Saturday, July 13, 2013

What's the Bzz about chicken?

Usually I post my own recipes on this blog or variations of someone else's. For one thing, I love to cook. I cook every day and we rarely eat out. There are some things though, that for various reasons, I don't cook. Fried chicken is one of those. It's a lot of work, it's messy and it never tastes as good as ______'s fried chicken. Fill in the blank.

Just as a side note.....
Being a Bzz Agent means getting free stuff or coupons for free stuff and then reviewing that stuff. They say word of mouth is the best advertising and I really like being able to try new things and then let friends and neighbors and even my facebook friends know about new products and share coupons with them.

So recently I got the Kroger campaign....Kroger Fried Chicken, Kroger Kettle Chips and Coca Cola. Well, that was a pleasant surprise! The 4th of July was coming up and we were going camping in our motorhome. What could be better than that? Winner! Winner! Chicken dinner! Not just any chicken dinner, but Kroger Fried Chicken. It's fresh, never frozen, hand breaded in the store and fried in 100% trans-fat free oil. Not only that, but when I went to pick it up the girl said if I would wait 4 minutes a new batch would be ready. Wow! Talk about fresh fried chicken. Luckily, the groceries were way in the back of the suv for the ride home. That chicken smelled so good, my mouth was watering.

Well, we packed up the motorhome and headed for the Georgia coast. Unfortunately, we didn't outrun the rain. We went thru some gully-washers! Did you know that Atlanta got more rain than Seattle, WA in June?
All I know is that we drove thru "can't see the road" rain for far too long. We drove for 5 1/2 hours, an hour longer than it should have been. The sun came out when we arrived. We got everything set up and let me tell you, cooking dinner was not on my list at this point. We were exhausted! So my husband says, "let's just have cold fried chicken". You didn't have to tell me twice!

So, we ended up having cold fried chicken, pasta salad and Salt and Pepper Kettle Chips. The chicken was crispy on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside, perfectly cooked! We decided that cold fried chicken was just fine...Kroger cold fried chicken!

The food was all gone and then I remembered I was supposed to take pictures. Oh well, next time. There will definitely be a next time for Kroger Fried Chicken!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Tale of the Ox

Blame it on celebrity chefs! That's why they say that oxtails have become so expensive. What used to be one of the least expensive meats has now been elevated to the level of haute cuisine. And yes, I guess if I hadn't heard Gordon Ramsey extolling the virtues of this lowly item I don't think it would ever have graced my table. So, blame it on the celebrity chefs.
The end result of my exploration into oxtails was Oxtail and Chorizo stew, an immensely flavorful bowl of oxtail, chorizo, onions, carrots, celery, potatoes, beef  broth and Mexican beer. This was definitely worth having again, so I researched other recipes.
Interestingly enough, the first one was from Paula Dean so we have a Southern stew. Following that was the realization that oxtails are found in cuisines around the world. There is Jamaican, Spanish, African, Asian, English and even Hawaiian. How could I have been so unaware of this culinary delight with it's worldwide following?
Not long ago there was an Anthony Bourdain show about offal. It seems there is a resurgence of interest in these meat parts that  would not generally be found on the average dinner table. Heads, brains, trotters, tripe...delicacies in many parts of the world. Somewhat strange to those of us who rely on packaged meats from the grocery store, but not at all to people who are used to dealing with real butchers who are accustomed to working with all the animals' parts, not just the fancy steaks and roasts.
And so, the lowly ox (read beef) tail...

1 pkg. oxtails
1/4 lb chorizo
1/2 red onion chopped coarsely
1/2 yellow onion chopped coarsely
1 c. celery tops chopped
3 carrots chopped
2 large potatoes cut in chunks
2 smashed garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 bay leaf
1 can low sodium beef broth
1 bottle  Modelo

Heat a couple of swirls of olive oil in a heavy frying pan
(cast iron ). Season the oxtails with salt and pepper.
Brown the oxtails on all sides and then remove them from the pan.
In a separate pan, crumble and cook the chorizo. Take it out of the pan and drain well, Spread it out on a layer of paper towels to remove all the grease.
Add some olive oil to the frying pan, if necessary, and cook the onions, celery, carrots, potatoes and garlic. Cook only until the onions are translucent.
Place oxtails, chorizo and vegetables in a crockpot.
Add a bay leaf and a sprig of thyme or a couple of shakes of powdered thyme and garlic powder. An older lady taught me that whenever you are making soups, stews, etc. that use fresh garlic, you should also add garlic powder. Add beef broth and beer. You could use wine or more broth.
Cook on low for 8 hours.
Cool slightly so that you can handle the meat. Take all the meat off the bones and add back to the pot. Refrigerate the stew overnite. The next day, skim off all the fat. Remove the bay leaf.
You are now ready to reheat and eat.
Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle some chopped green onion on top and serve.
The flavor is intense! Even though there is a minimum of seasoning, there is a richness of the beef and chorizo
that is out of this world.
Have some good crusty bread to sop up all those juices and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Campbell's Not In A Can

I was shopping in Walmart the other day and came across a new item, Campbell's Skillet Sauces. It wasn't on the soup aisle, it wasn't where the sauces are. It caught my eye and I will have to hunt for it the next time I shop because it turned out to be really good.

 It is my usual practice to use a coupon if I'm trying something new. If I don't like it, at least I didn't pay full price! There were several kinds and it was a difficult choice. The Thai Green Curry....well, I threw caution to the wind and, without the aforementioned coupon, dropped it in the cart after checking for sodium (not bad at 450) and reading the ingredients. Note that there are no unpronounceable or questionable additives.


The package says dinner for two..or more. So, here we go. First, a freezer bag of about 1 lb. of chicken from trimming out a family pack of boneless skinless chicken breasts.
Then I checked the sauce package for directions. It was pretty simple...a little oil, cook the chicken, stir in the sauce, simmer for five minutes and serve. 
Chicken, sauce...over rice...needs some veggies. 
Start the rice first. Put 2 cups low sodium chicken broth and 1 cup rice in a covered casserole dish. Cook in the microwave for 5 min. on high and 15 min. on medium (50%).
Then I sauteed some 3 pepper and onion blend and some fresh mushrooms and some broccoli/cauliflower mix. Remove the vegetables and set aside. 
Brown the chicken, add the vegetables back in, add the sauce. 

So simple and dinner for four! "But wait, there's more." We sat down to eat and were truly surprised. You could taste the chili peppers and the cilantro and the ginger and the kaffir lime and the lemongrass. It really did taste like a trip to the farmer's market and an afternoon slaving over a hot stove.

 This testimonial from a "mostly from scratch" cook. While you would never find a can of condensed soup in my cupboard , you will find Campbell's Skillet Sauces. Off to find a new sauce......

Monday, January 28, 2013

Fantastic Frijoles!

I don't know about you but to me frijoles is definitely a happy word. It always makes me smile.We love beans and with a crockpot you can make a whole pot of really good beans instead of opening a mediocre can.
This is today's recipe...because they're never made the same way twice!

1 1 lb. bag of dried black beans
4 c. water for soaking
1 celery stalk finely chopped
1 carrot finely chopped
1 onion finely chopped
1 banana pepper (my garden) finely chopped
3 smashed garlic cloves
2 chopped green onions
1 can diced tomatoes and green chilis
2 c. low sodium chicken broth
1 T. chili powder
1 t. cumin
1 t. coriander
2 bay leaves
several twists of cracked black pepper
handful of chopped cilantro
sour cream and salsa and fresh limes

Put the beans in a colander and check them over for stones, etc. Rinse them with cold water. Put them in the crockpot (no heat) and cover with 4 cups of water. Let soak overnite. Drain the beans and rinse again with cold water until water runs clear.

Put the beans in the crockpot with celery, carrot, onion, pepper, garlic, green onions,diced tomatoes and green chilis, chicken broth, chili powder, cumin, coriander, bay leaves and cracked black pepper. Now comes the hard part...plug it up (as we say in the South) and let it cook for 8 hours on low. Add a handful of chopped cilantro or not. There are cilantro lovers and cilantro haters. No problem! I like to top them with a dollop of sour cream and some good salsa and lots of lime juice, but again it's your choice.

Frijoles ole! (free-holays olay, it's gotta make you smile!)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pretentious Poulet or Austerity Chicken?

We always celebrate New Year's with champagne. In a good year it could be a bubbly Prosecco and in a not so good year Cook's Grande Brut Reserve. Now that's pretentious! It's $5 for Cook's for heaven's sake! The cork pops at midnite, we each drink about half a glass. The dog may or may not imbibe. He is a beer connoisseur and rarely licks (yes, that's licks) other types of alcohol. So we have leftover champagne for Mimosas on New years Day. A glass each and so we have leftover champagne. You can see where this is going, right? We've reached the end of the drinking part but not the end of the champagne. What to do? Cook with it.

I collect cookbooks. I have a whole cabinet full. Then along came the internet. A never-ending supply of recipes. I am forever telling my husband to "just Google it" as there is an answer for everything. So I just Google the key words and see what happens....I'm thinking Mimosas (leftover champagne and orange juice) and chicken because there are all sorts of chicken and wine recipes. So, after reading most of them, there is a recipe forming. This qualifies for our "pretentious austerity" label as it uses champagne and orange juice but as leftovers along with baby bellas and blsl chicken breasts. No shopping...everything out of the fridge and freezer and a few basics off the shelf.

Chicken breasts
Flour with pepper and Italian blend seasoning added for dredging
Baby bella mushrooms  8 oz.
Champagne  1/2 c.
Orange juice  1/2 c.
Olive oil

Pound chicken breasts flat. I have been known to just slice them in half horizontally. Remember when blsl chicken breasts were about 4 oz.? They were already flat! Dredge them in the flour mixture. Melt 2 tbsp. of butter and 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Saute the chicken until golden brown on both sides. Stick a fork in and juices should run clear. Take the chicken out and cover to keep warm. Add another tbsp. of oil to the pan if necessary and put in  the sliced mushrooms. You can use any kind but I prefer the flavor of the baby bellas. Saute the mushrooms for a few minutes until they start to soften and then take them out and put with the chicken. Using the same pan, as it now has crispy bits from the chicken and juices from the mushrooms, melt one tbsp. of butter and scrape up all the good stuff in the pan. Sprinkle one tbsp. of flour over it and stir. The flour should dissolve and you want to keep scraping and stirring so there are no lumps and the flour gets cooked. While stirring, gradually add the Champagne and then the orange juice. Cook for a minute or so. When the sauce has slightly thickened, add the chicken and mushrooms back in just to warm them up.

When I served this for dinner, he said "too bad New Year's only comes once a year".

Monday, January 7, 2013

No If's And's or Butt's About It!

My blogger friend Laurrie was writing about austerity meals and everyone was adding in their suggestions. Buying meat in bulk is one of mine. We buy whole pork loin and cut it into chops and there's always those two sort of reject end pieces. When bagged, they always get marked "pieces" and get used for stir fry, fried rice, etc. Well, we wanted some pork bbq and I will only buy pork butt on sale. Of course, butts were not on sale. Then I thought of my reject pork pieces!

This recipe definitely qualifies for austerity....simple, Southern, "don't mess with my food" if's and's or butts about it!

Pork loin end pieces
Cajun seasoning
Vidalia onion
4 smashed garlic cloves
BBQ sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's is our favorite)

I defrosted the pork (about 8 pieces) and rubbed it with homemade Cajun seasoning. One Vidalia onion sliced and 4 garlic cloves smashed and then layered on the bottom of the crockpot. Pork is layered on top. Put the lid on it and cook on low for 8 hours.

When you take the pork out it practically shreds itself! Pour all the liquid out into a large measuring cup and skim off all the fat. Notice there was no liquid added to this in the beginning as it makes its own as it cooks.

Put shredded pork and broth in a large skillet and heat. Add your favorite bbq sauce. Serve on slider rolls with homemade cole slaw.

Since it's just the two of us it is also easy to take the pork and broth and portion it out and put in sandwich bags with 8oz..each, freeze flat on a cookie sheet and then put in a freezer bag. It can be used as a basis for all different dishes using shredded pork.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Not Mittens Burrito Bowl

Political affiliations aside...the news showed Mitt Romney stopping at a Chipotle for lunch and I got a craving for Chipotle Burrito Bowl. I rummaged thru the freezer and found the last package of copycat Barbacoa beef and a package of my homemade black beans. I also had a package of chorizo in the fridge. So here we go....

 Cilantro rice
 1 c. rice
 1 can low sodium chicken broth plus enough water to make 2 c. total liquid
 1 lime
 Cook rice and then add cilantro (a handful of fresh, chopped). Grate the lime peel and squeeze the juice
 and add to rice. Mix it altogether.

 8 oz. barbacoa beef
 8 oz. chorizo cooked and drained
 1 can Casa Mamita chopped tomatoes and green chilis (this is Aldi brand which is exceptionally flavorful) 

 Heat beef, chorizo and tomatoes.

 Heat black beans. You can use a can of black beans but homemade are so much better.

 Now get a bowl and layer cilantro rice, then beans, then beef mixture. Top with diced red onions, chopped
 green onions and shredded cheese. You could also add sour cream and guacamole.

 Serve with tortillas cut in triangles and cooked in a little hot oil until golden brown on each side.