Sunday, February 28, 2021

Ina Garten's Baked Sweet Potato Fries

It's been one heck of a week. We went back to in person classes after not having school for two weeks due to Snowmageddon. Going back to work after you've been off for any length of time is so difficult, you forget the routine, you forget what you were doing, you just can't get into the swing of things. 

Then on Friday we had the day off so that all staff could get their 2nd dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. I was starting to feel achy and tired a few short hours later, so I was going to have a light meal and go to bed, but then I broke my molar eating grapes. Yes, I know. I have no idea how that happened. I didn't get to go to bed early though.

Instead I was up half the night feeling achy with a low grade fever and chills and although I was unbelievably tired I couldn't sleep because I was stressed out about my broken tooth. I thought I'd feel better the next day, but no. In fact, I ended up feeling the worst the next night, shivering and laying under tons of blankets all night. Don't get me wrong, I am grateful to have had the vaccine, but I will warn you, almost everyone I work with was feeling pretty bad all weekend. If you get the vaccine, plan to have a couple down days.

I am feeling a little better today, but I'm going to go right back to resting after I share this recipe for Ina's Baked Sweet Potato Fries. I had this recipe set aside to make this week because I had two huge sweet potatoes that I've had for sometime and this recipe is less than 5 ingredients, which is my favorite kind of recipe to make. Even though I'm not feeling well, I can definitely put together this recipe which is about as easy as they come. Plus, as a bonus, you can totally chew these sweet potato fries with one side of your mouth, which is required when one is in need of a dentist.

I'm not reinventing the wheel here, but if you have some sweet potatoes lying about then these make a fun and delicious side. I've seen a lot of savory sweet potato fries, but Ina goes the sweet route, using light brown sugar. The fries get a coating of olive oil, brown sugar, salt and pepper and I have to say I do love how the brown sugar caramelizes on the sweet potato fries creating this rather sweet and sticky goodness. If you like sweet potato recipes that are on the sweet side, then this are worth a shot!

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Adapted from Food Network

by Ina Garten

Serves 4-6

 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled

2 tablespoons good olive oil

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450F. Halve the sweet potatoes lengthwise and cut into 3 long spears. Place them on a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil. Spread the potatoes in one layer. Combine the brown sugar, salt, and pepper and sprinkle on the potatoes. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn with a spatula. Bake for another 5 to 0 minutes, until lightly browned. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve hot. 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Ina Garten's Hot Chocolate {Perfect for Snowmageddon 2021}

As I write this, I'm listening to the sound of icicles fall from the roof and plunge to the ground. It's not a sound I'm used to hearing around these parts. We're coming off of a pretty huge winter storm for Kentucky, several inches of snow and ice. Enough to close the schools for two weeks!

I am in no way complaining. I grew up in northeast Ohio, in the snow belt, and I really miss a good snow like this. Plus, I was perfectly warm and safe in my home for the duration. The people of Texas weren't as lucky. God Bless Texas!

A month or so ago, Deb and I chose Hot Chocolate Celebration for this week's theme at our cooking club, I Heart Cooking Clubs. Innocently enough, we thought it would be a good time to enjoy hot cocoa simply because it's always so cold in February. Little did we know that Snowmageddon 2021 was coming! It ended up being the perfect time for a warm and comforting cup of hot chocolate.

Ina's hot chocolate is delicious. I mean I knew it would be. Of course, I altered the recipe somewhat because in typical Ina fashion it was a little over the top. Ina uses whole milk and half and half and two kinds of chocolate: bittersweet and milk chocolate. She flavors the hot chocolate with vanilla extract, sugar, coffee, and then garnishes the hot cocoa with a vanilla bean and/or a cinnamon stick.

I was okay with the whole milk and half and half since this is my one and only splurge for the week. I was okay with the two chocolates and the vanilla extract. In truth, I was okay with all of it except the coffee, because truthfully I don't care for coffee and never have. But then I added the vanilla beans to my cart and realized they were $9.99 a piece! Nope, not okay with a $10+ cup of hot chocolate. Sorry, Ina.

So, I changed the recipe to suit my needs and it basically amounts to whole milk, half and half, bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate, sugar and vanilla extract. You know what? It was thick and creamy and oh so delicious. I didn't even miss the $10 vanilla bean garnish. I ended up garnishing it with a healthy dose of whipped cream and grated chocolate, which I think is a much better garnish than a vanilla bean.

Of course, I had to drink my hot chocolate in my one and only coffee mug that I inherited from my Aunt Jenny, my mom's sister. Aunt Jenny was my idol and funny enough, she never swore, always saying "oh sugar" when something went wrong or she got upset. I'm not entirely sure how she ended up with this mug, but I do love it.


Hot Chocolate

Adapted from Food Network

Recipe by Ina Garten

Serves 4

2-1/2 cups whole milk

2 cups half and half

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

1teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder*

4 to 5 vanilla beans or cinnamon sticks, for garnish* 

Heat the milk and half and half in a saucepan on medium heat to just below the simmering point. Remove the pan from the heat and add both chocolates. When the chocolates are melted, add the sugar, vanilla extract, and espresso and whisk vigorously. Reheat gently and serve immediately. Use a vanilla bean or cinnamon stick to garnish each serving.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Chicken Patties with Garlic, Ginger, Scallions and Soy Dipping Sauce

On Tuesday, January 26th our school district held a Covid-19 vaccine clinic for all employees who wanted the first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Just in case you're wondering, I got mine. The very next day we returned to in person school. For one day. Then we had 4 snow days in a row.

We returned to school for our 2nd day in person on Wednesday, February 3rd. Again, for one day. We were then out another 2 days for snow days due to an ice storm. It is now Sunday, Feb. 14th and we still have ice. Another winter storm is coming and then another one after that. We may not have school this week at all. Not even for one day.

I'm starting to feel like Mother Nature agrees with me and wants us to be virtual. If we get the snow and ice that we're projected to get this week then it will be one of the biggest snow and ice storms I've ever seen since I moved to Kentucky about 18 years ago.

Naturally you are compelled to do a stock up grocery haul when an impending snow and ice storm are on the way. Gotta get the bread and milk! So I ran out this morning and got a massive haul. I am now ready for Snowmageddon 2021, or whatever the news is calling it. 

After freezing my tail off running around to 4 stores and going in and out with the groceries, I wanted something quick and easy. These chicken patties fit the bill nicely. A simple mix of ground chicken, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, scallion, chili powder, and black pepper and you are well on your way. While those are shallow frying in a saute pan, mix together a quick soy dipping sauce. The sauce comes together in no time:  soy sauce, garlic, scallion, chili powder, vinegar, and sugar and you are all set. In about 20 minutes total you can be dunking one of these delicious chicken patties into that soy dipping sauce and swooning in delight. 

And, in case you are wondering, there are still no chicken wings and now there is no cheddar cheese.


Chicken Patties with Garlic, Ginger, Scallions & Soy Sauce Dipping Sauce

Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey

Recipe adapted from Stirring the Pot

Makes 6 patties & 1/2 cup dipping sauce

1 scallion

1 large garlic clove

1 pound ground chicken

1 tablespoon sesame oil

freshly ground black pepper

1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1-2 tablespoons oil

fresh cilantro sprigs or green onions, for garnish

 Cut the scallion crosswise into very fine rounds along its entire length, including the green section. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and mince garlic  Peel and finely grate the ginger. Put the chicken in a bowl. Add the scallion, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, black pepper, and chili powder. Mix thoroughly.

Shape the mixture into 6 patties, each about 3" diameter. Put them in a single layer on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Set the patties aside until you are ready to eat. Prepare the dipping sauce.

Lightly oil a large non-stick frying pan with the oil and set over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the patties and cook for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown underneath. Turn the patties over and cook the other side for the same time. To test, pierce the center with the point of a sharp knife - if meat is no longer pink inside, the patties are cooked. Serve hot, garnished with cilantro and/or green onions.

Dipping Sauce

 1 small garlic clove

1 scallion

4 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Peel and mince the garlic. Cut the scallion into very thin rounds. Combine the garlic, 1 tablespoon sliced scallion, the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, and chili powder in a small serving bowl and mix well. 



Sunday, February 7, 2021

Giada's Buffalo Shrimp {A Delicious and Healthier Option!}

For about three weeks now there have been NO CHICKEN WINGS in the markets. Zero. Zilch. Not even in the next town over. Not in a 50 mile radius. I have to wonder, has everyone been hoarding chicken wings for Superbowl weekend? 

What do you do when you can't have the classic chicken wing for Game Day? You make buffalo shrimp! Then you realize you can't find JUMBO tail on shrimp ANYWHERE within a 50 miles radius so you have to make do with small sized shrimp that are masquerading as large, and with the tail off! IT IS WHAT IT IS you say. After all, IT IS WHAT IT IS happens to be our new motto, right?

So, while we wait for jumbo shrimp and chicken wings to make their return to the market, we will make do with little tail off shrimp marinated in hot sauce, minced garlic, lemon zest, olive oil, and salt then sauteed (or grilled) in the pan before being doused in more hot sauce and served with ranch, celery, and carrots. And guess what? We will enjoy it because IT IS DELICIOUS and let's face it, way more figure friendly than chicken wings.

So, Buffalo Shrimp, no matter their size, are delicious in my book and I will definitely be making this recipe again as soon as I can get my hands on some good jumbo sized shrimp. Giada includes a recipe for a Goat Cheese Dip to serve alongside the shrimp, but personally that doesn't sound too appealing to me and I think it's just an extra step you don't need. Ranch is a great alternative, but really I prefer no dip because I simply like to enjoy the taste of the shrimp. I reserve the ranch dip strictly for dipping the veggies in. I will warn you that the shrimp have a healthy amount of hot sauce on them and are quite spicy, so if you are a spice lightweight, then you may need to have a sauce alongside to help cool things down.

Buffalo Shrimp

Adapted from Food Network

By Giada De Laurentiis

Serves 2-4

1 pound jumbo shrimp, tail on (peeled and deveined)

1/4 cup hot sauce, such as Frank's (plus 2 tablespoons for serving)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

4 cloves garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

Note: This recipe on the Food Network includes goat cheese dipping sauce (click the food network link above to be directed to that recipe). That might be great for some who need to temper the heat. These are somewhat spicy. I prefer to use ranch. Also, I didn't have a grill pan and my shrimp were on the small side so I sauteed mine, but the recipe calls for grilling. I think grilling would be much better. Perhaps on a day when there is nicer weather and I have bigger shrimp.

In a medium bowl, toss the shrimp with the hot sauce, olive oil, lemon zest and garlic. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Preheat a grill or grill panto medium-high heat. Sprinkle the shrimp with the salt and grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until opaque at the center. Remove to a clean bowl and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons hot sauce. Serve with ranch and veggies.