Monday, February 28, 2011

Crispy Cheese Chicken

This really isn't going to be a daily blog. Really it isn't. I already have two of those. :) But at the same time, this recipe is fresh on my mind since we had it for dinner, so I might as well write this now. Then I will probably take a day off since Tuesday night is "On Your Own" night anyway. :)

This recipe is Crispy Cheese Chicken. I got this recipe from a neighbor who served it at a Bible Study a few years ago. She said she got it from an Oprah episode. No matter where it came from, it is in our recipe repertoire. It is fairly easy, can be made ahead of time, and the kids (and hubby) give it a thumbs up.

For Crispy Cheese Chicken, you need...chicken. The recipe calls for 4 chicken breasts. Obviously for my family of six, that won't work. That and I don't typically use chicken breasts. I use tenderloins. They seem to cook a little faster and more thoroughly to me. That and a bag of tenderloins goes further with us than a bag of chicken breasts. For this recipe, I used 12 tenderloins.

If you have them frozen (like I do since those frozen bags are much more economical than fresh which I typically only serve for dinner guests), defrost them and rinse them off.

While they are defrosting (I did mine in the microwave), you can get the other ingredients ready. And preheat the oven to 375.

Mix 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, and 3/4 cup mayonnaise. Stir well until blended. I put mine in this bowl/plate combo dish I have. (Like a flat bowl) This amount was just fine for my 12 tenderloins. Sidenote: tonight I realized my lemon juice expiration date was past. I googled to see if it was okay. The jury was out. I decided to go without. I really couldn't tell the difference.

In another bowl or bowl/plate, pour shredded cheese. I use sharp cheddar because that is one of my favorites. I also use the 2 percent to make it a little lighter. It took the whole package (7 ounces I think) for this batch.

And finally in a third bowl/plate, pour crushed corn flakes. We use Kellog's because that is hubby's favorite to eat for breakfast. I also throw in a little parsley just for a little extra flavor. I just put them in a ziplock then crushed the bag with my hands; it is a great way to work off any frustration. If you have kids, this is a great way to get them involved. Let them help crush the flakes with a roller or their hands. Afterward, just pour them in the bowl. I just pour some, then if I run out, I add some more. It doesn't take long.

I line everything up on the counter like an assembly line.
Next, I use little tongs to hold and dip the chicken into the mayonnaise mixture, then dip it in the grated cheese, and finally press it in the corn flakes until coated on both sides. Then place it on a baking sheet. When I have finished filling up the baking sheet, I pour any extra crumbs over the top.

Next, bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.
We usually have mashed potatoes and some kind of bread with this. A salad goes very do green beans.

Now, here is a little secret for anyone who takes the time to cook this. Don't let your family in on it. When they have finished the chicken, pretend like you are going to do the dishes. After the family disappears hearing that, take a few minutes to pull off any melted cheese/cornflake pieces that are stuck to the pan. Then eat them. They are my favorite part! Yum.

Oh, this is easy to make ahead, just prepare everything, cover it, then put it in the fridge until you are ready to cook. During Teacher Appreciation Week, one thing I like to do is give the teachers a few options of meals. Once they have selected one, I bring the meal to school for them to take home and cook. This is always on the menu. It is easy to have ready for the oven.

It is that simple. :)

Happy cooking!

PS Note that I have added a couple of other "food" blogs on the sidebar that are fun to visit. Of course, the Pioneer Woman is a mom/wife/cooking guru. And the other is a mom with three boys at home (two via adoption) who just started blogging about the cooking experiences they have together. She is a LOT of fun to read, food related or not.

PSS If you have a "Google" account, you can "follow" this blog to be alerted when something new is posted. That is how I can keep up with the several blogs that I read, especially for those who don't post regularly. I don't post follower names on the blog.

PSSS I love Carolynn's idea of guest blogging. I would love to do that some time!

And finally PSSSS, feel free to leave comments if you have any questions or know an easier way to do something! I welcome suggestions.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Filled Cupcakes

One time last year, Lauren and I decided to cook something together for a little "Mommy/Daughter" time. I gave her some cookbooks and let her choose the recipe. True to her sweet tooth, she chose a cupcake recipe. Tonight she asked to make them again (with a little supervision by me). So I thought I would share with you. It is a very kid friendly recipe. It actually comes from the Better Homes and Garden New Junior Cook Book published in 1979. I used it when I was a little girl if that tells you anything. Just goes to show that maybe some recipes are timeless...

Anyway, here is the recipe and a few pictures to go with it...

Turn oven to 375 degrees. I did that part.

Line a 12 muffin pan with liners.

In a small bowl, stir in 3 oz. cream cheese (I used light and "whipped" in the plastic is much easier to stir), 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/2 tsp vanilla until mixed. You can also add in 2 tbsp nuts, but Lauren opts out of those.

In another bowl, mix 2/3 cup all purpose flour, 1/4 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened), and 1 tsp baking powder.

In yet another bowl (my one complaint...lots more dirty dishes as if we didn't have enough :), cream 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup softened butter until fluffy. Stir in one egg and 1/2 tsp vanilla until mixed.

Stir about half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Then slowly stir in 1/2 cup milk. Stir in the rest of the flour mixture until smooth.

Spoon in about 1 tbsp batter into each baking cup...we used that handy cookie scooper again that I used with the pumpkin muffins (after it had been washed of course). Then add about 1 tsp of the cream cheese mixture to each. Finish filling with batter.

Put pan into oven. Bake for 20 minutes. We checked ours with a toothpick then took them out to cool a little.
I am kind of a frosting snob. And if it hadn't been such a very crazy day, I might have made my favorite buttercream frosting (that recipe will come around someone's birthday more than likely). But as it was, time was limited. So I just used some of my frosting bags and larger tip and filled them with whipped white frosting and whipped chocolate frosting from a can. It is not the same but the kids don't really care. And it didn't stop me from eating one. :) The kids then decorated them. I also put out some chocolate chips and marshmallows. Hunter even added a chocolate covered pretzel to his. We apparently watch way too many episodes of Cupcake Wars around here. :)
(That is Maria's creation...)

Then eat and enjoy!

It really is a kid friendly recipe since the oven is the only appliance used. And we had several discussions about measurement and directions. Lauren is even able to crack the egg herself now. Not to mention, they are pretty tasty. :) (Cupcakes are a rare treat around here)

Happy cooking!

Pumpkin Muffins

The picture doesn't do it justice. Just trust me on this.

I was trying to decide what my first recipe should be. The one I am probably asked about more than any other is the pumpkin muffin recipe. I got this from a co-worker who got it from a classroom parent who shared it (and some muffins) with her. Since my first bite, I was hooked. I LOVE these muffins. We eat them at least every other week, if not more often. I try to always have the ingredients (3...just 3 ingredient!) on hand for when that mood strikes. The older two will eat them when I make them and like them fine. But it is my younger two who actually beg me to make them and then will eat them until there are none left. I am sure they are healthy, right? Pumpkin is good for you...

Here is the recipe.

Did I mention there are three ingredients?

The ingredients are one can of pumpkin, one box of a spice cake mix, and one bag of cinnamon chips.

I pick up one or two cans of pumpkin any time I see it at the store. Did you know that last year there was a pumpkin shortage? It was scary. I thought we might be without pumpkin muffins for a few weeks. I was even willing to try to learn how to can pumpkin myself, grow them in the backyard if necessary. Thankfully a few friends found cans for me, and then we had a really good crop last year. So now I have a shelf of pumpkin. Just in case. And I have a renewed interest in farming and agriculture current events so it won't be a surprise to me next time.

The spice cake mix? I just buy the generic version. I mean, store brand. It doesn't really matter. The key is you are just using the mix itself. You aren't adding the cake ingredients (like eggs or oil). Just that powdery mix.

And finally the cinnamon chips. They are the toughest to find depending on where you live. I am VERY thankful that my favorite grocery store Harp's sells them. (To be upfront, my daddy works for that store :) If you don't have a Harp's in the area, go to the Hershey's website and look up hard to find products. Look for cinnamon chips. I know you can order them on Amazon and some other websites too. I have had friends substitute chocolate chips, but really the cinnamon chips make the muffin to me...

Final note: I don't always use a whole bag of cinnamon chips. I have used half the bag and sometimes even a little less than that. My kids don't seem to notice a difference. So that is one way to get more bang for your buck. Stretch out the chips.

So what do you do now?

Go ahead and turn the oven on to 350.

Dump all three ingredients in a bowl. Then start mixing. This is the tough part. It is not easy to mix. It is very dry at first. Honestly, I "smear" the pumpkin with a spatula until the cake mix gets moist with it. Once that happens, it gets much easier though it is very thick.

Next, spray either a regular muffin tin (or mini muffin tin) or line with muffin/cupcake liners. I use the liners. It is SO much easier to clean up afterward and they don't really stick that much. I won't even tell you how many muffin/cupcake liners I have on hand. Just know that if you are ever in a bind, I have plenty to share in about any pattern or holiday theme you are looking for. They are just fun to buy and they are great little gifts (like in my stocking).

Then I use the cookie scooper (see picture below). I used to try a spoon but then it would stick and I would be frustrated. The scooper works MUCH better for me now. :) I just put scoops into the tin until about even with the pan. For mini muffins, one scoop works. For regular muffins, usually it takes about two. I will tell you that this makes a lot. I can easily get 18 regular muffins or one large pan of mini muffins plus 6 regular. If you ever want an easy teacher gift, get up early one morning and make these...they will feed many.

After you have finished filling the tins, stick the muffin pan(s) in the oven. After about 30 minutes check on them. If they look pretty set, then take them out. Give them just a couple minutes to cool off, then enjoy. Oh, and they taste just as good re-heated in the microwave for 10-20 seconds.

You can always add extra ingredients (nuts, raisins, dates, etc) and some friends have even added a topping (like a glaze). But I am a simple girl. 3 ingredients. No more, no less. :)

Here is a shortened version of the recipe without all of my ad lib...

1 can pumpkin
1 box spice cake mix
1 bag cinnamon chips

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Pour ingredients into a bowl and stir until moist.
3. Line or grease or spray muffin pans (the size of your choice).
4. Scoop or spoon "batter" into the tins until flush with the pan.
5. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
6. Enjoy!

More soon,

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Coming Soon...

I love to talk about food, probably because I so very much enjoy eating food. :) So I will confess that many of my Facebook status updates are about food as well as some of my blog entries on my home blog. I then am asked for recipes, so I thought this would be a good place to share.

I want to be clear that I am in NO way trying to be The Pioneer Woman who has taken the world by storm with her cooking blog. I am just not that good of a cook.

My plan is to share some recipes that our family enjoys. And maybe I will post a picture of the finished product if possible. Nothing fancy. Kind of like an on-line cookbook.

A few things you should know:

My family eats few vegetables. I have to admit, I am not a big vegetable eater myself. I really like them raw when I do eat them. So few recipes will call for veggies. I am not saying we never eat them but some of my children act like they are poison. Please, no lectures about how I should have started them off that way...we tried. I promise, we did.

We have six in our family (two adults, four kids) so most recipes will be for our family size.

I don't create recipes. I am not that creative. I just notice recipes from friends or in cooking magazines and try them. If they work out, we keep them and use them again. All that to say, I cannot and will not take credit for any recipe that I post unless it is actually mine (slim to none). I will always try to give credit where credit is due.

I think that is about it.

Now, let's get cooking!
PS A recipe will be coming up this week...check back. :)