Roasted chicken thighs with root vegetables

When I first got married, I could not bake chicken for the life of me. No matter what temperature I baked it at or for how long, when I served it, it would still be pink (or even bloody) in the middle. After almost 8 years of marriage, I have finally perfected a baked chicken recipe that is simple and healthy. This recipe can be adapted to accommodate any type or amount of vegetables you have on hand. I served this with the quickest dinner rolls from scratch I’ve ever made before (see recipe here).

Roasted chicken thighs with root vegetables (adapted from here)

The amounts listed below are what I had in the fridge.

Ingredients:

8 chicken thighs (I used skinless, boneless.)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 celery stalks, cut into large pieces
2 kohlrabi, peeled and cubed
non-stick cooking spray
5-6 small, unpeeled new potatoes, cubed
1 onion, cut into large pieces
1 T salt
2 t dried thyme
1 1/2 t ground black pepper
1/4 ground nutmeg

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.

2. Mix salt, thyme, 1½ teaspoons pepper, and nutmeg in small bowl.

3. Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Place vegetables in the pan.

4. Sprinkle half of the spice mixture on the vegetables.

5. Lay the chicken over the vegetables. Sprinkle the remaining spice mixture on the chicken.

6. Cover with foil and bake until the chicken is golden and cooked through, about 45 minutes. Serve.

Comment love: What are you favorite chicken recipes?

Minimalist kitchen: New uses for the strawberry huller

I love my strawberry huller. It is great for removing the green tops from strawberries without having to waste a lot of the small berry. It’s also great for removing the eyes from fresh pineapples.  If you don’t have one, you should think about getting one.

How many of you are guilty of letting vegetables go past their prime? I had planned to make roasted chicken with root vegetables for dinner tonight (more on that tomorrow) and discovered that my potatoes had “eyed-over”. Pineapples eyes are just like potato eyes, right?

The potato eyes can then be thrown into your compost bin. (For more on how to urban- compost in your apartment, check out this post.)

Comment love: Do you use a strawberry huller? Do you have any other uses for it?

No phone zone

Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong decade/century. While I definitely see the utility in email and texting, and technology in general, sometimes I think we need to make a more conscious effort to disconnect and unplug. Oprah has a campaign to stop texting while driving, but the “No phone zone” should extend to the dining room table and bedroom.

Since finishing school and moving back to live full-time with R, we have informally decided to have a “Year of Yes”. What exactly this means, we are still defining. Four years is a long time to have only spent the weekends together and I’m sure the life experiences we’ve had over these years have changed us. So, we just want to take time to focus on “us” and living life “together” once again.

Anyhow, this “Year of Yes” will hopefully have us saying “No” to one thing.

Here’s the email I wrote to R today:

During the Year of Yes, let’s say NO to phones at the dinner table and right when we wake up. Let’s say YES to more conversations and YES to more experiencing the present!

http://www.realmomnutrition.com/2012/08/16/why-life-got-better-when-my-smartphone-died/

Are you in Dr. Mr. H??!!?

Love,
Mrs. Dr. H

Out of the 2 of us, he’s probably the one who will have a harder time with this, especially at the dinner table. But we’ll see.

I recently read an article about productivity that suggested not checking your email for the first hour of your day. Brilliant. Why didn’t I think of this? I’ve been practicing this for about a week now. It definitely takes discipline, but I think it’s a habit that I’m going to keep around.

Oh, and here’s another reason I should probably spend less time on my phone. I dropped it on my garage floor about a week ago. Nothing like an ugly phone to discourage you from using it.

Comment Love: What about you? Do you find the phone [or insert other technology] invading more and more of your life? Are you constantly and compulsively checking Facebook, Twitter, or the weather just because it’s right at your fingertips? What steps are you taking to “be more present”?

Crunchy Biscoff Bread

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I was first introduced to these delicious crunchy cookies on Delta Airlines. I became to like them so much, that I would often beg ask the flight attendants for extra. My world changed when I discovered that Wegman’s was carrying them and I no longer had to buy a $500 plane ticket to devour enjoy these yummy cookies. Just when I thought life couldn’t get any better, one day while at Wal-Mart, there is was…Biscoff spread in “smooth” AND “crunchy”….wait for it…with a $1.00 off coupon. I could’ve died and gone to heaven. I snatched up those glass jars like I was a contestant on Supermarket Sweep.

Since Biscoff Cookies and Spread went mainstream, life has been a little sweeter around here. I have to admit, even though I’ve seen dozens of ice cream, muffin and bar recipes incorporating Biscoff, I’ve been more of a purist, using only the spread (on toast, apples, in banana milkshakes) or just eating the cookies. After hoarding Biscoff recipes on Pinterest, I finally decided to bite the bullet and bake with Biscoff. This recipe is a simple recipe that makes a sweet, dense bread, similar to a coffee cake.

Crunchy Biscoff Bread (I adapted the recipe found here.)

Makes 2 mini-loaves

Prep time: 10 minutes

Bake time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar (The original recipe called for granulated sugar, but I only had brown in the pantry.)
3 large eggs (I only had 2 eggs, so I just added a couple of teaspoons of water to the batter.)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Biscoff cookies, crushed (I used 7 for batter and 3 for topping. I crushed them in my Vitamix, but you could easily crush them with your hands.)
4 T Biscoff spread (Split between 2 loaves)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Spray mini-loaf pans with cooking spray.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well.

Gradually add in flour, baking powder and salt.

Gradually add flour mixture. Mix just until combined.

Add in crushed Biscoff cookies to the batter and mix until combined.

Divide batter between the 2 mini-loaf pans. Place about 2 T Biscoff spread on top of each loaf. Swirl Biscoff into batter using a butter knife.

Top loaves with more crushed Biscoff cookies.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until a pick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack (if you can even wait.)

How have you been enjoying Biscoff cookies and spread? Do you like it crunchy or do you like it smooth? Any Biscoff recipes you’ve been dying to try?

That’s a spicy…spice rack!

I’m happy to introduce Jackie, my first guest blogger! I work with her and she is loads of fun and when she mentioned her latest home project to me, I thought it would be a great addition to my blog. (PS: Jackie is also a fellow Vitamix owner!)

Welcome Jackie!

So, this is my first foray into guest-blogging, and the pressure is on not to let PY down. My husband, Ross, and I are notorious weekend DIY-ers; this weekend was no exception: projects included installing new floors in the basement and finding a solution for our cluttered countertops. After seeing several cute magnetic spice racks on Etsy, we decided to try our hand at making our own. The process was surprisingly simple, and cost under $50.  Naturally, the first step is getting all of the necessary supplies. Fortunately, for this project supplies are easy to come by and relatively inexpensive. You can find a variety of food-grade spice tins at Specialty Bottle. (http://www.specialtybottle.com) For this project, we ordered a mixture of 2.5 oz clear-top round tins and 4 oz clear-top square tins, figuring the mixture would accommodate our varied collection of spices. 

Next, we ordered a pack of 50 1/4″ x 1/16” neodymium magnetic discs from Emovendo magnets. (http://www.emovendo.net/magnets/discs/) This size is great for putting 2 magnets on each tin, but if you prefer single magnets, I would recommend going the next size up. You can hang your spice tins on any magnetic surface; we had a $5 magnetic wipe-off board hanging in our kitchen already which turned out to be the perfect size for a small spice rack (don’t have one of those? Head to Target or Michael’s to pick up your own). Continue reading

Love Thin Mints? Then, you’ll love this even better.

Lately, I’ve been reading Facebook status updates from my girlfriends who are practically cursing the Thin Mints Girl Scout cookies. I, too used to have  a love/hate relationship with Girl Scout cookies. Love to eat them. Hate yourself after you’ve eaten the whole box in one sitting. Thin. Mints. Are. Addicting. Then, I found this recipe from Rachel Ray years ago. I’m happy to share this recipe with you as a solution to your Thin Mint addiction. Well… come to think of it– I’m not sure if you thank me or curse me (because this recipe is delish).

So, every year when cookie sales come around, I buy a box of Thin Mints, eat half and save the other half to make  this Thin Mints Dessert Pizza.  Make it and take it to work. You will definitely win “Co-worker of the Week” for sharing this with them (and you’ll have only devoured half the box by yourself instead of the entire thing).

Thin Mints Dessert Pizza

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Open sesame: How to make roasted sesame milk

For all of you looking for milk alternatives and are wanting to try something besides soy or almond milk, give this a try. Sesame milk (contains no milk) tastes wonderful and is almost reminiscent of a “peanut-buttery milk”.

Roasted sesame milk

Ingredients:

2 cups of water

3/4 cups of sesame seeds

Directions:

1. Toast sesame seeds in oven @ 350 degrees for about 5 minutes.

2. Place all ingredients in Vitamix blender and secure lid.

3. Start machine at Variable 1 and quickly increase to Variable 10. Then, switch to high.

4. Blend for about 2 minutes or until desired consistency.

5. Strain using cheesecloth or nut milk bag (shown below) and/or add sweetener if desired.

After I strained the milk, I only had a tiny bit of nut pulp left. You could add this to a bread dough (e.g., banana bread). I added mine to my compost pile. (Click here for post on how to compost apartment-style.)

6. Store in the refrigerator or enjoy immediately! (I store mine in an “upcycled” glass peanut butter jar.)

Notes:

I used my toaster oven to toast the seeds, so it was pretty quick. Actually, the sesame seeds that I had were already labeled as “roasted”, but the recipe I used said that toasting seeds improves the slight bitter flavor of the “milk”, so I wasn’t taking any chances.

The recipe makes 2 cups, but the batch that I made in the pictures is only 1/2 of the recipe.

I made this using my Vitamix. I’m sure you could make it in a regular blender, but because it does require that you blend for about 2 minutes, I would be afraid that a regular blender couldn’t handle it. (It was when I tried to make things like this, that I burnt out several “regular” blenders and decided to get a Vitamix. Click here for more information on how to purchase a Vitamix (30-day money back guarantee–so if you don’t like it, you can always send it back–although I doubt you will). Using this link will provide free shipping (a $25 value).

A day…eh hem, I mean, “a couple of months” late, but NOT a dollar short

I know it’s been a while since my last post and I just realized that the last post I left you with ended with me putting myself at risk for botulism. Well, I’m happy to report that no, I did not get botulism from my cake in a jar. I’ve just been busy with school and honestly haven’t had anything overly exciting to blog about…not that posts about blending up weird concoctions of various fruits and vegetables or nuts is a real page-turner scroller (?).

On to the post…which is a little bit late, but better late than never, right?

For those of you who know me, you might know that I spent months thinking about my gifts for R. (Check out this post to find out what I gave R for Christmas last year.)  Continue reading

Bake (and eat) at your own risk

Yeah, this title might totally be the way R would describe some of my past baking (and cooking) “experiments”. Remember that cake-in-a-jar that I baked back in October 2010? Well, immediately after making them, I sent them off to my sister and BIL who are currently serving in A-stan. All except for one lonely jar. I stuck this one away at the bottom of my fruit basket with all intentions of “opening” it about 3 weeks after I baked it. (Three weeks is about the time that it takes for a package to arrive over to my sister.) Well, about three weeks later, I did indeed hear from her that the pineapple cake-in-a-jar was delish and she then requested zucchini bread-in-a-jar, which you can read all about here. Needless to say, I forgot about the cake-in-a-jar that I had saved to try later. One month passed. Then two months. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been eyeing the jar on my baker’s rack and every time I see it, I decide that I’m going to open it…and then I get distracted and forget about it. I think part of me was (subconsciously) afraid it wasn’t good anymore and I would get some sort of stomach bug from it. And that’s coming from the girl with the iron stomach. Well, I saw an “encouragement” from my friend A (see her blog here) to “write” blog entries so she would have something to read tonight, so A, this post is for you.

Here’s what the cake-in-a-jar looked like after 3 months. No obvious mold. Good.

When I opened it, I did hear the seal “POP”. And it didn’t look dried out and still smelled delicious. It came out of the jar pretty easily. Only a little part of it was left behind in the jar. Continue reading

If they sell donut holes, where do all the bagel holes go?

For those of you following my adventures in the kitchen through this blog, you know that I love trying to make things from scratch, like fruit leather, Shanghai soup dumplings (xiao long tang bao), or green tea  and birthday cake ice cream. Many of you probably are wondering why in the world would you make yogurt from scratch [or insert food], when you can buy them for 0.40 [insert insanely cheap price] at the store? Here are some of the reasons I’m up for the challenge of  DIY food:

1) Sometimes things really do taste better homemade.

2) Sometimes things really are cheaper homemade.

3) It’s “greener”. It reduces packaging waste and doesn’t contribute (much) to my carbon footprint.

4) I can control what goes into what I make. I don’t need to add preservatives, unecessary colorings or flavor enhancers.

5) It’s fun to know “where your food comes from.”

6) It makes me feel more “domesticated”. ( :

Making food from scratch doesn’t always make sense. Some recipes take way too long to prepare and only taste slightly better than store-bought like my Taiwanese pineapple cakes. But nonetheless it’s fun.

So, I wanted to share with you my attempt at homemade bagels. Continue reading

Vitamix does fruit roll-ups

On their website, Vitamix boasts that this amazing “blender” can tackle 52 amazing food feats. Well, I’m proud to say I’ve discovered food feat #53.

Before Christmas break, I stuck some apples in the fridge…and forgot about them…until yesterday. Now, when it comes to apples, I’m pretty snobby. I really like a crisp, crunchy apple. I do not do mealy apples. I’ve recently discovered honeycrisp apples (or as R likes to call them: “honeycripsy” apples) and if any of you have ever ate one, you know exactly what a delicious apple should taste like. Sorry Gala and Fuji but I’ve found a new love. But, I deter. Back to the old, mushy apples in the fridge. Yesterday, I pulled them out of the fridge just to see how “bad” they really were. Secretly, I was hoping that they were rotten and I could just toss them. But suprisingly, they “looked” decent. Well, I knew they weren’t good enough for this “apple snob” to eat directly. So, I remembered that I had been wanting to try to make fruit leather from scratch. Do you remember eating Fruit Roll-Ups as a kid? I thought this would be the perfect way to use up my “old” fruit.

Here’s what I did:

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update: Thirty before 30

I fully intended to update you on the progress of my TB30 list the day after my 30th birthday (which was about 2 months ago). Better late than never, huh?

Although I wasn’t able to finish everything on my list, it was still loads of fun trying to.

Here’s a repost of my TB30 list with some added commentary from yours truly. Continue reading

I searched the world…

When it comes to gifts, my husband, R is the hardest person to buy for. He either doesn’t need it, already has it, or it costs a million dollars. (Literally. Think 50-foot yacht.) I’m sure many of you wives can relate. Well, I learned some years ago, that the best gifts are the ones that are personalized. And when I say personalized, I don’t mean buy something from Things Remembered and engrave his name on it. If any of you know us, R loves flying stunt kits. (Our first date was to St. George Island for kite flying.) So, this was my gift to him a couple of years ago. It’s a picture mosaic made up of our pictures. This picture doesn’t do it justice. Up close, you can see that all of the little pictures are pictures of us. (That’s R with his parachute kite on the beach at Tyndall AFB.)

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It’s “grape” to make fresh juice in the Vitamix

Truth be told, a whole fruit juicer had been on my wish list for the last couple of years and my mom knew this. This summer my mom sent me a juicer. She told me they were on promotion: buy 1, get one 50% off. Since this summer, I have probably only used my juicer a dozen or so times. That’s because juicing with the Vitamix is so much easier. If anyone owns a juicer, they probably know what a pain it is to clean up. It takes 5x longer to wash the machine than it does to actually make the juice. I don’t use the dishwasher at my school house, so it also feels like I waste a lot of water to clean the darn machine.

For those of you considering buying a juicer, first read this post to see just how easy whole fruit juicing can be with the Vitamix. Continue reading

Xiao long tang bao (Shanghai steamed soup dumplings)

This year R and I decided that we weren’t going to celebrate our birthdays and anniversary with gifts in order to save money (and plus neither of us really need/want anything). So, we promised each other we wouldn’t buy anything. Well, giving gifts must be a love language for me. I just couldn’t resist doing something for R’s birthday. Each year, the tradition so far has been to cook him a special birthday dinner. It’s usually lamb because he really loves it and it’s something that we don’t make on a regular basis. But in the last couple of months (ever since returning from our summer trip to Taiwan), I can’t tell you how many times he has mentioned xiao long bao. If you’ve never heard of these or eaten these, they are the most delicious dumpling you will ever have. What makes them extra special is that there is a gushing of delicious, savory soup inside each dumpling that escapes and dribbles down your chin as you bite into its tender, slightly chewy skin. If you ever go to Taiwan (or are in a restaurant that serves these), this is a must-eat kinda food. So, in my quest to become a good Taiwanese wife, I decided to attempt to make these and enlisted my roommate (a wonderful cook) to help. Attempting the make these is definitely not for the faint of heart. They take a lot more effort than the usual speedy Taiwanese recipes that we make on a day-to-day basis. Since the first time that I made these about 3 weeks ago, I have made them twice since and found that each time it does get easier.

The recipe below is a translation of something my roommate found online, along with some adjustments from trial and error. Continue reading

Hello YouTube: How to make green tea ice cream without an ice cream maker

For me, part of the idea of living fully is to live simply. And in trying to embrace living simply, I’ve been practicing how to become more self-sufficient…which in the kitchen translates into learning how to make as many things as possible from scratch instead of buying it already pre-made. Living simply in the kitchen also means trying to get away with as few speciality appliances as absolutely necessary (e.g., the ice cream maker).

One of my minor obsessions this summer was making homemade ice cream without an ice cream machine. Click here,  here and here to read about my other ice cream making adventures.  Continue reading

Zucchini bread in a jar

After sending some vacuum-sealed baked goods to my sister who is currently serving in Afghanistan only to find out that they arrived 3 weeks later, with mold, I discovered that you could bake cakes in Mason jars and that they would essentially be preserved (due to the sealing of the jars). Read here for my first attempt. My sister did receive the first cake-in-a-jar that I attempted. I mailed the first batch of pineapple cake on October 5. She told me that she opened the jars and ate the cake on October 23, almost 3 weeks later—and they were fresh! So I asked her if she had any requests for the next batch and she said since they don’t have a lot of access to fresh produce and fruit that she would like zucchini bread. So, here is my attempt with zucchini bread in a jar.

Ingredients:

8-10 pint canning jars (or the equivalent in a larger size) with rings and new lids (I only had 6, so I used these and then made a separate mini loaf.)

3 c flour

1 t salt

1 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

2 t cinnamon

1/4 t nutmeg

1/4 t cloves

2 c zucchini (~1 medium zucchini)

2 c granulated sugar

1 c margarine—at room temperature (I used 1 stick of butter (1/2 c) and then 1/2 c of applesauce

1 t vanilla

3 egg whites—whipped

1. Boil jars, lids and rings for 10 minutes. Dry jars. Leave rings and lids in hot water while preparing the batter.

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2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

3. Mix flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in one bowl.

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4. Grate zucchini. I used the Vitamix to grate my zucchini. I put the lid on the Vitamix and removed the plug. Turned the Vitamix on to Speed 5-6 and put in the large pieces of zucchini. Wah-lah…grated zucchini with no bloody knuckles.

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Have your cake (and ice cream) and eat it to: Birthday cake ice cream for the birthday girl

I no longer have a need for Coldstone Creamery in my life anymore. For any of you birthday cake ice cream addicts like me, you may want to read on. I love ice cream with stuff in it: brownies, cookie dough, cookies, pie crust, candy, etc. My all-time favorite is birthday cake ice cream. R knows this weakness of mine and will regularly take me to get the “massage ice cream” (aka Coldstone Creamery). For any of you not familiar with Coldstone, it is an ice cream chain that puts a couple of scoops of ice cream on an ice cold piece of marble and “massages” the topping of your choice in with metal paddles. This “massaging” in of your topping ensures that through the last bite you still have topping to eat not like the places where they just put the topping on top so your just left with plain ice cream at the bottom. I usually go in to Coldstone wanting to get something new, but always end up getting the delicious birthday cake ice cream with yellow cake mixed in. It is great because you really get to have your cake (and ice cream) and eat it too. Anyways, it is a sad day for Coldstone as they have lost me as a customer because I now can make birthday cake ice cream at home! I was inspired to try to make this by my friend, J, who recently made it in her Vitamix. I unfortunately did not make this in the Vitamix, so those of you without a VM can try this too. Oh, and it doesn’t require an ice cream maker either because I discovered this summer that you definitely don’t need an ice cream maker to make delicious homemade ice cream.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups skim milk

1/2 c granulated sugar

2/3 c cake mix (I used yellow, but I’m sure you can use whatever flavor you’d like)

1 1/2 c heavy whipping cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

sprinkles

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