5 weeks ago
Thursday, November 20, 2008
This is my first post for a new blogging group that I just joined
Craving Ellie in My Belly ("CEimB" -- just for fun, I'll go ahead and define some terms for my peeps back at the office!), which is a group that will be cooking its way through Ellie Krieger's "The Food You Crave."
After much deliberation, I decided to join CEimB because:
(1) I'm a joiner. It's what I do. I join, therefore I am.
(2) I've really been looking for a healthy cooking blogging group. I LOVE Tuesdays with Dorie and Barefoot Bloggers, but sometimes my arteries just get tired of being caught in the middle of the epic battle between Dorie and Ina over who can use the most butter. Light cooking feels more normal and familiar to me, and I've heard rave reviews about this cookbook. I've enjoyed doing the occasional Cooking Light Night post (thanks, Clara!) and reading Cooking Light Night posts by my blogger friends, so I thought it would be fun to try the light cooking concept in a more formal group.
(3) My work friends Amanda, Peggy, and Jen signed up for CEimB, and I didn't want to feel left out of the water cooler talk. I'm already the last to know all the office dirt since I only work part time. It's not that interesting, but still.
(4) I joined the group early enough that I might actually get to choose a recipe sometime before the next millennium!
(5) I respect any blogging group that goes the extra mile to come up with a rhyming group name.
So, here we go! The first recipe is for Oven Fried Chicken, which is theoretically the perfect choice for my family. While I almost always blog about how David and I like the food that I make, I rarely blog about what my children think of it. That's because my children don't eat what I cook. Really! It's not just a catchy profile slogan! My two older kids are maddeningly picky eaters, and chicken nuggets are among the foods they will eat, along with peanut butter waffles, fish sticks, grilled cheese sandwiches, Scooby cheese (it's like regular cheese but it comes in a Scooby Doo wrapper), french fries, grapes, and cereal. Their preferred eating style reminds me of the preferred decorating style of some of the hip interior designers of the mid-2000s: very monochromatic, very beige-on-beige. They will tolerate a punch of color in the form of ketchup, and in fairness to them, they'll eat a red apple or a piece of orange cantaloupe, and if all the planets align, the occasional green vegetable. But try to jazz up a naturally beige food like chicken or potatoes with green flecks, and it's freak-o-rama at the dinner table.
So I was excited about this one because it could potentially be marketed to them as chicken fingers and served with dipping sauce (aka ketchup). In fact, I decided to skip the thighs and cut the breasts into strips from the outset. Also, I knew that I could control the flavor and color content to maximize the chances that the 6 year old and 3 year old would eat it. And who knows? -- maybe it would even earn me rave reviews such as "I don't like it, but I can eat it without holding my nose." Oh yes, check your ego at the door before signing up for this parenting gig.
In terms of the ingredients, I knew that sesame seeds would not get me closer to my goal of getting my kids to eat these. So I skipped them. I also cut the cayenne down from 3/4 teaspoon to more like 1/4 teaspoon. See, blander already!
Other than those small changes, I stuck to the recipe, and these came together easily.
Crackers (I used Whole Grain Wheat Thins), corn flakes, garlic powder and a wee bit of cayenne:
And egg whites, yogurt, dijon & salt for the first dredging:
Aaaaaaaaand then dredge again in the crumb mixture.
I went downstairs to my Pam cellar and retrieved my finest 2008 Olive Oil Pam:
[I know you're going to ask, Amanda. Yes, I think I buy Pam even more obsessively than than I buy ice cream sundae toppings. No, I don't know what's wrong with me. But please continue to enable me and bring me any coupons you happen to see -- thanks!]
Lightly sprayed my chicken fingers, and baked:
Incidentally, I only used half the meat called for, and I still ran out of crumbs. That's why there are those three sorry little half naked chicken pieces at the bottom of my baking sheet. Next time, I think I'll increase the amount of the crumb mixture.
Plated the chicken with a careful eye towards the presentation:
And served to my toughest critics:
J, age 6: "Ummmmm. I don't really like it. Well, it's pretty good if you put a lot of ketchup on it. Actually, this is too spicy. And I put my cheese toast in the grape area so the bottom got soggy. May I please have dessert?"
E, age 3.5: "It's too cinnamon!"
C, age 14 months: Ate it with gusto, then chanted "muh, muh, muh, da! da! da! da!"(translation, "I want more. When is Daddy getting home?") and then as soon as I let her out of the high chair, headed straight to the pantry to eat a paper plate that was on the floor. She is so refreshingly easy to please.)
Mom, age 36 (the reasoned voice of objective reality): These really were a bit too spicy for most kids, I think, even with the smaller amount of cayenne. I'll leave the cayenne out next time so that my kids can come up with a different reason not to eat them. I thought this was excellent oven fried chicken. Nice and crispy on the outside, but the chicken stayed moist and tender, and had a great flavor. They definitely had a little kick to them. I assume they would have had a lot of kick if I used the full amount of cayenne called for in the recipe.
Dad, age 36.5 (really, almost a full year older than Mom): Really enjoyed these. Upon learning that they were too spicy for the kids, said "Great! More for me!"
Summary: I still think this is a family friendly recipe despite the fact that only one of my children ate them. I'll leave out the cayenne next time, but they'll definitely show up again in our rotation. They were really easy to throw together, and one of the better oven fried chicken recipes I've tried lately. All in all, this was a great way to kick off CEimB! Thanks for picking this, Macduff of Lonely Sidecar!!!
OVEN FRIED CHICKEN, from Ellie Krieger's "The Food You Crave"
1/2 sleeve (about 20) whole-grain salted crackers, pulsed in a food processor until fine (about 1/2 cup)
2 1/2 cups corn cereal flakes, pulsed in a food processor to fine crumbs (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 egg whites
1 cup lowfat, plain yogurt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Olive oil cooking spray
4 medium sized skinless chicken breasts and 4 skinless chicken thighs, rinsed and patted dry (about 3 1/2 pounds chicken)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly spray a baking sheet with olive oil.
Combine the crackers and corn cereal crumbs, sesame seeds, cayenne, and garlic powder in a shallow bowl. Reserve.
In a large bowl, combine egg whites, yogurt, Dijon mustard, and salt. Add the chicken pieces and coat thoroughly with the yogurt mixture.
One at a time, dip the chicken pieces in the cracker mixture, packing crumbs onto chicken. Arrange the chicken on a baking sheet and spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a knife.