September 3, 2014

Baked Buffalo Chicken Strips

You know what I actually really love? Frozen chicken strips. Especially the flavored ones: the honey barbecue and the cajun style and the buffalo ones. I'm a food blogger, I'm not supposed to admit my love of processed foods to you, but there it is.

Do you know what I hate to do? Go food shopping. I blame it on my inherent dislike of interacting with people. (I'd make a really good hermit) I also hate using the carts, because they're so awkward. When you're shopping by yourself and you have a cart, how do you check out? Do you stand in front of it for ease of reaching the items and then be that weird person with no one pushing their cart? Or do you stand by the handle and pop your arms out of the socket trying to reach the items? I'm only shopping for me, so I'm never in a million years going to fill the cart, so I've got this bulky thing taking up an entire aisle, trying to squeeze past other people with the same bulky thing, for no reason other than I can't fit an 8-pack of toilet paper in a basket.

(My grocery store just started providing these smaller carts that are basically two baskets stacked on top of each other, and it's actually the greatest idea grocery stores have ever come up with.)
Any way, my point is that when I do manage to drag myself to the grocery store, I usually get things that will last me a while. I generally do get some frozen chicken or pizza to tide me over on the nights I don't feel like cooking, but I've also learned to love the value packs of meat in the butcher section. I get it home, separate it into freezer bags, and I'm rarely ever without some kind of meat for dinner. My favorite are the boneless, skinless chicken breasts. They usually come about 6 to a pack, and since I'm cooking for just little ole me, that usually lasts me a good, long while.

I had a couple chicken breast defrosting in the fridge, and had a craving for some crispy chicken strips. Now, I could have just done my Crispy Oven-Baked Chicken Strips, but remember how I started this post with how much I love the flavored, frozen chicken strips? I decided I was going to make my own, healthified version.

I started by slicing the chicken into strips and marinating them right in the buffalo sauce. The longer you marinate it, the more flavor the chicken will absorb, so overnight is recommended (but if you're not a planner, you know, like me, then 2-4 hours is fine). Dredge in seasoned flour, eggs whisked with more hot sauce, and panko, and bake.

You could totally skip the flour/egg bit and just take the chicken in the sauce and toss it in panko, but I like a lot of breading and unnecessary steps.
How did they taste? Well, the buffalo flavor was definitely there but not as prominent as I would have liked. I could have tossed the cooked strips in more buffalo sauce, but I don't like my strips too saucy. Maybe next time I'll just use hot sauce instead of ready made buffalo sauce. Otherwise, they were crispy, juicy, and flavorful, just the way I like them. Served with some more buffalo sauce for dipping (or, you know, drizzled on top all fancy-like because you're a food blogger) and some homemade ranch (I used this recipe, minus the dill), and they're pretty nearly perfect

Baked Buffalo Chicken Strips
Yield: 10-12 chicken strips

1½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. buffalo sauce*
¾ cup whole wheat or all purpose flour
1 tsp. smoked paprika
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
2 eggs
1½ cups unseasoned panko bread crumbs
Cooking spray
Extra buffalo sauce and ranch dressing, for dipping

In a large zip top bag, add the chicken and ½ cup buffalo sauce, making sure the chicken is well coated. Marinate in the refrigerator 2-4 hours, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, and fit with a wire rack. Spray well with cooking spray.

Take 3 wide-mouthed shallow bowls. In the first, mix together the flour, cayenne, paprika, garlic, and black pepper. In the second, whisk together the eggs and the remaining buffalo sauce. Add the panko to the third.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, and use paper towels to wipe off the excess sauce. Working with one strip at a time, toss the chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess. Dip in the egg wash, letting the excess egg drip off. Toss in the panko, making sure the strip is well crusted. Place on the prepared rack, spray the chicken lightly with more cooking spray, and bake 10-12 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Serve warm, with extra buffalo sauce and ranch dressing for dipping.

Note: I didn't add any salt because the prepared sauce usually has enough for my tastes. Feel free to add to taste. The cooking time will also vary depending on the size of your strips.

*You can use hot sauce for a more intense flavor and spice

Recipe by Kim
Om nom nom chicken strips

August 27, 2014

Caprese Stuffed Chicken Burgers

I know you guys are probably tired about hearing me talk about my cat these days, but I gotta say: the unconditional love and forgiveness of animals is something that has absolutely amazed me in these past couple of weeks.

Jake still hates his meds (not that I blame him-- I wouldn't like people shoving things in my mouth and down my throat either), but I like to say that he's in denial about them. The easiest way I've found to give him his inhalers is for me to kneel down on the floor and put him between my knees. Every time I do this, he's happy and starts purring and is just generally pleased to get what he thinks is love and attention. I do my best to make it pleasant, speaking in a calming voice and petting him with my free hand, giving him treats, but as soon as he sees the Aerocat, he just goes NOOOOOOPE, and tries to push it away with his paw. Two inhalers, three times a day we do this.

Then he goes on the kitchen table for his eye ointment and his oral gel. I would think he'd start to get anxious on the table, because he never used to be allowed up, so he has to know what's coming. But he's completely relaxed, purring, and lying down to get more pets. He only gets agitated when the oral syringe gets near his mouth, or he sees the eye ointment coming. (Pills are a different story. Pills are the devil. He sees a pill, he's not a happy camper, and if I get it in his mouth, he will cheek it, spitting it out after he gets his treat. Luckily, we finished pills on Monday) Then he gets praise and wet food (his favorite), and when his belly is full, he comes looking for snuggles.

I can't explain to Jake that I'm doing this to help him. I can't explain that he needs the Aerocat on his face so he doesn't have trouble breathing or that the eye ointment will make his eyes feel better, or that the oral gel is going to keep all of his upper respiratory symptoms from coming back. (I don't know what his problem is with the oral gel. It smells like maple syrup. I kind of want to eat it myself) So the fact that he doesn't seem to hold any of it against me and is still my little massive snugglebutt at the end of the day, never ceases to amaze me.
What does this have to do with chicken burgers? Nothing really, except my kitchen table is now a kitty medicating station, so I had to take pictures on a trunk in the dining room library, which involved kneeling on the floor. This meant that a certain furry someone had to come over and help, and mostly did that by getting underfoot and yelling at me for not sitting on the couch so he could snuggle.

Now, I'm not much of a red meat eater. Outside of chili or stew or meatloaf, I will pass. It's not a health thing; I'm just not much of a fan of the taste of beef. Turkey and veggie burgers are more my speed. When ground chicken was on sale at the grocery store, I decided to give some chicken burgers a try.

But, me being me, I wanted to do something special. Chicken burgers can often be pretty bland, so I picked up some fresh basil and some locally grown grape tomatoes (Jersey tomatoes FTW), with the idea of doing some sort of caprese chicken burger. With my general lack of burger-making knowledge, I hunted up this recipe from Domestic Fits, that stuffed the middle with the usual caprese ingredients. I just added some extra seasonings to the meat, et voila. Fancy stuffed chicken burgers ready in under 20 minutes.
The original recipe also gave a tip to simmer the burger in some chicken broth for the last few minutes of cooking to prevent the burger from drying out. I skipped it, because I was lazy, but my burger was plenty moist. I think this can mostly be attributed to the fact that I'm pretty sure the ground chicken I used was dark meat (or a dark/white mix). If you're using white meat, you may want to try the simmer method.

These burgers are tasty and super filling (you're basically getting two burgers in one). I didn't flatten the patties as much as I should have, so I wasn't able to add as much filling as I would have liked, but overall I was very pleased with them. I actually liked them better the next day-- the seasonings in the meat were a little more prominent. You could be totally Italian and serve these with drizzle of aged balsamic or a little tomato sauce, but I liked them with a good dollop of bbq sauce (I've been obsessed with Sweet Baby Ray's lately) on a toasted bun.
For a side dish, I just tossed a little pasta with the leftover filling, some olive oil, garlic powder, and oregano. Then I had to maneuver around a very large, purring furball to take pictures

Caprese Stuffed Chicken Burgers
Yield: 4 burgers

About 1/2 cup diced tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes, but any kind works, or used well-drained canned tomatoes)
Half of a sweet onion, minced
4-6 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp. salt, divided
1 lb. ground chicken
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used unseasoned panko)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Pinch crushed red pepper
About 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
Olive oil, for the pan

In a small bowl, mix together the tomatoes, basil, about 2 tsp. minced onion, and 1/2 tsp. salt.

In a large bowl, add the ground chicken, remaining salt and onion, bread crumbs, minced garlic, oregano, garlic powder, parsley, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Mix until well incorporated (don't overmix or the meat will be tough).

Divide the meat mixture into 8 equal sections and form into patties. On 4 of the patties, create a depression in the middle and add about 1 tbsp. of cheese and about 1/4 of the tomato mixture (eyeball it so you don't overfill it. Top with one of the remaining patties, and pinch the edges to seal it.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the burgers (don't crowd the pan-- work in batches if necessary) and cook about 4-6 minutes per side, until each side is golden brown, and the chicken is cooked through. Serve hot.

Recipe adapted from Domestic Fits
Mmm, melty good stuff