Archive for the ‘Poultry’ Category

A Foodie’s Guide to Eating

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

An alternate title for this post could be “how to simplify meal time” or maybe even “chill out about your food”.  I always start my meal planning with the very best of intentions.  I want to eat wholesome meals full of ethically sourced ingredients that will make my mouth happy.  But then I get home from a long day of work, and $2 tacos end up happening.  Suffice it to say, I have no idea how the beef in $2 tacos is treated.  And then, those really great, really expensive, ethically sourced ingredients sit in my fridge and go bad.

 

So I decided to take a chill pill this spring.  School was really getting me down.  Things were difficult and required long hours, so I decided I needed to be practical about this.  The 30 minute meal concept just didn’t work for me.  Because 30 minute meals always take 40+ minutes the first time you make them, and that’s just way too long to spend on my feet in the kitchen when I’ve already spent all day on my feet in the classroom.  So I started looking for meals that I could make in 10 minutes or less.  This might mean 10 minutes of prep, and then an hour of sitting on my butt watching trashy TV.  I get home from work early enough in the day that that works for me.  So please note the new category to your right.  You’ll be seeing a lot more of these around here.  Even though I’m off for the summer, I’m finding that once you start making 10 minute meals and you realize how yummy and healthy they can be, it’s awfully hard to go back.

Simplify Meal Time

So here are 5 easy steps to simplify your meal time and make 10 minute meals a reality.

1.  Get the right appliances.

A blender might be nice on weekends when you’re making smoothies (I’m lying; I hate blenders), but a rice cooker will serve you well every weeknight.  You can cook a lot more than rice in it, but the main thing to know about rice cookers, is that they turn themselves off when they’re ready.  That means you don’t have to hover over the rice making sure that it doesn’t burn.  Mine is a very simple hand-me-down from my mom when my parents went all low carb.  While there are varying levels of quality, the idea that you can buy one on Amazon for less than $20 has me sold.  I know it takes up space, but really, for enabling you daily to sit on your butt and watch Pretty Little Liars while your dinner cooks, I think we can all agree that it’s worth it.

Another appliance that isn’t strictly necessary but sure is handy is the toaster oven.  My mom’s oven broke, and she used the toaster oven for so much of her cooking, that she waited months before getting it replaced.  Really, had it not been for turkey on Thanksgiving, I’m not sure she would have.  Likewise, the toaster oven can quickly heat up, shortening the overall cooking time.

2.  Get the right condiments.

I’m talking more than ketchup, mustard, and relish here.  A store-bought sauce can pack a big punch and tremendously shorten your time chopping onions and garlic and measuring soy sauce and sesame oil into a bowl.  Don’t get me wrong, homemade sauces are great.  But on a busy weeknight, a store-bought equivalent can be your best friend.  Know what your family likes.  We love the whole San-J gluten free line-up, but a good gluten free barbecue is great too.  Having the right sauce can transform meatballs, make pre-cooked chicken something magical, and help you put together meals in under 10 minutes.  That’s the goal, after all, isn’t it?

3.  When healthy, affordable, and tasty, buy pre-____________.

I’m talking prewashed and/or precut veg, precooked chicken, or any number of convenience foods with minimal additives and preservatives.  If precut veg means I’m eating more veg, it’s hard to see how this isn’t an advantage.  And while precooked chicken will probably not be as good for me as the ethically sourced farmer’s market equivalent, it’s probably a lot better for me than whatever they’re putting in those $2 tacos I love so much.

4.  When best isn’t happening, start figuring out how to do better.

I know that good is the enemy of best.  But for a perfectionist, best can get in the way of better.  My desire to be 100% ethical and organic and healthy in my food choices along with my reality of a busy schedule and demanding career, means that the choices I actually make don’t reflect that desire at all.  Instead, I need to start thinking practically here.  While I’m not suggesting anyone compromise their values, we need to be realistic.  When the ideal or the best choice simply isn’t happening, it must be unrealistic.  Maybe that means we need to cut back on our busy schedules (for me, not really an option, as most of my busy-ness comes from a career that I’m just not willing to leave), or maybe that means we need to start thinking of practical alternatives that are still better than chicken nuggets and fries.

5.  Make it simple.

My old boss used to recite a household mantra before every meal he ate with me, “something white, something dead, something green, something bread.”  Basically, a starch, a protein, a green veg, and a bread.  I tend to remove the bread for health and gluten reasons, but it’s not a bad idea.  You do not need 5 different roasted vegetables with pan-seared pork loin and a homemade balsamic reduction.  You just don’t.  A starch (rice, potatoes, pasta) with a protein (fish, chicken, beef, etc.) and a vegetable will do most nights.  And there are a thousand ways I change this up.  But making things simpler is always a good start.

I start baking potatoes, start the rice cooker, or start my pasta water boiling.  Then, I put a protein in a sauce and into the toaster oven.  And at the last minute, I might sautee a frozen vegetable or chop up a salad.

Thai Lettuce Wraps

For you to see this philosophy in action, check out this super simple recipe for Thai Lettuce Wraps.  Sure, I could have added some bean sprouts, cilantro, and carrots.  And I’m sure that would be tasty.  But, when in doubt, make it simple.  And excluding those tasty options made this a much more practical meal for me.

Thai Lettuce Wraps

  • Rice, cooked
  • Pre-cooked chicken, chopped into bite size pieces
  • Thai peanut sauce (I like San-J)
  • Lettuce (iceburg is ideal for its structure, but I had red leaf in the fridge)
  • Fixin’s (slivered cucumbers and/or carrots, cilantro, chopped peanuts, bean sprouts, etc.)

Prepare the rice in your rice cooker or on the stove.  When it’s basically done (or all the way done, as slightly cooled rice is just fine for this meal), put your pre-cooked chicken with the peanut sauce into the (toaster) oven to heat up.  Wash lettuce leaves and prepare fixin’s of your choice.  When chicken is hot, serve.

Awkward…

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

It’s a white people word that means almost anything.

But it’s really awkward when you don’t have cable, and the final episode of this season’s Food Network Star airs, but isn’t posted on hulu until Thursday.  Did Justin win?!  I have to know.  Spoiler alert: yes.  yes, he did.  Woot Justin!!!

But what did you do with your Sunday night?  I sat in my living room and prepared for a workshop I’m leading this week.  Oh yea!  I also chowed down on this with one of my best friends:

crispy fried chicken plus biscuits

crispy fried chicken plus biscuits

I got to hear all about her recent love interest.  Sometimes, you just need to eat fried chicken and talk about girly things.  Sometimes.  Maybe a lot of times.

Aside from the fact that there was frying involved, this was some pretty easy-peezy-lemon-squeezy fried chicken.  I did a lot of reading about fried chicken, and the ideal starting temperature for the oil is somewhere around 375.  When you put the chicken in the oil, the temperature is going to drop.  You have to watch out for this.

All of that said, I kind of maybe don’t have a frying thermometer.  Whoops.  But that’s ok.  It just means you have to take it slow and pay attention.  I started by heating the oil on medium, then dropping in a small piece of chicken.  When the chicken was cooked, the breading was too light.  And then I overcompensated for that, so the next piece of chicken was undercooked when the breading was golden brown.  The third piece of chicken was… what can I say… just right.

a well balanced meal, for sure

a well balanced meal, for sure

So here’s how it goes…

Fried Chicken:

  • 2 lbs. chicken breast, cut into smaller pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

Whisk the eggs and the milk together.  Season the chicken thoroughly.  Coat the chicken in the flour.  Then dip in the egg/milk mixture.  Dip in the flour again.  Then fry that bad boy up.

Basic but Brand New

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Hey, it’s Valerie again after a long absence.  Jenny, I hope you don’t mind this surprise post.

I wasn’t in the mood tonight for any of my tried-and-true recipes.  But I also wasn’t in the mood to buy expensive ingredients or make anything too involved.  Which means it was the perfect time to look through my 1970’s Betty Crocker cookbook.  I found a recipe called “Tomato-Pepper Chicken” which was exactly the sort of thing I wanted to make.

Chicken ready to simmer in tomato sauce

Chicken ready to simmer in tomato sauce

Basically, you bread the chicken, brown it in shortening (so 70’s!),  cook up the peppers and onions, add tomatoes, mushrooms, and tomato sauce, then simmer the chicken until it’s cooked.  It turned out great, but here are some changes I’ll make next time.  1) Use less shortening. Maybe even replace it with olive oil. 2) Use chicken thigh fillets instead of leg pieces to cut down on the fat from the skin, and to make it easier to eat.

Dinner is served! Mixed greens and fresh mozzarella on the side.

Dinner is served! Mixed greens and fresh mozzarella on the side.

While I was making this and while I ate it, I listened to Ella Fitzgerald on Spotify.  It was a pretty perfect night!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Remember that time I made taquitos?  Oh, well I did.

Taquitos and other stuff

Taquitos and other stuff

I made them for new years.  It was pretty awesome.  But… I changed them up a bit, I did.  I took the ideas behind some of my other recipes, and made them ten times more awesome.  I made them more like that pasta I made once.

Sneaky Vegetables Pasta

Sneaky Vegetables Pasta

And a little more like that soup I made on Halloween.

Cauliflower soup

Cauliflower soup

And even more like those empanadas.  Remember the empanadas?  Mm… empanadas.

Empanadas

Empanadas

So how’d I do it?

I took the zucchini, shredded in my Lola, and dumped it in with the chicken.  It went something like this:

  • 1 cup chicken, shredded
  • 2 zucchinis, grated
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 small can enchilada sauce
  • 2 cups cheese
  • ~25 corn tortillas

Cook the zucchini and onion in a bit of olive oil until onion is translucent.  Mix with chicken, enchilada sauce, and cheese.  Set aside.

Fry corn tortillas briefly on each side.  Just enough to make tender.  Place on paper towel lined plate to cool enough to work with.  As tortillas cool, place a smidgen of the filling in them.  Roll those babies up.  Then place in a greased baking dish.  When you’re finished rolling, bake the taquitos at 350 until crispy and golden brown.

Gobble ’til you wobble

Friday, November 26th, 2010

You know I did.  There are going to be a lot of posts about individual dishes that happened this year.  All in all, the meal was a success.  But let’s start with the turkey.

This baby was 12.7 lbs. of tasty goodness.  I’ve heard a lot about how to cook it, some advice more helpful than others.  The most interesting was about how you can flip the bird upside down so that the juices drip down into the “pretty breast skin”.  That phrase was literally used.  In my office.  By a man.  I felt so uncomfortable.

Upside down is the way to go!

Upside down is the way to go!

I mentioned this to my mother.  Leaving out the word “pretty”, to be sure.  And I might have just called it “white meat” instead of using words that typically make boys in grade school giggle uncontrollably.  My mom had heard something similar, but what she had read suggested that you flip it right side up for the last hour so that it still looks nice in the end.  We did this with amazing success.

Look at my beautiful turkey!

Look at my beautiful turkey!

Cooked for 5ish hours at 300 in a convection oven.  Stuffed with my cornbread stuffing.  Topped with gravy.  So let’s talk about these two.

The stuffing went like this:

  • 1 recipe of cornbread (12 corn muffins), recipe to follow
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 lb. sage sausage
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups chicken broth

Saute the veggies with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from pan and transfer to large bowl (really large, trust me).  Now use the same pan to cook the sausage.  Brown that beautiful sausage.  Meanwhile, crumble the cornbread into the veggies.  Add the sausage to the cornbread/veg mixture.  Add eggs and chicken broth.  Don’t be a wimp.  Mix with your hands.  Then stuff it into that beautiful bird you’ve got waiting for you.

Now for the gravy:

  • 2 Tablespoons of the turkey drippings
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon sage
  • salt and pepper to taste

Over medium heat, mix the drippings and the flour until smooth.  Whisk in the broth.  Add the seasoning.  Stir carefully until the gravy thickens.

So what about that cornbread?

I got this recipe from my mother, who got it from her grandmother.  I cannot claim it, nor can I tell you its original source.

  • 1 cup flour (if you wanted to go gluten free or just a heartier cornbread, you can replace this with cornmeal)
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar (we like sweet cornbread, but feel free to skimp, if you’d rather)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 cup milk

Mix the dry with the wet, then pour into a greased baking dish (or muffin tins).  Bake at 350 for approximately 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

So let’s talk about stuffing vs. dressing.  Dressing being the stuff that doesn’t get stuffed, while stuffing is, by very definition, stuffed in something.  So this is my first year with real, actual stuffing.  It’s no joke.  Stuff that bird.  There’s no reason not to.  And every reason to.  The stuffing gets all that yummy bird fat flavor throughout.  I had no idea what I was missing.