off to brazil? for rice?

off to brazil? for rice?

Hello and welcome. Ready to take a closer look at another of Great-Aunt Helen’s recipes? How about a side dish this go-round? This was an easy one and it turned out well.There was a bit of ambiguity here, per usual. … Continue reading

kiss my grits

This gallery contains 7 photos.

Hello, WordPress world. My but I’ve missed you. Offline life has completely taken over for me and it’s been nearly a year between posts. Never my intention to let things go so long. But here we are (thank you that … Continue reading

deLizious leftovers

What with all the sweet potato dishes cooked up here last week and the oatmeal cookies the week before that, I’ve burned myself out a bit in the kitchen. My husband has made more than a few of our weeknight meals and we have so many cookies (double dosing this cookie season with two Girl Scouts in the house), cakes, and the like that there’s no need to make any new sweet treats.

OK, I did make this cake for Valentine's Day. Inspiration and recipe found here.

OK, I did make a cake for Valentine’s Day. Inspiration and recipe found here.

So I’ll do what other cooked-out cooks do and serve leftovers this week. For starters, here’s a recent Blog of Funny Names post. Give it a click (Do it! It’s not like you’ll be tested on it 😉 ) and learn more about the folks behind your favorite cold-weather foods.

Minnesota Soybean’s Real Story blog also gave me opportunity to bake up tasty cornbread, containing not one, not two, but three soyfoods. You need cornbread if you have chili on the menu, so give it a read here.

Because food for fun’s goal is to send you away with more than enough, I’ll also offer you the recipe for husband’s killer oven-baked Crunchy Chicken. Served with creamed spinach (A pinch-and-dash puree of spinach and garlic sautéed in olive oil, then mixed with fat-free half-and-half and neufchâtel cheese. Sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg, it made a lovely side.) and reheated stuffing from a soon-to-be-posted clams casino recipe (spoilers!), the chicken was a hit.

Crunchy Chicken and sides

Crunchy Chicken and sides

Would love to see you back here next week and while I don’t yet know what we’ll be serving up, I promise it’ll be fun eats.

Crunchy Chicken

My husband plays it fast-and-loose with seasonings, so there’s no guarantee his results can be recreated exactly, though this is the recipe he used. Also note that he used only drumsticks and chicken breast tenders.

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder, divided
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 3 pounds bone-in skin-on chicken pieces (split breasts cut in half, thighs, and/or drumsticks), trimmed
  • 3 1/2 cups cornflakes, crushed
  • 2/3 cup coarse breadcrumbs (about 2 slices bread)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

To marinate chicken, in large plastic resealable food-storage bag, whisk together buttermilk, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon pepper, and the hot sauce. Add chicken; seal bag. Turn to coat. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours.

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position; heat oven 400ºF. Set wire rack on foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Coat rack with cooking spray.

To make coating, in shallow dish, combine cornflakes, breadcrumbs, paprika, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Drizzle oil over crumbs; toss until well coated.

Working with 1 piece chicken at a time, remove from marinade. Dredge in crumb mixture, firmly pressing crumbs onto all sides. Place chicken on wire rack, leaving 1/2 inch between pieces. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until coating is deep golden brown and thickest part of chicken thigh registers 175°F and thickest part of breast registers 165ºF.

gettin’ your freekeh on

If I ran analysis and crunched numbers, I could tell you exactly how many food for fun recipes are “healthy” and how many not so much. But since running analysis and crunching numbers sounds a bit dry, I’ll just say that the “better for the soul than your waistline” recipes found here far outnumber the “good for you” recipes.

Yet. If this blog more accurately reflected how I cook, it would offer a better balance. While I love my sweets (and my cocktails), the meals I make tend to showcase whole grains, veggies, lean proteins, etc. That said, the sweet stuff garners more attention (and generally seems more fun), so I don’t often include main dishes here. But today I will.

Epicurious.com‘s recipes grace my email box daily and today’s caught my attention. I’d just been thinking supper possibilities as I opened the email and Stir-Fried Buckwheat sounded good. With a bag of buckwheat groats already in my freezer (or so I thought), this recipe would make a healthy vegetarian entrée.

What intrigued me most was how the grains were cooked. First, they were mixed with an egg, then toasted for a brief time in a large saucepan. Vegetable broth was added and the grain simmered 15 or so minutes until the broth was absorbed. The cooked grain was then spread out on a baking sheet, each kernel separated as much as possible for cooling. When added to the stir-fried and seasoned veggies, the grains mostly remain separate.

cooling the kernels

cooling the kernels

A quick search of the freezer failed to uncover buckwheat groats, but I found freekah and gave that a go instead. (Do you know freekeh? I first discovered it a year or so ago and figured it as the next quinoa. Billed as cracked green wheat, it’s chewy, slightly sweet, and adds variety to a whole grain repertoire. As for being the next big thing in the grain world, it’s now sold at Costco–a sure sign of being mainstreamed.)

freekah: a young, green cracked wheat

freekah: a young, green cracked wheat

Another change was subbing curry paste for the chile paste as that’s what I had on hand (paste is paste, right?). As well, I didn’t have any green beans, so added color with a handful of chopped fresh mint.

Stir-Fried Freekah

Stir-Fried Freekeh

Nutritionally, it makes a better side than main as it’s all carbs, but a sprinkle of peanuts upped the protein content. Though my girls weren’t impressed, I was. Reminiscent of fried rice, it also had its own personality: warm and slightly salty and savory and herby. I’ll definitely be making it again.

up close and personal

up close and personal

So while food for fun will continue highlighting ice cream, cookies, cakes, bread, adult beverages, and the like, it’ll also serve up the occasional healthy dish. The way I see it, not-so-good-for-you food can be enjoyed (relatively) guilt-free when you’ve filled up on the good stuff first.

brussels sprouts and bourbon

From my teen years on, I’ve enjoyed veggies of all sorts. As soon as I figured out they could be eaten in almost endless quantities without contributing many calories, I became a big fan. Carrots, broccoli, cauliflower? Bring ’em on. Greens such as kale, chard, spinach? Yes, please. Onions? Eggplant? Bell peppers? Yep, yep, and yep.

As an adult, I’ve learned to appreciate the colors and shapes of produce in general. They’re not cookie-cutter foods from a factory; they’re grown and harvested and brought to market. (Speaking of markets, buying produce at farmers’ markets brings on a high that can last for days.) Then there’s the fun-to-cook-with factor. Because veggies taste different roasted than steamed than grilled than sautéed, there are endless ways to keep variety in the mix.

Roasting is my favorite way to cook vegetables as the high temps caramelize and bring out an inherent sweetness. But when washing and trimming Brussels sprouts the other night, I decided to throw caution to the wind and sauté these babies. (I’m one crazy cook, yes?)

why ever not?

why ever not?

Because I genuinely enjoy the flavor of (most) veggies, a spritz of olive oil and sprinkle of coarse salt is as fancy as I usually get. That said, I had an itch to spice things up a bit with these sprouts. My soft spot for all things bourbon coupled with a glance at a nearby bourbon bottle put the figurative light bulb above my head. Bourbon and Brussels sprouts? Why ever not?

A good glug (3 tablespoons or so) went into the cast-iron skillet where the sprouts were cooking in olive oil. The immediate scent of bourbon rose from the pan and I wondered if maybe I had made a mistake. Perhaps these flavors weren’t meant for each other after all? They sure looked good, though: A few minutes later, the bourbon had evaporated and the Brussels sprouts were a rich and bright green, with shades of mahogany borrowed from the bourbon. They were gorgeous.

good for you? goes without saying. but these B sprouts are really really good!

good for you? goes without saying. but these B sprouts are really really good!

Even better, these sprouts were knock-outs in the flavor department. Even my husband, who eats what I cook because he’s a nice guy (but would really rather be eating veggies of the peas and corn variety), gobbled them down, noting that the bourbon actually mellowed the strong sprout flavor. Somehow the in-your-face bourbon and sprout flavors canceled each other out, resulting in an alchemy that was sweeter, softer, and more neutral. Because I hadn’t overcooked the sprouts (this time), the texture was right on–a slight chew, but stopping short of mush. They made a fine veggie side dish and got me thinking that I should try adding bourbon to other vegetables as well.

Cooking up these sprouts was loads of fun. The adult in me got to play with spirits in the kitchen and my inner 16-year-old is delighted that she can eat lots of veggies and still have room for dessert.