Monday, October 28, 2013

Mmmm Beer Gravy....

Okay, so it's been over a week since I've wanted to share this recipe.  I have about five reasons as to why I'm just getting to it now, two of which are pretty good ones but I'll spare you the details.  A few weeks back I was chatting with a friend at a soccer game about food and dinners (shocker) and the topic of the o'll Crock Pot came up.  The slow cooker is just so fantastic in theory but I feel like I rarely find a recipe that excites me.  I do have a few posted on this blog but they tend to be a variety of Asian pork or the all time fave of the whole chicken which I re posted from 100 Days of Real Food. This recipe, Slow-Cooker Stout & Chicken Stew from Eating Well does involve a little bit of prep but not too much.  They do give tips at the end of the recipe to do some of the prep ahead to save time in the morning.  There are two things I love about this, there is no canned soup involved and there is canned beer involved.  Who doesn't love an excuse to have an extra Guinness on hand?  OK, maybe a few but just work with me here.  You can click the link above for the recipe and I will include it again at the end.
One of my least favorite things to do is browning meat for a recipe.  I will say however, it is must less annoying to brown a few chicken thighs than to brown some big hunk of pork or beef.  You get some flour for dredging and a little salt and pepper.
Lightly coat your boneless, skinless chicken thighs, shaking off the excess.
Next, of course, comes the browning.  Just heat a little bit of oil in the pan and get to work.
When they're brown, you place them in the bottom of the slow-cooker in as close to a single layer as you can.
Next up, bacon.  Mmmmm.  Bacon.  This is just three slices.  I find it so much easier to cut raw bacon with some kitchen scissors rather than trying to chop it with a knife.  Raw bacon sticks to the knife.  This is quicker and easier if you have them.
Now cook the bacon for a couple of minutes until it starts to crisp up a tad.
Add flour to the bacon and cook a couple of minutes more.
Now you add that can of stout.  Mmmmm.  Stout.  Did you know that Guinness only has 125 calories per serving?  It's really not horrible as far as beer goes.  And this is spread around an entire recipe that makes 8 servings so better yet.
Once you add the stout, stir it up and scrape all the yummy bits off the bottom of the pan.
Then pour it over the chicken in the slow-cooker.
Add garlic and thyme....
carrots (these colorful lovelies are from our garden)....
mushrooms (which I don't particularly like, but I do like the flavor they add to the ensemble)....
(get them all in there on top of that chicken)
And top with chicken stock or broth.  I've been talking a lot lately about reading labels and this is a big one.  You will notice that some brands of stock report "lower sodium" all over the front of the can or carton.  Read the numbers.  Turns out it's just lower than their regular one.  This brand is lower than all of them (in our store anyway).
So that's it.  Put the lid on and let it cook all day.  You can go 4 hours on high or 8 on low which is usually the more convenient option. 
About 10 minutes before serving, add a cup of peas.  Another thing I'm not crazy about but I was a big girl and ate my peas AND mushrooms (thank you very much).
And there it is all finished.  My kids loved this, especially the boy.  The boy who's favorite meal to request is chicken pot pie.  Chicken pot pie takes about three days to make (in my experience...).  I hate making chicken pot pie but luckily this satisfied his craving!  I think next time I'll make some biscuits and that should really do the trick.
We had it over rice with a nice side salad.  So if this looks good click the Eating Well link and get cookin.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Get The Creep Out Of The Kitchen

So, how many of you are reading labels on your food?  I'll admit, we haven't always paid a ton of attention to labels in our house, but in recent years it has become more and more important to us.  I'm not talking about calories and fats (although my kids now love to report the number of sugar grams in any given packaged food....doesn't mean they won't want to eat it of course but they are at least aware I guess....) and serving sizes.  While those are important pieces of the picture, today I'm talking ingredients.  When I held a kids cooking class this summer, the first thing we did was to look at the ingredient lists on some foods that some kids eat regularly.  Doritos, Oreos, and Ritz crackers.  Doritos, have close to 30 ingredients including MSG, 3 dyes and "Artificial and Natural flavors" whatever that means (actually I know what that means but its disgusting and for another day).  The Oreos contain the dreaded high fructose corn syrup and in recent days, articles are popping up online about studies that show they can be as addictive as cocaine.  Great.  The Ritz crackers contain partially hydrogenated oils (a.k.a. trans fat) as well as high fructose corn syrup (and more of those natural flavors).  These examples may not surprise you, as hopefully even if you're not super careful or on top of what you're eating you probably didn't expect these items to be good for you. 

On Monday, Nelsy and the kids had the day off for Columbus Day.  Nels and Hayden went to get some groceries and to pick up a couple of ingredients to make pot stickers.  We had a bunch of cabbage from our CSA box and some ground pork from our meat box and basically needed some won ton wrappers to complete the meal.  He just happened to read the label (honestly this might be one of those things that I would not have thought about looking at) and sees that propylene glycol (also found in break fluid and antifreeze) was in the ingredient list.  OK, so the FDA considers it "generally recognized as safe" for consumption but really?  Must we have all this creepy stuff in our food? Yuck.

When they returned from the store Nelsy dug out our Blue Ginger cookbook by Ming Tsai and found a simple recipe for the dough that contains 3 ingredients.  One of them is water.  Of course making the dough added some steps to the process but we all agreed that they tasted way better and we liked them better than the ones we get from our Chinese take out place (admittedly this is not saying a whole lot).  It was a day off, he started on them a little early (time for the dough to rise) and wrangled a cute little helper to assist (not me, Phoebe). 

It's fun to cook with your kids.  It's like doing crafts but with out a bunch or glitter and googly eyes all over the place.  You get to eat the project when your done.  They actually learn something and they feel very accomplished when it turns out.  Don't they look happy with their big pile of shredded cabbage?
Here they are wringing out the water.  (Disregard dirty dishes)
Here we have chicken marinating for the stir fry, bok choy ready to go, and little dough circles getting rolled out to be filled.
All wrapped up we had enough for dinner plus two more dinners that we froze.  There you go, another added bonus.  Stir fry is a super quick week night dinner and having homemade pot stickers in the freezer makes it that much better!
There is nothing creepy about this dinner!  I had posted these pictures on the Who's Got The Thyme? Facebook page and at least a couple of you wanted to give it a shot.  I found the recipe on Food Network which seems to be the same recipe as our cookbook but the book called for four cups of cabbage and the website says two so....I'd go with four.  Or as close to four as you can. So click the link and get cookin!  And for Pete's sake read your labels!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Easy Fall Fare

It's been quite sometime since I tried a new recipe and shared it with you.  September has come and gone like a whirlwind.  School, sports, a vacation two weeks into school, back from vacation, back to work, catch a cold and BAM.  It's October.  So, for those of you who embrace fall, love squash, pick up some squash while at the pumpkin patch, or like us, have an abundance of squash from your CSA box, I give to you Chickpea Spinach Squash Gnocchi.  The name is long but the time required to make it is not.  You will find the recipe in the link above, as I took some liberties when I made it.  See what you think, it went over really well in our house.
The first change I made was adding spicy Italian sausage, which made this nice healthy meal slightly less healthy but a little heartier.  We buy our beef and pork from a farm too and every month there are a couple of pounds of organic ground pork or sausage.  I had about a half pound leftover from making pizza's (found it while digging for something in the freezer over the weekend) so I thought I'd throw it in.  Also I thought the red pepper flakes in the sausage would do us some good since three out of four of us have a cold.  I just browned it up and then drained it on paper towels.
Next you get some gnocchi in the pan with a touch of oil and brown them up.  This was refrigerated gnocchi but not frozen.  If you buy frozen you do need to boil them before this browning step.
While those are browning up, get your squash, shallots and garlic chopped up.  This is delicata squash but you can use butternut instead.  This type is nice because you don't have to peel it so it saves a step.
Just cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds with a spoon and thinly slice.  I cut these slices down a little more.
Once your gnocchi has browned up, remove to a bowl and add a little more oil to the pan.
Add the shallots, garlic and squash to the pan along with some fresh or dried sage (I was pretty excited to use about 8 leaves off of my sage plant that is now a bush...).
After that cooks for a couple of minutes you add salt, pepper, currants (which I left out because I am totally opposed to anything raisin-like in my food) and broth.  I used a combo of chicken broth (had some to use up in the fridge) and vegetable broth which is what the recipe calls for.  I'm sure it would be good no matter which one you used.  This simmers for about 8 min or until the squash is cooked through.
While that's simmering, get some spinach rinsed and chopped.
Get some chick peas out.  Always rinse your chick peas because otherwise you will add a ton of sodium to your meal and that's the last thing we need.
Then you're going to add the gnocchi, (in my case) sausage, chick peas and spinach to the pan and mix together until the spinach is wilted.  If you feel like you have way too much spinach and you can't even find all those other ingredients that you worked on, give it 3 min and you'll wonder where all the spinach went and why you didn't add more.  It's tricky like that.  This recipe also calls for a little balsamic vinegar at the end.  I put a couple of tablespoons in there but probably wouldn't have missed it if I didn't (of course I did add spicy sausage...).
This was an easy weeknight dinner, that I would definitely make again.  If it looks good to you, click on this Eating Well link for the full recipe.  Happy October! I hope your weather is as fantastic as ours (and I'm not even being sarcastic)!