Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chicken Parm and Snickerdoodles

So after the chewy cupcake incident I was still in the mood to cook and bake.  I had been wanting to try this recipe from Brown Eyed Baker for quite some time.  I've mentioned in earlier posts that I've been trying to eat a little more healthy, so this recipe for Lighter Chicken Parmesan sounded perfect.  I made it with some whole wheat pasta (healthy, right?) and I substituted Italian bread crumbs for the panko, just because I didn't have panko on hand.  But I bet the recipe would be amazing with panko too.   Oh, and I didn't toast the bread crumbs and it still worked fine.  The oven-frying method used in the recipe makes the chicken SUPER crispy and you don't even notice it's not fried.  I actually think I like this better than fried (gasp!).  I think it's even crispier.  I didn't take a lot of pics, but there's one up there.  So no more babbling.  Here's the recipe. 
Lighter Chicken Parmesan

1 1/2 cups panko (or Italian bread crumbs)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder (I used real garlic and stirred it in the egg wash)
salt and pepper
3 large egg whites
1 Tbsp water
cooking spray
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts sliced into cutlets (I used chicken tenderloins)
2 cups tomato sauce, warmed
3 oz shredded mozzarella cheese (I had sliced provolone on hand so I used that)
1 Tbsp fresh basil

1.  Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees. Combine the bread crumbs and oil in a skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until golden, about 10 minutes. Spread the bread crumbs in a shallow dish and cool slightly; when cool, stir in the Parmesan.

2.  In a second shallow dish, combine the flour, garlic powder, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together. In a third shallow dish, whisk the egg whites and water together.

3.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, place a wire rack on top, and spray the rack with vegetable oil spray. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge the cutlets in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip into the egg whites, and finally coat with the bread crumbs, Press on the bread crumbs to make sure they adhere. Lay the chicken on the wire rack.

4.  Spray the tops of the chicken with vegetable oil spray. Bake until the meat is no longer pink in the center and feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 15 minutes.

5.  Remove the chicken from the oven. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the sauce onto the center of each cutlet and top the sauce with 2 tablespoons of the mozzarella. Return the chicken to the oven and continue to bake until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the basil and serve, passing the remaining sauce and Parmesan separately.
Okay, so I made a lot of substitutions but whatever.  It was still really good.  So after this I was craving some kind of dessert (that tasted better than the cupcakes) and I had everything on hand to make Snickerdoodles.  Can you tell I hate going to the store when I'm about to make something?  I try to plan my meals out for the week and go once a week.  Otherwise, I really really try to keep baking ingredients on hand so I don't have to do a last minute run to Publix. 

I really think Snickerdoodles are my favorite cookie.  Maybe because my favorite food of all time is a cinnamon roll, and this has a similar flavor?  Who knows.  It's just a simple cookie that brings back memories of my childhood.  My Granny made Snickerdoodles whenever we went to visit her.  Now that I think about it, she made cinnamon rolls whenever we went to visit her too...hmm.  I'm seeing a pattern here.  I wish I had my Granny's recipe, but I don't.  But I've made the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook recipe many many many many times and it's perfect.  (P.S. I have the Breast Cancer edition- and it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Just thought I'd throw that in there).  BTW- if you do not have this cookbook, please go buy it.  Like now.  If you have no other cookbooks in your kitchen, have this one.  It has every basic recipe you could want, and it has intros and basic cooking lessons at the beginning of every tab.  If you can't cook, this book will teach you how.  Plus, you can trust that just about every recipe has been tested and proven to come out perfectly.  (Duh, it's BHG). 

So more about these cookies.  They are soft and chewy with a little teeny bit of crunch around the outside.  Chewy cookies are my favorite.  Chewy cupcakes are not.  All I can really say is yum. 

Whoops- a couple stuck together.  Oh well. 

Normally when I make cookies, if the recipe says "makes 36" it makes about 15 for me.  What can I say?  I like giant cookies.  This time I decided to make them the called-for size and got about 38 little mini cookies, which were quite cute.  Although I could eat about 9 in a sitting.  Probably more if I were being really unhealthy.  Oh well. 

For those of you who don't have the cookbook, BHG has this recipe on their website, so you can make some of these RIGHTNOW.
makes 36 cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

1.  In a medium mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer for 30 seconds.  Add the 1 cup sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar.  Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Beat in egg and vanilla until combined.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer.  Stir in any remaining flour.  Cover and chill dough about 1 hour or until easy to handle. 

2.  Preheat oven to 375.  Combined the 2 Tbsp sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.  Shape dough into 1 inch balls.  Roll balls in sugar mixture to coat.  Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 10 to 11 minutes or until edges are golden.  Transfer to wire rack; cool. 
That's it!  Easy right?  And I promise these will come out perfectly every time.  As long as you don't burn them. 

Mmmm, can't you just taste them?

I kept some at home and took the rest to work.  They didn't last very long. 

I have a few more recipes that I've tried that I will be sharing soon!  I did my Daring Bakers Challenge the other day and it turned out GREAT!  But I have to keep it a secret until the 27th.  I also have a couple of other main dishes that I've made (one is in the crock pot now!) so I will share those recipes in the next few days. 

For now, it's time to be lazy in my pajamas.  For the second day in a row.  I love days like this.  :) 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Black Bottom Cupcakes

I'm a messy baker. A very messy baker. Anyone who has baked with me knows this. I think I've met my match.

Sunday, Lil Sis and I were supposed to go fishing. Just the thought of me taking a kid fishing cracks me up. I'm supposed to be the kid in this fishing game. I mean, yes, I can hold my own when I'm fishing with other people. I can bait my own hook. I'm not scared or grossed out to touch the fish. (If you know what I do for a living, you understand it's really really REALLY hard to gross me out). So I thought, "this shouldn't be too big of a deal. I just need to borrow some fishing poles, find a place to fish, and get some bait." Well, the more I thought about it, the more complicated this all became. The poles were covered (a friend very generously let me borrow a couple of his). Getting hooks, sinkers, bait, etc. should be easy. Wal-Mart has all of that. (Right?) There are lots of state parks, rivers, county parks, beaches, etc to fish from here. This is Florida. No shortage of water here. Then I started thinking that I need a fishing license. K- doesn't need one because she's under 16, but I do. They're pretty simple to get online, but simple only goes so far if you're broke till payday next week. Hmm. I was still really looking forward to fishing and spending time with K- but I was afraid she would get bored after awhile, and she has since professed to me her fear of being near bodies of water. Hmm. Kids crack me up. Plus, I'm used to getting on a boat with Dad or Uncle Pete, having all the fishing poles set up for me. All the bait and miscellaneous fishing equipment right there already. I'm not a great fishing-logistics planner. So, alas, it rained on Sunday. All day, actually, and the fishing trip was cancelled. So what did we do instead?

Do you have to ask?

We made a mess of my kitchen. :)

K- called me a few days before our scheduled fishing trip and asked if we could go to my house and bake something after we fished. So baking was on the agenda anyway. She wanted something chocolate, and I found a recipe for Black Bottom Cupcakes on Brown Eyed Baker. Chocolate Cupcakes with Cheesecake inside? Yum.

In my quest to eat a little bit healthier, I decided to lighten these up. I used fat-free cream cheese in place of the full-fat kind. And I replaced the oil with applesauce. My advice? Don't. The cupcakes weren't HORRIBLE, but they were kinda...chewy. They would've been much better with the oil, I think. So just follow what the recipe says.

We made a total disaster of my kitchen, more so than I usually do.  But that's the fun of it, I think.  Anyway, here are some pics of our mess. :) 
Or not.  Because something stupid is going on with my computer and I can't upload them. Sorry.  Just know it was a HUGE mess with flour and cocoa powder and batter EVERYWHERE!  At least you can see the finished product above.  Again, I really recommend just going full-fat if you're going to make these. 
Black Bottom Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes
8 oz. cream cheese, room temp
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg, room temp
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
5 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbsp cider or white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1.  Make the filling.  Beat together cream cheese, egg, and sugar until smooth.  Stir in chopped chocolate pieces.  Set aside.
2.  Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin tin with papers.
3.  In a medium bowl, sift together flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a separate bowl, mix together water, vegetable oil, vinegar, and vanilla.
4.  Make a well in center of dry ingredients and stir in wet ingredients.  Stir just until smooth.  DO NOT OVERMIX. 
5.  Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.  Spoon a few tablespoons of filling into center of each cupcake.  The cups will be completely full. 
6.  Bake 25 minutes, until tops are slightly golden brown and cupcakes feel springy when pressed. 
Yum!  So even though these are a little chewy, I'm going to go eat one now.  Bye! 
P.S.  I found the most amazing costume for Rocky this year.  There is a doggy costume contest on the 22nd.  Stay tuned for pics. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


We're all going to turn into pumpkins.  At least the pup and I.  Wait.  He already did.   

Don't you LOVE his pumpkin suit??  That was his Halloween costume last year.  It's almost time to dig it out again! 

This time last year, BFF Michael and I were in Savannah. 

Yes, we took a Martini Tour.  It was amazing. 

My favorite place in the whole world.  And October is my favorite time of the year to be there.  While we were there, the city was hosting Wag-O-Ween.  Everyone in Savannah dressed their pups in costumes and trick-or-treated around the historic district for doggie treats.  I was DYING and squealing "omigosh! Michael!  Look at that doggy!"  Michael was not so ecstatic.  He just rolled his eyes in that special way he does and said "Oh God...."  We both know I'm a little crazy.  And that's why he loves me.

So when I got back home to Florida, I immediately decided Rocky needed a Halloween costume.  I was sad Bradenton didn't have a Wag-O-Ween.  Rocky was a little sad too.  But he dutifully dressed in his pumpkin suit and greeted all of our trick-or-treaters like the happy, excited pup that he is. 

This year, this pumpkin suit is going to get some public exposure.  There are a few doggy-ween events here in Tampa over the next couple of weekends, and you can bet Rocky is going to be making an appearance.  Alert the paparazzi.

Until Rocky can actually be a pumpkin, we're going to make do with just eating lots and lots of it.  It sounds gross, but I can eat pumpkin out of a can with a spoon.  Michael is rolling his eyes right now.  Mmmhmm.

I have a couple of other friends who are pumpkin fananatics too.  My friend/baking buddy Ali likes to send me links to recipes.  Lots of them.  I love it!  Last night she sent me a link to a recipe for pumpkin pie oatmeal.  Uhm, excuse me?  Yes, please.  It looked amaaaazing.  I made a few modifications this morning when I made it.  I think soymilk is weird.  And I'm not a huge maple fan so I don't keep maple syrup on hand, but I made do and had the most AMAZING breakfast this morning.  Rocky got a treat when I dropped the can of pumpkin and it splattered EVERYWHERE.  I was about to grab a wad of paper towels to clean it off myself/the floor/the walls/the fridge/the ceiling/the stove/the cabinets when he came in and went to work on the floor.  And my feet (yuck).  So he got most of it off the floor.  I had to scoop it out of my hair (wtf?) and off my face and elbows (again, wtf? how did it get THERE?) and the higher surfaces Rocky couldn't reach, but he took care of the floor for me.  My boy LURVES pumpkin.  Just like his momma.  Luckily I was able to salvage almost half a can of the remaining pumpkin.  Thank God.

If you want the original recipe for the oatmeal, click above.  That version is vegan.  I used real milk in mine.  And that version also says this is one serving.   Sure.  For a lumberjack.  It's definitely 2.  2 HUGE servings.  So here's my recipe:
Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
adapted from The Family Kitchen
makes 2 servings (or 1 for a lumberjack)

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup water
pinch of salt
2 tsp sugar (I used Splenda)
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 tbsp liquid coffee creamer (I used sweet cream flavored, but get creative!)

Put oats, water, milk, and salt in a medium saucepan and heat on low-med heat.  While heating, stir in pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and sugar.

Stir, stir, stir, until it comes together and oats are cooked.  I used quick cook oats, so this took about 1-2 minutes. 

Spoon into bowls and top with 1 tbsp each of coffee creamer.  Yum! 
And yes, Rocky licked the bowl when I was done eating.

P.S. Like my new blog design?  It needed a little face lift.  Thanks to Ali and her fab photography skills for my new pic. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Couple Easy Fall Recipes

Ohmigosh.  I am in heaven. It's finally fall (well the weather is the appropriate temperature), the windows are open and a cool breeze is blowing through my house.  I have my Pumpkin Patch candle lit.  I have some Eric Church singing to me in the background.  I just ate a yummy baked apple (more on that later).  Life is good. 

The past week, I had the bubonic plague.  Life sucked.  That's why I temporarily disappeared.  I literally did not get out of bed for more than an hour total for about 4 days.  I read lots of books and slept (when I could breathe).  I am still having some trouble breathing and a lingering cough, but I feel 95% better.  I should be back to 100% in a couple of days.  About time. 

I do have a couple of recipes to share, but first I have to tell you about my Little Sister, K-.  I applied to be a Big Sis back in April with Big Brothers Big Sisters.  It took a few months, but they called me about a month ago and told me they found a Little Sis for me.  I couldn't wait to meet her!  She is 9 years old.  It turns out she has a 12 year old (real) sister who also got matched with a Big Sis, so we had a double meeting on Friday.  It was our first time all meeting.  When I pulled up to the house, I saw a little girl in a sparkly dress sitting on the front porch, and when I walked up, she said "Are you for me or for my sister?"  I said, "are you K-?"  And she squealed with delight, jumped up and down, and gave me the biggest hug ever.  She instantly melted my heart.  We sat outside and talked for a few minutes, when her 12 year old sister came outside to see what the ruckus was.  Such sweet girls.  Once the other Big Sis and the BBBS lady got there, we went inside and met mom, signed some paperwork, went over rules and guidelines, etc.  K-'s mom told me that she had been sitting on the front porch waiting for me for 4 hours.  After the meeting, K- and I went back out onto the front porch to start talking about what kinds of things we would like to do when we hang out.  Our first hang-out is going to be Tuesday.  We decided that I would pick her up from school and we would go to the park and just talk and get to know each other.  Then we started a list of things we like to do, and things we would like to do together. 

K: Do you like to sing?
Me:  Yep!  (In my car by myself or with Ali and
K: I do too, but my sister says I'm a bad singer.
Me:  Well we can be bad singers together.  (I wrote "sing" on my list)
K:  Put down dancing too.
(I wrote "dance" on my list).
K:  Have you ever been fishing? 
Me:  Yep!  Have you?
K:  No.  Can we go fishing? 
Me:  Erm...sure!  (Gonna have to borrow some fishing poles, lol).

This went on for a bit, while we added activities.  Then I asked her what kind of food she does and doesn't like to eat.  Luckily, she likes most food.  And she likes to cook and bake.
K:  I had the best food one time! 
Me:  What was it?
K:  A Cuban sandwich.  And I had coffee too!  It made me hyper, but I liked it!
Me:  We're going to get along just fine....

This girl just puts a huge smile on my face.  I can't wait to get to know her better and hopefully have a positive impact on her life.  And I just KNOW she's going to have a positive impact on mine.  She is just full of cheer and curiosity and questions and giggles and hugs and excitement for life.  Something most of us grown-ups all need a little more of.

Well, the weather in Florida decided to finally be fall-appropriate yesterday.  Maybe it was waiting for October 1.  To celebrate, I went to Starbucks first thing in the morning (and I mean first thing- 6am on my way to work) and got a Pumpkin Spice Latte.  Oh I was a happy girl.  Weather has been in the upper 70's-low 80's during the day and got down in the 60's last night.  My phone tells me it should get in the high 50's tonight, but I don't know if I believe it.  We'll see. 

Last night, when I got home from the work, I cranked open the windows (all 3 of them in my old house that will open...gotta talk to the landlord about that) and got to work on dinner.  I've been eating very healthfully the past few days and had a lot of veggies begging to be roasted.  Sweet potatoes, baby carrots, and onions sounded perfectly fall-ish.  Here's my recipe:  (P.S. I measure when I bake, but not so much when I cook...sorry!)

Roasted Fall Vegetables
makes 2 servings

2 sweet potatoes, cut into cubes
1 small onion, roughly chopped
a few hand fulls of baby carrots
2 cloves of garlic
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
dried rosemary, dried basil, dried oregano, dried thyme (to taste- I used about a Tbsp of each, I guess)
salt and pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 425.  Cover a baking sheet with foil (makes cleanup easy!) and spray with cooking spray.
2.  Dump veggies into a large Ziploc bag.  Use a garlic press to smoosh the garlic and throw in the bag with veggies. 
3.  Add olive oil, spices, salt and pepper.  Zip up the bag (make sure it's closed tightly!) and squish around until all the veggies are coated with olive oil and seasonings. 
4.  Dump veggies onto cookie sheet and bake for about 45 minutes, until roasted and brown.
I'm a doofus and didn't take any pictures.  I was too busy eating.  But they were yummy.  Perfect recipe to start off October. 

Tonight, I discovered my new love.  Honeycrisp apples.  Oh.  Em.  Gee.  First, let me tell you I'm not a HUGE apple fan.  I love Granny Smiths.  But otherwise, I can take or leave apples.  I love them in baked dishes, but I hate biting into them, and I can't STAND when an apple is grainy (hence: my aversion to pears).  Lately, I've been craving baked apples.  It's fall fever, I tell you.  My friend G- lives in Rhode Island and recently blogged about picking Honeycrisps.  (Look at her pictures, much better than mine!) Just the name honeycrisp sounds appetizing.  I've heard from lots of people that they're amazing, but I had to find out for myself.  I had no idea what I was missing.  I picked up a couple at the store the other day.  And they're HUGE.  Like the size of softballs. 

I was DYING for a baked apple tonight when I got home from work.  I've kind of been avoiding baking lately because I am trying to eat healthy, but I figured this wouldn't be such a bad dessert.  Wow.  It was amazing.  The apple was so big that I "baked" half of it and just ate the other half.  And then I texted G- (who is an apple-lover).
Me: OMG.  Just tried my first honeycrisp apple.  I'm in love and I'm not an apple fan.
G:  You can't not be an apple fan.  You just haven't found your apple.  Other recs: opal and jazz- similarly delicious. A bit more tart but still great: macoun. 

So I guess I will have to try those out too.  I didn't know an apple could have such flavor.  It tastes just like it sounds.  Honeycrisp.  Go try one.  And do yourself a favor and make a baked apple. 
Baked Honeycrisp Apple
makes 1

1 honeycrisp apple
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp cold butter
1 Tbsp instant oats
a few drops of vanilla

1.  Preheat toaster oven to 350.  Line a small pan with foil.
2.  Core the apple.
3.  Mash together brown sugar, butter, oats, and vanilla.
4.  Stuff inside the apple and bake for 20 minutes.

Okay.  I have a confession here.  I am the worst apple-corer in the world.  I don't have a handy little tool to help because I don't eat apples that much.  So i tried with a knife. 
Yikes.  I guess it doesn't look so bad here, but it was awful.  And the apple was splittig dow the sides.  And I almost chopped off 3.5 fingers.  So after all that, I just cut the apple into big hefty slices and dumped them in the pan.  Oh, and I totally baked this in the toaster oven. 

Delicious.  I'm in love with fall, and I'm in love with these apples. 

I got my first Daring Bakers challenge yesterday!!!  It definitely  I have to keep it a secret until the 27th, so check back then to read all about it!  It's probably going to take me until then to read the 10 pages of directions....