Monday, September 20, 2010

Spicy Oven-Fried Chicken

I love browsing blogs and discovering new (to me) blogs during my down time. Seeing the creativity of others on the internet -- and not just in the food bloggosphere, but in the crafting, decorating, and other creative blogs as well -- inspires me to try new things, both inside the kitchen and out.

Recently while browsing through blogs and following links to other people's favorites, I found Everybody Loves Sandwiches. I just had to click on the link because, well, I love sandwiches! :) I was so excited to see what they had to offer and definitely was not disappointed with their plethora of posts. As I scrolled down through their older entries, I found the offering that sealed the deal for me; I added I Love Sandwiches to my list of favorites before I even finished reading.

What is it that could have me so smitten with a website, you ask? Oven-fried chicken. Wait, not just oven fried chicken, but SPICY oven-fried chicken. I love oven-fried chicken. Make that LOVE. It is so freaking good, and I always feel like I am cheating the evils of fat since oven-fried chicken doesn't even come close to a fryer. Add in a layer of spice, another foodie love of mine, and you had me at hello. (Ok, I abhor Rene Zellwegger, so I am really ashamed to have used that line. Also, abhor is one of the vocabulary words I taught my Language Arts Review students last week. Teaching them new vocabulary words makes me feel smarter. heh. However, as always, I digress.)

Where was I?? Oh yes, my love of oven-fried chicken and spicy foods. Add a spice component to oven-fried chicken and I've found my new favorite meal. This is also a healthy alternative to buffalo wings during Monday Night Football.

Don't be scared by the adjective spicy in this recipe though. We all know that the husband is a total wuss when it comes to spicy foods, yet, he loved this chicken as much as I and asked me to make it again soon. The spice comes through in the flavor without burning off your tastebuds. More of a daredevil in the heat department? You can easily up the amount of hot sauce and cayenne to set your mouth aflame.

Spicy Oven-Fried Chicken
Source: adapted from Everybody Loves Sandwiches

Printable Recipe

1 container plain non-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup skim milk
Juice & zest of 1 lime
3 Tablespoons hot wing sauce
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
5 chicken boneless chicken thighs

1 cup dry breadcrumbs (I used the herbed breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 Tablespoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 Tablespoons butter

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients (Greek yogurt through the pepper) and stir until smooth. Add the chicken to the mix and turn to coat. Let marinate for 15 to 30 minutes.

In a shallow pie pan, combine the breadcrumbs, flour, thyme, paprika and cayenne. Stir with a fork to combine.

Pick up one chicken thigh at a time and dredge in the breadcrumb mixture, coating both sides. Set the chicken in the baking dish and repeat with the remaining chicken thighs.

Dot the chicken with butter (don't skip this step, or your chicken won't come out with a crisp coating). Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

An Apple A Day

The calendar says fall, but here in sunny southern California, the temperatures still shout summer. Just yesterday, we hit record-breaking temperatures, including a scorching 111 degrees where I'm at! Not fun when you park on the wrong end of campus and have to walk about 2 miles from the parking lot to your class, followed by taking the stairs up to the 6th floor. yuck. It was still 97 degrees when my class ended at 7pm!

After an incredibly hot August, and now September, I'm ready for it to start feeling like fall, and I felt like an apple spice cake with a maple cream cheese frosting would be just the thing. When I was googling I came across Bakerella's Apple Cake Pops (which she made with chocolate cake) and *knew* I needed to combine the cake pops idea with the apple spice cake recipe for a fun fall treat!

With a 3 hour professional development training scheduled after an already long school day, my principal thought snacks might help the pain of staying at work until 6pm on a Monday night, so she asked me to bake up some cookies. But instead, I brought these apple cake pops!

Apple Cake Pops
Source: Cake and frosting from Eggs on Sunday
Cake Pop idea from Bakerella

Cake Ingredients
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tart apples, peeled and diced small

Cake Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Butter and flour a 9 x 13" baking pan (Eggs on Sunday reccomends an 8" or 9" pan, but since I was making the cake into pops, I wasn't so concerned with a thick fluffy cake.).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through salt). Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute.

Gradually add the brown sugar and continue beating on medium-high speed until well blended and light, about 2 minutes.

Add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time. Beat well after adding each egg, and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the yogurt, in two additions. Mix just until blended. Turn off the mixer, add the diced apple and stir by hand.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is light golden brown and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Let cool for about 5-10 minutes, then crumble the cake into a large bowl. Finish cooling the cake in the refrigerator while you make the frosting.

Frosting Ingredients

6 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch ground nutmeg
pinch salt
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup (NOT fake syrup! Spring for the real deal here)
1 cup confectioner's sugar

Frosting Directions
Using an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese and butter on medium speed, until smooth.

Add the vanilla, maple syrup, spices and salt. Reduce the speed to low and add the confectioner’s sugar. Beat until well blended. Increase the speed to high, and beat until light and creamy, about 2 minutes.

Mix into the cooled, crumbled cake.

Cake Pop Materials

Lollipop sticks (I needed 2 bags. Buy them in the cake decorating section at Michaels)
Pretzel rods, ends broken off into about 1/4" pieces
Green sprinkles (I used small star-shaped sprinkles. Be creative!)

Making the Cake Pops

After mixing the frosting into the cake, being sure it is evenly combined, shape about 1-2 Tablespoons into balls, using your hands. I got about 40 or so cake balls out of this cake recipe.

Set the balls on a piece of wax or parchment paper and chill until firm, about 10-15 minutes in the refrigerator. Once the cake has firmed up, melt the candy melts in the microwave and stir until smooth. Dip the end of a lollipop stick into the melted candy and then gently push into the center of each cake ball.

That's a lot of cake pops!

Return to the refrigerator for another 5 to 10 minutes to allow the melted candy to firm up on the sticks.

Rewarm the melted candy in the microwave for about 15 seconds, stirring until smooth. Make sure the candy is completely melted and free of lumps. Gently dip the cake pops into the candy melt, completely covering each cake ball.

Gently lift the cake ball out of the melted candy and lightly tap off the excess. Stick the end of the lollipop stick into a thick block of styrafoam. Immediately, press the end of a pretzel stick into the top of each "apple" and add a green sprinkle. I found it was easiest to place the sprinkles with a pair of (clean!!) tweezers.

Let sit until the candy coating is completely dried and has firmed up.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

These pancakes are bananas! B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

Pancakes are the perfect weekend breakfast. Anytime the husband and I indulge in a stack of Sunday morning pancakes, it reminds me of the times my parents would surprise me with a weekend breakfast of banana pancakes. Though I usually ate mine hours after everyone else since I always slept in as late as I possibly could (I had to make up for all those days of early morning swim practice before school!).
Usually when the husband and I want pancakes, we just hop in the car and head to IHOP, but add in two side orders of hash browns, maybe a side of bisquits and gravy (with the gravy...on the side), and two beverages, and you've got a pretty pricey weekend breakfast. I don't know about you, but if I am going to drop $30 bucks on breakfast, I don't want to spend it at IHOP!
I've made homemade pancakes before, both from a mix and from scratch, so I know how easy it is, I just don't enjoy the mess I tend to make and the pile of dishes waiting for me once breakfast is eaten. But, I figured a holiday weekend called for a real homemade breakfast, so I pulled out the canister of flour, my tin of baking powder, and an incredibly ripe banana hidden away in the freezer. Add some cinnamon and nutmeg, drizzle with real maple syrup, and that's a breakfast I don't mind laboring over--pun intended :).

Note-I got a whole lotta pancakes out of this recipe--including one mishapen Darth Vader-cake--and we couldn't finish the entire stack. I wrapped the remaining five pancakes up and tossed them in the freezer; a quick nuke in the microwave and stint in the toaster, and voila, a quick weekday breakfast!

Cinnamon Banana Pancakes
Source: A Cooking in Cucamonga Original
Printable Recipe

2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon nutmeg
1 overripe banana, mashed (you want the black bananas that look gross...they have the best flavor!)
1 1/2 cups milk (I used half and half, since I was out of milk)
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

Whisk together the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a second bowl. Slowly pour into the dry ingredients, stirring just until combined. The batter should be slightly lumpy.

Heat a pancake griddle or a large pan on the stovetop over medium high heat.

Spray your cooking surface lightly with non-stick spray. Ladle batter onto the griddle and cook until the edges are done and the middle of the pancake has several bubbles in the surface (about 2-3 minutes). Using a large spatula, flip the pancake and cook for another 1-2 minutes, until the pancakes is golden brown and the middle is cooked.

Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree oven until the whole batch is cooked.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

Here's an interesting factoid about black beans for you to chew on: You can cut your risk of heart attack by nearly 40% just by eating 3 ounces of black beans a sad (thank you Reader's Digest).
Not only that, but these little legumes are packed with fiber, antioxidants, and folate, as well as naturally low fat. Those benefits all add up to a healthy dining option.

But, eating a pile of plain black beans can get a bit boring. That's where black bean burgers make an appearance. Healthy, filing, and flavorful, these burgers make a great dinner and are easy to pack for lunch. Just add some sandwich thins and your favorite toppings and you're set! Just in time for back to school (well, really, back to work if you're me).

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

Source: Adapted from
Good Things Catered
Printable Recipe

1 large bell pepper, any color (I used red)
3 green onions, roots trimmed off
1 large clove garlic
2 (15 ounce) cans no salt black beans, rinsed well and drained
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt (taste after mixing in the 1/4 teaspoon)
1 1/4 teaspoons sriracha (Spicy chili sauce)
1 egg
1/4 cup herbed bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roughly chop the the bell pepper, green onions (use both the green and white parts) and garlic into large pieces. Combine them in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until minced.
In the bowl of a food processor, add onion, green pepper, carrot and garlic.

Remove the vegetables from the food processor bowl and place in fine mesh strainer to strain off excess liquid. Gently press the minced vegetables to help squeeze out the liquid.

Add the drained black beans to the food processor and pulse several times to mash the beans into a chunky paste.

Combine the minced vegetables and mashed beans in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir to completely combine.

Using your hands, shape the mixture into patties. Place each patty on the parchment paper. The mixture will be thick and goopy, but should hold it's shape easily.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until edges have crisped up and burgers are cooked through.

Remove from oven and serve. You can also freeze these burgers for future meals.


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