Weekend Warrior

Last weekend, I decided that the week ahead was looking tricky.  I did my weekly grocery shopping towards the beginning of the weekend, to allow myself time to prepare multiple meals that would serve as dinners and lunches for the whole week.  It also just so happened that my latest issue of Food Network Magazine had just arrived, and as usual, I had torn out some recipes I wanted to try. Over the course of two days I made 5 different meals, half of which I put in containers and froze for later on in the week.  2 of these were inspired by recipes I cut out of the magazine.

Batch cooking (as long as you are actually consuming your leftovers, not throwing a lot of them away), is both a money saver and a time saver during the week.  If you are like me, you have a well stocked pantry.  This also helps cut your grocery spending down.  I ended up only needing to purchase the meat, special cheese and fresh veggies.

My menu for the week included Chicken and Spanish Rice, Crock Pot Pork Roast and Beans, French Onion Soup,Spicy Penne with Swiss Chard, and Buffalo Chicken Salad.    I will post the recipes for all of these over the week, but today I am just doing the Chicken and Spanish Rice.

Before I get started I have to apologize.  Most of these recipes do not have photos of the finished product, just during the cooking process.  Also, Some of the pictures are not the greatest quality.  When you are juggling taking care of an infant, a husband, and cooking multiple things at the same time, compromises have to be made.

This chicken and rice meal has been slightly adapted from something my dad used to make for dinner all the time when I was young.  Smelling this as it was cooking reminded so much of home.  I love when I get to share that part of my childhood with people.  For my dad, food has always been his way of showing affection, so recreating his recipes and sharing them with my friends and family is definitely a feel good affair.

Here is what you will need.

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Ingredients:

One Whole Chicken cut into 8 pieces (breasts, wings, legs, thighs)

2 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Stock

1 10oz can of Red Enchilada Sauce

1 1/2 Cups White Basmati Rice

1 Celery Stalk Diced

1 Medium Yellow Onion Diced

3 Cloves of Garlic Diced

1 Red Bell Pepper Diced

1 1/2 Tsp Ground Cumin

1 Tsp Chili Powder

1 Tsp Oregano

Salt and Pepper to taste

Here is what you do.

Cut up your chicken.  I cut my chick up into 8 pieces, and then cut the breasts in half because they were really large.

Salt and Pepper all sides of the chicken pieces,

In a large stock pot, Brown the chicken on both sides over medium high heat.  This should take about 2 minutes per side.  Take the chicken out of the pot, lower the heat just a little, and add in your diced onion, diced pepper, and diced celery. After the veggies start to release some liquid, give them a stir and scrape the bottom of the pot to get up all the yummy brown flavor bits from browning the chicken.

When the onions are translucent, add the Garlic, Cumin, Chili Powder, and Oregano, and let cook for a minute, or until the garlic is fragrant in the pot. We add the herbs and spices here to let them toast a little with the veggies to help bring out their oils and flavor.

Add the rice and stir.  Let the rice toast a little until it too starts to turn translucent, then you can add the liquids.  Letting the rice toast a little adds a nice nutty flavor to the dish. Remember rice usually cooks at a two to one ration.  Two parts liquid to one part Rice is the standard. In this instance, I am including the Enchilada sauce in my liquid measurements.

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After you pour in the liquids, give everything a good stir, making sure to scrape the bottom still.  We want all that flavor to come up!

Nestle your chicken pieces back into the pot and bring it up to a boil.  Turn your heat down to a simmer and cover until the liquid is gone, your rice is tender, and the chicken is cooked through.  This usually take about 12-15 minutes.

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This is comfort cooking in one pot.  It is one of my all time favorites.  If you want to jazz it up a little more, you can serve it with a shave of cheddar cheese over the top and some green onions.  Remember, this is 8 (or 10) pieces of chicken, so it serves 6.  That is a lot of food for two people!  Needless to say, we ate this throughout the week.

Oh I forgot,I also made some brownies from the box, because you cant have all this tasty savory food with out some dessert!

So delicious!

So delicious! If you can follow directions, you can bake brownies.  Read the box.  🙂

Bon Appetite!

Stay tuned for Crock Pot Pork Roast and Beans!

Wednesdays are looking up.

Once again inspired by my garden, and the 1/2 lb of fresh Dungeness Crab meat brought back from the coast this weekend, dinner tonight was this masterpiece.

Fried Green Tomatoes over a Romesco Sauce, topped with a Dungeness Crab and Avocado salad.

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Now, I have never made a romesco sauce before, but thanks to the seasonal brunch special at Olympic Provisions, I know that it goes amazingly with fried green tomatoes.

I referenced Wikipedia to find out what makes a Romesco a Romesco, then adapted the recipe to what I had in the pantry.  Once again, my food processor came to the rescue in making this even easier.

1 medium sized tomato

1 whole fire-roasted red pepper (I had a jar in the fridge)

2 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup of almonds (all I had were oven roasted and salted ones from Trader Joes.  I just reduced how much salt I put in)

1/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tbsp of white wine vinegar

1 tbsp of lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all up until its well combined, then pour it in a pan and heat it up on the stove top.

The green tomatoes, picked just hours earlier, got a 1/2 inch slicing, coated in flour, dunked in egg wash, then covered in corn meal seasoned with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika.

I fried them in 1/2 inch of canola oil until they were golden brown, then set them on a paper towel to drain.  I salted them right out of the oil.

The crab salad had:

2 avocados

1/2 lb of Dungeness Crab meat (lump)

1/4 yellow bell pepper thinly jullianned

1/4 green bell pepper thinly jullianned

1/4 jalapeno thinly jullianned

1 persian cucumber (or cocktail cucumber, or 1/2 of an english cucumber) thinly julianned

1/4 red onion you guessed it, thinly jullianned. (Tip: soak your onion in ice water for 5 minutes, then squeeze them out before mixing to reduce the extra strong raw onion flavor) 

1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp of white wine vinegar

juice of 1 lime

a pinch of salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika

Toss everything together and refrigerate to let the flavors meld.

 

Wednesday dinners have be so much fun and so delicious.  I am beginning to look forward to the middle of the week.  Who’d have thought?

Roast Chicken Pim’s Edition

I have been reading The Foodie Handbook by Pim Techamuanvivit

http://www.amazon.com/The-Foodie-Handbook-Definitive-Gastronomy/dp/B0048ELDGY

Since I am not professionally trained to cook, I have decided it would be best for me to start learning the basics of culinary technique.  I thought Pim’s book would be a good place to start, as she is not a classically trained chef, but food blogger just like me!  In her book she has a simple recipe that she deems “The only way to roast a chicken”

I decided to take her methods, and change up the seasoning, since I was serving the chicken with something less traditional than roasted potatoes.

To begin with, I have been wanting to utilize my kitchen toys more often, as well as play around with the idea of compound butters.
I took a bunch of chives (probably about 1 Tbsp chopped), 2 cloves of garlic and 1 tsp of lemon zest, and gave it a whirl in my food processor attachment for the Kitchen Aid Immersion Blender. Once everything was chopped up, I added 1 stick of softened unsalted butter, 2 tsps. of salt, and 2 tsps. of cracked black peppers, and turned on the stick until everything was well combined.

I started brining my chicken at about 7AM this morning. In a Ziploc Freezer bag I added 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of Lowery’s Seasoning Salt, 1 tsp of cayenne pepper, 2 tbsps. of red wine vinegar, and 2 cups of water. I then added my lovely whole chicken, zipped up the bag, gave it a loving massage, then set it in a bowl in the refrigerator until I was ready to start prepping it for the oven.

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When you are ready to begin, take your chicken out of the brine and pat it dry. Throw out the brine, its contaminated now!
Take the compound butter and massage the bird inside and out until every inch of it is covered in flavor!
Take one whole onion, quarter it, and stuff the cavity with the onion. This fills up empty space that would otherwise circulate hot air, cooking/drying out the chicken from the inside. We don’t want that.

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Truss the chicken by binding the feet together, and the wings to the side of the bird. There is no “right” way to truss a bird in my opinion. Just make it work.

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Now she is ready to cook.
Pim says the best way to roast a chicken is to set the bird on one side, with one thigh in the air. Cook on this side for 30 minutes, turn the bird to the other thigh, cook for 30 minutes, then lay the bird breast side up and cook for another 20 minutes.
So, that’s what I did.
In a 425 F oven, place the roasting pan, or whatever you are using to roast in, on the center rack.
When the roasting is done, place the chicken breast side down and allow to rest for 10 minutes. This lets all those buttery juices soak back into the breast, the part that dries out most easily.
Carve and enjoy!

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Don’t throw out those pan drippings! Make a pan sauce. Take the roasting vessel (if it is stove worthy), and place it on the stove on medium high heat. I needed to drain a lot of fat before I could deglaze the yummy bits from the bottom.
I added some chicken stock, a pinch of flower, and a cucumber syrup made a few days ago (see my last post about failed experiments).  Now you may think that a sweet cucumber would not go with this, but the contrast of sweet, salty and spicy was awesome.  Also, I only used about 1 tbsp. of the syrup so the cucumber flavor was VERY subtle.  Anyway, I let the sauce simmer and reduce, all while stirring so nothing burned.  I poured the sauce over the chicken for plating.

I served my chicken with more of the delicious collard greens that I made with the Braised Oxtail (see a few posts back for the recipe). I did, however, add some hot sauce this time instead of chili flakes.

I also decided to make a cold Greek style pasta salad.  I love pasta salads because they can be changed to fit any menu or food restriction.

If your eaters are gluten free, use quinoa pasta or rice noodles.  Vegetarian?  No problem, don’t add meat.  Feeling Asian, add sesame oil and soy sauce.  Italian pasta salad gets fresh basil, tomato and mozzarella.  The salad I made was Greek style.  This means  it was dressed with a Greek yogurt dressing, and had cucumber and mushrooms.  I would also add tomato or olives but I didn’t have any at the time.

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The dressing was king of eyeballed but I used about 1/2 cup of nonfat plain Greek yogurt, 1 tbsp. of low fat Mayonnaise, 2 tsps. of lemon zest, the juice of 1/2 of lemon, 1 1/2 tsp of dill (fresh or dried), 1 tbsp. of red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.

To the dressing I added 1/2 lb of cooked and cooled pasta, any small variety would work.  You can use macaroni elbows, farfalle, mini penne, or even mini shells.  I chopped up 1 English cucumber, though the Persian Cucumber would be tasty too.  You want a cucumber with strong cucumber flavor or the salad will be boring.  I also added 3/4 cup of thinly sliced Crimini mushrooms.  If I were to make this again, I would add 1/4 cup of diced red onion, grape tomatoes and some Feta Cheese.  Mix everything in the dressing and allow it to sit in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes so all the flavors can meld.  This should probably be served cold, what with the yogurt dressing and all.

 

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This was quite the meal for a Wednesday of no special occasion.  My husband said it was restaurant worthy, but he is my husband and therefore required to praise everything I make.  I hope you enjoy, and maybe this meal will make a special day out of an otherwise boring one.

Game Night Guinea Pigs

Over the past year or so, it has become increasingly obvious that I am the sort of person who requires lots of motivation to get most anything done. When that motivation strikes, I need to act on it immediately!
So, when the motivation to organize my kitchen and living room struck, I immediately formulated a plan that would not allow room for any excuses. I invited people over for game night, forcing us to clean up and prepare for company.
Turns out, this plan was two fold. Now that we had company coming over, I needed to feed them! This got me really excited.

My local meat guy at Cason’s Fine Meats has an excellent variety of beef and pork cuts. Every time I go in there I stare at the oxtails wondering to myself if this is an ingredient I want to play with. Well, I finally got to actually try some braised oxtail when we were in Jamaica and I was so disappointed in myself for not having tried them sooner! They are fatty, cartilaginous chunks of goodness, and while that may not sound so appealing, just look at them.

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I had the perfect reason to try them out, and get feedback as well!

Here is what I did.
I marinated them overnight in red wine. I used the Yellow Tail Shiraz since that’s what we had laying around (leftover from the wedding).
In the morning, I drained them and tossed them in a spice rub. I put them in my crockpot with one roughly chopped onion, 4 whole cloves of garlic, 2 cups of crushed tomatoes, 2 tbsps of cider vinegar, and 1 heaping tbsp of whole grain mustard. I let these bad boys cook on low for 8 – 10 hours or until the fat has mostly rendered off and the meat falls from the bone.

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Spice Rub:
2 tbsp Chili Powder
1 1/2 tbsp Cumin
1 tbsp Smoked Paprika
1/2 tbsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Traditionally these are served over rice since the pot juices are equally as delicious. I served them with some mashed potatoes and some collard greens picked that day from my own garden!

Collards

I have had quite the yield of greens from my garden so I have been making them frequently. Most of the time I cook them with bacon, in bacon fat, but since the oxtails contained enough fat for the week, I decided to make them “skinny”

Ingredients:
1 lbs Collard Greens
1 Yellow Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic grated/zested right into the pan
2 Cups of Chicken Stock (Tip: Use low sodium to control the amount of salt)
2 Cups of sliced Crimini Mushrooms
1 Tbsp of Lemon Zest
1/4 Cup of Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp of Whole Grain Mustard
1 Tbsp of Cider Vinegar
1 Tsp of Red Pepper Flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

What to do:
1. Sautee onions in a bit of olive oil, on medium/high heat until they start to become translucent.
2. While the onions are sweating, cut the stems off the greens (they are fibrous and bitter) and cut the greens in to 1 inch strips.
3. Add the remainder of the ingredients and bring everything up to a boil.
4 Reduce the heat to low and put a lid on the pot.
5. Let them simmer on low for about 45 minutes, or until the leaves become a brownish green and are tender to bite through. They should not be bitter at all. If they are still bitter, continue cooking.

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I received high praises from my game night buddies, and I won our rousing game of Cards Against Humanity.
All in all, a successful evening.

Ps: I have to mention that these photographs are not of my actual food. They are google searched images since I was too busy being a host and cleaning to take pictures of my food along the way. Sorry!

Lunch For One

Hey everyone!  Sorry about not posting for a couple of weeks.  I am getting married at the end of June, and things are starting to get a little hectic.

But that is NO excuse to not make some healthy and delicious home made meals right?

While thinking of healthy and light summer recipes to put in the newsletter for my office, I became inspired to make lunch for myself, instead of going out in search of the elusive Porchetta Sandwich.  I’ll leave that to another day (but I will find one).

I LOVE quinoa.  Quinoa fulfills the desire of rice, the crunch of baked breadcrumbs, and provides the nutrients of a complete protein all in one amazing grain.  So for lunch I decided to make a Warm Italian Quinoa Salad.  We already know I have an obsession with Italian foods, so it seemed like a great idea to me.

For me, it is sometimes tricky to come up with a healthy lunch option, and cut my recipes down so that I only make one serving.  I am so used to cooking for two, and let me tell you, it was hard enough to train myself to just make two servings of food instead of enough for an entire family.  I hate to toot my own horn, but I find my meals so tasty that if I make more than one serving per person, I will eat it ALL.

So what have I done to help myself and my lack of self control out?  I keep my measuring cups close at hand.  I measure and chop everything before I start cooking so that I can see the volume of food I am creating before I even start, and I can make adjustments before the cooking process begins.

So, lets talk about my quinoa salad.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup of uncooked Quinoa

1/2 cup of Vegetable Stock (preferably low sodium)

1 tsp Italian Seasoning (I was kicking myself for using up all of my fresh basil making stuffed mushrooms, which I’ll tell you about later)

1 tsp Olive Oil

1/2 tsp Red Wine Vinegar

1/2 small Zucchini (roughly chopped)

1/2 cup of Grape Tomatoes (roughly chopped)

2 medium sized Crimini Mushroms (roughly chopped) 

1 tbsp Yellow Onion (minced)

1/tsp Garlic (minced)

1 oz Fresh Mozzarella

1 tbs Balsamic Vinegar

Salt, Pepper

Here’s what you do:

In a small sauce pan (and I mean small), combine the Quinoa, 1/2 tsp of olive oil, red wine vinegar, vegetable stock, and Italian seasoning.  Bring it to a boil, cover the pot and turn the heat down to low for 8 – 12 minutes or until the liquid is gone.

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In the mean time, combine all the veggies, onion, garlic, balsamic, and the rest of the olive oil in a saute pan and turn the heat on medium high.  Add a pinch of salt and a bit of cracked pepper to taste, and cook until the zucchini is al dente.

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Definition of Al Dente: to the tooth, or with a bit of bite.

Add the cooked quinoa to the sauteed vegetables and toss them together.  Put it all in a bowl and top with chunks of fresh mozzarella cheese. 

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Sit back and enjoy!

I just finished my own bowl and it was so good, I wish there was more.  Its a good thing I only made one serving.

Roast A Chicken

Oven-roasted chicken is one of those entrees that can be appropriate to serve in a variety of situations, and as you will see after you try my recipe, its super easy.  Having the family over for dinner?  Roast some chickens.  Need a Monday night dinner with hopes of leftovers for the weeks lunches?  Roast a chicken. Have a $10 budget for a pot luck dish?  Roast a chicken. Are you seeing a trend yet?

Seriously though.  I bought a medium/large whole chicken at my local butcher for under $6. Everything else I used came out of my garden or was already a part of my pantry.  Very little planning was involved aside for taking into account how long a whole chicken takes to roast, compared to individual pieces.

Just a quick note about the seasonings and spices I chose to use in this recipe.  You can use any flavors, seasonings, spices that you prefer.  I happen to be a fan of Rosemary, Garlic, Cayenne Pepper, and Smoked Paprika.  Also, those were the bottles in the front row of my spice rack, so voila.

Here’s what you need:

A Chicken… duh.   Actually, you need a whole chicken.  I buy my meat from a meat market that sells really high quality, local, organic, grass fed (blah, blah, blah, no I didn’t ask what the chicken’s name was) meat for an excellent price.  You can use the fryers they sell at the grocery store and still make a tasty bird.

Other ingredients:

Garlic – 4 to 5 cloves

Fresh Rosemary – 3 or 4 sprigs

Lemons – 2 whole

Black Pepper – to taste

Salt – to taste   (I used a specialty salt from my local spice store that was shallot flavored.  YUM!)

Cayenne Pepper – 1 tsp

Smoked Paprika – 1 tsp

Unsalted Butter – 3 Tbsp

Olive Oil – 3 Tbsp

Red Wine Vinegar – 1 Tbs

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Instructions:  Preheat your oven to 425° F with your rack in the middle.

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Line you baking pan with foil and place the bird on the tray.  Squeeze your lemons all over and inside the chicken, then stuff the squeezed lemons into the cavity of the bird.  Lift the edges of the skin covering the breast and poke your finger in so that you make a separation between the skin and the meat.  Stick some rosemary under the skin, then put the rest in the cavity of the bird.  You will also stick cloves of garlic and pieces of butter under the skin as well.  As the butter melts your bird will suck it up and keep the meat nice and juicy!

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Rub the bird down with the spices, cover it with foil and bake it for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, turn the oven down to 375°F and bake for another 50 minutes.  Take the foil off and rub the chicken down with the olive oil and vinegar whisked together and bake the bird for another 20 minutes or until the skin is crisp and the inside temperature of the chicken reads 165°F.  You will need to use a thermometer for this (I hope that’s obvious) and make sure the thermometer is stuck in the chicken meat, not touching bone.

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If you want a side dish, try sauteing some potatoes and broccoli in some of the chicken drippings from the roasting pan.  You will need to add seasoning to the veggies since hopefully, all the seasoning from the chicken stayed on the chicken for your dining delight.

Enjoy, and let me know how your chickens turn out!