Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Shabbat Spice Packet Blog - Spice Packet Shnitzel, Roasted Potatoes & Grilled Zucchini

The other day I was cleaning out a kitchen cabinet that was long overdue to be cleaned and there it was.  Staring at me.  The package of pectin that I had bought last summer to make strawberry preserves from the 10,000 gallons of strawberries we had picked.  Some of you may remember from the last “Spice Packet Blog” my whole discussion about making the equivalent spice mix from scratch.  I specifically mentioned the fact that I would have to go out and buy PECTIN.  There it was.  In the cabinet.  Right in front of me.  Mocking me.  The truth is that a little voice in my head has been nagging me about the whole original spice packet blog saying “Is it that you don’t choose to make the spice mix from scratch or that you can’t”?  Well, I certainly wasn’t going to let that little voice in my head get the better of me!  To refresh your memory, this is a recipe that I got from that was supposed to be essentially an equivalent to the dried dressing mixes that you get in the salad dressing aisle.  Unless the result turned out horribly, I was determined to use the result of my efforts for my “Spice Packet Shabbat”!  (For further description of my adventures in Spice Packet Mix making see the bottom of this blog).

Golden Brown Snitchel 
For the “Spice Packet Shabbat” I was going to make a few of my family’s favorite, incredibly fast and easy recipes that use the Spice Packet mix.  Usually I purchase it from the store – I love how great it tastes and how easy it is to use.  This time I was going to try out my own personal mix – but the recipes are basically the same.  One of my all time favorite recipe is Spice Packet Shnitzel (or Snitchel as my kids call it).  It requires mixing a few cups of dried bread crumbs with a spice packet in a large “Ziplock” bag.  I then take boneless chicken breasts, and with a really sharp knife slice them in half lengthwise so you have very thin chicken cutlets.  I find this much easier than the whole “pounding the chicken until it’s really dead” concept.  It’s faster and you end up with twice the number of cutlets you started with.  A strong word of caution:  make sure you are using a pareve spice packet mix!!  You then place the thin cutlets a few at a time in the bag, seal it, and shake it until they are completely coated with the crumbs.  At this point you can either lay them out on a cookie sheet or you can pan fry them in a large skillet using non-stick vegetable spray.  Both work really well.  So simple!  So healthy! By using non-sick vegetable spray or baking the cutlets you take away all the fat and calories used when frying – and they do come out crispy when you spray the cutlets with the non-stick vegetable spray before flipping them.  Also, because they are really thin they cook pretty quickly…also a plus!

Don't Shnooker the Potatoes!
The next item to prepare for the “Spice Packet Shabbat” was Spice Packet Roasted Potatoes.  I have to make a double recipe every time I make them because by the time its time to eat the Shabbat meal most of the potatoes have mysteriously disappeared (my family doesn’t know that I’m on to them – stop shnookering the potatoes!!).  I usually use around three pounds of potatoes to one spice packet, but it’s really a personal preference.  I also don’t peel the potatoes but scrub them with a cute potato brush (Mr. Potato Brush) I bought at an outlet store (it’s the gadget thing again).   My kids can even scrub the potatoes for me with their friend Mr. Potato Brush (hooray – one less job for me!).  The skins contain a lot of nutrients, and it’s way easier to leave the skins on than to peel them!  I also usually use a bag of smaller sized potatoes, but as long as the pieces are uniform when being baked it really doesn’t matter.  My personal favorites are buttery tasting Yukon Gold, or Red potatoes.  You can also use a good Idaho, or whatever you happen to have handy.  The smaller potatoes can be cut into halves or quarters, or if you have one of those handy, made for TV, chopper/dicers (shout out to Hindy) you can even make this recipe with larger diced potatoes.  A little olive oil, spice packet, potatoes – done!  They come out of the oven golden brown, a little crispy, and soft and mushy on the inside! YUM!

Check out the grill marks!  YUM!
In the summer we grill nearly every Shabbat.  In the winter it’s a lot harder, although I have been spotted with a long down coat, hat, scarf, earmuffs, and gloves in 0° weather grilling in my backyard.  We love to grill!  When I don’t feel like braving the arctic atmosphere I pull out the new George Foreman grill.  For the “Spice Packet Shabbat” I made Spice Packet Grilled Vegetables.  One of our Shabbat staples is grilled zucchini made with olive oil and spices from the spice packet mix.  We often will add additional vegetables such as mushrooms, peppers and onions and serve them with rice.  Fast, healthy, easy, and delicious!!!

In the end, making the Spice Packet mix from scratch did take a lot of time and it tasted pretty close to the original.  The vegetable pieces were slightly more pronounced – which I considered a good thing.  My husband also thought it was a little less salty – also a good thing.  If you have a lot of time for the dehydrating process then making the mix from scratch would allow you to have a little more control over the ingredients in the mix.  After having met the challenge though I can still recommend going to the store and purchasing the ready made packets with a clear conscience. Whew!

For all the recipes below you can use 1 ounce of home made Spice Packet Mix instead of a store bought packet of Spice Packet Mix.
3-4       pounds             boneless skinless chicken breast cutlets
2          cups                 unflavored bread crumbs
1          envelope           Spice Packet Mix
                                    Nonstick vegetable spray

1          large                 “Ziplock” gallon bag
1          very sharp        knife
1          large                 skillet

Mix bread crumbs and Spice Packet mix in a large gallon size “Ziplock” bag.  Rinse cutlets under cool water.  Slice the cutlets in half lengthwise with a sharp knife.  Place five or six cutlets in the bag.  Seal and shake until all the cutlets are completely coated with bread crumbs.  Spray a large skillet with nonstick vegetable spray, turn heat to medium/high.  Place the cutlets in a single layer in the skillet and cook until the edges of the cutlets start to turn white, around 5 minutes.  Spray the cutlets with vegetable spray then flip.  Cook another 4-5 minutes until golden brown.  If the cutlets seem to be browning too quickly, turn the heat down to medium.  Cook cutlets in batches then serve warm. 

You can also bake the cutlets in a 350° F oven.  Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick vegetable spray.  Spread cutlets in a single layer on the pan. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

3          pounds             potatoes (Yukon Gold, Red, or Idaho), scrubbed and cut into 1” pieces
2          tablespoons      extra virgin olive oil
1          packet              Spice Mix
                                    Nonstick vegetable spray

Preheat oven to 350° F. Cover a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick vegetable spray.  Place potatoes in a large bowl.  Sprinkle oil over potatoes.  Mix to coat.  Sprinkle Spice Packet Mix over the potatoes, mix to evenly coat.  Spread evenly on the prepared cookie sheet.  Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown.

4          large                 zucchini, sliced diagonally into ¼ inch thick slices**
2          tablespoons      extra virgin olive oil
1          packet              Spice Mix

Preheat grill.  Place zucchini in a large bowl.  Sprinkle oil over zucchini.  Mix to coat.  Sprinkle Spice Packet Mix over the zucchini, mix to evenly coat.  Place on grill and cook on each side approximately 5 minutes.  Serve hot straight from the grill. 

** You can also use assorted vegetables cut into large chunks for this recipe such as vibrant red, green and yellow peppers, sweet onions, and mushrooms.

Getting the ingredients ready...
Now fry 'em up (don't forget to spray 'em before you flip 'em)! 
Golden brown & Yummy!!

Our friend "Mr. Potato Brush"...doesn't he have a great profile?
Getting the ingredients ready...
Adding all the ingredients...get ready to roast! 

Getting the ingredients easy even a child can do it!

It's NEVER too cold to grill!!!

I decided that if I was going to go through the effort of actually making the mix from scratch I was going to make a double recipe (which in the end didn’t take any more time than a single one).  I pulled out my two baby carrots and red bell pepper (the recipe didn’t require a whole lot of carrots or pepper), my grater, sharp knife, and I was ready to go.
The scientific side of me wanted to see exactly how long the recipe would take – so I set a timer and started the recipe.  I first grated the carrot and then chopped it.  I thought about running the carrot through the food processor, but that would have given me chunks and I needed thin, diced shavings.
It worked pretty well.  Then I used the skills that I learned from the knife skills class that I took (I really did take the class and highly recommend it) and after cutting the red pepper into a few small sections, cut away the interior whiteish part so that I had a beautiful thin red pepper.  I finely diced that also.  
I put them in the oven at a fairly low temperature (250° F) to dehydrate, and then walked away to play WII Frisbee with my daughter until the timer rang.  
The peppers were beautiful.  Little bits of red flakes – they were perfect!  The carrots were another story…I had chopped them a little too finely and they were no longer orange and didn’t resemble carrots in any way at all – dried or otherwise.   
I wasn’t going to be beaten by a carrot (although someone might try to actually beat me with a carrot at some point to get me to stop talking about dried carrots).  I started again, grated the carrots, and chopped them into slightly larger pieces.  I also set the timer for a shorter amount of time and checked them more frequently.  The result was excellent.  Good looking dried orange carrots.
Aside from the annoying part of having to do the carrots twice, the experience didn’t take too long.  Around 7 minutes for the whole chopping experience.  I then set the timer again, and added all the rest of the spices, which I happened to have in stock (you might have to actually purchase one or two of them), and the PECTIN.
Another 5 minutes later the spice mix was done!  Amazing!  The prep time for the recipe ended up being around 15 minutes, but a lot more time for the dehydrating of the vegetables.  It took even more time because I had to monitor the carrots.  I put the mix in a plastic container with a lid with the plan to try it out on my “Spice Packet Shabbat” a few days later.

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