Sunday, May 10, 2015

Peace and Comfort, a.k.a. Death and Disaster, a.k.a.Joy and Celebration - Chicken and Uncle Bens Long Grain and Wild Rice Casserole

This is one of those family recipes that came from my mother.  Where she got it from, I suspect a Better Homes and Garden cookbook from the 60's.  It has that vibe - you know when beans and wienies with bottle bbq sauce was fine living.  It is the opposite of fine cooking ala Mark Bittman.  It is full of sodium and fat.  It has no fresh vegetables.  But for when it is needed - it is just the thing. My mom always called it Death and Disaster - for when there was a death or disaster in the neighborhood, this is what she made to take over.

I think the habit of making food for your neighbors in time of trouble has become a lost art.  First - do you even know your neighbors?  I don't, not really. Not like when I grew up.  Today we live in a neighborhood, but we don't live life together.  Xbox and Cable, a dozen different churches (or none), with schools so big you will never know your classmates - we don't live life together.  Shame on us.

Later, my sister in law renamed it Joy and Celebration - because it is a fine dish to bring over in time of  Joy and Celebration, and perhaps she is just a little less fatalistic than my mother (and I).  So it became Joy and Celebration.  I made it when we went to visit our new granddaughter.  And visit our daughter and son in law, but lets face it, its all about the bebe.  Joy and Celebration it was.

Recently I had the occasion to make it for a family where the mother of two young children had died. Well, I really did not want to call it death and disaster (although the situation is both), but Joy and Celebration really did not fit.  So what to call it....

In all the events this is shared, it really is about sharing life together.  Sadness and Joy.  Death and Life.  So I have renamed this dish - it shall now and forever more be called Peace and Comfort. Because that is what it is.  It is that family dish that binds together all who share it.  It is, and always has been food made of love.

The recipe is my mothers - with my edits in parenthesis.  This makes a lot of food - it comes from a time when 3 kids was a small family.  Cut the recipe in half or make it in two dishes - one to share and one for your family to eat.

  • 2 chickens, cut up (or just a bunch of chicken thighs - boneless or not, but I do remove the skin.  I think thighs handle the cooking time better than the breasts)
  • 2 packages Uncle Ben's Rice-Wild Rice Mix, but only one of the seasoning mixes.  Mom thinks it is too salty with both. (I agree)
  • 1/4 cup brown rice
  • 1/2 cup white rice
  • 1/2 cup french dressing
  • 2 cans each cream of celery, cream of mushroom, and cream of chicken soup (so that's six cans of soup)- Mom says low fat does not work well - who am I to disagree?
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 soup can water
  • Hazelnuts, a.k.a. filberts (My sister in law omits them - I insist on them)
  • Parmesan cheese (or other)

Mix all ingredients except chicken, nuts and cheese and put 2/3 in bottom of baking pan. Place chicken parts on top. Cover with remaining mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to coat. Add nuts. Bake at 350 for 75-90 minutes. This reheats well.

May it bring peace and comfort to those who you share it with, in times of death and disaster as well as in times of joy and celebration.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Green Sauce, a.k.a. Creamy Green Sauce a.k.a. Jalapeno Avocado Sauce a.k.a. ?????

There are a lot of names for this, none of them really very accurate, outside of “green sauce”, because it is, well, green. You will find this in only the finest taco joints.  And by finest, I mean good ones.

While smooth and luscious, there is no dairy, so not really creamy (although you could add crema or yogurt)

While it kind of tastes like perhaps there is avocado in it, there isn’t.  But you could put one in instead of the oil.

It is really just, well, DELICOUS!  Crazy Good!  The kind of stuff you go to a taco joint just to eat spoonfuls of!

So, what is it?

Jalepenos (or other pepper like Poblanos or Anaheims), onion, garlic, salt, fresh squeezed lime (if you like) and oil, cooked and pureed.

Super simple – make some tonight!

This is the mild version - if you follow the directions, it really will be pretty mild, unless your jalapenos are the insanely hot (sometimes they are)

  • ·         1lb jalapenos (about 20 or so)
  • ·         4-5 green onions, cut into 3 inch sections, whites and greens)
  • ·         3-6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ·         ½ teaspoon salt
  • ·         ¼ cup corn oil (or other neutral oil – no olive oil)
  • ·         ½ lime juice, to taste

  • ·         Put on some disposable gloves
  • ·         De-stem, de-seed and de-rib the jalapenos.  If you like your sauce spicier, skip step – just toss in whole.   WEAR GLOVES.  Really bad idea to do this and then rub your eyes.  #justsayin
  • ·         Toss jalapenos, green onions into pot of water, bring to boil, then reduce to simmer and cook until soft (about 20 minutes)
  • ·         For the last 1 minute or so, toss the peeled garlic cloves into the simmering water.  This will temper the raw garlic taste
  • ·         Drain, let cool
  • ·         If you did not de-stem, etc earlier, do so now.  The more seeds and ribs you scrape out, the milder it will be.  Like it spicier?  Leave some or all of that out.  But do get rid of the stems
  • ·         Toss everything into blender, add salt, puree at low speed
  • ·         When things are getting nice and pureed, start slowly adding oil to mixture in blender.  Once added, speed up the blender.  Basically your making a nice emulsion so the oil does not separate out of the sauce
  • ·         Taste, add more salt or squeeze some lime juice into the mix while blending.  The lime juice will brighten up the flavors.  Not sure it needs it, be sure to start with just a half lime.  You could use a tablespoon of white vinegar

If too spicy, cut with greek yogurt or sour cream or add advocados.  Yogurt adds it's own tang and was generally preferred in our house.  If you were planning on using yogurt, especially yogurt with fat in it, I would probably reduce the amount of oil.  Same if your adding advocados

1 cup cilantro is a very nice contribution - just put it in at the start of the blending stage.

I like it better without the lime, but to each their own

If you want to have this on chips, remember you want El Milagro "Totopos" homestyle chips.  Really you do.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dad’s Butternut Squash, Chicken and Pasta, Risotto style

Dad’s Butternut Squash, Chicken and Pasta, Risotto style.  Low calorie, low fat, all delicious.

This is cooked risotto style - that is to say the pasta is sauted in a pan then cooked in chicken stock with the rest of the ingredients.  As it is not boiled, merely simmered,  the pasta takes longer than normal to cook.

Calories are approximately 194 per cup.  Approximately.  It depends on how much you cook down the sauce, how much cheese you put on, did you measure the oil, how big was your butternut squash, etc.  So basically, with 2 tbs of grated parm on top, I call a two cup serving 400 calories.

1 onion, small dice
1 stalk celery, small dice
1 red bell pepper, small dice (or large, if a food fusser wants to pick out theirs)
2 cloves of garlic, smashed and diced fine
1 medium to large butternut squash, cubed (½ inch cubes) - mine ended up being 5 cups diced.
1 lb raw chicken breast, no skin, bone or fat,  cubed (½ inch cubes)
2 oz white wine or white vermouth
3 cups chicken broth
4 oz Creamette 150 calorie pasta
½ lemon
1 tbs italian seasoning (dried basil, thyme, etc.  I use Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset)
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese (not included in above calorie count - 1 tbs grated is 20 calories)

Heat pan (burner at 6 or so (medium heat)  add olive oil.  Put chicken in Pan, brown chicken  in a teflon coated chicken fryer that has a lid.  You could do this in a Le Crueset pot, but you will probably need another ½ tbs of olive oil if you do.  Don’t forget to adjust your calorie count. You do not need to cook it all the way through at this time - just brown it.  It will finish cooking later.  After brown, put to the side in a bowl, leaving any remaining oil, juices in frying pan.

Return pan to heat.  Saute the onion, celery, red bell pepper and italian seasoning.  If you need to add oil , adjust your calorie count.  Since I used a teflon coated pan, I did not need to.  When just about turning brown (or browning a little bit) add the garlic, saute for another couple of minutes.  I am generally at medium heat for this.

Add Pasta, saute with veg.  Pasta will get coated with oil and start to toast.  Feel free to cook for a while, or not.  Add vermouth or wine and stir.  When the pasta has absorbed the vermouth, use a spatula to scrape out the pan into the bowl that is holding the chicken and set aside.

Return pan to the burner and add the butternut squash and chicken stock.  Bring to a low boil (still at medium heat), cook for 5-6 minutes.  Be sure to cover the pot at this time to keep the chicken stock from evaporating too much.  When you taste a piece and it is getting cooked, but still firm, that is where you want it.

At this point, add all the ingredients back to the pan that is cooking the squash in the stock.  Stir, and cover.  A nice thing about the teflon chicken fryer I have is that it is a glass top, so you can observe the cooking without pulling the top.  This keeps the cooking temperature up, the evaporation down.  

Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring two or three times  Basically you are cooking the pasta till al dente - just slightly chewy.  The sauce is going to thicken and become very creamy, even though you did not add any dairy nor flour nor cornstarch..  Basically this is a combination of the starch from the pasta and the butternut squash forming a nice thick sauce.  You may need to add a little boiling water if it is getting too thick and the pasta is not cooked yet.  I usually just get the electric tea kettle going and keep the water hot in case I need it.  If the pasta is cooked and it is to liquidy, I take the top off and cook it down some.  Generally if you use the same proportions I do, you won’t need to do much of this.

When the pasta is just about cooked, and the sauce is nice and thick, I turn off the heat and let it sit for a minute or two. If you wanted to  you could mix in a bag of frozen peas which would make a little more food and add some nice green color (adjust calories if you do, although I think the per serving calorie count would be near about the same).

Just before serving, squeeze the juice of half of a lemon on top and stir.  Serve, with grated parmesan on top.

This will make four servings of two cups each. More or less, depending on how thick your sauce is.

A great dish, the takes some work but not to much.   It should be served immediately as you do not want the pasta to overcook.

A nice green salad would be perfect with this.  If you wanted to make this vegetarian, I would add a can of drained chick peas in place of the chicken.  Adjust the calorie count as required.

If you had some left over chicken sausage, that would be great also. Adjust calorie count.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Creamy Tomato Soup, no dairy, low calorie

I updated the recipe, with calories - call it 100 calories per cup.  The math is close enough for a liberal arts major such as myself.

Creamy Tomato Soup - non dairy, low calorie.  Vegan if you like (skip the chicken stock)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Best Breakfast Ever - Eggs, Salmon and Goat Cheese

It's leftover time, this being day 2, post Thanksgiving.

Lunch on Tday was light - bread, cheese, fruit, smoked salmon.  Just enough to take the edge off to make it till dinner.

Being who we are, there was food for 20, with only 8 attending.

So, in additon to having to much turkey, we had a lot of the above mentioned items left over also.

So is born, THE BEST BREAKFAST EVER.  All Caps, must be true.  Plus, this is going to be on the internet, so there

About 30 minutes before starting, take out the salmon and goat cheese - they need to be room temperature. You are going to need enough of each to cover however many english muffins or pieces of toast you are making.

Warm up teflon frying pan on low for five minutes.  This lets you insure there are not hot spots

Turn frying pan up to medium, add a tablespoon of butter.

Start toasting the bread, muffins, etc.

Crack eggs into pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 2 minutes.  At 2 minutes, turn off heat, cover pan (this is going to set the top of the egg).  Cook for 1 minute or until top of egg is set (the white should just be a little milky looking, not clear.  If you want, you could flip them  instead.

Spread toasted bread items with room temperature goat cheese.  Layer on thinly sliced smoked salmon. Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice or add a few capers.  Place egg on top.  The egg needs to be runny, otherwise what's the point?

Eat.  Enjoy the Best Breakfast Ever.