Welcome back to the Food Journal, where I share the good and not-so-good of what I’ve cooked recently.
1/30 Lemon Chicken
My mom gave me a copy of The Asian Slow Cooker for Christmas, so I have been trying out some new recipes from there. My kids are not really fans of spicy food at the moment, so this week I tried the not-at-all-spicy lemon chicken to up the odds of them eating it. I think they each had one piece – small victories!
The recipe itself was pretty easy to make. The week before I made cashew chicken from the same cookbook and managed to mess up before the end of the first step – I opened the cookbook to the wrong page and didn’t check which recipe it was before I started cooking – whoops! So this time I triple checked that I was on the correct page and it was smooth sailing.
The texture at the end is a bit mushier than I would ideally like (especially as leftovers the next day), but that is the trade-off of cooking in the crock pot. I do wonder how easily these recipes could be adapted to be cooked on the stove top like Budget Bytes’s Easy Orange Chicken. Something to experiment with some day.
1/31 Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
This was my second time making this pasta dish, and it is solidly easy and kid-friendly. My older daughter likes that there is no sauce; I like that there is still a lot of flavor. But really, I peeled and sliced the garlic and prepped a salad while the water boiled, started cooking the garlic when I put the pasta in, and dinner was ready about 2 minutes after I took the pasta out of the water – you cannot get much quicker than that. I perked up lunchtime leftovers with a bit of parmesan and an extra sprinkle of crushed red pepper.
2/2 Mini Garden Turkey Loaves
These are so delicious – probably the most delicious meatloaves I have ever tasted. How delicious, you ask? I gave half of a muffin each to my 1-year-old and my 3-year-old. It took some persuading, but once the 3-year-old tried it, she ate her entire portion. After she ate her dinner (meatloaf and veggies), my husband gave her a cookie. She ate the cookie and then asked for more meatloaf. Actually, she asked for 3 of the muffins, but we started her off with just one more, which she and her sister shared.
The first time I made them I did as directed, but this time I realized about 10 minutes before I started cooking that I didn’t have any bread in the house! I usually make my own breadcrumbs, so I don’t keep those on hand, and I started baking my own bread a few months ago, but forgot to bake a loaf in time for this recipe. Anyway, I had some ritz-style crackers on hand, so I tossed some into a plastic bag and crushed them with a rolling pin – they were a perfect breadcrumb substitute!
If you wanted to save some time, I think you could saute the veggies ahead of time. I would wait to mix them with the meat, egg, breadcrumbs, and seasonings until right before cooking so that the breadcrumbs don’t get mushy. We did freeze these the first time we made them and they froze very well! A few minutes in the microwave and they were as delicious as right out the oven.
2/3 Sicilian Pizza
I wanted to up my pizza game a few months ago, and my search brought me to the Serious Eats Pizza Lab. This dough recipe and this sauce recipe are my current defaults for pizza night. The dough is so easy – one thing about my previous recipe that I struggled with was stretching the dough, and this one stretches itself most of the way out. The little stretching that I have to do takes maybe 2 minutes tops. I like to lift the dough and stretch from underneath the center. I have found that bread flour works better than all-purpose flour, but all-purpose flour still does a decent job. I also like to use the mixer’s paddle attachment to mix the dry ingredients, olive oil, and water, and then switch to the dough hook to knead for the last 6 minutes. The sauce is so delicious, I eat it with a spoon right out of the pot. I usually make a double batch because we eat a lot of pizza and it freezes well.
It sounds so obvious now, but the most important thing I have learned in my quest for better pizza is to use better quality ingredients. Pizza is a pretty basic food in that it is really only 3 ingredients – bread, sauce, and cheese. Just making my own sauce and switching to mozzarella that is not pre-shredded made such a huge difference. Making the sauce in double batches and using the food processor to shred the cheese keeps the workload more manageable.
2/5 “Roasted” chicken & mashed cannellini beans
Lately this has been my favorite way to cook a whole chicken. First I put a few balls of foil in the bottom of the slow cooker, put the whole chicken on top, throw in some onions, carrots, celery, salt, & pepper, and cook for 8 hours on low. When that is done, I transfer the whole chicken to a broiler pan (or a small cookie sheet) with a roasting rack and broil it for 4 or 5 minutes. It comes out nice and juicy from the slow cooker and nicely browned with a crispy skin from the broiler.
Mashed cannellini beans have been a favorite side dish in our house for a while now. I think they are a bit more nutritious than mashed potatoes or rice, and more flavorful as well. I suspected for a long time that these would freeze very well; in fact, back when I was pregnant with baby #2 I planned to make some and freeze them for a quick side dish, but I ran out of freezer space before I got the chance. So I finally decided to experiment. I made a batch of the beans a few months ago and popped the leftovers in a quart-sized bag in the freezer. At dinner time, I defrosted them in a bowl of hot water, transferred them to a bowl, and microwaved them for about a minute. The flavor and consistency were just as good as the freshly made mashed beans! This is a great option for freezer cooking!