St. Patricks Day – Corned Beef

This post was one I originally did for Foodwhirl back in 2010, but it’s still a yearly tradition for us, so I thought I’d share it here.


Corned Beef and Cabbage (or how I got lucky)

Get your minds out of the gutter.

The very first meal I ever cooked for my husband when we first started dating was corned beef and cabbage. I figure it must have been lucky, because he eventually married me – right?

I wanted to impress him, so I didn’t just go out and buy one of those pink, sodium and nitrate/nitrite infused bits of brisket with the seasoning packet inside (although I have been known to use this method on occasion). No, I actually corned the sucker myself, over a period of about a week.

Now it’s become a bit of a tradition for us – every year I cook corned beef and cabbage with potatoes for St. Patty’s day. This year, I’m sharing that tradition with all of you. This is quite a process, so bear with me. I promise the end result is totally worth it.

Oh!  And be sure to stay tuned for Part 2 – wherein I drain the brine from the meat and add the cabbage!  It’s exciting stuff, and you won’t want to miss it.  I might even cook some potatoes…. And you certainly won’t want to miss Part 3 – corned beef hash.  This is the meal that just keeps on giving!

First, for the beef – it is admittedly difficult this time of year to find a brisket that is not already trimmed, brined and packaged. With a little effort, though, you can do it. You need about 3-4 pounds of meat for this recipe. I was able to find an 8-lb brisket for about $2/lb, so I bought the whole thing. I cut it in half and froze the second portion to be used at a later date for barbecue or something (there’s really no such thing as too much meat in my house).

About a week out, prepare the brine. This version was derived from a Sara Moulton recipe, back in her Cooking Live days.


* 4 quarts water
* 1 1/2 pounds kosher salt
* 1 pound dark brown sugar
* 2 bay leaves
* 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
* 1 teaspoon dried thyme
* 10 juniper berries
* 10 crushed peppercorns
* 1 tablespoon baking soda
* 4 gallons boiling water
* 1 egg, in shell
* Salt, if needed
* Cold water to cover meat
* 1 (5 pound) beef brisket
* 5 cloves garlic

Bring first 8 ingredients to a boil and let boil for 5 minutes. Leave the brine to cool. Clean a plastic bucket and its lid with a solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda to 1 gallon boiling water. Rinse well and leave to drain dry.

To test the saltiness of the brine put egg, in shell in the cooled brine. If it doesn’t float, add enough salt until it does.

To draw off any excess blood and to help the brine penetrate, pierce the beef all over with a skewer and place meat in cold water for about 45 minutes. Remove the meat from water and place in crock or bucket. Pour the cooled brine over the brisket. Add garlic to the brine. Place a plate on top of the brisket to submerge. Place a lid or plastic wrap over container. Store in a refrigerator or dry place, at a temperature below 60 degrees. Salting time depends on the thickness of the meat. Allow 3 to 10 days for salting time for brisket.

This will sit in my fridge all week.  I’ll check it periodically, turning the meat to make sure that all sides get equal time in the brine.

Waiter, There is Too Much Pepper on My Paprikash {Chicken Paprikash}

This scene from When Harry Met Sally always makes me smile. It also gets stuck in my head at the weirdest moments, and the word paprikash goes round and round in my brain until something else equally as annoying gets lodged in there.

The thing about that movie that strikes me today, in particular, is Sally’s need for control in her life.  She likes everything to be “just so.”  It’s what makes scenes like the one above (and the infamous diner scene) so noteworthy.  Sally steps out of her buttoned-up facade for a moment and does something so unexpected, so out of character, that we’re pleasantly surprised.

Life is like that – we go along blissfully thinking we are in control of our day (or our destiny). Then, something comes along to remind us that really, no, we are, indeed, not in control.  As much as we plan, schedule and organize, inevitably we discover that we don’t live in a vacuum or a bubble and forces beyond our control can throw our carefully laid plans into chaos.

I’m learning to roll with it.  Like Sally Albright, I often find myself outside my neatly planned comfort zone.  Sometimes it’s because I push myself, but most of the time it’s because someone else has pushed me there (either deliberately, or by accident).  It’s nerve-wracking.  But, it can also be a catalyst for growth.

The fact that I haven’t posted a recipe here since February is testament to my inability to control everything.  Happily, this recipe for Chicken Paprikash lends itself to a chaotic lifestyle.  It uses ingredients you probably have in your kitchen and pantry, and it can either be done on the stovetop and in the oven on a lazy Sunday afternoon, or in the crockpot on a busy weekday.  And the result is something deeply satisfying.  And not too peppery.  Because no-one wants too much pepper on their paprikash.

chicken paprikash

Chicken Paprikash | prep time: 3 minutes | cook time: 2 hours (for stovetop/oven version; 4-6 hours if cooking in crockpot on low). | yields: 6 servings


  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, seasoned with salt and black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 lb. egg noodles, prepared according to package instructions

Cooking Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300F
  2. Heat olive oil in an oven-safe saute pan on the stove top
  3. Place seasoned chicken thighs in a single layer in the saute pan, browning on both sides.  You may have to work in batches in order to avoid over-crowding the pan.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Place sliced onions in the saute pan and reduce heat slightly.  Cook onions until softened and translucent in color, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add garlic and paprika and stir through.
  6. Add chicken broth and whisk to pick up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
  7. Add chicken back to the pan along with the bay leaf
  8. Cover pan and place in preheated oven.  Allow to braise for one and half hours.
  9. Prepare egg noodles according to package directions
  10. Remove the saute pan from the oven and place back on the stove top
  11. Remove chicken from pan and set aside
  12. Turn on burner under saute pan and allow to come to a boil.  Boil until sauce thickens and reduces by half.
  13. Remove sauce from heat and add 1 cup sour cream, whisking to combine.
  14. Add chicken back to pan.
  15. Serve chicken with sauce over prepared egg noodles.
  16. Enjoy!

To prepare in crock pot – follow cooking instructions up to step 6, then put all ingredients, including chicken and bay leaf, into crock pot and set for 4-6 hours.  Then pick back up with steps 11-16.

Wherein I am Not Mary Poppins. Or Martha Stewart. {Fish Chowder}

On any given day in our house you’re likely to find piles of laundry, kitchen counters with food dried on them, cat and dog hair gathered in the corners of the common rooms and dirty dishes piled in the sink.  It’s not pretty, but it’s our life.  Two growing boys, two working parents, and a multitude of furry pets does not always an idyllic household make. I’d like to tell you that I have a cleaning scheduled that I adhere to, and that my children are conscientious about picking up after themselves and putting their dirty clothes in the hamper regularly (rather than tossing their dirty socks haphazardly in the air, allowing them to land wherever they may).  I’d like to appear to have it all together, but that would be a lie.

The truth is, sometimes I’m a mess.  I stress out when I know people are coming over, worried that they’re going to judge me and my disorganized house.  I long to be Mary Poppins – to just snap my fingers and have everything go back to its rightful place.  My mother used to joke that, as her only child, I was “practically perfect in every way.”  Sadly, that description does not come with a magic carpet bag full of delightful tricks and the ability to sing your cares (and your cluttered play-rooms) away.  fish chowder1

I’ve come to realize, in my almost 40 years, that we all have our strengths.  While some of us are excellent housekeepers; others of us are decidedly not. I, clearly, fall into the latter category. However, I am not completely devoid of domestic talents.  I may not have the ability to decorate impeccably or organize seamlessly; but, by God, I can cook.  fish chowder4

This fish chowder has found its way into regular rotation at our dinner table.  It’s super simple to put together, and the flavor is incredible.  It’s adapted from this Martha Stewart recipe.  I may not have all of Martha’s talents (or, rather, those of her staff), but I can certainly recognize a good recipe when I see one.

fish chowder2

Fish Chowder

Prep time: 10 Minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Yields: 6 servings


  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced or grated
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups stock (chicken, vegetable or fish)
  • 1 1/2 pounds of russet potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 wild-caught flounder fillets (or other flaky white fish)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk (you can also omit the cream and use 1 cup of milk instead)
  • salt and pepper to taste

fish chowder3

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan
  2. Add celery, onion and garlic.  Saute until softened
  3. Add the flour and stir to coat with the butter.  Cook until it starts to smell nutty (do not let it get too brown)
  4. Add the stock and stir to combine.  Allow to come to a boil.
  5. Add the bay leaf and the potatoes and reduce to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through.
  6. Add the fish and simmer until it’s cooked through and begins to flake apart when stirred
  7. Add the cream/milk and salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Enjoy!

Almost a Year Later….{Pretzel Bread Bowls}

I had no idea last February that I would be taking nearly a year off from this place.  It wasn’t planned, it just sort of happened.  Life got busy, and at the same time I lost the compulsion to document every meal I cooked or ate.  Every so often I’d come over here with the intention to write something, but I didn’t really have the focus or the drive to actually do it.

Meanwhile, I started working full time at a job that I have grown to truly enjoy.  I do a lot of writing there, and am allowed to be creative and somewhat autonomous, and I think that has filled the space that used to be filled by my efforts here.  Maybe.

I want to keep coming here, though, and sharing with those of you who still check in from time to time.  It may not always be recipes or food, but I’ll do my best to make it meaningful.  I’ve got lots of fun projects on the horizon in my life: I’m leading the team that’s planning a learning garden at the school I work for, I got a Vitamix for Christmas that I’m having a blast learning to use, I’m heading to Ireland with the family in April, and I’m still trying new things in the kitchen from time to time in an effort to expand and enrich my children’s food vocabulary.  So thanks for sticking around and for being patient as I try to figure out how to balance everything that’s going on.

vitamix1So, the Vitamix.  I’d been wanting one for a while, and finally bit the bullet and bought a Certified Reconditioned model.  I’ve only had it for a couple of days, but so far I LOVE IT.  Tonight I made the Harvest Cheddar Soup from the Vitamix website.  It’s crazy – the blender actually cooks the soup.  I didn’t really believe it myself until I tried it.  It’s like magic – ingredients go in cold or room temperature and come out steaming hot.  Right now I’m just trying recipes that are from the cookbook that came with it, or that are on their website.  Knowing me, though, I’m sure I’ll be making stuff up in no time.  No worries – I’ll do my best to share that stuff here.

breadbowlreadyIn the meantime, here’s something fun that I made to go along with that Harvest Cheddar soup – Whole Grain Pretzel Bread Bowls.  I used the Beer Pizza Dough recipe from my breadmaker’s cookbook as a jumping off point.

Whole Grain Pretzel Bread Bowls

yield: 6 bowls

  • 12 oz. beer
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • Egg white (for glazing)
  • Course salt

This recipe starts in the bread machine, but is baked in the oven.  If you don’t have a bread machine, you can use an electric mixer or knead by hand.


  1. Place beer, butter, sugar and  salt in the bottom of the bread machine’s loaf pan
  2. Add the flour on top.
  3. Create a small well in the center of the flour.  Add the yeast to the well
  4. Set the machine to the “dough” setting and let it do its thing (mine takes about 2 hours for kneading and two rises)
  5. When it’s done with the second rise, turn the dough out onto a floured surface.
  6. Divide the dough into six equal portions and roll them into balls
  7. Place them on a baking sheet lined with a silicone liner or greased foil
  8. Allow them to rise while you preheat the oven to 375F
  9. Brush the tops of the rolls with egg white and sprinkle them with course salt
  10. Just before baking, slash the tops of the rolls in a cross pattern using a sharp knife
  11. Bake at 375F for 25 minutes, or until tops are very brown and they sound hollow when you tap them.

breadbowlcutOnce they’ve cooled most of the way, cut the tops off using a serrated knife.  Set the top aside (it’s good for dipping in soup later).

breadbowlspoonScoop the insides out with a spoon.  I put all the bread that scraped out into a zip-top bag and put it in the freezer to use later for bread crumbs.

breadbowlreadyEt, voila! 6 individual bread bowls just waiting to be filled with Harvest Cheddar-y goodness.

breadbowlwithsoupThese would also be good as little bowls for dips, filled with chilli, cheese fondue, or just about anything else that you might like to dip bread in.  They were a big hit with my family, and are a fun way to make soup a little more interesting (you get to eat the bowl at the end!).


Ode to the Humble Sprout {Brussels Sprout Pizza}

If you had asked me two years ago how I felt about Brussels Sprouts, I probably would have made some horrid face and said something along the lines of: “they’re too bitter,” or “ugh – gross, tiny cabbages are funny looking and should be outlawed” or maybe even “DIS-gusting. Blech.”  Which is mature.


Had you told me two years ago that Brussels Sprouts would be my favorite dish at an upscale Steak House, or that I’d be preparing them weekly for my family, I most likely would have laughed at you.  Maniacally.

But, ‘lo and behold, you would have been right.  Have I mentioned that I hate it when you’re right?  Except in this case, where I’m delighted, because now I have a whole new vegetable added to my repertoire.  And what a versatile vegetable it is.


You can roast it at high heat, drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. I could eat these little babies like candy.  Sometimes I’m not sure if they’ll even make it to the dinner table, since I just stand over the skillet and eat them one by one by one.  So good.


If they survive that, then I sometime serve them over pasta carbonara (in place of the kale).  They’re also good as a base in this garlic ginger chicken recipe.


Or maybe raw, in a shave salad with pomegranate arils and  pecorino romano cheese.  I made this at Thanksgiving, and it was a big hit.  It was a variation on this recipe from Food 52.

sprout pizza

Last night, though, I decided to try them on pizza, and I may have just died and gone to heaven.  Seriously, y’all – THIS is my new favorite way to consume Brussels sprouts.  And I do realized that I’m sometimes prone to hyperbole – but not in this case.  This right here is good stuff.

The sprouts get good and caramelized, which gives them a sweet, nutty flavor.  They sit on a base of heavy cream and mozzarella cheese, and are complimented by salty bacon and mild red onion.  The whole thing is topped off by sharp, tangy Pecorino Romano cheese, which just rounds out the whole experience.  I ate three pieces, and could have probably finished off the entire pizza, but I guess that might have been excessive (plus, my husband probably wouldn’t have appreciated it very much).

sprout pizza2

Pizza with Brussesl Sprouts, Bacon and Pecorino Romano

prep time: 10 minutes

bake time: 15 minutes

yields: 8 slices


  • Pizza dough for one pizza (use your favorite homemade or store-bought fresh dough)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/3 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 ounce pecorino romano cheese, finely shredded
  1. Begin by preheating your oven to 425F
  2. Roll out your pizza dough to a 12-inch diameter circle.  I’ve recently purchased a Zojirushi breadmaker, and have been using their pizza dough recipe (subbing freshly ground wheat flour for the bread flour the owner’s manual calls for). I can’t say enough good things about this machine, but will save the details for a dedicated post.
  3. Drizzle the raw dough with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and par-bake on a baking sheet in your preheated oven for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and place on a pizza peel.
  4. Sprinkle the hot par-baked crust with the mozzarella cheese and evenly drizzle with the heavy cream
  5. Spread the sliced Brussels sprouts, bacon and onion evenly over the crust
  6. Sprinkle the romano cheese over the top of the pizza
  7. Using the pizza peel, transfer the pizza back to the preheated oven, placing it directly on the oven rack
  8. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the sprouts have begun to caramelize (they will get brown and crispy on the eges).
  9. Enjoy!


After All This Time, All I Have To Offer Is Casserole

It was never my intention to take a leave of absence from this space, but it seems that it happened anyway.  Oops.

If I’m being perfectly honest, it was kind of nice.  Not being tied to a camera or a computer for a little while.  I might try it more often.

Not that I don’t enjoy coming here and sharing with you – certainly I do.  I just might be doing it a little more sporadically right now (not that I was all that regular about it before).  When I make something that I think you’ll particularly appreciate, then I’ll share it with you.  That’s what this space is really for, after all.

It’s still January for a few more days.  I didn’t really make any earth-shattering resolutions at the start of this New Year.  I’ve found that I’m not very good at keeping them.  What I did decide with some certainty is that I really need to simplify.  Complicated is just…well…too complicated.  So, simple it shall be.

I’ve kind of gotten into a routine with my cooking.  Another reason posting hasn’t happened much lately – not much new to share.   Once a week or so, I make this chicken (or some variation thereon), and we eat about half of it for dinner that same day.  Then I cut the rest of the meat off the carcass and tuck it away for use another day and make this lovely dark chicken stock out of the bones.casserole2

Then, a day or so later, I make chicken and rice casserole with that leftover meat.  I know what you’re thinking – casserole is so passé (does anyone even say passé anymore, or is that passé)?  Just hear me out, though.

casserole4 (2)

See – I have a very picky toddler in my house.  He’s three, and he’s demanding.  And also sometimes unpleasant.  And unlike his older, more amenable brother, he doesn’t care much about pleasing anyone but himself.  So if he doesn’t like something?  He makes life pretty miserable for the rest of us.  Thus, rather than making two different dinners every night, I’m trying to come up with things that we can all enjoy (and that don’t involve opening a box of noodles that may also contain a packet of orange cheese-flavored powder – not that I haven’t done that a time or two in desperation).  This seems like a good enough compromise.casserole1

It’s loosely based on this casserole from the archives of Paula Deen.  I say loosely because hers involves opening a bunch of cans (canned chicken, canned soup, canned beans, canned water chestnuts, parboiled rice, etc).  My version takes sauteed onions and celery and homemade chicken stock and just the tiniest hint of heavy cream and mixes it all together with hearty brown rice and skillet roasted chicken (and maybe a smidge of extra-sharp cheddar) for a flavorful, tummy pleasing meal.  Paired with a salad for the grown-ups and some unsweetened applesauce for the kids, it’s an easy weeknight fix (and disagreeable-toddler-approved).


Chicken and Rice Casserole

prep time: 10 minutes

cook time: 45 minutes

serves: 6-8


  • 2 Tablespoons oil (I used coconut, but you could use olive oil or butter – whatever you have)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, cubed (optional – this was decidedly not a toddler-approved addition, but I enjoyed it)
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 6-8 oz. of cooked chicken, diced (I used one breast and one thigh off a pre-roasted chicken)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (this was about 2 1/4 oz. by weight)
  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked according to package directions (yields approximately 6 cups cooked)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F
  2. In a large oven-proof enameled cast iron pan over medium-high heat, saute your onions and celery in oil until they begin to become translucent (if you don’t have a pan like this, you can do everything in a regular skillet and then transfer it to a casserole dish to bake in the oven).
  3. Add the mushrooms and let them get good and brown.  Taste for seasoning – add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and stir it around.  Let it cook for a few minutes so that it loses the raw flour taste.  You’re making a roux.
  5. Pour the chicken stock in the pan and stir to combine, making sure you dissolve any lumps of flour that might be remaining.  Let it come to a boil – it should thicken.
  6. Add the heavy cream and stir to combine.  Turn off the burner.
  7. Add the chicken and the rice.  Carefully stir to combine.
  8. Add the cheese and stir through.
  9. Cover and bake in a 350F oven for 45 minutes.  Remove the lid during the last 15 minutes to let the top get good and brown.
  10. Enjoy!



Can You Hear Me Now? {Garlic Ginger Chicken with Brussels Sprouts}

Remember the Telephone Game from when we were kids?  The one where a bunch of people sit in a circle, and one person starts by whispering a message into the ear of their neighbor, and that person turns and whispers (what is supposed to be) the same message into their neighbor’s ear, and so on and so forth until the message comes back around to the first person?  And, inevitably, the message has become something completely different from what it started out as?chicken1

Well, this is that game, only in food blog form.  Like a bunch of us are standing in a globe-spanning circle connected by the interwebs, and we’re passing a roast chicken recipe from blog to blog, waiting to see how it changes and evolves as each person puts their own spin on it.

Which is, if you really think about it, what makes food writing/blogging so interesting and, dare I say it, controversial.  There are countless arguments back and forth over what constitutes an “original” recipe, what constitutes plagiarism in recipes, and what can and cannot be copyrighted when it comes to recipes.

Diane Jacob, in a March 17, 2010 post on her Will Write for Food blog, writes that “it’s not … legal to copy a recipe verbatim and give credit, unless you have permission from the publisher, let alone change a few things but not enough and not give credit.”  And yet, time and again, you see people copying recipes out of cookbooks and publishing them on their blogs (with or without credit), blind to the fact that they are breaking any rules, let alone being deviant enough to actually break a law.  Intellectual property is a complicated and mysterious thing.  I’ve even done it myself, before I knew what the rules actually were.chicken3

Even more complicated is what constitutes “adapting” a recipe.  The generally accepted standard is that if you change three things in a recipe, then you can call it yours.  This has proven to be a gray area for some folks, though.  I think it’s always a good idea to credit the original source, just to be on the safe side.  David Lebovitz gives some great tips on recipe attribution in a 2009 post on the Food Blog Alliance site.

All of that being said, it’s rare that I follow a recipe word for word.  One of my favorite things about cooking is that I can be creative – not constrained by exact measurements and specific ingredients.  I see recipes more as guidelines than as hard and fast rules.  We all know that rules are made to be broken anyway, right?chicken2

The originator of this roast chicken telephone message was Sheri Castle, a potential food blogger who received a recipe to adapt from Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart (with their permission, I’m assuming).  Sheri created a blog just for this recipe, admitting that she’s “not a blogger,”  just “blog-curious.”  Her plan was to attend the 3rd Annual FoodBlogSouth conference in Birmingham in January to learn more about the craft.  She, like myself and at least 13 other participants, signed up for this recipe telephone game, the results of which will be used in a session at the conference conducted by Cynthia Graubart.  Sheri’s interpretation of the original recipe  can be found here.  I guess in this instance, the goal of the game is to change the message as much as possible, rather than the other way around.  Below is my version of Sheri’s version – 2 degrees of Roast Chicken, so to speak.  chicken5

Roasted Garlic Ginger Chicken with Brussels Sprouts

Oven-roasted chicken is the perfect canvas for being creative in the kitchen.  There are so many roasting techniques, flavor combinations and accompanying vegetables, the possibilities are nearly endless.  For many years I feared the roast chicken, having never found a technique that suited my last-minute lifestyle.  In my effort to get dinner on the table for my family on a busy weeknight, I would sometimes end up with underdone birds.  More often than not, though, I’d pull them from the oven dry and flavorless.

Recently I discovered the cast-iron cooking method, and my life has never been the same.  There’s just something about preheating that cast-iron skillet – getting it good and smoking hot – that really enhances the flavor of the bird and speeds the cooking process along.

This time around, I decided to add some Asian flavors to the mix.  Garlic and ginger combine with scallions, oranges and soy sauce to create a sweet-salty flavor combination.  The marinated chicken nests atop a bed of Brussels sprouts, infusing the tiny cabbages with it’s savory juices.  The chicken comes out with golden crispy skin, and the sprouts are tender and caramelized, bursting with deep umami flavor.

Prep time: 1-24 hours

Cook time: 45 minutes – 1 hour

Serves: 4-6


  • 1 3-4 lb. roasting chicken
  • 1/4 cup neutral cooking oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
  • zest from 2 oranges
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 5 scallions, green parts only, chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 1 Tablespoon neutral cooking oil (again, I used grapeseed)chicken6

Begin by patting the chicken dry with paper towels and removing any extra parts (like the neck, heart and gizzards) that might be in the cavity.  Place the chicken in a zip-top bag.  Combine the 1/4 cup oil, soy sauce, orange juice, zest, ginger, garlic, scallions and black pepper and pour into the bag, evenly coating the chicken.  Zip the bag closed, squeezing out as much air as possible as you go.  Massage the chicken a bit, making an effort to get the marinade all over the bird.  Refrigerate for at least an hour, but up to 24 hours (the longer the better, really).

About 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook the chicken, place a large iron skillet on the lowest rack in your oven and preheat the oven to 425F.  Remove the marinated chicken from the refrigerator.  Toss the halved Brussels sprouts with 1 Tablespoon of oil.  Once the oven has preheated, and the skillet is hot, remove the skillet from the oven and place it on a heat-proof surface.  Pour the Brussels sprouts into the hot pan and spread them evenly across the bottom.  Remove the chicken from the bag, scraping the excess marinade off as you do.  Place the chicken, breast side up, atop the sprouts and return the pan to the oven.  Roast for 45 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer placed in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165F.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.  Serve with accompanying Brussels sprouts on a bed of steamed rice.  Drizzle with any excess pan juices.  Enjoy!

The Bitten Word Cover to Cover Challenge {Beet Salad}

If you worry that Autumn signals the end of bright, colorful salads, then you clearly haven’t tried this one.

The boys over at The Bitten Word brought this salad to my attention.  A couple of weeks ago, they decided to include their readers in an October food magazine cover to cover challenge.  They had a huge response, and found themselves with the daunting task of assigning 350 recipes from 6 of their favorite food magazines.  I was assigned to Team Food Network Magazine, specifically this No-Cook Beet-Orange Salad from the latest edition.

Raw beets remind me a lot of raw corn – they’re very sweet, earthy, and a little starchy.  The creamy, tangy goat cheese is a nice accompaniment, along with the sharp bite of the vinegar and the crunchy nuttiness of the pepitas.  If you think you don’t like beets, try them raw – you might change your mind.

Luckily, I’m a fan of beets, so this salad was right up my alley.  The original calls for chioga or golden beets, but I was only able to find golden and red when I went to the store the other day.  The only downside to this is that red beets stain EVERYTHING, so it’s best to add them at the very end to avoid turning your whole salad pink.  I also used toasted pumpkin seeds in place of the Marcona almonds because we’re a mostly tree-nut-free household.

Having a mandolin is certainly beneficial here, but it’s by no means a requirement.  You want to slice your beets paper thin, so if you use a knife make sure it’s super sharp.

You’ll need three oranges for this recipe – one to juice, and two to segment.  If you need to learn how to supreme an orange, this is a good tutorial from Coconut & Lime.

No-Cook Beet-Orange Salad

adapted from Food Network Magazine, October 2012

prep time: 20 minutes

yields: 4-6 servings


  • 3 beets, sliced very thinly on a mandolin
  • 2 oranges, supremed
  • 2 cups fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Whisk together the orange juice, vinegar, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper
  2. Combine the beets, oranges and herbs in a shallow serving bowl
  3. Dress with the dressing
  4. Garnish with goat cheese and pumpkin seeds
  5. Enjoy!

Metro Atlanta Urban Farm {Shrimp & Grits with Bacon, Corn, Asparagus and Chardonnay}

This week has been a bit of a whirlwind.  For someone who is happily content to exist within a 3-mile radius, I have traveled outside my usual stomping grounds on more than one occasion in the last seven days.

And I’m exhausted.

But also enlightened and inspired.

On September 20, I had the privilege of attending a communal dinner at the Metro Atlanta Urban Garden.  Sponsored by Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi’s Giving through Growing program, members of the Farm’s staff welcomed community members to dine with them in celebration of the amazing work being done there. 

Tucked away along a busy stretch of urban road in College Park, GA is this almost-five-acre working farm, complete with a Victorian-era farm house, caretaker’s cottage and original red barn, which serves as the support for their lovely greenhouse made from reclaimed windows.  They are certified naturally grown, and they produce all of their own soil and compost on site. The farm is situated on a 300-foot deep well, from which they draw all of the water for irrigation.  In the midst of a concrete jungle, there is this beautiful agricultural oasis.  It’s like a different time and place.

This is Bobby Wilson , President of the American Community Gardening Association, and co-founder of the Metro Atlanta Urban Farm.  He was kind enough to give us a tour, and  teach us a thing or two about community gardens and what a true gift they are to the people who have the opportunity to be involved with them.  His passion for his work was evident as he talked about the therapeutic benefits of gardening, the way it brings people together, and the joy of reaping the fruits of your labor month after month.

In this current position, as well as in a former role as the Program Director for The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension/Atlanta Urban Gardening Program, Bobby has offered gardening instruction and support to some three hundred gardens located at public housing complexes, shelters, schools, churches and elder care facilities in metro Atlanta.  He has also been instrumental in securing the partnership with Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi, which resulted in an $8000 grant that allowed them to double the size of their community garden and install a drip irrigation system.  It has also allowed them to donate a portion of the food grown in the community garden to the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

Candice Kumai serves as the National Ambassador for Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi’s Giving through Growing program.  She was in attendance on Thursday, cooking up good things from the garden and working with the representatives from Mondavi to promote the good work being done at community gardens all around the country.   According to the Giving through Growing website:

Beyond supporting our own winery garden which was planted to produce fruits and vegetables for the Stockton San Joaquin Emergency Food Bank, Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi has granted $8,000 to five other gardens across the U.S. to undertake whatever is needed to produce more food –whether that’s building additional planter beds, improving watering systems, recruiting volunteers, or buying more fruit trees and vegetable seeds. All of the additional produce raised through this project will be donated to local food banks.

It was a great party, celebrating a great program, and I felt so privileged to have been invited to attend.  People who work in the garden, people who benefit from the garden and people who support the garden all came together to celebrate and dine together.  It was a true testament to the role that gardens can play in benefiting and growing a community.  And knowing that a portion of the evening’s dinner was grown right on the property made it even more special.

On Sunday, I introduced a friend of mine to one of my favorite places to shop for produce, outside of my own garden or my local farmer’s market (which is, sadly, closed for the season). For people in the Atlanta area, Your Dekalb Farmer’s Market is a great affordable alternative for fresh, local (sometimes, sometimes not so local) produce and meats.  While I was there, I picked up some sweet white corn, tiny pencil-thin asparagus (which I realize is out of season here, but I just can’t resist those tender green stalks when I see them all lined up.  Even if they came all the way from Peru), and some wild-caught Georgia shrimp.  I still had some stone-ground grits in my freezer from Rockin’ S Farms, so I thought a Georgia shrimp and grits dish would be nice.  I made a quick sauce using some of the Woodbridge Chardonnay that I received as a gift at the Farm celebration the other night.

Shrimp and Grits with Bacon, Corn, Asparagus and Chardonnay

prep time: 15 minutes

cook time: 15 minutes

serves: 6-8


  • 2 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 1 lb. wild-caught Georgia shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 2 ears corn, kernels cut from cob
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces (you could easily sub some swiss chard or kale here if you want to keep this truly seasonal).
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups stone ground grits, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 oz. Manchego cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup chardonnay, divided
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Begin by cooking the bacon over medium-low heat, allowing the fat to cook out and the bacon to crisp up slowly.
  2. Remove the bacon from the pan, and pour the fat off into a heat-proof container.  Crumble the bacon and set aside.
  3. Add a tablespoon of the bacon fat back to the pan, along with a tablespoon of butter.
  4. Increase the heat to medium and add the diced onion.  Saute until translucent.
  5. Add the corn and the minced garlic.  Saute until corn starts to brown slightly.
  6. Pour 1/2 a cup of chardonnay into the pan and add a tablespoon of butter, whisking to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Remove from heat and add the asparagus.  Cover and set aside – the asparagus will cook in the residual steam.
  8. Cook the grits according the package instructions (I do mine in liberally salted water, but you could also use chicken or vegetable stock).  At the end of the cooking time, remove from heat and add a tablespoon of butter and the manchego cheese.
  9. Heat an iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a tablespoon of the reserved bacon grease.  Season the cleaned shrimp with salt and pepper.  Cook in batches, approximately 1 1/2 minutes per side.  Deglaze the pan with the remaining chardonnay and add the shrimp back in.
  10. To serve, place about a cup of the cooked grits in the bottom of a bowl, then spoon the corn and asparagus mixture over the top, then place the shrimp on top of that.  Garnish with crumbled bacon and additional manchego cheese if desired.
  11. Enjoy!

If you have a chance, I encourage you to visit the Metro Atlanta Urban Farm, or another community garden in your area. There’s a community garden finder tool on the Giving through Growing website.  I think you’ll be surprised just how many of these communal gardens there are.  There may even be one in your neighborhood.  Get involved, and plant a row to donate to your local food pantry.  If you’re interested in starting a community garden, Bobby and the folks at the American Community Gardening Association can help with that, too.

Where Have You Been All My Life? {Cast Iron Roast Chicken}

Kids, I’ve had a revelation.  An absolute epiphany.

I’ve seen the light.

Today, I discovered the secret to fast, perfectly roasted chicken.

Two and a half  years into this blogging experience, and I’ve finally found a roast chicken recipe I feel confident sharing.  That just seems wrong somehow.

Do you ever feel like you’re doing things all wrong?  Swimming upstream?  Trying to come in through the out door?

That’s the way it’s been with me and roast chicken.  Try as I might over the years, I’ve never been comfortable with cooking a whole chicken in the oven.  I’ve tried a multitude of techniques – high-heat roasting, low-heat roasting, splitting and splaying, with vegetables, without vegetables, with butter and herbs under the skin, stuffed with citrus and herbs.  Sometimes with success, but most often I’d end up either overcooking or undercooking the poor bird (neither of which is desirable).   I really thought I’d tried just about everything.

Well, almost everything.  Yesterday afternoon I decided to do something I should have done a long time ago.  I asked myself “what would Bittman do?”

I had a 3-4 lb. chicken in the fridge that I needed to get prepped and cooked in under an hour, so  I turned to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.  And lo and behold – there it was. A method I hadn’t tried before, and an intriguing one at that.

Maybe you’ve seen this before.  After discovering how easy it was, I did a little online search to see if maybe I’d just been living under a rock.  As it turns out, this method (or a similar one) has been featured here, here and here.  So yes, under a rock I have been.  But no more.

Now I’m enlightened.

And so, my friends, are you.  Grab your cast iron skillets and go forth and roast some chicken.  And rejoice.

Cast Iron Roast Chicken

Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

prep time 10 minutes

cook time: 45 minutes

serves: 4-6


  • 1 3-4 lb. chicken
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon good-quality paprika*
  • salt and pepper
  1. Begin by preheating your oven to 425F**.
  2. Place your cast iron skillet on a low rack  in the oven while it preheats.
  3. Remove your chicken from the packaging and pat it dry with a paper towel (if there’s a packet of parts in the cavity, be sure to remove that, too).
  4. Combine the olive oil and paprika in a small bowl, and rub it all over the chicken – get some inside the cavity as well.
  5. Sprinkle the chicken all over with salt and pepper.
  6. Once the oven is good and hot (and the skillet, too), transfer the seasoned chicken to the hot skillet.
  7. Let roast at 425F for 45 minutes, or until the meat registers 150-155F on a meat thermometer (it will continue to cook after you take it out of the oven).
  8. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes before carving and serving.
  9. Enjoy!

*You can use pretty much any seasonings you want here.  The paprika is nice, but you could also use garlic and herbs, or lemon and herbs, or go a more Latin route and use cumin and chili powder, or even Asian with soy sauce and ginger.  Get creative.  What’s important here is the technique.  

**Bittman recommends a temperature of 450F, and some of the other recipes I’ve seen call for 475F.  I did mine at 425F, and it was perfectly done after 45 minutes.  Sometimes I think my oven runs hot, though, so there’s that.  If you do it at one of the higher temperatures, check it after 35 minutes, just to be sure it’s not getting to dried out.