Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Super fast and easy chicken dinner: Charmoula!

I actually pulled together a delicious dinner in record time. And the inspiration came, as it often does, from Sunset magazine.

I happened to remember to buy boned skinless chicken thighs over the weekend, so that was a plus. At Trader Joe's they sell it organic for a great price, but if you have the ability to get to a Whole Foods, it's worth trying out the air chilled chicken they sell. More for your money (no water weight), fresher and generally better.

Everything else in this easy dish I already had. I'm charmed by charmoula! The author says this is good not only as a marinade but also as a dip. I'm trying that next.

I didn't follow the Sunset recipe exactly since it was for charmoula grilled chicken sandwiches and I wasn't about to prep and clean the grill.

Also! I quadrupled the garlic because I love garlic. It was great. And the kids ate it up. I also was pretty generous with the lemon juice and the cilantro because my spouse loves it, but I think you could replace it with Italian flat parsley if you're anti-cilantro.

I prepared the marinade and set the chicken in the fridge. While the oven was preheating, I zipped a few zucchini through a mandoline, tossed them in olive oil and kosher salt and spread them on a baking sheet. I put them in a 375F oven for 15 minutes for the first batch which was too much, then 10 minutes for the second batch.

The kids loved these. I thought they might because they like kale chips, but these aren't quite as crispy as those. Still, the slight sweetness of the zucchini paired with olive oil, salt and a bit of browning made them irresistible.

I did some work during the downtime and during the marinating. (I will always be grateful to Debbie Koenig of Parents Need to Eat Too for teaching me via her cookbook the life skill of juggling food prep and work/childcare/etc.)

Then I pulled the chicken from the fridge and baked the thighs in the oven at 425F for 25 minutes, at which point they looked slightly overdone but tasted perfect. (More on food safety here, here and here.)

Pulled out some leftover brown rice and sliced up some fruit on the side. The kids loved it. They actually ate everything on their plates. I can't remember the last time that happened so the relief/satisfaction of seeing my kids eat heartily felt like some kind of win.

Here's the recipe for charmoula from, stored on


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • boned, skinned chicken thighs (about 1 lb. total)
  • Preparation

    Mix oil, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp. salt, the spices, garlic, and cilantro together in a medium bowl. Set aside 1/4 cup of the marinade. Add chicken to bowl, turning to coat evenly. Let chicken marinate, chilled, at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Monday, July 22, 2013

chocolate review: TCHO! Local chocolate makes good

One of the many great pleasures of living in the Bay Area is easy access to Tcho Chocolate. We sometimes look for excellence from abroad when it comes to chocolate, but there's no need. We've got some passionate chocolate makers right here.

One measure of passion is how much someone talks about the object of their love. If that's the measure we're using, and we're measuring the packaging, I feel confident in saying no one tops Tcho in passion.

The front of the package is the beginning of the conversation.

The back of the package continues. Maybe it's not a conversation so much as a soliloquy. I tried flipping this picture over since it uploaded upside down, but now I'm kind of enjoying the visual right-brain exercise of just observing how many words are there. Note that the ingredient list is on the right side of this picture above the Nutrition Facts. That whole left side is just talking to you.

You think we're done here? We're not done here. Not by a long shot. Check out that beautiful polka dotted paper. Check out the flap with more about the chocolate.

Oh look! It's a picture of the chocolate maker! So friendly.

And then you lift out the actual bar of chocolate, and guess what? There's more to read!! It cracked me up. This is chocolate that does not want to be left alone. Because there's just one more thing!! Hang on! Wait! I forgot to tell you... and then you take a bite of the chocolate and the story is complete and they don't have to say anything more.

Tcho's Mokaccino is beautiful. It's creamy but not in a milky way. It reminded me of the creamy top of a well-pulled espresso-- flavorful, soft, strong. It satisfies without overpowering; it's powerful without socking you in the mouth. Like my favorite chocolate, it's well-balanced.

Tcho isn't inexpensive, but if you think of chocolate as a once in awhile thing and you love it, it's worth putting this one on your must-try list.

With a new focus, wordydoodling on...

Update! I've been going back and forth about the focus on this blog. I've decided to keep this space dedicated to:

  • Chocolate: Small pleasures.
  • Style: Design, art, clothes, makeup, culture, pop-culture, self-expression
  • Art and Sport: Info and photos from my kids' love of acrobatic gymnastics; posts on anything art or performance-related-- dance, theater, whatever is beautiful.

I wanted to have a separate space for other kinds of writing, including essays. That will be at I'm so looking forward to writing more.