Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hot & Healthy Chicken Salad

A couple of weekends ago, I stopped by my friend's new apartment in NYC for lunch. She'd made Hot Chicken Salad—a Paula Deen recipe. The woman's name alone is enough to strike fear into any healthy eater's heart. I was worried. But then I took my first bite. Suddenly, I didn't care if the thing contained three sticks of butter. The crispy texture, the creamy flavor, the tender chicken—it was worth every last calorie.

Then I looked up the recipe (at home). Panic ensued.

According to Mama Deen's instructions, the crispy crunch on top came from potato chips. That's where I draw the line: I simply can't justify eating greasy Lay's on top of my casserole. Not matter how good it is. Deeply saddened, I texted my friend. My sadness turned to relief. She'd used bread crumbs instead of chips. 

This inspired me. How else could I lighten up the recipe, without compromising flavor?

I think I succeeded. I replaced half the mayo with less-fatty Greek yogurt, and used Panko bread crumbs, which have fewer calories and less sodium than traditional breadcrumbs, instead of potato chips. My taste-testers agreed: It was delicious. 

Hot & Healthy Chicken Salad

What you need
2 cups shredded chicken breast meat (thin-cut)
2 Tbsp olive oil 
1 cup diced celery
½ cup almond slivers, toasted
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper 
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ cup mayo
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
2/3 cup Panko crumbs

Put it all together
  1. Pour the olive oil into a skillet over medium heat. Add chicken breasts. When the edges turn white, flip them, and cook the other side. Using two forks, shred the chicken (the inside will still be raw), allowing the pieces to fully cook.


    1.       2.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13" baking pan.
    2.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13" baking pan.
    3.  Combine the cooked chicken, celery, almonds, salt, pepper, lemon juice, mayo, Greek   yogurt, and cheese.  
    4. Place the mixture in the baking dish, and spread the Panko crumbs on top. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly. 
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    Saturday, August 25, 2012

    Style Inspiration: The Dunphys' Living Room on "Modern Family"

    If I'm being perfectly honest, suburbia scares me a little. Not in a Disturbia kind of wayI've just never been the girl who dreams of white picket fences and cranking out 2.5 kids by the time I'm 30. 

           But Modern Family is different. Despite being the centerpiece of a suburban sitcom, the Dunphys' home is a pleasant departure from the housewifey norm. Yes, the living room is outfitted primarily in Pottery Barn—but not in that off-putting "I just copied the catalog" kind of way. The space has character. It looks both liveable and lived in. 

           As the show's production designer Richard Berg told the New York Times, "Their style is very comfortable, upper middle-class, Pottery Barn chic. We wanted people to be able to look at that house and have it be instantly familiar. A lot of pieces are bought in stores at the mall." 

           In Architectural Digest, Berg described the Dunphys' living-room look as "Pottery Barn meets Restoration Hardware," with the stripes as the defining element. "The stripes and splashes of bright color enliven what could otherwise be a pretty humdrum space," he told the magazine. 

           Here's how to recreate the Dunphys' comfortable, classic style...

    Primary paint color: "Gray Mirage" by Benjamin Moore
    Accent paint color: "Labrador Blue" by Benjamin Moore

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    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

    Inside Magnolia Bakery: An Interview with the Chief Baking Officer

    (Source: static.dailycandy.com)
    I've been on a Magnolia Bakery spree lately. First, my lovely interns brought me two Magnolia cupcakes to console me after my angelic kitty passed away. I particularly enjoyed the Red Velvet Cupcake, which you can find the recipe for here

    More, please.
    Then, on a trip to NYC last weekend, I swung by the West Village location of Magnolia, and indulged in the famous Blueberry Jamboree, a twist on blueberry pie, featuring a fluffy cream-cheese filling and outrageously thick, crispy crust. (Find the recipe here.)

    Unfortunately, it was 10:30 p.m. when I made my purchase, so the lighting was poor. I was also too eager to dig into my dessert to bother with a photo shoot. So my photo is hid-e-ous.

    My slice of Blueberry Jamboree

    A shot from the pros (Source: delish.com)
    I'm not really in the mood to bake, thanks to all of my recent gluttony. So instead, I give you an interview with Bobbie Lloyd, chief baking officer and president of Magnolia Bakery. I chatted with her back in November, when she gave me the bakery's AMAZING recipe for Apple Crumb, which I covered on Guy Gourmet for Men's Health.

    Laura: I like the apple crumb because it's easier than pie. You don't have have to deal with the lattice or the top crust, which always gets a little tricky.  
    Bobbie: Yeah, plus you can always go out and buy a pie shell. If anybody is scared of making pie dough, just go buy a frozen shell.

    Laura: Which do you recommend?
    Bobbie: The only ones I've ever bought for home are from Whole Foods. I don't remember the brand. I think Pilsbury makes a very decent one.

    Laura: Do you have any tips for making pie or crumbs easier?
    Bobbie: If you're going to make it beginning to end, meaning making the pie dough too, everyone seems to make the same mistake, which is not having cold enough ingredients. Our hands are warm, and in my house, my kitchen is very warm. So before I  make my pie dough, I actually put my stainless steel bowl and my flour in the refrigerator for half an hour.

    Laura: What is the benefit of cold ingredients?
    Bobbie: Your butter won't melt. If your butter melts, your pie won't be flaky. So your butter needs to be really cold. If you're making it by hand, which is the way I prefer to make pie dough, your hand temperature can warm up the butter too much. I always tell people, 'If your butter looks shiny, it's too warm.' As soon as it's shiny, throw it back in the refrigerator. That's the number one thing I teach people about making pie dough. The other thing with pie dough is to make it ahead of time. You can make it three of four days ahead of time and throw it in your refrigerator or your freezer.

    Laura: Do you roll out in the pie pan first? Or do you just put the lump of dough in the fridge?
    Bobbie: You have to chill it before you roll it out. Most recipes say for at least an hour. Really, you want to let it chill overnight. When you take it out of the fridge, let it sit for 5 or 10 minutes. You don't want your dough to be warm, but you don't want it to be so cold that you can't roll it. My mom had the coolest rolling pin when I was a kid. It was glass, and you unscrewed the ends and filled it with ice. So it had two benefits: One, it was really cold, and two, it was heavy. Buy a heavy rolling pin. Don't buy one of those little things from a department store that weighs like a pound. Get a big heavy rolling pin. Let it do the work for you. It will roll your dough out beautifully and with less work. 

    Laura: There's something especially impressive about making a pie for dessert. Would you agree?
    Bobbie: Oh absolutely. A really good pie takes time and effort, because there are three parts to it. But the great thing about [our apple crumb] is those three parts can be made ahead of time. A fresh apple pie, you can't really make ahead of time. You need to make it now, throw it in the oven, bake it, and then let it cool for four hours. But the apple crumb pie, you can make the filling the day before, the crumb topping three or four days before, and the pie dough a few days before. Then the night before, you can assemble everything and bake it. I live in New York. The ovens aren't big. That's why an apple crumb pie is a great thing to make the day before [an event]. 

    Laura: Should you reheat the apple crumb before serving it?
    Bobbie:  The crumb pie should be served slightly warm, whereas an apple pie really has to be room temperature or the apples will ooze all over the place. So, a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. It will nicely warm up the crumb and crust it a little bit. I like to use a glass pie dish. It's way more impressive. It shows off your beautiful crust, and I think it bakes better. You can see the crust browning. If you really want to impress everyone with your hard work, put it in a glass pie dish.

    Laura: The recipe calls for Golden Delicious apples. Why those?
    Bobbie: Any apple that is not a crisp apple works. Something like a Granny Smith it too crisp, too tart. You want something that's not going to turn into applesauce, but will have some sweet flavor to it and will cook and soften. Granny Smiths are really not going to soften very well. There are manyBraeburns, Cortland, Honey Crispthat work beautifully for apple pies. Anything that you bite into and it's sweetthat's the apple you want. 

    Laura: Do you have any tips for preparing the apple filling?
    Bobbie: An apple wedger. It's the niftiest, handiest tool in the world. You get little wedges instantly. 

    Laura: What are your secrets for making the crumb?
    Bobbie: Room temperature butter. Make sure it's incorporated and there are no loose crumbs. When you're done mixing it, squeeze it into clumps1/2 inch to an inchin your hand as you put it onto the pie. You'll get those nice crunchy, crispy little blobs that everyone wants to pick off the top of the pie. 

    Laura: Any finishing touches?
    Bobbie: Fresh whipped cream is always a delightful addition to any pie. Don't buy it from a can. Buy heavy whipping cream. Make sure your mixing bowl is clean and cold; otherwise your whipping cream will not whip. 

    Laura: How do you make it?
    Bobbie: Just in a mixer. For sweet pie, I don't even add any sugar, just a touch of vanilla. If your pie is savory, like pumpkin, throw in a little bit of sugar, maybe a teaspoon per cup of heavy cream. Just whip it until it's the consistency of whipped cream. 

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    Monday, August 13, 2012

    Blueberry Pie Cupcakes

    Let's be honest: Fruity desserts are kind of wimpy. If I'm investing in calories, I want to go rich: chocolate and peanut butter and caramel and so much sugar my tongue hurts. I don't want some delicate, flaky little pastry posing as dessert. I need decadence.

    But, lately, I've been on a blueberry kick. It started with blueberry fro-yo, which I discovered is quite delicious when paired with graham cracker crumbs, fresh fruit, and marshallow creme. (Trust me. Try it.) Then it was blueberry pie. I had to eat it, reallyI was, after all, at a blueberry festival. 

    As much as it pains to me to say it, it was incredible. 

    So I was proven wrong. Fine. I'm okay with that. But I'm not ready to give up on decadence just yet. My compromise: I flipped the typical filling-crust ratio, creating a pie-inspired treat with lots and lots of crust and just a little filling. That way, I don't have to be that obnoxious person who serves myself a giant piece of crust and leaves behind the fruit filling. (I have no problem doing this.)

    The final product was incredible. I filled cupcake liners halfway with crust batter, baked it, then piled on homemade fruit filling and oatmeal crumble and baked it again. It had all the buttery, flaky goodness of pie crust packed into a handheld vessel, and just enough fruit to justify it as breakfast.

    Blueberry Pie Cupcakes
    Adapted from Cakespy 

    What you need

    The crust
    1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
    1/3 cup sugar
    1 ½ cups flour
    ¼ tsp salt 

    The filling
    3 Tbsp unsalted butter
    ¼ cup brown sugar
    1 pint fresh blueberries
    1 Tbsp cinnamon

    The topping
    ½ cup walnuts
    1 ½ cups quick-cooking oats*
    1 cup flour
     ¾ cup light brown sugar  
    1 tsp cinnamon  
    ¼ tsp baking soda  
    1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened  

    *I used 2 packets of Quaker Maple & Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal, plus ½ cup plain oats. I liked the extra maple note.   

    Put it all together
    1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place liners in a cupcake pan.
    2. To make the crust, beat the softened butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Then add the flour, and mix on low speed until well-combined.
    3. Spoon the dough into the cupcake liners, filling them about halfway. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Let cool completely.
    4. To make the filling, heat the butter and brown sugar in a skillet over high heat. Add the blueberries, stirring occasionally (making sure to scrape the bottom of the skillet) for about 8 minutes. You can add a little bit of water if necessary to prevent scorching.
    5. To make the topping, toast the walnuts for about 8 minutes. Let them cool, then chop them up. Combine the walnuts, oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and baking soda, and use two knives to cut in the butter until a coarse mixture forms. (Hint: Use your hands to create ½" clumps, which will yield a crispy crumb, rather than a loose crumble.)
    6. Place a tablespoon of blueberry filling in the center of each pie crust cup. Top it with a liberal portion of oat crumb. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the crumb is lightly browned and crispy.
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