Saturday, November 29, 2008

Spinach Salad

The spinach salad we've been having:

Rotisserie Chicken
Chow Mein Noodles
Poppyseed Dressing

Oh, yum.

Note to self: add Carrots next time.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Walking Desk

I am typing this while walking, very slowly, on my treadmill. Yipee! I am happy beyond all proportion. This guy, Dr. James Levine, gave me (and a gazillion other people) the idea when he appeared on 20/20 this summer. I made DH watch the segment with me, and steeled myself to fight for my right to walk and work/play at the same time. Turns out I did not have to fight at all - he was totally on board. We are both sick of being sick. So here I am, 3 months later... there are still wires hanging all over, but I am moving by behind instead of sitting on it! Plus I can watch videos or listen to music while I am really working out, instead of just facing a blank wall (it has been a long and boring 3 months). When we get all this junk organized, I will post some pictures.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Carnitas and Spinach Ravioli (but not together)

We had the carnitas yesterday. I followed the instructions as closely as possible: crockpot on low for 6 hours, then scoop onto a cookie sheet and pour over oj and grate on orange zest. I also used a little lime zest, since I got limes for the wraps (soft tacos, burritos, fajitas, whatever you call them). Then cook at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes to crisp up the cubes of pork. I only did about 20 minutes, because it seemed like they were drying out more than crisping up. I probably diced them too small. I put the meat back in the crockpot with the cooking liquid, so I'm not sure the baking made any difference.

The whole reason I wanted to make carnitas was because of Chevy's. Hubby was so happy when Chevy's opened here - it was at least as good as the restaurants we used to eat at in San Diego county, and light years better than the "Mexican" places you might find around here. We went there whenever we could afford to go out, which was not weekly, but often enough. Then it closed down. Hubby was anguished. He couldn't drive past the empty building without getting distressed all over again. Years later, he still isn't quite over it. The carnitas was my favorite dish there, so I decided to try making some. Later on, I will have to re-create chicken nachos from the now-defunct Grilled Pepper. I'd rather just go pick some up. Sigh.

The meat turned out much more tender than I was expecting. I don't know why I thought it would be dry - maybe because "the other white meat" looks a lot like chicken breast when it is diced and slow-cooked, and chicken breast can get dry if you are not careful. Moist and tender, yes; flavorful, no. It was quite spicy, yet surprisingly lacking in flavor. That is one of my least favorite tastes - Empty Hot. Burning Bland. Bleh. We ate it on flour tortillas with crunchy-good cabbage, avocado (not quite ripe, so also flavorless), sour cream, and a squeeze of lime. I wished it was a fish taco and not flavorless carnitas. I have 2 quart freezer bags left - I just have to figure out how to make it taste good. I'm thinking lots of mild enchilada sauce and cheese.

I Googled Chevy's carnitas, and it turns out you can buy a whole cookbook of authentic Chevy's recipes, including carnitas. I can't fathom why I did not do this in the first place.

I have been trying to think of a way to fix frozen ravioli for my kids that does not require boiling the ravioli. I hate babysitting it to make sure it is just simmering, then trying to drain them without breaking them, which they inevitably do anyway, making a mess in pots and colanders alike. I can't just dump in some pasta sauce and throw it in the oven, because they won't eat it that way. They like it with butter and maybe a bit of parmesan.

Today I mixed up a "sauce" of 1 cup chicken stock, 1/2 cup lemon juice, and 1/2 cup (eek) butter. I put a few layers of frozen spinach ravioli in the crock pot and poured the sauce over each layer (hoping if all the raviolis were wet, they wouldn't turn into a very sticky pasta cake). Cooked on low for 4ish hours. The top was a bit dry and the bottom a bit soggy, but it was delicious. And not stuck together. And some of the soggy ones split open, but at least the mess is contained in one pot and not stuck in colander crevices. All of the sauce was absorbed (which means we actually ate all that butter...) One kid complained about a "weird taste" that turned out to be the lemon. It was pretty lemony. Maybe I could reduce the lemon and butter and use more chicken stock.

As I was putting them in the crock, it hit me that I should be steaming them like dumplings or tamales. Maybe I will try that next - but only if I can devise a mess-free, dishwasher-safe steamer.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Everybody's Favorite Soup, Part Two

This was yummy.

Everybody’s Favorite Soup

1 T canola oil
1 med. sweet onion, chopped
½ - 1 bunch celery, chopped
¼ - ½ C. dried mushrooms, reconstituted and chopped
2 med. carrots, chopped
Salt & pepper
2 T. flour
5 C. ? chicken broth (or water + chicken base)
1 - 2 C. spinach leaves
2 C. precooked, shredded chicken with broth (or shredded rotisserie chicken)

Heat oil in a big heavy pot.
Cook onions, celery, mushrooms, and carrot until soft. Season.
Sprinkle flour over veg; cook 5 min.
Add broth; cook 10 min.
Blend in pot with immersion blender.
Add spinach; cook 3 min.
Blend again, leaving spinach flecks.
Add shredded chicken with broth; heat through.
Serve over cottage cheese, or with shredded cheese on top.

I remembered to cook just chicken bones with no veggies in the crockpot for the broth. I like to do this so I can just strain out the chicken bones and pour the stock from the gravy separator. The veggies stay in the finished soup for nutrition and thickening. The first time I made this, I blended the spinach in with the other veggies, but it turned out a bit too greenish for my taste! It is hard to tell from the picture, but it has bits of orange carrot with the green spinach in yellowish soup. Doing it it two steps makes the soup prettier.

When I was a kid, my mother ate tomato soup with cottage cheese in it. I thought that was really weird, until I grew up and tried it. Yum. Now I put a scoop at the bottom of all my soup bowls. It adds this great hot/cold/constantly changing in a melty way element to the soup eating experience. And if you can remember the last time you had a bowl of Campbell's Chicken Noodle (booorinnng!), you know that is a good thing.

You don't need cottage cheese AND grated cheese; I just added it for... um, the photo... yeah, that's why...

Everybody's Favorite Soup, Part One, and a start for Carnitas

Today I started working on Carnitas. I picked this recipe because Katie makes it in her crockpot, and, unlike the other recipes I looked at, it uses no beer. We don't drink beer, and I don't know where to get just one bottle. And I don't want to waste any hours of my life sourcing beer.

I cut up some pork roast from Costco and put it in a gallon Ziplock with all the other ingredients except the orange juice and orange zest. Then I put it in the fridge, because we decided to have it another day, which is good, because I don't have any orange juice or orange zest.

Instead we are having Everybody's Favorite Soup, which has that name because my picky hubby likes it, and my kids only groaned a little. I cooked 4 chicken thighs (I happened to have defrosted) in the oven, then took the meat off to save for the end of cooking. The bones and skin are in the crockpot on high with a bunch of water, to make broth. I was thinking of making the soup in the crockpot this time, but I don't think it will work out - it's already 2:30. That's OK - at least I am getting the most out of those bones.

This is my public blog...

Coming soon: food experiments, homekeeping frustrations, creative brainstorming, and other stuff I don't mind sharing with friends and strangers. Unlike Crockpot Lady, I promise nothing.