Category: Salads


Good grief, it’s been almost a year. A year!! SO MUCH has happened in that year, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever get to come back. I’ve wanted to, but it just hasn’t been in the cards until now. I wasn’t sure if anyone would even care at this point if I came back. But I’ve heard from a few loyal readers (I have loyal readers! I had no idea!) and they’re asking for more. That is so incredibly gratifying, you guys. Seriously. It almost made me cry. I’ve always said that if my blog helps one person enjoy food a little more, I’ll keep going. So here I am, in the kitchen again, with recipes to share. I have some truly amazing food to show you, starting next week 🙂

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I haven’t published since November. That is just astonishing to me. On one hand, it really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. But on the other hand, some pretty huge things have happened since then and it feels like an eternity. My husband was furloughed from the railroad (temporarily laid off and waiting to be called to return) which nearly cost us our house and came very close to ruining us financially. The kids started going to public school again, which was a very good thing but was also a blow to deal with because we had wanted to homeschool for SO long and it just didn’t work for us. In early February I was hospitalized for 3 days with what was thought to be Multiple Sclerosis. I had been having problems for 2 weeks before that and for a month after coming home I had to deal with issues. Ultimately it was decided I don’t have MS yet but we’ll watch it and my symptoms eventually went away on their own. Those are just the big things that have happened since my last post. That’s not even mentioning all of the smaller things that piled up. I wanted to blog, but the give a damn just wasn’t there. That, and I just wasn’t properly cooking as much. Life was kindof in this awful limbo where we all wandered around, waiting to see what would happen.

Then in April my husband was called back to work after 4 months of furlough and it was like the world became light again. We were able to start living again and planning again and looking forward to getting up in the morning again. We all had purpose once again. But blogging still just wasn’t happening. I suppose I felt like there wasn’t really any point because I wasn’t a “famous” blogger. I felt like I didn’t make any difference in the blogoshpere at all and no one really cared about or noticed my little space. But recently I’ve had a few people ask me when I was going to start up again because they missed me. They missed me! Me- the small time hack! That’s when I remembered that I always said I would keep doing this even if it helped just one person feel better about themselves in the kitchen. So here I am, back in the saddle. But I’m starting with a trail ride instead of a fox hunt 🙂

I’m sure that, despite my extended absence, most of you will recall my preference for homemade pudding over the boxed stuff (like here and here). But I found this little gem a few years back in one magazine or another while waiting for the kids at the dentist’s office (it might have been the family mag that Disney puts out) and knew I had to try it. It’s insanely easy and who doesn’t seem to always have a box of pudding or two hanging out in their pantry? Here is the very basic group of ingredients:

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That’s it! This recipe can be as simple as just 4 ingredients. I like to add kiwis, grapes, and apple, but I had none of those on hand when the kids asked me to make this last week. The bananas were also about 1-2 days too ripe, but it still worked out fine.

I don’t have step by step photo directions for this one because there’s only three steps: chop anything that needs chopped into 1/2 inch cubes, drain the mandarin oranges (but NOT the pineapple!!), and then mix all the ingredients. That’s all there is to it! I do have some tips that the original recipe didn’t include though:

  1. To be able to eat this salad at it’s best, make sure you give it at least 2 hours to sit in the fridge because the pudding mix needs time to soak up the pineapple juice and get smooth. It will be grainy for awhile and tastes fine, but the texture isn’t great. So give yourself plenty of time.
  2. Mix the pineapple and pudding mix together before adding the rest of the fruit. For some reason if you try to just stir everything together the pudding mix will get lumpy.
  3. If you want to eat this the same day and have it be cold like it’s supposed to be, make sure the pineapple and the oranges are cold before you mix everything.

Once you’ve got everything mixed up and chilled this is what you get:

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Is that a cheerful looking bowl of fruit?! It’s a little on the saucy side because I didn’t have the kiwis, grapes, and apples to add, but the kids didn’t mind a bit 😉 This is also a great fruit salad to make during the winter when the majority of fruits aren’t in season and you can only get your hands on canned fruit.

So there it is: my first post in half a year. It feels good! I may not be famous, and I may not have thousands of followers across the world, but I do have those that like what I do and enjoy stopping by my little corner of the internet. To those who fit that description, thank you- from the bottom of my heart.

The Recipe:

1 Small (3.4 ounce) Box Vanilla Pudding (Lemon works nicely too)

1 Can (20 ounces) Pineapple Tidbits WITH the juice

1 Can (15 ounces) Mandarin Oranges, drained

2 Medium-Large Bananas, Ripe (but with only a few spots of brown), Peeled and Diced to 1/2 Inch Dice

Optional Fruits, all diced to about 1/2 inch and in a quantity to match the bananas:

Apples

Kiwis

Grapes

Strawberries

The Method:

*Chill the canned fruits.

*In a bowl big enough to hold all the fruits, combine the pudding mix and the undrained pineapple tidbits until no lumps remain.

*Add in the rest of the diced fruits and stir to coat.

*Cover the salad with plastic wrap actually touching the surface to prevent the bananas from browning too much.

*Chill at least 2 hours.

*Eat within 2-3 days.

So after being informed by my BFF that the print feature I added awhile back actually prints the entire blog post instead of only the recipe like I wanted it to, I have (with a little help from a more experienced blogger) figured out how to make only the recipe in each post printable. Yay! So from now on you will be able to print only the best part of each post: the recipe! And when I get time here and there I will go back and add the feature to all of my other posts (which number 72 as of today, so it may take me a little while to get it done). Thank you all for sticking with me thus far! ❤

The last few days here in Northern Wisconsin have been just heavenly; highs in the low to mid 70’s, a cool breeze all day, and chilly nights to cool the house off to be ready for the next day (saving a ton on the AC bill). This is what I envisioned summers to be up here and I love it! It’s a very welcome break from the unusual heat that’s been hanging around and making a nuisance of itself. And it may return, so I’m going to make the most of these cooler days and get some things made to help when it’s too hot to do any real cooking. One of the items on that list is lemon garlic chicken breasts. There are 2 huge advantages to this chicken: 1) you can put it in a zip top bag with the marinade ingredients and put the whole thing in the freezer until you’re ready to use it and 2) it’s super versatile, which is always a plus! These chicken breasts can be served just as they are with some sides, they can be sliced and put over salad veggies, they can be made into a sandwich, or they can even be chopped up and made into a creamy, garlicky chicken salad with just a hint of zing from the lemon zest. They’re fantastic year round, but they definitely hold a special place in my summer line up!

To get started, here’s what you’ll need:

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Yes; that is honey mustard salad dressing- and it can be any brand. When toying with the marinade the first time I made this chicken I found something really lacking in the flavor. I stood at the fridge after dinner that night, searching for something to add and my eyes settled on a bottle of honey mustard and the light bulb went off. I added some the next time I made this dish and it solved the problem perfectly! So the salad dressing is optional; the flavor doesn’t stand out in the finished dish. But there is definitely a lack of *pop* in the dish when the honey mustard is left out.

There are 2 options for the chicken breasts; you can either buy chicken cutlets, which are chicken breasts that come packed in thin slices (horizontally), or you can buy regular boneless, skinless chicken breasts and slice them into cutlets at home. The latter option is SUPER easy and is what I do most of the time. Here’s how you go about such a thing…

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(**Note: The Humble Food Snob is still married! You can’t see it here, but the nail on my ring finger is very bad off. I had a wound on the side of my nail get severely infected over a month ago- I actually had to go to the emergency room in the middle of the night it was so bad. Thankfully I didn’t have my wedding rings on when it started swelling, so they are still intact. Now I’m STILL waiting for the swelling to go down completely so I can start wearing them again!**)

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See? Super easy! Don’t worry about making the two slices exactly even- you won’t be able to. What you’re going for is two cutlets of comparable thickness so they cook evenly. It’s not brain surgery, so don’t fret if things aren’t perfect.

So now that you have the hard part done, I’ll give an explanation of why I have lemon zest in that picture up there instead of the juice. Did you know that the acid in lemon juice actually cooks meat instead of marinating it? It’s true. If you look up the recipe for ceviche (a popular Latin American dish of raw shrimp or fish with herbs and spices) you’ll see that the dish isn’t cooked in any way except by the citrus juice it’s steeped in. That citrus juice does the same thing to any other meat you put it on. With chicken that results in tougher meat that needs more tenderizer (basically salt) in the marinade. The easy fix for that is to use the zest instead of the juice of whatever citrus fruit you’re wanting to use. And aside from not cooking the meat, I prefer the zest to the juice because of how much more flavor you get from the oil in the zest. But certainly don’t throw the juice away! Zest your fruit then juice it and pour that juice into an ice tray. I put one tablespoon of juice into each compartment of an ice tray and when I need “1 tablespoon of juice” here or “2 tablespoons of juice” there I have them ready and waiting in the freezer. Very handy!

Next you’re ready to put all of this together. Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together and make your decision: cook the chicken today or freeze it for another time? If you want to cook the chicken today, pour the marinade over the breast slices in a pan or large bowl, cover with plastic, and put it in the fridge for up to about 8 hours.

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If you want to put the chicken in the freezer for another day, put everything in a zip top bag, squeeze out as much air as you can, seal it, and into the freezer it goes! One bonus of freezing meat in marinade is that as it thaws the meat draws in more of the marinade and is more flavorful overall.

Let 6 hours or so pass…..

Now that your chicken has marinated properly, it’s time to cook it! We don’t have a grill just yet 😦 I’m bummed about that, but the fact that the other things we’ve had to spend our money on are for a house that we own makes up for it 🙂 So if you have a grill or a fire pit (you can read more about easily cooking over an open fire here) by all means, use it!! But if, like me, you have to pan fry your chicken that’s ok; it still turns out wonderful!

Put your pan over medium heat and add just enough oil to cover the bottom. Since the marinade already has a good amount of oil in it, you’re just taking out a little insurance that the chicken won’t stick to the pan. If you’re using a non-stick pan you can forgo the extra oil all together. Once the oil shimmers, remove your chicken from the marinade and put it in to cook for 4-5 minutes. Carefully flip the chicken over and cook 3-4 minutes on the other side. You want to make sure that the chicken is cooked through and also that it has a nice bit of browning on it.

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Once the chicken is done cooking, remove it to a platter and cover it with foil to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving to let the juices redistribute. If you couldn’t fit all of the chicken into the pan the first time around, go ahead and finish cooking the rest. Just make sure all of the meat has a chance to rest before serving.

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Hopefully the weather in your neck of the woods is fair and pleasant and you’re enjoying your summer (or winter, depending on which half of the globe you’re on!). And I hope that you enjoy this chicken as much as we do- and in as many ways 🙂

The Recipe:

2 Lbs. Chicken Breast Cutlets OR Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts sliced into cutlets

Zest of 3 Lemons

6-8 Cloves Garlic, Minced

2 t Italian Seasoning

1 t Kosher Salt

1/2 C Olive Oil

1/4 C Honey Mustard Dressing (optional, but recommended)

The Method:

*If needed, slice the chicken breasts into cutlets by running your knife horizontally through the chicken breasts lengthwise.

*In a bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and whisk well.

*Put the chicken in a bowl or baking dish large enough to hold everything. Alternatively, you could put the chicken and marinade in a zip top bag and seal it.

*If making this dish for a later date, squeeze as much air as possible out of the zip top bag, seal, label, and put in the freezer for up to 2 months.

*If you plan to serve the chicken the same day, simply put it in the refrigerator to marinate for up to 8 hours. I usually do about 6 hours and it turns out perfect. The full 8 hours gives a stronger flavor. Take care in going past that though; the flavor gets overpowering.

*When ready to cook the chicken, grilling is preferable however not always accessible. To pan fry, heat a large frying pan over medium heat, covering the bottom with oil.

*Once the oil shimmers, add a few pieces of the chicken to the pan. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan.

*Cook on the first side for 4-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken cutlets.

*Carefully turn the chicken over and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

*Remove the chicken to a foil covered platter and let rest while the next batch cooks.

*Make sure all of the cutlets get at least a few minutes to rest before serving.

I’ve never been one to keep my opinions on the costs of store bought foods to myself. I fully believe that with a few basic ingredients, the know-how, and a little time, you can make those things at home- usually with better results. There are few departments in the store that illustrate that better than the average supermarket deli, specifically  the meats (and veggies) that come pre-stuffed, pre-marinated, and/or pre-cooked. One of the easiest things to replicate at home is the rotisserie chickens that you can buy in the deli- and that is one of the items with the biggest markup. Here in my little corner of the world a whole deli rotisserie chicken sells for $8-$10, depending upon whether or not it’s on sale. That is absolutely ridiculous!! It’s robbery! Grocery stores must think I’ve completely taken leave of my senses to charge that much. I can make the same thing at home for $4-$6, depending on what kind of sale is going on for whole chickens. And I know that it’s freshly cooked and hasn’t been sitting under a heat lamp for who knows how many hours. AND I can use my oven or my slow cooker. So I can have “rotisserie” chicken year round, without heating up my house too much in the summer! (I’ll put the instructions for that at the end.)

This really isn’t a recipe, it’s more of a method. This is all you need:

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FOUR ingredients. That’s it! Now, you can play around with the flavorings as much as you like. You could use lemon pepper, garlic and herb, ranch, just about anything you can dream up. So play around with it a bit!

First, mix the steak seasoning and the paprika together. You’ll end up with a pretty fair amount.

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That’s a full 1/4 cup of seasoning. It’s more than it looks like, really. Next, take 1 tablespoon of the seasoning and mix it with the butter. A fork works nicely for the job.

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You just made compound butter- well done! A little extra for you: you can roll this into a log using parchment or plastic wrap, freeze or refrigerate it (wrapped well), and cut off pats to put on top of cooked steak. It’s FABULOUS!! Ok, back to the task at hand… Now you need to work on the chicken a bit. This butter needs to go under the skin of the breasts. To do that, you need to create a pocket for it to go into. And to do that, you need to carefully put your index finger under the skin and separate the membrane from the meat- like so:

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Very gently work your finger all the way down the breast. The skin may tear a little, but that happens. Just try to keep that to a minimum. Do this on both sides of the breast.

Next, take half of the butter and create a somewhat rectangular patty. Something like this:

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That butter needs to go under the skin, of course. Gently push the butter into the pocket you created and then massage the outside of the skin to get the butter all the way down the breast. You should end up with the chicken looking like this:

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Repeat on the other side and you’re ready for the next step, which is seasoning the rest of the bird. Take about half of the remaining seasoning and sprinkle it all over the inside of the body cavity. That works best if you hold the chicken vertically (sorry I don’t have a picture of that- not enough hands). The rest of the seasoning goes all over the outside of the chicken.

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I didn’t exactly get it evenly on the outside. Whoops. I’m not perfect. We knew that. Moving on! Put this beautiful bird in the oven and roast it for an hour and a half OR until the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165-170. Once you reach that temperature, take the chicken out of the oven, tent the pan with foil, and let the whole thing sit for about 20 minutes to rest.

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Isn’t that pretty! Do you see how the skin split on top? That is why you want to be as gentle as possible when creating the pockets under the skin. I created a tear (you can see it above) and the skin tightening made the tear much bigger. This chicken is fine- but any bigger a tear would have had bad results for the meat.

Now take the chicken out of the pan and put it on a platter or large cutting board and either carve it to serve as a meal or let it cool enough to handle and debone it. I made this specifically to use for other meals; I wasn’t planning on serving this to anyone as dinner. I just took all of the meat off the bone. Here’s what I ended up with:

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I kept the legs whole because my daughters love them. The rest will just go into the freezer, divided into portions to use in other meals (casseroles, soups, pot pies, etc.). I should note that I’m not great at stripping the meat off of carcasses. I cannot stand to eat gristle or a lot of fat. So yes; there was meat left on the bones that I didn’t bother with because I just can’t stomach it. Other people will probably get more meat than I did. Either way, this is still WAY cheaper than buying a rotisserie chicken from the store. And the flavor is worlds better than store bought! Not to mention the amazing aroma the roasting chicken sends through your home 🙂

The Recipe:

1 Whole Chicken, 3-4 Lbs.

3 T Montreal Steak Seasoning

1 T Paprika

1 Stick Butter, softened

The Method:

*Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

*Mix seasonings together.

*Stir 1 T seasoning mixture into the butter. A fork works well for this.

*Create pockets under the skin of the chicken breasts, gently working your index finger under the skin on each side.

*Divide the compound butter mixture in half. Form a flattened rectangular shape out of each half and slip one rectangle in each pocket you created.

*Carefully massage the outside of the breast skin to spread the butter all the way down each side of the breast.

*Turn the chicken so the cavity hole is facing up (the chicken will be vertical)  and sprinkle half of the remaining seasoning all over the inside of the chicken.

*Lay the chicken down in the roasting dish again, breast side up. Rub the rest of the seasoning all over the outside of the chicken.

*Roast the chicken until a thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165-170. It usually takes an hour & a half to an hour & 45 minutes for my oven, but those times vary; the thermometer method is safer than just timing it.

*Once that temperature has been reached, remove the chicken from the oven, tent the pan with foil, and let the whole thing rest 15-20 minutes.

*If serving as a meal, carve and serve.

*If using for other dishes, remove the chicken to a platter or large cutting board. Let cool until easily handled, and debone. Divide the chicken into proper portions (according to the dishes you plan to use it in), store in freezer appropriate containers (I use plastic and then foil), mark said containers with the date and contents, and freeze. Use as desired.

*When using in other dishes, keep in mind that this chicken will add flavor to the dish. You will need to adjust the salt and pepper of the final dish accordingly! 

*For the Slow Cooker:

*Prepare as above.

*Spray or otherwise lubricate the crock of a large slow cooker (mine is 6.5 quarts and the chicken fits perfectly with no extra room on the sides. A smaller crock would be too small).

*Fold an aluminum, disposable pie tin into thirds and place on the bottom of the slow cooker. This is to keep the chicken off of the bottom of the crock. Alternatively, you could make large balls of aluminum foil to put under the chicken. If you have a roasting rack that fits in your crock, that’s fine too. The point is: keep the chicken off of the bottom of the crock for this method!

*Place the chicken on the tin (or whatever you used to hold it up), put the lid on the crock, and set the slow cooker to high. 

*Cook the chicken 4-5 hours, until the temperature reads as stated above. Remember: when you take the lid off of a crock pot you add about 30 minutes to the cooking time. So do this judiciously. 

*Once cooked, continue as stated for the oven method. 

As it turns out, we have traded a very hot and dry summer for a slightly less hot but humid summer. However, I’m not complaining. It’s over 90 in Colorado, where we just left. And when the breeze blows, it’s frighteningly similar to a convection oven.  I’ll take 85 with humidity any day! But I do still have to take care in heating up the kitchen, of course. We have air conditioning, but only in the living room. So I am limited in what I can cook still. I started looking around for some versatile main dishes that won’t heat things up too much. I thought about starting another Summer Sucks type series (to find the entire 14 week series from Summer of 2013, click here), but decided against it. Life is better than it was last summer, and for that I’m grateful. Summer is still by far my least favorite season but now that we’re free of my oppressive in laws, Summer doesn’t suck nearly as bad as it used to!

In my search, I found some recipes for chicken cutlets in a super simple coating that are pan fried. They can be whole cutlets to eat with pasta salad on the side, they can be cooked and cut up over some greens and veggies as a salad, or they can be cut into strips and breaded then fried to be an easy finger food main for the kids to dip. Oh- and they make wonderful sandwiches; always a nice option when it’s hot outside! And the flavor is wonderful! The coating has only 2 ingredients- and only one has flavor of any kind, so I was surprised at how flavorful this recipe was. All you need is this:

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Seriously- this is all you need! This recipe is so easy that you can have it on the table in about 15 minutes. It’s perfect for a fast dinner after work or after a long day playing in your garden. The breadcrumbs have to be panko. You could make these with regular breadcrumbs, but the results won’t be nearly as crunchy. The Parmesan, on the other hand, gives you a little wiggle room. You can buy it already grated in the deli section or you can buy shredded and just rub it between your hands until you achieve a “grated” texture. OR you can even use the pre-grated stuff in the can that you find in the non-refrigerated section. The results will be a tiny bit different, but I’ve had to use it before (I was out of the real stuff and couldn’t get to the store) and the chicken was still tasty. As for the chicken, you can buy pre-sliced cutlets or whole, boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cut them horizontally into thinner slices.

If you want to make sure your chicken stays nice and juicy, give it a brine first. To 4 cups of cool water, add 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce along with 2 tablespoons salt and stir to dissolve. Soak the chicken in the brine in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but not more than about 8 hours; these are thin pieces of chicken and you don’t want them too salty. When you’re ready to cook the chicken, drain and rinse it, then pat it dry with paper towels and proceed with the recipe.

In a shallow baking dish or on a platter with sides, pour the Parmesan cheese. If you bought shredded, take some between your (hopefully freshly washed and dried!) hands and rub. Continue to do this until the cheese is broken up into a grated consistency. (Yes; there are shreds of Parmesan left in my mixture. I like to leave some of the cheese shredded. It gives a good consistency to the breading. Yet another option to add to the suggestions above. The beauty of cooking! 🙂 ) Then add an equal amount of Panko crumbs and mix the two together with your fingers.

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Now take a piece of chicken and lay it into the mixture. Pick up some of the crumbs and spread them over the meat. Press them into the chicken then turn the cutlet over and repeat. Carefully pick the chicken up by one end, give it a tiny shake to get rid of the excess coating, and lay it on a plate to go into the hot pan. Only coat as many pieces as will fit into your pan at one time- you don’t want the coating to get soggy while the chicken is waiting to be cooked.

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In a large, heavy bottomed frying pan on medium high heat, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan by about a 1/4 inch. Once the oil begins to shimmer, carefully add the chicken cutlets to the pan. Let cook for about 2-4 minutes and gently turn the cutlets over with a spatula. Let cook another 2-4 minutes and firmly but gently slide the spatula under the chicken. It will stick, so you have to make sure you get under the breading. Remove to a rack or paper towel lined plate to drain a bit. While the chicken is cooking, you can go ahead and bread the next batch of cutlets. Repeat until you’ve used up your chicken.

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I can tell you truthfully that this chicken is every bit as tasty as it looks! I still haven’t found a satisfactory breading recipe that uses an egg or milk dip to adhere the coating. They’ve all been a disappointment. But THIS recipe… this one satisfies every single time. It even makes good leftovers. Just heat a little oil in a pan and re-fry the cutlet for about 1 minute per side. It takes a tiny bit longer than the microwave, but it’s so worth it!

I hope you are all having a great summer so far! It feels wonderful to be back and blogging. I’m very excited about the future and am thankful that you’ll be right there with me!

The Recipe:

You can make as many or as few cutlets as you wish; just purchase the breading ingredients accordingly. 

Chicken Breast Cutlets or Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts sliced into cutlets

Panko Bread Crumbs (plain or seasoned, as you wish), enough to coat the chicken cutlets

Parmesan Cheese, Shredded or Grated, in an equal amount to the Panko

The Method:

*In a large, shallow dish, mix the cheese and the bread crumbs.

*Heat a large, heavy bottomed skillet or frying pan over medium high heat. Add oil to a depth of about 1/4 inch.

* Lay a cutlet in the mixture and put some of the mixture on top, spreading it over and then pressing down.

*Turn the chicken over and repeat.

*Lift the cutlet and shake gently to remove the excess breading and set aside on a plate.

*Bread only as many cutlets as will fit into the pan at one time.

*Once the oil is hot, place in it only as many cutlets as will fit without crowding. I have a 12 inch frying pan and can usually fit 3-4 cutlets in each batch.

*Fry the cutlets 2-4 minutes on each side (depending on how thick your cutlets are). Take care when turning them over; they may very well stick if you aren’t using a non-stick pan.

*Remove when cooked through and golden brown and drain on a rack or paper towels.

*While the first batch is cooking you can bread the next batch and have it ready.

*Repeat the process for the remaining chicken.

As I’ve mentioned before, my family gets sick of salad pretty quickly during the summer. We don’t mind eating it as a side dish fairly often but eating it as the main course has to be resorted to sparingly. I try to make it interesting by laying out a salad bar with lots of toppings & add-ins, but I still can’t make salad for dinner more than once or twice a month. One of the things I do to make salads more interesting is so simple it’s ridiculous… I make my own dressings. The decision to do so was two-fold. The first reason is that we were tired of the boring, often harsh, cookie cutter flavors of store bought dressings. I’m sure you’ve guessed the other reason if you’ve read more than one post here on The Humble Food Snob. I’ve been pretty vocal about all the nastiness found in store bought… well… just about everything that isn’t found in the fresh foods departments. Salad dressings are some of the worst offenders. Go to your fridge and really look at the ingredients. Unless you buy one of very few (comparatively speaking) organic brands, odds are what you will find is a very long list of very nasty ingredients that should never be available for consumption. Up until a couple of years ago I never looked because I didn’t want to come to terms with that fact. I thought making my own salad dressings was going to be tricky. I put it off and put it off, convinced that it was beyond me. Finally I’d had enough. I put a bite of salad with store bought French dressing in my mouth and it was so harsh that it hit the spot in the back of my mouth where my salivary glands are and stomped on them. I literally couldn’t chew for a moment. There had to be a better way. So I tried my hand at two dressings initially- our favorites: French and Thousand Island. They were SO good! And SO easy! All you need is more than likely in your fridge and pantry already and all you do is mix and let sit for awhile. How could it be any easier?!

We’ll start with the Thousand Island. This is all you need.

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There is milk in the little cup there on the right. Put it to the side- you may not use it at all. It depends on how the dressing comes out and how thick you want the final product to be. And as for the sweet chili sauce, it’s perfectly acceptable to use sugar instead- or you can use a little of both which is how I make mine. Everything else is pretty mundane. Completely unintimidating! Now mince your onion super fine and put everything in a bowl…

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That really is all that’s supposed to go into thousand Island dressing. Now grab a whisk and mix this together for about 10 seconds. That really is all it takes!

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Now you just have to check the consistency. If you like your salad dressing super thick and more dip like (try dipping chicken tenders in this- it’s amazing!) then you can leave it as is. If you want it to be a little more pourable then add the milk, a little at a time, up to about 1 tablespoon. Let this sit in the fridge for at least a few hours and you’re good to go!

Next up is French dressing. This is NOT the neon orange, sickly-sweet-yet-strongly-sour french dressing you find in the bottle from the store. This is a thick, slightly spicy (which is completely adjustable), mildly sweet dressing that does just as well as a dip for veggies or chicken and a spread for sandwiches as it does for salads. I had already made a batch about 2 weeks ago so what’s pictured below is how it will look after it has been sitting for a little while. Here’s what you need to get started…

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Yes- that is oil behind the ketchup. Canola, to be exact. And you need a full cup of it. French dressing is an emulsion. Don’t be afraid. You can use any light oil you’d like and it’s not as if you’re going to be drinking this stuff by the cupful. It’s not as unhealthy as the food police would have you believe! All you have to do is put all the ingredients except the oil into the blender (or food processor), mix a bit, and then- with the machine running- add the oil in a thin stream until all of it has been added and everything has mixed completely. You CAN do this without a machine! You’ll need to use an old fashioned hand powered egg beater or use a regular old whisk and whisk like mad while adding the oil until everything emulsifies. You end up with a beautiful reddish-orange jar of really excellent French dressing…

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Definitely not your average neon grocery store French Dressing! This has such a smooth flavor you will wonder why you ever bothered buying French! For dinner last night I enjoyed the Thousand Island while my husband stuck with his favorite- the French…

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Now those salads are anything but boring! I love my salads with cheese, dried cranberries and cashews but last night my husband wanted just croutons & cheese. They would have been plain Jane ordinary had it not been for these fantastic homemade dressings! Go ahead- give them a try. They are good for more than just salads too! Try a ham & Swiss sandwich with French or a turkey & Cheddar (or better yet, Brie) sandwich with thousand Island. SO good! And at less than 5 minutes each to make, there’s no excuse not to make your own 🙂

The Recipe, Thousand Island:

1 C Mayonnaise

½ C Ketchup

2 T Sweet Pickle Relish

1 t Worcestershire Sauce

1 t Thai Sweet Chili Sauce

1 t Sugar (or 2 t if omitting Chili Sauce)

1 T Lemon Juice

1 T Milk if needed

2 T Onion, minced VERY fine

½ t Kosher Salt

The Method:

*Combine all ingredients except milk in a medium bowl.

*Whisk until well combined.

*Add milk to think if desired.

*Chill at least 4 hours before serving.

The Recipe, French:

1 C Oil (Light oil of your choice)

1 C Ketchup

½ C Sugar

¼ C Apple Cider Vinegar

¼ C Water

3 t Mustard Powder

2 t Paprika

1 t White Pepper (adjust as necessary, a full 1 t gives this a very small kick)

1 t Garlic Powder

1/2 t Kosher Salt

The Method:

*Combine all ingredients except oil in a blender or food processor.

*Mix for 10-20 seconds, or until well combined.

*Using the tube of the food processor or the hole in the lid of the blender, SLOWLY pour the oil in with the machine running. The oil should be a very thin stream running into the machine.

*Run the machine only until all of the oil is incorporated.

*Chill at least 4 hours before serving. Best if chilled overnight.

The food snob part of me has always abhorred the idea of “10 minute dinner recipes” or- even worse- “5 minute dinner recipes”. I’ve always felt that if you consistently have only 5 or 10 minutes to prepare your dinner then you need to reevaluate your schedule. It means your schedule is so full on a regular basis that you don’t have time to eat real food and that means you’re eating processed junk, spending way too much money on pre-cut and/or pre-cooked food from the deli department, or spending way, WAY too much money on eating out multiple times a week. This type of lifestyle is not only unnecessarily hard on your wallet but also on your body. It means you’re going so fast so often that you can’t use meal times for their original purpose- recharging your batteries. Let’s face facts: if you have only 10 minutes to make dinner you really don’t have much more time than that to eat it either and that is not good for you- body or soul. But really this post isn’t about taking more time to cook your meals. Even with all I just said I have found that there are days every now and then that I have so much to do that I really do have only 5 minutes to put dinner together. This is one of the dinners I make when things are going to be crazy- like yesterday. We have one large grocery trip each month when we go to Sam’s Club and King Soopers on the same day. We usually have more to do than just going to the store so those days are pretty hectic. (For the record, we do small trips too for milk & the like. It’s just easier for us to do one big trip a month.) So on the big shopping day each month I use an easy dinner recipe in my menu plan. It has to be fast, easy to prepare, and have a minimum of cleanup involved. Crockpot Caesar Chicken fits all 3 requirements and is really good. So here’s one more to add to your “quick meals” file, which- hopefully- you are not using every single night :.)

This recipe has 4 ingredients. That’s it. Four. It’s seriously that simple.

I know- it looks like 5. It’s not. The bowl on the left is the strained liquid from the chicken. That would be the Crockpot part. You put the chicken in your Crockpot on low (with no extra liquid) in the morning and leave it all day. I even put my chicken in frozen. There is some debate as to whether or not putting frozen meat in the Crockpot is safe. Personally I think it’s fine for some kinds of meat. Putting frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts or similarly sized pieces of frozen meat in the Crockpot is fine with me. What I will not do is put a whole roast, chicken, or other large piece of meat in if it’s frozen. Then you really are inviting bacteria to come and make you, your family, and your friends violently ill. So go ahead- put the frozen chicken breasts in the Crockpot, turn it on, and leave for the day if you’re comfortable with it. If not- use thawed chicken.

After slow cooking the chicken for at least 7-8 (or 5-6 if using thawed chicken) hours take it out of the juice, shred it (it will be so tender that all you have to do is mash it a bit with a fork), and set it aside. Strain the juice leftover in the Crockpot and reserve it. Put the chicken back into the Crockpot and turn it on low. Add about 3/4 of a cup of the reserved liquid, then about half a bottle of your favorite Caesar salad dressing, give it a good stir, put the lid back on, cook for about another half an hour, add 1/2 a cup of shredded Parmesan cheese and serve over Romain lettuce. That’s it- you’re ready to eat. OR you can serve it right after you add the dressing. Just add the cheese at the same time and serve.

Doesn’t that look tasty? It was- I assure you. I serve this on a Kaiser roll but any soft roll or bread will do. Or you could serve it on the lettuce alone as a salad and it would be equally delicious. The cold leftovers are just as good as the original- maybe even better. And all the prep combined totals about 5 minutes- a little more if you have to chop the lettuce. I bought mine pre-chopped because it was the best looking stuff at the store at the time. So here you have it; “5 minute recipe” convenience, great taste, and pocket-book friendly. What more could you want?

The Recipe:

1 Lb. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts

1/2 Bottle Caesar Salad Dressing

1/2 C Parmesan Cheese, shredded

Romaine Lettuce, chopped (amount depends on if you’re making this into sandwiches or salads)

The Method:

*Cook chicken in Crockpot at least 7  hours (6 if using thawed chicken).

*Remove and shred chicken.

*Strain remaining liquid.

*Add chicken and 3/4 C reserved liquid back into Crockpot along with the dressing and stir to combine.

*Cook on low at least 30 minutes.

*Take off heat, add the cheese and serve over the Romaine as a sandwich or salad.

*OR Add cheese along with the dressing and serve immediately. The chicken will still be great, it just won’t have time to take on the flavor of the dressing as much as if it had been allowed to continue cooking.