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!

Piece of (strawberry short) cake

I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but for the third week in a row, I was in search of a recipe that was easy and quick. In fact, this is the first time this year that I made this week’s recipe on the same day I posted my blog.

Like any (recovering) journalist, I live for a deadline.

Thankfully, I picked another recipe this week that not only was as simple as it seemed but came together with little effort. I needed the latter after losing an altercation with a cat that has left my right hand only partially usable.

Strawberry shortcake bars also happen to be delicious and the kind of treat that will please my in-laws as we head to St. Louis this weekend to see them.

Strawberry shortcake bars ingredients (sans flour because I keep it in a big honkin’ container because I use that much).

Everything’s coming up Christinia!

Because I’m cutting it down to the wire (again), two quick notes on this recipe:

  • It’s pretty strong on the shortcake, which I like, but it may be a bit dry for others’ tastes. If that’s not your thing, maybe cut down on the flour or add a little more whipped cream to the topping.
  • It doesn’t specifically call for it, but a stand mixer works really well for this recipe. Creaming both the cake and the topping is enough of a pain when one’s hand is healthy but it was pretty much a requirement for me this week. A hand mixer would also work, but I really appreciated saving the labor this week.
Fresh from the oven (and cooled) and it was amazing.

Here’s what I did, mostly following a recipe I found randomly online:

Ingredients

For the bars:

  • 1 c. (or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus a little more for coating the sheet pan (I used to use salted but we’re *trying* to be healthier)
  • 2 c. sugar (like I said, trying)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 5 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. salt
  • ½ t. baking soda

For the topping:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped (or 8 oz Cool Whip but I like real cream, again, trying)
  • About 1 lb. strawberries, sliced

Directions

Heat oven to 375 degrees, and grease a large rimmed sheet pan.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Then, add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Add in vanilla and stir until combined.

In a separate large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add to the wet mixture and beat until combined. (The dough will look like cookie dough.)

Spread the mixture on the sheet pan, using greased hands to spread evenly onto the pan.

Bake shortcake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, mix together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and remaining vanilla. Beat until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream, and chill until the bars are cool.

Spread the cream mixture on top of the shortcake, and then cover with the sliced strawberries. Eat immediately, or chill until ready to serve to in-laws, and enjoy!

Sweet simple sumptuous scones

A week late but I found the perfect “I don’t have time for this” sheet pan recipe.

The good news is it’s been another hectic week that meant I also didn’t have a lot of time to make something this week either; the bad news is, well, it’s been another hectic week. Please someone older than me tell me that life gets less stressful eventually.

Since I’m doubtful that someone will reach out to me, I’ll take solace in the fact that simple sumptuous scones exist and help make life worth living.

Lavender scone ingredients.

Lavender and lemon combine to make the perfect airy, floral, summery breakfast.

And as I might have mentioned, they’re fairly simple.

I’m not super picky when it comes to scones, and one of my favorites is Betty Crocker’s, but these had a nice fluffy texture that made it almost cake-like, while not really having more sugar than any other scone. They were a delight, and I’m absolutely sure I’ll make them again. I might even try to change it up and use different flavors, like my favorite raspberry and white chocolate chip.

Three quick notes:

  • The recipe calls for 2 sheet pans. I almost didn’t but decided to trust the recipe, especially since it’s from the the typically trustworthy Epicurious, and I’m glad I did. The scones don’t look so big but they expand, so use 2 sheet pans or bake in batches.
  • It also suggests serving with store-bought lemon curd. While lemon curd is a treat and does go well with the scones, lavender is such a subtle flavor that the lemon tends to overpower it, especially when lemon zest is already in the scones. So, use with that warning or feel free to pass if you love lavender.
  • Lavender made sound hard to come by, but my favorite spice shop Allspice in Des Moines has lavender flowers, and they ship if you can’t get to Iowa’s capital. And, if you don’t want to include them, I’m sure they’d be OK without it, if less exciting.
So delicious they help make bad days better.

Did I mention these were simple and amazing? OK, here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 3 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for light kneading
  • ¾ c. granulated sugar
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 2 t. dried lavender buds (recipe called for 1 t., but like I said, subtle; I also sprinkled just a few on top of each scone for plating purposes and for a bit more taste, but you do you)
  • 1 t. salt
  • ½ t. baking soda
  • 1 ½ sticks butter (preferably unsalted), cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 1 c. buttermilk, plus more for brushing (2-4 T.)
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 T. demerara sugar, or granulated sugar, for topping
  • Lemon curd, optional and to taste

Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees, and arrange racks on upper and lower thirds of oven. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the 3 c. flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, lavender buds, salt, and baking soda. Cut in the butter, using two knives, your fingers, or a pastry blender. Stir in the lemon zest.

Make a well in the dried ingredients and add the buttermilk and vanilla.

Stir slowly to mix. I found a fork worked really well.

Once a shaggy dough forms, turn out onto a floured surface and lightly knead until the dough forms together.

Use your hands to pat into an about 10-inch by 6-inch rectangle. Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, and then cut each square into four squares. Cut each square into two triangles, so you have 16 triangles of dough.

Divide the triangles between the prepared baking sheets. Brush with the buttermilk and then sprinkle with the additional sugar.

Bake until scones are golden, about 13 to 15 minutes. Enjoy warm or at room temperature with lemon curd, if desired.

 

Everything sucks about these everything bagel crackers

I’ve been wanting to make this week’s recipe for a few years now, ever since I spent a year making breads. Somehow these crackers never made the cut, but I’ve saved the link to the recipe for a time when I had the chance to make them.

Of course, I’ve had opportunities but when you like to make food as much as I do, the list of things you wish to make — while still making time for old favorites — is quite long.

But, still, these are everything bagel crackers. Everything bagels were my first and favorite bagel love.

Everything bagel crackers ingredients. If you dare to make them.

If I’m only getting a single bagel, it will be an everything bagel (with a plain shmear, if you’re wondering). If I’m getting a dozen, a quarter to half of them will be everything. Almost all of the remainder will be one of the toppings from an everything bagel — poppy seed, sesame seed, garlic, maybe onion. I might make an addition of an asiago.

Point is, it’s a little weird I haven’t made these crackers yet.

So, even though I didn’t have a lot of time this week, I love to make bread and I thought this was the perfect week to finally whip together this treat.

It didn’t go well from the start, which should have been a sign.

Most of it was my fault. I had to go get some ingredients so I got off to a late start; it went more slowly than I had anticipated; I misread the directions slightly so I got even more flustered; and it made more of a mess in our already messy kitchen than I had hoped.

But not all hope was lost. After all, these were topped with “everything.” It’d all work out.

And initial signs indicated it’d be OK. The first few that crisped at the edges got taken out a little early while the rest baked, and after slight cooling, they tasted pretty good.

Then, when I was putting them away, my spirits got totally crushed and I’ve vowed to get revenge on this recipe if it’s the last thing I do (OK, not really, I’m just feeling dramatic.).

The parchment paper lining, I thought, made for an easy way to wiggle the crackers into a Ziploc bag for safe storage.

But when I poured, all of the topping mix just came right off the crackers and sunk to the bottom of the bag.

The only thing that made them good sat in a layer so so so far away from the crackers. I could have saved the effort of brushing the crackers with oil and carefully sprinkling on the topping mix, and instead just dumped them on some plain wheat crackers.

A second batch was placed more carefully but it only salvaged a couple of poppy seeds. Plus, who wants to make crackers that have to stay right-side up for their toppings to stay on?

Ugh.

As for the crackers, they were merely OK. The salt stayed on, which meh. Mostly, I made it work by pouring the topping mix onto hummus and then scooping up everything hummus onto plain wheat crackers.

If you’re still brave enough to make this recipe after my rant, and not dissuaded, I do have two thoughts to make it work. First, mix the everything topping mixture *into* the cracker dough, or do most of it in the dough and sprinkle on some, and then *press* it into the dough with wax paper or more parchment paper. Second, just do it all on top, but *press* it into the dough.

Me, I’m just going to hit up an Einstein’s or make the mix and put it on something else.

They look pretty good, sure. But if you turn them upside down, that topping just slides right off.

Here’s what I did, mostly following a recipe from The Chew:

Ingredients

For the crackers

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 t. sugar
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 ¼ c. water
  • 5 ½ T. olive oil (plus more for brushing if you put the topping mix on top)

For the topping mix

  • 2 t. dried minced onion, or onion flakes
  • 2 t. dried minced garlic, or garlic flakes
  • 2 t. poppy seeds
  • 2 t. sesame seeds
  • 2 t. Kosher salt
  • 1 t. caraway seeds (optional)
  • 1 t. fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 t. black sesame seeds (optional)

Directions

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Line two large rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the flours, sugar and salt. Stir in the oil and water. Mix together until well incorporated. (Add the topping mix here, if desired.) Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead to combine completely, without overworking the dough.

Divide the dough into three discs and cover two with plastic.

Roll one disc at a time to ⅛ inch thickness, and then cut into 2” pieces. (The recipe says to cut into triangles but TBH, I couldn’t figure out how to make discs make triangles of that size without a lot of effort. I thought at first cutting like a pizza but they were too big.)

Transfer the pieces to the parchment paper-lined sheet pan. (Here’s where I misread. The recipe has you do this in batches so you do one disc, bake, then the next disc. I missed that, but I’d rather get it done quicker by fitting it all on 2 sheet pans and baking at the same time.)

Repeat with the next two discs.

Just before baking, brush the triangles (or whatever) with oil and top with topping mix. PRESS into the dough.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until crispy.

Let cool completely, and try to enjoy!

Sausage “sandwich” is a simple, tasty meal

One of the best cookbooks I got when I was first learning to cook was a collection of recipes from the sides of boxes, cans, etc. It wasn’t fancy, but that’s sort of the point of those types of recipes. Sure, it’s product-related, but it also is usually a quick, easy way of putting together something edible.

Aside from the best vanilla cream pie recipe (from Argo and Kingsford’s corn starch packaging), one of my favorite recipes from the book is a sausage and vegetable mix wrapped in puff pastry. And I knew from when I started this blog that it would be one of the recipes for my sheet pan year.

Sausage puff pastry ingredients.

There was just one problem. I couldn’t find it anywhere in the cookbook.

I scoured all relevant sections, and nothing.

I started to think it was one of those invented memories, like “Shazaam.”

So, I did what any totally normal and sane person would do; I went through the g-d damn book page by pain-staking page to find it. And buried near the end of the sandwich section of all flippin’ places, I found the recipe I remembered from before.

While I might like to complain about the delay, it actually worked out pretty well because we had a nice hot Italian sausage from the farmer’s market from Lucky George Farm that worked perfectly with the recipe. And if I’d made it sooner, I wouldn’t have used this excellent meat.

It was every bit as good — OK, a little better, because did I mention the awesome sausage?! — as I remembered, even if I forgot one ingredient (oops!).

So yummy and it looks pretty to boot.

Here’s what I did, with said forgotten ingredient included as optional:

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet puff pastry (Pepperidge Farm, if you wanted to know which box this originated from)
  • 1 lb. ground sausage
  • 1 small to medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, chopped (optional)
  • 1 ½ c. shredded Swiss cheese
  • 3 T. parsley, chopped
  • Flour, for rolling out pastry dough

Directions

Thaw the puff pastry at least 20 minutes, and up to overnight.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees, and line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a large skillet, cook the sausage until browned (about 10 minutes), and then add the pepper and onion and cook until the vegetables are tender (another 5 minutes or so).

Remove from heat (pour out fat if there’s a lot but my meat was as lean as you’d want sausage), and add the tomato, if using, cheese, and parsley. Set aside.

Meanwhile, unfold and roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface until it reaches approximately 14 inches by 10 inches. Transfer the puff pastry to the lined sheet pan (I do this by rolling up the dough around my rolling pin and then unspooling).

Spread the sausage mixture along the 14 inch side, near the edge. Roll up along the long side, like you’re making a jelly roll (this is what the ingredients in the book say too!).

Pinch the dough together to seal and then curve into an oval or horseshoe shape. Cut the dough about halfway through every 1 ½ inches.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden, and enjoy!

Getting back to my roots with a timely rhubarb pie

I had family in town this weekend, so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone by making a killer rhubarb pie to impress my mom and stepdad and also something that’d fit for my year of sheet pans.

Luckily, I came across a rhubarb crostata (if you didn’t know, and I didn’t, it’s basically a free-form pie) recipe from Food and Wine a few weeks ago and ripped out the recipe to make it for their impending visit.

Rhubarb crostata (pie) ingredients.

It was the perfect time for a lot of reasons, but mostly because my stepdad loves rhubarb and, frankly, so do the rest of us.

While he’s been the most vocal, I learned from Mom this past weekend that she grew up eating the stalks (home-grown) like they were celery and dipping them into a bowl of sugar. And my stepdad loves another rhubarb pie recipe that my sweetie’s mom made him growing up. And, well, I’m not in the habit of making things I won’t enjoy myself as well.

But another reason it was great is because it was so easy.

Sure, like any pie, it took time, but it was small, bite-size bits of active time followed by plenty of down time to do things like go buy the wine or finally eat lunch after a day of cleaning. It was perfect for being impressive and fitting my schedule.

Oh, and it was amazing.

It probably won’t replace the rhubarb custard that was my sweetie’s childhood recipe, but it is quicker and comes with a creamy topping that makes it a reasonable substitute when we’re in a pinch.

So full of filling and flavor. Yummy.

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

Ingredients

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. and 2 T. granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 t. salt, divided
  • 1 ½ sticks butter
  • ¼-½ c. ice water
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • 2 lbs. fresh or frozen rhubarb, thawed, cut into ½-inch pieces, divided
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • ¼ c. chopped candied ginger, chopped (I did a heaping cup because we like ginger too)
  • Zest from one orange
  • 1 egg, mixed with 1 T. water
  • 2 t. demerara sugar
  • 1 (8 oz.) container mascarpone
  • 2 T. heavy cream
  • 3 T. powdered sugar

Directions

Make the crust: Combine flour, 2 T. granulated sugar, and ¾ t. salt in a medium bowl. Cut butter into chunks and add into the flour mix using a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingers, until pea-size chunks form. Slowly add the ice water and stir until the mixture starts to come together. Pat into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and let chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Make the filling: Stir together the remaining 1 c. granulated sugar, the remaining salt, and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Add in 2 c. of the rhubarb and the lemon juice, and cook over medium heat stirring frequently. Cook until the mixture has thickened and the rhubarb has broken down (it’ll look like a lumpy jam). The recipe says this takes about 12 minutes; I didn’t time it exactly but it felt like nothing was happening and then it was totally thick, so keep a good eye on it.

Meanwhile, place the remainder of the rhubarb into a large bowl. When the cooked rhubarb mixture is done, pour it over the raw rhubarb. Add the chopped ginger and orange zest, and stir until well combined.

Put together the pie: Unwrap the dough, and roll it out on a lightly floured surface to 13-14 inches. Transfer to a parchment-paper lined rimmed sheet pan, and cut into a 12-inch round, discarding scraps. Spoon the rhubarb mixture onto the dough, trying to leave about 2 ½ inches around the border; I did less and it was a really full but it worked. Pleat the edges as necessary and press down to secure.

Finish the pie: Brush the dough with the egg wash and then sprinkle with the demerara sugar.

Refrigerate, uncovered, for about 1 hour until the dough is firm. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The recipe says to cool completely before serving but we liked it better the second day where we re-warmed it, so I’d say cool for an hour or 2 and then enjoy with whipped mascarpone!

Whip mascarpone for serving on top: While the pie cooks, or before serving, mix together the mascarpone cheese, the powdered sugar, and heavy cream. Use a hand blender or a whisk to blend for 1 to 2 minutes until fluffy. Serve on top of the warm pie and enjoy!

Make friends happy with mini meatloaves

My friend David loves meatloaf, so I knew as soon as I saw a sheet pan meatloaf recipe that I would be making it this year and sharing with him on one of our regular gaming days.

This past week seemed as good a time as any, as we were in the midst of an epic battle that required comfort food. Plus, I like meatloaf too.

Sheet pan meatloaf ingredients.

The recipe technically comes from a random blog I came across — Strawberry Blondie Kitchen — but I just made my regular meatloaf recipe and divided it as she suggests and also paired it with the recommended potatoes and green beans.

So, like a lot of sheet pan recipes, particularly the dinners, this recipe can be adapted to preferences. I’m sharing my meatloaf recipe but if you have a favorite, feel free to make it to your tastes. Don’t like potatoes or green beans? Feel free to alter with something else.

It’s been fun to have these recipes be so adaptable, and that was especially the case this week.

As the recipe calls for dividing the meatloaf into 8 patties, it was easy enough to make it to particular tastes. One friend hates onions, so I separated one pattie before adding the grated onions. One friend didn’t want spice — I used Sriracha in place of ketchup — so his pattie just had cheese.

With little effort, I could make everyone happy and share my yummy meatloaf recipe.

*drool* meatloaf *drool*

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 c. whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 medium onion, diced or grated
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 t. oregano
  • 1 t. garlic powder
  • 1 t. ground mustard
  • 1 t. dried parsley
  • 1 large egg
  • Sriracha, to taste (or ketchup)
  • 8 slices of sharp cheddar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Oil for coating
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • 12 to 16 oz. potatoes, cut into quarters or eighths depending on size
  • 8 oz. green beans, trimmed

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with oil.

In a large bowl, mix together the beef, milk, bread crumbs, onion, Worcestershire sauce, spices and herbs, and egg. I just use my hands to mash it all together, which also helps determine if more bread crumbs might be necessary.

Divide the meat mixture into 8 even amounts and then shape into patties. Place on one half of the baking sheet, and squirt on a bit of Sriracha and then top with the cheese slices.

On the other end, place the potatoes and green beans, and drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the meatloaves are fully cooked 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!

Perfect timing for first sheet pan chicken

After my blog post a couple weeks ago where I roasted asparagus (with tilapia), a good friend reached out to me to rave about roasting vegetables.

During our back and forth, she mentioned that one of her newly discovered favorites was roasted radishes. The idea intrigued me, as did her description of their taste as “so sweet and caramely.”

I made a mental note to try it at some vague point in the future, but I admit I didn’t immediately go out and seek a recipe or even just put radishes on my grocery list. And yet, just a few days later I was scrolling Twitter when I found a sheet pan recipe from Epicurious that included roasted potatoes, and yes, radishes.

Sheet pan paprika chicken with roast vegetables ingredients.

Even better, it combined them with a roast chicken and my list of sheet pan roast chicken recipes has been growing, and I hadn’t yet made one. And, if that all wasn’t enough, the food was flavored with a simple sauce that was mostly paprika, garlic, and mayonnaise.

I decided right then it’d be my next blog post.

It was perhaps a bit ambitious to make it on a weeknight, but I was determined. And if I’m honest, it still wasn’t that bad. It would have been better if the timing listed in the recipe was enough to be safe that the chicken was cooked through instead of an additional 10 to 15 minutes. But otherwise, there was a lot of down time between steps, enough that I could do dishes, even.

And the end result couldn’t have tasted better. The chicken was perfect; the potatoes sufficiently roasted; and the radishes — wow, they just burst with flavor and juices. It was an amazing combination, made better by the addition of a simple salsa verde that used up the radish greens.

I can say I’ll be returning to roast radishes, and this recipe, again.

So many good flavors combined. Nom noms.

Here’s what I did, tweaking the recipe a bit:

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken
  • ½ c. mayonnaise,
  • 1 T. paprika (smoked if possible),
  • 4 cloves garlic, divided
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. golden potatoes, cut into fourths or eighths
  • 2 bunches radishes, halved, reserving greens
  • 1 bunch cilantro, with tender stems
  • 1 bunch parsley, with tender stems
  • ⅔ c. olive oil
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • Juice from 1 lemon

Directions

Place oven rack in the middle of the oven, and heat to 425 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, paprika, half the garlic cloves, and salt and pepper. Once mixed, move  2 to 3 T. of the mix into a large bowl (it will ultimately be mixed with the vegetables so bigger bowls are better).

Pat the inside and outside of the chicken dry. Place on a large sheet pan with rimmed edges. Coat the mayonnaise mix from the small bowl under the skin of the chicken and outside it, including on legs. Tie together the legs with kitchen twine.

Bake the chicken for about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables. Toss the potatoes and radishes with the reserved mayonnaise mixture in the large bowl.

After 25 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees, and remove the chicken from oven. In a single layer, add the potatoes and radishes to the pan around the chicken.

Continue to bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a blender, mix together the parsley, cilantro, radish leaves, olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice, the remaining garlic cloves, and salt and pepper. Blend until coarsely chopped.

Once chicken is cooked through, transfer it to a cutting board and let cool for 15 minutes before carving. Serve the chicken with the roasted vegetables and salsa verde, and enjoy!

The recipe that convinced me to cook with tofu

I discovered the joys of tofu as a college student trying Thai food for the very first time. But I could never really figure out how to cook the tofu so that it came out like the wonderful pad see-ew or Pad Thai I got at restaurants. If I’m honest, I still haven’t mastered it.

So, instead, I’ve found an alternative way to make tofu that tastes amazing, has a million uses, and yes, even works in noodle dishes. That’s right; it’s baked tofu.

Baked tofu ingredients.

The thing is frying tofu just right is very difficult, but baked tofu is about impossible to mess up.

Plus, it comes pre-flavored with the saltiness of soy sauce and the spiciness of sambal oelek. Oh, and there’s wine. And that, combined with time, is about all it takes to transform the flavorless, spongy soy protein into something that is good enough to eat by itself.

I couldn’t even tell you where I initially found the recipe, but I know the blog post similarly raved about the ease. And frankly, I think I added the sambal oelek. I just know that I make it often enough, and it’s easy enough that this is the first time I’ve written it down.

My favorite uses for it are for spring rolls, stir fry (but keep it separate, otherwise it absorbs the liquid), and simple vegetable wraps. But options are endless as long as you have the delightful base.

I used these little guys to make *both* spring rolls and stir fry this week. Yum!

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 (18 oz.) container tofu (extra firm is preferred but firm will work in a pinch)
  • ¼ c. soy sauce
  • ¼ c. white wine (or water, or cooking sherry)
  • 1 heaping T. sambal oelek (usually found in the Asian section, or Sriracha will work in a pinch)
  • 1 T. sesame oil (optional)
  • Canola oil

Directions

Open and drain the tofu. Then, press it to drain more of the liquid for at least an hour. I’ve worked out a system where I use the sheet pan as the catch for the excess liquid, then place an upside-down rounded plate on top of the sheet pan, put the tofu on the plate, and then use a heavy lid like for a Dutch oven or another plate with a weight on top to press the tofu. (This can also be done a day in advance, and store the drained tofu in a Tupperware.)

Once the tofu is strained, cut it into 15 to 20 long slices. Again, I use the overturned plate to do my cutting so I don’t dirty more dishes.

Heat the oven to 325.

Then, mix together the soy sauce, wine, sambal oelek and sesame oil, if using.

Rinse and dry the sheet pan, and then coat it with canola oil. Place the slices of tofu on the sheet pan in a single layer. Brush on about half of the soy sauce mixture, and let sit for 5 minutes so the tofu absorbs most of the flavorful liquid, Turn over the slices carefully, and brush the remaining sauce on the other side. Let it absorb into the tofu for another 5 minutes. It’s OK if not all the liquid absorbs.

I usually spray with a little more oil because I’m paranoid it’ll stick.

Bake the tofu for 15 minutes, take out of the oven, and *carefully* flip over the slices. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until nice and browned and the liquid absorbed. Let cool slightly, and enjoy!