Wednesday, February 13, 2019

An Unwanted Luncheon Guest


When a product fails to meet your expectations, do you ever contact the company and let them know?

Don't worry, the puppy photos have nothing to do with this post. He's not the product that we are disappointed in. Same goes for the children.

Recently, Paul and I were enjoying lunch on a Saturday while the kids played outside with the dog. We decided to "make" a package of organic stew that is both healthy, due to its high vegetable content, and economical. It's one of the only prepared foods we ever purchase on a regular basis because it is incredibly delicious. Paul says he doesn't even normally miss the meat since it's so yummy and filling on its own.



Well, we sat down to eat and Paul was just about to take a spoonful when he noticed something unexpected, unwanted, and rather disturbing floating in his bowl of stew. He gingerly picked it out, placed it on a napkin, and passed it over to me so that I might confirm that the thing was in fact what he thought it was.

It was.

So, I grabbed the package of stew out of the garbage and turned it over to find where the company might be contacted with any questions or concerns. This was definitely concerning. Only an email address was provided, so I sat down to type the following message out. To preserve the identity of the company in question, certain items have been redacted.

*****

Hello there,

I have been a huge fan of the Tasty Bite Indian Madras Lentils for several years now. I buy them in bulk at Costco and eat them at least once per week. They are fabulous.

HOWEVER, my fondness for this product has now been spoiled because I prepared a bag for lunch and enjoyed 3/4 of the product before discovering, to my horror, that there was a large beetle in my bowl among the beans. I instantly wondered if this was a poisonous beetle and did a little research and found that it is probably a subspecies of the common Leaf Beetle which enjoys feasting on legumes. While I generally support your mission to bring whole, organic food to the table, this is going a bit far, don’t you think?

I want to alert you to this fact so you can work on quality control in packaging this product in the future so as not to lose more fans because otherwise it's a pretty tasty product.

For your reference, the barcode number on the infected package is 8273300002. The expiration date is September 30th, 2019 and the timestamp on it is 08:23:31.

Should I be pitching the rest of the box? Please advise as to my next actions. I'm unsure if I am willing to continue purchasing Tasty Bite products in the future if I am going to be eating bug protein.

Attached is a couple pictures of my six-legged luncheon companion. I have more should you need to see additional photographic confirmation.

Thank you for your attention to this matter,

Monica

*****

As I was typing this out, admittedly giggling a bit while doing so - the majority of this was written to be very tongue-in-cheek, Paul was conducting a little research of his own seeing if he would die after eating his bowl of stew. He claimed that his mouth was feeling a bit numb. His primary concern was that the bug in question may have consumed some fertilizer and died as a result of poisoning and perhaps some of the poison had leeched into the stew. And he thinks I'm the worry wart.

I should note that the company in question immediately responded to our inquiry and launched an investigation of the contaminated batch. They were extremely responsive and very courteous. 

Here is a picture of our little friend, just in case you were curious.


Cute little guy, isn't he?

Don't worry, I shan't be posting a recipe because I imagine all appetites have been spoiled by this post.

But tell me true, would you complain to the company if this had happened to you?


Monday, February 11, 2019

Pork Carnitas with Salsa Verde


All the best parenting books claim that you should strive teaching your children from an early age how to responsibly complete chores and contribute to the general maintenance of the household. Ever since Daniel started crawling, his favorite place to be is underneath the kitchen sink, rummaging through the contents within.Of course he WOULD choose the place where all the harshest chemicals and cleaning agents are kept. It was during one of his raids that he discovered the Swiffer duster, which has quickly become his new favorite toy. Whenever I see his diapered little butt quickly moving towards the kitchen sink cabinet, I quickly intercept him and hand him the duster because that's what he was looking for anyway. He likes to wave it around and tickle his own face with it and occasionally accidentally whack Lucy with it. Since he was showing such an attraction towards household cleaning products, I figured it was high time we put that little guy to work and get him started with earning his keep around here.

He thought it was one big joke...




We started with trying to teach him how to actually dust with the duster. He can pull himself up very efficiently and at a staggering two feet tall can reach a respectable height. I showed him how to run the duster over the top and sides of furniture to try to trap dust particles. He smiled his most enchanting toothless, gummy grin and seemed to generally get the idea. He grabbed the duster back from me and began making the general motions that I had just showed him by moving it back and forth. I complimented him and then went back to making dinner. When I looked over to check on his progress, he was sitting on the floor dusting his own toes. Obviously that lesson failed.


Considering my school-age kids can't seem to remember where to hang their coats day in and day out, I'm not really sure what my expectations were with Daniel. (Please note that this whole thing was written with extreme sarcasm. I know perfectly well that a 9-month-old cannot be expected to clean).

My best helper is Lucy by a long shot. Ever since I bought a new mop about a year ago, Lucy has been obsessed with it and is constantly begging me to let her wash the floor. The thing is, she actually does a decent job of it - so I am more than happy to let her wash away!


Then there is Emma, who is honestly a very detailed-oriented individual who can be of the greatest help when she puts her mind to it. For example, we instructed Emma to clean up her craft table in the basement since she had made quite the mess of it when she was cutting up paper to make snowflakes. She whined and moaned about it for a while and then got down there and finished the job. We only intended for her to clean up her table, but she ended up straightening up the entire basement and she did a fantastic job. Everything was in its place, right down to the perfectly placed throw pillows on the couch. She's also very good about keeping her room clean. This is a stark contrast to her brother Matthew who can't seem to keep anything clean. However, he is very good at scooping up and throwing away Peyton's poop in our backyard.


My goal is to one day train one of these little people I helped create  to cook dinner for me. I love to cook, but cooking dinner every night can get tiresome and stressful at times. This is especially true when there is a little baby crawling around on the floor, rummaging through all the kitchen cabinets, and whiny kids who are simultaneously hungry, tired, and unwilling to finish their homework. I'm usually helping with homework while cooking and making sure the baby doesn't eat dried up macaroni and cheese off the floor.

That's why I generally like meals that can be made in steps, even if there are multiple steps to be done, throughout the day. Like this recipe for Pork Carnitas. The steps to complete this authentic staple of Mexican cuisine can be spread out throughout the day. First, the pork is prepped and then braised in the oven for 3 1/2 hours. Then, everything is strained, the juices from the pork are reserved, and the pork is shredded and stored in a refrigerator until ready to be served.

A basic tomatillo salsa is made from the reserved liquid and then that is refrigerated until serving time. To serve, the pork is heated under a broiler, which also serves to crisp it a bit. Easy! Serve with the salsa, cheese and pork piled high on tortillas. Throw a bag of chips on the table and call it a meal! Even better, this makes enough for us to have leftovers the following day. This is one of Paul and Matthew's favorite type of dinners. The leftovers the day after are one of mine.


Pork Carnitas with Salsa Verde
from The Food Lab

2 medium onions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
3 pounds boneless pork butt (shoulder), rind removed, cut into 2-inch cubes
Kosher salt
1 medium orange
6 cloves garlic, split in half
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick, broken into three or four pieces
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 medium tomatillos (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and split in half
2 jalapeƱo peppers, split in half lengthwise, stem removed
3 limes, cut into wedges
1 avocado, thinly sliced or cubed
1 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta
24 corn or flour tortillas (we love the street taco size)

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 275 degrees. Cut one onion into fine dice and combine with cilantro. Refrigerate until needed. Split remaining onion into quarters. Set aside. Season pork chunks with 1 tablespoon salt and place in a 9 by 13 glass casserole dish. The pork should fill the dish with no spaces. Split orange into quarters and squeeze juice over pork. Nestle squeezed orange pieces into casserole. Add 2 onion quarters, 4 cloves garlic, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick to casserole. Nestle everything into an even layer. Pour vegetable oil over surface. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and place in oven. Cook until pork is fork tender, about 3 1/2 hours.

Set large fine-meshed strainer 1 quart liquid measure or bowl. Using tongs, remove orange peel, onion, garlic, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves from pork. Transfer pork and liquid to strainer. Let drain for 10 minutes. Transfer pork back to casserole. You should end up with about 1/2 cup liquid and 1/2 cup fat. Using a flat spoon or de-fatter, skim fat from surface and add back to pork. Shred pork into large chunks with fingers or two forks. Season to taste with salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Transfer remaining liquid to medium saucepot.

Add tomatillos, remaining 2 onion quarters, remaining 2 garlic cloves, and jalapeƱos to saucepot with strained pork liquid. Add water until it is about 1-inch below the top of the vegetables. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook until all vegetables are completely tender, about 10 minutes. Blend salsa with hand blender or in a stand-up blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt. Allow to cool and refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve: Place casserole dish with pork 4-inches under a high broiler and broil until brown and crisp on surface, about 6 minutes. Remove pork, stir with a spoon to expose new bits to heat, and broil again for 6 more minutes until crisp. Tent with foil to keep warm.

To serve, add two to three tablespoons carnitas mixture to center of tortillas. Top with salsa verde, sliced avocado, chopped onions and cilantro, and queso fresco. Serve with lime wedges.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Blog Hopping!


Hello Friends!

Today, I am guest posting at my friend Maddy's blog. Maddy and her husband Joel just welcomed their 4th child, a precious little baby Boy they have named Blaise. He's the sweetest little thing and I know he will be absolutely spoiled by his big sisters and big brother. Congratulations, sweet Pidel Family!

Maddy is a hard-working, energetic Mom and health coach who runs her own blog and community encouraging mothers to be their best selves for their families through proper nutrition, exercise, and routine self-care. Her blog is a wealth of information on how to achieve this lifestyle. I was honored to be asked by Maddy to write a guest blog post for her while she takes a much needed break to bond with her brand new baby. I happily complied by sharing a recipe for a rich and creamy Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup.

Please head over to Maddy's blog to see the post. While you're there, please take a look around and see all that she has to offer! Head on over to by clicking on the link: maddypidel.com.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Kouign Amann


Who doesn't enjoy watching The Great British Baking Show? All those super nice, happy contestants just baking away under a little tent in the English countryside. No backstabbing. No drama. Just a group of people who legitimately enjoy baking trying to do the very best they can with the challenges thrown at them. It's a nice relaxing change of pace from most American cooking competitions, like Hell's Kitchen (which is ironically run by a Brit who couldn't be more different than Mary Berry).

For those of you who love the GBBS as much as I do, I wanted to tell you about the exciting new project that my recently married sister has undertaken. She has started a blog where she will be tackling each of the technical baking challenges on the Great British Baking Show and providing honest feedback about the difficulty of each recipe. So far, she has made Mini Pear Pies, Princess Cake, Ciabatta, Tiramisu Cake, Florentines, Cherry Cake, and an interesting pastry called Kouign Amann (pronounced "queen- a-mawn").


Sophie texted me while she was making these weird little pastries that are made from a laminated dough and then baked in a muffin tin. I had never once heard of them and neither had she, but after having a rough week making the detested Princess Cake recipe, she was thrilled to report that this recipe actually was turning out perfectly as it was supposed to. Basically, they have a soft, croissant-like texture on the inside and a crunchy, caramelized crunch on the outside. I did a quick little internet search on them and found that the New York Times dubbed it "the fattiest pastry in all of Europe." Wow, that's saying something.

When Paul heard that review, he wanted me to make it. Butter is his first love. Cheese is his second. I'm his third. It's ok, I've come to terms with that.

After Sophie raved about how breezy and relaxing the recipe was to follow, I tackled it one gloomy Sunday afternoon while I was not exactly feeling very well but thought some therapeutic baking might lift me out of my doldrums. The recipe was a breeze to put together. There is lot of waiting between steps and none of the steps are overly complicated. While I was waiting between turning my dough, I actually went back and watched the episode of the GBBS where these were featured as I couldn't imagine they were all that troublesome to the contestants. On the show, a few individuals had some minor issues, but overall I think they were all pretty successful attempts. This is a simple pastry as long as you have the patience to wait between steps.

Well, the Kouign Amann baked up beautifully. Brown, puffy, and piping hot when I grabbed them from the oven, I nearly burnt my fingers trying to pry them out of the muffin tin. Paul and I bit into one while it was still warm and swooned at the rich, buttery flavor. However, I tried one the next morning alongside my cup of coffee and thought they tasted even better at room temperature. My kids were all over these as well. The recipe only made 12 and they all vanished by the time my kids discovered them. My only complaint about these pastries is the mess they created when eaten by my angelic children - the pastries were so flaky that little bits of buttery crumb littered the floor where my children sat stuffing their faces full of buttery dough.

I shall be making these weird little things again! They were a different, interesting, and delicious new pastry that I had never before heard of and am now happy to welcome into my recipe archive. Thank you, Sophie for introducing me to this treat!

You should head over to Sophie's blog to read about her experiences attacking all the technical challenges from The Great British Baking Show. Her blog name is Piece of Cake and can be found here.

Also, try your hand at Kouign Amann! It's a great recipe to start with if you have never before worked with a laminated dough before (like croissant dough). Guarantee you'll be able to produce a treat even Paul Hollywood would be happy to eat!


Kouign Amann
from Paul Hollywood of The Great British Baking Show

Note: I am presenting this recipe exactly as written on the BBC Food website. You will need a food scale to complete this recipe.

300g/10½oz strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting
5g fast-action yeast
1 tsp salt
200ml/7fl oz warm water
25g/1oz unsalted butter, melted
250g/9oz cold unsalted butter, in a block
100g/3½oz caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

Put the flour into the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other. Add the water and melted butter and mix on a slow speed for two minutes, then on a medium speed for six minutes.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a ball. Put into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for one hour.

Sandwich the butter between two sheets of parchment paper and bash with a rolling pin, then roll out to a 14cm/5½in square. Place in the fridge to keep chilled.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 20cm/8in square. Place the butter in the centre of the dough diagonally, so that each side of butter faces a corner of the dough. Fold the corners of the dough over the butter to enclose like an envelope.

Roll the dough into a 45x15cm/18x6in rectangle. Fold the bottom third of dough up over the middle, then fold the top third of the dough over. You will now have a sandwich of three layers of butter and three layers of dough. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. This completes one turn.

Repeat this process twice more, so you have completed a total of three turns, chilling the dough for 30 minutes between turns.

Roll the dough into a rectangle as before. Sprinkle the dough with the caster sugar and fold into thirds again. Working quickly, roll the dough into a large 40x30cm/16x12in rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with caster sugar and cut the dough into 12 squares.

Grease a 12-cup muffin tin well with oil. Gather the dough squares up by their four corners and place in the muffin tins, pulling the four corners towards the centre of the muffin tin, so that it gathers up like a four-leaf clover. Sprinkle with caster sugar and leave to rise, covered with a clean tea towel, for 30 minutes until slightly puffed up.

Preheat oven to 220C/200C(fan)/425F/Gas 7. Bake the pastries for 30-40 minutes, or until golden-brown. Cover with foil halfway through if beginning to brown too much. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Be careful not to burn yourself on the caramelized sugar, but don’t leave them to cool for too long, or the caramelized sugar will harden and they will be stuck in the tin.

Serve warm or cold.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Weeknight Greek Chicken


Lucy has a very strange way of singing her current favorite song "Old MacDonald". She loves to get audience participation, so she always solicits the crowd when deciding what animal to sing about next. Usually this is when I'm busy trying to make dinner and Lucy will come up and ask on repeat, "And on that farm he had a.....what, Mommy? What did he have? What's on his farm? Mommy? Mommy?"


But that's not the strange part. After you  name an animal, let's say a duck in this case, she will then proceed to sing the rest of the song but always adds her own lyric at the end:

With a quack quack here,
and a quack quack there,
here a quack
there a quack
and everywhere a seagull.
Old MacDonald had a farm. 
E-I-E-I-O!

Did you catch it? And she legitimately thinks that is part of the song. Believe me, Emma, the resident Lyric Nazi, has tried many a time to set Lucy on the path of righteous knowledge but Lucy will not be swayed. She insists that the lyric is in fact "and everywhere a seagull." And you know what? She's been singing it so often like that that I have found myself with the song stuck in my head while in the shower or driving and I am also singing it with that lyric in my head.




But you know, I see how it frankly makes sense to a three-year-old. Lucy thinks Canadian Geese are seagulls. That is another hot point of contention among her know-it-all siblings. These "seagulls" are everywhere - in the parking lots, in the playgrounds, even near my kids' school. Why wouldn't they be hanging out on Old MacDonald's farm?

And on that farm he had a chicken...

..and we ate it for dinner!

Musings on children's songs aside, I have a great weeknight recipe that is easy, simple, yet delicious enough to serve to guests! This Greek Chicken is made by marinating chicken thighs in a lemon and herb mixture and then baked in a cast-iron skillet until done. The thighs are then given the broiler-treatment to render the skin crispy and crunchy. The resulting juices blend with the marinate to create a magnificent pan sauce that can be drizzled over the chicken once served. I like to serve this with a side of couscous - which takes about five minutes to prepare - and a Greek salad. It's a meal that my kids all enjoy eating. It's an easy meal that tastes like you worked on it all day.


Greek Chicken
from Cook's Country

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
5 garlic cloves, chopped
6 (3-inch) strips lemon zest, chopped, plus 1 tablespoon juice (or use 1 tablespoon grated zest)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon pepper
3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs

Combine oil, rosemary, thyme, garlic, lemon zest, salt, oregano, coriander, pepper flakes, and pepper in large bowl. Cut three ½-inch-deep slits in skin side of each chicken breast, two ½-inch-deep slits in skin side of each thigh, and two ½-inch-deep slits in each drumstick; leave wings whole. Transfer chicken to bowl with marinade and turn to thoroughly coat, making sure marinade gets into slits. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat oven to 425 degrees. Place chicken, skin side up, in 12-inch cast iron skillet. Using rubber spatula, scrape any remaining marinade from bowl over chicken. Roast until breasts register 160 degrees and drumsticks/thighs register 175 degrees, 30 to 35 minutes.

Remove skillet from oven and spoon pan juices over top of chicken to wet skin. Heat broiler. Broil chicken until skin is lightly browned, about 3 minutes, rotating skillet as necessary for even browning. Let chicken rest in skillet for 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to shallow platter. Stir lemon juice into pan juices, then spoon over chicken. Serve.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Oreo Whipped Cream Layer Cake


Matthew surprised me immensely this year when it came to choosing a dessert for his birthday. You see, as I've written before, this kid HATES cake. Legitimately hates it. He will tolerates certain flavors but rarely can finish a whole piece. At birthday parties, he accepts cake only as a gateway to get ice cream. For the past few years, he has only requested fruit desserts, specifically apple pie, for his birthday.

So, much to my shock, when I approached him and asked if he wanted me to make him my Caramel Apple Pie for his birthday, he shook his head and said that he wanted a cake. And not just any cake...he wanted an Oreo cake. For some reason, Matthew developed an intense and passionate love for all things Oreo over this past year. I think it started when his 3rd grade class were learning about opinions and debates by having an Oreo taste test where they got to try six different flavors of Oreo cookies and then had to debate the merits and flaws of each one. In the tasting process, Matthew discovered that he loved all Oreos and pretty soon I found myself being suckered into buying fancy flavor packs of Oreos to stick in his lunch - Red Velvet, S'mores, Birthday Cake, Peanut Butter, Peppermint Bark, Lemon, and Apple Pie. Thus, I enabled my son to become an Oreo connoisseur of sorts.

So, really, I should have seen the Oreo cake request coming. But there was more to his request than that.

"I really don't like sugary frosting or anything. It gives me a headache and makes me feel sick," he added.

So, one Oreo cake without super sweet frosting or icing. Got it. The first thing I thought of was an old fashioned icebox cake where layers of cookies are sandwiched between whipped cream and chilled until the cookies soften and breakdown, almost forming a "cake like" texture between the soft whipped cream. Actually, that didn't sound like a half bad idea....let's just turn it into a layer cake form!

A good quality chocolate cake would be the first component of this cake. It has to be chocolaty and rich on its own yet sturdy enough to hold up to being chilled while sandwiching a whipped frosting. And the frosting would be a simple mixture of whipped cream, a touch of sugar, and lots of chopped Oreos folded together. I really like the "Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake" with coffee as a substitute for the boiling water. It's fantastic. So, that's what I used for the cake layer, only I halved the recipe to make a single cake layer. After cooling, I sliced that cake layer in half and then filled it with the whipped Oreo filling. After sandwiching the cake layers back together, I "frosted" it with the remainder of the filling. Then, into the fridge it went to chill and allow those cookies in the whipped cream to soften. Right before it was time to serve, I added a few simple embellishments - a piping of whipped cream rosettes around the top border that are topped with halved Oreos. And, of course, for my future paleontologist, a model T-Rex skeleton for the center of the cake.


Matthew was thrilled.


The whole thing looked pretty cool all lit up with birthday candles. Paul purchased trick candles because you can never have too much birthday boy spit sprayed all over the cake.





Everyone loved the cake. It was quite rich yet simultaneously not heavy (if that's even a thing). We all enjoyed pieces for dessert, then again for breakfast the next morning. Because why not? I should note that I don't think Paul actually had a slice of cake because he was going through a bit of anti-sugar phase at the moment. But the most important thing is that Matthew loved and enjoyed it!

Oreo Whipped Cream Cake
adapted from Hershey's and Serious Eats

For the Cake Layer:
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil (vegetable or canola oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup very hot coffee (heated in microwave if necessary)

For the Whipped Oreo Filling:
50 double-stuffed Oreo cookies
4 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease, flour, and line the bottom of an 8-inch round baking pan with parchment paper.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat on medium speed of mixer for 2 minutes. Stir in the very hot coffee. The batter will be thin - no worries! Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 30-35 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the whipped cream Oreo filling and frosting. Carefully cut 6 Oreo cookies in half and set aside. Chop remaining cookies into 1/4-inch pieces and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip 2 cups cream on medium-high speed to soft peak, spoon into large bowl and refrigerate. In same mixer bowl, whip remaining 2 1/2 cups cream, sugar, and vanilla to soft peak. Fold into already whipped cream.

Place about 1 cup whipped cream in bowl and refrigerate until ready to decorate cake. Fold chopped Oreos into the remaining whipped cream.

Split the cake into two layers by cutting horizontally. This might be easier if you pop it into the freezer for about 30-60 minutes.

Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Spread about 1/3 of Oreo whipped cream onto cake. Top with second cake layer and use remaining Oreo whipped cream to frost top and sides of cake. Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours to allow cookies to soften.

Place reserved whipped cream in pastry bag fitted with star tip (I had to rewhisk it a bit to "fluff" it up). Pipe 12 whipped cream rosettes around perimeter of cake and garnish with reserved Oreo cookie halves. Add a dinosaur to the center (optional).

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Crispy Baked Buffalo Wings


Every January, my eldest child gets another year older. I have tried to prevent this from happening but alas time marches onwards and the little boy I used to know as a toothless, grinning, drooling baby who refused to even attempt to crawl until he was 14 months but still managed to roll across the floor and raid my pantry cupboards just to steal an entire head of garlic (true story) is now a tall, smart, funny 9-year-old boy with quite the mouth full of large, fully grown adult teeth.


Although another year older with some continually developing tastes, there are some things that haven't changed when it comes to Matthew. He still enjoys Thomas the train. He still wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up as his obsession with dinosaurs has not waned over the past four years. He still hates unmelted cheese for some strange reason. He will never turn down the opportunity to build a good puzzle. He still hasn't mastered making his bed as soon as he wakes up each morning. He still snuggles with monkey every single night and occasionally sneaks him along on various outings by ensconcing him inside his pocket.

Then there are other things that are continually changing and evolving about Matthew that show me and Paul that he is in fact growing up. His love of reading has continued to blossom as he has moved away from picture-heavy books and now reads larger chapter books and biographies. After watching The Greatest Showman, he wanted to learn more about the real P.T. Barnum and checked out a biography on his life from the library and devoured it within a few days. His current favorite fiction author is Roald Dahl. One of the items we purchased for his birthday was a big boxed set of all the Roald Dahl books and it was his favorite gift!



Matthew's sense of humor is also really starting to blossom. He has been known to make some truly witty observational remarks that have left Paul and me in stitches. He's also been more adventurous with activities. He's always up for a new experience or activity, whether it be a hike, a bike ride, a new sport to try, skiing, you name it. He always throws himself in 100% with full enthusiasm and confidence. A most recent example of this is skiing. Paul is so proud about how Matthew just throws himself down the mountain, determined to race everyone in sight to the bottom of the hill. Never mind that he has suffered crash after crash, including a few "yard sale crashes" where the impact dislodged all his ski gear - gloves, skis, goggles, hat, etc. - to litter the side of the mountain, Matthew's confidence will not be swayed. We love this about him.


I also love how Matthew laughs first and hardest at all my jokes, even the ones that are over his head. At prayers every night, we always go around the room and have everyone name something they're thankful for. Matthew has thanked God "that Mommy is so funny" on more than one occasion.

For his birthday this year, all Matthew wanted to eat was meat. Meat, meat, and more meat! I remember when he was a toddler and we couldn't get him to eat a single piece of meat. It was all fruit and carbohydrates for the first few years of his life. But now that he is a growing boy, he loves to stock up on protein. He loves barbecue - especially ribs - and hot wings. So, we took him out to a barbecue joint that had caught his attention due to the name "Rib City" so he could get his fill of ribs. I was alarmed by how much he did eat. About twice as much as Paul. And he licked those bones clean. Makes me fearful for what his eating habits will be like when he's a teenager!




Since we had a late lunch, most of us were less than enthusiastic at the prospects of dinner, but Matthew insisted that we make Buffalo Wings for his birthday dinner. Even Paul wasn't hungry. But, being the good father he is, he dutifully made some baked wings for Matthew and they were phenomenal! Matthew ate probably a good two pounds of wings, leaving the little bones piled in a bowl as a showcase of the spoils of his meal. At one point while eating, Matthew turned to Paul and said, "You know what I bet goes great with wings, Dad? An ice cold beer."

Excuse me, what?

Either way, Paul took the hint and helped himself to a selection from his current stock of beer from New Belgium brewing company. And he agreed that it went great with the wings (duh). But those wings would have gone great with anything. They were out-of-this-world fantastic. Matthew dipped them in ranch dressing and we bought one of those veggie trays from Costco and just served that along with the wings and we had a meal! Easy and very, very delicious! Since the little girls do not like anything hot, we served a pound of the wings untouched by the spicy Buffalo sauce and they ate them with a side of barbecue sauce for dipping.

I'm out of town for the Superbowl and already Matthew and Paul are making big plans for making a huge batch of these wings for the game. I love how they bond over licking the tiny bones of chickens clean.


Happy Birthday to my growing son, Matthew! We are proud of you! But your Dad is probably most proud of how much of a carnivore you've turned out to be...


Baked Buffalo Wings
adapted from Cafe Delites

For the Chicken Wings:
4 pounds chicken wings cut, wing tips removed and cut into drummetes and flats
1 tablespoon baking powder (NOT baking soda)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder

For the Buffalo Sauce:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup Frank's Original Red Hot Sauce
A generous dash of honey

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat oven to 450°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminium foil and set a heat-proof wire rack inside.

Pat dry chicken wings liberally with paper towels, squeezing out as much moisture as you can. Transfer them to a large bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the baking powder, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper together, whisking well to combine, and sprinkle the mixture over the wings. Toss wings through the baking powder mixture until evenly coated.

Arrange on rack, leaving about 1-inch of space between each wing.

Bake for 30 minutes; flip and continue to cook until crisp and golden brown, (about 20-30 minutes longer), until golden browned and crispy.

While wings are cooking, whisk together hot sauce, butter and honey. Toss wings through the sauce to evenly coat.

Serve wings immediately with ranch dressing or blue cheese dressing and plenty of crudites.