Heavenly Roasted Chicken with Crimini Mushroom Gravy

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Here’s a post from a while back that may really help the blogosphere with Thanksgiving. This roasting method and from-scratch gravy are super easy and incredibly savory! Read on: Heavenly Roasted Chicken with Crimini Mushroom Gravy.

Organic Sage and Lemon Chicken with Homemade Bread Stuffing

 

I posted this quite a long time ago, but the roasting tips are perfect for Thanksgiving. Read on20130530-204602.jpgOrganic Sage and Lemon Chicken with Homemade Bread Stuffing.

Spicy and Garlicky Marinated Artichoke Hearts

Marinated Artichoke Hearts

I eat a lot of salad…even when it’s holiday time and I own stretchy pants. When there’s miles and miles of turkey, pie, gravy, pie, casseroles, pie, mashed potatoes, pie, and so on, I need to do even more to make healthy eating a part of my daily life. And playing with different flavors and textures keeps me interested. Because if I didn’t, let me direct your attention to the number of times I said “pie” in the first sentence of this post. I digress…

My latest favorite salad friend is artichoke hearts. And, truth be told, I was using the jarred ones that are readily available in the grocery store. It never dawned on me to make them. So, as with mostly everything else that I’m in food-love with, I decided to scrap the store-bought and make my own.

I wasn’t sure how this would go, so I wanted to make a small batch. I love garlic, I love chili flakes, and I love artichokes. I was sure I’d adore them together. But, if it didn’t work and the recipe was a bust, at least I wouldn’t be wasting a bunch of ingredients…and money. And, I never use other people’s recipes for experimentation; I like to blame only myself for bone-headed brilliance. This could have worked out horribly. But it didn’t. As Murphy and his stupid laws would have it, this experiment was a smashing success.

This is amazingly easy, I promise. Feel free to double or triple this recipe, but to make the same size batch as I did, you’ll need:

  • 14 ounce can of plain, quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar (you could substitute the same amount of lemon if you prefer)
  • Pinch of sugar

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Method:

To a large skillet, add the olive oil, artichokes, garlic, onion, oregano, salt, and chili flakes and cook for ten minutes over medium-low heat. It should just barely be at a light simmer. The goal is for the flavors to meld, not for everything to turn to mush.

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Remove the skillet from the heat and let cool completely. Once cooled, incorporate the vinegar and sugar. Finally, transfer the entire contents to a jar or container with a tightly fitting lid. Refrigerate at least overnight before eating…if you can resist.

Happy and healthy cooking, my friends,

Jenna

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Snack on This: Mexican-Spiced Roasted Chick Peas

I’m a snacker. I’ve always been, I always will be, and I’m OK with that. As a kid, I would choose a tomato over a candy bar, and I’m still that way. I love finding healthy, organic alternatives to the fatty, salty, and cholesterol-laden processed foods that plague our grocery store shelves. And roasted chick peas are a super choice for a protein-packed snack that’s also high in fiber, folate, maganese, and iron.

I purchase organic, non-GMO, chick peas (garbanzo beans) from my local health food store in 25-pound bags. I pay $1.26 per pound when I buy in bulk. I used them mainly for hummus, but roasting the leftovers is a perfect way to prevent waste while getting a fantastic guilt-free snack that rivals any chip.

To make these mexican-spiced chick peas, you’ll need:

  • 28 ounces of chick peas (either cooked from dry or approximately two-14 ounce cans)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Method:

Rinse and drain cooked chick peas and dry on a clean kitchen towel.

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Place the chick peas on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Roast in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes.

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As you can see, they’ll significantly reduce in size. Let them cool slightly and transfer them to a bowl. Gently toss them with the olive oil and spices. (Feel free to adjust the spice levels to your taste.) Lower the oven to 300 degrees, spread the seasoned chick peas back out on the parchment paper, and pop back in the oven for another 15-30 minutes.

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I like them very crunchy, so I let them bake for the full 30 minutes. If you like them on the softer side, remove them after 15. Check them frequently, so you can be sure they’re not getting overcooked.

Once they’ve got the perfect amount of crunch, let them cool completely and transfer them to an air-tight container. They’ll stay perfectly fresh for about a week, but they never last that long around here!

Healthy snacking, everybody!

No Bah Humbug Here: The Easiest Holiday Appetizer EVER

If you’re short on time and you need a festive holiday appetizer in a pinch, look no further! This amazing snack was born from laziness. I was eating pomegranate seeds, my boyfriend was having brie and pita crackers, and I really wanted to eat his snack, but wanted to top the brie with pepper jelly. But it was all the way in the kitchen…like a million miles away. And when he’s watching a Michigan game with that glazed-over look, there’s no budging him. And I was (and still am) caught up in Martha Stewart’s Collected Recipes for Every Day cookbook because it’s raining out, and I can’t play in the garden.

Anyhow, I popped a few ruby red jewels on top of the brie-smeared cracker and stuffed it in my mouth. I did (and am still doing) this repeatedly. Pretty, right?

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In fact, this post is nearly interrupting my face-stuffing…but I had to tell the blogosphere about this. The sweet/tart flavor of the pomegranate combined with the salty/creaminess of the brie and the crunch of the cracker make for a perfect and super simple appetizer. What’s more is that these little antioxidant-rich babies look exactly like holly berries. I’m completely smitten…and full.

Festively snacking,

Jenna

P.S. To make this gluten-free, I’d go for nice, uber seedy gluten-free cracker. It’d be amazing!

Florida Fall Gardening: Starting Lettuce and Brassica Seeds Indoors

I’m quite fond of starting seeds indoors. Why? Because it’s easier. And because I have a small garden and can’t afford to waste precious space on things that might not even germinate. In the past, I’ve started all of my heirloom tomatoes and peppers indoors, then hardened them off appropriately before sending them out into the cruel, cruel world. This time, however, I’m trying something new. About 10 days ago, I sewed seeds for major hybrid broccoli, lime green brocoverde cauliflower, sweet Valentine romaine, and black seeded Simpson leaf lettuce.

I placed good quality organic seed starting mix in each compartment, and, initially, I thought I’d just put one seed in each compartment. Then I added a few more thinking I could tip the scale in my favor. I didn’t go overboard, though…I think. I labeled each row, watered gently with a spray bottle, and placed them in my sunroom. It’s the most humid and warm area of the house. I watered only when the mix felt dry-ish because seeds hate too much water.

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In about a week, this is what sprouted:

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There was a good show from the broccoli and cauliflower, but less from the lettuces. I wonder if I should have used a humidity dome. I wonder if the seeds from the black seeded Simpson lettuce were too old  (they were six months from expiring) as only one reared its cute little head. I wonder if the seeds are too finicky for the potting mix I used. I wonder if I could learn to communicate with seeds. (You think I’m kidding…)

I’d like to increase the seed germination rate next time. Thoughts? Advice? Words of wisdom?  I’m calling out to you, the big, beautiful blogosphere, for help.

Love and happy gardening,

Jenna

Fall Comfort Food: Roasted Butternut Squash Alfredo

Roasted Butternut Squash Alfredo

The farmer’s market is currently packed with fall favorites. This is prime roasting season and, much like people go bonkers for pumpkin everything as soon as October hits, my heart goes pitter patter for butternut squash in November! Last Saturday, I did a double take at the most gorgeous butternut babies perfectly arranged on a rustically rickety wooden table and nearly tripped over my own feet to get there. Without flinching, I threw money down on the table, snatched my squash baby, and headed for my car in a dreamlike state considering all the culinary possibilities. The squash was my oyster. Thank goodness I opted for the autopilot option.

Then it hit me: roasted butternut squash alfredo! Cheesy, creamy, squashy, yummy…

My friend, Celeste, is a butternut aficionado and was our dinner guest. (She’s pretty much our guest every time she’s in town. We love her.)  And, short of me smacking her hand every time she tried to steal a piece of hot squash from the oven, she awarded this dish the Celeste Seal of Approval.

So, for this super flexible recipe, you’ll need:

  • 2-3 pound fresh butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
  • Canola oil
  • 5 tablespoons organic unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup organic 2% milk (you could use whole, too)
  • 2 cups, preferably homemade, organic chicken stock or broth (see my stock recipe here)
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • A splash’s worth of organic cream or half and half
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh grated nutmeg (optional)

Method:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Toss the cubed butternut squash with a tablespoon of canola oil, a nice pinch of sea salt, cracked black pepper to taste, and a smidge of fresh grated nutmeg if you so choose. (I didn’t have any in my pantry, so I didn’t include it this time.) Line an oven-safe vessel with parchment paper and lay out the squash in a single layer.

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Roast the squash for about 30 minutes until it starts browning. Caramelization is your friend.

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Next, get out a nice heavy pot; I prefer to use enameled cast iron. (Actually, I always prefer these.) It’s time to make a roux! This is just a fancy way of saying to melt the 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and vigorously whisk in the 2 tablespoons of flour until you get a smooth paste. (For my gluten-free friends, try white rice flour.) This is what will begin to thicken the sauce. Cook this roux for 3-4 minutes while whisking constantly.

Now add the cup of milk and 2 cups of chicken stock (For my vegetarian friends, use veggie stock). Keep whisking and bring this all to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes. It should slightly thicken. Add more liquid (more stock or water would be fine) if it’s too pasty.

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Now it’s time to add the roasted butternut squash. You should have about 5-6 cups, give or take, of the roasted veggie. It doesn’t have to be exact. Be gentle! I don’t want you splashing hot liquid all over yourself and saying I told you to do it.

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Hopefully, you have an immersion blender handy because this’ll make your life really easy. If not, a large food processor or blender would work just fine. (Truth be told, I like to do as few dishes as possible.)

Turn the heat to low, and blend the contents of the pot until nice and smooth.

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This took me about 2 minutes. (Look, a rare glimpse of me cooking! You thought it was all a clever ruse, didn’t you?)

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Next add two small handfuls, about a cup’s worth, of fresh grated parmesan cheese and a healthy splash of half and half or cream. I usually have half and half on hand for coffee, so I used this. Like I said, this recipe is super flexible. Bring this back to a gentle simmer for 2-3 minutes, and give it a taste. I added cracked black pepper and a pinch of sea salt to mine.

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Serve this roasted butternut alfredo over your favorite pasta, but I do recommend a tube-shaped pasta like rigatoni, ziti, or penne. The sauce finds its way to the hollow center and, for sauce gluttons like myself, this is the only way to roll.

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Happy stretchy pants season, everyone! I’m so happy Fall is finally here.

Better Late Than Never: Accepting the Best Moment and Sunshine Award

Sunshine Award

I can’t believe I’m so late in doing this. My blogger friend, The Novice Gardener, nominated me for three awards last month. I was planning on turning each into a separate post, but, alas, time has escaped me. And, until I can bend the time-space continuum…

I’m accepting these awards in synchrony! My acceptance speech is very applicable for these awards as well.Best Moment Award

The more I peruse the WordPress reader, the more I continue to find new and amazing bloggers. Of course, I tend to stick to my interests when searching, so my scope isn’t all that wide, but the following bloggers are the ones I wish to pass the torch to. For both the Sunshine and Best Moment Awards, I’m happy to nominate the following:

The Days of Jay

No Thyme to Waste

Jacqui O Retro

For Dragonflies and Me

Kitchen Joy

So that’s it. Thank you again, Novice Gardener, for recognizing Delicious Daydreams. And thank you to the amazing blogging community that continues to dream up, write about, photograph, and share their passions with the blogosphere. The internet is a better place because of people like you.

With love,

Jenna

Graciously Accepting the Illuminating Blogger Award

Illuminating Blogger AwardI was given a much needed warm fuzzy on a cold and rainy Saturday morning. My new blogger friend, Ashley Marie from No Thyme To Waste, nominated me, Delicious Daydreams, for the Illuminating Blogger Award! Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. This particular award is exceptional because it means the recipients contribute informative and illuminating content to the blogosphere. I’m honored to be one of them!

So, as per the rules of engagement for acceptance, I need to share one random fact about myself. Perhaps I shouldn’t think out loud here, but I’m…oh, OK, gosh this is more difficult than I though it’d be. OK, got it. I hate candy corns (except for the ones that taste like Starburst; those are confusingly good).

Now, for my favorite part, I get to spread the love. In no particular order, I’d like to nominate the following bloggers who make my WordPress feed a happier place to dwell:

Soil and Cellar

Diary of a Tomato

The Thoughtful Plate

Recession Gardening

The Hungry Gap

Thank you, fellow bloggers, for keeping it interesting and honest. I really appreciate each and every one of you and am excited to learn more about you through your future posts. And, as for for my award angel, Ashley Marie from No Thyme to Waste, I look forward to seeing more of your wonderful food and photography. You, my dear, are the illuminating one! Thank you, again.