27 November 2015

Lemon & Garlic Chicken Thighs

Had a quantity of fresh parsley leftover even after the garlicky lemon-parsley sauce I made to jazz up some baked barramundi. While I wasn't quite sure what to do with the leftover parsley, I knew it had to be done soon as parsley just doesn't keep in my fridge (the whole "wrap it in a damp paper towel and store inside a plastic bag" technique doesn't work for me).

As there were chicken thighs in the freezer (when aren't there?) and I had lemon and garlic so I thought "Why not marinade the thighs and then whack them in the oven when I get home from work?" And that is exactly what I did.


I tend to buy boneless chicken thighs more often than not because I find them more flavorful and less expensive than boneless chicken breasts. They're definitely better suited to slow cooking than boneless breasts and even short, high-temp oven excursions suit them better than breasts. Or maybe I just still don't know how to cook boneless breasts properly!

Anyway, this dish is quite lemony so feel free to cut back on the juice and zest! When The Husband first tasted the chicken, he thought he wasn't going to like it because it was too lemony, but he ended up really liking it so ymmv.

Lemon & Garlic Chicken Thighs

Yield: Serves 3-6, depending on appetite

Ingredients

  • 1 large lemon
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper

Instructions

  1. Place chicken thighs in a food-safe storage container.
  2. Zest lemon. Cut lemon in half; squeeze lemon juice over chicken. Add zest, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cover container and toss to coat. Refrigerate one hour or until ready to cook.
  3. Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly brush a baking dish with a little olive oil.
  4. Turn the chicken out onto the baking dish. Bake 25 minutes or until chicken reaches 165°F.

25 November 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Fallen Leaves

Autumn leaves scattered across the pavement like so much confetti

Easy Baked Lemon & Parsley Barramundi

This is any easy baked fish recipe made just a little fancy with a lemon and garlic butter sauce. I used fresh parsley, because I'd bought a bunch of it for something ... but I can't remember what that something was and have no notes to guide me. It's also possible I wasn't supposed to buy parsley at all, but thyme. Anyway, feel free to use dried parsley, but the flavor may not be the same.

I know. Everyone's "Parsley is there for garnish, right? It doesn't have a flavor?" but I beg to differ. Parsley tastes fresh and green (like spring) with a little hint of bitterness and can brighten up a dish. I only used the leaves in this recipe, saving the stems to flavor the stock I'll make from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass.


Even though I baked the fish at a high temperature, I didn't cover the barramundi, because I knew the sauce would keep it moist. As expected, the fish came out flaky and moist. Quite lemony and garlicky, obviously, but both flavors compliment rather than overwhelm the flavor of fish.

Baked Lemon & Parsley Barramundi

Yield: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • ⅛ tsp black pepper
  • 8 oz barramundi fillets
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Melt butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan on the stove. Whisk in lemon juice, garlic, parsley, and black pepper. Set aside.
  3. Blot fillets dry and place in a baking dish or glass pie plate. Pour butter mixture over fish. Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F or until fish flakes easily with a fork and has reached 145°F.
  4. Season with salt to taste, if desired, and serve.


24 November 2015

Top 10 Tuesday: Thankful


Since it's Thanksgiving this week (in the US, anyway), Top Ten Tuesday is all about thankfulness! Just so we're clear, mine is by no means an exhaustive list of things I'm thankful for. Some are obvious (tea!), some are relevant (books!), some are random (you'll see). But I'm thankful for all of them.

  1. I am thankful for books. I mean, obviously. There’s no book blog without books! But seriously I cannot imagine who I would be if I had not been introduced to books so early in life or what my life might be like, even now, without books in it.
  2. I am thankful for libraries -- most especially my library consortium and state-wide interlibrary loan system. Between the two, I can usually get just about any book my greedy bookish heart desires. This means I’m saving money! That I then spend at Amazon on the comic books and manga I can’t get through the library. The Husband would argue it’s no savings at all, but I’d argue he knows nothing about the economics of books.
  3. I am thankful for The Husband. How I got so lucky so early in adulthood, I’ll never know … especially as I was dead cert I’d never get married or, heaven help me, get sucked into some complicated intercontinental romance with a man. Silly me. He’s awesome -- kind, quirky, beautiful, brews a mean cup of tea, gives excellent hugs, and warms my soul.
  4. I am thankful for that pure thrill of pleasure that runs right through me when I see that a book I’ve really been anticipating has finally come out. The joy of it can carry me along for days.
  5. I am thankful for the quiet afternoons spent curled up with a cozy quilt, purring kitty, big “cuppa tay,” and a good book. I used to think such afternoons were pure decadence and that I should be doing “more important things,” but now I realize there’s times when nothing is more important.
  6. I am thankful for tea. Green. White. Herbal. Black. Hot. Cold. Even room temperature, half-forgotten, and possibly (probably) tainted by kitty whiskers. Thankful for it all. As the quote goes: “Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.”
  7. I am thankful for my health. I know, considering all the things that have gone wrong happened lately, I might not be thankful for my health. However, while they’ve all been pretty discomforting and OHMYGODWHY, they could have been so much worse. (Yes, that’s right, universe. I’m tempting you to make my life Even.More.Eventful).
  8. I am thankful there are only 37 days left in 2015. Even though I know the year could have been so much worse, quite a lot of 2015 made me want to make rude gestures at the universe and the longer year’s gone on, the more I’ve want to pull the blankets over my head and pretend I’m just not here.
  9. I am thankful for the WQXR New York online streaming classical music wotsit. I can’t read to music, but I find I must write to it. Classical music works best and WQXR plays some great selections. I don’t know what it is, but music just gets my writerly juices flowing. Suddenly the book I’ve been avoiding talking about for two weeks becomes the things I must talk about today.
  10. I am thankful for audiobooks. There are books I’ve, time and time again, to read but ultimately had to set aside, because I simply could not find my way into them. But, with audiobooks, the most impenetrable text opens right up.

21 November 2015

Creamy Vegan White Bean & Tomato Soup

I was supposed to go to attend a workshop Friday morning and then run a bunch of errands (including much-needed grocery shopping), but my car had other ideas and chose to spend the day at Firestone. Happily, The Husband found the time to pick me up from Firestone and bring me home, so I could do useful home-based things ... and not put a chair through the television in the waiting area, which was playing nonstop daytime talk shows that just ... UGH.

So. Home! No groceries! The lunch I'd planned on eating at a twee juice cafe was obviously impossible. What could I make that would feed both of us? Soup, of course. Comforting, filling, healthful soup. Without carrots or celery, because they were still at the grocery store, unbought.

But I had beans. And garlic. And tomatoes. And vegetable broth.


I pureed half the beans with my food processor to give the soup a dairy-free creaminess. Not that we're dairy-free! I just didn't see the point in "wasting" the remaining milk for The Husband's tea. (Again, no groceries). I also used vegetable broth in this soup, because it was going to be a vegetable soup so why meat it up? I know some people don't like to use vegetable broth -- claiming it tastes "sweeter" than chicken -- but I find College Inn Reduced Sodium Garden Vegetable Broth tastes quite vegetal and is definitely not "sweet."

Anyway, this turned out to be quite a yummy dairy-free vegan bean soup. Well-seasoned, creamy, and tomato-y with just a little kick from the pepper. As with many soups, it's even better the next day so try not to eat it all at once!

Creamy Vegan White Bean & Tomato Soup

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz chopped sweet onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 15 oz cans great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth [College Inn]
  • 14.5 oz can no-salted-added fire-roasted diced tomatoes [Muir Glen]
  • 1 Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend [Penzeys Tuscan Sunset]
  • ½ oz dried parsley
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil over medium in a large French/Dutch oven. Add garlic and onion and cook, stirring regularly, until onion is translucent and everything is very fragrant.
  2. Meanwhile, combine one can of beans with one cup of broth in a blender or food processor and puree.
  3. Add puree, remaining beans and broth, tomatoes, seasoning blend, parsley, and pepper to pot.
  4. Bring pot to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, about for ten minutes. Season with salt to taste, if desired.

19 November 2015

Improv Challenge: Squash & Sage

I'm trying to make pizza more often at home (because it's cheaper and we can get all the weird custom flavors -- chicken and sweetcorn for one -- our little hearts desire) and I'd heard that naan bread makes a good crust for quick pizzas. Deciding it would be better to experiment on myself first before springing the naan pizza concept on The Husband, I decided to build myself a pizza out of what was in the fridge.

Fresh sage from my generous coworker's garden!

And then I realized I had the ingredients for November's Improv Challenge -- squash and sage -- on hand! Hooray! For the first time in months, I wouldn't be making the Improv recipe the week it was due! Really, I always start out with the best of intentions and then time just gets away from me and suddenly I'm throwing something together at what feels like the very last minute!

Cubed butternut squash and onion tossed with garlic-infused olive oil.

The only naan I could find at my local Price Chopper was Stonefire brand in either whole grain or garlic. Obviously, I went with garlic! They're smallish naan, but there are two to a package so I figured this recipe would serve two hungry adults. As always, ymmv with serving sizes.

Since I didn't use any gooey cheeses the toppings don't properly stick to the naan making these a little messy to eat. I got around this my folding my pieces in half, making a sort of naan pizza sandwich. More civilized types might want to use a fork and knife.

This tasted all kinds of awesome. Maybe more cheese next time, though ...

Youtube has many nifty how-to videos on frying sage leaves, but I found this one simplest:


While this recipe makes two naan pizzas, you don't necessarily have to make them at the same time. The vegetables can be roasted a day or two in advance and kept in the fridge until wanted. The sage can also be fried and kept at room temperature in a sealed container for a few days. And, obviously, you could double triple the amounts for one big traditional crust pizza.

Butternut Squash & Beet Naan Pizza

Yield: 2 pizza

Ingredients

  • 2 naan (each about 8x7")
  • 4.5 oz butternut squash, diced small
  • 1 oz chopped red onion
  • 2 oz chopped roasted beets [Love Beets]
  • 1½ Tbsp garlic-infused olive oil
  • 1.5 oz crumbled blue cheese [Salemville Amish Blue]
  • 1.5 oz crumbled goat cheese [Alouette]
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 8 fried sage leaves
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, as desired

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Toss squash and onions with 1 Tbsp olive oil and arrange on a quarter sheet pan (13"x9"), trying not to crowd. Bake, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until tender. Remove pan from oven and set aside. Do not turn off oven!
  3. Place naan on a baking sheet; brush with ½ Tbsp oil. Bake at 400°F until naan just begins to crisp and turn light golden color, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Scatter red onions, squash, beets, cheese and chopped sage leaves across naan. Bake until pizza is heated through and cheeses get all melty and yum, about 5 minutes.
  5. Garnish with fried sage leaves and fresh cracked black pepper.





18 November 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Autumn Woods

Amidst the russet and gold, I spy a splodge of (ever)green!

17 November 2015

Top 10 Tuesday: Quotes


This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a list of quotes I've loved from books I've read in the past year or so. I used to be a great scribbler of quotes -- had notebooks dedicated to the keeping of them -- but fell out of the habit well over a decade ago now. Wow, how did it get to be so long ago?

"Some people say we shouldn't give alms to the poor, Shirley."
"They are great fools for their pains. For those who are not hungry, it is easy to palaver about the degradation of charity, and so on: but they forget the brevity of life, as well as its bitterness. We have none of us long to live. Let us help each other through seasons of want and woe as well as we can, without heeding in the least the scruples of vain philosophy."
― Charlotte Brontë, Shirley

"Doors are a classic example of that ‘I hate this – it’s fucking great!’ mantra that seems to be part of the permanent internal monologue of all cats. Cats hate doors for the opportunities doors deny them to do exactly what they please, but they love them in equal measure, due to the opportunities they present to make humans their sniveling slaves."
― Tom Cox, The Good, The Bad and The Furry

"I miss you," he whispers. It’s been six months since she died. But Ove still inspects the whole house twice a day to feel the radiators and check that she hasn’t sneakily turned up the heating.
― Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove

"As Shakespeare says, if you're going to do a thing you might as well pop right at it and get it over."
― P.G. Wodehouse, Very Good, Jeeves!

"We often believe the truest measure of a relationship is the ability to lay ourselves bare. But there's something to be said for parading your plumage as well, finding truth as much in the silly as the severe."
― David Levithan, Two Boys Kissing

"I think love is caramel. Sweet and fragant; always welcome. It is the gentle golden colour of a setting harvest sun; the warmth of a squeezed embrace; the easy melting of two souls into one and a taste that lingers even when everything else has melted away. Once tasted it is never forgotten."
― Jenny Colgan, Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams

"She said that you always have to choose between the path of needles and the path of pins. When a dress is torn, you know, you can just pin it up, or you can take the time to sew it together. That's what it means. The quick and easy way or the painful way that works."
― Rosamund Hodge, Crimson Bound

"Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say "My tooth is aching" than to say "My heart is broken."
― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

"I believe in some blending of hope and sunshine sweetening the worst lots. I believe that this life is not all; neither the beginning nor the end. I believe while I tremble; I trust while I weep."
― Charlotte Brontë, Villette

"We sleepwalk through our lives, because how could we live if we were always this awake?"
― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

11 November 2015

Wordless Wednesday: The Glass House, New Canaan

View of the Glass House and swimming pool from the hillside

View of Pavilion in the Pond and Monument to Lincoln Kirstein from the Glass House

10 November 2015

Top 10 Tuesday: Books to Film


This week's Top Ten Tuesday is all about film adaptations we're looking forward to watching. I'm going to risk your censure here and confess that sometimes I don't read the book before I watch the movie and I don't automatically think all film adaptations are inferior to their literary parent. So there goes all my bookish street cred!

Far From the Madding Crowd (2015)


The Jungle Book (2016)


Lady Chatterley's Lover (2015 BBC series)


Madame Bovary (2015)


Partners In Crime (2015 BBC series based on Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence characters)


Poldark (2015 BBC series)


Carol (The Price of Salt)


A Walk the Woods


I'm also looking forward to watching MaddAddam (TBA HBO series adaptation of Margaret Atwood's speculative fiction Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam) and A Monster Calls (probably out sometime in 2016).

09 November 2015

Warming Curried Coconut Squash Soup

My coworker asked me for my dairy-free butternut squash soup recipe and ... I couldn't find evidence I'd ever made one! Yet it seemed like the kind of thing I would have made one winter? Soup's my thing, after all, and butternut squash is the Squash of Squashes as far as I'm concerned. So I concocted this soup which uses coconut milk and vegetable broth, making it not only dairy-free but vegan. Hurrah.


I used Penzeys Maharajah-style curry powder in this soup as I wanted a richly aromatic, but not necessarily hot, soup. Yes, then I added two teaspoons of sriracha. It's a different kind of heat, I tell you. Feel free to use a hot curry powder and omit the sriracha. Or use both and cheerfully weep whilst eating this soup. It's all up to you.

Warming Curried Coconut Squash Soup

Yield: 4 generous bowlfuls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 20 oz package chopped butternut squash
  • 6 oz peeled chopped apple
  • 9 oz carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups low-sodium fat-free vegetable broth
  • 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp sweet curry powder [Penzeys Maharajah Style]
  • 1 Tbsp coconut aminos or low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sriracha

Instructions

  • Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and cook onion and garlic until both are fragrant and golden.
  • Add all ingredients to slow cooker insert and cook on High for 4 hours or until squash is falling apart.
  • Using an immersion blender, puree soup until desired smoothness is reached (I like mine a little chunky). Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

06 November 2015

Spicy Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken

I keep meaning to menu plan, but then Life Happens and it's another week of catch-as-catch-can meals. I knew there was a package of boneless skinless chicken thighs in the freezer. I thought there was a partial bottle of barbecue sauce in the fridge. Garlic and onions are always on hand. We'd have garlicky slow cooker "barbecue" chicken for supper! Except, after I'd already put the chicken, garlic, and onion in the slow cooker, I realized there was no barbecue sauce in the fridge ...

Erk. So I threw a sorta-barbecue sauce together really fast, dumped it over the chicken, and skedaddled off to work. When I came home that evening, the scent that hit me as I opened the front door just made my mouth water! And what did it taste like? A bit like an Asian(ish) barbecue? A little spicy, a little sweet, and so savory. I'd definitely do it again!


Spicy Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken

Yield: 2-4 servings, depending on hunger

Ingredients

  • 4 frozen boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, bashed
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • ½ cup low-sodium ketchup
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ tsp ground ginger root
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Place frozen thighs at the bottom of the slow cooker insert. Top with onion and garlic.
  2. Whisk all remaining ingredients together and pour over chicken.
  3. Cover and cook on Low 8-9 hours.

Yes, I used frozen chicken in this recipe. I know some people are really skittish about doing that, and I used to be, but I've found my slow cooker cooks hot enough on Low that we're unlikely to get food poisoning. Also, starting with frozen meat means that the long cook time (after 8 hours of cooking, mine usually sits at Warm for 2 hours) will not ruin the chicken. Using thighs instead of breasts helps, too, as thighs are simply more forgiving.

04 November 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Time for Tea!

There is much to be said for a nice cup of tea and a sit down.

02 November 2015

Farfalle with Swiss Chard & Kielbasa

I was full of good intentions when I picked up a bunch of beautiful looking Swiss chard at the Newington Farmers Market last week ... but then days passed and the chard was still in my fridge and I knew something had to be done asap before the stuff started to compost in the crisper drawer.


I've made a dish similar to this with spinach and chicken sausage, so I knew my idea would work, but I forgot how much the red chard stems can bleed when cooking and so it's not as pretty as it could be. Maybe? I kind-of like the muddied ruby red.


Unfortunately, while I carefully wrote down all the ingredient amounts as I made this dish, I've lost my notes -- probably recycled them in a mad fit of tidying on garbage day -- so what follows is my best guess!

Farfalle with Swiss Chard & Kielbasa

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, washed and rinsed
  • 2 smoked sausage links
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 4 servings mini farfalle
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Shredded Parmesan, if desired

Instructions

  1. De-stem the chard. Chop the stems into very small pieces. Sliced the leaves into ribbons. Set aside.
  2. Chop the kielbasa, onion, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes into small pieces. Set aside.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent. Add the chard stems and sun-dried tomatoes.
  5. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the stems begin to soften. Add the chard leaves and kielbasa and cook until the sausage begins to brown and the chard leaves have wilted.
  6. Add the pasta to the chard and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve with shredded Parmesan.