Experiments

My own personal chicken-based rebellion

NOTE:  This post is not sponsored. I just got curious and I had a coupon for this product.

I’ve been feeling a little rebellious, lately. Sassy, if you will. If you’re into astrology, you might have some logical explanation for why a Virgo who thrives on order has literally decided to thrust herself into Let’s Just See What Happens-land this year, but from my end, it just feels like it’s not the time to play it safe. Even when I cook, I’ve been throwing caution to the wind. I’m usually not good at things not coming out the way I want them to in the kitchen, so this is kind of a big step for me, this being okay with not being sure thing.

But, here we are.

I’ll admit, this chicken recipe was somewhat of a calculated risk, in that, I sort of knew that if the product was what I thought it was, it would probably not be awful. However, when I saw a coupon for a free package of Bush’s “Hummus Made Easy” product on the local grocery store app, I will also admit to not really reading the package before I grabbed it and threw it in my cart. I got a general sense that if you put the contents of the packet into a food processor with a can of chickpeas, you’d end up with something resembling hummus.

You guys, I didn’t want hummus. I’m a little sick of hummus right now. I thought about hummus and it just made me kind of sleepy.

But it was free! And I already took it home! So….. I literally thought about nothing but the fact that I didn’t want to make hummus with this stuff for like, a week. Every time my brain tried to go into “screen saver mode,” it would jump back to this free package of hummus mix that was sitting in the cupboard. Waiting.

I’m taking a really long time to tell this story. Sorry, I got a little stream of consciousness there.

Anyhoots, someone at work used the word “marinate” when talking about thinking about something for awhile before making a decision, and then it hit me. Yes! I’ll use it as a marinade. Because I’d been marinating on this whole, “what to do with the free hummus stuff” thing so long, I feel like it was sort of meant, you know what I mean? I finally read the ingredients and discovered that the list was really straightforward. Nothing to be creeped out about at all: Water, tahini, olive oil, garlic, salt, lemon juice, sugar, and a little citric acid.

My FoodKeepr app told me I had some veggies in the fridge that were about to not be edible anymore, so I gathered those up, along with a package of chicken thighs, and set about turning this stuff into actual food. Not hummus.

Equipment:
Cutting board
Knife
Gallon sized zip top bag
Baking dish/Casserole dish type thing

Ingredients:
1 package of Bush’s Hummus Made Easy, Classic Flavor*
4-6 bone in, skin on chicken thighs
2 cups (ish) large diced red potatoes
1 cup (ish) white button mushrooms (or whatever kind you have handy), sliced or cut into quarters
4-5 stalks green onion, peeled and trimmed, but otherwise left whole
Pan spray
salt & pepper

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Spray your casserole dish with a little pan spray, and set aside.
2. Season both sides of each chicken thigh with a little salt and pepper. Add the whole package of Hummus Made Easy to the plastic bag, then toss the chicken thighs in. Seal it up and give it a good roll around, then stick it in the fridge to marinate while you prep your veggies, about 15-20 minutes.
3. Dice your potatoes and mushrooms, and trim/clean the green onions. Add the veggies to the baking dish, season with salt and pepper, and give them all a toss so they make friends with each other.
4. Arrange the marinated chicken thighs on top of the veggies, then drizzle the whatever is left of the marinade over everything.
5. Cover the chicken and veggies with foil and pop into the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. If you want the thighs to brown a little, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

I served this with some farro, but it would work with plain old rice, or even couscous. Bear in mind, these are the veggies I had to use up, but if you have a different combo, go for it. Or, if you want to use a different protein, that’s cool, too. I think the Southwest version would be especially tasty with some pork chops, sweet potatoes, chunked up white onion and large diced pasilla or ancho chili peppers.


On the tasty scale, I give this one a solid nine, only because I didn’t get the foil off the chicken in time and the skin wasn’t as brown and crispy as I like. But that marinade really brought so much flavor to the party without having to add a lot of anything else, and it mingled with the chicken and veggie juices in a really lovely way. On the difficulty/effort scale, this recipe comes out at around maybe a four. You can have it on the table in, I’d say, an hour and 15 minutes, at the most, which makes it great for week nights, especially if you’re a meal prepper and have some of the work done ahead of time. Give it a shot, and let me know what you think!

*It also comes in a Southwest flavor, and a roasted red pepper flavor, and I’m sure those would be just lovely, as well.

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Kitchen Tech Saturday: Online Lunch delivery with EatPakd

Note: This post is not sponsored, and the discount code given at the end of the post is not an affiliate code. All opinions are mine.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware of all the grocery delivery, local food delivery, and meal prep delivery kits available online these days. If you never want to leave the house, but can’t quite get yourself to give up that pesky habit of, you know, eating, there’s a service out there that can help.

I love going grocery shopping, I can definitely plan meals and cook for myself, and most of the time, if I’m going to eat food from a restaurant, I’d like to enjoy the perks of actually eating there. However, there’s been one particular meal that’s been a little bit of a challenge for me– breakfast.

I have to be out the door no later than 530am to get to work anywhere close to on time. I am NOT a morning person, so the chances of me getting up any earlier than I have to to make breakfast are, well, let’s not kid ourselves, not good. I tried doing the overnight oats thing, but discovered that driving and eating a two handed breakfast meant not only was I driving with lots of distractions (and I’m not the most awake driver at that hour, as it is), but I also ended up with about 10 percent of my breakfast on the front of my shirt.  I needed something I could eat one handed that also didn’t force me to look down to see where my spoon was landing. I saw a mention about EatPakd on Twitter, and after poking around their website I thought, “Ok, maybe this will work.” I found a coupon code that gave me a discount off my first week of meals, and we were off to the races.

 

EatPakd was designed for busy parents who may not always have time to pack a healthy lunch for their kids in the morning. They use organic and non-GMO fruits and veggies whenever possible, and each meal is balanced with lean protein, good carbs, and fresh ingredients– Great for moms and dads who don’t want rushing out the door to mean they’re sending their kids out into the world with a less than nutritious lunch. For me, it means I’m getting breakfast without having to rely on fast food or pre-packaged stuff with a dubious ingredients list.

The website is easy to use. Within each weekly menu, I can go with their pre-set combinations, OR I can customize my own meal packs based on what appealed to me, and what would be the most commute friendly combination. You can plan up to a month at a time, but you have until Sunday night to finalize your order for the following week.

 

But of course, you know I wouldn’t even be talking about EatPakd at all if the food wasn’t good. It is. The fruits and veggies are flavorful, and taste as fresh as if I’d cut them up that morning. The entrees for my first week ranged from whole grain waffle bites with sunbutter and jelly, to a steamed pork bun that, I’ll admit, I was a little dubious about, but turned out to be one of my favorites of the week. The packaging is easy to open, one handed and without looking, and each section can be separated from the others, in case you want to say, save that cookie for later in the day, or hold on to those tomatoes and crackers for a pre-gym snack.

If there are any cons to EatPakd, I’d say it was probably that some weeks the gluten free and vegetarian options right off the shelf are a little slim. However, because you can customize your meals, there are ways to work with the menu to get what you want, and you can opt to say, take the meat off that turkey roll up. All of their ingredients are nut and tree nut free, except for a few items that contain coconut.  If you have questions, or can’t quite figure out how to get exactly what you need, their customer service link is available on every page, and while right now you can’t call them directly, I got an answer to my customer service question within 12 hours. They’re also very responsive on social media.

Pricewise, for me, this is definitely about the same as I might spend getting a fast food breakfast or buying something microwaveable. You can decide how many meals you want per week. If you want to just keep a few of these around as a back up for those mornings when everyone is running late, the 4 meal plan might work for you. if you’re looking for an every day solution, the eight or twelve meal plan might be a better fit.  Of course, you can also skip weeks, say, if you’re going on vacation.

If you’d like to give EatPakd a try, use the code GONNACOOKTHAT at checkout to get $15 off of your first week. If you do try it, let me know what you think!

I’m in my ELEMENT

Hi folks! I’m super excited to let you all know about my involvement in a new project (one of many to come!). I’ve taken a position as Marketing and Social Media Manager for a brand new pop-up restaurant project called ELEMENTS. We have a roving band of chefs who will travel the country, led by Chef Skye Van Schetsen, connecting with communities and using the best of what that region has to offer to create both a beautiful meal and one of a kind dining experience. Proceeds will go to a local food/hunger related charity in each city. How cool is that?

Our first stop is in Portland, Oregon.

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If you’re interested in following our journey, and/or you live in the Portland area and are interested in attending one of our dinners there, go like and follow us on whichever social media platforms work for you for the latest updates.

And check out the website, where we’ll post menus for each city and lots of other fun stuff.
Happy Tuesday!

I’ll take my bread on the rocks, please.

You guys… this baking thing is going to be the death of me. I’ve actually pondered doing a separate baking blog, just to chronicle all my baking related… disasters? tragedies? debacles? Whatever you call them, they make me just frustrated enough that I’m compelled to keep at it until I get better.

Case in point, the sourdough. My starter is lovely and bubbly and alive and I thought, “That went ok. Maybe this bread thing will work out, too?”

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This is the recipe I used. As you can see, it’s meant to produce a lovely, light, airy loaf of sandwich bread.

I followed the instructions for mixing… combined the water and the yeast…

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Added the flour and salt…Kneaded until my fingers and wrists and elbows got crampy…

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And then…… then the whole let it rise thing got me. Did the first rise, then split the dough and put half in a loaf pan and let it rise again.

It looked weird when I put it into the oven, but I thought… maybe it’ll still be ok.
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But….. well……. *insert big, dramatic, Oscar worthy sigh here*

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I went back and re-read the directions and determined that I need to do this whole thing during the day. I put the dough in the fridge overnight to have its last rise before going into the oven, but I’m pretty sure I’d already jacked it up at that point. It was dense, and REALLY hard on the outside. Like, if someone broke into my apartment and tried to steal me, I could fling this loaf of bread at them and probably cause some serious harm to their head area (assuming my aim is that good, which it never is). I will probably just make breadcrumbs out of it and try again on Saturday, when I have a whole day to really pay attention to the timing like I should.

I will say this… it does taste good. If I can duplicate the flavor it has now, AND get it to be all beautiful and light like sammich bread, I’ll do the happiest of happy dances. That starter is the bomb, and I hate the idea of not being able to use it to make something worthy of all that awesome flavor it’s bringing to the party.

So, this probably isn’t the last you’ve heard of my adventures with sourdough. If things go better on Saturday, I’ll post a quick update.

Is there a recipe you’ve tried and tried and tried again before you finally got it right? When did your persistence finally pay off? Tell me in the comments!

Let’s Get Funky!

I don’t know why I’m so fascinated with the thing I’m so not very good at, but here I go again, starting another baking project.

Did I tell you guys I made gingerbread cupcakes in class last week, and when they sunk in the middle I cried? Yeah, I know that school is for learning and learning means messing up, but this is something I’ve made at home before a few times and never had an issue and I was just so upset about it I made a big ole fool of myself. Snotty and red faced and the whole nine. But then three different chefs came over and gave me pep talks, really good ones, and I’m over it now. Mostly.

And now headlong I’ve gone into this thing… a sourdough starter. But not just any sourdough starter… one made with bottle dregs from this beer:

blog_slapyermammy

If you’re not familiar with bottle dregs, here’s the scoop. Sometimes, you’ll drink a beer that has “stuff” floating in it. Usually, unless you shake up the liquid, the stuff sinks to the bottom of the bottle and never makes it to your glass. Contained within that stuff, the dregs, are bacteria and yeast that were used in the beer making process. Those dregs still have live “bugs” in them, and can be reused to make more beer, or, in this case, give a sourdough starter a big ole kick start.

To make mine, I used the basic process laid out here, at thekitchn.com. They do a great job of explaining what a starter is, and why you’d want to make one, but I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version.

When you make bread, you need a leavening agent to make it rise. Most of the time, you’re going to go to the store and buy the yeast that has been grown and cultivated specifically for the purpose of baking. You don’t have to corral all those little yeasties yourself because someone has done it for you. Essentially, by growing your own starter, you’re creating a medium in which you can cultivate and grow all the wild yeast that’s already in the flour to use as your leavening agent, versus using the stuff from the store.

I started with a 1:1 ratio of flour to liquid– 4 oz. flour, and 4 oz of a combination of the bottle dregs and water. The moment I put the two together, I already started to see bubbles. That’s a good sign.

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Every day for the past five days, I’ve been feeding the starter with fresh water and more flour. Here it is on day two:

blog_Day 2

And day four:
blog_Day 3
It’s a little hard to tell, but it’s starting to get frothier and just generally gooey. It also smells kinda sour at this stage (duh), and at day five, closer to being ready to use, I can also smell that lovely yeasty smell. What you don’t want to smell is acetone. If you smell that, it means things have gone a little sideways and you probably need to start over. But, as long as you feed it every day, and store it in a spot with a consistent temperature of around 70°F, in about 5 days you should have a healthy starter that you can use to make everything from bread to pizza dough.

I’m in school for the next three days, so the first opportunity I’ll have to test out my starter in a loaf of bread will be late Friday evening. Of course, I’ll take pictures and tell you how it goes.

Have you ever made your own starter? How do you use it? Leave a comment and let me know!