Hot Comfort

Chicken Stew

Chicken Stew

It’s the middle of July in the Midwest and usually that means temperatures in the mid nineties.  With this latest polar vortex (at least that’s what the news is calling it) we’re comfortably in the mid-seventies.  It’s crazy how much this feels like autumn.  Which explains why my tummy has been craving comfort food.  I made chili last week before the weather change and I felt a little silly but it was too tasty to care.  So today I decided that my soup pot needed to be fed something my family calls chicken stew.  It’s a hearty chicken soup made with flavorful dark meat and a creamy broth.  Like all really good soups it takes a little time but very little effort.  You could add noodles to this (I like Reames) but the chicken is so hearty just how it is I think the extra noodles are too much.  But I’ve done it and it’s still really good but more of a winter soup that way.


Chicken Stew


 

  • 6-8 chicken thighs- bone in and skin on
  • 8-10 cups water
  • 4 carrots diced
  • 2 large sweet onions diced
  • 1 whole jalapeño 
  • 1/2 pint mushrooms diced
  • 2-3 mini-cups of Knorr Chicken Stock gels
  • Salt/Pepper/Poultry Seasoning/Paprika/ cilantro- to taste
  • 1 block of cream cheese cubed
  1. Over medium high heat place chicken, skin-side down, in a large soup pot.
  2. Cook until chicken is about half done
  3. Add water, carrots, onions, and jalapeño 
  4. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer for about an hour
  5. Remove chicken pieces and set aside to cool
  6. Remove jalapeño and discard
  7. Skim any excess fat from the top of the soup and discard
  8. Add mushrooms
  9. Once chicken is cooled, remove and discard skins and bones, and break chicken into medium pieces before returning them to the pot
  10. Season with the chicken stock gels making sure to dissolve each one in the soup before tasting and adding any more gels
  11. Season with the poultry spices, salt, pepper, and paprika to taste
  12. Remove about two cups of the liquid and add to the cubed cream cheese (I like to microwave this to help melt the cheese) mixing until smooth
  13. Add the cheese mixture back to the soup
  14. Add cilantro to taste
  15. Serve hot (I like to have mine with a little bit of hot sauce added)

Makes 10-12 servings

Abso-freakin-crave This!

Lap band patients are supposed to focus on our protein intake. I’ve been slacking heavily lately so I’ve looked for inspiration all over the place. A classmate told me about something called the Dukan Diet. Essentially it’s 90% lean protein and 10% veggies once you get past the initial five days of only protein.

At first an all protein diet sounds dull and tasteless. But when I started looking around at recipes I found something that stood up and grabbed my attention immediately. Sauces! I adore sauces and since texture is such a factor for me and my lap band, sauces help good things stay down.

The first recipe I made was a Korean diced steak. A very tasty start but not the recipe I was the most excited about.

Enter Asian Sticky Chicken (originally found here but I adjusted it a bit for what I had on hand). I used chicken drummettes since it’s easier for me to find the right portion for my tiny tummy. The sauce is four ingredients… FOUR! I’ve never made wings before and this recipe makes me wonder why I haven’t tried them sooner.

Asian Sticky Chicken Wings

Ingredients
8-10 chicken drummettes
3 T balsamic vinegar
3 T low sodium soy sauce
2 T Brown Sugar Blend Splenda
2 t chili paste (I used Gochujang)

Method
•In a medium skillet lightly coated with cooking spray, brown both sides of the chicken (about 4 minutes per side).
•While that is browning, combine the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, or until it thickens a bit.
•After your chicken has browned, add the sauce to the skillet and cook for another 5 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked. Be sure the sauce doesn’t get too thick or it might burn.

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Tasty Inspiration

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Today’s breakfast was inspired by a single new ingredient to my household.  I’ve used it for years but never purchased it until yesterday (I’ve had a few hookups keeping me supplied).  It is gochujang or Korean hot/red pepper paste.  I initially saw it used on a couple of cooking shows and got curious about it a while ago.  I was lucky enough at the time to have a Korean coworker who supplied me with my first taste.  I used it mostly as a background flavor for soup or marinades but however I used it I was hooked.  I’ve been getting more and more adventurous with spicy foods over the last year or so but having even a half a kilo (just over a pound) of this spicy paste in my fridge intimidated me.  Not the case any more.  I just had to decide what to make with it for my first real attempt at showcasing this delicious paste.

I remember seeing a recipe that caught my eye a while ago for shakshuka.  It is simply poached eggs in a spiced up tomato sauce that originates from the middle east, Tunisia to be exact.  Since I really love poached eggs I made a mental note to try this recipe but hadn’t done so until today.  I felt that with the cold rain that we have today I needed something a bit more comforting to add to the meal.  A toasted tortilla sounded great.  Then the picture of huevos rancheros popped into view.  Why not merge these two meals?  It should be mentioned that I’ve never actually eaten huevos rancheros let alone made them but they’ve always sounded tasty and simple.  

So here’s my translation of this blend of recipes.  I’m calling it shakshuka rancheros with a Korean kick.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 can diced tomatoes with chilies
  • 1 Tbsp gochujang (you could use Sriracha or something similar)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tortilla 

1- Puree gochujang with the can of tomatoes with chilies until most of the chunks are gone but not totally smooth

2- Add puree to a hot skillet and cook until the sauce cooks down just a bit.  Don’t want this to be like soup. Keep at a simmer.

3- Carefully drop cracked eggs into the simmering pan of sauce.  Lower temperature and cover for about 3-4 minutes or until eggs are set to your liking.

4- Toast tortilla in a dry skillet or over the gas flame of your stove.

5- Plate.  Place eggs and sauce over the top of the tortilla and serve hot.

This is just a start of what you could do with this recipe.  I found the heat just right but you could always change up the kind of tomatoes you use or add more gochujang.  Cheese and beans could be added as toppings or even sour cream if you want to go that way with it.  It’s simple, cheap, and very tasty.

 

Holiday Happiness

I grew up in a house with my mother, my father, and a blond child they still tell me is my sister. Mom did almost all of the cooking. Dad was in charge of the Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes and occasionally chicken on the grill (I loved the little burnt BBQ sauce parts). Only in the last few years has he retired. Coincidentally this is also when he started baking cookies. My folks live in a city about an hour away and every time I visit them the cookie jar has fresh cookies in it just for the occasion.

Christmas is when he brings out the big guns though. We are talking about Grandma’s recipes here people. Heritage in edible form. The super special stuff. In a word: snowballs. Ok they’re known by other names as well. Like Mexican wedding cookies, Russian tea cakes, and several others I’m sure that I’m missing.

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My sister and I have always loved these cookies when grandma would send them in her Christmas package. Now that Dad is making them they are even more special… even if they’re growing in size. It just means that there is more surface area to cover in powdered sugar and I am more than good with that idea. Although it also means I need to find a bib as that stuff goes everywhere!

On this day I say thank you to my dad for continuing the family tradition with a simple recipe that brings so much joy.

Experiment Number Two

After such success with smoking the fatty yesterday I decided to try my hand at smoking a boston butt AKA Experiment Number Two.  I’ve read all over the internet about how to smoke this cut of pork and there’s a few debates on how to achieve pork perfection.  The consensus is as always “low and slow” and “it’s done when it’s done”.  I started with a 4.22 pound boston butt pork roast with the bone still in.  At roughly 90 minutes a pound I was looking at six and a half hours of cook time if I was able to keep the temp at the optimal 230*F.  Using lump charcoal and a few chunks of mesquite I started the fires at a quarter to 11.

My hot little friend

So far I’ve got to say that for about $60 this little smoker is working out really well.  It’s a Master Forge Charcoal vertical smoker that I picked up at Lowes to start out with.  I figured with there only being two of us here it was a good place to start.

After trimming off the heavy parts of the fat I used a coat of yellow mustard to help keep the rub on the pork.  The rub I based off of this recipe I used for a coating on some chick peas (don’t judge it, was damn good).  Placing the fat side up on the smoker I walked back to the house anxious to see how this was going to turn out (which way to place the fat side is a much debated topic).  I set my timer for every two hours so I could re-stoke the fire.  That’s one thing I learned from smoking yesterday.  This little guy starts to have a temperature drop right at the two hour mark.  Even using the minion method this is still a needed step.  Makes me wonder if the lump charcoal I was using was too varied in size.  Have to play with that.  During the cooking time I was really good about not peeking until it was about five hours in and needed to wrap the roast in foil (If you’re lookin’ you ain’t cookin’).  Apparently the foil step is also one that seems to be up for debate.  I went with it.    At no time did I flip the butt.  The lid stayed closed!  I didn’t lift it to look, mop, or even check it’s temp till the very end.  When I went to wrap it in foil this is the beauty that was looking back at me:

Hello Beautiful

I wrapped her up for the last hour until her temp reached a nice 195*.  From researching I know that if you’re looking for serving this as a sliced roast the temp should be around 180* but if you’re wanting to pull the meat for sandwiches aim for the 190-200* range.  I took the foil wrapped delicasy into the kitchen and wrapped it further in a large towel for about the next hour.  Ok, truth be told I could only wait about 45 minutes and the slight tingling sensation I’ve still got on my palms may force me to wait the full hour next time.  Maybe not.

A smoke ring is my second favorite kind.

Nice smoke ring, nice crust, and no sauce was needed.  I’m calling this a success.  And I’ve got the notes so I can (hopefully) duplicate the results.

Have to share Hubby’s response. “Man my wife really knows how to smoke some meat.  That didn’t sound right.”

Smoking a Fatty

I know some of you got excited by that statement.  Not THAT kind of fatty.  Ok?  Imagine log of Italian sasauge stuffed with mushrooms and cheese.  Now, imagine this creation completely encased inside of bacon strips woven together all mingling in a bbq smoker.  Toss in some dry bbq rub and some sauce on top.  There you have what is called a fatty or sometimes a bacon explosion.  I’m thinking about calling it a cardiologist’s nightmare.

For the recipe/method click here.

This is the first time I’ve attempted to cook anything in a smoker.  I’ve seen it done several times but I’ve never had a smoker of my own to play with.  After seeking the assistance of people that know what they’re doing I tossed aside the thought about my first attempt being ribs.  I was told that like cast iron smokers need to be seasoned with full flavored fatty food.  Damn.  Don’t you just hate that? Yah, me too.  Enter the sausage, bacon, cheese log!

It’s only about half finished (I think).  But here’s the pic I snapped just after I tucked it into it’s nice warm bed for a little nap.

Can't wait to see it all cooked up!

Fun With Fundraiser Dough

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Not the best pic but you get the idea.

A little while ago Hubby brought home a tub of cookie dough he purchased from a school kid learning how to solicit her wares (girl scout cookie hawking angst speaking, sorry).  With just the two of us here that’s a lot of cookies waiting to be baked. I thought about baking them all up and giving them out but at $15 a tub that thought made my frugal bone twitch. Yes, I am aware that this stuff keeps for a while but even with only baking three to four cookies every few weeks I’m sure it would go bad before we could use it all.

The solution? The waffle iron. I will thank Pinterest for this one. No idea the original site it came from though.
My waffle iron is a Belgian style so it makes thicker style waffles. With this in mind I decided try about a half a cup of dough flattened out into a square-ish shape and placed in the already hot iron for 3-4 minutes. Taking them out was trickier than I thought it would be because at that point they were still quite soft. After cooling for just a few moments they crisped up nicely.

I still have to find a better way of getting rid of this stuff but for the moment this is different enough to keep my interest.