Saturday, February 5, 2011

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

While I was pregnant with my second daughter I developed STRONG cravings for spicy food!  This is when I knew that pregnancy cravings were not imaginary nor exaggerated!  I never used to like spicy food, but I found myself buying jars of jalapenos (the kind that come with your Papa Johns Pizza) and devouring them!  I also discovered a love of Buffalo sauce during this time.  I never used to like it, but the thought of a Buffalo chicken sandwich would have me salivating instantly.  While I don't have the strong need for it now, I do still enjoy some good Buffalo chicken every once in a while.  A friend of mine posted this easy, delicious recipe on Facebook a few weeks ago and it instantly became a favorite!  Plus it's good if you need a good last minute idea for the Super Bowl tomorrow ;).


4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 2 pounds)
1 (17.5 fluid ounce) bottle buffalo wing sauce, divided (I LOVE Frank's Buffalo Wing Sauce!)
1 ounce package dry ranch salad dressing mix
2 tablespoons butter
6 hoagie rolls, split lengthwise


1. Place the chicken breasts into a slow cooker, and pour in 3/4 of the wing sauce and the ranch dressing mix. Cover, and cook on Low for 6 to 7 hours. 

2. Once the chicken has cooked, add the butter, and shred the meat finely with two forks. Pile the meat onto the hoagie rolls, and splash with the remaining buffalo wing sauce to serve. (when I made this I didn't add extra buffalo sauce on top, but instead used ranch dressing...YUM!)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Homemade Chewy Brownies

I was once again watching America's Test Kitchen (It's on Saturday on PBS at noon in case you want to tune in) and saw an episode about how to make the perfect homemade brownies! They did a blind taste test to see if people preferred homemade to box mix brownies, and surprisingly most people preferred the box mix! The comments were mainly that they liked the chocolate flavor of the homemade, but preferred the texture of the box mix because they are chewy. So the cooks in America's Test Kitchen set out to find a version that has the same texture as the box mix but the rich flavor of homemade, and they did! They found to get the chewy texture you need to use twice as much oil (unsaturated fat) as butter (saturated fat). I'm glad they know what they're doing, because I wouldn't have known that! These brownies are SO good and I'm sure you'll love them :).

Chewy Brownies

For the chewiest texture, it is important to let the brownies cool thoroughly before cutting. While any high-quality chocolate can be used in this recipe, the preferred brands of bittersweet chocolate are Callebaut Intense Dark Chocolate L-60-40NV and Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar. The preferred brand of unsweetened chocolate is Scharffen Berger. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. 


1/3 cup Dutch processed cocoa (worth the extra $$$ at the grocery store!!)
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso or coffee (optional, enhances chocolate flavor)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate , finely chopped (see note at top)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter , melted
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (17 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon table salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate , cut into 1/2-inch pieces (see note)

 1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Make sling using the following steps: Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. 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. Cut 14-inch length foil and fit into width of pan in the same manner, perpendicular to the first sheet (if using extra-wide foil, fold second sheet lengthwise to 12-inch width). Spray with nonstick cooking spray. (I didn't do this part, I just used a greased, glass, 13x9 pan)
2. 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.
3. Scrape batter into prepared pan and 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. 
4. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

If I were able to pick my last meal....

....this is what it would be!!!  By far my most favorite restaurant meal!  Chicken Palermo and Casa Salad from Casas!  If you don't live in or close to Fort Wayne, my apologies, but you know where to go if you ever do come here.  Just thinking about this makes my mouth water!  If you've never heard of it or had it before it's a flattened, crispy, breaded chicken breast that's covered in a lemon, butter, white wine sauce with peas, mushrooms, and cheese.  Oh yeah, did I mention it's DELICIOUS!?  I worked at Casas as a hostess when I was 17-19 years old and saw people order this all the time, but I never tried it until just a couple years ago and I've been hooked ever since!  And of course you HAVE to get a salad when you go there!  No restaurant makes a better salad (or with more calories I'm sure). So the next time you are out and want to try something new, you know what to order!  I'd love to know what your favorite restaurant meal is!


Challah Bread

I got a few requests for this recipe, so I figured I'd take some time and post it on here.  I first have to give credit to The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.  I LOVE this cookbook and have never made something that didn't turn out great the first time!  Now that you know the source I will share this yummy recipe with you :).

1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk (save the egg white for the glaze)
3-3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 large egg white
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon poppy or sesame seeds (optional)

1. FOR THE DOUGH:  Whisk the water, melted butter, eggs, and egg yolk together in a large liquid measuring cup.  Combine 3 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook.  With the mixer on low speed, add the water mixture and mix until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes.

2. Increase the mixer speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.  If after 4 minutes more flour is needed, add the remaining 1/2 cup flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl but sticks to the bottom.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball.  Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

4. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and divide the dough into 2 pieces, one twice as large as the other.  Divide each piece into 3 pieces and roll each piece out into a 16-inch-long rope (3 ropes will be much thicker).  

5. FOR THE GLAZE AND TO BRAID:  Beat the egg white and the water together in a small bowl.  Braid two loaves, one large and one small.  Transfer the larger braid to the prepared baking sheet, brush with some of the egg white-water mixture, and secure the smaller braid on top.  Tuck both ends under the loaf.  Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size and the dough barely springs back when poked with a knuckle, 45 to 75 minutes.

6. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Brush the loaf with the remaining egg white-water mixture, sprinkle with the seeds (if using), then spray lightly with water.  Bake until golden and the center of the loaf registers 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the loaf halfway through baking.  Cool the bread on the baking sheet for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours, before serving (we dug right in about 10 minutes after taking it out :P).  

 This is what the dough looks like after rising.  Cut in 2 pieces, one piece twice as large as the other. Then cut each of those pieces into 3 pieces so that you'll have enough ropes to do 2 braids.

 This is not my picture, but it gives you a visual on what the braiding process looks like.

This is after it's risen for 45 minutes and it's ready to go in the oven.

Ready to eat :)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Microwave Popcorn...the Healthy Way!!

Sometimes nothing beats a bag of microwave popcorn!  It's warm, salty, buttery, soft but still crunchy, and it makes your house smell so yummy!  But have you ever stopped to look at the ingredients list and nutrition facts?  Chances are you probably won't be able to pronounce a few of the ingredients, and even the light popcorn has trans fat!  I have a simple and equally delicious (if not more so) recipe for your own all-natural microwave popcorn!

You will need:
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 paper lunch bag
salt to taste

Simply mix your oil and kernels in a small bowl and pour into your paper lunch bag.  Fold the bag down a couple times and microwave until your popping starts to slow down, my microwave gets it done in 2 minutes.  Carefully open your bag and sprinkle salt (or get creative and add your own flavors), shake, and enjoy :).