hot dogs are heated through.  You can get frozen mini meatballs and add them to the sauce in place of the hot dogs.  I haven't done this but may have to try it sometime.

I know this recipe sounds a little bit weird or even gross.  It's not!  You will be so surprised by these, they are yummy!  Please let me know if you try them. 

Ok, that's all for now.  Watch for a new post over the weekend. It's going to snow here in lovely New England so I'll be staying in doing some cooking.