Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Coconut Chicken Tenders & Coconut Rice

Recipe from Our Best Bites

I grew to love Thai food when I worked in a small Thai restaurant back in California.  It's my favorite job that I have ever had. I loved how sweet the cooks were, how relaxed the atmosphere was and how delicious the food tasted.  

And although this dish may not be quintessential Thai food it could definitely be served at a Thai restaurant.  The chicken is crispy and sweet, the rice is flavorful and the dipping sauce is pretty much the best thing ever. 

The hubby and I debated going out to dinner tonight but I'm so glad we didn't because this dinner was super yummy, yummy in my tummy.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! It is for sure an absolute favorite of mine now.

The chicken from Our Best Bites can be found here.

The rice from Our Best Bites can be found here.

Crispy Coconut Chicken Tenders:
1 c. sweetened coconut flakes
1 c. panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/2 c. flour
2 eggs
12 chicken tenders (I actually used 11 which worked well)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Spray a foil-lined baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

Chop coconut so it's roughly the same size as the bread crumbs.

Combine the coconut, bread crumbs and spices in a shallow dish.  Stir well.

Place the flour in a shallow dish and the eggs in another shallow dish.  Whisk the eggs.

Working with one chicken tender at a time, dredge the chicken in flour, shaking off any excess.  Then dip in the egg, again shaking off any excess.  Roll in the bread crumb/coconut mixture, gently pressing the mixture onto the chicken.  Place on baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining tenders.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until completely cooked and bread crumb/coconut mixture is light golden brown and crispy.  You don't want the bread crumb/coconut mixture to be soggy at all (I baked mine for about 20 minutes and then took off the ones that were well done and then put the others back in for about 5 minutes but keep in mind that your oven may vary - just make sure it's super crispy).

For the dipping sauce whisk together 1 cup apricot -pineapple preserves, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard and 1/8 teaspoon curry powder.

Sweet & Savory Coconut Rice:
2 c. white rice
14-ounce can coconut milk (it will be lumpy - stir before you add in)
2 c. water
1 tsp. kosher salt
splash of white vinegar
2-3 tsp. sugar
1/4 c. chopped green onions, plus more for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Combine rice, coconut milk, water, kosher salt, vinegar and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Turn heat to low and cover 20 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Allow to stand 5 minutes.  Add chopped green onions, black pepper and salt to taste.  Garnish with more green onions.  

* Cooks note: I cooked mine in my rice cooker and it turned out great! To do this combine everything in rice cooker except green onions, salt and pepper.  Cook until done and then stir in green onions, salt and pepper to taste. *

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan-Gingersnap Crust

Recipe from Our Best Bites

I know this post is a little out of place because this is a pumpkin recipe and you normally don't associate pumpkin with Valentine's but let me tell ya! If you make this for your Valentine's dessert you will be a hit! This is seriously, seriously, seriously (can you tell I'm serious?) one of the BEST desserts I've ever made!

It has a pecan-gingersnap crust, pumpkin and white chocolate filling and is topped with homemade whipped cream, candied pecans and carmel.  Holla!

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan-Gingersnap Crust

1 3/4 c. gingersnap crumbs (about 30 small cookies)
3/4 c. ground pecans
6 T. unsalted butter, melted
3 T. brown sugar

1 c. white chocolate chips
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese (room temperature)
1 c. sugar
3 eggs (room temperature)
3/4 c. canned pumpkin puree (Libby's is the best!)
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cloves

Whipped Cream Topping:
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1/3 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Candied Pecans:
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. butter
1 c. pecans
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

For the cheesecake preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Wrap two pieces of heavy-duty foil around a 9 inch spring form pan.  This will help prevent any leaks when using the water bath.

To make the crust, combine the gingersnap crumbs, ground pecans, brown sugar and butter.  Evenly press the crumbs on the bottom and about 1 inch up the sides of your pan.

For the filling, melt the white chocolate, place in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until smooth.  Set aside.

With an electric mixer beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add pumpkin, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.

With the mixer running, slowly and steadily add in white chocolate.  Pour the filling mixture on top of the crust.

Place the cheesecake pan inside a roasting bag (this is a clear, plastic bag that you would put a turkey in.  this will ensure you don't have any leakage in your pan).  Trim the top as necessary.  Place this in a larger pan that's at least 2-3 inches deep (like a roasting pan).  Place in the preheated oven.  With a kettle or pitcher filled with hot water, pour water into the larger pan about halfway up the sides of the spring form pan, or approximately 1 1/2-2 inches.

Bake for 60-75 minutes (I did mine for 70) or until set.  The center should be slightly jiggly for the best texture.

When it's done, remove from oven and place on a rack until completely cool.  Refrigerate for at least 12 hours.  This is a very soft cheesecake so sufficient chilling is crucial.

When ready to serve make your whipped cream and candied pecans.

For the whipped cream, combine heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla in a large bowl (chilled if possible) and beat till soft peaks form.

For the candied pecans, heat the brown sugar, corn syrup and butter over medium heat in a nonstick skillet.  Stir mixture until bubbles form.  Add the nuts and stir to coat.  Continue cooking for 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly until nuts turn golden brown and smell toasted.  Transfer to waxed paper and cool completely.  Break apart.  I actually made these the day before and I would probably recommend that method to save time the day of.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chicken Enchiladas & Spanish Rice

Recipes from Our Best Bites

This meal is comfort food.  It is down home, tasty cooking.  It's "I'm going to wear my fat pants and let it all hang out" kind of eating.  Needless to say that it's good! I would tweak a couple of things on the rice next time but I've included that in the notes below.  Enjoy!

Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas:
4 Tbsp. butter
5 Tbsp. flour
2 (15-ounce) cans chicken broth (I like the less sodium kind)
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 t. coriander (I didn't use this)
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/3 c. sour cream
2-3 shakes Tabasco sauce
Kosher salt, to taste
4 ounces cream cheese 
1 (7-ounce) can diced green chilies
3 1/2 c. cooked, shredded chicken
4 c. shredded pepper Jack cheese, divided
8-10 medium flour tortillas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray a 9x13-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat.  When butter is melted and bubbly, add flour and stir to combine.  Continue cooking, whisking continuously until mixture is light golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.  Slowly add chicken broth, whisking until smooth.  Whisk in garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, coriander, chili powder and pepper.  Bring sauce to a simmer and stir until thickened, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and whisk in sour cream and hot sauce.  Add salt to taste and set aside (I didn't add any extra salt).

In a separate mixing bowl, soften cream cheese in microwave until you can easily stir it.  Add green chilies and 1/2 c. of reserved sauce.  Stir to combine and add chicken and 2 cups pepper Jack cheese.

To make tortillas easier to roll, heat in microwave for about 40 seconds.  Place about 1/3-1/2 c. chicken mixture on each tortilla and roll tightly.  Pour 1 c. sauce into the bottom of prepared pan and spread evenly.  Place tortillas snug in pan.  Pour all remaining sauce on top of the tortillas and top with remaining 2 c. cheese.  Bake 30-35 minutes, until hot and bubbly throughout and cheese is melted.  We just served our enchiladas with sour cream (SO good) but if you want you could also top with olives, tomatoes, green onions etc.  

Spanish Rice:
6-8 ounces bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced (I used the jarred stuff)
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 (28-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 c. water (2 c. for higher elevations)
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (next time I would only use 1 Tbsp.)
1 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1 1/4 tsp. chili powder (next time I would only use 1/2-3/4 tsp.)
1/8 tsp. Tabasco sauce (more if you like)
1 1/4 c. uncooked long-grain rice

To cook bacon preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.  Place bacon on baking sheet and cook for 13-17 minutes.  After cooked, place bacon on paper towel lined plate to drain.  This is the best way to cook bacon! It makes it crispy and you don't have to constantly be watching it.  You will be converted to this cooking method once you've tried it, guaranteed.  

After the bacon is coked, reserve about 1-2 Tbsp. of it's oil and place in stock pot and head to medium heat.  Add green pepper, onions and garlic.  Cook until onions are translucent.  

While vegetables are cooking, mash tomatoes slightly in blender by pulsing a couple times or with a handheld masher.  Pour into pan with vegetables.  Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil.  Stir, cover, and reduce heat to low.  Cook 20-25 minutes or about 1 hour for high elevations or until rice is cooked, stirring occasionally to make sure rice is not burning (I had to cook mine for a good hour).  

When the rice is cooked, add the bacon and heat through. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

I love my Mom!

Can I just say that I love my Mom! She is one of the most considerate and kind people I know.  She is not just my Mommy, she is my best friend!

I checked my mail the other day and lo and behold this Valentine's package was waiting for me.  As I unwrapped each item I just became happier and happier as each little trinket made me smile and lift my spirits.

I know this isn't a food or craft post but I wanted to share how sweet and creative my Mom is!

I hope to become as creative and thoughtful as she is someday!

How crazy cute is this salt and pepper shaker set!? Have I mentioned that I LOVE anything Disney?

She also sent me this vintage, unopened package of playing cards that were my Grandma's.  I was SO excited when I saw this.  I don't know if I'm even going to let anybody play with these!

This vintage Mickey cup was also my Grandma's.  So precious.

She also ordered this personalized stamp for me! My name is spelt slightly funky (I LOVE it though) and having something made especially for me is so nice! Curse all the stores and gas stations that never had my name on a mini license plate or key chain!

And how FUN is this!? My mom found this simple paper craft tutorial online and has made a lot of them.  You just simply buy some cellophane bags, put some decorative paper as the "backing" and then cut and tape some coordinating papers around some mini candy bars.  A cheap and easy craft.  Such a creative lady!

And how thoughtful is this?! When my Mom visits me in Utah she is constantly worried that I am going to lose my wedding ring.  When I do dishes or something where I don't want my ring on I will often leave it by the sink, on the kitchen table, etc and it always makes her nervous.  This little ring holder is cute and practical!

Thank you Mom for the pick me up and for the sweet gifts!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Lemon Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

Recipe slightly adapted from Our Best Bites

Spring is almost here my friends! I was able to get the most DELICIOUS strawberries the other day for this salad and it made me unbelievably happy.  

This is one of my favorite salads now.  It is so fresh and tasty.  I kept referring to it as lip-smacking good! And it truly is!

Strawberry Spinach Salad:
1 (10-ounce) bag spinach
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cucumber peeled, seeded and sliced
1 lb strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 c. sugared almonds
2 grilled chicken breasts (I used a bag of Tyson pre-grilled chicken)

For the salad, toss ingredients together and serve immediately.

Lemon Poppy Seed Vinaigrette:
2-3 large lemons (use as needed to yield 1/3 c. juice and 1 tsp. zest)
1 tsp. grated white onion
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
1/4 c. canola oil
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
4-5 turns of freshly ground pepper
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. poppy seeds
1 large clove garlic, finely pressed

Combine all ingredients together in leak proof container (like a mason jar) and shake vigorously.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  Shake well before serving.

Sugared Almonds:
1 c. sliced almonds
3-4 Tbsp. sugar

Combine together in pan over medium heat.  Stir constantly with wooden spoon (I learned the hard way once with a plastic spoon) until sugar starts to melt.  Continue to stir till almonds are coated in melted sugar mixture. Take off heat.  Cool and serve with salad.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Peppermint-Kissed Chocolate Cookies

Recipe slightly adapted from Our Best Bites

Yesterday was a bad day.  I literally almost cried four times.  It was one of those days where all you want to do is go home, put on some stretchy pants and watch a "Gilmore Girls" marathon.

What I ended up actually doing is exercising and making these cookies.  And I am SO glad that I did. These are scrumptious! Seriously one of my new favorite cookies.  

The recipe calls for candy cane Kisses but they would be divine with any type of Hershey Kiss. The versatile dark chocolate cookie is the perfect base for any flavor.  I'm excited to try it with raspberry Kisses.  Yum! 

1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. butter-flavored shortening
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 (10 to 12-ounce) bag dark chocolate chips
50 Hershey Kisses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream together softened butter, shortening and sugars for about 2 minutes on medium to medium high speed until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, vanilla and peppermint.

Combine baking powder, baking soda, salt, flour and cocoa powder in a separate medium bowl.  Whisk together.  Add to butter-sugar mixture and mix until combined.

Mix in chocolate chips.

Refrigerate dough for an hour to prevent the cookies from flattening when they bake.

Once refrigerated, scoop dough with a cookie scoop and place on cookie sheets.

Bake each sheet for 8 minutes (you want the cookies to be slightly under baked).  Remove from oven and cool about 2 minutes.  Top each cookie with an unwrapped Hershey Kiss and push down very lightly.  Transfer cookies to cooling rack.  If necessary, place cookies in fridge to re-solidify the Kiss.