Monthly Archives: October 2010

Sweet and salty Halloween candy

Happy Halloween, everyone! This recipe is a fun way to eat all my favorite Halloween candies. It’s also a great one for kids, but all the adults I know ate way more of it. A simple “bark” made with dark chocolate covered with peanut M&Ms, Reece’s Pieces, honey-roasted peanuts, Heath bars, Butterfingers, Reece’s cups and finally white chocolate.

It’s addictive and delicious. I love that combination of peanut, chocolate and white chocolate. Of course, you can make this with any candy, so get creative!

Bon Appetit’s Halloween Peanut Butter and Toffee Bark

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 3 2.1-ounce Butterfinger candy bars, cut into irregular 1-inch pieces
  • 3 1.4-ounce Skor or Heath toffee candy bars, cut into irregular 3/4-inch pieces
  • 8 0.55-ounce peanut butter cups, each cut into 8 wedges
  • 1/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts
  • 3 ounces high-quality white chocolate, chopped
  • Reese’s Pieces and yellow and orange peanut M&M’s
Line baking sheet with foil. Stir chocolate chips in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until melted and warm (not hot) to touch. Pour chocolate onto foil; spread to 1/4-inch thickness (about 12×10-inch rectangle). Sprinkle with Butterfinger candy, toffee, peanut butter cups, and nuts, making sure all pieces touch melted chocolate to adhere.
Put white chocolate in heavy small saucepan. Stir constantly over very low heat until chocolate is melted and warm (not hot) to touch. Remove from heat. Dip spoon into chocolate; wave from side to side over bark, creating zigzag lines. Scatter Reese’s Pieces and M&M’s over, making sure candy touches melted chocolate.
Chill bark until firm, 30 minutes. Slide foil with candy onto work surface; peel off foil. Cut bark into irregular pieces.

This will keep for days, maybe weeks, in your fridge. But we both know it won’t last that long. Enjoy, friends! xoxo

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Hallow’s Eve

What are you up to this weekend? This is where I’ll be: Halloween  in Old Salem! Come see me volunteering Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m., dressed as an angel to Krissy’s devil as we hand out sweets to the kiddies.

The historical area will be decorated with spooky pumpkins (carving contest through Thursday, 5-7 p.m., we supply the pumpkins!) and other festive touches to celebrate the olden times. You can also do a tour of these cool old homes that are probably haunted.

All in all, good family fun. Join us! xoxo

Chili-lime chicken

I go through spells where I think chicken tastes awful. Just bland and blah. In my opinion, the best chicken is cooked on the bone. But if you are going the boneless, skinless route, go chicken thighs. Yes, they are higher in fat, but the flavor and texture is so much better, my friends.

Chicken is such a weak-tasting meat that it goes well with robust flavors, which is exactly how I would describe this dish. Flavored with the exotic citrus, smoky paprika and cumin and hot chili powder, it turns into a wonderful weeknight meal. We had it with a simple side of kale seared with andouille sausage. Perfecto!

Adapted quite a bit from Bon Appetit:

Chili-Citrus Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch-wide wedges
  • 8 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or bone-in, but increase cooking time)
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lime juice, divided
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook potatoes in large saucepan of lightly salted water until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, place chicken thighs in large baking sheet and sprinkle generously with salt; drizzle with 1 tablespoon lime juice and set aside. Whisk 1 tablespoon lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, both paprikas, grated orange peel, ground cumin, dried oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in small bowl. Rub chili mixture all over chicken. Add potatoes to pan and toss in the chili rub, then nestle around chicken. Drizzle olive oil over chicken and potatoes.

Bake 20 minutes. Turn chicken and potato wedges. (NOTE: your chicken may cook faster, so check it after the first 20 min.) Add 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro and chopped parsley. Bake until chicken is cooked through and beginning to brown in spots, about 10-20 minutes longer.

Transfer chicken and potatoes to platter. Add more lime juice and cilantro.

You’ll love this. There really is something unique about the orange and lime zest mixing with the aromatics and spices. Enjoy, friends! xoxo


BBQ Road Trip

One of the beauties of the journalism industry is even when you leave it, you’re never far from a friend. I recently had the pleasure of meeting two friends – one old, one new – from the Chicago Tribune, who were on their way through a BBQ Roadtrip. Be sure to read up about there travels here: http://bbqroadtrip.tumblr.com/.

The guys are on a mission to find great, regional barbecue, and when I heard they were coming my way, I made sure our paths intersected. Kevin invited me to join them in Lexington, where they would be eating at two different restaurants (two, really?). Like true food critics, they had small portions at each place – admitting that they’ve sampled as many as four different eateries in one day.

We first went to the Bar-B-Q Center, where we started with the barbecue soup, which was basically a vegetable soup with chopped pork up top:

It was great and tasted exactly how it’s described. For our entrees, we had the simple chopped pork “platter,” which means slow-smoked pork pulled off the shoulder, chopped and served in a flimsy paper bowl. With a side of red slaw and hushpuppies, of course. It was tasty and authentic.

My favorite thing, however, was the fried pork sandwich. It had mustard on it and I thought Kevin was going to die of happiness.

Next, we went to Lexington BBQ, which is supposed to be THE place for barbecue in Lexington. We were disappointed to learn that the fried pork-skin sandwiches were off the menu, so we ordered the “outside brown” chopped pork platter. That outside brown is genius. Right under the pork skin, it’s slightly crispy on the outside, but tender and delicious on the inside. This was my favorite thing we ate.

The slaw was “white,” as you can see. With a side of hushpuppies, of course.

For dessert, we got the Karo Nut Pie (pecan pie), with an awesome square of vanilla ice cream up top that melted all over it.

Thanks again to Kevin and Keith for inviting me – and for bringing all the Chi-Tribune swag and Chicago-style relish. I hope you guys enjoy all the barbecue sauce you picked up on your Southern travels. Until we meet again!

Baby pumpkins roasted with applesauce

Oh my. I am not doing a pumpkin challenge again this year, but I cannot resist the orange cuteness that exists in these soft gourds. As if nature created the perfect receptacle for soups, dips and — in this case — homemade applesauce.

I found this recipe in Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa cookbook. Her version  takes hours longer to make (baking the applesauce first in a dutch oven), but my abridged version still has all the fall-friendly ambiance that you want from apples baking in cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg. Place the smooshy apples into hollowed pumpkins, then bake, and you have a pretty side dish or dessert in an edible container.

First, you must make my applesauce…

Write Gal’s Smooshy Applesauce

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs. apples, mix of Jonagold and gala (or ask the farmer which apples are best for sauce – I used a mixture of those that break down and those that remain chunky)
  • Juice and zest of 2 oranges
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • Apple cider
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • Pinch cloves
  • Pinch salt

Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Add to heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add zest and juice of lemon and oranges. Stir to combine. Add 1 c. apple cider and all the spices and salt. Stir to combine and bring to a bubble. Reduce to simmer and stir occasionally, adding apple cider to prevent it from drying out (note: watch the heat, if the apples begin to brown on the bottom, turn it down). Check for seasonings (it’s always okay to add more spices) – and you’re done! Stored in an airproof container, this will keep at least a week.

Now, for the pumpkins…

  • 6 baby pumpkins, hollowed, tops saved (try to find those that are the same size – farmers’ market pumpkins are sweeter and easier to cut)
  • S&P
  • Homemade applesauce

Coat rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Get your pumpkins ready…

Sprinkle pumpkins liberally with salt and pepper.

Fill each with reserved applesauce (can be cold).

Then, place the lids lightly on top and roast in a preheated 350 degree oven until sauce is bubbling and pumpkins are tender – around 45 min. The house will smell wonderful! Like both an apple pie and pumpkin pie are baking in the oven.

These would also be great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream over the top, or freshly whipped cream. Enjoy, friends! x0x0

Fair Fare

 

Fried, fried, fried!

 

If David-Blaine-wannabe/magician Criss Angel visited the Dixie Classic Fair in Winston-Salem, he would resign his goofy gothic act immediately. Because there is only one “Mindfreak,” and it exists among the dozens of fried-food vendors and chicken-on-a-stick stands.

 

On a stick

 

Visiting a county fair in this neck of the woods is a cultural experience you can’t miss. I didn’t think fairs still had attractions like “WORLD’S SMALLEST MAN!” and “HALF-WOMAN, HALF HORSE!” and “REAL! LIVE! SNAKE MAN!” I honestly felt transported to a different space and time.

To bring me back to reality, I had an awesome sandwich from one of the many church stands in the food lawn. This was a cornbread sandwich with collard greens and fried fatback (!!!). Here’s why it works: the sweetness of the cornbread, the acidic sourness of the collards and the salty smoky crunch of the fatback (fried pork fat). A guy next to me was having a religious experience with his sandwich.

 

Southern comfort

 

Later, we had a grilled pimento cheese sandwich ($2). Homemade pimento cheese sandwiched between white bread grilled in butter. It was spicy and creamy and pretty awesome (even for someone who doesn’t like pimento cheese).

Yes, I saw the fried butter. I’ve never really craved a stick of salted butter wrapped in dough and fried until not completely melted. I also saw every kind of cookie or candy bar proudly dipped and fried, then covered in powdered sugar and more sweet syrups. Dentists: you have job security up in these parts.

Before leaving, we walked through the winning fruits, vegetables and something new to my Northwestern fair-going: tobacco judging!

It was a fitting reminder of how the region was founded. Hope y’all enjoyed the fair (for those who dared)! xoxo

Curried couscous

Whenever I can’t think of a side dish, I reach for the couscous. Made in 5 minutes and seasoned any way you like it, this funny little pasta is great as a salad, side or something to soak up meat juices. I normally make mine with a little toasted pine nuts, green onions, parsley and golden raisins. For a recent meal that included East Indian fare, I reached for Ina Garten’s curried couscous.

It is a peculiar recipe – using yogurt, olive oil and lots of spices. I thought it tasted too sour and salty when I mixed the seasonings together, but it all worked when delicately folded into the fluffy cous.

I altered the recipe a bit to my liking – feel free to explore!

Curried Couscous

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat couscous
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth (low-sodium)
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup toasted, sliced almonds
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)

Place the couscous in a medium bowl. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, then add stock. When boiling, add couscous and stir. Cover tightly and allow the couscous to soak for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Meanwhile, whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, curry, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Pour over the fluffed couscous, and mix well with a fork. Add the parsley, raisins, almonds and scallions, mix well, and season to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Beer-butt chicken

On certain occasions, it is appropriate to seek a Paula Deen recipe. An All-American Party is one such occasion. Beer-butt chicken, or beer-in-the-rear chicken, is an ingenious way to cook a juicy and flavorful chicken for a crowd. I looked up a few recipes before settling on my own version, taking pieces of Paula Deen with me.

To go with the chicken, others brought boiled peanuts:

Green bean casserole, pigs-in-a-blanket and Frito pie! Frito pie is a gut bomb of epic proportions. I’m not exactly sure what’s in it, other than ground meat, Fritos, cheese and something spicy. It tastes exactly as you’d imagine….delicious!

Someone else brought this sweet-tea wine, which tastes sweeter than Cheerwine:

And my main course…

Write Gal’s Beer-Butt Chicken

Ingredients:

  • One 4-5 lb. chicken, giblets removed, rinsed and patted dry
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 lemon, cut into chunks
  • 1 can Budweiser
  • EVOO
  • Kosher salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • Smoked paprika

Preheat grill (if using gas grill, heat to 350). Season inside of chicken with salt and pepper. Drink 1/4 c. of the beer, then push the garlic and rosemary sprigs inside (they can stick out the top. Place the beer on a foil baking pan or anything else that can go on the grill. Sit the chicken on the can. Push the lemon through the neck cavity. Drizzle EVOO all over the chicken, spreading with a brush or your fingers. Salt and pepper liberally. Sprinkle paprika over the skin, to taste.

Place the pan on the grill. Cover and cook for 1 hour, or until juices run clear. Remove from heat (the juices will be bubbling like crazy on the bottom of the pan). Carefully remove chicken and pull out can – watch out, it will be shooting steam like a beer volcano. Let chicken rest 10 minutes…

Then carve and serve! The skin was crispy and salty, the meat was juicy and well seasoned with all the herbs and lemon. I spooned the pan drippings over anything – you could make a great gravy with them.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo