Tuesday, June 30

Banana Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Muffins

Bold flavor and cafe style come together to create these perfect breakfast muffins. Great on the go these muffins can be made up to 5 days ahead.

Makes 12 muffins
Full time 1 hours (includes cooling time)

The needs-

4 large bananas, mashed
4 eggs
2 sticks butter, softened
3 cup flour
2 cup sugar
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup chocolate chunks
1/4 cup baking coco powder
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking soda

The know-

Preheat oven to 350' and line 12 jumbo muffin cups with paper liners.

In a large mixing bowl cream together butter and sugar.

Add in eggs, yogurt, and vanilla.

Add in bananas.

Add in baking coco and baking soda.

Add in flour.

Fold in chocolate chunks.

Fill paper liners 2/3 of the way full and place in oven.

Bake in oven 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.

Allow to cool in muffin tin for 5 minutes and then move to a wire rack or cutting board to finish cooling for 15 minutes before serving.

Cheers!

Sunday, June 28

MUG IT: S'mores Cake Mug

Mug plus the flavors of a S'mores equals dessert perfection in this foodie trend dish.

Serves 1
Full time 5 minutes

The needs-

1 graham cracker
4 tbsp flour
3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp chocolate chips
2 tbsp marshmallow cream
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp baking powder

The know-

In a bag crush cracker into crumbles. You want partially fine but still textured crumbs. Reserve a small amount of crumbs for a later use.

In a mug mix together everything except chocolate chips and marshmallow cream.

Top with chocolate chips and reserved cracked crumbs.


Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes.

Top with marshmallow cream and microwave for 30 seconds.

Let cool for 1 minute before eating. Cheers!

Friday, June 26

Southern Fried Chicken









Who doesn't love fried chicken? Seriously, fried chicken is one of the best meals out there. Biting into a nice crusty coating with moist juicy chicken inside, is just heaven.

There are dozens of ways to fry chicken, wet better, beer batter, dry coat, double dip...I could keep going, but why? It has taken me several years and combinations of ingredients to solidify my recipe. I do use boneless meat but, feel free to use bone-in, just keep an eye on your cook time.

Serves 4-6
Full time: 3 hours to overnight (includes marinading time)

The needs-

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into quarters
4 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
2 cups corn meal
2 tbsp onion powder
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp salt, divided
2 tbsp ground black pepper, divided
1 tbsp paprika

Frying oil

The know-

In a medium bowl mix buttermilk, half the salt, half the black pepper and stir


Add chicken into bowl and set in refrigerator, for a minimum of 2 hrs, but overnight works best


Mix all remaining dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside until chicken is ready


Dipping the chicken is a little messy, but if you use one hand for dry and one hand for wet it will be better

Remove all chicken from buttermilk mixture and reserve mixture

Now gently roll chicken in flour mixture


Give it a quick dip back in buttermilk mixture


Gently roll again in flour mixture. Having a double coat will help seal in moisture and flavor


Set on wax paper or large plate until your ready to fry, do not stack


In a Dutch oven, deep skillet, or home fryer get oil heated to 350 degrees

Place chicken in oil three or four pieces at a time


Fry for 10 minutes (remember this is cut chicken breasts other cuts can take up to 15 minutes)

Remove from oil and set on drip tray


When all chicken is ready, serve immediately. This will ensure maximum flavor and temperature.

When cut into chicken will be moist in the middle with a beautiful golden crust!



Cheers!

Thursday, June 25

800 already? Q & A with the wandering chef

Hello! 

How is everyone today? I have been writing my blog for just over four years. Two years ago I sat down and answered a wide array of questions, most of which had a common theme and were generally asked very regularly. So I thought, I would share the answers to many of my frequently asked questions.

Here I am two years later and still getting the same question, tho a few of the answers have changed and a few questions have been added. So I decided to re-do the first Q & A-I hope you enjoy reading about me and I look forward to celebrating the 800th post later this month!

Sincerely-
The wandering chef


Question: Why the wandering chef?
Good question, it refers to my cooking style and how I learned to cook. When I was in high school I traveled as an exchange student to 14 different countries. This opened my eyes up to  experimenting with food, cooking styles, and ingredients. I was given a open view of different cultures, their food, and what they considered comfort everyday food. This created a knowledge which combines a wandering array of styles.

Actually, I did not even come up with the name. My other half did. He inspired me to start a blog. I was talking about writing a cook book. He said it was the perfect way to try different writing styles and create a base of readers. He came up with the name after I talked about how diverse I wanted to be. He said it would encompass my cooking style and help the readers trek through them.

Question: Do you honestly cook like this all the time?
Yup, seriously. We very rarely eat out, I would say two-three times a month max. That includes getting take out. We eat home cooked dinners every night and at least once a week I bake something fun for breakfast. 

Now, do not get mislead. We cook every night but, not huge fancy meals filled with multi-course dishes. Most nights are simple dinners main, veggie, starch or bread, salad and that's it. Usually, once or twice a week I will go over the top. Food crazy nights, we eat too much, love it and then eat just salad the next night.

Roughly once a month I get really inspired and will go way over board, bake or cook like crazy and then spend a few days living off of it. Breakfast really tends to be our time for going store bought. Entenmann's doughnuts are sort of a family favorite around here, we get them once or twice a month, but most days it is eggs and toast.

Question: How do you have so much time to cook and bake?
Okay, truth-I do not. I actually probably cook or bake far less than it seams. I work a full time job so I actually do not have large amounts of time to devote to cooking and baking. Dinner usually takes thirty minutes to an hour, some nights less. I usually have a weekday off, that tends to be my cooking/baking blogging day.

In all honesty I tend to list out what I want to cook/bake for the day and create a time table. It includes when things need to be started, rise times, when things can go in oven. This way I can do other things at the same time.

Question: Who else in your household cooks?
Great question we all do! My other half is an amazing griller and partner in the kitchen. He actually cooks most of the time for breakfast eggs, pancakes, and caramelized bacon are his specialties.

These days we have helpers having two teenagers in the house is great. One loves baking, making guacamole (which is seriously better then mine), and mixing up great beverages to accompany meals. Her homemade raspberry green iced tea is fantastic! The other one is in love with all things cooking. So far he has helped me write 5 recipes and I am sure he will either be an executive chef or rock star. These days he like to watch competition cooking shows and create a list of things to learn, we never say no to teaching and eating his creations.

Question: I noticed an influx of vegetarian and gluten free dishes, is this because of your family?
The vegetarian part is. The eldest teenager is not a fan of meat, never really was, we always new one day she would go vegetarian and this year she did. It has allowed me to open up a whole new venue to recipes. Cooking globally has helped since several cuisines focus heavily on meat free dishes.

The GF are for a co-worker of mine with a terrible inability to eat anything which has even brushed up against a gluten. One day she was commenting on how much she missed bread and I decided I was going to figure something out. These days we swap ideas and she is happily enjoying herself with the GF scones!

Question: Why are some of your post titled and some not?
Titles like "HOW TO" appear across my blog for a various number of reasons. First it is actually for me, it is easier to search if I have already done something by having a key word or phrase.

Second it is done for my readers for the same reason. Want to know if I talked about how to make something-you can just search.

Third new readers stumble across the blog daily and often because they are looking to learn a particular type of recipe or dish. This allows an easy way to find similar recipes.

Questions: Follow-up okay, then what are all the sections?
"HOW TO" is a way to learn a new skill-these are geared towards beginner or novice cooks who may need a little guidance in the kitchen. For example how to steam an artichoke or how to cut tofu.

"MAKE IT" is a way to learn how to make traditionally packaged items in your own kitchen. I tend to make these ahead and use them as if they were store bought. This includes onion soup mix, brownie mix, taco seasoning, ect.

"BAKE IT" okay this is a tricky one I do post baking recipes not titled. The recipes that appear under bake it are generally more complex, are bakery inspired, or a copycats of a name brand. Examples include bagels, Twinkies, and English muffins. All other baked goods are just posted as recipes.

"TABLE FOR TWO" highlights dishes that feed two people.

"MUG IT" is newer, these are all single serve dishes, made in a mug, made in a microwave. I did edit old posts to include the title.

Other titles include Product reviews and craft kitchen. But I have not posted craft kitchen in a few years and product reviews are infrequent.

Question: Does your family enjoy your cooking and baking experiments?
Most of the time I tend to stick to what I know will be a success with taste buds. I usually taste anything I have questions about and sometimes they go horribly wrong. But with growing taste buds, the window is slowly opening to what I can and cannot try. These days I tend to do more experimenting with flavors on the whole family then just my other half.

I actually like the reviews and feedback. Having three other sets of taste buds really helps with fine tuning the outcome. I am always amazing when something unexpected makes it to the "family favorites" box. To this day I am still in awe of how much Baked Cheddar Chicken can be eaten in a single meal. ( and still is)

Although, to be honest I think my work place loves the baking experiments more, who does not love walking into baked goods in the break room?

Question: What is most the requested thing you make? 
Depends on what it is for. For breakfast around here it is my cafe style chocolate chocolate chip muffins. For dinner it is my Baked cheddar chicken or Honey Lime Chicken. For a quick meal buffalo pizza. For work my fudge brownies or anything in cupcake form. For gathering and parties my oreo stuffed brownies.

Question: Homemade verse store bought, how often do you substitute one for the other?
If I can make it and it is cost effective we use it. Barbecue sauce, frosting, cake batter, sour cream, ricotta cheese, and butter tend to be what I make mostly. I also make mixes ahead of time cookies, brownies, Bisquick, doing those and keeping them stored helps out a lot.

Things like condensed milk, evaporated milk, sliced bread, bagels and English muffins are easy but not always time friendly. So I will usually use store bought. If my recipe calls for "store bought or homemade" chances are I am using homemade. These days I have cut back on my crazy "it has to be 100% from scratch" and have found a way to use certain store bought items as a time saver. I still prefer home made, but if it can be made with store bought, I tend to note it in the blog.

Also there have been a few time that honestly store bought was better for a recipe-I am honest not all things home made are better.

Question: How often do you grocery shop? How much do you spend?
Usually, once a month I do the "big shop", which will load up our pantry shelves, freezer, and refrigerator. I tend to only buy proteins once a month. I freeze most of them, buying the big packs and breaking it down really saves on money and time. Having a vacuum sealer really helps. It took a while but, once I figured out the family "most often consumed" I came up with the list, which very rarely changes. Once a week I will grab milk, bread, cereal, produce. Nothing major.

As for cost, well that can range. Figure family of four and include everything from groceries to laundry detergent to toilet paper, probably $600-800 a month. Rough estimate off the top if my head. You would think with a growing family it would have gone up over the years, but I discovered Amazon Prime has subscriptions for household items and Prime Pantry is great for staple shelf goods, this has saved a lot of money and actually expanded our staples. I bookmark $50 a month for fun or interesting ingredients. Everything else is done from the everyday ingredients you can find in any grocery store. 

Question: Is there anything you cannot cook?
Microwave popcorn. Let's just say if microwave popcorn was on Facebook we would not be friends. I do not like it, it does not like me. We are not going to ever be happily ever after together. I used to give it a try once a year but not anymore. I will admit defeat. I just cannot do it. 

I know microwave popcorn has a button, listen for the slow down, but nope I am all set with it.

What was the worst kitchen incident you had?
Well, it was not actually a kitchen disaster. It was a grill disaster, I actually set the whole grill on fire.

Oh, and I mean on fire! Flames shooting everywhere thought the house was going to go up. Still not sure what I did, to this day the other half makes fun if it and his recent Father day new grill, let us just say I bought it, but I will not be using it.

Question: Where do your plates come from?
Pier 1 Imports. Most of my plates, glasses, and serve ware come from Pier 1. Why? 

Two reasons-First, I love their style, color, seasonal look, and you can always find something new. Second, I work there. I have been shopping there since I was in collage and now I work there, love it! I raid the clearance section every few months for great platters, serving plates, bowls, ect.

Question: Cast Iron, why do you use it so often? Is it better than regular pans?
I love cast iron. Seriously, just love it. I like the ease of use, cleaning, stove top or oven, grill or camp fire. I just love it. Dutch ovens are my close second favorite, but if you can invest in cast iron, do it.

Are they better then regular pans? Not sure, I really prefer them. I have a nice set if sauté pans that were bought at a fancy chef store so those are pretty nice, but I really just like cast iron.

Question: Shallots verse onions, why do you use them when you do?
I tend to use shallots a lot. I prefer the sweet and subtle flavor when eating them whole. Most dishes which call for onions can be substituted, but I really only do this if they will be eaten whole. Dishes which need a base or the robust onion flavor should really be cooked with onions instead.

I also love using dried minced onions, I find they are a great thing to have in a pantry. They add texture and tang when you want just a little something extra.

Question: Dried verse fresh herbs, when and how do you choose which to use?
Most of the time I would love to use fresh, I say most. I really tend to use dried only because that is what I have on hand. Some recipes absolutely need fresh but, most times dried can be used. I have a small variety of fresh on hand most days and will use them accordingly. 

Also, drying your own herbs allows you to have a nice fresh bold flavor in the convenience of dried herbs.

Question: Do you have a garden? Do you grow your own herbs?
Yes and yes. I have a small family vegetable garden I plant every year. Filled with the basics tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, squashes, and hot peppers.

I have an indoor herb garden which has basil, parsley, cilantro, chives, rosemary, and mint. I also grow self-sustaining green onions and lettuce inside by my windows. Do not forget my aloe plant though, my other half's favorite thing.


Question: Sifting, why do you not sift?
I hate sifting, it is boring, tedious, bothers my hand, and...I just hate it. Do I sift, nope, very rarely have I come across a recipe where I thought sifting was an absolute. So if I have told you to sift-trust me do it. If not nope I do not sift, do not plan on ever really making part of my process either. 

I have never once been told anything was to dense or firm, no one has ever said "hey this flour does not seam sifted for your cupcakes", never saw the difference. Yes, air and flour changes volume, but hey have not had a problem yet.

Question: Trends in food, I notice you tend to post recipes in groups, are you following food trends?
Nope. I do not follow food trends, clothes trends, shoe trends, or any trends for that matter. If I have talked about something trendy, it's because I was asked. My recipes get published in groups because, that it how they were cooked. As I have mentioned in the past I tend to have one day a week that I will write all the recipes for the blog. These days I seam a tad more trendy, because I continue to get asked to do certain recipes. For example-when this blog first started I made a Potato Soup for one recipe, which was done in a mug in a microwave. Four years later mug recipes are in and now I have a whole section devoted to them. Did I follow the trend, a little, but most are recipes I already had.

Most of the time I am writing a month a head and will do everything at once, which is why the posts appear connected. I try to mix it up when posting, but sometimes it does not work that way.

Question: Who takes the photos for the recipes?
Me. I take them as I go. I have a great camera I was given two years ago, it is a SONY cyber shot. I can take the photos as I go and they sync straight to my Cromebook. No fancy editing materials or programs, just click and go. I still publish from my iPhone which really helps when I am due to post but, not at home! But most of the work is done at my kitchen counter these days.

Question: I noticed you talk less about the recipes and do not post non recipes often anymore.
Honestly, I noticed that too. I do less non recipes these days, because they are not as popular and figured I would rather deliver what readers like. As for the talking less at beginning of posts, I think I got a tad lazy, I will be trying to talk a tad more-but still really want the recipes to be the stars of the show.

If you have a question you want answered email me: maybe you will see your question added here!

Eclecticchava@yahoo.com


Monday, June 22

BAKE IT: Burger Buns


Nice and soft, this recipe will make you a dozen bakery quality burger buns in under two hours. For added versatility shape dough into oblong pieces and bake up hot dog or grinder rolls instead!

Full time 1 1/2 hours (includes rise and cool time)
Makes 12 buns

The needs-

1 egg
4 1/2 cups white whole wheat or all purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp white sugar
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt

For baking:
2 tbsp milk, room temperature
2 tbsp sesame seeds

The know-

In a small sauce pot combine milk, water, and butter. Heat over low heat until butter melts and mixture reaches 120' on a cooking thermometer. 

In a large bowl combine sugar, yeast, salt, and 1 1/2 cups flour.

Gently pour heated milk mixture into bowl with flour mixture. Stir just to combine.

Add in egg, stir just to combine.

Add in flour 1 cup at a time. Stirring well after each addition.

Once dough pulls together turn out onto a lightly floured surface.

Knead gently for 6-8 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

Cut dough into 12 equal parts and roll into balls.

Line dough balls onto a baking sheet and gently flatten with palm of your hand.

Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise 30 minutes in a warm area.

Once dough has risen, preheat oven to 400'.

Lightly brush the top of each dough ball with milk and sprinkle over sesame seeds.

Bake in oven 10-12 minutes or until evenly golden in color.

Remove from oven and move to wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before using.

Cheers!

Monday, June 15

MUG IT: Individual Pumpkin Cakes


Though normally found in fall-Pumpkin cakes are a fun summer favortie of mine. I enjoy making them for a few reasons, first they can be made in a few minutes, second they are made in the microwave so no oven heated, third well-they are just yummy!

Full time 6 minutes
Serves 1

The needs-

1 egg
1/2 cup flour, leveled off
1/4 cup brown sugar, not packed
1/4 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
2 tbsp half and half (or whole milk)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg


The know-

In a small mixing bowl combine flour, brown sugar, salt, allspice, and nutmeg.

Add in remaining ingredients.

Pour mixture into a large ramekin (1 1/2 cup size) or single serve baking dish.

Microwave 1 1/2 minutes and let rest 30 seconds.

Microwave 1 1/2 minutes (mixture puffs when baking rest period prevents spillage).

Allow to cool 2 minutes before eating. Cheers!

Saturday, June 13

BAKE IT: Garlic Knots

Garlic knots are one of those fun Italian restaurant goodies that disappear almost instantly when the basket hits the table. Full of flavor and fun to eat, garlic knots are by far my favorite restaurant treats to make at home.

Full time 30 minutes
Makes 1 dozen

The needs-

1 lb. pizza dough (homemade, store bought both work fine)
1 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp dried oregano

The know-

Preheat oven to 425' and lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Roll dough out into a 8 x 12" rectangle.

Brush lovingly with melted butter.

Sprinkle across Parmesan cheese.

Sprinkle across garlic powder and dried oregano.

Slice into 12 strips. Tie each strip twice creating a double knot.


Place on baking sheet and brush lovingly with butter.


Bake in oven 12-15 minutes or until golden in color.

Brush with remaining butter.

Serve immediately. Cheers!

Thursday, June 11

Easy Lime Pepper Yogurt Sauce


Perfect to serve with any seafood entree. This simple sauce can be used for dipping or as a marinade. 

Full time 2 hours (includes rest time)
Makes 2 cups sauce

The needs-

2 limes, zested and juiced
2 cups plain Greek yogurt 
1/2 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt


The know-


In a small mixing bowl combine lime juice, lime zest, and yogurt.

Taste for acidity, if it needs to be modified a small amount of sugar can be added.

Blend in salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in refrigerator 1 1/2-2 hours before using.

Cheers!

Tuesday, June 9

MUG IT: Chocolate Peanut Butter Mug Cake

Mug cakes are the current foodie food. Easy to make, single servings, which can be produced in very little time. This one features the fantastic combination of peanut butter and chocolate, making this a taste bud treat which is easy to eat.

Full time 5 minutes (includes cooling time)
Serves 1

The needs-

1 egg
2 oz chocolate, broken into pieces
1/3 cup flour
1 tbsp brown sugar, not packed
2 1/2 tsp peanut butter
1 tsp butter
1/2 tsp baking powder

The know-

In a microwavable mug place butter and chocolate chunks. Microwave 30 and stir vigorously to create a smooth even textured chocolate fudge.


Add in 1 1/2 tsp peanut butter.

Add in egg.

Add in flour and baking powder.

Microwave for 50 seconds.

Dollop 1 tsp peanut butter onto the surface. Microwave 50 seconds.

Allow to cool for 2 minutes before serving. Cheers!

Sunday, June 7

MAKE IT: Asian Five Spice Seasoning


A major component to several Asian Five Spice powder is a blend of spices which is used in several dishes found through-out the East.

Full Time 15 minutes
Makes 1/4 cup spice blend (store for 2 months)

The needs-

2 tsp cinnamon, ground
2 tsp star anise powder, ground
2 tsp szechuan peppercorns, ground
2 tsp fennel seed
2 tsp cloves, ground

The know-

In a sealable container places all spices.

Tightly close lid and shake for two minutes.

Open lid and ensure spices are evenly blended. To taste dab finger into blend and ensure you do not taste one ingredient over than the others.

Is there is, add small amounts adjust.

Seal or use.

Cheers!