Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Crispy Chicken

print recipe card posted in Main Dishes by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

I’m always on the look-out for quick and tasty ways to cook chicken. Today’s recipe is based on coating boneless chicken breasts with French-fried onions from a can and then the chicken is baked in the oven.

Many of you may well have tried the classic green bean recipe made with these onions. I’m going to use these fried onions to coat boneless, skinless chicken breasts. What I need is some sort of “glue” to make the fried onions stick to the chicken.

For the fun of it, I tested 4 different possible “glues”:

Melted butter, mustard, mayonnaise, and a beaten egg all work beautifully. You get to choose which one to use depending on what you have in your kitchen! (I’ll tell you my preference at the end!)

I put just one chicken breast in each of different “glues”, making sure to coat both sides.

Now for the onion coating. The recipe on the box of fried onions calls for one egg, 4 chicken breasts and 1 1/3 cup of onions. There is no possible way you can cover four chicken breasts with that amount of coating and have it end up looking like the photo! I used 2 cups of crushed onions and that worked just fine.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:
Be sure to throw away any leftover “glue”. The egg (or butter, or mayonnaise, or mustard) has been contaminated with bacteria from the raw chicken and cannot be re-used.

The onions do need to get crushed into crumbs. The easiest way to do this is to put them in a baggie, seal it, and then just crush the onions with your hands.

You could then just add the raw chicken breasts to the bag and pat on the coating. Because I used four different “glues” I put the crushed onions in a shallow dish with sides.

From there I patted on the onion crumbs to both sides of the chicken breasts.

Next, I put the chicken into an ungreased baking pan.

Be sure to place the chicken, with what was the shiny side, up. This way looks better once it is cooked.

This is what the chicken will look like when it is ready to go in the oven. No one “glue” looks different from the other. They all look the same at this point.

Coatings: Egg…Butter…Mayonnaise…Mustard

Bake the chicken in a 400-degree oven for approximately 20 minutes or until it is no longer pink on the inside. (The chicken breasts I used each weighed 5 ½ ounces.)

Oven Baked for 20 Minutes

The mustard-dipped chicken on the far right came out of the oven slightly less browned than the others. That makes sense as there is no fat in mustard to help in the browning process.

Now for the official taste test! (That means my husband and I took a bite of each piece of chicken to see which one we like the best.)

The mustard coating had a really tangy flavor which was our least favorite. The mustard overpowered the flavor of the onion coating.

The remaining three all tasted pretty much the same, but the butter and the mayonnaise coating made the chicken breasts seriously moist.

(But you are adding extra calories with all that added fat!)

The egg coating was good but not quite as moist as the butter and mayonnaise coating.

My conclusion is to use the egg coating but for company try the butter or mayonnaise coating.

Cheers!

P.S.

Chicken Cutlets show below…

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and Chicken Parmesan are two more great ways to cook up boneless chicken breasts.

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Graham Cracker Pie Crust

print recipe card posted in Sweets by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Learning how to make a graham cracker pie crust will open the door to making all sorts of tempting dessert pies including the Chocolate Fudge Pie pictured above.

Most people learning how to cook are totally terrified at the thought of making a pie crust. This graham cracker crust may well change your mind! It is about 1,000 times easier to make than making and rolling out a pie crust made of dough. (For the more adventurous beginner cooks, be sure to check out the bottom of this post for links on making a pie crust made of dough from scratch)

(For my international readers, graham crackers are readily available in the USA. I am not sure what the equivalent ingredient would be elsewhere. If anyone can recommend a plain, sweet cracker that is used in your country for a crumb crust, I would appreciate you adding it to the comments!)

You may be asking, “why should I bother making it myself?” You can buy a pre-made graham cracker pie crust, usually in two different sizes; 9-inch or a package of minis.

The answer is that the taste and texture of a home-made graham cracker crust is far superior to that of the pre-made variety. Plus, it just looks better presenting a dessert in a proper pie dish rather than a tin-foil pan!

Making the crust yourself is not complicated at all. It only takes three ingredients – butter, sugar and graham cracker crumbs.

(An alternative to the butter and sugar would be to use 3 Tablespoons of canola oil and 3 Tablespoons of maple syrup.)

There are usually three packets of crackers each in a box. Each packet contains 9 crackers, and when crushed, will equal 1 and 1/4 cups of cracker crumbs.

To crush the crackers into crumbs, put the crackers in a zip-lock bag and, with a heavy can, start crushing.

Or just buy a box of the crumbs and ….

measure out 1 and 1/4 cups of crumbs.

In the USA, butter comes in sticks.

(One stick has 8 Tablespoons, which equals 1/2 cup or 4 ounces or 113 grams.)

Put 5 Tablespoons of butter into a med-large microwave safe mixing bowl.

Melt the butter. This will take about 1 minute, depending on your microwave.

Add the crumbs to the bowl along with 1/4 cup of sugar.

Using a fork, mix these ingredients together.

It should be all blended, but still crumbly.

Put the crumbs into a 9-inch pie dish and press them in place with your fingers…..

or a one-cup measuring cup.

When making a frozen or refrigerated pie filling, put the crust in the refrigerator to chill while making the filling. The crust should chill for about 10 minutes before adding the filling.

It is not necessary to bake the crust, unless your recipe specifically says to do so. But, baking the crust will give it a wonderful taste and a crispier texture.

To bake a graham cracker pie crust, preheat the oven to 350 degree oven and bake the crust for 8 minutes.

Cool the crust completely before adding the filling.

A tart pan with a removable bottom is also a great option instead of using a pie dish.

If you have never seen a pan with a removable bottom it really does look odd. Press the crumbs into the pan the same way you would a regular pie dish.

When it comes time to serve from a pie made in a tart pan, place the tart on a large can.

The ring drops down…

And the pie is ready to serve!

Cheers!

P.S.

Here are some great pie crust links:

Pie Crusts – Ready Made – tips from startcooking.com

Food Wishes recipe video on Easy Homemade Pie Crust

Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pie Crust

The Barefoot Contessa – Ina Garten’s video on making a pie crust

Simply Recipes – Lattice Top Pie Crust

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The Best Hot Spinach Dip Ever!

print recipe card posted in Appetizers and Snacks by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Deceptively simple to make, this is the best hot spinach dip you will ever eat!

Ramona Woo and my sister Marie Woolf, both of Greenville, South Carolina, have figured out the perfect balance of ingredients to make this version of spinach dip a real winner!

The only two skills you need to make this dip are cooking bacon and grating cheese.

If you need a quick review, I have a photo-tutorial on cooking bacon in the microwave and one on grating cheese as well.

You will need the following ingredients:

  • A 10-ounce box of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • ¼ cup of mayonnaise (light or regular)
  • 1 cup of sour cream (light or regular)
  • 3 Tablespoons of heavy cream (or half and half)
  • 4 ounces of Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 4 ounces of Swiss cheese, grated
  • ½ pound of bacon (about 8 slices)

Once cooked, crumble the bacon by chopping it with a knife or just snipping it with a pair of scissors. Divide the bacon into two piles. One third will get mixed in the dip and the remaining two thirds will go on top of the dip.

(You could crumble it a bit finer if you prefer!)

Using a microwave-safe dish, defrost the spinach in the microwave.

Follow the cooking directions on the back of the box but cook it for about 1/2 of the time indicated. You only want to defrost it at this stage, not cook it through.

Squeeze out all excess water from the spinach. You could put it in a colander and press out the water with your fingers but I usually just squeeze it like a sponge.

Using a grater, grate the Monterey Jack and the Swiss cheese. (4 ounces equals about 1 cup of grated cheese.)

In a large mixing bowl, put the spinach, the cheeses, 1/3 of the bacon, 1/4 cup of mayonnaise, 1 cup of sour cream, and 3 Tablespoons of heavy cream.

Mix everything together.

Spread the mixture out in a 10 inch round baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining bacon on the top.

Bake the dip in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until it’s bubbly around the edges.

Serve this fabulous dip with your favorite tortilla chips.

Thanks Marie and Ramona for sharing this recipe with us at startcooking.com!

Enjoy!

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