Friday, July 30, 2010

Crispy Orange Chicken

I borrowed this recipe from one of my blogging friends, Mary Beth at Dunkin Cooking The Semi-Homemade Way and it was a huge hit!  The homegirlz fussed at me when they went looking for leftovers for lunch the next day and there were none.

Next time I make this, I will have to double up on the chicken because they just could get enough.  I also cranked up the garlic a little bit.  This is definitely earned a spot in our rotation.

Cube three boneless, skinless chicken breasts and season with salt and pepper, reserve.  Using a shallow dish, slightly beat one egg and combine with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.  Add cubed chicken to egg and oil mixture.  Toss to evenly coat chicken.  In another shallow dish, combine 1 cup of flour, 1 teaspoon of cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. 

Dredge the chicken cubes through the flour cornstarch mixture and cook in a fryer or deep skillet at 375 degrees.

Cook until golden brown and drain on a paper towel lined plate.

While the chicken is cooking, let's make the sauce.  In a sauce pan over medium-high heat, saute 1 tablespoon minced garlic in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil for about one minute. Then add in 1 cup of orange juice, 1 cup of hoisin sauce, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon sesame seeds and a pinch of cayenne.  Bring sauce to a boil and cook for 3 minutes.  Turn heat down to simmer and reduce until thick.  Stir to make sure sauce is not burning.   I added about 1/2 teaspoon of orange zest to the sauce for a little added flavor.

I decided to keep the sauce a little thinner.  We served it over jasmine rice as Mary Beth suggested and garnished with sliced scallions.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Antipasti My Way!

The kind people at Girard's sent me a sample of four of their gourmet salad dressings!  So difficult to choose which one to try first.  I do have a little swag for you too!  Click here for a $2.00 coupon for one of Girard's salad dressings.

A.J. and I tossed around a few ideas and decided on my antipasti salad: 

One bowl of washed Romaine lettuce.

The lettuce is liberally garnished with marinated artichoke hearts, organic salami, kalamata olives, fresh basil from our garden, and Parmigiana Reggiano cheese.

I'm drooling just reliving this salad through the pictures.

How to choose?  Each pick a salad dressing and share! 

A.J.'s comment:  "Honey that was delicious!  Bet that salad would be even better with a steak."

Silly me, thinking the salami would tide over his meat craving.

Hurry over and get your coupon!  Didn't know we were going to have a field trip did you?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Five Layer Bars

I'm trying to get caught up on my dessert groove and what a better way to start of a Monday than this.  I know you're looking at it and saying, "What the hell?".  I was only able to get off this one shot.

It's a long story but the long and the short of it is Kaitlin made these while I was at work and would not allow me to take pictures while she was cutting them up because she didn't think she was looking good.  She made these to take to a friend's and they were a BIG, I mean BIG hit.  Ok, I snagged one...ok two, but that stays on this blog.

She saw Paula Deen make these, she looked up the recipe, printed it and took care of business.

So get your kids, teenagers, grand kids or the neighbors kids in the kitchen and make some great memories!

1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup butterscotch morsels
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Pour graham cracker crumbs into a large mixing bowl and add melted butter. Stir to thoroughly combine.  Press into bottom of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the butterscotch morsels, then the chocolate morsels over the graham cracker crumbs.  Drizzle the condensed milk over the morsels then sprinkle the coconut flakes on top.  Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool and cut into bars.

Even if they forget to fold the clothes, feed the dog and completely pollute my laundry room with with sweaty, stinky soccer stuff and least they can feed themselves.

Bet you wish you had teenagers!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chili Rubbed Tilapia

Lots of people don't care for fish, many are just afraid to cook it.  Unless you have to clean the fish, don't be afraid.  Fish is fairly simple to prepare and is perfect for times when you want something really good, healthy and quick to eat.

Growing up, we usually had fish one of two ways, fried or with a lemon butter sauce.  Then came Chef Paul Prudhomme and his blackening phenomenon.  I'm not particularly fond of digesting carbon so I shy away from "blackened" foods...just sayin'. 

The cooks of today are so creative and there is such a wide variety of seasonings and herbs available, so why not give fish a little love?

This is a loose rendition of one of Bobby Flay's recipes.  I'm not a huge fan a chili powder but in this instance, I became a fan.  In fact you'll see in the near future how brave I am getting with chili powder...go figure.

I made this last Friday night for dinner and I can pretty much guarantee you I will make it again this weekend.  A.J. was really disappointed when he wanted seconds and there was none.

Combine 3 tablespoons of chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a shallow plate. Dredge fillets in the spice mixture to coat. Heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the fish filets (approx. 1 lb. or 2 tilapia filets - alternately use any sturdy white fish)

Cook fish until just opaque, approximately 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Remove and plate.  Immediately top with approximately 3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Look at that color!  Serve and savor! 

Lagniappe - don't let the goodies left in the skillet go to waste.   Toss some fresh zucchini, par boiled asparagus or even green beans in the skillet.  Toss them around in the seasonings and heat them up and serve as a side.

Have a fun and safe weekend!!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Simple Apple Cobbler

It's been a while since I posted a dessert. Ya'll are starting to sound to skinny out there.

Doesn't this picture with apple pie filling just oozing a bubbling just make you want to lick your computer screen?  Is it just me?  Probably.

This is the first cobbler I learned to make shortly after I got married. This is not your traditional cobbler.  So don't judge.

It's simple, economical and oh, so very good.  The wonderful aroma while it's baking will hypnotize all who enter your home!  As far as can't stop eating it.  Seriously.

This is a method, you can use practically any kind of fruit you like; I learned using peaches.

So here we go:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Spray or grease a 9x9 of 9 x 13 oven safe dish.

Evenly spread  two cans of apple pie filling in the bottom of your dish.  (I used Comstock's)

Evenly spread 1 box of yellow cake mix over the apple pie filling.  (Just use plain old yellow cake mix, it doesn't have to be extra buttery or extra moist). You don't want to mix the cake mix with the pie filling, you want the cake mix to just sit on top.

Dot top with pats of butter, REAL butter.  If you use margarine, it will ruin your cobbler.  Sprinkle the top with cinnamon-sugar.

Bake for 40 - 50 minutes until the top is beautifully brown.  Depending on your oven, it can take up to one hour to bake.

Cool and enjoy!

Just look at that picture, it just knows vanilla ice cream will soon be joining it on a plate.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What Do Cajuns Stock in Their Pantry?

Back in the '80's when Louisiana Cuisine became en vogue, many of the ingredients I considered to be "everyday"  could not be eaily found in grocery stores outside of Southeast Louisiana.

Few people understood our culinary lingo such as tasso, boudin,andouille, file' (pronouced fee-lay) powder, cayenne, hot sauce, cane syrup, or crawfish.  Most of these ingredients are easily found in most grocery stores and believe me, living in "Bug Tussle, TN", even I can find can get my grubby little fingeres on file' powder.  If you can't find them in your local grocery, you can find them online.

Come to think of it, most of the ingredients used in Bayou Country are simple, basic ingredients that have been used for well over 100 years.  Seriously, a Louisiana cook keeps these ingredinets on hand at all times.  You never know when you will need to produce jambalaya or gumbo on the fly!

Ok, so I'm going to give you a peek inside of my Louisiana pantry even though it is located in East Tennessee.  I'm a Louisiana cook and I have to be prepared at all times!

First. there is all-purpose flour and Canola or vegetable oil. Flour and oil are the two ingredients used for making a roux.  The roux is the base or thickening agent of any good gravy and the base of some of the more well known Lousiaiana dishes such as bisques, gumbos, stews and gravies.

A roux is comprised of equal parts (usually) of flour and oil.  They are constantly stirred until the mixture is brown and has a nutlike aroma.

Many of you are familiar with "the trinity":  Onions,  bell peppers and celery. Additionally, green onions/scallions, garlic and flat-leaf parsley are also popular seasonings we liberally use in many of dishes. 

Staples in my spice cabinet are salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, bay leaves, thyme, garlic powder, and file' powder. While there is a wealth of Louisiana, Cajun or Creole spice blends on the market, you can certainly mix up your own blend to suit your personal taste.

Tabasco is probably the best known hot sauce from Louisiana, but there are many other Louisiana-made hot sauces that are quite good. You may want to give them all a try to find one or two that you prefer. Most are made with cayenne peppers or a blend of cayenne and other peppers.

In recent years, there has been an introduction of flavored hot sauces. Tabasco, for example, has one flavored with garlic, and another called Tabasco Brand Green Pepper Sauce. Cajun Chef Products, Inc., based in St. Martinville, has been manufacturing a green hot sauce for years that is also exceptional. Other popular brands include Crystal Hot Sauce from Baumer Foods, Inc. and Louisiana Hot Sauce and Louisiana Gold Hot Sauce from Bruce Foods Corporation.

While pepper sauces are used in cooking, they are more commonly offered as a condiment for diners to season plates to personal taste.  Speaking of peppers, a teaspoon or two of the pickling liquid from pickled peppers can also give your scrambled eggs or vegetables a little pizzaz.

Rice is another South Louisiana must. My preference is extra long-grain, but there are some cooks who opt for medium or short-grain when making a jambalaya or boudin stuffing. Louisianians consume as much rice in one year (about 50 pounds per person) as other Americans eat in five.

Little Cajun babies cut their teeth on rice and gravy. I know many South Louisianians that would not consider letting a day go by without having something with rice: gumbo and rice, red beans and rice, jambalaya, rice cakes, rice salad, or rice pudding.  My husband fits well into this category.  Many of you know, I'm a pasta girl.

Whatever the choice, rice is steamed, not boiled. I usually cook my rice in a rice cooker.  For some reason I just can't get rice to come out right on the stove.  The method for cooking is supposed to be really simple. It's one to two ratio: one of rice to two of water. Put the rice in a heavy saucepan, sprinkle in some salt and a spoon or two of butter, olive oil or vegetable oil. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat, cover the pot, and cook until all of the water is absorbed, about 20 to 30 minutes.

You will always find a package of smoked sausage or Polish Kielbasa in my freezer.  Sometimes, I splurge and order tasso or andouille online and you will find that in my freezer.  The sausage is used to flavor everything from gumbos and jambalayas to smothered beans. If you can't put your hands on the real stuff, Polish Kielbasa or smoked sausage work just as good as the real stuff.

Tasso, once made from the trimmings of the hog at a boucherie (a group of families butchering a hog and all taking part in processing the meat), has always been used to flavor vegetables, stews, sauces and gumbos. These days, tasso is made from pork shoulder, heavily seasoned and smoked for an intense flavor.

When it comes to cane syrup, the best is Steen's 100% Pure Cane Syrup made in Abbeville. The dark, thick syrup is liberally poured on biscuits, cornbread, and pain perdu, otherwise known as lost bread or French toast. It is also the main ingredient in two Cajun desserts, gateau de sirop (syrup cake) and les oreilles de cochon, fried pastries.

Crawfish, crayfish, crawdads, mudbugs have become very popular.  Even here in Knoxville, many a UT tailgater can be caught boiling these delectable crustaceans that resemble miniature lobsters.  In the Spring, especially on the weekends the air is filled with the wonderful aroma of crawfish boiling in huge pots over butane burners in backyards, grocery stores and seafood shops all through southern Louisiana. The peeled crawfish tails are used to make etouffee, bisque and are simply scrumptious all by themselves.

Creole mustard is a pungent prepared mustard made from spicy brown mustard seeds. The seeds are steeped in distilled white vinegar, then coarsely ground and let to marinate for up to twelve hours before packing. It's great for spreading on po-boy sandwiches or to spice up a remoulade sauce.

File powder is ground sassafras leaves, used to flavor and thicken gumbo. We only add file' powder after the gumbo is finished cooking and usually on a bowl by bowl basis.  It should not be added when the gumo is cooking.

Okra reached America with the slaves and was known as its original name in Tshi: gombo. Okra is used primarily as a thickener in gumbos but also is served fried as a vegetable, or pickled and used in salads or to garnish a martini.

When boiling seafood (shrimp, crabs, or crawfish), the locals often use what is known as "seafood boil." The mixture is a combination of dry herbs and spices wrapped in netting or cheesecloth. Also popular is a concentrated liquid seafood boil from Zatarain's. Zatarain's produced a foolproof powdered seafood boil which is primarily used by locals.  No matter what the cooking shows tell you, people from Louisiana do not used Old Bay, ever!

Now I bet if you go check your pantry, you'll find out your at least half Cajun...go look, really, see, I told you.

Cajun-ally yours,