chicken tagine with apricots and pistachios

3.06.2017


Probably about 6 years ago, I made my first chicken tagine. I've always reflected positively on that meal. The flavors of a tagine are just incredible - and really all without my favorite sins of salt, butter, or cheese. I tore out this chicken tagine recipe from Real Simple relatively recently and got around to making it this weekend. If you have a relatively strong pantry, you probably will only need to pick up the apricots. It's always incredible to me what magic can come out of my cabinets.

A few notes:
  • Quick // Unlike many meals that are rich in flavor, this one is really done in about forty minutes start to finish. There is no marinating and you only chop 1 thing - an onion. 
  • Quinoa // A tagine like this absolutely requires a grain - and quinoa is a good fit. I'm not a raving fan of quinoa these days. I overdosed on it in salads for like a year and just haven't been able to get back into it - however, it's perfect in this case. 
  • Chicken // The original recipe called for chicken thighs but I am working through the contents of my freezer.... so I went with chicken breasts. I had two oversized thinly sliced chicken breasts and that worked out to about 4 servings.
So go ahead and make this meal - and absolutely don't skimp on the pistachios and the dried apricots. This is a great meal for the Sunday night dinner that you'll enjoy a few more times that week.
 
Here's how it goes.
  1. Mix the cumin, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium high. Add the chicken and cook until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Add the onions to the pot along with 2 tablespoons of water. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot along with the canned tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, apricots, and broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve over the quinoa, topped with the parsley and pistachios.
Shopping List
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 big chicken breasts, cut into 2-in. pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 cups dried apricots
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Cooked quinoa, chopped fresh parsley, and roasted, salted pistachios, for serving

clodagh bread


For like the last 10+ years I've made Irish Soda bread each year for St Patrick's Day. I've really pared back the baking in recent years - but there were some years that I shipped out 8 or so loaves. This year I think I only have 4 loaves on my list - and one belongs to me. But, last week when I was tearing through some magazines I came across this run of recipes for St. Patrick's Day ... and they all looked really great.

... But this clodagh bread captured my attention. When I tore out the recipe, I neglected to save the picture but I remember it being kind of an enchanting rustic loaf of bread. Irish soda bread feels country and rustic. For pretty much no good reason, Clodagh bread does not. It's perhaps in part because I still am not sure how to actually say "clodagh".

Some things that are really unique about this bread?
  • 7 ingredients - of which 2 are types of flour. You could probably make this bread right now ... if you have whole milk. Because of the lack of fat via shortening or butter, I think the whole milk and whole milk yogurt is actually important.
  • Glaze. I was really questioning whether or not I was doing this right - but I painted the entire loaf pretty aggressively with the yogurt milk mixture. After 30 minutes in the oven, the loaf gets this incredible shine that my bread has never had before.
After mixing the ingredients, my dough was much drier than I expected. If I had more whole milk or yogurt, I would have liked to add a little more in to pull the dough together better. I was pretty worried that the bread would be very dry - but the glaze adds a great deal of unexpected moisture. It's absolutely required. I'm still going to make Irish Soda Bread this year but it's nice to have another traditional Irish recipe in my repertoire.
Here's how it goes.
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Into a large bowl, combine the two types of flour, baking soda, sea salt and rosemary. Ideally, you'd sift the flours together but life isn't always ideal - just combine them as you would.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk 1 3/4 cups milk and 1 cup yogurt. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the well in the flour mixture. Combine either with a wooden spoon or by using a dough hook on a stand mixer. 
  3. Using lightly floured hands, dump the dough on the counter. I decided to split the loaf into two for easier sharing. Shape the dough into a round loaf and transfer to a baking sheet. 
  4. Cut a large X into the top of the dough. Cut about an inch through for the X (or up to 2/3 of the way through the loaf).
  5. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 2 tbsp. milk and 2 tbsp. yogurt. Using a pastry brush, coat the bread with the milk and yogurt mixture. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  6. Bake 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375° and bake until the top is dry and deep golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, at least 2 hours.
Shopping List (adapted from this original recipe)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. flaky sea salt
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp. whole milk
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. plain whole-milk yogurt

peanut butter quinoa banana bread

2.26.2017


I think sometimes when people think of banana bread - they get this visions of a dense banana loaf with nuts. While that isn't a terrible thing by any standard, it's always nice to try something different. Let's give banana bread a refresh. Maybe it'll be the new scone? Probably not.

I was home sick for a few days this week - and do mean the literal definition of a few. I was home for three days with some unfriendly rollercoaster of a cold. Started with a fever, then no voice, then a cough, then a scratchy throat. Super great. But the entire time, I was watching a pair of bananas get darker and darker on the window sill. By the time I got around to actually using them on Saturday night, I was actually worried they might be too ripe. But they weren't - and now we have some delicious banana bread.

I did some googling last week from the couch for different banana bread varieties and came upon a few that could be good in the future:
  • black bottomed banana bread
  • brown butter banana bread with ginger
  • buttermilk banana bread
  • chia seed & citrus banana bread
  • strawberry banana bread
I ended up combining a few for this new version of peanut butter quinoa banana bread. While I knew that I would like the combo, I did run it by my sister for a second vote and she was on board. For some reason, this loaf comes out very light and airy. Almost a bit more of a muffin consistency than a loaf - which is fine with me.
Here's how it goes.
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F and pull out whatever pans you'd like to use. This recipe will make loaf pans easily.
  2. Combine the bananas, egg, and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Once well combined, then you can add in the quinoa, butter, and peanut butter. 
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together your dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder) and then add to the wet ingredients in batches. 
  4. Once your batter is combined, then you can divide it evenly into your lightly greased pans. 
  5. Bake for approx. 30 minutes in the oven. Time can vary depending on pan size - so just keep an eye on it.
Shopping List
3 ripe bananas
1 egg
3/4 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons of quinoa
2 tsp melted butter
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

cauliflower asparagus chowder

2.20.2017


One of the best parts about living in the North End was being close to Haymarket. While the produce was not always amazing, being able to buy bargain priced vegetables was amazing - especially for soup. Appearance does not matter when you are putting blending that right up. Soup tends to be a really affordable meal in general - especially at Haymarket prices.

So when I saw cauliflower was on sale last week, I jumped at the chance to buy it. I was used to paying $1 ... and real grocery store pricing is around $3.50. It might sound crazy to be excited over saving 75 cents but that's almost equal to one blueberry donut. And I love blueberry donuts.

I was originally intending on making this cauliflower red pepper chowder from Food52 - but realized the expiration date for my asparagus was approaching faster. So asparagus cauliflower chowder it is! My all-time favorite cauliflower soup kicks off by heavily roasting the cauliflower to give it some amazing flavor. This soup takes a pretty different approach - no roasting. As a result, I was pretty worried that it would be a bit bland however, I was totally wrong. The soup has some really great chowder type flavors. The asparagus is pretty subtle too because I only used half a bunch left.
Here's how it goes:
  1. In a pot over medium high heat, sauté the onion and garlic with olive oil for a few minutes. Typical soup stuff.
  2. Add in the cauliflower, asparagus, potato, chicken stock, bay leaf, coriander, and cumin. Stir until well blended. Cover and let boil for about 15 minutes or until the potato is significantly softened.
  3. Add the milk. Carefully transfer the soup to the blender - and puree in batches. Don't forget to remove the bay leaf. My blender is big enough that I could have done this all at once - but just be patient. This soup is pretty thick so you'll potentially need to add some water here which is fine. I needed to add about 1/2 cup but could have gone up to 3/4 cup without issue. Just add as much as needed to get your desired consistency.
  4. Serve with shaved parmesan - and maybe some remaining asparagus if you feel so inclined.
Shopping List
2 cups cauliflower (approx. 1/2 head)
1/2 - 1 bunch asparagus, chopped
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 yukon gold potato, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 cup milk or cream
1/2 water
parmesan to taste

snowy february

2.19.2017


I remember riding the train home one January night and seeing this tweet from my favorite weather man suggesting that February could be a very snowy month. Shortly after that it feels like it started snowing and barely stopped. It wasn't quite like the winter of 2015 - but for the past two weeks it feels like I've shoveled the driveway every other day. In the beginning, I was enthusiastic about it - and I actually still am 30 inches or so later. The first storm was fun. Then the second storm came, and I we got to work from home - which automatically made that shoveling also fun. But somewhere around the 5th snowy morning, it became less cool. Like, how is it possible I need to shovel 5 more inches of snow?

The primarily problem was that I had no idea how to strategically approach shoveling. Thankfully, I've been able to really refine my strategy. When it was a light fluffy 5 inches, you don't need a plan. You just shovel all whilly nilly and nothing matters. But, the morning after the blizzard ended I shoveled for an hour - and felt like I was making no progress ... because I was not.

Around minute thirty, I started to try and figure out how many shovels wide my car was to minimize the shoveling but it was a fruitless effort. I had essentially shoveled a walking path. At minute seventy, I googled "buy a snowblower". I'll absolutely still be buying a snowblower next Winter because I know for a fact my new strategy is null and void next Winter. Bye square driveway, hello long rectangle driveway.

The absolute upside of shoveling is that it meant all the woods were snowy - and that made them even more beautiful. Each weekend I've been pulling on my Bean boots and heading into a new trail. This probably necessitates another "outside > inside" post but for now, I'll let it be just snow.

red velvet morning buns

2.15.2017

I've had a range of "Valentine's Day" experiences in my life. There was the elementary school obligatory valentine's cards for everyone. The classic college boyfriend (who lasted for two weeks) who gave me roses. The time I was dating someone new I cared about... who didn't want to celebrate because a combination of "work" and "interest". And oddly enough in 2015, I went on a first date ... on Valentine's Day because honestly hadn't realized the day when I suggested it. But my favorite Valentines have been with my friends and family - and perhaps my sister. 

Valentine's Day to me is celebrating with friends. It's not a romantic holiday - it's a friends and family holiday. While I don't think I ever/need want to receive roses on this day, I do love seeing all the guys on the train carrying them home. It's like a little bit of vulnerability on display.

Whether it be Downton Abbey or the finale of Survivor, I've always loved cooking for an occasion. I like to take inspiration from the event and see what that turns into. Valentine's Day has been a little different. It's been mainly cookies and sweets (chocolate covered pretzels). I guess I never wrote up the recipe for beet gnocchi but that was a good one. Bummer. However on the commute home, this idea came to me. Red velvet morning buns.

Largely this is the same recipe as my previous round of Morning Buns in 2013 - but with a few modifications for ingredients. I swapped buttermilk for sour cream because I was not going to the store and then added in the flavoring for red velvet. I like to think they look like red roses <3 which I obviously announced as I delivered them like cupid to my family pre-sunrise hours yesterday.

While these babes are phenomenal right out of the oven, they are also good say... on the commuter rail with your sister in the morning... or for dinner again that night watching New Girl ... or maybe even for breakfast the next day. They stay fresh for quite awhile and will probably last you just about the same amount of time real roses would.
  1. In a small bowl, mix together yeast and warm water; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. The batter will become this gorgeous shade of yellow. 
  3. Add vinegar and vanilla. Mix to combine. Then, add in the buttermilk. Then mix again. Then add the yeast mixture. Mix again. Then add in the cocoa powder and red food coloring.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together both flours and salt. Add to mixer and mix on low until well combined and dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl and just begins to form a ball. If you aren't satisfied with the color of your dough, feel free to add more red coloring around this point. I might not have added the full amount the recipe called for - just use your judgement a bit.
  5. On a lightly floured board, knead dough until smooth, about 5 minutes. Lightly flour the bottom of a large glass bowl; place dough in bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Then try to exercise patience and wait 3-4 hours. 
  6. At this point, you could refrigerate your dough and finish the next morning. Just cover the bowl with saran wrap first. If you choose to refrigerate your dough, let it sit on the counter for about an hour to come closer to room temperature before you try to roll it out. Cool dough is easier to work with for sure, but fresh from the fridge dough is not. 
  7. Grease one 12-cup muffin tin and set aside. In medium bowl, combine melted butter, sugar, cinnamon, and mix until well blended. Set aside.
  8. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll into an 18-by-10-inch rectangle. Spread the butter mixture liberally over the entire dough.
  9. Beginning with the long side facing you, tightly roll dough away from you into a log; pinch edge of dough to seal. Cut dough crosswise into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Place each cross-sectional piece into prepared muffin cup.
  10. Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven and pull the buns from the pan to cool a bit. In the meantime, melt the remaining 2-3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Remove buns from muffin tins. Brush liberally with melted butter and gently roll in a bowl of cinnamon-sugar mixture. 
Shopping List
Dough
2 packages active dry yeast (1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons)
1/4 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 2/3 cups flour, plus more for work surface
2 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon red food coloring

Bun & The Rest
1/2 stick butter
1 cup sugar
2 t cinnamon

Jerk chicken with mango avocado salsa

2.13.2017


Eating healthy? So complex. I've never really watched what I ate all that much because I've always been just active enough that it hasn't been critical. Yes, it's always advisable to not eat chicken fingers every Friday night but when I was walking 5 miles a day to and from work... I could do what I want. 

Now, I commute 3 hours a day and I'm over 30. Things are different. I have zero interest in going whole hog on a restrictive diet / detox ... because I will always love cheese, carbs, gluten and sugar. But, that's where recipes like this are a great find. It's extremely tasty and has absolutely zero added salt or cheese. And there is no bread in sight. To be honest, I did have some cookie dough after dinner but baby steps.

Initially I was a little put off by the fact I needed a food processor - but that is what makes this recipe so easily. You literally put everything in there, blend it, then put it on the chicken. That's it. I'll absolutely be looking for other recipes like this in the future. I'm not sure how well the salsa will keep because of the avocado but time will tell.
  1. In a high powered blender or food processor, combine all of the marinade ingredients and process until fully combined and smooth.
  2. Add the chicken and the marinade to the a large ziplock bag. Massage the bag to get the marinade covering all the chicken. Then toss it in the fridge for between 30 minutes - 2 hours.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Then place your chicken on a baking sheet or in a baking dish. Bake for about 25-30 minutes depending on the size of your chicken breasts. With about 3-5 minutes left, bring the chicken closer to the heat to get the top a little crispy.
  4. Make your mango salsa by combining all the ingredients in a medium bowl.
  5. Plate with rice, sliced chicken and the mango salsa! 
Shopping List
4 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
marinade
3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
3 green onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon freshly minced ginger
1 jalapeno
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
juice from 1 lime
salt and pepper

mango salsa2 large mangos, peeled pitted and diced
2 avocados, diced and pitted
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
juice from 2 limes
2 tablespoons chopped jalapeno pepper

2016 tomato recap

2.12.2017

I have been meaning to get this post out pretty much since last October - and if we are being really honest maybe even August. Peak tomato season. But, here we are in February and I'm beginning to think about the garden for this year.

When I would talk to people about my garden last year, it probably sounded like I was talking about children. I couldn't really pick favorites. Everything was special in its own way. In the interest of helping other people pick tomatoes, I'm going to describe what I grew and then rate it for a few qualities. Sound good? Ok. As a summary, I grew most of the fruit from seed and bought two varieties from a local organic farm (Holly Hill Farm). The seeds were just from Burpee - so nothing crazy!

Black Truffle // Overall = A+
Unique = A / Production = A
Small-medium shape. Perfect size for seasonal sliced tomato salads. Grew from Burpee seed [link].

Tye Dye // Overall = A
Unique = A / Production = A
Medium shape. The only thing that really held back my love of this one was that it is just a bigger fruit. Incredibly productive. I had so much left on the vine at the end of the year in November. Grew from Burpee seed [link].

Red Zebra // Overall = B+
Unique = B- / Production = A
Small-ish shape, good for everything. If you want to just have a basic tomato, that is a good size ... this can be your winner. Nothing incredible special to say. It's the "good to have on hand" tomato variety. The Burpee images had a beautiful zebra print that I didn't get in my plants - probably due to some cross pollination. Grew from Burpee seed [link].

Super Sweet 100 Cherry // Overall = A
Unique = B / Production = A+
There was nothing incredibly unique about this variety except perhaps how the vines grew. They were perfect for just cutting and tossing on the grill. Grew from Burpee seed [link].

Garden Peach // Overall = B
Unique = A+ / Production = A
Small shape, great for slicing, mellow flavor, peach-like skin. So this tomato is one where the grades just do not average out well. I picked up this variety at Holly Hill Farm before planting this year to give it a shot - and it was absolutely worth it. It puts out a bunch of fruit and was definitely a good conversation starter. I would completely recommend other people grow this variety, but only 1 plant and maybe not every year. [Burpee seed link]

Cherokee Purple // Overall = B
Unique = B+ / Production = C
Very large fruit with that traditional heirloom shape. Some of the fruits were so big they took up the palm of my hand. Much more productive during the earlier part of the tomato season but faded off earlier than the other varieties. Was not nearly as productive as the other varieties as well. Still recommend planting this one because it's a total showstopper. [Burpee seed link]
I specifically tried to pick tomatoes that would look different than what you could get at the grocery store - or a local farmstand. The result was some really beautiful (I'm biased) meals. I got pretty creative with what to do with all the tomatoes. There was a lot of sauce, some roasted with fish, roasted with gnocchi, jam, and a million caprese style salads. As of now the plan is to try almost 75% new varieties this year, so we'll see what happens.
 
[top] produce haul in late fall.
[Group of 4] tie dye, black truffle, cherry, garden peach
[Varieties section] 1 - cherry, 2 - garden peach, 3 - purple cherokee, 4 - red zebra, 5 - tie dye, 6 - black truffle, 7 - group shot showing different shapes 
[Recipes section] 1 - tie dye, 2- roasted with gnocchi, 3 - red zebra, 4 - black truffle, 5 - tomato jam, 6 - roasted tomato sauce, 7 - tie dye and black tuffle with carrot chimichuri, 8 - black truffle and red zebra, 9 - roasted cod with tomatoes

chocolate almond banana bread

2.11.2017


We've had a couple snow days this week - and apparently in the coming week too. Snow days mean many things like cozy clothes and binge marathons on tv. But if it's a work day, you don't get to binge tv ... and need to compensate with other things. I chose to compensate with this banana bread. I have no regrets. It's seriously so good.

To be fair, I got the inspiration for banana bread from my friend Rachel who posted a snap of their loaf. It seemed like such a great idea and I happened to have two perfect bananas ready for use. I've been getting a lot of inspiration from Food52 recently - so I found this original recipe there. The original recipe calls for "almond paste" which I absolutely didn't have in the middle of a blizzard. Allegedly you can make a substitute by pulsing almond slivers and sugar together - that seemed like another dirty dish to do ... so I just tossed in some slivered almonds.

This loaf is something else. Banana bread is always good - but perhaps never feels "next level". This chocolate almond version is absolutely "next level" but at the same time very approachable and not far from the traditional version. The crust of the bread is pretty much perfect. It's thin and sweet and amazing when it is warm. I'd absolutely recommend this to anyone who has a bit of sweet tooth. Plus, it's completely kid friendly.
Here's how it goes.
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease your two 9" x 5" loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder (if using). Stir in the bittersweet chocolate and slivered almonds.
  3. In the bowl of a mixer, combine the sugar, oil, eggs, and bananas until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and mix again.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients and mix together until combined.
  5. Pour the batter into the pans. Bake for about 45-60 minutes (if you're using a different, smaller pan, start checking much sooner). I got distracted and never set a timer... and I didn't take any pictures either so no timestamps to help.
  6. Remove from the oven - and enjoy!
Shopping List
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 very ripe mashed bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder (optional, for enhanced chocolate flavor)
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