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Chef's Hat: Cooking like a professional chef at home

Recipes to wow friends and family.

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Contributed / Donna Evans / PineandLakes.com
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Going out to eat can be a great experience. You can try new dishes, enjoy an evening out with family and friends; and of course, there is the added bonus of not having to clean up the dishes. But there are many of us who feel we can make those dishes at home and, of course, in our opinion, make it even better.

There are lots of popular restaurant recipes available as “copycat” recipes. These recipes are easy to find on the internet and there are even entire books devoted to sharing restaurant dishes. Many of these copycat recipes produce a dish that takes exactly like what you would get if you actually went out to eat. And the truth is restaurants often use common ingredients, nothing exotic or hard to find, and these ingredients are generally in most kitchen cupboards

It doesn’t take a master chef to produce a quality restaurant dish. If you aren’t comfortable with adjusting seasonings, then it is best to follow the recipe as it is written. However, once you make a dish once or twice, there is no reason not to experiment and creating a dish that is your own classic recipe.

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For the cinnamon lover in all of us, the Tidbit Cinnamon Roll recipe is a knock off a small cinnamon twists treats that were served at Burger King Restaurants may years ago. These are tasty little tidbits that come together in a few minutes and their simple, sweet taste will mean these rolls will disappear quickly.

After some trial and error, I found the trick to these tidbits is to use a good quality crescent roll. Sometimes the off brand refrigerate crescent rolls do not roll out as flat and even as you need. This is an important step so that you can combine the various pieces into one rectangular piece of dough.

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The next recipe is a knock off from a steak house restaurant's loaded chicken dish. This dish requires several hours to prepare as the chicken needs to marinate. However, the chicken can be placed into the marinade the night before you want to cook it. If you want to save more time while cooking, the sauce can also be prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the chicken.

The chicken can be grilled, but I found it easier to sauté the chicken and then bake it. No messing with the grill, and the taste is still amazing. This is a great dish for a family dinner but it is also elegant enough for a special gathering of friends or for a twist on those boring holiday dishes.

Don’t let fancy menu labels for ordinary dishes fool you into believing they can’t be made at home. You can call these recipes knock-offs, copycat or imitation restaurant dishes. These recipes may have several steps, but for the most part they can be made successfully and easily at home. You can have a great classic meal – but unfortunately you still have to do the dishes. Happy Eating.

Tidbit Cinnamon Rolls

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These cinnamon rolls are ringers for popular Burger King rolls.
Contributed / Donna Evans / PineandLakes.com

One 8 to 10 ounce package of refrigerated crescent rolls
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup brown sugar

Icing

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat an oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

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In a small bowl, add the cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. Mix until well combined.

Open the crescent roll dough and spread it out on a clean surface. There will be several rectangular pieces. Roll them out and press the divisions together to make one large rectangular piece of dough.

Evenly brush the butter/margarine over the dough. Sprinkle the cinnamon mixture evenly over the dough making sure to cover the entire area.

Roll the dough from the long side so it forms a log type roll. Cut into slices approximately a half-inch thick. Place the rolls onto the prepared baking sheet. Place into the oven and bake 8 to 10 minutes, just until the tops start to turn brown.

Remove from oven and light cool slightly.

While the tidbits are baking prepare the icing. In a medium sized bowl, place the powdered sugar and vanilla. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons of milk and mix. If the mixture is too thick, add another ½ tablespoon of milk. You want the mixture so you can spoon the icing over the tidbits, but it should not be too thin.

After the tidbits have cooled 5 to 7 minutes, drizzle the icing over the top. They can be served immediately.

Ranch Chicken Breasts with Provolone & Panko

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4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to ½ inch thickness
4 slices provolone cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika

Marinade
½ cup olive oil
½ cup ranch dressing
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Ranch Spread¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese¼ cup ranch dressing

Panko Crumb Topping½ cup Panko Bread Crumbs1 teaspoon garlic salt½ teaspoon pepper½ cup shredded Parmesan Cheese1 tablespoon melted butter or margarineCombine all of the ingredients for the marinade and mix well. Pour into a resealable container and add the chicken. Place in the refrigerator and let it soak in the marinade at least 2-3 hours or leave in the marinade overnight.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off as much marinade as possible.

Place a large sauté or frying pan on the stove and add the olive oil. Bring to medium heat. Add the chicken. Cook 3 to 4 minutes just until one side is slightly browned. Turn the chicken over and cook another 3 to 4 minutes, again just until the chicken is browned. While the chicken is frying, heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Remove from the sauté pan and place into the baking dish. Place into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven. Turn the oven to broil.

While the chicken is in the oven, prepare the ranch spread and the Panko Crumb topping.

To prepare the spread – place the ¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese and the 1/4 cup ranch dressing in a measuring cup or small bowl and mix well. This can also be made earlier and kept in the refrigerator until ready to be used.

To prepare the crumb topping – Mix the Panko Bread crumbs, garlic salt, pepper, Parmesan Cheese and butter in a small bowl. Mix until the bread crumbs are slightly moistened. Set aside until ready to use.

To assemble the chicken

Spread the ranch spread evenly among the chicken breasts. Top with a slice of provolone cheese. The evenly divide the Crumb Topping among the chicken breasts. Sprinkle the paprika over the top.

Place into the oven under the broiler. Cook 4 to 6 minutes, just until the cheese melts and the bread crumbs turn to a light brown. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

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