Thursday, March 24, 2011

My favorite way to cook vegetables.

This year I learned the most AWESOME trick to cooking vegetables from my friend Holly. She enlightened me to roasted cauliflower and then I suddenly heard buzz everywhere about roasting vegetables. Since my family loves roasted cauliflower, I've tried roasting TONS of other vegetables, all with great success.

Favorites I've roasted:
butternut squash (for soup)

The formula is easy and consistent. Toss your chosen vegetable (cut into bite-sized pieces) in olive oil with a little salt and pepper and pop in a 400-425 degree oven on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan for 20ish minutes. Turn the veggies halfway through. And then? EAT.

The easiest way to cook chicken ever in history.

You won't be surprised to hear that I use Antonio Banderas, aka my beloved Crock Pot, to cook chicken. This method is an easy, cheap way to cook up chicken for many uses! If you want a "roasted" or "rotisserie" chicken this is NOT the method to use, but if you need some chicken for chili, chicken salad, etc. this is PERFECT!

Step 1: Get a whole chicken. The chicken in the photo above is a fryer, but I'm pretty sure this would also work with a larger chicken (a roaster, etc.).

Step 2: Rinse the chicken inside and out and discard all the extra included goodies (the, uh, innards that are in the cavity YUCK).

Step 3: Spray your crock with cooking spray.

Step 4: Plop the entire chicken in and add a little salt and pepper if you want.

Step 5: Put the top on the Crock Pot.

Step 6: Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Step 7: Remove the chicken, let it cool if you have time, and pick the meat off the bones. You should be able to get both breast portions off whole because the thing is just moist, perfectly cooked, and falling apart. Discard the bones.  Eat the meat/use it in your recipe that calls for cooked chicken.


I have a lot of ideas about variations you can do on this recipe! You could probably add a cut up fresh lemon or an onion or some fresh rosemary/herbs to the pot if you want to experiment with flavors. You could also add a cup or two of chicken broth or water if you want to use the strained juices later as the base for a soup or as broth or if you're nervous about cooking the chicken without anything else in the pot. I assure you, however, that by the time the chicken is done that there is PLENTY of liquid. The crock pot seals in the juices from the chicken and doesn't let them out as it cooks.

Verdict? YUM.

(I got this idea from an old friend. Hi Lisa!! Thanks for the tip!)

I'm a dork for sporks.

I mentioned to a friend recently that I thought the Spork is one of the triumphs of human ingenuity and admitted that I often grab a few spares whenever I'm (very rarely anymore) at Taco Bell. About a week later, these arrived (it was actually super awesome ... he put them in the bottom of a cereal box for us as "the prize"!).

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Titanium Spork!

No more Taco Bell runs required! I guess I'll have to find another excuse...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Easy barbecue chicken pizza

I mentioned in my last post that I've been making pizza with pre-made packaged pizza crusts this week and the success has been great! It's definitely an easy way to step up from frozen pizza, use up leftovers and stuff you have in your fridge (Bobolis come with their own little pre-measured packets of pizza sauce too! So easy!).

The leftovers that have been hanging out in my fridge this week are some grilled barbecue chicken breasts that we made on Saturday. John has been making huge sandwiches of them all week and finally today I was down to one-and-a-half chicken breasts. Perfect time to use up my extra Boboli crust! I'd been eyeballing a recipe from for a simple barbecue chicken pizza all week. In anticipation I picked up a half pound wedge of gouda cheese (gouda! I hardly know her! ha ha!! Ok so I'm probably the only who thought that was funny) and a red onion. We already had plenty of barbecue sauce on hand (Sweet Baby Ray's is our household fave ... we buy it in bulk at Costco!).

So here's what I did:

I cut up the chicken in slices/chunks. I had one-and-a-half grilled chicken breasts that were lightly coated with BBQ sauce. I put the sliced chicken in a bowl and coated it with 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (the original recipe called for 1/4 cup but I accidentally overdid it ... happy accident!). Then I cut the wax and rind off the gouda cheese and shredded it. It seemed like a lot of cheese but I ended up using it all! I didn't want to waste it!!

I layered half the cheese on the crust, then arranged the chicken on top of that. I scraped down the bowl and added any leftover sauce to that. Then I added about half a thinly-sliced red onion (it was a medium-ish size) all over the chicken. Then a drizzle of BBQ sauce from the bottle. Then the rest of the cheese on top. Oooh baby. I gouda you.

Baked it for 15-ish minutes in a 450 degree oven.

OH EM GEE. This pizza. It is so good.

Sydney wasn't as big a fan of this one as she was of the tomato basil one I made earlier this week, but she did enjoy licking all the cheese and barbecue sauce off the top:

I ate mine straight up. And had to restrain myself from going back and eating the rest (poor John will need something to eat when he gets home from teaching tonight).

The shortcut of the century: Boboli pizza crust

Recently when I was strolling the aisles of - where else! - Costco they had a 2-pack of ready made pizza crusts (with sauce) that I just had to take home. My family came into town for a visit soon after and we had a Make Your Own Pizza Party! I made a very safe fresh tomato, mushroom and basil pizza with lots of mozzarella cheese while my sister and her boyfriend took it to another level with Italian sausage, peppers, mushrooms ... the works.

As I am making the effort lately to use up all our leftovers AND cook at home more, I figured a pizza party was in order this week. I picked up a two-pack of Boboli crusts at my grocery store and pulled out all the stops (we already had roma tomatoes and fresh basil and cheese in the fridge just begging to be used up).

I topped my pizza to my pleasing (I used the included sauce packet, lots of tomato rounds and a huge handful of fresh basil, along with salt and pepper):

The results? Well lets just say we wolfed it down so fast I didn't have time for any after photos. Syd ate TWO adult-sized pieces, chirping about "pizza!" the whole time! We had no leftovers. OOPS. The toppings were piled high and the pizza crust was still crispy and chewy (not soggy).

What I love about these pizza crusts is that it allows me to do something I love (cook) without sacrificing a lot of time. I can use what I have on hand or I can get all fancy and make something more complicated. I don't feel bad about NOT making pizza crusts from scratch ... as of this moment I don't see any reason why I should! Hooray for shortcuts!

I think I love you: Cook's Country

It is well-documented that I'm a PBS junkie. We don't have cable and I need my fix of cooking shows and historical drama (and also? Sesame Street only comes on twice a day. HA). One of my favorite cooking shows on PBS is called Cook's Country. It is a "test kitchen" show where they try out equipment and tell you what the best versions of recipes are. I LOVE IT! Arguably it's very nerdy, but hey, I'm a big nerd.

Recently a recipe for a mashed potato casserole caught my eye on the show and so I took to the internet to print out a copy. Unfortunately I had to "sign up" for the website in order to procure the recipe (which I have yet to make). Signing up for an account on the website also signed me up for the show's magazine. I received my "free trial" copy today and I have to tell you ... I LOVE IT. Number one, it has no ads. Number two? It's beautiful. It's a large, thin glossy magazine with gorgeous two-page spreads on recipes and kitchen equipment reviews and FOOD. This month's issue (the mag comes out every other month) had reviews on immersion blenders and a yummy-looking recipe for tomato mac and cheese. I'm intrigued! I pored over it today as Syd and I munched on her dinner (she does better when she has a little space to eat. Can't blame her) and practically had to wipe the drool off the page. I'm going to send them a check. This magazine is awesome!

The view from my kitchen today:

(It was the only way to get dinner done today with no potential injuries.)