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Cooking Wit da Fat Man- going for a quicky

Quickies,

Who doesn’t like a quickie?

Meal people MEAL. One of the trials I face every day is trying to make get dinner on the table before 7:00. It’s tough. Lots of folks I talk too tell me that it’s too hard to make stuff fast and resort to high salt, prepackaged solutions to come up with quick meals.

I don’t buy into that idea. With just a little bit of planning it’s very possible to come up with healthier and tastier home cooked meals.

I like to use Sunday afternoon to do a little planning and cook some proteins for my upcoming week, that way we’re ready to go. I also have a few shortcuts in case plans change.

Shredded Chicken

Shredded chicken is a great start for a ton of different quick meals, from simple chicken and sliced strawberry salad, to chicken tacos, the ideas are endless.

-       Most every weekend I bake a whole chicken and then shred it. I have a oven chicken roaster that works fantastic, gets my highest recommendations. You can find one at Amazon here. Norpro Chicken Roaster. These things really make baking a perfect chicken easy as pie. I use a whole chicken, pat it dry, cover with Paula Dean’s House Seasoning (see last weeks entry) and put some sliced garlic cloves under the skin. Garlic is optional, but I like the some garlic flavor in just about everything I make.  Bake the bird at 350 for about an hour typically for the smaller birds I seem to find at my grocery store.

-       Another option, poached chicken breasts. Most stores sell bags of frozen chicken breasts. Those are handy, although they’re typically frozen in salt water. I like to poach these in low sodium chicken broth.. fill a big pot with about two cups of broth, bring to a boil. Gently add the frozen breasts, I usually place them in the liquid with a spoon, and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove the breasts from the liquid, allow them to cool a bit and shred with a couple forks.

-       One must have for any kitchen, a meat thermometer. Cook chicken until it gets to 180. The more you cook the better feel you’ll have for when it will get there.

Lean Ground Beef

-       Cooked lean ground beef, well seasoned is easy to reheat. If I know we’re going to be in a rush I’ll make up some taco stuffing. Frankly ground beef cooks up pretty fast so you don’t HAVE to make it ahead of time.

-       Meatballs- A good meatball is really little meatloaf. They can certainly be made ahead of time and put in the fridge with some homemade pasta sauce for a fast meal. My favorite way to make these, 1lb ground beef, ½ cup seasoned bread crumbs, 2 tbl spoons chopped fresh oregano, and same amount basil, 3 cloves chopped garlic, 2 eggs beaten. Mix the ingredients in a bowl, by hand. You might want to let the meat sit out for 15 minutes to avoid hand cramps from the cold. To make these really good, and different, buy a tub of the mini-mozzarella cheese balls. Form the meat around a cheese ball. You should have enough for about a dozen. Bake the meatballs on a oven tray lined with foil for about 15 minutes or until they reach 160 degrees. When you make your pasta sauce, add the meatballs and let the simmer in the sauce for a half hour or so. Delicious.

Non-Meat Protein

-       There some other stuff you can use. One family favorite is my version of chiliquillias. If you’re familiar with chilliquillas, or if you have Mexican friends, don’t serve them this, at least don’t call it chilliquillas. The real chilliquillas is a Mexican dish with meat, beans and tortialla’s that most people use for using up left overs. My version has no meat, and it’s not quite the right consistency, but it’s tasty enough, family likes it. It also falls into my category for quick as the whole thing can be assembled the day before and thrown in the oven when I get home.

-       BTW this one is a special favorite for leftovers. Mrs S will eat off this casserole carcass all week.

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More thinking about Thanksgiving

I’m counting down to my favorite holiday of all time, Thanksgiving.

We’re starting to think about what to make for Thanksgiving dinner her at the Old and in the Way Test Kitchen. This year we’ll be hosting an eclectic mix of high caste Hindu’s, low class Jews and some dear family friends. We got 3 folks who are full on vegans, 5 folks who keep Kosher and one certain wife who issued the following edict; “Don’t fuck with Thanksgiving”. Said Wife issues this admonition every year when I start paging through the cookbooks looking for stuff to make for the holiday.

“Define ‘fuck’ dear, in a culinary sense of course.”

This is my wife’s interpretation of Thanksgiving;

Turkey in the oven. BBQ and smoker is fine for others, but there must be an oven baked bird. Please use a color card to get to approved golden brown color.

Stuffing in the turkey. As in not in a dish not made in the bird. No exotic meats or bird organs in the stuffing. I.e. no sausage or giblets in the stuffing.

Green bean casserole This dish must be made using the same ingredients that her Dear Mother used to open, including fried onions. The key to good green bean casserole is a working can opener, use it well.

Cranberry sauce should also come from a can as G-d intended. Preferred plating is perfectly round slices with the can ribs visible, sort of like a cran-loaf of some sort.

Mashed potatoes, now on this one, she actually likes my potatoes better  than her mothers, but would never actually come out and say that, what I get is “just make your potatoes I don’t know where mom’s recipe is.” Mine are pretty good, lots of garlic, cream cheese and Lowery’s.

Pumpkin pie and cool whip.

NOT acceptable, except as side dishes that can be avoided; cornbread anything, sage or garlic in the turkey, oven bags, non-poultry meats, any vegetables other than those listed. I would add to the mix, Starbucks Holiday Blend coffee, good stuff that is.

BTW, when I mentioned that I’ve made the cranberry sauce from scratch the last several years she disagreed, “no you opened a can, like you always do.”

Uh.. what a disappointment, fact is I NEVAH opened a can, I boiled down the fresh cranberries, added the sugar and the water, the lemon zest, it was awesome. Just goes to show ya.

A little input from Mrs ain’g gonna stop me now. I’ve decided to give her what she wants and make the “cool” stuff for everyone else. I toyed with idea of making a Swanson’s Frozen dinner for her, but that might be a wee bit too aggressive. Since I live in Minnesota I’ve been able to successfully adopt the local custom of being passive aggressive. Much easier, for the aggressor anyway.

We’ll make the usual spread then add a few things. One thing that I’d really like to add is a good Brussels sprouts dish. I’m growing more fond of sprouts the older I get, which I’m sure would have my mother unconscious if she ever knew. The rest of the family still hates them and I’m cool with that. Hate away.

I’m doing a couple different versions of stuffing. The salmonella stuffing that goes into the bird where her colon used to be.. I’ll still make that. I’m adding a reciepe for stuffing balls to the mix, this comes courtesy of Mrs S’s dear Aunt who I’m told is a fantastic cook. I’ve never really had the occasion to eat her cooking but based on everything else I know about her I’m not surprised, she’s one that I’m sure excels at everything she does. That’s her whole family basically, makes you wonder what she was thinking huh?

These stuffing balls sound great, the have some creamed corn in the mixture to make them hold together. I’ll be making them with vegetable broth instead of chicken. Made that mistake a couple years ago, never occurred to me that when you put chicken broth in a recipe you no longer have a vegan dish. And they asked. “Is this vegetarian?” oo.. “um define vegetarian”. Not unlike one of my other favorite questions when we have people over.. “Is this decaf?” Oh.. “do you want decaf?” “Yes” “Lucky for you that’s exactly what it is.” It always is.

Now I need something else… We’ll do a sweet potato/yam thing of some kind or another, that’s easy enough to keep vegetarian. Maybe a corn something of some kind?

Any ideas out there?

BTW, Just happened to fill the freezer this week with this years deer. 75lbs of venison; chops, steaks, summer sausages, meat sticks, and ground deer. Told the daughter we’ll be having Sloppy Does for dinner this week.

My idea.

 

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