Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Simple Chicken Nuggets

Chicken Nuggets

This chicken nugget recipe actually started with a recipe for fried pork tenderloin--a super popular dish here in Iowa. It was such a simple and delicious dish, that I decided to try the treatment on chicken. It immediately became my older son's absolute favorite dish. 

The recipe involves pounding the chicken with a meat tenderizer, which really tender chicken doesn't really need, but it does make the nuggets extra delicate and tasty. You may need to just try it and get a feel for what works for you.

This was actually the first time I made nuggets from this recipe. Usually, I fry up the fillets and we eat them on buns. We were having a Hot Ones party with friends (for those unfamiliar, you can click on the link, or just know it's a sort of challenge to eat 10 increasingly hot sauces while answering thoughtful questions), so I needed a lightly breaded chicken in relatively small pieces. These nuggets fit the bill perfectly. They're savory without being overly-seasoned OR overly breaded which is what generally occurs with store-bought nuggets.

At any rate, these are a delicious homemade chicken nugget. Give 'em a go.

Simple Chicken Nuggets

  • 2 pounds chicken breast meat
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 tablespoon chicken base (or chicken bouillon)
  • 2 sleeves of saltine crackers
  • vegetable or canola oil for frying
  • Mix the hot water and the chicken base/bouillon and pour into a large bowl.
  • Slice each chicken breast horizontally into two or three pieces/fillets.
  • Place slices between two layers of plastic wrap, and then with a meat tenderizer pound the chicken, only hitting each spot once on each. Take care to not tenderize too much. Turn the chicken over and do the same on the other side.
  • If a slice of chicken is already pretty thin, skip the pounding step.
  • Cut the thin/thinned chicken into 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces. Place cut pieces into the bouillon liquid.
  • Working with about half a sleeve of crackers at a time, put the crackers into a gallon size zip top bag and roll with a rolling pin until the crackers are a relatively fine powder.
  • Pour the cracker powder (or some of it) into a bowl or dish where you can coat the chicken.
  • Set a wire cooling rack in a rimmed baking sheet or line a baking sheet with paper towels.
  • Heat about an inch to inch and half of oil in shallow frying pan or cast iron skillet set over medium high heat. (Alternately, you can use a wok or other deep frying apparatus.)
  • While oil heats, start to coat the chicken pieces with the cracker dust. Set coated pieces on a plate until the oil is heated.
  • When oil is heated, fry as many pieces of chicken that will fit in the pan, leaving at least a quarter inch between pieces.
  • Fry until light golden brown and then using tongs or a fork, turn over to fry another minute or two until browned on the other side.
  • Remove cooked chicken pieces to the prepared wire rack or paper towel lined baking sheet.
  • Continue frying until all chicken has been fried. When finished, turn off the heat and  set oil aside to cool and then discard.

Makes about 2 dozen chicken nuggets.

This chicken breast is pretty thick, so I filleted it into 3 pieces.
Chicken should be about this thick.
Today I doubled the recipe for a Hot Ones party.
Pound chicken lightly with a meat tenderizer. 
It's easy to shred the chicken, so be cafeful.
Cut each pounded fillet into smaller pieces
Chicken pieces soaking in the chicken broth.
Crackers should be pulverized almost into a powder.
Toss the chicken in a bowl.
Breaded pieces can be set aside until all are breaded before frying.
I liked frying in this wok today.
This is the best way to drain the oil--a wire rack over a pan.
Tender, delicious chicken nuggets.

Copycat Luxardo Maraschino Cherries & Syrup

Homemade Maraschino Cherries and Cherry Jam

Luxardo Maraschino Cherries are something special. They're a deep purple color, and the syrup they come in is way more flavorful than any other Maraschino cherry syrup I've ever tried. I don't really like EATING Maraschino cherries, so I don't exactly know if I LIKE eating the Luxardo cherries, but everyone else who's ever tried them swears they're like candy.

I tasted these ones you see pictured here. They are sour and boozy, and have the cinnamon and nutmeg flavors in them. I need to give some to others to try and tell me if they're really good.
All I know is that although the syrup is much lighter in color than the original Luxardo cherries, it tastes just as delicious in the Cherry Limeade beverage I usually enjoy it in.

If you enjoy reading details and variations on the recipe, please go to A Nerd Cooks where I found this recipe. The article is fascinating and informative.

Copycat Luxardo Maraschino Cherries and Syrup
  --Adapted from A Nerd Cooks

  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 pinches kosher salt
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
  • 1 to 1.5 pounds sour cherries, pits and stems removed
  • Have about 5 8-ounce mason jars cleaned and sterilized ready.
  • In a large saucepan, add 1/2 cup sugar, water, salt, cinnamon sticks and nutmeg. Place saucepan over medium high heat and swirl or stir until sugar is melted.
  • Add the cherries and liqueur. Stir. Bring mixture to a simmer.
  • Ladle the cherries out of the syrup and into the waiting mason jars. Try not to include too much of the syrup at this point.
  • Remove the cinnamon sticks. Add 1/2 cup sugar to the syrup, stir, and continue to cook to reduce the liquid to almost half.
  • Pour syrup over cherries until syrup and cherries reach about 1/4 in from the rim of the jar.
  • Screw the lids onto the jars, not super tight, but securely. Process the jars in boiling water for 3 minutes. Then carefully remove to a place to cool completely.

These cherries are actually from a cherry tree in my yard.

I bought fresh spices for the occasion from our local All Spice in Des Moines, Iowa.

Sugar is all dissolved. Time for the cherries and liqueur.

Cherries swimming in Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

I thought they looks an awful lot like grape tomatoes.

I'm mostly after the syrup here, so there's extra.

Cherry Vodka Limeade

Cherry Vodka Limeade

Cherry Vodka Limeade

This became a favorite beverage to drink at my brother's house after taking care of our parents and their affairs all day when I visited all of them in Georgia. It's light, refreshing, and super tasty. I even like to make it without the vodka sometimes. It's a little bit of work, but definitely worth the effort.

If you can get a hold of them and afford to buy them, I highly recommend using Luxardo Maraschino Cherries. They really are something special. Today I used a copycat version of those cherries, and it tastes fantastic. I'll get around to posting that recipe later.

Cherry Vodka Limeade
Adapted from

  • ice
  • 1-2 ounces fresh squeezed lime juice (depending on how tart you like it)
  • 2 ounces cherry Vodka (Smirnoff is my fav)
  • 4-5 ounces lemon-lime soda (Sprite, 7-Up, etc.)
  • 1/2 ounce Maraschino cherry syrup (Luxardo is the best, Reese's Maraschino Syrup is what I can afford)
  • 1-2 Maraschino cherries
  • Fill a 16 ounce glass with ice.
  • Add in the lime juice, vodka, and soda.
  • Add cherry syrup and cherries and stir gently.
  • Enjoy.

Butterscotch Pots de Creme

Butterscotch Pots de Creme

The first time I had these pots de creme was at my brother and sister-in-law's house. It was a few days after Christmas, and I was only there because our father had fallen ill, and I had to make an emergency trip. Heidi had made the pots de creme for dessert for their Christmas dinner, but they hadn't turned out. Being the culinary perfectionist she is, Heidi needed a do-over, and I'm so glad she did. This dessert can only be described as sweet, creamy, salty heaven on a spoon. It's smooth and intensely flavorful. Just amazing. 

It's not something one would make regularly because it's so very rich. But today, I'm making it because I'm on summer break, and it's been a ridiculously hard year (that I won't go into). Suffice it to say, my soul needs to make these, so that's what I'm doing. 

The original recipe calls for a scant tablespoon of fine sea salt, but that's just a little too much salt for my taste. If you like more salt, go for the whole scant tablespoon. 

Butterscotch Pots de Crème with Salted Caramel Sauce
    --Adapted from who got it from Food and Wine Magazine

Pots de Crème 
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 5 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped or 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • Boiling water
  • Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe below)
  • Whipped cream for serving
  • finishing salt, if desired (I used Balinese Pyramid Sea Salt from All Spice in Des Moines)
For the Pots de Crème:
  • Preheat the oven to 325° Fahrenheit. 
  • In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the brown sugar and cook over medium high heat, whisking constantly, until smooth and bubbling, about 5 minutes. 
  • Gradually whisk in the cream. Return the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. 
  • Add the salt and vanilla seeds.
  • In a large heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Whisk in a few tablespoons of the hot cream mixture, and then gradually pour and whisk in the remaining hot cream. 
  • Strain the custard into a measuring cup with a spout, and then pour into eight 6-ounce ramekins. 
  • Set the ramekins in a small roasting pan and place it in the middle of the oven. Fill the roasting pan with enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour, until the custards are set but still slightly wobbly in the center. Transfer the ramekins to a baking sheet and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours.
  • Once cold, top each custard cup of creme with 2-3 teaspoons of the cooled caramel sauce (or more, if you'd like). Sprinkle with some finishing salt, if desired. 
  • When ready to serve, top with a dollop of slightly sweetened whipped cream.

Salted Caramel Sauce 
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp heavy cream
Instructions for Caramel Sauce:
  • In a large size sauce pan over medium heat, mix the sugar, water, and salt. Stir the mixture until nearly all of the sugar has dissolved into the water. 
  • Turn the heat up to medium high. Cover the pan until you hear it start to bubble and boil, and then uncover it so you can watch the color. Do not stir.
  • Boil the sugar and water mixture over medium high heat until it reaches a clear amber brown color. Do not stir the mixture while it’s boiling. Wash down the sides with pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming.  This will take about 10-15 minutes, but be sure to watch the pan closely so it does not burn.
  • Once the deep amber color has been achieved remove the pan immediately from the heat and turn off the burner. Carefully add the heavy cream to the pan. Cream will bubble up immediately and then settle down. Stir continuously with either a whisk or silicone spatula until all of the caramel has dissolved into the cream.
  • Allow the caramel to cool for at least 30 minutes before eating/using on the pots de creme.

Today I used 4 oz canning jars, not ramekins.
I made 2/3 recipe today, so there are fewer jars here than normal.

I had to taste the pan leavings. Just as tasty warm and liquidy.

I almost forgot to take a pic before they baked.

Beautiful. I think these were in the full hour and they are perfect.

I had more custard than I'd planned for, so I threw in a Pampered Chef glass bowl.

Refrigerated and ready for the caramel sauce.

This is the color you want before you add the cream for the cream sauce.
Notice how it's more golden and the pic below is brown.

This sugar has gone too far and tastes burned in the resulting sauce. :(

You can see the difference in color between
the perfect sauce on the left and the burned sauce on the right.

Just about 2-3 teaspoons of caramel sauce on top.

Jars can be lidded and refrigerated until ready to serve or share.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Little Tiger Cakes

Tiger Cake aka Financier Tigre

I first had these delightful little cakes at Douceur de France, a great little French restaurant-bakery in Marietta, Georgia. It's dense little cake with chocolate sprinkles and a dollop of dark chocolate ganache in a little divot on top. The cake is moist, flavorful, just sweet enough, and with just enough chocolate to satisfy any chocolate fan.

Since I don't live near there, and since I love to bake, I've tried making these a couple of times. The first time I had to use a mini muffin tin, and those little cakes tasted good, but didn't look good at all.

I finally splurged and purchased two silicone baked donut molds at a Chinese kitchen store in San Francisco where I was visiting my cousin. What I discovered when I made these was that I needed to wash the mold by hand, as opposed to putting it in the dishwasher. The dishwasher left behind a residue that the batter stuck to, despite the wet paper towel wipe-down I gave it.

After an ugly first batch, I made a half batch for these blog pics. I buttered and floured 5 of the 6 cups. All six popped out beautifully, so next time, I don't think I'll bother with the butter and flour treatment. I'll just need to wash these molds by hand each time. Easy peasy.

I used regular all purpose flour in the batter, but I think this recipe would be fine with any gluten free all purpose flour if you need to make these gluten free. 

Enough said. Here's the recipe.

Tiger Cakes
    --Adapted from

The Cake Ingredients:
  • 150 grams of butter
  • 150 grams of egg whites
  • 170 grams of icing sugar
  • 100 grams of almond flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • 50 grams of all-purpose flour
  • 60 grams of chocolate vermicelli/sprinkles
Ganache Ingredients:
  • 10 Dove Dark Chocolate Promises, chopped into small pieces (or 80 grams good dark chocolate chopped into pieces)
  • 100 grams heavy cream

Make the brown butter first by putting the butter in a medium pan over medium heat and letting it melt. When it stops crackling, remove the pan from the heat and pour melted butter into a heat-proof bowl to cool completely.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are concerned about the cakes sticking, butter and flour the individual cake cups in the silicone baking mold/pan.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites with the icing sugar. Add the almond flour and the salt. Add the all-purpose flour and the chocolate vermicelli. Then stir in the cooled butter (emphasis on “cooled” because warm or hot butter will melt the chocolate vermicelli).

Fill silicone donut baking pans ¾ full of the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 19-20 minutes.

Cool for 10 minutes in the pan before gently turning out onto a wire cooling rack.

While cakes cool, prepare the chocolate ganache: in a small pan over medium low heat, bring the cream to a simmer. Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and pour the heated cream over the chocolate. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes and then stir until chocolate is melted and ganache is smooth.

Pipe or spoon a puddle of liquid ganache into the center divot of each cake. Allow to cool until ganache has somewhat firmed up.

Makes 12 little cakes

That's the browned butter in the white bowl, top right.

The chocolate vermicelli goes in before the browned butter.

I wish you could smell this browned butter. Mmm.

On the left are the sad messed up ones from the first batch.

Monday, June 21, 2021

School Lunch Peanut Butter Bars

School lunch Peanut Butter Bars

My friend Julia and I were talking about cookies and recipes, and she mentioned that she'd been searching for years for the recipe for the peanut butter bars she remembers eating at her school in San Diego California many years ago. She shared with me the recipe she'd found and tried to see if I could make it taste more like what she remembered. She did a much better job with the recipe intro than I probably could, so here's what Julia has to say about this recipe:

"Hi there!

I grew up in San Diego. 

I went to Cajon Valley Jr. High (CVJH) and Grossmont High School (aka: Soc-mont).
I remember in the 80s they were called "peanut butter chews" and cost 20¢ to buy. 

This version really brought back memories.  

This recipe is spot-on. These are exactly what I remember! 
If you really want to take nostalgia to another level you should slice em up, wrap in cellophane and refrigerate for a few days to get the chewy, slightly dried out consistency.   

Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!!! I can't believe how many it makes. These are great for enormous parties. I'm gonna make them for friends and co workers this Christmas.  

Go Foothillers!"

School Lunch Peanut Butter Bars
Adapted from

  • 5.5 ounces margarine, softened
  • 14 oz. granulated sugar
  • 7.5 ounces brown sugar
  • 9 ounces peanut butter (I used smooth peanut butter)
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 5 ounces powdered sugar
  • 1 ounce smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons very hot water
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Then line a 12 x 18 inch half sheet pan with parchment paper
  • In a large mixing bowl, cream the margarine, sugars, 9 oz. peanut butter, eggs, and vanilla.
  • Mix in the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • Stir in the oats.
  • Spread the batter into the parchment lined pan.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until edges are brown.
  • Whisk together the glaze in a medium size bowl.
  • While bars are still warm in the pan, drizzle the glaze all over and then spread evenly over the top with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.
  • Lift bars from the pan using the parchment paper and then cut bars into desired size.
Makes a LOT of bars

Ready to go into the oven


Peanut butter glaze

It doesn't look like enough glaze, but it is.

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