Friday, September 12, 2014

Baked Chicken and Stuffing Casserole - An Update

Baked chicken topped with Swiss cheese, homemade cream of chicken sauce and stuffing. It's one of my most popular recipes on my blog so far!


I posted this recipe for chicken and stuffing casserole last year. Since starting my blog, this casserole recipe has been one of my most viewed recipes. I made a few minor changes (added cheese, took some new photos and explained my technique a little better). I always aim to improve my recipes and plan to share with you as I update them.

The weather is supposed to remain cool the next few days. This would be the perfect casserole for a hearty, evening meal!

Baked Chicken and Stuffing Casserole

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Oven-Baked Chicken Nuggets

Crispy, oven-baked chicken nuggets covered in toasted Panko breadcrumbs. A satisfying main dish for adults and kids alike!


Chicken nuggets: they can either be delicious or done horribly wrong. I very rarely eat a fast food chicken nugget because of the way they are made.  Chicken nuggets should be simple: small bite size pieces of white meat chicken. Not, a chicken patty made of chicken pieces smooshed together in an odd nugget shape. I refuse to eat those types of nuggets.


This recipe consists of chicken breasts (or tenderloins) cut into small pieces and covered in crispy Panko breadcrumbs. No mystery ingredients. Just plain and simple.


I use Panko breadcrumbs because they give the perfect crunch to oven-baked "fried" chicken. The only problem is that Panko is rather white and only lightly browns when it is baked for less than 15 minutes. I toss mine into non-stick skillet and toast the crumbs to get them golden before using. The light toasting enhances the flavor and gives the exterior a beautiful golden color. I will emphasize that it only needs a light toasting--about five minutes and they are good. Once they are golden, remove them from the heat. The crumbs can easily begin to burn so watch them carefully!

I set up a small "assembly" station to make the nuggets. You will need three shallow dishes--I use casserole dishes and pie plates. Each dish is as follows:

Dish #1: flour, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and paprika
Dish #2: one egg, beaten
Dish # 3: toasted Panko breadcrumbs

On a cutting board, I cut one pound of chicken tenderloins into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces. Sprinkle the chicken with a little salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in flour, shake off the excess. Dip into the egg mixture and then into the Panko. Cover with the Panko and then set onto a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Once all the nuggets are on the tray, spray the tops with a little oil and pop into the oven. After 7 minutes, turn over and bake an additional 5-7 minutes or until done (time will depend on the size of the chicken).

Serve chicken immediately with your favorite dipping sauce.

Oven-Baked Chicken Nuggets

Ingredients
  • 1-lb. fresh, chicken tenderloins or breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Non-stick cooking spray, such as: Pam, olive or canola oil
Directions

You will need three shallow casserole dishes or pie plates. The chicken nuggets have a three dip assembly and each item needs to be kept separate. 

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. On a cutting board, cut chicken into 1-1 1/2 inch pieces. Sprinkle evenly with a little salt and pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon of each) and set aside.

2. To toast breadcrumbs: heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Toast Panko breadcrumbs in the skillet until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Stir Panko every ten seconds or so, making sure the breadcrumbs do not burn. Transfer to a shallow dish. In the second dish, mix together the flour, paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. In third dish, crack one egg and beat well.

3. To make nuggets: take seasoned nuggets and dredge lightly in flour, shaking off any excess. Dip the floured chicken into the egg, allow any excess to drip off and then dip into the Panko. Press the Panko onto the chicken and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Spray the tops of the chicken nuggets with a little oil to set the crumbs.

4. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 12-14 minutes. After 7 minutes of baking, remove pan from oven and carefully flip chicken over. Return pan to oven and bake the additional 5-7 minutes or until done. Cooking times will vary on the size of chicken pieces you are cooking. Chicken should register 165 on a instant read thermometer and be golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Yields: 4-6 Servings

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Pasta Salad

Fresh veggies and perfectly cooked pasta tossed together with Italian dressing and Parmesan cheese. It's one of my favorite summer salads!


I hope everyone had a relaxing holiday weekend! My husband has been back to work for about 3 weeks now (he's a school teacher), so it was nice to have a few days off with him.

Now that Labor Day is gone, summer is officially winding down. This recipe is a summer barbeque favorite of mine. I use a variety of summer vegetables: grape tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, red onion, and carrots. Chop them into bite size pieces, toss with cooked rotini and the Italian dressing of your choice. Delicious and simple!

All of the vegetables need to be washed and dried well before assembling the salad. When chopping up the vegetables, leave pieces that are all similar in size as shown below.

Grape tomatoes: slice lengthwise in half, Cucumber: Halfway peeled, sliced and then cut into fourths, Red Onion: Diced, Carrots: Peeled and diced, Bell Pepper: Diced

While prepping the vegetables, boil the pasta according to package directions. Do not overcook the pasta! I can't emphasize the importance of this. Nothing ruins a good pasta dish like mushy, overcooked pasta. I always go by the "al dente" directions on the box, sometimes even a minute less. You want your pasta to have a little resistance when you bite into it. Once you toss warm pasta with sauce or dressing, it absorbs the liquid and softens the pasta a little more. When in doubt, under cook it just a tad.

Once everything is prepped and the pasta is done, toss the veggies, pasta, and dressing in a large mixing bowl. I start by adding about 1/4 of the bottle of dressing (sounds like a lot, but this is a big salad). The pasta will absorb the dressing as it chills, so adjust as needed. Chill the salad for at least two hours before serving. Once it is chilled, give the pasta a quick stir (dressing tends to fall to the bottom) adjust dressing as needed and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. I think I ended up using about 1/3 of the bottle of dressing. Of course, a homemade Italian dressing will work just as well. Use whatever you like.


Serve this pasta salad with your favorite barbeque or summer foods. But watch out, it's easy to fill up on this salad! I could make a complete meal out of it.

Pasta Salad

Ingredients
  • 1-12 ounce package of rotini, cooked according to package directions (I prefer the pasta al dente)
  • 1 small package of grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 cucumber, halfway peeled, sliced and then cut into fourths
  • 1/2-3/4 red onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • Italian dressing of your choice (I prefer a robust Italian dressing)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

1. Boil pasta according to box directions, leaving al dente or slightly firm. Drain pasta well.

2. While pasta is cooking, wash and prep your vegetables. Allow vegetables to drain well, or dry with paper towels. Chop vegetables so that they are all similar in size.

3. Toss pasta, vegetables, and Italian dressing together.  I start with 1/4 of the bottle of dressing and adjust as needed. Refrigerate for at least two hours or until well chilled. Stir and taste before serving. Adjust dressing if needed. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.