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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fried Chicken Tenders

If you eat meat, you like fried chicken.  It's true.  And if you comment and tell me you don't, I will just call you a liar, so don't bother.

This is an easy, quick fried chicken.  It makes little mess, since you don't need as much oil as you would if you were using bone-in chicken pieces.  My measurements are ballpark figures and can be adjusted to suit your own tastes.  I always err on the side of too much breading mix, and that is reflected here.

Meat just isn't that pretty in pictures.  But there it is, anyway.

Fried Chicken Tenders

1-2 lbs. chicken tenders, depending on how many you want to eat

Breading mix:
1 c. flour (any kind is fine)
1/2 c. bread crumbs (mine were wheat, but any kind would work, even Italian if you wanted that)
a generous shake or 5 of garlic powder
pepper to taste
a few shakes of season salt if you want

vegetable oil

In a ziploc (because we're working smart), combine the ingredients for the breading mix.  Close the bag and shake it to combine.  Open your chicken package(s) and rinse the chicken with water and just throw them in there.  Close again and shake to coat.  Let it just sit there on the counter for 5 or 10 minutes.

In a large frying pan, pour oil so that it will go about half-way up the side of your fattest piece of chicken.  That is probably only about 1/2 inch or so.  Heat your oil up on medium-high heat.  It's ready when you sprinkle some water in there and it sizzles like crazy.  This should take about 5 minutes or so, to be good and hot.  What makes for gross, greasy chicken?  Oil that isn't hot enough.

Once the oil is ready, add the chicken one piece at a time, shaking off excess breading.  Don't crowd them in the pan or they will steam instead of getting crunchy on the outside.  You might have to do two batches; you'll use the same oil.  Depending on the thickness of the chicken, it could take 3-5 minutes per side.  You can pull one out and cut it to check it.  Mine took about 3 minutes on each side for the ones that I didn't let get real crispy because I was impatient.  It was about 4 minutes for each side for the ones that were nice and brown.  It's up to you.

Since you're the cook and you cut one open to make sure it's done, you can eat that one.  Does it need salt?  If it needs it, sprinkle a little salt over the top of the plate of cooked chicken.  This is good hot, but is also good cold.  Mmmm.... If you've never had cold fried chicken, you should start.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I'm Just in the Way

I often find myself disappointed and discontent.  I just spent an entire year studying contentment using Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman's Guide to Finding Contentment.  Great book, by the way.  She really emphasizes that my failure to set my eyes on things above is leading me to discontentment.  So true.  It's very easy to do in the busyness of life:  keeping house, teaching kids, ministering through MOPS and at church, rinse, repeat.

I don't know how to correct this failure in myself other than reading my Bible and praying.  Even making myself busy at church doesn't necessarily mean that I am focusing on God, and not on myself.  Lately I am doing it on autopilot.

I find myself frustrated by this answer, like it isn't somehow going to work.  I haven't made any time for reading my Bible in a long time.  I have been praying almost every day, but my prayer life really is suffering and I know it.

I have also noticed that my expectations are often WAY too high.  I am a perfectionist.  Not that I will work at something until it's perfect, but that I have a vision of how it should be and if it isn't that way, then (a) I won't even make an attempt so as to avoid failure or (b) I'll be miserable because it's WRONG.  See, that is just expectation.  Someone wise once told me that if I use the word "should" a lot, especially about myself, it means I am expecting way too much.  I have high expectations of myself that I can never realize, and so I am disappointed in myself, frustrated, and discontent.

In this scenario, it's all about me.

There's where I've gone wrong.  I'm focusing on self.  What can I accomplish?  How can I change?  Instead, I need to focus on God, which would turn my questions into:  What can God accomplish through me?  How will God change me?  How can God be glorified through me?

I think that is exactly how I want to pray.  I know that I am called to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let my requests be made to God.  There's the answer.  I have to share my heart and soul with God (even though he knows, he likes to hear).  I have to pray about my needs.  And do all of if with thanksgiving.  It turns out that time with God really is the answer.

I really over complicate things sometimes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vegetarian -- We're Done!

Silly was the only one who remained vegetarian for the entire week.  Well, it was 6 days, because on day 7 we went to a funeral luncheon and there was meat, meat, everywhere meat, on the buffet.  On day 6 I caved and had some fish.  Oh well.

Things I learned:
1.  I don't actually want to be a vegetarian.  It's more than my love of bacon that stops me.
2.  If I had to be a vegetarian for health reasons or similar, I could.  I think.
3.  Indian food is really easy to cook.  I am going to make more of it.
4.  Most of my friends are quite supportive of my random schemes and plots.  That's nice.
5.  My kids are adventurous eaters.  Okay, I knew that.  But it is worth pointing out.
6.  We were in a food rut, mostly because I claim to be busy, but really it's because I've been lazy.
7.  We ate SO MUCH fruit this week.  A lot more than usual.  We should always eat that much fruit.
8.  We need to eat more veggies.  There are lots of places to throw them in while cooking, or ways to make them super tasty.
9.  It would be nice if people thought about what vegetarians might like to eat at their events.  And at restaurants.  Gardenburger?  For real?
10.  There's going to be cauliflower pie in heaven.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Vegetarian -- Day Five

Day Five
Breakfast:  bagel/cereal bar choice (Really, I can't believe I haven't made one breakfast yet.  Sad.)
Lunch:  spaghetti, sauteed cauliflower and broccoli, garlic bread
Dinner:  aloo gobi, samosas, pita (yes, wrong bread, I know)

Aloo gobi, samosa, chutney and pita

I love Indian food.  For real.  I think I might've died of food boredom without it.  It's so delicious.  If you've never had it, I'm sad for you.  The best thing for a first-timer is to head to your local Indian buffet and try some of everything.  Be brave.  You will love it.

One of my favorite buffet staples is aloo gobi.  Mmmm.  I love cauliflower.  But you know that already if you've read this blog lately.  Anyway, it turns out that this dish is very easy to make at home.  It only took about 20 minutes, which is a bonus.  I forgot to make rice, but you don't really need it.  I wanted naan, but we didn't have any.  I thought about whipping up some chapati, but opted instead to just have pita.  I had samosas in the freezer, so we had those too.  And do NOT even get me started on how good coriander chutney is.  We dipped the samosas in the chutney, and some of it got on the aloo gobi.  So tragic.  Yum.  If you like cilantro, you want to try to get your mitts on a jar of this little piece of heaven on earth. You cilantro-haters...well, you're weird.  But I love you anyway.

Aloo Gobi
adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian

peanut or canola oil, or ghee for shallow frying
1 lb. new or red potatoes, cut into 1" cubes
1 head cauliflower, cut into small flowerets (small, they only fry for 4 minutes, then steam for 4 more)
1 tbsp. minced ginger
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric (I subbed curry powder here)
3/4-1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander (I left this out)
3 tbsp. coarsely chopped cilantro

Put the oil or ghee in a large frying pan and set over medium heat.  (Remember, I said large.)  When hot, add potatoes and fry until golden and almost tender, about 10 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels.  Turn heat to medium-high and add cauliflower, frying about 3-4 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Turn off heat.  Remove all oil but about 2 tbsp. from the pan.  Turn heat to medium-high and add ginger.  Stir 10 seconds.  Return potatoes and cauliflower to pan and turn to medium.  Add turmeric, salt, cayenne, cumin and coriander.  Stir to coat veggies.  Add 3 tbsp. water.  Stir once and cover the pan.  Turn to low and cook about 4-5 minutes.  Add cilantro, toss, and eat.

Aloo gobi.  So pretty you could eat it.

I'm categorizing this as thrifty only because I had all the spices already.  If you had to buy them all, it would add around $10 to your cost.  But cauliflower and potatoes cost less than $5.  We are getting two meals out of this.

Weeks in Review

The end is near!

I made an appointment for Scrappy's evaluation this week.  That means we are almost done!  This is our first time being evaluated, as the school age in PA is 8.  So we've been collecting things for the portfolio and I have been thinking about the last few weeks of school.

Goofy enjoys a nice day.

Baseball season has started again!  Funny got co-MVP at her first game.

Silly turned 5.

Scrappy rides his bike.

The race is on!

Fun with Bendaroos.

I tried really hard to get back on track this week.  We did do some math and everyone has been reading.  We haven't touched our science in a while, but we've been watching Mythbusters and The Jeff Corwin Experience.  I mean, it's something, right?  I am feeling the pressure to finish things up, so I suppose I better come up with a plan.  That I probably won't follow.

Vegetarian -- Day Four

Day Four
Breakfast: toast w pb and fruit (me), pineapple and banana-chocolate chip bars (Hub and kids)
Lunch:  mac and cheese with veggies
Dinner:  pancakes and onion rings (me) I know that's not healthy, cheese pizza and cottage cheese (Silly), meat (everyone else)

We ended up going out to dinner with the family, and so most everyone ate meat last night.  Eh.  Silly and I are the last hold-outs here.

I love homemade macaroni and cheese.  For real.  I don't usually add veggies, but I think I will from now on.  It's an easy way to increase our veggie consumption.  I mean, they are covered in cheese.  Yum.

Macaroni and Cheese

1 lb. pasta of choice (I used wagon wheels)
1/4 to 1/2 onion, finely chopped
4 tbsp. butter
up to 1/4 c. flour (or so)
1 lb. cheese, shredded (I used cheddar, and a few slices of cojack that I needed to use up)
1 1/2 c. milk
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
pepper to taste
veggies of choice (see below)

Preheat oven to 350.  Put the pasta on to cook.  Be careful not to overcook it.  In fact, because it bakes a little, I usually drain it just before it's done.  That's me.  In a skillet, melt butter (you could use less, and then you need less flour).  Saute onion and garlic until opaque.  Add flour to soak up the butter, stirring with a wooden spoon.  Oh look!  You've made a roux!  Now you want to add the milk and let it warm up.  Add the cheese, and stirring frequently, let it cook and melt (this takes about 5 minutes).  You can add some pepper here, too.  Once it is just about all melted, turn up the heat to a brief boil, stirring constantly.  That helps it to thicken.

For the veggies, I used a bag of frozen mixed veggies (broccoli, corn and red peppers).  You could just saute some of whatever you have in your fridge, or use a whole bag of broccoli or whatever.  It's up to you.  I did saute the frozen veggies for a little bit in a pan to thaw them out most of the way.  I also put a very light sprinkling of salt over them.

Put the veggies, cooked pasta, and sauce into a large bowl or right into the casserole if you want to wash fewer dishes (who doesn't?).  Stir to coat everything with the cheese.

Bake, uncovered, 10 minutes.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Vegetarian -- Days Two and Three

Cauliflower-Cheese Pie, I love you

Day Two
Breakfast:  granola bar/cereal/yogurt/fruit choice
Lunch:  nachos with madras lentils --I need to make these from scratch, because they are so delicious and taste like chili (me), leftover peanut noodles (Hub), pb&j with veggies and popcorn (kids)
Dinner:  cheese pizza (me), roast beef sandwich (Hub, he forgot), spaghetti (kids)

Day Three
Breakfast:  granola bars (yes, I have not made a single breakfast this week)
Lunch:  leftovers, fruit, pretzels
Dinner:  cauliflower cheese pie

We had a death in the family this week, so we're all a bit mopey.  Hub's meat-relapse occurred at the hospital, and is certainly forgivable.  I mean, we're not doing this for any reason other than because we can.  No one signed a contract or anything.  I am not surprised to learn that baking the cauliflower cheese pie actually made me feel a lot better.  You know I am passionate about, well, everything, but I really love cooking and it helped me channel some nervous energy and taking care of my family in this way was comforting.

Now onto the recipe for the cauliflower cheese pie.

This is a Moosewood recipe.  I really love this cookbook.  It's full of tasty recipes and is all hand-lettered, which makes it extra nice.  It's full of exotic things (for the time--1970s) such as hummus and guacamole.  It is one of the books that I would never get rid of, and would love to pass down to one of my children one day.  See how much I love it?

Sample of the art in the book.  Lovely.

Cauliflower-Cheese Pie
adapted from Moosewood Cookbook

Potato Crust:
2 c., packed, grated raw potato
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c. grated onion

Heat oven to 400.  Let the shredded potatoes sit a few minutes and then squeeze the liquid out of the potatoes (you can use a cheesecloth, colander and your hands, or paper towels).  Combine potatoes, salt, egg and onion.  Pat it into a well-greased 9" pie plate, building up the sides of the crust with your fingers.  Bake 30 minutes and then brush with a little oil and bake 15 more minutes.

1 medium cauliflower, broken into small flowerets
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. chopped onion
2 tbsp. butter
dash thyme
1/2 tsp. basil (I happened to have fresh, dried is fine)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 heaping, packed cup of shredded cheddar cheese
2 eggs
1/4 c. milk
pepper to taste
paprika to taste

Turn the oven down to 375.  Melt butter in skillet.  Saute onion and garlic in butter for about 5 minutes.  Add herbs and cauliflower and cook, covered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Spread half the cheese into the baked crust, then top with the cauliflower filling, then the rest of the cheese.  Beat the eggs, milk, and pepper then pour mixture over the pie.  Dust with paprika.  Bake 35-40 minutes until set.

I have had this cookbook for years, and am a little bitter I never made this pie until this week.  Hub and I agree that it goes on the list of the best things I have EVER made.  The recipe claims it feeds 4 people.  And my vegetarian friend also agrees, 4 people, though that is with a salad.  I feel pretty confident in reporting that it could feed 2 people.  I'm just saying.  Next time I am doubling it for sure, especially since I only used 1/2 of my head of cauliflower.  It's quite addictive.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Vegetarian -- Day One

It's only seven days.  I know some people are always vegetarian.  We have friends who were vegetarian for a month.  There's some movement to get people to go meatless on Mondays.  I'm feeling optimistic.  It's not like I am worried about Hub and myself.  We're grown adults (technically).  It's the kids.  I have one kid who doesn't really like to try new things.  I have a meat-loving child who has been dreading the day he ever suggested trying out vegetarianism.  But he has survived today, and even liked what he ate.  A lot.

Breakfast:  apple with peanut butter (me), yogurt/fruit/granola bar/cereal choice (them)
Lunch:  veggie wrap with lettuce, tomato, carrots, cukes and ranch (me and Scrappy), leftover mushroom pizza (Hub), pb&j (everyone else)
Dinner:  carrots with garlic & thyme, peanut noodles
I admit that I hope my evening involves a scoop of ice cream.

Noodles covered in peanut butter sauce are not very photogenic.
However, those pieces of garlic are gorgeous.

Roasted Carrots with Garlic and Thyme
adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

2 lbs. baby carrots (or regular carrots, cut into chunks; baby carrots were cheaper at my store)
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
10ish little garlic cloves, unpeeled
generous tsp. dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Put the carrots in a 13x9 casserole and toss with oil and season with salt and pepper.  Stick the garlic here and there in the pan.  Sprinkle with thyme.  Add 2 tbsp. water and cover tightly with foil.  Bake under they are as tender as you like, 25-45 minutes.  Check them a couple times to make sure they aren't drying out.  Uncover for the last 5-10 minutes so they can brown a bit, if you want.

These were SUPER good.  I love this cookbook; it is one of my favorites.  I had never made this recipe before, and I will definitely make it again.  As a bonus, the garlic pops right out of the skin and you can eat it and ward off vampires.

Peanut Noodles aka Gado-Gado
adapted from Moosewood Cookbook

1/2 c. chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. natural peanut butter
1 tbsp. honey
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. grated ginger
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
3 c. water
1 tsp. salt
dash tamari or soy sauce
couple dashes sesame oil
2 tbsp. butter
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (or less, up to you)
1/3 c. peanuts, crushed with the side of your knife
cooked noodles, such as spaghetti or soba (about 2 lbs.)

In pot, melt butter.  Add onion, garlic, bay leaf, and ginger.  Saute until onion is translucent.  Add remaining ingredients except peanuts, cilantro, and noodles.  Simmer on low for 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally.

Pour the sauce over your noodles.  Chill at least an hour (more is better).  Before serving, stir in peanuts and cilantro.  You could eat this hot, too.  I just wanted mine cold.  See, it's flexible.

Now I totally admit that gado-gado is not meant to be served this way.  You're supposed to serve it over an assortment of veggies and hard-boiled eggs.  But I really wanted peanut noodles.  So I made this work for us.

Three out of four kids liked these noodles (in fact, one loved them).  One kid made horrible faces and told me peanut butter doesn't belong on noodles (yes, the picky one).  The meat-lover told me that they would really be good if I added some chicken.  Sigh.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Vegetarian Recipes Needed!

A while back, I was talking to the kids about lobsters, and somehow, that turned into a conversation about factory farming and vegetarianism.  I know, things are kind of odd here sometimes.  Maybe all the time.  As a result of this conversation, we decided we would take a stab at being vegetarian for a week.  Now, I love many, many vegetarian dishes.  I don't really need meat, except for the occasional slice of bacon.

I thought I would ask any of my faithful readers if they have a favorite vegetarian dish they would like to share?  Some considerations:  we have baseball a few nights next week, so I need a portable dish or two that would we can eat while watching the game.  Also, we might be going to a cookout, and I could use a suggestion there, as well.  I know we could just eat massive amounts of side dishes, but there has to be a better way.