June 18, 2017

Balsamic Chicken Wings

Yay!  Summer time is officially here this week.  Summer is my favorite season -- it always feels more relaxed and carefree.  I love being outside during the summer, whether it's hanging by the water (which is more difficult to do in Colorado), being in the park, or eating on a patio.  Today's recipe would be great for any potluck.

Chicken wings are marinated in a combination of balsamic vinegar, honey, brown sugar, and soy sauce with garlic and rosemary.  The chicken then gets baked, and while it's baking, you cook the remaining marinade (bring it to a boil to kill any bacteria).  After the chicken is done, you brush it with the marinade and garnish with sesame seeds and parsley.

These were not overly sweet wings, despite the honey and brown sugar--the balsamic vinegar and soy sauce help cut the sweetness, which I appreciated.  :)  The chicken was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside - the sign of a good chicken wing, right?

These are a little sticky to eat, so make sure plenty of napkins are on hand.

Balsamic Chicken Wings
Yields about 5 servings

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
5 sprigs of rosemary
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. chicken wings (about 10-12)
2 tbsp. sesame seeds
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

In a large re-sealable plastic bag, add the balsamic vinegar, honey, brown sugar, soy sauce, rosemary sprigs, and minced garlic.  Seal the bag, and shake and squeeze the contents to dissolve the honey and brown sugar.  Then, add the chicken drumsticks to the bag and seal with as little air as possible.  Place in the refrigerator and marinate for at least 4 hours later.

Preheat the oven to 450ºF.  Line a baking sheet with foil, and place the chicken on the baking sheet.  Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes or until the skin begins to caramelize.  While the chicken cooks, place the marinade into a wall saucepan.  Bring the marinade to a boil, and then reduce the heat to simmer and cook over low heat until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Then, use a pastry brush to brush the cooked marinade on the chicken.  Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and the chopped parsley.  Serve and enjoy!

Source: Giada De Laurentiis

June 14, 2017

Fleur De Sel Cookies

There is a darling little French sandwich restaurant in my neighborhood called Vert Kitchen.  It's very quaint and has the feel of a casual French bistro with a cozy patio, and the food is all inspired by traditional French cuisine.  It feels like an understatement to say that everything is such great quality. The food is simple, but little things elevate it to feel more elegant.  For instance, fried eggs and bacon are served over a mixed greens salad with tomato buttered toast, and the arugula steak salad comes with a walnut pesto.  The French bread tastes truly legit, and they always show such creativity using seasonal ingredients.  If you take something to go, they put in a paper bag and tie it with a green ribbon--the extra touches just make it a neighborhood gem!

They have plated towers of decadent, huge cookies.  Their Fleur De Sel cookie is unlike any cookie that I've had.  It has hints of butter, caramel, and brown sugar, and it is topped off with sea salt.  How can you not love that?  Everyone raves about the cookie.  There was a review that described it as a "buttery love bomb" and as a cookie that "haunts your dreams"!

My friend Mary Katherine and I have been trying to figure out what is in this magic cookie.  We googled, but neither of us could find anything like it online.  I decided to play around and try to recreate it.

To bring in the caramel flavor, I browned butter.  Browned butter is just one of those magical ingredients that just transforms anything from good to spectacular.  Since this cookie is darker brown and has a more caramel, almost toffee-like, taste, I used dark brown sugar.  Dark brown sugar has a slightly more complex flavor than light brown sugar, but you could use light brown sugar, too.  I added in some cinnamon to help bring out the butter flavor, and the vanilla and almond extracts helped to round out the nutty buttery flavor.  When I'm really baking something special, I like to use vanilla paste because it just adds a more intense punch of vanilla than regular vanilla extract, so I used some of that in these cookies.  (My sister and brother-in-law gave me a share of vanilla paste from Tahiti!) Finally, before baking, I sprinkled with some fleur de sel.

Let's see...a few other things that I did: I find that cookies always taste better after the dough "marinates" overnight in the fridge.  I think it helps the butter flavor ripen. ;-)  The cookies have a crunchy crust but are so soft on the inside.  I also used cornstarch.  Adding cornstarch to cookies helps keep the interior of the cookie soft.  Cornstarch softens the proteins of flour to keep the cookie more tender.

For my first attempt at making these cookies, I was pretty impressed.  These were a little softer and chewier than the Vert versions, which was a plus for me.  The flavor is so good and different from most cookies.

Make these buttery love bombs, and let me know what you think! :)

Fleur De Sel Cookies
Yields about 20 cookies

240 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
170 grams (3/4 cup) salted butter
240 grams (1 1/4 cups) dark brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract (note, I did one 1 tsp. of vanilla paste and 1 tsp. vanilla extract)
1/2 tsp. pure almond extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Fleur de sel, for sprinkling

In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the butter.  Swirl the butter as it melts to ensure the butter cooks evenly.  As it begins to melt, it will start to foam.  The color will go from a sunny yellow to a golden tan and then to a caramel brown.  As the butter begins to brown, you will start to smell a nutty aroma.  Once that happens, remove the butter from the heat and allow it to cool for about 20 minutes.  

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt, and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the browned butter and the brown sugar.  Mix on medium speed until no climbs of sugar remain.  Then, add the egg and mix until combined.  Add the vanilla and almond extracts along with the cinnamon, and gradually incorporate the flour mixture.  Mix until a cohesive dough is formed.  Then, lay a large sheet of wax paper, parchment paper, or even plastic wrap onto the counter and transfer the dough to it.  Wrap the dough in the paper and transfer to the fridge for an overnight rest.

When ready to to bake, preheat oven to 350ºF.  While the oven preheats, remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator and allow it to soften.  Line baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper.  Take 2 tablespoons of the dough, roll it into a ball, and place it on the cookie sheet and make sure you leave a few inches around the dough so that it has room to expand.  Sprinkle with fleur de sel and bake for 10-12 minutes until the top starts to crinkle and become slightly darker.  Do not want to bake them for too long because you want the cookie itself to remain soft.  Remove from oven and allow the cookies to rest on the baking sheet for about five minutes before transfer to a cooling rack.

A Simply Sweet Justice Original, inspired by Vert Kitchen

June 11, 2017

Cloud Eggs

Morning, glory!

About a month ago, I kept seeing posts about cloud eggs pop all over.  I think the cloud egg posts were outnumbering the beloved avocado toast, for once.  I eat eggs almost daily for breakfast, so I'm always game to try new egg recipes.

Cloud eggs are egg whites that are whipped to stiff peaks, formed into nests, and then baked with yolks in the center.  It takes about fifteen minutes from start to finish.  They turn out looking like the sun is floating on a cloud. ;-)  Cloud eggs are delicious!  The "cloud" is fluffy and not stiff like a regular baked meringue.  I found the cloud eggs to almost be a little "heartier" than just eating fried eggs.

I like to add some parmesan cheese into the egg whites to add some more flavor, and you could certainly add any type of cheese.

Hope you enjoy!

Cloud Eggs
Yields 2

2 eggs
1-2 tbsp. parmesan cheese
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 450ºF.   Prepare a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and set aside.

Separate the egg yolks into two separate bowls (ramekins work perfectly).  In one large bowl, add the egg whites, and using a hand mixer, mix on high speed until the egg whites become stiff peaks.  Then, fold in the cheese and the salt.

Make two mounds of the egg white mixture onto the lined baking sheet.   The mounds should be formed like nests with indentations in the center for the yolks.  Do not add the yolks yet!  Place in the oven for 3 minutes.  After 3 minutes, remove from the oven, and add the yolks.  Cook for 3 more minutes.

Remove from oven, and serve immediately.

Source: Today Show

May 4, 2017

Mexican Chicken Chowder

Happy Cinco De Mayo!  Today's recipe is one of my favorite work week lunches.  I'll make a batch of this soup on a Sunday and will enjoy it for lunch throughout the week.   It's a healthy soup with protein and veggies that is very filling, and it gets some spice from salsa.  Most chowders are traditionally thickened by cream, but this chowder is thickened by a puree of sweet potatoes and carrots.

Use your favorite choice of salsa for the soup!  I use 2 jars of salsa from Trader Joe's for the soup because they have some great varieties of salsa.

To make the soup, you cook chicken thighs, chopped sweet potatoes and carrots, salsa, and chicken stock.  Once the chicken finishes cooking, you'll remove the chicken and shred it.  You'll also scoop out 2 cups of the vegetables and add them to a blender with some of the broth and then puree.  This mixture will then "thicken" the soup and give it a chowder like thickness.    Once you return the thickener and the chicken to the soup, you'll add some spinach and cilantro.  Cook for about ten more minutes, and you've gone one delicious Mexican chicken chowder!

This chowder also freezes well, too.  It would make a great light dinner, too!

Mexican Chicken Chowder
Yields 6 servings

2 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs
3 cups/24 oz. salsa of your choice
4 cups chicken stock
3 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes (about 2 sweet potatoes)
2 cups peeled and diced carrots (about 4 carrots)
1 lime
1 tsp. sea salt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups chopped spinach
1 avocado, optional
Cilantro, optional

Add the chicken, salsa, chicken stock, sweet potatoes, carrots, garlic, and salt to a large pot and heat over medium-high heat.  Once the soup reaches a boil, reduce the head to medium-low and cover for an hour.

After an hour, reduce the heat to low, and remove the chicken to a bowl.  Set aside to cool.  Meanwhile, scoop 2 cups of vegetables from the soup and place in a blender with 1/3 cup of the broth.  Puree the vegetables until smooth and then add it back to the soup.

Shred the chicken and add the back chicken to the soup with the chopped spinach and any desired cilantro.  Cook on low for ten minutes or until the spinach is wilted.

After the soup finishes cooking, squeeze the lime in the soup.  Serve with any desired avocado slices.

Source: Danielle Walker's Against All Grain
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