Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Hearty Chicken Stew

I know it's been a while since I've written here...
I've cooked plenty, but between the time my camera was stolen and got replaced, I didn't take any pictures.

I've made do, however, with some cooking here and there though!!

Up today is a really easy, hearty stew. It's a rainy day- and I don't know about you, but on these kinds of days I want comfort foods that fill me up and make me feel better.
It's not something more elaborate, since my back's bothering me quite badly. (I've made the decision to have surgery to correct the problem, but that story can be found another day perhaps) We're here to talk FOOD!

Well, on days like this where it's difficult for me to be on my feet... Cooking has to be easy. Something I can either create and eat quickly, or let sit and cook and not require me to be standing right there watching, stirring, draining, etc.
What allows you to get away simply?
Well... You can either whip up a Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich... OR...
Use a crock pot! One of the best inventions ever, I swear!
I have the one pictured below, and I love love love it.

Click the image to see more info and pricing from Hamilton Beach.

Ingredients are simple, and most likely things you already have in your pantry and fridge.

2-3 Boneless Chicken Breasts
* Can be made with 1 bouillon cube per cup of water
3-5 Cups Chicken stock
4 Large Potatoes
2 Medium Onions
Few Stalks of Celery (I didn't use it this time- not in my fridge!!)
2 Handfuls Baby Carrots
1 Cup Green Beans (optional)
1 Cup Corn Kernels
** I cheated today... I used frozen corn, carrots, peas & green beans mix
1 Cup Sweet Baby Peas
Garlic Powder- to taste
Cracked Black Pepper- to taste
2 tsp Celery Salt
3-6 Tbs White Flour (depending on how thick you want your stew)

Start off with 3 cups of chicken broth in the stock pot, turn on to high.

Half the onions, cut each section in quarters lengthwise, and then turn and cut in half. You should have "8" sections of onions from each half. These will cook down and not be quite so large- however, if you would like them smaller you certainly can chop them. After cutting each veggie, toss right into your crock.

Peel the potatoes, and cut into pieces that will fit on a spoon. You don't want them too small- they'll overcook and get mushy, or too large- they won't cook through. If you keep in mind how big the piece will be when scooped up out of the stew, this is a good indication of how big it you want the pieces to be.

If using baby carrots, toss them in whole. Regular carrots would need to be peeled and cut into about 2" pieces. Celery- same thing! In goes green beans and corn too- they need to cook and get that wonderful flavor to soak through in there!

Trim the chicken of extra fat and ligaments. I know not everyone likes to trim chicken- it's quite gross. But, if you don't want to, you don't have to. It just removes the little bit of "extra" fat that doesn't get removed. The ligaments don't always cook down or become tender- you know what I'm talking about. Those pieces that you try to chew through but can't... You're welcome for that visual! That's what the ligament is. So be kind to your stew and those that will consume it, and trim you chicken breasts!

**Tip: Chicken is easier to cut when partially frozen.
Trim the meat first, and pop into freezer for about 20 min.
Remove, and slice away!

Cube the chicken into about 1.5" pieces. You want these pieces a little smaller than the potatoes, so they can pick up the other veggies without any problems. Toss into crock pot with garlic powder, black pepper and celery salt. You may add other spices per your taste- a bay leaf, sea salt, celery seed, etc.

Cook on high for 2 hours, then turn down to low for another 3-4 hours. Add flour, and stir occasionally.

When stew is thickened up and chicken is thoroughly cooked, add the sweet peas (if they're fresh) and cook for an additional 20 minutes to soften. If they're already frozen, they're cooked! To serve, spoon into bowls and enjoy with some fresh baked and buttered rolls!

How's that for ultimate comfort food?!

I promise, when mine is finished cooking.... I'll post a picture!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Not Italian... But Japanese

Call me crazy if you like, it's alright.

I miss being around here! I've made the resolution that I will, indeed, get back in to my food-making and posting. I've missed it greatly. I haven't really had a chance to blog much in regards to my recipes and it's quite a missed subject.

So, because a friend today was teasing me about having sushi for lunch today, I had to share pictures of the last venture.

I love sushi. I eat it often. Except for lately- I just haven't had the time to throw some together. So in the meantime, I'll share some of the various kinds I've created. Most of these pictures are from when I was home during my Christmas 2009 break.

(sorry, I'm already drooling over this food!!!!)

Dad was the one that originally got me in to making sushi two years back. He tossed a mat at me and said "Wanna help?"

"Um... Ok!" I grabbed the mat, watched for a few minutes, and got to happily rolling myself.

Rice is essential. And how it's cooked is essential. You can't just boil a pot of water, and expect sushi rice in 45 minutes. No. No no no no. Not that easy.

Now, that being said, I'm an expert rice cooker. Never burned a pot of rice- ever. Not even on an electric stove (I promise to tell you about the risotto I make in another post...), not on a gas stove, not anything. Never. But... Cooking my sushi rice in a pot never turned out quite right. It was always a little too starchy, or too dry. Never just right.

Thank you again to my Dad, who bought me a rice steamer as an early Christmas Present. He had it shipped down to me back in August, after seeing numerous facebook posts and pictures about how many sushi parties I was having, and how it's such a hit amongst my friends. Let me tell you... I LOVE IT!


The rice comes out perfect each time... And you can pull little batches out so you don't have to mix it all at once and have the rice cool down too much while trying to put your sushi together. Oh, I also don't use Kokuho Rose Rice any longer... The best one I like working with now is Nishiki. It's a lot easier to mix, and spread over your Nori. All this talking of what to do, I think I'll have to thaw some sushi items and put together a tutorial...! Soon! I'm going home for little more than a week... Perhaps once I return! But I digress:

Cover your rice with a damp dishtowel.
Other than that, a bowl full of ice and cold water is needed.
A rolling mat, of course.
Saran wrap (which is folded over the mat to keep from getting dirty)
Nori (seaweed wrapper that holds your sushi together, roasted is the best kind!)
A good cutting board (bamboo is wonderful)
A good sushi knife (can be found at Asian markets!)
Various fish (tuna, shrimp, tilapia, crab, lobster, unagi/eel, salmon, etc)
Various vegetables (cucumber, avocado, carrot, asparagus, eggplant, etc)

All these materials can be combined to make some truly delectable, mouthwatering treats!
Remember- Sushi is anything that's wrapped in rice. Anything! I made a delicious pulled chicken teriyaki roll one night! You can go all fish, all vegetarian, all cooked- the combinations are endless! There's even recipes that you can make where the rice is a little sweeter, and fruits like kiwi, strawberries, and melons are used! Yum!
While waiting on the tutorial, here's a look at some of the rolls and Nigiri I've made.

From top corner clockwise:
Spicy Shrimp Rolls & Spicy Tuna Rolls.
Yellowfin or Shrimp that's chopped up, mixed with chopped scallions,
Japanese Mayonnaise and a touch of the Spicy Sriracha Sauce.

Unagi- Grilled BBQ Eel with Unagi sauce.
Mouthwatering, and it tastes like really good chicken!

This platter hosts a variety of seafood clockwise starting from:
Shrimp Nigiri- love those tails!
Philadelphia Rolls- Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese & roll it up!
Dragon Rolls (minus the avocado on the outside, it wasn't ripe enough...) Eel & Avocado.
Tobiko Tekka Maki- Yellowfin Tuna with Tobiko topping

Ok this platter had to be my favorite. Hands down.
I love all the other stuff just fine... But... I tried something new. Two things in fact!
Clockwise from the pink-ish roll:
Spicy Shrimp Roll- same as Spicy Tuna, just a fish difference. And SO delicious!
California Roll- Crabstick, cucumber, avocado, wasabi and roll it up!

And finally, but certainly not the last post about Sushi,
the entire amount of sushi we served for dinner...
Minus a few rolls my Mom and Sister scarfed while waiting for us to cut it all!
I love making sushi with Dad!

Don't forget! Serve with Soy Sauce & Pickled Ginger!!
Believe it or not... We couldn't finish all this food! We had great lunch a day later!
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