Crunchy Jalapeno-Bacon wrapped Avocado Fries

Crunchy Jalapeno-Bacon wrapped Avocado Fries

Remember when I made the Double Jalapeno-Bacon Cheeseburgers using Farmer John Jalapeno Bacon? The burgers were so baconlicious that plain ol’ fries just wouldn’t cut it.

Because once you decide to go big, you’ve got to go all in.

Crunchy Jalapeno-Bacon wrapped Avocado Fries

And in this case, going “all in” comes in the form of crunchy avocado “fries” that are wrapped with bacon. I know it sounds like a food stand at the summer fair but before you totally nix it, you’ve got to give them a try.

It’s the only Bacon thing to do, after all.

Crunchy Jalapeno-Bacon wrapped Avocado Fries

These “fries” have a great play on textures. Super crunchy from the panko breadcrumbs & crispy bacon balanced by the buttery avocado. Dunk them in a Roasted Poblano Aioli or a cool Cilantro Ranch Dressing and you have a perfect appetizer or side.

Have a Baconriffic Day!

__________________________________________

Crunchy Jalapeno-Bacon wrapped Avocado Fries
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 large avocado
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
kosher salt and pepper
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
4 slices jalapeno bacon, cut in half
vegetable oil

Slice the avocado into 8 equal wedges. Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 20 minutes.

In a shallow dish, whisk together the egg and water. Place the Panko breadcrumbs and flour into two separate shallow dishes. Season the flour with cayenne pepper, kosher salt and black pepper.

Once the avocados have chilled, take one wedge and dredge it into the flour. Gently shake off the excess flour before dipping it in the egg wash. Roll the avocado wedge in the Panko and gently shake off the excess. Set aside. Continue dredging the remaining avocados.

Take a 1/2 slice of bacon, wrap around each wedge of avocado using toothpicks to secure them together. Place back into the freezer for another 10 minutes.

Fill a heavy bottom pot with 2 inches of vegetable oil. Heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees F.

Fry the avocado fries for 4-5 minutes, turning them from time to time until they become golden brown. Remove the fries and drain them on a wire rack or plates lined with paper towels. Season with additional kosher salt immediately when they come out of the oil and carefully remove & discard the toothpicks. Serve warm with Roasted Poblano Aioli or condiments of your choice.

 **Disclosure: I did receive products from Farmer John, but as always, my opinions are my own.**

Crispy Arancini stuffed with Mozzarella

Crispy Arancini stuffed with Mozzarella

Let me tell ya….

I’ve learned two things since we’ve started our Sunday Family Dinners.

Crispy Arancini stuffed with Mozzarella

First is that my family is obsessed with food. So obsessed that while we’re gorging on a deliciously bountiful Sunday Family Dinner, we already begin planning what’s on the menu for next month! We’ve got issues!

And second—we always, ALWAYS make too much food. It’s pretty ridiculous.

Crispy Arancini stuffed with Mozzarella

At our last European themed dinner, my family fixed up Chicken Marsala with Angel Hair Pasta, Beef Wellington with Green Peppercorn Sauce, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Antipasti of Grilled Vegetables, Crispy Arancini, and Chocolate Mousse in Phyllo Cups. A little overboard, eh?

But we’ve also grown up with the mentality that it’s always better to have more food than less food. After all, leftovers are delicious!

Crispy Arancini stuffed with Mozzarella

I jumped on the chance to make Beef Wellington for the fam bam. Unfortunately after all the time and effort (and stress!), it was just “meh”. Oh well, chalk it up to experience…..

Thank goodness my saving grace were the Arancini I made to snack on while we were fixing up dinner. These Arancini were made of mushroom risotto balls that were stuffed with mozzarella cheese and then breaded with Panko. I fried these beauties until golden brown and then made some marinara to dunk them in. They came out wonderfully crisp on the outside and rich and creamy on the inside. Delizioso!

I can hardly wait for our next Sunday Family Dinner coming up this weekend. It’s EXTRA special because all the Nguyen Siblings and their families will be attendance—gathered together from New York, San Francisco, San Diego, and Orange County. There’s no doubt it will be delish but more importantly, it will be filled with tons of love and laughter!

And as the cherry on top–our theme will be honoring the flavors of New Orleans! *drools*

Until next time!

_________________________________________

Crispy Arancini stuffed with Mozzarella
Makes approximately 30-36 balls

Ingredients:

3 cups cooked Risotto, chilled
3 dozen ¼-inch pieces of mozzarella cheese
1 cup flour, seasoned with black pepper and kosher salt
3 large eggs, beaten
2 cups panko bread crumbs
vegetable oil
Marinara Sauce
Italian Parsley for garnish

Using a spoon or small ice cream scooper, spoon out 1 tablespoon of chilled risotto. Gently flatten out the risotto and use your index finger to press an indentation in the middle. Place one piece of the mozzarella cheese in the center and fold over the sides to cover. Use both hands to roll and evenly shape into a ball. Place the arancini on a wax paper lined plate and repeat until they have all been formed. Transfer the plate to the refrigerator and chill for 20-25 minutes.

While the arancini chills, take 3 shallow dishes and place the flour, eggs, and Panko bread crumbs into each. Fill a heavy bottomed pot with about 3 inches of vegetable oil and heat to 375 degrees F.

Working in batches, dredge a few of the arancini in the flour, then the eggs, and finally the Panko breadcrumbs to coat. Gently shake off the excess between each step. Place the prepared arancini on a cookie sheet that has been covered with cooking spray.

In batches, fry the arancini in the heated oil for 4-5 minutes or until golden browned. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Transfer to a platter and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately with warmed marinara sauce.

Oven-Baked Parmesan Chicken Tenders

Oven-Baked Parmesan Chicken

Despite what you may have heard…..Chicken Tenders aren’t just for kiddie menus.

Though, in an effort for full disclosure, I have been known to order off the kiddie menus at certain dining establishments. Heck, depending on the spot, the portions sizes are perfect for me—-and at a fraction of the cost.

I, apparently, have no shame.

Oven-Baked Parmesan Chicken

But back to the Tenders…..

Now, I’m not sure if I’ve said this before but when it comes to poultry, I’m a dark meat kind of gal. I find that there’s more flavor to dark meat and it retains much more moisture when cooked. But of course, white meat is considered the “healthier” portions of the bird and often times, can be cooked in a shorter time frame.

For a fast meal, I often pick up packages of Chicken Tenders to throw in recipes. Though they technically are a part of the chicken breast, I find them easier to use and quick to cook with.

Oven-Baked Parmesan Chicken

So when I got a hankering for some crispy, fried chicken this past weekend (one of my vices), I opted for a “healthier” alternative by baking instead of frying up some chicken. Using the method from Americas Test Kitchen, I took a bunch of defrosted chicken tenders, rolled them in Parmesan cheese and pan-toasted panko crumbs and got deliciously crunchy Chicken Tenders. They were golden brown, wonderfully crispy, not the least bit dry, and kind of fun!

And before anyone busts my chops for throwing in cheese to a recipe when I was trying to go healthy—-allow me to say, MY KITCHEN, MY RULES! Though…..at least I had a salad to go along with it. :)

______________________________________

Oven-Baked Parmesan Chicken Tenders

Ingredients:

2 Cups Panko Breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
½ Cup Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
½ Teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
3 Large Egg Whites
1 Tablespoon Water
1 Teaspoon Minced Fresh Thyme
Cooking spray
1½ lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Tenders (or skinless breasts cut into strips)
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper


Preheat the oven to 475˚ F. In a large skillet, toss the panko with the oil. Toast over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer the toasted crumbs to a shallow dish or pie plate.

In a second shallow dish, whisk together the parmesan cheese, flour, garlic powder, salt, and cayenne pepper. In a bowl, whisk together the egg whites, water, and thyme. Heavily season the chicken with salt and pepper.

Spray a wire rack lightly with cooking spray and place over a rimmed baking sheet. Working in batches, dredge a few pieces of the chicken in the cheese/flour mixture, then the egg whites, and finally the breadcrumbs to coat, shaking off the excess between each step. Lay the coated pieces on the prepared wire rack and repeat with the remaining chicken.

Spray the tops of the chicken pieces lightly with the cooking spray. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, 15 minutes. Flip the chicken halfway through the cooking time and lightly spray the tops with cooking spray before returning to the oven. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon or dipping sauce of your choice.

Tonkatsu (Japanese Pork Cutlet)

Tonkatsu (Japanese Pork Cutlet)

Tonkatsu is such a delicious meal to pull together when I need a quick Japanese fix.

Since the pork used is so thin, it fries up in a flash! Even if you need to make your own sauce, you can have the whole dish done in 20 minutes. Which, let’s be honest, is “Buddha-sent” for weeknight meals!

Tonkatsu (Japanese Pork Cutlet)

A lot of Japanese markets carry a perfectly yummy bottled Tonkatsu sauce. But if you don’t have some on hand, it’s just as easy and delish to make. Though, I have been just as happy to dip the crispy cutlets into BBQ sauce :)

Tonkatsu (Japanese Pork Cutlet)

I also should have sliced the pork before snapping the pic—as that’s the way Tonkatsu is traditional presented. But my tummy won over and I didn’t realize it until I had polished half of it off already! DOH! :)

_____________________________________

Tonkatsu (Japanese Pork Cutlet)
Serves 2

Ingredients:

Tonkatsu:
4 Pieces Pork Loin, ½ inch thin
1 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
½ Cup Flour
2 Eggs
2 Tablespoons Milk
¼ Cup Vegetable Oil
Salt and Pepper

Tonkatsu Sauce:
2 Tablespoons Barbecue Sauce
2 Tablespoons Ketchup
½ Tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 Teaspoon Rice Wine Vinegar
½ Tablespoon Sugar
½ Teaspoon Garlic Powder
¼ Teaspoon Black Pepper

Prepare the sauce by mixing whisking all the ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside while preparing the pork.

Place breadcrumbs in a shallow dish and place the flour in another. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Working in batches, dredge a few pieces of the pork in the flour, then the egg mixture, and finally the breadcrumbs to coat, shaking off the excess between each step.  Repeat with the remaining pork.

In a large skillet, heat the oil to medium high heat.  Slide in 2 pieces of pork and fry until golden brown, approximately 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and drain the cutlets on paper towels. Repeat with remaining pork.

Serve Tonkatsu with rice, sauce, and a squeeze of lemon.

Panko-Crusted Baked Chicken Fingers

Panko Crusted Baked Chicken Fingers

 

Now that I’m back on a “normal” work schedule, I need meals that are relatively quick to prepare but still make me happy to end the day with. And let’s face it, who couldn’t use another quick recipe in their back pocket?

These Panko-Crusted Baked Chicken Fingers fit the bill P-E-R-F-E-C-T-L-Y! Not only are they palette pleasing but they are a healthier version of the much beloved chicken tenders. I was initially concerned that the oven baking process wouldn’t yield the crisp texture that we all love. But to my delight, these chicken fingers had a super crunchy exterior and juicy interior.

Both adults and munchkins alike will be begging you to make these all of the time!

______________________________________________

Panko-Crusted Baked Chicken Fingers
From America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

Ingredients:

2 cups panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. canola oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
3 large egg whites
1 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme or ¼ tsp. dried
Cooking spray
1½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ¾-inch wide strips


Preheat the oven to 475˚ F.  In a large skillet, toss the panko with the oil.  Toast over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Transfer the toasted crumbs to a shallow dish or pie plate.

In a second shallow dish, whisk together the flour, garlic powder, salt, and cayenne pepper.  In a bowl, whisk together the egg whites, water, mustard and thyme.

Spray a wire rack lightly with cooking spray and place over a rimmed baking sheet.  Working in batches, dredge a few pieces of the chicken in the flour, then the egg whites, and finally the breadcrumbs to coat, shaking off the excess between each step.  Lay the coated pieces on the prepared wire rack and repeat with the remaining chicken.

Spray the tops of the chicken pieces lightly with the cooking spray.  Bake until the chicken is cooked through, 10-12 minutes.  Serve warm.