Roasted Chicken with Moroccan-flavored Vegetables

We usually make Moroccan-flavored vegetables as a side dish, and somehow it only recently occurred to us that we could turn them into an entire meal by roasting them with a chicken (yes, we will be graduating from college in three months). I'm so glad that genius finally struck though, because this is a simple and delicious weeknight meal that I would definitely repeat. It has the same healthiness as our usual chicken with onions, potatoes and carrots, but with a much more exotic flavor that we love. Slightly more upscale (and prettier colors!) for minimal additional work.

And if all that weren't enough, this dish features some of our favorite foods: sweet potatoes and butternut squash. Simply chop them into chunks with red pepper and onion, dress, and roast with the chicken. The only slightly annoying part is that butternut squash is so darn difficult to peel -- suggestions anyone?


2 large onions, cut into large chunks
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch cubes
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch strips
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp kosher salt
6 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp pepper
1 6-lb. roasting chicken

Preheat oven to 400. Combine onions, squash, sweet potatoes and peppers in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, cinnamon, sugar, 1 tbsp salt and 4 tsp cumin. Toss this mixture over the vegetables, and stir until they are coated. Sprinkle remaining 2 tsp cumin, 1 tbsp salt and pepper on the chicken. Place vegetables around the chicken (if they don't fit, you can put some in a separate roasting pan. Cook chicken and vegetables for about 2 hours, until meat is cooked through. If you have some vegetables in a separate pan, they can probably come out after about 1 1/2 hours.


Healthier Taco Salad

When we are feeding other people, we feel guilty making just a salad. But that's what we wanted, so we found a dish that exists in both salad and non-salad form: the healthier taco (salad). I write "healthier" for several reasons. Firstly, we used extra-lean ground turkey instead of beef. We added lots of vegetables, and for the salad, we used only a few reduced-fat chips. Obviously, this isn't the healthiest salad in the world, but we felt pretty good about our modifications.

We transformed the salad from a bunch of ingredients thrown together to a cohesive dish by cooking the ground turkey with seasonings and tomatoes. Additionally, we made a pico de gallo to use for our dressing, and it pulled the salad components together wonderfully.


(pico de gallo)
3 plum tomatoes, seeded, chopped
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoons minced jalapeño chili
1 garlic clove, minced

1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 can tomatoes
1/8 cup onion, chopped
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp oil
1 head romaine lettuce, cut into salad-sizes pieces
1 can black beans
1 bell pepper, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup reduced-fat tortilla chips
cheese (optional)

Make pico de gallo by mixing together all of the ingredients. Heat oil in a large pan. Add turkey and cook through, add tomatoes and chili powder and cook for an additional minute or so. Divide lettuce between two plates, top lettuce with remaining ingredients and pico de gallo.


Red Snapper with Thai Curry Sauce

Still on a cookbook kick from our success with African peanut stew, we turned to another that we had yet to venture into, Susannah Foo Fresh Inspirations. Having eaten at Ms. Foo's restaurant in Philly, I love how her recipes combine ingredients from different types of cuisine -- they're so unique. The dish we made called for cooking typically Italian ingredients (mushrooms, basil and tomatoes) with a Thai curry paste.

Though we could have easily found these ingredients at our local grocery store, we headed out to an enormous Asian grocery called H-Mart, out by 69th street. We are huge fans of Asian grocery stores, and this one was more than we had hoped for! In addition to a huge prepared foods section featuring enormous vats of kimchee and fresh pasta, the store offered a great variety of fresh sea food and produce. I was especially excited to find Asian sweet potatoes (sweet, but white), which I adore. We picked up some of these potatoes, baby bok choy to stir fry, and the red snapper for our dish. We picked the fish we wanted whole, and watched while they cleaned, skinned and filleted them.

The dish we made involves quite a few steps, but the presentation is great for guests and it tastes yummy. I peeled the tomatoes by first blanching them for 30 seconds then dunking them in cold water, and I recommend getting this done before cooking the fish. Additionally, the recipe we used gave instructions for making a thai curry sauce from scratch, but we modified it by just mixing curry paste with some coconut milk for a similar result. We served it with baby bok choy -- which we cooked with a bit of sesame oil, then let braise with a bit of chicken broth and oyster sauce -- but it will go great with tons of veggies.

4 6-ounce red napper fillets, skin on
2 tbsp vodka
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp olive oil
4 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and quartered
1 can coconut milk
3 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Spoon vodka, soy sauce and 1 tbsp olive oil into a large zipper bag. Place fillets in bag and refrigerate 1-2 hours, turning occasionally. Drain fillets, pat try and place on a plate. Heat remaining olive oil in a large nonstick skillet. Meanwhile, heat coconut milk, curry paste and basil in a saucepan. Once the oil is hot, add 2 fillets skin-down and sear for 2 minutes, until skin is golden. Remove and repeat with other 2 fillets, then remove. Add mushrooms to skillet and turn heat to low, cook until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Place fillets on top of mushrooms, skin-side up. Place tomatoes around fillets and pour curry sauce over fish. Cover and simmer 10 minutes, until fish just cooked through. Plate fish and vegetables.


North African Chicken and Peanut Stew

Every day, I walk past our glorious cookbook shelf and feel very guilty. I just counted: We have 23 cookbooks, and 11 of them have never been used. Until today, 12. Actually, I should probably say that we've never used recipes from them, because all of them have been read, studied, and salivated over. Today I pulled out one of my lazy-afternoon favorites, Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World, and decided to put it to its intended use.

Because it looked too delicious to resist, we chose a recipe for North African Peanut stew. We ended up adapting it a lot, but the book was open while we were cooking so it counts as proper use. Our primary modification was the addition of vegetables, and I think you could even add more if you want. We fed this to everyone who passed through the kitchen this evening (more people than one might think), plus some invited guests, and there was a strong consensus on the side of delicious. Served over rice, this dish is sweet and savory, filling and unique.

Ingredients (makes a lot, maybe 8 servings):
6 chicken breasts
3 tbsp canola oil
2 onions
6 carrots
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
3/4 tsp cayenne, or more to taste
3 cups chopped tomato, fresh or canned
1 bag frozen peas
6 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp corn starch (optional)
peanuts (optional for garnish)

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large pan, add chicken and cook until browned, about 4 minutes on each side. Set aside. In a large pot, heat the remaining tbsp oil in a large pot. Add onion, ginger and carrots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in cayenne, tomatoes, and peas, until the tomatoes have softened, about 5 minutes. Cut chicken into 1-inch cubes, and add to the pot. Add 4 cups stock, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 10 minutes. Whisk or blend together remaining chicken stock with peanut butter, and whisk into the pot mixture. Cook for another 30 minutes or so. Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve, with optional peanuts on top.


Jacqui Muffins

Holy mother of muffins, we've truly outdone ourselves. I'd call them gems, but they are more like diamonds -- big, beautiful, shining diamond muffins. I'm so proud!

So sometimes clothing designers do this thing where they name pieces after people who inspire them, like "Emily dress" or "Sara tee," and I thought why not do the same for food. These are Jacqui muffins, inspired my roommate. Since a "Jacqui dress" would be high-fashion but classic, with tons of awesome elements that come together perfectly, I tried to achieve the same composition in this muffin. Besides, Jacqui loves to order muffins at overpriced coffee shops, especially when they come in pretty wrappings like the ones we used. But if you feel awk calling a muffin after someone you don't know, you could just call these Everything muffins, because it is essentially what they are. And when Everything is assembled with careful proportion, it's a wonderful thing.

I started out with a modified batter (I made it half whole wheat) from our carrot cake muffins, and added from there, adjusting the wet ingredients to compensate. I threw in anything that I thought would taste good, including nuts, seeds, oats, raisins and orange zest. The result was a super intense, moist, scrumptious muffin that is perfect for anytime. Have fun baking them for the red-headed Canadian Whartonite roomie in your life.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp orange zest
3/4 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
1 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely shopped
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 cups raw carrot, grated
1 large apple, peeled and grated

Preheat oven to 350, line muffin pan with cups. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in orange zest, walnuts, coconut, rolled oats, raisins and pumpkin seeds. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs, and whisk in vanilla and oil. Add wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Add carrot and apple, and mix. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Bake until an inserted knife comes out clean. For normal-sized muffins, this should be about 20 minutes, but cooking time will vary.


Weeknight Barley Soup

Sometimes, we have great excuses for not posting for a while, but today we do not. Our parents were here this weekend, if that counts. I had a paper due today, though admittedly it didn't take that much time. Well, as always, we have a classically Als recipe to ease us back into the blogs.

It's not the most beautiful soup in the pot -- but here's a quick and simply delightful mushroom barley. We modified some classic recipes to create something that is do-able in about an hour, but still retains the wholesome, homey flavor that we love. The shitakes and soy sauce lend an interesting note, and complement the other ingredients without overwhelming. Served alongside olive-rosemary dinner rolls, this was more than we ever expected from such a basic recipe.

2 tbsp olive oil
5 carrots, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
3/4 lb. button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups of hot water (do not discard water)
1 onion, sliced
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup barley
salt and pepper
soy sauce
parmesan cheese to garnish

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add onions, carrots and button mushrooms to pot, and saute until soft. Add barley and saute for five minutes. Add shitake mushrooms, chicken broth, and 1 cup of water from the soaking mushrooms. Bring to boil, then turn down to simmer for 45 minutes. Add a splash of soy sauce if you like, serve and garnish with cheese.


Fresh Ravioli

Making pasta from scratch is a surefire way to boost your confidence in the kitchen. It's easy, but you feel cool because you MADE pasta. We had people over last night before heading downtown for VDay, and we couldn't resist slipping the accomplishment into more than one conversation...

Oh hey, are you hungry? Because we made some ravioli from scratch, if you want some. Yeah, no biggie. No, we don't have a pasta machine, we just rolled out the dough. What's that? Better than Mario Battali's? Haha, you're too kind.

Maybe not quite. But still -- homemade pasta tastes delicious, and requires only a few simple steps: Mix eggs and flour, roll and cut. The dough is extremely workable, and there is no waiting time. We found both our dough and filling recipes from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, and prepared the filling in advance. Next time we will probably try to roll the dough a bit thinner, but overall we are proud of a successful first attempt!

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
6 eggs
water, as needed
2 cups baked sweet potato
2 eggs
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp sugar
1/2 grated parmesan cheese

To make filling, mash the baked potato in a small bowl. Add nutmeg, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in eggs and cheese, and set aside. To make pasta dough, pile flour in a large bowl, and make a hole in the middle. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring in completely with a fork before adding the next one. Add about a tsp of water at a time until the dough comes together into a ball. Knead for about two minutes, until smooth, then divide dough into 6 equal chunks. On a lightly floured surface, roll out two chunks dough as thinly as possible. Scoop teaspoonfuls of filling onto one of the dough sheets, about 2 inches apart. Brush water in between the filling to make sticky, then place the other dough sheet on top. Press down around filling, and cut ravioli. Repeat until you've used up your dough, then cook ravioli in boiling water for about 12 minutes, until pasta is soft and cooked.


Sprinkled Angel Food Cake

As mentioned, we're not crazy about Valentine's Day. But if there is one thing that can change our minds about a mediocre holiday, it's presents. Today, we bought an utterly beautiful and shiny angel food cake pan from Williams Sonoma, and we're feeling much better about everything.

Two independent factors fueled the decision to bake the cake. Firstly, my dad is on one of his angel food cake/flan kicks, which he enters into approx once every two years. He makes a huge production, separating eggs like crazy and messing up the entire kitchen. Even though I am not at home, I wanted to get in on the fun. The second inspiration came from the heart-shaped sprinkles from our Not-Valentine's Day muffins. We wanted to create a funfetti effect by throwing them into a batter, and thought that the lightness of an angel food cake would suspend the sprinkles perfectly.

As a huge angel food cake fans, we were thrilled with the results. The sprinkles looked great, and they didn't discolor the entire cake as we feared they might. It was fluffy and soft, and though I just finished a piece, I'm already planning some for snack tomorrow. You can make it romantically with strawberries and cool whip if you're celebrating some love, or you can just scarf it down. Either way, it's fierce.

12 egg whites
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sprinkles

Let egg whites stand for room temperature for about an hour before beginning. Set oven rack in lower third of oven, and preheat to 350. Sift confectioners sugar, flour and salt together, and set aside. Beat egg whites with a mixture until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat at medium speed until whites form soft peaks. Gradually add granulated sugar and beat until egg whites form droopy peaks. Beat in extract. Gradually sprinkle sifted mixture into batter, and fold in with a spatula. Fold in sprinkles. Pour batter into an angel food cake pan. Bake about 40 minutes until top is lightly golden. Invert pan and cool completely. To remove, run knife around outer edge of pan. Serve with cool whip, fruit, chocolate sauce, fruit sauce, or anything else.


Cinnamon Swirl Bread

This is the bread that we always dreamed we would bake.

The dough was beautiful from the start -- elastic and soft. It rose like a beast, and sprang back after we punched it down. It hardly clung to the counter, folding easily into a roll. In the oven, it rounded out into a tall and golden loaf. The slices were evenly swirled, fluffy and chewy, and unbelievably delicious. The bread is sweet enough alone, but when you get to the heavily swirled, gooey bits in the middle, it's something quite special.

We've found that it's best to bake breads when there are several unimportant things to do, but nothing pressing. Today's bread took about four hours total, but we were able to fit the steps in between loads of laundry and watching Rock of Love II with Brett Michaels. We found the recipe on Cooks Illustrated this morning, and adjusted it for our standing-mixer-less kitchen. It requires some patience and steps, but we'd recommend it in a second.

Given our trouble getting doughs to rise, this (and challah) absolutely mark our most successful bread recipes yet. Like we mentioned, it's a dream loaf come true.

1/2 cup milk
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 package dry active yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/2 cup warm water
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra

(filling and glaze)
1/4 cup sugar
5 tsp ground cinnamon
milk for brushing
1 large egg
2 tsp milk

Begin with the dough. Heat milk and butter together in a small saucepan until butter melts. Cool to lukewarm. Meanwhile, sprinkle yeast over warm water in a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir slowly in a circular motion while adding sugar, eggs, salt and lukewarm milk mixture. Continue stirring a bit more quickly, and add 2 cups of flour until mixed thoroughly, then add remaining 1 1/4 cups flour until mixed through. Add more flour if dough seems extremely sticky. Remove dough from bowl, and knead on a floured surface for about 10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, until dough is smooth and elastic. Place in covered, greased bowl to rise for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until doubled in size. Once risen, punch dough down once in the center, and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix cinnamon and sugar together for filling, and grease 9x5 inch loaf pan. Roll dough into an 8x18 inch rectangle, with the 8 inch side facing toward you. Brush milk over dough, and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over it, leaving a 1/2 inch edge on the side farthest away. Beginning with the side closest to you, roll dough into a log shape, pressing ends together to make sure that it does not become more than 8 inches. Pinch dough ends together to form a tight seam, and push ends of dough toward the center. Pinch outside dough edges together to form a seal. Place the dough seam-side down into the loaf pan, and press down evenly. Let the dough rise more until it is about 1 inch above the edge of the pan (30-60 minutes). Preheat oven to 350, and combine milk with egg. Before baking, brush this mixture over the top of the loaf. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown, and let cool for 45 minutes before serving.


Not-Valentine's Day Double Chocolate Muffins with Strawberry Frosting

We're not really Valentine' Day people. It's not that we're too cool (though we are), it's more that we've each had so many unsuccesses that we've given up. This year, we're having a Valentine's Day Massacre bar crawl downtown. But just because we can't handle the holiday, it doesn't mean we don't want the treats. Any excuse for chocolate is fine here, and I'm all for excessive decorations.

We've been meaning to make fresh strawberry icing ever since a friend mentioned her killer recipe for it. Strawberries go with chocolate, so double chocolate muffins were a clear choice accompaniment. I love these because though we dosed them with chocolate and icing, they still have that chewy muffin consistency, and they're not overly sweet.

Note: You may want to start the icing before the muffins since they strawberries and sugar need to be refrigerated. And we recommend refrigerating the muffins once they are frosted as well.

Ingredients (makes 18):
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 tbsp butter
1 cup chocolate chips

8 oz. strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 cup granulated sugar
4 cups powdered sugar
5 tbsp butter

To make muffins, preheat oven to 400 and line muffin tins with muffin cups. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, cocoa powder and baking soda. Remove about 1/8 cup of this mixture, and use it to coat chocolate chips. In a smaller bowl, combine eggs, milk and butter. Add liquid mixture into dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Scoop batter into tins, filling 4/5 of the way. Bake for about 20 minutes, until well-risen. Cool completely before icing.
To make icing, coat strawberries in the granulated sugar, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. When you are ready, remove excess liquid from strawberries and mash them. Beat butter until fluffy, then add in strawberries and 3 cups powdered sugar. Add more sugar until necessary, until icing feels creamy, or is your desired consistency.


Favorite Soup: Vegetable and Matzo Ball

This is my great grandmother's recipe for vegetable soup with matzo balls. My mom has been making it for as long as I can remember, mostly on holidays and sick days. I think that it is the best soup in the world. It's far heartier than most matzo ball soups, which consist of a few lumpy balls in clear broth, and the vegetables blend together so subtly and intuitively that its truly harmonious. I’ve only recently begun attempting it on my own (and by that I mean with Alex, who does most of the intensive labor) but I know that I will continue making it for the rest of my life.

There are so many things to love about this soup. It tastes super healthy, and with its strong kick of ginger, it has healing effects on bellyaches, colds, stressed minds or pretty much anything. Plus, the steps are simple: Throw stuff in a pot and let it simmer for two hours before blending. In fact, if you ask my mom for further instructions, she gets very ambiguous. When I was younger, I was convinced that this was because she was hiding a secret ingredient or step that perfected the soup, but now I think that its because no matter what you do, it still tastes delicious.

The vegetable soup is amazing alone, but we always add matzo balls. My favorite brand is Streits, but since my local grocery stores doesn’t carry it, I used Manischewitz. The trick to making perfect matzo balls is to make sure that your hands are very wet, and to only lightly bring the matzo meal together. Try not to pack them; it doesn’t matter if they aren’t perfectly round. I’d take a light and funky-shaped matzo ball over a heavy one any day.

1 whole chicken, cut into its parts
5 carrots, peeled and cut into very large chunks
3 parsnips
, peeled and cut into very large chunks
top 1/3 of a celery bunch, cut into very large chunks
1 potato, peeled and cut into very large chunks
2 onions, cut into very large chunks
4 garlic cloves
3 inch piece ginger, peeled
1/2 bunch parsley
1/2 bunch dill
1 can stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato sauce

Put all ingredients in a large pot and fill pot with water. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for two hours. Remove chicken pieces and set aside for later use (makes great chicken salad). Using a strainer, remove remaining solids and separate any leftover chicken from the mass of vegetables. In a blender, puree vegetables in batches with a bit of the broth, and add back into the soup. Adjust seasonings (salt) and add matzo balls, as per instructions on the box.