Worth Sharing {Roasted Potatoes}

Listen, y’all.  I know it’s been over a month since I last posted.

It’s not like I haven’t been trying.  I have at least three posts in various stages of completion that I just haven’t been able to bring myself to publish.  I’m sorry.  I guess I just haven’t felt like sharing much lately.

Until tonight.  Tonight there were these potatoes.  And I just knew that you’d want to know about them. Because after weeks of kitchen mediocrity and work-related anxiety, these potatoes arrived on the scene and changed the course of events for the better.

It’s amazing how food can do that.

It’s pretty simple, really.  Golden potatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and bacon grease.

Yep – see that mini-mason jar in the top left-hand corner of the photo?  That’s rendered bacon grease, leftover from the BLT’s we had for lunch yesterday.  You know, the French are known for their potatoes cooked in duck fat (a distinction that is well deserved), so I figured here in the American South, we could use our humble equivalent – pig fat.

If, however, you are averse to pork products, you could most certainly use all olive oil.  It’s totally up to you.

If you’re like me, though, and you relish the thought of bacon scented potatoes, then by all means read on.

Roasted Potatoes

prep time: 5 minutes

cook time: 45-60 minutes

yields: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 medium-sized golden potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon bacon grease
  • 1 teaspoon grated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper to taste

I start by preheating my oven to 450F, then scrubbing the potatoes and cutting them into 2-inch pieces.  I then combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon bacon grease and 1 teaspoon grated garlic in another bowl, whisking to combine.  This mixture then gets poured all over those potatoes.  Add a teaspoon of salt and lots of freshly grated black pepper.

Pour the potatoes out onto a baking sheet, making sure you scrape every last bit of that delicious oil and bacon grease mixture out of the mixing bowl.  Spread them into a single layer, and place them in your preheated oven.  Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, checking periodically to make sure they’re not sticking.  If they are, use some tongs to scrape the pan and loosen the potatoes – if they tear a bit, that’s okay – those torn bits get good and crispy and delicious.

See, crispy and delicious.  They’re addictive.  I had to slap my husband’s hand out of the way as he stood at the kitchen counter eating them off the baking sheet (I might have had to practice a little self-restraint, too).  I was afraid we wouldn’t have enough for dinner.

I served them alongside this salad – a combination of spinach, romaine, golden tomatoes, blue cheese and avocado – and some chicken sausage.  Even though it was a simple meal, it was one of the most flavorful we’ve had in a long time.  And I wanted to share it with you.

Enjoy!

A Celebration, a Goal, and a Gift For You

As I sat down to write this post, I realized that it has been exactly two years since I first started this blog.  Two years.  I can’t really believe I’ve stuck with it for that long.  I’m notorious for starting things and then giving them up before I’ve gotten very far.

Speaking of sticking with things (or not), I have a confession to make.  I started 2011 with a goal to eat healthier and to exercise more.  In January of 2011, I was about 10 lbs. heavier than I wanted to be. I blamed it on “baby weight” that I’d never lost (the “baby” was a year old at that time).  I thought if I introduced more whole foods, cut back on the meat and dairy, and introduced some moderate exercise I would easily drop that 10 lbs. in no time.

Now we’re in January of 2012

(2012!!)

and instead of having lost that extra 10 lbs. I’ve put on 20 more.  There, I said it.  I’m 30 lbs. overweight, and I hate it.  I guess those 2011 goals didn’t really work out so well.

This year, I’m bound and determined to stick with it.  I know – everyone is setting goals and making resolutions right now.  It’s the thing to do. My most popular posts over the last few days have had to do with kale and greens and whole grains.  People are looking to eat better and get healthy in the new year.

I’m doing a couple of things to help me along on my goals.  First, I joined the Couch to 5k training program.  I’ve never been a runner.  In fact, I’ve kind of always hated running.  In high school I would do whatever was necessary to avoid running in PE.  I’m now almost done with week two of the nine week training program, and I can honestly say that I still hate running.  BUT, I’m sticking with it.  I suck at it, but I’m doing it.  And I can tell I’m getting better at it, in teeny-tiny minute increments.  So that’s something.

The second thing I’m doing is partnering with my local Harry’s Farmers Market to give my pantry a healthy makeover.  Whole Foods, in their Whole Story blog, issued a $50 pantry makeover challenge.  Their claim is that you can buy a list of pantry staples at Whole Foods (which I realize some people refer to as “whole paycheck”) for about $50.  The items on the list are:

  • 1 lb black beans
  • 1 lb lentils
  • 1 lb quinoa
  • 2 lbs brown rice
  • 3 (32-oz) boxes vegetable broth
  • 1 (32-oz) box chicken broth
  • 1 lb rolled oats
  • 2 cans cannellini beans
  • 1 lb orechiette pasta
  • 1 lb pasta, your favorite kind
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 jar unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 (32-oz) box unsweetened soymilk
  • 1 (32-oz) box unsweetened almondmilk
  • 1 (5-oz) can tuna
  • 3 (15-oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 package no-oil sundried tomatoes
  • 1 jar pasta sauce

Whole Foods is running a contest through the end of January to give away five grand-prize packages of a year’s worth of pantry staples and a pantry makeover.  They’re also giving away 31 pantry stock-ups valued at $50 each.  All you have to do is leave a comment on the post on the blog.

Harry’s contacted me to see if I wanted to participate in the challenge.  They offered to either provide me with a $50 gift card that I could personally use for the challenge, or that I could give away to one of my readers.  I decided to take the challenge on my own, just to see if I could really buy everything on the list for around $50, and to save the gift card for one of you.

Today I went to Harry’s armed with my list and a few coupons that I’d printed off of their website.  My shopping trip took a little over an hour (mostly because I had a hard time finding canned-tuna and sundried tomatoes), but in the end I wound up spending less than $45 for the items on the list.

I had four coupons for $1 off various items, and I got two $.10 bag credits.  Even if I hadn’t had the coupons and the bags, my total would have been right around $50.  I did make a couple of substitutions: I got two cartons of almond milk instead of one almond and one soy (I don’t do soy milk), and I purchased two 28-oz. cans of tomatoes instead of three 15-oz. cans. I also accidentally got an extra bag of rice that added $1.99 to my total.

That’s a lot of food.  I’m not sure it will last us the whole month, but we’ll certainly try.  I plan to keep you all updated on our progress here on the blog, and to include recipes for things that we make with these ingredients.  I figure that all of these pantry staples paired with the produce I get from the Rockin’ S Farms CSA I recently joined and the meat I get from Riverview Farms should get us pretty far.

For lunch today, I made this recipe for Tuscan Tuna Salad from the Whole Foods website.  I served mine on a bed of mixed greens that I got in this week’s CSA bag (spicy mustard greens were a very nice addition) with some whole-grain crackers on the side.  I highly recommend it.

For dinner, I chose this recipe for Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe, Sundried Tomatoes and White Beans.  I subbed broccoli from our garden for the broccoli rabe, but otherwise I followed the recipe to the letter.  Even my kids liked it.  My husband and I ate ours with a mixed-green salad on the side and there was plenty left over for lunch tomorrow. The key (in my opinion) is adding the water from the reconstituted tomatoes along with the pasta water at the end.  So good.

Okay, here’s the part you’ve all been waiting for.  Because the blog is two, because I’m determined to stick with my goals this year, and mostly just because I appreciate you all so much, I’m teaming up with Harry’s Farmers Market to give one of you a $50 Whole Foods Gift card that you can use to make over your own pantry (the gift card can be used at any Whole Foods store).  Here’s how you can enter to win:

Tell me in the comments what your New Years resolution was this year.  Are you going to stick to a budget for the first time ever? Are you going to get a pedicure every two weeks? Is your goal to read the Harry Potter series from start to finish before 2013?  Whatever the goal, let me know and you’ll be entered to win.

You can also tweet the following: I want to win a $50 Whole Foods Gift card from @HFM_Alpharetta and @lifeinrecipes: http://bit.ly/AsEio7.

Do either of those things between now and 12:00 PM Eastern time on January 30, 2012 and you’ll be entered to win.  Do both to be entered twice.  Limited to two entries (one here, one on twitter) per person, please.  I’ll announce a winner on January 31.

Jerk Chicken

When I was in college, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend a week in Montego Bay, Jamaica.  My mother was given the trip as a bonus for a big project she had led to completion at work, and she thoughtfully invited me to accompany her on the trip.  The package had us staying at a fairly bland resort, away from any of the real culture or flavor of the country, but we did manage to experience some Jamaican life while we were there.

The most distinct memory that I have from that trip is, of course, food related.  We had been on an excursion – maybe to the market, maybe to some tourist attraction, I can’t really remember – and on the way back we asked our taxi driver for a recommendation for lunch.  He began talking about good restaurants that he’d heard of in the resort area, but we insisted that he tell us where he would eat if it were up to him.

He pulled into a little road-side stand and told us that this was the best place to get the Jamaican specialty, Jerk.  If we wanted to eat here, though, he was going to take his lunch break and we’d have to wait for him to finish.  We conceded to his conditions and proceeded to enjoy some of the most flavorful, spicy, smoky chicken and pork we’d ever experienced.  Sitting in the noonday heat, perched on a wooden bench on the side of a busy road, eating meat off the bone with our fingers and drinking Red Stripe beer.  We felt right at home.

Needless to say, our taxi driver got a good tip from us that day.

Fast forward 18 years: When I asked my husband what he wanted to do for Father’s Day this year, he said all he really wanted was to watch a Gold Cup soccer game on television.  I told him I’d be happy to keep the kids out of the house for the 90 minutes (or so) of the game.  Out of curiosity, I asked who the US National team was playing.  Jamaica, he informed me.

And thus was born our menu for Father’s Day dinner. Despite my husbands protestations that I shouldn’t make a meal that represents the opposing team, I convinced him it would be okay (and it was – the US won 2-0).

Luckily I had a tried-and-true Jerk recipe that we’d discovered shortly after Mom and I returned from Jamaica ‘lo those many years ago.  It’s from a 1993 issue of Gourmet, and it very nearly replicates the flavors of that authentic Jerk we had on the roadside back in Montego Bay.

Jerk Chicken
prep time: 5 minutes
marinade time: 24 hours (at least)
cook time: 2 hours
serves: 8-10

  • 2 cups chopped scallion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons habanero chili paste or 2 habanero chilis, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 5 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 3 teaspoons English-style dry mustard
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unrefined sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons sucanat (some people recommend molasses)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 lbs. chicken (whole or parts)
  1. In a food processor or blender, combine the scallion, chili paste, soy sauce, lime juice, allspice, mustard, bay leaves, garlic, salt, sugar, thyme and cinnamon.  It will become a dark, greenish paste.
  2. If using a whole chicken, remove the backbone and butterfly the chicken so that it lays flat.
  3. Smear the marinade all over the chicken (as you can see above, I did some chicken legs, and one whole chicken.  For the drumsticks, I reserved some of the marinade without the chili paste and used that for the kids – the flavor was still there, but the habanero heat was absent).
  4. Cover and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
  5. Grill over indirect heat (around 250-275) for 2 hours, or until the joints of the chicken begin to separate and the juices run clear.  Keep an eye on it, since there is sugar in the marinade, and it will burn easily.

We served ours with some grilled asparagus and some creamy coleslaw, but you could certainly go more traditional with some black beans and rice or plantains. It was just as flavorful as I remember it being, and my husband loved it. The kids seemed to enjoy their heat-free version too, so definitely I recommend making the marinade without the chilies if you’ve got heat-sensitive people in your family.

So, the US plays Panama on Wednesday – what Panamanian dish should I make to ensure our victory?