Savor the Flavor: Coronacation Edition

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, there are little to no options for foodies to leave the house and try a new restaurant. While takeout is still available from most places, the experience is unmatched to sitting down in the atmosphere of a new eating establishment. Personally, my meals have consisted of boring, everyday meals that my mom (although she cooks fairly well) makes when she gets back from work everyday. Aside from getting takeout from Chili’s and, my personal favorite nearby place to visit, Laura’s Bar and Grille in Smithfield, these are the meals that I have been confined to eating during my time in quarantine. Nevertheless, I was determined not to let Savor the Flavor die. Mrs. Picozzi helped me brainstorm, and we both agreed that a home-cooked meal was in the works for this month’s piece. As soon as I made the decision to do so, I began researching fun and new recipes outside my comfort zone to make up for the lack of outdoor activities that we have all had taken away from us. Not long after, I came across a recipe for chicken nuggets, an American classic, with a new twist to them: honey mustard and pretzels. I knew I would need a delicious side to make with them and opted for sweet potato french fries since sweet potatoes are one of my absolute favorite veggies to enjoy. I chose to keep dessert simple but tempting: chocolate and toasted coconut dipped apricots. I began meal-prepping with the apricots since the recipe, courtesy of Brit + Co, called for them to be refrigerated for at least an hour or so after making them. To start, I put a generous amount of coconut flakes into a small cast iron skillet. I allowed them to toast for less than ten minutes, continuously moving the skillet around on the burner to ensure that the coconut did not burn. Next, I melted a bowl of the semisweet chocolate chips that were already in my kitchen cabinet in the microwave. I proceeded to dip each of the apricots from the store-bought package into the melted chocolate, dipping them directly into the toasted coconut after they were halfway coated with chocolate. The finished morsels went onto a baking sheet covered by tinfoil, sliding them into the freezer once they were all complete. Later on in the day I pulled up the honey mustard chicken recipe, courtesy of Delish. This was only my second time handling raw chicken and I spent the entire cleaning and cutting process in disgust of how slimey and raw the breast that I used was. Once the chicken breast was cut into bite sized pieces I prepared the pretzels, stuffing six cups worth of skinny stick pretzels into a plastic zip-loc bag in order to crush them with a rolling pin. Next came the outer dips for the chicken, a bowl with flour and a few spices and another with two eggs and a generous amount of honey mustard. From there they went straight into the oven. While my chicken nuggets were browning in the oven, I began preparing the sweet potato fries. I soon realized that it was going to take a fairly long time for them to cook all the way through and since I had spent such an excessive amount of time on the chicken, I decided to make them chips instead. My mom helped me cut up two sweet potatoes, each of us taking one to peel and slice as thin as possible. We then laid them out on a baking pan, making sure they were not overlapping, and doused them in olive oil, seasoned salt, and pepper. When the chicken came out of the oven, I popped the chips in and watched them turn a golden, crispy brown. A few of them were smaller than others and became slightly burnt, but I personally like the flavor of things burnt and was happy with the result. The chicken nuggets were even more delicious than I could have imagined. The honey mustard and pretzel coating gave them a perfect crunch, the honey mustard peaking through with just enough flavor while the salt on the pretzel sticks gave them a perfect piquancy. “The chicken was awesome. It was very tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside. The recipe was surprisingly much better than I had anticipated,” my mom commented. The day after, my dad tasted my apricots and automatically loved them. Overall, my entire homemade meal was a definite success. It made everything easier on my mom since she did not have to worry about preparing dinner and it was a very fun experience for me. My favorite part was knowing that all the time I put into the meal paid off in the end, everyone who tasted it enjoying the outcome. If you are anything like me and find yourself sitting at home with no idea what to do and have an interest in cooking, I would definitely recommend brainstorming and creating a meal for you and your family. I promise it has a rewarding outcome in these times of uncertainty.