Sweet Tea Broiled Chicken

Sweet Tea Broiled Chicken1

You guys wanna know one of my favorite things about visiting the South? They have an immense appreciation and respect for sweet tea there.

You can get it in gas stations. You can order it in restaurants. They don’t look at you like you’re cray-cray when you ask for it with no ice.

It’s not like that up here in the North.

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The ‘sweet tea’ they sell in gas stations and grocery stores here isn’t real sweet tea. It’s not. I’ve been to the South. I know the difference.

Here, when I ask the waitress in a restaurant if they serve sweet tea, she gives me this blank stare and says something along the lines of, “Oh,um…we’ve have Lipton’s Lemon Iced Tea, but it’s not really sweetened.”

And then I just order water.

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Don’t judge me, but the closest thing I can get to Southern sweet tea here is the stuff that they sell at McDonalds. It sure isn’t the real thing, but it’s better than the lemon Lipton tea most other joints serve. They do throw me major shade when I ask for no ice, though.

It’s as if they have a problem with someone who’s caught onto their little trick of filling the cup to the brim with ice so that they can skimp on the amount of tea they actually TRY to give.

Nope, nope Buttercup. I’m onto your game.

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I was sitting at home one day really missing Southern sweet tea when I suddenly thought of how interesting it would be to try and cook with it. The way I saw it, a savory dish could really provide a wonderful counter to the sweetness of the tea with the right blend of spices- and the right protein, of course.

Since we are talking about a Southern drink, I thought I’d go with one of the main proteins that’s used in Southern cooking (also my go-to for affordability and ease): the chicken breast.

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I’ve heard of sweet tea brined chicken that’s then deep fried, but for my rendition I thought that I would keep things here healthier and put my broiler to use instead. Plus, I think that this here marinade I’ve put together is pretty tasty all on it’s own without needing the addition of a greasy, crunchy skin coating.

Not to knock fried chicken, though. Fried chicken is always a winner. But this is too. Trust me.

I love when one of my harebrained ideas for the blog actually  pays off, and this is really one of them. Broiling the meat here was just such a good move; soaking it in the tea then placing it underneath the heat of the broiler creates a thin, but slightly crisp, golden sweetened crust on the outside that opens to tender and moist white meat on the inside. Then of course, there’s the charred edges that have that perfect contrast of flavor that ‘almost’ fools you into thinking the meat was grilled.

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If you do decide to make this dish (and c’mon, why wouldn’t you?) then don’t skip the step of step of setting aside the extra cup or so of marinade to make the sauce later on. Because the sweet tea sauce really is the star here. When I ate this dish for dinner, I drizzled some over my vegetables and was a VERY happy camper that night.

Maybe I should start bottling and selling it.

I didn’t make it to last week’s Fiesta Friday and even though I’m late this time around, I’ll still be there for Fiesta Friday #64 this week. Thanks to Angie for hosting, and Ginger@Ginger & Bread and Loretta@Safari Of The Mind.

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Sweet Tea Broiled Chicken

Recipe Courtesy of Jess@CookingisMySport

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Ingredients

  • 3 family sized tea bags (like Lipton Cold Brew)
  • 8-9 cups water
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 5 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

 Directions

1. Place water in heavy pot and bring to a boil.

2. Remove from heat, then place tea bags in pot and allow to steep for about 20 minutes.

3. Add next 9 ingredients and place back over medium heat, allowing to come to a simmer for about 10-15 minutes to allow sugars to dissolve and flavors to combine. Remove from heat and completely cool. Set aside about 1 cup of the marinade to use for later.

4. Divide the chicken breasts between two gallon size plastic bags. Pour even amounts of the remaining marinade over chicken, seal bags and refrigerate overnight or at least one hour.

5. Preheat broiler and spray broiler pan well. Broil chicken until inner temperature reaches 160-165 degrees and outside is browned and slightly charred.

6. While chicken is cooking, pour the reserved unused marinade into a small saucepan and place over the stove over medium-high heat. Allow to reduce and thicken until it makes a sauce to desired consistency. Serve over chicken.

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus2

About 8 or 9 months ago, I bought a Ninja blender.

I don’t know about some of you, but for me, it was what I would consider a pretty big financial splurge. I can’t just go around buying up a $170+ ANYTHING, no matter how much I love my kitchen gadgets. However, there was a major discount in the department store on their kitchen appliances so I was tempted. And once I get tempted, things just typically seem to take off from there.

I reasoned to myself that it wasn’t going to be likely that this blender would ever come at this price again, or at least in the near or distant future. I reasoned that if I did actually ‘treat myself’ and buy it then I’d really and finally get into the whole ‘smoothie/shake’ thing and start taking them with me to work to give myself a nice little health boost. I reasoned that the advertisement said that the blender could actually double as a pretty good food processor as well.

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Long story short, I bought it.

And to make the story even shorter I’ll just come right out and admit: the smoothie health kick thing really didn’t work out. I just…I don’t like them. I’m not a fan of drinking much of anything besides water and coffee to be honest and the idea of drinking ‘meals’ just turns off my appetite almost completely. I probably made like, four smoothies before  I called  it quits and used all the fruit I had bought up for that purpose to just bake a pie.

But I still had the blender.

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Well, I wasn’t about to let my Ninja go to waste. I’ve been using it. Just not as a blender. Mainly it just helps me put together my pie crusts more easily and less messily than I did before by hand.

Oh yeah, and they’re not lying about the quality of that blade, guys. It’s very sharp. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious sharp. As my knicked, cut and sliced open fingers can fully attest to.

Recently, I’ve found a new efficient use for my Ninja blender that gives me new hope that just maybe I wasn’t a sucker that day in the department store when I splurged and bought it.

That new hope is Hummus.

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One thing you should all should know about me and hummus: I’m kinda obsessed with it. It’s the universal condiment; I can eat it on anything. And I do mean ANYTHING.

I’m pretty good at practicing portion control with food in general, but let me tell you something: I have little to no portion control when it comes to hummus. Nothing but the realization that if I don’t stop eating it, I will run out and have to buy more will actually make me stop and put it away.

Good thing it’s pretty healthy all things considered, huh?

Grocery store hummus is ridiculously overpriced, so every time I go to a Middle Easter or Lebanese restaurant, I will try their hummus, just to see what their ‘packing’ so to speak. If the joint has more than one flavor of hummus, that’s a pretty good sign so far as I’m concerned. It means that the owners really have their priorities in order. They know what life’s all about. The best hummus I’ve ever had comes from a Middle Eastern deli in my town called Woody’s Oasis, coming in Regular, Spicy and Garlic flavors. I could eat it every single day for  the rest of my life and never, ever get tired of it. My wallet may be lighter though.

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This is where my Ninja came in. I decided to put that baby to good use and try making hummus of my own at home with one of my favorite ingredients: roasted red pepper.

Now for those that don’t have a Ninja, don’t worry about it: I really don’t think that your hummus will suffer because of the secret weapon in my back pocket that is the KEY to super smooth, creamy hummus every time. Want to know what it is?

Water + Baking Soda. Boiling your chickpeas/garbanzo beans in a combination of the two will peel them for you, eliminating those pesky outer skins that oftentimes result in thick, pasty hummus that no one wants. So whatever you do, do not-DO NOT- skip the step of simmering the chickpeas in the water/baking soda. You’ll live to regret it, I promise you.

Now look: my hummus may not be the hummus from Woody’s Oasis, but I gotta tell you all that I was pretty impressed with myself when I took that first bite.

Because it’s still pretty friggin delicious. So much so that I turned right around and made a second batch almost immediately. Remember? I have no sense of control when it comes to this stuff. But it’s chickpeas, so that makes it okay.

Right?

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Recipe Courtesy of Vitamix.com

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Ingredients

To Peel Chickpeas

  • Water
  • A few tsp. of baking soda

For Hummus

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 ounces roasted red pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for serving
  • ½ cup tahini paste
  • 2 ½ Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 3 cups canned chickpeas, drained and peeled
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • Smoked paprika, optional

 Directions

1. Pour chickpeas into a pot and submerge with water.

2. Add baking soda and bring to a rolling simmer, over medium high heat. The skins should begin to rise to the top.

3. Using a slotted spoon or spider skimmer, remove the skins from the pot and discard. When the chickpeas are just tender (but not mushy) drain them in a colander, then immediately submerge them in cold water. Use your hands and lightly rub them together; the remaining skins should slide off and either float to the bottom or rise to the top. Discard skins.

4. Place the peeled chickpeas, as well as all the other remaining ingredients into a food processor or blender and process on high until smooth and creamy. Drizzle with olive oil and smoked paprika and serve. 

Glazed Chamomile Hot Cross Buns

Chamomile Glazed Hot Cross Buns1

You know how there are some people that you just go back with? I mean way, way, waaaaay back? As in, they’ve known you just about most of your life and no matter how long ago it was, or how much the two of you have changed over the years, you two will always have that ‘Rainbow Connection’ that you know very well you’ll never get with people you meet these days?

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See, I’m like that with food. Certain foods anyway. I’m an introvert with people, but there are a few foods that I bond with on a higher, deeper, more intimate level because they’ve just always been hanging around in the subconscious of my mind for as long and as far back as I can remember. Does that make me weird?

Maybe, but I’m a foodie and I like myself so whatevs.

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Guys, Hot Cross Buns and I are connected. We have a bond. It’s been going on for a while- and I do mean a WHILE. As in, like…twenty years.

You know the funny thing? We’ve never even ‘spoken to’ each other until two days ago. (Meaning two days ago was the first time I actually ate a hot cross bun).

But Jess, I’m sure you’re thinking, how is it possible to be bonded to a food you’ve never even met?

I was just getting around to that.

Me and my sisters has this VHS tape when we were little of a huge collection of British nursery rhymes that we watched a lot. All the time actually. We recently found it on DVD on Amazon and ordered it for my baby niece to watch now.

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I may or may not have watched it by myself to take a walk down memory lane and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was slightly amused at how much the quality of kid’s movies has changed in the last twenty years-in comparison to what’s out there for them now, it’s clear to me that it obviously took so ‘little’ to hold the attention of kids of the 80’s or 90’s. Or maybe we just weren’t missing what we didn’t have, I don’t know. But somewhere in between my nostalgia and amusement, my attention was suddenly caught by one of the nursery rhymes in the movie called ‘Hot Cross Buns’. I’m sure most of you guys know it.

It’d been twenty years since I last saw the tape, but sure enough, I still remembered the music and words to the rhyme. Some things you just don’t forget. I’d like to pretend that my recollection was due to pure nostalgia but…no. It was  more than that. See during the particular scene , there’s an English baker guy walking across a bridge with a tray of piping hot hot cross buns singing the nursery rhyme while holding out one to the camera/audience. And they look really delicious. I remember thinking, “Wow, I’d REALLY like to try one of those.”

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Then it hit me: I could remember wanting to try one before.

You guys see what I’m getting at here?

It was the food, or rather the memory of wanting that food that made me form a connection to hot cross buns that’s spanned a period of over twenty years. Now THAT’S  what I call a craving. If a craving lasts for over 20 years, then you just have to honor it- you’ve suffered and deprived yourself long enough, am I right?Am I RIGHT?

Fortunately hot cross buns are kind of a popular thing to make this time of year. I found a recipe on The Kitchn website rather easily, but I decided to make several changes to it to make it my own, using chamomile tea in the dough instead of Earl Grey (because it’s what I had at the time). I also topped the buns off with some melted orange marmalade I had sitting around the pantry, and piped the cross myself (yes, I know my piping skills are abysmal. You didn’t have to bring it up).

I gotta say guys…these babies were well worth the 20 year wait. Yum, yum, and more YUM.

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OMG, I just remembered: I get to co-host this week’s Fiesta Friday #62 with Prudy@ButterBasilandBreadcrumbs who is basically one of my favorite people ever! And I get to bring these Hot Cross Buns to the party? I don’t know who’s more lucky- you or me.

Tell you what, while I sit here and try to figure it out, why don’t you mosey on over to our brand spankin’ new Party Hall and join in the festivities? We’d love to have you- and any food you’d care to bring and share with us!

(And as always, let’s hear it for our gracious host Angie@TheNoviceGardener. Thanks for asking me to host again Angie- it’s always a real treat.)

Glazed Chamomile Hot Cross Buns

Recipe Adapted from The Kitchn

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Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 Chamomile tea bags
  • 1 (1/4 ounce) packet of dried yeast
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Pumpkin Pie spice
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1/2 cup currants or raisins
  • Orange Marmalade, for glazing
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar
  • Milk

 Directions

Bring the water to a boil on the stovetop or in the microwave. Remove from heat and steep the tea bags in the water for 15 minutes. Remove the tea bags, squeezing as much liquid as possible out of them and discard. Let the tea cool until it is lukewarm (about 100°F).

In a small bowl, stir together the brewed tea, yeast, sugar and 1/2 cup of the flour. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Heat the butter and milk together in a small saucepan over a low heat until the butter has just melted; remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Whisk in the egg.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the remaining flour, salt, mixed spice, lemon zest, orange zest and currants. Pour the tea mixture and the milk mixture over top. Stir together until there are only a few floury patches remaining. Tip the contents of the dough out onto a work surface and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes.

Clean the large mixing bowl and grease with some oil. Place the dough in the bowl, cover with oiled plastic wrap, and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Divide the risen dough evenly into 12 pieces and roll them into balls. Place onto a parchment-lined baking tray spaced a few inches apart. Slash a cross into the top of each bun using a sharp knife or razor. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and leave to rise for 30 minutes until doubled in size. While the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Beat remaining egg in a small bowl, then brush the risen buns all over with beaten egg.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown all over. While buns are baking, heat orange marmalade in microwave until runny. After taking the buns out of the oven while they are still warm, brush them with melted marmalade and allow to completely cool.

Combine powdered sugar with a few teaspoons of milk in  a pastry bag or plastic bag with the tip cut off. Pipe a cross across the buns and allow to set/harden.

Market Fresh Cornbread

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Up until now, there are only two cornbread recipes that I’ve ever used. Just two.

The first default choice is my grandmother’s recipe, which is one I’ve shared on the blog before. We use it for the ‘bread’ part of every family dinner that we have, and also use it for the base of our special family dressing that we make every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Keeping it true to our Southern roots, it’s non-sweet, mainly cornmeal based and rather crumbly in texture. There is a very simple explanation for this: it’s friggin marvelous.

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The second recipe that I’ve used and actually been pretty satisfied with, is one I found on Allrecipes.com. It’s a ‘Northerner’ recipe that’s rather sweet with a more even ratio of flour to cornmeal. As a result, the crumb is more finer than my grandma’s. It’s pretty tasty I’ll admit, and when I’m trying to aim for a cornbread that caters to my more “Northern” tastebuds, I’ll throw it together on the quick.

And just in case you were wondering…no. I don’t do Jiffy Mix. It’s nothing personal, I don’t even think Jiffy Mix tastes that bad. But…no.

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I’m stuck up when it comes to my cornbread guys. The truth is, most of the time it’s a hit-or-miss game. And I can think of very few other things that are  more depressing to me than cornbread that is a big fat ‘miss’.

I really didn’t think I’d ever be saying this, but with my recent Christmas gift of Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s newest cookbook “Marcus Off Duty,” I think I’ve found a third cornbread recipe that I’m actually going to be willing to keep on my super exclusive roster. The almost immediate appeal to me was finding out that this is the recipe for the cornbread that is served at Marcus’ Harlem restaurant Red Rooster- a place that is on my Food Bucket List to attend before I buy the farm.

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Word of warning for my Southern friends: this is not exactly what we think of when it comes to ‘cornbread’. In the first place, it’s extremely moist, almost to the point where it melts in your mouth. Secondly, us folks used to Dixie cornbread- and likely some Yankees too- will at best give a double take at the inclusion of ginger, cardamom, chile powder and paprika in a cornbread recipe. At worst, we’ll start a riot.  But just hear me out- I was skeptical too. But it works. It really does. The spices aren’t overpowering at all, and they somehow work REALLY well with the inclusion of the sharp cheddar cheese.

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Oh yeah- and did I mention there’s fresh corn baked into the batter? Cause there is. And it was a really good idea. It gives a special ‘chew’ to the bread that is absent in most other recipes that can result in a bland one-note texture. None of that here, I can assure you.

I think my favorite part of cornbread is the crust that forms on the top and sides while baking. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you’re doing the ‘cornbread’ thing wrong and you should rethink your entire life. This loaf’s crust baked up perfectly.

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All of that being said, I do intend to stick with just these three cornbread recipes for both the near and distant future. Life shouldn’t be TOO complicated. Some things need to be kept simple and stream-lined.  Am I right or am I right?

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Market Fresh Cornbread

Recipe Courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson

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Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp. chile powder
  • 1/8 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cu grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels, including the pulp scraped from the cobs (cut from about 1 large or 2 small ears of corn)

 Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. and generously butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

2. Put the butter, ginger, cardamom, chile powder, paprika, and sugar into a small pot over medium heat and cook until the butter is melted and the spices are fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk and spicy butter together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the cheddar and corn, then fold in the scallions if using.

4. Scrap the batter into the loaf pan. Set the pan on a baking sheet, slide it into the oven and bake until a skewer stuck in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Turn the loaf upside down onto a rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Then lift off the pan.

Curried Chicken Sandwiches

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I’m always a little wary going through a drive through or a sit down restaurant and ordering a sandwich. Why? Because I know that unless I’m able to be standing right there and watching them make my food, there’s a pretty good chance that someone working there is going to get my order wrong. And fewer things tick me off more than someone making a sandwich for me that is made ‘wrong’.

I’ve always been pretty picky when it comes to my sandwiches guys- I’m not like most people.

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In the first  place, I absolutely can’t stand mayo or miracle whip. Never have, never will. To this day, I don’t know how people eat that stuff. The smell alone triggers my gag reflex, which is why I make a special point of requesting it left off any sandwich I get anywhere. In the past I’ve received sandwiches where they put the mayo or miracle whip on anyway. Regardless of the fact that I could have scraped it off, regardless of how much I paid for the food- if they put mayo or miracle whip on it, I WILL throw it out completely. No amount of scraping off can get rid of the smell or the slight, tangy after taste. Just thinking about it is grossing me out, so I’m moving on.

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Another pet peeve of mine is when businesses lay on the condiments that I do like too thick, like oil and vinegar. I understand you want me to taste it, but gol-ly: the bread should not be soaking wet by the time I get back so that it literally ‘squishes’ when I take a bite. That’s gross. My favorite deli place never fails to do this to me so I’ve learned to just leave off any wet condiments at all when ordering and just waiting until I get home to sprinkle my own vinegar on it just the way that I like it.

I usually have to repeat myself in asking for ‘no cheese’ on a sandwich too- it catches a lot of people off guard. Apparently cheese on sandwiches is a pretty popular thing.

I hate those huge tomatoes. Don’t try to put one on my sandwich. I will throw you major shade.

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Come to think of it, usually the only things that I order on most sandwiches is just the meat, lettuce, and MAYBE a few veggies. It’s weird I know, but that’s just how I roll. Having said all that, this recipe may seem to be missing quite a few key components that most people would put on a sandwich. That’s only because it’s made the way that I would like it- don’t take it personally. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what the right kind of cheese would work well with a chicken curry sandwich so I didn’t try. I didn’t include a recipe for a yogurt raita or a mayonnaise based condiment; I’m not a fan of either. I’m giving you guys a sandwich with the bread meat, lettuce, onion and roasted red pepper because that’s exactly how I ate this thing. And to me, that was pretty darn perfect all on it’s own.

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However, feel free to add cheese, tomato, raita, mayonnaise to your heart’s content if that’s your thing. I’ll just be over here with my plain sandwich.

Broiled chicken is really underrated. It can take the plain, ordinary chicken breast and elevate it to the level that it really deserves giving that flavorful, dark char on the outside that looks and tastes really good. So instead of grilling the meat like Bon Appetit did, I broiled it in my oven.  It made the cook time super quick and easy, with wonderful results. The chicken was moist and flavorful from the overnight buttermilk brine that really packed a punch.

(Me and the grill still don’t get along in case you were wondering. )

I’ll be taking these sandwiches to the Fiesta Friday #61 party hosted by Angie and co-hosted this week by  Selma @Selma’s Table and Margy @La Petite Casserole. See you guys there!

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Curried Chicken Sandwiches


Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit.com

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Ingredients

Curry Brine

  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric

Sandwiches

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1 pound), halved horizontally
  • 1/4 recipe Curry Brine
  • 4 large or 8 small slices country-style bread
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 roasted red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped romaine lettuce

 Directions

1. For Curry Brine: combine the buttermilk, kosher salt, black pepper, curry powder, cumin, turmeric.

2. Add chicken and refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours.

3. Preheat broiler and spray broiler pan with non stick cooking spray.

4. Broil chicken until golden brown and slightly charred and juices run clear. (Inner temp of chicken should reach 160°-165°)

5. Layer bread with chicken, onion, red pepper and lettuce. Serve. 

Pulled Chicken with Cherry Chile Barbecue Sauce

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*taps mic*

Is this thing on?

Yeah? So we’re live now? Ok, great, thanks.

Umm…. So.

Hiiiii.

Joker

Assuming that there’s even anybody still left out here, just…hear me out. Cause I can explain my little unexpected blogging hiatus that absolutely came out of nowhere and I gave you guys absolutely no warning for.

I think.

See, what had happened was…

Hey! Have I ever told you all about that time I fell off a merry go round on the playground? No? Story time then.

(Don’t worry, I do actually have a point.)

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It was lunch time ‘recess’ and one of the games that a group of me and my buddies did was to cram as many of us on the merry go round as we could get. The boys would take turns cranking and spinning the wheel (because it was pretty packed and heavy) as fast as the laws of physics would allow. The ‘object’ of the game really was to stay on the merry go round at all costs- because if you didn’t hang on tight, your behind was gonna get pushed off- the ‘other’ part of the game.

Looking back on it, the game sounds pretty dangerous to me now. I mean, any number of unfortunate things could’ve happened; broken limbs, bloody noses, concussions- just to name a few.

But it was very amusing to us at the time. There’s something about being a kid where you literally just don’t conceive of anything like that being able to happen to you.

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I’m somewhat curvalicious now that I’ve reached my adult years, but lemme tell you guys, when I was young, I…wasn’t curvy. At all. My stomach was a garbage disposal and since I had the metabolism of an Olympic athlete, I was just really skinny. I say this to emphasize that during our dare devil game on the merry go round, I was able to really maneuver my way on to the center of the wheel and literally wrap myself through the crannies and bars on the surface, in true contortionist-style. In short, I just usually didn’t get thrown off.

But y’know…all good things eventually come to an end. The fateful day came where I wasn’t able to scramble my way to the center of the merry go round and entangle my limbs around the bars, having to content myself with grabbing a spot on the edge of the wheel. It was stupid of me. I shouldn’t have even bothered joining in the game that day.

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But I did. And I paid the price for it.

In case you guys didn’t know: falling off a rapidly spinning merry go round onto a bed of wood chips really, really, really hurts. And it’s also rather embarrassing when you get laughed at by a playground full of other kids for it.  Just putting that out there.

Where was I? Oh yeah. My point. See the thing is, I’ve been pretty good at maintaining a regular blogging schedule for a while, or so I thought. So long as I was putting out around 2 posts a week, I felt like I was on the right track. Kinda like how for a while, I was pretty good at staying on the merry go round on our recess game back at my old school.

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But the day came where I just wasn’t as good at the game as I had been before, and I fell off the wheel. Just like I’ve fallen off the blogging horse for the past three weeks or so. I fell off, and I fell hard. It sucked. It was embarrassing. The truth is, I don’t even have a straightforward answer or explanation for you guys as to why it happened. I’ve still been cooking. I’ve still been taking pictures. I’ve put together some new recipes I’m actually rather excited to share. But I just…I just couldn’t get out a friggin post. It just would not happen for me. I’d sit here and stare at my computer screen like an idiot until I finally closed out my WordPress dashboard in self-disgust and clicked over to my Facebook or Twitter tab. I’ve still been keeping up with my Blog Reader feed though: I’ve still been seeing all you beautiful people and all your beautiful posts. And that helped.

So here I am. Back with more food. This recipe’s pretty straight forward; chicken breasts you throw in the crockpot with a homemade barbecue sauce of fresh cherries and adobe chiles. It’s your perfect blend of sweet and spicy, and dish you can make when you just don’t feel like being bothered with life. Or you’re a derelict food blogger that needs to get back on the blogging horse…or shall we say, the merry-go round?

(Someone should put that on a t-shirt)

Happy Fiesta Friday #60 to my friends at The Novice Gardener, especially this week’s co-hosts Tracy @Scratch It Cook and Nancy @Feasting With Friends. Big thanks to Angie for getting us our own place too- it looks GREAT :-)

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Pulled Chicken with Cherry Chile Barbecue Sauce

Recipe Courtesy of Epicurious.com

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Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots (about 1 large)
  • 1 tbsp. peeled chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh jalapeno (seeds and membranes removed)
  • Scant 4 cups dark sweet fresh cherries, pitted and de-stemmed (3 cups afterward)
  • Two 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes (no salt added; You’ll only need 1 1/2 cans, save the rest for later use )
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. chipotle chile from a can of adobo chipotle chiles
  • 3 tbsp. Dijon mustard, divided
  • 1 1/4 tsp. chile powder, divided
  • 2 tsp. coarse salt, divided
  • 15 grinds of black pepper, divided
  • 2 tsp. light brown sugar
  • 3lbs. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed (about 8)

 Directions

1. Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the shallots, ginger, and jalapeño and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the cherries, tomatoes, molasses, vinegar, chipotle, 1 tablespoon mustard, 3/4 teaspoon chile powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 5 grinds pepper, and bring to a boil over high heat.

2. Reduce to a simmer over medium heat, and cook until aromatic and thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully transfer half to a blender; purée until smooth, about 20 seconds. Purée the second half until smooth (you should have about 5 1/4 cups). Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, mix 2 tablespoons mustard, 1/2 teaspoon chile powder, 1/2 teaspoons salt, 10 grinds pepper, and the brown sugar in a large bowl; add the chicken and mix well with your hands. Put the chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker and pour 1 1/2 cups of the barbecue sauce on top (reserve the remainder for serving and extras). Cover and cook on low until the meat is cooked through and tender, 4 to 4 1/2 hours.3. Use tongs to transfer the chicken to a cutting board and carefully use a fork to separate the meat from the bones, discarding the bones (you should have about 4 cups meat).4. To serve, stir together 1 cup of the remaining sauce and the shredded meat, and reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.

Asian Turkey Meatballs

Asian Turkey Meatballs

You guys are all seeing the Internet hoopla about “The Dress” aren’t you?

For those that aren’t, you should so you can join in on the conversation. Here ya go: check it out.

See? Now, let’s say it all together. What colors is the dress?

BLUE AND BLACK.

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Wait, what?! I know some of you guys aren’t like Jas and ACTUALLY see white and gold? What’s the matter with you? The Dress is blue and black; blue and black, I tell you!

This actually sparked a debate in my house last night; me and Ashley stand by the assertion that the dress is blue and black. Jas and my mom are convinced it’s white and gold. We were split right down the middle. I just couldn’t see it. I didn’t understand. It was a mystery.

But apparently the whole thing boils down to the ability of the cones in our eye retinas to mix and process colors through out brains. The people that see blue and black have cones that are better able to do this; people that see white and gold have cones that are…different.

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(Ha ha Jas.)

But in all fairness, since last night I have taken another couple looks at the picture (this is all  over social media by now so it’s kind of impossible not to) and I will admit: if I try really, really, REALLY hard…then I can see the dress as white and gold. It’s like mentally flicking a light switch on in my brain and literally ‘forcing’ myself to see white and gold. It only lasts for a few seconds, but it does work. Honestly it reminds me of one of those optical illusion pictures where there are actually two drawings within one and depending on whether or not you’re left brained or right brained, you see one or the other.

My first instinct with this dress will always make me see blue and black, but if I try to, then I can see white and gold.

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I know what you’re thinking: “Jess. What does The Dress have to do with this post?”

I was getting to that. See, this post has been in my Posts folder on the WordPress dashboard for nearly a month. I’ve been purposely passing it over in favor of other recipes and at one point, considered deleting it altogether. It’s not that this is a bad recipe; it’s actually delicious.

The problem was I just didn’t like the way the pictures turned out. Or at least most times, I didn’t.

Photographing brown food is really hard, guys. If you have crap lighting, then forget about; it’s not gonna work. But even under the best lighting circumstances imaginable, there’s still the risk that the dish you’re shooting will turn out looking…not appetizing.

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I did what I could to prevent this from happening; including other colors,making sure my sauce was fresh and shiny and sticky, and creating texture with sesame seeds…but when it was all said and done I still wasn’t sure.

At one point, I would look at these pictures and think that the meatballs looked good. Then the next day I’d look at them and think they looked like….

Well, you get it.

But today I feel like they don’t look too shabby. And considering I DID put in the work in cooking and photographing them, I figure I’d make it worthwhile and just put the friggin post up regardless. You guys be the judge.

Just think of it like The Dress photo; give it a few tries and see if you can see things differently than my more negative/self-depreciating side. Let me know if it works. And if it doesn’t, then do me a favor: don’t feel obligated to point it out. Just don’t tell me. Deal?

Oh yeah and Happy Fiesta Friday #57 at The Novice Gardener.

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Asian Turkey Meatballs

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

For the Meatballs:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cups thinly sliced green cabbage (about 1/4 head)
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 ounces shitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 egg white
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
  • 4 scallions, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 2 -inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha chile sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 head Boston lettuce, leaves separated

Directions

1. Make the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer the cabbage to a plate to cool.

2. Wipe out the pan, then add the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and the mushrooms. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to the plate with the cabbage to cool.

3. Lightly beat the eggs and egg white in a large bowl. Add the pork, scallions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and cornstarch. Add the cabbage, mushrooms and a few grinds of pepper and mix with your hands until just combined (do not overmix). Dampen your hands and shape the meat mixture into 18 balls (about 2 inches each); arrange on the prepared baking sheet.

4. Make the sauce: Mix the hoisin sauce, Sriracha, vinegar, sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a bowl; set aside 1/2 cup for serving. Brush the meatballs with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake until cooked through, 18 to 22 minutes. Serve in lettuce leaves with the reserved sauce.