I kind of love rotisserie chicken. And I’m not just talking about the kind you get at restaurants, food stands, fairs. I’m talking grocery store rotisserie chicken. It doesn’t make the most sense. The skin isn’t crispy, which is my favorite part of cooking a whole chicken. And, I mean, I’m not usually one to get excited over prepared grocery store foods. But there’s just something about that herbacious, salty, incredibly moist and tender chicken that makes me pretty excited to eat it when we’re running late and “forced” to buy it.

When I saw this homemade oven-roasted version I had to try it. I will say the key to the rotisserie-ness of this chicken is a long cook time at a low temperature. I’m sharing this now because, like me, you may have some time to hang in your house with  your oven going for a while without issue (I say this because yesterday was 85 and this morning when I got to work it was in the 40s). The great thing about a meal like this is you stick it in the oven and pretty much forget about it. Time does the work for you. And time does good work.

The chicken turns herby and crazy moist after basting in its own juices for nearly 3 hours. So the chicken was, of course, fantastic, but can we also talk about these potatoes? I was worried that even though they were cooking for a long time, they wouldn’t be crispy because of the low temperature. I kind of just pictured sickly looking, potentially falling apart potatoes. BUT THEY WERE SO GOOD. They got super crispy and—thanks in part to my oversalting them—incredibly flavorful. They absorb all the chicken juices and I think using a slightly rimmed sheet pan (vs. a roasting pan or deeper casserole type dish) keeps these from…steaming? more and just makes them fab.

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I try to keep the foods in this blog fairly seasonally appropriate, but when you live in the Midwest you often experience all four seasons in a week, so that can be difficult. Last week, my son’s soccer practice was cancelled due to low temperatures and snow. A week later, he was playing a game in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, and I was sweating under the bright sun in the sidelines.

So, yes, this meal—comfort food at its finest—was eaten more in the snowfall days than the sweating days, but, uh, who knows, we might still have some of those snowy days ahead (PLEASE NO) and other people are still in the midst of them (sorry).

We’ve had this meal a few times now and it hasn’t disappointed. I hate to call it a shepherd’s pie because, really, it’s absolutely nothing like one, from the meat  used to the topping, but I don’t make the rules at Cook’s Country. If I did, this would have a more accurate and more groan-worthy title like Chicken PotATO Pie, which is really what it is. It’s basically a chicken pot pie filling but instead of a crust it’s topped with buttery potatoes. Delicious comfort food number one, meet delicious comfort food number two.

You may want to increase the filling a bit (I did this once and preferred the filling-to-topping ratio more but also added a bit too much broth so I’m not going to put that version here at the moment since it needs some tweaks), but otherwise this dish is pretty near perfect. Zachary even ate the potatoes, which I wasn’t sure he’d do (he tends to dislike softer potatoes like mashed and such. Weirdo). The leftovers were great, and since it’s always about 30 degrees in my office regardless of season, they are just fine year-round.

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I recently made the brilliant decision to make a batch of tin roof ice cream. This meant buying peanuts, which we don’t normally keep in the house, and naturally the only peanut jar in our grocery store was rather large. First, I stirred a few peanuts around in the melted chocolate that was sticking to the bowl and had myself a little snack (obviously). Then, I debated making another batch of chocolate peanuts/ice cream entirely, but couldn’t remember if the base would have fit in my ice cream maker at the same time (spoiler alert: it would have). So instead, I thought I’d try some spicy peanuts for snacking. Peanuts on their own for snacking? Meh. Chili powder on anything? Sign me up.

These are incredibly easy and versatile. You could certainly use the mixture on any kind of nut you want, and/or add or adjust the spiciness/seasonings to your taste preferences. In addition to snacking, these would be good on Southwestern-y salads, as part of a relish, or even in fried rice or something similar. Now I just need to tackle the highly addictive habanero BBQ almonds and we’ll really be in business.

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I’m always one to plan varied dinners. I could eat the same thing for breakfast, snack, and lunch 99% of the time for some reason, but I like variety in my dinners. All that said, I’m pretty sure I could eat Middle Eastern food every single night and never tire of it. If I were destined to a life of lamb, tahini, and fattoush, it would be a happy life.

Kibbeh/kibbee is a popular Middle Eastern dish made with ground lamb and bulgur. There are kibbeh meatball type things (which I’m sure  you are surprised I didn’t make) and baked kibbeh. This dish more closely resembles the latter, but it’s “open” because the ground lamb isn’t a filling. In the traditional version a ground lamb mixture is essentially sandwiched between a cooked lamb/bulgur mixture.

The lamb is spiced with flavors we love, like allspice and cinnamon. And, a tahini mixture is spread over the top and baked for a bit at the end. I don’t think I’ve ever really cooked tahini sauce before and I was a little wary of doing so, but clearly I should trust Ottolenghi.

Since this meal already has protein and carbs, we served this alongside a Greek salad for both a complete and completely awesome meal.

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Happy pi(e) day! I made you a macaroni pie! Actually, first and foremost, let me just state that I would personally call this a spaghett pie. :)

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, this dish is basically what would happen if a frittata and baked pasta got together and had a baby. You cook the pasta and then add it to a mixture of eggs, milk, and cheese. Lots of cheese. Then bake it  until the the milk mixture is absorbed and the spaghetti becomes crisp on the top. I’ve made similar things to this before, like what Tom affectionately refers to as “spaghetti frisbee” and an orzo frittata. This was a little different than my go to because it didn’t have any kind of “filling” besides pasta and because of the aforementioned loooots of cheese.

Normally I write my changes right into the recipe but for various reasons, I decided to keep the recipe as I found it and include my changes in the notes below the recipe. I will also say that, though I reduced the amount overall, it still made a whole lot of food. If you’re serving this as more of a side, which we did, take that into consideration. We had this with green beans and meatballs that I baked with balsamic barbecue sauce and it was a big hit.

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The next question after “How many ways can I make a meatball?” (and I swear I will stop talking about meatballs for at least the next dozen posts) is “How many ways can I roast a chicken?” The answer, at least if you’re me: innumerable.

Scarpariello is a spicy Italian-style chicken with sausage and peppers. You can use sweet or spicy sausage based on your preference. Since the dish utilizes hot cherry peppers and I have one kid who can be a little spice-averse, I use sweet most of the time. The sauce accompanying the chicken has a great balance of tang and spice, and, though the chicken is cooked in the sauce, it’s browned and finishes cooking in the oven, so you retain that nice crispy skin.

The nice thing about this version of roasted chicken is that the chicken is cut up so, combined with the browning step, it doesn’t take nearly as long to cook as a whole bird. If you use breasts, you can also just cut them in half for an even quicker cooking time. The original recipe calls for bone-in chicken breast halves but as you know, we love dark meat. I ended up using a mix (since I happened to have a large breast in the freezer anyway), which is a good way to please everyone (but be sure if you do that you cook the larger pieces a little longer). I’ve made a lighter version of this dish from the ATK Healthy Family Cookbook and the main difference is the use of boneless/skinless breasts and cooking them entirely on the stovetop. So, you could certainly do something like that if you wanted to lighten this. I use chicken or turkey sausage either way (but buyer beware, many turkey/chicken sausages have as many fat and calories as pork sausage), and the other ingredients in the dish are all pretty healthy. I think the b/s breast version is certainly delicious but is it as delicious as crispy chicken skin? Probably not. :)

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By now you may be wondering if “opa” means “meatball” but I assure you it does not. We just really like shaped meat around here, I guess? Also evidenced by the fact that our Valentine’s Day dinner was…meatloaf. What can I say? Why fix something that isn’t broken?

We eat pasta for dinner roughly once a week on average, but one of the reasons I make pasta weekly is because it’s guaranteed to make good and easy lunch leftovers. Since eating pasta for lunch, too, kind of kills the whole “limiting pasta” thing, I do try to make sure that it’s pretty healthy and wholesome and this pasta definitely fits the bill.  The meatballs are made with chicken (though I do recommend using dark meat or a combination of dark and white for a more tender meatball), I used whole wheat pasta, and the sauce is really just chicken broth and tomato juice. There is a fair amount of cheese in this, but spread across multiple servings it’s not bad. And, either way, I love how fresh mozzarella gets all gooey and delicious, so cheese calories be damned.

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February 15, 2016 · 5 comments

in misc.

As I mentioned in a prior post, the results of my first-ever reader survey indicated that about 87% of you would be down for some non-food related posts from time to time. Cool!

That said, I really want this to just be a space where, aside from sharing food (obviously), I can just share random things I want from time to time and not necessarily have it be “a thing,” or do it with specific regularity. I’m not calling this “monthly musings,” for example, because I don’t know that this will be a monthly occurrence. And I’m not calling it “stuff I like” or anything similar because I can’t guarantee I’ll actually be making any product or other recommendations (which should probably cause you a sigh of relief as I am neither fashionable nor on-trend in most cases).  It’ll just be a once-in-a-while space where I can share what my kids are doing, or maybe home decor items I’m lusting over. Complaints or things that are working for me. Books or music I’m digging, and so on.

Today’s post will sort of have a theme and it’s House Stuff for $200, Alex.

We were in our condo for over 5  years. When we moved in we had a perfect wall that we thought could be a photo wall. We “anchored” it with one large wedding photo and then…did nothing. For the whole  5 years.

We moved to the suburbs 2 years ago (so crazy) and we finally got our photo wall! This is our entryway, and I absolutely love how it turned out. We used a mix of frames, both in color and style (modern, vintage, etc.). Our house is decorated mostly modern but we definitely like “older” stuff like mid-century modern, industrial looking things, etc. In that regard, this was perfect for us.

We left room so we could move down (and to the right and left) if we want to some day but, let’s be real, it will be like this forprobablyever. :) Which is fine by me. We will likely get a lamp on the console to replace the mini vases.

I also want to show you this wreath we have on a small wall opposite to our new gallery wall. I’m not typically a traditional wreath kinda gal, but this wreath is pretty sentimental. My mother-in-law took some of my wedding flowers (unbeknownst to me!) and had someone turn them into a wreath. We only recently got around to hanging it in our house and it makes me smile every time I see it going down the stairs.

Another thing I wanted to share was how we’ve used kid art. Our kids bring home a loooooot of art. We have a wire in the entrance to the playroom (and plan to add an additional one in another spot) for some of their creations, but I’ve also liked sprinkling some throughout our house. Right now, it’s mostly Zachary’s art, but we’ll be adding some of Ian’s too.

We have this painting from Z in our half bathroom:

In our living room, we have a small succulent sitting in a pot colored by Z, a flower Ian created (the boy is a whiz with the pipecleaners, as is also evidenced by him making approximately 4 dozen beaded bracelets over the last few months), and a tile under the vase that Zachary made.

I plan on framing some more of their art and putting it in our upstairs hallway. It’s an easy way to get some stuff on the walls and it’s cheap. If you have kids, you likely have a bazillion art projects you don’t know what to do with (hint: many of ours also receive a permanent home in our recycling bin; don’t feel bad).

Finally, we are, uh, almost done with a bit of a laundry room makeover (those baseboards will get put on again someday…).

This room was…not a happy place. Our house doesn’t have a basement and while we don’t miss that living space, we DO miss potential storage space.  As far as storage, the laundry room had 1 shelf (that broke a week after we moved in, hah). Also, I mean…it’s a laundry room. This room will never be pinteresty or anything because we aren’t going to dump a bunch of money into a laundry room since we’re not ballers. Some things, like the sunken floor, are just flat out not in the cards to be fixed. And all our HVAC/utility stuff is in there, too, so it will never look pretty or anything. That said, I think we made some big improvements.

Forgive the before pictures as they weren’t actually intended to be shared before pictures. I am laughing as I post this because Ian is an entire year younger in these pics so…yeah. We were a little slow to move on this.

Before: (fixed) broken shelf, random plant our neighbors  had me take care of for a ridiculously long time, TV trays because who doesn’t keep those in the laundry room, storage included random bookshelves no longer in use


After: Color! Storage! A countertop! We also had some unused white curtains and a rod from the old version of Ian’s room, so we went ahead and hung that even if it’s a bit short


Before: ugly HVAC stuff, younger kid, no storage

After: ugly HVAC stuff, lots of storage, broom/mop holder (the first pic was taken before we added that), TV trays because who doesn’t keep those in the laundry room



PS – As I said, I intend for posts like these to not have a whole lot of structure or consistency, but if there is anything non-food-related you DO want me to discuss, let me know!


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I’ve used pesto meatballs for spaghetti and soup before, so it should come as no shock that I’ve made burgers using similar ingredients. The ingredients in this burger remind me of a toasted sub I used to get from a brick oven pizzeria many years back with grilled chicken, pesto, provolone, and tomatoes. It was fantastic. We’ve had a variation of this burger a few times and it’s one of my favorite healthy-ish burgers. The pesto adds a lot of flavor to otherwise pretty bland chicken, and the oil in the pesto also lends a little fat to a leaner meat, making the burgers more tender than a standard turkey/chicken patty. This time around I had an extra roasted red pepper and threw it into the mix. It was not a bad idea.

Like most burgers, these come together pretty quickly. I already had pesto on hand but if you don’t, it’s simple and quick enough to make the same night. We technically made 6 patties from the recipe below, but 2 of them were kid-sized, so it’s probably a closer equivalent to 5. Theoretically 6 (4 oz.) adult sized burgers can easily be made, but we had large buns to fill. ;)

(As was evidenced by my eldest hopping right into my picture-taking spot to say, “Oh hey mom, why is that such a GIANT burger?”)

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You might be out of tune with this whole blogging thing if instead of typing your post title into the title bar of your site publisher, you instead type it into the search bar on Amazon. Whoops.

Aaaanyway. As you may have noticed, we eat a fair amount of Mexican and Tex-Mex at home. I struggle with non-carby sides for a lot of these meals, and sometimes we do just do a regular old salad (calabacitas also tend to be our “something different”), but lately I’ve really been loving the combination of creamy avocado and crunchy, slightly spicy radishes. Mexican food often tends to be heavy and cheesy (which is also why it’s so good), and having something a little lighter and fresher on the side provides a great balance.

This salad is pretty basic and bare-bones but you can feel free to add other things if you like. Personally, I like the addition of pepitas because they provide a nice crunch and, well, they’re just tasty (also, they seem to come in gigantic bags, so using a little here and there assures I actually make it through said gigantic bags).

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