Iced Lemon Loaf

Is it a cake or is it a bread? Last weekend I made this lovely lemon loaf and a blueberry walnut loaf in celebration of a friend’s birthday. This is another of Tieghan Gerard’s recipes from Half Baked Harvest. I’ve made several of her recipes, both sweet and savory, and have enjoyed all of them. This was no exception. It’s very moist and not overly sweet. Since it is made with almond flour it is perfect for anyone looking for a gluten free, low carb dessert. Almond flour can be substituted for AP flour in most recipes and, because it is made from finely ground blanched almonds, it has a higher fat content resulting in slightly moister baked goods.

Ingredients:

8 T salted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup honey

2 T lemon zest

3 T lemon juice

3 large eggs at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup plain greek yogurt or sour cream

1 1/2 cups almond flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp kosher salt

4-6 oz cream cheese melted

Icing

1 cup powdered sugar

3-4 T lemon juice

2 tsp honey

Preheat your oven to 350. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan. I lined mine with parchment paper leaving an overhang to make the loaf easier to remove.

In a large mixing bowl beat together the butter, honey, and 1 T lemon zest until combined. Beat the eggs in, one at a time, until combined.

Add the lemon juice, vanilla, and yogurt or sour cream. The combination of dairy and lemon juice makes the batter look curdled, so don’t worry that something went wrong.
Add the almond flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat just until combined. In a smaller bowl mix together the cream cheese and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest.
Spoon half of your batter into your prepared pan. Dollop teaspoon amounts of the cream cheese mixture over the batter using about 1/3 of the cream cheese. Gently swirl the cream cheese using an offset spatula.

Repeat with the remaining batter and cream cheese. Bake for 45 minutes or until the center is just set. Remove from the oven to a wire rack and allow to cool.

While the loaf is cooling make the glaze. Whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and the honey. Pour over the loaf and let set for an hour or so.

Slice and enjoy!

NOTE: You can substitute AP flour for almond flour 1 to 1, but I have not tried it with this recipe.

I used 6 oz of cream cheese because how can you possibly have too much cream cheese??

Spring Rolls

Spring Rolls were this weeks foodie project. I like to try new things to keep work in the kitchen interesting, and I’d never attempted spring rolls until now. There are a large variety of appetizers referred to as spring rolls. Wrappers differ as do fillings and cooking techniques. The spring rolls I made were filled with raw vegetables, a little mango, rice noodles, and herbs. They were wrapped in rice paper, and were not cooked. They were served at room temperature with dipping sauce. Ingredients and preparation vary from one Asian culture to another. After a little research, the preparation I used seems to me to most closely resemble Vietnamese salad rolls known as goi cuon. They can also be made to include cooked pork or shrimp. While these are not difficult at all to make the preparation is a bit fussy and tedious. All of the veggies need to be match sticked and that takes patience and a good sharp knife. Apparently you can buy the vegetables already prepared, but where is the fun in that?? You can easily personalize these and fill with ingredients of your choosing. This is what I used.

Vegetables:

Baby butter lettuce

Red cabbage

English cucumber

Carrot

Sweet red pepper

And a mango

Rice Noodles

I used 2 to 3 oz of Bifun. Most of the recipes I found called for rice vermicelli, but this is what I had. Prepare the noodles according to the directions on the package. Once they are cooked shock them in ice water to stop the cooking, drain, and return to the pan. Toss with one or two tsp of toasted sesame oil and set aside.

Herbs

1/4 cup finely sliced green onion

1/4 cup cilantro

1/4 cup thai basil

1/4 cup mint

Tear or chop all of the herbs, combine, and set aside.

Once all of your preparation is done, set up what I referred to as my rolling station. You want all of your ingredients in one place and within reach.

Fill a pie pan with about an inch of room temperature water. Put a wooden cutting board next to the pie pan. Put one piece of rice paper in the water for 10-20 seconds and remove to your cutting board.

On the bottom third of the moisten wrapper, leaving about a one inch boarder, start piling on your veggies. I started with the baby butter lettuce, then the cucumber, carrots, peppers, cabbage, and mango. Next I added the rice noodles and finished it off with the herbs. Then you want to fold the bottom up over the filling, fold the sides in, and continue rolling like you would a burrito. Try to roll them tight. I set them on a parchment lined sheet pan. Once you get the hang of it this part goes quickly.

Now you can prepare your dipping sauce.

Peanut Sauce:

1/3 cup natural peanut butter (no sugar added)

2 T rice vinegar

2 T tamari (or soy sauce)

2 T honey

1 T toasted sesame oil

2 cloves of garlic grated

2-3 T water

Soy Dipping Sauce

1/3 cup soy sauce

2 T honey

2 T rice vinegar

2 T water

1 T toasted sesame oil

2 cloves of garlic grated

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Bring all of the ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until slightly reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes. Pour into a bowl and cool. (I made a double batch of this sauce.)

Plate and enjoy.

NOTE: Zucchini or yellow squash, dykon radish, or other peppers would be delicious additions. You might also want to include cooked shrimp or thinly sliced pork if you prefer to add a protein.

Information I read regarding rice paper suggests not refrigerating the rolls because the paper may become chewy. Prep can be done ahead of time but the rolls should be made the same day as you plan to serve them. Keep them covered with a barely moist towel.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake

I recently subscribed to Food and Wine magazine. I subscribed mostly because my favorite cooking show ever is Top Chef, and each season the winner is featured in Food and Wine. Of course the magazine also has some excellent recipes, including the amazing Veggie Burger recipe I blogged a few months ago. This recipe is actually from the November 2002 issue. I stumbled on it looking for date recipes. I had shared some dates with my daughter at Christmas for an appetizer recipe, and she used the rest of hers to make a babka filling. I read reviews from people who had made this pudding cake and one lady referred to the recipe as ”life changing.” It has become her go to holiday dessert. I still had plenty of dates so how could I resist a life changing recipe!

While doing my date homework I learned that they are mentioned in the Bible more than 50 times, and 20 times in the Qur’an. Dates are a fruit that comes from a date palm which is native to the Middle East. They are naturally very sweet, high in fiber, high in antioxidants, and a good source of potassium and vitamin B6. We all know it helps to rationalize how healthy our sweet treats are! Just think of this dessert as a life changing health food that tastes amazing.

Cake Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) of chopped, pitted dates

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 cups AP flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt

4 T unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Sauce Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar

1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tsp brandy (I used bourbon)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 10 inch round pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper. In a saucepan cover the dates with 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the baking soda. It will foam up. Allow the dates to cool slightly.

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder and set aside. In a medium size bowl (or stand mixer) cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. In 2 alternating batches, beat in the dry ingredients and the date mixture until just incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

While the cake is baking make the sauce. In a heavy, medium size sauce pan bring the brown sugar, butter, and heavy cream to a boil over moderate heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Simmer and continue whisking for 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, brandy (or bourbon), and salt. Keep warm.

When the cake is done allow it to cool for about 10 minutes. Turn the cake out onto a rack and peel off the parchment paper. Carefully return the cake, top side down, to the pan and poke about 15-20 holes in the cake with a skewer.

Pour half of the warm sauce over the cake and let stand until the sauce has absorbed into the cake.
Invert onto a platter and poke another 15-20 holes in the top. Pour the remaining sauce over the top. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche or whipping cream.

Enjoy every bite of this healthy, life changing dessert.

Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup

I haven’t blogged much lately. I’ve become obsessed with Tieghan Gerard’s recipes that she publishes under Half Baked Harvest. My daughter introduced me to her site. I’ve ordered a couple of her cookbooks and I am regularly printing off recipes that she publishes on her site. My friend Jane and I have made her appetizers, salads, soups, entrees and desserts. We have loved them all. Her recipes are not overly complicated and the ingredients, for the most part, are readily available even where I live. This soup is based on one of her recipes. It is now a favorite that I’ve made several times. Using my electric pressure cooker (or your instant pot) you can have this prepped and ready to eat in about 45 minutes and it has so much wonderful flavor. This soup would be great as originally published, but my husband especially likes soup with lots of stuff in it so I have added the black beans, corn, and red bell pepper.

Ingredients:

2 T extra virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion chopped

4 cloves of garlic minced

2 poblano peppers seeded and chopped

1 red bell pepper seeded and chopped

2-4 chipotle peppers in adobo finely chopped

1 T smoked paprika

2 tsp ground cumin

Kosher salt and pepper

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast

2 cans (14 oz) fire roasted tomatoes (I used my home canned)

4 cups low sodium chicken broth

Juice of 2 limes

1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped plus more for serving

1 cup frozen corn

1 can black beans drained

Set your pressure cooker/instant pot to sauté. Add the olive oil, onion, garlic, peppers, chipotle peppers in adobo, paprika, cumin, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook 5-10 minutes until very fragrant.

Turn the pressure cooker/instant pot off. Add the whole chicken breast. Stir in the tomatoes and the broth. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cover and cook on high pressure for 8 minutes.

Once it’s done cooking use the quick release and release the steam. Open the pot carefully and remove the chicken. Using two forks shred the chicken and return it to the pot.
Stir in the black beans, corn, cilantro and lime juice.

Stir and keep the pot set to warm.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish as desired with cheese, additional cilantro, sour cream, and green onions. Serve with tortilla chips.
Enjoy.

If you’re interested in more wonderful Half Baked Harvest recipes put it in your search engine and check her out!

NOTE: This recipe can also be made in a crock pot. Add all of the ingredients except the cilantro and lime, and cook on low for 6-7 hours. Shred the chicken and stir in the lime juice, cilantro.

I almost always use Better than Bouillon rather than boxed or canned chicken broth. I like the depth of flavor much better.

I purchase larger cans of chipotle in adobo and process them in my mini ninja. I freeze the puree in an ice cube tray and keep the cubes in my freezer to use in recipes.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Asparagus is one of our favorite vegetables. It’s great wrapped in prosciutto and grilled, in a quiche or frittata, pickled and added to your bloody mary, roasted, or just steamed with a little butter and lemon. It’s definitely not asparagus season in Michigan, but when I was shopping and saw this nice big bag of asparagus I immediately thought about making soup. I like brothy soups and creamed soups and my husband typically prefers soups that you could almost eat with a fork, but we both like the creamy asparagus a lot. It comes together quickly and, with the exception of the asparagus, the other ingredients are pantry staples.

Ingredients:

2 pounds of asparagus

1 medium onion diced

3-4 cloves of garlic minced

4 T butter

1/4 cup AP flour

6 cups of chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream or whole milk

1/2 cup fresh grated parmigiana cheese

Heat your dutch oven over medium heat and add 2 T of butter. Add the diced onion and cook until tender but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add in the minced garlic and and cook for another minute.
While your onion is cooking wash the asparagus spears and remove the woody ends. Cut the spears into approximately 1 inch pieces. If you’d like, set a few tips aside to blanch and use as garnish when serving.
Add 2 more tablespoons of butter to the pot and stir in the asparagus pieces. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup of flour and stir until combined with the vegetables.
Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the asparagus is tender. Use an immersion blender until you have a smooth consistency. Stir in the heavy cream and cheese and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes or so.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Blanch the tips that you set aside, and garnish the soup with a little shredded cheese and the asparagus tips.
Enjoy!

NOTE: I like to make my broth from Better Than Bouillon but canned or boxed broth are also fine. I used heavy cream but half and half or whole milk could be substituted.

Roasted Veggie Crepes

One of my latest pandemic shop-a-thon purchases was a cordless electric crepe maker, the direct result of watching too many Instagram reels and having an Amazon Prime account. Last night I decided to see if it worked just like it did in the video I watched. I thought about making blintzes but didn’t have the right cheeses so I opted for roasted vegetable crepes. I made my crepe batter, and while that was resting in the fridge, I prepped all of my veggies and got them ready for roasting. I used broccoli, asparagus, onion, peppers, mushrooms, butternut squash, and brussel sprouts. I added fresh herbs and salt and olive oil and let them roast until tender. They smelled so good roasting. While the vegetables were in the oven I fired up this crepe maker. I poured my batter into the shallow (plastic) dish that came with the CucinaPro.

This post exists only because of this crepe maker. The first time I dipped the crepe maker into the batter one area came up bare. There is some wrist action required to get nice even coverage. After a couple tries I had pretty much perfected the dip, even though this one appears to have a frowny face.

The crepes slide right off the surface and no oil or butter is required. The crepes are paper thin as advertised on the box. My recipe made 20 crepes. I tore sheets of wax paper and layered them as they came off the iron. The crepes themselves were very easy to work with once I started filling and rolling. All in all, I am very satisfied with my purchase and this will not be a ”one use wonder.” I do have a very nice blue carbon steel crepe pan that I will still use on occasion, particularly for making things like blintzes. Since I brush that pan with a little melted butter between crepes the crepe has a little different consistency, and obviously a more buttery flavor. I think the crepe maker will be my go-to for savory crepe dishes. Whether you have a CucinaPro Cordless Crepe Maker or a favorite non-stick skillet, the basic crepe recipe I use will work fine.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups AP flour

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups whole milk

2 T melted butter

1/2 tsp salt

Combine all the crepe ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Refrigerate the batter for at least 30 minutes. Heat your skillet over medium heat, brush with butter, and add about 1/3 cup of batter. Swirl the pan to spread the batter out and, when the edges turn golden, flip the crepe. Stack them between layers of wax paper until you’re ready to use them.
Crepes can be filled with just about anything. This was dinner so I filled mine with some grated Gruyere and all of the veggies that I roasted.
You can use any combination of vegetables and herbs. I added fresh rosemary, oregano, and salt to my medley and tossed them with a generous amount of olive oil. I roasted them at 425 on a jelly roll pan lined with parchment for easy clean up.
I gave them a stir after about 30 minutes and let them roast for another 30 minutes until they were tender.
Once the veggies are done let them cool a bit before you start stuffing and rolling your crepes.
One of my favorite bits are the crispy brussel sprout leaves. I munched a few of those while I was waiting for them to cool a bit. I roasted a whole garlic in the foil and squeezed that delicious garlic out to stir into the vegetables. Add salt and pepper to taste. When you’re ready to fill your crepes grate some cheese because, lets face it, everything is better with cheese. I used Gruyere but any cheese will work.
Lay down some of the cheese and then top with your vegetables. Roll the crepes and put them on a parchment lined sheet pan.
Bake them in an oven preheated to 350 for 15-20 minutes until heated through.

I made a Bechamel sauce to serve over the crepes. When I learned to make this sauce in my high school home economics class it wasn’t called Bechamel, it was simply called white sauce. You make a roux from butter and flour and add milk. Today I whisked in a little nutmeg and fresh grated parmesan cheese. Served up with a chiffonade of fresh basil.

I had a lot of extra crepes so I cooked up some apples with apple pie spices and a little sugar, and made a dessert crepe topped off with a little caramel sauce.

Fun to make and delicious to eat.

NOTE: Crepes have no end of potential. You could use a combination of meat and cheese like ham and swiss or chicken with roasted peppers and jack cheese. If you have extra crepes, as I did, you can refrigerate them in a ziplock bag leaving the wax paper sheets in between the crepes. Make them up for breakfast filled with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, and bacon. You can top them with salsa, marinara, or a cheese sauce. You’re only limited by your imagination.

Veggie Burgers

For quite awhile I’ve been talking about trying to replicate the ”Impossible” burgers without all of the added ingredients like methylcellulose, yeast extract, gums, and an ingredient high in iron called ”heme,” the red ingredient that appears to make the impossible burger bleed. While there is heme in humans and animals, and it is in the meat products that we eat, the heme in the impossible burgers is genetically modified from soybean roots. If you’re interested in reading more about heme, and how and why it is incorporated into the impossible burger, I suggest you google it. But there are none of those ingredients in this recipe which I found in Food and Wine’s August issue. I mean, where would I find heme?? I must admit it was quite a process, and it is decidedly easier to take a package of ground beef out of your freezer. But, if you want a plant based burger without a lot of additives, that is healthy, and good for the environment, try this recipe. It made eight burgers. My husband and I each enjoyed a burger for lunch and I froze the other six in packages of two. My husband said they were alright. I really liked mine. And I would definitely make these again.

Ingredients:

4 cups of water

1 T plus 1/4 tsp kosher salt, divided

1/3 cup uncooked pearl barley, rinsed

1 dried bay leaf

1 pound of fresh button mushrooms stemmed and quartered

2 T tamari or soy sauce

6 T plus 1 tsp olive oil, divided

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 head of garlic halved crosswise

2 medium carrots peeled and shredded (about 3/4 cup)

2 small beets peeled and shredded (about 3/4 cup)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 can chickpeas (15 1/2 oz can), drained and rinsed

2/3 cup gluten-free or regular panko

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

1 T whole grain or dijon mustard

It expedites things to get all of your ingredients prepped and measured.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a medium saucepan bring 4 cups of water and 1 T of salt to a boil. Rinse the barley and add it to the water along with a bay leaf. Return to a boil. Simmer undisturbed for about 25 minutes until the barley is al dente. Drain, remove and discard the bayleaf, and allow the barley to cool for about 15 minutes.

While your barley is cooking toss together the mushrooms, tamari, 2 T of olive oil, pepper, and 1/4 tsp salt.

Spread the mushrooms in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the garlic head halves on a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle with 1 tsp olive oil, wrap tightly and place on the baking sheet with the mushrooms.

Roast the mushrooms and garlic in the preheated oven until the mushrooms are browned and beginning to dry out, about 40 minutes. Stir twice during cook time. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
Unwrap the garlic and squeeze garlic cloves from the skins. Set the roasted garlic aside.

Transfer the cooled barley to a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped, about 15 pulses. Transfer the barley to a large bowl and add the beets, carrots, cumin, and paprika.

Transfer the roasted mushrooms to the food processor and pulse until finally chopped, about 10 pulses. Transfer mushrooms to barley mixture.

Add chickpeas to the food processor and pulse until roughly chopped, about 10 pulses. Measure out 1 cup of chopped chickpeas and transfer to the barley mixture.
Add the roasted garlic to the remaining chickpeas and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of the bowl as needed. Transfer the chickpea and garlic mixture to the barley mixture.

Add the panko, walnuts, and mustard to the barley mixture and stir well.

Shape the mixture into eight patties, about 1/2 cup each. I used my ice cream scoop.
Heat two T of olive oil in a heavy, oven safe skillet. Add 4 patties and cook until golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.
Transfer the seared patties to the oven. Bake patties at 400 until the tops and sides are crispy, about 10 minutes. If you want a cheese burger, add cheese during the last couple of minutes. Serve the patty on a bun with toppings of your choice.
I served our burgers up with mayo, lettuce, and red onion. I was wishing for a nice, thick slice of tomato. That would have made these just perfect.

NOTE: If you’re preparing two to four burgers at one time sear them in an oven safe skillet and transfer the skillet to the oven. If you are doing all eight burgers, bake them on a rimmed baking sheet. Remember there will be very little if any shrinkage as the patties cook.

I put six of the patties in packages of two and froze them. The recipe says they can e frozen for up to one month. Thaw frozen patties overnight in the refrigerator before cooking.

Pizza Crust

Who doesn’t love pizza? I think it’s one of almost everyone’s favorites and there is no end to the combination of toppings you can use. Several weeks ago we were in Munising in the upper peninsula of Michigan, and I enjoyed a wood fired Savory Blueberry Pizza with mozzarella cheese, bleu cheese, ham, bacon, onion, and blueberries topped with a blueberry balsamic vinaigrette. It was delicious! They also offered a pimento cheese, jalapeño, and bologna pizza and a fig and pig to name just a few. Last night I made a pizza that I found in Cuisine at Home that starred roasted potato, garlic, rosemary, broccolini, leeks, and gruyere cheese. My husband’s favorite pizza needs lots of tomato sauce, and preferably some meat, although we do enjoy a good veggie pizza. Regardless of the toppings, a good pizza, in my opinion, begins with a good crust. I prefer a thinner, crispy crust. I don’t want to feel like I ate a loaf of bread after a couple slices of pizza. Several people have asked me to share my crust recipe and this is my favorite place for sharing. I have no idea where this recipe originated, but I’ve used it for years.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups room temperature water

2 T olive oil

2 1/4 tsp (one packet) instant yeast

1 tsp salt

1 T sugar or honey

3 1/4 cups AP flour and more for kneading

1/4 cup cornmeal

Whisk together the flour, yeast, salt, and cornmeal. I use instant yeast because it can just be mixed in with the other dry ingredients and doesn’t need to bloom in water. Make a well in the center and add the sugar or honey, water, and olive oil. Stir well with a wooden spoon and turn out onto a clean, lightly floured surface to knead. Knead for 5-7 minutes. As you’re kneading you may need to add additional flour. The dough should be elastic and slightly sticky. If you prefer, you can use a stand mixer with a bread hook to mix and knead your dough.

Once you’ve kneaded the dough return it to a bowl that has been lightly brushed with olive oil. Flip the dough over once coating both sides, cover with a clean dishtowel, and put in a warm place. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, approximately one hour. While your dough is rising preheat your oven to 450 with your pizza stone on the middle rack.
Punch the dough down and divide into two pieces. Shape each into a ball and allow them to rest for 10 minutes. Put one of the dough balls onto a piece of parchment paper that has been lightly sprayed with PAM. Place a second piece of parchment that has also been sprayed with PAM over the top and roll into your desired shape. Mine never seems to be round but the shape really isn’t important.

Use a fork to make pinpricks in the dough. This prevents the crust from bubbling up when you par-bake it. Cover with a dishtowel and let the dough sit for another 15 minutes. Transfer the crust on the parchment to the preheated pizza stone, and allow it to bake for 5-6 minutes. This helps to keep the crust from getting soggy, particularly with a saucy pizza. Remove the par-baked crust from the oven and add all of your toppings.

These were the toppings on the potato and broccolini pizza. The little balls are fresh mozzarella cheese. Bake for approximately 15 minutes. Remove to a cutting board.

Slice. Enjoy.

NOTE: Occasionally I add some dry herbs like oregano or basil to the dry ingredients in the crust. This recipe makes two crusts. You can divide the recipe in half or refrigerate half for another time. Or just make two pizzas. Last night I rolled the second crust out and transferred it to a pizza pan still on the parchment and put it in the refrigerator. The plan is to make a traditional pizza in the next few days.

Earlier this year one of my pandemic purchases was a baking steel that I ordered from King Arthur. I absolutely love it, and use it always when I make pizza. A pizza stone works great as well. If you have neither, just use your favorite pizza pan. You’ll still get a great pie.

Air Fryer Chicken

I frequently see memes on line asking who survived the pandemic without getting pregnant, divorced, or buying an air-fryer. I’m still married, definitely not pregnant, but I did buy an air-fryer and I love it. Aside from grilling hotdogs, heating frozen snacks, and making nice, crispy homemade french fries without deep frying it performs many other functions very well. It is great for roasting peppers, vegetables in general, and does a great job on chicken. An air-fryer is pretty much an amped up convection oven that sits on your countertop. They work on the same principal. Also great on hot summer days when you don’t want to turn on the air conditioning.

My friend Jane came across a recipe for cooking a whole chicken in the air-fryer using a great seasoning mix. I used it on a whole chicken that I spatchcocked out of necessity because my hen couldn’t sit upright in my air-fryer. Spatchcocking is simply the technique of cutting out the backbone (I use my Pampered Chef kitchen shears), opening the chicken up and flattening it. Be sure to save the backbone for making broth. A spatchcocked chicken cooks faster and more evenly whether you’re doing it on a grill, in the oven, or in the air-fryer. What makes this recipe is the seasoning. I’ve done whole chickens and I’ve also done just skin on, bone in chicken thighs, because we both prefer the dark meat. I misplaced the recipe after I used it the first time, but now I’ll know exactly where to find it.

Ingredients:

2 T avocado oil

1 T salt

1 tsp fresh ground pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp basil

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp thyme

This spice blend is the perfect amount for a whole chicken. If you are doing ”parts” use less and store the remainder away in a sealed container.

Rub the avocado oil on both sides of the chicken.

Combine the salt and pepper and spices and sprinkle generously on both sides of the chicken.
Preheat your air-fryer. I used the high temp grill setting on mine. Each brand of air-fryer has different function settings and temperature settings. Once the air-fryer reaches temperature add the chicken skin side down.

Cook for 7-8 minutes before turning. For a whole chicken cook for 20-25 minutes before turning. Total cook time for parts is 10-12 minutes, 30-35 for a whole spatchcocked chicken. You want the internal temperature to reach 160 so it’s best to use an instant read thermometer to ensure your chicken has reached a safe temp.

The chicken remains juicy on the inside and the skin crisps up beautifully. I served ours last night with a salad, smashed sweet potato and broccolini.

Enjoy!

NOTE: Refer to the instructions/recipes provided with your air-fryer. You’ll find recommended cook times for all kinds of dishes. Air-fryers vary and as I mentioned earlier, have different function settings and temperature settings. My air-fryer is a Ninja.

If you survived the pandemic WITHOUT buying an air-fryer, this seasoning mix will probably work just as well in your regular oven!

This recipe reminded me of one I’ve had in my little recipe book for who knows how many years. It’s written in my daughter’s handwriting and it’s title ”Old People Chicken.” Ingredients include 1/4 cup kosher salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup sweet paprika, 2 T fresh ground black pepper, and 2 T oregano. The recipes have a similar flavor profile. My Christmas cookie baking friend and I have a cookie recipe (that we only used once) titled ”Old Lady Cookies,” also written in my daughter’s handwriting. Seeing a theme here.

Pizza Sauce

Sunday of this week I canned two bushels of tomatoes, some diced and some stewed yielding 92 pints. Yesterday I turned a half bushel of roma (plum) tomatoes into pizza sauce. The roma tomatoes make great sauce because they are a nice meaty tomato with less seeds. I also find them a bit easier to peel. A half bushel of tomatoes fits perfectly in my large canning kettle. Since it takes several hours of simmering for the tomatoes to cook down, in my kitchen it is only practical to do a half bushel at a time. We eat a lot of dishes with tomatoes throughout the year and home-canned tomatoes and sauces taste so good! I wish I could say the tomatoes all came from our garden, but living in a forest doesn’t allow for enough sun to grow produce. There are several nice farm markets in our area that sell Michigan produce so they are my go to.

The first job is getting the tomatoes ready for saucing. That’s the worst part! They need to be cored, peeled, and diced. If you haven’t peeled tomatoes before you want to wash and core them first. Have a large pot of simmering water ready and put several tomatoes in for a couple minutes. Remove the tomatoes to an ice water bath, slide the skins off, and dice. Repeat and repeat and repeat.

Ingredients:

1 bushel of roma tomatoes peeled and diced

2 large onions (about 4 cups) diced

2 heads of garlic peeled

4-5 carrots finely diced

1/2 cup olive oil

3 T dried basil

3 T dried oregano

Red pepper flakes to taste

Salt to taste

Add the olive oil, onions, carrots, and garlic cloves to the kettle and cook over medium heat until they are softened but not browned, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Add your spices and a generous amount of salt.
Mix well and simmer away. Stir often to make sure there is no scorching on the bottom of your pan. After about an hour of simmering and stirring use an immersion blender to break up the tomatoes and vegetables.
Continue simmering until your sauce reaches the desired consistency. It took about 4 hours for my sauce. I used the immersion blender several more times after the initial mix to make sure all of the tomatoes were broken down. Sample your sauce during the cooking process and add more seasoning or salt to taste.

Once your sauce has reached the desired consistency you will want to start the canning process. Make sure that all of your jars have been washed with hot, soapy water or run through the dishwasher. Put your jars and lids in the hot water bath and begin filling your hot jars with the hot sauce, adding 1/4 tsp of citric acid per pint. Process your jars in the hot water bath for 35 minutes. Remove the jars to a heavy towel and allow them to cool completely, best overnight. Repeat until all of your sauce has been jarred and processed. Once the jars have cooled I remove the rings and shelve them.

Since there was some sauce left in my kettle we had pizza for dinner last night.

I like a thin, crispy crust. Pizza toppings included italian sausage, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, and peperoncini. Homemade crust, homemade sauce…doesn’t get much better.

NOTE: The ingredients in this sauce are definitely not limited to pizza. The sauce can be used in all kinds of applications including pasta dishes, on a meatloaf, or chicken or eggplant Parmesan. Also, you can modify the spices per your personal preference. The carrots in this recipe help to thicken the sauce, and also add some sweetness without the addition of sugar. And maybe eating more pizza will help your eyesight. 🙂

There was one special, heart shaped tomato in this peck!

Making your own sauce is not difficult. If you have the time and the inclination you’ll be glad that you did.