Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Leftover Man Pleasing Chicken Salad

Nearly every day for lunch I have a nice big, hearty salad. I had a piece of  Man-Pleasing Chicken left over, so I sliced it up thinly and mixed up a quick and tasty salad. I loved it this way and next time I prepare the chicken, I will make sure I cook enough extra pieces to save for several salads.

I used cherry tomatoes, fresh from my farmer's market, with Romaine lettuce, black olives, shredded Swiss & Gruyere cheese, the chicken, cut thinly on the bias, and a bit of honey mustard salad dressing.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Easy Biscuit Dough Sticky Buns Ring

Recently, I found a few tubes of biscuit dough hiding in the back of my fridge. I had bought a bunch of them on sale one day, but just couldn't use them up fast enough. Some I used already to make Easy Chocolate Dipped Donuts, and another two tubes of the dough went into a huge, lovely ring of sticky buns.

While these don't capture the same taste as real homemade sticky buns from scratch, they did transform ordinary biscuit dough into something a bit more special with very little effort. I originally found the recipe over at The Jones Way, where there are some lovely step by step photos on how to place the biscuits in the pan.

Easy Biscuit Dough Sticky Buns (as adapted from a version The Jones Way

serves about 6-8

2 small tubes Pillsbury biscuit dough or 1 tube Grands biscuit dough
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup or pancake syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Grease a Bundt pan well. (I used Pam nonstick spray for baking, the kind with flour in it). Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a small bowl, combine melted butter and syrup. In another bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, and nuts. Pour half of the syrup mixture into the pan, and then sprinkle with half of the sugar mixture.

Next, lay the biscuits in a ring around the bottom of the pan, standing up, edges overlapping. Pour the remaining syrup on top, then sprinkle with the rest of the sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golden, about 20-25 minutes. Be very careful not to overcook. Allow to cool in the pan for 1 minute or so, then invert onto a serving platter and serve immediately.

*Note:  Like most doctored biscuit dough recipes, these will keep only one day, and taste best warm and fresh from the oven.

LINKING UP TO: A Bowl Full of Lemons Link Party

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Trader Joe's Maple Mustard Chicken aka Man-Pleasing Chicken

This simple recipe for Maple Mustard Chicken, originally from the I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook, also known as "Man-Pleasing Chicken" by Witty in the City, has gone absolutely viral over on Pinterest.  Since my boyfriend would happily eat chicken every night of the week, I am constantly looking for new ways to serve it so that I don't get bored. The recipe calls for ingredients that I almost always have lying around in my house anyway: Dijon mustard, rice wine vinegar, and maple syrup. With a name like Man-Pleasing Chicken, it certainly sounded like a promising recipe to try!

I had a jar of whole grain country-style Dijon mustard in my fridge, so I decided to try that this time. This was a good call, as the little speckles of mustard seeds gave the sauce some texture and made it look appealing. I used boneless skinless chicken breasts instead of thighs, since that is what my boyfriend prefers and also what I happened to have in my freezer at the time. I used four pieces and cooked it about 30 minutes. It came out juicy and tender.

We liked how the chicken turned out and would make it again, although I am not sure that it quite lived up to all the hoopla. This was partly because the recipe wasn't all that different from a few other recipes in my regular chicken recipe rotation, the unique part here being the addition of maple syrup. Next time I might try some dark agave syrup and apple cider vinegar for a different twist. I served mine with some steamed Jasmine rice and broccoli.

Maple Mustard Chicken Breasts (adapted from a version on Witty in the City and the I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook)

serves 4-6

4-6 skinless boneless chicken breast halves, trimmed of any visible fat, pounded slightly
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup Country-Style Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup pure Maple Syrup
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
rosemary, fresh or dried, to taste, chopped

Preheat your oven to 450 F. Lightly grease an 8" square casserole dish. Season chicken to taste on both sides with salt and pepper and place in a zip-top bag. Add mustard, maple syrup, a small amount of rosemary, and vinegar. Seal bag and shake around until the chicken is fully coated in the sauce. Pour the entire contents into the casserole dish and bake for 15 minutes, baste with the pan juices, and flip over the chicken. Continue cooking for another 15 minutes, or just until the chicken is fully cooked. (According the the original source, it should read 155 F on a meat thermometer). Let the chicken rest a few minutes before cutting into it.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Egg White Omelette with Basil, Cherry Tomatoes and Strawberry Basil Balsamic Salad

Ever since I began reducing my carbs, eggs have become one of my morning staples. It can get very boring eating eggs for breakfast day in and day out, so anyone eating low carb is usually looking for new and inspiring ways to prepare eggs.

One very popular variation is to combine egg whites with slices of ripe cherry tomatoes and fresh spinach. I wanted to make something similar, but I wasn't terribly fond of the spinach idea. I decided basil would be more suited to my taste buds.  I also added crumbled soft goat cheese, which added a nice creamy texture to each bite. The finished omelette was just beautiful and tasted light and filling.

Egg White Omelette with Basil, Cherry Tomatoes, and Goat Cheese
serves 1

Liquid Egg Whites (I used the natural Egg Beaters egg whites, which have no colors or flavors added), as much as you need to fill your saucepan
freshly ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste
fresh basil leaves, about 5
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced into rounds, approximately
1/4 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled
1-2 tsp salted butter

Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium low heat. Add a small amount of butter and allow it to melt and begin to bubble. Pour in enough egg whites to cover the surface of your skillet, plus a little extra. Grind a bit of salt and pepper over the surface of the eggs and then immediately drop a lid on top. If possible, use a glass lid, so you can see the egg cooking.

Allow the eggs whites to cook, undisturbed, until they transform from their unattractive clear, watery state into a creamy white opaque disc. This only takes a minute or so; be prepared to adjust the heat if needed to keep it from overcooking.

Before the surface is fully cooked, briefly remove the lid and drop in the tomatoes, basil leaves, and goat cheese. You may leave the basil leaves whole or chop them if you prefer. Season again with salt and pepper and allow the egg to finish cooking a few more seconds, allowing the topping to heat only slightly. Carefully slide the omelette onto your plate and serve immediately.

*Note:  If you are not using Egg Beaters, then use roughly 3 egg whites, beaten together well. 

On the side, I served a simple salad of diced strawberries with torn basil leaves, drizzled with some Archer Farms Strawberry Basil balsamic vinegar (which I found at Target and highly recommend).

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Perfect Summer Fruit Salad (Honey Lime Tropical Fruit Salad)

I have been really enjoying a new cooking show that recently started airing on the Food Network, Home for Dinner with Jamie Deen. Jamie comes across as very approachable and his recipes all seem to be the sort of dishes that are perfect for an ordinary small family. Nothing is too fussy or indulgent, and the ingredients are all pretty basic. I really hope this show sticks around, as it is one of the few that I feel I can truly relate to.

As soon as I saw Jamie present this salad, I knew I had to run right out to buy the ingredients. All of the fruits are fresh and perfect for a summer meal - fresh chunks of pineapple, bright green slices of kiwifruit, plump seedless purple grapes, and slices of juicy mango and bananas. The dressing is a simple blend of lime juice, honey, and fresh mint - light, citrusy, with just enough sweet and tang to bring out the natural flavors of the fruit. The salad is topped with a sprinkle of toasted shredded coconut, giving it nice texture. If you aren't a coconut fan, you could use some granola or chopped nuts or just leave the salad as is.

I could not stop eating this, and once the first bowl was gone, I made a second batch the next night and called up my mom to tell her to make it right away. This is also wonderful served with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt on top as a light breakfast or dessert.

Tropical Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Dressing, adapted from a version shown on Home for Dinner with Jamie Deen

for the Salad:
1/2 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, cut into chunks (please don't use canned)
2-3 kiwifruits, peeled, sliced thinly
1 handful seedless Concord grapes (or any seedless grape - the darker color really makes the salad look pretty)
1 mango, peeled, sliced
1 large banana, peeled, sliced
1/2-3/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted lightly and cooled

for the honey lime dressing:
2 Tbsp honey, or to taste
1 large lime, juice and zest of
2-3 Tbsp fresh mint, thinly sliced into strips

To toast the coconut, spread the shredded coconut onto a small baking sheet in an even, flat layer and pop into a preheated 350 F oven for just a couple of minutes. Don't go walking away to chop fruit or wash dishes or something - coconut burns very easily!  When it is ready, you will detect the slightest hint of coconut aroma and the edges of some of the pieces will only just be starting to turn golden;  most will still be pure white. For me, this took about 2-3 minutes. Pull the tray out of the oven and let the coconut cool fully on the baking sheet. Store in a covered jar.

Mix together the fresh fruit in a medium bowl. Whisk together the dressing and toss with the fruit.  Taste and adjust the dressing flavors - I added a bit more lime juice and went heavier on the mint.  Serve immediately, sprinkling the toasted coconut on individual servings to taste.

*NOTE: To cut the mint into thin "chiffonade"strips, pull off the leaves from their stems and make a small stack. Roll up the leaf stack tightly, then cut the ends off into tiny coils. When you unwind the coils, you will have thin strips of mint.