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!

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Chopped Kitchen Envy

As mentioned in my previous post, I happen to be one of those people who will choose to watch The Food Network over anything else on television, just about all of the time.  Out of the dozens of cooking competition reality shows popping up on TV these days, (IE: Top Chef, Master Chef, Hell’s Kitchen etc.) my favorite has got to be Chopped.  Don’t get me wrong, I sit anxiously waiting for new episodes of Iron Chef America to air, but I can watch rerun episodes of Chopped for hours on end.  It’s not the competition side of the show I like, but the cooking and the eating.  I like listening to the commentary the chefs give about their experiences working in such a frantic time crunch, or using ingredients they have never heard or seen before, or simply listening to some of the monstrous egos the competitors have.  Occasionally you get that really humble chef who sees the Chopped Kitchen as the amazing playground that it is with its full pantry and refrigerator and use of every kitchen gadget or appliance one could ever hope to use, and I mean every.

The judges are great too.   They are all acclaimed chefs, restaurateurs, and cookbook writers who fully believe that their opinions’ are all that is holy and true in this world.  One hates raw red onions, one can’t palate spicy food.  One prefers his ostrich on the rare side; the other is more of a grey bird sort of eater.  None of them like to be inconvenienced by their food in any way, be it the plate it’s served on, or being given a piece of lamb still on the bone.

Then there is the wonderful awkwardness of egos clashing as haughty competitors try to maintain composure while their food is being scrutinized by the bourgeoisie of the culinary world.  I love it.

All these things make the show entertaining to watch from a comedy standpoint, but what I love most about the show is actually watching people cook!  Chefs are given four random ingredients (many of which I have never heard of before) and asked to compose an appetizer.  These chefs make a composed plate out of ingredients that usually do not belong in the same meal, let alone the same dish of food, and are able to come up with ideas in a split second.  That’s impressive!  Not only do they think of the dish, but then they execute their techniques masterfully (usually) and arrange the food on the plate in an attractive fashion…..sometimes. The most impressive of the three meals is almost always the dessert round.  Now yes, 9 times out of 10 someone makes a bread pudding or French toast, usually unsuccessfully.  But then there are those moments when people make baked goods without measuring anything.  HOW DO THEY DO THAT?!  I have a hard enough time remembering what ingredients I have already put into the mixer, let alone eyeballing out 3 cups of flower and 2 cups of sugar at the same time.  It’s madness.  Regardless of my obvious shortcomings as a chef compared to these competitors (because I’m not a chef, merely a home cook who is rather impressed with herself), I am still toying with the idea of sending in my Chopped application for one of their special event episodes.  Can you say “amateurs competition?”

About Me

Who am I? I am a food fanatic.  If I had it my way, my days would consist solely of watching the Food Network while playing in the kitchen.  I am fortunate to live in Portland, Oregon.  I find myself surrounded by people with the same passion for food, serving up brilliant food to hungry Portlanders.  Not only am I surrounded by good food, but I am also surrounded by some of the greatest local and organic produce vendors allowing people like myself to play with the freshest ingredients.  So, after spending years to finally finish my degree in Public Health and working as an administrative assistant for 10 years or so, I had one of those WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE moments.  My amazingly patient and understanding Fiance Sam was able to calm me down from my crying hysterics and convinced me that its ok for me to not be the big bread winner in the family if it means I am doing what I love.  I want to cook, I want to cook for other people, I want to show people the infinite possibilities of healthy and fresh ways to eat, and eventually I want to be paid for doing all of these things….eventually.  In the mean-time, I have committed to studying every aspect of food and cooking as I can.

Why have I started this blog?  I could literally talk about food until I am dead.  To preserve my relationships and sanity, I have chosen a blog as my outlet for all the foodie thoughts running through my mind at all times.  For example, I probably have ten different ways to chop garlic in my kitchen.  This includes a completely illogical apparatus that holds ONE (yes only one) clove of garlic in a little cup which then screws onto a handle containing a weight and the blade.  Once the cup is screwed on, you are then supposed to shake the whole apparatus like a martini shaker which throws the weight around, pushing down and pulling up on the blade.  Five minutes of obnoxious sounds, and tired arms and you have something that almost resembles minced garlic, but it really more of a mashed garlic clove and a bunch of garlic oil and chunks that have now gotten stuck into tiny cracks and crevices in the apparatus which then become almost impossible to clean.  As you can tell, it’s not my favorite way to chop garlic.  I actually find something incredibly cathartic about cutting garlic by hand.  Something about taking a big knife, smashing garlic under it, and then pealing and cutting the garlic into tiny bits triggers that same feeling you get when you smash a printer that has decided to stop working just as you are trying to print that term paper that you stayed up all night writing because its due in an hour.  I am also shocked when I am able to avoid slicing the tip of my finger off, which has happened more than once.  Not to mention my fingers smell like garlic for the rest of the day, and who doesn’t like that?  This is what I was thinking about as I was driving home this afternoon, that and where I was going to go for lunch after I take a nap.

As you can see, I have a lot to say about almost everything, and since I have committed to studying everything about food, I NEED a way to share this knowledge with as many people as I can in hopes of beginning some sort of sustainable dialogue about food.  I hope you read my posts and feel as though you can ask questions, give suggestions, and enjoy food with me!