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Category Archives: Culinary Explorations

Recipes, yummy bites and discoveries

Improvised Chicken Parmesan

I was craving chicken parmesan last night but knew I didn’t have all of my standard ingredients.  So I pulled out one of my favorite recipes and set out to see if I could make a version with the things I did have on hand.  Wait- can it even be called chicken parmesan if you don’t use parmesan cheese?

original recipe

the original recipe

Ingredients on hand:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • corn flake crumbs
  • salt
  • mayonnaise
  • olive oil
  • provolone cheese slices
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Newman’s Own Sockarooni sauce
  • Spicy Italian Seasoning
  1. Preheat over to 425 degrees and spray a cookie sheet with olive oil or Pam
  2. Salt the chicken breasts and brush mayonnaise on all sides
  3. Dredge chicken through the corn flake crumbs
  4. Dust with spicy Italian seasoning
  5. Spread sauce over top of chicken
  6. Cut provolone slices in half and lay on top of sauce
  7. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese
  8. Top with some more Spicy Italian Seasoning (or Basil, Thyme, Oregano – mix it up, make it your own)
  9. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes (depending on thickness of the chicken breasts)
  10. Remove from oven and let stand a few minutes before serving

I added a green salad and fresh baked bread with olive oil and fig balsamic for dipping.  My improvised chicken parmesan hit the spot.  Proof that it only takes a little creativity.

breaded with olive oil

Breaded and drizzled in olive oil (I hate the look of raw chicken so I skipped showing those steps!)

adding the sauce

adding the sauce

topped with provolone

and now the provolone slices

a dash of mozzarella

topped with mozzarella

a little spicy seasoning

a dash of spicy Italian seasoning for good measure

melty and cheesy

melted and cheesy from the oven

side of fresh bread

It’s an Italian feast now…..

voila

and voila!

Chili – Simply Your Way

I have always enjoyed cooking and baking.  Now that I am cooking for one, I find that my enthusiasm isn’t always there.  I have adjusted the way I think about preparing meals and try to select recipes that tolerate freezing the leftovers.  Chili is always one of those recipes that I love making. It goes hand in hand with crisp fall and winter weather just around the corner.  Being the practical cook that I am, I discovered a shortcut that is absolutely delicious and you can customize it to be your very own.  Carroll Shelby’s Chili Kit is fantastic.  The kit contains a spice packet, salt packet, cayenne pepper packet, and masa flour (for thickening). I find that the key to cooking is being able to take something – even from a box – and make it your own.  Experiment.  Toss in fresh tomatoes or a jalapeno pepper.  Use tri-colored beans or black beans.  When using a base or kit, it is really easy to alter the flavor each time you make it, yet have the security knowing that it will taste delicious in the end.

My take on chili tonight:

  • sweet Vidalia onion
  • lean ground beef
  • kidney beans
  • grilled frozen corn (cooked and cut from the cob last summer)
  • marinara tomato sauce
  • topped with Mexican cheese
  • side of corn tortillas

chili box

Carroll Shelby’s Chili Kit

the ingredients

the ingredients

cooking the onion

cooking down the onion

browning the beef

browning the beef

simmering away

simmering away

finished bowl

topped with cheese and a side of tortillas

freeze it flat

Best freezing advice ever – Ziploc freezer bags stack flat in the freezer

Let’s talk about food…

Posted on

I like to cook.  And I LOVE to bake.  On rare occasions I will roll up my sleeves and create a delectable treat from scratch.  On most occasions, I find a way to take shortcuts and add something special to dress it up.  Hopefully this inspires you to do the same.  When you add a little something to a box mix or easy recipe, I find that people respond in such positive ways.  They won’t believe that you used a box because you added a bit of your creativity to it.  Experiment – some will turn out deliciously (like adding butterscotch chips to milk chocolate mix) and others maybe just so-so (like adding mint chips to dark chocolate mix).  We’ll start with my favorite go-to dessert:  Caramel Salted Brownies.

salted caramel brownies

The original Cooking Light Caramel Salted Brownie Recipe

If you click on the link above, Cooking Light will take you through some slightly time consuming steps to make the brownies from scratch.  For the same impact with less exertion, I start with box brownies.  You can use any kind you like – double chocolate, dark chocolate, truffle chocolate, Gluten Free – you name it!  I make the box brownies and then skip to the topping section.  It is a 2-step process, but it is definitely WORTH IT.  I have never received so many compliments as I have for these brownies.

  • Topping:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons evaporated fat-free milk, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  1. To prepare topping, melt 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons milk; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and powdered sugar; stir with a whisk until smooth. Spread mixture evenly over cooled brownies. Let stand 20 minutes or until set.
  2. 4. Combine 2 tablespoons milk and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH for 45 seconds or until melted, stirring after 20 seconds. Stir just until smooth; drizzle over caramel. Sprinkle with sea salt; let stand until set. Cut into squares.

my brownies

My Caramel Salted Brownies (flanked by peanut butter blondies and chocolate walnut brownies)