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Posts Tagged ‘oven’

Rarely do I give a failed Internet-based recipe a second chance. There are simply too many other recipes to try, and unless I can point to something I know I did wrong (it happens), I’ll usually just write off such failures as lessons learned.

Roasted chickpeas, though? I WANTED the roasted chickpeas to work. So when the first batch came out half-crunchy and half-mushy a couple of weeks ago, I knew I had to try again. The few (very few) roasted chickpeas that were roasted to perfection were ROASTED TO PERFECTION. They were tiny, crunchy bombs of flavor.

I found two problems with my first attempt:

  1. The original recipe called for what seems like A LOT of olive oil: 1.5 tablespoons for one can of chickpeas. I was left with oil oozing around on the parchment paper beneath the coated chickpeas.
  2. My oven can be somewhat unpredictable. It will bake three tiny loaves of zucchini bread to utter perfection within the recommended recipe time, or it will take twice as long as it should to bake a pan of cookies. And sometimes it’ll burn those cookies on the bottom without leaving a hint of gold on their pale little tops.

So, less olive oil and more time in the oven seemed to be in order. Also, I decided to add the seasoning BEFORE roasting, since, in theory, perfectly roasted chickpeas would be dry to the touch and wouldn’t allow the seasonings to stick.

A word on the seasonings: You can use anything you like. I used Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning. I’m not sure why you would use anything else, but I imagine Greek seasoning would also work. Crafty Kristen recommends a teaspoon or two of cracked black pepper and a generous sprinkling of sea salt.

This batch turned out perfectly — even the biggest chickpeas roasted to crunchy perfection.

Crispy Roasted Chickpeas

Adapted from Steamy Kitchen

  • One 15-oz. can chickpeas
  • Olive oil
  • Salt/seasoning mixture

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (I might go up 25 degrees next time).

Drain the chickpeas in a colander and rinse with water. Rub the chickpeas, a couple of handfuls at a time, between two paper towels to loosen the thin skin on them. Remove the skins until you get tired of removing the skins, then move on. Your roasted chickpeas will be delightful with or without the skins.

Spread a piece of parchment paper out on a baking sheet. Or don’t — hey, I’m not washing your dishes. Spread the chickpeas out on the parchment paper. Put a little olive oil in your hands and coat the chickpeas lightly — you want just enough oil to allow the seasoning to stick. Sprinkle on the seasoning. Less is likely more.

Steamy Kitchen’s original recipe said to roast the chickpeas for 30-40 minutes, but my oven took more like 50 minutes. Stir them around about halfway through. The chickpeas will turn a deep golden brown when they’re done, but the best way to check for doneness is to grab one of the bigger ones, cool it off for 30 seconds and eat it. If it’s crunchy, you’re in business.

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This post was supposed to be about the awesome strawberry cupcakes I made that reminded me of my grandmother and finally fulfilled a nearly yearlong craving. But NO, because my oven hates cupcakes and burns the bottom of each and every one.

I hinted around last year that I would love to have a strawberry cake for my birthday, only in this house there is no hinting around. In order to get a strawberry cake, I would actually have to say the words, “Will you make me a strawberry cake for my birthday?” which just seems so needy.

My grandmother was the originator of this fabulous strawberry cake. When I asked her for the recipe in college, I learned that it was what I call a “cheater cake,” since it started with a box of cake mix. It should probably be called a “double cheater cake,” since its strawberry flavor results almost entirely from a box of strawberry Jell-O. No matter. It is delicious.

My grandmother died a week after my birthday last summer.

During a small gathering at her old church after the funeral, somebody pointed out that there was strawberry cake on the dessert table. Serendipity, no?

No. It was the ultimate “cheater cake,” made from strawberry-flavored cake mix, complete with those horrid little strawberry-flavored pellets and covered in store-bought frosting.

I bought a box of white cake mix a couple of weeks later, fully intending to make the strawberry cake I deserved. But July in north Alabama is hot. So is August. I spent September recovering from the death of my cat, and by the time October and November rolled around I was neck-deep in graduate school assignments.

Last week, I decided to make the recipe into cupcakes because I needed something to bring to a bake sale. Ingenious, right? I make 24 cupcakes, keep two and sell the rest for a good cause. Only the oven had different plans.

At any rate, here’s the recipe. You should be able to make it in any pan size described on the back of the cake mix box; just evaluate your oven’s proclivities first. All 10-ounce packages of frozen strawberries seem to be sweetened, so I’m assuming that’s the right kind to buy.

Nanny’s Strawberry Cake

4 tablespoons plain flour
1 package white cake mix
1 small package strawberry Jell-O
1/2 cup cold water
4 whole eggs, beaten one at a time
2/3 cup vegetable oil
Half of a 10-ounce package frozen strawberries, thawed

Preheated oven according to the instructions on the box of cake mix. Grease pans and dust with flour.

Whisk the flour into the cake mix in a large mixing bowl. Dissolve Jell-O in cold water. Add to flour and beat well. Mix one beaten egg into batter; repeat with other eggs. Add oil and mix well. Fold in strawberries. Bake cake according the instructions on the box of cake mix.

Icing

1 box powdered sugar
1 stick butter
Half of a 10-ounce package frozen strawberries, thawed

Cream sugar and butter. Add strawberries and beat the icing until it is as thick as fudge.

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Freshly toasted pine nuts: I don’t believe anything else makes the kitchen smell better, except maybe cookies baking in the oven. Cookies that someone ELSE is baking in the oven. Right before they wash their own dishes.

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Buying cookware is the final stage of entry to adulthood, right?

I am SO there.

I’ve been using the cookware pictured here for about 16 years. Liberated from the home of my dearly departed paternal grandmother, it’s likely older than I am. Wear and tear wasn’t really a problem, however, since she hardly ever cooked much more than a can of chicken noodle soup.

It was some kind of enamelware, with hints of an Australian origin. I was always sort of vaguely aware that I should buy something “real,” since who knows what that stuff was coated with.

One of the larger pots developed a small dark spot on the bottom in the late ’90s. While boiling water one day, I watched the spot rise to the surface, followed by a powdery, brownish red cloud. It seemed to have rusted through from the inside out.

Other than that incident, it was incredibly durable. The only reason I had to get rid of it was because of another very grownup purchase my husband and I made recently: a new stove.

It’s a stainless steel model with a ceramic cooktop that, in theory, will make the kitchen sleek and sporty once we’ve replaced everything else that makes the kitchen non-sleek and frumpy.

The only caveat: The safest way to use the ceramic cooktop is not to use it at all.

It is the drama queen of cooking surfaces. No enamel. No cast iron. No aluminum. Only the flattest of flat-bottomed cookware will do. No hint of moisture on the outside of the vessel. If you spill anything with sugar in it on the cooktop, immediately turn the stove off, call a priest and get him to pray that you can remove the spill before it makes a pit on the surface.

I kid. Sort of. It’s actually a really reliable cooktop, once you get used to it, and the oven is the most accurate model I’ve ever used. And it does make one end of the kitchen look very sporty.

I think I’m even burning extra calories, because cooking without the fear of instantaneously destroying your cooktop doesn’t produce any adrenaline at all.

It might all be hype. Several people have told me that they use anything and everything on their ceramic cooktops. But older enamelware seems to be a consistent no-no – the surface coating has every possibility of actually melting onto the cooktop.

So we bought a set of stainless steel, the only “sure thing” to use. I was pleasantly surprised by the price; my husband found a five-piece set of Tramontina, recommended by Cook’s Illustrated, for around $150 at Wal-Mart, a real bargain compared to most of the luxury brands.

I’ve got no complaints about it. Best of all, some lucky thrift-store scavenger is going to get a few more years of use out of my grandmotherly enamelware. Just beware the small dark spot on the bottom.

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I’ve been on a cookie odyssey for a couple of years in search of a proper substitute for Trader’s Joe’s Gingeroos, which I discovered while vacationing in Las Vegas. (And yes, I DO always visit grocery stores on vacation. You should too.)

I don’t think molasses was a big component of my childhood treats, because these cookies were richer, darker, more sultry than any I had ever tasted. Chunks of crystallized ginger closed the deal … these were my new go-to favorites, only it was not to be. Double tragedy: The nearest Trader Joe’s is two hours away in Nashville, and they don’t seem to stock Gingeroos.

Admittedly, by cookie odyssey, I mean that I found one nearly suitable recipe and tried it a couple of times before my oven joined the Great Appliance Rebellion of 2009, rendering all cookie-baking attempts futile at best, infuriating at worst.

Then, November. My search is renewed after installation of a new stove.

I had found this recipe last year, but never got to try it. Miracle of miracles, it appeared in a sponsored link atop my gmail last week. It was culinary fate.

Triple Ginger Cookies, from the recipe journal 101 Cookbooks, are a huge ordeal to make, but they’re worth every minute. They’re what I call “grown-up cookies.” Not everyone will like them – they give off a bit of heat – and they’re not the kind of cookie that you eat a half dozen of in one sitting with a big glass of milk. You relish one or two with a cup of coffee or other hot adult beverage that may or may not be spiked with Bailey’s.

Just to make things interesting, I also made my own crystallized ginger for the recipe. I remembered paying a premium for crystallized ginger last year (around $4 extra a pound at the Fresh Market), and this recipe uses A LOT. The clerk at my Asian grocery store said they hadn’t received a shipment of crystallized ginger in months, so my backup bulk supply option was off the table.

Crystallizing ginger was a pretty big ordeal, too, but it made the house smell DELICIOUS and it reinforced my assertion that I do too need that OXO mandoline that I’ve got my eye on.

I’m not going to claim they’re just like Gingeroos, but they’re close enough.

Next kitchen project: the perfect hummus recipe. Also maybe, just maybe, fixing that hole in the ceiling.

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