cheddar & saltine cracker baked chicken tenders (with quick & easy aioli dipping sauce)

cheddar and saltine cracker chicken tenders via she likes to eat
there are a few basic recipes that i am constantly looking to better or to perfect and chicken tenders have long been one. lately i have been making them more often, since we have a preschooler and a toddler running our lives these days and they are a great go-to for easy & healthy meals. i much prefer making them myself when i can, instead of the freezer chicken tenders & nuggets that truthfully scare me a little. every chicken tender i have made in the past has been just ok, “neither here nor there”. i’ve made some with breadcrumbs and some with panko. i’ve tried lots of different ways to bread them – with buttermilk, with whole milk, or with eggs, breaded once or twice… but i still had not found my favorite tenders that were perfectly crunchy, yet moist, and held their breading all over without falling off during baking. and i still had the problem of the breading getting mushy on the underside.

well, after many tests & tastings & tweakings i can safely say i am forever free from chicken tender mediocrity!
i have finally mastered the elusive perfect homemade chicken tender.
(and the crowd stands up and cheers like crazy:)

i used a mix of ground cheddar crackers and saltine crackers as the breading, which gives it the perfect flavor and crunch on the outside. i also baked the tenders on all-metal drying rack (used mostly for cooling cookies or pies) on top of a baking sheet – this ensured no soggy business on the underside of the tenders. (this was the most exciting part of my week. seriously.)

as for the dipping sauce: i have 2 all-time favorite aioli recipes in my arsenal – the recipe below is my super quick and easy version that uses ingredients i always have on hand. aioli is my favorite dipping sauce for chicken tenders and complements these really well. if you can stand to turn down the ketchup, i promise, it’s worth it.

cheddar & saltine cracker baked chicken tenders
adapted via just a taste
serves 4-6

ingredients

1 3/4 lbs chicken tenders (or chicken breasts, sliced into tenders)

3 cups cheez-it crackers (or similar cheddar cracker)

1 cup oyster cracker/soup-style saltines (or broken up regular size saltines)

3 eggs

3 tbsp dijon mustard

3/4 cup flour

olive oil cooking spray

directions

1. preheat oven to 475. position rack in lower third of oven.

2. place an all-metal drying rack on a large cookie sheet. spray or brush drying rack with olive oil.

3. in a food processor or blender, grind cheddar and saltine crackers until finely ground then place in a wide & shallow bowl. in another bowl, whisk the eggs and dijon mustard. then place the flour in a third wide & shallow bowl.

4. with each chicken tender, dip it first into the flour, shaking off excess. then dip into egg/dijon mixture and then into the cracker mixture, pressing crumbs onto the tender making sure it’s evenly coated. repeat with remaining tenders. place the tenders an inch or two apart on the metal rack on the cookie sheet (see picture above).

5. bake for 14-16 minutes, until they are beginning to golden. serve warm with aioli dipping sauce.

 

quick & easy aioli dipping sauce
makes about 1/2 cup

1/2 cup mayonnaise (duke’s is my favorite)

2 cloves finely minced garlic

1/2 tsp worcestershire

1/2 tsp lemon juice

directions

mix all ingredients together with a whisk until completely incorporated.

enjoy!

banana, date, and almond butter smoothies

banana date almond butter smoothies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
i seriously have no clue where march went.
we have been traveling a lot and have had so much on our plates during the last several weeks, i feel like it came and went before we knew it. because of all of the traveling i confess i haven’t cooked much at all lately, making me miss time in the kitchen both on my own and with the little she.

during those months when we are stuck inside so much because of the cold outside, we often find ourselves making smoothies to go with nearly every lunch, the kind that are super thick and creamy. this one was our favorite of all our new concoctions this year, and pretty good for you too. dates have high levels of folate and vitamin A, while almond butter is rich in antioxidants and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

if you have a high-speed blender, like a blend-tec or vitamix, A} i am super jealous of you, and B} they’re perfect for this smoothie because of the chopped dates. if you are able to completely puree them, all the better. if you don’t have a high-speed blender, you’ll have little bits of dates in the bottom of your smoothie, which i still kind of love.

banana, date, and almond butter smoothie
makes 2 smoothies

ingredients

1.5 cups milk (whole, 2%, almond, or soy)

1 frozen banana, halved

3 tbsp almond butter

2 pitted dates, chopped

1/4 tsp vanilla

1 cup ice

directions

1. blend all ingredients completely in a blender, until ice and dates are completely blended.

enjoy!

baked potato soup

baked potato soup | she likes to eat

i could not be more excited about spring arriving (only 6 more days until it’s official! ::breaks into wild happy dance::) we have had a rough winter here in the ozarks and, boy am i glad to see the snow go. (although the little she is pretty upset about it – i have never met someone who loves the snow as much as that little half-colorado kid does.)

so in one last winter hurrah, i want to share a cold-weather wonder that is a staple around here – baked potato soup. it is super thick and perfectly creamy, and topped with crispy bacon, it’s one of my favorite comfort foods.  oh, and extra points: it’s always a win for me in the meat-and-potato husband department.

baked potato soup
adapted from the nordstrom friends & family cookbook

ingredients

3-4 tbsp olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 carrots, peeled & chopped

2 celery stalks, rinsed well & chopped

1  bay leaf

2 tsp dried thyme

6 cups (48 oz) chicken stock (low-sodium)

4 large baked idaho potatoes, flesh scooped from shell and mashed (**see below)

1 cup heavy cream

coarse sea salt & pepper

for garnish:
sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onion (green & white parts), 6-8 slices bacon (cooked until crisp & crumbled)

directions

1. in a large pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. add the garlic, onion, carrots, celery, bay leaf, and thyme. saute, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.

2. add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer, then simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. (the veggies should be very tender.) discard the bay leaf. add the baked & mashed potatoes, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. remove from heat and, using an immersion blender (or in batches with a blender), blend the soup to make creamy – as desired. (if you like your soup chunky or not as creamy, you can skip this step.) whisk in heavy cream, a heaping 1/8 tsp sea salt, freshly ground pepper (to taste), and return to heat, on low, for about 5 minutes. ladle soup into bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream, cheddar cheese, green onion, and crumbled bacon (about one crumbled slice per bowl).

recipe makes about 6-8 bowls.
keeps for 4-6 days in fridge in an airtight container.
reheat in microwave or on the stove.

**to bake the potatoes, i follow this “recipe” from the kitchn. they turn out perfectly every time.

enjoy!

goat cheese & thyme quiche with hashbrown crust

goat cheese thyme quiche with hash brown crust

seems like i’m kind of stacking up the goat cheese recipes lately – like with these biscuits and this queso fundido. i would probably entertain the idea of dedicating my entire blog to the love of goat cheese, if i didn’t love chocolate so much.. and baking.. and bread.. and cookies.. and mexican food.

when i see a recipe with goat cheese in it, i immediately put it in my “to-make stack” (well, unless it has loads of tomatoes or mushrooms – sorry folks, can’t do it). this recipe is inspired by/adapted from a martha stewart dish – i added a few things and cut the recipe down in size a little, for ease. seriously y’all, the end result was awesome. the warm, gooey goat cheese and the crunchy hashbrown crust turned out to be such a great match. the thyme really adds a lot of flavor and the sour cream makes it super creamy. it’s the perfect dish for a brunch or even lunch, next to a bowl of warm tomato soup.

goat cheese & thyme quiche with hashbrown crust

ingredients

2 tbsp butter, melted

1/2 package frozen shredded hash browns, thawed (about 4 cups)

9 eggs

1 cup sour cream

4-5 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1/4 tsp dried thyme

2 whole green onions, chopped

sea salt & freshly ground pepper

directions

1. preheat the oven to 375. coat an 8 inch pie dish evenly with olive oil cooking spray.

2. in a large bowl, combine thawed hashbrowns, melted butter, 1 egg, 1/4 tsp sea salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper. mix well with a spatula. press into prepared pie dish (also up the sides) with the spatula. place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until set, about 15 minutes.

3. in another large bowl, whisk 8 remaining eggs. add sour cream, goat cheese, 1 tsp sea salt, thyme, and pepper – mix well. pour into pre-baked crust and sprinkle the chopped green onions evenly over the top. bake until set (gently tap the side of the pie dish -the filling should jiggle slightly in the middle but not on the sides), about 30-35 minutes. serve while still warm.

enjoy!

goat cheese & thyme quiche with hashbrown crust

oreo brownies

oreo brownies | via she likes to eat

when i posted my chocolate chip cookie recipe, i said my life had been a quest to find that perfect recipe. like those little chewy wonders, i have also been on a quest for MY brownie recipe, my favorite from-scratch recipe. along that journey, i stumbled upon this genius thought – oreos IN brownies.
shyeah.

DUDEiLOVEoreos.
now i’m proud to say that most of the time i have some self control when it comes to sweets, and eating too much. but with oreos? they are totally my kryptonite. my husband and i can easily and quickly polish off an entire package right after opening one.

this recipe boasts the very best things about brownies: the lightly crispy top, the fudgy inside but still crumbly, and then a rich surprise when you bite into it. (unlike other recipes i found, mine has the oreos crushed or chopped up inside – i preferred this to the whole oreo inside.)

for reals, whoever was the very first to come up with the idea of putting these 2 together is a genius. it’s like wine & cheese, ice cream & root beer, crusty bread & hot soup, or will & grace… SO GOOD TOGETHER.

oreo brownies
adapted from crazy for crust

ingredients

2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate

2 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

3 eggs, whisked

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1/8 tsp coarse sea salt

1 cup flour

15 (ish) original oreos, chopped (using double stuf oreos makes these oreos super rich)

directions

1. preheat oven to 350. spray an 8×8 baking dish with cooking spray (i use coconut oil spray).

2. put both baking chocolates and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. heat for about 2-3 minutes, stirring every 30-45 seconds, until chocolate is melted and smooth. pour into a mixing bowl and add the sugar. add in eggs, vanilla, cocoa powder, and salt – mix well. add flour and stir to fully combine.

3. spread half of the batter in prepared dish. sprinkle chopped oreos evenly over the top, then cover with remaining batter (easier if you use your fingertips to spread over).

4. bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes before cutting. these are best served warm:)

enjoy!

monterey jack & goat cheese queso fundido with hatch green chile vinaigrette

monterey jack & goat cheese queso fundido with hatch green chile vinaigrette | via she likes to eat

these days, life is a little crazy.
we have two little ones and a very busy schedule. somehow we, well i, got away from one of my dearest loves: entertaining/taking care of people in our home. the house is often a mess and  i get stressed over the day and sometimes it’s just too much to handle making dinner and trying to clean the place. all that said, i am working on it. we are making plans and inviting people over to watch basketball games, tidying up as best we can while still knowing a little mess IS OKAY – a daily reminder of one of my favorite mantras, present over perfect (thanks to my friend shauna, who encourages so many with this quote + chapter from the lovely bread & wine).
and it sure makes it easy when i have something yummy ready in the kitchen that i am dying to share with someone.

this recipe is one of those things. although i could have easily taken it out of the oven, grabbed a bag of tortilla chips, walked back to my bedroom, locked the door, and eaten the entire thing all by mineself. and then licked the bowl wholeheartedly.

monterey jack & goat cheese queso fundido with hatch green chile vinaigrette
adapted from bobby flay

ingredients

for the vinaigrette:

one 4 oz can hatch green chiles, drained & chopped

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1/2 tsp agave nectar

1/4 cup sunflower seed or grapeseed oil (or an oil with mild flavor)

for the queso:

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp all purpose flour

1 cup whole milk

4 cups grated monterey jack cheese (about 1 1/2 eight ounce blocks)

5 oz goat cheese, crumbled

2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

sea salt & freshly ground pepper

blue corn tortilla chips, for serving

directions

1. to make the vinaigrette, combine the chiles, vinegar, garlic, agave, and oil, plus a good sized pinch of the cilantro in a blender and puree until smooth. season with salt & pepper.

2. to make the queso: melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. add the flour and cook, constantly whisking, about 1 minute. add the milk and cook, constantly whisking, until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes. remove from heat and whisk in monterey jack, one handful at a time (don’t add the next handful until cheese has completely melted). add a scant 1/4 tsp salt, and a bit of pepper to taste.

3. turn on the broiler. scrape the melted cheese mixture into an 8 inch baking dish. scatter the crumbled goat cheese over the top, covering evenly. broil until golden brown in spots, about 5-7 minutes. remove from the oven and let it sit for 5-10 minutes, to allow the cheese to set. drizzle the vinaigrette over the top* and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. serve warm with tortilla chips.

*i drizzled about 1/2 of the vinaigrette just after it came out of the oven. as we ate, i drizzled more on top.

enjoy!

buttermilk cinnamon chip scones with cinnamon glaze

buttermilk cinnamon chip scones

this past week was A WEEK. you know?
it feels like we had been snowed in for ages and i had some crazy cabin fever kickin’.
so we have been baking a lot. the little she and me. and it’s so good for me: i have been slowly working through my stress over the mess in the kitchen while working with a preciously clumsy three-year-old tornado.

there is always a stack of recipes i am wanting to try, sitting in a drawer in my kitchen, and we whittled down that stack quite a bit last week.
i ended up making 3 batches of these, messing with them here and there, adding my own ideas to the original scone recipe (from how sweet it is). the final product, i do have to say, is awesome.

i have finally given away the last of the RIDICULOUS amount of these that i had in my house, thank goodness. i truly was going to be good this january and lay off so many sweets after some crazy holiday eating, but well… i blame the snow.

buttermilk cinnamon chip scones
makes roughly 18-20 scones (depending on how you cut them)

ingredients

3 1/4 cups flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp coarse sea salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter, cut into small cubes

1 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon extract

3/4 cup cinnamon chips

about 1/8 cup milk, for brushing

for the glaze:
1 heaping cup powdered sugar

2 tbsp half and half

1 tsp cinnamon extract

directions

1. preheat the oven to 425. in a medium bowl, combine buttermilk, brown sugar, and cinnamon extract. whisk until well incorporated. set to the side. in a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. whisk to combine. cut in butter with a pastry cutter or a large fork (or your fingers) until coarse crumbs are formed. pour liquid ingredients and cinnamon chips into dry ingredients and stir to combine.

2. lightly flour a work surface and turn out dough onto it. roll out until about 1/2 inch thick. you can either cut into round scones with a cookie cutter (this will give you closer to 24 scones) or you can roll out into a well-formed rectangle and cut them into a triangular scone shape (about 16 scones).

3. brush the tops of the scones with milk. bake for 12-14 minutes, until the scones have turned golden brown on top.

4. while scones are baking, make the glaze: put all glaze ingredients into a small bowl and whisk until smooth. once scones have cooled about 5 minutes or so, drizzle glaze over the tops.

enjoy!