Sunday, January 22, 2012

Parmesan-Crusted Lemon Chicken

For the first time in the 52 week cooking challenge, I felt pushed out of my comfort zone. Maybe even shoved, unwillingly, out of my CZ. This week, challengers were encouraged to try a little pan-frying. Not only do I get nervous when I have to cook something on my stainless steal pans, but cooking chicken drives me bonkers. I hate having to cut into the chicken breasts, and even when I do, I'm never 100% confident in their doneness.

It wasn't until I found this recipe that I began to feel excited about pan-frying. I had similar chicken in Costa Rica, and my host mom made it look like it was so easy to do! Even after having watched her, I still could not cook it as effortlessly as she did.

The flavor in this chicken was pleasant, but after pairing it with couscous (for me), and rice pilaf (for the anti-couscous boyfriend), the meal still felt like it was lacking something (besides the fact that we didn't have any vegetables). I'm realizing that I like my foods to be saucy, (think enchiladas, and curries), rather than "dry" (like pork chops, or fish fillets).

If you are a fan of lightly breaded chicken breasts, this recipe should not disappoint.

Parmesan-Crusted Lemon Chicken
Adapted from Bon Appetit via Epicurious

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • fresh lemon juice (one lemon)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • grated lemon peel (from half of a lemon)
  • olive oil

Working with a few at a time, place chicken pieces inside sturdy plastic freezer bag and pound to thickness of about 1/2 inch. Place chicken in baking dish. Squeeze lemon over chicken and turn to coat. Let stand 10 minutes.

Beat both of the eggs with in medium bowl. Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan and lemon peel in shallow dish.

Dip a chicken breast into egg. Dip into breadcrumbs to coat; gently shake off excess. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces.

Coat the bottom of a heavy large skillet with olive oil and place over medium-high heat. Add 2 of the chicken pieces to skillet and pan-fry until golden brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to platter and keep warm. Repeat with remaining chicken in 2 more batches, adding olive oil before each batch.

Serve over a salad, or with a side of rice pilaf, or couscous (as seen here).

Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal cookies are so versatile. To many, oatmeal-raisin is not very exciting, but there are so many other options for your oats. Oatmeal can pair up with chocolate chips, dried cranberries, coconut, m&ms, or so many other ingredients to make a lovely cookie.

What sets this cookie recipe apart is the salt flakes you sprinkle over the cookie dough right before putting it into the oven. The white chocolate already tastes great with the oatmeal, but the slight saltiness enhances the flavors to a point where the cookies become addicting. Sandwich them around a scoop of vanilla ice cream? Bliss!

Crispy Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Chip Cookies
By Smitten Kitchen

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cooking Magic: Chicken and Dumplings

There was magic in my kitchen, today.

Aside from the fact that I had Disney on my mind, I felt there was something special going on.

It's been a frigid weekend out here in the northeast, and logically, the heat in our apartment starts acting shotty. Pair that with this week's cooking challenge (soup), and the decision to make Chicken and Dumplings was a no-brainer.

The recipe begins with searing the chicken thighs until they are golden brown on both sides. Here and there I advise you to sneak bits of the deliciously crispy, golden brown skin. Magic! After pan frying three batches of three thighs each, the bottom of the pan starts to look very messy. How are all of those browned bits ever going to unstick from the bottom? Then comes the butter, onions, leeks and celery; the stuck bits are no more! Magic.

And the dumplings? Don't even get me started on those. Each one is a little nugget of magic.

The way this dish warms up the home, the way it warms up your heart, the way it warms up your whole inner being? All magic.

Chicken and Dumplings
by Smitten Kitchen

*The only change I made was adding three stalks of chopped celery with the leeks and the onions.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mini Whoopie Pies

Whoopie pies are completely unfamiliar to me. I had first heard about them years ago, when I followed How To Eat A Cupcake. I was still in my cupcake phase, so I never tried branching out to any of her other recipes, but these always stayed in the back of my mind.

I was eager to try them this week though, after the baking challenge asked we make something "miniature". Aside from the marshmallow cream, (or should I say creme?), the ingredients were all things I already had on hand. The process was very simple, and the feedback was all positive.

Mini Whoopie Pies
Adapted from Real Food for Healthy Kids via Epicurious

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 7 oz. jar marshmallow creme

Arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Make the cakes:
Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg and beat at medium speed until incorporated. At low speed, add the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the milk, mixing until just blended.

Using a pastry bag, drop 18 generous teaspoons of batter onto each sheet, leaving about 2 inches between cakes. Bake the 2 sheets together for 5 to 7 minutes, until cakes are springy to touch. Let cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, and transfer to racks to cool completely. Change the parchment and repeat using the remaining batter (about 72 cakes in total).

Make filling:
Beat the butter and powdered sugar until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and marshmallow creme and mix until blended, about 1 minute.

Match pairs of cake of the same shapes/sizes and use pastry bag to dollup the bottom side of 1 cake with filling and sandwich together with the other cake.

(Store the finished whoopee pies in a covered plastic container and chill for up to 3 days.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

General Tso's Chicken

When I'm not cooking/baking/thinking about food, I work as a third grade teacher about 20 miles outside of the city. It's a tiny school, so teachers and students have lunch together, "family style". Each table has about one adult to a group of about 7 students. While I've been amazed at the eating habits of our students, (some that come to mind include one child who only wanted to eat peas for lunch, another who alternated bites of meatballs with bites of italian ice), some of my students pay close attention to my habits as well.

I don't think of myself as a strange eater, but my students are often surprised by how often I consume spicy foods. "You put hot sauce in your clam chowder?!" (Try it, I swear it's delicious!) I never thought too much of it, until I started making foods at home that were too spicy for the boyfriend. This recipe falls into this category.

This week's challenge was to cook a Chinese recipe. While I don't expect the recipe to be very authentic, I really liked the chicken's crunch and the consistency of the sauce. Depending on how much chicken you're making, and the size of the pan you're frying in, the recipe can take quite some time. It was a late dinner for us, and only to find out from the boyfriend that it was "too hot to taste" Womp, womp.

I'm sharing my recipe anyways, considering the fact that I made some adaptations to the original recipe (found here), which could again be altered for a lower spice tolerance. I think where I went wrong was since I was using 2.5 times as much chicken, I thought that required 2.5 times the amount of red chili peppers......nope!

General Tso’s Chicken

2.5 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into 1-inch cubes
- 2 cups cornstarch
- 1/3 cup salt
- 6 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- vegetable oil for frying, plus 2 tablespoon for stir-frying
- 10 dried red chilis, roughly chopped
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- Scallions, green parts thinly sliced, for garnish

- 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 3 egg whites

In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, and egg whites. Coat the chopped chicken in the marinade mixture and let sit for 10 minutes.

- 5 oz chicken stock or broth
- 3 tablespoons tomato sauce
- 3 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 3 teaspoons hoisin sauce
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- 2 crushed red peppers
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

In a small bowl, combine the chicken stock, tomato sauce, sugar, sweet soy sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, chili powder, peppers, sesame oil, and the 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. Stir until well combined. Set aside.

(1) In a large ziploc bag, mix the cornstarch with salt and pepper. Add the marinated chicken and toss to coat. Shake off any excess before frying.
(2) In a large thick-bottom pan, heat vegetable oil on high until it begins to bubble and sizzle/pop. Turn heat down to medium, and start frying your chicken.
(3) Working in multiple batches, add the first batch of chicken pieces (about 8 per batch) and fry until golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat until all your chicken is cooked.
(4) Turn stove off, discard the oil.
(5) Reheat the pan with 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped dried chilis and garlic, and stir-fry until just fragrant, about 20 seconds.
(6) Pour in the sauce, add remaining cornstarch, and stir until it begins to simmer and thicken, about 1 to 2 minutes.
(7) Add fried chicken to the pan and coat with sauce. Turn off stove, and transfer chicken to a serving dish.
(8) Garnish with chopped scallions. Serve with white rice and vegetables.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Chocolate Peppermint Brownies

In my last post, I mentioned that I'm participating in a 52 week cooking challenge. I also decided to participate in the 52 weeks of baking challenge. It follows a similar format to the cooking challenge, and gives me a chance to bake with specific ingredients or themes in mind. This week's baking challenge is brownies.

Initially, I wanted to fall back on a chocolate/peanut butter recipe, but decided to push myself to try something new. I had never worked with peppermint before, (except for a batch of cupcakes I was making, which resulted in shattered candy canes EVERYWHERE), so I chose a recipe I had favorited a while back.

Even though the brownies bake for only 20 min, the recipe requires quite a bit of patience. Each portion of the brownie requires cooling, and the complete product needs to cool for 2 hours. This is definitely a recipe you want to start earlier in the day.

Grasshopper Brownies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen


1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
10 1/2 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

For mint ganache
1/4 cup heavy cream
10 oz white chocolate chips
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

For chocolate ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream
10 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Make brownies:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a 13- by 9-inch baking pan with 2 sheets of foil, (one in each direction) leaving overhang on all sides. Spray foil with a nonstick spray.

Melt butter and chocolate with brown sugar in a medium saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in eggs and vanilla until combined. Whisk in flour, cocoa, and salt until just combined.

Spread batter evenly in baking pan and bake until set, (a toothpick inserted in center should comes out with moist crumbs), about 20 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 hours.

Make mint ganache:
In a small saucepan, over medium hear, melt white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk until smooth, remove from heat. Stir in peppermint extract and chill, covered, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 1 hour.

Make chocolate ganache:
In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt chocolate together with the heavy cream. Whisk until smooth. Remove from heat, chill, covered, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 30 minutes.

Assemble layers:
Spread mint ganache over top of cooled brownie in a thin even layer using a spatula to evenly distribute. Chill until firm but still slightly sticky, about 30 minutes.

Spread chocolate ganache over mint and chill about 2 hours.

Lift brownies out of pan. Cut dessert into squares and peel from foil.

Friday, January 6, 2012


New Year! New recipes, and as a result new blog posts.

Throughout 2012, I'll be participating in reddit's 52 Weeks of Cooking challenge. Every week, I'll write about a recipe that features a specific ingredient, dish type, theme, or cooking technique. I'm also participating in the 52 Weeks of Baking challenge which follows a similar format.

As part of Week 1 in the challenge, (ingredient: eggs), I set out to make Shakshuka. A somewhat recent favorite in the dinner rotation, Shakshuka is eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. You may be glad to hear that the amount of spice can be controlled in case you aren't a fan of steam coming out of your ears. (Or of runny noses, teary eyes, etc). I've been putting hot sauce/red pepper flakes on about 90% of my meals, but I still believe the spice is very tolerable in the recipe below. Feel free to drop the number of peppers if you are worried.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1/4 cup olive oil
3 stalks of celery, chopped
5 Anaheim chiles stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
2 14.5-ounce can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
Kosher salt, to taste
6 eggs
1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Heat oil in a 12-inch pan over medium-high heat. Add chopped celery and cook for 5 minutes. Occasionally, give the chopped vegetables a stir. Add chiles and onions and cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently about 1 minute.
Add tomatoes to pan, along with 1/2 cup water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt.
Crack eggs over sauce, evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover pan and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes. Remove from hear, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato sauce, being careful not to disturb the yolk. Sprinkle cheese and parsley over Shakshuka before serving.

Serve over rice pilaf and enjoy!