Day 2 of Sur La Table's "Tasting New Orleans" culinary tour started off with a morning excursion to the Crescent City Farmers Market where locals sell fresh produce grown on their farms, freshly caught seafood (fish, shrimp, crabs, etc), homemade jams and jellies, baked goods, popcorn and kettle corn, popsicles, citrus fruits, locally grown strawberries and other fresh, local foods.
We had our own personal tour guide in Poppy Tooker, a culinary icon in New Orleans who hosts "Louisana Eats!" on the Louisiana NPR affiliate station, brought the slow food movement to New Orleans, and was recognized by the International Association of Cooking Professionals with their first Community Service Award for her efforts during Katrina.
And if that wasn't enough, she also won a Throwdown with Bobby Flay for her seafood gumbo. Poppy's cookbook, "Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook" features many of these vendors and it was great to meet some of them in person before reading their stories in her book.
Poppy introduced us to many of the vendors at the farmers market (while also buying fresh ingredients for our lunch). Their stories of rebuilding after Katrina and their tenacity in continuing their businesses are nothing short of amazing. It was wonderful to meet a group of people with such pride and knowledge of what they were doing and the hard work going into the success they were building.
After the tour, we had some time to wander around a bit. I bought a jar of Mayhaw Jelly from Briarhill Farms to take back for my mom as well as some kettle corn for me (naturally!). Then our tour group of 11 people was taxied over to the New Orleans Cooking Experience, a cooking school where Poppy was waiting to show us how to cook the four-course meal that was to be our lunch.
This was probably one of the highlights of the trip for me. The ladies at the cooking school were so graciously charming and welcoming. I've sat in on cooking demos before and I went to culinary school for eight months to get my pastry certification but what set this apart was the rich culinary history Poppy shared with us as she went about making each of the dishes. I wish I had thought to take notes or even video but I think even that would have been a thin representation of how vibrant she was and how interesting the history was behind the dishes she was making.
Our first course was Shrimp Remoulade. I was a bit leery when it was being made as I'm not fond of mustard and the remoulade uses quite a bit of it. But I tried it and I'm almost embarrassed to say I couldn't eat it fast enough. It was so good, didn't taste mustard-y at all and the fresh shrimp (bought at the Crescent City Farmers Market just that morning) in the remoulade sauce was delicious. Poppy put it together effortlessly and it was just yummy.
1 cup Creole mustard
1 bunch green onions
1/2 bunch parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
1 celery heart
4 tablespoons paprika (you want the sweet Hungarian paprika)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
juice of one lemon
Combine green onions and parsley in food processor. Process together until finely minced Add the remainder of the ingredients. Serve over boiled shrimp on a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce or as a dipping sauce of savory calas.
I just got back from a short culinary tour of New Orleans. I've always wanted to go to New Orleans and my main criteria was timing: I knew I didn't want to go during Mardi Gras, Superbowl Week, jazz festival or hurricane season (either too crowded or too risky, weather-wise). So when I saw a trip advertised in the Sur La Table catalog as "Tasting New Orleans" and that they were offering the 4-day, 3-night tour in January, the timing was perfect and I jumped at it.
It was actually more like a 2.5 day tour. Our first event was Monday night as a meet-and-greet at St. Marie Hotel's Vacherie Restaurant. We got a horse-drawn carriage ride around the French Quarter from our hotel on Bourbon St. to Vacherie where Elizabeth Pearce, a culinary historian, told us some good local stories.
Afterward, we were on our own and I met up with a friend who lives in town. I had e-mailed her a list of foods I had to try (mostly desserts, of course) while I was in New Orleans and one of them was Bananas Foster. Her husband suggested Palace Cafe which was owned by Brennan's, the restaurant that invented Bananas Foster in 1951. How could we go wrong?
Turns out we couldn't. We met at Palace Cafe on Canal St and got a front table by the window overlooking the street. Later on, we saw some of the Mardi Gras floats being transported in preparation for the upcoming parade. I got a steak and shrimp entrée but truthfully I was looking forward to dessert.
It didn't disappoint. The waiter prepared the Bananas Foster table-side – heat the skillet, melt the butter and brown sugar, add the banana liqueur then the bananas until they caramelize but are still firm.
Of course, the whole point of getting Bananas Foster is setting the dessert on fire once you add the rum. Although alcohol's not my thing, I have no problem with it being set aflame for a cool-looking dessert.
The Bananas Foster was amazingly yummy. It was a great way to start off a culinary adventure.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup banana liqueur
4 bananas, cut in half
lengthwise, then halved
1/4 cup dark rum
4 scoops vanilla ice cream
Combine the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a flambé pan or skillet. Place the pan over low heat either on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan.
When the banana sections soften and begin to brown, carefully add the rum. Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum. When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream. Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately.
Read more about The Pastry Chef's Baking trip to New Orleans here.
Raised on "Southern Living" recipes, sweet tea, and homemade pie crust, my bar for Southern-inspired cookbooks is set high. The Sweet Magnolias Cookbook, written by novelist Sherryl Woods with assistance from chef Teddi Wohlford, lived up to my expectations.
The book is based on recipes mentioned, or highlighted in the "Sweet Magnolias" book series, by Ms. Woods. The cookbook references characters from the novels, and is organized by events or activities that feature in the books.
From appetizers to dinner recipes, the cookbook captures everything from a girls' night out on the town to the menu of the book's fictional Sullivan's Restaurant. The section titled "Mama Cruz's Recipe File," feels like the recipes an old family friend or a favorite aunt would lend you.
Most of the recipes are straight-forward, made with simple ingredients. There are several go-to entries that would come in handy in most kitchens. There's a how-to for a dry corn muffin mix that can be made up ahead of time and stored for several months, a basic Hollandaise sauce, a simple salsa, and several quick recipes for smoothies and iced tea with only three or four ingredients and a few steps.
There's a version of almost every dish you would want to see in a Southern cookbook; two options for macaroni and cheese, the requisite dozen biscuit and scone ideas, several recipes that incorporate grits, and a peanut butter pie that looks divine.
But beyond the classic family favorites, the book is balanced with quirkier, more inspiring dishes such as Southern-style crab cakes from the brunch section, pork-stuffed tamales, Vadalia onion canapés, and cinnamon roll bread pudding topped with whipped vanilla bean creme.
I tried several recipes from the cookbook. First I made the three-cheese macaroni casserole, which I served with meatballs, and a salad for a weeknight meal. I've tried many macaroni and cheese recipes – from Martha Stewart's take, to the recipe that comes on the back of the box of pasta – and this one, quick to assemble and on the cheesier end of things, may be a contender for my all-time favorite. I also made the black bean chili recipe. A bit doubtful at first, I put my trust in Ms. Wohlford and the packet of El Paso chili seasoning called for in her recipe. In about 30 minutes I had a pot of perfectly seasoned, just spicy enough chili. I served it with a classic side from my Southern family – Jiffy corn muffins made from the box.
But for a true test of the book, I chose two recipes from one of the longest sections, invited a few friends over, and saw how "The Sweet Magnolias Cookbook" fared for Sunday brunch. I made crustless broccoli and three-cheese quiche, and cranberry-orange scones with orange glaze; I modified both slightly and prepared them partially ahead of time. Paired with a quick fruit salad, and a side of bacon, brunch was a success! And "The Sweet Magnolias Cookbook" has officially earned it's spot next to my "Southern Living" cookbooks.
Crustless broccoli and three-cheese quiche
2 cups milk
4 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup biscuit baking mix (such as Bisquick)
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped, steamed crisp-tender broccoli
1 cup canned French-fried onions (optional, see instructions)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Grease a 10-inch quiche pan (or tart pan or deep pie pan)
3. In a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer on low speed, blend together the first five ingredients.
4. Stir in broccoli, French-fried onions, and the three grated cheeses. Transfer mixture to the prepared quiche pan. (Note: The French-fried onions struck me as a little too green-bean Christmas casserole-y, so I opted for about 1/2 a small onion, diced.)
5. Place in the center of the oven. Bake 45-50 minutes, until center is set and top is golden brown. (Note: My quiche baked for less time than the recipe called for, about 40 minutes. It rose a lot as it baked, but deflated a bit as it cooled.)
6. Remove from oven, let stand 5 minutes before serving.
To prep the quiche ahead of time, I cooked the broccoli, chopped the onion, and measured out the cheeses. The next morning I made the egg and milk mixture quickly, and was ready to go.
Cranberry-orange scones with orange glaze
Makes 12 large scones
2-1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Grated zest of 2 oranges
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (which I never have, and sometimes use pumpkin pie spice as a poor substitute)
1/2 cup (one stick) cold cubed butter
3/4 cup pecan pieces (I substituted walnuts which I had on hand)
3/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries (such as Craisons)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1. Combine first 7 ingredients, whisk together to mix.
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
3. Using a handheld pastry blender or food processor, cut in butter until the butter is the size of small peas. (Dicing the butter into small chunks first really is helpful.)
4. Stir in pecan pieces and cranberries. Make a well in the center of the dough.
5. Pour whipping cream into center of the well. Blend until dough comes together, but do not overmix. (I used a wooden spoon to stir everything together and my hands a bit at the end.)
6. On a lightly floured surface, divide dough in half, and form each half into a 6-inch circle. (About a 1/2-inch thick.) Note: You can wrap the dough in Saran Wrap at this point, and refrigerate overnight. Cut each circle into 6 pie-shaped wedges (I used a pizza cutter for this). Place 2-inch apart on a greased or parchment-line baking sheet.
7. Bake 15-18 minutes until tops are golden brown and centers of scones test done. Prepare glaze while scones are baking. Note: It may just be my oven, but my scones were done in less than 15 minutes. Set your timer for 10 minutes, and monitor them closely.
8. Remove from oven, and transfer scones to a cooling rack.
2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar (mine was not sifted)
Grated zest of 1 orange
2-3 tablespoons orange juice
Start with 1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar and orange zest in a small bowl. Add a few drops of orange juice at a time, and stir or whisk constantly to combine. Continue adding orange juice and confectioner's sugar until you have enough glaze, and it's quite thick. Adding the ingredients slowly will keep the glaze from getting lumpy. Do not use too much orange juice.
Persimmons are the brightest spot in the barren, winter "fruitscape." Sure, citrus is there, but I miss the reds, pinks, peach, blues, plums, purples and greens of summer bounty.
But then there are these bright beauties, orange and smooth and shiny, with their frilly green caps. I have a tendency to overbuy, because I am so excited about a fresh winter fruit. And I am not always sure what to do with them. Sometimes they sit happily on my counter, making me smile at their lovely color and sheen until I’ve missed their usable moment.
My simple, delicious solution is to make this slightly sweet, moist, persimmon-rich bread.
Fuyus are the squat persimmons, and best for baking. Cut out the green stem end, cut into chunks and purée them in the blender or food processor. Persimmon bread is a particular treat slathered with Meyer Lemon Curd.
Makes 1 loaf
1 cup persimmon puree (from 3 – 4 ripe Fuyu persimmons)
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Grease a standard loaf pan.
Cut out the stem of each persimmon and cut into chunks. Purée the persimmons in a food processor or blender with 2 tablespoons water.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the persimmon purée and beat until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add flour mixture to batter and beat until smooth.
Pour into a loaf pan and bake at for 50-60 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool well before slicing. Well wrapped, the bread will keep for a few days.
Related post on The Runaway Spoon: Meyer Lemon Curd
I suppose I should be posting recipes that help people keep their New Year’s resolutions, not actively attempt to break them. That will have to wait for another day.
I’m currently testing cupcake recipes for a friend’s wedding. These passed the test. The last time I made cupcakes for a wedding I vowed only to do one wedding every two years.
I’m a woman of my word, it turns out.
The original recipe for these cupcakes comes from some sort of Food Network cupcake challenge, but I’ve modified it to suit my tastes. (And the happy couple, of course.)
If you make them yourself, let me know how they turn out!
Sweet potato cupcakes
Makes 18 – 24 cupcakes
2 cups mashed and cooled sweet potatoes, or one 16-ounce can
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
Cinnamon sugar, if desired
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and line a few cupcake tins with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, and nutmeg. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and eggs. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients and then the sweet potato purée.
3. Fill each cupcake tin cup three-quarters full of batter. Bake until the tops spring back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean – 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool.
4. Once cooled, frost the cupcakes with the frosting, top with candied pecans, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Brown sugar frosting
Frosts 18 – 24 cupcakes
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Beat the cream cheese until creamy. Add the butter and beat until well incorporated.
2. Add the light brown sugar and beat until fluffy, then stir in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, beating until combined. Add the vanilla extract until fully incorporated.
Makes 4 cups
Canola/vegetable oil, for greasing
1 egg white
4 teaspoons water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound chopped pecans
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with oil.
2. Beat the egg white in a bowl until frothy, then whisk water and the vanilla extract into the egg.
3. Stir the sugar, cinnamon, and salt into the egg mixture, then stir in the chopped pecans until they’re fully coated.
4. Spread the pecans onto the baking sheet and bake in 20 minute intervals, stirring the pecans before placing them back in the oven. Continue baking for about an hour.
5. Allow the pecans to cool on the baking sheet.
Related post on nestMeg: Mint Chocolate Cupcakes
Like many young 20something couples, my husband and I spent a good amount of our time, energy, and income on accumulating stuff. We needed the stylish duvet from Pottery Barn, the flatware set from Crate and Barrel, and the clothes from JCrew.
When we married, we registered for the long list of items the registry guide told us we needed, fully believing that we would find frequent use for that fondue set and the espresso maker with the milk foaming wand. We gathered our items and checked them off the list of things we were "supposed" to have as well-equipped adults. We were consumers to the utmost degree.
But, recently, there’s been a major shift in how we handle our "stuff management." I don’t know if it’s come with parenthood or age or just a general change of perspective, but we now purge, rather than collect. A few months ago, the microwave broke. I liked the counter space better than the microwave, so we didn’t replace it, and we’ve been totally fine since.
The Blu-ray player broke a few months before that. We dropped it off at the place for recycled electronics and left the shelf empty. This past summer, we sold a good portion of the books and DVDs we’d accumulated over the years and have been thankful for the reduced clutter. Neglected toys and outgrown clothing, we regularly donate to our local rescue mission.
And what we "need" has changed, too. Gone are our days of overpriced, trendy bedding and clothing. We buy mostly everything from Target now and when our Dyson vacuum, which served us well for many years, finally bit the dust, we replaced it with a bargain-priced Bissell. And you know what? It’s done the job just fine. Our priorities have shifted. We just don’t want the same things we used to think we needed; things which take up too much space in our lives and leave wanting holes in our budget.
A week ago, we made what was probably the biggest cut of all. We pulled the plug on the cable. Now, for people who are as serious about our TV-watching as we are, this is a humungous deal. We’d been toying with the idea for awhile. While we love our cable, seeing that bill every month was torturing us. We’d just rather have that money in our pockets. Liam cried when we told him what we were about to do. That alone may have signified that it was the right decision to make.
We kept our Netflix and through the convenience of modern technology, we are able to hook our computer up to the TV to get our weekly fix of "Downton Abbey" and our favorite network shows. I’ve felt no emptiness in my life without cable. In fact, life feels beautifully simpler now.
When I told my mom I was making this loaded nacho chicken for dinner, she giggled at me, "The Gourmand Mom," breading chicken breasts in crushed tortilla chips. But, hey, no one ever said that good food needed to be complicated or utilize fancy ingredients. Simplicity can be positively blissful. The tortilla chips in this dish provide a fun variation on a basic breaded chicken breast. The tortilla coated chicken breasts are then topped with warm, delicious chile con queso, and a generous dose of nacho toppings for a vibrant dish the entire family will enjoy.
Focus on Technique – Basic Breading Procedure
A basic breading technique can be used to coat veggies, meats, or seafood with a crispy, flavorful exterior. It is often used to prepare foods for pan-frying, but works swimmingly for baking as well. Foods can be breaded with basic seasoned bread crumbs, Panko bread crumbs, or any variety of crushed crackers or even chips! Properly breading foods is a three step process.
First, dredge the food in a bit of flour. Second, dip the item in a simple bath of eggs whisked together with a touch of milk. Third, press the food into your dry breading, until thoroughly coated. The flour adheres easily to the food. The egg adheres to the flour. The breading adheres to the egg. To prevent your fingers from getting breaded in the process, it’s a wise idea to handle the wet ingredients with one hand, while using the other hand for the dry ingredients. Once breaded, your food can be pan-fried in a bit of oil until golden brown and cooked through or oven baked for a lighter result.
Loaded nacho chicken
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon milk
2 cups corn tortilla chips, finely crushed
3/4 cup chile con queso dip (store-bought or homemade)
Black olives, sliced
Black beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 green onions, sliced
1 tomato, diced
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Season the chicken breasts with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. To set up your breading station, spread the flour onto a plate. Whisk the eggs and milk together in a small baking dish or bowl. Spread the crushed tortilla chips onto a plate. Dredge each chicken breast in the flour, then dip in the egg mixture. Finally, press the chicken into the tortilla chips until well coated. Place the coated chicken breasts in a baking dish. Cook for 25-35 minutes, until the chicken reaches 165 degrees F, as measured with an instant-read meat thermometer.
To serve, top the cooked chicken with a generous helping of warm chile con queso and a sprinkle of black beans, black olives, tomatoes, green onions, or your other favorite nacho toppings.
Related post on The Gourmand Mom: Buffalo Chicken Pasta Bake
One can never have too many healthy and easy dinner ideas. As you may also know, I love flexible dinner solutions and recipes. This one uses up some leftovers from previous meals, but the variations are almost endless.
I had made this delicious soup created by Joanne Eats Well with Others (but I added roasted squash to the mix) and had beans and squash leftover that I wanted to use up. Not that I mind. There are a-million-and-one things a person can do with those beans and squash and having them cooked and ready to go is a big bonus.
Don’t worry though, if you don’t like squash or black beans or you simply don’t have them on hand, you can make this recipe with just about anything. (See below for suggested options.) The version you see in the photo is made by simply warming up the squash and beans in a frying pan, adding a few spices … and magic happens. Delicious magic!
As for my love of substituting, this recipe does not disappoint.
-Don’t have squash: Try it with roasted sweet potato or kale and sauteed onions.
-Don’t have black beans: Try it with white beans or any other kind of bean for that matter.
-Beet Bruschetta, though very nontraditional, would make a great topping on these crispy tostadas.
-Want to make it dairy free? Leave out the sour cream garnish.
-Love lots of cheese? Add feta or goat cheese.
-Don’t have sprouts: Sub in arugula or spinach.
-Do you know someone who couldn’t bare to eat these without meat? Add in pulled pork, chicken or seared Ahi Tuna.
The possibilities are endless. I’ve even made these with sautéed kale, onions, and paprika spiced crispy potatoes and lots of yummy salsa.
Squash and black bean tostadas
Makes 2 tostadas
1 cup roasted squash, cubed (pumpkin, butternut, acorn or even cubed sweet potato)
1 cup cooked black beans
1/2 tablespoon oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
salt to taste
1 teaspoon lemon juice or 1/4 of a lemon
1 green onion, finely sliced
1/2 avocado, sliced or make into guacamole
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
salsa and sour cream to serve
Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add oil, squash and beans. Sprinkle on the cumin and chili powder. Stir the beans and squash, being careful not to mash them up, until they are heated through and the spices have been mixed throughout. Season with salt. Squeeze a 1/4 of a lemon wedge over the bean mixture right before serving.
To serve, add sprouts or greens on the tostada and top with the squash and bean mixture. Add sliced avocado, half the cilantro, and half the green onions. Serve salsa and sour cream along side.
Homemade baked tostadas: I don’t like the kind we have available at the store so we make our own by simply baking organic corn tortillas on a baking sheet for 10-12 minutes at 425 degrees F. I’ve even found some yummy organic sprouted corn tortillas that crisp up great in the oven. If your tortillas want to curl up (as they sometimes do), place a weight on them while they bake. I use a metal jar lid filled with beans.
Related post on Beyond the Peel: Whole Food Wednesday: Glazed Beet and Chevre Bruschetta
Teaching children to make good choices is one of the greatest responsibilities and most intense challenges of being a parent. Young children are clever, creative, and sneaky; oh so sneaky. Succeeding at this task requires the snooping skills of Sherlock Holmes, the vigilance of an air traffic controller, and the patience of Mother Teresa.
You must watch, wait, anticipate, and react. You must act quickly to intervene before irreversible damage is done and you must sniff out clues like Scooby Doo to unravel mysteries. And most importantly, you must maintain a straight face; calm, but firm and consistent; in the face of discipline. But kids are devious and unpredictable. Don’t be fooled by their sweet little button noses and soft, furry backs. They are constantly testing their limits and devising new methods for mischief. Stay sharp, captain.
My husband and I should have known something was up when we noticed that the stack of plastic kid plates was diminishing. We knew it was peculiar. And yet we just shrugged our shoulders in puzzled confusion and moved on. But all misdeeds come to light eventually, as did the mystery of the missing plates.
It started when I was changing the baby’s diaper. I laid him down on the carpet which sits in the center of our living room. In the center of that carpet is a large trunk-style coffee table, with legs that raise it about three inches off the floor; just high enough for toys and things to slip beneath, but not tall enough to easily vacuum under. In the position I was in, sitting on the carpet with the baby, I saw what had previously been hidden.
Peeking out from the edge of the table were the two plates I’d served the boys breakfast on, which they ate at their snack tables in front of the aforementioned coffee table. A small pile of discarded scrambled eggs sat on one of the plates. I scolded the boys for their lazy behavior and asked them if they thought we lived in a barn (’cause that’s what you’re supposed to say, right??). They hung their heads in appropriate shame and brought their plates to the sink.
In retrospect, I don’t know why I didn’t put the pieces together at that point. I should have peeked under the table, but I didn’t. We moved on with our day. Then dinner time came along and I served the boys some of my new Asian sticky wings. Chicken wings don’t make frequent appearances on our menu, so I’d anticipated some normal apprehension. When serving something unfamiliar, I make a practice of always including something known and loved on the boys’ plates, so everyone has a chance to fill their bellies with something they like, while also having the opportunity to try something new.
I don’t make a big deal about finishing everything on their plates or eating big portions of food they don’t enjoy. I only ask that they take a small taste of each new item, with the idea that over time, as their taste buds mature, they will enjoy a wide variety of foods. No pressure. So, what happened next never should have happened.
Liam stood up with his dinner plate, proud to show me that he’d eaten everything on it and making a point that he was going to put it properly in the sink. The rice, the sugar snap peas, the yogurt, and the chicken wings were all gone. You catch that?? The chicken wings were all gone. “Where are the bones?” I asked. “Huh…the bones?” came his innocent reply. “Yes, the bones. Where are the bones?” And then he proceeded to explain that he’d eaten the bones.
Clever lady that I am, I knew this could not be the case. I had a hard time keeping that ever-important straight face by this point. I knelt by the edge of the table to find the discarded chicken wings before the dog did. I found those wings under the table. I also found five of the kids’ plates. Another mystery solved, Scooby.
But the wings…the wings are delicious, even if Liam wasn’t interested in them. I’ve been watching what I eat in the new year, but whereas in the past I’ve messed up by going all-in from the start, then losing steam, I’m trying to take a more long-term balanced approach this time. I’m making smart choices most of the time, but not denying myself the opportunity to enjoy some good food and drinks when the opportunity is ripe, like during a girls’ night out with my besties. On our most recent girls’ night out, at one of our favorite local joints, we ordered the Asian sticky wings, which became the inspiration for this recipe.
Healthy goals in mind, these wings are baked, rather than fried. I tried two different techniques in search of the crispiest result. While the resulting crispiness of the winning technique doesn’t quite match what you’d get from a fryer, they come pretty darn close. The secret is baking the wings on top of a rack, so that the excess juices drip below the wings, allowing the skin to become firm. A final few minutes under the broiler seals the deal with a golden brown exterior. Once cooked, the wings are tossed in a sweet Asian-style sauce, which has been reduced into a sticky, delicious glaze. They’d make a perfect addition to any Super Bowl menu!!
Focus on technique – reductions
Cooking a flavored liquid by reduction is a method used in order to thicken the liquid and intensify flavors. It is typically used to prepare glazes and full-flavored sauces. To reduce a liquid, simply bring it to a boil in an uncovered pan. As the liquid evaporates, the remaining sauce will become thicker and more flavorful. It’s a wonderful technique for elevating the flavor-profile of a sauce. Using a pan with a wider base will spread the liquid over a greater surface area and increase the rate at which a liquid reduces.
Baked Asian sticky wings
Approximately 2 dozen chicken wings and legs
Juice from 1 orange (approximately 1/3 cup)
Zest from 1 orange
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/3 cup soy sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons sambal oelek (or crushed red pepper, to taste)
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1-inch ginger root, grated (or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger)
Sliced green onions and sesame seeds, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Set a rack on top of a baking sheet. Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer on top of the rack. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 40 minutes, then turn on the broiler. With the chicken several inches below the broiler, cook for 5 to 10 more minutes, until the exterior is golden brown and crisp.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the glaze. Combine the orange juice, zest, honey, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and sambal oelek in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a bubbling boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Allow the mixture to bubble away, uncovered, for approximately 10 minutes until the mixture has thickened to a glazy consistency. Taste and adjust flavor with additional honey, if a sweeter result is desired.
Toss the cooked wings in the warm glaze, then garnish with sesame seeds and sliced green onions. Serve with rice and/or steamed sugar snap peas.
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I had decided on these cookies the day before the NFC Championship game. I adapted them from Hugs & Cookies but added Milky Way Caramels and am re-naming them Black Gold Cookies in honor of the NFC Champs, the San Francisco 49ers.
I've been a 49er fan since the 1982 NFC Championship game, 49ers vs the Cowboys, when Joe Montana threw the winning touchdown to Dwight Clark, aka The Catch. I've hung in there with the Niners over the years through thick (Montana, Clark, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, Ronnie Lott, Steve Young, Coach Bill Walsh) and thin.... and thin and emaciation (we won't name names for these periods). We're getting back into "thick" territory again with a trip to the Super Bowl this weekend! So cookies in their honor seem apropos.
Why black gold? Because that's what chocolate is, of course. At least to me. But to make it more color literal, I added the Milky Way caramels and you can just see liquid gold peeking out from this cookie. This is a pretty rich cookie – we're talking 5-mile-run-afterward kind of cookie. As with most chocolate cookies, I actually prefer these at room temperature when the chocolate has a chance to set.
Try to cover the caramels with the cookie dough as much as feasible so the caramel doesn't leak out too much during baking. A little peeking out looks pretty, a lot makes for overly chewy caramel once it's baked. The dough is rather soft but does become more firm as the melted chocolate chips cool in the batter. You want to scoop these out fairly soon after mixing the dough so it doesn't become too difficult to portion them out into dough balls.
Black gold 49ers cookies
1 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Milky Way caramels, chopped
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
2. Melt the 8 ounces of chocolate chips in the microwave or in a double boiler over hot water until smooth. Let cool slightly.
3. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla. Set aside. With an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy, about one minute. Beat in the sugars.
4. Mix in the beaten egg and vanilla until incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and beat until combined. Add the dry ingredients on slow speed. Fold in the chocolate chips and Milky Way caramels.
5. Scoop into dough balls and chill for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
6. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cookies have just begun to set with the centers still appearing very soft. They will firm up as they cool. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for at least five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
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I fell in love with this easy to make and “hits the sweet spot just perfectly” coconut rice pudding about 5 years ago. It’s almost a fool proof recipe, made from pantry staples. Before this website ever existed and before my whole food journey began, there was this rice pudding. The only change I’ve made to it since is the type of sweetener I use. I like that I can make endless versions of this based on my mood and what I have on hand.
If you’re new to whole foods, trying to limit the amount of pastries, cakes or chocolates you eat may be challenging. And eliminating all treats may have you doing a bakery drive by like some crazy person. If you’re just starting to reduce the amount of processed foods or sugar in your diet, this type of craving can hit hard. And you know what else? It happens to most decent people. It really does. At least in the beginning.
In fact, I had a moment like this, the day I discovered this rice pudding. The only thing was, there was no bakery or pastry shop in sight. In fact, no store of any kind. I was living at a fire tower in Northern Alberta, over an hour's drive away from anything store-like and unable to leave the tower (on call almost 24 hours a day), I needed to think fast. I had run out of eggs, had no milk, or dairy for that matter, no chocolate and I really needed a “sweet fix.”
This is the dessert that saved me. It now makes a regular appearance and in fact, I make a big batch and freeze individual portions for quick easy dessert solutions when, and if, a sweet tooth decides to hit. Now I know it’s no slice of triple layer chocolate cake iced with chocolate ganache. That’s kind of the point. It’s mildly sweet, slightly nutty and won’t leave you feeling that “post sugar binge regret.” In fact, I’ve even had this for breakfast!
Notes on sugar or rice substitutions, including adding some lovely spices, will follow in the recipe notes. Also there’s a recipe for caramelized bananas. I buy my sprouted brown rice from Costco. Sprouted rice has higher nutritional values due to the fact that it is sprouted, meaning alive, before it is dried and packaged. In fact all my baking flour is sprouted and we also enjoy a sprouted bean mixture.
Here’s a good post if you’re interested in learning more about sprouted brown rice.
Coconut rice pudding
2 cups sprouted brown rice
2-1/2 cups water
1-1/2 cups coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup palm sugar (also known as coconut sugar)
Add all the ingredients to a large pot. Bring the rice to a boil, cover with a lid and reduce heat to gentle simmer for 45 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes during the last 10 minutes of cooking process. Add water if the rice is beginning to dry out or begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, adding 1/2 cup of water at a time.
Recipe Notes: If you choose to use a different type of rice, you will probably need to adjust the ratio of liquid to rice. Sprouted rice requires less water to cook. Just keep your eye on it during the simmering process and add more as needed. When you first make this, you want it to be slightly runny, like warm pudding. The rice will absorb a lot of the moisture if it is allowed to cool overnight. Reheating the rice pudding the next day will most likely require you to add more water. I added a cup of water the next day during the reheating process. Different types of rice also have different cooking times. Adjust accordingly.
Sugar Substitute: Use any amount of sweetener you need to make it taste good to you. If you’re new to whole foods you may require more sugar. That’s OK. You can adjust it over time as your need for sugar decreases. I love using honey in this recipe as well. Any sweetener can be used here and add a little bit at a time until you get the desired result. Each type of sweetener will also give a slightly different flavor.
Spices: Cinnamon is a lovely addition, as is cardamom. A 1/2 teaspoon of each or of just one makes for a nice change.
Other Yummy Additions: One of my favorite additions is coconut or cranberries. Both can be added during the cooking process. Don’t underestimate adding roasted cashews, pistachios or coconut ribbons as a garnish which are all completely delicious. Nuts and seeds of any kind are delightful as well. It helps add diversity in the textures which lends to a pleasant mouth feel.
Fruit or yogurt: Serve this with fresh or roasted fruit and/or yogurt.
1/2 banana per person
honey (use maple syrup if vegan)
Preheat the oven to broil. Cut the banana in half and again in half lengthwise. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the banana cut side up on baking sheet. Brush with warm honey or maple syrup. Broil until golden brown on top. About 5 minutes.
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