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Friday, April 29, 2011

Baked Chicken Parmesan

This recipe definitely caught my eye the first time I flipped through ATK's Healthy Family Cookbook.  Chicken parmesan is delicious, but not great for you when it's fried.  A version that is baked and is easy for a weeknight meal -- awesome!  This is simple and fabulous.  I think it has a great balance of ingredients and the strips of basil on top really brings out a fresh flavor.  I went light on the sauce on mine, I don't like chicken parmesan smothered in tomato sauce -- the whole point is the crispy crunch of the chicken, right?

Baked Chicken Parmesan
serves 6


1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
3 large egg whites
1 tablespoon water
vegetable oil spray
6 boneless, skinless chicken cutlets, pounded 1/4 inch thick
salt and pepper
2 cups tomato sauce, warmed
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil


  • Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  
  • Combine the bread crumbs and olive oil in a non-stick skillet and toast over medium heat until golden.
  • Set up a breading station.  Let the toasted bread crumbs cool in a shallow dish, then mix in the parmesan.  Whisk the egg whites and water in a second bowl.  In a third bowl combine the flour and garlic powder.  
  • Place a wire rack over a baking sheet and spray with the cooking spray.  
  • Pat the chicken dry, season with salt and pepper.  Take one piece of chicken at a time through the breading stations -- first in the flour, patting off any extra flour.  Then coat in the egg whites, letting the excess drip off.  The last step us to coat with the toasted bread crumbs, making sure to pat them on to stick to the chicken evenly.
  • Place the coated cutlets on the wire rack, then spray with the cooking spray.  
  • Bake about 8-10 minutes or until any juices are clear.  You can also use a meat thermometer to check that the chicken reaches 160 degrees.
  • Top with desired amount of sauce and 2 tablespoons of the shredded mozzarella.  Bake until the cheese has melted, 3 to 5 minutes more.  
  • Sprinkle with basil and serve.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pork Lo Mein

This dish is definitely a winner.  The standout element was buying and using the fresh lo mein noodles in the produce section of our grocery store.  In my store they are right near the refrigerated polenta and wonton/egg roll wrappers.  They were, I'm not kidding, revolutionary.  They are the square shaped noodles that you get in take out/restaurant lo mein.  I've made lo mein and other Chinese noodle dishes before and was never quite satisfied because the instructions would say to use regular spaghetti which isn't quite the same.  In fact this recipe also calls for regular spaghetti, but once i saw the fresh noodles in my store I knew I had to use them.  They make the dish more authentic and more like 'real' Chinese food.  Delicious.  If you have them available to you definitely use them.  I won't make stir fries or Chinese noodle dishes without them now.   

So I've established that the noodles are amazing, but so were the other elements of this dish.  It was easy to put together and the leftovers tasted great for lunch the next few days.  I did adapt the vegetables used in the dish to suit our tastes, snow peas, bean sprouts and baby corns are what we like.  The original called for shiitake mushrooms and napa cabbage, but otherwise we left the spices and seasonings the same and it was great.  Not too spicy and not too salty.

Pork Lo Mein
Serves 6

4 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder 
1 pound pork tenderloin, halved then sliced into 1/8 thick strips
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
12 ounces spaghetti or fresh chinese noodles
4 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
6 tablespoons chinese rice cooking wine or dry sherry
8 ounces snow peas
8 ounces fresh bean sprouts
15 ounce can of baby corn nuggets
8 scallions, sliced thin
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sriracha sauce


  • Mix the first 5 ingredients, through five-spice powder, together in a large bowl.  Measure 1/4 cup of the mixture into a separate bowl, then add the pork to the remaining mixture.  Stir to coat, then cover and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.  Use this time to prep your vegetables if needed.
  • Whisk the broth and cornstarch into the remaining soy sauce mixture, set aside.
  • Cook noodles according to package directions, drain and leave in colander.  
  • Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the canola oil in a large dutch oven over high heat, until barely smoking.  Add half the pork and cook until lightly browned (but not cooked through), about 3 minutes.  Stir in 3 tablespoons of the wine and cook until evaporated.  
  • Transfer pork to a bowl, then repeat the process with another 1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil, remaining pork and 3 tablespoons wine.  Add this to the bowl as well.
  • Wipe the dutch oven dry with paper towels.  Add the last 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and heat over high heat until shimmering.  Add the snow peas and cook, stirring constantly, until crisp tender.  Add the baby corn and cook, stirring constantly, until warmed through.  Stir in the bean sprouts, scallions, ginger and garlic and cook about 30 seconds.  
  • Rewhisk the soy sauce/cornstarch mixture to combine, then add to the veggies.  Add the pork and any juices as well.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce has thickened slightly and the pork is reheated.  Add the cooked noodles and sriracha, mix until combined and serve.  

Monday, April 25, 2011

Black Bean Burgers

I picked this recipe to take a try at making some bean burgers from scratch.  I am a fan of the bean burgers you can buy from the frozen section at the grocery store, they have a nice southwest flavor and make for an easy, quick weeknight meal.  This homemade version is not as easy or quick, but it's got better flavor and I like knowing exactly what went into the patties.  You could probably make some up and freeze them to turn into future easy/quick meals too.  I did not try that this time, but I hope to next time.  Zach and I both really liked this recipe and we will make it again.  I liked the texture of the burgers.  Leaving some beans whole and mashing most of them made an almost creamy burger, and the spices were very delicious.  The only change I made was to add on a sauce.  I just took some cilantro and mixed it up with mayonnaise, a dash of cumin and a dash of cayenne.  

Black Bean Burgers
slightly adapted from America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

Serves 6


2 slices white sandwich bread
2 15 ounce cans of black beans, rinsed
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin, plus more for sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more for sauce
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup minced cilantro, divided in half
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup mayonnaise  


  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Place bread in food processor and pulse until you have coarse crumbs.  Spread crumbs on a baking sheet and toast in the pre-heated oven until light brown and dried out, about 10 minutes.  Let cool.
  • Measure 2 1/2 cups of the black beans into a large bowl and mash them until mostly smooth.  You can use a potato masher, pastry cutter or a fork.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper and the salt.  
  • Add the egg mixture, cooled breadcrumbs, remaining 1/2 cup beans, bell pepper, 1/4 cup cilantro and shallot into the mashed bean mixture.  Mix until just combined.  Divide into 6 equal parts (about 1/2 cup each) and form into patties.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Place three of the patties in the skillet and cook until well browned on each side, 8 to 10 minutes.  Then repeat (including 1 more tablespoon oil) with remaining patties.  
  • While the patties cook mix the remaining 1/4 cup chopped cilantro with the mayonnaise.  Add cumin and cayenne pepper to your tastes.  I'd start with 1/8 teaspoon cayenne and 1/4 cumin then adjust as desired.  
  • Serve on toasted buns with sauce.   

Sunday, April 24, 2011

New York Crumb Cake: BAKED Sunday Mornings

This cake looks delicious!  That's as much as I can say about the flavor of the finished product at this point since we are taking it with us to an Easter celebration this afternoon.  It smelled wonderful when cooking, I love cinnamon and this filled the house with a great cinnamon smell.  The batter tasted quite good, which holds definite promise for the taste of the finished cake.  I'll update later with thoughts on the taste! 

Go visit BAKED Sunday Mornings to see the links to the other poster's descriptions and photos!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spicy Honey Glazed Pork Chops

This is one recipe we made from the Cookbook of the Month -- ATK's Healthy Family Cookbook.  This was a glaze recipe written for a pork loin roast, but we modified it to use on pork loin chops.  We buy a giant pork loin at the store and then cut it up into chops and a roast or two then freeze it.  You get a much better deal per pound when you buy in bigger quantities.  Plus, then we have lots of pork chops ready to go in the freezer to make for easy, quick weeknight meals.  Just defrost in the fridge overnight and you're ready to go!

This recipe caught my eye because of the chipotle peppers.  They have such a great smokey heat and we like just about any recipe that uses them.  It only has 4 ingredients, 5 if you count the pork, and is super fast to put together.  The glaze would also be good on chicken and probably shrimp too.  We served the pork chops with a cilantro-lime couscous and it complemented the southwestern flavors of the glaze (as well as soaked up all the delicious juices).

Spicy Honey Glazed Pork Chops
adapted slightly from The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
Serves 2

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pork loin chops
salt and pepper
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, about 1 lime
2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, about 1 pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin

  • Preheat a large skillet on medium to medium-high heat. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. 
  • Add the oil to the pan, then when it shimmers add pork chops. Cook chops about 6 minutes per side, getting a nice sear/browning on each side. Remove the chops to a plate to rest. 
  • While they are browning add the honey, lime juice, chipotle and cumin to a small bowl, whisking to combine. 
  • Pour off any fat left in the skillet. Pour the glaze into the skillet and scrape any brown bits off the bottom. Simmer until slightly thickened. Add pork chops back into the skillet and coat them with the glaze. 
  • Serve, spooning extra glaze on top of pork chops.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies

I know I promised some healthy recipes from America's Test Kitchen, but first a cookie recipe from the regular edition of Cook's Illustrated.  These cookies are amazing.  I will never have to look for another peanut butter cookie recipe, ever.  But, what else would I expect from a Cook's Illustrated recipe?  I don't know if I've yet discussed the mini-obsession I had with these magazines awhile back.  Zach and I went to an estate sale with my grandparents last Thanksgiving weekend.  We found a stack of old Cook's Illustrated magazines for sale and bought them all (30-40 issues) for 5 dollars.  FIVE DOLLARS!  A year's subscription is almost $30 and that's for 6 issues.  We hit the jackpot!  We had a few already, some of the free editions they send you when you ask for a trial issue, and one of Zach's co-workers had given him a few as well.  So, we knew how great and amazingly reliable the recipes are.

Soon after returning home from our holiday trip I started searching for other back issues on eBay.  I figured I'd see if I could get a few cheaply to round out/fill in some gaps in what we had already bought, then we'd have a nice collection.  I ended up obsessively searching for magazines until I had them all.  For the record, early editions are the hardest to find.  Not Issue One since they must have put that back into circulation at some point, or used that as their 'trial copy' for a bit since there are tons of Issue One's out there (try an eBay search, you'll see) but in the range of 5-20ish, those are the tough ones to find.  Zach has gotten me a subscription for my birthday the past two years, so I now have the complete collection, 1-110 and counting!

But, back to the recipe.  I made these to send off to a soldier for Operation Baking GALS last October.  I saw Beantown Baker post about it on her blog, and I had a few cookie recipes that I couldn't stop thinking about.  I had spent hours recently flipping through each one of my 110 Cook's Illustrated to create my '30 while I'm 30' list.  So, while peanut butter cookies didn't make the cut, if they had, this recipe would be the only one I would need.  The only changes I made were to use smooth peanut butter and omit the ground peanuts.  I love peanut butter flavor, but not actual peanuts.  I know, I'm weird like that; though, peanuts are starting to grow on me. 

Peanut Butter Cookies
from Cook's Illustrated, March/April 1998
Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (if using salted butter use 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 pound butter, unsalted, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup roasted salted peanuts, ground in food processor to resemble bread crumbs (I omitted.)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • Into a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. 
  • Using your electric mixer, beat butter until creamy.  Add the granulated and brown sugar and beat until fluffy.  Add peanut butter and beat until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla.
  • Add the sifted dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Mix gently until just incorporated.
  • Scoop out 2 tablespoons of dough at a time.  Roll into large balls and place them 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  
  • Fill a glass with cold water.  Use a fork to make the criss-cross pattern in the top of the cookie, dipping the fork into the cold water between pressings.  
  • Bake cookies until they are slightly brown on the edges and puffed up, 10 to 12 minutes.  
  • Give the cookies about 5 minutes to set on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Double-Chocolate Loaf with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Spread: BAKED Sunday Mornings Rewind

The selected recipe for this week was Carrot-Coconut Scones with Citrus Glaze.  The flavors didn't really interest either Zach or myself and there are a few recipes the group completed before I joined that I knew we would definitely enjoy so I chose to do a rewind post.  From the very first time I opened Baked Explorations I knew it wouldn't be long before I made this double-chocolate bread.  I'm weird because I don't particularly like peanuts, but I do love peanut butter, and especially peanut butter combined with chocolate.  

This bread was delicious, very rich and moist.  I do find that generally I need to add on 10+ minutes to the baking times from the book.  I added on 15 minutes to the high end of the range given for this bread and I think I went 5 minutes too far.  The outside was quite crisp, perhaps a little too dry, but it certainly won't keep us from eating it!  Next time I'd just add on 10 minutes though.  Overall it's quite good and, as the book says, a great excuse to have chocolate for breakfast!  I really enjoyed the peanut butter cream cheese spread, but Zach said he felt it was overwhelmed by the super chocolately-ness of the bread and didn't really add much for him.  He'd rather have it plain.  

If you head over to the old post on BAKED Sunday Mornings you can see how everyone else's loaves turned out and get the recipe.  

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cookbook of the Month: April 2011

I haven't had a cookbook of the month in awhile.  I started it last year sometime then as life got busy it got abandoned.  But I'm bringing it back. Just call me Justin Timberlake. 

So for April 2011 my cookbook of the month will be America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook. I was super excited when this cookbook showed up in stores.  I buy most of my books at Costco -- it's almost impossible for me to leave there without a book.  We've recently acquired an iPad though so I think my physical books purchases will be declining in favor of ebook purchases. Not cookbooks though; I suspect I will always buy those in actual book form.  But, when I saw that the newest ATK book included nutritional information I was quite excited.  That was my biggest complaint about their products for awhile -- obviously not a major gripe since I'm still a subscriber and managed to procure all back issues to make a complete set of Cook's Illustrated editions.  But, since I knew that science is a main tenant of their recipe creation I always wondered why they didn't include nutrition info in their recipes.  I figured for a publication as into food science as they are it was surprising that they would not include those statistics.  

Anyway, this book solved that problem so I bought it immediately.  We've enjoyed just about everything we've made out of it and we've barely scratched the surface.  Look for at least three recipes this month from America's Test Kitchen's Healthy Family Cookbook.