Chicken & Garlic Recipe {A Garlic Challenge}

Me, my husband, and my best friend Paul all love garlic. When we dine together, we could chase vampires away from a vicinity of a couple of city blocks--of this I am sure. Earlier this week, Paul came over and he cooked us a delicious meal of turnip greens, sweet Italian sausage, garlic, and elbow macaroni. It was delicious.

His meal included probably 15 (ish) cloves of garlic. When he chopped them, it looked like a mountain.... a beautiful mountain of garlic.

After dinner, we were all sighing our sighs of satisfaction and I was saying how I can never really get enough garlic. We all agreed on this, my husband noting, "People say, 'eh, too much garlic,' but I don't really feel that way." So I proposed a challenge of sorts, a garlic challenge. A challenge that would hopefully answer the question: how much garlic is enough garlic

One of my favorite recipes is Chicken with 40 Garlic Cloves. It is a decadent garlic feast, and a dish that I've been playing with for about a year now. I originally got my recipe from Saveur (CLICK HERE for the original recipe) and while it calls for at least 40 cloves of garlic, it also says you can use up to 100. 

While that might seem a shocking number, to me it seemed like just the right amount! So, I counted out my cloves of garlic. Turned out, I ended up with 111 cloves of garlic, which seemed like it set just the right tone for what would be my magnum opus en garlique. 

111 garlic cloves <3 

What unfolded in my kitchen can only be described as the best Chicken and Garlic dish I have ever, ever made. It's my new standard for this dish. Some notes on this masterpiece....I used chicken leg quarters. This is a dark meat dish, and I've used the separated legs and thighs, but the quarters were easier and somehow better. Classically, this dish calls for a white wine,  dry vermouth, or cognac. But I didn't have any of those (surprisingly). So instead I used marsala wine. It was stellar. So, basically, you can use whatever you have, but if you have marsala wine, use that. Or whatever. It'll turn out well. 
Also, let's take a moment to talk about garlic. I recently read some nasty things about garlic imported from China. I was pretty surprised to learn these things, and I had never even considered checking where my garlic was coming from. So, if you are buying garlic, try and verify where it coming from; don't be fooled by "distributed by such and such in the USA." California garlic is probably the way to go (and, hey, supporting American is always awesome, right?) 

Lastly, I would like to urge you, "Fear not the 111 cloves." Garlic is life. It's arguably the very best spice in the whole, wide world. If you are skeptical, start with 40 cloves and work your way up. This is definitely a dish you will want to make again and again. 

As for whether or not you can actually have too much garlic...well, the jury is still out on that one. As it happens, 111 cloves was not too much. Was it enough? Hmmm. I could have gone a little farther. But I breathed a sweet sigh of satisfaction watching my almost 2 year old daughter bite into a garlic clove with delight--easily one of the best moments of my week! 

Chicken and 111 Garlic Cloves 
Time: 1 hour | Serves 4 | Difficulty: Easy (ish)

You Will Need:

4 Chicken quarters
111 garlic cloves, peeled (I bought pre-peeled)
1/2 cup marsala wine
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
A bit of butter for greasing your baking pan.


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Go around your pan a couple times with the olive oil and give it a good coating. Heat the pan to medium high. While it's heating, give your chicken a good salt and pepper.

When your pan is heated, brown your chicken. I had to do mine in two batches. Let the chicken brown for six minutes on each side, flipping it once.

When the chicken is browned on each side, remove it to a large baking pan. I greased my pan with a little butter first. Once the chicken is done, keep your pan nice and hot and throw in your garlic and onions, allowing them to brown a little bit, about 5 minutes or so.

Once the garlic is nice and browned and fragrant, add your half cup of marsala wine (or whatever alcohol you are using). Allow it to cook and reduce for a couple of minutes.

Next, sprinkle on your flour and mix to combine. Add your chicken broth and bring it to a boil to thicken. Remove several spoonfuls of the garlic (which will still be whole), and put them on your chicken in the pan. Using a masher of some kind (I like my old fashioned potato masher) mash the remaining cloves of garlic in the pan. Finally, pour that sweet, beautiful sauce over your chicken.

Put the whole thing (uncovered) into the oven and allow it to cook for about 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. I served mine alongside a salad. But you can also serve it with mashed potatoes, or even pasta. This dish goes really well with just about anything--especially a good glass of wine!!!

[Don't] Enjoy Every Minute

What is it with parenthood nostalgia? I mean, yes, I get it, but what's with parents of older children imposing it on new parents? Early parenthood is're all jiggly from the birth and your hormones are *raging* and your sleep is messed up, and to top it all off you're supposed to be the happiest of your life ever? Oh for the love of god. 

I remember when my daughter was less than a month old;  I brought her to my Zumba class for the ladies to meet her. One well meaning woman said, "Don't you just wish she would stay this size forever?!"

Answer: No. Fuck no.

I went home and cried for two days, thinking something was wrong with me. Because this is a common phrase you hear people say to new moms. That and the phrase, "Enjoy every moment," with that *wink, wink* that always left me scratching my head in those early days.

As time marched on I was able to pull my head out of my hormones. I realized that people are whimsical about the newborn stage more for what it represents than what actually happens while you are in the thick of it. It represents the hope of new life, the infancy of your family and the tenderness (perhaps even naïvety) of early parenthood. But most of this comes in hindsight. With my daughter swiftly approaching two years old, I look back even now with a bit of whimsy at that terrible, awful, tender, beautiful, cuddly, wonderful time that is postpartum parenting.

Perhaps the fact that I don't foresee any more children entering our family gives me a bit more perspective. Let me lead in here by saying my mantra over the first six months of my daughter's life was, "I never have to do this again!" Having a newborn felt emotionally and physically challenging to me... I simply couldn't "enjoy every moment."

It felt so disingenuous to me when others asked me to "soak it all up, and enjoy." At a certain point, I even began giving it back to people. When they said, "I miss that stage," I would fire back, looking at them through my sagging the eyelids and mutter, "No, no you don't."

But here's my point: you don't---and perhaps shouldn't-- enjoy every moment. Why the hell would you even try? The thing is, armed with the knowledge that I might be the "one and done" type,
rather than enjoy, I just tried to be present as I whispered my mantra to myself along with the occasional "I accept this moment."

Not all moments are meant to be joyful. Some moments downright suck. You can lean into presence rather than feign enjoyment and the surprise is that it can suck considerably less. And if you are one of those moms who really does enjoy every stinky and tearful and hormonal moment of early parenthood, hey, more power to you. No judgments. I just can't pitch my tent at your campsite.

But for the rest of us out there not enjoying the all nighters, sore tits, and other countless moments that make us want to run screaming over the nearest hill, just know it's okay not to enjoy it sometimes. Try not to lose it, but try not to feel so pressurized, either.

Life is a tapestry and so is motherhood. The hard moments in our children's infancy give way to those sweet moments where they say their first word--or sentence--and enjoy story time at the library and go to school, and all the other countless moments that lead up to the bigger moments. It all builds. We put in the hard work as parents to reap the benefits, and sometimes, rather than enjoying, we just have endure. 

Homemade Hoisin Sauce Recipe/ Hoisin Chicken

I have been really into cooking from Pinterest these days. While I love coming up with my own recipes, this last year and a half has been a bit of a black hole with learning to juggle parenting, being a wife, and working from home. It's been fun. And hard. And fun. And hard.

You see the dilemma. 

Anyway, in my quest for nondairy recipes, I have come across many, many Asian recipes, and some call for this ingredient called "hoisin sauce." You can buy it in the store, but if you are like me (very cheap) then you may want to make your own.  I started experimenting and over the last several months have honed by hoisin craft. I am proud.

I have been wanting to share this recipe for a while...but without any accompanying serving suggestion, it seemed a bit out of place. Do people just post recipes for hoisin sauce? Maybe they do, but to me it felt incomplete. So you know what I did? I poured the recipe over chicken and then baked the chicken. Heavenly, I tell you. Heavenly.

Incidentally, over the holidays we went up to the D.C. area and had Christmas with my husband's extended family and we had this AMAZING pork made by Uncle Charlie and Aunt Kathy. It had a marinade that consisted of Chinese Five Spice, which I am also using here... Chinese Five Spice is unique, and I really like it. Given the awesomeness of the pork we had, I think you could use this sauce on pork as well.

Billie's Hoisin Sauce & Chicken

Time: Sauce, 7 mins/ Chicken, 40 minutes | Makes: 1 batch/ 4 Chicken Thighs | Difficulty: Easy! 

You will need: 

3 tablespoons brown sugar
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
a squirt of ketchup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon of water
1/4 teaspoon Chinese five spice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
Several dashes of hot sauce (to taste)

1 recipe of the sauce
4 bone-in chicken thighs
Olive oil

1 cast iron skillet
1 half pint mason jar


I hate to sound overly simple, but this is ONE SIMPLE RECIPE. I put that in caps to really emphasize the point. To start, gather all your ingredients...this is literally the hardest part.

Combine all the sauce ingredients in the mason jar. I give it a little stir with a fork, put the lid on and shake it...shake it good. Then give it a little taste. I like to make my husband be my taste tester because he's really good at it pickier than I am. Now your sauce is made.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Place your cast iron skillet on the stove and go around the pan a couple of times with the olive oil. Heat over medium high heat. Once heated, place your chicken in the pan. Cook the chicken five minutes on each side, turning once.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and place in the preheated oven. Allow it to cook about 25-30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees (or juices run clear.)

 I like to serve this dinner with rice and broccoli. It would also go realllllllly well with THESE NOODLES, which are addictive as all get out, so proceed at your own risk!

Peppermint Patties & Other Holiday Crafts

It's the most wonderful time of the year! 

I love Christmas so very much, and since my daughter was born, I think my Christmas spirit is more spirit-y than ever before. I kick off my Christmasing right after the Thanksgiving holiday with Christmas tree decoration. We get a real tree, and this year we did something pretty cool: we rode our bikes to get our tree from the tree farm down the road. It was pretty memorable for my husband and I, and I dare say, I think we had the tree farm boys quite amused as well. 

I wanted to share some of holiday stuff that I've been doing in case you need a little inspiration, or find a tip or trick that might work well for your household! First up, a picture of what decoration a tree with a 18-month-old is really like...hehe. 

After this photo was taken, I said to my sister-in-law that THIS is what is real. I mean, yes, it's great to have smiley pictures having to do with the holidays, but let's me real: after hauling the tree, getting it set up, and being SO PATIENT about my husband getting the lights precise, this was exactly how I was feeling! Plus, there was the nervousness of not knowing how this whole tree and 18-month-old thing was going to go...which brings me to this: 


Ah, Pinterest. I love you soooo much. I saw a picture of a felt tree on there, and I said I have got to make one of those puppies! Granted, is my crafty version of a felt Christmas tree as good as some others? No, but that is not the point! The point is that this is where I direct my little darling when saying "just look" at the real Christmas tree doesn't work. This is activity board I think she'll get a couple of years out of (at least I hope so) and I love it. Great addition to our home and very festive, don't you think? 

And new Christmas project... candies!!! 

These are a very simple recipe I found for peppermint patties on--you guessed it--Pinterest! I have never been one to tackle candy making, but these just caught my eye. They were as simple as was promised. So easy, in fact, that the majority of them I actually went a step farther and covered them in chocolate! YUM! I am storing those in the fridge and planning to now make my own Mounds inspired candies from a similar recipe. CLICK HERE for the recipe from Mom on Time Out. One change I made was that I used pure peppermint essential oil (from Young Living) instead of extract. It's the purest tasting mint and is food grade. 

My husband thought that these mints were good on their own...but we also agree they are better with chocolate. I bought that melt-in-the-microwave chocolate and it worked well. And I mean, seriously, if I can get these made with an 18-month-old tugging at my apron, so can you! They are impressive for the holidays and make the perfect little gift for that special someone!! 

What are you holiday projects?! Please share them with me in the comments section below--include some links because, who knows, I may need to try them for myself! 

HuffPost Live with Rachel Ray

As some of you may or may not know, I have always thought that Rachel Ray and I would make excellent friends. Well, apparently the universe agrees because it FINALLY bought us together.

Quick story: about two years ago, when I was pregnant, Rachel Ray had a contest for her talk show, which had to do with cooking. I sent in my tape and filled out the application, and actually got a call back from her staff, which was SO COOL. They ultimately passed on me, which was fine because we would have been taping, like, hours before I gave birth. So it all worked out.

Anyway, the fabulous Ms. Ray has a new book called "Everyone Is Italian on Sunday"--catchy, right?! And so HuffPost Live asked me if I wanted to be part of the segment. It's been a while since I've had the opportunity to do anything with HuffPost because, well, having an 18 month old and all that jazz. So being back in the HuffPost saddle was amazing!!!

Check us out by CLICKING HERE. (I'm at the end, and they call me "Stephanie"--this is my life, people, what can I say?!) 

FIRE CIDER!!!!!!!!!! {With Recipe}

How do you all find your immunity these days? Mine used to feel strong as nails, but since my daughter was born...well, not so much.

Over the last year, my immune system has been in the doldrums of its existence. I have heard other women talk about how they felt so healthy while they are breastfeeding, but I just haven't found this to be true for myself. In fact, last winter was a particularly difficult one for me in the illness department, as I got the flu so bad that I actually got shingles!

Coming into the summer, I began to notice that my digestive system just ain't what it used to be. Turns out, over the last several months, I have become lactose intolerant. But I am skeptical of this....even though I have gotten MAJORLY ill from eating ice cream (not once, but twice.) Rather than throwing in the dairy towel completely, I got it in my head that I could heal my gut.

In my journey to healing my gut, I came across fire cider. This awesome concoction is not only great for your immune system, but it's also said to help heal your gut. And since I am such a fan of Mother's Vinegar, which is the main ingredient, I really wanted to give this home remedy a whirl.

It's said to be an old folk remedy, actually, and it takes up to a month to steep, which is why it's taken me sooo long to write this post (well, okay, maybe not, but we'll go with it). For me, living in a small town, the ingredient list was a little challenging to find, but given the challenges, I think I did pretty well and I am totally stoked on my fire cider. I have given this a couple of whirls now, and so I have been able to tweak my recipe a little. It's obviously best if you can use organic and/or homegrown ingredients, but like I learned with my horseradish root, this isn't always going to be possible. Just do your best.

I wanted to share my recipe, which was adapted from Mommypotamous (who, by the way, is amazing) in the hopes that some of you might be interested in making fire cider as well. After giving my first batch a taste, I have to say it's pretty spicy, but I do enjoy the taste. I mixed in some raw honey to give it that extra BAZINGA. My mom felt it wasn't quite as tasty I did, but she still drank it and said, "I think it did something!" I'll take it!

Notice the wax paper on the lids? For whatever reason, you can't have the metal lids touching your infusion. I don't ask questions when directions like this are given, I just follow. Call me a sheep...baaaaa. Now I don't refrigerate this while it's infusing--and let's talk a moment about that; it's not a fermentation, it's an infusion. These are different processes, or so I'm told. I've not tackled fermentation yet. All you need to know is that vinegar is a heck of a thing, and it's not going to go bad. But you do need to shake it every day. If you forget on your first batch (like I totally did) it'll be okay. More important than the shaking part is the storing it in a cool dark place part. 

After waiting...and waiting...and waiting...for a whole month...then you strain out the solids, add some raw honey and VIOLA! Fire cider! YAY! 

Then you can take it several ways. Add it to dressing. Add it to juice. Add it to tea. Or just do like I do and take a shot with lunch. It's how I roll. I mean, seriously, who has time to drink a whole cup of juice with an 18 month old running around? Not me, that's who. What I can say is that in the first week of taking my cider, I was able to eat smaller amounts of dairy without any ill digestive consequences. So I am going to say I'm impressed so far. 

Anyway, if by now you've read this entire post and are ready to tackle fire cider, here's the recipe. I have to suggest that when you fall in love with your first batch, immediately make a second batch. This way, when you work your way through the first, another will be waiting! Also, wouldn't this make a great gift for Christmas?! 

Fire Cider Recipe 
Time: 30 ish minutes +1 month | Makes: 1.5 pints | Difficulty: Easy

You Will Need:

1/2 cup horseradish root, peeled and diced
1/2 cup organic ginger root, peeled and diced
1 organic lemon, sliced into rings 
1/2 (or up to 1 whole) organic onion 
1 bulb organic garlic, minced (you can use much more, up to 1/2 cup) 
1 tablespoon ground turmeric 
1 sprig fresh organic rosemary 
2 organic jalapeños, sliced 
Bragg's vinegar to fill 1 quart 

Glass quart jar with lid 
Wax paper 

Raw honey, to taste. 


Add all your herbs and solid ingredients to the jar. Fill with the vinegar. cover the lid with wax paper and then the lid. Give a little shake to combine.

Store in a cool, dark place, shaking once a day for a month.

You may need to top it off after a day or two, just keep a good eye on it, and make sure the solids are covered by the vinegar.

When the month has finally passed, strain out the solids. Add raw honey to taste (I used about two tablespoons) and shake to combine. Store in the refrigerator and take about a shot glass worth each day, more if you are feeling sick! 

Make This Apple Cake {Happy Fall Y'all}

The Criswell house has been quite busy these days! My husband started a new job at the local high school (which, I have to brag, I am so proud of him), I've been working, and Ruby has been busy growing like a weed...which seems to all manifest in her bangs, which, no, we don't want to cut, thankyouverymuch.

In all the hullaballoo, I haven't really had much to blog. Because my "free time" (hahahaha) has been taken up with canning the end of season goodies like apples and peppers, working, and podcasting with my buddy Paul. If you haven't checked out my podcast, Honestly, please do, I'm pretty proud of it, and we're now in our second season.

And here we are: it's fall! I love fall. It's just a beautiful season with cooler breezes and falling leaves. I feel a sense of energy in the fall season, and I love how I naturally begin cooking differently. YES, I have been cooking, in case you were wondering. It's just that these days, it's a challenge to get a recipe down (with pictures, no less) when I have a tiny person clinging to my legs and yelling "MILK!"

Speaking of the fall season and all it's bounty: APPLES!

After purchasing a box of apples from my favorite local farmer, Paul Parsons, over at Parsons Farm in Dagsboro, well, it seemed logical that I would make a cake. Because my sweet tooth is alive and well (read: it's a son-of-a-bitch monster that is out to kill me.)

So, of course, I went to Pinterest to find one, and what I came up with was THIS RECIPE. I substituted oil for the butter, but otherwise followed it to the letter. And it was so good I was like, ermagerd, I have to share this on my blog.

This cake is *trigger word alert* SO MOIST! It's perfectly sweet, too, without a ton of sugar being added, which I think is a true accomplishment. So if you are looking for a simple and excellent apple cake, this is the best thing that could happen to you all week. Seriously.

Also, if you are hankering for more of my original recipes (or, like me, you haven't quite satisfied your apple sweet tooth), you can check out this good one from the archives for apple dump cake! Either way, I want to wish you happy fall, and a happy apple season!