Saturday, August 20, 2011

Wow - I'm really here! I'm soooooo behind!!!

Really, I am so sorry for anyone who subscribed to my blog when I was making daily entries and who now wonders what is going on. I really would love to post something every day, but without cooking frequently or another writing challenge like I was doing then, it's not easy to come up with a daily topic. But, I do want to at least post something once a week. If I happen upon another challenge that pushes me to do more, I will try to take it on because I really enjoyed interacting with everyone.

Now, with food in mind, let me tell you about my most recently cooked meal. Definitely nothing fancy, by any means, but it was pretty good nonetheless. Last night, I decided to get some chicken out and quickly thaw it to make something for my daughter and me. When I discovered that she had bought a pack boneless, skinless thighs, I thought breading and pan-frying them would be nice. I used to do that for my mother when I was caring for her. But, instead, I decided to bake a couple of them since there was just the two of us. I put a small rack in a casserole dish to keep them above the drippings and set about to mix up a coating to put on them.

One of the things I like about Indian cooking is that they will mix their spices with yogurt and marinate their chicken in that. The acid in the yogurt helps tenderize the meat and helps adhere the spices to it as well. It's likely the reason so many recipes call for soaking chicken in buttermilk before breading, as well. I've done something similar with sour cream, although with other spices rather than Indian, and I've been happy with the results. This time, though, I didn't have any sour cream. So, I took some mayonnaise and mixed it with some spicy Mexican salad dressing and covered the thighs, front and back. I placed them on the rack (bone side down - I know there was no bone, but that's the side I put down). Then I sprinkled bread crumbs on top and a little "soul food" seasoning on top of that. I baked them for an hour at 325°.

Now, one thing I learned is that mayonnaise doesn't "meld" into the chicken like the sour cream did when I used it. That may prove to be a negative for some. Additionally, the saltiness of the mayonnaise and the saltiness of the seasoning was a bit much, so thankfully the seasoning was only on top. But, I still think they turned out otherwise well and I will use the same technique in the future, although either with plain yogurt or sour cream. I paired them with corn and enjoyed a tasty impromptu meal.

This dish has sweet potatoes, which I'd rather have.
I've gone out to eat a couple of times this past week and wanted to talk about that as well. The day before yesterday, we went to Aunt Berta's Kitchen in nearby Oaklyn. She specializes in Southern cooking and I've always enjoyed everything I've gotten there. Her sweet potato pie is the most glorious thing I've ever tasted. I'll take that any day over pumpkin. We ordered the family chicken dinner. Eight pieces of chicken plus three large sides and corn bread. We got half fried and half roasted. OMG, her roasted chicken is the most delectable chicken I have ever set my teeth in. Tender, moist, and so full of flavor, I just can't get enough. Our sides were macaroni and cheese (another spectacular dish), collards (which are delicious!) and cabbage (his favorite, not mine). All of this for $19.99. There is enough food to feed 3-4 people. We took home the leftovers. It's been several years since I was there, so I was happy to go. I've been wanting to go for a while, and it was well worth it!!!

One type of kofta

A few nights earlier, we went out and he wanted Indian food, which I love, but he only wanted buffet. Well, unless you're going for lunch, Indian buffets in Jersey are rare. The one we had gone to the week before is good, but they've changed their seasonings and their foods are a lot hotter (it used to be that the buffet was more mild to allow people to try the cuisine, but I guess since most of their clientele is Indian, they've bumped up the heat factor). I didn't want to go again, but knew that there was at least one Indian buffet over in Philly, which is actually closer than the one in Jersey. Other than the parking, which is a pain in the ass (sorry, but it is) in the city, there are so many places to eat in the city and, surprisingly, the Indian places are very reasonably priced. We ended up at San Samosa on Walnut Street, between 12th & 13th Streets. I swear, I died and went to heaven, it was the most wonderful flavor experience for me. Just walking into that heady aroma of curry and then tasting the chicken tikka masala with basmati rice as well as the kofta, which I'd never had before. They look and taste like meatballs, but are actually vegetable balls in a wonderful, thick, mild curry gravy. They're texturally different than meatballs, but not so much that someone who didn't know they weren't meat could tell. They'd probably more think that someone put too much filler in the meatball. They were seriously good eats! I would even eat them as a vegetarian meatball sandwich if I had them and a roll on hand!! The only thing I was disappointed with was the naan which was fairly dry. Everything else was wonderful!! I'm going to try to go back there again soon.

Well, that is all for this time around.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Absence Makes the Writing Harder

I have to say, it's been hard keeping up with my food blog this summer since I haven't been cooking as much or doing any blogging challenges related to this blog. But, I'm going to try to do better.

I have mentioned in the past that I am diabetic. I haven't been as diligent as I should be with maintaining a good diet, but I know I have improved compared to my old eating habits. I try to stay away from heavily sugar-laden foods and to eat more whole grain foods when they are available. I still eat the occasional sweet treat, but maybe only once a month. I've even taken to asking for sugar-free syrups in drinks when I want a flavored coffee or soda. I'm far from perfect, but I felt that I was treating my body much better than I used to.

Well, apparently I was right. I finally got back to see my doctor who scheduled long overdue blood work for me. When she got the results, she was happy to see that three years of no appointments hadn't thrown my numbers off the charts. My triglycerides were still high, but my LDL and HDL numbers were actually acceptable. My blood pressure was well within normal range and my A1C was 6.9, which is within therapeutic range for diabetics (maybe at the top, but I haven't been to the doctor for years!) 

The other thing was that I hadn't monitored my blood sugar for almost as long as I'd seen the doctor, mainly because I didn't have a clue where my monitor was after moving twice in a year and a half. So, a couple weeks ago, I went online looking to see where I could get another glucose monitor and found Abbott Labs were offering a free monitor if I registered for their MyFreeStyle Promise Program. It provides copay discounts for those with insurance so that they don't have to pay more than $15 for their test strips. I still have to call them to find out if they have any discount for those of us without insurance, but considering they will replace the monitor every three years for free as long as I am in the program, I think I can find a way to get the test strips along the way without complaining too much. 

When I tested my sugar, I was pleasantly surprised that my pre-prandial (before eating) readings were all under 110, which has never happened since I began testing my blood. I was shocked! I'm hoping it's because I'm doing something right and not because the meter is poorly calibrated. Now I need to get more strips so I can proudly show my doctor next month how well I'm doing!

Courtesy Wikimedia
To change the subject, do you like to grill? If so, which do you prefer? Charcoal or propane? It's funny how popular grilling has become. There's nothing quite as good as a steak or a burger cooked over an open flame! Yet, I don't particularly like to do it. When it's hot in the summer, I don't even like to cook INSIDE, let alone cook outside in the heat. I have done it, though, and can enjoy it when temperatures are right. I would take my kids and my mother-in-law to one of the city parks where grills were provided and we'd cook hamburgers and hot dogs with the charcoal we brought while the kids ran around the park playing. We always had a good time, but also plenty of shade trees and a nice breeze to go with it.

But, I've noticed just how elaborate home grills have become. There are so many different kinds these days, some even with separate burners for sauce pans. Sometimes I will go online and look at all sorts of different items just because I get curious. Well, curiosity hit me again and I decided to see what was up with the different kinds of gas grills that were around. I came upon a marketing site that showed both charcoal and propane bbqs. Wow! I thought the gas grill my parents had was pretty upscale since it also had a rotisserie (that they never used once), but some of these are big enough that they'd work in your kitchen (if you had proper ventilation, obviously). Others are more like the smaller versions I've used in the past, both table top and free standing. Some remind me of the old Coleman stoves, but on steroids. There really are so many choices out there these days. If you love to grill, I can't imagine not being able to find something to suit your personality.

Plain Chicken's No-Boil Mac & Cheese - Worth a Second Post!

It's been quite a while since I posted and I am sorry. I really haven't done much cooking during this horrible heat we've been having. The desire to work in the kitchen just hasn't been there. But, I threw this together last night and am so happy with the results after a few tweaks that I had to tell you about it.

Steph's Casserole
Plain Chicken: No-Boil Mac & Cheese: "This was the best traditional baked mac & cheese we've ever made. It was SO simple and SOOO delicious! The best part about this mac & che..."

That's how Steph's blog begins for this wonderfully easy mac n cheese recipe. Now, I don't know that it's the best I've ever had, but it's sure up there with the best!

I already blogged about this before, but now that I made it again with some adjustments, I can safely say it will be my primary mac n cheese recipe from now on!

The first time I made it, I used her directions other than the cream cheese - I didn't have any, so I used sour cream instead. Although it tasted wonderful, the macaronis just weren't fully cooked and it was a bit on the hard side. I attributed that in part to the fact that I had used two casserole dishes to make it. But this time, I used slightly more than 2 cups of chicken stock and more than a cup of milk as well as the sour cream instead of the cream cheese. Plus, I baked it in one of my dutch ovens instead of splitting it between two casserole dishes. I also downgraded the oven temp to 350 from 375 and cooked it for 40 minutes. It turned out fantastic.

Now, this comes out pretty solid, so if you want yours a bit looser, you might add even more liquid. I haven't tried that yet to guarantee it, but this recipe is good enough that it deserves several efforts to see how it turns out.

The other thing that's different about what I did than the recipe is that the chicken stock I used is simply salted water that chicken was poached in. I didn't want to see all that flavor tossed down the drain, so I packed it in containers and froze it. I am sure glad I did!!