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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Update since my last post: still no computer, kids are still cute, no house has been purchased, and I’m caught up with Breaking Bad (and reading all the theories on the internet as though I’m taking a class on it). And blogging has still been tough. Lack of computer and busyness aside, I’ve been pretty unmotivated, and the demise of Google Reader is not helping anyone. I had like a million recipes starred that are either lost or unsearchable (unless I want to pay $45 to search on Feedly, which, uh, no thanks). My friend Courtney, though, has just written a post that will help you import your starred items into a searchable platform, assuming you still have your Takeout file. Yay!

Anyway, since I haven’t had an easy way to sift through my favorites lately, I’ve had to rely on my memory for things I’ve saved (not the best tool for the woman who is constantly forgetting her keys and phone, and losing miserably to her 3 year old in Memory). Muhammara was one of those things. It’s a Syrian/Lebanese red bell pepper mixture. You can eat it as a spread, a dip, or mix it with some meat before cooking (more on that soon!)

It’s very reminiscent of romesco, in that it’s a red pepper-nut mixture, and is similar in texture to a thick pesto.  It’s incredibly easy to make, versatile, and, of course, quite tasty. There’s not much more to say about it, other than it’s a great addition to your appetizer spread (or wrap) and a nice change from your typical dips. The version below is mild, so if you want a spicier version, increase the chili paste or add some red pepper flakes.

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You may have noticed things have been quiet here on the recipe-front as of late. There’s a good reason for it, and it’s not just because by the time I put at least one and possibly two kids to bed for the night the only thing I can muster up the energy to do is binge-watch Breaking Bad in an effort to catch up before the series finale (for the record, I have 5 episodes left). It’s also not because I have been having a hard time taking pictures that look enticing lately (though I have). And it’s definitely not because I’m pregnant (no way). It’s because my computer won’t turn on. The computer that houses all those not-terribly-enticing-but-still-worthy-of-being-blogged pictures. I’m not sure that I’ll ever get them back at this point, but we’ll see.

I thought rather than have the blog go dark, I’d do a more personal post, just sharing some things going on in our lives right now. Feel free to completely ignore this post if you are uninterested in the somewhat boring lives of our little family.

For the past few months we’ve been house-searching and it’s not been going the best. We’re looking in the suburbs, which we essentially know nothing about, and just haven’t found “the one.” Two houses may have been the one, but we were too late to really do anything about it, unfortunately. That said, we have gotten to see some very lovely houses, both in person and via MLS listings. I’m pretty sure there is some unwritten rule that if you live in the suburbs, every surface must be covered in wallpaper or wood paneling.

I haven’t shared any pictures of Ian since introducing him, so that must be remedied. I’m terribly biased, but he’s one of the cutest babies I know, for sure. He also smiles all.the.time. Really, he is pretty much the happiest baby ever. Thank goodness. He’s made the transition to two much easier.

Ian is going to be 6 months old soon (where does the time go?!) and we started him on solids just about a week ago. I was going to wait until he hit 6 months like we did with Z, but since he was showing all the signs and the pediatrician thought it might help curb some of his spitting up, we went ahead and introduced avocado followed by sweet potatoes at around 5.5 months. So far, so good. I apologize in advance if you are one of those people who is really disgusted by pictures of babies with food on their faces, but I’m not and, like I said, my baby is damn cute. So, here he is enjoying avocado for the first time.

Zachary is your typical 3 year old, which is to say he’s equal parts hilarious/fun and terrible. Well, maaaaaybe it’s closer to 40/60 these days. I’m sure you’ve seen the site Reasons My Son is Crying? Let’s just say we could submit plenty of things there, like, oh I don’t know, the fact that even though he won Uno, he forgot to say Uno when he had one card left? The defiance these days is through the roof, but when he’s good he’s really good and SO much fun. Recently, he’s started reading some words here and there by sounding them out, which is just really awesome to see. That little boy has been book-obsessed since he was a baby, so it excites him, too, that he is starting to read. He’s also been kicking my ass at the matching game. When I look at pictures of him, I sometimes can’t believe how big he’s gotten. Does he not look about 12 in the swing pic? Geez. Must be growing due to all the kale he steals while I’m trying to prep dinner.

 

More random stuff:

Next week, I plan on heading to the food and wine event Kouzina at the National Hellenic Museum. Is anyone else going? If so, let me know; I’d love to meet you!

Are you looking forward to the start of fall TV programs? I’m really looking forward to Sherlock, though it’s looking like that will be more of a winter premiere! I’ll also be watching the last season (finally) of How I Met Your Mother, as well as New Girl, Parks and Rec (though I am literally so upset about the departure of Rob Lowe & Rashida Jones), and a few others. The chef from a restaurant I adore (Mexique) will be on Top Chef this season, so that’s exciting too!

Would you recommend any music? I’ve been in a bit of a music funk lately. I’ve been listening to a lot of the same stuff over and over, but a few that have gotten a lot of play lately are The Head and the Heart, Divine Fits, and Dirty Projectors.  I’ve also resurrected Veruca Salt albums after getting a wee bit excited that they are reuniting (!!!) and yesterday I listened to Blur pretty much all day long, because I hadn’t listened to Blur in entirely too long. And the time in between listening to any Fiona Apple record is never very long.

I went to Target recently, and I’m in love with their Windham collection. Now, if only I could find a house to put some of these cute cabinets in. And of course this side table that I adore.

And finally, to keep this food related, some recipes I’ve bookmarked lately:

 

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I have the world’s most un-picky toddler (at least, when it comes to food), and for that I am thankful.  I’d like to think I had something to do with it, but I guess I can’t take all the credit. This weekend, my dad (one of the world’s most picky eaters) and stepmom came to visit and we went out to eat a couple of times. Each time, to no one’s surprise, Zachary cleaned his plate. The weekend before, my aunt and uncle were here and watched him devour calamari, tentacled pieces and all. And a few days before that, we went to lunch and rather than order from the kid’s menu, Zachary decided he wanted a fish taco.

There’s nothing this kid doesn’t eat. It took him 3 years to warm up to eggs and mashed potatoes, but now he likes those too. I asked him to tell pappou (grandpa) a food he didn’t like, and he said, “No foods! I like ALL kinds of food!” I love it, but ask me again when he’s 13 and eating me out of house and home. If Ian eats similarly (signs point to him doing so), we’ll need second and third jobs just to pay for their food.

It’s a rare night when Z tries something new. At this age, I feel like we’ve tried pretty much everything. But edamame? That was a new one for him.  And he really liked it. And so did we! I will admit to only having edamame a couple times myself. I pinned this recipe many moons ago but wanted to wait until corn and tomatoes were in season to make it. It was such a light, fresh side dish, and so easy to put together. The most time consuming part? The chopping. The most difficult part? Making sure your 3 year old doesn’t get his hand cut off when he reaches up to the cutting board to eat the corn you’re trying to cut off the cob.

There’s only one slice of bacon in here (typical for a Cooking Light recipe) but I was surprised at how much the flavor of it came through. The dish is bright and tasty and is versatile enough to pair well with many main courses. Plus, in addition to getting all the nutrition from the vegetables, you even get a little protein boost from the edamame. Win-win.

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