Market Fresh Cornbread

MS Cornbread1

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

Curried Chickeen Sandwich3

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.

Curried Chickeen Sandwich2

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

Pulled Chicken Cherry Chile Sauce1

*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.

Pulled Chicken Cherry Chile Sauce4

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.

Hot Wok Chicken Stir-Fry

Hot Wok Chicken Stir Fry1

You guys know when you go to a Chinese take-out joint, they’ll serve some dishes with creative names? I’ve always really liked that.

I’m looking at a menu from one of the nearby places here where we’ve gone for years at a list of items that they given those ‘special names’. The funny thing about it is that they don’t really describe what the food is; it’s as if they just expect you to know what it is beforehand. I don’t, but I can always speculate:

1) “Eight Parts Delicious”- I’ve never tried this one before. I’ve always been too scared. Why ‘eight parts’? Why not five, or six, or four? Does eight parts mean eight different spices? Eight different vegetables? Eight different meats? (Wait, that’s really probably not it, I can’t even think of eight meats right now).

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2) “Happy Family”- I’m assuming this is just a big assortment of meats and veggies stir-fried together to make one big “happy family” of a dish. It better be for what they’re charging for it. Sheesh.

3) “Phoenix and Dragon”- well, let me see. I couldn’t swear to what the protein in this would be, but I’m going to make a wild guess that whatever it is, it’s pretty spicy. The ‘phoenix’ part can obviously pass for chicken, but what’s the term used for reptiles? Do people even eat reptiles?

4) “Four Seasons”- This one I’m almost positive had four proteins in it. I mean it’s almost too easy: chicken, beef, pork, fish. The REAL question is which protein stands for which season. I’ll think about it and get back to you guys on that one.

Hot Wok Chicken Stir Fry3-Recovered

I got one of my mad, notorious cravings for some Asian stir-fry and rather than just pick up the phone and order in, I remembered that I’m a freakin food blogger and went into the kitchen to fire up my wok instead. That’s pretty impressive for me guys, so you should be giving me a pat on the back.

There really was no rhyme or reason for the ingredients I picked out when planning this recipe. I just used what I knew would be easy, and pretty accessible for most people to get. My protein of choice was chicken (which is par for the course for me), but if you’re more partial to using beef or pork, then feel free to swap it out.

Hot Wok Chicken Stir Fry5-Recovered

I was really very happy with how this dish turned out. There’s the perfect ratio of meat to the veggies, the sauce (although literally thrown together at the last minute) turned out really good, and what’s more the dish can feed a pretty good sized crowd. The only problem I could find with it was when I finished cooking and taking pictures and needed to come up with a good name for it to post on the blog.

See, I really, really REALLY wanted to give it one of those ‘creative’ names I’ve seen in Chinese take-out menus. Don’t ask why, I just wanted to.

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My ‘other’ hobby is writing, so at first I tried to get REALLY out there with this. My first idea was “Buddha’s Delight”, but I seemed to remember hearing of that somewhere else, so I binned it.  Then I thought maybe “Year of the Snake” would be kinda cool since according to the Chinese Calendar, that’s my animal/sign. But I just couldn’t marry the idea of a snake with a dish where the protein is chicken so that was out too. After looking at the pictures from the photo shoot the name “Rainbow Stir-Fry” occurred to me to illustrate all the pretty veggie colors. Then I said it out loud and realized that it sounded stupid.

As you guys can see, the winner didn’t turn out to be all that impressive or creative. My wok stayed pretty hot while I was cooking the dish, and the stir-fry part would also make it pretty obvious what it was to avoid any confusion.

So there you have it: Hot Wok Chicken Stir-Fry. I can promise you that it MORE than makes up for in taste what it lacks in name originality.

I’ll be bringing this over to the Fiesta Friday #56  party hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by  Tina @Mademoiselle Gourmandeand Juju @cookingwithauntjuju.

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Hot Wok Chicken Stir-Fry

Recipe by Jess@CookingIsMySport

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Ingredients

  • 4-5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced thinly into strips
  • 3 tri-color bell peppers (red, yellow and orange), thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups matchstick carrots
  • 8 oz. white mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced
  • 12 oz. broccoli florets
  • 1-2 tbsp. of your favorite stir-fry seasoning
  • Asian stir fry oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. agave nectar or honey
  • 2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • Dried Chow Mein Noodles, optional
  • Egg or vermicelli rice noodles, optional

Directions

1. Heat 1-2 tsp. of Asian stir-fry oil in the bottom of a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add the peppers and carrots and sautee until softened and slightly limp, 7-10 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

2. Add another 1-2 tsp. of stir-fry oil to pan and sautee mushrooms about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and place with peppers and carrots.

3. Season chicken with stir-fry seasoning in a large bowl, stirring to make sure meat is evenly covered. Add additional stir-fry oil to pan and allow to heat. Add chicken to the pan (you may have to do this in multiple batches, don’t crowd it) and sautee until completely cooked through.

4. Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, agave nectar/honey, hoisin sauce and sesame oil in a measuring cup.

5. When all of the chicken is finished cooking, add the peppers, carrots and mushroom mixture back to the pan. Turn heat up to high. Drizzle the sauce into the mixture and stir to combine. (Note: you may not need to use it all depending on how you like your stir-fry seasoned, so taste and adjust accordingly) Continue to cook until all of the liquid in the pan has been absorbed. During the last minute or so of stir-frying add the broccoli to the pan.

6. When stir-fry is completed, sprinkle chow mein noodles on top and serve atop egg noodles or vermicelli rice noodles if desired. 

Red Velvet Brownie Cookies

Red Velvet Brownie Cookies2

Alright.

Let me just get this out of the way real quick.

I’m single. And so naturally, I kicked off this Valentines Day the same way any single person would: filing my taxes.

Because there’s nothing like W-2s, Student Loan Interest statements and the IRS to get you in the mood.

But that refund I’ll be getting in give or take a few weeks? That’s enough to make me smile.

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I think there’s this assumption that single people get bitter, lonely or depressed at Valentines Day, but I’ve never found that to be the case for me. I think it’s great that people want to go out of their way to express love or appreciation for each other today- just as long as it’s a habit that they practice for the other 364 days of the year as well. I think that it’s important for single folks to practice expressing love and appreciation for themselves, and other people in their lives that aren’t spouses or partners.

I also think it would be great if Charlie Hunnam wanted to surprise me with a bouquet of red roses, then take me out for a romantic dinner, decadent dessert, and a walk on the beach. But I have an uncanny premonition that this isn’t going to happen, so I’m deciding to content myself with other slightly more realistic things instead.

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Right now my house smells like a bundle of exotic spices and herbs, and it’s all coming from a Dutch oven of Moroccan chicken tagine that I’m preparing for me and my family’s dinner tonight. There won’t be any romance over the meal, but my stomach’s already starting to growl in anticipation. And just in case you haven’t noticed, I have the decadent dessert on lock too.

I’m talking about rich, fudgy Red Velvet Brownie Cookies guys.

Also one of the best cookies I’ve ever made- and I’ve made more than a few cookies in my life, let me tell you.

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I knew I wanted to do a Valentine’s Day themed recipe for the blog, but was having trouble finding some inspiration. Then I went to Walmart and while I was down the candy aisle, I saw these bags of Red Velvet M and M’s.

Which you know, I just had to have.

But aside from the candy, I started thinking about ways I could incorporate them into a dessert. Cake didn’t seem like a good choice, and brownies ALMOST made it. But I thought that for candies, cookies made more sense. When I had trouble deciding between the two, I figured that there had to be a way to compromise. And wouldn’t you know it, I was right.

Red Velvet Brownie Cookies5

I first got the inspiration for this recipe from a Taste of Home magazine clipping I’d saved for a while. However, the author of that recipe needs to give it some major tweaking; the batter is far too wet and loose for cookies- even fudgy brownie ones. I added an extra cup of flour and chilled the dough overnight to firm it up. Also, I added red food coloring to give it a subtle, but rich red hue. Finally, the Red Velvet M and Ms were  pressed into the cookies the second after I took them out of the oven.

Happy Valentine’s Day AND a very Happy Fiesta Friday #55 to all of us gathering at Angie’s The Novice Gardener. Shout out to  Suzanne @apuginthekitchen and Sue @birgerbird for co-hosting this week; you guys are the real MVPs lol.

Who needs a Valentine when you have these cookies?

…Meh, actually I’d still really love Charlie Hunnam to  be my Valentine and take me out tonight. But I’ll settle for these instead, I guess.

fiesta-friday-badge-button-i-party

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Red Velvet Brownie Cookies

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Recipe Adapted from Taste of Home

Ingredients

  • 2-2/3 cups (16 ounces) 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate baking chips
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • 4 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1- 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 package (11.5 oz. ) semi-sweet chocolate chunks
  • About 1 cup Red Velvet M and M chocolate candies
  • Red food coloring

Directions

1. In a large saucepan, melt chocolate chips and butter over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat; cool until mixture is warm.

2. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla and, if desired, espresso powder until blended. Whisk into chocolate mixture.

3. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt; add to chocolate mixture, mixing well.
Squeeze in desired amount of red food coloring. Fold in chocolate chunks; let stand 10 minutes, then refrigerate overnight or at least for one hour.

4. Preheat oven to 350°. Drop by 1/4 cupfuls 3 in. apart onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake 12-14 minutes or until set.

5. Press M and M chocolate candies into tops of cookies, about 4-5 candies per cookie. Cool on pans 1-2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool.

 

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls1

One of things that I am really proud of myself for learning how to do in the kitchen is bake fresh bread. It takes some getting used to in the beginning, and to be honest there are still things I have to learn but once you get the hang of it, going back to store bought bread pretty much becomes impossible. I can’t really explain in detail what the difference is, but I suspect that is has something to do with the preservatives found in store bread, especially white bread. I can literally taste the preservatives they put in it- it almost leaves a sour aftertaste in my mouth that’s just really unpleasant, so I don’t even touch the stuff anymore. If I’m eating white bread at all, it’s only because I made it myself first. The aftertaste of THAT stuff is pretty darn good if I may say so myself. But my point is, whenever we run out of bread in my house, I know that I just have to make some more. Needless to say, I’m always on the lookout for new yeast bread recipes to try out just to keep things around here interesting.

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls2

I remember it was about a year or so ago where I was writing up a post complaining about how I was struggling to get my yeast bread doughs to rise on sheet pans. It just wouldn’t work, and frustrated me to no end. Whenever I shaped and set my dough out for its second rise on the sheet pan, most time it just barely expanded, if at all. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, especially whenever I would make the bread in round pans or in pyrex glass dishes, it worked out beautifully. For a while, I just avoided baking bread in sheet pans altogether, but recently I decided to try and get back on the horse again and slightly tweak my methods in the second rise to see if that would yield different results. These crescent rolls were my guinea pigs.

How do you guys think I did?

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls6

Well I’ll just go ahead and say it if you won’t: I think it turned out rather well. Here’s what I changed in case you were curious.

See, in the past what I was doing was using very large sheet pans for my second rise and spacing the rolled out dough pretty far apart from each other. I’m no food scientist like Alton Brown or the folks at America’s Test Kitchen but what I THINK was happening in my previous attempts was that rather than expanding ‘up’ on the second rise and giving that heightened fluffiness that you see in the above picture, my dough was expanding ‘out’ since there was so much space between each individual one and giving it the appearance of being flatter. Now is it possible that the dough would eventually rise and become taller? Yeah probably, but I do think that it would’ve taken longer than an hour or two so long as I was using the larger sheet pans.

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls3

So what I did this time around was use one of the smallest sheet pans that I had for my second dough rise, which left a much smaller space between each one of the crescent rolls- this way, the only place that the dough would have to ‘go’ when expanding would be ‘up'; get it? Also, I dampened a clean kitchen towel and placed it over the sheet pan of crescents, put the whole thing in my overhead microwave, then turned on my oven. The heat from my oven created a warmth inside the microwave that combined with the damp cloth created a humidity that made it into a kind of DIY proof-box, so to speak.

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls5

This time after the second rise, I was having the exact opposite problem that I’d been having with sheet pans all along: now, the dough had proofed and risen so well that they were all nearly crammed together slightly rising up over the pan itself. But I didn’t care about that: I was too busy doing Snoopy/Victory dances from finally overcoming my sheet pan-bread baking woes. Plus, who was I to get upset over jumbo size crescent rolls that baked up so golden and pretty like these ones did here? Nobody, that’s who.

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls7

Wait a minute; I’m completely forgetting that there’s vegetables in these crescents, which is crazy since the sweet potatoes are what give them the deliciously golden orange color. But they’re there: one whole cup of fresh sweet potato mash. Which, you know should make you feel pretty good about eating one of these…or two…or…another undisclosed amount.

….Why are you guys staring at me like that?

So I think the moral of the story here is that when encountering difficulties in the kitchen, just keep at it. Even if it doesn’t work the first, second or third time. I did. And I think my diligence was rewarded.

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Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls

Recipe Courtesy of Red Star Yeast via Completely Delicious

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3-4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 packet (2 1/2 tsp.) Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (about 1 medium) sweet potato puree

 Directions

1. In a small saucepan set over medium low heat, warm the butter, honey and milk until butter is melted and mixture begins to steam. Do not boil. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes, or until the temperature is between 120-130 degrees F.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine 1½ cups of the flour with the yeast, salt and nutmeg. Add the milk mixture and mix until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each, followed by the sweet potato puree. With the mixer on low, add the remaining flour ¼ cup at a time until dough clears the side of the bowl but is still slightly sticky to the touch. You may not need all 4 cups of flour.

3. Continue to knead the dough in the mixer until it is smooth and elastic, about 5-8 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

4. Gently punch down dough and knead a few times. Cover it with the plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.

5. On a clean surface roll the dough out into a 16-inch circle. Using a pizza slicer, cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Working with each piece individually, roll the dough up starting with the fat end. Place the roll on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper so the skinny point is on the bottom. Cover with plastic wrap and rise again for 30 minutes.

6. While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake rolls until they are golden brown, about 20 minutes.