Chicken Fricassee

I have a problem: I save waaaaayyy too many articles and recipes in Facebook. Perhaps as some sort of nesting or simply my need to organize and clean in order to stay sane, I recently started going through those links and getting rid of things. Today’s recipe has been towards the bottom of my saved links in Facebook for months, so I decided to make it for dinner tonight.

During my four-plus years in France, I sampled many traditional dishes: petit-salé, cassoulet, pot au feu, blanquette de veau, but never fricassee; so I was excited to give this Martha Stewart rendition a try. I only made 2 changes to my version: two boneless chicken breasts instead of whole chicken pieces and no tarragon at the end (I really don’t like that herb). You can find the recipe here: http://www.marthastewart.com/925889/chicken-fricassee-fricassee-de-poulet-lancienne

The key to this recipe is to chop and measure out everything in advance. None of the steps is complicated, but there is quite a succession of things to do. If you aren’t immediately ready to move on to the next step, you can get overwhelmed. This fact alone made it a poor recipe choice for me. At 35 weeks pregnant, it required too much standing and bustling around the kitchen at the end of a busy day. I’m just not used to needing to rest as much as I’m beginning to. Lesson learned.

As for my family’s evaluations of the end result, I’d say they were generally unimpressed. My son has recently boycotted napping and it finally seemed to be catching up with him today. I think he would have liked it more if he had been in a better mood. After all, it’s basically chicken, carrots, and celery (and I served it over oven-roasted potatoes). You can’t go wrong with that combination in my household. Even I felt a little disappointed. I enjoyed the rich sauce and mushrooms, but it was a lot of work for a stew. I’d happily eat this again, but only if someone else prepared it.

Chicken Thighs with Couscous and Kale

As a military family, we shop at the local base commissary. Every couple of months, they put out a magazine called Eat Well Live Better, and it usually includes a series of recipes and meal ideas for a featured military family. In the Winter 2017 edition that I picked up last week, I found that the solution to their meal challenge “One-pot meals for toddlers and adults” fit my own family perfectly. Moreover, the specific recipe I chose to try catered to foods everyone in my family enjoys: my son love couscous. My husband is a fan of how kale blends into dishes so seemlessly. I enjoy the Moroccan spice profile chosen by the author. 

The original recipe can be found on page 18 of the magazine if you’re a military family. Or, right here if you aren’t: Chicken thighs with couscous and kale.

Unfortunately, our commissary didn’t have any Israeli or pearl couscous, which cooks differently from the instant stuff you find in most grocery store (and is different still from traditional couscous that is steam cooked); this was the beginning of my troubles with the recipe. I decided to use instant couscous and ,while finishing my shopping, resolved to add it in the last few minutes of cooking. Unfortunately, my pregnancy brain kicked in a few days later when I was cooking and I followed the instructions for the Israeli couscous. That meant my couscous didn’t toast but burned to the bottom of my skillet. It was also ready well before the chicken thighs were actually cooked. On top of that, our TV wasn’t working properly, so my two-year-old son was whining because he couldn’t watch his new favorite cartoon while I made dinner (our usual sanity-saving ritual). 

With a little teamwork from my husband, who took a break from his workout to fix the TV and get our son calmed down, and a little quick thinking from the chef (add more broth to keep the couscous moist; pick out the chicken, cut into small pieces, and cook in a second skillet) dinner was salvageable, but I don’t know that any of us enjoyed it like we should have. Although I enjoyed the flavor (I recommend using only 1 teaspoon each of the thyme and cumin and adding an extra clove of garlic for a more balanced flavor), I couldn’t stop thinking about the mess I’d made for myself to clean up in the kitchen. My husband was disappointed we were having couscous. My son was just grumpy. All in all, we just had one of those nights.

That said, I’d like to try this recipe again with either the proper couscous or a fully functioning brain that will remind me about the tweaks I need to make when substuting ingredients. Hopefully my fiasco (or any of your own) doesn’t keep you from trying a tasty new recipe this week!

Baked Penne with Sausage and Apple


Without meaning to, I actually redeemed my homemade macaroni and cheese fail with this recipe! Unfortunately, providing a link won’t work this time because I got this recipe from a recent Family Circle magazine and when I try to get to an online version, I get a page to sign up for a subscription. If you already have a subscription to this magazine, or if you can find a way to get to the recipe (or something similar) online, I highly recommend it. This was a crowd pleaser in my house. 

The recipe has a nice mix of flavors with the apples, onions, kielbasa, and honey mustard sauce. The only modification I made was to replace the shredded Gouda with an Italian cheese blend in the hopes of making this more husband friendly… and it worked. After 2 bites, my husband said that if I want to make homemade macaroni and cheese, I should use this recipe without the apple and sausage. The texture was much less creamy and had a delightfully crunchy layer of cheese on top. In fact, the bites just under that crust were the best of the bunch. 

Interestingly, this was presented by the magazine as a side-dish, but with the kielbasa and cheese, it was hearty enough to be a main dish. I served it with green beans and apple slices. My son was a little unsure of the new tastes, but he ate without fighting, so I consider that a win. We will definitely be eating this in our household again soon! 

Dip ‘n’ Roll Pretzles

It’s not Tuesday, or a new recipe, but my 2 year old and I had fun making these this morning. I’m still trying to use left-over chocolate chips from Christmas baking and I remembered having fun making chocolate-dipped pretzles with my mom as a kid. We did have to swap spinkles when someone sneezed right into the plate of sprinkles (good thing he’s cute), but the making of this treat went without mishap. 

Grapefruit Marmalade

As promised, I’m doing another citrus recipe this week — this time, a grapefruit marmalade. I love grapefruit and grapefruit juice. The bright flavor really refreshes at this normally gray time of year. The acidity also feels cleansing after the holiday indulgences in December. Needless to say, finding the recipe in the January 2017 Family Circle magazine motivated me to pick up a few small Mason jars and head into the kitchen. This is the first jelly or jam I’ve made since my Grandma Jean and I attempted sugar-free peach jam when I was eleven. I had been diabetic for about a year and she invited me to come help her make the jam. We spent all afternoon in the steamy kitchen and followed the recipe exactly only to end up with jars of slimy, bitter, inedible goop. Artificial sweeteners have come a long way in the past 20 years, but those of the time were not meant to be cooked, as my grandma learned after calling the sweetener company in question. Although it wasn’t specified in the recipe, only their liquid version would have given the desired results. Needless to say, that awful experience (no, really… it was so bad that Grandma drew little skulls and crossbones on each lid before disposing of them), I haven’t done much jelly making, and I felt a little nervous about trying this recipe.

Obviously, I did try, and I was pleased with the results. I had a print copy of the magazine, but can find a link to the recipe here:

http://www.familycircle.com/recipes/ingredient/star-ingredient-grapefruit/?page=3

The only changes I made were to halve the recipe (I’m the only one in my house who eats grapefruit) and to use dried thyme instead of fresh. Even halved, the recipe made more marmalade than I expected (I had an extra jar of it). I also found that I could hardly taste the thyme, possibly because I didn’t use fresh. I didn’t miss it, however, and don’t plan to use any when I make this again.

Since I couldn’t eat 3 jars of marmalade on my own (this recipe doesn’t give instructions for traditional canning that allows the contents to be kept for long periods of time), I took it to the women’s group meeting at my church. We ate it on wheat crackers with plain cream cheese. It was a cool, satisfying snack that got nothing but positive reviews. Now, I need to find more people who like grapefruit so I can make this again and share!

Cranberry Orange Shortbread 

I know the citrus season extends beyond January, but various childhood memories always make me think of January as the month of oranges, clementines, and grapefruits. As such, this week and next week’s recipes feature citrus. Today, it’s cranberry orange shortbread on the menu! They are a welcome addition to your afternoon coffee or tea break. Check out the recipe here: http://www.momontimeout.com/2015/11/cranberry-orange-shortbread-cookies-recipe/


It’s rare that I love a recipe without reservation, but I LOVE these cookies. I’m already a fan of the cranberry-orange combination, but these include the delicate notes of almond extract to balance out the tart flavors. Moreover, the author is absolutely on-point to push bakers to pull the cookies from the oven at the lower end of her time range. The soft, moist texture that results from not over baking pushed the recipe over the top. I admit, I also enjoy the preparation of shortbread. There’s something so satisfying about cutting the butter into the flour-sugar mixture and kneading the dough with your hands.

I did not make any modifications to this recipe, but I did mix and match the optional ingredients. I added the orange juice (if I’m zesting the fruit, I may as well use the juice, too, right?), but I didn’t coat in additional sugar. Despite my preference for sweet over salty, I don’t like to overdo the sweetness. So often, that simply distracts from the more interesting flavors. I will admit, my cookies weren’t so sparkly and picture-perfect as the author’s, though I’m sure they tasted just as amazing.

Beef, Stout, and Potato Pot Pie

Normally, I would neither write nor post at this hour of the day. But since my son has decided that 5:30 a.m. is a good time to wake up and is now happily reading some of the many books he got for Christmas, it seems like a prime time to blog. Maybe that will leave me time to nap later– hey! We are supposed to be hopeful during the Christmas season, right?

I tried a tasty, new recipe last night for braised short rib, stout, and potato pot pies. You can find Martha Stewart’s original recipe here: http://www.marthastewart.com/854493/braised-short-rib-stout-and-potato-potpies


Honestly, my motivation to try the recipe was to begin the process of convincing my husband, who grimaces at the mention of pot pie (which I love), that it can be a savor-worthy dinner. This dish doesn’t use the two elements that turn my husband off in most pot pies: pie crust or creamy sauce, so it’s a logical place to start. 

The beef, stout, and potato pot pie has a more complicated process than I usually choose for recipes (stovetop and two different oven sessions). However, the simple ingredients and rich gravy the beef stews in make the extra steps worth the extra effort. 

I did make some adjustments to the recipe. First, I didn’t use short ribs. I had chopped a beef roast into stew meat to freeze after my last trip to the grocery store, so I used a portion of that. It was ended up being between a pound and a half to two pounds of beef. Consequently, I reduced the amount of stout to one and a half bottles. I also didn’t use the cipollini onions (veggie chunks, tasty though they may be, don’t go over well in my household). Finally, I thought I had rosemary in my pantry, but didn’t, so I replaced it with 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning. 

My husband and father-in-law gave me plenty of compliments on this filling dish. They seemed to especially enjoy the potato “crust.” I will probably increase the amount of potatoes next time, maybe with a double layer on top… As for me, I loved how tender the beef was. My son actually seemed to enjoy the beef as well. 

Speaking of my son, he’s starting to get into things other than his toys (like my full glass of ice water), so I’m done for now. I highly recommend giving this recipe a try!

Crescent Cheese Danishes

The last time I had family visiting for a holiday, I made a double batch of the Jiffy baking mix cinnamon rolls, and they were a big hit. This past weekend, I didn’t feel quite so industrious, so I decided to try a simpler recipe for danishes — and by simple, I mean that I was able to make part of the recipe (cream cheese filling) the night before and simple assemble the danishes the morning I planned to serve them. You can find the recipe here: http://myincrediblerecipes.com/crescent-cheese-danishes/

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Like I said above, the recipe is simple and kid-friendly. Oddly enough, I was up before my son; otherwise, he could have helped prepare the dough and spoon in the filling. He did enjoy eating the end result. The danishes were soft and sweet. I also enjoyed the little crunchy bits where the brown sugar did not get entirely covered by the cream cheese. I don’t really think the glaze that gets drizzled on at the end is necessary. In fact, the flavor gets lost in the cream cheese. My only real caveat for this recipe is that because it uses refrigerated dough, you need to make them and eat them immediately (remember that if you follow the recipe as it’s written, it makes two dozen small danishes). The texture of the dough isn’t nearly as pleasing once it’s been sitting at room temperature or in the refrigerator. All in all, it’s a good option if you need an easy breakfast for a crowd.

Chocolate-Dipped Clementines

About two months ago, I was sitting in a waiting room flipping through a magazine when I came across a recipe for a healthy snack: dark chocolate-dipped clementine segments sprinkled with sea salt. Since my family fought off a nasty stomach bug last week (that’s why I didn’t post anything), I decided that healthy and super simple was the way to go for this week’s recipe.

I don’t have the original recipe, but there wasn’t much to remember anyway: clementines, chocolate chips, sea salt. I have to say, the snack boasts a number of benefits beyond the obvious simplicity and dose of vitamin C. First, you make as much or as little as you want. I had about 5 ounces of chocolate chips left over from a recipe for holiday fudge, so I only peeled two clementines; that was just about a perfect amount of chocolate for the citrus segments. Second, you can easily personalize the treats. I used milk chocolate chips, but semi-sweet would be great, too. I also didn’t sprinkle on any sea salt because I’m watching my sodium right now. If you’re looking for something fancy, drizzle melted white chocolate over the slices, add sprinkles, or dip in crushed pecans… the sky’s the limit. Third, these work great as a snack, but are also a great filler for holiday cookie trays.

Here’s how I made this snazzy snack:

Ingredients

Clementines (estimate 2 per 5-6 ounces of chocolate chips)

Chocolate chips

Vegetable oil (helps chocolate to melt smoothly; ¼ to ½ tsp per 6 ounces of chocolate is plenty)

Sea salt (optional)

Directions

Line a plate or baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel clementines and separate into segments. Try to avoid getting too much juice on the outside of the segments; otherwise, the chocolate slides off the segments.

Use a microwave and microwave-safe bowl to melt the chocolate chips at medium power (50-60%) in 30 second intervals. Stir after each interval. Once the chocolate is smooth, dredge the segments (rather than dip) in the chocolate to get it to stick to the clementines. Place onto the parchment paper. When finished, put plate in the fridge for at least 10 minutes to allow the chocolate to set.

Eat cold and within a few hours; the uncovered area of the clementine segments will dry out pretty quickly.

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Let me just say: WOW! Cold, juicy sweetness explodes when you bite through the chocolate shell. I really loved this treat. In terms of texture, it reminds me of chocolate-covered cherries and those chocolate-covered fruit jellies. The flavor is reminiscent of the solid chocolate oranges you find at this time of year – except it’s not at all artificial. My son just sucked the chocolate off his clementine segments, so the combination of textures and flavors didn’t appeal to him. I’m not too upset by this, though. More chocolate-dipped clementines for me!

What to Do with Left-over Sweet Potato Casserole…

20161128_083407Thanksgiving week’s Try It Tuesday post got away from me, I’ll admit it. However, my Thanksgiving meal did not. In fact, it turned out to be rather tasty with juicy turkey, savory green-beans with bacon, a satisfying gingerbread cake (my husband and his mom are not pie people), and yeast rolls that didn’t fall flat! So, please forgive my lack of post last week.

In fact, to make up for it, I’m reviewing two recipes for today’s Try It Tuesday. I hunted up both of these recipes online to find ways to use up my left-over sweet potato casserole. Although that’s my favorite side dish (as well as that of my son and my mother-in-law), it’s the one I’m never sure what to do with after the actual Thanksgiving meal. Stuffing becomes stuffing waffles that I eat with fried eggs for lunch. Turkey becomes soup and gets frozen for later. Desserts, well, they just get eaten! But sweet potato casserole doesn’t go with just anything like mashed potatoes can.

As I browsed online, I happened upon a recipe for Healthy Sweet Potato Muffins that allowed me to use three different left-overs: sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, and oranges (from a fruit tray).  You can check out this recipe at http://allrecipes.com/recipe/230869/healthy-sweet-potato-muffins/

I didn’t have any whole wheat flour in my pantry, so I used white flour. I also juiced the clementines that I zested and used it in place of the water. Overall, I’m quite satisfied with the result. The muffins taste tangy thanks to the citrus and cranberry sauce. On the other hand, if you were looking for something that kept more of the taste of the sweet potatoes, you will be disappointed; it’s lost beneath the vanilla. The next time I make these, I plan to cut the amount of vanilla extract I use to only ½ tablespoon. Also, in case you weren’t sure what kind of cranberry sauce to use, I used jellied. Although the recipe doesn’t specify, I suspect whole berry would work well too.20161128_090754

Sadly, I was still left with a surprising amount of casserole in my fridge, even after making muffins. I knew we wouldn’t be able to finish it before it went bad, so I started looking online again. This time, I found an easy recipe for sweet potato pancakes. These are not made with shredded potato, but puree. You can find the recipe at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sweet-potato-pancakes-recipe0.html It also includes a recipe for pecan butter, which I didn’t have time to make. I wish I could have though. It sounds great!

In any case, I once again had to use all white flour and since I already had some spices in my casserole, I cut the spice amounts in half. Moreover, I kept the marshmallow-pecan topping on the sweet potatoes when I pureed it in the food processor, so I also halved the amount of brown sugar called for by the recipe.

I found that the pancakes cooked best with my griddle set to about 275, but you’ll have to adjust according to your particular cook-top. Also, I had to add a little bit more milk to thin out the batter. I found it difficult to allow the pancakes to cook through without burning in my first batch. Again, this may vary depending on whether you use plain sweet potato like the recipe calls for or left-over casserole like I did.

This recipe turned out well and was truly simple to throw together. There is a nice taste of sweet potato and spice, but the sweetness is not overwhelming – so yes, syrup would go great with these. That said, my son and I each enjoyed a warm, thick pancake without any spreads or syrups for our mid-morning snack. Other toppings to try include peanut butter, cream cheese, or plain yogurt and honey.

A final positive aspect of these two recipes (and a deciding factor as I debated how to use my leftovers) is that they freeze well. The muffins can be put in Tupperware containers and frozen as is. To serve, just leave them out to thaw. Pancakes, as my mother taught me long ago, should be frozen on their cooling racks before being placed in Ziplock bags. I like to put a layer of parchment paper between each pancake to prevent them from sticking together when you take them out of the freezer. You can toss them in the toaster directly when you’re ready to eat them, or defrost them in the microwave for a few seconds first. This freezing method works great for waffles, too.

Do you have any favorite ways to use Thanksgiving leftovers? Share in the comments! You never know when you’ll find you’re next favorite recipe!