Roast Chicken with Bananas and Potatoes

My husband said the last roast chicken I made, with apples, was the best chicken of his life. Tonight I roasted a chicken with little more than a few cloves of garlic, two semi-green bananas, and some potatoes. This dish just may make him revise his opinion yet again.

I found it to be quite good, something I’ll certainly do again, but perhaps with some tweaks (like smearing the chicken with some honey….).

If you’ve got a defrosted bird, this meal can be tossed together in mere minutes before being roasted and primed for your belly in about 60.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 unripe bananas
  • 5 potatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, rosemary, dash cloves, Trader Joe’s 21 Season Salute
  • Large cast iron skillet

Directions:

  1. Take the bird out of the fridge (you want it close to room temperature before being put in the oven). Rinse him out and set him on a plate.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
  3. Pour the olive oil into a bowl.
  4. Chop (and peel if you like) the potatoes into large hunks.
  5. Peel and crush the cloves of garlic.
  6. Toss the potatoes and garlic in the olive oil before arranging them on the bottom of the cast iron skillet (be sure to reserve most of the oil for rubbing down the bird).
  7. Chop one banana in half and stick that half in the cavity of the bird. Chop the remaining one and a half bananas into large hunks and arrange in the skillet.
  8. Rub in part of the olive oil into the breast side of the bird. Generously salt and pepper the breast side. Then place the chicken breast side down over the potatoes and banana.
  9. Rub the remaining oil over the other side of the bird. Sprinkle liberally with rosemary, then sprinkle with the dash of cloves and another seasoning blend (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Season Salute).
  10. Place the skillet in the 450 degree oven. Check if done in 50 minutes. I peeked twice. At 40 minutes I noticed the skin was getting very dark, near burnt, and so I put a little piece of foil over it. Cook until the juices run clear and the potatoes are done (it should be 50 to 60 minutes or so).
  11. Pull the skillet from the oven, cover the chicken with foil and let rest 10 minutes before carving.

Enjoy! We planned on serving the chicken with some mole sauce.

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Roast Chicken with Apples, Spuds, and Carrots

According to my husband, this created the best roast chicken he’s ever eaten. I liked it because it was easy to assemble then cook, and I’m all for being lazy and taking the easy route. Marinating? Trussing? Way too involved if you ask me. I read a few recipes and then experimented to bring you this delicious gem. The key is the apples which bring the moisture for keeping the chicken from drying out. Plus, cooking the bird breast side down means the breasts will braise rather than drying out roasting (so Simply Recipes tells me), and the rest of the meat will be awesome.

Ingredients

  • 1 Whole chicken
  • 5 Potatoes
  • 5 Carrots
  • 5 Garlic cloves
  • 3 Small apples, I used honeycrisp
  • 1 Red onion
  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, rosemary
  • Large cast iron skillet

Directions:

  1. Take the bird out of the fridge (you want it to pretty much be room temperature before you stick it in the oven, but don’t sweat it, just take it out first). Rinse him out and let him sit on a plate while you take care of everything else.
  2. Pour the olive oil into a medium to large bowl.
  3. Chop the onion into thick wedges, toss in the oil and then arrange in the cast iron skillet.
  4. Peel (if necessary for your variety) and quarter the potatoes, toss in the oil, then arrange in the skillet.
  5. Crush and peel the garlic cloves. Place two inside the bird, along with a little bit of onion.
  6. Quarter two of the apples and arrange in the skillet (leave peels on). Chop the third apple into smaller bite pieces and place it inside the chicken.
  7. Peel and Chop the carrots into large hunks, arrange on the skillet.
  8. Sprinkle pepper and rosemary over the vegetables in the pan.
  9. Using the oil left in the large bowl, drizzle half on the breast side of the bird, rub it in.
  10. Place the bird, breast side down on the bed of vegetables and apples in the skillet.
  11. Using the remaining oil, drizzle the other side of the bird, rub it in and then sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and rosemary.
  12. Pop that sucker into the 450 degree oven and check in about 50 to 60 minutes. Cook 60 to 70 minutes until the juices of the bird run clear and the vegetables are tender.
  13. Pull out of the oven and cover with foil. Let rest 10 minutes before carving and serving.

Enjoy the best chicken of your life.

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Microwave Popcorn

Presto! Blammo! Alakazam!

Why did no one ever tell me microwaving your own popcorn was so simple a toddler could do it? I always imagined that good money was made selling microwave popcorn bags because there was some fancy high science going on inside them. I mean, they say “this side up” on them, which implies there’s something darn tooting special happening up in that bag.

Making your own microwave popcorn has to be one of the easiest things in the world of easy. I’m not talking about taking one of those little individually wrapped bags out of its plastic, unfolding it, and hitting the popcorn button. I’m talking about pouring your own popcorn into a bag and setting it in the microwave and hitting “nuke it.”

My curiosity and poverty got the better of me one day ($1.99 for six single serving bags these days at Trader Joes’ WHAT) and I hit the trusty google to investigate the matter. I discovered a plethora of sites advising me that it was possible and offering all kinds of suggestions. Some of which seemed to still involve too much work and alchemy (Alton Brown and others get way too complicated and oil it up in the bag and then stick staples or tape on it).

Here’s the low down:

  1. You stick 1/4 cup (or less) of pop corn kernels in a paper lunch bag (you know the kind- cheap, sold in bundles of like 50-also good for making puppets out of).
  2. Fold it over (little pleats) like 4 times. Sit it on there wide bottom down or on its side (doesn’t matter, may fall over on its own).
  3. Cook for like 1 minute 30 seconds (stand nearby to learn your microwave’s time-could be a little more or a little less).
  4. Pour out your amazing popcorn.
  5. Jazz it up as you feel. I like to melt a little real butter into mine and a teensy tiny dash of salt and garlic powder. Savingslifestyle.com recommends olive oil and sea salt.

That’s it! For $1.99 for my bag of popping corn I’m going to get about 20 bags of microwave popcorn out of the deal. Plus my stuff will be healthier by boodles. Feel free to unhealthy your own batch as ye will. Any other good suggestions on flavor combos would be appreciated in comments.

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How Goes the Compost Bin?

How goes the composting you ask? It goes well. I have worms in there! This makes me happy. I didn’t put them in there, they came of their own accord through the little holes on the bottom of my trash can compost barrel. The reason it makes me go “squee” is because it means that the bin is a happy good composting rot place where worms want to hang and get in on the action. It looks rather compost like in there.

I’m a lazy composter. I toss stuff in there when I think of it. I only think to gather stuff on occasion. Sometimes the bucket in the bottom of my cupboard full of veggie rot that needs to be tended to gets forgotten for a while.

I started this bin back in January, which is not the best time of year to start a compost heap in a New England climate, but I managed, and it did alright.

If you read my first post about the DIY city folk friendly compost bin, you know that I began composting in January. In Boston. Not the best time of year, but it works. I had to give it up for a while as the barrel was buried by snow, and then a layer of ice sealed it in. From February to early April (at least it felt like that late in the year) the barrel was invisible. There was no tending, no adding (this is when my experiment in making poisonous anaerobic rot inside my kitchen occurred).  Despite the ups and downs and hiccups and less-than-dedicated effort, I feel like I earn a green star for still turning a decent amount of kitchen scraps into worm happy compost rather than land-fill.

Here’s a few lesson’s I’ve already learned along the way:

  • It’s important to transfer the goods in your inside bin to the outside bin before a situation develops.
  • Never make your inside bin airtight. I learned that the hard way (you don’t want details, suffice it to say it’s the worst smell in the world, and I believe hazardous to one’s health).
  • Egg shells take a long while to compost.
  • Whole sheets of copy paper also take a while. It’s important to rip those bad boys a little.
  • While it’s never too cold to compost, there can be too much snow.
  • Paying only the slightest regard to “greens” and “browns” and proper proportions will still yield you results, though perhaps not on the fastest schedule.
  • Even lazy-man occasional composting still makes you all warm and fuzzy “I’m saving the earth” inside, which is nice to think.

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Energy bars

I recently went on a hike and whipped up this batch of energy bars to eat for breakfast while on the trail. This recipe is a riff off of another recipe I found online. They were quite tasty and filling, which is perfect for a hike or go-to snack/pick me up. I took the Whole Grain Gourmet’s specific recipe and pared it down to its essence.

Once you make these, you’ll instantly see modifications you can make to it to suit your taste. Feel free to experiment- more peanut butter, or more honey. I would’ve added chocolate in it or melted on top if I had any on hand.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup nuts (your choice- walnuts, peanuts, almonds, a mix or one kind)
  • 1 cup dried fruits (I used dried cranberries, strawberries, blueberries)
  • 1/2 cup Bob’s 12 grain cereal (or another variety, or just grind up oats)
  • 2 cup rolled oats (mine was a rye, oats, barley, wheat 4 grain medley)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  1. Toast the oats under the broiler. Be very mindful you don’t end up with burnt oats. Stay close to the stove and begin peeking the second you smell them.
  2. The recipe I based my energy bars off of said to “pulse dried fruits to mine.” I found that trying to pulse my dried fruit lead to my food processor emitting an ear shattering noise with little mincing happening. So, I instead took out my handy chef’s knife and got to hand chopping.
  3. I also chopped my nuts up by hand.
  4. Combine the dried fruits, nuts, and rolled oats together in a bowl (leave out the cereal).
  5. Boil 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan. Add the 12-grain cereal. Let it rest two minutes (I turned off the heat but left the pan on the burner).
  6. Add the peanut butter, honey, salt, and vanilla to the pan with the cereal. Turn on heat to low and stir for a few minutes until thoroughly combined.
  7. Combine the wet mix with the dry mix. I got right in there with my hands as a fork and/or spoon were not doing the job after a while.
  8. Press into an 8×8 pan (no need to grease it first). I first used my hands to press the mix into the pan. Then I used the back of a spoon to press and level it some more. You want to ensure it’s a compacted, solid bar.
  9. Take a sheet of wax paper and use that to press down on the top and even out the energy bar mixture.
  10. Let it firm up for a few hours at room temperature before cutting.
  11. Cut into whatever size bars you’d like. It makes at least 8 really large bars.

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Apple Cake

I’ve made this cake about three or four times in as many weeks. Every time it has come out quite tasty. I’ve used both a bundt pan and a pyrex 9×13 to cook it up. I’ve tossed some of the apples on the bottom of the pan and put the rest in batter, or mixed them all in the batter. Basically, it’s a hard cake to screw up. Cake’s a bit of a misnomer as it’s more like a delicious apple muffin. Slather some frosting on it, either a glaze or some cream cheese frosting if you want a more cake-like experience. I imagine it could also be turned into muffins easily, just adjust the bake time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 Cups sugar
  • 1 Cup vegetable oil
  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 Tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp flax meal (optional)
  • 2 3/4 Cups flour
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • 1 Tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp (heaping) cinnamon
  • 1/2 Tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 Tsp cloves
  • 1 Cup walnuts
  • 1/4 Cup dried blueberries (optional)
  • 4-6 Apples, diced (any good cooking apples- I’ve used cortlands and crispins before)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Chop the apples and coat with a dash of cinnamon.
  3. Mix the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla together in a bowl.
  4. Combine the flax (optional), flour, salt, and spices together in a separate bowl.
  5. Mix the flour mixture into the egg and sugar mixture until combined.
  6. Stir in the walnuts and dried berries (optional).
  7. Fold in the chopped apples.
  8. Pour into an oiled 9×13 pan or a bundt pan.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Try not to eat it all in one day, it’s that tasty!

 

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Rum Cake

This cake was a huge hit at my friends’ party last night. Based on its deliciousness, one friend quipped that I should open my own bakery.  I don’t have the wherewithal to do all that noise, but bottom-line, the cake rocks. Make this cake when you’re having a gathering otherwise you’ll want to devour it all yourself.

I based my glaze drizzling process on what was detailed on Pioneer Woman’s blog, but my recipe was a modification of several recipes I found online.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 1/2 Cups sugar
  • 4 Large eggs
  • 2 Tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 Cups dark rum (I used Sailor Jerry’s)
  • 3 Cups flour
  • 1/2 Tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 Tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 Tsp salt
  • 1 Cup buttermilk
  • Rum glaze

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add in the eggs, vanilla. Blend to combine.
  4. Add in the rum and blend until combined.
  5. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a separate bowl.
  6. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the batter, alternating between the two (adding about 1/3 each go), beginning and ending with flour. Blend on low after each addition until just combined (a few seconds each).
  7. Pour into greased bundt pan.
  8. Bake for 50-60 minutes. If you insert a toothpick into the cake, it should come out clean.
  9. While the cake is still in the pan, slowly drizzle 1/3 of the rum glaze over the cake, giving it time to seep in. Let it soak for 5 minutes and then invert the cake onto a cake platter or plate. Be sure whatever surface has a sufficient rim to trap in the rum glaze that will spill out! (I did not, and ended up with glaze spilled all over my counter and floor. I ended up sticking the cake in a pyrex pie dish).
  10. Poke all over the cake with the tines of a fork. Then slowly drizzle the glaze all over the cake.
  11. Enjoy!

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