Monday, February 25, 2013

A not-recipe

As I've explained before, I have a lot of time to read and be online while at work on the weekends. Friday, I came across a recipe on Kitchen Daily and thought it would make a great dinner sometime soon. Then I promptly lost the recipe. I could have looked it up again, but I remembered most of it and I knew I was going to make some changes anyway. So I though, "Ah, screw it. I'll just fake it." [That's what she said! Right? Right?!]

Going with my instincts lead me to a really delicious dinner that was perfect for an almost-Spring day. Aside: Seriously, y'all. It was sunny and in the mid-sixties today. Perfect weather! I'm so sick of this faux winter we've had in my area this year, so today was a welcomed change for me.

Alright. Here it is. The Asian Chicken Salad Wraps not-recipe:

1 rotisserie chicken- skin and bones discarded, meat shredded*
1/2 sweet pepper, finely chopped
A couple tablespoons of mayo
A couple tablespoons of sweet chile sauce
A drizzle of toasted sesame oil (this stuff is strong, so take it easy)
1 clove of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Some finely chopped chives, if you feel like it
Thinly sliced radish, carrot, or some other crunchy veggie
Toasted almond slivers
Bibb lettuce leaves

In a medium bowl combine the mayo, chile sauce, sesame oil, garlic and S&P well. Taste it and adjust seasoning accordingly. Toss the shredded chicken, peppers, and chives into the mayo mixture. If it's not wet enough, you may need to add a bit more chile sauce or mayo, depending on your preference. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour, giving the flavors time to meld. Spoon the chicken salad onto leaves of Bibb lettuce. Top with radish and almond slivers. These are wraps, so they're are meant to be eaten with your hands. But if you insist on being prissy and using a fork, I guess that's okay too.  Either way, enjoy it!
*Instead of being lazy, like I was, you can also roast 2 or 3 chicken breasts and shred them, if you prefer.

I remember this recipe calling for slices of avocado on top. I thought the mayo sauce made this creamy enough, so I added some crunchy elements instead to balance everything out. If you'd like to have a little more kick in your chicken salad I'd recommend using the Asian chile-garlic sauce, instead of the sweet chile sauce, that you would find in the International section of your market. The glorious thing about a not-recipe is that it's really more of an idea to go with and can easily be customized.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fun Food Facts!

I've been doing a good bit of reading lately. Mostly recipes and articles about food. What? You're surprised? That's one of the perks of my job. I work as a security officer in a library and am at a computer quite a bit. I have a dual screen set-up so I can watch the cameras on one and the badge monitor on the other. But we're also allowed to surf the web. Let's face it, not too much hard crime goes down in a collegiate library. Not in this area, anyway. So I get to read online. A lot.

Throughout my surfing and browsing over the past few days, I've stumbled on some little gems of information that I thought were pretty great. Plus, I didn't know about them previously. So now I'm going to share them with you! And if you know about these things already then good for you, smartypants!

Pancake day is a thing. Like, for real. It's not just something that IHOP is using as a marketing ploy. Pancake day falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent in certain faiths. Most Americans call this day Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras. It's known in the UK, Australia, New Zealeand, and Canada as Shrove Tuesday. Pancakes are associated with the day before Lent because they are a really good way to include rich food products or ingredients like eggs, sugar, and milk in the celebrations and feasts before the 40 day fast of Lent begins. Admittedly, I feel a little silly for not knowing this. But as I'm not of a faith that participates in Lent I'm going to give myself a pass on this one. Just this once.

Cardamom, which happens to be one of my favorite spices, is the 3rd most expensive spice in the world. Oh! And I knew this already, but it's one of the oldest known spices in the world, too. The only two giving it a run for it's money are vanilla and saffron. All of these spices are so expensive for two main reasons. They are only grown (well) in very specific areas of the world. In this case, the spice is grown in southern India and Sri Lanka. It is also a pain in the butt to harvest these items. Cardamom is particularly difficult to harvest because the seeds sprout in clusters of pods that tend to ripen at different times. So the pods have to be picked by hand just before they reach maturity in the dry period of late autumn.

Carrots were white, yellow, and purple before they were ever orange. It's suspected that the orange color we find in cultivated carrots today is due to a naturally occurring mutation. Who knew?! I though the fun colored carrots were a new thing as the result of hybridization. So that means that Bugs Bunny's great great great great great great great great grandbunny was chomping on purple carrots with some dude probably named Ug ug. All terrible jokes aside, this site has a lot of good information on the history of carrots if you have the time and/or desire to browse through such a thing.

Neat, right?! I thought they were interesting little tidbits. What's a fun and interesting fact about food that you know?


PS WE GOT A NEW DISHWASHER! It actually cleans the dishes. No, really. It cleans them. Hooray!

PPS The links in the above paragraphs will take you to the main sources I used for research and not necessarily where I discovered my facts.

Photo credit:

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Quality ingredients for quality cooking

I was recently asked by a friend about some of the ingredients I use in my cooking. She asked me if I use store-brands or if there are brand names I swear by or if any of that really matters. Of course, the answer to that is not simple at all. The ingredients I use are based largely on what my budget is at this point in my life. I can't afford to go to Dean and Deluca and drop $20 on a pound of strawberries. Not that we have a Dean and Deluca in my neck of the woods, but hopefully that gets the point across. I buy products that are on sale, I buy store brands for many things because they really are just as good as the brand name. I shop at places like Aldi and Trader Joe's (owned by the same company, by the way) because they offer great products for reasonable prices. And with the constantly rising or fluctuating costs of food these days, these stores have become invaluable to me and my family.

I try to buy organic produce when I can. I pay attention to labels and I am very conscious of what I'm going to feed my family. We've cut out most processed goods and we try to eat as cleanly as possible (though the occasional M&M or Reese's Pieces never hurt anyone!). But like I said, we're on a budget. And a budget doesn't always allow for the best of the best. There are, however, some ingredients that I refuse to skimp on. The first 3 items that come to mind are:

Flour- I use King Aurthur All Purpose flour. It is a staple in my pantry. It has never failed me. I will use Pilsbury as a back up, but I will always choose King Authur first. The grain is grown in the US, it is a decent and fair company, and nothing else measures up to the quality of their product in my opinion. For cake flour, I use Swan's Down. I use it, again, because not much else measures up to that. Plus it's an old, tried and true company that's been around for more than 100 years. They must be doing something right. My grandmothers use/used Swan's Down, my mother uses it, and now so do I.

Butter- So...I mostly* use a store-brand, unsalted butter. But this is listed here because I use butter as opposed to margarine, which is much cheaper. Whether or not margarine is one molecule away from being plastic is true, I still will not put something with that many unpronounceable ingredients into my cooking. It's just...icky. That's right. Icky is a technical term. Deal with it.
*I buy Land O'Lakes or Plugra, which are my favorite brands, if I can get them at the same price or slightly cheaper than the store-brand if they're on sale. It's rare but it happens.

Bacon- As a friend of mine just found out this morning, buying cheap bacon will leave you feeling cheated and sad. It can look amazing, but if the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Many store brands or cheap/off-brands are injected with brine or water. So the bacon looks great, but shrinks down to a third of the size it started out as after it's been cooked. Kinda like Shrinky Dinks. If you are lucky enough to have a local butcher, awesome! Support your local economy and get a great quality product even if you have to pay a little more. We aren't that lucky. So I like Wright brand bacon. I buy it almost exclusively. They provide a tasty, reliable product still at a reasonable price.

Of course, this list could go on and on. There are a lot of products that I enjoy and prefer over most others. But those three are something you will find in my kitchen no matter what. If the zombie apocalypse does happen, those 3 things will be in my emergency kit (since my emergency kit includes a battery operated refrigeration unit of some kind and a dutch oven).

What about you? What products or brands do you prefer over any other?

***I am not being paid to promote the brands listed in this post in any way, shape, or form. I am explaining my preferences and personal experiences with these brands and do not benefit from you clicking any of the hyperlinks.***