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!

Polish dish is so good it’s easy to polish off

So, leading into the July 4th, I probably should have made something more appropriately festive for Independence Day.

But when I saw the most Polish of Polish recipes I was a) sad that I didn’t think to make it on the little-celebrated Casimir Pulaski Day and b) sure that I had to make it immediately. I mean, c’mon, it has kielbasa and pierogies. What more could I ask for? Oh yeah, it also has hot sauce.

The most Polish of dinners ingredients.

Almost better than all of that, you can basically throw it all together on a pan with some peppers, onions, oil and a couple of spices, and you have dinner in 30 minutes.

The only downside is my desire to find hippie, sustainable kielbasa meant we had to hit up more than one grocery store, but thankfully, Fresh Thyme once again came to the rescue. But of course, if you don’t care about that (even though you should, sorry not sorry), kielbasa does abound in grocery stores.

The recipe tells you to mix the ingredients in a bowl first. I was even too lazy to do that. In hindsight, it was a cramped fit on my sheet pan that made stirring the spices and olive oil more difficult on the pan, so it is probably preferred. However, if my sheet pan were bigger than its 15×13-ish proportions, it’d probably be fine, and honestly, stirring halfway through helped with the exception of one pretty spiced (and delicious) pierogi.

And two sheet pans or a bigger one would be nice to get all the pierogies touching the pan and therefore have a bit more crunch. But let’s be honest, pasta stuffed with cheese and potatoes is amazing no matter what.

OMG, that sausage is cooked to perfection, and look at those spices on the stuffed pasta. Noms.

Here’s the recipe that I found linked to off of Buzzfeed but comes from the Foodie with Family blog:

Ingredients

  • 2 packages (14 oz each) kielbasa
  • 2 onions, halved and cut into strips
  • 2 bell peppers, cut into strips
  • 24 frozen pierogies (2 packages)
  • 3 T. oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 T. chili powder
  • 2 t. hot sauce (I did not measure)
  • ½ t. garlic powder
  • ½ t. onion powder
  • Grainy mustard, for serving (optional)

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut kielbasa into 4-inch lengths and arrange on the outside of the sheet pan. Add the onions and bell peppers with 1 T. oil as well as a little salt and pepper (or do this in a big bowl), and try to keep on the outside to save direct pan space for the pierogies.

Add the pierogies to the pan with the remaining oil, and the spices, and hot sauce (or, again, do this in a big bowl and then add to the sheet pan).

Bake for 30 minutes, turning the pierogies and stirring the rest halfway through, and enjoy!

Meatballs offer reason to stay on hell site

I’m not saying anything profound when I acknowledge that social media, especially Twitter, when first introduced seemed like a great way to connect with people and now seems like a place to witness the worst of people and an endless scream of nonsense opinion.

So, now that I don’t need to check in on it for work I have been trying to avoid it in order to lower my blood pressure and increase my sanity. Of course, the news for the past 6 months (since I left media) has not always made that easy, and the *cough* president-created *cough* immigration crisis of the past couple weeks has been important enough to pay attention, no matter how awful.

But that doesn’t make it any easier day after day to click onto Twitter.com each day.

One tweet last week gave me hope, however. A reason to stay on it, besides being witness to the horrors that each day unfold.

Some wonderful human being posted out of the blue a delicious-looking, semi-healthy sheet pan recipe just as I was feeling like I was out of novel ideas and wanted to try something new.

Of course, because it’s a hell site that has introduced new people into my stream that I don’t even follow I now can’t find said wonderful human being. But thankfully Google still works well enough that I could find the Bon Appetit recipe for chicken meatballs with chickpeas and cherry tomatoes and get it made this week.

Chicken meatballs with chickpeas and tomatoes ingredients.

I feel faintly like an idiot because we checked three stores to get one of the main ingredients, harissa, which I’ve previously purchased online but was optimistic enough to assume I could find it in a college town. The fourth store had it. Thank you, Fresh Thyme!

So, that ingredient might be harder to find but the wonders of the Internet mean it’s never truly inaccessible. I’d say it could be substituted but it really ties the whole thing together. I’m sure another spicy paste or even some sort of sauce would work, but it’d just not be the same.

Other than our runaround, though, the recipe was super simple, cooked quickly, and was quite simply as delicious as it looked when I first heard about it.

That’s a spicy (and tasty) meatball.

Here’s what I did, mostly sticking to the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 3-6 T. harissa paste (varies based on how spicy you want it/how spicy the harissa tastes, as it comes in mild and spicy varieties)
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ c. panko
  • 8 oz. feta in brine, crumbled (this was also hard to find — thank you, Pammel Grocery — but I’m sure if necessary water could be substituted for brine)
  • ⅔ c. chopped parsley, divided (I didn’t measure, just used up the small bunch)
  • 6 T. olive oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, divided
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 12 oz. ground chicken (if it comes in a 1 lb. package, that’s what the recipe calls for, but my hippie organic stuff is smaller, but I found I didn’t need to manipulate the recipe to make 12 oz. work just fine)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved if large
  • 1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees and place a rack in the top of the oven.

In a large bowl, mix together the egg, panko, ¼ c. feta brine (or water), half the crumbled feta, half the parsley, 2-4 T. harissa, and 2 T. olive oil until well blended. Add in the 2 of the garlic cloves, salt, and pepper.

Add the chicken and work with your hands until just mixed.

Spread tomatoes and chickpeas on a rimmed sheet pan. Add 2 T. olive oil, 1-2 T. harissa, and any additional salt and pepper.

Grease hands and roll out meatballs into about 16 golf-ball size, and place on the sheet pan between the chickpeas and tomatoes.

Bake meatballs until cooked about halfway, about 12 to 15 minutes. Increase the heat to broil, and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, rotating once if necessary, until the meatballs are cooked, the tomatoes lightly charred, and some chickpeas are semi-crisp. (If your broiler is on the bottom of the oven, then move your sheet pan there, but I was fortunate to just bump up the temp and leave the sheet pan.)

Meanwhile, mix together the remaining feta, parsley, and 2 T. olive oil in a small bowl. Add in the remaining garlic clove, and stir until all combined.

Once meatballs are done, let rest for a few minutes, and then sprinkle the feta mixture on top, and enjoy!

Reflections on perfect pairings

This week’s recipe comes courtesy of my cousin’s husband’s family, whatever that relation is called. It melds the flavors of sweet and spicy, a combination I would have been skeptical of and probably never tried if my cousin hadn’t brought it to a recent family gathering.

But I loved the bourbon pecan recipe so much I asked her to pass it along.

Bourbon pecan ingredients; yes, I buy cheap whiskey.

As I made the recipe for the first time this week, it got me thinking about perfect pairings.

One of the more joyous things about growing up is seeing the people you love find their love. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s been wonderful to see the family grow to include these new people into our lives, and marvel as they put up with all of us, especially when we get together.

This is true throughout my immediate family, where my mom, dad, and oldest brother, found partners that complement them so well, and fit them to a T. But it’s also been true for much of my extended family, as well.

And, of course, it’s the case with my cousin Stephanie who shared this recipe and who married her sweetie 10 years ago this summer, just weeks before I met my own sweetie.

Since around that time, the Crippes clan has been trying to have regular get-togethers. At each, our family of foodies has shared our favorite recipes to try to impress one another.

Stephanie is overly kind in praising my contributions (her mom, Sue, however, deservedly gets credit), so she was especially pleased at how much I enjoyed this bourbon pecan recipe.

For my part, I’m just delighted that when she tried it, she thought of us and decided to share. Candied pecans coated in a cayenne spice mix might at first blush seem like they’re going to clash, but trust me, it’s a match made in heaven.

Soooooo good.

Here’s what we did:

Ingredients

  • 3 oz. bourbon (2 shots, or 1/4 cup+2 tbsp.)
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. Angostura bitters
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. pecans (4 cups)
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin

Directions

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Simmer the bourbon to reduce it by half (3 T.). It happens relatively quickly so I kept a heat-proof measuring cup by the pot to keep checking it didn’t boil down too much.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, bitters, Worcestershire, and oil. Add the warm bourbon. Stir until sugar is nearly dissolved; the nuts will take care of the rest of dissolving if you’re not sure.

Separately, in a large pot, blanch the pecans for 1 minute in boiling water and drain. Add to bourbon mixture and toss, and then let it stand for 10 minutes.

Then, spread the candied nuts on a large rimmed sheet pan, pouring the remaining marinade over them. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes.

When the nuts are crisp and lightly browned and the liquid has evaporated, turn nuts into a clean bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the cayenne, salt, pepper, and cumin and mix well. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the nuts while tossing them.

Turn out onto a clean non stick or foil lined cookie sheet to cool. When cool and dry, store in an airtight container, and enjoy!