Archive for the ‘Tips and Tidbits’ Category

How to Butterfly Chicken Breasts

November 13, 2009

Butterflying and flattening chicken breasts is a great way to speed up your cooking time; it’s super quick and easy, and only takes about 2 minutes, if that! 

  1. Cut breasts in half, leaving just enough to keep the halves connected…like they do with the bread for your Subway sandwich! 
  2. Place chicken on a cutting board and cover (with paper towel, waxed paper, plastic wrap) to keep it from splattering; pound chicken evenly flat , using a mallet or the heal of your hand (I prefer using my hands).

Warning!  If anyone else is in the house with you, they may wonder what on earth you are doing making such a racket.  Be certain to reassure them you have not had a mental break, and are simply flattening chicken ;-)

 

If you need additional help, here is a great tutorial:

 

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food/cooking/butterfly-chicken-breast

 

 

 

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Toasted Pumpkin (and Squash) Seeds

November 9, 2009
Pumpkin Eli IMG_4149

Pumpkin Carving

Tradition seems to dictate that pumpkins be carved before Halloween; however, I see no reason for not enjoying this fun (albeit gooey) fall activity any time between Labor Day and Christmas…or whenever you can get your hands on a pumpkin!  I came to this conclusion as my sweet munchkin and I sat on our porch carving our belated Halloween pumpkin last week ;-)

Though there are many good reasons to carve a pumpkin (using large, very sharp knives to slice through the thick skin is high on my list…second only to the most excellent shoulder workout gained by plunging your entire arm into the gooey abyss of an overgrown squash to scrape out the innards), the thought of warm toasted pumpkin seeds is what gets me running to the store each fall as soon as they set out the pumpkins!

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

*You can also toast Butternut Squash seeds like this, too!*

  1. Separate seeds from all the pulp with your hands and rinse under cool water (I promise it’s not as time consuming as it sounds!) 

    Pumpkin Seeds 1 IMG_4188

    Step 1: Separate from pulp and rinse

  2. Boil seeds for 10-15 min in salt water solution:  roughly (2 cups water + 1 Tblsp salt)/(half cup of seeds)
  3. Drain seeds and pat dry, then toss with either butter or olive oil (some recipes call for drying the seeds overnight before baking, however I’ve never done this and it works just fine)
    Pumpkin Seeds 2

    Step 2: Boil in salt water

     

  4. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes at 350°F

Enjoy!

Brining Chicken

October 26, 2009

Ever heard of brining chicken?  Ever tried it?

I recently ran across this tip and it quickly became standard practice in my kitchen.  Brining chicken breasts before you cook them helps them stay tender and moist; this is by far the best way to ensure mouth-watering, juicy chicken and has helped me cut down on the butter and oil I use when seasoning them.   You can also try brining your turkey and pork! 

Although there are a number of variations for brine solutions and recommended marinating times, they all start with about the same basic recipe:  Dissolve 1/4 cup salt and 1/4 cup sugar in 4 cups water

Some tips…

  • The type of salt you use makes a difference in taste; Kosher salt is recommended, and from experience I can tell you it does taste better than iodised table salt.  If you do use table salt, measure slightly less (because table salt crystals are so much finer than Kosher salt you will end up with a salter brine when using the same amount of table salt).
  • Although I’ve not tried it yet, I’ve seen recommendations for using brown sugar rather than whiteComing soon…I plan to try doing that with boneless pork chops before pan-frying with an orange marmalade sauce.  I’ll let you know how it turns out ;-)
  • Brining Time Table:  for boneless chicken breasts, 15 minutes at room temp or up to 2 hours in the fridge.
  • Go ahead and add seasoning to your brine mixture; bay leaves, fresh sprigs of herbs, lemon wedges, onions, etc.

So next time you are going to cook up a batch of chicken breasts and have just a few extra minutes, try brining them first and let me know what you think! 

The Step-by-Step:

  1. Trim chicken, flatten (if desired), and place in glass baking dish
  2. Cover with brine solution and let marinate for 15 minutes (or up to 2 hours in the fridge)
  3. Pour brine solution off chicken and pat dry (you can rinse if you wish, but I haven’t found this necessary)
  4. Season as desired and cook as usual for moist and mouth-watering chicken breasts!

Friday Fun

October 23, 2009

Friday nights should be fun…friends, family, good food, and memories!

Before leaving the house I grab an old blanket, a roll of paper towel, one small candle lantern and lighter, and a couple bottles of water.  On the way out we stop by Little Caesars for a $5 peperoni, and then head out to the lake.  Sitting cross-legged at the end of a pier; eating pizza right out of the box; watching the water change colors and sparkle as the sun begins to set; talking with Eli (my 16 month old) about the ducks as they fly by and honk, the breeze, the rippling water; scooting together under a blanket as the moon and stars start to come out, and chatting around the tiny, twinkling lantern.  This is what family memories are made of.

Have fun making your own this weekend!  Picnics don’t need to be elaborate, and the ones that taste best are often the easiest.  Here are some ideas to get you started…

Location: pick somewhere the whole family can enjoy

  1. park, playground, nearby camping ground
  2. lake or pond (have fun feeding ducks and fish with dinner leftovers!), stream bank
  3. large, grassy field where you can play frisbee or toss a ball.

Food: keep it simple; meals that don’t have to be a certain temp, don’t make a mess, and don’t require special utensils (soup is a pain because it inevitably spills, and you have to bring bowls and spoons)

  1. sandwiches and chips
  2. pita pockets stuffed with chicken salad (or other favorite filling)
  3. pizza out of the box
  4. or if you happen to be without children…a warm loaf of french bread, a good block of cheese, some grapes and strawberries, and a bottle of wine!

Activities: think of something your family loves that you haven’t done in a while

Memories

Memories

  1. play ball or toss a frizbee
  2. take a simple board game or cards (I don’t recommend cards if it’s at all windy!)
  3. take old bread or crackers you can feed ducks and fish
  4. candlelight is always a plus!

Please feel free to share!  What is your favorite dinner-time picnic memory???

Free Recipe Cards

October 10, 2009

"Made With Love" Recipe Cards from www.messyvegetariancook.comHello, my friends!  Here is a link for FREE downloadable and printable recipe cards.  These adorable cards will add a little fun to your recipe box (I also like to use them to stick up quotes or verses).   There are several designs, all awesome…this one just happens to be my favorite :-)http://www.messyvegetariancook.com/category/free-recipe-card-templates/