Tag Archives: Cooking

Something I learned from my little sister

Every time I roast a chicken, I think of my sister.

For years, decades really, I refused to have anything to do with “chicken on the bone.” Besides eating it, of course. If Col. Sanders was willing to hack through all that horrible connective tissue and handle that mysterious package of squishy little pieces, more power to him: I’ll eat the delicious fried results. But heck if I was going to handle that stuff — that’s what modern butchers are for! I bought skinless boneless chicken breasts.

Then, about a decade ago (I might have been living with her briefly at the time, between marriages as I was), my sister salted and peppered a whole chicken, popped it in the oven and said something like, “well, there’s dinner.”

“Oh, I admire you,” I said. “I hate handling chicken on the bone.”

“Oh, it’s so easy,” she said, making “easy” sound like it had 12 syllables. “You really should try it.”

Pretty much up until then, I assumed I was the smarter sibling. Because I was older, see. I had more experience.

Well, not with preparing chicken, as it turned out. My sister was right. Roasting a chicken is easy.

And then, I discovered when I moved in with my Beloved, that disgusting carcass of chicken bits and bones make the most amazing chicken broth. “Amazing,” with 12 syllables.

And making chicken broth is pretty easy, too! Who’d a thunk?

So today as I was salting and peppering my whole chicken (my Beloved refused to let me use anything fancy like lemon or garlic or, God forbid, rosemary), I thought of my sister. And of the amazing chicken soup I’m going to eat tomorrow, too.

Improvisation, also known as winging it (with panache)

Sometimes you just gotta work with what you got.

Dinner began with the concept: “No more chicken.”

I had ground beef, and my Beloved suggested chili.

Chili. Good. Except I didn’t have diced tomatoes. And the only beans I had were Great Northern, which would have worked but we like black-eyed peas in our chili.

Hmm.

At quick look at Google revealed a concept for Frito Pie, and a little digging revealed a Frito Pie recipe using salsa verde instead of tomatoes.

I didn’t have Fritos either. But I had Takis!

[What are Takis, you ask? Ridiculously hot, ridiculously red rolled-up corn chips. Volcanic in nature, they are an ingredient one can’t ignore.]

Besides salsa verde, the recipe called for canned green chilis.

Yup. Fresh out of those, too. But I had a half a sweet red pepper. How ’bout that?

Damn recipe also called for corn. Who shows up about then but the Schwan’s man! He sells frozen corn! (He also sells a lot of other complete dinner options, but I was committed to using that hamburger now.)

Well, a little bit of simmering coordinated all my flavors. Green Takis Pie with ground beef and Great Northern beans was even better topped with the very sharp cheddar cheese I found in the back of the cheese drawer (no mold, thank you very much) and dollops of cool sour cream. We had lots of sour cream.

Delicious.

From inconsiderable beginnings come impressive results.

“Measure not by the scale of perfection the meager product of reality.”

~ Friedrich von Schiller

Meatless but not tasteless, thanks to Mother Nature’s bounty

Tomato and Corn Custard Pie from the September 2014 issue of Food Network magazine

Tomato and Corn Custard Pie from the September 2014 issue of Food Network magazine

Today’s celebration of summer’s bounty: Tomato and Corn Custard Pie.

Rarely do I attempt Martha Stewart’s creations in her Living magazine, but sometimes I try what Food Network magazine is dishing. Notwithstanding the blender spew of hot, creamy corn, tonight’s dinner depending on a harvest of autumn veggies (and a little cheese) was a rousing success.

tomato and corn custard partial

I was pleased my version looked quite similar to the magazine’s picture, which made my mouth water.

Real men do indeed eat quiche; my Beloved had two slices.

tomato and corn custard slice

 

Cherry tomatoes: Sauce for the cook (and the eater, too)

This tomato sauce is the best EVER!

Of course, it begins with fresh ingredients — I picked the cherry tomatoes and peppers this afternoon — but I’m a sucker for using the blender.

My version blends the tomato seeds and skins right into the sauce — more texture for the cook, I say.

Here’s how: Roast a cookie sheet of whole cherry tomatoes, five small peppers (deseeded), two carrots (cut into sticks), half a red onion and a couple garlic cloves at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Season with a generous amount of grape seed oil, salt and pepper. Allow to cool 5 minutes, then scrape the whole mess into a blender. Add a half cup chicken broth and a handful of fresh herbs (parsley, mint and basil) and blend until smooth. Turn into a pan and simmer on low heat while you prepare pasta.

I’ve enjoyed this sauce twice this week — once over quinoa spaghetti noodles and once over mushroom ravioli — it’s so good (and I’m trying to use up my garden harvest). Try it.

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A semi-exotic way to use fresh raisins: A twist on Curried Chicken Salad

Do you remember that strange chicken salad that has raisins and almonds, all dressed in curried mayonnaise?

Well, if you don’t remember it, you must not be from the Midwest. The recipe for it must have been in the same issue of Good Housekeeping or Better Homes & Gardens as the recipe for Waldorf Salad in the ’60s because I remember some version of these two salads being served by my mother or some other family matriarch at various ladies’ gatherings.

A little Google research reveals a version of this curry salad, called Coronation Chicken, was served at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 so maybe it’s less “Midwest” and more “suburban” as I can imagine American women’s magazines popularizing this dish for their readers.

This old-timey salad was the inspiration for a healthier version I created to use my fresh raisins (check out that experiment here). Instead of mayonnaise, I channeled a green goddess and substituted plain yogurt and avocado. The result was exotic and fresh tasting — the basil leaves were an inspired addition (thanks, garden, for being a constant source of creativity).

Curried Chicken Fresh Raisin Salad with Creamy Green Curry Dressing

Curried Chicken & Fresh Raisin Salad
with Creamy Green Curry Dressing

Dressing ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons plain, fat-free yogurt
  • 1/4 avocado, mashed
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • Dash of salt and freshly ground pepper (taste it — more salt might be necessary to balance the tang of the yogurt and sweetness of the honey)

Salad ingredients:

  • 1 4-6 ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded thin
  • Sprinkling of curry powder, paprika, salt and pepper
  • 2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1/2 small cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • 15-20 small basil leaves (baby leaves the size of your fingernail)
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh raisins (or regular raisins if you must)
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted if you like

Directions:

  1. Combine dressing ingredients, stirring until smooth.
  2. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breast with curry powder, paprika, salt and pepper, and saute with cooking spray in a saute pan over low to medium heat until no longer pink in the middle.
  3. Assemble the remaining salad ingredients on a plate. Drizzle with dressing. Slice chicken and arrange on top of salad. Enjoy immediately. Serves 1; multiply ingredients for additional salads.

By the way, this salad would qualify as lunch in the “Omni Diet,” a little bit outlandish and laborious eating plan I’ve been attempting to follow for the past week. If you’re lactose intolerant, use a couple of tablespoons of coconut milk instead of plain yogurt. I’ll save you the trouble of calculating the calories: 456. This salad is worth the effort.

Here’s the recipe for the world’s best baby back ribs

Summertime is the season for ribs, at least it is as Minnesota Transplant’s house. We got a good deal on meaty baby back ribs at Costco, so we indulged tonight and I’m sharing my Beloved world-famous recipe for those of you who might have missed it the first time.

Two small changes we tried today: Tyler used a rub on the ribs after boiling them in RC Cola, and then he smoked them on low heat in his smoker grill for about 90 minutes. The rub wasn’t really necessary, but the smoking added lots of flavor. Still, even if you don’t have a smoker, you’ll love this recipe from 2011. Try it.

Minnesota Wonderer

My mother never made barbecued ribs when I was growing up, so when I started cooking for myself and eating out, I never cooked them or ordered them either because I didn’t know they could be good.

See, she made a batch for her father-in-law when she was pregnant with me, and they were awful because she didn’t know what she was doing; they made her sick. She never attempted them again, and in fact, found ribs in general to be tough and greasy.

In the way things always seem to come full circle, we entertained my parents for dinner tonight, and my husband decided to make ribs for his in-laws.

Only the big difference here is that my Beloved knows how to make ribs (and I’m not pregnant).

They were slurpworthy (“Better Than Great: A Plenitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives” author Arthur Plotnik recommended using this more interesting…

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Purple abomination

Some pretty purple plums at the market last week spoke to me. “We’d be delicious grilled,” they said.

So I picked ’em up and waited for an opportunity to have my Beloved throw them on the grill after he’d made some sort of carnivore’s delight. I only had to wait until today. Caswell, who is learning the art of grilling from his father, set the halved plums on the barbecue grill and proceeded as instructed.

I was so looking forward to a sweet dessert!

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I topped the plums with freshly made whipped cream, and I luxuriated in my first bite. It started out sweet but about three chews in, all I was tasting was burnt wood. And whipped cream. Not a good combination.

So disappointing.

Grilling lesson: Don’t overcook the stone fruit.