Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Perfect Homemade Brownies (from scratch, simple)

This is my favorite homemade brownie recipe.  Its very much like a box mix.   In any cake/brownie recipe, I always use cake flour.  It really makes a world of difference.  But usually regular flour works fine too.  This is just so easy if you don't have the boxed mix, and most of the ingredients are already in the average baker's pantry (well, some may need to buy the cocoa powder...).   Great with a scoop of ice cream on top.   If you keep these covered, they will be nice and chewy.

Homemade Brownies (from scratch, simple)


¾ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs
¾ cups flour (cake flour is best)
1/3 cup + 2 ½ tbsp cocoa powder
¼ + 1/8 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt


1.        Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Grease a 9x9 inch square baking pan.
2.       In a large bowl, mix together the oil, sugar, and vanilla extract. 
3.       Add eggs one at a time, and blend well (you can use an electric beater for this, on low).
4.       In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
5.       Slowly add the egg mixture to flour mixture, until well combined.
6.       Pour batter into the pan, and spread evenly.
7.       Bake 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out with a few crumbs.  After cutting the brownies in 2-inch squares, you will need a spatula to remove them.  Allow them to rest of a plate, and cover them.
TIP:  After cooling brownies to room temperature, you can spread a thin layer of Nutella over the top, and sprinkle with crushed hazelnuts, or any other nuts you like.   You can also add chopped walnuts to the batter before baking. 

Melissa's Crock Pot Rotisserie Chicken

Of course we all know that traditional "rotisserie chicken" cooked by the bird being skewered down the middle and rotated over heat to baste and cook in its own juices...   But those of us who love our dear slow cookers have tried to mimic the process many times.  

I have found that in most attempts to do a rotisserie in the crock pot, the skin comes out pale and soggy.   So I thought, "What if you braised / fried the outside of the skin to brown it a bit, before putting it in the slow cooker?"  

This recipe involves doing just that.   Sure, there is a bit more prep work involved, but when I tried this, it came out rather yummy!  :) 

Melissa’s Crock Pot Rotisserie Chicken

Ingredients / Materials:

1 whole fryer chicken
2 tablespoon cooking oil
2 cubes (1/2 inch x 1 inch each) soft Maggi chicken bullion, crumbled
4 cloves garlic, finely minced, or shredded (or 3 tsp garlic paste from a squeeze bottle)
½ tsp ground rosemary
½ tsp poultry seasoning
2 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
Kitchen foil


1.       Pat chicken dry, all over, with paper towels.   Skin will not brown properly if it is too dry. 
Lift the skin of the chicken by the neck to expose the top of the breast meat.   Using a knife, cut a slit in the breast meat (do not pierce the skin) long and deep into the middle of the breast.  Stuff the cut with some of the crumbled bullion.   Do this on both sides of the breast.   Repeat with the thighs, gently peel the skin away to expose the thigh meat, cut a slit in the meat, and stuff with crumbled bullion.  ** You can also dissolve the bullion in a few tablespoons of hot water and inject it into the meat with a flavor injector).
2.        In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Place *whole* chicken in the pan.   Fry on each side (front, back, left/right sides).  Your goal is not to cook the meat, but only to make the skin golden-brown.  It may take up to 3 to 5 minutes on each side.  Be careful, oil may splatter.  Remove chicken from pan when skin is golden brown, set aside on a plate.  Allow chicken to cool until you can easily touch it without getting burned. 
3.       Rub the outside of the chicken evenly with the minced garlic.   Then combine the other spices together in a small bowl (rosemary, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, paprika).  Rub spice mixture all over the outside of the chicken. 
4.       Wad up 4 balls of kitchen foil (each the size of tennis balls) to act as a rack for your chicken.  Place the foil balls in the bottom of your slow cooker.   Lay the chicken(breast-side-down) on top of the foil balls. 
5.       Place the lid tightly on your slow cooker, and cook the chicken on LOW, for about 6 hours.   Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Egyptian Baked Chicken

 When most people hear about Egypt, they think of the pyramids, the Nile, caravans, dancers and the massive city of Cairo.  But the truth is, Egypt has another intriguing asset—the food.  Egyptians love to eat, and whenever they cook a meal (especially for a holiday or a family gathering), they usually make enough to feed a small army.  Not just one or two, but several tempting dishes are laid out on the table for variety.  This baked chicken recipe is extremely common in many homes and there are variations of it as well, using beef and even fish.  A lot of Egyptians will also add peas as an extra vegetable to this dish.   Or a variation of eastern spices.   I make this dish whenever I want something hearty and filling.   It is usually accompanied by flavored rice.  I often use Rice-A-Roni, because its so quick and easy.  But you can use any rice recipe.    

Egyptian Baked Chicken 


1 whole chicken, cut up (or about as much of any pieces you have) and boiled until just done, then drained
2 diced medium onions
2 more medium onions sliced into rings, kept separate from diced
2 large green sweet bell peppers, seeded and sliced in rings
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon black pepper
½ tsp salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1sp turmeric powder
6 cloves minced garlic
1 cup chicken broth
4 tablespoon vegetable oil

1.       In a large skillet over medium heat, fry diced onions in oil until clear.

2.        Place boiled chicken pieces into pan with onions.  Sprinkle cumin, black pepper, salt, turmeric and garlic on top and blend everything together well.  Cook 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent garlic from burning.

3.       Spread ring-sliced onions out evenly in a 9x13 casserole dish.  Layer the tomatoes over the onions in the same way, followed by the green peppers.   

4.       Lay the chicken (and all the pan drippings) evenly in casserole dish over the vegetables.
5.       Pour all the chicken broth over the top of the chicken and vegetables.

6.       Preheat oven to 350 and bake chicken until it is brown, and vegetables are tender and caramelized (45 minutes, or more if needed).  Serve hot with rice.