30 June 2012

Basic Shredded Chicken

I have another "recipe" in the works for a post in the next few days using this, but since I haven't posted lately, I thought I'd give you a quick method for shredded chicken that is more versatile than my taco chicken. Sorry no photos...I'll probably edit this post at some point with a photo, though. :)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (honestly even plain water will do if you don't have stock)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
30? grinds of black pepper
1 tbsp Old Bay
heavy pinch of salt if you use water

Bring everything but the chicken to a boil on your stove top. Add the chicken and cover the pot. Let the chicken poach in the simmering liquid for an hour or so, moving it around every so often. Pluck it out with tongs and shred it up.

Awesome for EVERYTHING from chicken salad to chicken in gravy to chicken burritos to salads to...well...everything.

23 June 2012

Another Tip...

I promise I'll have a recipe up in the next few days (maybe tonight if we don't eat out?), but in the mean time, here's another little tip.

You remember my post about my kitchen sponge, right? As awesome as that tip is...and I do still use that for the sponges for my dishes....this one is a little more useful. :)

I love this. If your kitchen is anything like mine, you are constantly gathering miscellaneous sponges and scrubbies and whatnot behind your faucet. I know I am. That's just where they seem to collect and multiply. SOS pads, Magic Eraser bits, bottle brushes, old dried up sponges, etc. They all land behind my kitchen faucet never to be used again. This is up there with my biggest pet peeves, actually. This grody mess drives me absolutely out of my mind and I am forever cleaning that catch-all spot out.

A couple months ago, my husband brought me some gorgeous flowers, and I pulled a vase out from under my sink to stick them in. When they died, I washed the vase and put it on the back of my sink to dry since I didn't put it in the dishwasher with the rest of the dishes from that load. Well, it took me a couple days to get around to putting it away, and when I went to put it away a few days later, my husband had conveniently (lazily? inconsiderately?) tossed my bottle brush and an SOS pad into it.

At first, I have to admit, I was irritated. That was a CLEAN vase, and now I would have to wash it again before I put it away. But then I thought about it.....I kind of like the idea of a "pretty" spot to stick all of this kitchen sink clutter. So instead of whining about it (haha!) I just tossed the rest of my clutter into it.

Ever since, I have no clutter behind my kitchen faucet. And even better? All those little bits of leftover Magic Eraser and SOS pads and whatnot? They actually get tossed into the trash because I don't want them in my vase! haha!

I figure sacrificing one of my favorite vases to use as a pretty clutter catcher is better than the grody mess behind my sink, right? :)

So...this tip totally goes to my husband for not thinking and dirtying my clean vase. LOL!

18 June 2012

"Produce Insurance"

So since I'm not cooking much beyond throwing something on the grill these days, I thought I'd offer up a few little "tips" I have up my sleeve.

The first tip I have is about produce, and "protecting your investment," so to speak. I don't know about everyone else, but I spend a *LOT* of money on produce--a good 30-40% of my grocery budget, if I had to venture a guess. However, I am forever throwing things out because I forget I have them! I have tried keeping a list of what I have on the fridge and crossing things off as I use them, etc....it works, for about 2 weeks and then I get lazy and tell myself that I *WILL* remember I bought xyz because I'm gonna make this one recipe with it....and wouldn't a know it, 2 weeks later I find $10 worth of xyz sitting in the bottom of my produce drawer, soggy and gross. :(

My solution to this started off easy enough. Do not refrigerate anything that doesn't *HAVE* to be refrigerated or if I do not intend to eat it cold. If it's not refrigerated in the store, I don't refrigerate it at home. I take it out of the bags from the store and arrange my produce in pretty bowls or just along my countertop. I find that the produce I leave on my kitchen counter gets USED. Imagine that! ;)

A couple months ago, I was cleaning out my refrigerator. I pulled the drawers out, scrubbed them down and scrubbed underneath it. As I oooooh'd and aaaahhhhhhh'd at my newly sparkling clean refrigerator, and all the space down there, I thought that it was a shame that I had to reassemble everything and hide it. So I didn't assemble it right away. I put it off till the next day, and just neatly stacked the groceries that needed to be put back there in the bottom of my fridge. Well, one day led to three, which led to a week. After a week of using the bottom half of my refrigerator "open"....I decided I didn't want to put the drawer assembly back. So I put them away in my garage (seeing as how this is a rental house, I couldn't very well just toss it...).

After a couple weeks, I decided to buy some plastic baskets that can easily be washed and a wire shelf to put down there to replace the drawers, and I'm using the baskets in my fridge the same way as I do the ones on my counter top--take the produce out of the plastic sacks from the grocery store and arrange them, "bare," in the fridge.

Guess what? Not only does my crappy little rental house fridge look AWESOME, but I am not throwing away *NEARLY* as much produce because I actually *SEE* it every time I open the fridge.

I'm calling this little experiment "Produce Insurance." It's awesome! :)

15 June 2012

My Favorite Salad

Just a simple grilled steak salad. Heavy on the steak. :) No real recipe because it's just a salad, but this is my favorite. You could just as easily serve the steak with a salad on the side, but what's the fun in that? ;)

Preface: My husband practically cremated my steak, but I still love him. Sorry for the chopped off photo up there....The other two I took were blurry for some reason. Random.

This is a total convenience meal for us. I didn't even make my own croutons or fry up the bacon. Done this way, it goes together, including grilling the steak, in less than 20 minutes (assuming your grill is hot, and allowing time for the meat to rest before you cut into it....).

I usually mix baby spring mix with baby spinach....but I went to not-my-usual grocery store and found something called "half and half mix"....which, as the label described it, is baby spring mix and spinach mixed together. haha! Awesome. So I used that this time around. :)

So....half and half mix, tomatoes, cucumbers, bacon, croutons, grapes (do you SEEEEEE those blueberry-sized grapes? How utterly adorable. If you find bigger ones, you might cut them in half...I normally do), cheese (which I could give or take, but the husband's gotta have it...LOL!). The only thing missing is sunflower seeds, but it's just as good without them if your husband munched all of yours and didn't tell you before you went to the store.

Just grill the steak to your liking (I prefer mine Medium....my husband totally cremated it....don't be like my husband. LOL!), and fix the salad how you want it...add dressing (blech), if you must, put the steak on top and eat it. :) I usually drizzle a very very small amount of olive oil on my salads just to make all of the smaller 'stuff' stick to everything else, because otherwise I wind up with a plate full of bacon and cheese and sunflower seeds after the salad is gone....not that those last few forkfuls aren't utterly amazing....but, it just feels wrong to miss out on all that yumminess throughout the rest of the salad.

So yeah. Quick, simple, no-brains-required dinner....one that we eat a few times a week, either with grilled chicken or grilled steak.

12 June 2012

Cake Pops

A friend of mine asked me for this method, and I told her I'd blog it for her, so here goes. This is *THE* most forgiving "recipe" EVER. I seriously cannot think of a single way to mess it up that cannot be fixed.

Oh, and this is TOTALLY Bakerella's thing, not my own. I just *do* it...I didn't come up with it and mine are in no way as cute as hers, even when I go to the effort to decorate them. haha!

So here goes. You'll need: Cake, frosting, chocolate of some kind, sticks. That's it, really. You can make your own cake, or use a boxed mix. You'll need about half a cup of frosting--I figure half a can per box when I use store bought, but you could totally make your own as long as it was a buttercream of some kind for consistency. For the chocolate, anything will work, really, and unless you're great at tempering chocolate, and you have all the patience in the world to do it, I recommend almond bark. I know it's not real chocolate, but no one will ever know. You cannot taste the difference once it's ON the cake pop, I promise. I'm a chocolate snob, but they taste just fine dipped in almond bark. Add to it that Almond bark runs about $4 for 24 ounces, where candy melts (which are the same darn thing, but in disc form) run about $2.50-$3 for 12 ounces.....just buy the Almond Bark. Sticks...well, Bakerella uses lollipop sticks, and that is WONDERFUL, really....assuming you plan ahead and order them online, because those little suckers are expensive at Walmart and the like when you're gonna make a ton of cake pops. I use short little popcicle sticks, and if I can't find those on the shelf, I get regular ones. They run about a penny a piece no matter which size I want. haha! So there ya go: cake, frosting, chocolate, sticks.

So, bake the cake per the directions on the box or recipe for a 13x9" cake. No one will care if it's a little dry or if it collapsed in the oven because your kid went stomping through the room or anything else, I promise. Let it cool completely, then break it into pieces and put it in a bowl and go to town shredding it into crumbs.

Throw a couple good spoons full of frosting into your crumbs, then just roll up your sleeves and dig in because nothing will mix this as well as your hands. Start with a little less frosting than you think you'll need, and add as you go. You want the "dough" to be Play-Doh consistency, if that helps. If you get it too wet, it'll be gloppy, and if it's too dry, it will not hold itself together. Just keep adding a bit, mixing it all in, adding more, etc. If you get too much frosting into it and it's sticky and gloppy, sprinkle on a few tablespoons of flour and work it in, repeating as necessary until the dough is the right consistency. No one will know, I promise.
Insurance. ;)
Here's the dough, "just right," in both my lemon and red velvet from last night:

It'll be a little springy, if that makes sense. You'll see.

Then just portion it out into balls and roll them up. I used a cookie scoop last night since these were for a pot luck and I wanted them all the same size, but you really don't have to go to that extreme. Just grab a bit, roll them into balls about the size of a walnut, and put a stick in them.

You can see the ones in the back that I haven't rolled smooth yet. Don't stress too much about the shape as long as they are reasonably round. The chocolate coating will 'fix' that for you. No one will notice. At this point, just throw a stick in the balls and put them in the freezer for a couple hours to firm up.

When you're ready to dunk them, melt your chocolate. You might want to add a little bit of vegetable oil to your candy coating to thin it out a bit. Don't add too much because then it won't set up, but it's better than zapping it in the microwave to remelt it every 15 dunks. haha! Dunk them and tap off the excess. If the stick falls out? Dunk it in the chocolate and put it back...can't find the spot it came out of? Poke it into a different spot, chocolate will fill the hole where it came out of. See? Forgiving.

Set them on a parchment lined tray (I put the ones for the pot luck in mini cupcake cups, but that is seriously not necessary). They'll set up in less than 5 mins if you used Almond Bark. :)

SEE? FORGIVING! Most forgiving recipe EVER.

04 June 2012

Chicken Tacos

One of many, many, many, MANY things I do with my crock pot Taco Chicken.

No big deal....fajita size flour tortillas piled high with my taco chicken, cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato and onion (and sour cream if you like that sorta thing).