Grilled Chicken for Remembrance and Courage

As we close out 2018, I’ve been thinking back about the past year. It has been quite a yeasty time – personally, politically, environmentally and even culinarily. We’ve lost some powerful voices but have also seen many new champions step up to answer the challenges facing us.

In the spirit of endings and new beginnings, I decided to make a grilled chicken recipe to celebrate the art of constructive remembering and helping gird our loins to face another year. As the flower folks tell us: rosemary for remembrance and thyme for courage.

So, my New Year’s wish is for you to have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you’re going and the insight to know when you’ve gone too far.

Rosemary Thyme Gilled Chicken

8 bone in chicken thighs

4 black tea bags (I used Lemon Lift)
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon peppercorns

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make 1 quart of strong tea by steeping tea bags for 15 minutes. Add in salt, brown sugar and peppercorns and stir until salt and sugar have dissolved. Add in 1 quart of ice and stir until all the ice has melted. Pour over the chicken and brine the chicken overnight in the fridge.

Rinse the chicken and store in the fridge until an hour before you set up your grill.

In a small bowl, use a fork to mash together the rosemary, butter, thyme, garlic, zest, and salt and pepper, until combined well. Use your hands to smear the butter mixture all over the brined chicken. Melt the remaining butter.

Over a grill set for indirect cooking, place the chicken skin side down. Cook for 15 minutes before flipping the chicken so the skin is up. Baste the chicken with the butter mixture. Continue grilling for 45 minutes more or until it registers 170 degrees F. Baste after 30 minutes and again as you pull the meat off the grill.

 

Great Balls of Sausage

Here is a nice appetizer or party snack. This recipe for sausage balls can easily be scaled up – our version makes 50 two-bite balls.

While you can mix these with your hands, a stand mixer will ensure the best incorporation of all the ingredients. Make sure the cheese and sausage is well mixed before adding the Bisquick Baking Mix.

 

Sausage Balls

1 lb regular bulk sausage (I prefer mild pork sausage)
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups Bisquick
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

In a stand mixer, combine sausage and cheese. Mix until thoroughly combined. Add in Bisquick and pepper and continue to mix.

Form into golfball sized balls and place on racks above rimmed baking sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes or until sausage is cooked through.

Tater Tot Breakfast Casserole

None of us really wanted to cook breakfast, so we started the breakfast casserole the night before by thawing the tater tots. Hash browns would work as well, as we were trying to create a potato crust.

Adding a few eggs, milk, salsa, cheese, bacon and seasonings and putting it all to bake first thing in the morning, had a lovely casserole by the time everyone was up and about.

Tater Tot Breakfast Casserole

about 30 tater tots, enough to cover the bottom of a pie plate
6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup salsa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 cup (about 6 slices) bacon, diced
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

The night before, butter a deep dish pie plate. Place a layer of tater tots to cover the bottom of the plate. Put the plate in the fridge for them to thaw overnight.

In the morning, mash the tater tots with a fork to form a bottom crust.

Scramble the eggs together with the seasonings, milk and salsa. Sprinkle half the bacon over the tater tots and pour half the egg mixture over. Sprinkle on half the cheese. Pour the rest of the eggs into pie plate and then sprinkle over remaining bacon and cheese. Let sit while the oven comes to 325 degrees F.

Bake 45 minutes to an hour, or until top is golden and bubbly.

Serves 6.

Bacon Cheddar Bites

I did a marriage between Cheese Nibbles and Anna Olson’s Bacon Cheddar Shortbread. It was a marriage made in heaven! The result is a tasty treat to set out as a holiday appetizer (or to gobble up yourself before any guests arrive).

Chill your dough – ones on the left were chilled 2 hours, the ones on the right 1 hour

The dough can also be frozen and thawed in the fridge for baking later.

Bacon Cheddar Bites

5 strips crispy cooked bacon, roughly chopped
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
½ cup cold butter, cut into pieces
3 cups coarsely grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
coarse salt, for topping (optional)

Using a food processor, pulse the bacon with the flour and seasonings until the bacon is finely chopped. Add the butter and pulse until blended, then add the cheddar and pulse until the dough comes together. Shape the dough into 2 logs, wrap in plastic and chill until firm, at least two hours. If you don’t wait for the dough to firm, your nibbles will spread out a bit during cooking.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Working with one log at a time, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice coins about ¼-inch thick (or roll out and cut to size). Arrange on the baking sheet, leaving about ½-inch between the cookies. Sprinkle the tops lightly with salt, if desired.

Bake for 18 minutes until the shortbread are lightly browned on the bottom. Rotate the pan midway through cooking.

Cool the cookies on the tray for 10 minutes before removing and storing in an airtight container.

Cinnamon Chocolate Pepper Cookies

I’m still in a holiday baking mood, so I made these spicy chocolate rounds that are almost like eating a cup of Mexican hot chocolate in cookie form. I dusted some with cinnamon sugar and others with red and green sanding sugar. They’ve got a sneaky little bite to them from the black and cayenne peppers, so make sure you have a tall glass of milk handy when eating.

Instead of vanilla, I added some Rum Chata. The mixture of rum, cream and spices gave the cookies a delicious twist.

Cinnamon Chocolate Pepper Cookies

1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon Rum Chata (or Mexican vanilla)
cinnamon sugar and sanding sugar

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, salt and peppers. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and mix well. Add the Rum Chata (or vanilla) and then slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix just until combined.

Divide the dough in half and form into six inch logs. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to firm for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a shallow plate, place cinnamon sugar or sanding sugar.

Working with one roll at a time, either cut rounds off the roll of chilled dough or roll out and cut with cookie cutters. Gently toss the cookies in the sugar to evenly coat. Place on a parchment covered baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating pan midway through. Edges will look dry when done. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely before storing in an air tight container.

Lemon Garlic Roasted Broccoli

I know, I know, another post on vegetables. You think I had turned 50 years old and finally realized I needed to eat (a little) better.

I don’t know about you but I grew up eating limp and soggy boiled broccoli, tossed with butter mask the funky flavor. I graduated to steaming it but would still sometimes overcook it to a sulfuric tasting mess if I got distracted putting the rest of the meal together.

These days, I’ve found that roasting in the oven gives me more leeway before overcooking as it browns before overcooking, so your nose knows. Additionally, the roasting gives it a sweeter, almost nutty flavor.

Tossed with a little garlic and lemon and you have a very tasty side dish!

Lemon Garlic Roasted Broccoli

2 medium heads of broccoli
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Zest of half a lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut broccoli into florets and pile onto a rimmed baking sheet.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper. Use your fingers to toss, then spread out over tray in a single layer.

Bake for about 20 minutes until the tips of the florets are slightly browned. The broccoli should be tender crisp and cooked through.

Remove from the oven and immediately drizzle over the lemon juice and butter. Toss to combine. Scatter lemon zest over and serve.

Easy Cowboy Beans

I was grilling up some St. Louis style ribs and needed a side dish. I first considered baked beans but no joy in my pantry. I then thought of another style of beans I could make instead – Cowboy Beans.

I didn’t have any dried pinto beans in the house, so I modified my recipe for Frijoles Charros (AKA Cowboy Beans) to use what I had in the pantry – canned pinto beans and tomatoes, dried herbs and some leftover ham. This is a terrific change to the usual baked beans – a little spicy with the onion, tomato and ham giving the broth depth. They go really well with ribs or carne asada.

Easy Cowboy Beans

2 slices of ham, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon chipotle powder, depending on preferred heat level
1 teaspoon dried cilantro
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed (don’t throw out the can)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, fry up the ham. Once cooked, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the saucepan and sauté the onions for 5 to 10 minutes or until softened and golden. Stir in the minced garlic and cook until fragrant about 3 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes and cook until they start to break down, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle on the seasonings and stir until combined and fragrant. Add in the beans and fill the bean can with water and stir that in, too.

Transfer to an oven safe casserole. Cook uncovered in a 350 degree F oven for an hour or until some of the liquid has been absorbed. I like mine to be a bit soupy but, if you want less liquid, stir and cook 15 minutes more.

Taste for seasonings and serve.

I take any leftovers and put them in the blender to make a bean puree that I then use as a replacement for refried beans with quesadillas or fajitas (or sometimes just eat with tortillas or chips as a dip).

 

Yummy!