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Salt & Pepper Chicken Strips

Salt & Pepper Chicken Strips

I am very fond of Chinese food of any kind, although to be sure I have never actually had any "real" Chinese food. I have only ever had the Westernised stuff, which  is good enough for me.  You would think that Westernised Chinese food would be the same all over the place, but that isn't the case.  Chinese food here in the UK, is somewhat different to the kind I was used to back home.  Its still pretty tasty however.  

As a young bride I can remember going to a place in Granville Ferry back home, called The Continental Kitchen. It was an old farm house that had been converted to a restaurant. People came from miles and miles away to eat there.  You had to book ahead it was so popular.  They did all you can eat Buffets.  All homemade from scratch food. They had both a seafood and a Chinese buffet.

Later on when I moved out to Western Canada, my ex and I used to go out for a Chinese meal every now and then.  We would dress up in our finest duds and go to this place in downtown Calgary. It would be a really special evening for us. My ex BIL was also very good at cooking Chinese food.  He would make lovely Chinese meals for us that I always really enjoyed.  I know they were a lot of work, preparing all of the vegetables and meats, sauces etc.  I always really appreciated all that  he did. It was so delicious!

One of my favourite dishes at the buffets, aside from the sweet and sour chicken and the broccoli beef has always been the chicken wings.  There is something incredibly yummy about those little bits of skin and fat and chicken meat, seasoned perfectly the way they do it, and then fried until crisp. I think they were very popular with everyone, because they always seemed to be almost empty whenever I would go to get some. You had to be quick!

This recipe I am sharing today is a play on those, albeit quite a bit healthier.  Yes, healthier . . .  but but every bit as tasty . . . .  believe it or not . . . .  maybe even tastier!  A bold statment I know!

I cut boneless skinless chicken breasts into strips (do it diagonally, for some reason the shape is nicer) and soak them in dark soy sauce and then I coat them in a special seasoning I create which uses things you probably have in your kitchen right now.

Montreal steak seasoning, lemon pepper seasoning and coarsely ground black pepper, that is all.  I make my own lemon pepper seasoning because it is a very difficult ingredient to find over here in the UK, but you really do need to have it.  It adds a unique layer to the flavours. If you would like to know how I make mine, just ask. It does involve a bit of time and oven cooking to dry out the lemon zest.

Once coated the chicken strips are baked in a hot oven . . .  8 minutes on one side, and then 5 to 6 minutes on the other side.  (I flip them after the first 8 minutes)  I think any longer than that they would dry out.  These timings keep them just moist and delicious.

They have a bit of a spark, yes, but it is a spark that I heartily enjoy! I like to serve them with a homemade sweet and sour sauce for dipping.

It goes really well with the flavours of the chicken and is also really easy to make.  I am betting you already have everything in the kitchen now to make the sauce right now as well . . .

Apricot jam, tomato ketchup, rice wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce . .  . that's it.  I blitz it together in my mini food chopper because I like it to be smooth. 

This is the one I use, the Cookhouse Premium 400W Mini Food Processor.  I won this recently in a giveaway and have stopped using my old one altogether.  This one is so easy to use and to clean (always important).  It makes short work of throwing this sauce together.  Just pile it all into the glass base, pop the lid on and blitz. It works by pressing down on the lid, and has two speeds.  I really love it and have been using it just about every day.  Mine came from here.  Its really a beautiful piece of kit.   

You will love this sweet and sour sauce.  Its thick and flavourful with just the right amount of sweet and sour.  Its a sauce we use often in our house, on everything from salmon to chicken to pork and even lamb.  I haven't tried it with beef yet, but it would probably be great with meatballs!

*Salt & Pepper Chicken Strips*
Serves 4

Spicy and finger licking good!

900g boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into strips (2 pounds)
2 TBS soy sauce
2 tsp Montreal Steak Spice
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp lemon pepper seasoning

for the sauce:
235g of apricot preserves (3/4 cup)
3 TBS soy sauce
3 TBS tomato ketchup
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce 

Pre-heat the oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 7. Spray a foil lined baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

Place the soy sauce into a bowl.  Combine the spices and seasonings in a plastic bag.  Roll the chicken strips in the soy sauce and then shake them in the plastic bag to coat with the seasonings.  Place in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Bake for 8 minutes, flip over and bake for a further 8 to 10 minutes, or until the juices run clear, and they are golden brown.

While the chicken is cooking, put all of the sauce ingredients into a deep wide mouthed jar and blitz with a stick blender, or alternatively blitz together in a regular blender/food processor until smooth.

Serve the chicken strips hot with the dipping sauce.

Oh boy but these are some tasty.  I served mine with some steamed rice and vegetables.  Juicy, tender chicken with a bit of a spicy bite . . . and that tangy sweet and sticky sauce . . .  what a beautiful combination this is.  If you can resist this, you are a much better than me.  I love how quick and easy it is as well. BONUS!  I love taking something I love and then making it a bit healthier, don't you?  Baked, not fried. No skin.  Even tastier in my opinion!   Bon Appetit!

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Marie Rayner
Creamy Caraway Coleslaw

Creamy Caraway Coleslaw

Can you ever have too many coleslaw recipes? I think not!  I love coleslaw and I am always figuring out new ways of presenting it, flavours to add to it, etc. I especially like this version here today, which is a tad bit different than the usual variety.  Salad season is one of my favourite seasons!  But then having said that, I could eat coleslaw any time of the year!

It is one of those salads that goes with everything.  We also like it as a pick on hot sandwiches, like pulled pork or turkey or chicken burgers.  Believe it or not, its also very good on hot dogs!

I think I get my love of coleslaw from my mother.  She made the absolute best coleslaw.  She always did all of it by hand as well, the shredding of the cabbage, the chopping of the carrots, etc. I have to admit there is something almost calming to hand shred all of your vegetables.  It is also a great way to practise mindlessness . . .

Additionally I think the texture of hand shredded vegetables is much nicer than anything you do by machine.  I do cheat sometimes and grate the carrots on a box grater.  I never buy the bags of already shredded coleslaw mix.  In fact I really eschew any type of pre-bagged salad mix if I can help it. They always taste like bleach to me and I find that quite unpleasant.

There are only a few vegetables in this version today  . . . its basically cabbage and spring onions.  The cabbage gives a great crunch and the onion a bit of sharpness and of course colour. 

I used a sweetheart cabbage for this, which has a lovely flavour and texture. It is neither too strong or too mild.  Just in between.  Most of the flavour comes from the dressing! 

Its a simple dressing made by combining dairy sour cream along with some mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar and seasonings. 

Caraway and celery seeds also provide a bit of crunch and some lovely flavours. I adore caraway seed and it boasts a beautiful affinity with cabbage.  The two ingredients together are almost always synonymous with delicious!

*Creamy Caraway Coleslaw*
Serves 4 
This well flavoured and attractive slaw makes a great summer side dish to grilled pork or poultry. 

450g cabbage (1 pound)
60g dairy sour cream (1/4 cup)
60g full fat mayonnaise (1/4 cup)
30ml white vinegar (1/8 cup)
1 TBS sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1/4 tsp celery seeds
3 spring onions, trimmed
freshly ground black pepper to taste 

Trim and core the cabbage.  Cut in quarters and then thinly shred by hand. (Don't be tempted to grate.)  Put into a bowl. Wash and trim the onions. Thinly slice and add to the bowl with the cabbage.  Whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, salt, and sugar. Using a mortar and pestle, lightly crush and bruise the caraway and celery seeds.  Whisk into the dressing.  Add the dressing to the prepared vegetables, tossing together to coat. Add black pepper to taste. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours prior to serving. Bring to room temperature before serving.

The Clever Cook could add a handful of chopped sultanas or raisins to this salad. They would add a bit of interest in the way of flavour and would also go very well with the caraway seed. Chopped apple would also make a great addition.  Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

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Marie Rayner
Downside Up Pineapple Cobbler

Downside Up Pineapple Cobbler

This just might be one of the ugliest desserts you have ever seen, but it also might be one of the most delicious.  This is a case where you definitely should not be judging a book by its cover because this fabulous cobbler is one of the tastiest I have ever eaten! 

I love desserts that include buttery biscuit cobbler toppings.  My Apple Pan Dowdy is very similar to this, except it uses apples instead of pineapple and you actually create a molasses vinegar syrup to cook the apples in. Its a very old recipe.  There is no faffing about with creating a syrup in this recipe.

It begins as a Pineapple Upside Down Cake would begin  . . .  with creating a base of melted butter and brown sugar  to lay your fruit on, in this case chopped fresh pineapple.  I am no stranger to Upside down Cakes. I have an excellent recipe for a Pineapple Gingerbread Upside Down Cake on the blog along with another recipe for a Pear and Maple Upside Down Cake, both of which are excellent cakes!

This differs in that it is a dessert not topped by cake, but by buttery biscuit cobbles . . .  all shaggy and craggy and buttery with lovely crisp edges . . .

I like to use fresh pineapple when I have it. Tinned would do, but if you have fresh pineapple then there is no excuse not to use it really.  It tastes incredible! 

The pieces of fruit caramelise in that brown sugar and butter, creating something quite magnificently moreish  . . .  I could just eat the fruit on its own  . . .

but then again, that buttery biscuit topping is to die for  . . .  and some a lot of that syrup soaks into the bottom of that lovely topping  . . .  creating, once again . . .  something which is really quite moreish.

Served warm and topped with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream, you will find it very difficult to resist  . . .  your spoon wants to dip into it again and again  . . .

Carrying that sweet, sticky almost jam-like brown sugar fruit, with that buttery crumble  . . .  mixed with the sweet coolness of the vanilla ice cream up to your lips . . .  you can't help but close your eyes and go . . .

Mmmmm . . . . mmmm . . .

and mmmmmm  . . . again and again  . . .

Just look at that tasty mouthful  . . .  impossible to resist . . . almost dangerous.  Turning something quite ugly into something most beautiful indeed!

*Downside Up Pineapple Cobbler*
Serves 8 - 10
(Depending on how hungry people are)

Every bit as tasty as an upside down cake, but a whole lot easier. Serve warm with ice cream.   

150g soft dark brown sugar (3/4 cup, packed)
3 TBS butter
345g chopped fresh pineapple (1 1/2 cups)

For the biscuit topping:
280g plain flour (2 cups)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
86g butter, frozen (6 TBS)
240ml cold buttermilk 

Preheat the oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 7.  Heat the butter and soft brown sugar for the pineapple over medium low heat until melted and amalgamated.  Pour into a 9 inch round cake tin and swirl to spread over the bottom. Top with the chopped pineapple.

Sift the flour into a bowl along with the baking powder and soda.  Whisk in the sugar and salt.  Using a box grater, grate in the butter.  Quickly work in with your fingertips until evenly distributed.  Stir in the buttermilk with a fork, mixing in just until all of the pieces are damp and moistened.  You may not need it all, or you may need more.  For some reason this seems to depend on the weather.  Drop by dollops on top of the pineapple and brown sugar mixture.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until the pineapple mixture is bubbling and the biscuits are golden brown. (Test in the centre to make sure all are cooked through. If not cook for a few minutes longer.) Invert onto a serving plate and serve immediately, with or without cold vanilla bean ice cream.

Note - if you think the cobble is browning too quickly towards the end, lightly tend with foil.


The original recipe is adapted from one I found in the book entitled, Perfect One Dish Dinners, by Pamela Anderson. (No, not that Pamela Anderson! This one is a great cook!!) 

The Clever Cook could add some halved Maraschino Cherries, or even fresh cherries and coarsely chopped pecans to the base along with the pineapple.

If you make one dessert this weekend, you really can't go wrong with this one!  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Easy Cinnamon Nut Croissants

Easy Cinnamon Nut Croissants

I like to pull the boat out a bit at the weekend when it comes to breakfast. During the week we keep mainly to the script having cereal or toast and fruit, but when the weekend rolls around, I really like to do something a bit more.  Doing something a bit more however, doesn't have to mean that you slog away in front of a hot stove for hours, as this delicious recipe I am showing you today will prove! 

And what's more you only need five simple ingredients.  What else could you ask for ?  Not a lot I don't think, and I will pretty much guarantee that your family are going to love these!  You will too, as they truly are a real doddle to make! 

You will want to start off with a good store or bakery baked croissant.  In all truth, this is also a great way to pop some life back into stale croissants! 

First you melt some butter and you roll the croissants in the melted butter.  Truth here, I have also just spread the outsides of the croissants with softened butter without taking the time to melt it, and they have also worked very well. 

Once you have them coated in butter, shake them in a bag with cinnamon sugar to coat.  Easy.  Simple.  I like lots of cinnamon, so I add a lot of cinnamon to the sugar mix . . .  a full TBS, but you can use less if you want to. A full TBS is what works for me.

Pop those butter and cinnamon sugar coated pastries onto a prepped baking sheet and then sprinkle them with some toasted nuts.  Walnuts or pecans both work very well. Pat them in a little bit so that they stick.

And that's it.  Just pop those babies into a pre-heated oven and bake them until they are golden brown and nicely crisped!  WOWSA!

Crisp, golden brown and nutty Cinnamon tasty good. We love these! 

These were day old croissants that I used today and just look at how crisp and flaky they ended up. They look (and taste) pretty perfect to me!

I served them with some cinnamon hot chocolate.  I used the milk frother to lay some milk on top of the chocolates . . .  I tried to do the heart thing with it, but failed abysmally.  I am sure there is a trick to it, but I am not in the know  . . .

Other than that I like to serve them with some softened butter and a bit of jam.  Today it was black currant jelly, but any jam goes great really.  Just pick your favourite.  These are sooooo tasty! 

*Easy Cinnamon Nut Croissants*
Makes 6 servings

Make your family something delicious for breakfast or brunch this weekend!  Simple, quick and very tasty! 

6 baked croissants
190g granulated sugar (1 cup)
1 TBS ground cinnamon
125g melted butter (1/2 cup)
60g chopped toasted walnuts or pecans (1/2 cup) 

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Line a baking sheet with foil and butter the foil.

Place the melted butter in a large shallow bowl.  Place the sugar and cinnamon into a large paper or plastic bag.  Roll the croissants in the melted butter, one at a time and then shake in the bag with the cinnamon sugar to coat.  Place onto the baking sheet.  Sprinkle with the chopped nuts, pressing them down a bit to help them adhere.

Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown and crisp.  Serve hot with butter and jam if desired.

It didn't take us very long to snuffle these up.  Todd actually had two today as he was super hungry.  I shouldn't have but I had one and I enjoyed it very much. So there.  I can pay for it tomorrow with a bowl of gruel.  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner

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