Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs and Sweet Potatoes

dinner-for-2At some point over the holidays you know it’s time to rein it in. Eating a sleeve of Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe Joes (insiders tip: they are even better frozen!) with a chaser of prosecco and calling it dinner can’t go on for too many days in a row. I find it’s best to do it before January 1st. Everyone knows that New Years resolutions don’t last.

I’m not talking about a kale and quinoa salad or an almond milk-frozen banana- spinach smoothie level reining it in. That’s hard core and way too severe for late December. I’m just suggesting that you prepare a meal that contains some protein, complex carbs and perhaps something green, and that requires you to actually sit down and use a knife and fork to eat it.

This recipe was inspired by NYT Cooking editor, Sam Sifton. Every Wednesday he writes about cooking without a recipe. On October 12 2016, he suggested roasting chicken thighs with sweet potato fries and jalapeños. I have made it several times, tweaking the procedure and quantities so you don’t have to cook without a recipe!

This sheet-pan chicken dinner is the perfect way to ease you back into a healthy routine. Start with cutting some sweet potatoes into a julienne shoestring fries shape. A glug of olive oil and a judicious sprinkle of Kosher salt and coarse black pepper to coat the fries is all that is required for seasoning.cutting-sweet-potatoesafew-glugs-of-olive-oilSeason some boneless skinless chicken things with more salt and pepper and a light dusting of smoked paprika (mild or hot, your choice). ready-for-roastingRoast for about 40 minutes in a hot (425°F) oven. Squeeze some fresh time juice over the chicken, scatter with thinly sliced jalapeño peppers (pickled jalalpenos are really good too!) and some cilantro and call it dinner. One frozen dark chocolate covered peppermint joe joe is a sensible dessert. It’s too soon to go cold turkey. Save that for January 1st!roasted

Click here to print recipe for Chicken-Thighs-and-Sweet-Potato-Sheet-Pan-Dinner.

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Salty and Sweet Peanut Butter Cookies

milk-and-cookiesI suppose the last thing anyone needs 3 days before Christmas is another holiday cookie blog post or cookie recipe. I am sure that by now you have all put up and decorated your tree, bought and wrapped your gifts and mailed your holiday cards. All your desserts are baked and wrapped well, tucked away in the freezer for the weekend. I know that some of you keeners have even set the table for the big feast on the 25th!

If you’re all set for the holidays, then just put your feet up, enjoy the photos and file this recipe away for mid-January, when your resolve to stay away from butter and sugar crumbles like a… well, like a peanut butter cookie! what-youll-needIf you are scrambling for some last minute cookies to share, this one is perfect. The dough comes together very quickly. Julia Moskin over at New York Times Cooking created these cookies. She was trying to recreate the beloved peanut butter cookie from City Bakery in Manhattan. These cookies are far from the typical peanut butter cookie you may be familiar with.

Made with unsalted peanut butter, cultured butter and brown sugar, they amp up the traditional peanut butter cookie. The texture is crunchy on the outside and sandy and crumbly in the middle. They just melt in your mouth. They are topped with a combo of coarse sea salt and coarse sanding sugar for that perfect sweet-salt balance. scooping-cookiesLeave these cookies nice and round. No need to  flatten and cross hatch with a fork. salt-crystals-on-cookies-1

Click here to print recipe for Salty-and-Sweet-Peanut-Butter-Cookies.

I’m thinking Santa would love these with a cold bottle of milk!cookies-tied-to-milk-bottles

Blondies

lined-up-in-trayAs the aroma of butter and sugar filled the kitchen, my husband magically appeared to find out what was going on. When I revealed that I was baking blondies he looked puzzled. He had no idea what a blondie was. I explained that a blondie is essentially a brownie without the chocolate. His response was “what’s the point of that?”

His response was understandable. There are times when only a deep dark fudgy brownie will satisfy you. But have you considered the fact that without the distraction of chocolate, butter and brown sugar get to be the star? Once the blondies hit the oven, the brown sugar takes on an undertone of butterscotch, with rich caramel notes. The flavours of a blondie are subtle and complex.cut-up-blondiesThe golden top, slightly crispy, gives way to a chewy interior. Studded with white chocolate, macadamia nuts, toffee bits and coconut, these blondies are chock-full of goodness.what-youll-needThese blondies are adapted from Daphna Rabinovitch’s blondie recipe in her comprehensive new cookbook, “The Baker in Me.” It is from Daphna that I first learned about the freakishly delicious combination of white chocolate and macadamia nuts. She was the pastry chef at the take-out food shop I worked in many years ago. I would have happily accepted her white chocolate macadamia nut cookies or skor bar cookies in lieu of a paycheque.spreading-out-batter-in-pancutting-blondies

Click here to print recipe for Blondies.

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Mars Bars Rice Krispie Squares

6-squares I have been making these treats for many years now. I don’t even remember where the original recipe came from. Essentially, instead of marshmallows, you use melted Mars Bars (they are called Milky Way Bars in the U.S.) as the glue to hold everything together. I glammed them up with a blanket of bittersweet chocolate and a drizzle of milk chocolate to create a gorgeous marble patter . A sprinkling of coarse sea salt finishes off these addictive treats.tray-of-squaresI made a video showing how quickly these bars come together. I have been wanting to learn how to incorporate “stop motion animation” into my videos. Essentially, stop motion animation involves taking a photograph of your objects or characters, moving them slightly, and taking another photograph. When you play back the images consecutively, the objects or characters appear to move on their own. For each second of video footage, you need to shoot about 10 still photos. Check out the video I created. I used stop motion animation for the last 5 seconds of the video. I get so excited when I learn a new skill.

 

They are very fast to make and require no baking which is always a bonus at this time of year. They are a perfect hostess gift. Just be sure to tell your hosts that they don’t have to serve them if they have other desserts planned. Some folks are prickly about that. They would not appreciate an addition to their perfectly planned meal. Suggest they tuck them into the freezer for another day.

On the subject of perfect gifts to bring when you are a guest, I just got these fantastic new oven mitts. My old ones were terrycloth and had a hole burned in them. These are silicone on the outside but lined with padded cotton on the inside so they are so comfortable to wear. New oven mitts are something everyone can use but never remembers to buy.

Click here to print recipe for Mars-Bars-Rice-Krispie-Squares.

Ginger Crinkle Cookies

cookies-and-milkI was introduced to these cookies last summer by my friend Lanie. At first I thought it was kind of strange that she made ginger cookies in August. I have always associated cinnamon and ginger with winter. But that was before I sandwiched two cookies around a scoop of salted caramel ice-cream. Home run!!ready-to-bakeThese ginger crinkle cookies are rolled in coarse sanding sugar before baking to give them a crunch. The crispy exterior yields to a chewy center thanks to a judicious amount of molasses. This recipe comes from The Kosher Palette Cookbook. The original recipe calls for rolling the balls of dough in granulated sugar. I wondered if coarse sanding sugar would be better so I tested both. I really preferred the look and more pronounced crunch of the coarse sugar.testing-2-kinds-of-sugartesting-2-kinds-of-sugar-all-bakedI have made these cookies several times since this summer. The last time I made them I used chilled coconut oil in place of the butter, for a dairy-free cookie. I used a refined coconut oil (also called expeller pressed) which is almost flavourless. This is what you want for such a highly spiced cookie. You would not want the flavour of coconut to compete. ready-for-the-ovenrolling-in-sugarcookies-on-woven-cloth

Click here to print recipe for Ginger-Crinkle-Cookies.

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