Shake and Bake Chicken Nuggets

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What do you do when you are carving McDonald’s chicken nuggets but are trying to eat healthy? Apparently, get some shake and bake?!

I’ve never used Shake and Bake– my only experience comes from watching Charlie’s Angels, so I was skeptical at first, but this chicken nuggets tasted like a chicken nuggets! They may not be the “chicken” from McDonalds but it tastes pretty good and is healthier.

Quincy definitely approved.

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Get the recipe here!

Turkish Red Lentil Balls

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Time to go back to real life.  Teaching, working, cleaning, grocery shopping, picking up the mail, showering within a socially appropriate interval, wearing real pants – Yuck.

What isn’t yucky?  These lentil balls.  This recipe comes from the Turkish cooking classes I have been taking (and one thing I am actually looking forward to starting up again now that vacation is over), and I served them at our Around the World New Year’s Dinner.   They also are an excellent way to keep up any health related new years resolutions.

They may look a little strange, but they are little bites of lentil-y, tomato-y, pepper-y heaven.   The taste is not super exotic if you are afraid of trying new foods, but it it just a little bit different than the food we tend to eat, a little special.   And I love ’em.  They serve perfectly as a side dish for dinner or as an appetizer for you vegetarian (they may actually even be vegan too- my first vegan recipe!) friends at parties.

TURKISH RED LENTIL BALLS
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

1 cup red lentils
3 cups water
2 cups extra fine bulgur
1 onion, minced
15 ounces tomato sauce
7 scallions, chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons pepper paste*
1/2 cup olive oil
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons red pepper (aloppa pepper)*
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses*
1 bunch parsley, minced

DIRECTIONS

In a saucepan combine lentils and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine uncooked bulgur, onion, tomato sauce, and scallion. Mix lentils and remaining water in bulgur mixture. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, pepper paste, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, red pepper, black pepper, and pomegranate molasses. Let stand until cooled. Mix in parsley. Shape into balls by hand.  Serve with lettuce, tomato slices, pickles, and lemon juice.

Makes approximately 30-40 lentil balls, can serve 8-10 as a side dish.

*These ingredients may be difficult to find but I found most in the specialty aisle of my grocery store. You can always substitute as needed

Cranberry White Chocolate Bread Pudding

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Why is bread so wonderful?

I was going to start this post with the question “Do you have any leftover bread?”, but if you have leftover bread sitting around, you aren’t doing life right.

Well, let’s not be so harsh.  As a single gal, I do have problems buying and using up an entire loaf of bread myself.  Let’s not lie, there is an easy fix to this problem of just putting all the bread in my mouth, but I have to cling to some of my last dredges of self control in order to save my binges for sugar.  Thus, why I have several dinner rolls stored in my freezer in case of emergency.

So, say we have some bread laying around.  There are lots of options for what we can do with it.  Slather slices with butter, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, fill  with melted cheese, or stuffed with lots of meat.  Today, we are going to focus on pouring some wonderful custard on top of that bread.  Bread pudding.

Before making this, I had actually never had bread pudding before.  (Another dish mom doesn’t like- mushy foods aren’t her thang).  I definitely enjoyed my first exposure- what is not to love when there is white chocolate and cranberries involved?

CRANBERRY WHITE CHOCOLATE BREAD PUDDING
Adapted from Honey What’s Cooking

INGREDIENTS

1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup craisins
1/2 cup white chocolate chips, divided
1-2 cups cubed bread
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons walnuts

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease 2 ramekins

In a bowl whisk together egg, milk, vanilla bean seeds, cinnamon, and salt.  Stir in craisins, 6 tablespoons white chocolate chips, and bread.  Let sit for 30 minutes.

In a separate bowl, cream together butter and light brown sugar.  Mix in walnuts.  Set aside.

Divide bread mixture between ramkins.  Top with streusel.  Bake for 30-45 minutes, until golden brown.  Let cool slightly (or completely).  Top with remaining white chocolate chips.

Makes 2 ramekins, serves 2.

Fig and Almond Rice Pilaf

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I am in love.  Jasmati rice has been a revelation.

I have recently been having huge rice problems.  The main culprit? Brown rice.  I would cook it using many different methods, but every time it turned out real al dente AKA crunchy.  Frustration galore. But thsi jasmati rice pilaf turned out perfectly.  I have reached a new rice chapter in my life, and there is no looking back now.

I got the inspiration from this dish from a Turkish cooking class I have been going to here in Lubbock.  It is so much fun to find little cultural niches in this otherwise small, mainstream town.  There is lots of talking and lots of delicious Turkish food (hello baklava).  For our first class one dish they showed us was rice.

Just rice.  Simple, buttery perfection.  Rice is such a difficult dish, but after eating their rice inspired me to give rice another go in the kitchen.  So off to the grocery store I went, and Jasmati rice found a new home in my pantry.

In this rice pilaf I added a simple base of red onion and garlic topped with some figs, inspired by Middle Eastern usage of dried fruit.  A little sweet with my savory. Yum.  A great side dish to go with any type of meat.

There may be some more Turkish foods around these parts in the upcoming months, so brace yourself.  If you have never had Turkish food before, I high recommend it.  It’s delicious!

RICE PILAF WITH FIGS
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon butter, divided
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups dried Jasmati rice (or any other long grain rice)
4 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cup dried figs
Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Soak figs in warm water for at least 10 minutes.  Chop up figs.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil.  Add red onion and cook until tender, 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.  Pour into bowl.

In the same pan over medium high heat add remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil.  Add rice and saute until toasted and golden brown, about 2-4 minutes.  Pour in boiling water.  Cover pan with lid and reduce heat to medium/medium-low.  Cook until all water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in onions, garlic, and figs.

Serves 5-7 as a side dish.