Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chicken Crunch

So if you're a regular visitor to Vittles and Bits, I'm sure you've noticed that I completely revamped the design of my blog.

In fact, I apologize if you came to the site at all yesterday, because you probably saw some cra-zazzle things. 

I'm unfortunately pretty inexperienced with blog 'design', so it took a lot of tweaking to get the site looking the way it does now.

I guess it would have been smarter to work on it late at night or on a weekday?  But once I get something in my brain, I can't rest until I do it.  (I have a similar problem with recipes, if I am struck by an idea I must make it immediately!)

In any case, you're not the only people to whom I owe an apology for yesterday's blog madness - poor Mr. Vittles would not stop complaining that I wasn't paying attention to him.

He sulked.  He pouted.  He sat on me.  He tickled me.  He threw things at me.  He put our bird's butt in my face.

Basically anything to distract me from the computer.

(FYI, despite how gross 'bird butt' sounds, it's really not.)

Now in my mind, I wasn't really ignoring him at all - but I will say I was quieter and more focused on my laptop than usual.  And as someone who rarely sits still, all this house time with me and my damaged tootsies is probably taking it's toll on him.  I'm surprised he's not climbing the walls yet.

Soooo.... in an effort to make up for my behavior yesterday, I decided to make one of Mr. V's favorite meals tonight - chicken crunch!

This is actually a dish that was introduced to me many years ago by an ex-boyfriend "old friend".  His version was made with cream of mushroom soup as the 'sauce' and he really didn't follow much of a recipe.

But I don't like mushrooms, and I eventually developed my own sauce to avoid using canned soup.

To be honest, I'm not sure where the idea for chicken crunch originated.  Maybe he made it up - today I googled it for kicks, and didn't come up with anything like it, so who knows.

But wherever the idea came from... I stole it, tweaked it to my taste, and made up this recipe.

And it helped me get out of the doghouse with Mr. Vittles.

Or, the 'bloghouse,' as it may be.  Whatever.  But that's the power of the chicken crunch.

Chicken Crunch
  • 1 - 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken (breasts or tenderloins)
  • 3 1/2 C. dry, crushed (not cubed) herb-seasoned stuffing (with 1/2 C. reserved separately)
  • 2 T. butter
  • 3 T. flour
  • 1/4 t. onion powder
  • 1/4 t. garlic power
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 t. ground mustard
  • 1 14-oz. can reduced sodium chicken broth (about 2 C.)
  • 1/2 t. dried parsley
  • 2 T. heavy cream
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 to 4 T. melted butter (optional)

Make the sauce*:  Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat just until foaming.  Meanwhile, mix flour, onion & garlic powder, cayenne, and ground mustard in small bowl until combined.  Add to melted butter, and whisk until fragrant (about 30 seconds).

Add can of chicken broth and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally.  Lower heat and simmer a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens to the consistency of heavy cream.

Remove from heat and add cream, parsley, and ground pepper.  Stir to combine.  Allow mixture to cool before coating chicken (you can cover loosely and refrigerate 1-2 hours until cooled.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and grease a medium casserole dish (I usually use an 8x8 glass pan).

Reserve 1/2 C. of sauce (for serving) then place 3 C. dry stuffing and remaining sauce in two separate, shallow containers.  Dip each piece of chicken in sauce, then coat with stuffing crumbs.  Place chicken in prepared casserole dish.

Once all pieces are coated, top with reserved 1/2 C. of dry crumbs.  Then pour melted butter over top (if using).  Bake in preheated oven until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink, about 25-30 minutes for tenderloins and 35-40 minutes for breasts.

Warm remaining sauce and serve atop chicken, if desired.

*Time-Saving Tip:  You can either make the sauce a day in advance and refrigerate it, OR you can use a can of cream of chicken (or mushroom) soup sprinkled with ground pepper, onion powder, & parsley and thinned with milk until desired consistency is reached.

Original Recipe

 Hearth and Soul Hop-Volume 33!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Red Velvet Ice Cream

Since I had my foot surgery in early January, I have only been out of the house a handful of times.

I'm really not supposed to walk any sort of distance - not to mention when I do walk, it's pretty slow and somewhat embarrassing with my velcro shoes on.

But to help me combat cabin fever, Mr. Vittles has taken me on a few quick jaunts with him... like to get some iced coffee, or get windshield wipers for his car (exciting!) or to get some ice cream (that of course I was craving, not him).

I stayed in the car for the coffee and wipers, but was feeling bold the night of ice cream.  It was about 8:30 PM on an extremely cold night, so we figured there would not be many people there.

But we were wrong.  It was wall to wall people, namely teenagers.

And I was like a deer in headlights.

Being in a packed place when you have two feet with recently broken and shaved bones is scary enough.  But being in that condition in a place packed with "clumsy high schoolers" (as Mr. V pointed out) was absolutely terrifying. 

I stood in one spot, frozen, and constantly alert for any tomfoolery that might result in someone getting pushed into me and stepping on my toes.  I stayed in there long enough to order, then quickly hobbled back out to the car.

Needless to say... no more ice cream jaunts for me, for at least the next couple weeks.

Which just means, I have to bring the ice cream to me

This summer I experimented with a recipe for Cake Batter Ice Cream, where I used red velvet cake mix from a box.  It came out alright, but for some reason I was not happy with using cake mix.  (However, I have yet to see a recipe for cake batter ice cream that doesn't use it?)

So with Valentines Day around the corner, I decided to give this another shot - without a recipe, and without cake mix.  Which is a little dicey, because it would be awful to waste all the ingredients that go into a good ice cream!

But then again, I have made a lot of ice cream over the past few years (and learned a lot through some painful mistakes) so I felt pretty confident that I could do my own thing.

And I'm happy to report, this one came out great - very creamy, and it captures all the goodness of red velvet!

Red Velvet Ice Cream
  • 1 C. coconut milk
  • 1 C. half and half
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2/3 C. sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 t. dutch cocoa powder
  • 1 T. red food coloring
  • 1 C. heavy cream

In medium saucepan, over medium-low heat, cook coconut milk and half and half just until steaming.  (This is important - you are about to add the eggs, and if the mixture on the burner is too hot it will cause the eggs to curdle).

Meanwhile, in medium heatproof bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until combined.  Pour half of milk mixture into bowl with egg yolks and sugar, and whisk until smooth.  Then pour contents of bowl back into saucepan, and return to burner on medium-low.

Cook custard an additional 3-5 minutes, until you can run your finger across a rubber spatula dipped in the custard and it leaves a trail.  Remove saucepan from heat and add cocoa powder - whisk until combined and no lumps remain.  Then add vanilla extract and red food coloring and whisk.

Transfer mixture to a large, coverable bowl.  Add 1 C. heavy cream, but do not stir.  Cover bowl and place in refrigerator to chill 3-4 hours.

Once mixture is thoroughly chilled, transfer to ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.*  Then transfer to coverable, freezable container and put in freezer at least 3 hours before serving.  Makes about one quart.

*If you don't have an ice cream maker, check out this article on how to make ice cream without one.  I've never tried it, but Brown Eyed Baker is an amazing blog so I'm sure the author would not lead us astray!

Original Recipe

Monday, January 24, 2011

Garlic Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

So I think you guys will be proud of me.  For the first time since my foot surgery a few weeks ago, I made a home-cooked meal!

Turkey meatloaf & garlic buttermilk mashed potatoes... Mmmm :)

Although, as I was just telling my mother-in-law, I had to move a chair into the kitchen so I could stop and rest while I was cooking!  I also peeled and cut the potatoes while sitting.

"Aww, like an old lady!" she exclaimed.

Yikes... so true!

I'm an old lady right now.

Man, it will be good to walk & stand normally again.

It will also be good to shower & drive a car.  I miss those things!  Next Tuesday, I'm supposed to be able to do both, and seriously -  it can't come soon enough.

Really, I wish I had more exciting things to tell you. 

But when your day consists of rolling out of bed, taking a bath, and hobbling to the couch what is there really to tell?

However, I did get pretty excited about these mashed potatoes because this is the first time I've ever cooked the potatoes in anything but water.  Apparently, the buttermilk slows the cooking time so that's why you add baking soda.

I think I like this way better, because then you can keep all the garlic in the pot without dumping half of it down the sink when you drain the potatoes.

Right now... it's the little things, people.  Just humor me, ok?

Garlic Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
  • 2 lbs. yukon gold potatoes, peeled & cut in 1/2" pieces
  • 6 T. butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 C. buttermilk*
  • 6 T. water
  • 1/8 t. baking soda
  • 2 T. minced garlic (10-12 cloves)
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 t. seasoned salt (or plain, if you prefer)
Add potatoes, 2 T. butter, 3/4 C. buttermilk, water, baking soda, garlic & 1/2 t. salt to large pot.  Stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low.

Simmer, stirring occasionaly, until potatoes are nearly tender (20-25 minutes).  Remove lid and cook over medium heat, until liquid has nearly evaporated (about 3 minutes).

Off heat, add remaining butter to pot and mash with potato masher until smooth.  Using rubber spatula, fold in remaining buttermilk until absorbed and potatoes are creamy - mash more if desired.   Season with pepper and seasoned salt to taste, and serve.

*Note: If you're like me & don't have buttermilk on hand, you can substitute by putting 1 T. of white vinegar into a liquid measuring cup & filling up to 1 Cup line with milk.  Let sit a few minutes before using.

Recipe Adapted from Cook's Country online

Saturday, January 22, 2011

An Old Friend: Pepperjack Bacon Mac & Cheese

In light of my recent giveaway where I asked readers what their favorite recipes were, I decided to re-post one of my personal favorites.

Last April, I adapted Cooks Illustrated's 'Classic Macaroni & Cheese' to include two of Mr. Vittles favorite foods - pepperjack cheese and bacon.

Truthfully, I've never really shared his adoration for these two ingredients, but I must admit - this mac & cheese is... amazing.

Sorry to toot my own horn, but it's the truth.

Whenever we have macaroni & cheese somewhere else now, we both say "Meh.  It's no pepperjack bacon."

Yes.  Much like my brownie snobbery, we've become M&C connoisseurs.

(By the way - I typed the word "connoisseur" 4 times before the red squiggly underline telling me I spelled it wrong disappeared.)

Anywho... I originally posted about this back when I first started Vittles and Bits.  Since then, I've cut down on the amount of cheese sauce made, because I think it made the dish too soupy.  I like my mac & cheese to have a bit more structure. 

And let's face it - the only people that read my blog then were friends or family members.

Not to mention, the original picture I posted was god-awful.

(I've already replaced it.  Despite trying to educate myself, I haven't progressed much with my food photography - but the old one simply didn't do this dish justice.)

So in short - I just had to call the recipe to your attention.  It deserves the spotlight for a day. 

Yeah... it's that good.

Pepperjack Bacon Mac & Cheese

  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni
  • 1 T. salt
  • 3 T. butter
  • 3 T. flour
  • 3/4 t. ground mustard
  • 1/8 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 t. garlic powder
  • 2 1/2 C. milk
  • 8 oz. pepperjack cheese, grated
  • 8 strips of bacon, crumbled or chopped in small pieces
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 C. panko bread crumbs

Preheat broiler.  Cook elbow macaroni in 4 quarts water with 1 T. salt until tender (just past al dente stage).  Drain macaroni and set aside. 

In now empty pot, melt butter over medium heat until foaming.

Add flour, mustard, cayenne & garlic powder and whisk well to combine.  Continue whisking about 1 minute, until fragrant.

Gradually whisk in milk about a cup at a time, then bring mixture to a boil while whisking constantly.  (This is important - mixture must reach a boil to thicken fully).

Then reduce heat to medium & simmer, whisking occasionally, until consistency becomes that of heavy cream (about 5 minutes). 

Remove from heat and whisk in cheese, salt & bacon. Add drained pasta and return whole pot to burner over medium low, stirring mixture until steaming & heated through (5-6 minutes).

Transfer mixture to a broiler-safe, greased 9x13" pan and sprinkle panko on top.  Place in broiler on middle/lower rack and broil 3-5 minutes until crumbs are browned.

Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Adapted from Cook's Illustrated's "Classic Macaroni & Cheese"

We have a winner....

The winner of the giveaway is comment number 4.... LORI RENN from My Wicked Whisk!

Thanks to everyone who entered, and to all my readers :)  You guys are the best!


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nutella Caramel Corn

So I don't know if anyone else has noticed this trend, but I feel like recipes using Nutella have been EVERYWHERE recently.

For anyone that doesn't know what that is - Nutella is a hazelnut & chocolate spread that's smooth, like creamy peanut butter.  It's sort of like a spreadable Ferrero Rocher candy. 

In other words- incredibly delicious.

I've been dying to get in on the Nutella action for a while now - I had a little bit left in the cabinet from some recipe I made months ago.  But I wanted to make something I haven't seen yet & nothing has really come to me.

Until now.

This week I had a serious hankering for popcorn... which, actually, happens on almost a daily basis... but this time I wanted caramel corn specifically.

Then I got to thinking - what if I made a Nutella caramel corn?  That could be awesome.

And... it is.

I only had a half of a cup of Nutella left, though, so be aware that caramel corn made from the recipe below only has a hint of the chocolate hazelnut.  Mr. V really liked it, and he said he could tell that it was not regular caramel corn - but he was not able to pick out the Nutella flavor specifically.

I think if you wanted a stronger flavor, you could probably increase the amount to 2/3 or even 3/4 of a cup and still have a caramel with the right consistency.

But hey - "experimenting" will just give you a good reason to eat a bunch of caramel corn.

What could be wrong with that?

Nutella Caramel Corn
  • 4 quarts plain popped popcorn*
  • 6 T. butter
  • 1/2 C. light corn syrup
  • 1/2 C. brown sugar
  • 1/2 C. Nutella spread (see note above)
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. vanilla

Place popcorn in large roasting pan and preheat oven 250 degrees.  (I covered my pan in foil first to minimize cleanup).

In medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, Nutella, and salt, stirring to blend.  Bring to a boil, then boil five minutes while stirring constantly.  You will see large bubbles in the mixture.

Remove saucepan from heat, then stir in baking soda and vanilla until combined.  Mixture will become light and foamy.  Pour over popcorn, and mix with a spatula to coat.  You will be cooking & stirring the popcorn a few more times, so don't be too concerned with covering all the corn fully at this point.

Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Line your countertop with a few sheets of waxed paper and dump corn out onto paper.  Being careful not to burn your fingers, separate the pieces as desired.  Store in an airtight container.

2/3 C. of unpopped popcorn should yield 4 quarts of popcorn for you.  You could also use microwave popcorn, but just make sure you get one that's plain NOT buttered.

Original Recipe

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Giveaway for YOU!

{This giveaway is now over} 

Having so much time on my hands these past couple of weeks has made me realize how important this blog has become to me. 

But if no one read it, then it wouldn't be any fun. 

So I want to do something for you all to say thank you for reading, commenting, and trying my recipes.  I decided to host my very first giveaway!

One lucky reader will win their choice of one of the following items:

How to Cook Everything
is my favorite cookbook, given to me by my good friend Natalie (who says that the Vegetarian version is amazing as well).  

2008 John Wiley & Sons, 10th Anniversary Edition, Hardbound

Also, I have a membership to Cook', and it is awesome.

© 2011 America’s Test Kitchen. All rights reserved.

Soooo... here's how you can win!

1. Become a Vittles and Bits follower, leave me a comment on this post that you've become one (or that you're already one), and tell me your favorite recipe from the blog that you've made or want to make.

2. For an extra entry, you can become a fan of Vittles and Bits on Facebook.  Just leave a second comment telling me you have become a fan, or that you're one already.

The giveaway will end on Saturday, January 22 at noon, EST.  Based on the number of comments that are left on this post, I will then use a random number generator to pick the winning comment.

I'll announce/contact the winner later that day, and he or she can pick their prize!


Good luck and thank you a million times over for sharing in my passion for cooking and writing! :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Queso Dip

While Mr. Vittles and I were watching football yesterday, I got a hankering for some queso dip.

But a quick search online led me to much disappointment... most of the recipes required Velveeta.

I don't know about you, but I don't really get down with processed cheese.

So I got to thinking... what other kind of soupy cheeses did I have experience with?

This led me to the sauce you would make for macaroni and cheese (like my Pepperjack Bacon Mac & Cheese), so I decided to try a queso dip with a roux base.  And, I must say, we both thought it was pretty awesome.

Nonetheless, I asked Mr. V what he would change about it, and he said less tomatoes and more cheese.

Personally, I liked the amount of tomatoes in it -  but you can feel free to use half a can of Rotel if you'd prefer less.

I did, however, agree that it would benefit from a stronger cheese flavor- so I doubled the amount of cheese for you below.

Leaves you plenty of time to experiment to your taste before the Superbowl in a couple weeks!

On another note... are you excited for me that I'm back in the kitchen?  First brownies, then queso... and wait til you see what I made last night!

You're gonna like it.  That's all I'll say for now.

Queso Dip
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. flour
  • 1/4 t. garlic powder
  • 1/4 t. onion powder
  • 1/8 t. chili powder
  • pinch cayenne (or more or less to your taste)
  • 1 C. milk
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 2 C. grated Mexican cheese (I used a blend of jack & asadero)
  • 1 10-oz. can Rotel diced tomatoes & chilis, drained but with some of juice reserved

In small bowl, combine flour, garlic, onion & chili powders, and cayenne (if using).  Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming.  Add flour mixture and whisk until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add milk and whisk until boiling.  Reduce heat and continue whisking about 3-5 minutes until mixture thickens (mixture should resemble heavy cream).

Remove saucepan from heat and add salt & half of grated cheese.  Whisk until melted, then add remaining cheese.  Add Rotel and mix.  If mixture is too thick, add some of reserved juice from Rotel until desired consistency is reached.  Serve warm with tortilla chips.

Original Recipe

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Peppermint Patty Brownies

Ok so first things first - Vittles and Bits now officially has a RECIPE INDEX!

Which I am super excited about, hopefully you are too.  It's something I've been meaning to do for a while.

Now, on to the brownies.  I originally made these a couple months ago for Thanksgiving, and while the idea was great, the brownie base I tried was not.

You see, I'm kind of a brownie snob.

I do NOT like brownies that have a cake-like texture.

If I want cake... I'll make a cake, thank-you-very-much.

No, I like my brownies to be very fudgy and very chewy.  Almost like they should have baked an extra few minutes in the oven.

And while I find that this type of brownie is fairly easy to come by when using a boxed mix, brownies from scratch are rarely as good.

Are you with me on this?

However... I recently found a recipe from America's Test Kitchen that is as close to boxed brownies as I have ever made.

They are super rich and chewy, and the best part of these brownies is that (unlike the ones in the photo above) I was able to achieve the elusive shiny, crackly top:

(Don't mind the brown streaks - I marbled chocolate syrup into the top.)

Now if you are not into peppermint, don't fret.  You can just make the brownies plain, without the candy, and they will still be delicious.

Or maybe you can chop up some Reese's peanut butter cups (or whatever your favorite candy is) & fold them into the batter.


Well, you're creative - I'm sure you'll think of something :)

Peppermint Patty Brownies
  • 1/3 C. Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 1 1/2 t. instant espresso (optional)
  • 1/2 C, plus 2 T. boiling water
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate , finely chopped (see note and related illustration)
  • 4 T. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter , melted
  • 1/2 C. plus 2 T. vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1 3/4 C. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 t. table salt
  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (*see note)
  • 1 11 oz. bag miniature York peppermint patties (you'll need about 40 to fit the pan)

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges.  Spray with nonstick cooking spray.  Unwrap peppermint patties. 

Whisk cocoa, espresso powder (if using), and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture may look curdled.) Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces, if using.

Pour half the batter into prepared pan and place peppermint patties on top.  Pour remaining batter and spread evenly.  Bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 1½ hours.  (If using a glass pan, which retains heat more, then cool in pan only 10 minutes before proceeding below.)

Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.  (Allow brownies to cool completely before cutting to achieve chewiest texture.)  Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

*Note: If you are making these as plain brownies without any candy, I would definitely recommend adding the bittersweet chocolate.  But if you are using peppermint patties or folding in another type of candy, I'd say this would be optional since the chunks are pretty big.  And FYI - America's Test kitchen's favorite brands of bittersweet chocolate are Callebaut Intense Dark Chocolate L-60-40NV and Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar.

Recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen and Real Simple

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Coconut Tres Leches Hot Chocolate

The day before my foot surgery, I ate the strangest assortment of foods because I knew I wasn't going to be able to get/make certain things for a while.

We don't have Jamba Juice around here, but I love their smoothies.  I was about an hour away from home for work, and I saw a Jamba Juice so I got a smoothie.

I also got an Auntie Anne's salted pretzel.

I know, those two foods alone probably made up my entire recommended calorie intake for the day... but I then went on to eat dinner.

And after dinner, I made this hot cocoa.

Don't judge me, ok?

I was so excited to drink it that I didn't even wait for it to cool before I put the whipped cream on and snapped some pictures.

Normally I try so hard to take nice pictures for you, but that's why the whipped cream is totally melted in the photo.

That's also why I experienced something that has never happened in my near-28 years on this earth.

Have you ever not waited for a hot food or beverage to cool properly and burned the $#*% out of your tongue?

(Unless you're some kind of alien or have supreme powers of self-control, I'm pretty sure you have.)

But have you ever actually burned the inside of your throat?

Until last week, I hadn't.  But this drink was so hot that it not only burned my mouth, I swear it burned halfway down my esophagus.

I don't even know if that's medically possible, but that's certainly what it felt like.

My point being - this cocoa is really, really good.  But please, for the sake of your internal organs - wait for it to cool before drinking.  :)

Coconut Tres Leches Hot Chocolate
  • 3 C. fat free milk
  • 1 14 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/2 of a 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk (2/3 C.)
  • 2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • whipped cream (optional)
In medium saucepan, combine milks.  Over medium-low heat, bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Whisk in cocoa powder until well combined.  Remove from heat, and whisk in vanilla.  Serve in mugs, with whipped cream if desired. 

Recipe from Better Homes & Gardens

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lighter Chicken Parmesan

So the good news is my surgery went fine and I have not had any complications.

The bad news is, I am already going crazy and I still have weeks left to go!

I had a double bunionectomy, to remove the bones on the sides my feet ... you may have already noticed this problem on the post about Greek Panzanella Salad when I showed you the tattoo Mr. V gave me?

I knew that the surgery was going to be painful and that recovery was going to be a very slow process.   And it will totally be worth it in the end when I am walking around pain-free.

But right now is pretty miserable.

As anything in life, though, it has its good & bad points.  Let's review the pros & cons:

These are my feet right now, and it's NOT cool.


Food-wise it actually hasn't been bad so far, because my dad & mother-in-law were kind enough to make us some home-cooked meals.  But now that we're getting down to pizza, tacos, and frozen foods things should get interesting.  Maybe Mr. Vittles will be more appreciative of the things I do now that he has to take care of me!

But since you are presumably not hampered by mummified feet & velcro boat shoes, I think you should make this chicken parm & enjoy it in my honor!  I picked a light recipe in anticipation of some New Year's resolutions you may have  :)

Lighter Chicken Parmesan
  • 1 1/2 C. panko bread crumbs
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus extra for serving
  • 1/2 C. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 t. garlic powder
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 T. water
  • cooking spray
  • 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 8 oz. each), trimmed of excess fat & sliced into cutlets
  • 2 C. tomato sauce, warmed 
  • 3 oz. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 T. minced fresh basil
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees. Combine the bread crumbs and oil in a 12-inch skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until golden, about 10 minutes. Spread the bread crumbs in a shallow dish and cool slightly; when cool, stir in the Parmesan.

In a second shallow dish, combine the flour, garlic powder, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together. In a third shallow dish, whisk the egg whites and water together.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, place a wire rack on top, and spray the rack with vegetable oil spray.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge the cutlets in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip into the egg whites, and finally coat with the bread crumbs.  Press on the bread crumbs to make sure they adhere. Lay the chicken on the wire rack.

Spray the tops of the chicken with vegetable oil spray. Bake until the meat is no longer pink in the center and feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 15 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the oven. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the sauce onto the center of each cutlet and top the sauce with 2 tablespoons of the mozzarella. Return the chicken to the oven and continue to bake until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the basil and serve, passing the remaining sauce and Parmesan separately.

Makes 6 1-piece servings.  Cal 310; Fat 8 g; Sat fat 2.5 g; Chol 75 mg; Carb 20 g; Protein 38 g; Fiber 1 g; Sodium 790 mg

Recipe from Cooks Illustrated

Monday, January 3, 2011

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

I hope you all had a great New Year's and are enjoying 2011 so far!

I don't know about you, but my New Year's Eve was pretty uneventful.

We took down our tree & did some housecleaning.  Then that night we went to dinner, and I made these muffins for brunch the next day at my Aunt Jody's house.

Mr. Vittles... was a little less productive.

Here he is at 10PM that night.

And then at 11PM.

And just a few seconds before midnight.

Finally I woke him up because I could not bear to do "3...2...1" with Dick Clark alone!

But the year is off to a good start.  It's been really warm out, so the giant mountains of snow are melting into small hills.

And we had a great time at my aunt's house on New Years Day.

Aunt Jody, Me, and Mr. V

I thought the muffins came out great and even Mr. V (who does not like cooked bananas) said they were pretty good.  Since they only use one banana, the taste is a little more subtle.

The rest of brunch was delicious too, and my aunt & uncle just put in the most fabulous bar - which I am so jealous of!

Uncle Bob & Aunt Jody

Needless to say, we sampled a few beverages.

The pictures don't really do it justice, but take my word - it's unbelievable!

On another note, I am sad to let you guys know that I have to take a little break from blogging.

For one, my faithful laptop has broken :( I am using Mr. Vittles' computer temporarily until my new one arrives in the mail.

And secondly, I am having surgery on both my feet tomorrow.  Nothing serious, but it is going to be slow going over here for a bit while the tootsies recover.

The bad news is I won't be back to cooking or baking for a while- but the good news is I have some photos and recipes up my sleeve that I haven't gotten around to posting yet.

So... that should get us through the next month together, and then hopefully I will be back in action.

Wish me luck, I'll miss you!

In the meantime... enjoy these scrumptious muffins with my compliments :)

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins
  • 2 C. all purpose flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 2/3 C. firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed 
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 C. milk
  • 6 T. canola oil
  • 1 t. vanilla 
  • 2/3 C. peanut butter (I used creamy, but crunchy would work too)
  • granulated crystal sugar, for topping (optional) 

Preheat oven 400 degrees.  Grease a 12-cup muffin pan or line with 12 paper liners.

In large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, and brown sugar.  Set aside.

In medium bowl, mash banana.  Add eggs, milk, canola oil, vanilla, and peanut butter.  Mix until combined.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.  Pour wet ingredients into well, and stir gently until combined.  Do not overmix!  The mixture should be lumpy with a few traces of flour.

Spoon batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle with granulated crystal sugar, if using.  Bake about 20 minutes, or until well risen, golden brown, and firm to the touch.

Let muffins cool in pan 5 minutes, then cool completely on rack (or serve warm, if desired.)

Recipe Adapted from 1 Mix, 100 Muffins, by Susanna Tee


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