Ranch Chicken

I tried a new recipe last night.

It was a blend of two different recipes I’d found on the internet that I wanted to try – both called Ranch Chicken but very different in their approach/ingredients. So, being the daredevil that I am, I decided to make my own version by blending the basic pieces of the two.

It was a huge success. So much so that I couldn’t get a picture because my family gobbled it up!

This will most definitely go into my regular rotation for the future.  I served it with some chicken-flavored rice (a-la Rice-a-Roni type rice) and steamed veggies.  There was barely enough left for SuperMan to make a lunch plate for himself. And none for me to make a lunch plate. But I like it that way. That means they liked dinner!

A couple notes –

– I used a combination of panko and corn flakes. Mostly because I was almost out of panko but also because I was blending two recipes and one called for panko and the other for corn flakes. We really liked the crunch of the corn flakes and I’ll probably do just those next time.

– my Houston House Seasoning is a staple in my kitchen. I use it on almost every savory dish I make. It’s so easy to keep blended in an old spice container and I just sprinkle it on my dishes as I season. I like the combination of flavors that it adds to every dish.

– another staple in my cooking is Mrs. Dash Garlic Blend. I use it on almost everything. Salt free and full of flavor.  I buy the huge bottles at the warehouse store – that’s how much I use it!!

– I cooked these on top of a wire rack on a cookie sheet/jelly roll pan. That allowed the air to get all around the chicken and kept it from getting soggy on the bottom. If you don’t have a wire rack, you could just put the chicken on your cookie sheet. I think it’ll be just fine.

On to the recipe:

Ranch Chicken

1 cup mayonnaise
1-2 Tbsp. Ranch Seasoning (I use Hidden Valley Ranch – another thing I buy in bulk quantities) + more for seasoning the breading
~ 1 Tbsp. Houston House Seasoning + more for seasoning the breading
~ 1 Tbsp. Mrs. Dash Garlic blend + more for seasoning the breading
2 cups Panko bread crumbs OR Crushed Corn Flakes
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large (gallon) zip lock bag, mix the mayonnaise, ranch seasoning, house seasoning, and Mrs. Dash
  3. In another large zip lock bag, mix the bread crumbs/corn flakes, parmesan and some additional house seasoning, ranch seasoning and garlic blend
  4. Place chicken breast in mayonnaise bag and shake to ensure it’s well coated in the mayo mixture.
  5. Place coated chicken in the breading bag and shake to ensure it’s well coated.
  6. Place the chicken on a wire rack (sprayed with cooking spray) that’s been placed on a jelly roll pan/cookie sheet.
  7. Repeat with all the chicken breasts.
  8. Bake 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

This recipe is one of my old standby recipes for whenever I’m having people over. It’s a sure-fire winner and everyone seems to love it (and most people request the recipe)  Add to that, it’s pretty simple to make and most of the ingredients I always have on hand and it’s a winner for me.

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It makes a 13×9 sized pan full of yummy, creamy goodness. Perfect with a cup of tea or coffee and some good friends and good conversation.

I made it just this week when I had some ladies over – and shared the leftovers with my neighbors.  Which is part of why I’m posting the recipe here – my sweet neighbor’s son requested the recipe.

It may look complicated when you first look at the recipe below, but trust me, it’s simple.  And you can have it in the oven in about 10 minutes if you have all the ingredients at room temperature when you’re ready to begin. It goes together a lot better when the cream cheese and butter are soft.

So, CB, this is for YOU!

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Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Filling:

2 8 ounce packages of cream cheese (I use low-fat)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. of almond extract (optional)
1 egg

Cake:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (softened)
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract (optional)
1 cup sour cream (you can use light or regular)

Streusel topping:

1/4 c sugar
1/4 c flour
3 Tbsp. butter (CHILLED AND CUBED)

Glaze:

1/2 c powdered sugar
3 tsp. milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spray a 9×13 pan and set aside.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, combine the filling ingredients (use an electric mixer for the best mix possible). Set aside.
  4. In another mixing bowl, combine the cake ingredients, beginning with the butter and sugar.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time and the extracts.
  6. Finally, add the dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream.
  7. Spread half of the cake batter in the 9×13 pan.
  8. Add the cream cheese filling on top of the batter, spreading carefully with a spatula (offset spatulas work great for this)
  9. Top the cream cheese mixture with the remaining cake batter.
  10. Use a fork or spatula to “swirl” the batter/cream cheese once or twice.
  11. In another small bowl, use a pastry blender or fork (or your hand held mixer if you have a low setting) to combine the topping mixture.  Be careful not to over mix. It should look like “sandy gravel” when it’s properly combined.
  12. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the cake.
  13. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the center is cooked. (You can tell by inserting a toothpick – if it comes out clean, it’s done.)
  14. Let cake cool for about an hour and make the glaze.
  15. Drizzle glaze over the cooled cake and let set before serving (if you can wait that long!)

Cinnamon Bread

I found this recipe on Pinterest (imagine that!?!) and decided that it sounded way too good to not try it out.

Amish Cinnamon Bread was what the recipe was called, but then she talked about how it was an alternative recipe to traditional Amish cinnamon bread which, apparently takes a long time to make.
I have to say, this one didn’t take long at all.

IMG_3147And it was really, really good.

Most definitely worth the trouble to make.  And, really, it wasn’t that much trouble anyway.

As you can see here, the recipe makes two LARGE loaves.  As a matter of fact, next time I make it I will probably make three loaves.  See the “overflow” in the oven there?  It was like the incredible alien-possessed bread when it baked.

It rose

and it rose

and it rose

all over my oven.

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So, a word of caution to you. Put a cookie sheet under your loaf pans when you bake this.

And maybe consider putting into three loaf pans instead of two.  Makes good gift-giving.

The bread itself is very light and fluffy. Almost cake-like. But not too sweet. Just enough. Especially with a cup of tea in the morning (or coffee).

I think, too, it would be good to make in muffin form to have for easier sharing for a crowd.

Of course, this is so good you are not going to want to share. But there will be plenty so share away.

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Cinnamon Bread

Makes 2 or 3 loaves

Batter:

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups buttermilk
( You can make buttermilk with 2 C milk + 2 Tbsp vinegar or lemon juice. – Let it sit for about 5 minutes before you use it.)
4 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda

Cinnamon/sugar mixture:

1 cup sugar
2-3 teaspoons cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Cream together butter, 2 cups of sugar, and eggs.
  2. Add milk, flour, and baking soda.
  3. Put 1/2 of batter (or a little less) into greased loaf pans (1/4 in each pan).
    If you are making 3 loaves, split the half of the batter between the three loaf pans, reserving the other half for the next step.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix cinnamon and sugar together.
  5. Sprinkle 3/4 of cinnamon mixture on top of the batter in each pan.
  6. Add remaining batter to pans; sprinkle with remainder of cinnamon sugar mixture.
  7. Swirl with a knife.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 min. or until toothpick tester comes clean.
    Be sure to put cookie sheets below the loaf pans in case you have some overflow.
  9. Cool in pan for 20 minutes before removing from pan.
    (this is important or it will fall apart. this is not a bread you can eat straight out of the oven)
  10. Slice & serve.

Heaven in a cookie

A friend of mine made these cookies a few weeks ago.
It was love at first bite for me.

Seriously.

I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to restrain myself. They were SO good.

So, of course, I got the recipe.

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And tried to figure out when I’d have a good excuse to make a batch (or two).

That opportunity arose last weekend.  We were having a weekend picnic with our friends and then hiking afterwards.

Hmm… hiking = burning calories. I must find a way to replace said calories.

I know!

COOKIES!

And thus the baking began.

These are sort of a cross between a cookie and a brownie.  They have a little “bite” to the outside of them, but the inside is moist and soft (and chocolately) like a brownie.

They’re seriously good.

Dangerously so.

The original recipe is a Williams Sonoma recipe.  I changed mine up just a bit, so the recipe below is how I made them.

My friend tried one of mine on Sunday – she loved the modifications I’d made. I’d call that success!

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Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup powdered sugar (or more if needed)
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur white whole wheat)
1/2 cup Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint extract (optional)

Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the powdered sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. If you don’t have a nonstick mat for your cookie sheets, grease them (2) with butter.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar until creamy.
  5. Add one egg and beat until blended.
  6. Add the other egg and extracts and combine.
  7. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, salt & baking powder.
  8. Slowly add these ingredients to the egg/butter/sugar mixture, keeping your mixer speed on low.  The dough will get thick quickly. Beat until just blended.
  9. Using a tablespoon (or cookie scoop) scoop up a rounded spoonful of dough. Form into a ball.
  10. Roll the cookie balls in the powdered sugar to coat.
  11. Place on the cookie sheets, about an inch or two apart. (I got four across on my cookie sheets)
  12. Bake 10-12 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when they are cracked and puffy.
  13. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for about 2-3 minutes.
  14. Remove from baking sheet and allow to cool completely on wire racks.
  15. Store in an airtight container. (makes about 24 cookies)

Die of happiness.

You can thank me later. Smile

Wonderful Waffles for Supper

I’ve gotten on a “breakfast for dinner” kick.

It’s super easy, inexpensive, and lets you enjoy some breakfast-y things that you would not normally have time to make during the week at breakfast time.

Like waffles.

You see, I’m not a morning person. Never have been.

And so, my kids suffer at breakfast because I’m struggling most mornings to be vertical and coherent for them.  Cooking fantastical breakfasts is just not going to happen.

But cooking an awesome “breakfast” for dinner? Totally do-able.  I’m awake at 5PM, just not so much at 5AM.

So, we’ve been making breakfast for dinner the past few weeks… It’s sort of become our Thursday night dinner tradition since the kids aren’t wild about leftovers and Thursdays are a busy day with dance classes, etc.

I’ve been hunting for a good waffle recipe. Something that was a “scratch” recipe and not from a box.  Last week we tried one that was just okay. Not great, and not something we wanted to try again –

And so this week I went looking for new recipes to try.

What I found was that there are not too many variations – eggs, flour, sugar, etc.

What did differ was whether the egg whites were whipped or not.  The first recipe we had tried did not have the whipped egg whites and the waffles were flat – in taste and volume. I wondered if whipping would make a difference, but, quite honestly, it seemed like a lot of extra work. Was there really a payoff?

Then I found a recipe on Food Network’s website for “Waffles of Insane Greatness” which are from Aretha Frankenstein’s restaurant in Tennessee. Right off the bat I was intrigued – the name of the waffles, the name of the restaurant and the fact that it was a southern recipe.  Then I saw that you don’t have to whip the egg whites. Score!!

I had also found this recipe for the Very Best Waffles (they claimed) – I printed it out and compared to the Insane waffle recipe.  Pretty much the same with the exception of the addition of some spices.

I had one other requirement for my waffles that no recipe included but that was non-negotiable for me. They  had to have some added protein.  I couldn’t handle the carb-fest myself and wanted to be sure the family got a little more protein in their dinner, even if I had to sneak it in. I figured I’d improvise that part.

I headed into the kitchen to give it a go…

waffles

They turned out, well, wonderful…

So much so, that, as I’m typing I’m nibbling on one, cold & dry, and yet it’s still good.

The kids loved them, SuperMan devoured them, and after I ate one, I collapsed on my rocking chair in a blissful carb coma.  (but it was worth it)

So, give these waffles a try – it’s a fast and easy way to whip up some supper one night without a big ole mess in the kitchen.  Serve them up with some bacon, fresh fruit and you’ll have your family singing your praises…

Wonderful Waffles

Ingredients:

Dry ingredients:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar

Wet ingredients:

1 cup buttermilk (or whole milk mixed with about 1 1/2 tsp white vinegar to make 1 cup of “buttermilk”)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Optional Ingredients:

1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)

2 scoops vanilla protein powder

Instructions:

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

2. If using, add the cinnamon & nutmeg to the dry ingredients.

3. In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, oil, extracts and egg. Combine gently.

4. Pour liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and use a whisk to combine.

5. Let the batter sit for 5-10 minutes while your waffle iron heats.

6. Spray your iron with nonstick cooking spray and ladle some batter onto the iron. Bake them as per the instructions for your iron.

7. Serve immediately or keep warm in preheated oven until ready to serve.

A couple of things to note:

– I doubled the recipe and got 10 waffles. Depending on how many people you’re feeding you may need to double as well.

– I think next time I will preheat my oven to 200 degrees, as the one recipe suggests, and put the finished waffles on the rack in the oven to stay warm until they’re all finished being made. That way we can sit down and eat together rather than in shifts as I finish up waffles.

– The almond extract, nutmeg and cinnamon are completely optional but I put them in and I think it added a great flavor. Big Girl was not crazy about the nutmeg. I may leave it out next time since I’m the only one who is really nuts about nutmeg around here.

– The protein powder is also optional and using it only enhances your protein content of your meal. You don’t need to add any extra liquid if you it. (or take any away if you don’t)

– I had a few left after we ate dinner and I put those in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator for breakfast the next day.  I reheated them in the toaster oven.

Adventures in Artisan Bread Baking (part 2)

I mentioned a while ago that I had received Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish as a Christmas gift and that it had started me on a quest to make great artisan bread at home.  You can read my adventures with the first few recipes I tried in that book here.

Not long after I tried my hand at baking the breads in that cookbook, I found out that Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day was on sale in the eBook version.  So, I hopped on over to Amazon and got the Kindle version. I couldn’t wait to try out another style of baking artisan breads and the “five minutes a day” hook was certainly intriguing to me.  Especially after taking two days to make a loaf of bread using Forkish’s methods.  Don’t get me wrong, those breads were totally awesome, just time consuming. But as he says, good bread takes time. So, how would a five minute bread compare?

I was ready to find out.

The secret, as they call it in the book, is to make enough dough to last several days (or for several loaves) and keep it in the refrigerator.  You mix once, and bake many.

I can do that, I thought.  Let’s give it a shot.

As with Forkish’s method, their dough is a wet dough. Much wetter than the other bread doughs I’ve been accustomed to making. But since I’d just made the other breads, it didn’t seem strange to do it this way.  I found a 2 1/2 gallon bucket that I’d had stashed and mixed up my dough in that.  Just as with the Flour Water Salt Yeast bread those were the only four ingredients.   What was different was that there was no long proofing time and no long rise time.  Strange, I thought.

I made my first batch one afternoon and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight although the book said you could mix the dough in the morning and bake your bread that evening if you chose.  I didn’t mix my dough until late in the day so I let it rest overnight.

The next afternoon, I baked the bread.  Another difference was the baking method.  With Forkish’s method, you bake in a covered Dutch oven to get the steam going and crust development.  With the 5 Minute method, you bake on a baking/pizza stone and use a separate container of water in the oven to accomplish the steaming and crust development.  I was curious to see what differences there would be, if any.

So, I baked, and peeked through the oven door watching it baking and wondering how the final bread would turn out.

I tried the Light Whole Wheat Bread recipe.  The recipe states it will make four 1-pound loaves. In my first batch, I only got two loaves out of the mix.  However, I think my loaves were closer to 2 pounds each. I decided that rather than doing a free-form loaf baked on the pizza stone, I wanted to try using my Pampered Chef stoneware loaf pan. I figured the stoneware would work the same and I’d get a pretty loaf-shaped loaf of bread.

I was not disappointed.  It turned out well. So well, in fact, that we gobbled it up almost immediately. Fresh, warm bread out of the oven, slathered with a little butter. What could be better?

As I continued to read the book, I saw that they say the later loaves from the dough (that have sat for a few days) bake up with a sourdough taste to them – from the ongoing fermentation of the bread that happens as it sits in your refrigerator.  The second day’s batch was even tastier than the first and it did indeed have more of a sourdough flavor to it.  Not the same complexity of flavors as the breads I made from Flour Water Salt Yeast, but still good.  Perfectly good for sandwiches and everyday eating. Especially since I mixed the dough once and got two separate batches of bread out of it.  I loved the quick prep times and the easy payoff of bread dough waiting in the fridge to be popped in the oven.

My only complaint? That the bread didn’t rise very much. It didn’t have the big bubbles and high rise of the other artisan breads.  Now that could be (and most likely is) my fault.  I may not have had the water hot enough. (or too hot) I may not have measured my yeast accurately enough. It was rainy so the dough may have been too wet. There is no telling. Bread is a delicate balance of all of these things – so it’s always a guess as to what goes right or wrong when you bake.  The only secret is to keep baking, take notes, and replicate what works well.

And so that’s what I’ll do.

I’ll keep baking.

I’m planning to continue to try recipes from both cookbooks. I figure eventually I will come up with a recipe and method that works for my family and schedule.  And then bread nirvana will be obtained. Smile

Until then, I’ll have lots of fun tasting the samples.

Get your own copies of the books:

Saturday Sweetness: Apple Cake

 

Hello, Sweet Things!Saturday Sweetness

Happy Saturday to you!  It’s an overcast, gloomy day here in our neck of the woods… looks like it will be rainy around here for the next four or five days. I’m not complaining, though, because it means the weather will cool down even more and that means I might get my first fire in the fireplace for the season! Yippee!

Today I’m going to be spending some time in the kitchen – I’m planning to make a batch of my beef stew for a get together with some friends.  We’re not getting together until tomorrow evening, but I’m making it today so the flavors can meld and be even tastier by tomorrow.  I’ll cook it in the crock pot and then I can stick the crock in the fridge until it’s time to warm it up tomorrow.

I’m also going to make this awesome Apple Cake recipe. I’ve shared it with you before (years ago) but I thought I’d share it again. To me, it’s the quintessential fall cake recipe. My mom and I make it many times throughout the fall. Baking this sort of signals the beginning of the fall baking season to me.

It’s so simple to make and you probably have most of the ingredients on hand… and it is so worth it. It tastes super good.

I’m off to the kitchen – well, I am as soon as SuperMan relinquishes control in there. Right now he’s making our weekly Saturday breakfast smorgasbord and since it is one of the highlights of our weekend, I’ll just stay out of his way and let him go.  THEN I’ll get in there and do my thing the rest of the day. Smile

Here’s the recipe.  I hope you enjoy.

APPLE NUT CAKE

1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups apples, peeled & chopped (the smaller the pieces the better)
1 cup raisins

  1. Cream oil, sugar.
  2. Add eggs and vanilla.
  3. Sift flour with salt and baking soda.
  4. Slowly add (in 1/2 cup increments) to wet ingredients.
  5. Add pecans, raisins and apples.
  6. Pour into greased Bundt pan.
  7. Bake at 350 for one hour.