Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Chicken Schnitzel

Remember that one time that I had a baby and people brought lots of food to the house in the first couple weeks of parenthood? Yeah, that was amazing. And this recipe is a result of that time. Our sweet next door neighbors are an elderly couple and the wife (Krista) is from Germany. She's been in the states for decades, but she still has the accent and the fiery personality to boot! She cracks me up.

When it was their night to make us dinner, Krista made us Chicken Schnitzel. Now, I'd never had it before and had always wanted to try it. Oh. my. goodness. 

It was the best thing I believe I've ever eaten. Moist chicken coated in homemade breadcrumbs and fried in a pan. Served with yummy mashed potatoes which most certainly had plenty of butter and pepper in them (a must). Definitely comfort food at its finest. Michael and I wanted to eat the entire pan, but stopped ourselves because we knew leftovers would taste even better. We wanted to continue the yummy-ness for one more day.

After our gracious introduction to the German staple, I decided I was going to learn how to make it, and make it so it tasted just as good (or even better) than our sweet neighbor's recipe. Besides, she didn't have a recipe to share anyway. When I asked her, she said, "Oh, I just put a little of this and a little of that". Typical "good cook" language. You never really measure anything, it's all by feel.

Luckily, schnitzel is a very basic breaded chicken, so as long as you have the ingredients to accomplish a breading and do things in the right order, you're set! It took me a couple tries to get this recipe where I wanted it, and Michael and I both agree...it rivals Krista's very own authentic recipe! Mission accomplished.

Now all we have to do is stop ourselves from wanting to make it every week. It's not the healthiest of meals (nothing fried is), and it does take a good hour once everything is said and done. So, I'd save this for a Sunday meal when you have more time to devote to it and you're not running around with the kids during the weekdays. 

All that said, you won't regret it. I can promise you that.

Chicken Schnitzel
(adapted from Serious Eats)

Ingredients:
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half, about 8 ounces each
6 slices sandwich bread
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon parsley, for garnish

Directions:
  1. In an oven pre-heated to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, place bread on sheet pan and toast until golden brown. Tear toasted bread into large pieces, transfer to a food processor, and pulse until bread is broken down into medium-fine crumbs. Transfer breadcrumbs to a large shallow dish.
  2. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and place one chicken breast half in a resealable plastic bag. Using a meat pounder or rolling pin, pound chicken breast into an even thickness about 1/4-inch in height. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces.
  3. Set wire rack on a sheet pan. Place flour in a large shallow dish. Place egg in another large shallow dish and beat until well mixed. Coat one chicken cutlet in flour, shaking off any excess. Transfer chicken cutlet to egg wash and coat evenly, letting any excess run off. Transfer to bread crumbs and coat evenly, pressing lightly to ensure bread crumbs stick.
  4. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet on medium-high heat until it is hot, but not smoking. Place one chicken cutlet in oil and fry until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side, flipping as needed if bread crumbs begin to darken too much. 
  5. Transfer schnitzel to wire rack and repeat with remaining chicken pieces. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately with mashed potatoes.
Notes
- You can use sandwich bread from the shelf for the breadcrumbs, or I like to get bread from the "day old" section at our grocery store, as sometimes you can find really good stuff there and it's already a bit dry.
- This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled, depending on how much you need to make. With 2 chicken breasts, we make enough for 4 full servings (or 2 servings and leftovers for the both of us the next day).

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Our First Mother's and Father's Day

We both really enjoyed our first holidays to celebrate being parents! How full and rich our lives are now that we have little Jessica in our lives. She brings so much happiness and a very sweet spirit into our home. Mother's Day weekend was filled going to buy plants and flowers for our garden and flower beds and getting them planted into the ground (my favorite part of Spring/Summer). Our yard is really starting to look beautiful after all the hard work we've put in since last year! Soon I'll have to do a post about the yard and new veggies we are experimenting with growing.



Father's Day weekend was an adventure as we took Jessica on her very first hike! I can say that she has started hiking way younger than I ever did. I think I was a teenager at Girls' Camp by the time that happened for me, so she's definitely ahead of the curve! She was such a trooper as she looked around and made funny "ooh" and "ahh" sounds along with blowing some pretty cute raspberries when she was really excited. Then, she fell asleep for a good portion of the hike back out of the canyon. 

Michael was also able to get a bike ride in AND Jessica and I got him some much loved and needed presents. They included a 12 inch cast iron skillet and a BBQ/Camping tool set for all his outdoor cooking, plus a little device from ThinkGeek that makes creepy sounds so he can play pranks on his coworkers while at the office. He's already used that little "EvilTron" (as it's called) to joke around with some of his friends at work!






What wonderful weekends they were and we cherish the memories we've made :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Practicing Photography - Baby Style

 I've been practicing my photography skills a lot lately and the most recent venture was for my friend Dani. Her little girl, Hallie, turned 6 months a few weeks ago and we did a little photoshoot for her to celebrate the big occasion! Just thought I'd share a few of the images because we had so much fun and I'm pretty proud of their quality. Mostly, because I'm not super used to my subject moving all over the place while taking photos and my, was this little girl a mover! Anyway, here they are for your viewing pleasure!









Thursday, June 12, 2014

BBQ Chicken and Blue Cheese Pizza


 This is another recipe that I've been meaning to blog about for a long time. We've made this pizza multiple times but I never get a chance to take pictures because 1) it's too late and dark outside, and 2) we eat it so quickly that I can never wait to take pictures. Salivation and starvation usually take over and end up winning. A lot.

Anybody who knows us, knows that we love to make homemade pizza. We basically make it once a week, and usually on Fridays. This particular version was created back when we lived with Michael's parents, as we were searching for our home (over 2 years ago, where does the time go?). It totally tastes like a gourmet slice that you'd get at a nice pizza restaurant. Favorite BBQ sauce, chicken, sliced red onions, blue cheese, and topped with fresh parsley and cilantro after it's finished baking. An amazing combo.

 For the crust, we've slightly adapted Mike's Pizza Crust over the years. We've found that we prefer a thinner and crispier crust, so to accomplish that, we use more oil and less flour, resulting in a wetter and stickier dough. Also, we turned down the oven temperature and bake the pizza for a longer time. And the crust turned out PERFECT this time. Michael and I both commented on how wonderful the texture of it was against all the toppings. I think we've officially ironed out all the kinks in and found our perfect pizza crust!

So, make this tonight, or on Friday (as is our tradition), and enjoy a slice while watching a movie!
BBQ Chicken and Blue Cheese Pizza

Crust
(slightly adapted from Mike's Pizza Crust)
Ingredients:
1 cup hot water (from the hottest setting on the tap)
1 tbs. sugar
1 tbs. yeast
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups flour

Directions:
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the water, sugar, and yeast together and let sit for about 10 minutes to allow the yeast to germinate (until you see bubbles). 
  2. Add the salt and vegetable oil and mix. 
  3. Add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, with the mixer on low. Once all the flour is added, knead with the dough hook for about 6-7 minutes. 
  4. Spray bowl with cooking spray and coat all sides of dough with it, to prevent sticking. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or kitchen towel and set in warm place to rise until doubled in size (about 30-45 minutes).
  5. As the dough is almost finished with rising, preheat oven and pizza stone to 400 degrees. 
  6. Roll the dough out on a floured surface to the size of your pizza stone. Sprinkle corn meal on the stone and transfer dough to stone, then cover with all your favorite toppings. 
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the edges of the crust start to brown and cheese is melted and bubbly.
Toppings
Ingredients:
about 1 cup Favorite BBQ Sauce (we like Sweet Baby Ray's)
2 medium chicken breasts, cooked and diced
blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
fresh parsley and cilantro, chopped

Directions:
  1. Top pizza crust with first 4 ingredients, in order listed.
  2. Add fresh parsley and cilantro AFTER pizza comes out of the oven.
  3. Let pizza cool about 10 minutes, slice, the enjoy!

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Jessica - 4 Months

Our girl is growing up right before our eyes. She is blossoming into such a precious and beautiful being. We are enamored of her at every stage and fall in love with her more and more each day!

 Ahhhhh.....

 Choooo!

 She must've thought the sneeze was funny because this was the shot right after she finished the sneeze. LOVE!

4-month stats:
14.15 lbs (57%ile)
 24.21 inches (42%ile)

 I love this shot because of the enormous amount of drool on her chin. No need to edit that out; we're keeping it real!



Exciting updates:
Jessica had her first "giggle fest" with me. It was so cute as she started laughing while nursing. So, I began to giggle and then we laughed back and forth for about 5 minutes. My heart filled with joy to hear that high pitched giggle over and over again!

She has started sleeping even longer at night (~13 hours) and I've had to go in and wake her because it's 9:30 am. And she's taking even longer daytime naps. Can we say growth spurt?

Jessica likes to grab my face and lips while nursing. This usually happens at the end of a feeding. She'll look up at me, smile, and then reach for any part of my face that she can touch and squeeze. I pretend I'm munching on her fingers and it's a grand ole time!

She's got some stranger danger, poor girl. She'll cry if some people talk to her or hold her (it seems to be middle aged women that she struggles most with...who knows why) and then needs to be comforted by her Mom or Dad.

Shots happened again this month. And, poor thing, she let out some pitiful cries in the doctor's office. And I teared up a bit when I was rocking and singing to her afterwards to get her to calm down. I know it's good for her to get her shots, but it's hard to see her hurt and not know why!

She's the queen of blowing raspberries and spit bubbles with them. We've had lots of drenched clothes lately!

Jessica is SO close to rolling from her back to her front. Basically anytime we put her down on her back, she rolls to her side almost instantly. Oh, and her legs go straight up in the air when we put her on her back. It's only a matter of time before she pulls those toes into her mouth!

Now that she's got really good head support and is getting even better at her trunk support, we've been able to bounce her on our laps and she just smiles and giggles every time. I love being able to play with her in more ways now that she's less "fragile"!

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Honey Walnut Shrimp

 Once again, we're on the Asian takeout craze! This is one of our Panda Express favorites, and a fairly new one for me. Usually, I get my order of Orange Chicken and Beijing Beef, but a while back I decided to try the Honey Walnut Shrimp and I've since become an addict. I always get it and then alter between the other two options as my second entrĂ©e. 

I love the sweet flavor combined with the candied walnuts. You really can't beat the texture too. Now if I can only discover how to make chow mein like Panda, I'll never have to go out for Asian food ever again! Now that's a thought...


Honey Walnut Shrimp
(adapted from use real butter)

Ingredients:

Glazed Walnuts
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup walnut halves

Sauce
3 tbs. mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbs. honey
1 1/2 tbs. condensed milk
1 tbs. lemon juice

Shrimp
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup cornstarch

Directions:
  1. Heat 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add sugar and stir, constantly, until golden and thickened. Add walnuts and gently toss to combine. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined plate. 
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, honey, condensed milk, and lemon juice; set aside. 
  3. Heat about 1/2 cup vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Season shrimp with salt and pepper, to taste. Working one at a time, dip the shrimp into the egg, then dredge in the cornstarch, pressing to coat. 
  4. Working in batches, add the shrimp to the skillet, 8-10 at a time, and fry until evenly golden brown and crispy, about 1-2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. 
  5. In a large bowl, combine shrimp, honey sauce, and walnuts. 
  6. Serve immediately and enjoy!
 Oh, and this chunky little girl decided to come and visit while I was photographing this post. She (and daddy) were drooling over the food :)