How to Roast Chicken

Recently, I learned how to roast a chicken. Roasting a chicken sounds pretty difficult but it’s really not! I was so surprised that I, Maia, could roast a chicken.

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How do I roast the chicken?

Before you roast a chicken you should consider two things : the size of your oven and how much time you have to commit to the process. I did a good bit of research on how to properly roast it without using a conventional oven. The oven I have is a large toaster oven. I knew it was big enough to make a pizza, but I was unsure about whether or not I could roast a whole chicken in it. My main concerns were  the chicken getting fully cooked, how long it would take to bake and the taste of the chicken. One of my biggest cooking fears is dry chicken; no one wants to eat dried chicken. What I found out was that the size of the chicken and the oven does matter. For  a small chicken, it takes an hour and a half to fully roast in a toaster oven, not including prep time.

 

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My work area for cleaning the chicken.

I suggest that before you begin prepping your chicken you make a prep area in your kitchen. Above is a picture of my work area. The chicken will have some kind of fluids and you don’t want that all over your countertop. For easy clean up, I lined my work area with plastic bags and paper towels. Lastly, place your seasonings in bowls ahead of time so you can avoid cross-contamination.

Okay, but what about flavoring the chicken?

Flavoring the chicken is pretty important. You don’t want to roast it, taste it and discover that it has no flavor. Here are some simple ingredients you can use to flavor your chicken:

  • Olive oil or butter
  • Herbs ( oregano,parsley,thyme)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic
  • Onion

That’s it! It’s really not complicated. As you get better at roasting  chicken, you can test out different flavors. Recently, I made a herbed butter and stuffed it with chopped garlic and onions. The butter seasoned both the chicken and the vegetables.

 

Any other tips?

Have fun! I know that cleaning a chicken and potentially beheading it doesn’t sound fun, but the outcome is what makes it special. You’ll feel more accomplished as a cook when you pull a roasted chicken out of the oven. The smells fill your kitchen and knowing that you created a good meal will warm your heart. My deep feelings for cooking were intensified when I heard butter sizzle on top of the chicken.

If you would like an in-depth guide on how to roast a chicken, check out the guide on The Kitchn‘s website. They go through each step from start to finish.

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Baking Frustrations and Baking Wins

Last week, I posted a link on my Facebook page regarding tips on how to bake for beginners. I mentioned that I’ve wanted to learn how to bake because I feel that I am not a well-rounded cook. I can easily cook something with only a few ingredients and spices. However, whenever I try to bake anything that involves flour, it doesn’t turn out well. I think my lack of baking knowledge may be because I used to bake more when I lived in the United States. Last year, I didn’t bake at all.

When I lived in Longyou, I had a rice cooker, microwave and a hot plate. It wasn’t much but I learned how to make it work. At times, it was difficult and frustrating not having the equipment I needed to improve dishes, but I don’t regret that experience. Now, I kind of have a standard kitchen complete with convection and a gas stove with two burners. Yay!

Since I posted the article, I’ve been baking consistently. It’s been very challenging and a little tiring. Baking is so precise. A little too much baking powder can change the makeup of a cookie. Some things turned out well, even better than I expected, but other things were quite disappointing. My first baking fail were chocolate chip cookies. The taste of the cookie was good, but I used a too much baking powder. Instead of being cakey, they were crumbly. They literally broke apart in the bag. I was disappointed but I knew how to make the next batch better.

Following the crumbly cookies was a dented mini Bundt cake. I went to the baking store with my friend and I saw the cutest Bundt pan. It was small and perfect, so, of course I bought it! I brought it home and looked up a recipe for a Bundt cake. I adapted the measurements to the size of the Bundt and everything. When I began to pour the batter into the pan, I thought that there may not be enough butter and flour in the pan. I found out that there definitely wasn’t. The cake stuck to the sides and was misshaped. I wasn’t very upset about my dented Bundt, but I was a somewhat disappointed. Yet again the flavor of the cake was good but I wouldn’t call it a Bundt cake.

The last fail was a fail at first, but, in the end, I turned things around. I burnt Christmas cookies. I know it’s a little early to start baking cookies, but if I want to get more blog traffic, I need to develop recipes ahead of time. I made very buttery chocolate cookies. I came in with no expectations, but was pleasantly surprised by the dough. The dough was very soft and wasn’t too sweet. It had a perfectly balanced cocoa flavor, kind of like a cup of hot chocolate. After cutting the dough into Christmas trees, I placed them in the oven. About ten minutes later, I smell something burning. At first, I thought a few crumbs were at the bottom of the oven. I took them out at the fifteen minute mark, let them cool for two minutes and tasted one. It tasted so burnt. They were inedible. Later, after a breakdown over my blackened chocolate cookies, I realized that I not only had I baked them for too long, but I had made the cookie too thin. I ended up rolling the dough and putting it in the fridge for a few hours. I decided that I wouldn’t let these little cookies win, so, I sliced the roll and baked them for ten minutes. I topped them with a mixture of powdered sugar and cinnamon. The cookies came out perfect! They were soft and the cinnamon complemented the chocolate.

Despite some ups and downs, I still enjoyed baking. My fails made me want to learn more about baking. This week, I’m going to attempt to make a cake and a cranberry and orange loaf. I hope everything turns out well and that I remember to take pictures of my food.

 

 

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Sweet Dumpling and Butternut Squash Soup

In celebration of all things fall, I decided to make my squash soup. Soups are one of my favorite foods to eat  this time of year. They are easy to make and you can let them cook for a while. Whenever I have no obligations for the day, I will take a couple of hours to make a soup. I love having the aromas from the spices fill my apartment.

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A little less than a year ago, I made the first version of this soup. I was very proud of it but I forgot to write down the recipe. I’ve made it about five times since then and each time the soup took on a new flavor. Sometimes it was too sweet or there was way too much cinnamon. One time, I made a vegetable broth into the soup, put way too much salt in the broth and the soup turned out very salty and almost inedible. When I made the new version of this soup, I decided that I would take my time, record every part of the recipes and take lots of pictures in case I forgot a step.

 

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One of my favorite ingredients in this recipe are the shallots. When I saw them in the grocery store, I was kind of skeptical about buying them. I wasn’t too sure about the flavor, especially since I used red onions in the previous versions. Adding the shallots to the recipe really added to the natural sweet flavors of the squash. Also, roasting the squash before hand made a huge difference in flavor.

 

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In my opinion, this has to be the best version of my soup. It is not too sweet and is very aromatic. I think that it shows how much I have improved as a chef, and how much more I need to learn.

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Sweet Dumpling and Butternut Squash Soup
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Sweet Dumpling and Butternut Squash Soup
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Ingredients
  • 2 large halves butternut squash You can also use one butternut squash
  • 1 small sweet dumpling squash
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 3 shallots sliced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat your convection oven at 180 degrees Celsius, or 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cut the sweet dumpling squash and butternut squash in half. Put them on a sheet pan and drizzle them with three tablespoons of olive oil.
  3. Place the pan in the oven and roast the squash for fifty minutes. Once done, remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool for twenty minutes.
  4. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scrape out the seeds and the stringy parts and place them to the side. Next, remove the rest of the squash from the peel and place them in a bowl.
  5. On medium-low heat, warm a medium sized pot and add the remaining olive oil, shallots and garlic. Allow the garlic and shallots to cook for three minutes, consistently stirring them.
  6. Then, add the water, coconut milk, squash and spices to the pot. Turn the heat down to low and allow it to cook for fifteen minutes.
  7. The soup will be very hot, so allow it to cool for three minutes before blending. Lastly, place the soup in a blender and blend it for one minute.
Recipe Notes
  • If you roast the squash ina regular oven at 200 degrees Celcius, or 400 degrees Fahrenheit, it could take only twenty-five to thirty minutes instead of fifty.
  • If you cannot find a sweet dumpling squash, you can use a regular sugar pumpkin. I have used both and they work fine.
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A Week in Japan

In June, I visited Japan. It’s taken me a while to write this post because I didn’t know what I wanted to say. I came in with very few expectations, not because I didn’t expect my trip to be great, I always try to keep an open mind when I travel. All of my expectations were exceeded and I absolutely loved that trip. It has to be one of the best trips I’ve ever been on.

Before I went to Japan, I created a list of foods that I wanted to try. I didn’t want to miss out on any good foods, even if it meant that I had to miss out on some attractions.For me, I understand a culture through it’s food. I’ve really been able to do this in China, since every city has a local dish that may be popular in one area but not the other. I think the food in Japan told a story. A story of it’s history and culture. Where it has come from and where it hopes to go.

Below are the foods I had while in Japan.

Taiyaki

This a  fish shaped cake with sweet fillings. I tried one that was filled with sweet potato. It reminded me of a semi-sweet sweet potato pie, but portable and crispier. This taiyaki place was located near my hostel, Guesthouse U-En.

Kobe Beef

The is the best steak I’ve ever had in my life. The cut of meat was handled with care while it was being cooked in front of me. The steak was savory and mouth-watering. If you have the chance, eat Kobe beef. Pay the money for it because it’s well worth it.

Yakitori

Yakitori are meat skewers topped with a sauce and grilled. The restaurant that I went to is called Torikizoku. The location that I went to was in Osaka, but you can find them in other big cities in Japan. They have a large menu of different types of skewers, both chicken and pork, and they have dishes that aren’t on skewers, such as tofu and fried fish.

Udon Noodles

Udon noodles are my favorite type of noodles. Usually, I enjoy them steaming hot in a bath of broth, but I wanted to try something new since I was in the birthplace of the noodle. I ate at  Tsurutontan Roppongi  in Tokyo. I really liked the restaurant and they served both hot and cold noodles. I tried a cold noodle salad served with warm chicken. The dish was layered with flavors, both sweet and savory.

Tsukiji Fish Market

This was a very bittersweet moment for me. As a person who considers themselves a foodie, I really like to see what happens to the food that I eat. I was able to visit the Tsukiji fish market before it’s historic closing on November 2nd of this year. Luckily, it will reopen on November 7th, but in a different area of Tokyo. You can read more about it here.

I still remember that day as if it were yesterday. I went to my hostel and slept for maybe two hours. I woke up at 2:30am and left for the fish market. I didn’t tour the market around 5:00am. During the tour, I was amazed at how fast-paced the market was and how passionate people were during the auction. I don’t know if there will be tours going on until the market closes, and after the new one opens, but if you are able to take the tour, I suggest you go there. It sucks to wake up early, and you may not appreciate it when your there, but I can honestly say that I have more of an appreciation for what goes into my sushi after that experience.

Sushi at the Tsukiji Fish Market

After my tour at the market, I went to a sushi restaurant. I don’t know the name of the restaurant, but I took a picture and it is the sign on the far left. I waited in line for an hour and a half, not because they were slow at making the sushi, it was because there were so many people waiting to eat at the restaurant.

The restaurant is set up omakase style, meaning that the selection is left up to the chef. There is no menu and all of the fish served was raw. The only thing I had to do was sit, eat and pay. The cuts of fish were incredible. I have never eaten fish, or sushi, that was so naked and had so much flavor.

Other foods and drinks I tried while in Japan

 

 

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A Photo Journal of Wuzhen

A couple of weekends ago, my friends and I took a trip to Wuzhen, China. Wuzhen is a historic water town in the Zhejiang province. I had no idea what to expect when I went to Wuzhen. I had done some research online and it seemed like a pretty cool place. However, I wouldn’t necessarily label Wuzhen as a water town. There is a river that runs through the town and you can take a boat tour to see the different parts of the town, but you can just walk around the town and not take a boat at all. We decided to walk through the town instead of taking a boat. Nonetheless, the town beautiful. It’s filled with many historic houses and even some exhibits.

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