Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chicken skin revisited

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled chicken thighs
  • herb-onion focaccia
  • garlicky green beans
  • green salad "bar"
Okay, well this was just plain yum.

The girl and I decided that while chicken drumsticks were an iffy proposition with braces, chicken THIGHS with the bones in and skin on would probably be okay. So that's what I made. I just sprinkled them with Jane's Krazy Salt and garlic pepper as usual, grilled them skin-side down over medium-high heat until the skin was nicely browned (but not BLACK this time; I watched them pretty closely), then moved them all skin-side up to an unlit burner and left them alone for 35 minutes or so. They were crispy, juicy and delicious!

The focaccia was made with the master recipe boule dough from the book. I topped it with snipped fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, sliced red onion, EVOO, coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Yum!

The green beans were from my garden! Yay! I had thought that my Kentucky Wonder pole beans weren't setting fruit, but it turns out the vines were so freakin' dense that I just couldn't SEE any. I poked around in there yesterday and managed to harvest a good-sized handful of beans. Some of them had obviously been on there a while and looked more like broad beans that you would pop out of the pod than string beans that you would eat all in one gulp, but oh well! I cut them in 2-inch pieces and simmered them in water for a good 15 minutes to make sure they'd be tender. Then I sauteed a large minced garlic clove in some EVOO in a skillet and tossed in the beans to get them nice and garlicky. Season with salt and pepper and you're good to go! Now I just have to remember to check the bean vines more often so I can get them while they're still young and tender!

I'm trying to move away from bagged, prepared salad greens for no particular reason other than pure contrariness on my part. So tonight's salad "bar" was torn green leaf lettuce (from the store and out of season, ugh), the last of the cherry tomatoes from my garden, and the last of the sliced carrots from the CSA. The kids apparently think green leaf lettuce = poison so they didn't eat any (they had chopped raw apples instead), but DH and I thought it was worlds better than our usual salads made with packaged lettuce. Yay! Non-boring salad, for a change!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Indoor picnic

Tonight's Menu

  • oven-cooked pork spare ribs
  • chuffed potatoes
  • coleslaw
  • freezer pickles
We were expecting rain today courtesy of Hurricane Dolly, but not much materialized. I planned an indoor dinner just in case, though!

I bought a HUGE rack of pork spare ribs at the grocery store. These are cheaper per pound than baby back ribs, at least where I live, and I think they're tastier (probably because they have a lot more fat). I cut the rack in half so it would fit in my roasting pan, then rubbed it all over with a mixture of brown sugar, garam masala, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper and cayenne. I put the ribs on a rack in the roasting pan, added a bit of water to the bottom of the pan, covered it tightly with heavy-duty foil and stuck it in the oven for about three hours at 300 degrees F. Then I uncovered the ribs, boosted the heat up to 425 degrees F, and let them get nice and brown for 20-30 minutes. I didn't bother basting them with sauce; just served some on the side (bottled). They were falling-apart delicious and the girl had seconds!

Chuffed potatoes were the usual, as was the coleslaw.

The freezer pickles were sort of an experiment. Our CSA has given us quite a few pickling cucumbers lately and I wasn't sure what to do with them because I have NO desire to get into the whole canning thing. My mom used to can stuff and it seemed like a huge pain in the ass. I just don't want to mess with it at all. So I tried my hand at freezer pickles instead, and it was way easy! I used the top recipe on this page for this batch of pickles. I think they're pretty darn tasty -- kind of sweet/tangy. I'll probably try a more ambitious recipe for my next batch, but if you're new to freezer pickles like I am/was, that's a pretty good recipe to get you started!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Easy dinner

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled boneless pork chops
  • grilled cabbage wedges
  • green salad "bar"
This was super easy and really good, if a tad bit boring.

All I did with the pork chops was sprinkle them on both sides with Jane's Krazy Salt and some garlic pepper, then grilled them 5 minutes per side over high heat (they were a little thick -- you could knock that back a bit for thinner chops). STUPID easy, y'all.

For the cabbage, I halved a head of green cabbage lengthwise, reserving one half for coleslaw tomorrow. The other half I just cored and cut into four wedges. I brushed the cut sides with EVOO and sprinkled them with salt and pepper, then cooked them exactly the same way, and at the same time, as the pork chops. They did tend to fall apart just a little bit when I turned them, but not so much that I lost them down the grill slats or anything. This was really tasty and easy and I'd definitely make cabbage this way again!

Tonight's salad bar was mixed leaf lettuces with sliced carrots, sliced cucumbers, and wedged tomatoes. Have I mentioned that I'm getting totally BORED with the salad bar thing? The kids are still eating it so I'm still making it, but I'm also making all these awesome CSA veggies and no one is eating them but me! Argh. It's not like the salad isn't HEALTHY or anything, so I don't want to press the point, but I'm pretty much OVER green salads right now, y'all.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A farewell to chicken skin

Tonight's Menu

  • herb-marinated chicken thighs
  • toasted rice
  • steamed broccoli
Hey, everyone! Sorry for the lack of posting. We've been busy, busy, busy over here and I've been falling back on some old standbys, meal-wise. Up until a few days ago, that is, because that's when the girl child got braces! And the boy is getting his on Friday! Yipes! Suddenly I've had to banish popcorn from the house and re-think things like corn on the cob and chicken drumsticks.

Soo, tonight's chicken was made with boneless, skinless thighs. I know, I KNOW, I always say that the skin is my favorite part of the chicken, but I'm here to tell you that these were really good even without it! All I did was dump the thighs into a big zipper bag. Then I mixed together some fresh lemon juice, EVOO, minced garlic, a TON of minced fresh herbs (flat-leaf parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme -- maybe I should call this Scarborough Fair Chicken?), kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. I dumped the herb mixture over the chicken thighs, sealed the bag, and then sort of massaged it around so that all the thighs were coated. Then I popped it into the fridge for a couple of hours before grilling the thighs over medium-high heat for about 4-5 minutes per side. They were juicy and delicious, the girl was able to eat them without breaking a wire on her braces, and we hardly missed the skin, I SWEAR!

Okay, now for the rice. The girl recently insisted that I used to make a brown rice that she absolutely loved. Well, I can only remember making brown rice maybe TWICE before, and as I recall, everyone hated the texture of it. Then I remembered that before we got our current microwave, which has a "smart" setting for rice, I used to make it on the stovetop and I would toast the rice in a bit of butter before adding the water. This gave it a golden, nutty-brown appearance, and everyone DID love it that way. So I made it again tonight to see if maybe that was the dish that the girl remembered.

All I did was melt two tablespoons of unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat (you could use salted, but I didn't have any), then add a cup of uncooked long-grain white rice and toss it around until it was lightly toasted. This doesn't take very long and you have to watch it because it'll go from toasted to burnt REALLY fast. As soon as it turns golden brown and releases a nutty aroma, add two cups of water and bring it to a boil. As soon as it boils, cover and reduce to a low simmer. Then just leave it alone for about 20 minutes before taking it off the heat and letting it sit, covered, for 5 minutes or so. Fluff with a fork, season with salt and pepper, and serve. I had forgotten how much I like rice cooked this way!

(Full disclosure: the girl said this wasn't QUITE what she remembered. She still insists it was BROWN rice. I have no memory of this whatsoever. Back to the drawing board, I guess.)

The broccoli was steamed in the microwave. I'm not cooking THAT on the stovetop unless it's in a stir-fry!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Grilled pork

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled spicy pork tenderloin w/mango salsa
  • roasted chili-garlic potatoes
  • quinoa salad
  • green salad "bar"
Okay, this was pretty darn easy.

Tenderloin recipe is here. Mango salsa is here (except I used THREE mangoes, and a jalapeno from the CSA). Quinoa salad is right over here. The salsa and quinoa salad were made ahead of time; they'll keep for a few days in the fridge.

For the chili-garlic potatoes, all I did was cut up four LARGE red-skinned potatoes into bite-sized chunks and toss them into a baking pan. Then I drizzled on some EVOO, tossed to coat, and sprinkled them with some kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, garlic powder and chili powder. I roasted them at 475 degrees F for about 40 minutes, stirring them around every 15 minutes or so. Delicious!

Tonight's salad bar was purchased mixed lettuce, sliced carrots, sliced cucumber from the CSA, and cherry tomatoes also from the CSA (oh, the potatoes were CSA goodies, too).

Very yummy and summery!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Fajitas two ways

Tonight's Menu

  • beef & chicken fajitas
I had never made chicken fajitas until a couple of weeks ago when my grandpa was in town. I wanted to make him a quintessentially Texan meal, and fajitas are pretty much it. I usually make beef fajitas since DH is allergic to poultry, but grandpa doesn't eat beef! So I made both beef and chicken, and the kids and I loved the chicken version so much that I decided I'd make both from now on.

Instructions for the beef fajitas are here.

The chicken fajitas are pretty darn similar. I buy boneless, skinless chicken thighs (you could do breasts, but the thighs have WAY more flavor), lay them between two pieces of wax paper, and pound the heck out of them with the edge of a small plate. I know, it sounds weird, but it manages to tenderize and flatten the thighs so that they'll take the marinade a little better and also cook really fast. Then I sprinkle them with a pre-made chicken fajita seasoning blend (I use HEB's store brand spice mixes for both the chicken and the beef fajitas, for those of you in HEB country) and press it in a bit just to make sure it sticks. Then I mix the juice of one lime and about half an orange with some EVOO, pop the thighs into a zipper bag, and pour the juice/oil mixture over top. Press the air out of the bag and seal it, then stick it in the fridge for a couple of hours. To grill, just pop them over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes per side or until done (if you haven't pounded them pretty flat, it'll take a little longer). Then just slice them into strips and serve 'em up with warm flour tortillas, grilled onions & bell peppers, shredded cheese, sliced avocado, sour cream and hot sauce!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Notes for next year's potluck

So hey, everyone! I hope all of my fellow Americans had a good Fourth of July yesterday. We went to our neighborhood potluck, as usual. I've been told not to show up without my extremely fattening potato salad, so I made that, but I had cut down the recipe because fewer people than usual were expected and that tiny little bowl of potato salad looked ... lonely, somehow. Sooo, I also made some zucchini bread and quinoa salad!

I followed the zucchini bread recipe I found here, except that I left out the nuts (DH and the girl are allergic to tree nuts) and added just a bit of grated orange zest to the batter. Oh my GOD, y'all! This is some damn good zucchini bread! It's almost more of a spice cake than a bread because it has a really fine, cake-like texture. The boy child is flat-out addicted so it's a good thing this recipe made two loaves (we only took one to the potluck). I will have a freezer full of this stuff before zucchini season is over, mark my words!

I totally winged it with the quinoa salad and it turned out to be the sleeper hit of the potluck. Go figure! I was afraid nobody would want to touch it, but I haven't gotten that many raves over a dish since ... er, the first time I showed up with that fattening potato salad, probably. I wasn't measuring but here's approximately how I made it.

I had some plain, unseasoned, cooked quinoa leftover from dinner the night before -- I'd guess it was maybe a cup and a half, cooked. So I dumped that in a bowl. Then I took a large-ish cucumber, peeled it, cut it in half lengthwise and scraped out the seeds with a spoon before chopping it into a relatively small-ish dice (not a PERFECT dice -- you know me -- but I was going for more or less uniform pieces). I dumped that into the quinoa along with about 1/4 cup chopped (small, again) red onion and 2-3 sliced scallions, green tips included. I had some colorful bell peppers (yellow and orange) in the crisper so I diced up just a bit of those for color (like maybe 1/4 of each pepper -- not much) and tossed them in. Then I went out to the herb patch and snipped a handful of basil, flat-leaf parsley and mint, brought it inside, washed and chopped it and tossed it into the bowl with everything else. Finally I seasoned it with salt and pepper, then shook some fresh lemon juice (NOT bottled) and EVOO in a jar and poured it over, tossing the quinoa mixture to coat. There was only a small amount of dressing -- not enough for it to pool up in the bottom of the bowl or anything. I just wanted to moisten and loosen everything up a bit while giving it a hint of that bright lemon juice flavor.

This was SO GOOD! Seriously, everyone raved about it (and asked what the heck quinoa was, and where they could buy it, and how to cook it...). There were no leftovers so I am going to have to make another batch just for me. This would make a fantastic lunch -- quinoa is really high in protein, and when you add in all the veggies, that's a complete meal as far as I'm concerned!

Of course, now I'm stuck bringing both the potato salad AND the quinoa salad to every neighborhood potluck henceforth (and probably the zucchini bread, too) but I don't mind.