Cooking

Chipotle Chili topped with yogurt and cilantro

Chili on a Chilly Day

The other day, it occurred to me that I have been on social media for about a third of my life. Growing up in Nigeria, I won’t exactly say that I grew up with technology. Technology and the internet was something that slowly drizzled into Nigeria. Moving the US when I was 16, opened my eyes to the internet and social networking online. Even before the days of Facebook, I spent a considerable amount of time online. One of my favorite things to do online is to learn about food. I have always been curious about the way other people eat. Food bloggers have become my demi-gods and I have become the person who falls in love with recipes. This Chipotle Chili from Gaby of What’s Gaby Cooking is one of my new loves.

continue
A stack of dill pickle chicken wings in a white plate dusted with chopped dill

The Easiest Wings

Is this the point I admit that I have a social media obsession? Or should I wait until I have told you about the dill pickle chicken wings I made? So, the story goes like this…A couple of years ago, I discovered Whole 30. I think I found the founder, Melissa Hartwig Urban first. Anyway, I found out about Whole 30 and I obsessively followed their Instagram accounts, including Whole 30 recipes. One of the things I love about their recipe account is that they have different food bloggers come takeover weekly and showcase their recipes. The man behind Primal Gourmet, Ronny Joseph, was a guest takeover and I found him there.

continue
Fried Salt and Pepper Chicken WIngs in a bowl, dusted with specks of sesame seeds and spring onions. I have a half eaten wings between my fingers

Takeout Wings

Fried Salt and Pepper Chicken WIngs in a bowl, dusted with specks of sesame seeds and spring onions. I have a half eaten wings between my fingers

I don’t know much about American football. As a Nigerian-American woman, I grew up watching soccer in Lagos. I have vivid memories, from my childhood, of watching the World Cup games between the Super Eagles and other national teams. Now that I live in the land of the New England Patriots, during one of the winningest seasons, I find myself interested in the results. As has mostly been the case in the past six years I have lived in the Boston area; the Patriots are going to the Superbowl. As the fans send off the team, I am dreaming of chicken wings for Super Bowl Sunday. First up are these Salt and Pepper Chicken wings.

Second confession: I am a chicken wings connoisseur. Chicken wings always have a presence in the my freezer stash. I just find them so easy to cook. Baking wings at high heat in an oven and coating with sauce is a favorite cooking method. I can braise them quickly in a shallow pan to make a broth for instant noodles. The Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings are deep fried before being coated in an intense coat of sauce.

Fried Salt and Pepper Chicken WIngs in a bowl, dusted with specks of sesame seeds and spring onions

I knew I had to write up the recipe for these Salt and Pepper Chicken wings when I finally got my ratios right. It took a while to feel like I had the right balance of ingredients. I actually tested this recipe over three consecutive days. Each time was good until it was irresistible. There is something about cooking with ginger, garlic and soy sauce. The combination makes the space smell like good food is cooking. This trifecta add so much umami to this chicken.

It is my sincerest hope that you have an opportunity to try the recipe for Salt and Pepper chicken wings. The one thing I can tell you about making this chicken wings is that it is essential to have everything ready before you start cooking. The process goes by so quickly. The resulting wings are worth the effort.

Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings

The Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings is a homage to Chinese takeout menu. I wanted a taste that might not be authentic but reminds me of my favorite Chinese buffet experience. The wings do exactly that.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Appetizer, Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: appetizers, chicken, chicken wings, chili flakes, crystallized ginger, garlic, green onions, soy sauce, wings
Author: Sinmi

Ingredients

  • 3 Chicken Wings Party Style
  • 12 Sprigs Spring Onions
  • 8 cloves Garlic use less if you prefer
  • 2 tbsp Grated Fresh Ginger
  • 4 tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 2 tbsp Chili Flakes
  • 3 tbsp Freshly Milled Black Pepper
  • 1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
  • Gomasio or Everything But Bagel Seasoning optional
  • 3 Cups Vegetable Oil
  • Salt

Instructions

  • Pat the chicken wings completely dry before salting the skin generously.
  • Chop the garlic cloves into fine bits. Slice the spring onions, separating the greens from the white ends.
  • A saucepan, with deep side, heat up the vegetable oil on medium heat. Test out the temperature of the oil by testing with a thermometer to see if it is 375F. Or sprinkle some flour and see if it sizzles.
  • Once the oil is hot, start frying the chicken wings. Do not crowd the pot. Frying the chicken takes about 10-15 minutes. I like to turn my wings a couple of times to get a deep golden brown color on them. 
  • When pulling wings out of the oil, don’t place on paper towel. Gently place on a plate.
  • While the last batch of chicken fries, start making the sauce to coat wings in another saucepan. Add in the sesame oil first. Follow with the garlic and ginger after a couple of minutes. Once garlic and ginger become fragrant, add in the white part of the spring onions. 
  • A minute after the spring onions are added in, pour in the soy sauce. Let it reduce and become sticky. Add in the chili flakes and black pepper. Stir everything together and wait for the last batch of chicken to finish frying.
  • Once all the chicken wings are adequately fried, add them into the sauce with the heat still on. Stir it all together to get as much sauce on each chicken wings as possible. Once the sauce coats the chicken wings well, add in the green bits of the spring onions. Toss around for a moment.
  • Transfer the Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings to a plate. I like to sprinkle mine with either gomasio or everything but bagel seasoning. It adds some more texture and umami with the sesame seed and other spices.
Curry Chicken and Broccoli Fried Rice with raisins and almonds

Lazy Day Rice

Curry Chicken and Broccoli Fried Rice with raisins and almonds

There are days when I feel sluggish. It is the sort of lazy when I don’t want to make an effort. On those days, this curry chicken and broccoli fried rice work wonders.

As I have mentioned previously, one of my goals in 2019 is to confront my food wastage. This means finding ways of using up every bit of edible food and examining the way I buy food. Often when I buy a rotisserie chicken, using the bits of meat on the carcass can be tough. The legs and breast are easy to dismantle and eat. The little meats hiding in crevices though tend to go to waste. This curry chicken and broccoli fried rice work wonders in using it up.

There are a few ways to make this recipe or non-recipe really. I am not going to give measurements because this is a use whatever you have leftover deal. If I have fresh broccoli on hand, I would usually toast the vegetables in an oil free pan to give it some char.

I tend to start the process of building the fried rice by frying some garlic in oil. Then I add in the curry powder into the pan. I usually use a bit of curry powder because I love strong flavors. Don’t be afraid to play and figure out what works for your tastebuds. In writing about meals like this one, I am creating an opportunity for you the reader to be inspired, not neccessarily directed.

Curry Chicken and Broccoli Fried Rice

Back to the curry chicken and broccoli fried rice. Once the curry blooms in the oil, I add in the bits of chicken I am using. Then I let that warm up a bit before adding in the rice. The goal is to let the rice fry a bit since this is fried rice. Once the rice seems like it is sticking the pan, I dump in the charred broccoli. Let it all heat up together before serving.

This curry chicken and broccoli fried rice situation was one of the first places I explored the idea of sweet notes making savory dishes pop. I love to add raisins to my fried rice just before it is done or when it is served. I mostly definitely recommend trying the raisins if you have any. Flakes of almond is the final touch for me.

I hope you get to venture into trying out this lazy day fried rice. Play with your spices and leftovers. You never know what you might create.

Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup with crispy mushroom slices and crunchy chickpeas

First Try: Parsnip

Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup with crispy mushroom slices and crunchy chickpeas

I have never had parsnip before. It is not a vegetable I grew up with. Somehow, in the last 6 six years or so, I have never felt curious enough to try it. Until I somehow got it stuck in my head that I wanted to make cauliflower and parsnip soup. Thanks to the power of the internet, I was able to figure out a recipe that worked for me.

One thing I have to say about parsnip is that it was relatively inexpensive to buy. The parsnips were also easy to peel. There was no slimy texture or anything like that. The core or flesh fell slightly foamy. I almost felt like if I dropped the parsnip in water, it would absorb some of the liquid.

Roasted cauliflower and parsnip in a pan for soup

Anyway, a lot of the recipes I read, called for roasting the parsnip and the cauliflower. So, I roasted the cauliflower and parsnip in the oven for about 30 minutes at 400 F until it has nice golden spots. Since I wasn’t using stock or broth for the soup, I used my untraditional mirepoix with celery, carrots, leeks, and onions plus garlic as a starter base. I sauteed these vegetables until they were translucent. Normally, I would have used herbs in the soup but I wanted a really plain soup so that I could taste the vegetables.

A little confession: I actually had a bite of the roasted parsnip before adding it to the soup. I am not sure how I feel about it. Maybe, it is because the parsnip feels so new to me. Despite my lackluster response to the first bite of roasted parsnip, I added the roasted parsnip and roasted cauliflower to the soup pot. Then added in a can of coconut milk. I allowed the whole pot of cauliflower and parsnip soup to come to a boil. Then, I set the heat down to simmer it for 10 minutes before transferring to a blender.

I like my soup pretty thick and smooth so that what I went for with the cauliflower and parsnip soup. This soup is very plain like I wanted and I have enjoyed eating it. Maybe, I am not sure how I feel about parsnip because it is masked so well in this soup with cauliflower and the other vegetables.

Crispy mushroom slices and crunchy chickpea on cauliflower and parsnip soup

My favorite bit of the cauliflower and parsnip soup making was the crispy mushroom bits. The mushroom slices were surprisingly “meaty.” I think they would go well with scrambled eggs on toast or a breakfast burrito. The Healthyish recipe for mushroom bacon was quick and easy for these. I followed instruction from Minimalist Baker for the crunchy chickpeas. Let me just say that the instruction to peel the chickpeas feels silly but it makes such a huge difference.

I am not comfortable giving a recipe for this cauliflower and parsnip soup since this is the first time I am making parsnip. However, I have a list of recipes I referenced before embarking on this adventure.

Anyway, let me know if you have favorite way of eating parsnip. I am sure I will give it another try. Maybe I should make a parsnip gnocchi? Or I am thinking of roasting parsnip strips for a salad. What do you think?

Close up picture of the vegan soba noodles in a pot

Grab and Go

Vegan Soba Noodle Salad in a pot

Soba noodle is one of those foods that I actually prefer eating cold. Made from buckwheat, soba noodles is amazing because it has a lot more flavor that the regular wheat noodles. This makes it the perfect item to use in a salad that I intend to park for lunch. Making this Vegan Soba Noodles Salad is very easy. It just takes mixing a bunch of vegetables together with dressing.

If there is one tip I can give about this recipe, it is to hold the dressing until you are ready to eat the salad. Don’t get me wrong. The Vegan Soba Noodle Salad is not finicky. It can definitely handle sitting in dressing in the fridge. In fact, I love how the carrots get marinade with the dressing when I mix it in before storing. It is just that the salad lasts longer without the dressing.

By the way, the dressing on this Vegan Soba noodles salad is versatile. I can see myself using this to make a carrot and cilantro salad with cashew nuts on those days when I want something easier. The ginger works so well with the chili flakes to create a very subtle heat that balances all the sweetness in the salad.

The other thing I should is that it is not necessary to use soba noodles in this salad. Find yourself a noodle that you enjoy eating in a salad and use that as a substitute. I can imagine myself making this with glass noodles or even pasta.

Vegan Soba Noodle Salad

The Vegan Soba Noodle Salad should be a meal prep favorite since it lasts long in the refrigerator and has a bold taste.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Dinner
Keyword: bell pepper, carrot, cilantro, crystallized ginger, maple syrup, soba noodles, vegan
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 16 oz Soba Noodles
  • 1 Cup Chopped Cilantro
  • 4 Sprigs Spring Onion
  • 1 Cup Shredded Carrots
  • 1 Bell Pepper Strips

Dressing

  • 1/8 cup Rice Vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 2 tbsp Grated Ginger
  • 2 tbsp Coconut Aminos
  • 2 tbsp toasted Sesame Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • Salt

Instructions

  • Bring a pot of water to boil and cook soba noodles according to instruction on package. Drain water.
  • Pour all the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl except salt. Whisk together. Season with salt to taste.
  • Add in the cooked noodles, cilantro, carrot, spring onions, and pepper strips into the dressing. Toss around until all vegetables are well coated. The Vegan Soba Noodles is ready to serve.
Roasted Chicken leg marinated in soy and burnt caramel marinade with dusting of spring onion slices on a sheet pan

The Impossible Dish

Roasted Chicken leg marinated in soy and burnt caramel marinade with dusting of spring onion slices on a sheet pan

There are few things I knew about myself. One of those things was that I don’t like sweetness in my savory dishes. In the last few years, I have sensed an evolution in the way I eat. I understand that sugar can be more than just sweetness. Sugar can be used to create a different flavor. Sugar is the secret ingredient that creates the joy in this soy burnt caramel chicken.

Bitterness is the opposite of sweetness. It is the sensation that many seem to want to avoid. The truth is bitterness as a part of the flavor palette serves a function. I explore that function in this marinade for chicken. The first time I made the soy burnt caramel chicken, I was skeptical but I had to keep going. This recipe is one that required me to have faith in my imagination.

I kept going and this many years later, I keep going with it. It is something that I created and love. By burning the sugar in this marinade, I get to explore another side of the sweetness. Burnt sugar is not a one note flavor. It has layers that can range from smoky to almost pungent. These layers become even more extraordinary when paired with the magic of soy sauce.

Soy Burnt Caramel chicken served with noodles

It is only right that I admit that this recipe is one that would give a bit of anxiety. How do you know when the sugar is ready? How do you not burn down the house? What tips do I have to make this process doable? Trust yourself and be patient. The initial step of burning is the one that is most anxiety inducing. Once you get through that phase, there is a ton of flavor banked already that makes this a walk in the park. Are you ready to make soy burnt caramel chicken?

Soy Burnt Caramel Chicken

A delicious umami experience enabled by the richness of burnt sugar with soy sauce. The marinade makes the chicken juicy and well season from the inside out.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time40 mins
Author: Sinmi

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Soy Sauce
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Tbsp Chili Flakes
  • 1 Tbsp GInger Grated
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 2 pounds Chicken leg

Instructions

  • Pour the sugar into a dry light-colored saucepan. Start heating the sugar at medium. As the sugar begins to liquify, swirl the pan slightly to get an even melt. Let the sugar sit on the heat for about 10-15 minutes until it is a dark brown color. Turn heat to low.
  • Once sugar is dark in color, add in the soy sauce and 2 cups of water into the saucepan carefully. Start to stir mixture to encourage the seized up sugar to melt. 
  • Once sugar is dissolved into the liquid, turn of the heat. Smash the garlic and add it to saucepan with the ginger as well as the salt and chili flakes. Let the mixture cool down completely
  • Pour the soy burnt caramel marinade over the chicken.  Seal the chicken and set in a refrigerator for at least 2-4 hours. I have let the chicken marinade overnight without issues. 
  • Preheat oven to 425F. Take the chicken legs out of the liquid and pat dry before setting on a baking tray. Roast in the often for 20-25 minutes.
A white bowl filled with tomato chicken soup with kale. the soup is topped with a soft boiled egg.

My First Winter Soup

A white bowl filled with tomato chicken soup with kale. the soup is topped with a soft boiled egg.

When I first moved to the US, this soup was one of the first things I associated with winter. My stepmother would make a huge pot of tomato chicken soup during the winters in California and it was always the best thing. Especially the next day, when all the flavors would have co-mingled properly. This is my version of that soup, a tomato chicken soup with barley.

One of the things I find interesting about this soup is that the tomato, red pepper and onions are blended in Nigerian style. I never asked my stepmother is this was how the recipe was originally made or this was influenced by marrying into the Nigerian culture. She also tends to make her version of the soup with potatoes. Oh! Those cubes of potatoes would have soaked up so much flavor the next day.

A white bowl filled with tomato chicken soup with barley and kale. the soup is topped with a soft boiled egg.

I started making my version of this tomato chicken soup with barley when I lived in Manchester England. It was my first time experiencing a snowy winter. I am not sure how I found barley but this soup is one of the only places I eat barley. I like barley. It is soft on the outside with a bit of a bite in the middle. That’s how I cook my barley.

The thing I like about making this tomato chicken soup with barley is that I can make the barley ahead. In fact, I recommend cooking the barley separately from the broth of the soup. Barley has a lot of starch that would thicken up the soup if cooked in the broth. I prefer to add in my cooked grains of barley into the soup at the last stage.

Tomato Chicken Soup With Barley

A lovely soup filled with vegetables and barley. The tomato chicken soup is easy and quick since the broth does the work of bringing in the flavor.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Soup
Keyword: barley, chicken soup, kale, tomato chicken soup, tomato soup
Author: Sinmi

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 can tomato puree
  • 1 Red Pepper
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 bunch Lacinato Kale chopped
  • 1 cup barley cooked
  • 1/2 cup Mirepoix
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tbsp Vegetable oil

Instructions

  • Blend the tomato puree, red pepper, chili flakes, onion, and garlic together in food processor until smooth.
  • In a large pot, add in the vegetable oil. Heat the oil for a minute or two before adding in the mirepoix. Season with some salt and then cook the mirepoix for about 4-5minutes until soft and translucent.
  • Add in the tomato mix into the pot along with the chicken broth. Bring up to boil, then reduce heat and allow it to simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  • Add in the kale and allow that to cook and reduce into the soup for about 5 minutes before adding in the cooked barley. Check that the salt is balanced and adjust is necessary
  • Let the soup simmer for a couple minutes before serving.

Notes

I use a homemade chicken broth when I make this soup. This why I don’t need to worry about seasoning the soup because all the flavor is in the broth. I have a recipe here for how I make chicken broth at home.
Butternut squash soup with black beans in a white bowl

A Soup to Remember

Butternut squash soup with black beans in a white bowl

The first time I had a variation of the Butternut Squash soup with black beans, it was such an unexpected treat. It happened a couple of years ago at the Boston Public Market.

The Boston Public Market is one of my favorite places to wonder in the winter. I love looking at the stalls of the local producers and buying donuts. Every once in a while, I stop there to get a meal. Usually, I either get a pastrami sandwich or I go get food from Bon Me.

On the day I tried the butternut squash soup, I got accosted on my way to Bon Me by an affable guy. He was offering me soup for free. He told me, “if you don’t like the soup, you don’t have to pay for it.” Unlike my normal self, I didn’t brush him off. I figured I had nothing to lose. Plus, I loved his approach. So I tried the soup and I paid for it. It was amazing. His was a vegetarian version that was tangy and spicy with loads of vegetables and beans with sweet potato. I love it and I ate every bit of it.

Butternut squash soup with black beans in a white bowl

My version of the soup tries to capture some of the magic of that moment in a simpler version. The butternut squash soup with black beans starts with a mirepoix. Mirepoix is are so commonly sold in grocery store prepped vegetable sections. Buying the vegetable pre-chopped makes life easier but I usually make my own mirepoix at home because I don’t like carrots. Also, I use leeks instead of onions.

The broth is definitely my homemade chicken broth that I have tailored to my specific taste. One special thing that I do with my soup is make cut my butternut squash into tiny cubes. Bigger cubes would work in the soup, they would just need to be cooked longer.

The magic spice in this bowl of goodness is the cumin. The cumin brings everything togetherĀ and especially after the final squeeze of lime. Don’t skip out on the cumin or the lime. It makes such a huge difference to the way the taste plays out.

If there is one thing I am loving this winter, it is finding easy ways to eat my vegetables on the regular without it feeling like a chore. This butternut squash soup with black beans is such a joyous experience that I can’t help repeating it.

Butternut Squash Soup with Black Beans

The butternut squash soup with black beans takes me back to a beautiful moment of discovering new food profiles unexpectedly. It is such a joyful recipe because of its robust flavor with cumin and lime playing with the sweetness of the butternut squash.
Cook Time20 mins
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Butternut Squash
  • 1 Can Black Beans rinsed
  • 1 Cup Mirepoix
  • 4 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 Lime
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin Powder
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • Salt
  • 1 tbsp Vegetable oil

Instructions

  • This the perfect recipe to use the pre-cut butternut squash that is sold in the stores. It cuts down on prep time. Cut the butternut squash into chunks if you are prepping it yourself. I prefer smaller pieces to cut down on cooking time.
  • Smash the garlic cloves. Add the oil into a medium saucepan. After heating for a minute, add the mirepoix and smashed garlic cloves. Sprinkle a pinch of salt. Stir frequently and allow the vegetables to sweat for few minutes until translucent.
  • Once mirepoix looks soft, add in the butternut squash chunks and the cumin.  Stir frequently for about four minutes, then add in the chicken broth. Bring it up to a simmer.
  • Add in the black bean. Taste the soup to check that salt is at an optimal level. Let it all cook together until the butternut squash chunks are tender. 
  • Serve soup in a bowl with a wedge of lime. Squeeze lime juice over the soup before eating.
Rice and Kale Chicken Soup with Pesto topped with avocado slices in a white plate

The Leftover Soup

Rice and Kale Chicken Soup with Pesto topped with avocado slices in a white plate

This is the easiest kind of soup. Everything is already prepped and cooking really is about warming up together. This Rice and Kale Chicken Soup with Pesto is one more tool in my fight against food waste.

The flavor base of the soup, the chicken broth does most of the hard work. By making building in the flavor of the herbs in the broth already, I can concentrate on just adding in my ingredients into the broth.

One of the things I like about this soup is that it solves the problem of leftover food. When I make this recipe at home, I am usually using bits of chicken leftover from a rotisserie chicken. The rice also tends to be leftover rice.

Rice and Kale Chicken Soup with Pesto topped with avocado slices in a white plate

Really there is no recipe for this soup. I start the rice and kale chicken soup by sauteeing some kale in some oil. Any greens would work if you are not a fan of kale, Once the kale or greens are wilted, I add in the chicken broth. Bring that to a simmer, then add in the chicken bits and rice. I let it simmer for another couple of minutes, I taste it to check if it needs anything. Most times, I have to add a pinch of salt because I don’t make my broth with salt.

The rice and kale chicken soup goes in a bowl to be topped with some pesto. I also like avocado on this soup for some creaminess. A squeeze of lemon also works wonder by elevating the broth.