Hoblovačky or Czech Carpenter Curls

Posted by Pussycat in Sweets | Leave a comment

It’s that time of year and I’ve been desperately trying to get on top of my Christmas baking.  I’ve made a few already, for instance I’ve already made Marokanky and I’ve also made Gingerbread cookies (which just need to be iced and decorated… they are coming soon.  For today I was fiddling with these…Hoblovačky or in English, Carpenter Curls.  I’ve always thought these were so darn cute and I love fennel and so it was a challenge keeping them out of my mouth.

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Make no mistake these are a bit tedious and finicky but they are well worth it… chewy, sweet, crunchy and the fennel… well what can I say but PUT THAT COOKIE DOWN!  :)

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Different people make these differently.  Some recipes call to bake the batter in a pan and then cut them with a pizza cutter or cheese cutter and then curl them quickly… This seemed like far too much stress for me.  My mother makes these like flat pancakes without the fennel and then rolls them out into something resembling a Pirouette.  But I like these best with the fennel and curled up like these carpenter curls… they seem more fun for Christmas.

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They are a bit of a pain and you have to roll them or shape them while still warm…. or hot enough to burn your fingers… yes… that fast … but they are well worth the pace… have an extra cup of coffee and go for it…. before you know it you’ll have a nice batch of these that you’ll have to hide from friends and YOURSELF so you have them handy for Christmas.

Hoblovačky – this makes about 100 cookies

  • 180 grams of butter
  • 420 grams sugar (plain granular)
  • 200 grams flour
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 8 egg whites
  • fennel seeds (enough to sprinkle on the cookies before you bake them)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Cut the softened butter into the flour and sugar and grate in the lemon zest.  Add the vanilla and egg whites and mix with a fork or whisk until smooth.  You should have a nice batter.

Line your pans with a silpat sheet (best) or parchment (still a very good idea) or lots of butter (so I’ve heard but not tried).

You can either pipe the batter using a flat tip like the #47 (which is what I used and then I evened and flattened the out with the back of a spoon) or you can spoon them by hand.  Spread the batter into strips about 2 inches wide and 4-5 inches long.  Make sure that the batter is quite thin and as even as you can get it.  You’ll want to give these some room, they don’t spread too much but I was putting about 8 to a pan and that was giving them enough room and also making sure I didn’t have so many coming out  of the oven all at once… you need to work fast!   As they cool they get almost impossible to shape.

Once you have the batter in strips on the pan then sprinkle with the fennel seeds and bake  for about 3-5 minutes, the amount of time will really depend on how thick your batter is… trust me 30 seconds makes a difference so keep your eyes on them.  You’ll want to take them out when they are nice and golden brown around the edges and then quickly use a knife or spatula and lift them up, curl them around the handle of a wooden spoon and let them sit for a minute or two until they keep their shape.  Again, work fast… you’ll notice that they lose their pliability very quickly and I’ve been told that you can put them back in the oven to warm up if need be for a second or two if you can’t bend them.

These will keep for a while (couple of weeks?) in the fridge or longer in the freezer… It’s cold in my part of the country so we’ve always kept small boxes, lined them with foil or parchment and then stored boxes of cookies in the garage around this time of year.  Whatever works!

 

Eating with our Eyes at The Beachcomber – Winnipeg

Posted by Pussycat in Reviews | Leave a comment

We don’t always think ahead, P and I. Sometimes we get distracted and then find ourselves scrambling for somewhere to eat, quickly before such things as plays that begin in a couple of hours. This is the situation we found ourselves in last week and since there isn’t much for restaurants close to home we ventured into the city…. Endeavoured to be seated at several places before we landed at The Beachcomber at the Forks.

The Beachcomber seems to bustle in the summertime since they have a lovely patio in a beautiful part of the city. People gather there and The Beachcomber draws patrons from the folks who hang, wander, sun, and shop around the area. In the winter time though, the area is far less bustling and the empty seats at The Beachcomber reflected the lack of people outdoors. It was a Saturday night; we had about an hour and a half before we needed to leave to make our play. I was hungry and consequently a little grumpy. A lack of food always does that to me.

 
We let our waiter know that we wanted to be out by 8 o’clock and he suggested that we have salad or appetizers as they don’t take as long to prepare. Oddly, at home my steak only takes a few minutes; I wasn’t sure why I would take much longer here. But I needed food, I question less when I’m hungry since I can get a little ornery and I’m very aware of that personality trait and we decided to stick with what seemed to be easy and timely.
We ordered a full sized Greek Salad to share, Salt and Pepper Wings, Dry Ribs and Lobster Stacks.

The salad came out first, it was beautiful but the taste, hungry as I was, was lacking. I would have liked a bottle or at the very least a splash of vinegar to throw on it as it seemed to have a dressing made with olive oil and herbs but little to no zing from any vinegar and though I can appreciate that it’s winter here in Winnipeg, the tomatoes were cut into huge wedges and were the consistency and taste of what I imagine baseballs would be if I bit into them. Not a great first plate!

 
We then got our Lobster Stacks, “Lobster claw meat stacked over garlic and white bean bruschetta on a parmesan baguette” as listed on their menu. Again this dish looked very beautiful with good sized chunks of lobster meat but it was short on taste and the bread, which we expected would have some crunch was in fact quite soggy. This dish would have benefited from some crunch and a splash of lemon or sprinkling of lemon seasoning.

 

Lastly we received our wings and dry ribs. There was definitely a theme here. The wings and ribs looked beautiful and were very nice and crispy, and I’m not a fan of too much salt but the seasoning was coarse salt and pepper and there was definitely a shortage of it when we bit into them. Unfortunately adding to it wasn’t really a good option since the seasoning really does need to be added as soon as the bites are taken from the fryer in order for it to stick and so these were also lacking some flavour.

 
All in all, hungry as we were the dinner was a little disappointing, given that the dishes weren’t on the cheap side it was even more disappointing. We don’t ever mind paying a good dollar for food that is prepared and seasoned well but this price for these dishes was a little steep for what we got. Will we be running back there? No, but we may stop in for a drink and a seat in the summer on their beautiful patio. I would suggest this is a nice summer place, for patio seating, as long as your expectations of the food are fairly low.

I’m sorry that I didn’t stop to take pictures of the beautiful food and I’ll be more conscious of that next time.  But when I’m starving and we’re in a rush, pulling out my phone to take pictures isn’t always at the forefront of my mind. Next time I’ll try to take a breath before I dig in.

Vánočka – Czech Christmas Sweetbread

Posted by Pussycat in Sweets | Leave a comment

IMG_0014 Vanocka

I know that it’s a been quite a while since I’ve tended to my blog.  It’s been a very busy November, my final class of my second degree is finally, finally completed.  I uploaded my last assignment on the 27th.  Whew…. needless to say that November was filled with papers, groups projects and facilitating a seminar.  Though I got to work with some great women in this class I’m not sorry that it’s over… and just in time to get started on my Christmas baking!

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We’ll start this off with my most favourite sweet bread in the world…Vánočka… it’s kinda like Challa and egg bread and fruit bread all rolled into one.  Though these days I’m really trying to be good I have certainly been known to eat a whole loaf… one glorious slice after one glorious slice… just walking back and forth. I barely make it to the couch …. I have to go back for another… I swear… it doesn’t just call to me but more like SCREAMS at me!  At least until I eat the whole damn thing.

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I’m hoping to freeze one loaf (I made two) and pull it out closer to Christmas … as a treat… you know after I’ve already eaten a whole one… oh who am I kidding… for sure I’ll be making another two before Christmas.  Half of one is already gone!

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Vánočka

  • 1 kg of flour
  • 200 grams powdered sugar
  • 240 grams butter (melted)
  • 2 packages of dry yeast (or 50 grams fresh)
  • 2-3 eggs
  • grate of 1 or 2 lemons
  • As much milk as you need (okay… about a cup)
  • 150 grams almonds
  • 150 grams raisons
  • 150 grams cranberries
  • 150 grams dried apricots
  • 1 egg for egg wash

Put aside a bowl with warm milk and a spoon of sugar and the yeast, allow it to bloom.  In the meantime mix all dry ingredients and place in a stand mixer with a hook attachment.  Once the yeast has bloomed add the wet ingredients (including the yeast) slowly incorporating them into the mixer allowing the mixer to develop a ball of dough.  Keep adding wet ingredients until you have a nice dough.  Let the mixer knead the dough for about 15 minutes (on medium speed) until the it just slightly starts to pull off the side of the bowl.  Then knead on the counter (by hand) to incorporate all the fruit and nuts.

Cut dough in half as this amount makes 2 loaves.  From each half cut into 9 pieces so that you can braid, a four strand, then a three strand and last a two strand all stacked on top of each other. Brush with egg wash in between the layers to help them stay together and brush the whole of the loaf with the egg wash before putting into the oven.

Bake at 350 for about a half hour or until golden.  You may need to cover it with foil as the top may burn before it’s done baking.

Slice and enjoy… oh yeah… maybe butter?  If you can be bothered.

 

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese

Posted by Pussycat in Sweets | 12 Comments

It’s definitely pumpkin time of year.  At work a couple of weeks ago someone was talking about these amazing pumpkin cookies – ‘I ate the whole batch… one after the other’ was their comment…. these must be good I thought.   So I figured I would give them a try.    They don’t have the consistency that makes me think of cookies but more like muffin tops which certainly lends itself well to the cream cheese filling or icing if you decide to cover them with it.

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When you make them you have to know that the batter does’t change much – or melt down the way that cookies do so when you put them on the baking dish so you need to shape them the way you want them to look BEFORE you bake them.  I knew this ahead of time so I decided the use my piping bag to shape them.  I had initially thought I would make an indent in the top to create a dip in the cookie for the icing but once they were baked they puffed up a little and I lost the groove for this…. alas I decided to make these more like whoopie pies.


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They really do taste more like muffins with cream cheese but this does not in any way deter one from eating them…. seriously good…. though I think next time I’ll pay more attention to the way they are shaped to leave myself a place to put the icing on top… they are a little filling!

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Recipe (comes from all recipes)

Cookies (muffin tops)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin puree

Frosting

  • 1 (3 oz) package cream cheese softened
  • 1/4 cup butter softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, lightly grease baking sheets

Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and ginger in a bowl. Mix together in a seperate bowl 1 cup butter, white sugar, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla exact and egg with electric mixer beating until smooth.  Add and beat in pumpkin puree and gradually add in dry ingredients.

Spoon batter or pipe batter onto prepared baking sheets and bake in preheated oven until cookies are lightly browned – 10 – 15 minutes.  Let them cool for about 5 minutes before moving them to cool on waxed paper.

Beat cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla with electric mixer until soft and creamy, beat in confectioners sugar slowly ensuring frosting is smooth and spreadable then either top or use the frosting between cookies.

Enjoy!

 

Pumpkin Buns

Posted by Pussycat in Main Dishes | Leave a comment

It’s Thanksgiving weekend and I have so very much to be thankful for… I’ve certainly had my years of challenges… some easier than others… some much more painful than others…. it’s time to be grateful.   Not just on this weekend… I’m generally pretty grateful that my children are healthy finally and safe and that I have a job that provides well for me and I have people around me that I love and appreciate… you know who you are…. :)  And though I often get caught up in feeling like I just don’t have time enough for all the things I want to do… I’m grateful that I have the strength, health and energy to do all the things I can… Like spend the day in the kitchen…. Life is good!  I hope you all have everything you need… and most of the things you want… a little longing for something can always be motivating…. and that life makes you happy!

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One of the things I spent my time on this morning getting ready for a filling turkey dinner was these buns.  I saw these on foodgawker some time ago and though I made them before they didn’t turn out so great last time…. don’t know why.  I thought I would try them again and this time they were pillowy and soft and so good with turkey dinner….. and so darn cute!  I ate 3 of them…. they were so good…. and that was not long after they came out of the oven.

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They really do look beautiful on the dinner table and so impressive even though they are so easy to make…. the link to the original recipe can be found here…. but I’ll retype the recipe below with very minor alterations in case you’re not wandering today….

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Pumpkin Dinner Rolls (slightly adapted from www.beyondkimchee.com)

  • ¾ cup skim milk, scalded
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • ⅓ cup light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 packages active dry yeast (1/2 ounces) plus 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • ¼ cup lukewarm water
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 15-20 almond slivers

Pour hot milk in a mixing bowl, add butter and stir to melt. Add sugars, pumpkin puree to the milk and combine well. In a small bowl proof yeast in a lukewarm water with a teaspoon sugar. When it gets foamy add to the pumpkin mixture, and add the egg, mix well.  Add half the flour gradually and mix with a wooden spoon until well combined.  Attach a dough hook in a stand mixer place the rest of the flour into the bowl and add the mixed batch into the mixer….. beat for about 5 minutes the dough should be nice and silky.

Turn the dough out to a wooden board dusted with a little flour. Knead with hand for 1 minute. Form the dough into a ball shape, place in a greased bowl and cover with a cloth. Let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in volume, about 1 hr.

Punch the dough to deflate and knead it for a few seconds on a wooden board. Cut the dough in half. Cut each half into about 15 pieces.

Roll each piece into a ball shape with your hand. Flatten the piece with palm of your hand a little. Using a knife, give 8 cuts on the edge to mimic flower pedals but the leave center uncut. Poke the center with your finger to give a deep indentation, and repeat the same procedure to all the other pieces. Place them on a baking pan lined with parchment paper or baking mat giving them enough room to grow and let them rise again to be doubled, about another hour.

If the center indentation is not obvious on the rolls, poke them again with your finger.
Brush with egg wash, if you wish, and bake for 9-12 minutes at 350 degrees until the top gets slightly golden. Put a slivered almond in each indentation to mimic the stem…. serve with butter and enjoy.

Trifle for T

Posted by Pussycat in Sweets | Leave a comment

It was my oldest daughter’s birthday yesterday and so tonight we had dinner and I made dinner as per her requests… Lemon Curry Chicken, baked potatoes and asparagus.  I didn’t have much time this week to make a fancy cake but I did have a pound cake left over from a gathering we had a couple of weeks ago.  The cake didn’t all get eaten and it wasn’t iced so I threw it in the freezer.  Today I turned it into a yummy trifle with pudding and whipping cream.  I have to say it was pretty yummy.

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The pound cake came from this recipe except instead of using blueberries I used cranberries this time.  I chopped up half the cake and put it in the bottom of the bowl then poured the hot pudding over top of it to let it soak the cake.  Then a layer of whipping cream.  The next layer was vanilla pudding with chunks of cake in it and I also added fresh cranberries and slivered almonds, then another layer of whipping cream and topped with candied cranberries… so easy and delicious.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 packages of Pudding (I used Dr. Oetker and only added half the recommended sugar)
    • I package chocolate pudding
    • 1 package vanilla pudding
  • 1 left over pound cake
  • large handful of slivered almonds
  • half of a bag of cranberries (to add with the vanilla layer)
  • half of a bag of cranberries (sugared for the top)

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To sugar the cranberries bring a small pot of water to a boil and scald the cranberries, then in a bowl add a cup or so of sugar.  Drop the cranberries in the hot water and then with a slotted spoon pull them out and drop them into the sugar.  Roll them around to coat and then place on parchment paper for a bit to let them dry.  They looks so beautiful and are so good, the tart and the sweet… YUMMY… it’s a great topping I’m thinking for some Christmas favourites coming up in the next few months…

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This was a great way to repurpose leftover cake… and now I’ll have to remember to make extra cake so we can have this more often!

What do you do with your extra cakes… if you have any… ;)

Happy Birthday “T”… we love you!

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Devilled Eggs with Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon

Posted by Pussycat in Sides | Leave a comment

We’re having a whole host of folks over tomorrow for a dinner and a bonfire and I wanted to make something that would combat all the less than healthy food we’ll be eating.  I also wanted to make something that could be snacked on easily.  Now I know that Devilled Eggs are often thought of as something of the past but seriously is there anything more perfect than an egg?  I love eggs as does most of my family.  In face, despite arguments with my doctor about high cholesterol I continue to eat them.  I’m just not convinced that they are be bad for me.  In fact one of these little devils ;) keeps me full for the whole morning if I have it for breakfast unlike oatmeal or other carbohydrates.  So I will stick with eggs…. When you’re putting them out for others a plain boiled egg isn’t very inviting so I had to spruce them up.

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I saw someone on a website, sorry can’t remember where as it was a while go, make devilled eggs with smoked salmon and I thought … What a great idea… so here we go.

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Devilled Eggs with Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese and Capers… Yes… I know cream cheese isn’t the best thing for someone with high cholesterol but I’m a work in progress!  Also I would have added in some finely dices purple onions but someone in this house doesn’t like raw onions… oh well.. maybe when I just make them for myself.

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Recipe

  • 10 eggs hard boiled (I boil mine for about 9 minutes when I do this many)
  • 2 Tablespoons Cream Cheese
  • 3-4 slices of Smoked Salmon (chopped)
  • 2 Tablespoons diced Green Onions
  • 1 Tablespoon Capers (rough chopped)
  • Splash of Caper juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish with green onions or paprika

Boil the eggs and let cool, peel them and slice lengthwise, then carefully pop out the yolk and place into a bowl. To the yolk, add cream cheese, chopped smoked salmon, green onions, capers.  Once you have all this together then mix it up and add some juice from the capers until you have a consistency of stiff whipped cream. Salt and pepper to taste. Put the mixture in a piping bag (or plastic bag and snip off a corner) and pipe the filling back into the egg bowls. You don’t actually have to add much salt as the juice from the capers will do that for you so add the juice before you salt.

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Garnish with slices of green onions or paprika and serve.  So Yummy!

Super Tart Lemon Curd

Posted by Pussycat in Sweets | 2 Comments

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I love lemon curd, but I also love tart lemon as opposed to sweet lemon.  I was looking for a way to make my lemon curd even more tart recognizing that sugar is essential to the consistency of the recipes.  Then in a moment I had it.  Though this may not be a ‘purist’ version of lemon curd it certainly served my purposes.

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I made the lemon curd from a previous post…. here… then I added 1/4 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice and a tablespoon of cornstarch (mixed while cold) then added to the mixture.  This allowed me to make more of the curd without adding more sugar, thus a more tart lemon curd.

  • Juice of 5-6 large lemons (1 cup fresh lemon juice) and zest
  • ½ (or less) cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small parts
  • 1Tablespoon cornstarch

Using a double boiler, combine the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and zest in a metal or glass heat-resistant bowl and whisk until smooth. Set the bowl over the simmering water, without letting the bottom touch, and continue to whisk. Whisk until the curd has doubled in volume and is very thick and yellow. Don’t let it boil but bring it up to just about the point of boiling. Remove the bowl from heat and whisk in the butter, a couple of chunks at a time, until melted.


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I used this curd to cut the sweetness of a pavlova that I made…that’s why I wanted something with a strong tart component…. recipe of that and pics still to come!  :)

Northern Manitoba Whitefish

Posted by Pussycat in Main Dishes | 1 Comment

I had a busy August and haven’t posted in while, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking.  I have to admit that I’ve been looking for quick things to cook and on one of my rounds to the grocery store I found this Northern Manitoba Whitefish… looked intriguing.  I’ve long since loved pickerel and well… any kind of fish but I’d never come across this fish before… so I just had to try it.

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I didn’t really have the time to find a creative way to make this so I pretty much stuck to ‘simple’ also I’m trying to stick to healthy foods so baking it was my method of choice.

I have to say that the fish was moist and so good.  The preparation made for an easy, healthy meal.  You can certainly use any kind of whitefish… or any fish for that matter.  No need to spend a whole lot of time preparing… just season, stuff, layer and bake… easy… easy… and so good.  I also think that by keeping it simple you really get to taste the fish, and this fish is very good.

 

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Recipe

  • 1 whole cleaned fish
  • 1 sliced lemon
  • 1 sliced onion (I used a purple one, hence the coloring)
  • Salt and Pepper

Grease a baking pan or cover and then grease.  Rinse the fish and salt and pepper inside and out.  Layer the onion and lemon slices inside the fish and cover with several slices of each.

Bake in preheated oven at 450 degrees and bake until done.  I baked mine for about 35 minutes.  How long you bake it will really depend on how hot your oven is and how big your fish is but you can tell it’s done when it flakes with a fork and is opaque inside.  Also, once it starts to look nice and golden around the edges it’s pretty much done.

Enjoy!

 

 

Baked Sticky Chicken

Posted by Pussycat in About Me, Main Dishes | Leave a comment

I’ve been busy in my garden these days and it is starting to feel like it’s paying off….

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The strawberries are just finishing and the beets are still little, the tomatoes are just starting and the cucumbers are misshapen and of varying sizes but there will be lots.  The beauty of home gardening with heirloom veggies in an organic way… a challenge to get what you want when you want it … and as much or as little as you want but it is certainly tasty!

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Today I made a chicken recipe based on the premise of a recipe that I found on foodgawker posted here  the original recipe is made with italian bread crumbs… which I don’t have handy… in fact I didn’t even have regular bread crumbs handy BUT I did have a loaf of jalapeno garlic bread drying out on the counter.  SO a quick crush in the blender and problem solved.

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There seem to be two keys from this recipe that are right on the mark.  First – bake your chicken on parchment!  I typically have used aluminum foil to avoid the baked on mess but I have to say that parchment is way better.  The chicken doesn’t stick at all and clean up of just some grease is easy enough.   Second – the topping of half and half vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar) and honey mixed together and then poured over the chicken in the last 5 minutes makes it super GOOD.

So my recipe is different than the one that I originally found but I have to say it was fabulous… thanks Port and Fin for the idea!

Chicken

  • 8 – 10 pieces of chicken (I used legs and thighs because we like dark meat)
  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 1-2 cups breadcrumbs (use any good leftover bread – I used a jalapeno garlic loaf)
  • 1/4 Cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 Cup honey
  • 1/4 Cup cider vinegar

First place chicken pieces in a bowl and cover with olive oil, garlic and onion powder and salt and pepper, mix well to ensure all pieces are coated.  Then mix together the bread crumbs and parmesan and coat the chicken pieces in the mixture.  Place on parchment and bake at 400 for 30 minutes.  Turn the pieces of chicken over and bake for another 30 minutes.  * In the last 5 minutes pour the mixture of honey and vinegar over the chicken and once done serve.

BONUS – Cucumber salad!

Not sure if you notice but I served the chicken with pan fried baby potatoes …. YUM … and a salad of fresh cucumber salad. This is an easy salad that can be made with any cucumbers though I have to say mine was especially good because it came from the bowl of veggies I had picked earlier in the day and it is incredibly simple.

Use a mandolin to slice some peeled cucumbers very thin.  Then salt and pepper and add a dollop of sour cream…. mix… let sit in the refrigerator for a few minutes and mix again.  The cucumbers will let out some juice and that mixed with the sour cream makes a tasty and easy dressing.  Yes… I know… it’s not exactly diet food… but sometimes you have to just let go!

Enjoy!

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