Honey Garlic Chicken

I’ve been hard core prepping for prepping my students for our end-of-grade tests this weekend.  Joel kept accusing me of playing video games for how long I spent staring at the computer today.  And pretty much the only reason why I bothered to cook today, at all, is because I knew we needed leftovers to eat for lunch this week.  So I set out to make Honey Garlic Chicken from Just a Taste.  Problem is, I didn’t have multiple ingredients the recipe called for.

The really tricky part was finding gluten free hoisin sauce, which I never did successfully.  When I researched substitutes or how to make your own, several started with peanut butter or bbq sauce.  I had both, and I actually intended on using the peanut butter method.  But then the bbq seduced me with its simplicity.  It worked well, and I like having a recipe that doesn’t need to be complicated.

And while my husband was beating me in a board game and shoveling food into his mouth (that’s how we do), he kept pausing to say, “This is so good!”

And so good it was.  I have no doubt that her version is better.  This version works, though, and I’ll definitely make it again.  Here we go!

Honey Garlic Chicken

Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken
Adapted from Just a Taste

3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (mine were frozen)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup low sodium gluten free soy sauce
1/4 cup strawberry jam
1 1/2 Tablespoons gluten free bbq sauce
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 teaspoon sriracha sauce
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
Sliced scallions, for garnish
Sesame seeds, for garnish

Put the chicken breasts in the bottom of the crockpot.  In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, jam, bbq, olive oil, garlic, onion, and sriracha.  Pour over the chicken.  Set on low to cook for 4-5 hours.

When cooked through, pull the chicken out and shred it.  Put the sauce into a small saucepan.  Stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 3 tablespoons water.  Add to the sauce and cook over medium high heat until thickened.  Add some of the sauce to the chicken, and reserve the rest for topping.

We served ours with brown rice, broccoli, sesame seeds, and scallions.  It was divine.

Meal Planning

Before there are groceries, there are meals.  There’s a plan.  Built on the weather, what’s fresh at the farmer’s market, what’s cheap at the supermarket, and whatever my/my husband’s work schedule looks like this week.  I always try to plan the more complicated meals earlier in the week, because I know I’ll have more energy.  Warm meals should coincide with cold nights.  Grilling with warm nights.  And these days, North Carolina is getting both in the same week.  Plan a salad for Tuesday instead of Thursday, and you might seriously regret it.

Completely unrelated, but I fell asleep while watching Scandal last night, which means I was watching what I had missed this morning, and I just spent the last 5 minutes with my hand covering my mouth, gasping repeatedly as things became more and more intense.  Why did I think this could be a chill watch-as-you-write-a-blog-post show this morning?

And that’s how we ended up with shepherd’s pie planned for this last Monday.  Monday was supposed to be cold.  I had come across a picture of shepherd’s pie on pinterest, and very much wanted to eat it.  Joel has been requesting shepherd’s pie basically since we got married.  I didn’t grow up with it, and thought the whole concept was gross.  But oh, that picture.  I wish I could find it again, but well… you know the internet.

I didn’t even realize Monday was St. Patrick’s Day until I got to school that morning and saw my colleague’s shamrock tie.  But even then, I didn’t put together that shepherd’s pie was a good St. Patrick’s Day dinner.  And if I’m being really honest, Monday was a rough day for me.  I got home and made a huge mistake.  I sat down.  As soon as I sit down in the evenings, I don’t get up.  Knowing this, I sat down anyway.  I browsed instagram.  And whoa… St. Patrick’s Day was happening in a serious way.  It was all soda bread and Guinness.

The coincidence was irresistible.  To the point that I actually got off my hindquarters and made it.

Shepherd's Pie

In the end, it was a whole lot easier than I expected.  Here’s how it went down:

Shepherd’s Pie

Adapted from Alton Brown

For the potato topping:

  • 1 1/2 pounds red skin potatoes, chopped with skin on
  • 3 T. unsalted butter
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 1 t. salt

For the filling:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 small carrots, diced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. black pepper
  • 2 T. corn starch
  • 1 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • 2 t. tomato paste
  • 1 t. gluten free Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 t. dried thyme
  • 1/2 c. frozen corn
  • 1/2 c. frozen peas

Get the potatoes in boiling water.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large (preferably oven safe) skillet, cook the onion and carrot in olive oil over medium heat until the onion is just barely translucent.  Add in the ground beef.  Cook until browned.  Add salt and pepper.  Stir the cornstarch into the chicken broth until mixed completely.  Set aside.  Add tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, and chicken broth mixture to the ground beef mixture.  Continue to cook until just barely thickened.  Add corn and peas.  If your skillet is oven safe, you can use that.  If not, transfer to a casserole dish.

When potatoes are cooked through, drain.  Add butter, milk, salt, and pepper.  Mash.  Spread over the filling, beginning at the edge and working your way to the middle.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until potato topping is just starting to brown.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

I remember watching TV once when I was a kid.  If I remember correctly, it was 7th Heaven, but I can’t say with any real authority.  Sorry.  Anyway, one of the characters said something about how they made a vegetarian lasagna, and I (stupidly) said, “ew… gross!”  My mom got a little offended, or maybe she was just calling me on my picky eating BS (it’s hard to call, really), and responded with “My lasagna is vegetarian, is it gross?”

And in my stupid little preteen brain, when I thought of vegetarian, I wasn’t thinking meatless.  I was thinking veggie-full.  And my stupid little preteen brain told me that veggies were gross.

This lasagna is the polar opposite of my mom’s lasagna from back then (although since getting this recipe from my sister-in-law, she only makes her lasagna this way).  There are tons of veggies.  And meat.  It makes no sense, really.  You could make it meatless, sure.  But I prefer not to.

Lasagna Done

And it doesn’t have veggies like my stupid preteen brain was picturing.  It doesn’t have mushrooms and olives, which I still maintain are pretty disgusting.  It doesn’t even have spinach, which even my preteen self was ok with in lasagna (primarily, I’ve stopped eating spinach because I’m pretty sure I was having an allergic reaction to it, at least in the large quantities that I was eating it).  It has a really sneaky vegetable masquerading as noodles.

Say what?!

Yep.  That’s how this thing is gluten free.  Zero pasta.  We could call into question its validity as a “lasagna” at all at this point, but once you see how yummy it is, I’m not sure you’ll want to.

I like to make it in little loaf pans because that’s about exactly right to feed me and my husband for dinner.  But when I’ve had it with my family, I’ve made it in 13×9 pans, and since that’s a more typical amount of lasagna, I’ve made the recipe thus.

On this particular occasion, I made a quadruple recipe and froze a ton of little loaf pans.  My husband and I are the proud owners of a new to us freezer that is currently sitting in our living room.  More on that later.  In the meantime, know that this meal freezes extraordinarily well.  I’ll even tell you how.

Lasagna Prep

Here’s how this lasagna goes down.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 pound ground beef (optional)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 jars spaghetti sauce
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Brown the ground beef with the onions.  Add in the spaghetti sauce.  You can leave the sauce alone at this point.  Or I like to add some black pepper and fresh herbs and then just let it simmer.  This is all optional.

Peel the squash, then cut the skinnier part into thin round disks (about a quarter of an inch or less, try to be as uniform as possible).  Then cut the larger part in half vertically if it’s standing on its butt.  (I have no idea the technical terms for a butternut squash, so just go with me on this…)  Use a spoon to scoop out all the seeds and what not.  Now cut these into moon shaped disks.

Spoon a bit of sauce into your pan.  Then cover with a layer of butternut squash.  Top with sauce.  Then cheese.  Then repeat.  And again.  Until all the ingredients are used up.

Here’s where you cover with foil and freeze if you’re into that.  Then you just pull it out of the freezer, thaw, and follow these other directions when you’re ready to eat.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until the squash is fork tender.  Then bake uncovered until the cheese is just slightly blistered.

P.S. The butternut squash really dried out my skin today, a problem I haven’t had when I’ve made this in the past.  I mean, we’re talking peeling skin dried out.  It’s gross.  If you have a similar problem, you should know that a bowl of sugar to rub your hands in and an episode of house hunters should do the trick.

Even today, I can do this…

This last week has really knocked me on my butt.  It’s that time of year… the days are longer, people want to get together, and the hours required by my job are just insane.  It’s like everyone else is fully embracing summer, and I’ve got to hold out for just a few more weeks.  I know it’ll be worth it in mid-June, but I’m struggling now.  I’m staying late trying to get my classroom in order.  I’m more exhausted from the school day because the kids are just done, and we’ve got so much still to do.  And when I’m exhausted, here’s how the evening goes:

5ish

Walk in the door.  Ramona rushes up to me, begging to go out.  Walk to the kitchen, let Ramona into the back yard, get a glass of water, and go chill out on my ever so comfy bed.  Veg out, look through instagram, turn on netflix, play yet another game of 2048, etc.

6:20ish

Joel walks in the door, hears Ramona whining at the back door and lets her in, comes looking for me to find me asleep in bed with netflix playing on my ipad.  His coming into the bedroom usually wakes me up.  We then proceed to chat about our days.

6:40ish

We’re in the kitchen.  I don’t feel like spending 30 minutes to cook some fabulous but altogether complicated dinner.  We look in the freezer for gluten free pizza.  No luck.  I guess we’re going out for tacos.

It’s a bad habit to be in.  And I haven’t been buying convenience foods like frozen pizza because when I go grocery shopping on the weekend, I care about health and how bad processed food is for me.  But mid week, when I look in the fridge only to see uncooked/unprepped veg, I opt for going out for dinner.

Because the tacos aren’t good for me either.  And so then I end up eating poorly and letting the healthy food I got at the farmer’s market go bad just because I’m too lazy to prepare it.  Joel always offers to cook dinner, but he’s not the most experienced in the kitchen, I’m actually quite picky, and I’m too tired to give him step-by-step instructions.

So this week, we’re being realistic.  30 minute meals just aren’t easy enough.  I’m looking for 10 minute meals, less if at all possible.  I can handle some wait time while I lay in bed and watch netflix, but I need to count on at least some time where I’m laying down in the evening.

This means convenience foods, but I’m going for the right kind of convenience foods.  Already grilled and chopped chicken isn’t substantially worse than what I could do myself, but can go on top of pasta and salads to create a complete meal.  I go for the minimally processed, gluten free stuff, and Costco has a bag that I’ve been eyeing for weeks.  Bread.  Gluten free bread isn’t cheap (even at Costco), but sandwiches will do in a pinch.  And a slice of peanut butter toast right when I get home can give me the energy I need to actually prepare dinner.  And because I’m a total sucker, Joel and I picked up some gluten free kale chicken burgers they had at Costco yesterday.  I had one for dinner last night when Joel went out with his friends, and I’m pleased with the purchase.

Kale Chicken Burger

Another convenience food I’m planning on using is this gluten free teriyaki sauce I found at Costco (I know, I’m obsessed).  I can throw just about any meat into it and bake.  Put rice into the rice maker.  Add a green vegetable, and we’re done.  I know as well as you do, that homemade teriyaki sauce is easy peasy, but it’s clearly not easy enough, because I’m opting for tacos instead of making it.  So for just a few bucks, I can have something as simple as open, pour, bake, which is hardly more difficult than a frozen pizza.

And this means prepping this weekend.  I don’t like to spend too much time over the weekend chopping vegetables and getting everything in order for the week.  I’ll plan to, but then I don’t follow through.  Because vegetable chopping is boring.  This weekend, I’m planning something simple, but substantially more interesting.  We’re making pesto with all that basil from the garden.  And granola bars that will help get me through each day.  Recipes to come.

 

Ramona the Pest

When Joel and I first started dating, he was in the process of selling his condo in Carrboro.  When he finally did sell it a year later (this was back when the market was in pretty rough shape), he invited me along on his house hunt in Durham.  The house that he finally did end up buying has my dream kitchen in it (in a 50s retro, funk counter peninsula kinda way), a fenced in back yard, and is about a block away from a dog park.  We’re very fortunate to have a great neighborhood for walking, including a pretty rad trail.  Less than a year after Joel bought this house and quite a bit before I would move in, I was hounding (pun totes intended) Joel to get a dog.  It seemed a crime to have such an ideal house/neighborhood for a dog and not to have one.

… and then we met Ramona.  I was teaching workshops out by the coast that summer, and some of the interns and I were discussing the different dogs they had.  And then this lady who volunteered at this afterschool program said, “Are any of you looking to adopt a dog?  Because we have some dogs that really need a good home?”  And when I told Joel they had a bunch of black lab/golden retriever puppies that were going to the pound within the week if they didn’t find puppies, he was just as much into it as I was.

Retriever

Ramona’s a tough one to photograph because she’s ALWAYS moving.  I don’t know what we were really expecting with a name like Ramona.  But as much of a pest as she can be at times, I absolutely adore her.

… so when I woke up at 1 this morning because I had a nightmare where she died of this really awful disease, I wasn’t able to go back to sleep.  I had to teach today on little more than 2 hours of sleep.  Obviously not ideal.  So when I was staring at my box of chex this morning, I knew that just wasn’t going to cut it.  I considered toast with peanut butter and banana.  Not a bad option, but I really needed chocolate.

I went searching for this recipe.  And it rocked my world.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Quinoa

Remember those no bake chocolate peanut butter oatmeal cookies you had at VBS every summer?  This is a relatively guilt-free version of that.  It’s so rich and decadent, but the ingredient list beats out your average box of cereal.  Check it out!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Breakfast Quinoa

adapted from The Everything Vegan Cookbook

  • 1/2 c. quinoa
  • 1 1/2 c. milk
  • 2 T. peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 T. cocoa
  • 1 1/2 T. agave syrup (or your sweetener of choice)

Cook the quinoa and milk over medium-low until the quinoa is cooked, and the milk is almost entirely absorbed.  Remove from heat.  While quinoa is still hot, stir in the peanut butter, cocoa, and sweetener.  Top with bananas or eat plain.  Serves 2.

It’s the most… wonderful time…

… of the year.  You know that time of year where all you need is a citronella candle and a lemonade to be exactly perfectly happy on your patio.  We’re eating more meals outside than not these days, and I’m really digging it for a couple reasons: a) fewer dishes to wash and b) I don’t even mind that there’s junk all over our dining room table.

I’ve also been spending every Saturday morning at our local farmer’s market.  I’ve really been trying to get in on the whole organic game, from our vegetables to our meat.  The meat is trickier than I expected.  It’s also a lot more expensive than I expected.  I wanted a steak salad, real bad, but the london broil at my regular beef place was expensive like whoa.  As I was meandering around the market, I hesitated in front of the bison sellers.  There were no customers there which made my hesitation especially conspicuous.  The seller struck up a conversation with me, and I was pretty honest with her.  “I’ve never had bison… does it taste… I’m sorry… but does it taste weird?”  She assured me that it did not.  I don’t really know what I was expecting her to say.  So I took the plunge.  And I walked away with a bison london broil, which she suggested I marinate and cook on the grill until it reached 143 degrees Fahrenheit.

I did.  And it was AMAZING.

Steak Salad

I put it on top of farmer’s market mixed greens with chopped organic strawberries and shredded cheddar cheese.  Then topped with poppyseed dressing.  Don’t mind how the dressing got away from me over on the right.

Don’t Stop Believing

When I started thinking through this post, I was fixing myself breakfast.  I was letting my dog out to go be with her boyfriend (she normally doesn’t want to go out until at least 6:30, but at 5:45, I can hear his bark next door, and she’s got to be out there, running along the fence with him).  I was singing this song in my head.  No, let’s just be honest, I was singing it out loud.  But it has nothing to do with the major point of this post, which is this:

Let’s just stop pretending that anything ever is perfect.  I know, I know.  This is a food blog.  Where the author eats loads of cupcakes and pies and never gets fat.  Where the dirty dishes created by cooking a) don’t exist, b) never appear in the background of photos, and c) never stress us out.  (I don’t have a dishwasher, so… you know… ha!)  Where we totally compost because like… omg, who doesn’t? but said compost NEVER attracts fruit flies.  Where you totally have a marble counter top, or, at the very least, something substantially better than white laminate.

Let’s just get something straight.  I’m pretty sure nobody ever has had a marble countertop.  It’s all angles, smoke, and mirrors.  Or more simply, a marble cutting board.  I often trick you into believing I have a wood countertop.  I don’t.  I just have a bamboo tray that a lot of my food ends up on because I rarely eat at a table.

But I really enjoy tricking the whole world into thinking my life is perfect, especially my food.  I never make mistakes.  I never run out of eggs mid-recipe at 5 in the morning.  I never get a tornado warning on my phone while I’m cooking that tells me to “take shelter now!”  It just never happens.  Not to me, anyway.

Baby Shower Cake

But this cake.  It happened.  It was undeniable.  It fell over during my walk to the car in the morning.  I fixed it.  It fell over in the car.  I fixed it.  And then it fell over while I was trying to find room for it in the fridge at work.  I cried.  And my coworker fixed it.

I had worked the whole thing up in my head.  Like anything I bake can make or break a baby shower.  Not one person said, “ew… who made the cake?”  Because not one single person was there for the cake.  Duh!  I’m just not that important to the whole world.

So go on over to Joy the Baker and make this cake.  Make some whipped cream and layer the cake with the cream and assorted berries.  Take it to a party.  Have a good time.  But whatever you do, don’t cry over it.  Perfection wasn’t going to happen anyway.  And nobody expected it.

Lemon Streusel

I’m really big into streusel right now.  Fat, flour, and sugar combine to create this crumbly goodness right on top of soft cakey goodness, and I just can’t get enough of it.

Typically, I’m into a cinnamon streusel.  Cinnamon is one of those ingredients where I almost always add at least double whatever amount the recipe calls for.  It’s so delicious that more of it will necessarily be more delicious.  And, in truth, it usually is.  I have yet to be disappointed by it.  But I wanted something a little less warm and cozy and a little fresher to combine with the lemon.  This streusel is cinnamon-less, something that is likely never to happen again so enjoy it while you can.

Lemon Streusel

I’m calling these “cupcakes”, although their lack of frosting might push them more towards the muffin category.  My reasoning is this: these were served for a coworker’s birthday today, and I think we can all agree that they are definitely birthday worthy.

This recipe is the love child of takeamegabite and joythebaker.  Really, I’ve been dreaming about the idea of lemon and streusel in these cupcake liners since I got them on clearance a few weeks ago.  But I’m not really confident in my baking skills (especially not gluten free baking skills), to just grab a bowl and a spoon and make it happen.  I need a starting point.  When I saw this berry buckle recipe, I knew that would be my streusel.  But as I stressed just the teensiest bit over the creeping birthday deadline and not having any idea how I was going to do the lemon cupcake beneath the streusel, Joy taught me all about the lemon + sugar rub down.

Lemon Streusel Cupcakes

This recipe happened at 6 in the a.m. with slippers, PJs, and bad lighting.  It happened when I blended recipes from two of my favorite food bloggers.  It happened when I found a jar of just enough lemon curd in my fridge.  It happened.  And boy, am I glad it did!

Lemon Streusel Cupcakes
Adapted from takeamegabite and joythebaker

For the cupcake:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup butter at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups BetterThanCup4Cup
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt

For the topping:

  • 1/4 cup lemon curd
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup BetterThanCup4Cup
  • 1/4 cup butter at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Mix the sugar and the lemon zest with the back of a small spoon until that sugar is all lemony fresh.  Then cream it with the butter.  Mix in the eggs and milk.  Mix in the remaining dry ingredients until flour is just moistened.  Don’t overmix that mess.  Spoon into cupcake liners until 2/3 full.  Top each cupcake with a teaspoon of lemon curd.

In a small bowl, combine sugar and flour for topping.  Work in the butter with your fingers until it’s all crumbly.  Sprinkle over the cupcakes.

Bake for 20ish minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Let cool for 15 minutes so the topping doesn’t go everywhere.  Then pack one up for your husband to take to work and give the rest to the best friend/mentor you can find.

Browning Butter

People have been talking about this whole brown butter situation for awhile.  And to be honest, I was unconvinced.  Why on earth would I spend time at the stove carefully overseeing the browning of butter when I could, you know, not?

I gave Joy the Baker’s brown butter doughnuts a try.  Obviously, I had to make them gluten free, so I smushed together my two basic recipes.  I substituted brown butter for the oil from the buttermilk doughnuts in Baked Doughnuts for Everyone.  It definitely added a more complex flavor which I really dug.

Browned Butter

This is what brown butter looks like.  I didn’t know.  I also didn’t know that 2 tablespoons of butter, browned is different from 2 tablespoons of brown butter.  You live.  You learn.  I’m still not sure if this is going to be a regular activity for me, but I will acknowledge a difference in flavor.

Doughnuts Overhead

The real trick with baked doughnuts is letting them cool completely before you eat them all up.  It’s tough, but it must be done.  Scoop those babies out with the cutest little spatula you can find.  Then let them chill out for a bit.  In an ideal world, this would happen on a wire rack.  I don’t have one of those.  Whoops.  But I do have a platter that exactly fits 6 doughnuts.

Doughnuts Cooling

Joy’s chocolate glaze was basically divine.  They’re not nearly as heavy at the chocolate peanut butter doughnuts from last week, which makes two of these exactly the right amount.

Stacked Doughnuts

The husband and the little sister woke up to the smell of these Sunday morning.  I got more than a few bonus points.  Make these for yourself, and you’ll be a very happy camper.  Make them to share, and you’ll be loved forever.  That’s my strategy, at least.

Impressing Guests

Last night, we had a guest over for dinner.  A single guy who typically purchases his dinner on his way home from work.  Which is only to say that I could have made almost anything and impressed him.  But the weather outside was delightful yesterday (and promises to be so again today), and I wanted to get that grill going.

Hamburgers.  Joel suggests these often, actually, and I always shot him down.  If I’m going to spend $6 on 4 servings of bread (that’s what Udi’s hamburger buns cost at my grocery store), I’m not going to waste them on hamburgers.  And I stand by that decision.  But we’re lucky enough to have a farmer’s market with a booth dedicated strictly to gluten free bread.  Hello Imagine That Gluten Free!  So far, I’ve only tried their baguettes, but they’re divine.  And baguette slices can make a great partner for hamburger buns.  I buttered them up and threw them on the grill.  Flipped.  Topped with cheese.  Then threw a hamburger and various toppings on.  Then you scarf!

Burger Prep

The prepwork for this meal was easy-peezy-lemon-squeezy.  And then the actual cooking part was done outside with my husband (let’s be honest, he did the cooking), lemonade, and my favorite pup, Ramona.  But I wanted some sides for these burgers.  The sweet potato fries sitting in my freezer were an obvious choice.

I also had a Costco amount of sweet peppers in the fridge.  And that’s where our story really begins.  Cheese stuffed sweet peppers are a go to treat around here.  I keep people believing that they’re super hard to make, but really, they’re pretty easy, albeit a little time consuming.  You just have to core a bunch of sweet peppers.  Then I typically stuff with a cream cheese feta mixture.  This time, we had cheddar on hand, so I went with that.

Burger

They look kinda gross because of the blending of colors, which is why I didn’t take a ton of pictures.  But I’ll say this.  There were leftovers of everything but the peppers.

Cheese Stuffed Peppers

  • Sweet peppers (I made 10, but scale accordingly)
  • 4oz. cream cheese
  • 1/2 c. shredded cheddar (or feta or be creative and try your own thing)

Take out the cores and tops of the sweet peppers.  Cut a slit up one side of the peppers to create an opening.  Mix up the cheeses.  Now stuff the cheese mixture into the peppers.  I grilled them this time, but I’ve also roasted them in the oven at 400 degrees as well.  The cheese is going to ooze out to an extent.  Just go with it.