Category Archives: Kitcheny

Recipe: Last Minute Chocochip Bars

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Do you guys have friends who suddenly invite you to events the day they happen? I was lucky this year that I didn’t receive such an invitation, since finding something to bring to an impromptu potluck can be difficult. This is especially true for where I live — everyone’s vegetarian/health nut/anti-Walmart-bakery, so trying to figure out what won’t insult the host(ess) has been a problem for me.

I’ve found that desserts kind of slide, especially if they look simple — and what could look simpler than bar cookies? I can whip up a batch of these bar cookies in the same amount of time it takes my sister to get ready (approximately an hour), so it’s our go-to recipe when a party suddenly pops up. The original recipe was from my family’s landlady when I was growing up, but we’ve edited it through the years.

Chocolate Chip Bars
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, softened or melted
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional, edit volume as per your taste)
1/2 cup dark/milk/white chocolate chips/chocolate pieces/raisins/dates/other dried fruits (edit volume as per your taste)
1/3 to 1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional, sweetened or unsweetened)

Heat oven to 375*F. Grease and lightly flour 13″x9″x2″ baking pan.
Mix granulated and brown sugars, butter and vanilla in mixing bowl. Beat in egg.
Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt (can be sifted together beforehand).
When dough is formed, mix in nuts/chocolatechips/raisins/cocount/other add-ins.
Spread mixed dough throughout pan evenly and bake 12-14 minutes or until light brown.
Remove from oven and allow to cool before cutting into roughly 2″x2″ squares.
Makes about 3 dozen, store in sealable container.

The nice thing about this recipe is that you can edit the mix-ins to whatever suits your tastes, since the dough has a good balance of salty and sweet. I’ve found dark chocolate, pecans, and unsweetened coconut shavings really taste good together.

????????????????????Happy new year, everyone!

 

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Inspiration: Pineapple chicken

After using fresh pineapple to make a whole freezer full of popsicles, I had some leftover pineapple. While it was good enough to eat straight, I wanted to try something.

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Pineapple has proteolytic enzymes, so it makes a really good addition to marinades. These enzymes break down chains of proteins in the meat, making smaller protein chains — and thus making the meat more tender. My family doesn’t usually eat meat, and I’m honestly not that fond of meat dishes that are sweet or sticky (barbecue sauce is for baked fries, not meat~~), but I was interested to see how pineapple was with chicken. I used about 1/8 of a whole pineapple per breast. The pineapple could probably be pureed if you would rather have a saucier look, but I wanted cooked chunks of pineapple.

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Pineapple chicken dishes are usually Asian or Pacific-based, simply because pineapple is such a tropical/Pacific-island fruit. With that in mind, I checked around the web for simple yet flavorful marinades, and soy sauce was used as the base in most of them. I measured about 1/2 tsp per breast.

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Since my family likes spice, I added some sriracha sauce to taste — however, red pepper paste or pureed pepper would also work. Sriracha has vinegar, which is also useful in marinades. However, some brands also use xanthan gum, which is a bacterial product (so be careful if anything bacterial grosses you out).

I used chopsticks to thoroughly mix the marinade and coat the chicken pieces; afterward, I poked holes in the chicken on both sides. If the marinade isn’t wet enough to coat the chicken, add some vinegar (white vinegar works well, but rice vinegar would also work). However, be careful when mixing vinegar and soy sauce — it can get very salty very fast.

I prepared this the night before and placed it in the refrigerator to marinate. However, I think this would work after an hour or two if the chicken was cut into chunks. Once ready, I removed the chicken and pineapple from the marinade and grilled it.

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Putting rings of raw onion underneath the chicken not only added flavor, but also protected the meat from being burned or sticking to the metal. I grilled these breasts with tin foil covering the pan at about 250-300 degrees F until cooked through.

My family likes to use aluminum pans on the grill nowadays — we used to cook either straight on the grill or with a sheet of tin foil, but we’ve found that it’s so much cleaner to just have a pan (besides, we have wood-plastic composite decking, and getting grease stains out of that is nigh impossible). The problem with pans is that excess fat doesn’t drip off — we’ve solved this issue by choosing lean meats like chicken breast. By containing all the liquids, this allows for the meat to remain moist, which is important for white meats. What’s also nice is that the pans can be soaked in soapy water and the stuck on foods come off pretty easily — which means that the pans can be reused.

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The only way to explain this is that the meat itself was creamy. It was juicy throughout, but had something of a layer of pineappley-chicken all over. The pineapple cooked thoroughly, with some of the smaller pieces incorporating into the almost-sticky oniony chicken sauce — if the pineapple were pureed, it would definitely be a thicker sauce. This is far more a base inspiration for how to prepare a simple marinade than anything else, but there are quite a few flavors that can be added  to make this even better — perhaps ginger, coconut, anise, or cranberry? The chicken can be sliced and added to a salad with mango or papaya, or served alongside rice and a coconut-based vegetable curry. The chicken could also be cut up and skewered with bell peppers and onions as American-style kebabs for an easy outdoor party entree.

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Inspiration: Coconut Cream Summer Fruit Popsicles

This last week has been hot. Mid 80’s to low 90’s may not sound hot to some of you, but for me, it’s migraine-inducing. I have survived -40° in Alaska, and I would rather have that. To be honest, though, the big problem here was that it was humid. Add to that a broken air conditioner and a power outage due to an underground wire being disrupted on the day I was going to photograph this post’s main content and you have a pretty unhappy blogger.

I was planning out this recipe for a long time, since I was anticipating a hot summer. I’m not much for frozen sweets, but spring and summer fruits are my culinary weakness. I’m lucky to live on the western side of the US (despite this odd weather and all these fires), because the coastal states have some of the best fruits — Cherries from Washington, watermelons from Oregon, and everything else from California. ….None of them can touch Idaho’s potatoes or apricots, but that’s another story. (side note: Idaho is part of the Pacific Northwest due to its seaport, Lewiston. No one can tell me otherwise.) Add to this tropical-region fruits, and everything gets better.

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Pineapple is ok canned, but I like it fresh.

I’ve looked around at various popsicle recipes online and found that most of them follow the same general pattern: mix pureed fruit with a liquid and sweetener, then freeze. The majority of these looked far too sweet for me, so I played around and made my own style of popsicle:

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Recipe: Baked Dill Potato fries

I lived the majority of my life in Idaho, so I kind of know a thing or two about potatoes. I know, it sounds cliched, but it’s true.

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It’s been raining all week, so I’ve been wanting some comfort food, since it’s hard to get out and do any gardening. However, the volunteer dill in my herb garden is loving this weather, so I have more than enough to last me for the rest of the summer. This is a really simple recipe, but it’s wonderful in a pinch and it highlights exactly how little you need to do to potatoes to make them work.

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Baked Dill Potato Fries

4-6 medium potatoes
3-5 sprigs fresh dill
1-2 tsps olive oil

Peel potatoes or scrub potatoes thoroughly and wash. Pat dry.
Cut potatoes lengthwise in quarters. Cut each quarter into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. Pieces should be about the size of a quarter and about as thick as a domino.
Toss with olive oil and minced dill. Sesame or peanut oil can also be used for different flavor. Instead of dill, carraway, crushed red pepper, or freshly ground black pepper can be substituted.
Spread over cookie sheet evenly, making sure that each piece touches the sheet. Use multiple cookie sheets if too dense. Grease cookie sheet with butter if potatoes were not dried to prevent sticking.
Bake in pre-heated 400 F oven for 20-30 minutes or until bottom of pieces are crisped. A grill can also be used — wrap potatoes in foil and set on grill near but not over fire and allow to cook for ~ 10-20 minutes or until tender.

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Potatoes have been given a bad rep by health folk because of carbohydrate levels, but they’re a good source of potassium — and they naturally have a bit of a salty taste to them despite low sodium levels. Potato skins are specifically high in nutrients in general — and it so much easier to not have to peel before cutting… I’ve been tracking my diet on Sparkpeople, and one of the trends I’ve been noticing is that I’m always low on magnesium and potassium despite nerding out over spinach and oatmeal. Considering how important potassium is for cellular activity, I’ve been trying to find ways to get more into my diet. I’ll hopefully have a coconut-based recipe soon…
Fresh dill has a really strong scent when picked, but heat denatures this enough during the cooking process that the taste does not overpower the potato. If you like the strong dill taste, it would be useful to also add crushed dill seed about halfway through.

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