Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Panko Madness

Remember that Panko-coated, oven fried chicken I made a few weeks ago? Well, the Panko bread crumbs have taken over my life and become a new obsession. I feel like that guy on the TV commercial that gets a label maker and labels everything in sight. I just can't stop rolling my food in Panko. The good news is- just about everything tastes great with a coating of these crispy little flakes. However I don't recommend using them in meatballs or as a filler in burgers or casseroles. You don't get the benefit of the crunch. But for coating fish, chicken, or vegetables, they are simply perfect.

Two of my favorite Panko-coated, oven fried veggies so far are zucchini and eggplant. For these two vegetables I used the same coating procedure as I did with the chicken, but I made a few changes in the seasonings. Instead of the paprika and Adobo, I substituted oregano and minced onion. Yeah, minced onion. I'm sure you have some lurking somewhere in your spice cabinet. I know my little jar has been hanging around for years. I admit it was a last minute thought, but it turned out to be a super flavor booster. Another change- I lowered the oven temp to 400 degrees, but stuck with the wire rack to prevent the vegetables from getting soggy. I cut the eggplant in 3/8 inch rounds, but with the zucchini I cut them (1/4 inch) on the bias as well as in rounds. I like the combination of the two shapes piled on the plate.

Oven Fried Eggplant
You can make this recipe using 2 small to medium zucchini- the amount of dredging ingredients will be the same

1 small/medium eggplant cut in 3/8 inch rounds- I semi peeled my eggplant so I had attractive purple stripes running along the sides
1 cup Panko bread flakes
1/4 cup AP flour
1 egg white whisked
1 tsp minced onion
1/2 tsp dried oregano
freshly ground black pepper
cooking spray
marinara sauce

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees. Set up your dredging station: flour, egg white, and Panko. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper to the flour and mix. Stir together Panko, minced onion, oregano, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Dip eggplant slices in flour, then in egg white and then in the seasoned Panko. This can seem rather tedious, probably because it really is. So when I'm dipping and dredging I keep my mind on the end result, and get through this boring task. Lightly coat the dredged eggplant with cooking spray on both sides and arrange on wire rack. Place the rack on top of a baking sheet (lined with parchment or foil) and bake 20 minutes. Turn eggplant over and bake 10 minutes more.

While the egplant is baking, heat up some marinara sauce for drizzling or dipping. I've been liking Classico tomato and basil. Not just because it tastes good, but it comes in small jars (14 oz) that are perfect for one or two people. Not too much waste.

If you make a double batch of these goodies, you'll probaby have some left over. Cold eggplant doesn't sound very appetizing. But mock pizza does. To your eggplant add a tablespoon or two of marinara sauce and top with shredded parmesan cheese. Microwave until cheese melts (about 1 minute). Instant snack.

Bon apetito.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Double Chocolate Triple Sec Cake

I picked up my mail today and along with the usual magazines, bills, and junk, there was a box shaped like a book with a return address from Reiman Publications. Uh oh. My thoughts immediately went back to 11th grade when I ordered what I thought was a book on Impressionism from the Time Life Company. It soon became clear that every month an additional art book would show up in the mailbox as part of the "series" I ordered. I could keep the new books or bring them back to the post office to be returned to Time Life. As I can be lazy now, I was even lazier back then and ended up with a collection of books I had no interest in. After this little life lesson I swore I would never order a series of anything again. And I haven't. It was my good fortune today to have received the Healthy Cooking 2010 Annual Recipes book for free. It's very similar in style to the Southern Living Annual I picked up a few weeks ago at Marshall's.

Last year Healthy Cooking published a recipe of mine in their April/May issue, and this annual is their gift to me. The recipe is called Chocolate Orange Cake and was the lead recipe in their "Eat to Beat Diabetes" section. Since it's geared towards those with some serious health issues, I'm especially proud to have succeeded in creating something that's really tasty and works for people that have dietary limitations.

Anyway, I originally called the cake "Double Chocolate, Triple Sec" but leading off with liquor in the title wasn't too conducive for the diabetic crowd, so the name was changed to something more generic. I do love that little play on words, so I had to mention it at least once in print. Here's the recipe:

Chocolate Orange Cake aka Double Chocolate Triple Sec Cake

2 tsp plus 1/3 cup baking cocoa, divided
1/3 cup quick cooking oats
2/3 cup reduced fat sour cream
1/3 cup Splenda sugar blend
2 eggs
3 T Triple Sec or orange juice
2 T butter melted
5 tsp canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
2 tsp grated orange peel

4 oz reduced fat cream cheese
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tsp grated orange peel
2 tsp orange juice

1. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8 inch square baking dish with cooking spray and sprinkle with 2 tsp cocoa; set aside. Place oats in a small food processor, cover and process until ground. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat the sour cream, sugar blend, eggs, Triple Sec, butter, oil and vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and remaining cocoa; gradually beat into sour cream mixture until blended. Stir in chocolate chips and orange peel.
3. Transfet to reserved dish. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.
4. For frosting, in a small bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add the confectioners' sugar, orange peel and juice; beat until smooth. Frost top of cake. Refrigerate leftovers.

I think you'll really enjoy this cake. I haven't made it in a while, probably because when I was testing it I made it over and over and over again, and didn't want to see it for some time. I'm ready now!

One more thing- I quickly looked at the recipes in this annual and they look pretty interesting-especially their desserts. Plus every recipe has nutrition facts such as calories/fat/carbs/sodium/fiber. You get the idea. And if you don't pick up the book this year, you'll probably see it at Marshall's next year for a song.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


There are very few A-list food products that I haven't tried. And until last week, Panko bread crumbs (or bread flakes as they like to be called) were one of them. I'm embarrased to say that it's taken me 10 years to cook with this lovely product and I'm baffled as to why I was so hesitant. It might have been because I was a sometimes food snob and made my own crumbs. But I think it may have been the price. But everything's pricey these days, so that's no longer an excuse. This week I jumped on the Panko wagon, bought a box and made chicken tenders. Simple, delicious, and oven baked.

If you've never used Panko before, don't waste another minute- they're available at the regular grocery store. Try this simple recipe/technique and you'll enjoy crispy, non-greasy, oven fried chicken that will be gobbled up in no time. Really. I ate 3 times the amount I normally would. They are that good.

You'll be making a dipping/dredging station so you'll need 2 plates (one for flour, one for the Panko) and one bowl (for the egg white). You'll also need a wire rack (I used the rack I normally cool cookies and cakes on) to cook the chicken on. One of the secrets to crispy oven frying is placing your chicken on a rack, since direct contact with the baking sheet will most likely give you a soggy crust. The second must-do is to cook at a high oven temp.

Panko coated chicken tenders

1 pound chicken tenders or thin cut scallopinis
3/4 cup Panko
1 tsp paprica
1/2 tsp Adobo seasoning- you can use salt instead
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 egg white
1/4 cup AP flour
Cooking spray

Pre heat oven to 450 degrees. Coat your wire rack with cooking spray and place it on a baking dish that has been lined with parchment or aluminum foil. This makes for an easy clean up. Set aside.

Stir together Panko, paprika, Adobo and pepper. Whisk the egg white until foamy, but not stiff. Set up your dredging station so that chicken dredges first in flour. Pat off any excess flour and dip into egg white. Now dredge in Panko. Lightly coat the dredged chicken with cooking spray on both sides and arrange on wire rack. Bake for 12 minutes. Turn over chicken pieces and bake another 7-8 minutes. Your chicken will be golden, crisp and moist.

I ate my tenders with an Asian dipping sauce that's available in the regular supermarket. I love this sauce with anything fried and crispy. And even though the word chili is in the name, it's mildly seasoned and slightly sweet. But if your dipping tastes run more along the lines of honey mustard, horseradish/sour cream, barbecue, or even ketchup- go for it. You and your tenders will be very happy.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


This has been a very healthy winter for me. Until yesterday when I woke up with a headache and fever. I'm one of those people who feeds a cold and feeds a fever. I never starve anything. I wasn't sick enough to lay around in bed, well- I did do my fair share of that. Anyway, while huddled under the electric blanket I perused one of my cooking files for something that sounded tasty, but didn't take much effort to make. My victims- 2 chicken breast halves. I didn't want soup and decided on a recipe from an old issue of Cooking Light called Ivory Coast Chicken.

I pride myself on knowing geography (for years I carried a miniature world map in my purse so I could keep abreast of current events) but for the life of me I couldn't remember where the Ivory Coast was. So I did some research. If you're interested, Cote d'Ivoire is on the south coast of the western bulge of Africa nestled between Ghana and Liberia. And it's the world's leading producer of cocoa (yum). It's inhabited by the Baoule people who cook Kedjenou, the authentic name for Ivory Coast Chicken. A few more facts...Kedjenou means "to shake", because during the cooking process you're supposed to shake your clay pot every ten minutes or so, to prevent the chicken from sticking to the bottom. Well, there's no shaking of the pot in my version, but after reading numerous recipes for this dish, I discovered there are quite a few variations that incorporate eggplant, okra and peanuts. I had none of those ingredients anyway and proceeded along the standard route ala Cooking Light, although I added my own twist and I changed the proportions since I was using 2 pieces of chicken, not eight.

adapted from Cooking Light

2 chicken breast halves, skinned
1 cup onion diced
1 cup green pepper diced (my addition)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can water
2 inches of fresh ginger grated
1 hot pepper chopped (I used 2 Serrano chiles and didn't take the seeds out. It was ideal for me, but most people I know would probably be happy with just one pepper)
3 1/2 tsp garlic chopped (about 3 large cloves)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper

Combine all ingredient in a large pot. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook one hour until chicken is done. Discard the bay leaf and serve. This dish is traditionally served with white rice, but when mine was done I shredded the chicken and added 3 cups of cooked whole wheat orzo directly to the pot.

The orzo soaked up the flavorful broth and it was comfort food at its best. I will most definately make Kedjenou again. When I was reheating it today for lunch I added a handful of raisins and they were a welcome addition. Next time I'll add them at the start, along with a small amount of white wine.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Dip It

Here's a little snack I conjured up due to my love of cheese and lemons and strawberries being on sale at the market. I thought it would be a perfect nibbler while watching the Oscars. It literally takes 5 minutes to make.

Ricotta Lemon Fondue

1 15 oz container part skim ricotta cheese
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp pure lemon extract
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 packets of Equal

Place all ingredients in blender and whirl until smooth. Serve with fresh strawberries.

No lemons? Eliminate the zest and substitute almond or coconut extract for the lemon.
No strawberries? Cubed pound cake is delish. Oh heck- eat it with a spoon.

A Supreme Combo

A few weeks ago I saw Claire Robinson (a relatively new chef on the Food Network) coat broccoli florets with orange juice and olive oil and roast them in the oven. Pretty interesting combination I thought, must try that. I must also mention that after she roasted the broccoli, she combined it with heavy cream on the stove top and did some sort of mash. It looked interesting as well, but I skipped that part and just did the roast. Great idea Claire. Thanks!

Here's what I did:

Orange Infused Roasted Broccoli
adapted from 5 Ingredient Fix

4 cups broccoli florets
juice of one orange
3T canola oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Pre heat oven to 425 degrees. In large bowl combine orange juice, oil, salt and pepper. Add florets and toss with oil/orange liquid to cover. Place florets on baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes until edges of broccoli are caramelized. Cool slightly and serve as a side dish or healthy snack.

I nibbled on these caramelized bits of goodness for two days and then bought more broccoli. And this time I took the dish a step further too. You know how much I like pasta and salads and creamy dressings- see where I'm going here? I decided I'd bump up the citrus, create a dressing that sings and put together a salad that would work as a side or light lunch I could take to work.

Roasted Broccoli and Orange Salad

4 cups roasted broccoli florets (above recipe)

2 navel oranges- they have no seeds

1 cup penne pasta uncooked- I use Dreamfields

1/2 cup scallions sliced 1/2 inch


zest of one orange

1/2 cup low fat mayonnaise

1/4 cup rice vinegar- any white wine vinegar should work here as well

2T sugar or Splenda

pinch of salt


Roast broccoli according to recipe. While broccoli is roasting, cook pasta according to package directions, then drain, rinse and set aside to cool. Zest one of the oranges and set zest aside- you'll be using it in the dressing. Now it's time to supreme the oranges. Supreming an orange is when you remove the skin and pith and slice around the orange membranes (the white stringy things that hold the orange segments together) and you come up with a "clean" wedge of fruit. Rachel Rappaport has a lovely pictorial of supreming an orange here.

After supreming is done set orange wedges aside and make the dressing: Combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl and whisk until smooth. Now, if you're questioning the amount of sugar in this dressing- believe me I did too. I started with a teaspoon and wasn't getting the oomph I was looking for until I hit two tablespoons.

Now to assemble the salad: In a large bowl combine broccoli, pasta and scallions. Add about half the dressing and toss to combine well. Add orange wedges and lightly toss again. Refrigerate until chilled, re-dress if necessary and serve.

The best part about this salad, aside from the taste, is how you can jazz it up, or add your own personality. My favorites so far are:

Thinly sliced red Fresno peppers- love the color and the spicy bite

Crumbled turkey bacon-everything's better with bacon

Kalamata olives- the contrast between the sweet dressing and the salty olives is the way I looove my food

Toasted almonds- well, they're good on everything

And let's not forget, as tasty as this salad is, the stars of the dish offer some very healthy benefits. Broccoli and oranges both protect your heart and possibly combat cancer. Broccoli also strengthens bones, controls blood pressure and helps with eyesight. Oranges, as we all know by now, support our immune system and hey- they're just so sweet and juicy. Orange you glad you're going to make this salad?