Basil carrots

Wadly’s not a fan of vegetables.  He’s tall and thin and lives on meat and starch.  Getting him to eat and enjoy vegetables not loaded with starch is a personal quest.

My latest shot at Wadly-edible vegetables is basil carrots.  He thinks they’re okay (not high praise but close) and I love them.

Saute onions, carrots and a very light sprinkling of basil (it’s strong and can easily overpower the carrots so take care) in butter.  Reduce the heat after the onions become transparent to finish the carrots.

That’s it.  Did you think I’d make it more complicated?  Nope.  It’s so tasty and so sweet it’s almost like dessert.

Flavorful and healthy

I’m on a new kick.  We all know I wander from one focus to the next like a hobo with no home but at least I’m not bored . . . or boring.  I’m always experimenting, learning new things, TRYING new things . . . and I like it.  Testing ideas is a good way to keep your brain in shape.

My latest is crock pot meat.  My first foray into “cook it slow” was chuck roast.  It was wonderful . . . and here’s what I did.

Add the meat to the bottom of the crock pot.  DO NOT add any water.  Trust me, you won’t need it.  Crush a garlic clove and toss that in.  Cut up a carrot and toss that in.  Add some chopped celery, onion, a tomato, red and green pepper . . . sprinkle in some rosemary and some thyme, add 2 tbsp cream sherry, 2 tbsp dry sherry and put the lid on.  Turn it on low and walk away.  This needs to go for about 8 hours.  Lift the lid every so often and poke the veges in around the meat.

When it’s done the meat will be tender and the vegetables will be worthless.  Pull out the meat, dump the rest through a strainer and toss the veges (I feed them to my chickens).  Chop the meat and put it away for later.  Put the juice (there will be surprising amount of liquid) in a separate container and refrigerate both.  When the juice has cooled completely you’ll be able to peel the fat off the top.

This is a great start for stew, soup . . . or eat it just the way it is!  It’s delicious.

If the sherry adds too much flavor, try using two tablespoons of sherry and half a cup of creme soda instead.  Both ways are absolutely delicious.  I haven’t tried it with root beer yet.  I bet that would be good as well.  I added a bay leaf to one batch.

To turn this into wonderful vegetable beef soup dice your veggies (all of the above plus one small potato and anything else you have in your veggie drawer – the latest batch also has cauliflower).  Saute all but the potato in butter, add the potato, the juice and the diced beef and simmer until the veggies are done.

I don’t add salt and I don’t add bullion cubes (mostly beef flavored salt) though you can if you must.  It’s flavorful and healthy and a good eat and it’s a really chunky soup, not mostly broth and few goodies.

Updated almond chicken

I’ve updated my almond chicken recipe.  There’s a lot of in-the-pan, out-of-the-pan, drain this, strain that going on and I’ve tweaked the ingredients just a bit (more flavor).

If you’re going to try the recipe, you’ll need; small frying pan, big frying pan, sauce pan, marinade bowl, paper towel for the fried amonds, wire strainer big enough to hold all the cooked veges, bowl to catch the oil when the veges are drained, something to hold the extra oil after the almonds are fried (I use a wide mouth half-pint canning jar so I can reuse the oil), a bowl to hold the raw veges until time to cook them, cutting boards (1 for chicken, 1 for veges), a good and sharp chef’s knife, a fork to stir the cooking stuff . . . I can see this is a recipe I’m going to have to video at some point.

The first step in the prep is hot soapy water so I can clean up as I go . . . hands, knife and cutting board after dissecting the chicken, veges cutting board, bowls as I’m done with them, pans as I’m done with them.  I’ve done this recipe enough times that when I sit down to eat, the only thing left to wash is what I’m eating out of and with.  Sweet.

Healthy and easy casserole

Tomato, onion, green and red pepper, broccoli and carrot.
Tomato, onion, green and red pepper, broccoli and carrot.

This is an easy and delicious way to get a mess of vegetables in an easy potentially low fat prepare-ahead meal. This recipe can easily be multiplied to feed more people. It’s an awesomely delicious and healthy lunch or dinner that I can prepare way ahead of time.

I don’t know if it’s fair to call this dish a casserole as it’s just veggies and a frank. You could make this with any kind of sausage or hot dog. I use Painted Hill’s Natural Beef Franks but it would be lovely with other types of commercial cured sausage.

Rough chop half a tomato and put it in the bottom of an individual casserole dish. Make sure you use the tomato. It provides the moisture and the acidity that will balance the dish and make it delicious.  You can use a couple tablespoons of tomato paste.  If you do, add a half-cup of water for the moisture.

Layer a selection of vegetables on top. I’ve used onion, potato, broccoli, green and red peppers, carrot, celery, zuccini and use a different variety as the mood strikes.  You can even use potato, just cut it in smaller cubes so it cooks thoroughly.

Whatever vegetables you add should equal four or five times the volume of the meat.  Place your choice of vegetables on top of the tomato. Cut the sausage or frank up and put it on top and put the cover on.  This is the absolute perfect dish for a toaster oven, which is what I’ve got.  Bake at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes.  Once the dish has cooled enough to eat, pull the lid and enjoy!

Korean beef

This is an adaptation of a Korean rice bowl recipe I found online. The first time I made it I followed the directions which called for cooking the meat first, then adding the veges but the very lovely beef I used came out so overcooked and tough I never did it that way again.

The original recipe called for a lot of stuff and I like fairly simple but great tasting food so I made some . . . uh . . . adjustments.

Make a marinade –

  • 1 or 2 crushed/minced/finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar (I use tubinado instead – healthier)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (I use coconut aminos instead)
  • 1 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp corn starch (leave this out if you want – it’s a make-you-fat thickener)
  • 1 tbsp fresh ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp cooking sherry (optional but tasty)

Chop the beef in relatively small pieces and stir into the marinade until well coated.

Prep whatever veges you want. Cut the denser veges in smaller slices/pieces to even out the cooking. Use a carrot or two, a stalk of celery or two, some red pepper, some green pepper, a zuccini if you’ve got one, some broccoli if you’ve got some, half an onion. Pea pods would be good as would bean sprouts but add the bean sprouts right at the end when the veges are added back to the pan with the meat or they will overcook.

If you’re a minimalist, feel free to just use onion and peppers.

Stir fry the veges in a bit of olive oil. When the veges are not quite done, lift them out and add the meat reserving the marinade for later. When the meat’s is almost done, add the marinade sauce and layer the veges over the top.  Wait a bit to stir it all together. When the marinade has finished thickening and the meat is done, the dish is done.

Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on the top. Serve over rice if you like.

Easy and tasty almond chicken for two

This is my go-to recipe for just-for-me food.  It’s not super-quick to fix (about 20 minutes) but it’s delicious, packed with flavor and veges and, for the nutritional value in the meal, it’s uber-healthy.

I buy chicken thighs in the family pack size and zip them into sandwich bags, put them into a gallon zip bag and chuck them in the freezer.  I pull a thigh out in the morning and toss it on the counter.  By lunch it’s thawed and ready to use.

Skin and debone one chicken thigh per person. Slice the skin in strips and put the skin and bone in a small sauce pan with 1/2 to 3/4 cup water per thigh to make the required chicken broth.  This chicken broth is healthy and a zero dollar addition to the recipe from something you would have thrown away.  If you’re a broth purist, chop some celery and onion and toss it in as well.  I don’t see the need.  This dish is already max tasty, full of texture and flavor and excellent nutrition.

Slap on a lid and start it cooking. You want to bring it to a boil and turn it down to simmer while you’re prepping the rest of the stuff. Flip the bones over a couple times as it cooks to get as much flavor out as possible.  Because you’ve sliced the skin into strips, it needs zero attention.

Dice the chicken in 1/2 to 3/4″ cubes. Stick it into a marinade of (measurement is per chicken thigh) 2 tbsp soy sauce (or coconut aminos if you’re soy adverse), 2 tbsp Lee & Perrins Worchestershire sauce, 2 tbsp sherry (I use Sheffield’s creme sherry), 1 crushed clove a garlic and (optional and fattening so leave it out if you prefer) 1 tbsp corn starch.  The Worchestershire sauce adds a layer of very complimentary flavor and is not standard to the recipe.  One day I was short on coconut aminos and use the worchestershire to make up the difference.  I was so caught by the flavor combo I adjusted the recipe and haven’t looked back.

While the skin and bone are simmering, prepare these veges.  The measurements are per thigh so double for two, triple for three . . . 1 carrot peeled, cut in half lengthwise and slice in less than 1/4″ thick slices on the diagonal. Slice 1/2 a medium onion thinly. Slice a celery stalk on the diagonal.  (Because I mostly cook this recipe for just me and don’t need to impress anyone, I pull the celery bundle out of the vege drawer and cut the top of the bundle off  in thinnish slices until I have the amount I want, usually 3 or 4 cuts.)  Add some mushroom.  I like mine cut in sticks but do what makes you happy.  Add a little sliced pepper (both red and green).  I like pepper in almost everything.  If you’re not a pepper fan, leave it out. Slice a handful of water chestnut slices (canned) into sticks. Cut a handful of bamboo shoots (canned) in half lengthwise.  Once I’ve opened the cans I process everything in the cans and put them in zippies in the freezer so they stay good until I’m ready to use them.  You can break them into portions (1 snack zippy with both water chestnut and bamboo shoots) and pull the right number of portions out of the freezer when you pull out the chicken.

In a small frying pan, pour 1/2″ peanut oil and start it heating. When the oil is hot (add a single almond slice – when it starts to sizzle, the oil’s hot) throw in 1/4 cup of sliced almonds per thigh.  If you’re making more than two servings, use a bigger pan so the almonds have room to brown. Stir and shake until the almonds just start to change color. If you wait any longer they will rapidly turn brown and taste a bit burnt so be ready to pull them out of the oil just as they start to turn color.  I’ve eaten them that way and it isn’t bad, just not great so keep a close eye as you’re cooking them.

Pour the almonds and oil through a metal mesh (screen) strainer so the oil drains into a bigger frying pan. Drain the almonds really well (shake and wiggle) and spread them on a paper towel to stop the cooking and finish draining.

Once the peanut oil is again up to temp, toss in all the prepped veges and stir/shake a bit longer than it takes to turn the onions transparent. None of the other raw veges will be completely done yet but close.  The dish won’t be horrible if you slightly overcook or undercook the veges, and you’ll prefect this with practice.  You’re going to cook them again so don’t over-cook them now.

While the veges are cooking, use the screen to strain the chicken out of the marinade.   I dump the drained chicken into the small frying pan so the residual heat will start to bring the chicken up to temp.

Dump the broth from the chicken skin/bones into the marinade.  The hot broth will help bring the marinade up to temp.

Dump the veges out of the frying pan into the strainer over a bowl to drain off the remaining oil.  

Dump the chicken into the big frying pan. Stir until cooked nearly cooked through.  Don’t overcook.  Add the marinade/broth.  If you’re using a thickener, wait until it gets up to temp and starts to thicken before adding the veges back to the pan.  Don’t stir them in just yet. Dump in the almonds and cook the whole thing just a bit longer.  You don’t want limp veges but you do want thickened sauce and done meat.  This dish is better if they still have just a bit of a crunch.

If you like bean spouts, they would be a good addition. Add them when you add the veges into the pan with the chicken. Any sooner and they’ll be overcooked.

Enjoy!

Perfect rice, the easy way

Pick your weapon.  Any shape or size, as long as you can get the rice in and out, it’ll work!
Fill it with rice
Fill with water (yup, with the rice STILL in whatever you’re using to measure).  You now have a rice and water mix.  Dump it in the cooker.
Don’t worry about the rice left inside, you’ll rinse it out in the next step.
Fill your measure with water one more time.  Add it to the ricer and water already in the cooker. If you’re good, all the stray rice will end up in the cooker instead of left in your measuring device.
Add a little bit of oil. It helps keep the rice from sticking together. I don’t know if this step is advised for sticky rice so you’ll need to check.
Cover the cooker and switch it on. When it switches itself off (or, in my case, switches to warm), your rice is done!

This method of cooking rice is super easy, no measuring cup required, though I take the lazy man way and use a rice cooker. You can, depending on your cooker, make any amount of rice you want, enough for one or more!

Pick your measuring device.  I’m not saying don’t use a measuring cup, but you certainly don’t need one with this method.  I’m using a small drink glass for my measure here.

This method works because it provides the right amount of water for the rice every time.

Fill your measure up with rice.  With the rice still in your measuring device, fill it up with water as well.  You now have a mix of water and rice in your measuring device.  Dump the rice and water mixture into the cooker.  Filling the measure with rice and water gives exactly the right amount of extra water.

The amount of water we’ve added won’t be enough, so we have to add one more measure full of water.  Remember, it doesn’t matter what measure you start with, just use the same measure all the way through and it will come out perfect!

Just so we’re really clear, you’re adding one measure of water and one measure of rice and water mixed.  I add the full measure of water after the rice and water mix to rinse the rice out of the measure so none is wasted.

Top it off with a drizzle of olive oil, put the lid on, plug it in and turn it on!   When it shuts off, you’ll have perfect rice!

Potato bombs

Plugging the bottom
Ready to pop in the oven.

Here’s how you make potato bombs.

Because I don’t have an apple corer, Wadly made me a potato coring tool out of a length of copper pipe.  This method requires an additional tool for pushing the core out of the pipe.

Core the potatoes.  Mine were really big russets so I cut them in half lengthwise before coring.  

Set the potato on its flat end and stuff it with your favorite potato partner (I used diced onions and bacon).  I used my push rod to pack down the diced onion, then added the bacon and packed it as well.  Plug the top with the other short section of core, skin side out.

Place the potato halves cut side down in a buttered baking dish.  Wrap the halves in bacon.  Mine took 1½ slices for complete coverage.  Toss the two remaining core pieces in the pan.   Waste not . . .

Bake at 350° for 1 hour.

If you’re barbequing and have good control of the temp in you grill, you can wrap these in heavy duty foil and cook them on the grill.  For full sized potatoes, turn them over at the half-way mark to distribute the bacon flavor.

You can’t beat this dish for awesome flavor.

Chicken over rice

I baked a whole chicken last week planning to make a big batch of my latest soup recipe so I could freeze some for quick meals. Yeah, that’s as far as the chicken soup idea went. I hared off in a different and equally delicious direction. 

I seasoned the unstuffed halved chicken with pepper and Bragg Organic Sprinkle and baked it skin side up for about 50 minutes. Don’t skip this step. Boiled chicken does not have the same flavor as baked or fried and that extra flavor is important. After baking, I put the whole chicken in a 5 quart pressure cooker with wine, water, pepper, onion and Bragg Organic Sprinkle. I didn’t pressure cook it, I just simmered it for a while to marry all the flavors.

After the chicken cooled I deboned and diced it and added it back to the liquid in the pan. After it cooled I divided the result into four zippered sandwich bags intending to put them in the freezer for later use.  I’d done this with turkey earlier in the year and it made a nice quick base for not nearly as delicious (trust me, it’s all in the prep and seasonings) turkey on rice.

When dinner time rolled around I put rice in the cooker and peeled and diced a carrot, a quarter of an onion, a couple parsley sprigs, a celery stalk and 1/4 cup each red and green peppers.  I sauteed a couple slices of bacon (chopped) and added the veges and a couple tablespoons of butter.

Once the veges were sufficiently tender I dumped in the sandwich bag of chicken, gave it a thorough stir and once it was heated through, covered it and set it on low to simmer while the rice finished cooking.  I served the chicken and veges over rice with a little more butter on top and it was delicious!  One cup of rice (uncooked) and one zippered sandwich bag of chicken with the veges makes 4 or 5 healthy servings.

None of the chicken made it into the freezer.  We’re eating the last of it as chicken/veges over rice today.  Mmmmm.

Chicken vegetable soup

Lovely color, beautiful flavor.

I made chicken vegetable soup yesterday and it’s truly delicious!  It’s  bright, succulent and satisfying.  Paired with garlic bread or corn bread, it’s also a low cost lunch or light dinner.  This is so good I will explore canning or freezing it for quick meals.

In a small frying pan, brown two chicken thighs in olive oil. Do the browning on med-low so the thighs are at least halfway cooked before transferring them to your sauce pan.

Add 2/3 cup white wine to the frying pan for deglazing.  I use Franzia Crisp White which gives a lovely mild slightly sweet flavor which is totally harmonious with the chicken and veges.

Pour the deglazed drippings and wine from the frying pan into the sauce pan.  Add a dozen brisk shakes of Bragg Organic Sprinkle (awesome with chicken and turkey), a diced celery stalk, 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley, 1/4 sweet onion-diced, 1 carrot-diced, 1/4 cup each of diced red and green peppers and fresh cracked black pepper.

Add 2/3 cup water and the juice from the corn dip recipe.  Put the lid on and simmer until the veges are done but still slightly crunchy.  If you aren’t a fan of the corn dip recipe, put the contents of all three cans in a blender, liquify and divide into three.  Put the portions you aren’t using in a ziplock and into the freezer for later use.  Use in soup or chowder to bump the flavor.

Turn the heat off and remove the the chicken thighs.  Once cool enough to handle, remove skin and bone and dice the meat.  Add the diced chicken to the pan.  Bring to a simmer for a few minutes to heat the chicken through.

If you want to make chicken noodle soup, consider pureeing the rest of the ingredients before adding the chicken back to the pan.  Add your noodles and cook for the time necessary to finish the noodles.

Sans noodles, this makes 4 nice big bowls of soup.  If adding noodles, this should feed five or six.