Tag Archive: cooking

cookedA few weeks ago on my facebook page I declared this year the summer of grilling! I am currently reading cooked by Michael Pollan (as usual- highly recommend) and he begins his story with cooking with FIRE! Not only do I drool down my chin while reading this book, I have a new found inspiration for experimenting on the grill. I don’t have any fancy equipment, but I do have a gas Weber and a new metal box to hold wood chips for smoking. I also have a charcoal Weber that we almost never use. I know that it would be much cooler if I had a smoker and more equipment, but I don’t so I will work with what I have. The good news for you is that you can follow along at home with only the simple-ist equipment yourself. I have big plans of pork shoulder and baby back ribs and steaks and whole chickens and …… drool……

Sunday night I did Beer Can Chicken and it was amazing! (I kind of wanted to say Amaze-balls but when I do I get threatened with violence from those around me- especially Brent). Probably the juiciest, most delicious whole chicken I have ever cooked. I still need to work on the ‘rub’ so I will post about this in the future.

Tonight I made really great bratwurst. It really does make a difference when you buy it fresh from the butcher vs. the grocery store. I know brats aren’t very complicated, but I remember feeling over-whelmed the first time I made them on my own. I had tasted them at a million picnics over the years but didn’t know why some of them were amazing/juicy/flavorful and others were dry/bland/burnt. Here is how I do it:

5 Large Brats
2 beers (any kind)
3-4 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 tblsp. black pepper corns
1 tsp. (approx.) red pepper flakes
3 smashed cloves garlic
onion, garlic powder, sea salt
1/2 Vidalia/Yellow onion (for pot)
1/2 Vidalia/yellow onion diced for topping
gardeneria peppers (if you like spice)
Pickles (if you like less spicey)
diced tomatoes (for topping)
Spicy mustard
olive oil

brat spice

Start by dumping the beer and water into a big stock pot on stove, add bay leaves, pepper corns, red pepper, garlic, seasonings, and 1/2 onion along with the brats. Mix everything together and slowly bring to a boil.

Once you bring to boil, reduce to simmer for approx. 20 mins.

Meanwhile, preheat grill. You are going to want the grill med-high when you throw the brats on.

brat pot

After the brats are done simmering, I remove from liquid and place on foil lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Grill 3-5 mins. each side until its at the crisp-ness you like (I like crispy!)

Serve with the toppings! As usual, I know this would be really good with a big ol’ brat bun…. but I do not serve them with bread. I serve with the onion, peppers, tomatoes, and spicy mustard. I also serve whatever yummy veggies I have that week. Enjoy!

finished brat

Easy Kitchen Tips

First of all, I’d like to say: Forgive me readers, for I have sinned. It has been 10 days since my last post. I’m sure you were all losing sleep over it. Today’s post is all about my favorite tips for the kitchen. For those of you pro’s out there, some of these may be obvious. These are just things that make me happy and I am glad I either 1. learned it from someone, 2. saw it on the foodnetwork, or 3. found it on Pinterest.

1. Bacon in the oven: I mentioned this tip in my porkalicious post, so I won’t go into detail. Bottom line you cook the bacon laid flat in the oven and save your self a lot of head aches.

2. Garlic Bread: I am a little addicted to bread and garlic, so when there is something that combines both of these things- I’m in! Turn left over hot dog, brat, or burger buns into garlic bread. You know how you always have left over rolls that either get thrown away or go moldy on your counter? Use them for garlic bread. Butter or olive oil and a little bit of garlic (fresh, salt or powder). You can get fancy if you want, but for a random Tuesday night, this works just fine. Also, you can make it in to garlic bread ahead of time, wrap it in foil, and stick it in the freezer. When the time comes, pull it out and pop it in the oven. I do this when I buy a big loaf of french bread. I usually only use half and the rest goes bad in a day or two. I almost always have some of this floating around.

3. Chicken stock: They sell this stuff in a pretty big container and it only lasts about a week after you open it. Next time, use what you need, and then freeze the rest. You can use ice cube trays to portion it out. That way you can pick how much you want to thaw out. Tip: cover the ice cube tray with plastic wrap or foil so it doesn’t take on other flavors or get yucky.

4. Left over wine: I have no idea. I never have left over wine.

5. Chicken: I NEVER make only enough chicken for that night. I always make 1-2 extra breasts to use in a later dish. I usually use it for a salad or quesadilla the next day. Defrosting and baking takes time. Why do 2 when you can do 4? See- make ahead shredded chicken dishes post for more ideas.

6. Planning menus: Plan your menu before you shop or use Peapod (see The Grocery Fairy post). And when you plan, plan around the produce! In other words- plan around the things that go bad. If you buy parsley for a pasta dish, maybe you also plan to do chicken with parsley and lemon the next night. If you are going to buy lemon for your chicken, maybe you also plan to do a fish dish with lemon zest/juice. You get my point. Don’t throw stuff away because your menu was all over the board.

7. Spices: I’ve actually never done this but the idea came to me while writing this. Host a spice party. Okay- this is a total girl’s night in thing. Have everyone come over, bring a bottle of wine and assign them a spice. ‘Julie has to bring garlic powder’ ‘Angie has to bring cumin’ etc. Have it planned out to make an Italian mix, a mexican mix, and ‘house seasoning’ mix and so on. If you are not the chef of the group, recruit a friend to help you plan. (Or ask me, I can come up with some ideas for you. Maybe that will be a future post).

8. No more scrubbing: I never have to scrub pans! I always line my flat pans/cookie sheets with foil or parchment. And, I always de-glaze my skillets/pans. This is a trick that chefs use to make sauces. They will add a little bit of chicken stock or wine into a super hot pan and all the little brown bits from the bottom of the pan release to flavor the sauce. Well, for those of you who are NOT chefs and just hate doing dishes, you can do the same thing with water. After you pull your food out (i.e. chicken breasts, steaks, veggies, etc.), while the pan is still smoking hot, poor in a small cup of water. As the water bubbles/boils, take a wooden spoon and gently loosen the bits from the pan. It’s like magic.

9. Foil packages: Don’t you hate when you are pulling out a piece of foil and the whole roll comes out??!! For the first 28 years of my life, I had no idea that the sides of the foil box has 2 push in tabs. When you push these in, they hold the roll in the box. My aunt told me this and I was shocked. It was right in my face and I had no idea. Maybe I am just an idiot, but I thought I would share in case you are too. 🙂

10. Make your spouse do the dishes: I say spouse because I know a lot of couples where the man does the cooking. I love it. Whoever is not cooking- cleans. Bottom line…. no exceptions. If I have to go thru the planning and cooking, my husband can do the cleaning. It’s only fair. Luckily enough, I have a wonderful husband. If your husband is less than willing, stop cooking for a week and see what he says.

I’d love to hear your tricks and tips. Post them below in the comments.

My schedule is crazy! I mean REALLY crazy. I will try anything I can to save myself time during the work week. One thing I have started doing is preparing a couple of meals ahead of time on Sunday to save me during the week. Now, I know I am not the first person to have this idea, but I thought I would share what I prepared today and try to inspire some of you for next weekend.

First things first: Let the grocery store help you! Almost all grocery stores now have a delicious rotisserie chicken that you can buy cooked any day/time. These things are amazing and should be every working mom’s secret weapon. Today I bought two! (Sometimes you can even find the day old one that they shredded up, refrigerated and sell for a little less) When you get home from the grocery store, let the bird(s) cool on the counter while you put everything away. 20 mins. and they should be cool enough to handle. Now you just break those suckers down. I usually remove the skin to make the chicken a little healthier. Break the chicken up into little shreds and set aside. This will now be your base for the 3 recipes I have below.

Here’s the thing though: I never use recipes so these are more of ideas than instructions. I like to ‘eye-ball’ and ‘guess’ and throw in a ‘pinch’. All three of these ‘recipes’ are different every time I make them, but you’ll get the point.

Chicken broccoli Casserole: This one is so easy. Take a couple handfuls of the shredded chicken and throw it in a casserole dish with some cream of chicken soup (usually a can of soup and a can of milk-follow measurements on can), chopped broccoli (I buy frozen and microwave it about 2/3 thru), any cheese you like (I usually use some kind of combo like cheddar jack or mozzarella provolone), and egg noodles (cooked very al-dente b/c they will finish in the oven). Season with pepper, onion powder, garlic powder (I usually skip salt with this one because the soup usually has a lot of sodium). Mix all ingredients in the casserole dish (you could also add sour cream or mayo if you want to add a little more tang). Top with more cheese and bread crumbs. Bake at 350 for 30 mins. Top with flat leaf parsley. Eat on Sunday night and re-heat for Monday dinner.

Mexican Chicken Soup: This name could be very mis-leading as I have no idea what would be in a mexican soup. That is just what I call it for lack of a more appropriate name. I buy Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup. The kind I buy is in the organic section of the grocery store and I buy the low sodium kind. Combine the soup, shredded chicken, a can or bag of frozen corn, a can of black beans (rinsed), and a can of diced tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes for a little heat. Bring to boil and then let simmer for about 30 mins. to let the flavors mix. Let it cool and refrigerate. This can be dinner on two of the week nights or a couple of lunches during the week. When you go to actually eat it you can add a dollop of sour cream and/or serve with tortilla chips.

Chicken Salad: This is my new favorite lunch!!! I have made this 3 weeks in a row now. Combine the chicken with red grapes-halved, toasted pine nuts or toasted sliced almonds (careful they burn really fast! 4-5 mins on a cookie sheet in the oven), finely diced red onion, light mayo, lemon juice (prob. not even half a lemon), and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper. You can serve this over mixed greens, eat with crackers, make a sandwich, but I promise it is good enough to eat out of the bowl with a fork and nothing else. You could have this for at least 3 lunches.

So, with 1 hour of cooking on a Sunday you could make 4 dinners and 3 lunches! Obviously there are a thousand other possibilities with the shredded chicken. You could do fajitas or chicken noodle soup or wraps or just throw the shredded chicken on top of a salad. I promise these are all easy and delicious. A little bit of planning up front and you can spend a littlemore quality time with your kids or husband during the hectic work week. Hope this helps.