Allison Day
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Garlicky Oven-Roasted Chicken

Garlicky Oven-Roasted Chicken

Is there anything better in this world than shatteringly crispy, crunchy chicken skin?

I think not.

Except, perhaps, when it comes attached to an incredibly moist, flavorful chicken thigh… and the entire package is insanely easy to make.

Son‘s been craving Vietnamese food lately, but we’ve been spending a ton of time working, so I haven’t had much time to cook lately. Luckily for me, Andrea Nguyen’s wonderful cookbook, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors, came to the rescue. I needed a meal that would be quick, delicious, Asian enough to satisfy Son, and hopefully something that would make enough that I wouldn’t have to cook much the rest of the week. This recipe fit the bill perfectly – so well, in fact, that I’ll be making it again this weekend. :D

Just look at that crispy skin!

Ingredients

  • 4 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 tbsp Maggi sauce, or shoyu
  • 2 1/2 tbsp canola oil
  • 4 lbs chicken thighs, bone-in (about 10 thighs)

Cooking Directions

  1. In a bowl large enough to hold the chicken, mix all ingredients except the chicken well, then add the chicken pieces and massage the marinade into them. When possible, peel back the skin to get some marinade between the flesh and the skin as well. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hrs, or up to 24 hours (recommended).
  2. Half an hour before cooking the chicken, remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Line a baking sheet with foil and put the chicken pieces on the sheet, skin-side down. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400°F.
  3. Put the chicken in the oven. After about 15 minutes, when you hear sizzling, use a pair of tongs to carefully flip each piece of chicken. Continue to roast for another 25-45 minutes, or until the skin is browned and crispy, and the juices run clear.
  4. Enjoy!

Fig Tarts

Fig Tarts

There are a lot of cool things that come from being a food blogger. One is the community – there are so many amazing people out there whom I now consider friends, that I never would have met if Son didn’t have the silly idea that I should start a sushi blog eight years ago.

Another cool thing, at least for me, is discovering a world of foods outside of what I grew up with. Don’t get me wrong – my parents are great parents, and did their best to feed us well (or as well as you could feed super picky kids who hated vegetables), but I think most families, like mine, have a list of foods that they do eat, and other foods that they don’t.

And in the last few years, my list of “do eat” foods has expanded to include quite a few foods that, for one reason or another, I never (or rarely) ate before my 20s.

fish.

dill.

tomatoes.

pickles.

brussels sprouts.

asparagus.

eggplant.

fish sauce.

anything Vietnamese.

figs.

Wait… figs?

Okay, I did have Fig Newtons, like, all the time when I was a kid. (Also, raise your hand if you always think of Ramona Quimby when you have Fig Newtons.) But until last summer, I had never, ever in my life eaten a fresh fig (that wasn’t Newtonized) before.

At the very, very end of summer last year, I got a basket of figs in my CSA box. Having never eaten a fresh fig before, I turned to my trusty list of “recipes I want to make someday” to figure out what to do with them. I came across this recipe from Sophisticated Gourmet, and a few sheets of puff pastry later, I was eating a super-simple but very delicious fig tart.

Since it was the end of fig season (and it takes me forever to get a blog post up anyways), I set aside the photos to post next year during fig season. And, well, we can all see how well that worked.

So, since I’ll likely never get this post written if I keep waiting for the next fig season, here’s a fantastic recipe for fig tarts!

You should totally make them next year.

Fig Tarts

Recipe adapted from Sophisticated Gourmet

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • granulated sugar (or, if you have it, vanilla sugar)
  • 4 ripe figs, quartered
  • brown sugar

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Roll out the puff pastry. Cut the pastry into quarters, then place on the cookie sheet.
  3. Sprinkle each piece of puff pastry with the granulated sugar, then top with figs.
  4. Lightly sprinkle the brown sugar over the figs.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the puff pastry is puffed up around the edges and golden brown.
  6. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, and enjoy!

Ham and Spinach Muffins (and yoga fails, conference fun, and other ramblings)

Ham and Spinach Muffins

Lately, work/life balance for me has been more like all work/no life, so I’m trying to get a little better about getting away from my computer for an hour or two every day. So Son and I have started running (*snort*) and taking yoga classes at a nearby studio. You’d think, as a former ballet dancer, yoga would totally be my kind of thing. Yeah… no. Unlike ballet, yoga actually requires upper-body strength. o_0

So I’m in a yoga class (because I know it’s good for me, and I know I should be working on my upper body strength, but seriously why do we have to stay in downward dog for so freaking long?!), and we’re doing the thing where you go into downward dog, and then into plank position, and you sloooooowly lower yourself to the floor (don’t ask me what the fancy yoga name is, I have absolutely no clue)… and I’m sweating, and my arms are shaking, and about a third of the way down my muscles are just like, NOPE. NOT GOING ANY FURTHER. And I crash to the ground.

Did I mention I have no upper body strength?

As I’m laying on the mat, face-down, trying not to burst out laughing, the entire class goes silent. It wasn’t exactly a quiet crash. I’m pretty sure the teacher was worried I’d hurt myself. So I reassure everyone, “I’m okay!” Except it came out as more of a strained squeak than a self-assured statement.

… which is why I go to the class called “gentle yoga”, and not the “serious yoga for people who actually know what they’re doing” class. I don’t try to be disruptive (honest!) but I’m really good at falling on my face. Also, downward dog is my nemesis.

Oh, and I hate kale.

I pretty much fail at being a Californian.

Anyways.

Another thing that is helping me keep my head on straight (more or less) is trying to be more efficient in places where it makes sense for me. Like buying pre-cut fruit at the grocery store (I KNOW, but let’s be honest, I am SO not going to be able to find the time to cut up a whole pineapple at home, and then it’s just going to go bad and be a waste and make me sad).

Or making breakfast ahead of time… which brings me to these muffins! Oh, these muffins. They’re so wonderfully delicious. I make a huge batch of them about once a month, freeze them, and then all I have to do is roll out of bed, pop a couple of them in the microwave, and voila! Breakfast! A hot, filling, fairly healthy breakfast!

Because I’m the kind of person who neeeeds breakfast (boy, do I get hangry if I don’t) but cooking first thing in the morning is so not a thing that happens here, especially on the mornings when I have to go directly from bed to computer for early morning conference calls. Morning person, I am not.

Bacon and chive muffins were made for Tapatio sauce

On a side note, I went to a food blogging conference! … almost four months ago. … and I didn’t take a single picture while I was there.

(If there were an award for worst food blogger, I’d definitely have won at least a few times in the last five years.)

Conferences usually aren’t my jam, mostly because I’m the worst networker ever (I’m that quiet chick hanging out in the corner, because she doesn’t know how to go up to people and introduce herself without being super awkward), SEO makes me grumpy, and I always feel kind of dumb being like, “Have you heard of Fridgg [the app, not the blog]? It’s super awesome and you should totally use it! (Please check it out?)”

So I’ve more or less sworn off conferences. Except for Big Traveling Potluck, which I’ve gone to the past two years, and is a lot more fun because it’s not a “learn about SEO and pass out business cards” conference, it’s more of a “let’s be awesome and eat good food and make great friends” conference.

In which I lost my voice on the bus in the middle of a conversation with Aran (*facepalm* way to be suuuuper awkward, Allison), didn’t get to talk to Fabiola nearly enough (why do we always do this?!), promised to hang out with Aimee (seriously, we live like five minutes from each other, why do we only ever see each other at a conference that’s two hours away?), and got to hang out with so many old and new friends. And I was only awkward, like, half the time!

Oh, and I won a thing! Which was cool, and unexpected, and holy cow what am I going to do with a year’s worth of coupons for free Earthbound Farms products? (Plus a salad bowl and three cookbooks… it was a pretty freaking awesome prize.)

Bacon and chive muffins

So after the conference (and subsequent Europe trip, which will definitely be blogged about sooner or later!), I made another batch of these muffins. (That was the third time I’ve made them, and I think I’ve made them another two times since then.) Lo and behold – the spinach, THAT I WAS GOING TO BUY ANYWAYS, was Earthbound Farms brand! (Holy free spinach, Batman!) And the maple honey ham that I had also been buying for previous muffin batches was from Fork in the Road – another brand that had been at BTP2.

Synchronicity, people!

It’s the little things that make me smile.

Ham and Spinach muffins

The original muffin recipe is from The Kitchn, and uses prosciutto and chives. Which I’m sure is delicious, but I subbed in bacon when I made it the first time, which is DEFINITELY delicious. (Best eaten with Tobasco sauce – you can thank me later.)

Since I feel like I should be maybe a little healthier with something I’m eating every morning for breakfast, all my subsequent batches have used ham and spinach. Also very delicious. (And reminds me of Easter every time I eat it.) I recommend both substitutions, or you can totally mix it up with whatever you want to add in.

For the original measurements, see the recipe at The Kitchn. I’m sharing the recipe I use, which makes ~48 muffins.

Also, I’ve found that these muffins stick REALLY badly to baking cups. I’ve tried both the foil ones and paper ones, and both times the bottom of the muffin was inedible (and I may have eaten a little paper in the process). I bought these silicone baking cups (I have them in both colors now) (yes, that’s an affiliate link), and they work really, really well. No more sticking! Although I find that the bottoms of the muffins still burn just a tiny bit, although that’s very probably just my stupid oven.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs (~3.5 cups) cottage cheese
  • ~5 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 16 large eggs
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 lb (4 cups) almond meal
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 lb maple honey ham, chopped
  • 1 lb spinach, wilted

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. If using silicone cups, lightly coat them with cooking oil if they’re not seasoned yet, and place them on a baking sheet. Otherwise, line a muffin pan with paper baking cups and spray them lightly with baking spray.
  2. Mix the cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, eggs, and water together in a (very) large bowl. Add the flour, almond meal, baking powder, smoked paprika, and salt, and whisk until there are no more lumps. Fold in the ham and spinach, making sure to mix them in as you go so you don’t get big clumps of spinach. (Trust me, an all-spinach muffin is no fun.)
  3. Fill the muffin cups with batter until they’re about 3/4 of the way full, and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown.
  4. The muffins refrigerate and freeze well. I wouldn’t keep them in the fridge any longer than a week, but I’ve frozen them for up to one month (they’ve never lasted longer than that, so I’m not sure how long they’d stay good in the freezer).
  5. Reheat them in the microwave for one minute on HIGH when refrigerated, or 90 seconds to two minutes on HIGH from the freezer.
  6. Enjoy!

Gloomy days and blueberry muffins

Gloom.

I’m not a fan of gloom.

I love the rain, hate the gloom. This is why, as much as I absolutely adore Seattle, I’m pretty positive I’d never survive a winter there.

I’m sitting at my desk, staring out the window at a dull, grey sky, hoping that it will start to rain again soon, so I’ll hear the pitter patter of drops leaving streaks of water on the windowpane.

But if I leave my desk and wander to the other side of the apartment where the kitchen is, as I’m apt to do on days like this, things are looking much brighter. The blinds are closed to keep out the gloom, and the kitchen lights bathe the room with a warm glow. The heat of the oven chases away the chill in the air, and the smell of something delicious tickles my nose and brings a smile to my face.

Bacon and chive muffins

Gloomy days may be my least favorite of them all, but they’re also the very best days for spending hours baking comforting, delicious things.

Egg and mushroom dumplings

Today’s recipe isn’t for those bacon and chive muffins that I made today, as I made the mistake of using foil muffin cups but not greasing them, so the muffins stuck to the cups horribly. They were insanely delicious though, and I’ll definitely be making them again and sharing the recipe. One of these days.

I’ve already posted about the egg and mushroom dumplings about six months ago, and they’ve become a go-to comfort food recipe for me. I made them last night, while listening to the pouring rain, and shared some with my mom, who had the unfortunate timing to be making the long drive home from my grandmother’s house in the middle of all that rain. They’re perfect in wonton soup. They’re also wonderful comfort food when you’re a bit under the weather.

No, today’s recipe is actually for something entirely else, although just as perfect on a gloomy or rainy day. I bought The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook sometime last year. Written by Cheryl and Griffith Day (whom I like to think I might be related to, even if only very, very distantly), it’s a delightful cookbook filled with recipes for all sorts of wonderful baked goods.

My mother promptly borrowed the cookbook, and a few days later was asking if I had any green cardamom pods (which I did), and could she borrow a few? This all worked out quite in my favor, as I became the happy recipient of several delicious blueberry muffins.

Mom makes the food, Son photographs it, and all I have to do is eat and blog about it? Hey, I could get used to this… ;)

Blueberry muffins, from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup cardamom sugar (to make the sugar: add 1/2 cup whole green cardamom pods to a 1-quart jar of granulated sugar; let sit at least a few days to infuse the flavor), or coarse sanding sugar for sprinkling

Cooking Directions

  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray 12 large muffin cups with vegetable oil spray or line them with paper muffin cups.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and cardamom until thoroughly combined.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the canola oil, butter, vanilla, eggs, and milk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the liquid ingredients, and mix until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries, using as few strokes as possible; be careful not to overmix.
  4. With a large ice cream scoop or spoon, scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them approximately two-thirds full. Sprinkle the tops with the cardamom sugar or sanding sugar.
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the muffins are golden brown. The tops should be firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin should come out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
  6. Turn the muffins out of the pan and enjoy warm or at room temperature. The muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Almond-Crusted Pear Tres Leches Cake from The New Southwest

Tres leches cake

As a food blogger, I’ve been lucky to be able to meet tons of other awesome food bloggers over the last seven (!) years, both over the internet and in person. (Also, cannot believe it’s been more than seven years since I first started blogging on Sushi Day! Now I feel ancient.)

One such awesome person that I got to meet in person a few years ago is Meagan Micozzi, of Scarletta Bakes.

Meagan giving her demo at Surfas

Meagan just released her first cookbook, The New Southwest: Classic Flavors with a Modern Twist. As part of her book tour, she did a demo at the Surfas in Culver City a few weeks ago.

As part of her demo, she made Sweet Potato and Bacon Sopes, her Sunday Salsa, and an Almond-Crusted Pear Tres Leches Cake. All of the recipes are in her cookbook.

We were big fans of everything. I’m not usually much of a salsa person, but I loved the flavors of her Sunday Salsa.

Sunday Salsa

Son, who’s not usually much of a dessert person, went crazy for her tres leches cake.

So much so, that not only did he ask me to make it for a potluck we were going to with his friends a couple of weeks later, but he instantly went and bought me a springform cake pan from Surfas so I could make it – which, from a guy who thinks I have way too much cookware/cookbooks as it is, is a pretty big deal.

Cake papparazi

Side story: When we were planning the potluck, Son’s friend Victor had requested I make pumpkin pie. But when Son tasted the tres leches cake, he said, “Forget the pumpkin pie, they’ll like the tres leches cake better!” I told him, “Fine, but you have to make sure it’s okay with Victor.” The response: “I’m Mexican, what do YOU think? Ooh, maybe I’ll ask my mom to make some sweet tamales for the potluck!”

Victor’s mom, you rock. Those sweet tamales were crazy delicious. Total win. :D

Sweet pineapple tamale

So back to the cake. I couldn’t believe how easy it is to make. Process, press, bake the crust; mix, pour, bake the cake. Honest to goodness, easiest cake I’ve ever baked.

Also, the most delicious thing I’ve baked in a long time. A flavorful, moist cake, with a crust that manages to stay crunchy thanks to the almonds, and a rich but refreshing soak.

I did make a few small changes. I used apple juice instead of pear juice (where does one find pear juice? I have no idea, and didn’t have the time to search for it.) I had to bake it a bit longer than the recipe called for, but I have a crappy old oven that doesn’t like to stay at the temperature you set it to (turn the dial to 350°F and I end up with a 325°F oven; set it to 400°F, and I’ve come back to smell something burning and my oven thermometer showing 500°F. Such an awesome oven. -_-). Lastly, I didn’t remove the springform ring before soaking the cake, since I knew it would be difficult to transport. So I just poured over the tres leches mixture a little bit at a time the night I baked it, and then put it in the refrigerator overnight to let it soak everything up.

Best cake I have ever made!

Guys, you have to make this cake. I’m not kidding. We hadn’t even finished the first cake, and Son was already asking when I was going to make it again! And it was a total success at the potluck – everybody loved it, several people were asking for the recipe, and one of the guys said it was his favorite thing I had ever brought to a potluck.

Almond-Crusted Pear Tres Leches Cake

from The New Southwest: Classic Flavors with a Modern Twist, by Meagan Micozzi

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 9 whole graham crackers
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole buttermilk

For the soak:

  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12 fl oz) can evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup pear juice (I used apple juice)

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line a 9-inch springform cake pan with a depth of at least 3 inches with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. To prepare the crust, break the graham crackers into large pieces and place with the whole almonds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process to a coarse meal. Remove to a large bowl and toss together with the almond meal and melted butter. Spread the very damp mixture into the bottom of the pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, to prepare the cake, whisk the flour and baking soda together in a large bowl, and set aside. In another large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar. Slowly beat in the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk and mixing just until you have a uniform batter. Pour the batter over the crust and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove baked cake from oven and set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes before unmolding.
  5. Meanwhile, to prepare the soak, whisk the whole milk, condensed milk, evaporated milk, and pear juice together in a large bowl. Once the cake has cooled, release it from the pan, remove the parchment paper, and set the cake on a rimmed platter. Using a wooden skewer, poke a series of holes through the top of the cake and pour the soak over top. Set the cake aside to allow the soak to be absorbed. The cake can be served chilled from the refrigerator or at room temperature.

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