Saturday, January 29, 2022

Simple Techniques Yield Big Flavor

Quite often it's not just the ingredients, but the preparation techniques that can really enhance the flavor of a simple dish. Take, for example, wild rice. I like it, but it can be a bit bland on its own. There is one simple technique that can make it more flavorful: toasting. While you're toasting the rice, toss in the seasonings. It's a tiny change, but will yield tasteful results!

This recipe is based on the package directions.

Toasted Wild Rice

1 c. Rice Select Royal Blend
1/2 t. salt (or to taste)
1/4 t. ground black pepper (or to taste)
1 t. butter or preferred oil
1.5 c. broth (may use meat-based or vegetarian)

Using a pan that's big enough to hold 3 cups, heat the pan until the bottom is hot. Add the rice and seasonings and toast until fragrant but not burnt. Add the broth (watch out for the steam!) and bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer. Cover and stir frequently until liquid is almost absorbed. Turn off heat and let steam, covered, until desired texture. Delicious on its own, as a side dish, or in a casserole.

Simple, but yummy!

What's cooking in your Savory kitchen?

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Laid-Back Thanksgiving Chicken

    One of my goals for this Thanksgiving was that it be laid-back and easygoing. To avoid what I imagined would be chaotic crowds at the stores, on Monday night I ordered all of my groceries online for pickup on Tuesday or Wednesday morning. Tuesday's order was the bigger one, but I was notified just before pickup time that it would not be ready. I called the store and, though they were extremely polite, they could not guarantee that my order would be ready on Tuesday or even Wednesday. Wednesday morning, I was notified that my small Wednesday order would also be delayed.

    So much for easygoing.

    So, early Wednesday morning I headed to the store, expecting to encounter utter bedlam. The store was well-stocked but surprisingly thin on customers. The store had everything but the star of Thursday's feast, the chicken. With my car loaded like a supply wagon, I drove to another grocery, again finding few people, but picking up a nice roasting chicken.

    I had planned to season then roast the bird in the slow cooker when I arrived home. 

    The chicken was still icy on the inside. One thing my mother drilled into me was that it is not safe to roast partially frozen poultry, and I did not have time to thaw the chicken in the refrigerator. 

    Thinking worriedly, I remembered a Facebook post where a friend had spatchcocked and dry brined his turkey so that it would cook more quickly and evenly. Hoping it would also thaw more quickly, I used kitchen shears to cut the ribs and remove the backbone. I flipped over the bird and tried to crack the sternum with a CPR compression. This did not work for me. Hoping to avoid splattering chicken juice all over the kitchen, instead of pounding it with the meat mallet, I placed the meat mallet on the sternum and pounded on it with a bone hammer. I was eventually successful, but only after hammering my thumb in the process. I rubbed smoked paprika, ground thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper into the skin. While this was okay, my husband agreed that our next chicken would be seasoned with good old seasoning salt. 

    While the chicken thawed/marinated, I dug out my cheap steamer basket and set it inside my 6 quart oval slow cooker. Some recipes recommend using chopped vegetables to lift the chicken out of its grease, but I just put about a half-inch of water in the bottom of the crock. When thawed, I transferred the splayed marinated chicken on the steamer basket, put the lit on tightly, and set it to cook on low for 8 hours. It, a 6.5-pound chicken, was done (165 degrees at the thigh) after 4 hours. For safety, always use a thermometer with poultry to test for doneness.

    I cooked it on Wednesday, so I transferred the chicken to a shallow casserole, covered it with foil, and refrigerated it overnight. On Thursday, I warmed the chicken in the oven at 170 degrees. It remained moist and flavorful.

    Caveat: the skin will be soft, so you would need to bake it a bit if you desire crispy skin.

    The best thing about this method, and what made Thanksgiving cooking so laid-back this year, was that the oven was not monopolized by the bird and was, therefore, available to bake scalloped potatoes, corn pudding, and rolls, and to roast brussel sprouts, all at the same time. It was wonderful.

    My goal of a laid-back Thanksgiving was achieved. Instead of rushing about the kitchen, I was able to spend time with my family. For that, I am extremely thankful.

    What's cooking in your kitchen?

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Kicking the Starbucks Habit

After a long hiatus, I'm back and working on getting healthy, which includes losing weight. For the past year, I've "fallen off the wagon" and indulged myself in a Starbucks frap every morning with predictable results. It's a new year, and I'm back to working on improving the old me.

First, I'm not criticizing Starbucks! As a business model, they have it all figured out. But, apparently, I am addicted to sugar and their fraps have plenty. They are yummy. But I cannot have them regularly, so I must look for alternatives. I've been tinkering with a smoothie recipe and have made it even easier.

The key for me, however, has been finding a smoothie cup that fits my old, old Osterizer blender. It's absolutely wonderful, but sort of short on good accessories for the smoothie craze. Yes, there is a cup, but the reviews are awful. One of the wonderful things about my beloved Osterizer blender is that the blade assembly is the same size as a regular mouth canning jar. You can see where I'm going here. Being the cautious soul that I am, I tried it, but I made sure that I surrounded the jar with a heavy dishtowel while blending, just in case. Try at your own risk, folks, and practice safe blending.

To make it even more special (and to get those lids with the straw hole in them) I treated myself to sapphire drinking jars by Pioneer Woman for my long commute. They are a perfect size, with the exception of not fitting in the cup holders in my car. Anyway, here's the recipe:

Sugar-Free Stevia Chocolate-Banana Smoothie
1 c. unsweetened organic vanilla almond milk
2 t. Hershey's Special Dark cocoa
1 banana, frozen in 1-inch chunks
4-5 drops Sweet Drops liquid stevia (chocolate and toffee flavors for me)

If you use any tinctures or other healthy additives, put them in before blending. Blend on low to grind the bananas, then pulse on high to whip air into your smoothie. Yum!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Whipping Up a Sweet Treat

Well, it's summer, which means I'm on another weight-loss kick. One of my biggest temptations is a Starbucks frappuccino. Calories, calories, calories! So, I'm experimenting at home with stevia drops, a sugar-free sweetener. My first few attempts were okay, but not quite right. Today's effort is the closest yet, and here is the recipe:

Sugar-Free Stevia Smoothie

1 c. 365 unsweetened organic almond milk
1 t. Hershey's cocoa
1/2 banana
1/8 t. Watkins vanilla
6-9 drops Sweet Drops liquid stevia
4 cubes ice

Blend until frothy. On its own, the almond milk taste a little thin. The banana gives it a creamier texture. This may become my morning commute treat!

What's cooking in your kitchen?


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ghee, It's Been a Long Time!

Yes, it's been months since I posted. Between family, work, school, and church, I've been on the run constantly. Life has finally slowed a bit, and I took the opportunity to do a tiny amount of cooking yesterday. Mind you, the Resident Dragon is still the primary cook, but, ghee, I was inspired.

I've been wanting to try cooking with ghee for a while and intended to pick up some at the grocery yesterday. Then I saw the price: $13 for 12 ounces. Well, it was grass-fed and organic, but $13! I quickly looked up a few recipes and priced a pound of unsalted butter: $2.50 (not grass-fed and not organic). I decided to take the chance.

My goodness, how easy it was! Ghee is, basically, clarified butter. You melt the butter over medium heat until the water boils off and the milk solids brown. Then you strain it through a cheesecloth. The remaining oil will, supposedly, keep for a month unrefrigerated, but I am not taking any chances.

Of course, I had to try it, so I scrambled some eggs. They were buttery and delicious. Now I'm on the lookout for other recipes where I could substitute ghee. I wonder how sauteed mushrooms would taste?

So, hope this finds you well, and you find this useful.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Super Savory Summer Squash Casserole

One of the things I love about this time of year is the way friends and neighbors trade produce. A friend gave me a few yellow squash and I could not resist making a casserole. I've become quite a lazy cook, so I took advantage of a few shortcuts. Here's the result.

Super Savory Summer Squash Casserole

4 summer squash, washed and thinly sliced
1/2 bag (14 oz.) Pepperidge Farms stuffing mix
1 pint half and half
5 eggs
Salt, pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Microwave (or cook on stove top) seasoned (salt and pepper to taste) squash with about 1/4 cup water until done, 5-7 minutes. While squash is cooking, prepare shallow casserole dish. In a mixing bowl, beat together half and half and eggs.

When squash is done, layer it with stuffing mix starting and ending with the stuffing. Pour egg mixture evenly over squash. Sprinkle a light layer of stuffing crumbs over top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Road Trip Back to the 50s: Kokomo's 50s Diner

One of our favorite things to do is, of course, eat. One a recent trip I spotted a copy of Anita Musgrove's Tennessee Back Road Restaurant Recipes: A Cookbook and Restaurant Guide. It has a selection of small-town restaurants separated according to the three Grand Divisions of Tennessee. A quick look gave me the idea to use this as a sort of road map for some Saturday afternoon road trips.

One warning about the book: be alert as you read. We were looking for dishes made from the recipes in the book but discovered that some of the restaurants list "family favorites" and "local favorites" instead of actual restaurant recipes.

We took the first today, heading toward the Tennessee River. Our first stop was a the Toll House Restaurant in Savannah. My open-faced steak sandwich was unremarkable, but Jim ordered a loaded baked potato with chopped chicken and barbecue sauce. It was huge and he really enjoyed it. We were surprised to find they were out of desserts at Saturday lunch, so we headed to another place featured in Musgrove's book, Kokomo's 50s Diner in Adamsville, Tennessee.

What a great surprise! First off, we were greeted with the aroma of luscious hamburgers and decor straight out of, well, the 50s! Since we were only there for dessert we ordered a caramel sundae and a hot brownie cake sundae. Wow! They were a perfect treat on a wickedly hot day.

It was a lovely trip, showing us, again, the value of eating at local restaurants.

What about you? Where is your next gastronomic road trip?