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Carmelizing Onions

This Bon Appetit post has some great tips about carmelizing onions. This is one of my favorite flavor-boosters, whether on pizza, sandwiches, pasta, soups, etc. It really does take a LONG time to get them browned to the right flavor. These are helpful hints!

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I had pinned this recipe for Pistachio-Citrus Pound Cake from Orangette to save for sometime when I had citrus fruits to use up, and yesterday was the day. She never steers me wrong, especially when it comes to sweets. Though it calls for lime and orange zest, and lemon and orange juices, I think you could be a little flexible with which fruits you used – I added a little lime juice in place of some orange juice just because I love the lime flavor. Citrus works equally well for cold or warm weather flavors, so it’s really a year-round cake.

The cake is very dense and buttery but the citrus keeps it fresh and light. It’s a DELICIOUS cake. Good for packing in lunches or picnics, I’d imagine, because it will hold up well. Great with coffee or tea for breakfast or snack. I’m sure you could dress it up with whipped cream and berries for a fancier dessert but honestly (and it’s not often I say this), it doesn’t really need it! I’m happily adding this to my file for anytime I need to use up some lemons, or when only a tasty tea cake will do.

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Easy Slow Cooker Oatmeal

We love a big warm bowl of hearty oatmeal for breakfast in our house. Apparently so do lots of other people, as I’ve made it a few times, with a large assortment of toppings set out, for brunch company and it’s been a MAJOR hit. As in, more people ate oatmeal than French toast. What?! I’ve seen some recipes for oatmeal cooked overnight in a slow cooker floating around Pinterest and decided to try it for our Christmas morning with my in-laws. I figured a bowl of warm oatmeal and a mimosa would tide everyone over through present opening til we sat down for brunch.

I loved this recipe for Overnight Oatmeal from Alton Brown. I used half almond milk and half water, for a subtle rich nutty flavor. The dried cherries were AMAZING…they got really plump and juicy. I set my slow cooker to 8 hours the first time, and thought the oats got a bit too mushy. I tried 6 hours next , after which the slow cooker switched to ‘keep warm’ mode, and they were better. I will next try having the timer delay cooking until they can cook for 6 hours and not keep warm for long, and I think that might be the winner!

The flexibility you gain by using the slow cooker makes this a great recipe for overnight guests or for rushed weekday mornings. Set out some of our favorite toppings (cream, brown sugar, maple syrup, fresh berries, walnuts) and people will be very satisfied.

West African Peanut Stew

West African Peanut Stew is one of the current favorites at our house. It’s a creamy peanut butter flavored thick soup with cooked veggies (any my additions, below). I love it because I love most things peanut and savory, and it’s VERY easy to make and healthy. Molly loves it because it’s peanut butter so kinda tastes like kid food. And Michael likes it because it’s hearty and filling and super flavorful. It’s a great one-pot dinner with all your protein and veggies built in. I’ve also used this recipe recently when bringing meals to families who are gluten-free.

My adaptations are as follows:

1. Use my favorite chicken shortcut and buy a rotisserie chicken from your usual grocery store. Shred the white meat and add at the very end. The meat is already cooked and flavorful so you really only want to rewarm it – it will get tough quickly if cooked too long or too hot.

2. I add a can of chickpeas (drained) for extra protein and umph.

3. As suggested, serve over brown rice or just stir it in for a thicker meal for kids.

4. Since we aren’t hard core vegetarians, I usually use chicken stock since that’s what I keep stocked at our house. Either chicken or vegetable stock is fine.

About a month ago, I finally made my way through a back issue of Food and Wine that arrived around the same time my baby did…and was sitting gathering dust for a few months. I was hesitant to throw it away because it looked very interesting – an anniversary issue with years worth of ‘best of’ recipes. They did their top 20 recipes for the past (30? I think?) years. Though I don’t often make chicken, I was intrigued by the dish labeled the “Best Chicken Dish” – Roast Chicken with Bread Salad. Considering how many chicken dishes must have been showcased in the magazine over the years, it seemed worth trying.

I made this last weekend when we had friends for dinner. It was amazing. Simply salting (I didn’t have time to add the garlic or thyme under the skin) the chicken overnight produced an extremely crispy and golden brown skin and insanely moist meat. We put the chicken in a cast iron pan on the grill to 500, instead of the oven, since our oven tends to smoke above 425. You pour the pan juices over the bread salad recipe, which is essentially just super delicious croutons. I found them a bit too crispy, and that the chicken didn’t make quite as much pan juice as I wanted. Next time I would add some chicken stock and white wine to the pan juices, simmer a bit, then pour over the croutons so that they are a bit more moist. The flavor, though, was out of this world. If you’re making it for company, be more efficient than I was and follow the ‘make ahead’ directions on the bread salad so that you have very little to do once guests have arrived.

I served it with this Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad which is very flavorful, healthy and can also be made in advance. We had a nice Sauvignon Blanc alongside which was perfect. And a pumpkin pie for dessert, to keep it very fall-ish feeling. All around a really delicious and fun meal to serve for a special occasion!

Chicken Shortcut

We rarely ate chicken in our house until recently, because Michael and I both found that boneless, skinless breasts would get too dried out and we don’t like the taste of leftover chicken. That’s changed recently as we finally got a grill (yay!) and since I’ve started buying rotisserie chickens from the grocery store. We eat lots of soups and stews in the winter, so this is becoming a relevant shortcut again, and I thought I’d share. I pick up a fully cooked (moist, flavorful, delicious) chicken from the grocery store and pick all the white meat off. I either put it in a freezer bag and freeze til needed or dump right into whatever I’m making, if making that day. It’s important to remember the chicken is already fully cooked, so it only needs to warm up in the soup – don’t let it simmer on high for very long or it will toughen up. If it’s not overcooked, it will taste SO much better than if you’d made it yourself in several extra steps!

I have found that the best price and biggest size birds are at Costco. I now pick up a couple every time I go and get them into the freezer as soon as I get home so that I always have some on hand. You can also get the chickens on sale at Harris Teeter every Sunday. I think Whole Foods might have a sale day on them as well… If I had more freezer room, I’d use the remaining chicken parts to make a really delicious stock for the freezer, but until I have a separate storage freezer, that’s unlikely to happen. 

Two of my favorite recipes for using this prepared chicken are Ina’s Mexican Chicken Soup and this awesome recipe for West African Peanut Stew (I add the chicken and a can of chickpeas, neither of which is called for).

Pretzel Scotch Cookies

These Pretzel Scotch Cookies, with chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and pretzel pieces are HANDS DOWN the best cookie dough to eat out of the bowl. And I’ve been making cookie dough for a lot of years. It’s pretty delicious cooked, too. The browning of the butter is a real pain, but it’s definitely worth it. To make it a bit more worth your while, you can double the recipe and freeze half the dough. The cookies are delicious any time of year but something about the butterscotch and pretzel flavors perfect for the fall.