Better Than Basic Baked Chicken Drumsticks

or economical and delicious weeknight chicken

Things certainly ebb and flow with a toddler in the house.  Add into the mix two parents constantly re-adjusting their "groove" to the season at hand and it adds up to chaos at dinner more nights than not.  With our budget tighter than before it doesn't give a whole lot of flex room for impromptu inspiration either, so I have been working on dinner planning and digging up some old favorite recipes to add into the rotation.  Summer is giving way to Fall so our stir fry/veggie sautes are turning to the roasted route and our oven is making its grand return to use.

This week we revived my old chicken drumstick recipe and served it alongside a delicious mix of roasted veggies from the Farmers' Market (recipe to come soon).  This was great because the chicken was on sale, we used farm fresh local veggies, the rest of the ingredients were already in our pantry, and the leftovers were cut up and mixed together for an easy lunch the day.  I have done several variations of this recipe and they have always turned out great, alternate ideas are included in the ingredient list to shake things up.  The chicken is so tender it practically falls off the bone, you can reduce the liquid by half a cup if you want to make sure it is more of a finger food type of meal.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!  Here's how the chicken goes down:

Chicken drumsticks - 6 to 8
House spice blend - 1 tbsp
Paprika - 1 tsp (can replace with 1/2 tsp sage for more traditional flavor)
Chicken stock - 1 cup
White wine - 1/4 cup (optional, replace with chicken stock if desired)
Dried minced onion - 1 tbsp
Salt & pepper

Hardware: glass baking dish large enough to fit chicken without overlap

Preheat oven to 350 F

1. Add chicken stock, wine, and dried minced onion to the baking dish.  Stir to combine.

2. Next add in the drumsticks, alternating direction so they fit loosely together like a puzzle (there should be a little space between each if possible)

3. Season the chicken with spice blend, paprika, salt and pepper.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 min.

4. Remove the foil and turn the oven up to 450 F, return to oven for 10 min uncovered.

5. Turn to broil for a few minutes to crisp the top.  Carefully flip the drumsticks over, season with spices again, and broil to crisp skin.  Remove from oven and place the chicken on a plate separate from the stock mixture.

Optional: heat the stock mixture until simmering, slowly stir in a couple tablespoons of a slurry mixture (equal parts cornstarch and cold water), and season to taste.  Serve as gravy with the chicken.


Baby Steps - Baby Food Days

or hey, I am alive and well, how about you?

My cooking these past few months is, well, uninspired.  But I have been doing more experimentation than I thought when I reflect on it now.  It is very challenging to find the time to explore the world of food int he way that I used to when I have a very mobile baby/toddler cruising around.  What I have realized is that while my cooking did not come to a complete halt, it did in fact dwindle, but it never came to a complete stop.  I have spent several months focusing my culinary energy on that darling little benevolent dictator of mine.  We have had a lot of fun exploring the world of foods with this bundle of ever energetic joy and I am here to share a few tips with you as I begin a mini series of posts on my dearest daughter's journey through food.

Here is some of what I have learned:

1. There is no one true way.  I was a bit afraid of baby led weaning but I did not want to feed my child overly processed foods.  So we did homemade purees, modified BLW, and baby cereals (primarily oatmeal, made with breastmilk).  I am happy that we did all of this, I believe the combination made the process easier on all of us.  It gave us healthy foods for our little one, the independence of finger foods, and the convenience of baby cereals combined with the nutrition of extra breastmilk.

2. Do not give up on new foods.  Everyone says it, and to be honest I was fed up with hearing it for a few months there, but it is completely true.  There are days when our sweet child will down over a half a cup of green beans in a single setting, and others where she will turn her nose up at it the second it hits the plate.  There is no way to predict which way it will go.  Just keep trying new foods, give them to them over and over again, and keep back-up options on hand.  It saves a lot of stress to have a container of cooked peas and one of homemade applesauce in the fridge for just such an occasion.

3. Be inspired by your child.  For us the exploration of food along with our little one has brought us back to the table together for dinners.  We decided early on that we wanted to establish the table as the place to eat and made a point of sitting down together every night for dinner starting around 6 months old.  This has become an important part of our evenings.  We share food, events of our days, and just enjoy each other.  Our daughter doesn't get toys at the table.  Instead she gets options for food and drink.  If she starts playing with her peas and feeding them to the dog (whose stomach has been taking a hit as a result lately), we switch to potatoes, if she gobbles that up we move back to the peas or move on to bread.  We spend the time chatting about our days as well as hers.  We engage her as well as each other.  We had been in a rut and meals were themselves inspired but the experience of consuming them was not.  I feel like this level of eating has added a lot of enrichment to our lives.

It has been the start of a new phase in our lives and it has been a whirlwind.  The next few posts will highlight how we progressed from nursing to transitional foods to toddler foods as our child has grown.  I hope you enjoy this divergence from my standard posts.


Make Ahead Meatless Lasagna

or a simple comfort food delight

So, I missed February.  It was a short month, it just kind of sneaked right past me, very ninja like as a matter of fact, I was powerless to stop it... In summary - I am sorry.  And I am going to try to make it up to you in a single, short post.  A delicious post.  A post that defines my cooking as of late - ready made comfort food.  I hope you accept my cheese covered, carb filled, olive branch - make ahead lasagna.

I have been making lasagna for year and never put it together for a post because I always felt it was pretty straight forward and what I considered a "Sunday night dinner" since it was difficult to do after work during the week.  Since my focus has been on slow cooker and make ahead meals for the past few months, my perspective on lasagna has changed quite drastically and I have taken the time to finesse my recipe a bit.  The most recent addition is a single layer of provolone in the middle, I think this adds a nice depth to the flavor without overpowering the rest of the dish.  Last night my husband declared this recipe as the best yet, and for him that is saying a lot.  Check it out, I hope you enjoy it as much as he did!

lasagna noodles (9 or more if needed for larger dish)*
15 oz ricotta cheese (1 tub)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 slices of provolone cheese
1 egg (or equivalent of egg substitute)
2 cups marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp oregano
3 tbsp Italian bread crumbs

Hardware: soup pot, rectangular glass baking dish

Preheat oven to 350 F

1. Bring water to a boil and cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain and rinse so they are cooler to handle, set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, and raw egg (scrambled).  once thoroughly combined add in the spices and mix well.

3. Spread about 1/2 cup of sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.  Layer 3 lasagna noodles across the bottom (they should touch and not leave too much space), top with half of the cheese mixture, smooth another 1/2 cup of sauce over the layer.  Add a second layer of noodles, remaining cheese mixture, the slices of provolone, then a half cup of sauce.  Add the final layer of noodles, then the remaining sauce, sprinle breadcrumbs evenly over the sauce, top with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella, and cover the dish with aluminum foil.

- at this point it can be refrigerated or frozen if prepping as a make ahead meal, if freezing remember to remove from freezer the night before cooking for adequate thaw time -

4. Bake covered for 45 min.  Then remove the foil for the remaining 10 min to melt the cheese.  Take out and allow to rest for 10-15 min before serving.

* you can use "no boil" noodles instead provided you aren't freezing it and it is much faster prep, it does tend to be a tad more watery with them in my experience though


Slowly Simmering Hot & Sour Soup

or crock pot cures for colds and cold days

Well, the slow cooker has become a permanent fixture on our counter top these days.  Between still adjusting to life with baby girl, to lower energy due to the Winter months, to colds and other health issues weighing us down, it has become the essential tool in our kitchen at least twice a week.  There are only so many vegetarian options to make that appeal to all of us, and my system is still not prepared for meat to be a big part of my diet, so it came time to expand my horizons and try something new.  I don't have many Asian inspired dishes in my everyday repertoire so I thought that might be a good place to start.  Now, I do not generally have a well stocked pantry for Asian style dishes.  For the most part I tend to do stir fry or panko breaded variations when exploring this realm and they do not require a whole lot.  Because of this, the cost of this experiment was a bit more than it will be in an ongoing basis.  Now that I have the essentials on hand (sesame oil, seasoned rice vinegar, white pepper, Sriracha and extra soy sauce) I only need to pick up mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts to make this happen on any given weekday.  I generally have chicken/vegetable base on hand already, along with ground ginger.

This can be prepped the night before and just tossed together in the morning so it makes a great dish for busy days.  It is also excellent as a freezer meal, either toss all the ingredients together raw in a large freezer bag so it can be a dump and go meal or cook and freeze in smaller portions (just don't add in noodles until reheating, they do not freeze well).

3 cups stock (chicken or vegetable base)
2 cups water
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 can bamboo shoots
1 can water chestnuts
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
a dash of ground white pepper (if you have it)
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Sriracha and/or soy sauce for finishing

optional add-ins: 1 cup cubed firm tofu, 1 bundle of udon noodles, or 1 bundle of rice noodles

Hardware: slow cooker (crockpot)

1. Rinse and dice up the sliced mushrooms (you can leave them larger if you want, but I prefer them to be even smaller).  Drain the bamboo shoots and slice lengthwise.  Drain the water chestnuts and cut in half.  Add all the vegetables to the slow cooker and stir to combine.  (If you are including tofu, add that in at this time too)

2. Add in the sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and spices.  Pour the stock and water over top.  Stir all the ingredients together so they can begin to get acquainted.   It looks very full at this point in my 5 quart slow cooker but it does cook down as the mushrooms shrink.

3. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

4. If you are using udon or rice noodles, add those in during the last 30 min or so of cook time and make sure to stir well as they soften.  Serve topped with a drizzle of Sriracha for a little more spice or soy sauce to balance the spice.

Sadly I still have not resolved my photo limit issue, but when I do there will be photos.  I apologize for the lack of visual evidence.  


Skinny-ish Spinach Quiche

or pour and go crust-free quiche

I have recently come to love making quiche at home.  I make individual ones for breakfasts on the go and full sized ones for dinner, with leftovers for lunches.  It took me a while to sort out the right combination of ingredients, and even now I still tend to change it up a bit, but I think I have settled on a pretty solid base recipe.  I use egg beaters, or egg substitute, in this recipe for two reasons 1) it is healthier than whole eggs in some respects and 2) it is a lot easier - less mess and faster prep.  I know what you are thinking, is it really that hard to crack and scramble 5 eggs?  The answer to that is yes.  Yes it is.  Particularly when I have a squirmy baby insisting on mommy time during meal prep.  But even without that, it just goes a bit faster overall (and if you use frozen veggies instead of fresh it can be a fantastically fast throw together meal).  If you are a traditionalist or are involved in an anti-egg substitute movement feel free to prep with the 5 whole eggs, I won't judge.  The one adjustment I do make periodically is whether or not to include 2 tbsp of flour in the egg mixture.  I am still not sure how I feel about it and alternate each time I make it, I'm indecisive like that.  Feel free to try tossing it in if you are feeling adventurous.  Here's what I've got:

1 1/2 cups egg beaters (or 5 eggs)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp dried minced onion
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper
nutmeg - just a dash
2 tbsp Italian bread crumbs
1 bunch fresh spinach
2 tbsp olive oil

Hardware: saute pan, glass pie dish, mixing bowl

Preheat oven to 350 F, spray pie pan with nonstick spray.

1. Saute spinach in olive oil with the dried minced onion until wilted.  (if using frozen spinach - thaw in the fridge in advance and when prepping squeeze out all the water, then stir in the dried minced onion, no saute)

2. In the mixing bowl add the egg beaters and heavy cream, mix until well combined.  Season with garlic, salt, and pepper.  Pour in the spinach mixture and stir again to combine.

3. Add in both of the cheeses and stir well.  Pour into the pie pan.  Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top.

4. Bake for 30 min.  Then remove and allow to set for 10 min before slicing and serving.

(Sadly, no picture.  Blogger is claiming I maxed out my limit so until I sort out a resolution we are a sans picture blog.  My deepest apologies)