Roasted Sweet Potato and Kale Salad

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Whelp. As the song goes, this is The End.

The end of 2016, that is.

Wait, what; did you guys think I meant…THE end?

I mean, I dunno. Maybe it is. Check back with me after January 20th.

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For today however, let’s just keep the main focus on the fact that we’ve reached the end of the year. There is but one more day left in 2016. Crazy.

I won’t say this year’s went by particularly quick; it hasn’t really felt like that for me personally. I will say that it brought LOTS of change. Lots of new. Lots of different. There’s room for pessimism but the thing about starting a new year is that there’s also room for some new optimism. If things can get worse, there’s no reason not to hope that they can and won’t just might get better too, right?

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Some of us may choose the simple practice of optimism going into the new year. Others like to engage in certain practices that across cultures are supposed to bring especial luck to individuals if done on New Years Eve. I’m sure you guys are familiar with plenty of them.

Healthy amount of libations consumed.

Kissing a significant other or a… whatever you want to call them, at the stroke of midnight.

Opening doors and windows wide at night to let the ‘bad luck’ out of a house.

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There are plenty of places worldwide where people will consume particular foods, whether through tradition or believing that the foods themselves will provide good luck because of what they symbolize. Noodles consumed in Asian countries symbolize and are supposed to bring life longevity. In Spain, eating 12 grapes for each month of the year is supposed to predict the kind of year you will have (sweet for good times, sour for bad). There’s a certain Greek bread called Vasilopitta that I swear I’m gonna get around to trying myself one of these days. In the American south, black eyed peas, corn bread and leafy greens eaten at years end/new years are supposed to bring good luck.

If I’m being completely honest, I really don’t know or care whether or not eating greens of any kind will bring good luck. I’m gonna eat ’em regardless. But if the taste of today’s recipe was any indication, I’d say I was feeling pretty lucky this afternoon.

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Prior to this, the only ways I’d had kale previously was eating it raw, then eating it in the crispy chips you bake in the oven. Both are fine, but they’ve never really ‘wowed’ me into thinking kale was all that special. This recipe changed my mind. The kale is quick roasted in the oven, just to the point where it’s soft without being completed deflated. Sweet potato is roasted until it’s soft, but not quite mushy; it’s still got body to it. Both are then gently tossed together with some dried cranberries in a sweet and tangy dressing for a salad that is just REALLY delicious. The best part is, it tastes even better the next day after the flavors have had enough time to meld properly. The firm texture of the sweet potato is preserved and the texture of the kale in my opinion is improved: whereas raw kale is tough and fibrous, the quick roasted kale that’s been tossed in the dressing has this robust chewiness that’s a really great bite.

Truth to be told, it’s gone now and I’m already missing this stuff.  Oh yeah: and did I mention it’s pretty darn HEALTHY? And I actually want it. That’s always nice.

Linking this post to Fiesta Friday #152, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Ginger @ Ginger & Bread.

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Roasted Sweet Potato & Kale Salad

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes peeled, seeded, quartered, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large bunch (about 8 ounces) kale
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup (about 6 ounces) dried cranberries or cherries

Directions

Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 400°F. Toss sweet potato pieces with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until potatoes are tender throughout and well browned around the edges, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before attempting to remove from foil. Carefully remove potatoes from foil using a thin metal spatula and transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.

Meanwhile, pick leaves off of kale stems into a large bowl and roughly tear with hands; discard stems. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil, season with salt and pepper, and massage until well-coated in oil. Transfer to a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake until wilted and crisp in some spots, about 7–10 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to bowl with sweet potatoes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together shallot, maple syrup, mustard, vinegar, cinnamon, paprika, nutmeg, cloves, cayenne pepper, and brown sugar . Whisking constantly, drizzle in remaining 1/4 cup of the oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add cranberries to bowl with sweet potatoes and kale,. Toss with half of dressing, taste, and add more dressing as desired. The dressed salad can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Let it come to room temperature or briefly microwave until warm before serving.

Banh Mi Spring Rolls

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The weather here’s been just beautiful this week and I think it’s finally safe to say that we’ve left winter behind us–though you never really can tell in Michigan. You just take things as they come day by day and pray that the weather report for tomorrow is actually going to be semi-accurate. This week’s forecast was for sunny skies and mid-to upper 70’s.

And guess what? That’s EXACTLY what we’ve been getting. Which, makes me happy. I’m already excited for Memorial Day when my older sister (who’s good at barbecuing/grilling) can fire up our charcoal grill with the meat and I (who am NOT good at grilling whatsoever) can make everything else. Heh.

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Today’s recipe really complements the summer weather, as it’s one where you’re not going to need to crank up the oven and make your house/apartment anymore stuffy than it may be already if you’re trying to wait as long as possible to turn on the A/C (like us lol) Additionally, if you’ve got a grocery store in your area that makes good rotisserie chickens, then over half the work’s already done for you.

I was a Banh Mi late bloomer. Up until a couple years ago, I wasn’t even 100% sure of how to pronounce it correctly. (It’s okay if you still don’t either and go from here to Google to find out; that’s how I learned too.)Typically, it’s a Vietnamese sandwich consisting of a crusty baguette style bread that’s split in half and layered with marinated grilled pork or chicken, fresh herbs, and pickled carrots and radishes. I’ve seen versions that also involve pate spreads and spicy chili sauces, but at its core, the above is a good place to start for a Banh Mi virgin.

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Banh Mi sandwiches, if you’ve got a place that can REALLY do them well, are bound to become a quick favorite. Seriously, they’re just really hard NOT to like. There’s a Vietnamese/Creole (yeah, I know. Peculiar combination)  restaurant just down the road from where I live that makes them and also made the meal that served as my official induction into the club of Banh Mi sandwich appreciation. There’s also another dish that they make that I simply MUST get each and every time I go there: the spring rolls.

Up until this place opened, I had also never had a Spring Roll that wasn’t made of the standard egg wrappers and fried in oil. I’d certainly see and heard of the translucent rice paper wrappers, but never tried them before and of course–never prepared a dish with them.

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Like the Banh Mi sandwich, from that first taste I got of a rice paper spring roll,  I was just hooked. First of all, the restaurant’s seasoning of the pork inside was sublime, and the even though they crammed it full of both meat, veggies and herbs I still walked away from the meal without feeling ‘too full’. There was just a wonderfully refreshing ‘lightness’ to those rice paper spring rolls that’s really made me never want to go back to the old fried way I used to eat them.

Although, don’t get  it twisted: I still have MAD love for a deep fried egg roll. That, I’m never changing my mind and/or taste buds about.

What’s so great about today’s recipe is that it combines both of the dishes from the Vietnamese restaurant near me and makes it into a dish that gives me the best of both worlds; the core elements of the Banh Mi sandwich are rolled altogether in the spring roll rice paper to make a super delicious appetizer, snack, side dish or even meal if you’re game for eating several of these bad boys. I know I am.

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This was my first time quick-pickling veggies and using rice paper wrappers and I was pleased to find out it wasn’t that big a deal. Once you’ve rolled your share of egg rolls (and I have) then using the wet rice paper isn’t that big of a challenge. Just as few minor tips:

Make sure your cucumbers are sliced VERY thin, or they may tear or poke holes through the wet rice paper. Be sure to roll you ingredients up nice and tight. Place the finished rolls seam side down once you’re finished to help them “seal” better while you make the rest. AND most important: keep the leftovers wrapped in plastic wrap to keep the rice paper rolls moist. They have a tendency to get a little chewy and tough when left exposed to the air for too long, even if you keep them in plastic containers.

These are super yummy, guys. The pickled carrot and radish provides a tangy acidity that isn’t overpowering when tempered with the savory chicken that’s been juuuuuuust slightly sweetened from being mixed with the Chinese five-spice powder. Depending on the herb(s) you decide to use you’re going to have a different flavor profile but because I prefer it’s mild sweetness I went with the fresh mint leaves that paired very well with the cucumber. This is PERFECT summer food, plain and simple.

I’ll be bringing my spring rolls to this week’s Fiesta Friday #120, co-hosted this week by Loretta @ Safari of the Mind and Linda @ Fabulous Fare Sisters. Thanks ladies.

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Banh Mi Spring Rolls

Recipe Adapted from Chow.com

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Ingredients

For Pickled Veggies:

  • 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (3-ounce) carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 (3-ounce) daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks

For Spring Rolls

  • 8 to 10 rice paper wrappers
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (I used rotisserie chicken)
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1/2 English cucumber, very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves (small leaves)

Directions

To Make Pickled Veggies:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the carrot and daikon and let cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until ready to stuff into rolls.

To Assemble Spring Rolls:

Fill a round cake pan with warm water. Place 1 rice paper round into the water, turning it gently with your fingertips until softened. Carefully remove the sheet from the water and lay it flat on a plate.

Toss the chicken with the five-spice powder. Arrange some of the seasoned chicken in a horizontal line on the wrapper, positioning it about 1 inch or so from the edge nearest you and about 1⁄2 inch from each side.

Top with some of the drained pickled veggies, cucumber, and a sprinkle of mint leaves.

Lift the edge of the rice paper nearest you and place it over the filling, then roll once to form a tight cylinder. Fold in the sides of the rice paper and continue to roll to form a tight cylinder (be careful not to rip the rice paper).

Repeat with the remaining rice paper and filling. Cut each roll in half crosswise at a diagonal and serve with the dipping sauce, if you like. To store, wrap each roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Orange Honey Mustard Baked Chicken Breasts

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Back when my sister was still planning her wedding, the venue at which the reception was at had a fully functioning kitchen/staff that would cater a sit down dinner as apart of the fee for renting out the space, if desired. Rather than bring in an outside caterer, she decided to go with this option. Just about three months before the wedding, the venue’s chef and staff would hold what were called collective “tastings” where they would cook samples of just about everything that was on their menu for the couples who had booked rooms in advance to come and taste so that they could pick which one(s) they wanted to serve at their reception.

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Fortunately, my sister was allowed to bring guests with her to the tasting; so she ended up bringing me, my mom, my aunt and my niece with her.

Hey, it was free food. You guys KNEW I was gonna tag along for that. I thought that it was just going to be one or two pieces of meat that they plunked down on a few saucers that we had to share and nibble on.

Yeah, no. What is actually was, was a full on buffet of not only every main dish, but every side dish that the venue had on their menu. We could eat as much of it as we wanted (you know, for quality control purposes) and the chef was even on site for any questions that the brides/grooms had about the preparation of the food in general. And they had just about everything: several chicken, beef, fish AND pasta dishes. Several vegetables sides. They even put out some of the appetizers. Every person that attended got a small little card with a list of the food names, and a scale of 1-10 that the couples and their guests could rate them on for our favorite to least favorite that I assume the bride/groom could use later to pick which dishes they wanted to serve at their reception.

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I’d never been to a real wedding reception tasting before, and I was VERY impressed with not only the service of the staff, but the overall experience in general. We were STUFFED by the time we left and I’m pleased to say it was due to mostly excellent food.

For her two entree choies, my sister ended up picking a delicious flank steak dish, and a stuffed chicken one that reminded me of something you’d serve on Thanksgiving. However, the stuffed chicken wasn’t her favorite preparation of it that we sampled that day and it wasn’t mine either. We were blown away by this Dijon mustard chicken dish that even to this day, I STILL find myself thinking about and kinda salivating over. The balance of tanginess from the mustard and the sweetness of the honey was so just well executed and the chicken (a breast at that) was still so moist and flavorful.

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My mom (rightly so) advised my sister that since not everyone likes the flavor of mustard it might be better to pick a more ‘generic’ chicken dish that was still delicious, which is the reason why she went with the stuffed chicken.

Even so, ever since that wedding reception tasting back in July I have been trying my darndest to try and make a chicken dish that is even as remotely delicious as the Dijon mustard one we tried that day. I’ll be perfectly honest: this one isn’t quite it.

But! It IS still delicious, quick and ridiculously simple to pull off.

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Lemme just first talk about this sauce: after making the first batch to pour over the chicken while it’s baking, I tasted it and immediately got to work making a second one just to have for extra dipping later. It’s that good. The combination of citrus from the orange juice and zest and the dijon mustard is a truly perfect combination; not too sweet, while also not too sharp or tangy either. It also makes one kick-ass sandwich spread, AND a pretty good salad dressing.

I covered my chicken with foil while baking this and it came out SOOOOO moist. Even I can’t usually make my chicken breast bake up that moist and tender, but by Golly, this time I nailed it. I was one happy camper that night for dinner let me tell you. So I think it goes without saying that I’m placing my heavy rubber stamp of approval on this recipe for you guys to try for an easy weeknight dinner. Have at it, will ya?

Happy Fiesta Friday #113 and thank you to our co-hosts for this week,  Sonal @ simplyvegetarian777 and Laurie @ ten.times.tea.

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Orange Honey Mustard Baked Chicken Breasts

Recipe Courtesy of Chowhound

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Ingredients

  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest (from about 2 oranges)
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from about 6 oranges)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion or shallot
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick), cut into 4 pieces and at room temperature

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Season the chicken with 2 teaspoons of the salt and all of the pepper; set aside.

Place the orange zest, juice, onion or shallot, honey, and remaining teaspoon of salt in a large oven-safe frying pan, whisk to combine, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until reduced by almost half, about 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the Dijon and whole-grain mustards.

Add the reserved chicken, spoon some of the sauce over each breast, and bake until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a serving platter and tent with foil. Whisk the butter into the sauce 1 piece at a time, letting each piece melt before adding the next. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.

Summer Pasta Salad

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What do hot, hot, HOT summer days make you think of? For me, it’s a number of things.

Growing up and eating MASSIVE amounts of watermelon with my grandpa.

Being on summer vacation from school and getting to wake up whenever the heck I want. (I’m an ‘adult’ with a regular ‘job’ now, so this doesn’t happen anymore.)

The song “Summer Nights” from Grease.

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The sound of the ice cream truck music playing in my grandmother’s neighborhood.

Spike Lee’s movie, “Do the Right Thing”.

The handful of summer camps/programs that my Mom signed me up for…neither of which I ever liked.

Cedar Point trips.

Beautiful, cool(er) sunsets.

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Now how about food? I know that for me, I have “Summer Memories”, and then apart from that, I have “Summer Food Memories.”

Watermelon. Eating watermelon wedge after watermelon wedge until I start burping- that’s how I know when to stop.

Ice cream. One of the only things that I like about extreme summer heat is that it gives me an excuse to eat ice cream. It’s not like I ever NEED an excuse. I definitely eat ice cream in the dead of winter as well, but…still.

Popsicles. Not the watery kind in the plastic wrappers; REAL popsicles with chunks of fruit that are so thick and creamy, you can chew them.

Barbecue. Nothing replaces  the flavor that a charcoal grill can inject into a piece of meat. Nothing.

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Finally, there’s pasta salad.

Pasta salad has gotta be one of the most quintessential summer foods there is. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like pasta salad.

I don’t know if I even WANT to know anyone who doesn’t like pasta salad.

I’ve tried lots of different kinds of pasta salads in the past that experimented with different flavors, including this VERY delicious Supreme Pizza Pasta Salad. However, this recipe sticks to the ‘basics’ of pasta salad, resulting in a dish that is pretty much guaranteed to please everybody.

I’ve included all of the ingredients that I personally prefer in my pasta salad, but should you try this out, feel free to add or swap out stuff that you or your family prefers, like cheese, olives, or meat.

I think it’ll make for a pretty cool summer memory 😉

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Summer Pasta Salad


Recipe Adapted from Southern Living

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Ingredients

  • 8 oz. Penne pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1 green , yellow or orange bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped and undrained
  • 1 cup yellow canned corn, drained
  • 3 mini salad cucumbers, thinly sliced

Salad Dressing

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced

 

Directions

Combine all of the salad dressing ingredients together in a glass measuring cup with a whisk.. Taste and adjust for seasoning if need be.

In a large bowl, toss all of the salad ingredients together, then drizzle in your desired amount of the dressing.

Refrigerate pasta salad for at least an hour to allow flavors to meld, but preferably overnight. Serve chilled.

Roasted Maple Curry Brussel Sprouts

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My twin sister is getting married soon. Really soon. Like, September soon.

She’s been engaged for over a year now, but I still don’t think it’s really sunk in for me yet. Jas has lived with me every single day of our lives since we were conceived. Literally That’s 25 years, plus change since our birthday also happens to be in September.

There are 9,131 days in twenty five years. Of those 9,131 days, I don’t think more than 10 (and I mean, 10 maximum) have went by that Jas and I have not seen each other.

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But come September, Jas will be moving out and living elsewhere from me. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s not like she’s moving to another state.  Her house is about twenty minutes away from where we live now. She’s already informed me that she plans to visit here often and that I’m more than welcome to come over to her place, and I believe her.

Still. The closer we get to the actual Big Day, I have to confess the idea of her moving out does feel a little…weird.

It’s definitely gonna be different not having her here all the time. It’ll definitely be an adjustment. But I’m sure it won’t take too long for me to get the hang of it.

I hope.

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On the brighter/less sappy side, I’m REALLY happy for my sister and her fiance. They’ve known each other for over ten years, and I could tell even way back when we were in high school when they were in that “just friends” stage that they were really into each other. They’ve always had a really awesome dynamic that at times, I have even felt myself being a little envious of. I think that the best couples are the couples that first of all, have a lot of fun together, and second, complement each other very well. That’s definitely the case with Jas and her guy.

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They’ve been friends just as long as they’ve been together romantically. They have lots of inside jokes. They like’doing things’ together, but they’re also just as cool with being together and ‘doing nothing’. They’re not similar people personality-wise, but the different elements of their personality work together really well.

They just have a great relationship, and as a sister, I’m really proud of the choice that Jas has made for her life partner.

The main ingredients for this dish kinda remind me of the relationship that Jas has with her fiance, as well as the relationship that I’ve seen with other happy couples.

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Maple syrup and curry powder. I know it’s maybe not exactly an union that may seem to be successful at first. On their own, the ingredients are already pretty strong and assertive: maple syrup with it’s prominent sweetness, and curry powder with it’s pungent spiciness. Kinda polar opposites, right?

Still, I gotta insist that you guys trust me on this: once you combine them together, they really really REALLY work well. The assertiveness of both spices, combined with the slight bitterness from the brussel sprouts creates this harmonious marriage of flavors (pun intended) that I was really very impressed with. It made for a delicious side dish that I’m definitely sticking in my bag of tricks to use repeatedly in the future.

I’ll be taking myself and my sprouts over to the Fiesta Friday #76 party by the way. See you guys there 🙂

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Roasted Maple Curry Brussel Sprouts

Recipe Courtesy of Jess@Cooking is My Sport

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Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. fresh Brussel sprouts, washed, trimmed and halved
  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp. yellow curry powder

Directions

400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and coat evenly with cooking spray.

Toss Brussel sprouts with olive oil in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange in a single layer on sheet pan and roast in oven, 35-40 minutes, stirring halfway through until sprouts are tender in the center and crisp on the outside.

Meanwhile, combine maple syrup and curry powder in a glass measuring cup. When sprouts are done roasting, drizzle curry maple syrup over them*. Serve.

*You may not want to use all of the syrup, depending on your personal preference of sweetness and spice. 

Asian Marinated Baked Chicken

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Hi , guys. I know, it’s  been a little over two weeks since my last post.

I’m still alive.

I’m still cooking.

I’m still a food blogger.

I wish I had this really exciting, interesting and engrossing story to share with all of you as to why I’ve been a little quiet lately.

But the truth is, I really don’t.

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I’ll be perfectly honest with you guys, I’ve felt sad lately. Nothing major; I have a pretty thick skin, most of the time I just brush it off and carry on with my life. This is just a noticeable sadness that’s still somewhat lingering.

A lot of the inspiration and enthusiasm I normally find in cooking and keeping up this blog has been depleted by the majority of news headlines that we’ve seen in the United States over the past few weeks and months. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to sit down and talk to you guys about food or try to tell a witty story, be my normally sarcastic/humorous self, and then talk to you guys about food when the news is playing in the background and I’m seeing and hearing about things that are happening in my country right now that I’m not okay with.

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Don’t flip out. This blog isn’t going to be my political soapbox. I know that’s not what you’re all here for.

However, issues of politics, equality and social justice are a huge part of how my identity has been shaped and it continues to affect me to this day. I see no reason to hide that. I’m an African American female; it’s a fact and I’m proud of it. My Black heritage was crucial in shaping my cooking identity. It guides the character of my food. And that’s a marvelous thing.  Unfortunately, there is a darker, unfortunate side to having a Black heritage in this country; a blessing and a burden, as the saying goes.

I’ll keep it short and brief: inequality still exists in America. Racism still exists in America. In fact, if you turn on the TV and watch a major news network, you should be able to see that it’s alive and well. And it’s pretty damn serious. People are dying; whether at the hands of corrupt police officers, self-appointed ‘neighborhood watches’, or white supremacist teenagers that shoot up a church prayer meeting, people are dying.

Sadly, this is nothing new, not so far as I’m concerned. It’s apart of the reality that I’ve long had to adapt myself to as a Black person in this country. Most of the time, in spite of the madness that I see or hear happening on the news, I can still cook, take photos and write up a blog post for all of you that’s completely ‘normal’ and funny and carry on. It’s what most of us do.

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But sometimes…I can’t. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. Depressing. Gut-wrenching.

So much so that there have been far too many times over the past few weeks when I literally couldn’t cook, have a photo shoot or write a post. My mind, heart and will just were not in it. As a result, we ate take-out around here for several days. Probably more than we should have.

Sometimes I just can’t pretend that things with my country are okay, because this is a “food blog” and I need to separate that from my daily reality. Things aren’t okay. They’re not.

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I’m not interested in getting into debates or even discussions about the whys and hows all of this chaos is happening. I’m just having an honest moment of raw honesty with you guys. If you were curious as to why I haven’t been around lately, there it is.

Okay, that’s it. I’m done. Hopefully my little spiel was cool with you. (And if it’s not, or you tend to disagree with any of what I just said, I reaaaaaally can’t say I’m too offended or bothered. It’s my blog. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to. My feelings won’t be hurt. Promise.)

Fortunately, I’ve been working my way back into the kitchen and giving my blogging mojo more and more pushups every  day to get myself back into Blogging shape so to speak. I think this recipe is a good start.

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So about this chicken: it looks great, right? Guess what?

It’s probably one of the easiest dishes you could ever make. You literally just take some chicken breasts, throw them in an overnight marinade, then bake/broil them the next day. Steam some broccoli, make some brown Minute Rice.

BAM.

You have a delicious dinner.

Like most Asian-inspired dishes, my favorite part of this dish is the sauce on the chicken; the thick, syrupy, sticky sauce that I always drizzle extra spoonfuls of on top of my rice.

Badda bing, badda boom.

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Asian Marinated Baked Chicken

Recipe Courtesy of Chow.com

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons peeled and finely minced ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast

Directions

Place everything except the chicken in a 13-by-9-inch broiler-proof baking dish and whisk to combine.

Lay the chicken in a single layer in the marinade and turn to coat. Cover, refrigerate, and marinate at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours, turning the chicken at least once during the marinating time.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 475°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Bake until the chicken is starting to turn a dark brown color, about 40 minutes.

Set the oven to broil and broil until the chicken skin is crisped, about 3 to 5 minutes more. Serve with the sauce on the side.

Sweet Tea Broiled Chicken

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You guys wanna know one of my favorite things about visiting the South? They have an immense appreciation and respect for sweet tea there.

You can get it in gas stations. You can order it in restaurants. They don’t look at you like you’re cray-cray when you ask for it with no ice.

It’s not like that up here in the North.

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The ‘sweet tea’ they sell in gas stations and grocery stores here isn’t real sweet tea. It’s not. I’ve been to the South. I know the difference.

Here, when I ask the waitress in a restaurant if they serve sweet tea, she gives me this blank stare and says something along the lines of, “Oh,um…we’ve have Lipton’s Lemon Iced Tea, but it’s not really sweetened.”

And then I just order water.

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Don’t judge me, but the closest thing I can get to Southern sweet tea here is the stuff that they sell at McDonalds. It sure isn’t the real thing, but it’s better than the lemon Lipton tea most other joints serve. They do throw me major shade when I ask for no ice, though.

It’s as if they have a problem with someone who’s caught onto their little trick of filling the cup to the brim with ice so that they can skimp on the amount of tea they actually TRY to give.

Nope, nope Buttercup. I’m onto your game.

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I was sitting at home one day really missing Southern sweet tea when I suddenly thought of how interesting it would be to try and cook with it. The way I saw it, a savory dish could really provide a wonderful counter to the sweetness of the tea with the right blend of spices- and the right protein, of course.

Since we are talking about a Southern drink, I thought I’d go with one of the main proteins that’s used in Southern cooking (also my go-to for affordability and ease): the chicken breast.

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I’ve heard of sweet tea brined chicken that’s then deep fried, but for my rendition I thought that I would keep things here healthier and put my broiler to use instead. Plus, I think that this here marinade I’ve put together is pretty tasty all on it’s own without needing the addition of a greasy, crunchy skin coating.

Not to knock fried chicken, though. Fried chicken is always a winner. But this is too. Trust me.

I love when one of my harebrained ideas for the blog actually  pays off, and this is really one of them. Broiling the meat here was just such a good move; soaking it in the tea then placing it underneath the heat of the broiler creates a thin, but slightly crisp, golden sweetened crust on the outside that opens to tender and moist white meat on the inside. Then of course, there’s the charred edges that have that perfect contrast of flavor that ‘almost’ fools you into thinking the meat was grilled.

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If you do decide to make this dish (and c’mon, why wouldn’t you?) then don’t skip the step of step of setting aside the extra cup or so of marinade to make the sauce later on. Because the sweet tea sauce really is the star here. When I ate this dish for dinner, I drizzled some over my vegetables and was a VERY happy camper that night.

Maybe I should start bottling and selling it.

I didn’t make it to last week’s Fiesta Friday and even though I’m late this time around, I’ll still be there for Fiesta Friday #64 this week. Thanks to Angie for hosting, and Ginger@Ginger & Bread and Loretta@Safari Of The Mind.

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Sweet Tea Broiled Chicken

Recipe Courtesy of Jess@CookingisMySport

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Ingredients

  • 3 family sized tea bags (like Lipton Cold Brew)
  • 8-9 cups water
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 5 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

 Directions

1. Place water in heavy pot and bring to a boil.

2. Remove from heat, then place tea bags in pot and allow to steep for about 20 minutes.

3. Add next 9 ingredients and place back over medium heat, allowing to come to a simmer for about 10-15 minutes to allow sugars to dissolve and flavors to combine. Remove from heat and completely cool. Set aside about 1 cup of the marinade to use for later.

4. Divide the chicken breasts between two gallon size plastic bags. Pour even amounts of the remaining marinade over chicken, seal bags and refrigerate overnight or at least one hour.

5. Preheat broiler and spray broiler pan well. Broil chicken until inner temperature reaches 160-165 degrees and outside is browned and slightly charred.

6. While chicken is cooking, pour the reserved unused marinade into a small saucepan and place over the stove over medium-high heat. Allow to reduce and thicken until it makes a sauce to desired consistency. Serve over chicken.