Coconut Macaroons (Dipped in Chocolate)

I’ve gotten in a habit of keeping unsweetened coconut flakes around as a pantry staple. It’s perfect for elevating simple cut-up fruit to “dessert” status, for spiking banana bread batter, sprinkling on yogurt and granola, you get the point. But its most important use is as a main ingredient in these delectable macaroons. I promise that even without taking it all the way to chocolate-dipped (which we almost never do), you won’t be able to put these down. Even my non-coconut loving friends can attest to how awesome these are!

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Quick Tip of the Week: Foolproof, Easy to Peel Hard-Boiled Eggs

I have to hard-boil two dozen eggs this weekend for a kid snack contribution. Normally, I would be anxious with worry about how they will peel. After all, I’ve never had consistent luck with the various approaches to a perfectly peeled egg. Some say  to chill the cooked eggs in cold water. Some say to peel right away. Some say to wait until they cool. Use older eggs. All good ideas but not foolproof, at least in my kitchen.

But thanks to my friend A. and her friend’s Pennsylvania-Dutch granny, I’ve hit the holy grail. How we got to talking about eggs when we met for lunch on a rainy fall day, I’m not sure. But we did. And out came a story about how A. and her friend volunteered to make hundreds of deviled eggs for a wedding. The horror on my face was immediately visible but she reassured me that there was no reason for concern. Each and every single egg peeled beautifully thanks to this nifty trick: cooking the eggs in salted water!

This works for us every time. Let me know how it goes for you.

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Sunday Suppers: Moroccan-Spiced Braised Chicken

We launched our Sunday Suppers tradition last weekend with an absolutely delicious braised chicken dish from none other than “Sunday Suppers at Lucques” by Suzanne Goin. Granted it was prepared and served on a Monday, not Sunday, but it was a holiday. Still counts, right? Dear friends joined us for the meal and it was beloved by all, including the little ones.

I loved this recipe for so many reasons and wanted to share it with all of you. First of all, for a restaurant-quality main course, it was surprisingly low-key to make at home. This adapted recipe will hopefully smooth out the kinks I experienced and make it even simpler.

Second, no one can argue with the ease of braising – provided you have a large ovenproof pot and a bit of time, you are guaranteed to end up with a tender, deliciously moist result, especially if you use legs and thighs. Our family is slowly learning to love dark meat, and this recipe is sure to become a standard in the repertoire.

More importantly, thighs and legs are the most affordable cuts of chicken, especially when compared to boneless/skinless breasts. This makes buying organic or sustainably-produced options that much easier. Here is more information on why it is so important to buy sustainably-produced chicken and how to do so without breaking the budget.

I served the chicken alongside the Italian couscous suggested in the original recipe, which was an interesting but not beloved choice. I would stick with a regular cous cous, which will be a perfect compliment to the Moroccan-inspired flavors. Add a vegetable side dish (I made a chicory salad with fennel, toasted almonds and satsuma slices) and you’re all set.

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Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts

When it comes to Brussels sprouts, I’m generally a purist: savory, with olive oil, salt, high heat, maybe some pancetta if it’s on hand and the mood strikes. So you can imagine my reaction the other week when my lovely mother-in-law suggested steaming them, then tossing with maple syrup. I couldn’t go there, but I agreed to split the difference. We went with my usual method but added in the dash of maple toward the end to glaze them. I will be the first to admit that my skepticism went out the window. This is a new family favorite, and with the sweetness, may even entice a reluctant “sprout” to partake.

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Annoucing New Blog Feature: Weekly Meal Plans

Happy 2012 to all of you! A lovely holiday break has left me feeling invigorated and ready for new adventures that this year will undoubtedly bring. But Tuesday’s return to reality was also a good reminder that its time to get my act together when it comes to cooking routines. My primary food resolution for this year? To be more organized about planning meals. And what better motivation to accomplish that than to commit to sharing those plans with you?

During the last couple of weeks, when dinner often meant socializing and celebrating, I found some much needed to space to reflect on why 5PM is the most dreaded time of day for me. I realized that half the battle of getting a satisfying dinner on the table – especially on weeknights when time is of the essence – is planning ahead. I’ve occasionally tried meal planning in the past but too often, it doesn’t last. This results in various inefficiencies and frustrations slipping into my routine – the lack of ideas, the repetitive meals, the extra grocery runs for that missing ingredient or two.

So. To inspire my family and yours, I decided to do a regular feature on seasonal meal plans, some featuring meat, some vegetarian. Expect to see these posts on Thursdays, to allow for weekend grocery shopping and planning. I’ll recommend a main course; you can assume that almost any side of vegetables will work as an accompaniment. School lunch ideas will also be included, as leftovers tend to be a big hit for my kids.

Let me know what you think!

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