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Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts: April 2011

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cinnamon Muffins

 I have seen this recipe on a couple blogs this week,  For the Love of Cooking and Eat Yourself Skinny.  My son would live on muffins if he could, add cinnamon, and you have a hit!  These looked so good, I just had to make them.  Who doesn't like a muffin that is coated in cinnamon and sugar?  They were really quick and easy to make too!  Of course the leftovers are in the freezer waiting for the next school morning when muffins are requested. 

Cinnamon Muffins
Printable Recipe

3/4 cup of sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup fat-free milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbls sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the egg and sugar together until it is creamy.  
Stir together the flour, baking powder, 1 tsp. cinnamon, salt and nutmeg.  Pour dry ingredients into the egg mixture and stir to combine.  Add vegetable oil, milk and vanilla, stirring until just combined.  Do not over mix or your muffins will come out tough.  

Divide the batter into a prepared muffin tin.  You will want to spray with non-stick spray instead of using liners for this recipe.  Bake for about 15 minutes.  

 Mix the last 3 Tbls of sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon together in a bowl.  After the muffins come out and have cooled enough so you can handle them, roll them around in the sugar to coat all sides.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Grown-up Nuggets

 I may very well have the pickiest eater on the planet as a son.  He was so much better as a baby, but once he got old enough to have an opinion, things just went down hill.  For a long time the only meat he would eat was processed meat (chicken nuggets, hot dogs, sausage).  Yes, I know how bad this is, but what can you do?  Let your child starve!  In the last year he has gotten MUCH better with meat, not veggies or anything else, but meat.  I will take steps, right?

I receive daily emails from Cooking Light (among many others) with recipe ideas.  Well one day I got one for oatmeal crusted chicken nuggets.  My son was next to me as I was checking my email.  He thought they looked good, and wanted to make them.  Immediately I hit print.  I didn't care anything about the recipe, he wanted to try it, we were trying it!  It was REALLY bland, and not that great, but he claimed to have liked it.  Really, I think he thought dipping the chicken was fun, and just wanted to do it again.  So I came up with a whole different "breading" recipe, and they are much tastier! 

Chicken Nuggets
Printable recipe

1 pound boneless skinless chicken (can be tenderloins, cutlets, breasts whatever - just cut to desired size)
1/2 cup  breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup flour
1 egg white
1 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning
1 Tbls Parmesan Cheese
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper


You start by setting up your "breading" station.  1 bowl with flour, 1 bowl with an egg white beaten until frothy with some water, and 1 bowl with both of the breadcrumbs and the seasonings mixed together.

I like to put foil down on a baking tray for easier clean up.  Then I put a cooling rack on top of that that is sprayed with non-stick spray.  That way air goes all around the chicken, and it gets crispier.  Once everything is set up, you can start dipping.  This is where my son likes to help.  I have a few little tongs that I bought at a restaurant supply store for cheap, and they are just the right size for little hands.  Dip in the flour first, just to coat it.  You don't want a lot, so dust off the excess.  Then the egg white, and finally into the breadcrumbs.  Make sure it is covered well with breadcrumbs, this is your flavor!  Place on the tray.

Once everything is breaded spray them well with non-stick cooking spray.  Bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes.  The baking time really depends on how big your chicken is.  The smaller you cut it the shorter it takes, obviously.  Serve them up with your favorite dip!

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rolls for Dinner

 My husband has a cold.  My son got it on Monday, and then my husband got it.  I have managed to avoid it thus far, fingers crossed it can stay that way!  So when planning dinner last night, husband says he doesn't feel like much.  What is a girl to do?  I was out running errands and remembered I had leftover soup in the freezer.  Perfect!!  Just make some dinner rolls (because who can have soup without bread?), and we are done.  Plus it was a cloudy, windy, 45 degree day....soup seemed appropriate.

 I love these rolls!  I have been making them for years.  I found then in a Weight Watchers cookbook that I have.  They are only 56 calories per roll!  Fresh bread for only 56 calories, heaven!  The original recipe calls for sun-dried tomatoes to be added with the herbs, but I skip that part.  I have always been nervous about making bread.  It has taken me awhile to feel comfortable with it.  I still have not mastered it, but I don't shy away from it like I used to.  But this one is foolproof - your food processor does the kneading! 

Herb Dinner Rolls
Adapted from Weight Watchers
Printable Recipe

1 1/4 cups lukewarm water (105-115 degrees)
1 package active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 egg white, beaten with 2 tsp of water

 In a liquid measuring cup, measure the water, and then sprinkle the yeast over the top.  Let it stand for about 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy.   Put the flour and the salt in the food processor.  

  Turn on the food processor, and then scrape the yeast mixture through the feed tube, just until the dough forms a ball.  Then pulse it until it is smooth and no longer sticky, about 30 times.  Spray a bowl with non-stick spray, and place the dough in the bowl.  Cover with a towel and let stand for about an hour, until it is double in size. 

Punch down the dough.  Turn it out onto a slightly floured surface.  Knead in the herbs.  Add them slowly, or you will get clumps.  I like to flatten it out a little, like a pizza, then sprinkle some over the top.  Knead a little, and repeat.  Works quickly, and you get the herbs throughout.

Next you divide the dough into 12 portions.  Try to get them equal in size.  Form each into an oval shape.  Place them on a lined baking tray, 3 inches apart.  Cover and let rise for another hour.

 After they have almost doubled in size again, you are ready to bake them.  You bake at 400 degrees, for about 20 minutes.  Brush them with the egg white so they get nice and brown on the top.  You can tell when bread it done by knocking on the bottom.  When it sounds hollow, it is done. 

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Kung Pao Chicken

I am glad to be writing about something that isn't dessert for once!  Seems like a long time since I posted an actual meal.  I was struggling with what to make for dinner last night.  I took some chicken out of the freezer earlier in the day, but didn't really know what I was going to do with it.  Then I started craving something Asian in nature.  I found a couple of really yummy looking recipes like this Asian Chicken recipe or this Honey Ginger Chicken, but both needed a long time to marinate.  And since my chicken was still frozen at noon, those didn't seem like possibilities.  Though, when I am planning ahead more I will try those for sure!  I finally found a Kung Pao Chicken recipe that looked like with a few modifications could be a winner.  It fit what I was looking for.....chicken, Asian flavors, saucy, serve over rice!  

Kung Pao Chicken
Adapated from Allrecipes
Printable recipe

1 pound boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
5 Tbls white wine
5 Tbls soy sauce
2 Tbls sesame oil
1 Tbls cornstarch, dissolved in water
1 Tbls hot chili paste
3 tsp rice vinegar
6 tsp brown sugar
5 green onions, chopped
1 Tbls chopped garlic
1 small can waterchestnuts
2 cups veggies (mushrooms, green peppers, carrots, zucchini etc.)
Chopped peanuts

 First you want to make the marinade.  I like to use a gallon size ziploc bag, because I throw it away when it is done, and there are no dirty dishes (aside from the measuring spoons).  Combine 2 Tbls wine, 2 Tbls soy sauce, 1 Tbls oil, and 1 Tbls cornstarch mixture.  Add in the chicken, that is cut into chunks.  Toss to coat, and marinate in fridge for at least 30 minutes.  I don't drink white wine, but I do buy those little 4 packs that they sell in the store now.  So when a recipe calls for it, I can open this tiny bottle, and not have a big investment in 1 ingredient. 

While that is marinating you can make the sauce. Combine 3 Tbls wine, 3 Tbls soy sauce, 1 Tbls oil, chili paste, vinegar and sugar.  Set aside.  Next, chop your veggies.  You can really use whatever your family likes.  I had zucchini in the fridge that needed to get used.  So I used that and mushrooms for us.  But you could use broccoli, bell peppers, carrots....really whatever you like!

Now you are ready to cook.  I think the key with making anything Asian is to have everything ready before you turn on the pan.  You want to have the sauce made, the veggies chopped, everything.  Even down to the table set, and drinks ready.  Asian food tends to cook on a high heat and be done quickly, and most of that time is hands on.  So you don't want to be running around the kitchen trying to do other things at the same time.  

In a large skillet saute the chicken until the meat is cooked through.  Remove it from the pan.  Then add in the veggies, and cook them until tender.  Remove them from the pan.  Finally reduce the heat, and add the garlic, green onions, and water chestnuts.  Saute them for a couple minutes, and pour in the sauce.  Heat sauce slowly until it is aromatic (smells good).  Add the chicken and veggies back into the pan.  Cook for a couple more minutes to heat everything back up.  The sauce should start to thicken slightly.  If you like a thicker sauce you can add in a little more cornstarch that is dissolved in water.  Serve over rice, and top with chopped peanuts for some crunch.  Cashews would be good too, if you don't have peanuts.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sugar Cookies

 So the final task of the birthday weekend was to make something for the 6 year old to take to school.  We discussed cupcakes, and muffins, but finally decided on sugar cookies.  But of course, we had to turn them into something Star Wars.  Apparently my son isn't the only boy obsessed with Star Wars in his class, because another Mom was there with help!  She had put "lightsabers" on her sons cupcakes.  Thanks to her, I was able to accomplish Star Wars Sugar Cookies!! 

We make these sugar cookies all the time.  They are the ones my husband grew up with, and they are a hit wherever I bring them.  I made them for my son's class for their Valentine's Party.  I got requests from the teacher, and the Mom's that were helping at the party for the recipe.  Everyone always guesses what ingredients are in there, and are always surprised when they see the recipe. 

Sugar Cookies
 Click here for printable recipe

1 cup (2 sticks) butter - softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
3 Tbls milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add in the milk, vanilla and egg.  Mix in the flour, baking powder and salt.  You want to be careful not to over mix, or your cookies will turn out tough. 

Roll the dough onto a floured surface.  We like the cookies to be thick and chewy, so I roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick.  Dip a cookie cutter in flour, and cut out cookies.  Bake at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes.   You don't want to let them get brown around the edges, or they will be crunchy.  You can tell when they are done when the bottoms get little air bubbles on them.  Allow them to cool before you frost.  I had made Frosting earlier. 

Next up making the Lightsabers.  These were really easy.  I used the Twizzlers pull and peel licorice, and just cut it to the right length, and pulled them apart.  Then I melted some chocolate chips.  Take one piece of licorice, and dip the end in the chocolate.  I put them on a cookie sheet until the chocolate hardened. 

 Check out the final product!  Not bad for someone who isn't all that creative!  I am curious to hear how they went over at snack time today.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Elephant Ears

This morning I made the mistake of asking the birthday boy what he would like for his birthday breakfast.  He took full advantage, and picked something we almost never make.  I should have known better, these Elephant Ears are his all time favorite, but I just wasn't thinking.  They are pretty easy, but with just 2 of here, and me trying to stop eating so much after this weekend, we didn't really need them!  Oh well, it is his birthday! 

I had never heard of these before I was in my 20's.  But apparently it is a well known breakfast to make with kids.  My husband made these frequently as a kid.  His mom gave me the recipe, which she got from a magazine years ago.   They are similar to a cinnamon roll, but without the frosting.  The dough is a little different, but they are really good and easy. 

Elephant Ears
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup flour
2 Tbls sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup milk
3 Tbls sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.   Mix the flour, 2 Tbls sugar, salt, and baking powder together.  Stir in the milk, and 3 Tbls of the butter.  Once the dough forms a ball, knead dough about 10 times.  Mix the 3Tbls of sugar and the cinnamon in a separate bowl.

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough on a floured surface into about a 9x5 rectangle.  Spread the remaining 1 Tbls of butter on the dough.  Sprinkle with almost all of the sugar mixture.  Leave a tiny bit, to sprinkle on top before you bake.  

Roll into a log, and then cut into 5 pieces.  Put them on a greased or lined cookie sheet, and press down gently with the palm of your hand.  Sprinkle lightly with the rest of the sugar mixture.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  They are best served warm. Warm, gooey cinnamon....yyyyuuuummm!
If you have some leftover frosting, you could drizzle some of that over the top.  Never tried it, but I am sure it would be good!

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Birthday Time

Tomorrow is my son's 6th birthday!  He is very excited.  This weekend we had a party with extended family.  He is currently obsessed with anything Star Wars - so he had a Star Wars cake, and got lots of Star Wars presents.  His party with his friends tomorrow will be more of the same, I am sure. 

We had all sorts of good food for Easter, and a birthday party, but this post will focus on the cake.  This year a Cookie Cake was requested.  This is just a giant chocolate chip cookie with frosting - very yummy!  It has taken me quite a few times to perfect the cookie technique.  The key really is under baking it some.  I use my normal chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Press it into a tray to bake it.  I have used a pizza stone, just a cookie sheet, a cake pan, pretty much anything works.  Something with sides is the best, but it doesn't have to.  I put it in kind of thick, maybe 1/4 inch.

Bake it at 350 for 20-25 minutes.  It depends on how thick it is, and how big it is.  It does continue to cook a little after you take it out of the oven, so you will want to under bake it by a little. 

My husband is a frosting snob...always has been, always will be.  So store bought frosting is just unacceptable in this house.  But really, if you are in a hurry it would work. 

Buttercream Frosting
modified by Wilton
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup Crisco
1 tsp clear vanilla
2 Tbls water
1 pound powdered sugar
1 Tbls Meringue Powder

Using electric mixer cream butter and shortening together.  Mix in water and vanilla until well combined.  Slowly sift in the sugar and the meringue powder.  Once combined, mix on medium speed for about 1 min. 

I use the Wilton paste to color the frosting.   The Jedi color is blue - so today I made blue frosting!

I am a very amateur cake decorator.  My husband took the classes that Michael's craft store offers, but I just watched him, and try my best.  This year I found Star Wars figures at Amazon, and used them as decorations.  My son LOVED it, and a bonus.....he has toys after the party!

Here are a few pictures of cakes I have done for past birthdays.  The pictures aren't the best.  They use our old point and shoot camera, but you get the idea!

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Lemon Turkey Cutlets

I always thought of turkey as you have it on Thanksgiving, which is not my favorite. I really enjoy it once a year on Thanksgiving, but that is usually enough turkey to last me the whole year. My husband feels the same way. Then a couple years ago I decided to give Turkey Cutlets a try. Can't remember why I decided to be so brave! Turns out both my husband and I like them! We have a couple different trusted recipes we use often. This lemon one is probably my husbands favorite. And really, probably mine as well. With only a few pantry staples and 15 minutes these can be on the table!

This weekend is my son's 6th birthday. With multiple parties coming up, I have a feeling my next few posts will be dessert related :)

Lemon Turkey Cutlets
2 Turkey Cutlets
2 Tbls Lemon Juice
1 Tbls Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Lemon Pepper seasoning
Olive Oil

Heat pan over med-high heat. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Sprinkle lemon pepper seasoning over both sides of turkey. Cook turkey for about 10 minutes, turning half way. While cooking, you can mix together the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Once turkey is almost done, pour sauce into pan. Cook for just a couple minutes, and you are done!

Can't really get any easier for a low calorie, but really tasty dinner. I served mine last night with a little sauteed zucchini, and it was a great spring feeling meal.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Experimenting with Quinoa

I have wanted to try Quinoa for a long time now. It is on cooking shows and in magazines, and everyone raves about how good it is for you. The thing that has stopped me has been the price. A bag of it locally was almost $11. I finally mentioned it to my husband, and he used his deal seeking skills and scored me 4 bags of it for about $20 at Amazon. You can get White Quinoa for cheap at Amazon as well. It is Red Quinoa, I am not sure if there is much of a difference between the white and red. So last night was the night......

Let's start with, it wasn't what I hoped it would be. I am not giving up yet, I have 4 bags of it! I am not sure my recipe was a good one, and I may have made a mistake in cooking it. I followed my recipe for the water to Quinoa ratio, which may have been the problem. My husband came and looked in the pan when I had about 2 minutes left of cooking, and he said "apparently we aren't eating for a long time, huh?" There was still a ton of water in the pan! So we looked at the package, and the ratio was way different! So I cooked until the 15 minutes as stated on both the recipe and the package, and then just drained the extra water. Who knows if that was what I should have done? It wasn't bad, just not good. I will seek out a new recipe next time.

The pork chops I made with the quinoa turned out much better! Should have taken more pictures, so I could blog more about those!

Pork Chops
Pork Chops
Garlic Salt
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a little bit of oil in a pan over high heat. Sprinkle each side of the pork with garlic salt and pepper. Put pork in pan, and sear side 1 for about 3 minutes. Flip over, and put in the oven. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, depending on how thick your pork chops are.

1 Tbls butter
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups chicken broth
2 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 tsp thyme (1/2 Tbls fresh thyme)
1/4 salt
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 dash lemon juice

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the quinoa, and toast until lightly browned - about 5 minutes. Stir in broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.

While the quinoa is cooking, saute the onions and garlic until soft. Stir in the thyme and salt.

In a bowl, toss quinoa, onion and dash of lemon juice. Serve with delicious pork chops, and you have yourself a pretty quick and easy dinner.

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