Let me tell you a little something about broiled chicken thighs. They’re the best.  They take pretty much no time to cook, are endlessly adaptable, and are delicious as all get-out.

Did I tell you I have a new new meal-planning partner in Zachary? I’ve been asking him what he wants for dinner for the week, and he actually has suggestions. And sure, if it were up to him, we would be eating quesadillas and brussels sprouts 24/7, but he does give other suggestions and most recently replied “chicken thighs!” within 2 minutes when I asked if he had any suggestions. Smart kid.

I’m not really sure why I’ve never made my own teriyaki sauce since it’s super easy. You already know my mornings are rushed, so the fact that I had time to prep these means they take no time, really. The original recipe says not to marinate for longer than 4 hours, but I marinated them for roughly 10, certainly to no ill effects. I also used boneless/skinless chicken thighs, not necessarily because they’re a bit healthier than their bone-in/skin-on counterparts, but because they take less time to broil. Shorter cooking times on already frazzled weeknights are really the only reason to ever forgo crispy chicken skin, after all.

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Things have been slow around here, I know. But things at home? Really, really busy. I’m having a hard time staying above water at the  moment. I’m hesitant to share this, since there are always things that could still go wrong, but we found a house and we’re officially under contract! It’s exciting, but it’s also really scary and it’s making me freak out JUST a bit. There’s the big change of life this will be for all of us (I’m pretty sure our car will get a few more miles on it annually than the 3k we’ve averaged the last 4 years), the selling of our condo that we just spent a lot of time getting ready to list (hey, anyone want to buy an awesome condo?), trying to find new daycares/schools, and the fact that all of this is happening right before the holidays. We close in December and as of now, I don’t even know where we’ll be spending Christmas and whether we’ll have a tree. And I won’t lie, I had a little cry about that this weekend—which was compounded by the emotion that comes with leaving the home where you started your family. Hormones, man.

First world problems to be sure, but problems that have kept me from having much free time, nonetheless. Add to it a family of sick people, a 7 month old who is going through some really awful phase where he is up screaming SO MUCH at night, and a 3.5 year old that flips his lid over something so simple as you asking him to put his shirt on for school, and I feel like I’ve been through the wringer. Plus, I need to make time to do very important things like surfing the internet for the bath mat that is that perfect shade of yellow for our new half  bath, obviously.

If there’s one thing I’ve gleaned from being so busy I can’t even update my blog, it’s that I still really love blogging. Nearly 7 years later (can you believe it!?), I still love sharing things with  you guys, visiting your blogs if you have them (though I’ve been admittedly terrible about commenting lately, I assure you I am still trying to keep on top of them!), and just having a general outlet. It’s definitely the longest-lasting hobby I’ve had, that’s for sure!

So, I’m going to try to update as much as possible (including doing a few giveaways for my aforementioned upcoming blogiversary!) but I hope you won’t mind if there are periods of slowness around here as we pick up and move, and do all the things in between.

If you read that diatribe, allow me to reward you with a quick and tasty dinner idea. I’ve been making a version of chicken Francese for years, but I guess I never really called in Francese and never used an actual recipe.

I don’t think I’ve ever coated chicken in flour and then egg (unless I was coating it with breadcrumbs or panko right after that), but clearly this has been a mistake, since it makes for a nice golden crust. I had hesitations about whether I would find this chicken lemony enough (remember, I’m Greek, so I like copious amounts of lemon ON ALL THE THINGS), but simmering the sauce with lemon slices and adding lemon juice definitely gave this the perfect amount of tartness. And Zachary, who as of late has basically been a mini Top Chef trying to guess the ingredients in dinner, did guess there was lemon in this, so obviously the flavor pulled through enough. :)

 

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Pork tenderloin is one of my favorite things to cook. It’s easily as versatile as chicken breasts, cooks almost as quickly, but feels a little more special. Plus, one tenderloin is a pretty good size for us right now, although with the way Zachary has been eating lately, he might start needing his own entire tenderloin soon…

Just like pork tenderloin itself, the combination of things you can stuff it with are endless. Well, unless you’re not really eating cheese – then it gets slightly more difficult. But don’t worry, if that’s the case, this tenderloin has got you covered. It’s stuffed with bacon and mushrooms, things that are easily just as good as cheese. Once it’s sliced, it’s served with a parsley-oil that’s very similar to gremolata, which brightens it up and adds a little freshness. The result is a company-worthy main dish that’s really easy to make and doesn’t take much time to cook, either. It shouldn’t surprise you, but we all really liked this dish.

This recipe calls for adding oil to the pan before you cook the bacon (because just what bacon needs is more fat) which you really don’t need to do unless you have leaner, center cut bacon. And we really didn’t need it, because I also served this with duck fat potatoes. At least there were some green beans to balance things out.

 

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There are a lot of times I comment on blog posts with something like, “I can’t wait to make this!” and I’m not lying, but, obviously, not everything gets made immediately. But this sorbet? As soon a I saw Josie post it, I commented to say I was making it that weekend, and I totally did.

Since I’m still not eating dairy (or eating it very minimally), sorbets have been my go-to frozen treat. This apple version is perfect for the season, and I knew anything from Jeni would be awesome (a Jeni’s ice cream shop just opened near me in Chicago!). After you bake the apples in a mixture of cider, cinnamon, and sugar, all you need to do is puree it before chilling and freezing it.  If I were eating butter, I would absolutely consider adding pie crust pieces to this. It really just tastes exactly like apple pie filling, which, if you couldn’t already figure it out, means it’s awesome.

Zachary helped me make this and I think this may have resulted in us using a bit more cinnamon than the recipe called for. :) I’m putting the original amount below, but I’d probably use a heaping teaspoon, because you can never have too much cinnamon in my mind.

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Some mornings are just harder than others. You know, like the mornings when your normally super-chill and non-fussy baby is screaming bloody murder because you had to put a hat on him?

And your 3 year old is simultaneously angry at you because you told him he can’t just stick his hand into your cereal bowl on the counter to grab a handful after you already told him no.

Yeah, we have those mornings. And even without those kinds of mornings, our mornings are always tough. Between getting ourselves and two kids ready (never mind lunches, bottles, pump parts and everything else), we don’t really have a second to do anything—and that includes putting together a meal for the crockpot. There’s some irony in not having enough time to prepare a meal in a cooking vessel whose sole purpose is to, uh, save you time in preparing a meal.

But this crockpot meal is perfect for people who don’t have time in the morning, because the only thing you have to do in the morning is turn the crockpot on. The meat and vegetables actually marinate in the hoisin mixture overnight, so everything is ready in the morning. And don’t worry, the night-before prep is not bad, either. It’s pretty much 6  swings of the knife and mixing together hoisin and broth, and you’re done.

The result is a great twist on standard beef stew. The beef is fall-apart tender, and ginger and garlic, two of my favorite ingredients, shine.  I did need to spend a little (hands-off) time making rice, but you can combat that by making brown rice on the weekends and freezing it until ready to use. That’s one of my favorite tricks for an even quicker dinner!

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In high school and college, I always loved it when midterms and finals were writing papers instead of taking tests. I was never a big fan of tests, but I could write a good paper in no time. I loved writing, and could always do it quite well. So, why in the world am I having such writer’s block lately? I could bang through papers on Russian novelists, sociology, and business ethics, but ask me to write up a few sentences about a tasty Asian noodle dish we had recently and I’m at a loss.

As I approach my seventh (!!) blogiversary, am I just running out of stuff to say? The new neighbor I ran into on the way home yesterday whose ear I talked off would probably argue that I most certainly am not. Sometimes, I feel like there’s more pressure on me because I’ve been posting less, so I feel like my posts needs to be better or something. I don’t know what it is, but I might just have to start writing really random posts that have nothing to do with the meal or sharing things like this great way to solve the debt ceiling crisis.

But, allow me to write a few sentences about this meal since it’s a food blog, after all. We’ve been eating a lot of stir fries and Asian noodle recipes lately, because they’re usually pretty quick and always pretty delicious. This recipe is similar to a standard lo mein, but has orange juice added to the sauce, which works really well and brightens it up a bit. It calls for marinating the chicken, but because I didn’t read-through the recipe before it was time to make it (no wonder I was better at writing than reading in school), I obviously skipped that step, just adding the sauce at the end, which it worked fine. I was perusing my cupboard full of half-eaten boxes of pasta and came across some somen noodles, which I really loved in this recipe. But really, any type of pasta will work, including rice noodles, so use what you have. (Sidebar: a lazy Susan is the WORST cabinet for storing food. The worst.)

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I’ve long said that if I owned a restaurant, the “kids’” menu would be nothing more than smaller portions of the regular menu. Why do people always assume that kids only eat grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken fingers, and pizza? I find it especially puzzling when you go to an ethnic restaurant and right after the Kung Pao Chicken or Enchiladas Suizas is a cheeseburger.

This is not to say that all “kid” food is bad, of course. In fact there are few times I would turn down a grilled cheese sandwich. I just get annoyed with the label – which is precisely why I didn’t pay much attention to the “kid friendly” section in the back of my America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family cookbook for a while. But who doesn’t like chicken strips? They are well-received by adults (you should see the ratio of chicken strips and fries to anything else that comes out of our university’s cafeteria) and kids alike. And I’ll eat pretty much anything that I can bathe in buffalo sauce.

These chicken fingers use my favorite oven-baked breading method, which is toasting panko on the stovetop before dredging and baking the chicken. This ensures that the coating stays nice and crispy and is a method I’ve used many, many times.  It’s probably my favorite ATK tip to date. The flour-egg-panko coating helps to ensure everything stays on and no breading falls off. These chicken fingers come together pretty quickly and don’t take very long to bake, so they make a great weeknight meal. And did I mention you can serve them with buffalo sauce?

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I’ve mentioned before that I tend to keep post drafts for ages in my blog dashboard. Sometimes they’re there because they include a recipe I’m working on that still needs tweaks. Other times it’s because the photos weren’t all that great. Sometimes, I just get flat out lazy. I’ve had a post draft called “Chicken and hominy soup (or my idea of white chicken chili)” sitting there since February 2012. In this particular instance, the pictures were awful and I had a note that the soup needed a little more “oomph.”

Fast forward a year or so later and I came across America’s Test Kitchen’s version of white chicken chili.  It was incredibly similar to the soup I’d created. Like this recipe, I had also used poblano, anaheim, and jalapeño peppers (I know, right? ATK should just hire me already…). In retrospect, I simply didn’t add enough peppers to my version. More peppers = more oomph. (I did add tomatillos to my soup, though, which I don’t necessarily think would be out of place here, either.)

Personally, I always found it a bit strange that white beans are in white chicken chili – not that I don’t love white beans, but I’ve always associated them more with Italian-type dishes. Like the soup I’d previously made, I ended up swapping out the beans for hominy because 1) I love it and 2) I just personally feel like it goes better. Is white chicken chili called white because it’s not red like traditional chili? Or is it called white because of the beans? If it’s the later, I suppose I should change this post title…

The resulting soup is one that is hearty and delicious. It’s not overtly spicy (Zachary had no issues eating this) and the flavors are just so well-rounded. I was so excited to have this as leftovers for a couple of days, which is always a true sign of a recipe’s greatness.  Another good sign is that I can officially move this post out of my drafts, and into my published posts.

 

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There seem to be a lot of people in this world that dislike dark meat chicken or refuse to eat chicken on a bone, and they baffle me. I think it must have to do with boneless/skinless chicken breasts becoming all the rage in the nineties, and now people are just used to it, maybe? Afraid to step out of their comfort zone?

On the other hand, I grew up in a household where entire chickens were roasted and the packaged boneless/skinless breasts very rarely made an appearance. The drumsticks were always my favorite part of the chicken, and because I was totally spoiled, I got them every time. I lived with my grandparents and my grandma would roast at least one chicken per week. It went without saying that the drumsticks were mine. It got to the point where she had to start buying extra drumsticks, so we’d essentially eat an 8-legged chicken, because other people wanted the drumsticks, too (and I wouldn’t give them up)!

Dark meat chicken is more tender and juicy than white, especially on the bone. It just is. I have so many recipes that are basically variants on roast chicken and, guess what, here’s another one!

The original recipe called for thighs but I used drumsticks because they are what I had in the freezer. Obviously I love drumsticks, but the main reason I’ve been buying them more is that they cook more quickly than thighs or leg quarters, which allows me to enjoy roast chicken during the week. This chicken is brushed with what is essentially an orange barbecue sauce. It’s nice and sweet, but has just a small kick from the hot sauce. Putting the chicken under the broiler (another thing I love and other people seem to be scared of) makes these sticky and caramelized and just fabulous.

If, in my near 7 years of blogging, I persuade you of nothing other than eating dark meat chicken, I will consider it a success.

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You know how much I love cast iron, so you’re probably not surprised to learn I like enameled cast iron, too. I’ve had the same Dutch oven for several years (from Target, actually), but it’s definitely starting to show its wear and, besides, I’ve always wanted an oval one. In addition to all the things Dutch ovens are wonderful for (soups, stews, braising), oval dutch ovens are especially great for browning roasts, small chickens, you name it.

ProCook is a family-owned specialist cookware and kitchen retailer based in the UK. They provide quality cookware at an affordable price. And I do mean affordable. The 4.2 qt. oval Dutch oven is a mere $65, whereas a similar LeCreuset would be about $200  more. And, let me tell you, it performs beautifully. You would never think that there is such a huge price disparity. I would absolutely recommend this Dutch oven if you’re in the market for one, particularly if you don’t want to spend a couple weeks’ worth of groceries on a pot. :)

I’ve made many things in this already, including a one-dish sausage & farro recipe and bolognese (and other things—like stew, chicken chili, and seared roast—not pictured because the  pics are on my broken computer, ahem).  The pot retained its heat well and cooked very evenly. It was a breeze to clean  up.

One thing I really like about the ProCook line of Dutch ovens is the ridged lid on the inside, something most Dutch ovens don’t have. This is great for braising because the lid allows the pot to self-baste, catching the steam in the ridges before condensing it back into liquid and letting it drip down. Cool, huh?

ProCook carries a large assortment of cookware, bakeware, knives, utensils, and even dinnerware. If they perform as well as this Dutch oven (and I have no reason to believe they wouldn’t), then I can’t wait to try other pieces. You really can’t beat the price. And you can never have too much stoneware, amiright?

So, do  you want to win a 4.2 qt. oval Dutch oven from ProCook? Great! Here’s how:

  • To enter, leave a comment on this post telling me one thing you’d use this Dutch oven for (links to recipes are always welcome!)
  • Be sure to leave your email. No one will be able to see it but me, and I will be emailing the winner.
  • One entry per person. Keep in mind that comments are moderated, so if you don’t see your comment right away, please do not post another.
  • Giveaway closes on Sunday, September 29 at 11:59 PM CST.

Disclaimer: ProCook provided me with a Dutch oven to review, and will be providing one to a reader as well. All opinions are my own.

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