Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Cool Cooking Tools Reviews & Giveaway!

It’s always fun to try out new cooking tools. While I don’t have room for much in my apartment kitchen,  I’ve put these small and affordable items to the test.

First up, the Uten 2-3 cup mini chopper. It has 3 blades and was terrific for a few cloves of garlic and fantastic for chopping olives and a handful of nuts, although I didn’t love it for chopping an onion, that's something I'd rather do by hand anyway. But the real reason I love this chopper? It’s fun to use! Instead of being plugged in or attaching to another kitchen appliance like a stick blender, it works with a pull string. You can pull the string as many or as few times as you like to get the result you want. If you have kids I bet they would love using it too. It's dishwasher safe and currently on sale for just $8.99. To learn more about Uten products, sales and more, visit and "like" their Facebook page.


I use my toaster oven for most of my baking. I always line my baking trays with parchment paper, foil or a silpat. But I recently discovered the Cookina parchminum sheet. Unlike parchment you can use it when broiling or baking up to 550 degrees. Unlike parchment, it won’t burn. Unlike foil, it’s easy to clean and reuse. Unlike a silpat, it won’t stain. One sheet is supposed to last as long as 25 sheets of parchment but I suspect it will last even longer. It’s amazingly durable. While you can serve off of it directly I haven’t really used it that way. I’ve used it to bake cookies, roast vegetables and cook fish. It's a less wasteful, more environmentally friendly solution, it rolls flat for storage, and is PFOA free. Suggested retail price is $9.99.
I have plenty of knives, the last thing I need is another one. BUT I was really impressed with the Crisp paring knife because it has a cover that doubles as a sharpener. This is just so smart. Paring knives get used a lot but they don’t get sharpened as often as they should. This inexpensive knife which retails for $9.99 is perfect for camping or traveling. It’s a really smart innovation. The handle is comfortable and has a rubber inset where you grip the knife which makes it very ergonomic. It’s handy to have a couple knives with covers to use when you’re away from home. Crisp also offers a small serrated and bird’s beak paring knives.


GIVEAWAY! 

Uten is offering one mini chopper, Cookinga is offering one sheet and Crisp is offering one paring knife to a lucky reader. Leave a comment telling me which you’d prefer, the chopper, cooking sheet or the paring knife. Only one entry per person and you must have a US mailing address to be eligible to win. Contest ends on Friday May 6. 2016.

Disclaimer: My thanks to the manufacturers and retailers offering these products I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other posts on Cooking with Amy. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Roast Chicken with Asparagus & Leeks Recipe + Giveaway!

Foster Farms is one of the larger suppliers of chicken in California. It’s a brand you’ll find in most supermarkets. So I was pleased to learn they are now offering organic chicken. At my local supermarket they only had boneless and skinless breasts and thighs, and while I much prefer purchasing whole chickens I did want to give the product a try. 

Because I don’t usually, if ever, cook with boneless skinless chicken thighs, I turned to the ever dependable Faith Durand at The Kitchn for a foolproof technique. I added an herb paste, asparagus and leeks and reduced the pan sauce to make a glaze. It’s easy peasy and great for a quick meal that will be done in just over 30 minutes. The leeks, asparagus and herbs give the dish a fresh and light feel. 

Although I purchased the chicken with my own money, I did accept four $20 Safeway gift cards for you, my readers, from Foster Farms. If you would like one, please leave a comment about your favorite chicken thigh or breast recipe. Only one entry per person and you must have a US mailing address to be eligible to win. Contest ends Friday April 22nd, 2016. As usual, winners will be picked at random. 



Roast Chicken with Asparagus and Leeks
Serves 4 

Ingredients 

3/4 cup of fresh mild green herbs (I used cilantro, parsley and dill)
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon olive oil 
2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and pale greeen
1 package of skinless and boneless chicken thighs, about 1.25 pounds
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 cups medium thick asparagus, cut on the diagonal

Instructions 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Finely mince the herbs, garlic and lemon zest and drizzle in the oil--or process in a mini food processor. Rub the chicken with the herb mixture. 

Place the leeks in a 10-inch oven proof skillet. Place the chicken on top of the leeks and season generously with salt and pepper.  Roast for 10 minutes, then tuck the asparagus in and around the chicken and roast another 10 minutes or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees when pierced with an instant read thermometer. 

Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a platter and place the skillet on the stove. Heat the skillet and reduce the liquid until only a few tablespoons remain. Drizzle the glaze over the chicken. 

Enjoy! 

Disclaimer: My thanks to Foster Farms for providing the gift card. I was in no way compensated for this post because I wanted you to know my true feelings about the product. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

All about Tahini


I always have a jar of tahini, a Middle Eastern style of sesame paste, in my refrigerator. It used to last for ages because I really only used it in hummus and baba ghanoush. But not anymore. I think it’s probably the Ottolenghi books and a trip to Israel a few years ago that inspired me to use tahini more often. This rich nutty butter is a fantastic ingredient to use with all kinds of things. I particularly tahini with cauliflower, either in Warm Cauliflower Dip or on Roasted Cauliflower. Or start by making tahina, which is a sauce made with tahini, garlic, lemon juice and enough water to turn the mixture white and creamy. It’s good as a dip with pita, falafel, meatballs and more. My formula is about 1/2 cup tahini, juice of one lemon, salt, a small clove of finely mashed garlic and just enough water to make turn the sauce creamy and white. 

Tahini is available raw, roasted or dark roasted. Raw is somewhat higher in nutrients, but roasted versions are more commonly available. I recently tried a side by side comparison of several different brands of roasted tahini. All the brands used no emuslifiers or added oils. The more toasted, the stronger you will taste the sesame. It’s really a matter of personal taste. I compared MaraNatha, Sesame King and Whole Foods 365 Organic. While it didn’t make a big difference in hummus, by itself and just blended with water there was a clear difference. 


The Whole Foods brand was lightest in color, mildest and sweetest, despite the fact that it has no sugar. I think it is probably the least roasted. It comes from Israel. The Sseame King brand offers both roasted and light roast. I like both, but the roasted has a stronger more peanut butter like flavor. The MaraNatha was the darkest and had some bitterness to it. It was my least favorite. 

Upper left Sesame King light roast, upper right MaraNatha, lower left Sesame King roasted, lower right Whole Foods
Here are some ways to use tahini (other than in hummus)

* Add tahini to smoothies

* Combine tahini with Greek yogurt and season with salt or honey to make a dip for vegetables or fruit

* Mix tahini with sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and garlic to dress cold noodles

* Dress salads or cooked spinach or broccoli with a blend of mayonnaise, tahini and rice wine vinegar

* Stir tahini and honey into whipped cream and serve with fruit or crisp phyllo 

* Mix tahini with water, season with salt and drizzle over roast fish, kebabs or fresh tomatoes, then garnish with fresh herbs

* Thin tahini with water, add some ginger or cinnamon and use in place of butter on sweet potatoes or roasted carrots 

* Bake tahini cookies 

* Add tahini to coleslaw or Asian slaw

* Use in place of mayonnaise in deviled eggs or egg salad

Disclaimer: I purchased the Whole Foods and MaraNatha brands, I was provided with samples of the Sesame King brand and was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post on Cooking with Amy

Monday, April 04, 2016

Roasted Lemon Herb Chicken Recipe

Roasted Lemon Herb Chicken Recipe

The two most popular dinner requests in my household are for chili and roast chicken. They are both classic comfort foods and my husband never gets tired of eating either of them. It’s funny, because I rarely if ever make either one of them the same way twice.

Chili is just a naturally adaptable recipe. Over the years I've posted recipes for vegetarian white bean chili, a budget friendly chili with a mix of beanschipotle pork chili and most recently for bison black bean chili. The ingredients change all the time depending on my mood and what I have on hand.

But roasting a chicken is another story altogether. Like so many people I am always looking to improve how I make the perfect roast chicken. Mostly I spatchcock or butterfly it or roast pieces rather than a whole bird for more even and consistent results. But in this case, because Napa Grass Farmer had provided me with such a beautiful bird I thought I’d roast the whole thing.  I used Meyer lemons, but you could subsititute conventional lemons if you like and I’m sure it would still be good.  I learned the formula of roasting at 400 degrees for 15 minutes per pound, plus 10 minutes from Nigella Lawson who in turn credits her mother. It’s a great rule of thumb, especially for smaller birds.

Roasted Lemon Herb Chicken
Serves 4-6, depending on the size of the chicken

Ingredients

1 whole chicken
Kosher salt or flaky sea salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 Tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Two Meyer lemons

Instructions

Measure 1/2 teaspoon salt per pound of chicken and place in a small bowl. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Set on a plate and sprinkle the chicken all over with the salt. Place the uncovered chicken in the refrigerator and allow to air dry for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Remove the chicken from the fridge and pat dry, removing any visible moisture. Preheat oven to 400F. Leave the bird out of the fridge while you prepare the rub.

Zest the lemons, reserve the lemons and combine the zest with the olive oil, rosemary, thyme and pepper in a small bowl.  Cut the zested lemons into quarters. Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan and squeeze one lemon quarter inside the chicken, removing any seeds and place the remaining pieces in the roasting pan. Spread the herb mixture all over the bird.

Roast for 15 minutes per pound plus 10 minutes (or plus 20 minutes if the bird is 5 pounds or over). Rotate the chicken once or twice during roasting and cover lightly with foil if necessary to prevent over browning. The juices should run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh and the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh should reach 165°F when pierced with an instant read thermometer. Allow to rest for about  15 minutes before carving.

Enjoy!

Disclaimer: My thanks to Napa Grass Farmer for providing me with the chicken. I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other Cooking with Amy post.