Life has been happening

After Cookbook Week I was tackled by life. 60 hours a week at work for me, 40 hours plus class for the husband and the kid works 35 hours and has a very, very busy social life. Thankfully I had known that I was about to be too busy to think much less manage kitchen magic so I doubled most of what I cooked from the cookbook so we would have leftovers and I had shopped for so much chicken and packaged sides so that dinner wouldn’t have to be a production.

Last week was heavy on the chicken and the use of gadgets. There is no shame is taking shortcuts to provide the people with tasty and mostly healthy food! Let’s start by talking about the grocery prep.

Chicken, individually frozen breasts and thighs, the kind that comes in bags and none of the parts are ever the same size. I also picked up a bag of pre-cut tenders and a bag of leg quarters. There is also cheap beef to be had, cuts like tri-tip, hanger steaks and eye of round. I don’t buy cheap fish however as most of it is farm raised and has an odd smell to it when cooking and the people tell me they can taste the difference so I wait until the good stuff goes on sale.

Now that we have the meats lets get some things to make it fancy in a rapid fashion. For the chicken tenders I got a package of Chicken Tortilla Soup mix, a can of Rotel and a package of tortilla strips. For the thighs I got a couple of packages of Mongolian Beef sauce mix, matchstick carrots, scallions and rice. For the tri-tip I got a can of beef consomme, a package of potato soup mix, a bag of potatoes and a loaf of french bread.

The tri-tip was the most labor intensive part of that dish because I had to make a sauce for the meat to cook in. I used some of  the consomme, a splash of white wine, 3 cloves of garlic, onion powder, mustard powder and worchestershire sauce. That is where the work ended, I stuck the meat in the pressure cooker and let it go for the 30 minutes it took to get the soup ready. We have already talked about how my folks like extra tater in their soup so I peeled, diced and boiled in chicken broth 4 medium potatoes. Cooking in the broth gives a bit of extra good flavor to make up for the bitterness from the heart at having to peel and dice them. However if you use a Yukon Gold instead of a Russett you won’t have to peel them because the skin is so thin and cooks up nicely. The soup mix calls for 8 cups of water but we know I can’t just cook in water so I cut back to 7 cups of water with some bullion and added 1 cup of white wine. After the 30 minutes on the meat it is time to dish up the delicious! I put the meat in the bottom of the bowls and topped with the soup and added a slice of bread on the side. Adding meat to the soup also helps to stretch it a bit so you could end up with some ever helpful leftovers!!

Chicken thighs are probably my favorite of all the chicken parts. They are so flavorful on their own and they take flavor you want them to have beautifully. I went against the grain here with the Mongolian Beef sauce but if you like the sauce and you like the meat you should be able to combine them and Asian sauces are brilliant for being used on anything. I followed the directions on the sauce pack for mixing it up but then I let the chicken and carrots marinade over night in it, any chance to give a little uumph should be taken especially when you are having to rush the food. The rice I mentioned earlier was one of the boxed variety, Rice a Roni with chicken and garlic flavors. Super simple cook on this one, chicken and carrots cooked on the flat top while the rice was going. I opted to turn the marinade into a sauce of its own by adding a little water and simmering it until it came up to 185 degrees. I know marinade is supposed to be tossed since it had raw meat in it but it is my opinion that if I cook the marinade then all the cooties are cooked out. Again with the simple serving, rice on the plate first, top with the chicken and carrots and garnish with scallions if you want. We had some pickled radish and ginger in the fridge so I put some of that on the side as well. A lovely dish that only takes about 30 minutes to prep and cook and depending on how much of it you make you can again have leftovers!

I have to add a confession here, one night we ate side dishes for dinner. Egg rolls, french fries and fried okra. I baked the fries and egg rolls so it was just the okra that was fried meaning to me it wasn’t a completely tragic meal. I did make a spicy mustard, truffle mayo and garlic ketchup to make it feel a little fancier. On this night the hubs thought I was joking when I told him 3 times that we were eating like toddlers. He added a sandwich with fresh veg to his plate like a reasonable person. We looked at him funny and made jokes about him being too fancy to eat like a kid.

Chicken leg quarters. This got made on a split shift day so I was really able to go all out for this one. At my market this is a 10 pound bag of meat which is like 8 or 9 of these giant pieces. I followed the idea from the duck and boiled half of them in some broth with an onion and a leek and a couple of carrots, for the other half I lifted the skin and crammed in slices of butter and bits of garlic paste. I baked them all at one time once the boiled ones were dried and salted. The boiled ones cooked a bit faster so I took them out first and covered them with foil. To go along with this super exciting bit of chicken I made a macaroni with pesto sauce that I found at Aldi and a can of green beans that I dumped into a bowl and heated in the microwave with some garlic and pepper.

The moral of this story is that even if dinner has to be rushed or made on a budget it is easy enough to do a few little things to add some love and so long as you can sit down as a family and enjoy each other it almost doesn’t matter what is on the plates!

Thanks ya’ll and sorry for the neglect! Happy cooking!

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