Friday, September 30, 2011

Upside to the Down Economy/ Costco Rotisserie Chicken

Went to Cotsco yesterday. Hadn't been there in a while so got my meats, wines, Locatelli cheese and the greatest purchase of all, a $4.99 Rotisserie Chicken. My Aunt Josie claims they are THE BEST, better than Publix, better than anywhere. It is such a good deal, and after a day spent shopping etc... it is so easy to serve this delicious roasted chicken. Zeke bought a fresh chicken from Publix the other day and I almost fainted when I saw the $11 price tag! And then you have to clean it, cook it, and clean up the mess. When all is said and done, you just can't beat the pre-cooked chicken at Cotsco.

I had some leftover scraps today, so threw it on a Boboli pizza crust with garlic oil, chopped avocado, chopped tomato, scallions, corn, cilantro and a few slivers of habanero for a little Southwestern pizza, but could also have made a Cobb pizza with blue cheese, avocado, tomato and bacon or even the very yummy Bar-B-Q chicken with bar-b-q sauce, chicken, corn, jalapenos, scallions or onions and sharp cheddar cheese. Obviously, there are a ton of options for leftover chicken. Here is one of my favorite soups which uses leftover roasted chicken. It is Mmm...mmm. good!

Roasted Chicken Noodle Soup

2 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 garlic clove minced
1.4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp poultry seasoning
6 cups low salt chicken broth
4 cups diced peeled potato (about 2 med)
2 cups diced leftover chicken
1 cup evaporated skim milk
2 cups uncooked wide egg noodles
Fresh thyme

1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add chopped onion, carrots, celery and garlic close; sauté 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour, oregano, thyme and poultry seasoning over vegetables and cook 1 minute. Stir in broth, potato and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, 25 minutes or until potato is tender. Add chicken, milk and noodles and cook 10 minutes or until noodles are tender. Garnish with fresh thyme, if desired.

Yield: 2 1/2 quarts.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Corn Fritters

Faced with a ton of leftover corn-on-the-cob from a Bar-B-Q dinner, I decided to make corn fritters. I contemplated corn pudding, corn bread or just corn-off-the-cob, but corn fritters won out. They were SO easy and SO good, I had to blog about them. I basically just made pancakes from Bisquick, with the recipe on the box (2 cups Bisquick, 1 1/4 cups milk (I used less, maybe 1/2 cup for the right consistency) and 1 egg, beaten. I made this batter and then added the corn and a couple tablespoons of chopped chives from my garden. I had probably 2 cups of corn, but you could make this with less and even with corn from a can (drained first, of course). If you want to be healthier (although the fritters are fried, so forget that idea) you could use skim milk and egg whites, but I didn't. I heated up canola oil in my electric skillet to 360 (it's supposed to be 350, but the temp will drop once you add the batter), and dropped the batter, by tablespoon, into the hot oil. Watch carefully and when they are nicely browned on one side, turn them over. Take them out and drain on paper towel, salting lightly. Keep the finished fritters in a 200 degree oven to keep warm. Although these fritters were delicious on their own to "gild the lily", I added a spread of hot pepper jelly and a dollop of sour cream. These two flavor additions took my fritters from good to over the top great! So, if you find yourself with any leftover corn, you know what to do. On a fritter roll, I later made some zucchini fritters with feta and mint from Joy of Cooking pictured above. But, I have to say, they didn't come close to the heavenly corn fritters; leftovers have never tasted so good.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Chicken Soup for the Soul:Food and Love

I haven't blogged in more than a week due to my father-in-law Mort dying last Wednesday, September 14th. It was not unexpected - he had cancer that had spread- but we were thinking he would have six months and he died quickly in two. So, last week was a flurry of the Viewing, Funeral, Burial and all the decisions that go along with the ceremonies. I did not really contribute to any of the decision making (he has three sons and a widow) but wanted to do something to remember Mort, so I had lunch for the family after the burial, serving some of Mort's favorite dishes. A southern boy at heart, he loved fried chicken, so that was the entree. Due to time constraints, we picked it up at our neighborhood Publix. I made homemade collard greens (with pepper vinegar), mac and cheese and sliced some fresh tomatoes that I put on a platter with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Mort would make these wonderful Christmas breakfasts with light-as-air Southern biscuits, so we had to have biscuits to go along with the meal, but they were from-the-freezer type, served with butter and honey. Mort loved my guacamole, so I mixed up a batch of that, along with tortilla chips, salsa and some deviled eggs- a southern tradition. I kind of ran out of time and energy for dessert, so we made due with watermelon slices, which were cold, sweet and delicious. So, in my small way, I contributed.

I did get some good news last week, and that is that a story I wrote - Getting to Know Jennifer - is going to be included in the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology which is Food and Love. The story is about how I got to know my husband's deceased wife (Jennifer) through the recipes in her recipe book. When I was thinking about this blog, I realized the way I show love, many times, is through food that I serve. As in the meal I made for Mort's family, for Mort really. May he rest in peace and have all the fried chicken and biscuits he can eat.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Smoked Paprika

Smoked Paprika. I have been kind of obsessed with it lately, every since I brought a tin of it home from Barcelona, Spain. I saw Gwyneth Paltrow cooking with it on Ellen and thought "I need to get some of that when I go to Spain this summer." I purchased some medium smoked paprika at the famous La Boqueria market in Barcelona, and haven't looked back. In fact, my family's getting a little sick of hearing about Smoked Paprika. I have sprinkled it on deviled eggs, stirred it into scrambled eggs, made paprika butter to smear on corn on the cob, which I also used to saute chicken livers in and spread on the toast the chicken livers were place atop. Like I said, I've gone a little crazy over this red pixie dust and loved every minute of it.

I found a great website with Smoked Paprika recipes and so far have tried:

  • Smoked Paprika and Red Bell Pepper Soup

  • Cold Potato Salad with Bacon and Smoked Paprika

  • Spicy Grilled Beef Kabobs

  • Grilled Corn with Smoked Paprika Butter

  • Paprika Chicken with Blackberry Sauce

I made the Paprika Chicken last Sunday night, with the Blackberry Sauce. It was delicious, but probably wouldn't do the sauce again, since it was kind of a lot of trouble and I wasn't crazy about it. The rub for the chicken, however, was very simple.

1 1/2 Tablespoons Smoked Paprika

2 teaspoons coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

You rub this inside and outside of the chicken, stuff two fresh rosemary springs inside (you could also use basil or parsley), truss the chicken and put in a preheated 350 degree oven for an hour and a half. We had one of those roasters where the little white thing pops out so it was even easier. Doesn't it look delicious?

I served it with wild rice and some corn fritters that were so good I'm just going to have to blog about them at a later date. Smoked paprika is rich and complex with smokey overtones and can be used to develop rich flavors. The wonder of this fine, red spice is it instantly makes your dish taste more complex with very little effort. You can buy it at your local grocery store (McCormick's makes it) or even on Amazon. But, I have to tell you, getting it in Spain is a lot more fun! If you can't make it there, take a trip to Spain in your own kitchen by cooking with some Smoked Paprika!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Time is On My Side

What you see here is my handy dandy timer. I have been using it to time myself for swimming. Although I hoped to "up" my time to 30 minutes a day, it has remained at 20 most days. On the plus side, I have swum every day since I vowed to, even on days when it was raining and the pool was cold. I find using a timer gives me incentive to finish a task. I used this method on my daughter A.J. who, when doing her homework, would go off in search of a piece of paper and return an hour later. The kitchen timer helped focus her attention and gave her a tangible end point. I have been using this method for years to "trick myself" into cleaning the kitchen. I set the timer for 10 minutes and start cleaning. Most times, I am done before the buzzer rings, but if I'm not, I just usually keep cleaning the few minutes it takes to get it done. Who wants to look at dirty dishes? I have also employed this technique with writing, although I have to say with less success. It's like a gun to my head to get me to WRITE! Of course, there are variations on this theme, like an actor who gives themselves a year to break into the business, or a women who wants to have all their children before they're thirty. I was one of the latter, but after raising my three, I met Zeke, got married and am now raising three more. And A.J., the homework wanderer, has just moved back in with us, bringing our grand total of our children in the house to five. Maybe we are the Brady Bunch! This is also a great method for procrastinators. So, if there is an unpleasant task that you hate to do, see if the timer method works for you.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ The Skinny on Fiber

Which of the above foods do you think has the most fiber?

Getting enough fiber in our diet is important, especially as we age and things tend to... slow down. When I think of fiber, I envision eating lots of fruits and veggies. While fruits and veggies are good to increase in most any healthy eating plan, the biggest winner in high fiber foods is Beans! That's right, the magical fruit is packed with fiber! Kidney and black beans had the most fiber, coming in at a whopping 19 grams per cup, followed by Pinto (18 g), Baked Beans (16 g) and chickpeas (12 g). So get yourself a second helping of baked beans the next time you're at a Bar-B-Q. After beans are Avocado, another surprise because with it's smooth and silky texture, you don't think fiber. It weighs in at 11 grams, followed by All Bran Cereal (no surprise here) at 10 grams per 1/2 cup.

Here are the rest of the results of my research with fiber:

1) Figs 3 dried, 10.5 grams Most dried fruits are pretty high in fiber, but who knew figs had more than good ole prunes (now called dried plums)?

2) Bulgur 1 cup cooked, 9.6 grams

3) Peas, green 1/2 cup, 9.1 grams

4) Oatmeal, 3/4 cup cooked, 7.7 grams

5) Yams, 1 medium, with skin 6.8 grams

6) Lentils, red, cooked 1 cup, 6.4 grams

7) Whole Wheat Bread, 6.0 grams

8) Broccoli, 1 cup, cooked, Corn, 1 ear, on the cob 5.0 grams

9) Artichoke, 1 medium, cooked, 4.5

10) Raspberries, red, 1/2 cup, 4.6

As you can see, most fruits and veggies fall into the lower scale of the fiber chart. While the recommended amount of fiber is between 20 to 35 grams per day, most Americans get about half of that. Fiber helps lower blood cholesterol levels, prevents constipation, slows digestion and can help you eat less and lose weight. If you want to add fiber to your diet, do it slowly. If you go full guns, you may experience "too loose" bowel syndrome. Of course, you can always use fiber supplements, such as Metamucil, Benefiber or, as my daughter does, Splenda with fiber.

Regarding the picture at the top of the page, if you've read this far you probably know the fiber winner, but here's the order of fiber, from highest to lowest.

1) Black Beans 1 cup 19 grams

2)Broccoli, 1 cup raw 7.0 grams

3) Whole Wheat Bread, 1 slice 6.0 grams

4) Apple, 1 medium, raw, 4.0

5) Prunes, 5, 3.0