Sunday, January 29, 2012

Not-So-Boring Chicken Tenders...

I am one of those people who has a love-hate relationship with chicken.  It has to be jazz-ed up for me to truly enjoy it.  Plain old grilled chicken just doesn't do it for me these days and kind of grosses me out.  In fact, I told my husband the other night he treats me like a kid when we eat chicken...he always makes a comment like "you did pretty well tonight" when evaluating my plate at the end of the meal.  With this being said, I'm always looking for ways to add more flavor to our chicken dinners.  I've been making variations of this recipe for awhile now and I think this version is the best.  It has a great flavor, the buttermilk makes the chicken very tender, and I love the crunchy outside.  What I love is that it's very versatile:  we had it in chicken salads, but it goes perfect as a main course with your favorite side dishes as well. 

Remember my last post about being terrible at measuring things out? ... Well this is no exception, so I'm going to try  my best to give an accurate recipe... :)

Pretzel-Panko Baked Chicken Tenders
-1 package chicken tenders (about  pieces) or 1 package chicken breasts, cut into tender-sized pieces 
-1 pint buttermilk
-Panko breadcrumbs (I'm estimating 1 1/2 cups, but have more on hand in case you need it)
-1 cup crumbled pretzels (You can use a meat pounder to quickly break them up- no need to get out 
                                      the food processor)
-1 TSP garlic powder
-1/2 TSP Salt
-1 TSP Pepper
**If you are an almond lover, this breading also tastes great with crushed up slivered almonds added to it.

1.  "Marinate" the chicken tenders in buttermilk for at least 2 hours.  You can leave them in there up to about 12 hours, but don't go any longer-- it will tenderize it into mush and I don't think it's too sanitary! **Don't skip this step!  I've done it without and the tenders don't have the same flavor!
2.  Mix together in a shallow bowl (or anything you usually put breading in): Panko bread crumbs, crushed pretzels, garlic powder, salt, & pepper
3.  Take pieces of chicken from buttermilk and dip straight into the breading mixture.  You may have to press some of the mixture onto the chicken to make sure it sticks.
4.  This is where you have a choice:  I placed my chicken on a wire baking rack on a baking sheet, but if you don't have one, just spray a baking sheet.  When all of the tenders are lined up, spray them with olive oil cooking spray or if you have an olive oil spritzer- use that!  They need some sort of oil to crisp up, but don't go overboard:  keep it healthy, people.
5.  Bake @ 350 for about a half hour. (I'm also terrible at setting timers, so I hope this is accurate!)  Just make sure they've crisped up and cut into one to double-check that they are done.

ENJOY!!  -- Anyone have any other ideas on how to "jazz-up" chicken breasts?...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

MVP: Most Valuable Present...

Our Ice Cream maker was by far the most random gift we received from our wedding shower, but it's getting the MVP award in our house lately.  The woman who gave it to us told me her daughter was a chef and that she used hers all the time.  This lady clearly knew what she was talking about, because it's January and I've used mine twice this month.  A few weeks ago I made homemade Caramelized Banana Ice Cream and was so impressed with how easy and quick it was to make.  Well, I shouldn't say quick...I didn't realize you had to pre-freeze the ice cream drum, so I had to let the mix sit in the fridge for a day before it got to spinning in the machine (whoops!).  This week I decided to do a little recipe research and try a new flavor: Strawberry Cheesecake.  Whenever I make something new I tend to look up as many recipes as I can and throw together little pieces of each of them.  Confession: I "cook without a book" way too often, so it's hard for me to actually write up recipes.  A pinch of this ... a handful of that ... (thank you to the Italian women in my family who don't know how to measure anything when they cook!)  

So here it is... My attempt at measuring, writing it down, and sharing my recipe with the blogging world!... The ice cream is delicious and tastes so fresh compared to the store-bought kind.  I can't wait to test out some more flavors...

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream
1 cup milk + 1 cup half and half
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup fresh strawberries (use more if you'd like)
1 8oz. block of cream cheese
1/2 cup graham crackers, broken into small pieces (about 5 graham crackers)
fresh squeezed lemon juice

1. Wash and cut stems off of strawberries.  Place them in a blender and roughly chop them. You may have to use a spatula to move the berries around to make sure they all get chopped.
2.  Add the milk and half & half, sugar, and about 1 TBSP of lemon juice and blend.  It will look like this:

3. Now it's time for the cream cheese:  I broke my block up into 8 little squares and dropped them in.  Blend so it becomes frothy and looks like this:

4.  Get your ice cream maker ready according to it's directions.  Pour the mixture in and let the freezing process begin.  When the ice cream thickens and looks like it's ready to take out (see below), you can fold in the graham cracker pieces.

5.  Scoop your ice cream out into a freezer-safe container. I like my ice cream very cold so I let it freeze for about an hour before I dug in.  ENJOY!

Here's the banana ice cream in the drum:  I highly suggest making this one as well!

Monday, January 9, 2012

What a fun surprise!!  Sharon Dudley from Teaching With Sight awarded me with the "Versatile Blogger" award ... For someone who is new to the blogging world, this definitely boosts my "blogging esteem" and motivates me to post more.  Check Sharon's page out...She's inspiring.  Sharon is a blind elementary school teacher, which is pretty much equal to superwoman. 

So now I have to tell seven things about myself:
1. I got married this summer to my love of 7 years- Sam... We met when we were in middle school and started dating when I was 18 and he was 19.

2.  I could eat pasta for breakfast, lunch, and dinner - 7 days a week.  

3.  I began college thinking I would have a career in graphic design- Boy was I wrong.  That lead to art education, which lead to elementary ed.  I wasn't one of those  kids who knew from the moment they stepped into Kindergarten that they were meant to be a teacher.  That being said-- It is 100% the career for me and I wouldn't change the path I took to get here for the world.  I learned a lot and I'm able to incorporate my artsy-fartsy background into my teaching style.

4.  I dislike condiments- mayo, mustard, ketchup, ranch, etc ... Thank goodness I married someone who shares my disgust in them as well!!  Our burgers are pretty plain in this house. (Don't worry houseguests--we keep baby sized bottles in the fridge for you!)

5.  I played basketball throughout high school (even though I'm a whopping 5' 2'')  & my nickname was "Mad-Dog" ... I can't believe I just admitted that.

6.  I'm Italian, Irish, German, & a teeny bit Ukrainian, but my children often ask me ... "Mrs. Laver- are you black or white?"  Kids say the darnedest things.

7. I'm a beer girl- You can't wine & dine me.  :)

Here's a list of the blogs that I passed the Versatile Blogger Award to:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

December in the Classroom... (I know it's January!)

Our last science unit was living things ... This year I decided to "think outside of the kit" a little (We use FOSS science kits) - I made a "Living Things Journal" for the kids to keep track of all of their living things papers.  We focused on labeling animals and writing 1 or 2 facts about them.  We also kept a list of living things vocabulary. You can find the documents in the packet HERE.

We made hand print fish and the students labeled the parts of a fish.  The "rocks" at the bottom are just beans glued on!  The idea came from

We also completed some holiday-themed centers and activities.  I fell in love with Deanna Jump's Grinch Unit!  

The kids came up with some very creative ways to "Make the Grinch Grin..."

They also had some notes to write to Mr. Grinch asking "Please don't take my..."

You can find the link to these FREE "Dear Mr. Grinch" worksheets  HERE!  

And last... my December door...