Chicken Fingers with Apricot Sauce

Quick Post: These are really so good and the sweet and salty sauce takes them over the top! They’re on the menu for tonight and I searched my blog to get the recipe again and discovered that it was never posted! I can’t believe I forgot to post this recipe three months ago when I first made it…better late than never! 😉

Chicken Fingers with Apricot Sauce – adapted from Folkmann.ca
For the chicken:
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups panko
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten with a splash of water
  • 1 cup of cornstarch
  • Oil for frying  (*I use a combination of peanut oil and canola oil*)
  • 1 lemon cut into wedges

For the sauce:

  • cup apricot preserves
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons ketchup
  • Freshly squeezed juice from half a lemon
Directions – 

1. Set a rack on a baking sheet, put it in the oven, and preheat to 200F. Cut each chicken breast into 4 thick even pieces. To set up your dredging station: Put corn starch in one baking dish, and the eggs in another dish next to it. Finally, toss the panko, lemon zest in another dish.

2. Heat about 1/4 – 1/2 inch of oil in a large heavy skillet over a medium-high heat. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper to taste, and then coat lightly in the cornstarch. Next, dip in eggs and then press into the panko mixture to coat evenly. Shake off any excess and place on a plate while you finish the other pieces. Carefully place the chicken in the hot oil, taking care not to crowd the pan. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a constant sizzle. Fry the chicken a few pieces at a time, turning once until evenly brown. About 5 minutes total. Keep cooked fingers in the oven on the rack. Repeat with the rest of the chicken breasts. Serve with lemon and dipping sauce.

Apricot sauce –
Combine the preserves, soy sauce and ketchup in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture until the preserves have melted. Stir in the lemon juice and cool before serving.

Trail Mix Cookies

Yummy, chewy, sweet, tart, crispy, thin, nutty…there is a lot going on in these cookies. They’re like a cookie version of a granola bar, which makes them a great after school treat for the kids. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Trail Mix Cookies – adapted from Annie’s Eats

  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup (8 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 6 tbsp. granulated sugar (*I used vanilla sugar*)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla (*I used almond extract*)
  • 1¼ cup old-fashioned oats
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup dried cherries, chopped
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tbsp. sunflower seeds

Directions –

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon; whisk to blend, and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugars and beat on medium-high speed until light and smooth, about 1-2 minutes.  Blend in the egg.  Mix in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Stir in the oats until evenly combined.  Use a spatula to fold in the raisins, cherries, walnuts, chocolate and sunflower seeds, mixing just until evenly incorporated.

2. Scoop about 2 tablespoons of dough at a time onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least a couple of inches apart.  Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until golden brown and just set, about 10-12 minutes total.  Let cool on the baking sheets about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

Oat Waffle

Quick Post: I love using oats whenever I can, and the kids don’t seem to mind! I made these at night, cooled them completely, bagged ’em, tagged ’em, and then stored them in the freezer. In the morning, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake these for 6 -8 minutes. It’s a quick, no-brainer (who wants to think in the morning) breakfast that my kids and I enjoy. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Oat Waffle – adapted from Food Network

  • 5 1/2 ounces old fashioned rolled oats
  • 4 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 16 ounces buttermilk at room temperature

Directions –

Heat a 10-inch saute pan over medium heat. Add the oats and cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted, about 3 minutes. Cool the oats in the pan for 2 to 3 minutes. Grind the toasted oats in a food processor until the consistency of whole-wheat flour, about 3 minutes.

Heat a waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions.

Whisk together the toasted oat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Whisk the eggs and melted butter together in another bowl, then add the buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until combined. Rest the batter for 5 minutes. Ladle the recommended amount of waffle batter into the hot iron. Close the iron top and cook until the waffle is golden on both sides and is easily removed from the iron. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve immediately or keep warm in a preheated 200 degree F oven until ready to serve.

Rustic Italian Bread

Lots of waiting with this recipe…hopefully it’s worth it!

It’s kind of my thing to go the extra mile when we have company – and 2012 seems to be the year of overnight guests! Nothing wrong with that, and it’s definitely a nice change from our normal routine. My SIL is coming into town and my plan is to make this bread to go along with spaghetti sauce that will cook while I am away, (slow cookers are a lifesaver in this kind of situation).

I loathe working with wet dough, but I have learned to use my rubber scraper to knead instead of both hands. In the end, the loaf was so big that it barely fit on my half sheet pan. Overall, this is obviously time consuming – but not too much work on your part. The finished product was flavorful (thanks to the overnight fermentation), with a crisp crust of an artisan type loaf. It served as a crunchy base for our all time favorite garlic bread and would be perfect for pressed sandwiches (I need to try one of those!) Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Rustic Italian Bread – adapted from  The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book via Bless This Mess

For the sponge:

  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast

For the dough:

  • 3-3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 2 tsp salt

Directions –

To make the sponge:
Mix the flour, water, and yeast together in a medium bowl until it resembles dough. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 6 to 24 hours.

To make the dough:
Add 3 cups of the flour and yeast to the bowl of your stand mixer. With the dough hook attached, turn the mixer on to low and slowly add the water while the mixer is running. Let this mix for 2 minutes until the dough starts to come together. Lift the head of your stand mixer and place a piece of plastic wrap tightly over the bowl. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes.

After the 20 minute rest, remove the plastic wrap and add your sponge and salt. Mix on medium low speed for 8 minutes. After 4 minutes, if the dough is sticking to the side of the bowl add the last 1/2 cup of flour a little at a time until the dough stops sticking to the edges of the bowl but is still sticking to the bottom (you do want it to stick to the bottom). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a smooth round ball.

Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm spot until doubled, about an hour.

After the dough has doubled, remove the plastic wrap. Using a large spatula gently fold the dough into itself by pulling the edge of the dough into the middle. Do this a few times all around the edge of the bowl. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 30 minutes..

Repeat the previous step after the 30 minutes are up and then let it rise for a second 30 minutes.

After the second 30 minutes of rising, it’s time to form the loaf. Remove the dough from the bowl and gently press it into a 10-inch square without tearing it. Fold each corner into the middle and then gently roll the dough into a tornado shape. Place the dough, seam down, on a rimless baking sheet (or one that is upside-down) that is lined with parchment paper. Gently tuck the dough into place on the parchment. You should end up with a long thin loaf that is 16 inches long. Lightly mist the dough with cooking oil and then loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

While the dough is rising, prep the oven and your baking stone. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Let the baking stone heat for 30 minutes (but not longer than an hour).

When the dough has doubled, score the top with a razor blade, diagonally and 1/2 inch deep and spray lightly with water. CAREFULLY slide the loaf and the parchment onto the hot baking stone in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for 30 to 35 more minutes until the crust is a deep golden brown. Let the loaf cool on a wire rack until it is room temperature before serving (about 2 hours cooling time).

Pretzel Dogs

These are seriously good! My sister made these for our 4th of July party this summer and they were a big hit with kids and adults alike. In an effort to redeem these nutritionally (every little bit helps), I used half white whole wheat and half all-purpose flour for these. Also, the hot dogs are uncured, grass-fed beef…yes, I am a food snob! 😉

This dough is so easy to work with and easily rolled, and shaped without that annoying snap-back of some other doughs I have worked with. Be careful when you add the baking soda to your pot of boiling water, as it will boil more aggressively. Use a slotted spoon to carefully add the dogs to the pot and, again watch for the crazy boiling water!  We’re going to experiment with these in the kid’s lunch for school tomorrow – here’s hoping for no soggy pretzel dogs! 😉

UPDATE: The kids took one each in their lunch yesterday, and they didn’t become soggy! It helps that I didn’t refrigerate the leftovers, and I ate some for lunch too and they still tasted great. I’m really happy with these, and no one could tell that they’re nearly half whole wheat! Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Pretzel Dogs – adapted from Fake Ginger

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1½ cups warm water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package dry active yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (312 grams)
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour (240 grams)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 10 cups water
  • ⅔ cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt (or kosher salt), for topping
  • 8 hot dogs, cut in half (*I used these*)

Directions:
Combine the warm water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes, until the yeast is foamy and begins to smell of yeast.
Add the flour and butter to the yeast mixture. Attach the dough hook to the stand mixer and, on medium-low speed, combine the mixture until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and appears shiny, roughly 4 to 5 minutes.
Spray a large bowl with non-stick spray (or lightly grease with vegetable oil) and place dough in greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Place bowl in a warm area and let dough rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Spray parchment paper with non-stick spray. Set aside.
In a large pot, bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a roiling boil.
Place the dough on a greased surface, and divide into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope, roughly 12 inches long. Carefully wrap each piece around a half hot dog. Pinch the ends together to seal the dough.
Boil the shaped pretzels and pretzel dogs, one at a time, in the baking soda water for 30 seconds each. Using a slotted spatula, remove each pretzel dog from the water and place it on a drying rack to allow any extra baking soda mixture to drip off.
Place the boiled pretzel dogs back on a parchment lined baking sheets.
Brush with beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with pretzel or kosher salt.
Bake until golden brown, roughly 14 to 15 minutes. Transfer pretzel dogs to a cooling rack for a few minutes before serving. Serve with a variety of mustards.

Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce

 

 

I’m usually leery about crock pot recipes and I rarely search for new ones. Most recipes I have seen (or most that are popular on Pinterest), are full of canned this and packaged that…I have seriously considered creating a new pin board entitled: “Recipes that Scare Me”!  There is nothing questionable in this recipe and it is so good! The aroma greeted me as I walked through the door after picking up my SIL from the air port. This was the perfect meal to come home to and I will make this again. It’s rich, hearty and goes perfectly any thick, tube pasta. I served this with a quick garlic bread, but if I had more time – I would have made this one (always a favorite!) Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce – adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

  • 1 lb ground beef (I used 90/10 ground sirloin)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 bay leaf (or 2 small)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter

Directions:

Season ground beef with salt & pepper then brown with minced onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drain then add to a large crock pot. Add all the ingredients except for the butter, stir to combine, then cook on low for 5-6 hours. Remove bay leaves, stir in butter, then serve over cooked pasta.

Cheese Sauce

Quick Post: When faced with the dilemma – “what’s for lunch?” I quickly came up with this solution – nachos! What is a nacho without cheese sauce, right? I remembered pinning this  awhile back and immediately got to work on it. Three ingredients, maybe ten minutes,  resulted in a really tasty cheese sauce that was perfect on our nachos. While I refried these beans, my husband stirred this sauce over medium heat until it became thick and smooth. I successfully transformed leftovers into a fun lunch that everyone enjoyed…score one for me! 😉 Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Cheese Sauce – adapted from Serious Eats

  • 8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce (we used green Tabasco)

Directions –

Add cheese and cornstarch to large bowl. Toss to combine. Transfer to medium saucepan. Add 1 cup evaporated milk and hot sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with whisk until melted, bubbly, and thickened (about 5 minutes). Mixture will look thin and grainy at first but will thicken and come together after heating. Thin to desired consistency with additional evaporated milk. Serve immediately with fries, tortilla chips, burgers, or hot dogs

Shrimp Pasta with Oven Dried Tomatoes

Quick Post: This pasta was amazing! I have tried and posted several shrimp pastas here, and this one is sure to be a repeat offender in this house. This was my first time using mascarpone cheese – it’s like butta! It created a smooth and creamy sauce that perfectly complimented the rest of the flavors in this dish. I really like the oven dried tomatoes, because all that richness would be overpowering if not for the presence of the slightly acidic, sweetness of them. They’re worth making, especially if you want to avoid preservatives of most store-bought sun dried tomatoes. The kids were leery of them, but I explained that they’re like tomato-raisins 😉 Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Shrimp Pasta with Oven Dried Tomatoes – adapted from Annie’s Eats

  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • Olive oil
  • Small pinch of sugar
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 lb. bowtie pasta
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ¾ cup chopped yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup dry white wine (or chicken broth)
  • 6 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (*I forgot to buy this*)
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

Directions:
To make the oven dried tomatoes, preheat the oven to 225˚ F. Place the tomatoes in a small baking dish in a single layer, cut side facing up. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper. Bake for about 3 hours, or until the tomatoes are mostly shriveled up. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Once boiling, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain well.

While the pasta is cooking, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook in a single layer, flipping once during cooking, just until opaque, about 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate, tent loosely with foil and set aside. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in the pan. Sauté the onion until slightly softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan and sauté just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine or broth and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Return the shrimp to the pan and add in the drained pasta along with the oven-dried tomatoes. Add the mascarpone to the pan and stir until completely melted. Stir in the basil and Parmesan, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan as desired.