Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Chicken Nuggets (3 ways)

When I saw the chicken nuggets recipe from Home Cooking In Montana blog, I couldn't wait to make a few for Brek. At that time, Camden was still allergic to dairy, chicken eggs, and corn, and he was still breastfeeding. So I was still on his strict allergy free diet. I also didn't eat out at all because there just wasn't anything that was corn free. I really missed eating chicken nuggets for lunch.

I tested the chicken nuggets recipe using quail eggs with all of the dairy and corn free ingredients. The chicken nuggets were easy to make and were very tasty, reminding me of the restaurant version. I tweaked the original recipe a bit by adding the ground black pepper and paprika but omit the ground celery seeds. But the nuggets were missing the crunch on the outer layers. I tried to make them with my homemade breadcrumbs, but the nuggets turned out soggy.

While searching for the new corn free products, I came  across Edward and Son's website. The allergy information on their site pointed out that the extra crispy Japanese-style crumbs was corn free. I wasn't sure if that statement was true because one of the ingredients was "yeast", a red flag for corn. I heard a lot about panko breadcrumbs on cooking shows, especially how crunchy they were when using them to deep-fried something savory. I bought a box anyway to test for its taste, texture, and Camden's corn tolerant to it.

I loved it. The crunch was exactly what I was trying to achieve. And Camden had no corn reaction to it. Keep in mind that Camden only had corn intolerant so please research this product before using. I started to subscribe Edward and Son's extra crispy Japanese-style crumbs from Amazon because buying more is a whole lot cheaper than buying one container at the Whole Foods.

Since I started the corn free diet, I stopped buying a package of ground meat. I was afraid of contamination. I make my own ground chicken like the way my mom used to make it when I was young. It's a work out but at least the ground chicken is clean and no funny business in it. All I do is slice the chicken breast into cubes. Then with a big knife (clever would work well), I run it back and forth on the meat. Basically, just keep going until the chicken is well minced. Ground chicken can also be made, using the food processor, but remember to not turn the chicken into paste. If that happens, no worries because now you have the main ingredient for the chicken lunch meat recipe.

I've made these chicken nuggets many times, and the original recipe makes about 30 nuggets. That's a lot of nuggets!!! Since I cooked the nuggets using panko breadcrumbs, they taste better after they are cooked. My recipe make just enough for my kids, and some days I even have leftover nuggets for the next day brunch. Feel free to double or triple my recipe.

Chicken Nuggets
adapted from Home Cooking in Montana's homemade chicken nuggets
serves 2, makes about 8-10 nuggets

Ground Chickens
8-10 oz ground chicken breasts (from 1-2 breasts)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg (or 5 quail eggs)

1/2 cup panko breadcrumb
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon onion powder

1 large egg (or 5 quail eggs)
oil for pan frying
  1. After the ground chicken is ready on the cutting board, sprinkle it with the salt, onion powder, ground black pepper, and paprika.
  2. Fold the chicken over the spices and run a knife back and forth a few times until the spices are mixed in.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the egg.
  4. Using your clean hand, mix the ground chicken meat into the egg.
  5. Divide the ground chicken into 8 to 10 equal size meatballs by using a small scooper. Set aside.
  6. On a plate, mix together the breadcrumbs, salt, and onion powder. Set aside.
  7. Whisk the egg in a bowl until it is homogenized (no stringy egg visible).
  8. Heat the frying pan at medium-low heat.
  9. Add the oil, just enough to coat the whole pan. 
  10. Dip each ground chicken meatball into the egg mixture, allowing excess egg mixture to drip back into the bowl.
  11. Roll them in the breadcrumb mixture.
  12. When the oil is heated, place the uncooked nuggets on the pan then quickly flatten it with a fork. NOTE: When cooking the nuggets, try to get them into the pan at the same time.
  13. Cook the nuggets for 3 minutes.
  14. Flip it over and cook for another 3 minutes.
  15. Enjoy them warm with the honey mustard sauce. Any leftover nuggets can be stored in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Warm them up in the oven or microwave.
TIPS: When I am pressed for time (or just plain lazy to make ground chicken), I would make chicken strips instead. Just slice the chicken breasts into strips. I only need bread crumb mixture and a large egg. The cooking method is the same as making the nuggets, but the chicken strips cook about 1-2 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of each strip.

Another cooking method is flatten the whole chicken breast so that it has the same thickness. Use the same cooking method as the chicken strips. However, the chicken breast can be a bit thick, so I usually cook it about 4-5 minutes per side. See, one recipe and three ways to make delish chicken.

Allergy Info: These chicken nuggets are free from or can be made without dairy, corn, legumes (soy), nuts, and fish. I've made these nuggets without the eggs by coating the ground chicken right into the breadcrumb mixture, and they came out as delicious and crunchy. If eggs aren't used, then these nuggets are also egg free. For gluten free, use gluten free breadcrumbs.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Colorful Meringue Flowers

I've been testing natural food coloring using juices from beets, spinach, and carrots, for a few weeks now. Basically, baking colorful macaroons. And let me tell you. Macaroons are sold for $2 each at my local bakery. Now I know why. They are really difficult to make. Well, that's another blog post. Right now, I want to tell you how much I luv these natural food coloring.

Since the beet juice turned macaroons dark pink, my brains were working overtime. What if I baked meringue using beet juice and piped them into flower shapes. Oh... hello!!! Why didn't I think of this before. Meringue is less fuss than macaroons too. And having pinkish flower meringue on top of a chocolate cake is just (sigh) too pretty.

Baking these colorful meringue flowers are pretty much the same as baking regular meringues. The only step that is added to the recipe is to mix in the natural food coloring. Because I add the liquid (food coloring) into the whipped egg white, I decide that it is best to use cream of tartar for the firm peak support.

To make the food coloring, I peel raw beets and juiced them, using a juicer. The beet juice did make my hands pink for awhile. I keep my natural food coloring in the mason jars and try to use them within a week. I also freeze the beet juice in a small ice cube tray. Remember a little bit of beet juice goes a long away.

For the Earth Day 2014 inspiration, I baked chocolate cupcakes using my dairy free chocolate cake recipe. The cupcakes were topped with my dairy free chocolate frosting. The pretty colorful meringue flowers on top really added the touch of happiness.

Feel free to double or triple my recipe and make a garden full of flower meringues.

Colorful Flower Meringues
makes 10, depending on the sizes of the flowers

1 large egg white
pinch of cream tartar
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon natural food coloring from beet juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line the baking pan with the parchment paper.
  2. Separate the egg whites into a clean, dry, and large bowl. TIP: Make the pastry cream using the leftover egg yolk.
  3. Add the cream of tartar to the egg white.
  4. Using a hand mixer, whip the egg whites until frothy, about one minute.
  5. Sprinkle the sugar then whip the egg whites until firm peaks form.
  6. Add one of the food coloring of choice.
  7. Whip the egg white until the food coloring is mixed in. NOTE: Egg white should not be visible.
  8. Transfer the whipped meringue into the piping bag then snip the end of the bag.
  9. Pip the whipped egg meringue on to the prepared baking tray, making sure they look like flowers. TIP: I dot the whipped egg meringue. Then I add more dots around the center dot to form a flower. I also tried different piping tips to form different flowers.
  10. Bake the meringues in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  11. Lower the oven temperature to 225°F degree.
  12. Bake 30 minutes more. NOTE: If you would like to have the flower meringues ready on the day of baking, continue baking at 225°F degree until the meringues are crisp. Check for the crispiness every 15 minutes. The timing is really depending on the size of the flower meringues.
  13. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues in the oven over night with the door closed. In the morning, the meringues should be crisp. If not, turn the oven on at 225°F. Once the oven is preheated, turn it off. Leave the meringues in the oven and check for crispiness after an hour.
  14. Store the meringues in an air tight container. NOTE: If the air hits a meringue, it will be sticky and lose its crispiness. Enjoy them within a week.
Allergy Info: These colorful flower meringues are free from or can be made without dairy, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts, and fish.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Egg Salad Puffs

When I saw the crab puffs recipe in the Taste of Home cookbook, I thought about the possibilities of having other fillings in these little puffs. How about egg salad. Brek's favorite.

I made these little puffs or profiteroles before. They were filled with ice cream and drizzled in melted chocolate. Brek found it to be hard to eat and also said that the puff shell tasted plain. To make the puffs tasty for this recipe, I added a little bit of garlic powder. The puffs were hallow on the inside with slight crunch on the outer layers. They were perfect bite size too. Maybe two bites for my kids.

I think these puffs are a perfect canvas for a bread alternative. Try cutting turkey deli meat into the same size as the puffs, using small cookie cutters. Once I cut the turkey deli meat using a little turkey cookie cutter. Add cheese, pickle, mayo, mustard, and there you have it... mini mighty tasty sandwiches. Super cute! And Camden thought so too because he ate them all up.

Egg Salad Puffs
inspired by Taste of Home's crab puffs
serve 2

1/2 cup (4 oz) water
1/8 cup (1 oz) coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup (2 oz) all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 large eggs
  1. Preheat the oven at 350F. Line the baking tray with non stick matt or parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a small pot, bring the water, oil, and salt to a boil.
  3. Whisk together the flour and garlic powder.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the boiling water.
  5. Lower the heat to LOW setting.
  6. Using a spatula, stir the flour until the dough is formed.
  7. Add the eggs and whisk until the dough is smooth and glossy.
  8. Turn off the stove and remove the pot to the side.
  9. Place the dough into the pastry bag.
  10. Cut the tip of the pastry bag.
  11. Pipe the dough to form a circular mound on to a prepared baking pan.
  12. With a wet finger, tap the tip of the mound into the dough.
  13. Bake in a preheated oven until golden brown, about 35 minutes.
  14. Take out the puffs and split them open to let the steam out .
  15. Once the puffs are cool, add the egg salad filling. Enjoy!
Egg Salad

2 hard boiled large eggs, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon mayo
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/8 teaspoon paprika
salt to taste
  1. Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix until just combine.
NOTE: The egg salad can be made ahead. These little puffs don't need that much egg salad filling. Enjoy the rest of the egg salads as a dip with pita chips, bagel chips, or potato chips. So addicting!

TIP: Feel free to come up with your own version of the egg salad. Maybe add finely chopped parley (my favorite), chopped sweet bell pepper, or even mashed avocado.

Allergy Info: These egg salad puffs are free from or can be make without dairy, corn, legume (soy), nuts (not coconut), and fish.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Chocolate Frosting (dairy free)

How do I make a dairy free chocolate frosting? This has been one of my biggest challenge in my world of baking. I tried and tested so many recipes, using coconut oil. Fail!!! The frostings just didn't have the smooth texture I wanted to achieve.

While grocery shopping, I spotted the palm shortening many times. Never thought the need of using it. But I decided to bring a tub home for recipe testing.

The first time I spooned out the shortening, I was super happy with the smooth texture. One morning, Brek asked me if we could have chocolate cake for afternoon snack. While I was baking us the cake, I thought of testing out a frosting for the cake. This time I replaced the coconut oil with the palm shortening.

WOW!!! I believe I found my go-to chocolate frosting. Not too sweet. Very creamy. And I dare say... "chocolate frosting shots". Yeah, baby!!! It's that good!!!

Chocolate Frosting
makes about 1 cup (enough to frost 6 cupcakes)

1/2 cup (3 oz) chocolate chips
1/2 cup (4 oz) shortening, divided
4 Tablespoons (1 oz) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Place the chocolate chips in a large microwavable bowl.
  2. Microwave them on High for 30 seconds then whisk.
  3. Microwave them again for 10 seconds then whisk.
  4. Add a tablespoon of shortening and repeat step 3 until chocolate chips are melted. TIP: Be patient when melting chocolate chips so they won't burn.
  5. Shift the powdered sugar on to the melted chocolate.
  6. Using a hand mixer, mix on a low speed until the powdered sugar is no longer visible.
  7. Add the rest of the shortening and vanilla extract.
  8. Mix on a low speed until the mixture is smooth.
  9. The chocolate frosting is ready for use or keep in an airtight container at a room temperature for up to a week. NOTE: Keep in mind that in winter, the chocolate frosting may harden. If so, microwave the frosting for 10 seconds then whisk. Repeat until the frosting is smooth again.
Allergy Info: This chocolate frosting is free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts (not palm), or fish.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ham and Cheese Popovers

So every morning, I would bake or cook a brunch for my kids. From waffles to pancakes. Tortilla breakfast wrap is a great option when I have extra homemade flour tortilla. Fill it with scrambled eggs and candied bacons. Lotsa goodness and yummy factors!!!

One night while flipping through a cookbook, I saw a recipe with a batter baked in a muffin pan. After I reviewed the ingredients and methods of baking them, the recipe reminded me of the popovers recipe. I decided to bake my kids some popovers the next morning. I looked up three recipes and tweaked them to come up with my own. I decided to go with less flour and more eggs.

The success of making popovers is to make sure the over is super hot and to preheat the ramekins or muffin pan. Some recipes stated that ingredients needed to be at a room temperature. I didn't do that when I was making my ham and cheese popovers, and they all turned out well. So remember, super hot over and preheated ramekins or muffin pan.

I came up with ham and cheese filling because of two things. First, I had extra black forest ham that I really needed to just use it up. And second, I had to use manchego cheese because of Brek's dairy allergy to cow's dairy products.

I was super happy with the result. The bread was hallow when split open (see photo). There was a crunchy cheese at the bottom of the bread (see photo). I believe I finally found my go-to popover recipe. I will have fun testing my popovers recipe with different fillings. Oh, the best thing with these popovers is that it is super easy to put together. Seriously, who wants to slave in the kitchen in the morning?

Ham and Cheese Popovers
makes 6 regular muffin size

1/2 cup (1.4 oz) shredded manchego cheese
1/4 cup (1.3 oz) black forest ham, diced

2 large eggs
1/2 cup (4 oz) coconut milk
1/2 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup (2.5 oz) all-purpose flour

  1. Preheat the oven to 425F degree.
  2. Once the oven is preheated, place the 6 small ramekins (or regular muffin pan) in the oven to preheat, about 5 minutes. TIP: If using ramekins, place them on a baking tray for easy handling.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until the mixture is creamy.
  4. Whisk in the milk and sugar.
  5. Add the flour and mix just until combine.
  6. Take out the preheated ramekins.
  7. Spray them with vegetable oil.
  8. Divide the diced ham and shredded cheese evenly into the bowls. NOTE: Remember the ramekins are hot. Use oven mitten or a thick towel when touching the bowls.
  9. Divide the batter evenly on top of the ham and cheese, about 1/4 cup in each ramekin.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes. NOTE: Whatever you do, DO NOT open the oven. Keep the oven super hot so the bread will rise or pop over. Use the oven light to see the baking process.
  11. Lower the oven heat to 375F degree and bake 10 more minutes. 
  12. Enjoy these popovers with maple syrup on the side. NOTE: Be careful with the ramekins as they are super hot. Go ahead and take out the popovers before serving them to your kids.
Allergy Info: These ham and cheese popovers are free from or can be made without dairy (not sheep), corn, legumes (soy), nuts (not coconut), and fish.