Pizza Strata

I don’t know what the weather is like in your area, but in mine, the temperatures are plummeting. It’s really really cold. I’ve spent the past few years living on the West coast, so these are temperatures I have not had to live with in a very long time; it’s been, and continues to be a (re)adjustment.

Apart of that readjustment is my leaning more towards cooking food that is hearty and stick-to-your-ribs. The kind that makes you want to burrow under a blanket and take a nap afterwards.

I spent most of my life in the Midwest, and in the Midwest, we love our pizza. We take it very seriously. I love to eat and also make it, and as I’ve shown on the blog before, that’s not necessarily always strictly in solely pizza ‘form.’ There are some pretty interesting ways to transfer the pizza ‘flavor’ to other dishes, which is what we’re doing here today.

This recipe happened for the reason that a lot of strata recipes happen; I had an excess of slightly stale bread in my fridge that I didn’t want to go to waste. I decided to make a strata, but rather than go the typical breakfast-y route with sausage/ham/bacon, I started thinking about other possibilities that could work.

This is where I ended up.

Right off the bat, I want to emphasize that this is NOT Chicago Style deep dish pizza, which is not a favorite of mine at all. A Chicago style pizza is a pie composed of mostly cheese, with some toppings and sauce thrown on top. This is a strata, where stale bread and veggies are baked and set in an eggy-milk mixture. Think a breakfast strata, but it’s pizza ‘flavored’.

Another thing I’ll say that this recipe is HUGELY customizable. I used pepperoni, bell peppers and onions as my ‘toppings’, but so long as you keep to the ratio of bread, eggs and milk, you can customize the rest of the recipe ingredients to whatever your personal tastes are for pizza.

One thing that surprised me about the finished product was that it wasn’t as ‘heavy’ as I expected it to be in eating it. The flavors were of course, still reminiscent of pizza, but my stomach didn’t feel as heavy as it does after I’ve eaten pizza. It was satisfying without bringing on the lethargy.

Plus, it’s pretty delicious, if I may say so myself.

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Pizza Strata

Recipe Adapted from Food52

Ingredients

  • 10-12 cups lightly packed garlic or herb flavored bread, slightly stale and cubed (I used leftover rolls from this recipe, but really any sturdy herb-y bread will work)
  • 16 large eggs
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion
  • 6 oz. of sliced cooked pepperoni* (You can substitute mushrooms here to make this vegetarian, or even add 6 oz of mushrooms to the existing strata itself; feel free to use whatever are your favorite pizza toppings)
  • 14 oz. pizza sauce, plus more if desired
  • About 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese (or more, if you prefer)

Directions

In a large skillet, heat a few tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil to medium heat. Saute first the bell peppers, then the onions until they are softened and translucent. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and seasonings until well combined and yolks are broken.

Spray a 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray.

Layer a third of the cubed bread in the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of the peppers and onions. Add a layer of the pepperoni. Repeat until you’ve layered all the bread, vegetables and pepperoni in the dish.

Pour the egg-milk mixture over the strata, using a rubber spatula to ensure that it gets into the corners and absorbs all of the ingredients.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 24 hours. (If chilling for later, let the strata sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before baking.) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Drop large dollops of about half (7 oz) of the pizza sauce on top of the strata, using a spoon to spread it out a little.

Cover with aluminum foil, and bake the strata until puffed, golden brown around the edges, and set in the center, about 55-60minutes. (Insert a knife in the center; if it comes out clean and without eggy residue, it’s ready.)

Remove the strata from the oven, remove the foil, and preheat broiler.

Dollop the rest of the pizza sauce on top and sprinkle the top with as much cheese as desired. Return to the oven and broil until the cheese is browned and bubbling.

Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving with additional pizza sauce is desired.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #405.

My Pancakes

Although this blog was founded with the understanding that I love to cook and have gotten rather good at it over the years, there are a few things that I have put forth concerted effort towards become very good at making.

I’ve said (and shown) before that Biscuits are one of them. Today’s recipe is another.

I don’t think I’ve ever shared this on the blog before, but if you were to ask me what my favorite food was, at just about any point in my life, the answer would always be the same: pancakes. Pancakes are hands down my favorite food, of all time.

I’ve loved them for as long as I can remember. There is never a time where I’m not up for them. They have all the basic components of basically everything I love about food: carbs, butter and sweetness (from syrup).

It’s a little weird to look back upon now, but even during the time that I ‘couldn’t’ cook, I learned how to make pancakes. They were “just Add water’ pancakes, but still; it was that important to me. Later on, when I did decide to learn how to cook for real, I decided to elevate my Pancakes Game and learn how to make them from scratch.

To be honest, I’m a little embarrassed and disappointed with myself that it’s taken this long for me to share this recipe on the blog. It’s one of my favorites, I’ve been using it for years and there’s never been a time that it ever let me down.

Pancake connoisseurs will know that there is an art and a science to a pancake. They’re not all the same. Some folks like them thin, others like them thick. Some folks like them with fruit, and others like them plain. Some folks prefer to make them in a skillet, others prefer a griddle. My preference has always been for a thick and cakey pancake. If fruit like blueberries or strawberries are thrown in, great; I’m perfectly fine eating them plain as well.

I know that most people just prefer to fall back on Bisquick or other Just Add Water mixes, and I understand that. However, I do believe that makig pancakes from scratch is worth the added 1 or 2 steps–and it really is just 1 or 2 added steps.

Having said that, this is a straightforward and I believe, relatively easy recipe. The only distinction that my pancake recipe has from many typical others, is that I take the added step of separating my eggs, beating the egg whites into soft peaks, the folding them into the batter at the last minute. You wouldn’t believe the difference this makes in the finished product. The pancakes come out light, fluffy and cake-y, which is exactly how I (as well as everyone I’ve ever made them for) likes them.

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My Pancakes

Recipe Adapted from Veronica’s Cornucopia

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup canola oil, or melted butter, plus more for the skillet
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

In a medium size mixing bowl combine together all of the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt). Stir together with a fork and set aside.

In a small bowl combine the egg yolks, canola oil or melted butter and the vanilla extract. Stir together.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, then pour the egg yolk/oil mixture inside the well. Add the buttermilk, then stir gently, just until combined–do not over-mix or the pancakes will be rubbery. It’s fine if there are lumps left in the batter.

Place the egg whites in a small bowl, then using a handheld mixer, beat them until they are white and have stiff peaks that are still soft.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Lightly coat a skillet or a griddle with 1 tablespoon of butter and Heat to medium low.

Drop 1/4 cup of batter onto heated skillet/griddle. Cook on first side until bubbles begin to form on surface, 2-3 minutes. Flip over and cook another 2-3 minutes until golden brown and centre springs back when lightly touched.

Keep finished pancakes in the microwave or a cold oven while you cook the rest.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #403.

Roasted Garlic & Herb Smothered Chicken

I thought up this recipe in what’s probably the most ‘me’ way possible:

I was lying awake one night in bed, staring at my ceiling and trying to decide what I was going to cook for dinner that weekend. I had plenty of old options that I’ve made before and would’ve worked, but I wanted to do something new and different. I didn’t feel like being very finicky or working with a lot of ingredients. I just wanted a simple, but hearty and comforting dish.

There are certain ingredients that I know from experience of both taste and cooking can make chicken shine better than others.

Herbs and garlic are right at the top of that list.

By the time I made up my mind about using those ingredients, I still didn’t have an exact play by play for the dish, but I figured that as long as those ingredients remained the main flavor profile, it would be almost impossible to screw up so that it would be inedible.

The recipe title really says it all here, you guys. I brown the chicken first to give it good flavor, then I braise it in a broth/gravy that I made from a base of roasted garlic paste and herbs of thyme, parsley, rosemary and bay leaf.

It turned out exactly how I wanted it to. The flavors here created from the roasted garlic and herbs are just outstanding. It tastes clean and comforting without being heavy and braising the chicken makes it easy to pull into shredded pieces that as you can see, are perfect for sliders (which is another way that I served them).

This was a great experiment and well worth sharing here on the blog.

Roasted Garlic & Herb Smothered Chicken

Recipe by Jess@CookingisMySport

Ingredients

  • 6 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into medium sized (about 2 inches) cubes
  • 2 large sweet onions
  • 3 whole garlic heads
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of your favorite multi-purpose seasoning (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Saute)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (1 full bunch) of fresh parsley
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 80 oz. chicken broth*

Directions

For Roasted Garlic:

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Peel the loose skin away from the garlic and cut the tops off of the heads, but make sure the cloves stay attached to each other. Place them on a long strip of aluminum foil. Drizzle them with the oil and sprinkle evenly with salt & pepper.

Draw up the ends of the foil and tightly seal it into a package. Place the foil package in a shallow dish. Roast in the oven for about 50 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then remove the roasted garlic to a small bowl by pressing the cloves out of the remaining skins and into a small bowl with your fingers (they should come out easily).

Set the garlic aside for now.

For Chicken:

Divide the cubed chicken into two 1 gallon sized plastic bags.

In a medium size bowl combine 2 cups of the flour with the multi purpose seasoning and stir together with a fork.

Evenly divide the flour mixture between the two ziploc bags. Seal tightly, then toss to coat thoroughly, so that there is an even layer over meat.

Coat the bottom of a large non-stick stockpot or Dutch Oven with a few tablespoons of canola, vegetable or olive oil. Brown the floured meat over high heat on the stovetop. Don’t worry about it cooking all the way through, just cook long enough to give it some color. When it’s browned, temporarily move the meat to a sheet pan. Don’t overcrowd the pot, you’ll have to repeat/do this in about 2-3 batches to get through all of the meat.

When you’re finished browning the meat, add a little bit more oil to the pot, then add the onions. Cook over medium heat until they’re softened and translucent, 5-10 minutes. Remove the onions from the pot and place them with the browned chicken.

Mash the roasted garlic with a fork until it is in a smooth paste.

Pour the chicken broth into the pot with the garlic paste, the herbs, the bay leaves, the honey and the soy sauce. Use a wire whisk to stir, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes, tasting and adjusting for seasoning (but also keep in mind, it’s going to develop even more flavor in the oven, so it’s okay if it doesn’t taste perfect just yet)

Spray two 11 x 13 baking dishes with cooking spray and place the browned chicken and onions in the dishes. When the garlic-herb broth is at your taste level, ladle it over the chicken so that is is at least half-submerged. (You’ll have extra broth leftover, this is fine) Cover the baking dishes tightly with foil.

Braise in the oven for 50-60 minutes, until the chicken can be easily pulled apart with a fork.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #394, co-hosted this week by the lovely Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Hoisin Meatballs

I don’t know what it is about them as a dish that prompts this response, but I’ve just always thought of meatballs as a celebration/special occasion food. They’re like the little black dress of party foods; they go with everything. It’s never a bad time to bring them out.

Cocktail hour at a wedding? You serve meatballs.

Graduation open house? You serve meatballs.

Wedding or baby shower? You serve meatballs.

Summer barbecue for a crowd? You serve meatballs.

Typically the above scenarios will have precooked frozen meatballs in order to serve them en masse, which is perfectly fine. But I tend to prefer to make my own from scratch. I’ve shared several recipes before on the blog with different variations of meatballs. The possibilities are pretty wide for what you can come up with.

One of the more underrated ingredients that I keep in my pantry/fridge is hoisin sauce. If I had to describe the taste, I’d say it’s like…an Asian ketchup. A lot of times it’s used for stir-fries, but I actually use it for non-Asian dishes as well.

Here’s a pro-tip for you: a tablespoon or two of hoisin sauce in your beef stew broth will give it INCREDIBLE richness of flavor. I keep it on hand for that reason alone.

This recipe is pretty straight forward and easy, and the real only ‘labor’ involved in it is rolling meatballs, which I personally find somewhat therapeutic once I get into a groove. I tend to bake mine to give them a more even cook all the way around, and it’s also healthier than frying. I use ground turkey as a base, but I do add a little bit of ground pork roll sausage just to make sure they don’t dry out, as turkey can sometimes do.

The meatballs are wonderful all by themselves, but the hoisin sauce is the hero of this dish, no question. Hoisin all on it Its own is pretty thick and strong, so this one gets thinned out with some orange juice and chicken broth, then flavored with fresh ginger and sesame oil. I

Whatever the occasion you’re cooking for, I recommend trying these. They’re delicious.

Hoisin Meatballs

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine and Cooks Illustrated

For Meatballs

  • 3 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 lb. ground sausage
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic clove
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 6 sliced scallions
  • 1 1/2-2 cups panko breadcrumbs*
  • 4 eggs

For Sauce:

  • 3 teaspoons vegetable/canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 3/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups orange juice
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts sliced 1/8 inch thick on bias
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Sesame seeds, optional

Directions

For Meatballs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two sheet pans with aluminum foil and place two wire racks on top of each pan. Lightly spray the rack with cooking spray and set aside

In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey and sausage with the ginger, garlic, sugar, pepper, and scallions.

Add the soy sauce, then the eggs. Pour in 1 1/2 cups of the panko breadcrumbs and mix together with your hand; don’t knead it too much though, or the meatballs may be tough. If the mixture seems too wet, you can always add the extra 1/2 cup more of the panko breadcrumbs to tighten it up.

Shape into meatballs (about 2 heaping tablespoons each. Place 1 1/2 inches apart on a lightly greased (with cooking spray) rack in an aluminum foil-lined jelly-roll pan.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes on the middle rack, or until browned.

For Sauce

Melt about 3 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a medium sized saucepan and heat until shimmering. Add the grated ginger and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 15 seconds.

Add the hoisin sauce, orange juice, and broth and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the saucepan with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Simmer until liquid reduces and thickens to desired consistency.

Stir in the sesame oil and the scallions. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the sauce over the meatballs and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.

Linking to Fiesta Friday #384.

Browned Butter Chicken Salad

I can just hear what some of you may be thinking:

Good grief, she’s at it agaiiiiiin!

Yeah. I know. More browned butter. I still just can’t quit using it.

But in my defense, today I finally found a way to put it to a rather healthy use.

I mean, as healthy as things can be considering the fact that we’re talking about butter here.

But in all seriousness, I am still excited about this recipe; first because it’s not only another tasty use of one of my favorite ingredients, but also because it’s a savory application of it, which I’ve mentioned before was something that I’ve really really wanted to experiment with.

About once every month or so, my taste buds experience a strange phase where they don’t want anything that’s ‘cooked.’ I mean, nothing. The only foods that I’ll be in the mood for during those particular phases is cold cut sandwiches and salads.

Weird, I know.

But when those times come around, I do honor my cravings and stick to the cold cuts and salads for dinner for several days. This past time, I decided to deviate from my norm of turkey sandwiches and/or using shredded rotisserie chicken that I just chop up and toss in salad, try to test out a recipe I’d had my eye on for several months or so.

Vinaigrettes are my favorite, and actually the only type of dressing that I’ll eat. They have that perfect balance of acidity, sweetness and savory that amplifies the flavors of salad veggies without making them ‘eat heavy’ if you know what I mean. The ingredients for today’s recipe are inspired by a similar chicken salad dish I did a few years ago where I made a roasted garlic vinaigrette to dress the salad in. The primary difference between then and now is that rather than roasted garlic, browned butter is now the star of this show.

You may be skeptical of this at first, especially because I’ve only ever shared browned butter as an ingredient for desserts. But let me tell you, this really works. Browned butter has a golden, nutty flavor to it and I was surprised at just how well that nuttiness played against the sharp acidity of the vinegar and lemon juice in the salad dressing.

This was light, refreshing and delicious. I recommend eating it as a sandwich on a sturdy, crusty bun…like these from last week.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Get the vaccine when it’s your turn. Be kind.

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Browned Butter Chicken Salad

Dressing Recipe Adapted from MyRecipes.com

Ingredients

For Dressing

  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 sprig of sage (about 4 leaves), finely chopped
  • ½ shallot, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon)

For Salad

  • 2 rotisserie chickens, deboned (It should yield about 4-5 cups of shredded, and/or chopped chicken)
  • 1 red onion
  • .75 oz (21 grams) fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 oz fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 roasted red peppers, chopped

Directions

For Dressing: Melt the butter over medium heat in a 2 quart saucepan. Let it cook and watch it closely until 3-5 minutes until the butter begins to foam, forms a golden brown color and browned bits form on the bottom. (It will have a sweet, nutty smell).

The moment you see the right color, remove the pan from heat and add your chopped sage and shallot. Sizzle and swirl in the hot pan for about a minute, then transfer to a heatproof bowl.  Add salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, balsamic and lemon juice, and whisk together until vinaigrette looks glossy and smooth. Taste and add salt to your preferences, then allow to cool.

Meanwhile, combine the chicken, onion, red peppers, onion, mint and parsley together in a large bowl. Slowly drizzle in about half of the dressing and stir thoroughly to combine. Taste it—if it’s to your satisfaction, you can leave off the rest of the dressing and save it for later, or you can add and stir it into the rest of the salad mixture.

Cover the chicken salad and refrigerate for at least a few hours, but preferably overnight to allow flavors to meld.

Serve salad on crusty, sturdy sandwich rolls, like these 🙂

Linking to Fiesta Friday #376, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Cornmeal Sage Chicken Biscuit

As much as I love it, I actually don’t fry chicken at home very often.

For one, it’s time consuming, especially if you’re like me and you prefer to put your chicken in a marinade beforehand to make sure it’s juicy and flavorful. It can get messy, even when you set up separate stations for flour, buttermilk, the rack for the raw chicken, then the rack for the cooked chicken–and don’t even get me started on the clean up.

But even with all the finicky details, whenever I do decide to make fried chicken, I’m never disappointed. It’s a project, but the end result is always oh so worth it.

Y’all, I’ve been so excited to share today’s recipe. It was not only worth the time and effort, it exceeded all of my expectations as far as taste. If you saw last week’s post you’ll know I said it was actually a two parter, with the biscuits being Part I. When I originally made them, I paired them with the fried chicken of today’s recipe to make one of my favorite foods of all time: the chicken biscuit.

The chicken biscuit dish is exactly what it sounds like: a piece of fried chicken sandwiched between a biscuit that’s been cut in half. It sounds simple–perhaps even too simple–but those of us who love them that it’s anything but.

Fried chicken and biscuits as individual components themselves require a certain amount of know-how to execute. A biscuit for chicken biscuit needs to rise high enough to be able to stand up to the bulk of the chicken itself, and it doesn’t hurt for it to have enough of it’s own flavor so that it’s not just bland bread. Apart from being seasoned properly, the fried chicken should also have a thick, crunchy crust to contrast with the soft texture of the biscuit.

But when you get both components right and put them together, it’s a truly beautiful and delicious thing.

This was my first time frying chicken with cornmeal in the batter and I have to say, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The texture, and even the flavor it gave to the crust was amazing. And as I said last week, the combination of sage and cornmeal in the biscuit dough gave it enough of its own flavor so as it’s not just a ‘container’ to hold the chicken. It more than held its own. This really was one of the best things I’ve cooked in a long time, and I highly recommend you give it a shot.

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Cornmeal Sage Chicken Biscuit

Recipe Adapted from A Previous Recipe on Cooking is My Sport, and Country Living

Ingredients

For Biscuits:

  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground sage
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite savory spice mix (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, (1 1/2 sticks) frozen
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2-2 cups buttermilk, plus more if necessary

For Chicken:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper, optional
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of your favorite seasoning blend; I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 c. Buttermilk
  • 5-7 chicken cutlets (about 1 lb.) halved crosswise
  • 7 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c. hot sauce (like Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 3 tbsp. Honey

For Biscuits

In a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, sugar, sage and the seasoning mix. Stir together with a fork.

 Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the sour cream. Use a fork to ‘cut’ it into the dry ingredients until it forms thick clumps. Make another hole in the middle of the dry ingredients, and pour the buttermilk. Use a large fork and a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add the additional buttermilk, just until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or a clean smooth countertop with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Use a bench scraper or a large sharp knife to divide the dough in half. Roughly shape each half into a square. Stack one of the halves on top of the other and use a rolling pin to roll it together into one mass. Repeat this process 4-5 more times before patting it into one final rectangle. (This is a process of layering so that the biscuits will bake flaky).

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour and unwrap the biscuit dough out onto it. Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a biscuit cutter, or a knife to cut the dough into rounds about 2″ each. You can recut the leftover dough into new biscuits, just try not to handle it too much.

Remove the cut biscuits to the baking sheet you’ve lined with parchment paper, placing them rather close to each other (it will help them rise higher). Place the tray into the freezer about 15 minutes.

Spray the tops with cooking spray. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, covering them with foil if they brown too quickly.

For Chicken:

Line a baking sheet with wax paper, foil, or plastic wrap on the bottom, then place a wire rack on top.

Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, cayenne, salt, and black pepper in a bowl. Pour buttermilk into a separate bowl. Working with one piece at a time, toss chicken in flour mixture, dip in buttermilk, then toss again in flour mixture. Transfer to the wire rack to allow batter to set, about 2-3 minutes.

Repeat dipping process one more time. Then, working in batches of no more than 3 pieces at a time, fry the chicken in the oil. Turn it occasionally and monitor the temperature of the oil (a instant read thermometer works GREAT for this) as you work until it is golden brown on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. (It may look a little pale, but it browns more when you take it out, so don’t worry) When finished remove chicken to another sheet pan lined with paper towels and a wire rack to drain.

To assemble sandwich: Whisk together hot sauce and honey in a bowl. Split a biscuit in half, drizzle chicken with spicy honey, then assemble sandwich with pickles.

Sharing this recipe at Fiesta Friday #366.

Chicken Empanadas

Meatpies are one of my favorite foods. Back when my kitchen skills were as advanced as scrambling eggs or boiling pasta, I used to tell myself that if I ever learned how to cook one of the things I was going to learn and learn well, was how to make a meatpie.

While I still may have some more things to learn, I do think the practice I’ve had thus far has led me to understand what really makes a good meatpie. It depends on giving equal amounts attention and consideration of both the casing and the filling because a good filling encased in tough pastry is no bueno, and a good pastry with bland filling is also not so great.

My strategy for avoiding bland meatpie filling is to as Chopped judge Marc Murphy says “season with authority.” I’ve tried to inject flavor at just about every step of the cooking of this empanada filling. And then after it’s finished, I allow it to rest in the fridge just to give the spices the time to really set in so that they come through after the empanadas are finished baking.

The key to flakiness of this crust is the shortening. It’s VERY easy to work with and roll out. I could obviously still use some more practice when it comes to my crimping/sealing skills, but that’s completely on me, not the recipe. Trust me, it really does melt in your mouth when you eat it.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe. Be Kind.

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Chicken Empanadas

Filling recipe by Jess@CookingisMySport, Pastry recipe courtesy of The Kitchn 

Ingredients

For Chicken Filling

  • 2.5-3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 1 (1 oz.) packet of your favorite taco or fajita seasoning
  • 2 bell peppers, diced (you can mix and match different kinds; I used 1 red and 1 green)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 16-32 oz low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of smoked Paprika
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For Pastry

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening or lard, frozen
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup ice water
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Directions

For filling:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

In a small bowl combine the taco/fajita seasoning with 1/3 cup of the flour. Place the cubed chicken in a gallon sized resealable plastic bag. Pour the flour-seasoning mixture over the chicken and seal the bag. Toss the bag to season the chicken in the flour until evenly coated.

Pour a tablespoon of oil (canola, vegetable or olive) in the bottom of a Dutch oven or pot. Sear the chicken over high heat, just to get a crust on the outside of it (it doesn’t need to be cooked through here). Remove the chicken to a 13 x 9 baking dish and keep loosely covered. (you may need to do this in batches).

When the chicken has finished searing, pour a bit more oil into the bottom of the pot and saute the peppers and onions over medium heat until they are soft and translucent. Remove them to a bowl and set aside.

Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of flour into the pot, and allow to toast for about 2 minutes. Pour in 16 oz of the chicken broth and stir briskly with a whisk or fork until flour is dissolved and a smooth and somewhat thick ‘gravy’ forms, then pour in the other 16 oz of broth. Season the mixture with the cumin, smoked paprika, honey and salt and pepper. Allow to come up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Pour the gravy mixture over the chicken. Tightly cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until chicken is fork tender.

Remove the chicken from the baking dish and mix with the sauteed onions and peppers. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to meld and for the filling to completely chill.

For crust:

Place 3 cups of the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Use a box grater (or cut it up into small cubes) to cut the shortening/lard into the dry ingredients. Stir together with a fork. It should have a sandy texture.

Whisk the egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl until combined. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients.Continue mixing until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Empty mixture onto a lightly floured work surface and use your hands to shape it into a rough ball. Using the heels of your hands, gently knead the dough into a smooth, elastic ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or overnight.

Lightly flour a clean, large work surface and a rolling pin. Roll the dough out to about 1/8-inch thick. Using a 4-inch-round pastry-cutting mold, cut circles from the dough. (Alternatively use a knife and trace around a 4-inch plate to form the circles.)

Gather the dough scraps and form into a ball again. Roll out the dough and cut more circles. (If the dough springs back and is difficult to roll out, let it rest before rolling again.) Makes about 16 dough circles.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.Take 1 of the cut circles and and place 2 heaping tablespoons of the filling in the center. Brush the edges of the empanada with the beaten egg. Fold the circle in half to form a half moon and seal the edges together with a fork or pinch with your fingers. (Be mindful when sealing to squeeze out any air pockets.) Place on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough circles, spacing the formed empanadas a few inches apart.

Chill the formed empanadas for 20 minutes before baking. Meanwhile, arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 375°F.

Place both sheets in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the sheets front to back and top to bottom, and continue baking until the empanadas are golden-brown, about 10 minutes more. Let cool a few minutes before serving with salsa.

Linking to Fiesta Friday #363, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

I’ve said it before, but one of the goals I set for myself in doing this Christmas series every year is to try and include at least one savory option in the mix. There are plenty of people out there who aren’t into sweets. God knows *I* don’t know or understand that lifestyle, but I can at least acknowledge that it exists by trying to factor it into my offerings on the blog for Christmas.

The savory baking I tend to do at Christmas usually translates into warm, comfort food-style dinners or brunch foods. In 2016, it was Stuffing Bread. In 2017, it was Tourtiere. In 2018, it was chicken hand pies. This year, I decided to do a little bit of recipe recycling to come up with something different.

Last week, I kicked off the series with these Orange Cranberry Buns. The recipe made quite a lot of them; there were leftovers. Granted, they were perfectly delicious all on their own, but I did get to thinking about ways I could use them for something else. What do you guys do when you’ve got a bunch of leftover bread sitting around? My thoughts exactly; you make bread pudding.

Now granted you don’t HAVE to make those buns just to make this dish. Any flavor or style of bread will work so long as it’s bread with a strong and sturdy crumb that can hold up under the milk and egg soaking. Look around the bakery aisle of your grocery store for challah, brioche, potato rolls; any of those will work perfectly here. But I will say that using these buns for it would be an AMAZING choice. Your tastebuds would thank you for it.

Most times, bread pudding is extremely sweet; a dessert, really. But, I’ve experimented with savory variations of it before here on the blog, which is what gave me the idea for this dish in the first place. That recipe used ham. This one uses sausage. Sausage is a very common ingredient when it comes to traditional dressing, and the flavors in that dish are the inspiration for the flavor profile I was shooting for. When it comes to mix-ins, I kept it simple. Spinach and onions and that was great for us. However, it’s really up to you as to what else you put inside. It’s kinda hard to screw this up when it comes to the mix-ins.

The cranberry sauce may seem like an odd choice for a savory dish, but just hear me out: it works. The saltiness of the sausage plays against the sweetness of the bread, and when you add the tartness and slight bitter flavor of the cranberry sauce to that, it’s a REALLY great bite. My sister took one bite of bread pudding together with a bit of the cranberry sauce, smiled and said, “Wow. It tastes like Christmas.”

That should tell you everything you need to know.

Day 1: Orange Cranberry Buns

Day 2: Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

 

Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

Adapted from a previous recipe on Cooking is My Sport, and Anne Burrell

Ingredients

For Bread Pudding

  • 7-8 cups cubed leftover, stale bread (you want a nice and sturdy bread, like a challah or brioche)
  • 3 lbs pork sausage
  • 16 oz fresh spinach
  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups milk, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of your favorite herb blend (Italian seasoning will work fine)

For Cranberry Sauce

  • 12 oz. fresh cranberries
  • 6 clementines, peeled and sectioned
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Directions

For Bread Pudding

Place the bread cubes in a medium size bowl and stir together with 1 cup of the milk. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, until bread has absorbed most of the liquid.

Meanwhile, pour about 1 tablespoon of oil in the bottom of a large skillet or pot, and brown the sausage over medium heat. Drain the grease and set aside sausage in a medium sized bowl.

Saute the spinach in the same pan/pot until it is just wilted and vibrantly green, about 5 minutes. Remove to a separate bowl and set aside.

Saute the onions in the same pot, until they are translucent and limp, about 7-10 minutes. Remove to another bowl and set aside.

In medium size bowl, using a wire whisk combine the eggs, the milk, and the seasonings, beating until yolks are broken.

Spray an 11 x 13 baking dish generously with cooking spray. Spread half of the bread cubes in the dish. Scatter half of the sausage, spinach and sauteed onions on top of the cubes in an even layer. Drizzle half of the egg-milk mixture over that. Repeat, layering the rest of the bread, then the sausage, spinach and onions. Then, pour the rest of the egg-milk on top.

Cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350°F. Uncover the dish then bake on the middle rack until the top is golden brown and the pudding is firm in the middle, 60-65 minutes. Serve warm with the cranberry sauce.

For Cranberry Sauce:

In a small saucepan combine fresh cranberries, clementines, orange and cranberry juices, sugar, cinnamon stick, and star anise.

Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the dried cranberries and simmer for 10 to 15 more minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Store overnight in the fridge to allow sauce to set, then serve alongside bread pudding

Linking to Fiesta Friday #357, co-hosted this week by Diann@Of Goats & Greens.

Chicken Taco Stew

I think that I’ve mentioned this before on here, but because it’s relevant to this post/recipe I’ll say it again: I don’t like soup.

I never really have, even as a child. I didn’t really know why back then. Now that I’m older and have embraced my love of my food, I have a very clear awareness of what I like, what I don’t like, and the reasons why. My reasons for disliking soup can be summed up in one word: consistency.

I just don’t like the consistency of soup. When I was a child I can remember never really liking Campbells’ soup from a can, but I can also remember holding a particular preference, even a like for Dinty Moore’s stews. Looking back, I can say that the preference came from the consistency of the food.

I never really liked having to ‘slurp’ my food, the way you would have to slurp a broth. In my mind, slurping has just always been for beverages and chewing has always just been for food; the lines between the two just don’t need to be blurred. I like my food to have texture, richness and ‘body’ to it; body is just something that to me, most soups are lacking. They lack heartiness to me. I’m never full after I eat them, and for that reason I don’t cook or eat them very much at all.

What does that have to do with today’s post? Well, in the spirit of full disclosure, the inspiration for the flavors of this recipe came from another recipe that some of you may have heard of: taco soup. I’ve seen it floating around mainly Pinterest and it’s become pretty popular as most iterations of it are low calorie, low fat and great for dieting. The flavors in taco soup are supposed to emulate eating a taco; a food that is safe to say, not low calorie or low fat. I like tacos, for sure; soup? Not so much.

So this is my riff, or rather, my improvement on taco soup: Chicken taco stew.

I can’t speak for how low carb, low fat or low whatever my taco stew is, y’all. That’s really not my ministry. What I CAN tell you, is that it is absolutely delicious.

I make the base of my stews to be rather thick and hearty. Again, it’s all about the consistency for me. In my mind, the perfect ‘broth’ of a stew can form a coating on the back of a spoon. The thicker and richer the base, the more I can appreciate the flavors of the food itself.

Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients here. It’s mostly seasoning, and the actual process of putting everything together is very straightforward and easy to follow. Combined with the heartiness of the base, the chicken and the beans, this is comfort food to the nth degree. It really is like eating a bowl of tacos that wrap you and your stomach up in a warm hug.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe.

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Chicken Taco Stew

Recipe from Jess@CookingisMySport

Ingredients

  • 5-6lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large or 2 mediums yellow sweet onion, sliced thinly
  • (2) 14.5 oz. cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • (2) 4 oz. cans diced green chiles
  • (1) 15 oz. can corn
  • (1) 15 oz. can black beans
  • (1) 15 oz. can pinto peans
  • (4) 1 oz. packets of taco or fajita seasoning
  • (1) 1 oz. packet of dried ranch dressing seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  •  64 oz. chicken broth
  • 1 cup water or milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Divide the cubed chicken into two 1 gallon sized plastic bags.

In a medium size bowl combine 2 cups of the flour with the onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cumin, black pepper, and cinnamon. Stir together with a fork.

Evenly divide the flour mixture between the two ziploc bags. Seal tightly, then toss to coat thoroughly, so that there is an even layer over meat.

Coat the bottom of a large non-stick stockpot or Dutch Oven with a few tablespoons of canola, vegetable or olive oil. Brown the floured meat over high heat on the stovetop. Don’t worry about it cooking all the way through, just cook long enough to give it some color. When it’s browned, temporarily move the meat to a sheet pan. Don’t overcrowd the pot, you’ll have to repeat/do this in about 2-3 batches to get through all of the meat.

When you’re finished browning the meat, add a little bit more oil to the pot, then add the onions. Cook over medium heat until they’re softened and translucent, 5-10 minutes. Remove the onions from the pot and place them with the browned chicken.

Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of flour into the pot. Allow it to cook over medium heat until it’s browned and smells toasty, about 3-5 minutes (don’t walk away from it, it can burn easily.)

Once you can smell it begin to toast, pour in the chicken broth, the diced tomatoes, green chiles, taco/fajita seasoning, ranch dressing seasoning, bay leaves, honey, and the water/milk. Use a wire whisk to stir to dissolve the flour clumps quicker.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Salt and pepper to taste. Depending upon your taste preferences you may need to add a little more cumin, or onion powder too.  Allow it to cook for about 10 minutes, until it begins to thicken and the flavors begin to meld together.

Taste and adjust for seasoning, then add the chicken and onions back to the pot.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer stew, uncovered for about 45 minutes, until the chicken is fork tender.

Add the beans and the corn to the stew, stir with a large spoon and allow to cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Serve with chips, salsa, sour cream, cilantro or melted cheese on top.

Linking this post to Fiesta Friday #355, co-hosted this week by the lovely Jhuls@The Not So Creative Cook.

Sausage-Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole

When I get into conversation with people about my love of food and cooking, sometimes I’ll get questions about how I learned. Sometimes I get asked for advice as to how to help someone else, who isn’t a huge cooking fan, still become a better one.

I’ll tell y’all like I was told by the cooks I learned from: start with something simple. Something so simple, you would have to go out of your way to mess up.

Once you pull that dish off, practice it a few more times until you get comfortable with it. Maybe even so comfortable you don’t need the recipe itself anymore–you just throw the stuff together and it still turns out, because it’s just that easy. Once you reach that level of comfort, that’s when you can start experimenting and flex a few more of your cooking muscles.

Trust me, they’re under there.  You just gotta work em out a little bit more to see them.

Whether you’re an experienced or a novice cook, everyone needs to have a set of what I like to call ‘Go-To’s’ for the kitchen. Go-Tos are recipes that can be thrown together with minimal ingredients, minimal effort, and a minimal recipe and still turn out a perfectly satisfying meal.

Breakfast Casserole was one of the first simple recipes that I began practicing when I was first learning how to cook. It’s simple, it’s minimal, it’s nearly impossible to mess up. Because the recipe itself is versatile, there’s plenty of room for experimentation and variation in the ingredients. To this day, it’s one of my Go To recipes that I always find myself coming back to when I know I’ve got to cook something for dinner, but don’t feel like putting up much of an effort. Cause that happens, even to me.

A breakfast casserole is basically where you throw all of your favorite omelette fillings together, pour beaten eggs and milk over them, then bake it in the oven until it’s firmed up. All of us love different things in our omelettes, so that’s where the versatility of this recipe comes in. This exact recipe is what I like, but don’t feel as though it’s carved in stone; swap out the individual ingredients to fill it with whatever you prefer to eat in yours.

The most important thing to ensure that breakfast casserole turns out is to make sure you’re using enough eggs and milk to cover all of the solid ingredients in the pan. Too little liquid and the ratio of the bake gets thrown off and it won’t hold together when you cut into it.

That’s really all there is to it, y’all. This one goes into the “You Can’t Screw This Up Category” for sure, so I would recommend trying it out for yourself. It’ll brighten your day–or weekend.

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Sausage Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole

Recipe Adapted from Southern Living

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground pork sausage (or turkey)
  • 1 lb spicy ground pork sausage (or turkey)
  • 1 medium onion, diced finely
  • 2 bell peppers, finely diced
  • 1 30 oz package of Frozen shredded hashbrowns (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • Salt and pepper, onion powder
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese  of your choice (I think Cheddar or Swiss would work fine for this)
  • 12 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 11 x 13 baking dish.

Brown the sausage in a large greased skillet, until no longer pink. Drain and set aside in a bowl, but save about 1/3 cup of the sausage grease.

Pour a few tablespoons of the reserved sausage grease back into the skillet, then saute the onions and peppers in it until they are softened and have a bit of color to them. When they’re done, remove them to the bowl with the sausage crumbled and stir together. Set aside.

Prepare the hashbrowns according to the package instructions, using the remaining reserved sausage grease to cook the hashbrowns in, seasoning them generously with salt and pepper. When the hashbrowns are finished, stir them together with the sausage and veggies.

In a large bowl combine the eggs, milk, using a large whisk to stir until the yolks are all broken up. Season the mixture generously with salt, pepper and onion powder.

Spread the meat and veggie mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Pour the egg mixture over the top, using a spatula to make sure the filling is coated and mixed in thoroughly with the eggs.

Place the baking dish on a sheet pan, then bake on the middle rack of the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until puffed/firmed up and the center is clean when pierced with a butter knife. In the last 15 or so minutes of cooking, sprinkle the cheese on top and move the baking dish up one row in the oven to help it brown more on top.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #287, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Rita @ Parsi Cuisine.