Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Daring Bakers do Strudel!



I gotta tell you I loved this month's challenge. Surprising as that might be for a person who doesn't like fruit or pie. And the whole time I was making it I imagined various grandmothers and great grandmothers in my family making it exactly the same way. But let's get the fine print out of the way...

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caf├ęs of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

This strudel was really not hard to make. I cut the recipe in half and it went together as easily as some people throw together a pie. And I have to tell you. The walnuts make the apple filling just that much better. I think they were my favorite part! Although I think the pastry was lovely and flaky and I really enjoyed the Cinnamon and sugar and rum traditional apple raisin filling too!

Thanks Courtney and Linda for such a fun challenge!
Please check out the rest of the Daring Bakers.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs

Sometimes things work out beautifully. Take for example this quick, easy and supremely delicious recipe for chicken thighs. Beautiful. Spicy. Quick. Perfect.

Sometimes things do not work out perfectly. Like, say sitting behind a woman at the opera who's hair was eerily reminiscent of the Weight Watcher muppet for Hungry.
(image curtesy of http://www.shrinkingsisters.com/)
Things didn't work out so well for Carmen and Don Jose either.

Or say, that I just got clearance to work out because the whole Wilma situation was a year old last month. That worked out beautifully. That I then managed to break my fibular sesamoid bone in my foot is not so beautiful. And it's a nice hearty break. Hello crutches. We'll be spending a lot of time together for the next 3 weeks. grrrr.

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs

2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Cooking spray
6 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Preheat broiler.

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken to bowl; toss to coat. Place chicken on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil chicken 5 minutes on each side.
Combine honey and vinegar in a small bowl, stirring well. Remove chicken from oven; brush 1/4 cup honey mixture on chicken. Broil 1 minute. Remove chicken from oven and turn over. Brush chicken with remaining honey mixture. Broil 1 additional minute or until chicken is done.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Flattened Chicken Breasts with Piquant Basil Sauce

Oh my. Yet again I have disappeared from the bloggosphere. But I can for sure say that I am now back for good. How can I say this? Well, my semester ended and I earned another 4.0 GPA. And I no longer have to stress about last minute deadlines and PowerPoint presentations and reading philosophies. I actually even cooked tonight. And I'm not talking spaghetti. But I'll get to that in a minute.

First, let me point you in the direction of the lovely Susan over at Not Quite June Cleaver. I won her April Spring giveaway and she sent me the cutest apron ever!! My wonderful friend A is modeling it for me because unfortunately my physique trends more towards Julia Child's than Giada De Laurentis. But it's a beautiful apron and my friend A loves it tremendously and I have a wee bit of apron envy. I also received a neat vintage pie tin, a recipe booklet, and some very cool heirloom seeds. Thanks Susan!
The other neat thing Susan did was to post this delicious pie recipe. See the Brain's friend Mac just opened a pizza joint and bakery called The Pie Factory (which if you're ever in Sandusky you should check out because it's seriously delicious and won second place in the Sandusky Pizza Bake Off!) Anywho, Mac has a delicious raspberry cream pie. And I keep wanting to go buy it, even though I don't like pie typically. So I was telling Susan about it and she gave out a recipe that's similar. The crust on Mac's pie is a shortbread crust, but I like Susan's too. Her recipe is here.
Ok, so today has been all about 7th grade. Remember 7th grade? Awkward. Uncomfortable. Hormones running amok. Still a kid, but not really. Well, today one of the 7th graders I taught took his rifle (hunting is very big here and all the kids seem to have rifles) and stole the neighbor's truck and last it was on the news he's driven to Kentucky. This kid is a good kid. He had a little trouble focusing in class, but the other kids seemed to like him and he seemed to enjoy them too. Unfortunately they searched his locker and found his diary and there are 31 students and faculty that he "threatened" in this diary. Now the media is calling this a "hit list". I challenge you to look at any 13 year old kid's diary and not find scribbles about how they don't like people. I'm fairly certain that my entire diary in 7th grade was filled with ramblings about how much I loved Chris S. and Brian B. and multiple pages on how John M. was a big fat jerk. And Mrs. Juntenan was a horrible teacher. (I lost touch with Brian, Chris and John by 9th grade and I'll still tell you that Mrs. Juntenan was the very worst teacher I've ever had.) And besides the boy asked a family member to watch after his pet turtle. He's not the twitchy could-be-killer the media is making him out to be. So I'm worried about the kid and I'm starting to get annoyed at stupid hillbilly people making ignorant comments on the local newspaper website.

Then, my best friend T. is going through a divorce. Her hopefully soon to be ex husband is a real jerk and she's having a hard time. So by the time I got off the phone with her and had heard about the 7th grade boy, I needed to pound something. I chose chicken breasts. I was spending some serious time searching through my plethora of cookbooks and I wasn't finding anything good until I remembered this recipe my friend Scott made for me when we both worked at Victoria's Secret in Chicago. We had both picked up Celebrating the Midwestern Table by Abby Mandel on clearance at Borders and he invited me to his apartment for dinner. It was common back then for him and I to invite each other over for dinner. It was always good company and good food, and the best cheap wine we could afford. We were poor college kids after all.


So flattening these chicken breasts had dual purpose. I got my worry and frustration out and it took me back to the happy days of college in Chicago. And the chicken was exactly as good as I remembered it. Tomorrow will be a better day, it has to be, I still have one breast left over for lunch!

Flattened Chicken Breasts with Piquant Basil Sauce

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 tsp honey
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
6 Tbsp chicken broth
cooking spray
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp julienned basil leaves

One at a time, place a chicken breast half between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound it to about 1/8 inch thinness. Repeat with the remaining breasts. Place on a plate and set aside.

Combine the honey, mustard, vinegar, and chicken broth in a small dish and set aside.

Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Place the breasts seasoned side down in the hot skillet two at a time. Cook for 2 1/2 minutes. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the top (uncooked) side and gently flip over. Cook for 2 1/2 more minutes until done. Transfer the cooked breasts to a platter and tent with foil. Repeat with the remaining two breasts.

Once all the breasts are cooked and on the platter, add the honey mixture to the hot skillet. Cook for about 20 seconds until slightly thickened. Return the breasts to the skillet, spooning the sauce over them. As soon as they are warmed through, transfer them to a warm serving platter and garnish with the julienned basil. Serve hot.