Ginger Honey and Soy Chicken Thighs

This is a long blog about a really simple dish, I talk about more stuff here so be patient or just scroll down to get the recipe.

Let’s talk chicken for a moment please, the debate can be polarizing: white meat or dark meat?

Both have merits and are excellent choices if used in the correct way. I realize everyone has specific preferences but this is a pretty good reference for use based on white or dark in case you are ever wondering if a substitute for the recommended type is a good choice (see note):

  • Fried Whole Pieces- White or Dark
  • “Nugget” Pieces Fried – White
  • Whole Roasted – White or Dark
  • Casseroles Or “One Pot” Dishes – White
  • Shredded (for tacos) – White
  • Cooked in a sauce whole – Dark

In whole: chicken breast tend to dry out when cooked for a longer period of time and thighs tend to have a “funky” flavor the next day; I would recommend making your own decision about this but I have never been able to eat thighs as leftovers.

Note: You know I always say “it is your food so make it your own” so please do this, I am only giving you my recommendation based on my experience. Yours may be different, keep trying to find what works for you.

Let’s start with the meat, I use boneless skinless thighs here for a couple of reasons: thighs tend to have a better flavor and retain moisture and the skin would get soggy during this process. If you use bone-in with skin, just let it cook for an additional 10 minutes during the baking time and an additional 2 or 3 under the broiler; watch it very closely under the broiler.

What you will need (I am just using 1 lb as a start, scale to the size you purchase and it doesn’t have to be exact but err on the side of more than less marinade)

  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 2 1/2 tbsp soy sauce (coconut aminos Can be used for gluten free)
  • 1 chopped green onion (slice 3/4 of the onion starting from the root, the rest is for finishing the dish)
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil (canola, vegetable, etc)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil (optional but really adds nice flavor)
  • 3/4 tbsp apple cider vinegar (can use white but not as good)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger (if you use powdered, use just a pinch)
  • salt and pepper

What makes this dish really good is the fact that the chicken is prepped via marinade so mix together all ingredients (except the chicken, salt and pepper) in a large bowl of container you can use to marinade.

Note: I like to use large zip-loc bags so I can turn the bag to ensure full exposure to the all pieces in the marinade.

You will want to dry the thighs with a paper towel to ensure proper adherence of the salt. Generously apply salt and pepper to the thighs then place in the marinade, refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour up to 24 hours.

Pro Tip: When you watch chef’s prepare food, you will see them salting using their fingers pretty high above the dish and there is a reason for this. Over-salting is the worst thing you can do and sporadic salting is the second worst, you want to salt evenly and with control. The only way to really do this is by using your fingers and “pinching” some salt and distributing from maybe 12” above the meat. The distance encourages the salt to disperse in a way that it lands over the entire surface instead of concentrating in one place like with a shaker. Just a tip, use your judgement.

Place everything (chicken and marinade) in a low sided oven safe pan like a cast iron or braising pan and bake at 425 for ~25 minutes. Just watch it for overcooking on the tops, I turn the chicken about halfway through to ensure proper saturation; broil for about 5-7 minutes to get the edges crispy. The final dish needs to reach 165 degrees to be safe.

Garnish with sesame seeds and the remaining 1/4 onion that will you have chopped in the interim. That’s it, Enjoy!

I served with pork fried rice and roasted broccoli. Click the links for the rice recipe and the broccoli is just below (so easy, didn’t need its own blog post).

Take the amount of broccoli you would need to the people you are feeding and separate the florets and slice the stems. Place on a lined baking sheet, drizzle olive oil and garlic over the broccoli, toss to coat and place in the oven with the chicken. It will cook for the same about of time as the chicken.

Chocolate Cupcakes: Heaven in a Little Tin Cup

Did you know that the best way to eat a cupcake is to turn it into a Sandwich? Seriously, if you remove the wrapper and pull the cupcake in half, you can make a sandwich and not get icing all over your face by placing the bottom half on top of the frosting. It is like magic really….. Enough about that.

I may be biased but these chocolate cupcakes are one of the best I have ever had. They are moist and sweet but not too sweet but the frosting…. The frosting! Perfection, sheer perfection….

This is one of the recipes that I do not believe has to be particular about adding the wet to the dry, you can jut throw it all in together except for the water, that is a critical step where timing is important.

Here is what you will need:

1 cup plus 2 tbsp cake flour

1 cup sugar

7 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp espresso powder (you can use instant coffee granules If you have to)

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup butter (melted)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup boiling water

Mix together buttermilk, melted (and cooled) butter, egg (beat well before adding) and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder; stir well to combine (or use your mixer).

Combine wet and dry and mix until well combined, add the boiling water; the batter will be very “loose” but that is how it is supposed to be.

Place in muffin tins and bake for 15 minutes at 350.

Meanwhile, make the frosting:

1 block of cream cheese (at room temp)

1/4 cup of butter (at room temp)

2 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp sour cream

1 tsp lemon zest

1 quick squeeze of lemon juice (no more than 1/2 tsp)

3 3/4 cup confectioners sugar (please make sure it is confectioners sugar)

Mix cream cheese, butter, sour cream, vanilla, lemon zest and juice until well combined and there are no lumps. Add sugar and mix until combined.

If you don’t have a fancy piping bag with metal tip, just do what I do and use a gallon sized Zip-loc bag. Place the corner of the bag into a large drinking glass and fill with frosting. Cut the tip off and squeeze on the cupcakes in a circular motion!

Chocolate Chip Cookies: Sweet Treat for you to Eats and Some things you need to know….

So, these cookies are the flat and crispy on the outside kind so don’t expect the dense cake like cookie here; these are the male-y crispy sweet goodness kind of cookies.

First things first, you must start with room temperature everything. Take your butter* and eggs from the fridge at least an hour before you begin to cook.

Pro Tip: If you are short on time, you can unwrap the butter and place it on a plate with a glass bowl on top which speeds up the softening process.

When creating the dough for any cookie it is vital to follow the order indicated which usually indicates mixing the dry in a separate bowl and combining with the wet after that is combined. There is generally a reason for this however explaining the science of that is boring so I will skip right past that. Here are a few things to consider when making any cookie:

  • If the recipe doesn’t indicate specifically the type of flour, look for baking powder or baking soda. If the recipe lists that as an ingredient, use All Purpose Flour (AP) and if it doesn’t, look for another recipe because nothing good comes out of self-rising flour.
  • If the recipe calls for “extra large” eggs, I always beat one extra egg and add half. If the recipe is a detailed to indicate the size eggs to use, don’t alter anything until you try it first, this is a seriously thought out process so don’t discount that value.
  • You don’t ever need to add the eggs “one at a time”, just make sure you beat them really well. Generally you are adding the eggs to other wet ingredients so you can’t hurt the batter; if it tells you to add the eggs to dry ingredients for a cookie, move on and don’t make those bricks.
  • Vanilla is a beautiful addition to any baked good, feel free to be liberal when adding this but never add less. Never.
  • Baking power and baking soda are NOT the same thing. Please don’t ever make that mistake
  • Never use salted butter (in anything except that beautiful gold brick of goodness Calle Kerrygold to slater on toast). You want to control the amount of salt in all dishes.
  • Take that round paper can of Morton Salt and use it to put out fires only, use the box of Morton Kosher Salt when including in recipes. Maldon Sea Salt Flakes are simply perfection when sprinkling on cookies or fudge.
  • It is always a good idea to chill dough before you bake cookies, peanut butter, sugar, and chocolate chip cookies benefit the most from this.
  • You cannot turn a simple sugar cookie recipe into a “cut out cookie” recipe, it will not hold up.
  • You can add nuts, candies, toffee, oats, etc. to any cookie recipe, just don’t overdo it. Always remember to toast your nuts please, you will thank me later.
  • Invest in either vanilla beans or Madagascar vanilla, it makes all of the difference. If you are going to use that “imitation vanilla extract” crap, just buy chips ahoy. The beans aren’t necessary and maybe not worth the effort unless you are making ice cream so go with the Madagascar variety, you can get a giant bottle at Costco.
  • You can make the “balls” and freeze them then bake one (or 5) at a time. Just put them on a pan in the freezer so they don’t touch until they are frozen solid then move to a more space friendly container. Bake an additional 3-5 minutes depending on your oven. Just watch them for doneness and make note for future baking.

Here is what you will need:

2 cups flour

1 1/4 tsp baking soda

3/4 – 1 tbsp kosher salt

Dash of cinnamon

2 sticks of butter (softened)

1 1/4 cup brown sugar (I like dark)

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 tbsp vanilla

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate (I like to purchase a chunk and put in chunks and shavings but chips work nicely also). For the love of all things good, please do not use Milk Chocolate. Please….

Mix together the dry ingredients, you can use a whisk, sifter or fork; just make sure it is combined. Okay, if I am being honest, you can add them all in the same bowl as the wet without combining first but it is a good practice to mix them separately.

Note: I have a stand mixer but I always use my hand mixer for this because you can mix gather dough too much (quite easily actually) which results in a funky texture. Just use your hand mixer or a wooden spoon, nothing fancy needed here.

Cream the butter and sugars together until they look a little “fluffy” (read: it is creamy without any noticeable lumps of butter) then add the eggs And vanilla making sure you beat them well as no cookie every survived that gross stringy egg white that didn’t get incorporated enough.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat until halfway incorporated then toss in the chocolate (and nuts or candies or anything you wish to add here), continue to mix until just combined. Chill for a couple of hours (one hour minimum but overnight is great).

One thing I recommend you invest in here is a cookie scoop, it really helps make sure all cookies are the same size (it is not about aesthetics, it is about cooking time). Scoop out the cookies on a large lined baking sheet (I highly recommend the Reynolds Non-Stick Aluminum Foil for this) making sure there is room for them to “spread” without touching and bake in a 325 degree oven for ~15 minutes. I always bake on the second lowest rack to take advantage of the slightly higher heat which appears to assist with the crispy-ness.

Ovens are different so the time is specific to your oven specifically. They should look a little underdone when you pull them out, watch them closely.

I suggest, also, sprinkling with a touch of the Maldon Sea Salt before baking. Give it that extra something special. Enjoy!!!

As an extra bonus for you, here are some of the things I like to add to cookies, add one, add all. You can omit the chocolate and add anything else, they are your cookies so make it your Fro-Yo:

  • Bacon (um, a million times yes!)
  • Plain M&Ms
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Nuts, any (toasted please)
  • Oats (toasted please)
  • Banana Chips
  • Toffee
  • Caramel Bits
  • Coconut
  • Raisins
  • Whatever you have in your pantry, just. Make sure the moisture content is very (very) low.

Let’s Talk Oatmeal (hint: it’s all about the texture)

Okay so it is really cold outside so something hot is usually what people want first thing but no one wants (read: no one in their right mind) a huge bowl of mush. Sure, oatmeal is super healthy and a go to for so many for that very reason but it doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience in any way. Let’s talk about what’s important…

The Basics

A good foundation is the most important.

Steel Cut vs. Anything Else? Steel Cut All The Way

Since they are one of the healthiest grains you can eat , start your day right and there is zero reason to choose anything else; they are third only to Oat Groat and Oat Bran. They are only steamed and toasted so the processing is minimal and you get the full benefit of the grain.

Build the Foundation

All you need to start a good oatmeal is Steel Cut Oatmeal, Brown Sugar and Milk; everything else is optional and based on your preference (I have included walnuts in my photo above because they are a non-negotiable for me). I would highly recommend adding salt, vanilla and cinnamon at a minimum to ensure a complete rounding of flavor.

Note: when I say “salt”, assume I am referring to sea salt unless I indicate otherwise. Always.

This morning I made for Chris Banana Walnut Oatmeal Topped with Fresh Blueberries and Bananas, Paleo Granola and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds so I based this blog on that but your options are endless; I almost never make the same oatmeal twice. Use what you have in your cabinet, you really can’t go wrong.

It takes almost no time for the oatmeal to cook (~20 minutes) so I throw everything in at the beginning. For a single bowl of oatmeal, I start with one half cup of oats and cover with milk (you will continue to add as it cooks to your desired consistency) then sprinkle in a pinch of salt and cinnamon, a tablespoon of brown sugar and a dash of vanilla. Turn to medium heat until it starts to boil, stirring frequently; careful as it can dry and burn to the pan easily. Dice half of a banana and crumble some walnuts, toss them in now also, this leads to a mixture texture within the oatmeal itself.

While the oatmeal cooks, start gathering the toppings. I diced the other half of the banana, grabbed the last of the blueberries, some paleo granola and roasted pumpkin seeds. Whole Foods has an amazing paleo granola with coconut if you don’t want to make it and pumpkin seeds are great to buy in bulk as they don’t really “spoil”.

The secret to a really nicely constructed oatmeal is equal distribution of the texture so I put the same thing on the bottom of the bowl before I spoon the oatmeal as I put on the top*! Sprinkle some granola on the bottom, spread the fruit evenly across the bottom and add some pumpkin seeds, spoon in the oatmeal and top with the same thing as the bottom.

Tip: This is the same for yogurt also, blog about that coming soon…..

The photos and food you see I make on this blog are things I would make and do on any day, not just for the blog. It’s important you know I obsess about how things look since you eat with your eyes first. Don’t do it to the degree I do (you will make yourself crazy) but I do think presentation is important (IMO).

Following is a photo of the finished product and I always have these cups on hand for to-go coffee and yogurt/oatmeal on the go; keep everything the temperature you desire for a while. I highly recommend them. Hope you enjoy……

Banana Walnut Steel Cut Oats Topped with Fresh Bananas and Blueberries, Paleo Granola and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.

Sweet Always Beats Spice

If you like spice but want to tame it, it’s simple; add something sweet and what’s better in the fall than sweet potatoes?

I prepared a pork tenderloin with a spicy crust and paired it with mashed sweet potatoes and roasted broccoli with citrus to brighten it up a bit; it was getting a little “heavy”.

I used ~1.5 lb tenderloin and didn’t even trim it, they do a pretty good job at trimming them if you purchase a good one so splurge a little and save yourself some time and wasted meat because I always gauge it when trying to clean….

I marinated it in pineapple juice (just the large can) with some of the chipotle chile powder and brown sugar for a couple of hours.

Always rinse it and pat dry to eliminate any residual gross smelling liquids (I can’t think too much about meat or else I won’t be able to eat it so I try to make it as clean as possible), rub with some olive oil and set aside.

Make the Crust

In a small bowl mix together the following:

  • 4 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tbsp chipotle chile powder*
  • 2.5 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • .5 cup finely copped toasted pecans (toast extra for later use, great to have on hand)
  • 8 tbsp brown sugar (use light, darker will result in more of a burned look)

* You can add more or less depending on your desired level of spice but remember the sweet potatoes will offset the spice a good bit.

[Note: you may have more than you need so don’t cross contaminate and save for the next time. I have about 20 of these types of jars for storing everything from rice and nuts to spices. I got mine from Ikea but they have them at Target and Craft Stores]

Prep the Tenderloin

Pour some of the crust onto a cutting board or plate and place the tenderloin on top to coat the bottom and coat the rest focusing on the sides and ends; firmly pressing it into the flesh. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 12(ish) hours (so overnight to okay). Just make sure to bring it to room temperature before putting in the oven.

Cook

Don’t be like most of our mothers and cook the poor thing to obliteration. I swear it took me years to consider eating pork as an adult for dread of consuming actual shoe leather…

A good rule of thumb is to cook it for ~20 minutes per pound considering the ends are usually smaller and will be more “done” than the rest; that’s okay for me because I snack on those the next day. Bake at 350 degrees or throw on the grill for the same amount of time turning 4 times (so break up the cooking time to be equal per side).

The Side Dishes!!!

Mashed sweet potatoes are the perfect accompaniment for pork and even better for spicier pork and they are super simple.

Life changer: Potato Ricer…. If you don’t have one, go to Amazon right now and buy one, your potato game will be upper level immediately. Don’t buy a fancy one with interchangeable disks, I have one with square holes and it works perfect; I think I bought it at Bed Bath and Beyond. Just make sure it is large enough that you don’t have to rice and rice and rice. the receptacle should be about the size of a potato.

Again, not a specific person when cooking so grab one potato per person at the market and bake for ~1 hour; I don’t advocate boiling because you can get watery potatoes if you don’t dry enough so it’s not worth the risk for me. I just poke them with a knife several times on all sides, wrap individually in foil and throw in the oven on a baking sheet at 350.

Once they are done (you know if you can insert a knife all the way through) and cool enough to handle, unwrap, slice down the middle and scoop chunks into the ricer (see note) and rice into a larger pot. I like to mash right away even if I am not serving them for a while just because you get the best consistency when they are warm and freshly riced.

Note: It is not the end of the world if you don’t have a ricer, it just really makes a difference. If you don’t, just scoop the flesh into a pot and use the hand mixer.

I throw in a little butter, some salt and ~1 tbsp of brown sugar and mix; for a super silky mash, I run a hand mixer through them also. I blend all of this together before I add the milk (or cream) to make sure I don’t make them too watery. I splash in milk (or cream, your choice and you can even use half and half since I know you have some for your coffee) and mix with the hand mixer until they are the desired consistency over low heat. If you are going to serve them later,I would stop after mixing in the butter and spice then continue on with the milk when you are ready to serve.

Top with some of the toasted pecans and sprinkle with cinnamon if you’re so inclined, with one, both or neither is fine but the pecans add a nice texture.

Make the Broccoli

I grab about a head of broccoli for two people, wash it and cut from the stems; bite size pieces in varying sizes is fine, don’t waste too much time on it. I place it in a large bowl, toss with some olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic them place on a lined baking sheet; bake at 450 degrees for ~20 minutes. When it’s done squeeze half of a lemon (see note) over the broccoli and shave some zest evenly over, top with some Parmesan and serve immediately.

Note: I wash my hands and squeeze the lemon into my hand letting the juice run through my fingers trapping the seeds before they escape. No fancy tools needed.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!