Crispy (!) Oven Baked Fries

You know what I love? (Other than bacon and goat cheese and puppies, obviously.) Potatoes.

I didn’t always. I still have flashbacks to the day my Mom first took us to Boston Market (which at the time was called Boston Chicken). First off, we thought it was in Boston. Despite the fact that we lived in Pittsburgh and it was already dinner time. So why we thought Mom was driving us to Boston… kid logic.

We got our rotisserie chicken and a whole smorgasbord  of sides and went home to dig in. I was offered mashed potatoes, which I happily accepted. The first bite was lumpy. I refused additional bites.

Texture, my friends, is important. Especially to weirdos like me. Lumpy mashed potatoes were just inedible to my youthful palette (I like to think that I’ve grown since then, but I still don’t eat Jello or bananas for textural reasons).

Knowing my parents, I’m sure I finished them. Otherwise, no dessert. And dessert was probably those BM cinnamon sugar apples. And no one doesn’t like those cinnamon sugar apples. Right?

So, I was a bit scarred from the lumpy mashed potato experience. Even today, my mashed potatoes are nice and smooth – though I can and do enjoy lumpy ones (without complaint) if offered. (Sometimes I actually like them, much to the chagrin of 7-year-old me.)

But I digress. This post isn’t about mashed potatoes, just the starchy veggie in general. Perhaps best known for the french fried variety. Of course, french fried potatoes are not particularly healthy (taking something not that good for you in the first place and dipping it in hot oil a few times doesn’t create a health food?!). So, to the oven we go.

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Now. I’ve made A LOT of different oven baked fry recipes over the years. And they all have the same problem. Mush city. Part of the appeal of french fries is the crunch you get while eating them (and the salt, of course). My oven baked version was just never as good until I learned the secret.

Soak those bad boys in water first!

You can soak them for an hour or two, or way less, like I do. Usually, I soak them for about as long as it takes the oven to heat up to 475 (mine takes a few minutes). When you’re ready to bake, drain the water, dry them off, and you’ll be in crispy fry heaven.

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These little wedges can’t wait to become fries.

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Olive oil, salt and pepper in the pan. Salt and pepper on top. Plus more salt for luck.

The baking process is a bit time consuming. I start them in the oven covered for 5 minutes or so, then reduce the heat by 50 degrees, remove the cover and bake for about 15 minutes.

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The wedges should be starting to get opaque (see my attempt at capturing this effect above) and the bottoms should be starting to brown. Flip em over and give them another 10-15 minutes.

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They taste as crispy as they look.

Serve these HOT with whatever toppings you like. Pro tip: don’t pile them all in a bowl, or they will quickly get soggy (the evil mush returns). I like to drain mine in one layer on a paper towel-lined plate and then serve each individual.

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Goat Cheese Red Pepper Turkey Burgers

I woke up at 6:45 this morning. And went running. It might be a New Year after all.

I type this fully realizing that 6:45 a.m. is NOT that early, and that many people wake up then or much earlier every day to go to work, or to exercise or to whatever. But I do not. Ever. Wake up before I absolutely have to.

And running isn’t an absolute need. I suppose until today.

So the healthyish thing is continuing, hence the continued running (we also have a half marathon coming up, and don’t want to embarrass ourselves).

Which brings me to today, and to the turkey burger. The sad little cousin of the beef burger, younger sister to the world’s greatest burger, the lamb burger (in my HUMBLE opinion). I will order a lamb burger on basically any menu I see it on. I will not order a turkey burger on basically any menu I see it on. Turkey burgers usually end up so dry and boring tasting.

Time to change that. With one of the greatest foods ever, goat cheese. My newest obsession to cook with since I seem to have moved on from bacon. Though, full disclosure, I did make myself bacon and a goat cheese omelette for dinner last night. Oops.

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You know what goes great with goat cheese? Roasted red peppers. Which I mixed into the ground turkey with an egg, some spices and some breadcrumbs to help moisten the whole thing up a bit.

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Mixed meat is just about the least appetizing looking thing ever, right?

IMG_0543.JPGUntil it becomes these gorgeous patties.

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And yes, it’s January, so I used my cast iron grill pan instead of the actual grill. These might have even been slightly better on the charcoal grill, but it was cold outside. Indoor options called.

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Grill marks make everything better.

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While the burgers were grilling, I slathered some softened goat cheese on each bun. Added some spinach… so good. Tomato would have been good on this also, but I only had cherry tomatoes and that didn’t seem like a great option for topping a burger.

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I served these with a SALAD (not pictured) and oven-baked fries (pictured). I can only go without potatoes for so long. I’m still human, after all.

The leftover patties were also yummy leftover the next day with some quinoa and asparagus!

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Dijon Maple Chicken + Brussels Sprouts Salad

Welcome to January, month of the New Year’s Resolution. Followed quickly by February, month of abandoning the New Year’s Resolution. I don’t have a specific resolution this year, but after two months of holiday indulgences (a nice way to say “eating and drinking my way from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day”), I definitely needed a bit of a detox.

Now, my idea of detoxing does not involve juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, lemon juice or any other vaguely gross and really unhealthy suggestions found on Pinterest. I just figured I should eat some more veggies. Other than potatoes.

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Enter brussels sprouts.

In related news, I recently learned that it’s brusselS sprouts not brussel sprouts and it kind of blew my mind. Like when Lorelai Gilmore found out that the correct plural pronunciation of cul-de-sac is culs-de-sac. (It just sounds wrong!)

Anywho, it seemed like brussels sprouts and chicken would be a great antidote to weeks of cookies and carbs, so I decided to try a play on the salad I made for Thanksgiving.

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The absolute worst part of brussels sprouts… cleaning and cutting them. First tear off all the outside leaves, then shred each sprout down to the nub. Toss the nub. Repeat. For an entire bag of sprouts. This was by far the most time consuming part of this otherwise really easy salad.

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Once the sprouts were shredded, I started on the chicken. I used thighs, it’s what I had on hand. I’m sure breasts would be good as well. I just trimmed a little fat and sprinkled each side with salt and pepper before tossing in my nice, hot, olive oil-coated cast iron skillet. Once in the skilled I brushed each piece with my chicken sauce. It would have been good as a marinade too, if I had started earlier and wasn’t too hungry to wait for marinade at this point.

IMG_0485.JPGWhile those bad boys cooked, back to the salad I went. Shredded brussels sprouts, meet pears and a dijon vinaigrette.

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I tossed everything together with my (clean) hands and topped with some goat cheese, cinnamon sugar pecans and the chicken.

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I enjoyed this so much, I’ve actually made it twice since the New Year. Delicious.

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Chicken Parmesan with Tomato Risotto

I like chicken parm. What’s not to like? Crunchy, cheesy, saucy goodness.

As much as I like chicken parm, my husband LOVES it. He loves basically anything that is served over pasta. So my idea to serve it over a pillow of risotto really rocked his world. After a long day of work, though, I think he was just happy to see dinner.

Risotto sounds fancy, and thus complicated. I’ve made it a few times, and the first time was definitely a bit scary. The most important thing with risotto is to stir continuously while the rice is absorbing the broth. I once tried to do risotto while doing other things… it did not end well. I suggest cooking the chicken first, then setting it aside while you finish the risotto.

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I prepped the chicken, set out my dredging equipment and got everything for the risotto ready first.

Dredging the chicken is probably the worst part of this whole procedure. Any recipes that require dredging, boo… It makes such a big mess. But it tastes so good.

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Look at that beautiful crust.

Then I moved on to the risotto, spoon, broth and measuring cup at the ready. IMG_0451.JPG

Keeping everything in arm’s reach made this SO much easier.

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I stopped stirring just long enough to take this picture!

Once all the broth is absorbed, you’re done. The rice should be a bit al dente, with just a little bite. So rich, so yummy. At this point, I broiled the chicken until the mozzarella was melted and then combined everything. And topped with more mozzarella. And parmesan. Because of course.

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Magnificent.

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Christmas Gun Cookies

MERRY CHRISTMAS! I can’t believe it has already come and gone. I realized about two weeks beforehand that not only had I not done any shopping, I didn’t even have any ideas for anyone on my list.

 

Of the 12 shopping days left, we drove to Pittsburgh for four days to celebrate my father-in-law’s birthday, spent two days travelling for work, and did half marathon training runs four days after work. Leaving two days to get it all done.

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But I did get the chance to make these beauties for the party… recipes to come.

Gifts were, by some miracle, brainstormed, found, purchased and wrapped just in time. Some of my family  came to visit for the holiday weekend, so my day off on Friday was spent cleaning the entire house. Saturday was a relaxing morning with family, successful escape from an escape room challenge (with 10 minutes to spare!), lunch, Christmas Eve mass, then took one of our cats to the emergency room. Where he spent Christmas Eve and Day in the ICU. And I only wish I was kidding.

(He’s okay so far… diagnosed with asthma and currently extremely congested, but home and relaxing comfortably.)

After all of that, I did not successfully have cookies ready in time for Christmas. So I enlisted my Mom and sister to help bake them all on Christmas morning.

I did manage to find time to prep the dough before Christmas morning, which was fortunate. I don’t know why these cookies are called “gun” cookies. Technically, they are spritz cookies. Some cookie presses kinda sorta resemble guns, I suppose. When we started making them as kids, my Mom’s cookie press was the traditional hand-crank type, which looked absolutely nothing like a gun. But, the name stuck one way or another.

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Yep, that’s what two pounds of butter looks like.

I do these cookies a bit more low-tech than other desserts. Hand mixer to combine the wet ingredients, then a pastry blender to work in the flour.

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Just make sure butter, sugar, eggs and extract are WELL combined before adding flour.

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One of the tines on my pastry blender snapped off about two minutes after this photo was taken.

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Nine cups of flour later…

Making the dough is only half the battle for these cookies. Next up, press time.

My Mom’s old hand-crank press was TOUGH to operate. Then we upgrade to a newer style press. It had replaced the hand-crank with a trigger. Which was just as difficult to operate. I eventually got a hand-me-down battery powered press, which works a bit better, as long as the dough isn’t too cold.

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Of course we went with Christmas tree shapes.

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Just add sugar!

These are some of my favorite cookies, but they are a lot of work. I usually only make them twice a year – Christmas and when we go to the beach (because that’s normal, right?). Fortunately, the recipe does make between 12-15 dozen cookies. So lots of work, lots of reward!

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These taste like Christmas.

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