Thursday, October 31, 2013

Break out the crock pot. The big one.

So, the crock pot.

We like to pretend it's magical and frees us from "cooking." It doesn't. It makes it easier. A little. Sometimes. You still have to chop. You still have to clean up. However...there's something about doing the work early in the day that makes it seem like you didn't really cook. And I'm on board with that.

Plus the house smells good all day. Though when you're watching your calories and all you smell is chicken and cumin deliciousness wafting from your kitchen all day this may be more obnoxious than "good," but I digress.

Anyway, I informed hubby we'd be having a crock pot heavy fall this year. I probably say that every year, but I'm going to try and mean it this time.

You need a big crock pot for this one, just to warn you. You could also just simmer in a stock pot on the stove for a couple hours if you had to, but that kind of kills the point of crockpotting, doesn't it?

Crock Pot Tortilla Soup
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used 2 large and 3 small)
One small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
8 cups chicken broth
Large can (28oz) diced tomatoes
4-5 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
3 bay leaves
1/4 tsp dried oregano
2 corn tortillas, torn into small pieces
about a cup frozen corn
juice from one lime
about 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
more chopped cilantro (to top)
shredded mexican style cheese (to top)
greek yogurt or sour cream (to top)
tortilla chips, crushed (to top)
Tapatio or Mexican hot sauce (to top, optional)
Radish slices (to top, optional)

Throw everything from chicken to oregano into the crockpot. Stir gently, and turn on for however long works for you. I did 6 hours.

After about 5 hours (or 30-60 minutes before you have it set to be done), remove all the chicken to a big bowl. Use two forks and shred into pieces (it should basically fall apart). Add back to soup and add in the tortilla pieces, corn, cilantro, and lime juice and keep cooking.

When it's done, serve with more cilantro, cheese, yogurt and tortilla chips, etc. on top. People tend to like to top their own food to taste, but you can be a Type-A host and do it for them. Just really depends on how many small bowls you have/want to wash/fancy you want to be.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It's still like 80 out. Don't care. It's fall. It's stew time.

Ok, raise of hands, please. When you hear the phrase "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme" do you humm along, or do you have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about?

Yeah, not so much a raise of hands situation, more of a polling question, but still.

My husband and his best friend Chef (actually the opposite of a large black man...still with me? Too many cultural references in one post? You can do this.) had no idea what I was talking about when I came prancing into the living room mid-meal-making singing it. I believe the question from Chef was, "Are you singing about herbs?" And I'm like, um, the guys who sing the Mrs. Robinson song? What's their name? Simon and Garfunkel? WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT? (Possibly it was the prancing, now that I think about it)

So I play it. Chef goes, "Oh, I know that." Hubby just looks at me. We've been married 5 years. I should know his faults by now.

Annnnywho, I made stew tonight. It had...wait for it...parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. And bay leaves. And wine. And deliciousness.

Herby Beef Stew

1.5 lb stew meat, cut in bite sized pieces if needed
2 cups baby carrots
About 20-25 pearl onions, peeled
3 stalks celery, sliced in 1/2 in pieces
1.5 lb fingerling potatoes, cut in half or thirds (so all are the same size-ish)
1/4 cup Flour (I used oat flour)
Salt and pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup red wine
3.5 cups beef broth
1tsp rosemary
1tsp dried parsley
Good pinch dried thyme leaves (1/4 tsp?)
Good shake sage (1/8 tsp?)
2 small bay leaves

In shallow bowl combine flour, garlic powder, and a good pinch each salt and pepper. Add meat cubes and toss until well coated. 

In large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add meat, and brown about 3 minutes, turn, and cook another 3 minutes. Add wine, and move everything around to deglaze pot. Add broth, rosemary, parsley, sage, thyme, and about another 1/4 tsp pepper, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer. Cover and cook one hour. 

Bring back to a boil, and stir in potatoes, celery, carrots, onions, and bay leaf. Reduce to a simmer, re-cover, and cook another hour. Add salt to taste, if needed.

Remove bay leaf before serving.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Eat more garlic. It's good for you.

I love garlic. Love it. I normally buy it by the head and use as needed, but once in awhile I cheat and get the bag of pre-peeled cloves. Problem with those, however, is that you really need to use them quickly, and they include a LOT of garlic.

Enter 40 Clove Chicken. I make this kind of a lot. But usually with chicken breasts and just do it on the stovetop (also delicious, but more of a mess. And healthier, cause I replace most of the butter with sherry) and serve with mashed potatoes. I just searched this blog for that recipe but apparently I've never posted it?? I apologize. Next time I do it, I will.

You can use bigger pieces of chicken for this, whatever fits in the skillet without being squashed (Breast, thigh, etc., but it'll work best if they are bone-in pieces. Cook it a little longer—up to 1.5 hours for an entire chicken.)

Oh, and crusty bread is necessary with this one. You need something to smash those roasted garlic cloves onto. Also, the final product photo is terrible, but I'd already dug in before I realized I hadn't taken one, and it was too late to do any art direction on my plate. Sooooo, it is before I stuck it in the oven.

One Pot 40 Clove Chicken and Potatoes

1.5-2lbs chicken wings/drummettes (About 16 pieces)
Salt and pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves (or 6 fresh sprigs)
Olive oil
2 tbsp butter
4 medium yellow potatoes, quartered
About 40 cloves of peeled garlic

Heat oven to 350.
Sprinkle chicken well with salt and pepper. In large heavy skillet, heat about 2 tsp oil and 2 tbsp butter over medium high. When hot, add chicken and brown about 3 minutes, turn and brown the other side about 3 minutes.

Add potatoes, and stir to combine. Turn off heat. Add garlic, and do your best to get all the cloves on the bottom (under the chicken and potatoes). Sprinkle thyme, salt and drizzle a little olive oil over the top of everything.

Stick skillet in hot oven, cook for an hour. About half way through, turn the chicken pieces over and throw a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the top. Add salt to taste and let rest about 5-10 minutes before eating.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

I *sniffle* hate the f*sniffle*ing Santa Anas.

What is it about these annual winds that makes everyone crazy? I grew up with them, and they're basically the weather equivalent of a full moon. People. Act. Nuts. Besides the normal nutty behavior associated with having to deal with downed trees and power lines, destroyed hair, dirt in your eyes, and head congestion, I mean. It's probably all the electricity in the air? Serious, check Wiki's Health Effects section. It's legit crazytime.

Anyway, I just got back from visiting my parents in the Inland Empire‚ which is like, Santa Ana central. Their house even shakes in these winds, which is actually cool to me, because in So Cal we often like weird things that terrify normal people (i.e. earthquakes, eating raw fish, flip-flop tanlines.) Anyway, it also means I returned with a head full of snot and completely plugged up ears. They got so pressurized on my drive home over the mountains that I literally couldn't hear E whining in the back seat. So, not all negative, I guess.

I woke up this morning and the sore throat was gone and I can hear out of my left ear, so it's getting better, but I still wanted something soupy for lunch. I was going to make this, but I had tofu that needed to be used, and some bean thread noodles my mom sent home with me (she may have discovered they weren't actually another form of bean sprouts and some hilarity may have ensued, but that's for another day), so I did some substituting. And it was delicious. And easy. And I will definitely be making again.

You could probably substitute green curry paste, if that's more your thing (I will be next time, cause I love it), but I had red in the fridge so I went with it.

Red Curry Coconut Soup
1 tsp peanut (or canola) oil
2 tbsp red curry paste
6 cups chicken broth
1 can light coconut milk
5 tbsp fish sauce
juice of 1.5 limes
3 tbsp sugar
1 package extra firm tofu, cubed or thinly sliced
2 small bundles of bean thread noodles (or about 4oz any asian rice noodles)
cilantro, chopped, to top

Heat the oil and curry paste in a stock pot over medium heat. Add broth, coconut, lime juice, sugar and fish sauce, bring to a low boil. Add noodles and cook until soft, anywhere from 5-10 minutes depending on the kind of noodle.

NOTE: If you used really thin noodles (like bean thread) take a sharp knife or some kitchen shears, stick it in the soup, and cut, cut, cut. It'll still be a bitch to serve (and will require chopsticks to eat) but this helps a ton.

Add tofu and let cook another minute. Turn off the heat and let sit a couple minutes to let tofu get hot.

Add more lime juice to taste and top with cilantro.