Simple Baked Chicken

March 28th, 2012 § 6 comments § permalink

After seeing some Facebook friends and their failed attempts at baked chicken I decided to share my method. What I do is no secret nor is it that extraordinary – it just works. This method allows you to add your own sauces and seasonings and makes it easy to avoid overcooking. Check it out.

1 lb Chicken breast
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp Black pepper
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 cup Desired sauce or 4 tbsp Desired seasoning

-Preheat the oven to 400°
-Trim the fat from your (thawed) chicken breast and brush on olive oil
-Sprinkle on salt and pepper
-Place on baking dish and cook for 20 minutes
-When time is up, remove from oven and turn. Cover in desired sauce.
-Place back in oven and cook for 10 minutes or until 155°
-Remove from oven and cover with foil for 5 minutes before serving

This seems basic and stupid but I assure you it is stupid-proof. When I am unsure about an oven’s integrity I take the temperature of the meat during flipping and 5 minutes through the final cooking stage. This gives me a good idea of when the bird will be done. Of course, every oven is different and cooking times could vary but I stand by the 20 minute initial cooking time. Also, I always use Extra Virgin Olive Oil because I am too cheap to keep Olive Oil and Extra Virgin.

Like I said, this is simple and extremely versatile. The photos included show the chicken with teryaki rice and cook vegatables – a ridiculously easy meal. I also like to almost butterfly the chicken breasts and stuff them with good stuff and then toothpick them closed. Minimal effort for maximum return.

The Forgiving Pizza

March 5th, 2012 § Comments Off § permalink

I got on a homemade pizza kick for a little bit there. I made pizza for 4 out of 5 weekends because pizza is awesome and when you start to make your own it’s even better. I tried 4 different pizza crusts including a wheat crust that flopped. I finally settled on a crust that tastes great when proofed over night and also when used almost immediately. The sauce was the next thing I went after. The first time around I used store bought – that was a mistake. The store-bought kind was watery and flavorless. I made a few different ones and finally found one that works very well with the pizza dough while not overpowering the toppings.

The Dough
1 cup Warm water
1 tbsp White sugar
2 1/4 tsp Active dry yeast
3 tbsp Olive oil
1 tsp Kosher salt
2-1/2 cups All-purpose flour

-Bench proof your yeast. Turn your water on as hot as it will go and place your measuring cup under it to allow the cup to heat up with the water. Take one cup of water and set to the side.
-Put a (meat) thermometer in the cup and wait for it to get to about 112-113 (too much higher and you risk killing the yeast)
-Once it hits the target temp, stir in the sugar and the yeast and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
-After the timer goes off, empty the yeast mixture, olive oil, salt, and half of the flour in the work bowl of your mixer equipped with a dough hook.
-You’ll want to run this on medium/medium-low to reduce the amount of heat that is created. Add the rest of the flour in slowly.
-It’s hard to say how much flour you’ll actually use; depending on the weather I’ve used 2-1/4 cups and 3 cups. Either way, you want a dough that stays together and that isn’t so sticky that touching it leaves lots of dough on your fingers.
-Once everything is combined, roll the dough in a ball and place in a greased bowl in a cool, dark place to rise for about an hour or until the dough has doubled.
-At this point you can either punch down the dough and refrigerate/proof for 24 hours or use it immediately. I’ve done both and both turned out great (but the proofed dough is a little easier to work with).
-Bake at 425° to desired doneness – I like mine crispy.

The crust will yield a 12-16inch crust, depending on how thin you roll or stretch it. I did roll it out super thing one night and made a stuffed-crust deep-dish pizza. Words can’t describe how bad my mouth waters when thinking about that pizza. As always, I top my crusts and pizzas with Italian seasoning liberally.

The Sauce
1 (15 oz) can Tomato sauce
1 (6 oz) can Tomato paste
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 1/2 tsp Minced garlic

-Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using; 6 hours would be better.

I have acid reflux so I take it easy on pizza sauces. This one has subtle flavors and isn’t heavy so you can actually use a bit more than you normally would. Best part? You can whip it up in a minute or two. This is good place for my minced garlic plug. I don’t have the best knife skills and I don’t always have time to mince garlic. I also am not good about using my garlic before it goes bad. Well, a few months ago I discovered freeze-dried minced garlic at the grocery store. Ever since then I’ve stopped avoiding recipes that called for minced garlic. Approximately one heaping teaspoon is equal to a large clove. Just make sure you keep it sealed up and in the refrigerator.

As this post’s title indicates, this pizza recipe is very forgiving. It tastes great even when over/under cooked, proofed or not, cheese only or loaded down with toppings. It is totally worth all the effort and is a good gateway crust to other, more complex crusts. You can also easily make breadsticks from the dough. Just roll out the dough and cut some strips. I use a simple seasoning on top of the breadsticks: 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan cheese + 2 tbsp Italian seasoning. Do it.

Turkey Meatballs

February 23rd, 2012 § Comments Off § permalink

I feel like some of the best foods are circular. Peaches, Dippin’ Dots, meatballs, cheese balls, tomatoes, etc. Then again, there really aren’t that many different basic shapes of food. At any rate, I made meatballs using this recipe: Spicy Low Fat Turkey Meatballs. I don’t know what the deal is but over the past few months I’ve really gotten into ground turkey meat. Don’t get me wrong, there are many instances where ground beef is irreplaceable, but tacos and spaghetti benefit from a beef substitution. For this recipe you can go to the link above to do it or use my (very) slight variation. It’s very simple and the flavor was top notch. I will be making these again.

1 lb 99% Fat free ground turkey
1/4 cup Bread crumbs
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
2 Large eggs, egg whites only
1 clove Garlic (or 1 tsp of Minced garlic)
1 tbsp Dried minced onion
1 tsp Red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp Black pepper (or to taste)
1 tsp Oregano
1/16 tsp Cayenne (I think most people would call this a pinch)

-Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix it up either with your hand or by folding with a spatula.
-Heat a greased non-stick skillet over medium heat.
-Using a #40 (about 1-1/4 tbsp) disher, spoon your meat mixture onto the skillet making sure to keep the balls about an inch apart.
-Cover the pan and let cook for 2-5 minutes and then turn and cook for another 3 minutes.
-If needed, turn the balls once more and cook for 2-3 more minutes.

I added the balls to a pan of tomato sauce after cooking so they could grace the sauce with some extra flavor. Make sure you grease the pan you’re cooking the balls in between each new batch. This may require you to let the pan cool a bit to avoid burning the oil but it will save you cleanup time later and make turning a lot easier. This recipe might work well with Recipe, Please!’s Meatball Extravaganza.. but then again, that recipe is too good all on its own.

Pumpkin Cookies

December 2nd, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

My wife and I made a bunch of cookies right before Thanksgiving this year.. close to 350 of them. With three different dinners to attend plus a school function for her we had to have quite a few.  Her old roommate provided one recipe while Pinterest gave her the second; both recipes are based on pumpkin as the main ingredient. The pumpkin chocolate chip recipe produces an extremely soft cookie that is a lot like a muffin.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip

2 cups Sugar
1 1/2 cups Shortening
1 1/2 cups Pumpkin
3 Eggs
4 cups All-Purpose flour
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp Cinnamon
2 tsp Baking soda
2 1/2 tsp Baking powder
2 cups of Chocolate Chips

-Preheat oven to 350
-Cream together the sugar and shortening and then add in the pumpkin and eggs
-Stir in 2 cups of flour, the salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder.
-Fold in the remaining flour and, once combined, add the chocolate chips
-Dish onto greased cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes or until the edges brown a bit.

I believe my wife did around 2 1/2 to 3 ounce cookies (equivalent to a #20 disher or 6 tablespoons) and they turned out great. The final product should be just slightly brown around the edges and peaks and a little doughy. Definitely one of my favorite cookies.

Next up were the pumpkin snicker doodles. These are easily my favorite cookies this year. They’re soft and stay soft, have a hint of pumpkin, and are sweet. My coworkers raved about these ones (even though I overcooked them a bit)

Pumpkin Snicker Doodles

3¾ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
¾ cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the coating:
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger

-Cream together the butter, sugar, and brown sugar.
-Blend in the pumpkin, egg, and vanilla.
-Separately combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. With the mixer on low, add the dry mix slowly to the wet works.
-Cover and chill for an hour or more.
-Preheat the oven to 350˚ F and combine the sugar and spices for the coating in a bowl
-Scoop the dough (about 2½ tablespoons) and roll into a ball.
-Roll the ball in the sugar-spice mixture and place on greased baking sheet about 2-3 inches apart.
-Dip the bottom of a flat, heavy-bottomed drinking glass in water, then in the sugar-spice mixture, and use the bottom to flatten the dough balls slightly. Recoat the bottom of the glass in the sugar-spice mixture as needed.
-Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the bottoms are slightly brown.

First of all, rolling these cookies into balls is really messy and getting the right size is very important. The first time I made them they were too large and didn’t cook properly. These cookies do spread a bit more than I thought they would, too. Best part about it, if you over cook them, it just changes the texture to being slightly crunchy but the flavor is still spot on.

Potato Pancakes

November 30th, 2011 § Comments Off § permalink

My friends and I had our own Thanksgiving celebration the night before the big day just so we could all get together and have a good time. My friend, John, and I took care of the turkeys, mashed potatoes, and cheese sticks. Yes, cheese sticks. We roasted one turkey and fried another which left us with the great idea to fry some cheese sticks in the leftover oil. It really was a great idea. I was to make the mashed potatoes but I had left the 20lbs that I previously purchased at my home more than 45 minutes away. Pressed for time I purchased another 15 lbs to cook up and made about 10 quarts of mash. After dinner and everything was said and done we were left with a little less than half of the mashed potatoes and, knowing that I still had 20 lbs of potatoes at home, I started pondering the various ways to use these potatoes.

I love potatoes. They’re super versatile, they taste great when accompanied by the correct ingredients (like cheese), plus they’re cheap. There are tons of different ways to serve them; soups, baked, casseroles, and many other main and side dishes. While cooking up some steak a couple days ago I remembered my sister telling me that she always makes potato pancakes the day after they have mashed potatoes. I personally have never had potato pancakes and I love trying new things. After perusing some sites and finding a few recipes that just seemed too over-the-top for what I thought should be a simple dish, I settled on this easy recipe.

2 cups Mashed Potatoes
1 Egg
1/4 cup Shredded Cheese
Enough butter to coat a non-stick frying pan

-Melt your butter in a large fry pan set on medium to medium-high heat.
-Heat the mashed potatoes enough that you can work the egg into them.
-Work that egg ito the potatoes and fold in the cheese.
-Place a 1/4 cup dollop of the mixture onto the fry pan and let cook for 5 minutes on both sides

Easy enough, right? If your mashed potatoes are like mine, you won’t need to add any salt. Honestly, you could forgo the cheese and use this as a substitute for french toast – they taste eerily close to french toast and I like it. I did do a little bit of work on my mashed potatoes prior to cooking (since they were left-overs and not very fresh). I stirred in a little more heavy whipping cream and butter before adding the egg. One other thing to note: when the time comes to flip, if the cakes are not solid enough you might need to allow for a longer cook time or use less batter next time.