How to: Recipe Makeover – Crispy Coconut Chicken Strips and Mango Curry Dipping Sauce

coconut chicken strips

Eating chicken strips (AKA fingers – which always weirded me out as a name btw) transports me right back to the big chains restaurants of my childhood.

Ahhh, the 90s.

No matter the chain, I could always count on a plate of these scorching hot…delicacies, generally complemented by an equally elegant…sugar sauce.

coconut chicken strips

Though my palate has matured, chicken strips still turn my crank.

Criteria being: MUST be crispy (generally deep fried), must NOT be overcooked and MUST have a kick-ass dipping sauce.

Homemade strips, historically, haven’t made the cut. I usually don’t go to the trouble of deep frying at home and baked strips have a bad rap for lacking a good crunch and/or being overcooked.

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All this to say, I’ve got a cure for shitty homemade baked chicken strips!

And it’s pre-toasting the crumb! In this case a magical combo of panko and coconut.

This simple 5 minute trick seriously revolutionizes the homemade chicken strip, guys.  This is high level stuff. By pre-toasting, you’ll still get a golden brown, crispy exterior without drying out the chicken.

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Add a super flavourful batter to lock in the moisture, and a slightly sweet (but way more grown up and complex) dipping sauce and CHABANG! Chicken strips are back baby!

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It almost makes me want to relive the 90s.

Just kidding.

Never.

Erin

Crispy Baked Coconut Chicken Strips and Mango Curry Dipping Sauce

Serves 4
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 12 minutes
Total time 22 minutes
Website Adapted from Recipe Tin Eats

Ingredients

  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup medium unsweetened coconut
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Large egg
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard (or your mustard of choice)
  • water (a few teaspoons, as needed)

Mango Curry Dipping Sauce

  • 1/2 cup mango chunks (thawed frozen work well)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon liquid honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon curry powder

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375F. In a small bowl, combine panko crumbs, coconut, canola oil and salt until the whole mixture is evenly and lightly coated in oil. Transfer mixture to a lined baking sheet in a shallow layer. Bake for 4-5 minutes until golden brown, stirring halfway through.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk to combine egg, flour, mayonnaise, and mustard. Whisk in water, by the teaspoon, as needed to make a batter that evenly coats the back of a spoon and runs off slowly.
3. Add chicken pieces to the batter and toss to coat each piece well. Transfer chicken piece by piece to the panko/coconut baking sheet. Cover each piece generously with crumbs, pat gently and flip to repeat. Transfer coated pieces to a second lined baking sheet. Bake for 11-12 minute until chicken is just cooked through.
4. Meanwhile, combine all of the ingredients for the mango dipping sauce in a blender and puree. Alternatively, use an immersion blender.
5. Serve hot and crispy chicken strips with dipping sauce immediately.

How To: Recipe Makeover – Vegetarian Chilli Loaded Sweet Potato Fries

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I’m at a loss for words.

Seriously – I sat in front of my computer for a good hour just staring. I knew I wanted to share this recipe with you but the only phrase that kept popping in my head was “MAKE THIS NOW!”

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I feel like these are a tad late to the dinner game. They would have been perfect for your super bowl watching party, and even better as a fun Valentine’s Day dinner. And we even missed the boat on the Oscar party night. But fear not, there are lots more holidays and celebratory events on the horizon. Or really, I think Monday, or Tuesday, or even Wednesday is a good reason to make this 30 minute meal. Or maybe Friday can now be called FRY-day and we can all celebrate together. Thoughts?

This recipe came about after a craving for nachos hit one night. Couple that with my daughter’s new found love of sweet potato fries (V for victory!) and my need to use up some vegetarian ground round and half a can of tomato paste. Boom – loaded sweet potato fry nachos. My Irish friends would be so proud.

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You make your own baked fries here so they are a bit better for your ticker. I also leave the skin on my taters to get some extra fibre, and frankly, I’m just lazy. The chilli is a bean-free vegetarian version because beans aren’t agreeing with the tummies of some members of my family these days. TMI? But you could totally add a can of black or kidney beans in with the chilli mixture if you would like.

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I’ve also added some veggies into the mixture because I am a dietitian and all and topped the whole pan off with a good helping of some extra old cheddar. Go for the good stuff here – the older the cheese, the more flavourful. And please PLEASE buy the full fat variety. That low fat cheddar is not going to melt well and is going to seem more like plastic than cheese. I’m sorry, it’s true. When you buy the real deal here you get more flavour for less. Trust.

We ate these as is, but next time they are going to be FULLY loaded and topped with all the guac, sour cream, and jalapeños money can buy!

Dara

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Vegetarian Chili Loaded Sweet Potato Fries

Serves 4
Dietary Vegetarian

Ingredients

  • 2 sweet potatoes (cut into wedges)
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil (divided)
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • 1/2 Tsp pepper
  • 1 red pepper (diced)
  • 1 zucchini (diced)
  • 1 package yves ground round
  • 1 Tsp paprika
  • 1 Tsp cumin
  • 2 Tsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Note

You could swap out the soy for ground turkey, chicken, or beef if you would like. Or replace it with a can of black, white, or kidney beans. The chili would also be great on top of a baked white or sweet potato, on pasta, or as a burrito or taco filling.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place sweet potato wedges on baking sheet and toss with 1 tbsp canola oil, salt, and pepper until evenly coated. Bake in the oven about 30-40 minutes, until brown and tender.
3. While sweet potatoes are baking, heat a large non stick skillet over medium high heat and add remaining 1 tbsp canola oil.
4. Add red pepper and zucchini and cook until soft. Add ground round and cook for a minute or two, breaking it up with a spatula into crumbles. Add paprika, chili powder, cumin, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, and vinegar and mix to combine.
5. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes until it thickens slightly. Remove from heat.
6. Once sweet potatoes are done, top evenly with chili and then sprinkle cheddar evenly on top. Bake for about 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve plain or topped with some diced avocado, salsa, and Greek yogurt or sour cream.

 

How to: Recipe Makeover – Eggplant Parmesan

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We’ve been teased with a few days of warm weather over the last couple of weeks.

But I’m on to you, Mother Nature.  I’ve been a Canadian gal long enough to know you’re about to screw us over with a blast of icy garbage.

This ‘spring is just around the corner’ optimism hasn’t got me fooled! On the contrary. I’m still cooking comfort food. Crikey. I’m still cooking casseroles.

I promise, this one will take the edge off when winter does return with a vengeance.

And oh. It will.

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Do we have any eggplant haters out there?

Confession. I used to be one. In fact I was an extremely picky eater as a kid, but I had an especially big hate-on for bitter, spongy eggplant.

It turns out, all an eggplant needs to taste goddang delicious is a little love.

I haven’t had a bitter eggplant in a long time. Most of the bitterness long associated with eggplants has been bred out of the ones we’d find at the grocery store. Farmers 👈🏻 geniuses. Choose eggplants that have smooth skin and a very firm texture for freshness.

Salting the eggplant in this recipe isn’t to cut the bitterness, but to remove some of the excess moisture. Following the roasting step, you’ll be left with creamy, dreamy smokey slices of slightly salted eggplant that will be almost impossible to avoid eating on their own. You really can’t skip this step for this recipe because excess moisture will result in a really soupy final product.

As for the sponginess factor, eggplant, if given the chance will absorb a boatload of oil.  In this recipe we control the oil it can absorb by brushing lightly with oil.

Remember our AMAZEBALLS Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches? Here, we’re avoiding super spongy eggplant by providing a coating for the slices before we fry them up in oil.

And so there we have it. Eggplant: unmasked!

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As you read through the recipe below, you may find this tomato sauce recipe to be familiar. It’s a slight take on the insanely simple Three Ingredient Sauce we shared with you last year. No time for homemade sauce? Use your fave store bought. No brainer.

Half homemade is awesome too, guys. (Maybe just a smidgen of fresh basil to sprinkle in though?)

Now, layer away!

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Get your slippers ready, pour yourself a glass of red and scoop out an extra large portion of eggplant parm.  You are now prepared for winter’s final blast.

Erin

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Eggplant Parmesan

Serves 5-6
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 1 hour
Total time 1 hours, 10 minutes
From magazine Inspired by Eggplant Parmesan from Food and Drink Winter 2017

Ingredients

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 can (796mL) Canned Whole Tomatoes with juices (preferably San Marzano Tomatoes)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 Medium yellow onion (peeled and quartered)
  • 2 Large cloves garlic (peeled and left whole)
  • 8-10 basil leaves (chopped)

Eggplant Casserole

  • 2 Large eggplants (sliced into 1/4 inch rounds)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil (divided)
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese (about 300g, grated)
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 cooked garlic cloves (removed from cooked tomato sauce)

Directions

Tomato Sauce
1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, add tomatoes, butter, onion and garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, add basil and cook for 15-20 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat.
2. Remove onion and discard. Remove garlic and set aside to cool. Crush any large tomato pieces with the back of a spoon.
Eggplant Parmesan
3. Preheat oven to 400F. Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt on both sides and lay them in a single layer on a wire rack or over some paper towels. Let sit for 15 minutes, pat extra moisture dry with paper towels.
4. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and brush slices on both sides with 2 Tbsp of the canola oil. Bake 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through, until browned.
5. Meanwhile, mince cooled garlic cloves and combine with breadcrumbs, remaining Tbsp of canola oil and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.
6. Spread 1/3 tomato sauce over bottom of oiled 8"x11" casserole dish. Place single layer of slightly overlapping eggplant sliced overtop. Combine mozzarella and remaining 3/4 cup parmesan and sprinkle 1/3 of the cheeses over eggplant slices. Repeat layering 2 more times.
7. Sprinkle bread crumb topping over casserole.
8. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until sauce is bubbling, cheese is melted and panko is golden brown. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

How to: Recipe Makeover – Mushroom Stroganoff

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I have been dying to share this recipe. I would be shouting ‘MUSHROOM STROGANOFF!’ from the rooftops if it was at all socially acceptable.

Short ingredient list. Cooks in under thirty. A monkey could make it.

That’s a classic triple threat, right there.

Wait. It’s also just-try-holding-me-back-from-eating-the-whole-pot delicious.

Quad threat.

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I’ve been holding this little recipe card in my pocket for a few weeks, since I tested it out in the same week I shared our recipe for Mushroom Bourguignon.

I figured, no one wants to be over mushroomed, Erin. Hold your horses. So I held on. And that was tough, because I think you need this in your life.

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Rich, creamy and savoury just like the classic beef version but with meaty cremini mushrooms instead. This would delight any vegetarian, I guarantee it.

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The combo of goat cheese and greek yogurt give it that signature stroganoff tanginess while doing double duty as a good source of protein.

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And the egg noodles?

Egg noodles for President.

That’s all I have to say about that.

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Just looking at this photo makes my salivary glands go bananas.

Guys, you’ve gotta make this one STAT.

Erin

Mushroom Stroganoff

Serves 4-6
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1.5lb mushrooms (sliced)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1 package wide egg noodles
  • 1 Small package goat cheese
  • 1 cup 2% greek yogurt
  • 1 bunch green onions (sliced, white and green part separated)
  • 2 tablespoons parsley (chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Directions

1. In a large sauté pan over medium heat melt butter and add mushrooms, sautéing until cooked through and most of the liquid is evaporated. Add white parts of onion and cook for another minute until all liquid is evaporated.
2. Sprinkle flour over mushrooms and stir for 30 seconds until dissolved. Add beef broth, lower heat to medium-low and simmer for about 8 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cook egg noodles per package directions in salted water. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking liquid when done.
4. Add goat cheese to mushrooms and stir until melted and evenly dispersed. Remove from heat, stir in yogurt, green onions, salt, pepper and parsley.
5. Add cooked noodles and toss with mushroom sauce, adding reserved pasta water slowly until desired sauce consistency is met. Serve immediately.

How to: Make your own Short-Cut Pierogi with Potato and Caramelized Onion

I love a good kitchen shortcut.

Especially one that makes traditional pierogi so light and delicate, I can eat twice as many.

Guys. TWICE as many!

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The secret is pre-made wonton wrappers. If you’ve ever made real-deal pierogi, you’d know preparing, rolling and cutting the dough is at least half the battle.

The circular wonton wrappers look a bit more pierogi-like, but i couldn’t find them so triangle pierogi it is. Shockingly, they taste the same. ;p

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This recipe is lightly adapted from one of my favourite cookbooks – Bonnie Stern’s Friday Night Dinners. If I haven’t mentioned I love Bonnie Stern before, I will now. I love her. There.  She writes a terrific column in the National Post and I just love her food vibe. She uses fresh, often seasonal, high quality ingredients and simple cooking techniques to make her recipes just shine. Bright like a diamond.

These pierogi are a perfect example.  The humble potato and onion are transformed into perfect little pockets of savoury, sweet and smokey.

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The photo above is meant to show you my tear-free onion chopping technique! Set your chopping board up next the stove, turn on the exhaust fan, turn on a burner (no need to be cooking anything) and chop those babies to your heart’s content.  The heat and exhaust fan will draw away all of the offending fumes and your eyes will remain clear and bright throughout dinner prep! Booya.

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Speaking of onions. Caramelizing them is just the bee’s knees isn’t it? Sometimes I’ll take a bag of onions and caramelize them on the weekend with nothing in particular planned for them.  I’ll use them throughout the week in sandwiches, salads, pastas, on pizza or whatever calls for a little extra some’n some’n. They make these pierogi.

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Yukon gold potatoes have a beautiful, smooth buttery texture.  I used a large whisk to ‘mash’ them.

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Once you have a nice little work station prepped, you’ll be done in no time.

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Type-A much?

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Enjoy these.  They’re a damn delight.

Erin

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Short-cut Pierogi

Ingredients

  • 1 ½lb yukon gold potatoes (peeled and cut into chunks)
  • 6 Small onions (peeled and sliced)
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt (divided)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 Large egg
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Approximately 50wonton wrappers (400g package)

Directions

1. In a medium saucepan, cover potatoes in cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes until very tender.
2. Meanwhile, in a deep skillet, heat canola oil over medium high heat. Add onions and ½ tsp salt. Stir occasionally as onions start to brown, scraping any brown bits off bottom of skillet as you go. If pan is dry, add 1 Tbsp water at a time. Cook for 20-25 minutes until onions are a deep brown colour.
3. Remove ½ cup browned onions from skillet and chop. Drain potatoes well and mash along with onions, butter, egg, remaining salt and pepper.
4. On a clean, dry surface lay out wonton wrappers (10-12 at a time; cover remaining ones with a slightly damp cloth while you work). Place 1½ tsp of potato filling in the centre of each wrapper. Dab a little water around edge of each wrapper and fold over to make a triangle. Press edges together to seal them. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet. At this point, you can freeze them if desired.
Allow them to freeze on baking sheet and transfer to a freezer bag once frozen.
5. To cook pierogi, bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook in 2 batches for 4-5 minutes. In a separate skillet, reheat remaining onions. Transfer boiled, drained pierogi to skillet and toss gently to combine. Serve over your favourite baby greens alongside sour cream or greek yogurt.