Panko Chicken Strips

I love Panko!  Do you?

Do you know why Panko breadcrumbs are so different from other breadcrumbs that you buy at the grocery store?  It’s because Panko is made with the soft insides of the loaf of bread only.  Panko is dried without squishing the bread and that’s what gives it the crunchy texture. 

I made some Panko chicken strips a while back and wanted to share them with you.  First, I cut up the chicken breasts and dried them off.  Then, I dipped them in seasoned flour, then in a bath of beaten eggs, then into the panko.  I fried them in a skilled in a little bit of olive oil, turning them with tongs every few minutes so that I could get all of the sides a nice golden brown.  These were awesome served with a little bit of honey mustard dipping sauce.  Yum!

Esquina – Lawrence, KS

Josh and I decided to try out Robert & Molly Krause’s new restaurant, Esquina on its opening night.  Esquina is located on the southwest corner of 8th & Massachusetts Street in Downtown Lawrence.  It is in the building that was occupied by Round Corner Drug Store and the Cheese & Salami Shoppe for decades. 

Since the Krause’s shut down their home-based restaurant in January, they have been working hard to complete the renovations and improvements to the Round Corner space and tonight, all of their hard work paid off with an opening that appeared to go smoother than I ever would have thought an “opening night” should have gone.  Our food was delivered quickly and was exactly as we had ordered it and it was spectacular to boot.

Esquina is a Taqueria, but not a Taqueria like I’ve ever been to before.  The tacos that they serve aren’t like any other tacos that I’ve ever seen.  Robert and his team have come up with some of the most creative combinations of ingredients that just set off a fireworks show in your mouth.  There really are no words to explain my feelings about the pork tacos.  Seriously, pork, pineapple and pumpkin seeds were made for each other!

When you walk in the door, you made your way to the back of the restaurant to place your order from their chalkboard menu board.  They were having one special on opening night, a bowl of soup that we were told was pretty spicy, so we didn’t venture in that direction.  We ended up ordering the three tacos combo with an additional taco, an order of chips and homemade guacamole and an order of the calamari.  I am a huge fan of calamari and I like to try it wherever I see it on the menu (within reason of course. . . calamari isn’t something that I’m probably going to be sampling at some sketchy location for fear of ending up in the ER a short time later). 

The tacos that we chose were the Steak, Pork, Chicken and Fish.  Josh said that his favorite was the fish taco and I agree that it was pretty amazing with the fried plantains in there.  Robert just knows how to please his customers with eclectic combinations of ingredients that cause your taste buds to dance.  Good stuff people, good stuff!

My favorite taco, as I said before was the pork taco.  It was absolutely amazing.  I also really enjoyed the calamari and the guacamole.  The chips at Esquina have a light seasoning and are wonderful as well.  The guacamole is chunky and comes in the largest serving size I’ve ever seen for guac.  The calamari comes with a slightly sweet dipping sauce that really counteracts and compliments the saltiness of the calamari.  Yum!

So, if you’re visiting Downtown Lawrence, looking for somewhere to eat that’s a little bit different from your normal, every day food experiences, definitely check out Esquina.  I promise you won’t be worry that you did!

New Year’s Eve Appetizers

On New Years Eve, Josh and I stopped by Bryan & Umut’s on our way to dinner at 715.  Umut had prepared some appetizers for us and as always, they were awesome.

She had some Feta cheese. . .

And some Turkish olives. . .

And some Kashi crackers. . .

Unfortunately, you can’t see the ice cubes in this glass all that well, but they were formed in a mold that we gave Umut for Christmas.  They’re in the shape of an iceberg and the Titanic. 

New York Times 12-Layer Cake

Josh was reading an article in the New York Times about a month ago about this county in Alabama where the women make this amazing cake that has 12+ layers to it.  He sent me the article and told me that I should think about making it for an upcoming function.  By that time I’d already decided what I was going to take to all the family Christmas celebrations, but I didn’t have any plans for New Years, so I decided that was as good a time as any.  We didn’t have big plans for the night, but were planning on stopping by our friends’ Bryan & Umut’s house for drinks before we went to dinner, so we did have an excuse to not eat the entire cake ourselves.
 
This thing was a monster.  It was an amazing cake, but it took SO much effort.  I admire the little old ladies of Slocomb, Alabama.  Some of them make as many as 10 of these cakes every Christmas.  I think it’s crazy.  I think it would taste alright with fewer, but thicker layers, but it’s not my cake. 
 
For the recipe, click HERE.  If you try this yourself, you won’t be disappointed, I assure you.  And when they tell you to line the cake pans with parchment paper, and to butter the pans, they’re not kidding.  Follow the recipe exactly, or your layers will fall apart.  Pam or another non-stick spray won’t do.  It’s got to be BUTTER!

Doesn’t it look awesome?

Roasted Chicken & Brussels Sprouts

Well, since we got a new gigantic microwave for Christmas, I can finally use my Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker to make the Roasted Chicken I’ve been waiting to make since I started selling the stuff in September.  Lots of people are skeptical when I tell them about this recipe, so I wanted to make it for myself to have proof that it’s amazing.

First, you’ll need to get a whole chicken from the grocery store and prep it with whatever spices that you’d like.  I bought a pre-seasoned chicken from The Merc (local food co-op here in Lawrence) and was on my way.  The whole chicken goes into the Deep Covered Baker with the lid on and you place the whole stoneware baker in the microwave for 30 minutes.  When it comes out of the microwave it looks like this – completely roasted and ready to eat (I did use my meat thermometer, just to be safe – nothing is more disgusting than finding pink in the middle of my chicken).

I also sauteeed some brussels sprouts to go with the chicken.  I’m pretty sure that this was the first time I’d ever eaten them and I have to say that they’re not as bad as people make them out to be.  I rather enjoyed them.

This is definitely a recipe that I’ll be making again.  I think that everyone should have a Deep Covered Baker.  You can use it in the oven or the microwave and it’s a really versatile piece of cookware.  I highly recommend it and of course, if you’re looking for one, I know a great Pampered Chef Consultant that would sell you one in a heartbeat.  I’ll even throw in a set of recipes designed especially for the Deep Covered Baker!

Christmas Desserts

We had several Christmas celebrations with family this year.  Our first stop, on December 19th was my cousin and her husband’s house in Mission.  Here’s the dessert spread:

Grandma ordered a couple of pies from the Brandon Woods (Retirement Complex she lives in) bakery.  This one is a raisin pie.  I’ve never seen so many raisins crammed into one pie in my life.  It was super sweet – almost too much, if that’s possible.

The other pie she ordered was blueberry and it was very good.  The crumble topping had ginger in it.

My aunt brought a couple of fruit cakes.

And my cousin made some turtle candies.

We also ate my chocolate covered cherry pie at this celebration.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Pie

Now that I’m finally caught up with vacation posts, it’s time to move on to the holidays.  This was my favorite dessert from the holidays.  Josh’s cousin even called it the best dessert she’s ever had.  I would have to think about it for a bit, but I think she’s right.  This thing was AMAZING!  It doesn’t look super-impressive in these photos because I didn’t take any photos after we cut into it, but take my word for it.  You’re missing out if you don’t go make this RIGHT NOW!

 

(Recipe from Southern Living)

Ingredients
1 (12-ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
1 (6-ounce) ready-made chocolate crumb piecrust
1 (21-ounce) can cherry pie filling
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
16 maraschino cherries with stems
2 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed

Preparation
Microwave morsels and cream in a microwave-safe bowl at MEDIUM (50% power) 1 to 2 minutes or until chocolate begins to melt. Whisk in butter until smooth. Let cool, whisking occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes or until mixture reaches spreading consistency. Spoon half of chocolate mixture into piecrust. Cover and chill remaining chocolate mixture.

Spoon cherry pie filling evenly over chocolate mixture in piecrust. Place piecrust on a baking sheet.

Beat cream cheese and next 3 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Pour cream cheese mixture evenly over cherry pie filling. (Pie shell will be very full but will not overflow when baking.)

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until center is set. Remove from oven, and cool on a wire rack. Cover and chill 8 hours.

Drain maraschino cherries on paper towels; pat dry.

Microwave reserved chocolate mixture at MEDIUM (50% power) 1 minute. Remove from microwave; stir until spreading consistency, reheating if necessary.

Dip cherries in chocolate mixture, and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper; chill 15 minutes. Spread remaining chocolate mixture evenly over top of pie. Spoon 8 dollops of whipped topping around outer edge of pie; place 2 chocolate covered cherries in center of each dollop.

Easy Beef Stroganoff

This was another Power Cooking recipe from Pampered Chef, but this time, it was from the Beef series.  I like both equally and would love to get some hosts who would be interested in demonstrating these Power Cooking recipes in their own homes for one of my shows.  I really think that it would be an awesome show for some mom’s who have lots of children and not a lot of time to cook every night. 

This was a yummy recipe even though I am not a huge fan of mushrooms.  There are a lot in this recipe, but I think I’m growing to tolerate them rather than picking them out every time I see one.  Ah, the joys of adulthood. . .

For the recipe, click HERE.

Panko Crusted Chicken with a Maple-Mustard Pan Sauce

This was amazing.  Josh talked about this for several days after I made it and he was very happy with how it turned out.  It’s a recipe that I got from the October issue of Bon Appetit Magazine.  I will definitely be making more recipes from Bon Appetit from now on.  I’m really going to utilize that subscription!

Ingredients
2 8-ounce skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut crosswise in half
1 large egg
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon coarse-grained mustard
1 tablespoon chilled unsalted butter

Preparation

Using meat mallet or rolling pin, pound chicken in re-sealable plastic bag to 1/3- to 1/2-inch thickness. Whisk egg, parsley, and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard in large bowl. Place chicken in egg mixture; turn to coat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Dip each chicken piece in panko; turn to coat.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook until brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, whisk broth, syrup, coarse-grained mustard, and remaining 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard in glass measuring cup.

Transfer chicken to plates. Add broth mixture to skillet; boil until reduced to 3/4 cup, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add butter; whisk until melted. Spoon sauce alongside chicken.

Creamy Dijon Chicken & Noodles

This was several kinds of wonderful.  I was kind of on a pasta kick this week and thought that this would be good.  Again, I used some gluten free noodles that did not disappoint.  They were actually brown rice noodles and they were wonderful.  I really think I could get used to this gluten free pasta thing, but alas. . . they’re still carbs.  Darnit!

For this Pampered Chef recipe, click HERE.