Cooking with Me!

I love to cook. I treat recipes like vague outlines (except for baking, you gotta follow those pretty close!). I try a little of this, and a little of that, and "what if I add this". Sometimes it doesn't work out, but usually I get something pretty damned nice. When you experiment with food, you have a good idea for what will be good together, and what you should avoid (like chocolate and orange is always good, but orange and mint is gross!)

I never did like cooking before, because my ex was very combative about food. If it wasn't ramen noodles spiced with so much chili pepper that your nose ran breathing in the same room, or spaghetti with meat balls, or take away pizza, he didn't want it. So my experimentation with food had to be done on a smaller scale, me and the kiddos.

Now, however, I can throw something in the crock pot, and my Love will nod to himself, and usually eat it-- unless there are a lot of veggies in. He really doesn't dig veg. He cooks with me, as well. This weekend, for instance we had a huge brunch on Saturday, French toast, hash browns, sausage, eggs (any way they wanted them) and waffles for me, because I don't like French toast. It was fun! Then Sunday night was Tex-Mex night, quesos, nachos, and taco/burritos. Those quesodillas were sooo damned good.

Anyway, I've decided to  meander through cooking and randomly have a cooking entry. I'll put together a menu, and then step by step it. Then every once in a while I'll share a bread recipe, or cookies, something odds and ends. If you've got requests, feel free, I'll see if I have a recipe, or I'll make one! The menu's will be starter, entrée and dessert. I'll leave the wine or beer selection to you-- as I don't drink wine at all, and I'm picky about my beer (Irish, German or Australian, thanks! Rarely anything else).

Our first menu, is an American twist on Indian. I love curry, and I love love love chicken tikka masala. However, I'm still trying to get it to come out exactly right. So I always buy it. I can, however make a mean chicken curry! Feel free to move things around, if you hate hummus, or whatever. This recipe was something I converted from my mother's curried beef recipe, so it's pretty malleable.

Hummus with pita squares, or toasted tortilla shells
Chicken Curry with Rice
Mango or Coconut sorbet/ice cream

Your Shopping List:
Starter:
Hummus (I'd go with a veggie or roasted pepper and garlic flavoured one)
pitas or tortillas (the smaller white corn ones are perfect)
cooking oil (all vegetable oil)

Entrée (feeds about 6)
3 chicken breasts
4-6 T curry powder (if you're luck and can find curry paste Buy it! It's so much better, but I can't find it down here. You'll need 1-2 paste squares)
2 T onion powder
2 T garlic powder (or 1 T fresh crushed garlic)
1-2 T ground ginger
1 bag frozen corn
1 bag frozen peas
2 large cans chicken stock (or one box) and 4 cans of water (you can use bullion, you want to make about a quart of it into stock, and then about another quart and half of water)
 2-4 Roma tomatoes, or 1-2 vine ripened tomatoes, diced (optional)
1 can tomato paste (optional)
Thickening (I'll give you a rue recipe too)

 2-3 cups long grain or jasmine rice

Dessert:
Just pick up some mango or coconut ice cream down in the frozen aisle. maybe some Almond Joys or Mounds candy bars, or almond cookies, to place on the side for serving.

Preparation: You'll need about 4 hours in the crock pot for the entrée, or 1 hour on the stove. You'll need twenty minutes or so for the stater and dishing the dessert will take about five.
Now, this is the way I would do this if I was making it today for dinner.

1. Throw the frozen veggies in the bottom of your crock pot, add your stock and water and 1-2T curry powder. If you're using the tomatoes and paste, mix them in. Turn the crock pot on low and let it sit while you prep the chicken.

2. Using kitchen shears (or super clean scissors) snip your chicken breasts into small, bite sized pieces. Make them smaller than you'd think you want them. Perhaps half an inch square, or so. Place your chicken bits in a bowl. Sprinkle powdered onion, garlic, ginger and 1 T curry over the chicken. Stir to coat.

3. Throw the chicken into a frying pan with about 2 T cooking oil. Saute quickly, like stir-fry. Then cover and let simmer (on very low) for about fifteen minutes. If you need to, add a half a cup of water so it doesn't stick.

4. Place the chicken in the crock pot, give it a good stir. Sprinkle 2 T curry in, and stir it well. Then cover it and let it sit about four hours. Stir it once an hour or so, if you're home, just to check on it. If you like, half way through, taste it. If it needs more curry, add it now.

5. About forty minutes before dinner, put your rice on to cook. It takes about twenty minutes-- usually. Just follow the directions on the package. Do not use minute rice, that stuff is so bad for you.

6. Time to toss in your rue. Rue is a thickening made by browning flour and butter. Toss 2 T butter into a small sauce pan and 1/2 cup flour. Sauté over low heat, letting the butter melt and mix with the flour. Let it brown for five minutes. Then pour in about a cup of milk. Stir it with a whisk the entire time, and let it get thick. It will look like custard. Pour it into the crock pot (which is probably simmering nicely, right?) stirring well, and let the rue do its thing for the next half hour.

7. If you're serving pita with your hummus, just gently warm your pitas in a toaster or a 300* oven before serving. Slice them into eighths. Scoop the hummus into a pretty bowl and then arrange the pitas on a plate. Put a spoon or knife beside, for spreading and your starter's done!

8. If you prefer tortillas to pitas (which I admit, I do), you'll want to warm a skillet. Cut the shells into eight or 16 pieces (depending how small you want the chips). Toss in a teeny bit of oil, 1 T or less and then quickly fry the tortillas. You're making a cheap-ass, not as cracker-y, pompadom, really, it'll puff a little and crisp up. You can also put them into a quesodilla maker to crisp them. Let them drain on some paper towel. Then arrange them around your bowl of hummus and let your starter start!

9. To serve the curry, you need to place about 1/2 of rice in your bowl; push it to one side, so you have a little room. Carefully spoon about 1 cup of chicken curry into the other side of your bowl, and let some of the sauce trail over your rice. I always mix mine together, but not everyone likes it that way (we're going for pretty presentation here, after all, and the bright rice looks gorgeous against the reddish-gold of the curries chicken). 

10. Serving your dessert is equally easy. Gently drop two scoops of your ice cream of choice into a teeny dessert bowl. For coconut, place one Almond Joy, or Mounds bad (one piece) next to it, sorta standing up. For the mango, gently stand up coconut or almond cookies, two of them, like bunny ears.

Bon Appetite! I hope you enjoy it!



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