Beautiful briny bread

The checkout girl at Target told me not to tell anyone that the bread I made this week had anchovies on it. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’d be telling everyone through this blog post. So, let me get it out of the way at the front.

This bread is not for the faint-hearted.

If you can think of everything flavorful and potentially off-putting, this bread has it. Anchovies. Capers. Kalamata olives. Onions (lots of ‘em). Garlic.

Briny bread* ingredients. *Actually called “pissaladiere.”

It’s also got tomatoes, a butt-load of olive oil, and a no-knead yeasty bread.

Basically, me and my sweetie thought it would be perfect. And the recipe didn’t let us down. It’s been amazing.

The recipe comes from the cookbook my brother turned me on to about bread: “Bread, Toast, Crumbs” by Alexandra Stafford. I finally got myself a copy.

Unlike last time, my deviations from the original recipe worked just fine. I mostly stuck to it — including all those delicious toppings — but I have regular yeast, not instant, and I figured there was no harm in swapping. Especially since I spent a year making bread.

To correct, I just upped the amount of yeast and added a little honey to get it kickstarted, but otherwise I stuck close to the original.

My only complaint — and it’s expected — is that it took a long time and dirtied quite a few dishes, including the pain-in-the-ass-to-clean food processor. But I knew all that going in, and a lot of the time is pretty passive and a great time to rewatch this amazing season of “Doctor Who.”

It looks so pretty, and it’s tasty too.

Here’s what I did (with notes to use instant yeast):

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 t. salt
  • 2 ½ t. active dry yeast (1 t. If using instant)
  • 2 c. lukewarm water
  • 1 T. honey, optional

For the bread

  • 6 T. olive oil, divided
  • 3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 anchovies
  • 1 T. capers (I didn’t measure, I love capers)
  • ½ c. kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

Directions

Make the dough. If using active dry yeast, mix together the yeast, warm water, and honey, and let sit for about 10 minutes before stirring in the flour and salt. If using instant, the recipe says to mix together the dry ingredients, and then add the water (and honey). Either way, use a rubber spatula to stir until the mixture combined and you have a sticky dough that’s sort of ball-shaped. Cover the mixture with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise for about 1 ½ hours until the dough has doubled in size.

Just before the dough is ready, heat a large pan on high heat. Add 1 T. olive oil, and then add the onions. Cook on medium heat, stirring every few minutes, until the onions are golden, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

In a food processor, mix together the garlic and anchovies with 2 T. olive oil until pureed. Add the capers and pulse till chopped. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees, and set the rack in the middle of the oven. Line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper, and pour on the remaining 3 T. olive oil. Use two forks to deflate the dough by releasing it from the sides of the bowl and pulling it toward the center until you get a rough ball. Lift the dough with the forks or pour it onto the oiled sheet pan. Roll the dough ball in oil to coat it all over, and then let it rest for 20 minutes.

With greased hands, push the dough to stretch it to the edges of the sheet pan, and use fingers to dimple it. When the dough resists stretching, let it rest for about 5 minutes and then stretch again until it fits most of the sheet pan.

To assemble, spread the anchovy paste on the dough. Scatter on the olives, and then the carmelized onions. Top with the tomatoes. Use fingers again to dimple the dough and stretch more if necessary.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the underside of the dough is golden and crisp. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into squares, and enjoy!

Meatball mashup

It’s 6 days until Thanksgiving, and so I decided to take it easy this week by going simple and safe. But still delicious.

I’ve already made meatballs this year but they were quite different, and I already made a similar recipe that I turned into individual meatloaves. So, this isn’t a unique recipe to this year; however, it’s a new twist.

Meatball ingredients, minus the garlic I decided to add at the last second. Also, in the background, next week’s recipe and spices!

Mostly, I love this meatball recipe because it’s quick and easy. It takes 5 to 10 minutes of prep, and 15 to 20 in the oven, so it’s quick. And it’s made of things I mostly already have on hand, except the beef, so it’s easy.

But it has the added benefit of being very versatile. It can be made into spaghetti and meatballs, or it can be a meatball hoagie, or just eat them on their own or with a little sauce. My sweetie and I tend to prefer hoagies with cheese and sauce, but I always have spaghetti just in case.

It’s nothing fancy but it’s always a treat.

Many mini meatballs.

Here’s what I did, building off a Betty Crocker recipe:

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. lean ground beef
  • ⅔ c. dry bread crumbs
  • ⅓ c. milk
  • 1 t. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 t. dried basil
  • ½ t. rosemary chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (I used the jarred stuff)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Oil, for coating

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly grease a large rimmed sheet pan.

Mix together all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, using your hands, until well combined. Shape into about 1-inch balls, and place on the prepared sheet pan. You should get about 24 with this amount.

Bake the meatballs for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through.

Serve with warmed red sauce of your choice and cooked spaghetti or hoagies with provolone or mozzarella cheese, all to your tastes and liking, and enjoy!

*Programming note: I’ll plan to post early next week for Thanksgiving. If you want to shop in advance so you can have them over the holiday, here’s the ingredients list for pumpkin cookies:

  • ½ c. Crisco
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. Libby’s pumpkin
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 4 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 ½ t. cinnamon
  • ½ t. nutmeg
  • ¼ t. ground ginger (I’ll probably use more)
  • 1 ½ c. chocolate chips (I’ll use semisweet)

 

The Handpie’s Tale

Thanks to my better half — who I’ll celebrate 6 years of marriage with tomorrow — for the title of this week’s blog post. It’s true. I’m making hand pies.

Meat hand pie ingredients.

When he said it, though, it was just one of those dumb puns he always — *always* — makes. But when I made hand pies on Election Day to keep sorta sane, his phrase seemed especially apropos.

Like my feelings about the book, I had some mixed thoughts about the election night. But more than that, it was another election where I had to think about women, and women’s role in our political world.

I promise I’ll get to the hand pies, but first:

All of this was unknown to me as I made my hand pies, but the questions of how it would all turn out was bubbling under the surface. I was full of anxiety, and as I once swore while cooking, my sweetie suggested I shouldn’t have taken on such a complicated project when I was already distracted.

And yet, it was the sort of frustration I could control.

As I reminded him, and myself: I had gone through this before; I knew it’d turn out fine; and even if every bit didn’t turn out perfect, it was going to be OK. As the election results have continued to pour in since Tuesday, I’m starting to feel the same about our country.

Hand pies not handmaids!

Here’s what I did, slightly tweaking Amy Thielen’s recipe from The New Midwestern Table:

Ingredients

  • 24 oz. ground beef (or mix of ground meats, but on a cold evening, trust me, the beef is the perfect level of heartiness)
  • 1 ½ c. rutabaga, diced
  • 1 c. onion, diced (about 1 medium onion)
  • 1 c. carrots, diced (about 2 small, or 1 ½ medium)
  • 2 t. fresh rosemary, minced
  • ¼ c. sour cream
  • ¼ c. fresh parsley, minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 homemade crust doughs (Amy’s recipe at the bottom, but technically, any pie-like crust would do, though milk is recommended vs water for heartiness)
  • 1 large egg

Directions

Make the crust in advance, and divide into 6 equal disks. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Heat oven to 375 degrees, and line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.

Combine the meat and vegetables in a large bowl. Add salt, pepper, rosemary, parsley, and sour cream. Mix until well combined.

Roll out the chilled dough until you have an 8-inch round. (Save your extras if you cut the edges, as I found I had a little extra meat mixture, so I had 7 hand pies, with one being smaller.)

Place meat mixture on one half of one round, and flip the other half of the dough on top of the meat mixture. Press the edges of the round together to seal in the meat mixture. Repeat with the remaining rounds until the meat and dough is used up.

Place the half-moon, meat-filled crescents on the parchment-paper lined sheet pan. Try to leave room between them, though my sheet pan wasn’t quite big enough, and it turned out OK to leave a very minimal amount of space (this might have been when I swore).

Beat the egg with a bit of water (about 2 T., though I didn’t measure), and brush the tops of the hand pies with the mixture.

Bake for about 45 minutes until golden brown, let cool slightly, and enjoy!

Pie dough crust *for 2 pie doughs * from Amy Thielen:

Use a pastry blender or 2 butter knives or your two fingers to combine 2 ½ c. all-purpose flour with 2 sticks (16 T.) of unsalted butter. Place an egg yolk in a measuring cup, and fill with milk until ⅔ c. full (about ½ c. milk). Mix the eggs and milk, and then pour into the flour mixture. Stir with a fork, and/or your fingers until the dough is combined, adding more milk if necessary. Divide into 6 disks, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Sheet pan mac & cheese the gift that keeps giving

I was looking for something different to try this week and that’s when a new message popped up. My brother Nate came through out of the blue with a mac and cheese recipe for me.

Sheet pan mac and cheese ingredients.

It turned out that the gift of a new, fun recipe just when I needed it came about because he had bought his wife Monique a birthday present of the delightful-sounding book “Bread, Toast, Crumbs” by Alexandra Stafford. BTW, Happy Birthday, Monique!

While I just used the image my brother sent me for this post, it definitely sounds like the type of book that belongs in my kitchen, as I love carbs and crumbs. My test with mac and cheese was mostly positive, if not perfect.

Despite my pronounced love for crumbs, I must have accidentally added more than the recipe, or perhaps because there was a note in the text to another page for homemade crumbs, I ended up with an over-abundance. Don’t get me wrong, the crumbs *tasted* great, but they were a bit overwhelming versus the mac and cheese.

But for that error, I only blame myself and my lack of owning the book.

I also failed to purchase more parchment paper after using it up for last week’s ratatouille, which may have contributed to a drier and darker mac and cheese, though the latter didn’t bother me at all and the former also probably an error I made in adding too much of the mac, defying instructions.

If you’re sensing a theme, it’s that in cooking there’s always a balance between trusting your gut and trusting the expert recipe; and, in this case, I erred toward my own opinions and judgment. But I won’t disavow my gut altogether. There’s some logic in what works for my palate and some room for error in how an item cooks in my oven, but this time, not so much.

Even though my attempt didn’t turn out perfectly, I had no problem eating it as leftovers throughout the week, and I’m adding the book to my cart right now.

So many crumbs. Yet, so much deliciousness.

Here’s what I did (or, more accurately, what I should have done):

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. elbow macaroni (I used 16 to use up the whole box, but in hindsight, it would’ve been better with less)
  • 1 stick (8 T.) unsalted butter, divided
  • ¼ c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. whole milk
  • 2 c. store-bought bread crumbs (The recipe called for 3, but also apparently how to make them homemade. Since 3 c. was too much, I’d go to 2 c. but I left all else for the crumb mix the same as the recipe called for, because delicious flavor!)
  • ½ c. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used much more because I love garlic, but add to your tastes)
  • 5 oz. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, diced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees, and bring a large pot of water (salted if desired) to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook to al dente for 5 minutes. Drain but don’t rinse, and set aside.

In the same large pot, melt half the butter over medium high heat. Add the flour, a little at a time, whisking constantly, and continue to stir for about a minute. Add the milk, and 2 c. water, continuing to whisk to ensure nothing is stuck to the bottom. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes (mine took longer than the recipe stated, closer to 30 than the 20 in the recipe) until the mixture is thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and add more salt or pepper to taste.

In a medium bowl, melt the remaining butter. Then, add the bread crumbs, parsley, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In the pot with the sauce, add the Parmesan cheese (I left a little for topping but it’s optional), and then add in the macaroni. Stir until cheese is melted and mac is coated.

Line the bottom of a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper (optional but recommended), and spread the mac mixture on top. Add the mozzarella cubes evenly throughout, and then top with the bread crumb mixture, and any leftover Parmesan.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the crumbs are golden and the mac mixture is bubbling. Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes, and enjoy!

Important addendum:

My delightful brother sent the important context for the missing page with the note on bread crumbs. Mystery solved!

Anyone can cook ratatouille

I’ve loved Pixar’s “Ratatouille” since it first came out and I saw it in theaters. But it’s a movie that’s only grown on me since then.

Of course, I’ve come to love cooking even more, so that’s no surprise, but it’s really the movie’s messages that have grown in importance to me.

There is the message (*spoilers ahead*) from the critic at the end of the movie that “Anyone can cook,” which isn’t to say that we can all be great chefs but a great chef can come from even the humblest of beginnings.

But if I’m honest, it’s the message from Remy walking away from his dad to pursue his passion despite his family’s wishes that really gets me.

Screenshot from IMDB.

I won’t get overly sappy here, but I’m coming up on a year since leaving journalism, and that scene has been making me think and challenging me to move forward. That’s no less true of our current political climate as we approach another election. Things can change, as long as we decide to step up.

So, to readers, please vote and convince your friends and family to do the same. And, to myself, who voted last weekend, I am reminded to step up and try to help bring about that change by working for it.

Now, I’ll step off my pedestal and get back to my recipe.

Sheet pan ratatouille ingredients (please note, this is way too much to fit on one sheet pan).

I’m embarrassed to say how many years I’ve wanted to make the eponymous ratatouille from the movie, and I finally did it during my year of casseroles. And while it did not achieve the picturesque quality of the movie, it was a delight.

I thought it could be replicated on a sheet pan, albeit a smaller amount, and I was not wrong. However, I did buy way too much of the required vegetables, and so I had to make it on several sheet pans over multiple days. And yet, I’m not complaining.

I tried a few different methods to see what would work best — sauce on top, sauce on bottom, baked at a slightly lower temperature, and came up with what is my favorite. It’s also pretty easy, to boot, except the slicing, but it’s made easier if you have a mandoline slicer.

It looks classy, but it’s also easy and delicious.

Here’s what I did (using the best version of my tests):

Ingredients

  • About 2 small summer squash, sliced ⅛ to ¼ inch thick
  • About 2 small zucchini, sliced ⅛ to ¼ inch thick
  • About 2 medium Chinese eggplant, sliced ⅛ to ¼ inch thick
  • About 3 medium Roma tomatoes, sliced ⅛ to ¼ inch thick
  • Salt, to taste
  • Olive oil, for coating
  • 1 jar (16 to 20 oz.) arrabbiata sauce
  • Basil, to taste
  • Thyme, to taste
  • Minced garlic (I used dried), to taste

Directions

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Spray or brush olive oil on a large sheet pan (about 15 ½ by 12 inches)

Pour the sauce on top of the oiled pan, enough to coat but not necessarily using it all. Place a layer of vegetables on top of the sauce, slightly overlapping like shingles, and in any pattern you like — I did a row of each except tomatoes and put tomatoes on top but do whatever makes you happy.

Oil the top of the vegetable layer and add some thyme, basil, and minced garlic. Add another layer and repeat with the oil and herbs and garlic. If there’s still room, you can add a third layer (with oil, etc. on top) but my edges are not high so two layers was about all I could handle.

Top with parchment paper.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until the vegetables are cooked, with some browning around the edges (trust me, it tastes delightfully smoky). Serve with more sauce, if desired, and enjoy!

Spicy, saucy salmon

If there’s one thing that everyone knows goes with Buffalo sauce, it’s salmon.

OK, wait, that’s not right. And yet, oh my goodness, the combination deserves to be in the same realm as chicken wings. That’s a daring statement, and even I won’t pretend that Buffalo chicken wings can be replaced.

But if you like spicy sauce and something different, this is the recipe for you.

Buffalo salmon ingredients.

If you are skeptical, I understand. I was once among you. My sweetie suggested it several years ago, and I said only I was willing to try it. Salmon was one of the few fish I enjoyed (at the time), and I love Buffalo sauce so much I made it into a deviled egg recipe.

When I took my first bite, though, I was sold. It’s been a staple ever since, and even something I’ve made to impress my foodie family.

Besides tasting great, it’s a simple recipe: few ingredients, hard to mess up, and frankly, the veggies I added could have been anything that you have on hand or suits your tastes. I chose green beans — to ring out the summer season — and a bell pepper that was a leftover garden item from a friend. I didn’t even add anything to them, just the oil the covered the pan.

I served it alongside a pre-made mix of rice and grains to make it a fuller meal, but again, the salmon is the real star so serve it with what seems to fit and whatever makes you happy.

Flaky, spicy, yummy.

Here’s what I did, following a long ago Gourmet recipe:

Ingredients

  • 4 salmon fillets, preferably with skin on
  • 5 T. unsalted butter
  • ¼ c. hot sauce (I prefer Louisiana)
  • ⅓ c. panko crumbs
  • 1 T. vegetable oil, plus more for coating
  • 1 bell pepper, optional for adding vegetables (or pick what you prefer)
  • 12 to 16 oz. green beans, optional for adding vegetables (or pick what you prefer)

Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Lightly oil a large sheet pan (large if adding vegetables, smaller will work if not). Melt butter in a small bowl (I just nuke it but you can do it in a small saucepan), and add hot sauce. Set aside ¼ c. of the mixture. In a separate small bowl, mix the panko with the 1 T. oil.

Place the salmon skin side down on the sheet pan, and brush on the remaining sauce. Pat on the panko evenly across the salmon fillets.

Add vegetables, if using.

Bake for 16 to 20 minutes until the panko is golden and the fish is cooked through. Serve with the set aside 1/4 c. sauce on the side and a grain mixture, as desired, and enjoy!

Stir Fry-day!!!

You guys, I’m not going to lie, it’s been a bit of a week.

It was one where I could not eat for a day and a half, and that had nothing to do with the sh*tshow in DC that may well decide the future of the court for the next generation.

All of it’s enough to make you want to weep, and believe me, it’s not been easy keeping a straight face. Fortunately, there’s wine.

And, mercifully, this week’s recipe calls for using some white wine, so enjoy the leftovers while trying to hold on to your last bit of sanity. It reminds me of my favorite quote.

My stir fry recipe, I think, is from Cook’s Illustrated. It’s one of those recipes that was printed more than a decade ago, put into a plastic sleeve, and has been used ever since. The Christinia that printed it is quite a bit different from that one. But the recipe persists.

Sheet pan stir fry ingredients.

It’s not quite comfort food. It’s relatively healthy. It’s not something I grew up on. But it’s the kind of recipe that bends to suit what one’s feeling at any given time. Like, this time, I made it with chicken but I’ve enjoyed it with tofu or just the veggies.

I usually cook it on my pseudo wok, but I saw from things I’ve made so far this year that cooking veggies and chicken on a sheet pan would be fine. Basically, it’s hard to mess up

Also, did I mention that the sauce includes wine *and* ginger?! It’s pretty amazing.

Wine *and* ginger, you say? Delicious.

Here’s what I did to enjoy my stir fry on a sheet pan:

Ingredients

For the sauce:

  • 4 T. soy sauce
  • 4 T. dry white wine or cooking sherry
  • 1 T. honey
  • ¼ c. minced ginger (I use the jar, but if you’ve got the patience for ginger root, please do!)
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced (Again, I’m lazy and used a couple teaspoons of the jar stuff)
  • 4 scallions, sliced white and light green parts

For the stir fry:

  • Combination of veggies, approximating 2 lbs. Mine was a combination of cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, sugar snap peas, green peppers, and onions. (For a better estimate, I used less than a quarter of a cauliflower, 2 heads of broccoli, 1 large carrot, about 1 bag of Dole sugar snap peas, one pepper, and one onion)
  • 1 lb. chicken, cut into ½ inch chunks, marinated in about ⅓ of the sauce
  • Remaining slices of scallions, added near the end of cooking time
  • Oil, for generously greasing the sheet pan
  • Rice, for serving

Directions

Mix the sauce. Prepare the chicken by putting the chicken chunks in a bowl and topping with about a quarter of the sauce.

Meanwhile, chop the remaining vegetables into bite-size pieces.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees, and generously grease a large sheet pan.

Add the vegetables to the sheet pan, and coat with about ½ of the remaining sauce. Cook for about 10 minutes. Create an opening on the sheet pan and add the marinated chicken. Top with more sauce. Bake another 15 to 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (I used an electric thermometer and it took longer, but safety first when it comes to eating meat!).  Remove when close to ready to serve, and add the remaining scallions and the rest of the sauce. Bake for another 5 minutes.

Remove from oven, let cool slightly, and enjoy with rice!

A mostly muffaletta

I had been thinking about ways of making a grilled sandwich on a sheet pan when I came across the perfect recipe. As in, Delish had a recipe for sheet pan subs.

But, of course, I wasn’t content with the ingredients that made up the Italian submarine. I waffled for a few days over whether to make it anyway or do reubens/rachels instead, or a combination of each since the sheet pan could fit both. That’s when I remembered the Italian meat-using New Orleans favorite that my brother is enamored with: the muffaletta.

Sheet pan muffaletta ingredients.

It was like the Italian sub, what with Italian meats, some pickled relish, and cheese. But, you know, better. And while the bread appropriate for sheet pans wouldn’t be the traditional muffaletta kind, it was at least pressed to mimic the scooped out recipe of the original. Either way, it’d really let the insides of the sandwich shine.

So, with a pound and half of meat, a pound of cheese, and more than enough pickled items, I set about making the sandwich. I otherwise mostly followed the recipe, using a second sheet pan and an oven-proof weight to press the sandwich together.

It turned out almost perfect. I would say in hindsight that the sandwich could have cooked a while longer just to get the tops more browned. But otherwise, the cheese was melted, the meat was warm, and the sammies tasted great.

I did bring it to a friendly get-together because, well, look at how much meat and cheese it used. Even with eight people eating it — admittedly with other snacks and drinks throughout the day — I still took home about half. I’d say you could skimp on some meat, but the whole point of the sheet pan sandwich seems to be overindulgence, so go ahead and live a little.

Oh, but if the muffaletta doesn’t strike your fancy, I do truly believe this would have worked as a reuben/rachel or any grilled sandwich, just replace the meats and cheeses with your favorites and skip the relish or replace it with something more to your liking.

You mostly see bread, but trust me, there’s a whole lotta delicious meat and cheese inside.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of melted butter, divided
  • 1 ½ to 2 loaves of sliced bread, I opted for sourdough but pick what works best with your sammy (like, I’d use a seeded rye if making a reuben)
  • 1 ½ lbs. Italian meats, sliced (I did a combination of salamis, capicola, and mortadella, which is traditional, but I’m already stepping on tradition so who am I to judge?)
  • 1 lb. provolone, sliced
  • 8 oz. (about half a jar) of giardiniera, chopped
  • 6 to 8 oz. mix of capers, sliced black olives, and sliced green olives

Directions

Heat an oven to 400 degrees.

Brush about half the butter onto a large rimmed sheet pan. Top with bread, it can be slightly overlapping like shingles, and use your fingers to press it down slightly. Add the giardiniera to the top of the bread. Add half the cheese on top of that. Top the cheese with the meat slices. Add the remaining cheese on top, and then top with the olive, caper mixture, to taste. Place bread on top until covered, again can be slightly overlapping. Brush the bread with the remaining butter.

Place another large baking sheet on top (mine was slightly smaller, which worked fine), and use a cast-iron skillet or the like on top to press down on the bread.

Bake for about 10 minutes until the sandwich is starting to brown. Then, remove the weight and the top sheet pan. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or so until the top bread is golden too. Let cool slightly and then cut into sandwich-size servings (friends suggested a pizza cutter would work well here) and enjoy!

Chickity China the Chinese chicken

I like cheese way too much to make Asian food a staple of my diet. But it’s great to occasionally expand my palate and eat (somewhat) healthier fare. So, that is how I came to have a wide variety of Asian condiments in fridge door.

This week’s recipe thankfully allowed me to use so many of them and not add to my collection. I had bought some chicken thighs a weekend earlier when I made my venture to Whole Foods for seafood, so my purchases for this one amounted to three items.

Cauliflower, a sweet potato, and a red pepper were all it took to complete the sheet pan hoisin sriracha chicken recipe I had found a few weeks earlier from Taste of Home.

Hoisin sriracha chicken ingredients.

I mostly followed the recipe, except I’m lazy and used boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I might have added more sriracha because I didn’t measure it but it was damn spicy so add carefully or taste the sauce before pouring on the meat and vegetables.

I have to say I enjoyed it thoroughly, but my favorite thing was perhaps just how simply it came together.

I made it when we had the “fake fall” this past weekend, so I prepped the vegetables, made the sauce, and then sat in front of our firepit for a while before coming back to put it all together. About 45 minutes later, we had dinner, and a couple days worth of leftovers.

Don’t let the cauliflower fool you, this meal is flavorful and delicious.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • ⅓ c. hoisin sauce
  • ⅓ c. soy sauce (preferably low-sodium but we had regular on hand)
  • 2 T. honey
  • 2 T. sriracha (I didn’t measure but perhaps it’s best to measure on your taste for spicy foods)
  • 1 T. rice vinegar (I was out of rice wine vinegar, which I planned to use, so I used apple cider vinegar)
  • 2 t. sesame oil (I definitely used more but I love sesame oil)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t. minced fresh ginger
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium sweet potato, cut into cubes
  • 4 c. fresh cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • Sesame seeds, optional for topping
  • Oil for coating

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together the first eight ingredients, the hoisin sauce through the ginger, in a small bowl. Line a large rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil and coat with a layer of oil (I use the spray kind). Place the sweet potato and chicken on prepared sheet pan, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Brush on about ⅓ of the hoisin sauce mixture.

Bake for about 15 minutes. Add the cauliflower and red pepper, and brush on another ⅓ of the hoisin mixture.

Bake another 25 to 30 minutes longer, until the chicken is cooked through. Brush on the remaining sauce, add the sesame seeds  (if using), and enjoy!

Saving the planet one shrimpie at a time

I’ve had a love affair with the deep blue sea since childhood. I blame Matt Hooper. I spent nearly a decade growing up wanting to be him, sometimes I still wish I had.

So, I was especially sensitive to a documentary I saw some years ago, The End of the Line, about the worrisome trend of endangered fish populations and what it could mean to our planet. I’m sorry to say that until I saw that documentary, I assumed that the vastness of the ocean meant a nearly endless supply of seafood. I should’ve read my history books.

The film, however, had the desired effect, as I have started paying attention to Seafood Watch ever since and trying to buy the best, most ethically sourced seafood I can. The stores in Ames were iffy at best, so I checked again and learned that Whole Foods is partnering with Seafood Watch so their fish options rank between best choice and good alternative. (Not a paid ad, but seriously, yay!)

That’s a long way of saying that it took a little more time to find a key ingredient in this week’s recipe, the beloved shrimp boil. Only, you know, in a sheet pan.

Sheet pan shrimp boil ingredients.

It was worth the wait.

The sheet pan shrimp boil is exactly as it sounds — take all the ingredients in your typical shrimp boil, spread it out on a sheet pan, pour on Old Bay and butter, bake, and you’ve got an amazing, and quick dinner. The longest part was parboiling the potatoes to ensure they’re cooked along with everything else.

We have one more pound of EZ Peel (no deveining required!), USA made, and ethical shrimpies, and I’ll be honest, I’m considering making this one again.

So much good stuff all on one sheet pan.

Here’s what I did, mostly following the Damn Delicious recipe, except I wanted the fun of peeling the shrimp:

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. medium shrimp (uncooked, EZ peel or peeled)
  • 1 (about 12 oz.) package smoked andouille sausage, sliced (I get ethical meat too, I recommend D’artagnan sausage, which is sold in some Hy-Vees)
  • 1 lb. small yellow potatoes, quartered
  • 3 ears corn, cut crosswise into six pieces each
  • ¼ c. (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 T. Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving (optional)
  • Chopped parsley leaves, for serving (optional)
  • Olive oil, for coating

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a large rimmed sheet pan (I use the spray kind.)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the potatoes until parboiled, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the sausage, shrimp, and corn onto the greased sheet pan. When the potatoes are ready, drain them and carefully spread on top, trying to keep all items on a single layer.

Stir the garlic and Old Bay into the melted butter, and then pour on top of the shrimp mixture.

Bake the mixture for 12 to 15 minutes, until the shrimp are opaque and the corn is tender. Top each serving with parsley and squeeze on a wedge of lemon, and enjoy!