Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oven-fried Chicken wings

So I've been on a KFC kick lately.  But man do the calories add up (as my 3 pound weight gain over the last few weeks can tell you)!  This recipe was an effort to 1) use up the giant frozen chicken wings in the freezer and 2) to substitute something healthier for my KFC cravings.

In the end, some of the breading stuck slightly to the metal rack, but enough of the breading remained to give the wings good flavor and texture.  I really liked the way it turned out, and have already made it twice now.  The second time around, I tried baking the wings directly on a greased cookie sheet - I found that by using a plastic spatula to scrape under the wings before turning over, the breading didn't stick as much.

The tabasco in the marinade does not make the wings too spicy - it just adds a little subtle flavor.  My confession:  I cheated by not defrosting the chicken.  I just stuck the frozen wing pieces into the marinade, and let those sit overnight and well into the next day in a ziploc bag (in the refrigerator, of course).  By the time I was ready to bake them, the wings were thoroughly defrosted and well-marinated.

Oven-fried Chicken Wings:
8 large chicken wing pieces
1/2 c. plain yogurt
1 T. dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. tabasco sauce
1/4 c. wheat germ
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 T. sesame seeds
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. dried thyme, crushed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp. baking powder

1.  Combine the chicken wings and all marinade ingredients in a bowl.  Combine thoroughly, then put into a ziploc bag.  Allow the chicken to marinate overnight, or at least 8 hours.  (I got these super sized chicken wing pieces at Costco - they are actually the size of regular chicken drumsticks).  If you are using smaller normal sized wings, you could probably coat about 14-16 pieces).

2.  Remove the bag from the refrigerator, and allow to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

3.  Combine all coating ingredients in a large ziploc bag, and shake to combine.

4.  Shaking of excess marinade, place 2 wing pieces in the coating bag at a time.  Shake to coat, then remove.

5.  Place the coated wings on an oiled rack, placed on top of a cookie sheet.  (Line the cookie sheet with foil to make clean up easier.)  Spray the wings with non-stick cooking spray.

6.  Bake the wings at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.  Then flip the pieces, spray again with non-stick cooking spray, and bake for another 20 minutes.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

If you can't kill that Peach tree, make Peach Jam

My friend Connie and her husband Toan have a peach tree in their backyard - a tree which produces tons and tons of peaches each spring and summer - all of which end up falling to the ground and rotting into a huge sticky mess (for Toan to clean up).  For the past year, Toan has stopped fertilizing the tree in the hope that it would reduce the copious amounts of fruit for him to shovel up off the ground.  This spring... no such luck for him!  The peaches are still growing in extraordinary amounts - they only ended up a little smaller in size this year.

Connie and Toan gave me a huge bag of mini-peaches last week.  This seemed like a good time to make some summery peach jam.  I know that jam making seems like a difficult task - it requires chopping and peeling fruit, boiling it up into a sugary concoction, sterilizing jars, and then sealing them in a water bath - but really, it's fairly easy.  You don't even need any fancy canning equipment - just some clean jars, new lids (never reuse canning lids), and a big enough pot.

I used to find canning jars (in packs of 12) at Walmart, but it seems they no longer carry them.  (They don't carry fabric at Walmart anymore either, so it looks like I'll probably never have need to set foot in a Walmart store again...)  To my surprise, I found a nice selection of canning jars at my local Albertson's grocery store.  Ball and Kerr are the two brands that make reusable canning jars.  If you can't find them at your local grocery store, you can definitely find them online.  Pectin can usually be found in jello pudding sized boxes in the baking aisle of your supermarket.

Mika's Peach Jam:
2.5 pounds ripe peaches
one 1.75 oz. packet dry pectin (sure jell)
2 whole star anise
4 T. apple cider vinegar
3 c. sugar
1/2 c. water

six half-pint canning jars with rings and new lids
very large stock pot
round metal rack to fit in bottom of pot
metal tongs

1.  Place all the hardware (except for the new lids) into the stock pot, with the metal rack on the bottom so that the jars do not touch the pot bottom.  (If you don't have a metal rack, you can use a large dish towel instead).  Add water to cover all the hardware, bring to a boil.  You must boil these (at a full boil) for 10 minutes to sterilize the jars and equipment properly.  Turn off the heat, and leave the hardware in the hot water until you are almost ready to can.  (Do this right before you make the jam so that the water is still very hot by the time you need to sterilize the lids.)
2.  Prepare the peaches.  Bring another pot of water to boil, dunk several peaches for 45 seconds, then remove and plunge into an ice bath.  The skins should easily wipe off.  Slice and pit the peaches, and set the fruit aside.  You should have approximately 2 pounds of peeled, sliced peaches.
3.  Place the sliced peaches in a large pot with the pectin, anise, and vinegar.  Bring to a boil while mashing down the peaches with a potato masher or mallet.  Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, occasionally mashing down the peaches.  Remove the anise pieces.
4.  Add the sugar and water, and bring back to a boil.  Boil for 1 minute, then turn off the heat.
5.  By now, your hardware should be sterilized.  Add the lids to the hot water, and allow to sterilize for 5 minutes.  Remove the jars and rings to a clean towel with the sterilized tongs.

6.  Use the sterilized ladle to pour hot jam into each jar, leaving about a 1/3 to 1/2 inch head space.  Wipe the rims with a wet paper towel.  Fish out the lids from the hot water and place on top of each jar, then screw the rings down and tighten on the hot jar.  (Don't make the lids too tight - you want to be able to remove the rings later).

7.  Using the tongs, place the hot jam-packed and sealed jars back into the hot water bath, making sure that at least 1 inch of water covers the top of the jars.  Bring the water back to a boil.  (Before the water boils, extra air will escape from the jars - don't mistake this for boiling water.)  You will want to boil the jars for at least 10 minutes.  If you are at 3,000-6,000 ft above sea level, process for 15 minutes.  If you are at 6,000-8,000 ft above sea level, process for 20 minutes. (Not sure of your elevation?  Google search your city or zipcode + elevation, and you should be able to find out.)
8.  Remove the jars (carefully) from the hot water, and place on a clean towel to cool.  You may hear popping sounds coming from the jars while they cool - this is the vacuum being created by the canning process.  Allow the jars to cool and sit for 24 hours on the counter.  Remove the rings and check the seals.  The seal should be suctioned onto the jar tightly, and the jar lid should not make a popping or clicking sound when you press down on it.
9.  Store unopened jars in a cool dark pantry.  Once opened, refrigerate.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Double Chocolate Spice Muffins

Do you ever feel like eating chocolate cake for breakfast?  I do.  One of the things I have always noticed - in an assortment of breakfast muffins, the chocolate ones always disappear first.

So I decided to try to make chocolate muffins - but not with too much sugar, to avoid this truly being "cake" for breakfast.  The spices in this recipe give just a little kick of flavor, but not over the top. 

Double Chocolate Spice Muffins:
1 2/3 c. flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground mace
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
3/4 c. plain yogurt
6 T. canola oil
3 T. molasses
2/3 c. mini chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper cupcake liners.

2.  Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and spices in a large bowl.

3.  In a second bowl, combine the brown sugar, eggs, yogurt, oil, and molasses.  Mix well.

4.  Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour the wet ingredients into the center.  Quickly mix together until just combined, then stir in the chocolate chips.  (Do not overmix).

5.  Divide the batter into the 12 muffin cups, and bake for 16-18 minutes at 400 degrees.  Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What to do with leftover beer: Chicken Enchilada Casserole

I still have several bottles of beer leftover from the time I made Beer Bread that are taking up valuable pantry real estate.  What do I do with all this extra beer?  (There are only so many times I can make beer bread without my husband complaining he's eaten it too many times...)

I remembered my friend Kim's method for making Chicken Enchiladas with condensed soup, and thought I could modify it slightly - kicking it up a little bit with the beer.  Her recipe calls for a roasted chicken, which has worked out nicely for me in the past - but here I was with all this beer, and a bunch of frozen chicken tenderloins.  So I decided to boil the chicken in the beer, then shred it for use in the casserole.  The flavor of the chicken turned out really moist and tasty, and the beer added just a little something extra to the recipe that worked out really well.  I think I might even use this method for making chicken tacos in the future.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole:
1 can Cream of Chicken condensed soup
4 oz. can diced green chiles
6 chicken tenderloins (or 2 breasts)
1 bottle beer (12 oz)
1 c. milk
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
8 corn tortillas
1 T. canola oil
salt, pepper to taste

1.  Heat the beer and chicken in a saucepan until boiling.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes.  Set the chicken aside on a cutting board to cool, and reserve the leftover cooked beer.  Shred the chicken with 2 forks, discarding any cartilage or tendons.  Lightly sprinkle with salt.

2.  Chop the bell peppers into small pieces.  I used 6 really small ones, but you can use 2 large ones.  Saute the peppers with salt and pepper to taste with the canola oil in a cast iron skillet until lightly browned.  If you don't like bell peppers, you can omit them from the recipe.

3.  Combine the soup, milk, diced green chiles, and reserved beer in a small bowl.  

4.  Combine the shredded chicken, sauteed peppers, and 1/4 the soup mixture in a bowl.  Meanwhile, pour just enough of the soup mixture into a rectangle Pyrex dish to coat the bottom.

5.  Lay out the tortillas on a large cutting board, and fill each one with the chicken mixture.  Sprinkle some cheddar and mozzarella on top of the chicken.  (You can fry the tortillas in oil before filling them if you want a more authentic texture... but I prefer to keep the extra fat out of the casserole since this recipe already calls for 2 cups of cheese.)

6.  Roll up each tortilla, and place seam side down into the Pyrex dish. Pour the remaining soup mixture over the top, and spread the rest of the cheeses across the top.  Cover with foil, and bake for 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  When you serve this, it scoops out of the pan much more like a casserole than individual enchiladas (it falls apart into a delicious goopy mess).  If you want the look of individual enchiladas on a plate, then allow it to cool for an hour before serving with a large spatula.