Buffalo Chicken Sliders

As I said earlier this week, I have always been a huge fan of Spicy Buffalo Sauce. So when the craving hit, I knew I would need to act on it. The first step was sauce, which turned out be a great success. The second step was to decide what to do with the sauce one I made it (other than dipping random vegetables and an occasional finger in it).

As much as I love Buffalo sauce, I am not a huge fan of eating meat off of bones. Every once in a while I’ll get a craving for traditional wings, but usually I like to stick with the boneless variety. Keeping that in mind I tossed around a few ideas and finally decided that what I really wanted was Buffalo chicken sandwiches. More specifically, crispy coated chicken, with a balance between spicy sauce and cool creamy ranch, a few blue cheese crumbles, all on top of a soft and somewhat sweet bun. I don’t think I can even describe to you how much this meal hit the spot.

Buffalo Chicken Sliders

Ingredients
2 chicken breasts, cut in half horizontally then cut again into chunks *
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs
heaping 1/4 tsp onion powder
heaping 1/4 tsp garlic powder
heaping 1/4 tsp paprika
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil, divided, plus more if needed (alternatively you can reduce the oild to 1 Tbsp and oven bake the chicken)
Slider buns
Buffalo sauce
Ranch dressing
Blue Cheese crumbles
Thinly sliced red onion

*I was going for sliders so I cut mine into about 2.5×2.5 inch pieces, about 5 from each breast. The key is to make sure each “chunk” is about the size of your slider rolls and no more than 1/2 inch thick.
 
Directions
In a shallow bowl, mix together the panko, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoon canola oil. Place the egg in separate bowl.

Coat the chicken by dipping into the egg first, then the panko mixture.

To cook by pan frying, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken in batches, so as not to over crowd the pan, until all of the chicken is cooked through, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Add additional tablespoon of oil in between batches and as needed if the pan becomes dry.

To cook by oven baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees and prepare a baking sheet by placing a wire (cooling) rack over the tray and lightly spraying with non-stick spray.. Place the coated chicken on the wire rack and bake for about 10 minutes, or until a piece of chicken cut in half is no longer pink inside, rotating pan halfway through.

Serve on top of slider buns with Buffalo sauce, ranch dressing, blue cheese crumbles, and thinly sliced onions. Goes well with oven fries and celery sticks.

Breading/Coating recipe slightly adapted from the recipe I use for fish sticks, originally from Elly Says Opa.

Sloppy Joes

I have a confession to make. I’m a little intimidated by my new kitchen and supermarket. Baking has been going just fine, but my creativity in the dinner department has been somewhat lacking. Partially because my new kitchen isn’t as well stocked as I’m used to (though time will hopefully take care of that) and partially because going to the supermarket makes me a little nervous. It’s set up differently than I’m used, I can’t read the packages or labels, and I’m just generally being a big chicken about it.

One thing that makes me feel like I’m regaining my sense of control in the kitchen is to go back to somewhat classic meals. When Jesse and I were newlyweds, something that we had far more often than I care to admit was sloppy joes. Of course in the very early days it was a can of Manwich. Now that I’ve become more aware of the foods that I’m eating and have tried to make more and more things the homemade way, it was time to revisit that classic and give it a new homemade twist.

This Sloppy Joe recipe was just what I needed. I just slightly adapted it from the Pioneer Woman, using what I had on hand and slightly upping the veggie count. The result was a hearty, filling, warm-belly feeling, kind of dinner that was Jesse approved. It went perfectly with the Brioche Buns I made earlier in the day (only in a non-whole wheat version) and I went with Mac and Cheese for the side.

Sloppy Joes

Ingredients
1 Tbsp Butter
1-1/2 lbs Ground Beef
1/2 medium Onion, Diced
1 Green Bell Pepper, Diced 
1/2 cup Carrot, Grated
3 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 cup Ketchup 
3/4 cup Water
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Chili Powder
3/4 tsp Dry Mustard
1/2 tsp Paprika
Pinch Red Pepper Flakes, to taste
Worcestershire Sauce, to taste (optional)
Dash of Tabasco Sauce (optional)
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Brioche Buns (Hamburger Buns)



Directions
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, add the ground beef and cook until brown. Drain excess fat and return to the pan. 


Add the onion, green pepper, carrot, and garlic, cook until the vegetables start get tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the dry seasonings and ketchup. Stir to coat the ground beef and vegetables. Stir in the water and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Add the Worcestershire and Tabasco, if desired. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. 


Serve hot on a bun (toasted if you like!)


Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

American Sandwich Bread

Well kids, I’m baaack! After an exhausting 36 hours of traveling, I arrived back in Suzhou early Sunday morning. I settled my luggage in and then we headed out to grocery store. I had pretty high hopes for myself that I would be able to make dinner Sunday night – instead I took a “short” nap at 2:00. At 7:00 I forced myself to at least move to the living room, where I promptly fell asleep again. I guess I needed it.

The good news is that by Monday morning I was feeling much better – and ready to get back into the kitchen! Because I looooove the smell of fresh baked bread, because I’m a sucker for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and because it was Monday and just seemed like the right thing to do, I made a loaf of American style sandwich bread.

If you are looking for a good sandwich bread, this recipe is it. The crumb is dense and sturdy enough for any sandwich, but the taste is still light and fresh. I have a feeling this bread will be making a weekly appearance in my kitchen.

American Sandwich Bread

Ingredients
3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup warm whole milk (about 110 degrees)
1/3 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons honey
2 1/4 tsp (1 envelope) rapid rise yeast

Directions
*The “big move” meant leaving behind my beloved standing mixer, so for now I’m hand kneading and mixing. I will still include the directions for using a standing mixer, though. Let’s face it, it can be done by hand but it’s way easier with a mixer!
Prepare an oven by heating to 200 degrees. Once it has reached 200 degrees allow to heat for another 10 minutes then, turn the oven off. This warm oven will the perfect environment for rising dough.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together 3 1/2 cups of flour and 2 teaspoons salt. In a 2 cup measuring cup, mix together the warm milk, water, melted butter, honey, and yeast. When the yeast has dissolved and started to foam, fit the standing mixer with a dough hook. With the mixer on slow speed, pour the liquid into the flour. Once the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and allow to knead for at least 5 minutes. Adding more flour a tablespoon at a time, if necessary. If mixing by hand, create a well in the center of the flour and pour the liquid in. Use a wooden spoon to stir together until it becomes too difficult, then use your hands. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. When the dough is smooth and elastic form it into a ball.

Place the dough ball into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the warmed oven. Allow to rise for 40-50 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for a few seconds then form into an 8-inch square. Starting with the edge furthest away from you, roll the dough into a cylinder. Turn the cylinder seam side up and pinch all along the seam. Place the dough into a lightly greased bread pan seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft free, place, for 20-30 minutes.

While the dough is rising preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Fill a baking dish with 2-cups of water and place on the bottom rack in the oven.

Bake the bread until an instant read thermometer reads 195 degrees, about 40-50 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool.

Source: What’s Cooking Chicago originally from The New Best Recipe

Shredded BBQ Chicken

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I’ve got a real thing for shredded or pulled BBQ sandwiches. Obviously using a fatty cut of pork is going to make for a moist flavor base for any BBQ sandwich. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to save a few a calories but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have sacrifice flavor (or have a dry sandwich).

That’s where this recipe comes in. Using boneless skinless chicken breasts means saving quite a few calories. Using a slow cooker, big onion chunks, and flavorful base sauce means you still get the flavor. Now, this is going to sound really weird, but cutting the onion into big chunks and leaving them in there with the sauce and shredded chicken, was *almost* like some of the bits of fat you would come across in traditional pulled pork. I realize that sounds weird, but the onions soak up a lot of flavor from the sauce and they stay moist and a little chewy. So the burst of flavor and melt-in-your-mouth feel I got when I bit into them with the chicken just reminded me of, well, fat. But you know, without all of the guilt associated with eating a fatty piece of pulled pork. Call me crazy I guess.

As for the sauce, it wasn’t exactly perfect when I first tasted it. It was missing some depth so I added 1/4 cup of brown sugar and slightly increased the tomato paste. I also upped the garlic because one clove seemed like way too little for my garlic loving self. That did the trick and really gave the sauce the flavor I was looking for. Below you’ll find the recipe exactly as I made it with all my final alterations.

Finally, that beautiful sandwich bun? Yeah I made that myself. Wheat Brioche Sandwich Buns coming your way Friday!


Shredded BBQ Chicken

Ingredients
1 8-ounce can reduced-sodium tomato sauce
1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles, drained
3 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp sweet paprika
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp ground chipotle chile powder
1 tsp Kosher salt (only use 1/2 if using regular table salt)
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 small onion, roughly chopped

Directions
Add all of the sauce ingredients to the bowl of a crockpot and stir to combine. Add the chicken and onion and use a spoon to coat with sauce. Cook on low for 5 hours. Remove the chicken from sauce and shred*. While shredding the chicken, increase the crockpot heat to high and let cook for another 20 minutes, with the lid off, to thicken the sauce. Return the shredded chicken to the sauce and stir to evenly coat with sauce.

*Have you seen the trick where you use a standing mixer to shred chicken? Genius and crazy easy all at the same time. Just put it in the bowl and use a paddle attachment and let your mixer do all the work. Alternatively, feel free to use 2 forks, 2 knives, or 2 caveman hands. Your call.

Adapted from EatingWell.com