Friday, January 15, 2010
As I've mentioned before, I am notoriously slow on the uptake. The rule in our house has always been "he who cooks, doesn't have to clean up." After two months of living together, it just finally occurred to me that, since Lex really hates doing dishes in the evening after dinner, but doesn't mind cooking, and I really hate waking up to a dirty kitchen, maybe we should just switch jobs for a while. Brilliant! Plus, since she is newer to cooking than I, and doesn't take as much for granted as I do, she's more likely to notice stumbling blocks in these recipes, that need additional explanation. She had no trouble whatsoever with this one, so try it! Then pass it on - to at least 2 others.
Recipe #2 in our Food Revolution:
CHICKEN KORMA (serves 4-6)
1-3/4 lb. skinless chicken breasts, preferably free-range or organic
2 med. onions
1 fresh green chile (optional - depends on how spicy you like things)
a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger root
a small bunch of fresh cilantro
1 (15 oz.) can of garbanzo beans (aka chick peas)
peanut or vegetable oil
a pat of butter
1/2 c. korma or mild curry paste, such as Patak's (or you can make your own korma paste according to Jamie's recipe on p. 99, which is what Lex did - she was so proud of herself!)
1 (14 oz.) can of coconut milk
a small handful of sliced almonds, plus extra for serving
2 heaped tablespoons UN-sweetened shredded coconut
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 c. natural yogurt (plain)
Prep: Prepare rice according to package directions. Cut chicken into one inch pieces, or thereabouts. Peel, halve, and finely slice your onions. Halve, seed, and finely slice the chile, if you're using one (wear plastic gloves while doing this, or you're gonna be really sorry, next time you touch your eyes or nostrils). Peel and finely chop the ginger. Pick the cilantro leaves and finely chop the stalks. Drain the garbanzo beans.
Cook: Place a large, deep, lidded frying pan or stock pot on med-hi heat and add a couple of glugs of oil (You know how, when you're pouring it out, it tends to go "glu-glu-glu...?" Well, two of those glu's.) When you start to see wavy shimmer lines in the oil, add the onions, chile, ginger and cilantro stalks, along with the butter. Keep stirring it just enough so it doesn't catch and burn, but turns evenly golden, for around 10 minutes. Add the curry paste, coconut milk, half your sliced almonds, the drained garbanzo beans, shredded coconut, and the sliced chicken. Half fill the empty bean can with water and add that to the pan. Stir again. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to med-low and simmer for about 30 minutes, with the lid on. Check regularly to make sure it's not drying out, and add extra water if necessary. When the chicken is tender and cooked through, taste and season carefully with salt and pepper.
Serve: Place a mound of fluffy rice on each place, then top with a ladleful of the Chicken Korma. Add a few spoonfuls of natural yogurt dolloped on top, and sprinkle over the rest of the sliced almonds. Finish by scattering over the cilantro leaves, and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
John and I both hate talking on the phone. Don't know why, we just do. We especially hate making those calls where you must coerce people, ask favors, or anything along those lines. So, throughout our marriage, it has always been one of my pet peeves, that John would pick up the phone at work and call me, just to ask me to make one of those calls for him - a call that he could easily have made himself in the time that it took for him to call and ask me to do it.
I have several of those calls on my to-do list, and I've been dragging my feet and feeling grumpy about them for a while now. Yesterday, when I spoke with John, he seemed very down in the dumps. Turns out he'd just had to call one of his employees in, and lay him off - a task that always tears him to pieces. Come to think of it, maybe my having to make all of the calls involving service people isn't such a bad trade-off after all. For now. But once you retire, Buster, it's even-steven all the way!
P.S. Many thanks to jennifersystems.com for the above image.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I spent yet another amusing day with The Muses yesterday. Our first stop was the huge Goodwill Outlet in north Austin, but this was no ordinary Goodwill. This is the mother of all Goodwills - the one where everything that doesn't sell in all the other Goodwills goes to when they're done with it.
Here's the fun part: Instead of each item being individually priced, they sell it all by the pound! Yesiree, they actually have those fancy in-ground scales at the checkout stations, and you just roll your cart onto one, then get charged $1.49 per pound for the lot, minus the cart ('though they occasionally make exceptions for extremely dense items, like say, bowling balls).
They have rows upon rows of these huge rolling tables and, periodically, they block off one aisle in order to fill it with a new load of merchandise. That's when the hordes begin to gather, like vultures awaiting fresh roadkill. Soon as they give the OK, you'd better stand back Nellie, or you're liable to get trampled! The cart in the photo holds the combined treasures of all four of us, and you can tell much about the way we think by examining what we chose. Outdoor Woman saw brightly colored toy houses and immediately thought "Aha! Birdhouses!" (I never would have thought of that, would you?) Fiber Woman saw one of those beauty school mannequin heads and thought... well, honestly, I have no idea what she was thinking, but whatever she does with it, I'm sure it will be fabulous! Me, I bought books. Just books. Probably not the best choice, when you are paying by the pound, but it's the one thing I can never seem to resist. Maybe that's why they call me Wordy Woman, huh?
From there we moved just down the road a bit, to the little shopping center where that great Asian cafe I told you about recently was located - only this time, we were there to scope out the Asian grocery store next to it, and an Indian market just a few doors down. Ahhh, can you smell it? There is nothing quite like the fragrance of an ethnic market, each with its own special blend of spices, to transport me back to another place and time.
Last stop of the day was at Get Some Dim Sum, on North Lamar (thank heavens for that - we were ravenous by then!) and it was mighty tasty, too. I must admit though, I did miss having the little rolling carts threading their way through large round tables filled with noisy chatter and clicking chopsticks. It's much quicker, yes, to order at the counter, but not quite the same ambience, no?
Monday, January 11, 2010
According to a recent article in the Austin American Statesman, Louisiana is the happiest state in the country. New York? The un-happiest. Texas came in at #15.
This info was gleaned from a ponderous publication in the journal Science, based on mathematical analysis by British researchers. They "considered objective indicators for each individual state, such as weather, coastal land, public land, parks, hazardous waste sites, commute time, crime, air quality, teacher-student ratios, local taxes, cost of living and other factors. When comparing...they found a very close match between how happy people say they are and the estimated quality of life in their state."
Here's the part that cracked me up: "Of Louisiana's top ranking, he noted that some of the data collection preceded Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But Oswald still believes the state is happy because of, well, low expectations. 'Bargains in life are usually found outside the spotlight,' he noted." Low expectations? Give me a break! We have dear friends in Louisiana who chose to settle there, after living all over the world. They chose the area around Lafayette because those Cajuns have very high expectations, not low. They expect to have a life outside of work. They expect to have time for family and friends. They expect to enjoy good food, music and dancing on a regular basis. They expect to be a part of a tight-knit community, and for spirituality to have an important place in their lives. And that, my friends, is why they are so happy. They know what it means, to be livin' the good life!
P.S. Many thanks to nicholls.edu and Rosie Ledet for the above image.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
The first chapter in Jamie's Food Revolution is Twenty-Minute Meals. We chose this particular recipe because we'd been wondering what to do with those lovely leeks we'd got from the Bountiful Sprout (one of very few green things available this time of year) and, we just happened to have two chicken breasts, already defrosted. It was easy. It was yummy. Pass it on!
CHICKEN AND LEEK STROGANOFF (serves two, according to Jamie, four for Lex and me - our chicken was a big-breasted girl!)
3/4 c. long-grain or basmati rice (we used brown)
1 large leek (we had several small ones)
a big handful of crimini or oyster mushrooms (if you're trying to be frugal, plain button mushrooms are probably cheaper, but won't have near the flavor)
2 chicken breast fillets, preferably free-range or organic
a pat of butter
a glass of white wine
freshly ground black pepper
a bunch of fresh parsley (Preferably flat-leaf Italian. Grow your own - it's easy, way cheaper than store-bought, and you'll always have it on hand!)
1-1/4 c. heavy cream
Prepare rice according to package directions. If using brown rice, keep in mind that it takes twice as long to cook as white.
While rice is cooking, cut both ends off the leek (you'll only want to use the white and light green parts), quarter lengthways, slice across thinly, place in a sieve and wash well under running water (leeks tend to get sandy grit caught down between the layers). Slice the mushrooms. Slice the chicken breasts into little-finger-size pieces.
Put a large frying pan on a high heat and add a good glug of olive oil and a pat of butter. Add the leek to the pan with the white wine, a small glass of water, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Let it bubble away for 5 minutes, covered loosely with a piece of aluminum foil. Meanwhile, finely chop the parsley, stalks and all. Remove the foil and add the chicken strips, most of the parsley, the cream, and the mushrooms. Stir, bring back to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.
Just before serving, squeeze the juice from 1/2 of the lemon into the stroganoff (watch out for the seeds!). Season to taste. Spoon some rice onto each plate and top with the stroganoff. Scatter with the rest of the chopped parsley. Serve with the other lemon half, cut into wedges.
So remember, Viva La Revolution! Being able to cook, at least a little, is a vital ingredient to living the good life, and this is an excellent place to start. If there's anything about this recipe that you don't understand, just ask! I've been cooking for a long time, and I sometimes forget that most people don't know, for example, that you only use the white and light green parts of a leek. If there's anything else that gives you problems, bring it to my attention, please, so I can adjust the recipe. You will notice, I'm sure, that Jamie's measurements are a bit loosey goosey (as in "a glass of wine"?) That's one thing I love about the way he cooks. It's comforting to know that this doesn't have to be rocket science. Maybe when baking a cake, the measurements need to be fairly precise, but not in everyday cooking! The world will not stop spinning if you put in a little more or a little less of something, according to your own taste, or substitute 3 small leeks for one large one. Have fun with it - then pass it on!
Oh, by the way, in case you're wondering what else that is on my plate, we have a new producer that recently joined The Bountiful Sprout - Kala's Kuisine. She does some yummy Indian goodies, chutneys and what-have-you. That's one of her Samosas, and the dipping sauce that comes with it. Mmmmm!