Southern Fried Fish & Life in Bloom

May, a month many of us look forward to for our own reasons…maybe you welcome the change in climate, the holidays we celebrate (Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, Teacher Appreciation, Memorial Day, etc.) or maybe it represents something else for you. The rainy blah of April welcomes an exciting and expectant month of May and so far this month has not disappointed one bit!

I had planned to do a Cinco de Mayo inspired spread of delicious foods instead I was whisked away to Grand National Harbor for a romantic getaway by my husband. I couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend my Saturday night and Cinco De Mayo. We had a beautiful night, a classy and swanky, Voltaggio Brothers Steak House set the ambiance and back drop for a night to remember. The food was pricey but well worth it. My husband’s steak was huge and so tender it didn’t need a knife, I had the crab cake that was mostly crab – that was baked in a metal tin to keep it together. The wait staff made the experience that much better. They made you feel like VIP for the bread you spend.

Our stay in Oxon Hill, Maryland was the best kickoff for a month that has been blossoming into one surprise after the other. We look forward to going back and rekindling our romance right where we left off. If the Grand Harbor is booked, Harborside is literally right around the corner and it was a hit at a great price. Of course it wouldn’t be a trip if we didn’t stop at Potomac Mills Shopping Mall on the way back home. I’ve got one word for you – Deals! There were so many deals, I promise you there is something for everybody in that mall. I even got the chance to make a Unicorn for my daughter at the Build -a- Bear store. That was truly one of the cutest experiences I’ve ever encountered…the care and sentiment they put into crafting your child’s keepsake is out of this world. I ended up making a purple unicorn that smells like cupcakes with a colorful tutu. By the time we had shopped, we were ready to drop, and see our babies.

The week ahead would prove to be a busy one as usual. Teacher Appreciation Week had been on my calendar for months and of course my surprise trip threw me off a little bit. Monday I woke up ill prepared for teacher appreciation and headed straight to the store once I dropped the kids off at school. I had no solid plan but I knew I wanted to send them something daily. I found white paper lunch bags, grabbed some snacks, and drinks. Each day they received a different snack or treat bag and on Friday I sent in school supplies per the schools’ request. Mind you, I have three children in elementary school, and 1 of them has 2 teachers so that was a total of 4 bags each day. The first day I let the kids draw pictures on the bags, another day I found a poem that  I taped to each bag. I tried to make each teacher’s bag as individual and unique as they are. I wish I had taken pictures but it was one of those weeks that I feel lucky that it got done, even if their isn’t a picture to capture the memory. What I do have? Thoughtful messages and thank you cards from my children’s teachers and those I certainly intend to keep. Shout out to the hardworking teachers and staff at Harvie Elementary School! Special thanks to our former teachers Mrs. Bradford and Mrs Raymond. Super special thanks to our current teachers Ms. Dowell, Ms. Brown, Mrs. Brooks-Giles and Mrs. Purnell, all beautiful ladies, inside and out!

With Teacher Appreciation Week out-of-the-way, a full week of activities that now includes basketball practice for the boys at two different schools twice a week. I was happy to return to my norm and happy place in my kitchen, and who would’ve thought that I would have cooked a complete meal on a Friday night? Fridays’ are typically a fast food type of night or a DIY type of meal – meaning it’s everyone for themselves. Yes, my younger kids can make their own food as long as it’s in the microwave or fresh. My oldest son is a Sous Chef in training, so his privileges and skill in the kitchen are a little more advanced. He even has his own apron. The specialty of this Friday, the 11th was southern fried whiting, macaroni and cheese, collard greens with smoked pork neckbones and Jiffy cornbread. My Friday night dinner turned out great. The fish was crispy and flavorful from the Creole seasoning I added to the fish coating. The macaroni and cheese was creamy and gooey. The collard greens were seasoned perfectly, you could taste a hint of the apple cider vinegar and the red pepper flake. The cornbread was moist and cake like from the vanilla extract that I added to the mixture of Jiffy Mix, egg and milk.

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Southern Fried Whiting, Macaroni and Cheese, Collard Greens with Smoked Pork Neckbones and Cornbread

One thing I had done was properly prepare for Mother’s Day as I had been picking up gifts and cards for the past month or so. So I was smooth sailing as Mother’s Day approached and only needed to pick up a couple of things to complete my shopping. The only other thing that was of importance to me was to make sure I paid homage to one of the best mothers I’ve ever known, my Granny. Visiting her grave is always an emotional thing for me. Even though I don’t want to cry when I get out there, I always end up sobbing by the time I’m driving off. I miss her a lot. I knew she would appreciate the yellow roses I added to her headstone. On this particular day it was only my daughter with me, she watched me closely as I cleaned up my grandmother’s plot. I removed the old flowers and brushed the dust off with my hands. I kissed the top of the headstone as if she could feel it in heaven and then I had to leave because it was too hot to be standing out in the cemetery crying, and my daughter was visibly confused by my tears.

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Beautiful yellow roses for my Granny, Mrs. Viola Chambers.

Leaving the cemetery left us hot and sweaty,  and the kids needed something to do. I don’t know what I was thinking but I decided to take them to the splash park in my area. 60 minutes was all I could stand but I’m nobodies fool, I put my bathing suit and shorts on too. There was no way I was going to sit out in that heat and sun without indulging in the cool refreshing water play.

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Fun at the Splash Park with the Youngest Bambino’s.

By the next day – Mother’s Day I was worn from the busy week, when my husband asked what I wanted to do that day my response was simple, “absolutely nothing”. And nothing was what I did that day from the comfort of my bed. I caught up on much-needed beauty sleep and chillaxed catching up on missed shows like “The Last O.G.”. I gorged myself on the 30lb bag of Haribo Gummy Bears I was gifted by my family, a Wendy’s single with bacon combo and brown liquor, lol (Shout out to Loni Love – that brown liquor is the truth). As Ice Cube said, “it was a good day” and there is nothing that I would change about it. What do you get the Mom who truly has it all? Flowers galore, a new cellphone and 30lbs of Gummy Bears (I might be exaggerating a tad but I promise you we are still eating the same bag of Gummy Bears). Even though I wasn’t expecting or in need of anything, I was very delighted by my husband and children’s thoughtfulness.

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Mother’s Day proved to be relaxing and rejuvenating at the same time and rightfully so, I had another jam-packed week coming up with more wonderful delights blooming each day. I woke up first thing Monday morning to be reminded that I had “Muffins with Mom” at the school with the kids. I made it to the school fashionably on time and enjoyed some time with my babies eating pastries. It was a great turnout! There were so many moms, grandmas’, and mother figures – I had to park behind the school and walk around the building. I appreciate their school taking time to recognize us Moms and the roles that we play in our homes and children’s lives.

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A selfie at Muffins with Mom.

I can’t remember how long but maybe a couple of months ago I wrote nominations for each of my children’s teacher’s for Henrico County Public Schools “Heart of Henrico” Contest that recognizes Henrico County employees who demonstrate the heart of our great county. Lo and behold one of my nominations was selected for my son King’s 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Brooks-Giles. As a result Mrs. Brooks-Giles and her entire class would be recorded one day at the school, and on a separate day I would be recorded at my home. Wow, my first filming in years. I can’t remember the last time I was actually recorded but my last notable appearance was in an Arthur Ashe documentary on HBO back in the day. Yes, I am on film being instructed how to hit the tennis ball by the late, tennis great, Arthur Ashe. So anything in between then and now was small beans. I wanted to look good for my new debut to television so I went on the search for a Loctician to hook a sister up. Thank God my search engine took me to Natural Beauty Salon & Spa where I submitted my appointment online late Monday night. Tuesday morning my appointment was confirmed, and before I knew it Mrs. Alecia had me washed, re-twisted and styled. I was ready.

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These locs have been slayed!

     Wednesday morning was a blur, my allergies had kicked my butt and was wreaking havoc on me. The film crew arrived on time but I needed 30 more minutes to let my allergy medicine fully kick in. I couldn’t be on camera sneezing and snotting all over the place. That would definitely not be a good look. With my house in order, the refreshments laid out, and my allergy medicine working I was ready when Mr. Gill and his associate showed back up 30 minutes later. “Always be prepared” is the girl scout motto or at least it was when I was a Brownie Scout. That lesson has stuck with me my whole life, even when I decided the last-minute to cut my grass the Tuesday before. Thank God I did. We had cleaned my house from top to bottom (okay the main floor and the basement/den floor) to prepare for the filming. You can imagine my surprise when they suggested filming outdoors to change-up their normal scenery…inside the schools. I smiled as I thought about all the tidying and straightening up that we had done in preparing of the recording. Still, the yard looked great due to the last-minute cut, and the recording went smoothly. He asked me a few questions, and had me say a couple of lines. I was officially a STAR!

The next day King and his class would be recording their segment of the video and he couldn’t have been happier. Even though it had been raining cats and dogs for days their smiles that Thursday en route to school was as bright as the shining sun. King looked good. He was ready for his debut too.

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We lucked out and was able to finish our week off on a high note. The kids got Little Caesar’s pizza for dinner and I treated the older folks to one of my favorite dishes…Old Charleston Style Shrimp and Grits compliments of allrecipes. This time I used bags of small shrimp and andouille sausage that I had on hand in my deep freezer. It came out spot on point. The Shrimp and Sausage gravy was comforting and sumptuous. The grits were creamy and cheesy at the same time. Together in a bowl – it was heaven on earth. Yet as good as it was, it’s all gone. My husband  demolished most of it overnight. I woke up to one bowl left so needless to say that was my breakfast of champions.

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Old Charleston Shrimp and Grits with French Bread

A distant memory is all that remains of the Shrimp and Grits but it’s okay because I’ve moved on in my heart and kitchen. I am on the cusp of finishing yet another meal – this time – pulled pork, potato salad and collard greens. The pork is done. The greens are almost done and the minute I get up from finishing this blog post I can finish the potato salad.

In the meantime I hope you will sign on to follow my journey – there are lots of great things to look forward to and I can’t wait to share it all with you in hopes that you too are finding new ways to enjoy and live your most pleasant life each day. I’ve got a 10 part post series promoting Self-Care, Health & Wellness coming up that I can’t wait to share with you all. I’m working on a book review, and some other well thought out ideas that I hope you guys find refreshing, helpful or at the very least entertaining. Till next time!

Peace, love and fish grease!

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4, Tameka

#TeacherAppreciationWeek

#HeartofHenrico

#MothersDay2018

#AllRecipes

#FishFry

#Shrimp&Grits

 

 

 

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Peri Peri Chicken

I know what you’re thinking. How did I end up cooking Portuguese Peri Peri Chicken? Well I saw a chef make it on one of the many cooking shows, it might have been Beat Bobby Flay. It looked delicious. Peri Peri  or Piri Piri chicken is grilled whole chicken that has been butterflied, or split or cut into leg quarters that has been marinated and basted in the peri peri sauce. The peri peri (or piri piri) sauce is made up of a blend up Peri Peri or african bird’s-eye pepper, garlic, sun ripened lemons and spices. Originally I thought this dish was Portuguese as there are spanish variations. However I prepared the African version as I used a shortcut this time, the already bottled and packaged Nando’s Medium Peri-Peri sauce. I did want to fix it but I didn’t want to buy a long list of ingredients to make the sauce, sometimes I’m here for it – the homemade taste and flavor of cooking from scratch. Then there are those days when I am absolutely not here for it. I want to cook, I want it to be good but most importantly I want it to be convenient. So I grabbed two bottles of this 4.7 oz bottle because I was skeptical if I could make such a small amount go far. But at $3.49 a bottle in Kroger, two had to do.

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Nando’s Peri-Peri Sauce (Medium)

It probably would have been cheaper to buy the ingredients and make the sauce, but again, I was buying time and convenience in a bottle. I would also benefit from getting the authentic Peri Peri flavor versus what I hoped it should be if I made it myself. So it was still a win win situation. I found mine at my Kroger on the condiment aisle. Once back home in my kitchen I prepped my chicken leg quarters for the marinade. I opted to get quarters because they are affordable, you get a gang of them, and I would have a bunch left over to cook another day. Still winning right? Right. So with my chicken rinsed and dried I covered 4 leg quarters in a gallon zip loc bag with a whole bottle of the sauce. I massaged the sauce into the meat and let the bag rest while I lit my grill. Normally I would recommend marinating your chicken overnight. If you don’t have time, 30 minutes is better than nothing. While my chicken marinated and the grill heated up, I googled side dishes that went with the Peri Peri chicken. I found a rice dish and grilled corn. Of course I included a side salad because that’s a staple at my table.

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The leg quarters marinating in a Ziploc bag covered in Peri-Peri sauce.

 

Once my coals were nice and hot I placed 4 leg quarters on the grill rack that I had already sprayed with Canola oil to keep the meat from sticking. Sometimes I cover the grill rack with aluminum foil when I want to slow down the cooking process or prevent the food from cooking too quickly. When I’m cooking bulky meats like leg quarters I try to get a direct heat source to help them cook evenly and completely. The best advice I have received to date is to cook to temperature and not time…when it comes to meats anyway. The quick marinated leg quarters went directly on the grill rack and were basted with the remaining sauce from the bag before it was discarded.

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The leg quarters grilling and basted with Nando’s Peri-Peri sauce.

 

While the leg quarters cooked on the grill I went back inside to prepare the rice dish, Portuguese Rice. Yes I know, I thought I was on a whole Portuguese thing with the chicken but I was already invested – no turning back. Again the ingredients were pretty straightforward: long grain white rice, olive oil, chopped onion, minced garlic, salt, crushed red pepper flakes, bay leaf, chopped tomatoes, water, parsley, and cilantro. The recipe calls for fresh herbs but fresh herbs go bad quickly. I keep dried herbs on hand because it’s more convenient and affordable. First you want to get your oil hot in a sauce pan.

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The chopped onions cooking in the olive oil for the Portuguese rice.

Once your onions have softened a little bit, you add in the garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and bay leaf. This cooks for about a minute or so and then the chopped tomatoes are added. Your tomatoes need a couple of minutes to soften and then the water, parsley and cilantro are added and brought to a boil. Once boiling the rice is stirred in and then the pot should be covered and the heat reduced to low. The recipe suggests cooking the rice undisturbed for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender. An additional  5 minutes of rest time is given before the rice is fluffed for serving.

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The finished Portuguese Rice. Looks pretty good eh?

With the rice done, the chicken was coming along beautifully. It had a slight char around the edges but it was cooking to a golden brown with splashes of red peri peri sauce. During the grilling I had used the half of the second bottle to baste and brush the leg quarters as  flipped them over. I pulled the leg quarters about five minutes after they read 165 degrees on my meat thermometer and covered them in foil.

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Peri-Peri Chicken

Along my research I also stumbled upon Peri Peri chips and sauce. Essentially it’s potatoes that have been either cut or sliced in chip form and fried and served with a sauce that is mayonnaise and peri peri sauce mixed together. I short cut it and picked up a bag of Kroger potato wedges and whipped up the sauce (1/4 cup of mayo and 4 tablespoons of peri peri sauce) while I fried the potatoes in my cast iron pot. I tossed the fried potato wedges with smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt and black pepper.

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Kroger’s Potato Wedges with Skins

The final product looked pretty good once I put it all together. If you ever eaten at Chicken Fiesta, my finished plate almost resembled a meal from their menu if I have to say so myself. What do you think?

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Peri Peri Chicken, Portuguese Rice, and Peri Peri Chips with Perinase

I can’t forget I shucked a couple of pieces of corn, and cleaned and then covered with olive oil, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, salt, garlic powder, and old bay. I grilled the corn about 12-15 minutes while turning the corn over 5-6 minutes. The plate above is my husbands’ plate who doesn’t care for corn. The  plate below is the plate I prepared for myself and my mother in law.

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Peri Peri Chicken, Portuguese Rice, Peri Chips, Portuguese Grilled Corn and Perinaise

With all of the semi hard work done it was finally time to eat. Upon first bite the chicken was juicy and flavorful. The Peri Peri sauce was spicy and tangy. It wasn’t overly spicy but mind you I got the Medium version. There are a Hot and a Lemon Garlic version as well. The Portuguese rice was different. It too boasted lots of flavor but there was one flaw. The rice was still crunchy and  this was after determining at 20 minutes additional cook time was needed. So I added more water, replaced the lid and put it back on low setting to cook longer. I know I cooked it another 30 minutes or more and it still wasn’t completely tender. I didn’t care for the corn. I would have preferred it if I had boiled the corn first to get it tender and moist first before grilling. The Perinaise wasn’t my cup of tea. It was a little thick in taste and texture. In the future if I were to attempt it again, I might add more spices and fresh lemon to the mayo to lighten it up a little more. I ended up eating my peri chips with ketchup. Overall the meal was entirely delicious. The rice was still a hit, I would definitely add more water and a longer time to cook. My husband liked it. I liked it. I definitely didn’t get my kids to try this. This was way too elevated for their peculiar taste buds.

I give this meal 3.5 out of 5 stars, it delivered on the flavor and it was not very complicated to put together. With the modifications discussed I think this could definitely be a five-star meal.  So what’s next on my plate? Umm, at the suggestion of one of the doctor’s at my kid’s dental practice…baked alaska. Interesting right? Yeah, and my oldest son’s birthday is Monday and even though I bought him a traditional store brought cake, I still want to do something special for him. Two cakes for a special kid. So check back to see how my Baked Alaska turns out!

Till next time – Happy Eating  and Be Blessed!

Tameka, A Very Pleasant Mom of 4

#NandosPeriPeriChicken

#Portugueserice

#Kroger

#PortugueseGrilledCorn

#AVeryPleasantLife

#ittastesgood

 

 

Debunking the Recipe: Original Panda Express Orange Chicken

It’s been 16 days since my last post. I’m so ashamed. To the few of you who have graciously followed my blog, please accept my apologies yet again. If it’s one thing I have been trying to build – is consistency. I truly enjoy doing this, and even more so when I can see the fruits of my labor being the page views, likes and Comments. When I can create engagement on various topics it brings a sense of validation and reward for all of the hours spent crafting this blog. Yes there is a lot of time and work that must go into this even as a newbie or beginner.

In the meantime I haven’t cooked much at home lately. I’ve had a lot of things to do personally for my household in the last couple of weeks that have dominated my time which means we’ve eaten a lot of take-out or fast food. Out of ideas and a little disappointed with some of the food selections I found my next dinner idea on Pinterest as usual. There was another video by http://www.tasty.co for a Panda Express inspired Orange Chicken. If you remember a couple of blog posts back I debunked General Tso Chicken, a family favorite. So Orange Chicken is the next best thing that all of my family members like collectively. I was thrilled to see this video and find the recipe. I thought that this would be a great follow-up to the General Tso recipe that came out great! So mind you I was going into this confidently. How much harder could this be?

Upon review of the video and recipe I was slightly surprised by the wet batter the recipe uses to batter the chicken thigh chunks. I was intrigued to see the difference because one of the good things about a good General Tso or Orange Chicken is a good base fry on your chicken. If the chicken is fried crispy enough even the saturation of the sauce won’t soften the coating too much. It will coat it instead like a smooth glaze. But back to the Orange Chicken. The recipe is pretty straight forward. There are two different ingredient lists, one for the chicken and another for the orange sauce. I actually had everything on the list on hand with the exception of the boneless skinless chicken thighs because I cook those a lot.

Step 1 instructs you to cut the boneless skinless chicken thighs into 1×1 inch cubes and set aside. Simple. I would also suggest to trim off any extra skin, muscle or bone that might have been left on by the butcher. The picture below shows the excess skin and fragments I cut off my chicken cubes.

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Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs Cut Into cubes. The bowl has the excess skin and muscle removed from the cubes.

Once the chicken is cubed the wet batter is prepared by combining the dry ingredients first and then incorporating the egg, water and oil. The recipe even suggests that you aim for the consistency of pancake batter. Easy enough.

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The wet batter with a pancake batter consistency.

Step 4 is where you add the chicken cubes to the batter and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. In the meantime I heated vegetable oil in a small pan to fry the chicken cubes. I wanted to use my Wok to make my Orange sauce although the recipe instructs you to use the wok or a heavy bottom pan to fry in. The oil temperature should reach 350 degrees Fahrenheit before it is ready to fry. The recipe recommends cooking the chicken for 5-6 minutes until lightly golden brown. Personally 5-6 minutes was still a little light, so I probably cooked mine for almost 9 minutes before I pulled them. They looked liked Chicken Tempura or the base of sweet and sour chicken. With the first part of my dish being complete I began heating up vegetable oil in the wok to make the orange sauce and I made a huge mistake of heating my oil up too hot too quickly. When I added in the ginger, garlic and pepper flakes it burned quickly and blackened in the pan. I had to scrap it and start over at a lower temperature to get the mixture “shimmered” as the recipe instructs. Next the sugars are incorporated and then the orange juice. Once dissolved there is vinegar and soy sauce added before lastly adding in the cornstarch and water. (Tip – if the cornstarch and water mixture hardens, a couple of drops of water will loosen it to liquid form). It took a few minutes of cooking while stirring and increasing the heat to get the syrup like texture but once it was to my liking I added in the fried chicken cubes and stirred it until it was all covered in the Orange Sauce. The recipe’s 16th step instructs to top with sesame oil. I omitted this step because of my husband’s allergy to nuts and seeds.

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The fried chicken cubes.
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The finished Orange Chicken.

 

 

 

 

With the Orange Chicken finished I also upped the ante a bit when I also prepared Panda Express style Chow Mein Noodles to accompany the chicken. I’ll have to share that recipe another time but here’s a pic of it till then. Of course I added shrimp to my version.

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Overall my family liked the Orange Chicken. That means it was okay and I would have to agree because when my family loves something – they loooovvvveeee it! This was mildly okay. The orange flavor was their though I would double the sauce as it was a little skimpy. I might have fried more than 2 lbs of chicken cubes though. Also, I am not a fan of the wet batter effect. I probably would opt to fry the chicken a lot longer if I use the wet batter because some pieces tasted a little soft and almost mushy with the orange sauce covering it. All around I would use the dry batter to fry and keep the sauce the same. This was still a hit though because we all ate it and enjoyed it. The Chow Mein was the star of the night with the sautéed cabbage, onion and garlic and soy sauce mix. This version was better than Panda Express if I have to say so myself.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I give the Orange Chicken a 6. If the texture of the breading was to my liking I would have given it a 8. I followed this recipe closely and thought that it could have used more orange flavor. Maybe the zest of an orange rind might deepen the citrus flavor. I will definitely give this recipe a second try with the modifications described because this is always a great alternative to the fan favorite, General Tso.

And there you have it folks, another recipe debunked! What do you think? Check out the recipe and give it your best shot! I’d love to know how yours turned out! So check this out, upon review of the website they have a different recipe for Orange Chicken that calls for orange zest and rice vinegar. That one sounds like an elevated version of this one. Good information to have so you can make the choice of which Orange Chicken you’d prefer.

Happy Eating!

Happy Spring!

Happy Friday Eve!

I’ll stop now!

Peace and Blessings,

Future Chef Mek

#OrangeChicken

#PandaExpress

#Tasty.co

#DebunkingtheRecipe

#averypleasantlife

Original Panda Express Orange Chicken

 

 

 

 

Debunking the Recipe: Rainbow Pop Tarts

 

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Rainbow Pop Tarts Courtesy of Tastemde.com

This post is so late but that’s the way the cookie crumbles when you have 3 sick kids at home battling the flu…so I’ll keep this short because MomLife calls. Even though I’m posting this today I actually made the Rainbow Pop Tarts turned Galaxy Pop Tarts on Tuesday morning. At that point I only had 1 sick child at home and he didn’t even get to actually taste it until the following day when he could stomach eating and keeping down solid foods. This was about a two-day process for me overall. If you didn’t know I’m not the most confident or comfortable baker but I’m learning and getting better all the time. I made the dough the first day. Then I cut them out and prepared them the following day.

Mind you this was the second Pop Tart recipe that I’ve seen on Pinterest that piqued my interest. I have a Brown Sugar Pop Tart pin that I’ve been dying to try as Kroger Brown Sugar Breakfast Tarts are a norm around my house in the mornings. We switch it up often with things like muffins, waffles, or those grand mornings that I make mountains of pancakes and sausage links. Typical mornings make the Pop Tarts grab and go, if they don’t finish them – they will bag it up and take it for their snack at school. As you can see a large portion of my grocery bill is devoted to Pop Tarts alone…Brown Sugar one’s that is. Clearly I should have made the Brown Sugar Pop Tarts first but I’m a sucker for fun colors and sprinkles just like my children.

The only thing I had to purchase to accommodate this recipe was strawberry jam. That’s always a plus. I didn’t have all of the food colorings but I made do with what I had which was red, purple, green, and blue. I made a pink food coloring by mixing red and white. The recipe I followed is a treat served up by http://www.tastemade.com .

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The prepared dough that I sectioned into two parts.

The pop tart dough was very easy and it wasn’t intimidating. My standing mixer using my paddle attachment made blending the dough very easy. It came together as instructed as I poured the cold water into the flour and butter mixture. Don’t be afraid to use more water if you have to. The recipe calls for 1/4 – 1/2 cup cold water. I ended up using a little more to help the dough come together. I kept my speed slow on my mixer as I didn’t want to over mix the dough. Once the dough had formed into a ball I broke it into 6 sections. Opting to use the food coloring I had on hand I only had 5 colors. I decided to leave the 6th section natural because my creativity was running low on color combinations to create. Now this is where the name change comes into play.

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The Galaxy Pop Tarts going into the oven.

I learned a valuable lesson in food coloring trying to create these rainbow-colored treats. The type of food coloring I had is a water based food coloring that is generally good for most projects, however gel food coloring usually have corn syrup or glycerin base allowing for a more intense color with less coloring to use. I used so much food coloring and still didn’t achieve the levels of coloring I was looking for. As you can see in the video the dough is consistently blended. My colors blended together for a galaxy color combination more so than a rainbow. I didn’t let that deter me though, as long as the dough had a good taste to it I was okay with the outcome. I should also warn you to use gloves. I did not and it look liked I butchered a whole cow and then some on the palms of my hands for at least 30 hours. It took a couple of showers and many hand washes to remove the discoloration from my hands completely. There is still some coloring under my nail bed that my purple nail polish is concealing. I’m looking forward to acquiring a collection of gel food colors that will help me achieve the colors I set out to get.

Nevertheless I forged on and followed the instructions, rolling out the dough and cutting the tarts out. I put a sizeable dollop of strawberry jam on the half side or the pocket before folding over to seal and close the ends with a fork. The recipe calls for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. I pulled mine around 15 minutes as I didn’t want them to burn. I transferred the first batch to a wired rack to cool and rolled and cut out the rest. I even got fancy and used the heart shape cookie cutter and made 3 heart shape Pop Tarts for my youngest babies. All in all I believe I ended up with almost 12 pop tarts.

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The finished Galaxy Pop Tarts adorned with Stars!

The frosting was way easier to make. At first taste thought it was too much vanilla, so I added in more whipped cream and confectioner’s sugar until it was sweeter. Satisfied with the taste I spooned the glaze over each pop tart. I let the first layer cool and then I spooned a second layer of glaze over each one before finally finishing them with the rainbow sprinkles and yellow and blue sanding sugars. Finally with the finished product and no one to try it – my son was sick and couldn’t eat, I decided to jump in and take the first bite. It was good. The crust was flaky and crispy, the jam was warm, sweet with a tart bite. The glaze was the perfect touch of cream to the fruit and crust. This was no Pop Tart! This was a fruit pie! Immediately I had dreams of an adult pop tart that mimicked the Strawberry and Cream Pie that McDonald’s sells sometimes. Oh my gosh, my husband and I ate so many of those pies. It didn’t give me the nostalgic pop tart taste but it definitely was an inspired upgrade to the childhood favorite that my children love. My son Cassius loved it, Praise took a bite out of it and was not impressed. My oldest liked it. He didn’t get the pop tart vibe either but he thought it was okay. My husband took a kindhearted bite and a sweet nod. He didn’t like them either but he was too sweet to say it. I was waiting on King to confirm whether it was a hit or not.

A day and a half later he was anxious to try it. They had been in the fridge and needed warming up in the microwave. He took the bite and his smile faded. He didn’t like it. He wanted his normal Brown Sugar Pop Tarts. I was crushed slightly. I had high hopes for the Rainbow turned Galaxy Pop Tarts. I know I ate like 6 of them in total so they definitely didn’t go to waste and who knows one day I may try that Brown Sugar Pop Tart Pin. Kudos to tastemade.com for an easy and delicious recipe!

With so many great Pins of recipes out there it’s getting harder and harder to choose the next recipe. I hope you all liked this one, it’s a pretty straight forward recipe! I liked the simpleness of the instructions and the ingredients. I still think the Pop Tart had great fruit flavor like a delicious Fruit Pie so don’t hesitate to give this recipe a try! It has been debunked!!!

Stay Healthy, Stay Safe and Stay Blessed,

A Very Pleasant Mom of 4

#DebunkingtheRecipe

#RainbowPopTarts

#GalaxyPopTarts

#Pinterest

#AVeryPleasantLife

Debunking the Recipe: Magic Custard Cake

photogrid_15176351402271643825378.jpg     I was feeling good about my last post on “Debunking” the Hasselback Puff Fried Chicken recipe even though the results went in another direction. I was definitely disappointed that I wasn’t able to achieve the blossom effect of the chicken but I shall attempt the chicken tender blossom again one day. Yet it was time to move on to the next recipe and I was looking for a good follow-up recipe to debunk.

Mind you this whole debunking idea fell out of the sky into my lap. How many times have you tried a recipe to have it go horribly wrong? That’s happened to me more than I care to admit costing me a lot of frustrations, wasted money and food. If it’s one thing I hate…it’s waste. I don’t like seeing anything get wasted much less time, food or money  – all very precious commodities needed to rear a growing family. So I thought how awesome would it be to have someone available (namely me) who could try out these questionable recipes and confirm whether it’s the recipe, ingredients or user error? There are times when these recipes are misleading or just flat-out wrong in their attempt to instruct us. My goal is to offer valuable information or tips to help the recipe come together or salvage a potential disaster by improvising confidently in the kitchen.

Imagine my surprise when I was doing one of my favorite pastimes…you already know I was on Pinterest…when I found the Magic Custard Cake recipe. When do I have all of this time to browse Pinterest? It’s called multi-tasking. I found this recipe while I was chilling on the couch with my oldest son and my hubby while they were playing against each other on NBA 2018. The other 3 bambinos were fast asleep as it was past their bedtime. So again I was multi-tasking and initially when I looked at the recipe I wasn’t sold on it. I moved on still looking for the perfect follow – up to the hasselback puff fried chicken and somehow I doubled back the the recipe coments. There were a lot of mixed results in the comments. Some people reported having a good final result that was similar to the picture. Others flat out failed at the attempt. There were lots of commenters who also thought the cake lacked general flavor. I was intrigued. Upon review of the ingredients – all items I normally have on stock I decided it might be worth the try. What grabbed me was the fact that this recipe required separating eggs and whipping egg whites into peaks – all that seemed possibly challenging. Separating eggs is not that complicated but it does require a certain amount of patience if you’re not very comfortable handling raw eggs. Thankfully they sell gadgets that will make separating eggs easy if you want to make your life super simple. The whipping of the eggs was something that I didn’t do often in the kitchen. I’ve never made a meringue of any sort. We don’t eat a lot of casseroles or souffles for that matter. So as I ramp up my skills and experience I wanted to master whipping egg whites.

I’m a much more confident and comfortable cook and future chef these days. I live in the kitchen and I love to cook. I wasn’t always confident or comfortable enough to try new foods and new techniques. All I want to do is learn more and grow. The dream is to get to culinary school and I’ll be back on track with that soon. In the meantime I’ve enjoyed learning through the many videos, recipes and books that I’ve read. Let’s not forget the countless episodes of “Chopped”, cooking shows on the Food Network, “Top Chef”…I could go on and on. Still I’m proud of the transition that I have made in my skill level and drive and passion for food and cooking. Always trying to help out when I can, this “Debunking the Recipe” series is homage to the old Tameka who struggled to find confidence in cooking and needed a little help or guidance a long the way and all of the gracious and patient cooks who served me some grace with their tips, suggestions or guidance. One of those people was my grandmother, Viola who would always be willing to share what she knew to help me. I can’t remember how many times I asked her about a cooking flop I was experiencing and she would always tell me what to do differently to get the result I was looking for. She would love this series. (RIP Granny)

I’m happy to report that this recipe went very well. I did have to make a trip to the store for unsalted butter since I unknowingly had run out of it. I had margarine but I couldn’t deviate from the recipe – the result could definitely be skewed. Since I had to make a trip for the unsalted butter I decided to purchase a disposable pan – one less dish to make. The recipe called for an 8 x 8 pan but I opted for the 7 x 7 square aluminum pan because all the other pans were too large. (In hindsight – this recipe makes enough for a 9 x 13 because I ended up with 2 of the 7 x 7) Once I had all the items necessary I returned to my kitchen/lab to debunk how magical this custard cake is. I prepped for this by allowing the unsalted butter to melt in a glass measuring cup atop the oven while it was pre-heating. I also measured the milk and allowed that to warm atop the oven. A good tip I’ve since read about whipping eggs would have you use room temperature eggs as it is a better temperature for whipping.

Next I sprayed my aluminum pan with baking spray and began to separate my eggs. By this time I had gotten the attention of Cassius my youngest son who wanted to help with the Magic Custard Cake. He questioned what custard was but decided that it looked interesting enough. After separating my eggs I used my electric mixer to whip the egg whites on a medium speed. It took roughly 12 minutes to get the stiff peak the recipe called for. During the 12 minute whip window we moved on to Step 4 that involves beating the egg yolks and powdered sugar together. I opted to hand whip this since my electric mixer was in use and I really hate using tons of dishes so I didn’t bother pulling out the hand mixer. Whisk in hand I took on the egg yolks and powdered sugar that crumbled and clumped together in my whisk wires. It looked dry. During the egg separating some of the yolk may have been lost in process so I cracked another egg, separated it and add the yolk. I removed the contents from the wires and started to whisk again this time creating a smooth like paste almost batter. Things continued to go well through Steps 5-7 when you’re incorporating the melted butter, water, flour, milk and vanilla extract. It was at Step 8 that I flubbed my good streak and dumped more than 1/3 of the egg whites into the flour mixture. After I realized I poured too much I began using my spatula to fold in the egg whites quickly. The batter now had a bubbly airy look to it. I folded in the last of the egg whites in halves and was satisfied with the shiny batter that reflected in the bowl. I then poured the batter into the pan, realized I had too much batter and sprayed another pan quickly to bake the remainder. I put the cake pan in the oven directly on the rack – no tray required and set the time for 40 minutes. I then threatened children with bodily harm if they even dreamed about running anywhere in the house till my cake finished. Time went by kind of fast because before I knew it I was breaking my own rule and running down the steps to save it from the oven.

Eager eyes awaited as I sat the hot cake on the counter top and placed the second cake in the oven. It was just their luck that this cake needed to be completely cooled before it was dusted with powdered sugar. I went back to what I was doing and almost forgot about the cake until the timer for the second cake went off. It still needed more time so I had convinced the helpers that they may have to wait till the next day to try it. About an hour after that I remembered some gummy bears in my cabinet and went to retrieve them and was reminded of the cooled cake. I grabbed my powdered sugar and sifter and began sifting powdered sugar atop the cake covering it completely. I then cut it into 9 cute squares. I removed it from the pan and it looked good. I thought I achieved the custard and cake layers superbly. I tasted it and it was okay. The custard consistency was dead on. I could taste the vanilla. The top layer had a small bite to it underneath the powdered sugar but it was a very underwhelming dessert overall. My husband liked it. He usually hates stuff like that but he thought it was refreshingly light. He was drawn to the bread pudding like effect it gave him. He suggested adding raisins on top in the future. Duly noted. In an instant my middle son King had appeared from out of nowhere with a smile on his face the size of Texas. He got his slice which he devoured and claimed to like. The real test will be when I offer him a piece the next day. He will either accept it quickly or he will reluctantly accept it – the latter meaning he didn’t like it last night.

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Next on deck to try the Magic Custard Cake was my oldest son, Fredo – on first taste – the face he made said it all. He got the disclaimer, “you can throw it away”. And he did. He still said it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t his thing. Thirteen year olds right? I know. My helpers didn’t outlast the cooling of the cakes and had fell asleep watching television on the couch. I gave them their respective slices today once they realized they had missed out on the late night cake tasting. Cassius was not a fan and would only taste a corner of what was on his fork. Praise took two bites and resorted to saving the rest for later. Me, I’m about to try another piece that has completely chilled and set. It’s good. It’s very light. It has a delicate vanilla flavor. I could taste the textures of the three distinctive layers with this cake. The bottom is more of a skin like crust – the middle is the custard – and the top is the cake layer. In my mind this recipe would benefit from some white chocolate perhaps or maybe even raisins.

All in all I am delighted with the results and even more delighted that I gave this a second taste today. I think the recipe was easy to read and follow – and it garnered a great result based on the picture and instructions. Cooks that attempt this recipe should ensure eggs are whipped long enough to achieve the same result. Also keep in mind environmental conditions like altitudes and things that could slightly skew results. Otherwise Pleasant Cooking!!!

#DebunkingtheRecipe

#Pinterest

#averypleasantlife

 

 

 

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