January 27, 2011 § 5 Comments
I’ve been thinking of posting this recipe since I started this blog and I can’t think of a better time than the days leading up to the super bowl. I have to admit I’m not a football fan – like, at all. Plus, I’m really not a fan of traditional gameday cuisine – chili, hamburgers, and wings don’t call my attention. So the fact I’ve actually found a wing recipe that even I crave, means it has to be really good. I really wish the pictures did these wings more justice – you’ll just have to take my word that they are really good!
We recently bought our first home, and I made these delicious wings for our housewarming party. I have one of those moms that is an extreme “over-cooker”. Whether it be dinner or even worse, a party, my mom goes all out and there’s sure to be leftovers for days on end. So, when I told her what I was preparing for this particular party, she was a bit skeptical about the amount of food I was going to be serving. In the hours leading up to the party and I was prepping these wings, I started to share her concerns, worried if they didn’t turn out I’d be in trouble. Oh well, plenty of pizza shops close by I reassured myself.
But in the end there was no need for reassurance – as everyone dove in they couldn’t stop raving about the wings. The men were literally standing at the crock pot and couldn’t stop eating them – I took this to mean it was a success. The party ended the way I like it too – virtually no leftovers – to me that’s the way to end a party.
These wings have a nice sweet but not too sweet flavor that is complimented by a little spice. I’ve made these multiple times and every time I like to cook them a bit longer so the meat is nice and tender, falling off the bone. So, I’ve never actually stopped at the designated cooking time but sure it produces an equally delicious but maybe more “sturdy” wing.
Now, a word on the actual wings – all I’ve been able to find at grocery stores is either the wing that is attached to the drumette or separate drumettes. I don’t know if I’m missing something but I cannot find wings themselves. This particular recipe calls for the wings that are attached to the drumette and for you to cut them at the joint. I did this for my housewarming party and let me tell you it was pretty brutal – I would definitely not recommend this. What I’ve done since is just cook the wings without cutting them and they are fine. They might not look perfect like at a wing joint, but they taste just the same! If you’d rather not do this, you could buy the drumettes but actually drumsticks cost the same and give you a lot more meat and taste equally as good with this recipe so I’d recommend that over the little drumettes.
I promise you, you won’t have any of these wings for leftovers! Definitely give them a try for your superbowl party!
To make the wings, line them in an oven safe dish and season with salt and pepper. Broil for about 10 minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Meanwhile, chop the onion and garlic. I sometimes just use the whole onion even though this calls for ¼ cup. In a bowl, mix together the honey, soy sauce, ketchup, red chili pepper, onion, garlic, vegetable oil, salt and pepper.
Once the wings are done – put them in a slow cooker and pour the sauce over them. Mix to ensure they are well coated. The directions call to cook them up to 2½ hours but I always cook them about 3 or up to 3½ hours. You can sprinkle with sesame seeds to serve but I’ve never even added it – they are delicious on their own.
Honey-Sauced Chicken Wings
Adapted from “Rival Crock-Pot Best Loved Slow Cooker Recipes”
3 lbs. Chicken wings
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 cup honey
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup chopped onion (I use the whole onion)
¼ cup ketchup
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
sesame seeds to serve, optional (I never need to add this!)
1. Preheat broiler. Assemble wings on broiler pan and season with salt and pepper. Broil 10 minutes per side or until chicken wings are browned. Remove and transfer to slow cooker.
2. For sauce, combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix, and pour over wings. Ensure wings are well coated.
3. Cover and cook on low 4-5 hours or high 2-2½ hours.
January 17, 2011 § 2 Comments
It truly pains me to admit this but I have finally, maybe, still-fighting it, come to the realization that perhaps I’ll never move to a winter climate again. I spent the better years of my childhood in Chicago and have envisioned moving back there for years – living in a condo, walking everywhere, enjoying the many cultural attributes of the city, not to mention unbelievable food options. But alas, sometimes we must grow up and realize what we are and are not willing to do. After several trips this year to Washington DC, Detroit, Philadelphia, and yes, even Chicago, I come back home each time more and more relieved to return to my comfortable 60 degree weather.
Last week that wasn’t the case though – there were no 60 degrees to be had even in Florida – I returned home from a frigid Detroit where just 5 minutes standing in the snow storm waiting for a shuttle bus had left me slightly frozen for the better half of the week. Walking to my car back home at the Orlando airport, I expected to find myself able to remove my jacket – but no, I was met with a windy 40 degrees that encouraged me to leave it on. (I do realize that my friends living anywhere North of Orlando right now are probably calling me a big wimp if they are reading this – but it is what it is – apparently I’m quite wimpy when it comes to weather.)
All week I had a need to fill my body with a warm and satisfying something – something that would fill my stomach with warmth and spread to every last centimeter of my body – no fingers or toes to be left behind. Actually, this need started even before I’d left for Detroit and I attempted to make a lentil soup for the very first time on a cold Sunday evening. I’d been inspired by reading an incredible article on a spicy, thick lentil soup by Molly Wizenberg in Bon Appetit. In the end, the soup turned out ok – definitely hearty – but missed the mark and left me craving something comforting all week. So Friday night, I just couldn’t take it, enough was enough – I was determined to make a delicious soup that would do the trick. As I wandered through the supermarket looking for inspiration, I remembered a chowder my mom makes with crab and shrimp. I used to make a vegetarian version all the time but for one reason or another, hadn’t made it in some time. Seeing that shrimp was on sale, I figured it would be as good a time as any to give it another go and see if it could cure me of my need for warmth. It had probably been 2 years since I made this soup – thus, I was working from memory on how I actually used to make it but it turned out just as comforting and delicious as I remembered!
As I said, I’ve made this soup many times vegetarian without any seafood and its simply delicious. If you do like shrimp, it adds just a hint of sweetness and substance to the dish. This soup offers amazing depth of flavor – the slight spice of the bell peppers, sweet carrots, hearty potatoes, plump shrimp, and just a touch of cream – all make it truly luxurious. This soup is actually quite simple, really, and could easily be made on a cold weeknight. As with all soups like this, no hard-fast recipe is needed, just estimate as you go and feel free to experiment.
Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a large stockpot. Meanwhile dice the potatoes into bite size pieces – you want to use a delicate skinned potato so you don’t have to peel them. Add the potatoes to the boiling chicken broth and reduce to medium heat.
Dice the onion, celery, and carrots. I slit the celery down the center and then dice and I just dice the carrot whole so I have pretty little orange circles. Add these veggies to a sauté pan over medium heat with enough olive oil to lightly coat, minced garlic, some salt and pepper, and sauté. Dice ½ a red and ½ a yellow pepper and add to the pan once the onions have become soft. You could add the vegetables right to the potatoes after chopping and skip this step for an easier recipe but I find sautéing them gives the best flavor.
Add all the veggies to the potatoes and allow to cook a few minutes and for the flavors to incorporate. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until it reaches your desired texture. I like it to be about half blended so I see some flecks of color from the diced veggies. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can spoon out the desired amount and blend in a blender.
Add your desired amount of corn and a touch of cream for a luxurious texture. The cream can easily be left out if you’d rather not have the extra calories but it does add a beautiful silkiness to this soup.
Cut the shrimp in half and dispose of tails and add to the soup. It will take just minutes for the shrimp to cook – once they are pink, they’re done and the soup is ready. (Note: if using frozen shrimp you’ll need more cooking time.) Add chopped scallions and reserve some to serve on top as a garnish.
4 14oz. cans of low-sodium chicken broth
1 yellow onion
4 ribs of celery
½ red bell pepper
½ yellow bell pepper
2 cups frozen corn
¼ cup heavy cream
½ Ib. shrimp
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper
- Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a large stockpot. Meanwhile dice the potatoes into bite size pieces. Add the potatoes to the boiling chicken broth and reduce to medium heat.
- Dice the onion, celery, and carrots and sauté in a pan over medium heat with enough olive oil to lightly coat, minced garlic, some salt and pepper.
- Dice ½ a red and ½ a yellow pepper and add to the pan once the onions have become soft.
- Add all the veggies to the potatoes and allow to cook a few minutes and for the flavors to incorporate. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup to desired texture.
- Add corn and cream.
- Cut the shrimp in half, dispose of tails and add to the soup. It will take just minutes for the shrimp to cook.
- Add chopped scallions and reserve some to serve on top as a garnish.
Update: See how I made this vegan with my vegan corn chowder recipe.
January 16, 2011 § 9 Comments
A perfect roast chicken starts with a delicate, crispy skin and ends with moist, juicy meat inside and this recipe achieves both. The skin is beautifully golden in color and flavor by brushing the chicken with a little melted butter before roasting and the pan juices from the chicken, sweet carrots, fennel, and onion keep the meat moist upon serving.
This recipe is from Ina Garten, whom I just love. Almost any recipe I make of hers is a sure win – and what’s better, she eats mostly chicken so she always has some inspiring recipe for me. I’ve now made her Perfect Roast Chicken several times and I can say, it is actually quite perfect. In fact, I recently hosted a holiday party for my girlfriends and when I pulled out my two beautiful roast chickens from the oven, one of them even called me “Martha” – as in the infamous Martha Stewart.
What makes this chicken so perfect is not only the tender, juicy meat it yields, but the simplicity in making it. Aside from chopping up some vegetables and applying easy seasonings, it requires very little effort. I think my favorite part of this dish is the fact that you stuff the chicken cavity with lemon and garlic without even a need to chop, peel, or squeeze! A simple cut in half and if it fits, it works. This chicken calls for a lot of fresh thyme, which adds a very perfumed flavor to the vegetables and sauce. If you’re not a fan of thyme you could easily substitute with rosemary or a combination of herbs of your choice.
Now, I will say – one area where Ina let me down: directions on cooking time. I am one of those “is the chicken really done?” fanatics. You’d think with as much chicken as I eat and cook I’d pretty much know when a chicken is done, but sadly I do not and I end up having to cut my chicken breasts in half when cooking to ensure they are really cooked through. So, when I watched Ina make this on TV, she made it sound so simple to determine if the chicken was done – just cut between the leg and the breast and if the juices run clear – voila, its done.
Or not… In Ina’s fairness, her recipe calls for a larger chicken so I had assumed using a smaller chicken would significantly cut down on cooking time. Thus, when I made this the first time for my family, they arrived hungry and eager, I pulled these impressive looking chickens out and they all “oohed” and “awed”. I made the cut as Ina instructed and once I saw that it was only clear juices running out, I happily covered it and let it rest for 20 minutes while waiting anxiously to try it. When I went back to carve what I was sure would be my new masterpiece, I was devastated to find nearly raw chicken at the bone. Back in the oven it had to go and my family was left waiting for another 40 minutes for dinner. In the end though, it was a delicious chicken worth the wait.
I’ve made this chicken multiple times now so I’ve pretty much got the cooking time down but the lesson learned is: Stab your chicken! No, not really. But I do like to make several cuts around the chicken just to be sure – better safe than sorry, especially when entertaining. The reason this is so important is because you really want the chicken to rest 20 minutes, so you’ve got to know its finished cooking. Once you do have the cooking time down on this chicken though, it’s indeed worth it. As I said, it takes minimal effort and yields a very elegant meal perfect for a quiet dinner at home for 2 or for entertaining for several friends. If you’re feeling really motivated, you could serve with crispy roasted potatoes or garlicky mashed potatoes, which would be a nice accompaniment.
For this recipe I have found a 3 pound chicken to work best. If I’m cooking it just for me and my husband I’ll do one chicken but if I want leftovers or cooking for several, I’ll buy two chickens. This is a great recipe to do with 2 chickens (double the veggies) and have extra leftover for a chicken noodle soup or enchiladas the next night. What’s even better is I’ve found a little market near my home where I can buy all my ingredients for about $10 – that’s for 2 chickens and all the veggies – you can’t beat that!
Preheat the oven to 425. Rinse the inside and outside of the chicken and pat dry. Cut any excess fat. Sprinkle the cavity with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Cut a lemon and head of garlic in half and insert in the cavity with a good bunch of fresh thyme. Once the cavity is stuffed, tie the legs together with twine. Meanwhile, melt a tablespoon of butter. Once melted, brush the outside of the chicken with the butter making sure to reach the sides and legs. Sprinkle the top of the chicken with more salt and pepper.
Peel and chop 4 carrots, 1 yellow onion, and 1 bulb of fennel. If you’ve never worked with fennel before, it’s got almost a licorice-like smell and adds a nice flavor to the sauce. Cut the top of the bulb so that you’re left with something that resembles an onion. I like to remove the outermost layer then just cut as you would an onion.
In your roasting pan mix all the chopped veggies with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. Note: If you don’t have a roasting pan, you could put this in anything that will hold it, such as a large casserole dish or lasagna pan. Now, a word on the thyme – if you don’t mind it being really rustic, you could just throw a handful of thyme in whole with the veggies. My husband isn’t such a fan of this method so I skim the leaves off the stems and chop it up. Finally, add the chicken on top of the veggies.
That is it! Your chicken is done and ready to go into the oven for about an hour and a half. Keep an eye on it that the skin doesn’t burn – if the skin is getting too brown you can cover with aluminum foil. Baste a few times while it’s cooking to add flavor to the skin.
When you’re sure the chicken is done, remove from the oven and cover the pan with foil to let it rest for 20 minutes. After resting, carefully remove the chicken and lift vertically to let all the juices inside the cavity come out and into the pan. If you love lemon, you can pull out the lemon from the cavity and give it a squeeze into the sauce – be careful as it will be exremely hot.
To carve the chicken, start with the legs and wings and remove. Then cut at the center near the bone and follow your knife down the bone to remove the breast. Slice the breast as desired. Make sure you pour the sauce from the pan over the chicken as that is the key to keeping it moist and giving it unbelievable flavor. Serve hot and enjoy!
1 3Ib. fryer chicken
1 yellow onion
1 fennel bulb
20 sprigs thyme
1 tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 425. Rinse inside and outside of the chicken and pat dry. Cut any excess fat. Sprinkle the cavity with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Cut a lemon and head of garlic in half and insert in the cavity with half the fresh thyme. Tie the legs together with twine.
- Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush outside of the chicken with the butter making sure to reach the sides and legs. Sprinkle the top of the chicken with more salt and pepper.
- Peel and chop 4 carrots into bite size pieces, about 1 inch long. Cut 1 yellow onion and 1 bulb of fennel in slices. Add vegetables to roasting pan with olive oil, salt, pepper, and remaining thyme.
- Place chicken on top of vegetable mixture in pan and roast in oven for an hour and a half or until done.
- Remove and cover chicken with aluminum foil for 20 minutes. Carve and serve with pan sauce over the chicken.
For the original recipe from Ina Garten, click here.
January 8, 2011 § 5 Comments
Happy one week 2011! As I sit here writing this I’m watching the clock count down and feeling as excited for the year as I did a week ago on New Years Day. I don’t know what it is but it seems that everyone is truly happy about this year – there’s definitely something in the air (and lots of commotion on Facebook). It’s been a wonderful week for me, a perfect week in fact, very productive, quality time with my husband, family, and friends, and I’m full of anticipation for all the year has to bring. It’s funny how something as “little” as finally sitting down to start a blog can really inspire you. My mind is whirling with recipes I want to test – causing my mouth to water for delicious new flavors and creations. But the truth is, I have a very full-time job, which doesn’t always leave me the time I’m looking for at night to put a meal on the table worthy of my mother’s teachings.
That’s where this pasta comes in – my easy “pea”sy all-time absolute favorite go-to meal. Its simplicity of several bold flavors is what makes it so easy and a sure win each and every time. We eat this meal regularly as it’s a quick supper and I always, always, have the ingredients on hand. Crispy, smokey bacon, al dente pasta, a soft bite of bright green sweet peas, salty parmesan, and spicy fresh cracked pepper all wrapped in the deliciousness of good old olive oil. Mmmm… if only I had some leftovers right now…
I’ve been making variations of this dish for over 10 years now. It was inspired by a pasta at a local restaurant my family used to go to for special occasions. I would look forward to that meal for days – enjoying an amazing Italian feast with a glass of sparkling San Pelligrino was all I needed – it was heaven. The dinner always began with a famous buccatini. Buccatini is like a very thick, hollow, spaghetti. Their version was served al dente with prosciutto, peas, mushrooms and parmesan. The result was this amazing, smokey, salty, pasta. I haven’t had that dish in probably 8 years but I can still taste it.
I distinctly remember starting to create my version of this pasta in my last year of high school. In fact, I remember that I’d make it as many as several times a week. It was a very simple version that I still make to this day of just pasta, peas, olive oil, lots of salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. That variation is actually the first meal I ever made my husband back when we were first dating in college – I guess it was good enough to stick around!
Over the years I’ve tried many variations adding garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, cream, tomatoes, fresh herbs, etc., and while they are all good, this one is absolutely my favorite. I encourage you to try it as is, and then experiment with new ingredients to see what your favorite combination is. This pasta doesn’t have hard-set directions. Use as much bacon and peas as you want – you can’t go wrong. Just ensure you flavor it well with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Most of the flavor comes from the salt and pepper so don’t be scared to add liberally. I like to add and taste several times until I get it right – you’ll feel like you’re adding a lot, but believe me, it needs it.
For the pasta – I usually cook with a whole wheat or whole grain pasta for extra protein but white pasta works beautifully here as well. You can use any shape of pasta you like. A new trick I’ve found is freezing my bacon. I love bacon but since it’s just me and my husband we never make it through the pack before it goes bad. I put it in my freezer and it lasts several months and is actually much easier to cut when frozen. If you’ve ever cut up fresh bacon you know this can be quite tricky. I like to cut the bacon perpendicular to the strips so all I need is several cuts and the bacon just breaks up in the pan perfectly.
Cook the pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Cut as much bacon as you want – I like to cut three pieces about ½ inch thick (this equates to about 2-3 strips of bacon). Cook the bacon in a pan over medium heat until crispy. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon leaving bacon grease in the pan – I know you health nuts will be eager to remove it but believe me its worth it!
Add the desired amount of frozen peas. We love peas so I add enough to coat my pan – about 2 cups. Mix peas in bacon grease and cook until heated through. Add a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, about 1-2 tablespoons depending on amount of peas, just enough so that the peas are shiny and coated. Add a generous amount of salt and pepper and mix. Reduce heat to medium-low.
When the pasta is ready, drain and add to the pan with the peas and mix for a few minutes to the pasta absorbs all the flavors.
Serve with reserved crispy bacon and freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese. If you manage to have leftovers, this pasta is equally delicious the next day, but sadly (or fortunately) we never have leftovers when I make this.
Pasta with Peas, Bacon, and Parmesan
Yields 2 servings
1/2 package pasta of your choice
2-3 strips bacon cut into small pieces
2 cups frozen peas
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
parmesan cheese to serve
1. Bring water to a boil. Add salt and cook pasta al dente according to package instructions
2. Meanwhile heat a pan over medium heat. Cut 2-3 strips of bacon, or desired amount, into small bite-size pieces and add to heated pan. Cook until crisp and remove with slotted spoon, reserving bacon grease in pan.
3. Add 2 cups peas to pan and olive oil, salt, and pepper and cook until heated through. Reduce heat to medium low.
4. Drain pasta and add to pan with peas, mixing, and let it sit for a few minutes, absorbing flavors. Taste and season as needed with more salt and pepper.
5. To serve pasta, top with crispy bacon and fresh parmesan.
January 2, 2011 § 4 Comments
Yesterday was the first day of 2011 which I welcomed with a mixture of emotions – mostly excitement of what’s to come. I’m very much looking forward to see what this New Year has in store for me and my husband, though honestly, I can’t imagine it being better than 2010. Let me rephrase – I can’t imagine it being better than the second half of 2010. The first half of the year was a tough one. My mom was living indefinitely in Kansas City taking care of my dying grandfather who sadly passed despite our hopefulness. This sad beginning of the year led to months of organizing the closing of my grandparents home and my grandmother moving to Florida. By mid-year, our family was reunited and things started looking up. My husband and I enjoyed a fantastic two week vacation to Spain in May which unbeknownst to us at the time, started a magical trend of good things to come for the second half of the year. We both have gone through more than our fair share of trials and tribulations so to have things suddenly click in place was a beautiful thing. Among other things, we both got unbelievable job opportunities, and after almost two years of searching, we finally purchased our first home. In all this too, it was a year of taking risks – risks that are paying off beautifully.
Thus why I say it will be hard for 2011 to top all that. But I’m remaining optimistic. And most importantly, I am remembering that the life we live is the one we choose. My dad has some pretty good advice he’s drilled into my head – just two words – “Choose Wisely”. I realize now more than ever that this goes beyond what I took it to mean – its not just about choosing the right path, the right job, the right friends, etc. Rather, its about choosing to be happy each and every day, choosing to live with integrity, to define the life you want and not be afraid to go and get it. As Marianne Williamson said “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” For me, 2011 is about going for “it”, giving it all I’ve got, not settling, not giving up, and definitely not doubting myself (both in the kitchen and out 😉 )
To start off the year with this great energy, I wanted a little celebration and decided to make French Toast for breakfast. I don’t know when I got out of the habit of making French Toast – I rarely make it anymore but it used to be a regular weekend event in my house growing up. I think French Toast was the first dish I really learned to make (and make well) on my own. The best was when my dad would eat it – he’s not a “sweet” breakfast guy, he’s more of a practical low-carb egg-white omelet guy, so days he’d go so far as to request my French Toast were a pretty big deal.
I was at Whole Foods the night before shopping for our New Years Eve dinner and had seen mascapone cheese. I remembered a special French Toast I had a few years ago with mascapone and blueberry and decided I’d make that as our jumpstart to the New Year and it turned out really fantastic. The French Toast had a nice crunch from the sugar coating. The mascapone adds an unexpected twist against the tart berries and eggy bread. At the last minute I added some lemon zest to the mascapone which lightened the entire dish and gave a fresh flavor. Don’t even think of adding syrup to this before tasting – its so good on its own it doesn’t require anything further. It certainly felt like a celebratory breakfast and a promising start to the New Year – Cheers!
I used a hearty French country bread from Whole Foods which I sliced fairly thick (a bit too thick in fact as the egg didn’t get all the way through the slice). I made us a generous portion – two big slices each which I soaked in the egg mixture.
I use vegetable oil for my French Toast and I like to add cinnamon both to the egg mixture as well as a sprinkle while its frying in the pan. Once the slices were done on the bottom I flipped them over to fry on the other side. At the end, I add a small sprinkle of sugar to each slice and flip for just a minute to get a nice caramelized finish. Don’t add the sugar until the very end as it will burn if left in pan too long.
Meanwhile mix some mascapone cheese with a little bit of sugar, blueberries, and fresh lemon zest. The amount of mascapone depends on how much you like – I like just a hint of it so a thin layer is enough for me. Also, the sugar is optional as I like my mascapone sweet.
Once the toasts are done cooking, remove to a paper towel to remove any excess oil and spread the mascapone blueberry mixture to one side. Top with the other slice (be sure to put it sugar side up) and add more berries such as blueberries and raspberries.
French Toast with Mascapone and Fresh Berries
Yields 2 stuffed slices
4 thick slices French or Challah bread
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp mascapone cheese
lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh raspberries
- Beat eggs, milk, and cinnamon until well combined. Dip bread in egg mixture ensuring both sides are well coated.
- Coat large pan with vegetable oil and warm over medium heat and add egg-dipped slices. Cook until golden on the bottom.
- Sprinkle more cinnamon if desired on un-cooked side before flipping and cook until golden.
- Sprinkle 1 tsp sugar over slices, flip, and cook for just a minute until carmelized. Remove to paper towel to drain.
- Mix mascapone cheese, 1 tsp sugar, 1 cup blueberries and spread mixture on two slices. Top with other slice ensuring sugar coated side is on outside.
- Top with fresh berries and serve.