Sunday, September 25, 2011

Crispy Roasted Chickpeas

Roasted chickpeas have become quite the fad in the past several months, and I've seem them with all manner of seasonings. They always look fantastic, but I've had little luck with the recipe.

But I kept trying, because I figured I had to be doing something wrong. On this fateful attempt, whilst transferring my chickpeas to dry, I noticed the skin peeling off some of the chickpeas.

Chickpeas have skin?

I know! I was surprised, too. I'm usually just dumping them into a pot of soup, so I don't handle them much. But as I peeled away the skin, out popped what appeared to be a shiny, new chickpea -- with a harder, nuttier texture.

And hurray, crispy roasted chickpeas!

You can use any seasoning blend that you prefer on these. I opted for a milder mixture this time around, but I think I'll go with something zestier next time, like a Cajun or Creole blend.

Crispy Roasted Chickpeas
Makes about 1 cup

1 15-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Seasoning blend, to taste
Kosher salt, for sprinkling (I used a smoked chipotle salt)

Seasoning blend
1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine seasoning blend ingredients.

2. Rinse and drain chickpeas.

You're welcome for this helpful photo of how to drain chickpeas. I'm practicing with all these new lenses that the hubby keeps putting on the camera.

3. Remove skins from chickpeas, if you have the time and inclination. For most, you simply have to sort of squeeze the chickpea, and it pops right out of its skin.

The skins creep me out, in a haunted-house-"guess-what's-in-the-bowl"-game sort of way.

4. Lay the chickpeas on a few paper towels, and blot them with another paper towel to dry. It was such a nice, bright, sunny day in my kitchen that does not yet have blinds put on the windows, so I let my chickpeas soak up some rays to dry.

5. Place the chickpeas on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Toss with your hands to ensure the oil is evenly distributed.

6. Roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring once, until chickpeas are brown and crispy.

7. Sprinkle immediately with seasoning blend and salt. Then serve 'em up!

These are addictive, so it shouldn't be any problem to eat them in one sitting. If you have extras, store tightly covered. But they don't seem to keep well for more than a couple of days.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Broiled Italian Sandwiches

I work from home a few days a week, and now that we live in the same town where the hubby works, he comes home for lunch some days, as well. We've been cooking more, so we typically have a lot of leftovers, which I try to use creatively. (Chili omelet, anyone?)

But some days, I just get a hankering for something different, like a really good, hot sandwich. (Hence the idea for the recent pizza sandwiches.) Bread has been an obstacle for me, but I recently stumbled upon some lovely take 'n' bake ciabatta rolls. Along with some leftovers from the fridge, this sandwich was born.

Again, I apologize for the simplicity of this not-quite-a-recipe posting. But then I take back that apology, because this IS so simple and tasty. And it's just an idea -- swap out meats, cheeses, and veggies. Use your favorite dressing or none at all. Add some kettle chips or a cup of soup, and you've got a lunch to rival anything your local bistro or sandwich shop could serve.

I'm just guessing, of course. We don't have bistros in these parts.

Broiled Italian Sandwiches
Per sandwich (I have a hearty appetite, so I eat two):

Ciabatta roll
2-3 slices salami
1 slice fresh mozzarella cheese
1-2 thin slices tomato
Shredded lettuce
Italian dressing

1. Preheat broiler on low.

2. For each sandwich, slice your roll, place it on a baking sheet, and top bottom of roll with salami and cheese.

3. Get back to work. Preheating the oven takes far longer than the food prep here.

4. Broil sandwiches until cheese melts, about 3-4 minutes.

Stick close by, because broiled food can go from good to ugly in about 10 seconds. Like wingmen, you never, ever leave your broiler.

5. Remove sandwiches from oven, and top with tomatoes, lettuce, and a drizzle of dressing.

6. Add tops to rolls, and serve.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Oven Baked Beans

Earlier this year, the litte man and I road-tripped across the state for my cousin's high school graduation. In North Dakota, the standard graduation celebration is the afternoon open house. They're casual, laid-back, and full of food.

My uncle did the cooking for the open house, and he made a huge pot of baked beans that included a few varieties of beans. And the little man went nuts for them. (I may have mentioned once or twice or 641 times that he loves beans.) I typically make my baked beans on the stovetop, and they're quite BBQ-y and cooked down. These, on the other hand, didn't have any overwhelming flavors. And the beans still retained their shape and some firmness, so they were easy for the little man to pick up with his fingers. (For those who enjoy eating baked beans using silverware, that still works, too.)

When I asked my uncle for the recipe, he couldn't quite remember where he got it. He says he typically types a recipe name into a search engine and attempts the most popular recipe. (Hey, whatever works.) I found a similar version on, and made some modifications to it to suit our tastes. And, because the recipe still relies on canned beans, everything bakes up really quickly.

Oven Baked Beans
Serves 6-8

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound bacon, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup barbecue sauce (I typically use Famous Dave's Rich & Sassy)
A few dashes of liquid smoke
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 16-ounce can pork and beans, undrained
1 16-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 16-ounce can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2 1/2-quart baking dish, or spray it with cooking spray.

2. In a large skillet, cook beef, bacon, and onion until meat is done and onion is tender. Drain any fat.

Please pretend there is bacon here. I didn't have any thawed, and the beans are still quite good without the bacon. Of course, as with most foods, they do taste best with bacon.

3. Combine all remaining ingredients except beans.

4. Add to meat mixture and mix well. Stir in beans. Pour mixture into prepared dish.

5. Bake, covered, for 1 hour or until heated through and bubbly.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pizza Sandwiches

The hubby and I frequent a locally owned sandwich shop that makes these chopped, griddled sandwiches that are fantastic. They cook the food -- a variety of toppings -- on a huge griddle, chopping the food as they go along. I think I've tried every variety of sandwich they offer, and I've never been disappointed. But my favorite is a pizza-style sandwich.

I was craving one of these the other day, but because the hubby and I no longer live in the bit cit-ay, I can't just run and get one very easily. But hey, it's a simple concept, so I figured I could try one at home using a cast-iron skillet and some basic pizza ingredients.

This is kind of a non-recipe recipe, because quantities vary so much according to personal tastes, the size of the rolls you're using, etc. But I have to say, I think my sandwich filling was even better than the sandwich shop's.

Unfortunately, my little coney rolls -- the closest bread I could find at my local grocery store -- couldn't compare to their crusty, chewy offering. Maybe that will be my next experiment!

Pizza Sandwiches
Makes 1 sandwich; amounts of ingredients vary, depending on size of rolls

Deli ham, chopped
Pepperoni, chopped
Green bell pepper, chopped
Mushrooms, chopped
Dried Italian seasoning
Pizza sauce
Crushed red pepper flakes
Sliced provolone or mozzarella
Crusty rolls

1. Heat a heavy skillet over medium to medium-high heat, and spray with cooking spray. (I prefer cast iron, so I can chop away without risking my pan's coating.) Add ham, pepperoni, and vegetables.

2. Saute until meat is starting to crisp, and vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3-4 minutes.

3. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, and top with a few tablespoons of pizza sauce. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes, and stir to combine. Shape mixture in a similar shape as your roll.

4. Top with cheese.

5. Cook until cheese starts to melt, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

6. Top with halved roll, so that roll heats a bit over the mixture.

7. Using a spatula, scoop up the entire concoction, roll and all, so that mixture lands on the roll, cheese side down. Serve hot.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Chewy Peanut Butter-Chocolate Cookies

I saw this recipe while flipping through a magazine, and it looked like a great, quick dessert option. The hubby loves chocolate cookies, the little man loves peanut butter, and I ... thought it needed some chocolate chips.

I was right. I usually am.

Just kidding.

Except when it comes to chocolate chips. Then I usually AM right.

This recipe comes together incredibly quickly, but I would highly recommend using a stand mixer. I figured the mixture would be too crumbly to stir by hand, so I tried a good-quality hand mixer ... and it just didn't quite cut the mustard. So I switched to the stand mixer, and voila!

You can omit the chocolate chips. Or add more. Or add something else, like peanut butter chips. Or peanuts. Go crazy! (Or go nuts. I'm flexible.)

Chewy Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1 box devil's food cake mix
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1 c. chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Place cake mix, cream cheese, peanut butter, and egg in large bowl. Beat with electric mixer on low speed 2 minutes. Beat on medium speed an additional 2 minutes.

3. Stir in chocolate chips.

You should probably also test some of the batter, in the name of quality control.

4. Shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and place on cookie sheets. Flatten with your hands or with a fork dipped in sugar. (With the chocolate chips in the batter, it's sort of easier to use your hands.)

5. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool on cookies sheets for a few minutes before removing to cooling racks.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Grandma's Soup

I apologize for the lag in postings. I had a half-dozen or so recipes ready to post, but then ... well, it's a long story.

On an unrelated note, if anyone happens to find an SD card that includes not only pics of delicious-looking food, but also my family's vacation photos from Florida, please contact the hubby.

My mom stopped by the other day, bearing gifts. (Even though we live only two blocks away now, and we see my mother almost every day, she still prefers to bring gifts when she visits. I'm sure the novelty of our close proxemity will wear off soon.) This time, her gift was a Taste of Home cooking magazine ... with a request. "Can you make me some soup like this?"

The next morning, the little man and I hightailed it up to our local grocery store, where the little man informed everyone we saw that we "got Grandma's soup." ("Got" is his catch-all verb.) We had to make a few ingredient substitutions, and then we added in some other stuff that we thought would be good, and then invited Grandma over for lunch to eat her super-healthy, Italian vegetable soup.

Grandma's Soup
Makes 6 servings

2 ribs celery, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 c. water
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 14.5-oz. can chicken broth, plus 1/2 c.
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 c. small pasta (I used mafalda)
4 c. torn baby spinach (I used about 1/2 a package of frozen spinach)

1. In a Dutch oven or soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Saute celery, onion, carrot, zucchini, and garlic until tender.

2. Stir in the water, beans, tomatoes, broth, and seasonings.

And, of course, taste as you go along. Even the ingredients themselves. Jack lets no bean go untasted.

3. Bring to a boil, and then stir in pasta.

4. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, about 13-15 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Add spinach during the last few minutes of cooking.