August 11th, 2011

Shifts and Chicken & Peach Salad

Grilled marinated chicken, sliced peaches and cucumbers, and baby spinach

Deliciously bittersweet, like life.

Last night was the first shift toward autumn.  I felt it silently creep over us in our sleep, that certain type of cold that means the season is changing.  I wouldn’t have expected it for a couple more weeks so I did not notice it other than to pull the blanket over myself in the early morning.  But when I got up, got ready, and walked out the door to go to my third chiropractor appointment this week, I noticed the change in the sky, in the whisper of the trees, and the charge of the air.

The promise of Autumn.

Yesterday we had a gorgeous day with *gasp*natural light filtering through my windows! Plus, I was feeling better.  Not great, but well enough to go back to work for the first time in a week, if only for half a day.  So I did.  And I baked muffins and took photos.  And then I made a chicken & peach salad and took more photos.  It is the salad I present to you today.

I had about as much light as my floor lamp gives me, but it was natural and pretty.  It’s sad that the most natural light I can muster in my kitchen still keeps my shutter speed at 1/20th of a second (dismally slow, in case you’re not photographically-minded), so bear with me that the photos aren’t exactly stunning.  But I’m happy with them, and in love with this salad.

Grilled chicken marinated in balsamic vinegar, orange juice, and thyme.  Sliced white peaches and cucumbers.  Baby spinach.  White wine vinaigrette with lavender and thyme.  All of these things combine to create a refreshing salad that makes a nice light dinner with some crusty bread, or turn your lunch into a sweet and happy interlude.

I overfilled my bowl

Just look at that NON YELLOW lighting!

The night I made this for dinner, Tuesday, also brought a shift in my perspective.  One of my mottos is that everything is about perspective, and I’ve been trying to get a grasp on mine, to find a new one.  I’ve alluded to it here and I will continue to do so as it is not something I can discuss publicly, but those on my (very private, as locked up and hidden as possible) facebook know about much of it.  We’ve been going through a lot of stress lately involving doctors, courts, money, and jobs.  Not all rolled into one problem, which just makes it that much more stressful.  It’s a bunch of things.  And Tuesday night brought the beginnings of the change in perspective I’ve been needing. I  was grateful for that.  Maybe, if I can really grasp it, things will start to fall into place.

Shifts in ideas.  Shifts in nature.  Shifts in healing.  They’re everywhere.  Embrace them.

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May 8th, 2011

Jamaican Chicken & Shrimp Curry

Back in February, our “theme week” was Jamaica, so all of our dinners that week were Jamaican food.  As usual, I did some research on it and found that due to the history of island trade (and subsequent settling), Jamaican cuisine is influenced by a wide range of other ethnic styles.  Combining these different influences with its native tropical fruit and natural abundance of fish and shellfish makes Jamaican food a true “fusion” cuisine.

One of the most notable influences is Indian, and curry is very common in Jamaica.  One of the websites I found, JamaicaTravelandCulture, had a recipe for different types of curry, and curry shrimp struck my fancy for our seafood dinner.  It was so good I put it in our recipe list to make again later.

Well along came April and later had arrived.  About a month ago (yes, I know I’m late in posting this… :razz: ) I planned shrimp curry again for my seafood night (when I make my weekly menus, I plan each night to be one of several categories – seafood is one of them), and when that night rolled around realized there would not be enough left over for the next day’s lunch.  I had some cut up chicken breasts in the refrigerator left over from the previous night’s dinner, so I threw it in with the shrimp.  I also decided to add to the ingredient list, using up some more things floating around my fridge and also to make this more substantial.

In the end, I pretty much followed the recipe as far as “shrimp” and “curry powder.”  But it was still delicious! And I had plenty left over for our lunch the following day.  The photo is of our packed lunches, and it does NOT do the food justice because

  1. The lighting in my kitchen will always be horrid as long as I live in this apartment and
  2. I had already let the food cool down to pack when I got the crazy idea to photograph it for a future blog post.

(I was unaware that “future” would mean one month later or I’d have just waited until I’d made it again).

Jamaican Chicken & Shrimp Curry

Packed up and ready for lunch!

So, please ignore how brown the food looks, and just trust me when I say that it’s actually a lovely shade of orange from the yellow curry powder and red tomatoes, and is utterly scrumptious.  Also, if you would like to learn more about Jamaican cuisine, check out the Wikipedia page! I can’t imagine it’s the most accurate, but it’s a dang good start! Without further ado, the recipe (after the jump)!

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February 7th, 2011

Cooking with The Grump

Ok, I have to warn you, my methods are a tad unorthodox. By tad, I mean quite a bit. By quite a bit, I mean I follow no real methods at all. Basically I just throw things in and call it a meal. I decided to provide an example.

Here is the original recipe that was planned for tonight’s dinner, from here:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 4 green (spring) onions, chopped
  • 1 piece of root ginger, shredded
  • 500g (1 pound) boned chicken, cut into 1 inch strips
  • 2 celery sticks, sliced
  • 125g (4oz) button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 green pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • Shredded rind of 2 lemons
  • A few lemon slices to garnish
  • 2 tablespoons oil for stir-frying

Preparation:

Put the sherry, spring onions and ginger in a bowl. Add the chicken, toss well to coat, then leave to marinate in the bowl for 15 minutes. Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan. Add the celery, mushrooms, and the green pepper. Stir-fry for one minute. Add the chicken and marinade, then cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the Soy Sauce and lemon rind then cook for a further minute. Pile into a warmed serving dish and garnish with lemon slices.

Seems pretty simple now that I actually read it. Here’s how the chicken was actually prepared:

Step 1: See that Lemon Chicken is for dinner.

Step 2: Open the recipe to glance at the ingredients.

Step 3: Cut up the ingredients. 3 chicken breasts sounds good. A bell pepper. Handful of mushrooms. A lemon for the rind. No celery, let’s use onion instead. That should work. A few green onions, I think those were in there. Oh, some ginger. Everybody loves ginger. Or was that Mary Ann…

Step 4: No sherry, red wine it is. Pour some in a bowl, add the green onions, add the chicken, stir. Don’t like the way it looks, let’s add more. Juice the lemon and add that. Add some honey. A little more red wine. That looks good.

Step 5: Sauté the vegetables. Simple. Oriental style, let’s use sesame oil. When done, vegetables go in a separate bowl.

Step 6: Cook the chicken. Halfway though, it doesn’t look like the sauce is thick enough. Cornstarch it is.

Step 7: Add the vegetables when the chicken is about done. Stir.

End result:

Yea, it's that good.

That’s about how I make anything. I don’t follow recipes except to get a basic idea of what is supposed to be in it. I don’t measure. I modify as I feel is necessary when I don’t like the way it looks or smells. Rarely do I taste it until I’m done. Is my food good? I haven’t had any complaints, and I’ve had several people state that they will only eat my cooking in some situations, so I guess it is. She can tell you better than I can. I think my opinion is a little biased.

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June 2nd, 2010

Frugal Cooking: Chicken Stock

Chicken stock ingredients.

Frozen ingredients: chicken bones, vegetable "castoffs," and cold filtered water

Ok, it’s confession time.  I’m sort of a miser.  Although I love to buy gifts for people on the very rare occasion that I can afford to, I can’t stand to spend money on myself.  “Oh crap, I’m almost out of shampoo…how long can I go if I only wash my hair every other day?” or “Hmm, my closet is looking pretty bare…I guess I’ll wear Brian’s shirts more often…”  Yes, I’m really that bad.

As much as I loathe shopping for clothes or anything else I need (did I just hand over my woman card by denying any joy in clothes shopping??), I actually enjoy grocery shopping.  I still insist on spending as little money as possible, and keeping Brian and myself well-fed on a tight budget has become a sort of game to me.  I make a weekly menu & shopping list based on what’s on sale this week and what I already have in my freezer.  And my freezer is usually stocked with ground beef, chicken parts, some sort of fish, vegetables, and stock.  Currently I have duck, vegetable, and chicken stocks in my freezer.

The stock is key, you see.  Making my own stock makes me feel a little smug.  Unlike most recipes that use a whole chicken and a bunch of fresh vegetables, I use only scraps, saving double the money.  Why double? Well I’m saving once by not buying stock in the first place, and saving again by not buying anything to make the stock.  SCORE! I feel like a total domestic badass.  What I do is whenever we eat chicken and have bones leftover, we throw them into a plastic container, and throw that into the back of the freezer.  And we keep adding to it as we have bones until it’s full.  And whenever I use vegetables, I wash them well and peel them, then put the peels in another plastic container which has a VIP spot in the freezer door so I can pull it out quickly and add to it.

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May 24th, 2010

Magazine Mondays: Moroccan Chicken

Moroccan chicken served with buttermilk biscuits and sauteed zucchini

Served alongside lemony sautéed zucchini and homemade buttermilk biscuits, it was divine.

I recently learned about  a weekly event called “Magazine Mondays” created and held by Ivonne over at Cream Puffs in Venice.  I find her idea directly relevant to my interests, as I have been trying to whittle down my stack of Bon Appétit and Gourmet magazines for a while now.  I try to do a few recipes from them every month, sometimes with not-so-great success.

So here is my submission for this week’s Magazine Mondays: Moroccan Chicken with Green Olives and Lemons as found in the May 2009 issue of Bon Appétit.  I have to say I’m not a huge fan of green olives, but they were delightful in this, and the combination of cinnamon, cumin, and lemon made for a wonderfully complex broth to surround the chicken.  Rather than use a whole chicken, I used a quartered cornish hen and supplemented it with two boneless/skinless chicken breasts, which were shredded after it was all cooked.  I just wanted to use what I already had on hand! I prefer my chicken shredded in soups and stews anyway. I also reduced the cumin to 1 tsp since I’m not a huge fan of it.

Making this reminded Brian and me of our favorite chicken dish, “Chicken Curry with Cashews,” also from BA, to a point where he kept complaining that although it was good, it was no curry.  I have to agree, but that’s personal bias.  This was good enough to make again.  And again.  Just not every other week like curry.  :love:

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