So yeah, I saw it in the supermarket and figured "hey, for when I have a craving, having something in the freezer won't be too bad, right?"
Last night was the trial. There are two packets - the chicken, and the sauce. You are supposed to defrost the sauce ina bowl of war mwater, whcih I did. The chicken bits were of various sizes, some barely a bite, others like smallish chicken fingers. I threw away the directions that suggested baking it, and microwaved the chicken for 2 minutes to defrost, then cooked it in a skillet, adding shredded carrots and yellow pepper. I only used half the sauce they supplied, adding just enough to coat the chicken in the final minutes of cooking.
It was spicy, which surprised me, in a good way, and the breading was actually lightly done, for frozen packaged chicken. I'll give them kudos for that. And it reheated well for lunch, too - not heavy or stucky. Without the added vegetables, though, it would have been a lot more, eh - sauced protein.
Overall, I'll rate it Acceptable, but not to be preferred over a halfway competent take-out joint. (sadly, currently, I have no halfway decent takeout joint. This should change soon, huzzah)
Make apple-butternut soup.
(basically, a butternut squash and a few apples, cubed and simmered in herbed broth until soft, then pureed to the preferred consistency. It really is that easy.)
Have some of it for dinner, store the rest in the fridge.
The next night, make a curried veggie stir-up.
(cube yellow squash, celery, and carrots, and season them with sweet curry powder, salt, and pepper, pan-fry them in oil with garlic and onions).
Eat the stir-up for dinner (or as a side with meat), store the rest in the fridge.
On the third night, put the remaining soup in the blender, add the leftover fry-up and a cup more broth, and blend until smooth. Optional: adding more curry powder to taste.
Easiest Ever Red Lentil Soup
In a medium (2- to 3-quart) saucepan or Dutch oven, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add a couple ribs of celery, a carrot or two, and a quarter of an onion, chopped coarse, sprinkle with a bit of salt, then cover and let the vegetables sweat until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add a cup of (washed & strained) red lentils, four cups of broth, a sprinkling of sweet curry powder, a dash of ground cumin, and a bay leaf. Bring up to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and let simmer, covered, until the lentils begin to fall apart, about 20-25 minutes. Add a dollop of ground grana padano (or parmesan) to the top. Serve.
They're easy, they're healthy, they're tasty as fuck, they reheat well in a microwave, and because most of the ingredients aren’t expensive, it’s budget-friendly. Unfortunately, the winter veggie soup doesn’t freeze all that well. No meal’s perfect.....
But I didn't want to do anything too complicated, because I had Stuff that needed my attention. So...something easy to prep, one-pot, tasty satisfaction at the end...
Arroz con pollo!
I used brown rice and chicken thighs, setting the dutch oven to a slow steady cook, for about 40 minutes. Kept most of the skins on, so the rice would absorb some of that tasty rendered fat...
Why do I not make this more often?
(oh, right. Because the cats get sulky when I don't give them any)
Drinking the last Rhone rose of the season, waiting for the moon to rise so we can maybe see some of the eclipse.
Not going to impress anyone for authenticity, since I had to improvise some of the herbs, but it's a) tasty and b) will kill all cold germs nearby. I'm calling that a win.
Next time, I can make sure I have the right garnishes (although sorrel in place of Thai basil worked surprisingly well). I'm still going to let someone else simmer the bones, though.
2. Add sweet curry powder, onion powder, and garlic powder to the rice as it cooks.
Eat half for breakfast (shut up it’s a perfectly good breakfast) and set aside a cup (or more) in the fridge.
3. Within a day or two, season halibut (or another firm white fish) filet with the same spices, then cook in frying pan over low heat. When fish is no longer translucent, add the rice to the pan, add some minced red bell pepper, break up the fillet, and cover until the pepper starts to sweat and soften and the rice is warm.
Serve. Works surprisingly well with a soft red wine (take that, white-with-fish purists!)
the original recipe came, from all places, from the 1991 WFC cookbook, via writer Anne Logston. So I guess this is the Logston-Gilman Chili recipe... (not our first collaboration, since I was her editor at the time). I default to Anne's original measurements where possible, since a lot of mine is measured more by eye and taste.
- 3 pounds ground beef (20% is fine, but be sure to skim the fat)
- 1 onion, minced (I use a handful or two of dried chopped onion, since I'm allergic to raw, and it works perfectly well)
- 3-5 cloves garlic, depending on preferences, minced
- 3 cups beer (after much trial and error, I use Negra Modelo. Don't skimp on the beer: cheap shit will result in cheap shit chili)
- 1.5 pounds tomatoes, peeled, chopped, and drained. Tinned is acceptable if the thought of peeling tomatoes makes you crazy. Chunk them as per your preference.
- 5 minced hot peppers (this is where it gets tricky. I use a mix of different peppers to get that one-two punch of heat, but preferences will vary. You need to figure this out on your own)
- 1/4 teasooon fresh-ground black pepper
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup chili powder (another place where it gets tricky, since your choice of powder influences everything. No, I'm not telling you mine. A girl needs SOME secrets...)
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon cumin (Anne called for seed, I used crushed simply because I always have that on- hand, and i like the way it blends rather than remining an individual bite of flavor)
- 1.5 teaspoon hot paprika
- 1 Tablesoon cocoa powder (I use Dutch process, just because that's what I like. The better quality you use, the better the chili will taste; don't go overboard ([ooking at you, Sharffen Berger], but shelling out a little more for Droste just makes everything better, IMO. And it makes awesome hot cocoa, too.).
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch made into a slurry (you do that at the very end)
Brown the meat and drain, then add the onion, garlic, and beer, and stir. Simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, at which point the kitchen should start to smell quite nice. Add all the remaining ingredients except the cornstarch. Cover and simmer for 3 (three) hours. Or longer, but absolutely no less. The chili needs to simmer for at least an hour after you make the last adjustment to the seasoning, so allow for at least 4 (four) hours of cook time. Leave the lid slightly ajar for the last hour of cooking.
When it's done, slowly mix the cornstarch slurry you just made into the chili, and simmer again until it hits your desired consistency. Thin with beer, never water!
This batch should serve six people as a main, depending on how hungry they are. I double the batch when making it for a multiple-main party, and near-always run out.
Note: for those worried: the beer pretty much cooks itself out. This is non-alcholic, however, those with beer allergies are thus warned.
Okay, it wasn't particularly honorable, but the job got done and people got their turkey, no blood was shed and the relative parts were recognizable. I call that a win.
And next Thanksgiving, I'm going to deny any/all knowledge of same.
6 apples (I use granny smith, but adjust for the level of sweet/tart you prefer)
2 pears (Bosc are my preferences but any will work)
1 c. water
juice of 1 lemon
2 t. cinnamon
1/3 c brown sugar
Wash, core, and slice the fruit (don't bother peeling them). Toss them into a stockpot or large pan, cover with the 1 cup of water. Add the brown sugar, the lemon juice, and 1 t. of cinnamon, toss until all the slices are covered, and then simmer over medium heat for 20-25 minutes.
When the fruit's sufficiently softened, run it through a food processor or mill (or use a potato masher) to your desired consistency, then set it aside in a bowl.
In the stockpot there should be liquid remaining. Add the other 1 t. of cinnamon to it, stir, and let simmer until it thickens, then add the applesauce back and stir over a simmer. Serve warm, or store in the fridge.
Makes enough to serve 6 as sides, with seconds. Or to replace the butter in a LOT of baking.
I have no idea how this freezes - it's never lasted long enough to find out!
That said, I think I need to make proper scones tomorrow. I have all the ingredients for scones, including dried currants and whole milk...
I wonder how they'd work with almond flour. Hrmmmmm.
as adapted from an Alton Brown recipe.
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
3/4 cup milk
A handful dried currants and candied lemon (Whatever you add-in, make sure it's chopped small, and not wet)
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix well. Cut in butter and shortening with your fingers. In a separate bowl, combine milk with beaten egg then make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients gently until mixed. Stir in fruit.
At this point you will have a wet, sticky dough. You can either add more flour to shape rounds, or tip the dough into a scone pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until brown.
What you'll get is a slightly dry, light, not-at-all-sweet scone that will work with everything from cheddar to honey, or brilliantly on its own, and is actually better the next day. :-)
So far, no perfection. This morning's attempt had great potential, I thought, and the taste was amazing - light, flaky, but with a solid, toasty flavor - but the dough was too wet to roll-and-cut, and came out too flaky for the scone pan (the scones fell apart when you bit into the larger pieces). And they took forever to brown, on top.
Will see how they 'dry out' for later use, and then possibly retry this recipe with a few tweaks (more flour, less shortening?). Because I'm sitting here licking my whiskers at the memory of the taste...
EtA: several hours later I ate another one as part of a food science survey (and mid-afternoon tea), and determined that the crumb held much better now, the taste was still excellent, and adding a quarter-cup more flour during the blend would probably do the trick....
Words fail. Well, unless those words are ommmmmnoommmmmmmmmmmmm.
It's almost enough to sooth my irritation w/ holiday retailers.
In slightly related amusements, the following was overheard this afternoon in the local market:
"oh, just give up pretending you're going to eat healthy until January 2nd, we all know what happens."
*okay, it was a very late lunch. Or something.
E2A: As leftovers, it goes from ommmmmmnommmmmmm to ommmmmnoommmmmmmm
1/2 lb high quality ground beef (80% lean)
1 yellow zucchini, quartered
1 red pepper, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1 bunch spinach, washed & shredded
1 cup low-fat ricotta
2 cups (cooked and still warm) cut pasta
Brown the meat, drain and set aside. Using the drippings, sautee the peppers and zucchini until soft (I added garlic powder, salt and fresh ground pepper), then turn the heat off and drop the spinach on top, to allow the residual heat to wilt the spinach.
Mix the pasta with the ricotta, toss until the cheese melts slightly around the pasta, then add the vegetables and toss, then add the beef and toss again. Serve.
(you can add seasonings to taste, after, but I thought this came out perfect as-is)
Feeds two. Or four not-so-hungry. Or one male teenager.
I was talking to a friend while I was reheating last night's leftovers for lunch, and I said, idly, in passing, "I think this needs fish sauce. Hang on a sec."
And my friend, flabbergasted, said "you have fish sauce in your cabinet?"
Me: "The fridge, actually. You don't?"
Note to self: to some otherwise lovely people, fish sauce is weird/exotic/icky. They're still nice people you can associate with, really.
Challenge: to create a salad dressing that was as good as (or better than) what came from the offered bottle, made from ingredients a decently-stocked kitchen would have on-hand, and could be made in the time it took to take the salad out of the fridge and plate it.
1 small bowl, 1 whisk or a fork.
white wine vinegar
Put a decent dose of olive oil into the bowl (approximately how much dressing you want, minus a spoonful). Add in a spoonful of honey, and an equal dab of mustard. Splash just a bit of vinegar. You can add a bit of lemon juice if you'd like - I used a lemon-flavored vinegar.
Whisk until it all blends. Use as desired.
This is why I haven't bought salad dressing in years. :-)
You can dress it up or down as you see fit - I personally don't add herbs, although I know some folk prefer it. Ditto salt.
As always, the quality of what you get is equal to the quality of what you put in. If you're only splurging on one thing, I'd say make it the mustard. Mediocre mustard is a very sad thing.
Also: if you see diced jicama in your supermarket? Grab it. One of the best additions to salad since ever, and worth the premium to have it ready-to-add.
* Stuff to give it a longer shelf-life while stored in warehouses, stuff to give it color (the honey alone will do that), chemicals to fight off other chemicals, and BTW, that "non-fat" stuff? Unless you're drinking your dressing, there's nowhere near enough fat in a salad dressing to really freak you out. And the drops of olive oil clinging to your greens will make you want to eat more.
Yes, I have a full set of prep bowls. Yes, I really do mise-en-place. Yes, it IS possible in a galley kitchen. In fact, I'd call it essential.
No, you're not going to get a pic of me actually wearing my apron. But if someone wants to guess what that apron says, I might give the first "close enough" winner their choice of one of my books....
I decided to take a break from the traditional things this year (gingerbread, butter cookies) and try some new recipes, instead. The emphasis seemed to be more on savory and crunchy than sweet and/or soft. Those of you who want to read anything into that are free to, of course. ;-)
Fact: The art of separating eggs, once learned, never leaves you. Also, it's surprisingly easy when you're using fresh heirloom eggs rather than bland supermarket ones. Also: I do not give thanks to Microplane anywhere near enough.
And if anyone ever wants to buy me this? I'll find room for it in the kitchen. Somewhere. Somehow. Until then, I'm ok with my little can-do KitchenAid hand mixer*, and arm muscle.
*I'm not 100% certain, but that mixer may have been my mother's, and I claimed it when she sold the house and moved into the city. Which would make it nearly 20 years old, now...
1 lb boneless short ribs (or 2 lb with bones, estimated)
2 C apple cider
1/4 cup honey (I prefer a strong honey like chestnut, but it's to taste. You can also use sorghum)
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp hot smoked paprika
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground nutmeg
salt and white pepper
Mix all the ingredients together, and marinate the ribs 10-12 hours.
Heat the oven to 350. Remove the ribs from the marinade and pat them dry, seasoning with salt and pepper. Reserve the marinade. Toss some oil in a deep skillet and brown the ribs to a golden crust (about 4 min each side once the pan is hot). Add back the marinade and place the skillet, covered, into the oven for 3-4 hours. Check it regularly, make sure that it stays at a very gentle simmer, neither more nor less. Adjust the heat as needed. Let cool slightly, and
serve over braised greens (or grains), with a dollop of the sauce.
Serves 2. You're not going to have leftovers.