You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘food’ category.
I’m a lazy food blogger – I don’t make dinner at ten in the morning to get that perfect morning light. I only occasionally make my family wait so I can snap a picture of whatever we’re eating to blog the recipe later. I made these fish tacos several weeks ago, but we were having friends over for dinner so they look a little sad when they were so delicious. I say all this just to remind you not to judge a book by its cover – and make these fish tacos soon!
A Sara original – these are not complicated, but they do require several steps, so I’m trying to break them down accordingly
2 pounds white fish (Earth Fare was having a great sale on Dover Sole a few weeks ago, which was delicious and what led to this meal from the beginning. Tilipia or Mahi Mahi would be other obvious choices)
I sauteed the fish in a little bit of olive oil and butter in a hot cast iron pan. I had planned to grill them, but it was raining that night. Sauteed was delicious, but I’m sure grilled would have been as good or better.
For the cabbage slaw:
1/2 head red cabbage, sliced
1/2 red onion, diced
A few “cubes” worth (3 tablespoons) of cilantro pesto
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of one lime
After slicing the cabbage, I like to salt it and then put it in a colander for at least an hour. This helps to release some of the water that cabbage typically holds. Then assemble the cilantro pesto, olive oil, and lime and thoroughly mix your ingredients (I usually just put them in a small jar with a lid and shake vigorously). Pour the dressing over the cabbage and red onion and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes so the flavors meld together.
For the chipotle dressing:
1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle pepper from chipotle in adobo, minced
1 tbsp sauce from chipotle in adobo
Mix all of the ingredients thoroughly and set out as a condiment to be added to the tacos.
For the guacamole:
2 ripe avocados, peeled 1/4 cup small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of one lime
1 jalapeno (adjust depending on how spicy you like it)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Mash the avocado and then add the remaining ingredients.
To serve, I just put out each separate “item,” and let people add for themselves. I served it with a black bean salad and green salad on the side. Once summer hits, I’ll add some homemade pico de gallo and sweet corn. These are, of course, so easy to modify based on what you have on hand (although I think the guac and chipotle dressing are staples for these at our house!).
I also have a secret to share: I used to make my own tortillas, which were delicious, but I happened upon the uncooked ones (you just cook/grill them at home for a few minutes on a side) at Costco with a simple and decent ingredient list once. I really can’t tell the difference in taste, mine weren’t really any healthier, and the Costco ones are much prettier, so until further notice, I’m throwing in the towel on homemade tortillas.
I picked up a new cookbook at the library a few weeks ago: Dinner: A Love Story (DALS). I was so enthralled with the author’s writing and cooking approach that I quickly found her online as well. I think I had heard of DALS somewhere along the line, but I was never a regular reader – until after the book. The book and blog are great (I’m asking for the cookbook for my birthday so I can have a copy of my very own), and happening on the book at the library was worth it if only for this one recipe that I’m about to share with you (which actually isn’t in the book, but I only found the blog because of the book, so it all goes together!). I think we’ve made this nearly every week for the last two months, which is really saying something around our house because I get bored easily and prefer to try new stuff. But this stromboli is so fun and easy to experiment with that it’s quickly become an old standby. I’ve experimented with calzones before, but Grant isn’t a big fan. I think I thought stromboli was just another word for calzone, so I had never tried it. We like it better than pizza around here because it’s a little less fussy since we like to put TONS of toppings on our pizzas. We’ve made meatball stromboli, kale and ricotta stromboli, hot Italian sausage stromboli, vegan stromboli, and I’m sure some other combinations that I’m missing. So do yourself a favor and make one of these – tonight!
500 grams (about 3 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping the dough
1 gram (1/4 teaspoon) active dry yeast
16 grams (2 teaspoons) fine sea salt
350 grams (1 1/2 cups) water
In a medium bowl, thoroughly blend the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and, with a wooden spoon, mix thoroughly. I usually start with the spoon and then finish up with my hands. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow it to rise at room temperature for 18 hours or until it has more than doubled. I have often forgotten about it and let it go a full two days. Or, if I need it sooner, I’ll put it in the oven with the oven light turned on.
Once the dough is ready, flour your countertop and and scrape out the dough. Divide it into two equal parts and shape them. Shape each portion into a round and turn seam side down. At this point, after some trial-and-error, I use one of the dough “rounds” for the stromboli, and I freeze the other one (wrapped in plastic wrap) for another day (or they can be refrigerated for three days if you plan to use it quickly). Return to room temperature by leaving them out on the counter, covered in a damp cloth, for 4 to 6 hours if frozen or 2 to 3 hours if refrigerated before needed. But we like our strombolis with just the half batch of dough, but if you like yours a little “dough-ier,” then use the whole recipe. [This recipe is intended to make about four 12-inch sized pizzas]. I’ve experimented with some whole wheat versions that I’ll post back here soon (or try this previously-posted one), but this is so easy, so delicious, and still better than most of the processed stuff out there that I do fall back on it often.
Hot Italian Sausage Stromboli
Adapted from Dinner: A Love Story
Four links hot Italian sausage from a happily-raised, local pigSmall onion, sliced
6 leaves kale, torn
Red paper flakes
1-2 tsp fennel seeds
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Make your pizza sauce. I use this recipe but with a little less water to thicken it up a bit. When I use meat, I like to brown the meat first and then add it to the sauce for the last 15-20 minutes, so that they flavors mingle together a bit more. So for this version, I sliced up the sausage links, browned them, and then added them to the sauce on the stove. The sauce tends to make a little extra than what I need for the stromboli, so I just save the rest to serve over pasta the next day.
Then spread the dough out onto a very well oiled rimmed baking sheet, so that it covers as much of the pan surface area as possible. If you’re having trouble getting the dough to stretch out, let it sit for a bit and then try again. It seems to get more elastic as it rests. Then spread your pizza sauce on the dough. Then add your ingredients, saving the cheese for last. I like to “dollop” the ricotta, and then spread the mozzarella evenly. Then roll the dough twice length-wise. As I said, we like ours not too “dough-y,” so ours usually breaks apart a bit, but that doesn’t hurt the taste any. But try it both ways (once with the bigger entire batch of dough and once with the half batch of dough) to see which you like better. Bake for about 45 minutes.
As I mentioned above, we have made this all sorts of ways – experiment yourself. So far I’ve only used the red sauce, but I plan to branch out a bit soon. I’ll report back. Here are some combinations that have gone over well at our house:
- Mushrooms, kale, more garlic, and onions + Parmesan
- Onions and sweet peppers (we’ve almost cleaned out our freezer stash from last summer, sadly) + mozzarella
- Meatballs, kale, and onions + Parmesan
- Happy brats, onions, and broccoli + ricotta
Remember how I resolved to try more new things in the kitchen this year? One of my biggies was fermenting more foods because 1) they’re so good for you and 2) they’re delicious. I tried my first round a few weeks ago, and it turned out great. I learned a few things for the next go-around, so I’ll update soon with a new recipe. I loosely based my recipe on curtido (Salvadorian cole slaw or relish).
I did some research originally (mostly reading through this series), and I knew I wanted to let the curtido ferment for at least twenty days to get the maximize benefit from the probiotics. I also did some research on brine versus vinegar ferments and decided to go the brine route because the whole point of this experiment is to eat more healthy bacteria. As mentioned previously, I got some of these for Christmas, which is what I used for my fermenting experiments.
Loosely based on Vanessa Barrington’s version
5-6 of these gorgeous black radishes (that a local farm had on special one week at our co-op – they were so pretty I didn’t want to eat them!), sliced thinly
1 small onion, sliced thinly
1 head small green cabbage, sliced thinly
6-8 leaves of kale, sliced into ribbons (I like to roll of greens like this, and then cut across the roll to form ribbons)
1 jalapeno, sliced thinly
1 tsp dill seed
2 tsp oregano
Sterlized wide-mouth glass jars
I put all of the veggies through my food processor with the slicer attachment, which made this whole project go so much faster. So then I dumped all of the veggies in a big bowl, sprinkling liberally with salt every few “layers,” which helps to draw out the water from the cabbage (and also aids the fermenting process). I just let the vegetables sit for nap time until my little helper woke up (about two hours). I then dumped the contents into three large-mouth mason jars (using my canning funnel made the whole process very easy). I’d fill them up, and then put Jazzy to work pounding them down, then I’d add more veggies, and have him pound them down some more. He was actually quite good at this – he has a future in fermentation perhaps?
After he had firmly packed the jars with veggies to about one inch from the top of the jar, I mixed about two cups of filtered water with two tablespoons of kosher salt (the brine) and poured the brine into the jars enough so that the water came about one-half inch from the top of the jar. Then I assembled my Pickle Pro on top of the lid and secured it tightly. I then put it under the counter out of the way…and let it sit there for about 21 days. I then put them in the refrigerator and added the curtido to all sorts of things: on top of salads, burgers, sausage, tacos, and as a side by itself.
I have a different batch of stuff going right now, so I’ll report back with more recipes as I experiment more.
To read more about the benefits of fermented foods, check out these links:
I’m finally getting around to posting some baby food recipes, or, really, more like tactics and tips. With our first, I did cereal and then purees starting around six months. I stuck with vegetables for the purees because I figured he would grow up to love fruit anyway, so I didn’t need to worry about introducing fruits. Jasper loved real food and didn’t need purees for long before he was preferring whatever we had on our plates.
After our second, I’m realizing that Jasper was (and is) an out-of-the-ordinary eater. He will try anything, he eats a ton, and he eats really well. Maeve was a bit of slow starter, but she’s getting better. I had to change my tactics a bit with her when it came to real food. I was lazy with Maeve, and she didn’t seem all that interested, so we didn’t try real food until she was about seven-months old. I had read up on baby-led weaning between the two kids, and I wanted to focus more on that with baby number two. So we started off with just giving her very bite-sized pieces of whatever veggies were on our plate. She was not a big fan. Her hand-eye coordination wasn’t really up for it, and she had trouble even getting the food in her grasp. After a few weeks of us both getting increasingly frustrated, I decided to go back to what had worked with Jasper: making our baby food. Here are some “recipes” that I’ve used:
1 cup old-fashioned oats (I usually have steel-cut on hand, so that’s what I used, but rolled are fine too)
2 cups water
1-2 tsp cinnamon
Optional: chopped fruit (we like apples, pears, and bananas)
Put the oats in a food processor and pulse for several minutes until the oats are very fine. You don’t want to go too far or it will turn into oat flour. Add the oats and water to a pot on the stove, bring to a boil, add the cinnamon, and then cook on low for at least twenty minutes. You may need to add additional water. If you’re adding fruit, add it at the beginning, so that it softens up and sweetens the oatmeal.
Once the oatmeal is finished, I put it in a glass container in the fridge. I scoop out enough for Maeve each morning and warm up her portion in the microwave. I add a little milk (or breast milk/formula for younger babies) to thin out the consistency.
I first tried straight pumpkin with Maeve. Jasper loved squash of all kinds as a baby, so I figured his sister might be similar. I had a few pie pumpkins leftover from Thanksgiving. I just cut off the tops, cut them in half, cleaned out the insides, then roasted them in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes to an hour. After removing them from the oven, I let them cool completely (about another hour). Then I peeled the skins off, put the pumpkin “meat” in the food processor, and pureed the pumpkin into a fine consistency. The pumpkin typically has enough moisture to it, but if you need a little extra, I typically add homemade stock.
Sweet potatoes, turnips, beets, carrots, potatoes
Both of our kids have pretty much eaten anything with sweet potatoes in it, so I like to have those on hand for picky days. For sweet potatoes, beets, turnips, and carrots, my process stays the same: preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash, peel, and chop the vegetables into similarly-sized chunks. Dump vegetable chunks into a large bowl, add a tablespoon or two of olive oil (depends on how many vegetables you have – you want them to be lightly coated), then add your seasonings of choice. I usually at least do a little salt and pepper, but the sky is the limit here (side note: if you’re already making dinner, just double your portion of vegetables and eat some for dinner and reserve the rest for baby food). Spread the vegetables on a baking sheet (or two depending on how much you’re doing at one time), and put the baking sheets in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes. Rotate the pans at about the halfway point to ensure that everything is cooked evenly. Once the veggies have cooled, throw them in the food processor (again, add some stock if you want to thin in out a bit) and puree until your desired consistency.
Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, onions
I like to roast these stronger-flavored veggies to have on hand to add to sweet potatoes or carrots. The kids tend to grow to like them on their own, but I lull them into it by having one of their favorites to go along with it. With Maeve, I’ve gotten a little lazy and just throw these veggies in with the sweeter vegetables above and make one big puree. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and cut vegetables into similarly-sized pieces. Dump veggies into a bowl and coat lightly with olive oil. I like to season these with fresh garlic and salt and pepper, but, again, feel free to experiment. Spread the vegetables on a baking sheet (or two) and throw in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes. Once they’ve cooled, put them in a food processor and puree to your desired consistency (adding stock to thin out if necessary).
For all of these “recipes,” I use the same message of storage: once they’re pureed, I spread the food evenly among ice cube trays and freeze them. Once they’re completely frozen, I dump them in a plastic bag that I keep in the freezer for all of the baby food “cubes.” As far as consistency goes, when the kids are just starting on solid foods (six months or later), I pureed them more finely and, therefore, had to add more stock. As they got older, I used little or no stock, so that the resulting purees were pretty thick and a chunkier consistency.
As I mentioned, we tried baby-led weaning exclusively with Maeve at first, but she just wasn’t getting it. She’s now eleven-months old, and she mostly eats whatever we’re eating. But sometimes life gets crazy, and I need to throw something quick together for the kids. Or, like this week, she’s been sick and gets frustrated quickly at picking up food and would prefer to be fed. The purees are nice to have on hand, so that I know that she’s getting her vegetables even if we’re in a hurry or she’s not feeling well. With both kids, we’ve tried to have easy stuff on hand that they can eat on their own like avocado, bananas, and mangos (which especially comes in handy while I’m trying to get dinner on the table).
How are you feeding your kiddos?
Over the last several years, as I’ve read more about whole, real foods, I’ve repeatedly and increasingly come across information about the dangers of grains (see some links at the end for additional reading). The more I read, the more I’m convinced that grains are dangerous to some people more than others, that whole grains are better than refined, and, like most anything besides vegetables, grains should be eaten in moderation. Weston Price and others are proponents of soaking grains, like many traditional cultures did (and do). I try to soak grains when it makes sense. I don’t soak or sprout our flour, but we eat much less bread than we used to so I figure it evens out a bit. This is a great post summarizing loads of research into the subject if you’re interested.
I don’t always soak grains and legumes, but I try to when I think/plan ahead. I fall in the “I’ll do it when I have time” camp on this subject. I think the science says that it’s generally better, but we’re 1) not eating as many grains and 2) already eating whole, organic grains much of the time, so I’m not going to stress about it too much. Grant and Jasper, however, do eat cereal every morning for breakfast. Grant is a creature of habit, and I just can’t get him to kick his morning cereal habit. He can also eat the same thing for breakfast 365 days a year and not get sick of it, a characteristic that I envy since I get bored of things after about the fourth day. Jasper seems to be following in his footsteps on this one. They eat Ezekiel’s sprouted cereals (and have for four+ years – what is it with these boys?!), so I feel better about their starting off the day with grains, but that stuff is pricey. We buy it in bulk, so that helps a bit. I’ve started subbing in some soaked granola. This tastes great just with milk or over yogurt too. Grant and Jasper usually add some dried cranberries or raisins and some local honey too. It’s super easy to make, but it does take a lot of hands-off time so make a big batch to make it worth your while.
Adapted from Nourishing Home
6 cups organic rolled oats (traditional or thick-cut, not instant or quick cook)
2 cups organic rolled rye flakes (I’ve also made this with all oats if you can’t find rye flakes)
1 cup coconut oil, melted
1 can (14oz) canned coconut milk
2 cups water
4 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar (like Bragg’s)
1 1/2 cup raw honey*
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
Place coconut oil in a small sauce pan and heat until melted. Pour into a large mixing bowl and add coconut milk, water and vinegar; whisk to combine. Add oats and rye flakes and thoroughly combine. Cover the bowl and place it in a warm area of your kitchen for 24-48 hours. (I usually just put it in the oven as long as I don’t need to use it for a day or so). After soaking time is completed, preheat oven to 200° F. Whisk together honey, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla, and pour mixture over the soaked oats. Pour the honey mixture over the soaked oats. Using large rubber spatula, combine the honey and oat mixtures, until thoroughly combined. Spread the mixture out over two parchment paper-lined, rimmed-baking sheets. Bake for about 4-6 hours, depending on how crunchy you want it. The original recipe calls for you to bake it for eight hours and to turn the granola every two hours, but I don’t typically do that. I maybe remember to turn it once or twice, and we don’t like ours super crunchy, so I usually bake it for about five hours. Then turn off oven and allow to sit in warm oven overnight until completely cooled. The longer you bake it, the more “solid” it is in the sense that it comes out almost like a solid bar, which you then have to break apart in order to use in cereal. I typically don’t let it go that long so that it stays a little looser. But if I do let it go longer, I make “granola bars,” which we like to use as snacks around here. You can obviously add all sorts of things to the finished product – nuts, seeds, flax, dried fruits, coconut. Be adventurous!
*You can also replace the honey with half honey and half local maple syrup – so tasty!
[Below are some links to reading I've done on the dangers of grains. I really started reading more after hearing a few talks from Dr. Logan, a local practitioner whose opinions I really respect. My caveat is that, while I think today's grains are probably unhealthy, I still really like eating grains. As I mentioned above, I try to eat them in moderation and eat only organic, whole grains as much as possible, but I still eat them! I will also caution that people on both ends of the spectrum on this issue get really passionate about their opinions, so research for yourself and make your own judgments.]
Why grains are unhealthy – Mark’s Daily Apple
The awful truth about eating grains – Dr. Mercola
How grains are killing you slowly – Wellness Mama
Grain manifesto – Whole9
What really makes us fat – Gary Taubes in the NYT
Nutrition Science Initiative
I love cilantro, but I’m not sure cilantro loves me back. I try to grow it every year, and it always bolts at the first day over 85 degrees. I’ve tried all sorts of things…growing it in the shade, growing it in a pot, growing it in a pot in the shade, and nothing works. I still try every year, so I’ll keep you posted on Sara versus Cilantro Round 19 this year. So our organic co-op had lots of cilantro a few weeks ago, and I took home a ton of it. I used it in pico and tacos and guacamole and black bean hummus (recipe still to come), and I still had lots leftover. So I made some cilantro pesto, which was a really, really good decision.
I made the pesto and then froze it in ice cube trays, which is my go-to preservation method for most herbs and pesto. It works great for this especially because this pesto is really potent, so a little bit goes a long way.
Loosely adapted from here
3 cups cilantro, large stems removed
1/2 cup blanched almonds (I used sliced almonds that I had on hand because they were already blanched)
1 small onion
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp cumin
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Throw all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until thoroughly pureed. This recipe makes a very potent batch, so, if you plan to use it right away, thin it with some additional olive oil. Otherwise, I recommend freezing it in ice cube trays for future use.
We have used this as a dressing for cabbage slaw (a-mazing), thinned with some olive oil as the sauce for tacos, in place of the dressing on these veggie bowls, and thinned with some olive oil as a simple salad dressing. Try it and experiment on your own!
I don’t eat as much fish as I should (as a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever included a fish recipe on this blog, which is just embarrassing). Since reading this book a few years ago, I just get a little anxiety about what fish are safe to buy both for our own health and for the health of the planet and species. It’s quite confusing. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website is a wonderful resource, and I’ve recently been getting back on the fish bandwagon with their help. Earth Fare has recently moved to our neighborhood, and they have some basic benchmarks in terms of the type of seafood that they are willing to carry, so that has been helpful too.
A few years ago, my sister was in the Peace Corps in Benin (western Africa), and my mom would send her giant care packages of food from home. One of her favorites was this spicy tuna that came in one of those vacuum-sealed bags, but my mom could only find it at certain stores. I would always be on the lookout for her, and, if I found some, I would buy it up for Mom’s next care package. Along the way, I may have sneaked a pack or two for myself, and it was delicious. But I figured I could make my own version pretty easily (and more cheaply and sustainably). I bought some canned light tuna at Earth Fare because it was rated as a “best choice” from Monterey’s website, plus, supposedly, the smaller fish on the food chain have less of an issue with mercury and phthalates (I mean, seriously, it is practically a part-time job trying to research all the junk that goes into our food – even when we’re eating whole, real food!). Jasper loves this meal and would eat it every day if I would let him.
Spicy tuna salad
A Sara original
2 5-ounce cans of tuna, preferably sustainably caught
small onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 avocado, smashed
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo (depending on how spicy you want it)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
juice of small lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp siracha
salt and pepper
Drain the tuna. Mix the mayo, chipotle peppers, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, siracha and avocado first. Then add the remaining ingredients and mix just until combined. The avocado takes the place of the typical larger amount of mayonnaise and makes it creamy and delicious in contrast to the kick from the peppers and siracha. We like to eat it open-faced on slices of bread, but it’s really good on top of salad greens too.
I’ve never been a huge fan of ricotta, but last year, I tried making my own…and the homemade stuff is a totally different thing than the stuff you buy at the store. I have trouble putting this stuff in lasagna or shells or wherever else you typically stuff ricotta because it’s so tasty all by itself. I can’t believe I haven’t shared it here sooner. This really is so easy. I find myself increasingly keeping heavy cream on hand at home, and I’m not sure what that says about me. But it’s worth it just to be able to have homemade ricotta on hand nearly all the time!
Homemade herb ricotta
Adapted from Ina Garten (in an old Costco magazine – ha!)
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp kosher salt
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh herbs or 2 tsp dried herbs – get creative here! My favorite fresh combinations are fresh chives and dill. Or maybe basil and lots of it. My favorite dried combinations are oregano and thyme. The possibilities are endless.
I use cheesecloth for this, but I’ve read about people just using a large clean dishcloth. I seem to have more luck with the cheesecloth. I just compost it when I’m finished so I don’t feel quite so wasteful. I set up the cheesecloth in a metal sieve over a large bowl. Pour the milk and cream into a stove pot. Stir in the salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally and staying close – you don’t want it to boil over. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Let the mixture set until it begins to curdle (just a minute or two). It will get a little chunky looking. Pour the mixture into your cheesecloth/sieve contraption and allow it to drain for at least 30 minutes. The longer you let it drain, the thicker the rciotta gets. The stuff that drains out is whey and it can be used for all sorts of things (we often just get lazy and add it to smoothies or to bread recipes in place of water to be honest). Once the ricotta is finished to your desired consistency, add the herbs and garlic and mix, just until barely combined.
I love this stuff on freshly baked bread as an appetizer or just a snack. It is to-die-for in lasagna or baked pasta recipes. It is so good on burgers or in scrambled eggs. What’s your favorite way to use ricotta?
You know you’re losing it when you post Wendell for Wednesday on Tuesday not once, but two weeks in a row! Yikes!
Surprisingly, until recently, my preferred method of cooking a whole chicken was the beer butt method on the grill. However, lately, I found a great local source for whole chickens, and I decided to try roasting instead because I wanted a whole meal with relatively little work. A side benefit of this meal is that the drippings make the richest and most delicious stock ever!
I have two different methods – one super easy and one that requires just a bit more work. Let’s take the longer one first.
Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
1 whole happily raised chicken (typically about 3-4 pounds)
1 carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 onion, diced
3 tbsp butter
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary (use the herb of your choice here – really anything works, but rosemary is my favorite. If you don’t have fresh, a teaspoon or two of dried will work too)
1 cup of water
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prep the chicken by making sure it is completely dry and at room temperature first. Use two tablespoons of butter and slip it, along with the fresh herbs, under the skin above the chicken breast. In a cast iron skillet, layer the diced vegetables on the bottom of the pan (functions similarly to a roasting pan with a V-rack to get the chicken off of the bottom of the pan). Lay the chicken breast-side up on top of the vegetables. Spread the remaining tablespoon of butter on the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of the pan and place in the oven for around 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, increase the temperature in the oven to 450 degrees and continue to roast the chicken until the thick part of the breast registers 160 degrees on your thermometer (typically an additional 30 minutes). Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest in its own juices for at least twenty minutes before carving the chicken (or making your husband do it because he is the expert).
I like to use the vegetables and juices from cooking for my next round of stock, but you could easily eat the veggies with your dinner.
The lazy Sara version*
The method above isn’t difficult, but if I’m in a hurry, I prefer this method. I think the ATK version is a bit juicier, but not so much so that this version isn’t worth it if you’re in a hurry.
1 happily raised whole chicken
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2-3 sprigs rosemary (or herb of your choice)
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Generously rub the dry, room temperature chicken with olive oil, stuff the rosemary under the skin of the breast, and season all over generously with salt and pepper (optional here: lemons and fresh garlic are delicious under the skin; if you want some kick, add some chipotle pepper seasoning with the salt and pepper; be adventurous – it’s difficult to screw this up!). Once the oven is preheated, put a glug of olive oil in a cast iron or other oven-safe pan and turn the heat on medium. Once the oil is shimmering a bit, put the chicken on the pan. You’ll want to brown each side for a few minutes. I usually split it up into four “sides” – breast side, back side, then precariously hold it in place to the brown the left and right sides, but at the minimum, do the breast and back sides. The kitchen will smell really nice right about now, and the chicken’s skin will be brown and pretty. Once you’ve browned the sides, throw the pan in the oven and set the timer for around 45 minutes. Check the thick part of the breast after 40 minutes – it is done when it reaches 160 degrees on your thermometer (the thermometer really is your best friend with chicken). Once the chicken is done, remove it from the oven and let it set in its own juices for at least twenty minutes before carving.
I like to make a little pan gravy with this version to serve with the chicken. All I do is remove the chicken from the pan onto a cutting board to let it rest. Then I throw about 1/4 cup of flour and a 1/4 cup of white wine in with the drippings in the pan. Stir vigorously for a few minutes over medium-high heat until the mixture thickens up. Add more wine or flour if it’s not at your desired consistency. It typically has enough salt and pepper for me leftover from the drippings, but taste it and add more if you need it.
This meal has become an almost weekly addition to our menu because it’s so easy to throw in at the end of the day and then prep the rest of the meal while it roasts in the oven. And, of course, the leftovers work great in any of the rotisserie chicken meals.
*If you have chicken breasts (or other bone-in chicken parts), this method works perfectly for them as well – just reduce the amount of time in the oven and use your thermometer to check when they’re done. Two (bone-in) chicken breasts typically only take 15-20 minutes.
So I resolved to be a bit more adventurous in the kitchen this year – stretch my comfort zone a bit. I love to cook, but I’ve never been a very talented baker. All of that measuring exact amounts doesn’t mesh with my laissez-faire personality or something. For desserts, I typically make cookies or a fruit crisp because those are much harder for me to screw up, but my dad’s favorite dessert is yellow cake with chocolate icing. He isn’t big on sweets, but he can put away some yellow cake. His birthday was last week, and since we gave up pre-packaged stuff like boxed cake mixes long ago and because I thought he deserved his favorite dessert for his birthday, I decided to branch out and bake him a cake. I first did quite a bit of research on the recipe itself, and then dug in. Obviously, this thing isn’t even remotely healthy, but I know (and approve of) every real ingredient that went into making this thing, and it tasted amazing. How it looked was a different story! Bookmark this for your next birthday – you’ll love it.
Some caveats: (1) while this is now my go-to birthday cake recipe, I will either make it in a 9×13 pan or as cupcakes next time. I am just not cut out for the double decker thing, as you can see. The double layer cake is so pretty when done well, but I think I’m just not cut out for all of the steps involved. If you are, more power to you. This was how my cakes looked when I peeked in the oven to see if they were done. Tons of batter had overflowed onto my stone on the bottom rack of the oven. I tried to follow these tips on layer cakes, but mine still turned out totally lopsided and rather sad looking. (2) The recipe is a little fussy, but I think it’s worth it. Deb from Smitten Kitchen doesn’t add extra steps unless they’re necessary in my experience with her recipes.
Yellow birthday cake
Barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (480 grams) cake flour (I made my own because I don’t have cake flour sitting around)
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk (475 ml)*
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9×13 cake pan or line your cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
Sift together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then add vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in batches, mixing just until the flour is incorporated.
Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then tap pan on the counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool for at least an hour. (I put mine in the freezer for about an hour, which helped with the frosting).
I have a standard chocolate buttercream icing that I thought sounded better (and less fussy) than the icings Smitten Kitchen’s recipe used, but feel free to experiment.
Chocolate buttercream frosting
My mom’s recipe
1 1/2 cups salted butter, at room temperature
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
3 – 4 Tbsp heavy cream or whole milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
In an electric mixer (or using a handheld mixer), mix the butter until light and fluffy. Then add the powdered sugar, the cocoa powder, the vanilla extract, and about 3 tbsp cream/whole milk. Whip mixture until light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes), adding additional tablespoon of milk/cream if necessary.
Notice in the picture how the whole cake slopes down from right to left. I had to use icing to fill in the parts of the cake that didn’t make it from the pan, so some bites had enormous amounts of frosting (which was awesome!). So learn from my mistakes – your version is bound to look prettier than mine, but I’ll guarantee that however sad it looks on the outside, it tastes delicious!
*My standard trick for buttermilk is this: for every cup of buttermilk that you need, add a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring cup, then fill up the measuring cup up to the one cup mark. Stir to combine and let sit for several minutes before using. Typical store-bought buttermilk has additives to stimulate the natural occurring bacteria in traditional buttermilk; whereas, traditional buttermilk is a by-product of butter making. I can only find traditional buttermilk at Whole Foods or EarthFare, so I typically use the shortcut unless I’m planning lots of baking.