There are some dishes that just don’t photograph well and unfortunately casseroles are one of them. And I’m also going to blame it on Thursday night and Vampire Diaries was coming on soon…sooo forgive me, but Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley won and my photographs were rushed. But that doesn’t mean this wasn’t absolutely delish. Because it was. Trust me. Even Ben, the artichoke despiser (I’m signing us up for counseling immediately), liked this. Guess who has a whole pan to himself while I’m away in Portland for the weekend? Lucky guy.
Costco is my best friend and worst enemy. And not so much my enemy, but that of my wallet. My love of Costco sure paid off in spades when I bought my wedding dress there. Yes, I did. True story. And it’s also given way to my insatiable urge to buy everything in bulk. Nutella in a two pack? Done. Twice. My favorite yoga pants? Bought three. Two pack quarts of marinated artichoke hearts – someone try and stop me! No, really. Please stop me, my bank card is quivering in my wallet. I eat them straight out of the jar. It’s stupid.
PS – I had to Google Ian Somerhalder’s name to make sure I had the correct number of M’s in it. It’s just one, fyi. Also, Alaric. Hulu it from last night if you haven’t seen it. Mind. Blower. Blown? Whatever. Watch.
So, funny story about learning how to roast chickens… I avoided it like the plague after the unfortunate “Chicken Incident” that Beka and I experience back in our senior year in college. It happened one fateful late spring evening and I was going to roast a chicken for a guy I was dating at the time. He was super cute, legit cowboy, smelled ridic good and had a beard. I was a goner. The night was planned and I was ready to impress, until he called that night as Beka was wrist deep in the chicken trying to teach me how to roast the damn thing and said he wanted to take me out to dinner instead… So what did I do? Went out to dinner, leaving Beka behind to finish the chicken. Don’t worry – my comeuppance was coming… After a dinner at the nicest restaurant in our college town, a perfect date in every way – I got dumped in the parking lot. Yup. At least he took me out to dinner first??? Yeah, no. It was quite possibly the nicest break up ever, bless his heart, but still – it blew. So once I got home, heart broken, Beka was done with the chicken, it was packed away, she was pissed, I was crying and there was no consolation to be found. The night became known as “The Chicken Incident”. It was the sole reason I avoided learning how to roast a chicken for so long. What a waste of time!! Roast chicken is amazing!! Had he come over for dinner instead of taking me out that night, it might have been a very different story. Or I would have ended up dumped in front of my roommate.
But I think it worked out best in the end – I ended up with this hottie. I still win.
But back to the real point of today – roasting a chicken.
There are a few things I stick to when roasting a bird – all of which help with the end results. I swear. One is my adjustable roasting rack so I can shove any sized bird into the oven and have it properly supported – you’ll find out why soon. The next is brining my bird. It’s an easy step, and totally worth while. The last is using compound butter to keep the chicken boobs moist during roasting so you don’t end up with dry boobs. Compound butter is an easy thing to keep on hand and has a ton of uses.
When it comes to brining a bird, all you have to do is mix equal parts sugar and salt into a very large bowl of water. For the large bowl I had, I used ½ cup of each and mixed it until the salt and sugar dissolved. The end results of brining is a moist and flavor packed chicken. Brining isn’t just for Thanksgiving turkies…
Once your brine is mixed, remove your bird from the packaging, and get your husband to remove the neck, liver and gizzards from the cavity. Rinse the bird under cold running water and then place him – the bird, not your husband, into the brine. Place the bird and brine into the fridge for about an hour, turning the bird over half way through the process. Salinity in water has a tendency to be higher at the bottom then the top, so turning your bird ensures it gets equal time in the saltiest parts of the solution.
Once the hour is up, rinse the bird under cold water and pat dry with several paper towels. The drier the skin, the crispier the skin will be in the end. Next, flip the bird boob-side up and gently slide your fingers under the skin to separate the skin from the meat of the boobs. Be careful not to poke your fingers through the skin. Slide in a couple of table spoons of compound butter onto each book and fold the skin over. Lastly, brush the bird with a little olive oil and place it wing-side up in your adjustable roasting rack. The reason behind the wing-side-up technique is that the wings will be exposed to the most amount of heat during the first 30 minutes of roasting, helping bring their temperature up quicker. That way you aren’t playing the tedious game of over-cook-the-chicken-boobs-while-waiting-for-the-dark-meat-to-get-done. What a painful and horrible tasting game.
Roast your chicken for 15 minutes with one wing-side up in a 400 degree oven. After that 15 minutes is up, take a couple of tongs and flip the bird to the opposite wing side and roast another 15 minutes. Once that second 15 minutes is up, it’s time to flip the bird boob-side up and roast it for 30 minutes.
Once the boobs reach 160 degrees and your dark meat reaches 170, you’re good to go! Tent the bird with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes. This is important so the juices in the bird redistribute. Always wonder why there is a puddle of juice when you slice into your bird right away? This is why. All of those flavor filled juices are poured out from the bird onto your cutting board, which means they’re not in your bird anymore! Let it rest, it is sacra-saint.
After your purdy bird has sat and rested you’re ready to carve and serve. Once it’s all cooked, the carving part is a cinch. The joints are lose (gross to think about I KNOW), and you can slice right through them with ease. First hold onto the leg of the bird and gently pull it taught so you can start to slice right through, shown above. The bone will likely pop right out and you will keep cutting all the way down following the rib cage of the bird coming to the thigh joint. Place your knife at the joint and wiggle it through until it releases. It should come off all in one large piece.
Repeat with the other leg and thigh section.
To carve the breast next you’re going to follow relatively the same procedure. Start just off from the center line of the breast bone.With long full length slices, use the whole blade of the knife, cut down and along the rib cage of the bird. The same thing will happen as it did with the leg and thigh, the breast and wing section (when you cut all the way through) will come off as one section. To separate the wing and the breast, find the joint that holds the two together and use the blade of the knife to pop them apart.
Once the wing and breast a separated, you can elegantly slice your chicken boob with crispy skin and plate your bird to serve. This is one of those recipes that is worth every step you put into it. And I can guarantee – it’ll be better than any rotisserie bird you can buy from the grocery store. A bird sitting under a heat lamp for 17.13 hours or a bird straight out of the oven? I think the answer is simple.
I love summer, don’t you? I’ve missed the windows down driving, singing of off-key car karaoke, and being any color darker than glow-in-the-dark flourescent white. Hitting the gym has become part of my near daily routine, I love the feeling of knowing that I accomplished something during the day, shaken off the cobwebs and reduced the daily stresses of my day. Working out and being active is an important piece to so many facets of life and I relish those minutes and hours of sweaty, red faced, exhaustion. Whether its taking a Total Ball class, spinning, kickboxing, or lifting weights, I want to come away not just feeling good, but feeling like a rock star in my own right.
To make sure that feel-good feeling doesn’t stop at as soon as I leave the gym, I’m fueling up with my daily smoothie. Even Ben has taken to morning smoothies, so I make one for each of us just before walking out the door to start my day. Fresh fruits are everywhere, but frozen has been just as great. I’ve been switching between strawberry and blueberries, sometimes even adding in a banana somewhere in there. Such a rebel. Adding a scoop of high protein, low sugar powder helps give me a more well rounded and balanced smoothie that keeps me fuller for longer and primed until my lunch time workout.
Along with working out and fueling up right, dressing for any activity is important – including sitting poolside and taking a dip! I fell head over heels in love with Albion Fit – with their adorable, feminine, and ultra sleeks fit wear. Everything in their line up is colorful, stylish, and is incredibly high quality.
The old one piece swimsuit ain’t what it used to be – and Albion Fit definitely proves that one pieces can be ultra feminine, glamourous, and flattering. The Jaw Dropper, in green and black and white caught my eye right off the bat. In fact, I got one that I can’t wait to use when I am in Florida in two weeks! The green sash pulls the whole thing together and gives the suit a gorgeous silhouette.
But if swimsuits aren’t your thing – they have some of the funnest workout gear like this Rainbow skirt in pink, white and gray. Adorbs.
Just tell me that this smooshy, gray Signature Hoodie e doesn’t looks like the coziest thing ever?!
I couldn’t find one thing on their site that I didn’t want. If I had a closet full of Albion gear, I would be the comfiest person ever. If I’m not at work, I’m living in my yoga pants and comfies. And there is nothing wrong with being comfy and stylish all at the same time. Albion Fit totally found the perfect balance with their new line and they have been generous enough to giveaway a Jaw Dropper swimsuit like the one above, the same one I got, to a lucky reader!! How sweet is that?
Mandatory Entry: Visit Albion Fit and come back to leave a comment telling me what your favorite Albion Fit gear is!
I know we’re all surprised it’s May already – where has this year gone? But let’s rejoice and celebrate that we’re finally getting to the spring and summer and enjoying the sunshine that is finally arrived. And with Cinco de Mayo tomorrow, celebrate with you favorite tequila. When was the last time you tasted tequila? Really tasted it, not just in a fruity too-sweet margarita that covers up the true tequila flavors, but perhaps on it’s own? It’s as varied and full of character as any wine and Casa Noble Organic Tequila is no different. Casa Noble harvests their agave at 14 years maturity, unlike other tequilas where the agave is picked between five and seven years. The extra time allows the tequila to develop a perfect water/sugar balance that ensures the final results are sublime every time. As a single estate grown and USDA certified organic tequila, they show a true commitment to quality, small batch manufacturing and sustainability. Each part of the tequila making process is meticulously controlled and monitored, right down to the hand blown bottles!
With three varieties to try, from the un-aged Blanco tequila to the Anejo and Resposado tequilas there is one for you to enjoy.
With each tequila pick out notes that appeal to your palette.
Tequila Blanco : Is an un-aged silver tequila, with citrus notes that pair well with guacamoles, like this one from Cooks with Books! Or try it with a squeeze of lime straight into the tequila glass so you can sip and savor both flavors in tandem.
Tequila Reposado: Spending 364 days in French White Oak barrels, this tequila has an herby and almost woody flavor to it. The French White Oak barrels lend caramel and vanilla notes to the tequila which dance on your tongue and finish smooth.
Tequila Anejo: (our group’s favorite of the night) takes a whopping 14 years to produce! Like the Resposado aged in French Oak barrels, this tequila is almost like whiskey! So if you’re a whiskey fan, give this one a try! It’s nutty and spicy notes really glean themselves from the oak barrels and the aged tequila. It’s tantalizing and so much fun to taste. Everyone picked out different notes from this beauty it was quite a conversation starter!
So bring your friends together and try a new way of tasting. You never know what qualities you will find and what new drink will become your new staple. If you’re still stumped on what to pick up your Cinco de Mayo party try any of these great tequilas and test them yourself! To get your started I have an easy to make and easy to drink margarita that really lets all those flavors and tequila notes shine. Try this on for size.
What is your favorite thing to top with caramel? I’m just curious, because I’m pretty sure it can run the gamut from ice cream, to cake, to brownies, to fruit – I dunno, but it seems that the possibilities are endless. And that’s what caramel so, totally, like, awesome. Yeah, it deserves the full Valley Girl treatment here folks. Like, totally. Okay, I’ll stop now. All that VG talk is making me sick. But you get my point – caramel does crazy things to a person (clearly), and you can top it on just about everything to make it an existential experience. And because of this divine creations from the roasted sugar gods – we’re paying homage to their nectar, caramel with a week’s worth of festivities. And by festivities I mean food. Lots and lots of caramel laden food. *insert Homer Simpson drool here*
Me and cheesecake are finally turning over a new leaf together. It’s only taken 4 long cheesecake-less years. I had long given up on making cheesecake part of my baking repitoire – after a disasterous Thanksgiving pumpkin cheese cake that leaked the water bath into the cheesecake. It was perfectly done on top, but once unhitched from it’s spring form supports it liquified water-cheese underneath and tidal waves all over my counter. I cried, dropped some on the floor, Huck licked it up, and had a glass (*cough* half bottle of wine) and I swore it was the end of me and my cheesecake dreams. But no more!
Finally I had success in the cheesecake realm with these two bite mini cheesecakes. A few weeks ago when the friends and I all caravanned up to the mountains of Washington, a stop at the local chocolate shop yielded the most heaven of caramel confections with a cinnamon pear caramel sauce that was knee weakening. You couldn’t pass up a jar of this either, so we brought it home and its been savored ever since. And by savored I mean eat ravenously with a spoon. By some miracle some of it managed to be used as cheesecake topping here. It was a very close call.
The pear and caramel was a dream come to life, and after sourcing myself a mini-cheesecake pan (which was hard enough in and of it self because – Huck tantrums and all) I had to give it another go. Eventually my luck in the cheesecake category HAD to turn around. Ohhhh hawt dayyuumm did it ever turn around.
I’d love to say that since these are mini they make you feel less guilty about downing a whole slice of cheesecake, but who are we all kidding – a one two-bite cheesecake will not be enough of this cheesecake to satisfy you. I ate three. Then another two. All in the name of Science.
I’ll justify it any way I can, really. And you really should too. I mean it.
Be bad (insert your name here), I won’t tell.
Celebrate the rest of Caramel Week with all the full line up here!
My internet and I are having nightly fights. It throws a tantrum, I dip my spoon into the jar of Nutella. Sooo, basically I’ve been eating a lot of Nutella and having a really hard time blogging lately. I spend so much time trying to figure out what to tell you everyday just as the interwebs throws itself down on my floor and starts kicking and screaming, everything that I want to write goes out the window. So naturally, when I finally get the chance to tell you all about my fiddle-de-day, this is what happens – word vomit. Lucky you. That was sarcasm, I know it doesn’t translate well over the internet. But I DO have something worth while to talk about – this Blueberry Pecan Crumble Coffee Cake.
Something else I’ve been doing a lot of lately is sneezing. And Huck has been itching. It’s spring – it’s what happens. The poor dude is a contradiction in and of himself. He’s got all the stereotypical health problems like many pure bred labradorks do, he’s got the hip dysplasia and ligament issues causing him to bunny run. Then he’s allergic to E.v.e.r.y.THANG!! Trees? All of them. Grasses, yup. Dust? Oh yeah. Considering that 90% of the dust in my house is because of him, he’s practically allergic to himself. To top it all off on the irony meter – he’s a bird dog allergic to feathers.
But that really doesn’t have anything to do with my internet. Spring has sprung – and I finally planted my garden, I’ve been consuming fruits like there is no tomorrow and throwing blueberries into everything, from these blueberry cottage pancakes, Monday I have a Blueberry Protein Smoothie (it’s that purdy lookin’ thing below) coming at you with a fantastic giveaway from AlbionFit for a Showstopper Swimsuit that is to die for. I’ll be in Florida in two weeks, and I finally get to show off all that hard work I’ve been putting in at the gym. Hopefully my so-white-I’m-practically-glow-in-the-dark skin won’t scare too many pool goers away.
But back to the main point of this word-vomity post – the blueberry crumble coffee cake was the main point and most important thing. So here’s the recipe below. I can’t get enough. No. Really. The pan is ¾ gone because of me. *hangs head in shame*
Add a little flair to your next party with a cheese tasting station. With Cinco de Mayo right around the corner you can snack well and party down with full, fresh and fun flavors of the season.
Parties and holidays are the perfect time pull out all the stops and create an area for your guests to experiment with their appetizers and create a conversation. Spring veggies, herbs and all the colors reemerging from their winter slumber really beckon this time of year and you can relish them all with a few simple tips and tricks to throw a great party.
A cheese tray is always standard at any gathering, but jazz it up with spring colors, textures, and flavors that are new to the season. Quality cheese, like Cracker Barrel can be the center to your appetizer station. With so many varieties of cheese available, you can set out a great spread and let your guests really find out which one suits their palette. For Cinco de Mayo, the jalapeno Cheddar is fantastic. Pairing it with spicy wheat crackers, a little cilantro and a dollop of salsas bring the fiesta to your tastebuds.
If you’re feeling really fiesty, add in a sweet component to your cheese tasting. Strawberries are great with white cheddar and even topped with chocolate or balsamic glaze. One of the unique and totally mind blowing combos I tried at home was with Cracker Barrel‘s Cracked Pepper cheese and dried apricot with lime zest over the top. It was sweet, crunchy, chewy and so lively!
The possitvilites are endless, and you can’t pass up a quality cheese, with full flavor. There is a reason Cracker Barrel is the standard in cheese-tainment. It’s just that good.
*Fine Print* I am working with Cracker Barrel Cheese as a brand Influencer. I was compensated for this post and provided with cheese to do test out pairings with. All opinions are my own.
I really wanted to start this post with a cheese joke – but I couldn’t find the right one. “What do you call cheese that isn’t yours” seemed to easy. Nacho Cheese!! And “What is Tom Hanks favorite cheese?” seemed to far out there for people of my younger (lamer) generation. Oh, the answer is “Philadelphia”, BTW. But there are more important things to discuss today.
Do you have a usual date night spot with your hunny, too? Ben and I are officially that fuddy duddy couple. It’s sick. This tiny little store front packs its parking lot every night and just when you think you’ll have to wait an hour or more (The Horror!) for a table on a Friday night, you get seated right away in this TARDIS-esque restaurant that is so expansive on the inside and practically half of our town can fit in. And to make the whole thing even better – it serves the most rediculously sinful and slide-out-of-your-chair margarita known to man. And it’s not just a single margarita, it comes with a side tumble full of margarita. Double margarita? Boom. Done. Life. Made.
But wait – There’s More! Nachos.
Tequila and I may have had our differences over the years – back in the logging sports days - but we’re on the mend and my margarita-dar goes off if there is a good marg within 15 miles of me. And your margarita-dar should be screaming at you like Ace Ventura making an animal call – because these margarita marinated shrimp nachos are earth shattering.
A margarita call? That should be a thing. And you have plenty of time to hone your margarita call before Cinco de Mayo. You’re welcome.
1. I can’t walk by the pasta aisle at the store and not pause for just a split second when I see the boxed mac and cheese in the blue box. It was the epitome of my childhood. But every time I bring one home I am continually disappointed. WHY after 15 attempts do I still think the next time will be different? When will I learn? Don’t answer that. The next box of Spongebob Mac n cheese is bound to be a winner…
1b. Am I the only one that puts ketchup on my mac n cheese? I blame my mother for this. You can unfriend me now. I understand. Salsa verde also makes an ice mac n cheese topping. Trust me on this one.
2. The Bourne movies have been out for what, 12 years now? Finally Ben saw the first one. Took long enough, right? Best $4 spent at Target. He likes living under the rock known as nursing school. Now we just have to finish the next two and move onto the Jeremy Renner Bourne movie. My crush on him is kind of obscene. Don’t ask why, I don’t know.
3. Over the Twitterverse, a blogger was tweeting about the jerky guy next to her in a chair at the hair salon who continually insulted his hair stylist as “chubby” when she was 9 months pregnant and ready to pop. Dear Men at large, for the betterment of society and for the protection of your low hanging jungle fruit – don’t insult pregnant women. Or you never know when a foot might meet said jungle fruit. It won’t be pretty. So until you can walk in our shoes, keep it zipped and judgement free.
3b. I am not pregnant – but Duchess Catherine is just rocking my socks off with preggo fashion. I’m going to rock the yoga pants 10x harder than I do now and I have no shame. My yoga pants and I are one. Much to Ben’s dismay, He doesn’t understand their power.
4. Drinks with bubbles have over taken our lives the last few months. Between the Gin and lemon laden French 75 at our new favorite watering hole down town Seattle with cotton candy and the double bubble of World Market’s fruit soda and extra bubbles – it’s a mimosa on crack. I like crack. Crack, in bubble form is good. So good.
5. World Market – your bubbles kill me dead. I’m coming for you next Pomegranate. Mimosas on the edge Exhibit A.
6. These girls are friends, perfected. And they like cupcakes. This is why we’re friends. Oh don’t worry – I picked up a plain vanilla cupcake for Ben. That’s how he rolls.
7. I’ve never been so ragey over a TV show – but the winding down of The Office is absolutely killing me. Don’t mess with Jim and Pam. And then I cried. Hate me, go for it.
8. And FINALLY – less than 90 days before her wedding, Corinne (one of my bridesmaids) has finally made a cake decision for her big day – and guess who’s making it? THIS GIRL!! She has finally nailed down my Rose Ombre cake for her big day. This is my favorite cake – stupid simple, and so cute. And it’s already in her colors. She’s making my job easy. Which is why I love her. Now we just have to get the bridesmaid dresses.
I’m buying Nilla wafers like it’s no body’s business. It’s a phase, I’m sure I’ll be over it soon. Or not. Maybe not, I’m kinda liking this phase – just like I liked my bright purple eye shadow phase. But right now I’m going through a “eat all the childhood classics” kinda thing and it’s getting stupid. Apples and peanut butter. Boxed macaroni and cheese. With ketchup. Don’t judge me. Nilla wafers and bananas. And pudding. My mom and I used to make the cook and serve puddings from a box as a kid and the best part was eating them still half warm, and peeling the solidified skin off the top and eating it right off the bowl. We’re just sick like that. But it was – and still is – the best. To continue with this eat-my-childhood phase, I went with a kinda classic made from scratch cook-n-serve style pudding that just made me want to faceplant into the bowl and eat my way out. So throw that box away and jump on this. Your inner child will thank you over this white chocolate and vanilla bean pudding. You’re welcome inner child.
For a minute I thought it would be a great idea to “healthify” the whole thing – but I realized after my first attempt that all I was going to do was to recreate the unmitigated disaster it was the first time I tried it. Just get over the whole “it has fat” thing in it and enjoy it. On the plus side – this doesn’t have all those funky chemicals, thickeners, additives, magic wishes and unicorn tears – so you can deal with some added fat if it means you can actually pronounce what’s in it. Fair? Fair.
And because we’re on the subject of childhood classics – if you don’t dip Nilla wafers into this or crumble it into the mix – I don’t know if we can be friends. It’s just what you do. Like breathing, sneezing when you look at the sun, squealing when you see a Corgi or sliding out of your chair at the cast of Magic Mike – it’s just what you do. I’ll go sit in a corner now, with a big bowl of pudding.
Welcome to Country Cleaver, where country comfort and convenient cooking come together. Follow my adventures of self-reliant country cooking and baking from scratch with a little life mixed in for kicks! ...more