Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Panko and Parmesan Crusted Chicken

Panko is a type of breadcrumb used in Japanese cooking. Panko is different from traditional American bread crumbs in that it is lighter and ends up with a crispier texture after baking.
I wanted to experiment with it and I found this brand at the grocery store:

I decided to try combining the panko with parmesan cheese to create an oven baked chicken dish and this is the result.

Panko and Parmesan Crusted Chicken

chicken breasts
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
2 cups parmesan cheese (the dry Kraft kind- not freshly grated)
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika

Pound the chicken with a mallet to tenderize, if desired. Place in a baking dish and pour buttermilk over the chicken for at least 30 minutes.

In a large shallow dish, stir together the dry ingredients. (Exact portions are not necessary, and basil, thyme, or rosemary could be substituted for or added to the oregano). Sprinkle each chicken breast with salt and pepper, and dredge into the dry mixture, using your hands to thoroughly coat both sides.

Bake in a greased baking dish at 400 for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown.

Soak the chicken in buttermilk:

Prepare the dry mixture on a large shallow dish:

Dredge the chicken in the mixture:

Bake until golden brown:

It was absolutely delicious. And really simple to do. The combination of the panko and parmesan was unbeatable. I served it with steamed baby green beans and new potatoes with butter and dill.

Next time I will use smaller pieces of chicken so that we can have more crust, because that was our favorite part.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Night Owl Cookies

This is an M&M recipe I found in a fall magazine. It required a few steps, but was fun to do with very cute results. Zac, who, (as I've stated before), used to work at a cooking store, can be seen in the photos as my very capable assistant.

Night Owl Cookies

1 18 oz roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa
20 whole cashews
1/2 cup chocolate frosting
1 6 oz tube decorator icing

Divide the sugar cookie dough into thirds. Knead the flour into one piece of the cookie dough until smooth; set aside. Combine the remaining 2 pieces of cookie dough and knead in the cocoa until smooth; set aside.

Roll the lighter-color dough into a 1-inch round log about 10 inches long, and move it to the side. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the darker dough to a 10" x 4"rectangle. Wrap the darker dough completely around the lighter-color log. Pinch the edges to seal and roll the log smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the cookie dough into 1/4" slices. Place two slices side by side on cookie sheets and press together slightly. Then press a cashew into the dough at the point that the sliced edges touch. Repeat with the remaining dough slices. Bake for 8-10 minutes or just until cookies are beginning to turn golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Spoon the chocolate frosting into a resealable plastic bag and snip off a small corner. Using the photo as a guide, pipe eyelashes around the eyes. Then pipe white icing onto the cookies and add the M&M's for eyes.

The original recipe claimed a yield of 20 cookies, but I ended up with 15.

Divide the dough into thirds:

Roll one third of the dough into a log measuring 10 inches:

Combine cocoa and the remaining 2 thirds of the dough:

Knead thoroughly until well-blended:

Then roll out into a rectangle:

Wrap the darker dough around the lighter log and pinch edges to seal:

Then roll out to smooth it:

After the dough has been refrigerated, slice into 1/4" slices. (I had to squeeze each slice a little to round it back out). Press 2 slices together and press a cashew in the middle:

This is how they looked after they baked:

I placed the M&M's on the white icing so that it made the owls look like their eyes were looking to the side, which gave them a wise and contemplative expression:

I put a few of these in bags like I did the Sparkling Candy Corn Cookies, but they are fragile and should probably be stored flat and served flat.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Easy Custom T-Shirt

I work for a local hospital every few weeks to help with cholesterol screenings, etc. for the employees of different businesses around Birmingham. Tomorrow, the place where we are going has encouraged us to wear our team colors because the day will have a "tailgate" theme. I needed a new shirt and decided to make my own. It would have been easier, of course, to have bought one ready-made from a sports type store. But this way is more fun, less expensive, and it gave me a custom fit and style.

I bought a long-sleeved shirt (Hanes Beefy T) and some iron-on letters (which happened to be 30% off) at Hobby Lobby. The total cost was $15. I chose lettering that had a collegiate look, but there are many colors and styles to choose from:

First, I prewashed my t-shirt. To find the center, I folded the shirt in half lengthwise and pressed it with an iron:

Then I folded it crosswise and pressed again, working to avoid my first pressing line:

If you look carefully, you should be able to see my pressing lines. The letters I chose had an adhesive backing so I could place them like I wanted to and they would stick, but were removable if I needed to adjust them:

After I placed the letters, I turned the shirt inside out and pressed each letter from the back for 60 seconds. (Follow the package directions of whatever lettering you choose). Allow the shirt to cool completely before turning it right side out.

This is the finished product. It was fun to do and it took only a few minutes.

Roll Tide.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Uncommon Gift Containers

There is no time like the present to start preparing for Christmas, especially if you are taking the time to make something by hand. This project uses new paint cans which can be decorated with paper or fabric. I made a snowman to go on one of the cans I did, and that one ended up being my favorite. If you use wrapping paper or handmade paper, it needs to be heavy. The thin wrapping paper tends to wrinkle.

They can then be filled with cookies, candy, or small gifts. After you have filled them with your surprises, the top is hammered on, which, of course, makes the opening of the gift more challenging and the contents more intriguing.

Items needed:
Small new paint cans with lids (Home Depot $1.88)
Alene's Tacky Glue
Heavy wrapping paper
Handmade paper
Christmas fabric
Fusible interfacing (if using fabric)
Trim to match
Ribbon to tie with, if desired

For snowman:
heavy white scrapbook paper
toothpick (for nose)
orange acrylic paint
twigs (for arms)
3-D dots

Measure paper and cut into a piece 13- 3/4" long and 4 -5/8" wide. It's okay if it doesn't line up perfectly with the edges as you glue it onto the can. You can use trim to hide imperfections. Shown in this picture is some white embossed wrapping paper that I found at Hallmark last year. After I cut it out, I painted it, using the same technique that I did in my covered candle post last December, except this time I used metallic silver instead of metallic gold paint.

Apply glue to can with a foam paint brush. Then carefully apply paper or fabric.

If using fabric, iron fusible interfacing to the back:

Then measure and draw cutting lines onto the interfacing. Cut out and apply with glue to the can.

I free-handed a snowman onto the heavy white scrapbook paper with a fine-tip roller ball. I left my sketch lines showing. I cut a toothpick to an appropriate nose size and painted it orange. I glued it on when it was dry. I went out into my yard and found tiny twigs for the arms. I bought these little buttons at Hobby Lobby, but you could use mismatched ones that you already have.

I found this handmade paper at Village Press in Mountain Brook. I thought it looked like snow falling against a night sky. I applied pom-pom trim to the top.

I glued the twigs to the back of the snowman with a generous amount of glue and applied several 3-D dots to the back to make him stand out:

I found the trim and sticker I used for the can shown in the middle at Hobby Lobby.
After you complete the cans, fill them up and hammer down the tops. (The ones in the picture are not hammered down). A rubber mallet would be a good choice. Or, you could place a piece or block of wood on top of the can and hammer directly onto that.

I hope you have fun with this. The possibilities are endless!

If you don't have time to make this, but like the idea of a handmade container, go to www.goodpails.com. Elexis, the owner, is a work-at-home mom who creates some really cute gift pails. Go and check out her site!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sparkling Candy Corn Cookies

I found this cookie recipe in a magazine called Land O' Lakes Harvest Baking. They are very fun to make and I loved how they turned out. The cookies are a basic sugar cookie dough that is divided and colored to look like candy corn. The original recipe calls for orange juice and orange peel, but I left that out because I am not a big fan of citrus. These can be stored in the freezer for up to one month.

Sparkling Candy Corn Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/8 tsp salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp soda
orange food color (I like Wilton paste food color)
yellow food color
sugar to coat

Line bottom and sides of a 9x5 inch loaf pan with waxed paper, plastic wrap, or parchment paper. Set aside.

Combine butter and sugar in a large bowl; beat at medium speed until creamy. Add egg and salt. Continue beating until well mixed. Reduce speed to low; add flour and soda. Beat until well mixed.

Divide dough into thirds. Press one-third of white dough evenly onto bottom of prepared pan. Place another one-third of dough back into the same bowl. Add a small amount of orange food color and mix until the color is well blended. This will appear streaky at first. Just keep kneading it together and it will all eventually blend. Press orange dough evenly over the white dough in the pan. Repeat the same process with the yellow food color on the remaining dough. Press it onto the orange layer. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours or overnight).

Place 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl and set aside. (This will be to coat the warm cookies).

Heat oven to 375. Invert pan and remove dough. Peel off parchment paper. Place layered dough onto a cutting board. Cut loaf crosswise into 1/4 inch sliced using a sharp knife, trimming edges to make it even, if necessary. Cut each slice into 6 wedges. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake about 8 minutes, or until the edges are firm and the bottoms are very lightly browned. Cool 1 minute, then roll each cookie in sugar to coat. Place cookies on a cooling rack.

This makes about 15 dozen tiny cookies.

The cookie dough will be crumbly after it is mixed, but will be very easy to handle and will form a smooth ball when squeezed together.

Line a loaf pan with parchment:

Divide the dough into 3 balls:

Press the white layer into the loaf pan first:

Add food coloring to the other 2 balls of dough until you reach intense shades of yellow and orange:I rolled the colored dough out to the approximate size of the loaf pan so that it would be easier to press it in:

Add the orange layer:

Then the yellow layer:

After it is refrigerated, turn it out on a cutting board. It will look like this:

Slice into 1/4" slices:

Then cut each slice into 6 wedges:

Bake, cool 1 minute, then roll in sugar. Place on a rack to finish cooling:

I bagged them in clear gift bags and tied with matching ribbon to give to friends.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Uncommon Baby Block Projects

Wooden baby blocks are timeless. They offer a nostalgic glimpse into the past of a simpler time before toys became so incredibly high-tech. They are also the building blocks of some fun craft projects.

These blocks can be purchased at Hobby Lobby and other craft stores, finished or unfinished. The unfinished ones can be painted to spell a baby's name or initials and can make a unique accessory to a baby gift. I recommend a good paint brush with small, firm, angled bristles. I painted these with ordinary acrylic paint. Then I brushed some brown paint (slightly diluted with water) over them and rubbed the excess off with a lint-free dry cloth. It gave them an antique look. You could paint them to match any nursery. These could also be glued to a wooden plaque to hang on a wall.

Several years ago, I made candle holders using finished (pre-painted) baby blocks as the base. I found these wooden candle holders in the shape of little cups at Michael's. First, I over sanded the blocks and rubbed brown paint on them. Using 8 blocks for each holder, I glued the blocks together with a hot glue gun. Then I glued the holder to the top. This is how it turned out:

Here they are from other angles:

For a couple of different baby showers, I used an old quilt as a tablecloth, antique toys as table decorations, and these candle holders in the center. This is a very inexpensive and enjoyable project with quite a unique result.