19 May 2016

Improv Challenge: Orange & Ginger

May's Improv Challenge ingredients were orange and ginger. I toyed with the idea of orange and ginger nut cake, but I'm trying not to bake things The Husband won't eat because he seems ... unhappy ... that I seem to be doing more baking for other people than for him. Not that I blame him. I would be pretty cheesed off to wake up in the morning (too many mornings) to delicious smells, only to discover the source of those delicious smells is not meant for me.

So! Savory orange and ginger! Savory? A glaze? Marinade? An orange juice and ginger marinade? With ... honey? And ... red pepper? What about that unloved tin of five-spice powder? Oh! Don't forget the coconut aminos?!

And that's pretty much the entire thought process behind this dish. Throw a bunch of flavors together, taste, adjust flavors, taste again, then add some chicken and see what happens.

Usually found in Chinese cuisine, five-spice is just like it sounds -- a blend of five spices. I used Penzeys "Chinese Five Spice" which is a mix of cinnamon, star anise, aniseed, ginger and cloves. It's probably other manufacturer's use slightly different spices in their blends, so ymmv.

Because I was feeling a bit lazy, I used Gourmet Garden's lightly dried shredded ginger in the marinade. Like five-spice, it's exactly as it sounds -- lightly dried ginger shreddies. The container says one tablespoon of the lightly dried stuff is equivalent to two tablespoons of the freshly shredded stuff, so keep that in mind if you're planning on using fresh. If you want to try the Gourmet Garden ginger, I found it in with the fresh herbs in the produce section of my local Stop & Shop. (It works really well in carrot-raisin muffins, too).

I tested this recipe with drumsticks first, but roasted the drumsticks at too high a temperature so that the connective tissue riddling the drumsticks did not have time to break down much at all, leaving me with the kind of gristly drumsticks I loathe. The flavors were good, though, and the bits of meat that weren't horribly tendinous/cartilaginous/icky were quite tasty -- deep savory soy with a slight hint of sweet and robust ginger and garlic notes -- and I vowed to try again with a different cut of chicken.

The second time around, I marinated boneless skinless chicken breasts overnight and then cooked them in an oiled grill pan. Before marinating the chicken, I scored each breast in a crisscross pattern -- many articles I'd read told me that marinades never penetrate very far below the surface so I figured scoring the chicken would at least increase the surface area the marinade would be exposed to, hopefully creating a more flavorful chicken. Also, it looked rather pretty.

Simple 5-Spice Grilled Chicken Breasts

Yield: 2


  • 5 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 4 Tbsp orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp runny honey
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp lightly dried shredded ginger [Gourmet Garden]
  • ½ tsp Chinese five spice powder [Penzeys]
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes [Penzeys]
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts


  1. Pat the chicken breasts dry and score in a crisscross pattern with a sharp knife. Place in a food-safe storage containger
  2. Whisk together all remaining ingredients and pour over chicken. Leave for 10 mins or refrigerate until needed, if making ahead. (If making ahead of time, try to shake the container occasionally during the day to redistribute the marinade).
  3. Heat your grill pan over medium-high heat. When hot, brush pan with a little neutral oil (like canola).
  4. Add chicken to pan. Cook 6 minutes per side or until meat has reached 165°F.
  5. Remove chicken from heat, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
  6. While chicken is resting, pour marinade into a pot and boil, whisking often, until sauce becomes reduced and syrupy-looking.
  7. Slice chicken, drizzle with reduced marinade, and serve.

I served the boneless breasts over rice with steamed broccoli and it was very good, even if I do say so myself. The chicken was very tender and flavorful -- kind-of like teriyaki chicken but much less sweet or strongly flavored -- and the leftovers went really well on a salad.

18 May 2016

Mustard-Glazed Baked Salmon Fillet

I'm trying to serve fish for supper at least twice a week and salmon is always on the menu as it's:
  1. A fish we can agree on
  2. A great source of protein
  3. Chock-full of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
But it can get a rather samey from week to week -- a little olive oil, lemon, salt-free seasoning blend, and a hot, fast bake is my default salmon "recipe" -- so I've been trying to be a little more creative. So far, I've made "Southwestern" and "Sweet & Spicy" style fillets with good results. This week, I thought I'd try a mustard glaze. I'd made "Maple Dijon Glazed Salmon" a while ago, and it was tasty, but I wanted something a little more savory/spicy than savory/sweet.

And that's pretty much what I got. It's kick isn't as strong as I'd like, but it was just the right level for heat-eschewing The Husband. And, to be fair, that might be for the best as this way the glaze doesn't overwhelm the salmon. It's moist and salmony with just a little sweet heat to warm your taste buds.

Mustard-Glazed Baked Salmon Fillet

Yield: 2


  • 2 6-oz portions boned & skinned salmon fillet
  • 2 Tbsp whole grain mustard [Stonewall Kitchen's Traditional Pub Mustard]
  • 1 Tbsp runny honey
  • ½ tsp cracked dried rosemary
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Brush a pie plate or baking dish with olive oil.
  3. Pat the salmon portions dry with a paper towel and place on the pie plate. If your salmon has a thin end, fold it under for even cooking.
  4. Combine mustard, honey, rosemary, and garlic. Brush salmon portions with mixture.
  5. Bake 15 minutes or until fish reaches 145°F and flakes easily with a fork.

Wordless Wednesday: Scabiosa

Planted a few Scabiosa columbaria "Blue Note" over the weekend!

17 May 2016

Top 10 Tuesday: On a Whim

Two Top Ten Tuesdays in a row? Am I getting back in the saddle? Probably not, but this week’s theme -- “Ten Books I Picked Up On A Whim” -- seemed awfully timely as I’ve been selecting most of my reads based on whim. Some really random stuff coming into my house, lately, selected mostly on the strength of their covers. Will I read them all? Honestly, no.

  • Cheer Up Love: Adventures in Depression with the Crab of Hate by Susan Calman
  • The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
  • The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
  • Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten
  • Girls Will Be Boys: Cross-Dressed Women, Lesbians, and American Cinema, 1908-1934 by Laura Horak

  • The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel
  • Murder in the Marais by Cara Black
  • My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman w/ trans by Henning Koch
  • The Story of Mrs. Lovewright and Purrless Her Cat by Lore Segal w/ illus by Paul O. Zelinsky
  • Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle