Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Garden Update: Tuesday July 29, 2008

At ten days in here is the little mini -garden we just planted! Everything has begun to sprout except the Cilantro. The Dill has two TINY little sprouts and and onions have little green threads poking up from the soil.

The sunflowers were the first to sprout, then the beans and pumpkins.

Pole Beans



Update from the container garden on the deck:
We have a little tiny crown of broccoli forming!

Tons of Peppers

The cucumber plants are growing quickly too

And finally the brussel sprout plants are fighting back after the destructive cabbage worms nearly destroyed them.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Chicken and Cilantro Week- Recipes 3 and 4 ???

See that? What? You mean you don't see anything? Well that's because the final two recipes of Chicken and Cilantro week were never cooked. Some dillhole in the house turned the refrigerator setting to "Antartic Cold" and froze all the veggies in my produce drawer-my cilantro was ruined! So I went out and found a stupid plaque to hang on the wall to remind the boys that this is MY kitchen-just stay out and don't touch anything!

Ah well-it is what it is. I do plan on making both of them sometime soon though-the Chicken Encilantrada sounds like it would be great with some corn tortillas and some queso fresco.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Chicken and Cilantro Week-Recipe #2: Chicken and Manadarin Oranges

Chicken and Mandarin Oranges (as posted on allrecipes.com)

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 (4 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 (11 ounce) can mandarin oranges
1 small onion, chopped
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Hot cooked rice
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

In a small bowl, combine the salt, ginger and pepper. Sprinkle over both sides of chicken. In a nonstick skillet, saute chicken in oil for 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken to plate and keep warm.
Reduce heat to medium-low. Drain oranges, reserving juice. Stir juice, onion and red pepper flakes into skillet. Cook and stir for about 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Bring to a boil. Return chicken to skillet. Reduce heat; cover and cook for about 10 minutes or until chicken juices run clear. Place chicken over rice; keep warm. Combine cornstarch and water until smooth. Gradually stir into skillet. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for about 2 minutes or until mixture is thickened. Add mandarin oranges; heat through. Pour sauce over chicken. Sprinkle with cilantro.

My Notes:

I liked this-it was light and fresh tasting. I did use more oranges and more juice than the recioe called for though and I also added broccoli to it and then some cashews when I plated the dish. Serve with brown rice.

Nice and easy work week dinner recipe.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chicken and Cilantro Week-Recipe #1: Trinidad Stewed Chicken

Trinidad Stewed Chicken as posted on allrecipes.com

1 (4 pound) whole chicken, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup canned coconut milk (optional)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon butter

Place chicken on a plate. Sprinkle the green onion, cilantro, garlic, onion, salt and pepper over it. Cover, and marinate for 30 minutes.

Heat the vegetable oil in a deep pot over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, and cook until the sugar has melted into a nice golden brown syrup. Add the chicken pieces, and brown quickly while turning continuously. Cover the pot, and let it cook for 2 minutes.

Pour in 1 cup of water, coconut milk and pepper flakes. Replace the lid, and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the ketchup and butter. Continue cooking until chicken is fork tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve chicken with the sauce in the pot as a gravy.

My Notes:

I'm not so sure how I feel about this one-the taste is decent, but I think something is missing. Maybe some more heat? Chunks of tomatoes? Maybe even some lentils?

I think I'm not very keen on the whole "coconut" in savory style dishes. Not sure what it is-but I had a coconut-cilantro rice dish once that I couldn't even stomach. I thought it was just a fluke-bad cook or something, but this almost gave me the same feeling. This is not that bad-but its just not great in my opinion either. I think though my palette just might not enjoy that flavor combo.

I do think I might try to make it again though-sans coconut milk and maybe even sans cilantro. The beginning part of the recipe alone smells fantastic so I think that might make a great dish. The brown sugar, garlic, onion black pepper and salt with the chicken really smells almost sweet and nutty as it cooks together.

Like I say-it wasn't bad-just maybe not my thing, or might just need something else to make it really come to life. I should also say that the broth that it makes tastes very much like an Indian Soup. I think that's why I feel like maybe lentils might really make the dish.

Its Chicken and Cilantro Week!

That's right people-in honor of all things chicken-y and cilantro-y this week's menu plan will be full of things that include chicken and cilantro in the recipe. Really-I took a look in the produce drawer and saw I had a bunch of cilantro that really needed to be used quickly and I know I've got a truckload of chicken breasts in the deep freezer.

I'm trying to be as efficient as possible with cooking so it will give me more time to work out in the evenings after work and more time to have my meals prepared and packaged for the next day. The more advance planning and prep I have done, the more likely I will be to stick to my meal plan and not only save money but also lose weight.

Here's the meal plan recipe list for the week:

Trinidad Stewed Chicken,Caribbean White Beans, Red Rice

Chicken and Mandarin Oranges, Greens Beans with Almonds, Soba Noodles

Spicy Cuban Mojo Chicken with Mango-Avocado Salsa, Black Beans with Lime and Cilantro

Chicken Encilantrada-I'm thinking I will stuff this into tortillas with some queso fresco.

Sofrito (making a batch to freeze)

Arroz Con Pollo
All of these recipes are fairly low fat and low calorie-or can be adjusted to make them that way. While I was searching for new recipes to try I came across quite a few delicious Thai recipes-but the calorie count was insane.
Be on the lookout for recipe reviews, adjustments and pictures this week!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Garden Update: 4 months

I have finally planted some seed in the ground! Its just a small 5x3 plot-but its a start. I'm tired as hell from shoveling and raking all day to get the little plot together. I broke up and dug up that hard red clay we have here and had to break up a bunch of shale, limestone and rock too. Our yard backs up to a hilly ridge line and there is just a ridiculous amount of rock in the ground. I was just so tired of waiting to rent a tiller and I knew shoveling and working in that heat would do some much needed calorie burning so Red and I covered ourselves in bug spray and got out there and busted our humps.
I bought a bag of sand and two bags of garden soil and filled the trench with it and then we planted our seeds. I think in two weeks I will do the same thing to the area right next to this plot. Maybe by August I can have four of these little plots going and then Red and I can make homemade stepping stones to go in between. the plots.
I also have to add the timbers along the perimeter of the plots and probably wrap some fencing around it all to keep critters out.
Oh and yeah...in true Clumsy Cathee form I think I may have broken a bone in my hand while "hammering" those stakes into the ground. Nice.Very nice-and to be expected. I can't do anything physical without injuring myself. at least its my left hand and its not impeding everything I do.
We planted pumpkins, pole beans, onions, dill, cilantro, and sunflowers. Weird combo-but most of that is seed packets my mom sent me in the mail and then some old seeds I had laying around the house. Seed packets have expiration dates on them, but I'm not so sure I trust them. the cucmbers I planted below came from an old seed packet that had an expiration date of Oct 2006!

I also started some basil a few weeks ago and some cucumbers. They are in containers up on the deck. They are coming along nicely. It only took them about two days to sprout.

Cabbage worms tore up my brussel sprouts and broccoli-but they are making a comeback after I desperately reached for the sevin-dust to annihilate those greedy bastards. They almost obliterated my plants in one day. I have no idea where the things came from-but there was TONS of them.

The peppers are coming along nicely. I have at least 10-12 buds on each plant and there are at least 3-4 little peppers growing on each plant right now.

The beans and the peas...well-they bit the dust. The beans were looking nice until we got a big rainstorm one night and they sat in a water-logged swampy mess for about three days. The container they were in had no drainage and I was a bad gardener and didn't pay them any attention or bother to drain off any of the water for a couple of days. Oh well-lesson learned: proper drainage is important afterall!

An Unauthentic Brazilian Feijoada

Feijoada is the National Dish of Brazil. Every restaurant serves it everyone eats it. Well at least that's what I'm told I've never been to Brazil, so I'm just gonna take my Brazilian friends' word for it. It basically consists of meats and beans. Its like a stew or a chili.

I found a recipe for a Brazilian Black Bean Stew on allrecipes and modified it a bit based on what I had in my pantry. Here's what I came up with-and let me tell you this stuff is good.

Unauthentic Brazilian Feijoada

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground turkey
1/3 pound cooked ham, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (1 pound) sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 small green pepper diced

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice

1 small can salsa
1 1/2 cups water
1 (16 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 mango - peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

black pepper

cayenne pepper

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, and brown the ground turkey. Add cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Add ham and onion and garlic to the pot, and cook until tender. Then add the sweet potatoes, green pepper, tomatoes with juice, salsa, and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15 -20 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender.

Add the beans and cook for another 15 minutes or so. Add in mango and cilantro, and season with salt, pepper.

Serve with rice or warm pitas or even naan would be good with it.

The original recipe calls for the use of chorizo-I didn't have any which is why I used ground turkey instead. I've made this with chorizo before and it tastes pretty much the same-just a little fattier.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Wedding Soup: Improv Style

I {HEART} Wedding Soup. Its one of my favorites. Its a perfect comfort food with some crusty bread. Sure its July-in Georgia-and should be around 95 degrees later today-but its raining right now and what would be better than some soup and crusty bread?

I decided to use this recipe from allrecipes.com, as a base for building my soup:

California Italian Wedding Soup
1/2 pound extra-lean ground beef
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped Italian flat leaf parsley (optional)
2 green onions, sliced (optional)
5 3/4 cups chicken broth
2 cups finely sliced escarole (spinach may be substituted)
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup orzo (rice-shaped pasta), uncooked
grated Parmesan cheese for topping

Mix together the meat, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, basil, parsley, and green onions; shape into 3/4 inch balls.
Pour broth into a large saucepan over high heat. When boiling, drop in meatballs. Stir in escarole, lemon zest and orzo. Return to a boil; reduce heat to medium. Cook at a slow boil for 10 minutes or until orzo is tender, stirring frequently. Serve sprinkled with cheese.

Here's what I had to change:

Ground Beef-we don't buy it-only ground turkey in this house
Egg-didn't have any thanks to them falling out of the cart in the parking lot
Fresh basil-had to use dried instead
Green onions-Didn't have any
Escarole-used frozen spinach instead
Lemon-didn't have one so I used some lemon pepper instead
Orzo-none in the pantry used pasta shells instead
Bread crumbs-didn't have any of this either

So its pretty much a wonder why I even bothered to make this with all the ingredients I was missing...All in all though the soup turned out good anyway. I just mixed some grated Parmesan and dried basil and parsley in with the ground turkey then rolled it int0 balls. I made my chicken broth from the chicken bouillon I get in the Latin grocery section. I added some sliced baby carrots for some color.