Irish Soda Bread Muffins

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Soda bread is an essential start of the celebration in our house.¬†ūüôā

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour. I loved the muffin adaptation- and the coarse sugar topping. I weighed the dry ingredients, reduced the baking time, and used turbinado sugar for the topping. Yummy.

  • 6 1/4 oz (177 g, 1 1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 oz (85 g, , 3/4 cup) white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/3 cup (2 5/8 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups currants (first choice) or raisins
  • 1/2 to 2 teaspoons caraway seeds, to taste
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (8 oz, 227 g) buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream
  • 6 tablespoons (3 oz, 85 g)¬†butter, melted; or 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • turbinado¬†sugar, for topping
  • butter and/or jam, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 400¬įF, preferably on convection. Lightly grease a standard muffin pan with cooking oil spray; or line with papers, and grease the papers.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, currants or raisins, and caraway seeds.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk (or equivalent) and melted butter (or equivalent).
  4. Quickly and gently combine the dry and wet ingredients; honestly, this won’t take more than a few stirs with a bowl scraper or large spoon. As soon as everything is evenly moistened, quit; further stirring will cause the muffins to be tough.
  5. Using a cookie scoop, distribute the batter into the prepared pan, filling the cups about 3/4 full; the stiff batter will look mounded in the cups.
  6. Top with turbinado sugar, if desired.
  7. Bake the muffins for 14-15 minutes on convection, or up to 20 minutes in a standard oven, until a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove them from the oven.
  8. Tip the muffins in the pan, so their bottoms don’t get soggy. Wait 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a rack to cool.
  9. Serve them plain, or with butter and/or jam.

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Easy Churros

We plan our Super Bowl menu around our star appetizer, guacamole. This year, we ate our favorite Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblano Tacos as our main dish. Of course, we needed a fitting dessert to end our meal.

I’ve wanted to try these churros since first seeing the recipe around Cinco de Mayo 2016.¬†:/ Truth be told, they are not actually “true” churros… ūüėČ Yet, they are certainly a festive end to any Mexican-inspired menu. Perfect for our Super Bowl feast too.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I cut the recipe in half and froze the prepared churros one day ahead prior to baking. We ate them dipped in warm dulce de leche- melted chocolate would also be delicious.

Yield: about 20 Churros

  • 8 ounces (1/2 box) all-butter puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • warm dulce de leche or melted chocolate, for serving, as desired
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry into a 12-by-16-inch rectangle.
  3. Brush lightly with a beaten egg.
  4. Fold in half into a 6-by-16-inch rectangle; press out air bubbles, then cut crosswise into 1/2-by-6-inch strips.
  5. Twist into spirals, pressing ends to gently adhere.
  6. Place 1 inch apart on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets; freeze 30 minutes. (Can be made and frozen up to 1 day ahead.)
  7. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until puffed and golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
  8. Combine sugar and cinnamon. While still hot, toss half of churros with half of sugar. Repeat with remaining churros and sugar.
  9. Serve immediately with warm dulce de leche or melted chocolate, as desired.

I’m bringing this dessert to share at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #162, co-hosted by Sarah @Tales from the Kitchen Shed and Liz @Spades, Spatulas, & Spoons. Enjoy!

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Garlicky Spaghetti with Mixed Greens‚Ä©

Almost as a “rule,” I increase the amount of garlic in every dish. Not this one! It incorporated two huge heads of garlic. Just my style. Mmmmm. ūüôā

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Kay Chun. I also loved that there were so many greens- two pounds!  I used a combination of kale and mixed baby greens. I also used whole wheat spaghetti. Quick, easy, healthy, and great!

I’m bringing this dish to share at my favorite blog party, Angie’s Fiesta Friday #161, co-hosted by Laura @Feast Wisely this week. Enjoy!

Yield: 6 servings

  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup panko
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • coarse¬†salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
  • 2/3 cup thinly sliced garlic (about 18 cloves or 2 large heads)
  • 2 pounds kale, mustard greens, or other mixed greens stemmed and leaves coarsely torn (24 cups)‚Ä© (I used 1 1/2 pounds kale & 1/2 pound mixed baby chard, kale, & spinach)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  1. In a small skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Add the panko and toast over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about ‚Ä®5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a paper towel‚Äďlined plate to drain; let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, in a pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain well, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
  3. In a large pot, combine 
the remaining 1/2 cup of oil with 
the garlic and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant and 
light golden, 7 to 8 minutes.
  4. In batches, add the greens and cook, tossing, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the pasta, 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water and the lemon juice; cook, stirring, until a sauce forms, 2 minutes.
  6. Divide the pasta among bowls and top with the panko.

Note: The toasted panko (without the parsley) can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature overnight. Stir in the parsley before serving.

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Flattened Chicken Thighs With Roasted Lemon Slices

My buddy is always teasing me because I never roast a whole chicken. She makes a beautiful roasted “lemon chicken” weekly for her family. Well, I don’t need to roast an entire chicken when there are dishes like this! Besides, we only want the thigh meat in my house. ūüôā

This recipe was described as an “easy, super fragrant weeknight version of classic chicken under a brick,” using chicken thighs instead of a butterflied whole bird. I took it a step further by using boneless, skinless chicken thighs (my favorite), reducing the cooking time even further. (and reducing the fat!)

This dish was truly flavor-packed from the loaded garlic-herb-lemon marinade. I marinated the chicken overnight. After pan-searing under a weight, the chicken is finished by oven roasting it over lemon slices- my kind of “lemon chicken!” ūüôā

This recipe was adapted from Mozza at Home by Nancy Silverton via The New York Times, contributed by Julia Moskin. We ate it with roasted potatoes, broccoli and acorn squash. Absolutely delicious.

I’m sharing my special chicken at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #159 co-hosted by Zeba @Food for the Soul and Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook. Enjoy!

Yield: 6 to 10 servings

For the Marinade:

  • 2 lemons, rinsed
  • ¬ľ cup fresh thyme or oregano leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 ¬Ĺ tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 10 to 12 medium or large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the Chicken:

  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons canola oil, enough to coat the bottom of the skillet
  • 2 lemons, rinsed (I used the lemons from the marinade)
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • fresh thyme or oregano sprigs and sage leaves, for garnish
  1. Make the marinade: Use a vegetable peeler to shave 9 large strips of peel from the lemons, taking care to cut into only the brightest yellow outer layer. Put strips in a large bowl or ziplock bag and add thyme or oregano, sage, parsley, garlic, red chile flakes and olive oil.
  2. Prepare the chicken: Put the thighs in the bag or bowl with the marinade. Turn the thighs gently to coat with the marinade. Seal the bag or cover bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. (I place the ziplock bag in a glass baking dish in case it leaks.)
  3. When ready to cook, remove thighs from marinade and place them on a baking sheet. (Reserve garlic cloves and lemon peel from the marinade; discard the liquid.)
  4. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt over the chicken, then turn over and sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon salt.
  5. Transfer the chicken thighs, “skin side” down, to a 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Put it over medium-high heat, cover with parchment paper, and weigh down the chicken with the bottom of a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. (Or, use a lighter skillet weighed down with a large full can, a brick or another heavy object.)
  6. Once chicken is sizzling loudly, reduce heat to medium and cook without moving for about 5 minutes, until brown and crisp. To check for doneness, gently lift the corner of a chicken thigh with a metal spatula. The meat will come away cleanly from the bottom of the pan when it is done. If it is still stuck, do not pull but let it cook a little longer.
  7. When thighs are done, remove the weight and lift the chicken out of the pan. Transfer the thighs, browned side up, to a plate. Pour off most of the fat from the skillet, if necessary.
  8. Meanwhile, heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  9. Cut lemons in half and squeeze gently to remove some of the juice. Cut crosswise into 1/8-inch slices and lay on paper towels to absorb more juice.
  10. Place a layer of lemon slices in the skillet. Return all the browned chicken to the skillet on top of the lemons, browned side up. Tuck reserved lemon peel and garlic cloves down between the pieces. Tuck the remaining fresh sage leaves between the pieces as well.
  11. Transfer skillet to oven for 7 to 10 minutes. To test, remove a thigh, pierce it on the flesh side with a knife, and check that the juices are clear, or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.
  12. Remove pan from oven and let thighs rest in the pan 5 to 10 minutes.
  13. Garnish with thyme or oregano sprigs and fresh sage around the thighs and serve from the pan at the table, with roasted lemon slices and garlic cloves.

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Fresh Ricotta

My husband and I have a favorite local restaurant where we like to go and have a special lunch together. Even though it is quite indulgent, we cannot go without ordering the fresh ricotta cheese appetizer. It is seasoned with lemon and served with warm bread. Irresistible.

I knew that making homemade ricotta was an easy task but had never tried to make it. I’m a little bit worried that now that I’ve finally done it because I’ll be making it all of the time! ūüôā I brought it to serve as an appetizer at a party to spread on slices of sourdough baguette… but-¬†wow-¬†it would also be amazing over¬†pasta with¬†a little drizzle of olive oil.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by J.J. Goode. I added lemon zest (like at my restaurant!) and coarse salt, to taste. I found the consistency was perfect after straining for just twenty minutes. It was beyond creamy, rich, and fabulous.

Yield: about 1 cup

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¬Ĺ teaspoon coarse¬†salt, plus more for seasoning, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or distilled white vinegar
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon, or more, to taste
  1. Bring milk, cream, and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  2. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice; stir gently until mixture starts to curdle. Let stand 5 minutes.
  3. Pour mixture into a fine-mesh sieve lined with 2 layers of cheesecloth set over a medium bowl.
  4. Chill until cheese is spreadable, at least 20 minutes and up to 12 hours (the longer it strains, the thicker it will be). (I recommend the consistency after about 20 minutes.)
  5. Cover and chill cheese up to 3 days. (If it lasts that long!)

Note/Update: This ricotta was absolutely delicious in Spinach & Ricotta Pappardelle. Wonderful!!

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Roman Egg Drop Soup (Stracciatella alla Romana)

My husband prefers creamy or stew-like soups to brothy versions. This classic Italian soup had caught my eye in the past, but he “rejected” it as a dinner option. :/ When it was featured in the New York Times as the recipe of the week, I had to have it. I made it when my husband¬†had a work dinner! My son and I gobbled it up. What’s not to like? Eggs and cheese with loads of pepper. I used homemade stock as the base as well. Delicious.

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by Samin Nosrat. We ate it with warm naan on the side (not very Italian, I know). Perfect warm and cozy comfort food on a cold night.

Yield: 6 servings

  • ¬ľ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • coarse¬†salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • ¬Ĺ cup finely grated fresh Parmesan, rind reserved, plus more for serving
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (I incorporated 4 cups of homemade Turkey Stock.)
  • 2 T finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. Set a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add oil. When it shimmers, add the onions and a generous pinch of salt.
  2. Reduce heat to medium. Stirring occasionally, cook onions for 10 to 15 minutes until tender. It’s fine if they start to take on a little color.
  3. In a large measuring cup or medium bowl with a spout, thoroughly whisk together the eggs, ¬Ĺ cup grated Parmesan, nutmeg, black pepper, and a generous pinch of salt.
  4. When onions are tender, add Parmesan rind and stock to pot.
  5. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to a strong simmer.
  6. While gently whisking soup with one hand, pour egg mixture into pot in a thin stream with the other.
  7. Once all of the egg mixture has been added, turn off the heat.
  8. Remove Parmesan rind. Taste and adjust for salt.
  9. Ladle soup into bowls and serve immediately, garnished with Parmesan, black pepper, and parsley.

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Squash & Pork Stir-Fry

I’m sure you’ve rushed around the grocery store thinking you’ve purchased the necessary ingredients to throw together a “quick” weeknight meal. Right? I thought that was the case for me… When ¬†I started to prepare this dish, I realized that I had ground pork instead of pork sausage and butternut instead of kabocha squash. I’m blaming holiday stress and distraction. (Well, truth be told, the squash was a conscious substitution- no fabulous kabocha to be found.) :/

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Chris Morocco. I doubled the recipe, used ground pork instead of pork sausage (oops!), seasoned accordingly, butternut instead of kabocha squash, and cashews instead of peanuts. I also omitted the sugar. I roasted the squash instead of steaming and sautéing it. We let the dish stand alone, but it would also be wonderful accompanied by rice. Delicious!

Yield: 4 Servings

  • 1 medium butternut or kabocha squash, cut into 1-inch pieces, approximately 4 cups
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound (80 percent lean) ground pork
  • 1 tsp coarse salt, plus more for squash
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for squash
  • dash or two of red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 2 serrano chiles, seeded and sliced
  • 1 T finely grated peeled ginger root
  • 1/4 cup¬†fresh lime juice (from 1 large lime)
  • 4 tsp¬†fish sauce
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • salted, roasted peanuts or cashews and chopped cilantro, for serving, as desired
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Toss squash with 1 T olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Place squash on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven until tender, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet. Add pork, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, thyme, and paprika; cook, breaking into large pieces and stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add garlic, shallot, chiles, and ginger and cook, stirring often, just until softened, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add roasted squash, lime juice, fish sauce, and scallions; toss to combine.
  6. Serve stir-fry topped with nuts and cilantro, as desired.

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