Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Year, New Menu: Slow Cooker Chicken with Rosemary, Red Potatoes, and Green Beans, Mustard Chicken, Fried Brown Rice and Eggs, Taco Chili

No lie, I got 5 cookbooks for Christmas.  Hey, you can't go wrong giving someone who LOVES to cook a cookbook as a gift.  I was so excited!  Those cookbooks and my new vaccuum were favorite gifts this year.  The vaccuum was VERY needed, so I was extremely stoked about it.

This week, I am trying out some recipes from Melissa d'Arabian's cookbook 10 Dollar Dinners and The $5 Dollar Dinner Mom's One Dish Cookbook.  On the menu for the week are:  Slow Cooker Rosemary Chicken with Red Potatoes and Green Beans, Mustard Chicken, Fried Brown Rice and Eggs,  and Taco Chili.

Slow Cooker Rosemary Chicken with Red Potatoes and Green Beans adapted from The $5 Dinner Mom's One Dish Cookbook
3 rosemary sprigs
2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs
6 small red potatoes, quartered
1 small yellow onion
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper
1 pound green beans, stems removed

Using a sharp knife, crush the leaves of the rosemary sprig.  Place the rosemary sprigs around the edges of the bottom of a 5 quart or larger slow cooker.  Arrange the chicken thighs in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Spread the potatoes over the top of the chicken.  Drizzle the olive oil over the top of the chicken and potatoes, and then season with the garlic powder with salt and pepper.

Set the slow cooker on low and cook for 8 hours.  When there is 1 hour remaining in the cooking cycle, place the green benas on top of the chicken and potatoes to steam them.  Complete the cooking cycle.

Mustard Chicken adapted from Ten Dollar Dinners
**Just a heads up-this recipe requires a time commitment.  Either prepare ahead of time, like on the night you do the slow cooked meal or on a weekend, or just know you need ot have time set aside to get it done.

1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs (about 8), rinsed and patted dry
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1/4 pound button mushrooms, quartered
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tomato, cored, halved, and chopped
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp dried tarragon (if you don't have this, substitute dash fennel seed)
1/2 cup dry white wine and a cup for you
1 cup chicken broth, plus more if needed
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tbsp sour cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove skin from chicken.  Season meat with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the thighs, smooth side down, and cook until browned, about 4 minutes.  Turn over the thighs and brown the other side, about 3 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.  Add the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil along with the onion and cook until soft, stirring for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the mushrooms and continue to cook until soft 3-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 mins. and then add the tomato and flour and cook, stirring, until the tomato begins to break down about 3 minutes.  Stir in tarragon.  Rais the heat and pou in the wine, letting it simmer for 1 min. before returning the chicken to the pot.  Pour in enough broth to read halfway up the sidesof the chicken, then cover the pot and place it in the ovento braise, until the chicken pulls away from the bone easily, about 45 minutes, removing the lid halfway through the cooking.  Remove the pot from the oven, use tongs to transfer the chicken to a plate, and set aside.  Add the mustard and sour cream to the sauce and stir to combine.  Then return the chicke to the pot and back into the oven to cook for about 5 minutes to bring the flavors together before serving.

Fried Brown Rice and Eggs with Garlic-Soy Vinaigrette adapted from Ten Dollar Dinners
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise with the grain
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
2 tsp chili powder
4 large eggs
2 scallions white and green parts finely chopped

Whisk the soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil together in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat 2 tbsp of the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until soft and golden, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook until crisp and fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Mix in the rice and chili powder and cook until the rice is warmed through and starting to brown, about 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat and set aside.

Heat the remaining 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Fry the eggs to your liking, either sunny side up or over easy.  Divide the rice among 4 bowls, top each with an egg, some scallions, and some of the soy vinaigrette, and serve.

Taco Chili with Mix adapted from Paula Deen
This mix was what I gave my co-workers as Christmas gifts this year.  Cooking with beans, not canned ones, is one cost cutting way to reduce your grocery bill.

Taco Chili Mix:
1 cup dried kidney beans
1/2 cup dried pinto beans
1 (1 1/4 oz.) taco seasoning mix
1 (1 oz. ) pkg. buttermilk ranch dressing mix
3 tbsp dried minced onion
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 cups corn or tortilla chips

Taco Chili:
4 cups water
1 can diced tomatoes and green chilies
1 can (16 oz.)tomato sauce
1 lb. ground beef cooked and drained

For the mix: In a 1-quart wide mouth jar, layer kidney and pinto beans.
In a small bowl, combine taco seasoning mix, dried salad dressing mix, onion, chili powder, and cumin. Wrap seasonings in plastic wrap or cellophane and place in jar.
Put chips in a bag and place in jar. Decorate with ribbon or fabric.
For the chili: Place beans in a large bowl, cover with water and soak 6 to 8 hours, or overnight. Drain and add to a Dutch oven. Add seasoning packet, water, diced tomatoes and green chilies, tomato sauce, and ground beef.
Heat to boiling, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 2 hours, or until beans are tender. Serve with corn or tortilla chips.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year! Here's to 2013 and kicking cancer to the curb and outta this family.

2012 was a year of mixed emotions. Happy occasions included our little man, Dempsey, joining the family in February and completing graduate school in May. We have a happy family of four and there are new adventures each and every day. I've watched little Tessa become an amazing big sister and enjoy the presence of her little brother who seems to be growing faster than Usain Bolt in a foot race. 2012 was also full of disappointment, sadness, and confusion with my dad's cancer returning. Who knew tonsil cancer could return??? We are approaching the one year mark of this discovery and continue to wonder what is next? Dad has his PET scan on Friday and with that we are anxious to see if the cancer is gone. Then we have to figure out if the doctors will be able to fix his jaw and improve his ability to speak. As we have traveled on this journey, I have learned a few things about this disease called cancer.
1. Cancer SUCKS. Yeah, there is no other way to describe it because cancer doesn't deserve any kind of light language affiliated with it.

2. Cancer doesn't leave anyone out. I look at my father who is in amazing shape. He's otherwise healthy and an upbeat person, but still, cancer found it's way into his body. Not once, not twice, but now three times.

3. You find who truly cares. Our family has been blessed with so many of our past friends and neighbors who have reached out during this time. It stinks that it took this horrible disease to bring us all together, but wow, we have been truly overwhelmed. When mom and dad were in Baltimore for dad's surgery and when they had to live up there during the week for him to receive radiation and chemo, we had no problem getting someone to watch their dogs. We got constant offers of, 'How can we help?" and most often we heard from so many people who had been impacted by dad's positive and selfless attitude.

4. My mom is amazing. My mom is truly the rock. I know she has her weak moments-we all do, but every night she puts together a milkshake for daddy to eat in the morning to help start his day off on a high calorie count. She is constantly cooking up food that she thinks he may be able to handle. She loves him no matter what-in sickness and in health is what I think of when I look at the two of them together.

5. People give unwanted advice and say awkward things. I remember when I was pregnant so many people wanted to come and tell me their horror stories of labor and delivery or give me suggestions on how big my belly was and ask, "Are you sure there aren't two babies in there?" Really? I mean come on, telling me I would be the perfect spokesperson for teenage pregnancy just because I LOOK young and pregnant is NOT what I want to hear. The same goes for someone with cancer. They don't need forwarded e-mails with the top 10 ways to prevent cancer. Hello! They already have cancer, so trying to prevent it is not going to help.

6. Instead of this advice and awkwardness, just listen. The person with cancer is still the same person. Don't treat them like they are below you or contagious. Don't constantly bring up serious topics and feel like a discussion is needed everytime you meet. Stop the unwanted advice and suggestions and take the time to listen. Listen to the person with cancer, listen to their family members who are impacted by this horrible disease, and stop giving advice on cancer. These people are already in touch with the experts and you are not one of them. Become an expert listener.

7. Don't blame God. I have found solace and comfort from our heavenly Father in this whole ordeal. Prayer is like the hot cocoa on a cold day for me. If you are not sure what to do for someone with cancer, then just pray. Seriously, it goes a lot farther than you think.

8. My family is awesome. I already knew this, but these two years have once again proven the fact that this family is awesome. My husband understands how sometimes I need a few moments just to shed a few tears or talk or just go visit with my mom and dad. Our family has always been tight, but we are even tighter now.

9. Young children can figure out what cancer is. It stinks that my 4 year old knows what cancer is, but I am also proud of her for how empathetic she is because of all this. She has been known to go up to her Granddaddy and ask him how he's feeling and I think she subconsciously knows she and her brother are the best medicine for him.

Yes, this is not a list of my resolutions, but the lessons I have learned in the past two years about cancer. If you make any resolutions, think about how you might be able to fit in more family time or just to get in touch with someone who you've lost touch with. God bless each one of you as you go through 2013! Mom and dad got married on the 13th of September, so they're hoping this is their lucky year!