January 2010


I make no claims to authenticity for this dish. It was thrown together from things out of my pantry, and I must say it was very tasty. I had dinner early and when the hubby came home late to eat his I was sorely tempted to have a second bowl. Pantry meals are essential to anyone’s repertoire, and sometimes you rely on some pre-packaged items to cut down on time.

Of course you could use a can of diced tomatoes – or even chop up a tomato or two. Then you could add a can of diced chilies – or roast and dice your own fresh chilies. I am sure it would add significantly to the flavor. But I, being a good southern girl, always have a couple of cans of Rotel in the pantry and it gives me the tomatoes, chilies and some additional spices in one convenient package. Turn your nose up if you will – but it makes life easier for me.

I totally forgot to put the cheese on - you can imagine it yourself.

Easy Mexican Chicken Soup

The Hardware: large saucepan, spoon, can opener.

The Software:
1 Onion
2 t Chopped Garlic
1 can Rotel (I used mild because I am a wussy – use whatever you can handle)
2 T Lizano Sauce
2 C Shredded Chicken (had it in the ‘fridge, you could use rotisserie if that’s your thang)
2 pinches Oregano (dried)
2 pinches Cumin
1 T Lime Juice
1 Qt Chicken Stock (I used home-made, you do whatever you want)
1 C Frozen Corn
3 T Masa
pinches of Salt, Pepper and Granulated garlic to taste
2 C cooked rice or a couple of handfuls of  tortilla strips

Slice onions into half rounds and saute in a large saucepan in a couple of tablespoons of oil until the onions are soft. When they start getting brownish add the garlic and saute for about a minute – don’ t let the garlic burn. Add the Rotel, Lizano & chicken and stir around a bit, bring to a simmer. Add stock, lime juice, oregano & cumin and bring back up to almost a simmer. Then sprinkle in the Masa and curse when it forms dumpling-like globules.

Seek and destroy Masa globules by squashing them against the wall of the saucepan with the back of your spoon. Or you could be smart and measure out the Masa into a small bowl and add some of the not-yet-hot stock to it to form one of them there fancy pants “slurries”  before you add it to the pot.

Bring everything up to a simmer and then add the corn. Bring to a boil, stirring to make sure nothing sticks and scorches. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper & granulated garlic until you are happy. If you are using rice, divide it between your bowls and then serve the soup over top. If you are using tortilla strips put the soup in first and then top with crunchies.

It doesn’t hurt to sprinkle some cheese on top. But really – can’t you say that about just about anything?

Potential Hacks:

This could easily go vegetarian. Replace the chicken stock with veg stock and replace the chicken with a can or two of beans, poofy violia – vegetarian. Actually, the beans would be good as an add on if you wanted to bulk it up more. Skip the cheese and dairy and I believe this would be vegan – but I have limited understanding of vegantology.

If you do not have Masa hanging around (and I am guessing that is a goodly number of people) then you can just crumble up some tortilla chips and let them simmer in the soup. They will disintegrate and serve the same thickening purpose. You know what tortilla chips are made out of? Masa.

This came out a bit spicier than I really cared for, cause I am a wuss, so I wanted to add some sour cream to dial back the heat. But I didn’t have any sour cream. Whipped cream cheese, however, was in my ‘fridge. So I made some little canels out of the cream cheese and, after being stirred in well, it worked fine. Sour cream would have been better.

And of course, there is the Lizano. You really should just keep it in your ‘fridge. It is a wonderful thing. It is delicious in eggs. It can turn regular rice into instant Mexican rice. Stir it into a drained can of beans and you suddenly have super tasty beans. Dribble it onto your tacos or burritos. It is a fantastic ingredient that really has no substitute. If I have not convinced you to seek it out – then you are just going to have to crank up all of the seasonings. Add more cumin, oregano and garlic. Add a little chili powder, but be careful you do not turn the soup into chili.

The realization set in today that I was running the risk of writing an all canning blog this year – and of course that is not my intent. It is just that, having recently discovered my love of canning, I want to share it with everyone. But rest assured, my family does not sit down to dinner with a jar of jam and a spoon. We also eat salsa.

I kid, I kid.

Roasted chicken is frequently on the menu. Roasted chicken is where it is at. As far as I am concerned, Roasted chicken is the platonic ideal, the ultimate pinnacle of Chicken Cookery.

The business end of the Bird.

Once, after roasting a chicken to pull apart for a casserole I realized that the golden crispy skin would just go to waste.

So I ate it. All of it. The skin from an entire chicken.

That is how I feel about Roasted Chicken.

Roasted Chicken

The Hardware: roasting pan, oven set to 425 degrees, kitchen twine.

The Software:

A whole Chicken
Stuff to shove up its’ butt
Salt & pepper

Most recipes call for one to place “aromatics” into the “cavity” of the chicken. Not being one to pussyfoot around – I just think of it as shoving stuff up the chicken’s butt.

I am also very liberal in my definitions of “aromatics”. Mostly I look in the fridge and go “hmm, I wonder if that would work” and my response is usually “don’t know until you try”. I have yet to have any major failures. Since there has been a cornucopia of citrus in my home – citrus is what I ended up with. I also had left over fresh thyme, so why not?

Wash and dry your chicken well. Have 2 tangerines, cut one in half and peel & segment the other one. Clean a handful of fresh thyme. Place the chicken on your pan spine side up and sprinkle liberally with salt & pepper. Turn the bad boy over and shove 1/2 of the tangerine inside, then most of your thyme and follow with the second 1/2 of the tangerine.

Because I wanted to, this time I ran my hand under the skin and loosened it so I could shove the tangerine segments and thyme between the meat and the skin. Make sure to get some down into the leg and thigh area and evenly distribute everything. Season the top side with more salt & pepper then tie up his little legs like he is in a B-rated horror movie. One with Bruce Campbell preferably.

Cook until done – it usually takes about an hour. Roasted chicken and I have a love/hate relationship with the whole cooking time thing, that is why I have a meat thermometer. 165 is my goal temp and then I let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Except for the tail – I eat the tail right away.

I you look carefully you can see the thyme under the skin. mmmmmmm

Make sure you save all of the bones, juice and stuff to make stock. Stock is half the reason I roast whole chickens.

What are your favorite things to shove up a chicken’s butt?

The can jam round-up will be happening this weekend and I am guessing if I don’t have this recipe up by then I might have some cranky readers. So here it is. I don’t have a picture so it is way boring. Hopefully I will get a picture soon to break up the monotony of words, words, words. Finally had a pretty day so there are now pictuers. If you are looking for citrus I have two entries Orange Coriander Thyme Jelly and Meyer Lemon Kiwi Marmalade. While this has citrus – it isn’t the star.

When I fell in love with the home we live in, it wasn’t just the house that wooed me. It was the whole property. Finding 1 1/2 acres within a 25 minute drive to Downtown Atlanta was quite the coup as far as I was concerned. But many things cinched the deal. One of these things was the absolutely enormous Fig tree in the back yard. And by enormous I mean well over 25 feet tall.

It should have never gotten that tall, so the fall before last we had an arborist come out and trim the ever-loving-crap out of the big boy. As a result my fig harvest this past year was not quite abundant. We had a steady crop of figs, but never more than 10 – 15 figs were at a state of perfect ripeness at the same time. Considering the fact that most fig preserve recipes call for pounds and pounds of perfectly ripe figs – I obviously had a problem

My solution – a dehydrator. I picked the pendulous little guys on an almost daily basis, and every few days I would run them through my dehydrator. Once dried I packed them into freezer bags and put them in the freezer. I figured I would find a recipe for dried fig preserves sometime in the future. This also had the benefit of allowing me to concentrate my canning efforts on the multitude of other produces that were demanding my time. Sin in haste, repent in leisure. I would can the figs during the canning “off season”.

Cryo-Dehydrated Fig.

Little did I know that tigress would declare that 2010 would have no off-season. My grand total of dried figs was 4 quart bags stuffed to the gills. The first recipe I used was out of Small Batch Preserving (a fabulous book) and while very good, it was a bit too sugary for me. It used commercial pectin and a whole boat load of sugar – the result was a very tasty jam. But I wanted something better.

I spent a goodly amount of time on the internet trying to find what I wanted, but couldn’t. I ended up taking a little bit from here a little bit from there and Frankensteining together my own recipe. It is not what one would call “traditional” but I think it is pretty good.

Dried Fig and Citrus Jam: this has been monkeyed around with enough that I cannot attribute to anyone but myself. This also means that it is totally not approved by the USDA – I expect to have the MIB at my door any day now. If you make this, store it, and then open it up and it has the funk please, please, please do not eat it.

The Hardware: see The Canning Thing, you need enough jars for 4 1/2 pints, a knife if you are industrious a food processor if you are lazy like me.

The Software:

1 lb Dried Figs
2 Big Tart Apples, I used Granny Smith
1 Lemon
1 Orange
4 3/4 C Water
3 1/2 C Sugar
1 t Ground Ginger
pinch Salt

Peel and core apples then chunk up into the food processor, add figs and whir them up until they are finely chopped. Dump into a large cook pot. Cut citrus in half around the equator and juice into a liquid measure, remove seeds. Your goal here is a total of 2/3 C juice, if you don’t get that much you can round it out with bottled lemon juice.

Scrape the pulpy stuff out of the inside of the orange and add to the pot, toss in the halves of the lemon whole – not the whole lemon because you cut it in half – but the whole halves. Does that make any sense? Cut the nubby tippy top ends off of the orange halves and discard. Then use a super sharp knife and slice the orange peel very thinly. I find it easiest to cut the cup shape in half so you can flatten it out and then do your slicing. Add the orange rind to the pot along with your water.

Bring mixture to a gentle boil and keep it there for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. And by a gentle boil I do not mean a simmer, but also avoid a rolling boil. Get it good and going but don’t scorch it capice? Reduce heat and cook at a bare simmer for another 10 minutes.

During the cooking, measure your sugar, salt and ginger into a bowl and have it at the ready. When the first 20 minutes of cooking is done, add the sugar mixture and stir in well. Simmer for an additional 20 – 25 minutes stirring occasionally (or obsessively – I cannot walk away from things because I live in mortal fear of burning stuff).

Towards the end of the cooking you can start checking for jelling if you want to – use any method that works for you. I like the plate in the freezer method personally. When the cooking is done and you like the look of the jelling, fish out the lemon halves and throw them away.  Stir in juices and remove from heat.

Ladle into hot, clean jars and proceed with canning techniques. Remove air pockets, wipe rims, two part lidding, process leaving 1/4 inch head-space.  Boiling water bath for 15 minutes if you are in the 1K – 2K altitude region or adjust for your distance from sea level.

In the dead of winter there is something beckoning about the sunshine-y orbs of citrus at the market. Resistance is futile. Even though I have satisfied my can jam obligation, I have not satisfied my lust. One object of my attention was the Citron. In the aisles I hefted it into my hand, caressed it, sniffed it, threw longing looks in it’s direction after I had replaced it in its’ pile. Even I could not justify purchasing it, having NO CLUE what to do with the thing.

So I transferred my affection to the Meyer Lemon, bastard offspring of the Lemon and Mandarin Orange. I knew it would be kind to me as opposed to the fickle mistress the Citron. And I had a recipe! Many years ago, when I first tried my hand a canning, it was because I went out and picked several pounds of blackberries. Then I realized I had no idea what to do with them – backwards I know. At the time the canning section at my local book store was slim pickings so I ended up with one slim volume: The Joy of Cooking All About Canning & Preserving. It is not a book that I have seen much mention of on the Food-Blogosphere but I find myself liking it more and more.

Doubly so because it brought this into my life:

You had me with the freckles you saucy girl you.

You had me with the freckles you saucy girl you.

Meyer Lemon Kiwi Marmalade: from All About Canning & Preserving – Joy of Cooking Series

The Hardware: Canning stuff – I think I might need to make a seperate post just for this. OK, I did it see The Canning Thing. This makes 7 – 8 half pint jars.

The Software:
1 1/4 lbs Meyer Lemons
4 C Water
1 1/2 lbs Kiwi (firm/ripe)
5 C Sugar

Wash your lemons well and then slice them all in half along the equator. Using scissors, snip out the center star of white membrane and discard along with seeds.

The next step is to slice the lemons thinly and place in a big bowl with 4 cups of water. The thin skin of the lemons proved to be too challenging for my cheap a$$ “mandolin” and slicing them by hand was no pic-a-nic either. And I have sliced more things than the a-ve-rage bear. Let the whole mess sit overnight in the ‘fridge.

Whenever you get around to it the next day toss the whole shebang into a big pot and simmer for 15 minutes. While doing so, peel and slice the kiwi into 1/4 rounds.

Put a second pot on the range and measure 2 1/2 C sugar into it – add half the kiwi. When the lemons have had their jacuzzi, move half of them over to the other pot and add the remaining sugar and kiwi to the original pot. Now you have to work on your simultaneous stirring method. I get bored and see if I can stir them in opposing directions, or even better, opposing figure eights. I don’t know why the recipe says to do it in two batches – but that is what it says.

I managed that until both pots got up until 215 degrees and then I married them together to coax them up to the 218 – 220 range. This magic temperature is apparently the “jelling” point for my particular altitude  – yours might vary. I also used the whole “put a small dish in the freezer and plop some jelly on it” trick. Let that sit in the freezer for two minutes (while you have intelligently lowered the heat on your molten lemon napalm) and see if it has set up by trying to pull a Red Sea Split on it with your finger. What finger you use is discretionary.

Pack into jars leaving 1/4″ head space. Make with the de-bubbling and rim wiping and ring tightening as usual. Boiling Water Bath for 15 minutes if you live between 1K & 2K feet like me – adjust for your altitude.

Conclusion:

The hubby and I spent a little time scraping the jelly from the inside of the cooking pots and eating it while making happy noises. I cannot wait to try this for real. It was a fair pain in the butt process wise, but I have found myself contemplating buying more ingredients so that I might make this again soon – I want to have more. One note, I ended up short 1/4 lb of kiwi, so it might have actually made the full number of half pints the recipe called for.

I am feeling pretty good about making this without any added pectin. It is only my second time doing such a thing, the first was a Dried Fig Preserve with apples and oranges providing the pectin. Even though it wasn’t done for this can jam – would anyone be interested in that recipe?

Going to Your DeKalb Farmer’s Market is an exercise in restraint regardless of how frequently I go. This time the piles of succulent citrus called to me from their bins, and I wanted to take them all home. Every kind of Orange, Tangerine, Lemon, Lime you can imagine (no Buddha hands tho) ripe for the picking. To narrow things down I decided on oranges, and further tightening the net I restricted myself to fruits from Florida. Among all of the Navels and Minnelos there was one lonely bin of Hamlins – and I decided to take them home.

Not knowing ahead of time what I was going to make, I didn’t buy quite enough oranges so I had to flesh out the juice with some tangerines from my last YDFM foray. I really wanted to make an Orange Jelly, but all I kept finding was marmalade recipes. With some poking I was able to find a Spiced Orange Jelly recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation and I thought it would work as a base, even tho I really didn’t want to do the commercial pectin route – eh win some lose some.

Hardware: canning stuff, see the ridiculously long page I wrote about The Canning Thing.

Sunshine in a jar

Orange Thyme Coriander Jelly – makes 4 half pints
based on Spiced Orange Jelly from NCHFP

The Software:
2 C Orange Juice (4 Hamlins + 2 Tangerines)
1/3 C Lemon Juice
2/3 C Water
1 box Pwd Pectin
1 T Orange Zest, finely chopped
1 T Coriander seed, whole
3 1/2 C Sugar
1 T Thyme Leaves, fresh plus whole springs for jars

Peel one of the oranges to get the zest and juice all fruit – remove seeds. Combine juice, zest, water and pectin with coriander that has been tied into a little bag. Stir constantly on high heat until you reach a full rolling boil. Add sugar and continue to stir. When you get back up to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down begin timing for one minute and then turn off heat.

Continue to stir and remove spice bag, add in thyme leaves. Place one or two springs of thyme in each of your jars (that you have been keeping in your BWB) and fill to 1/4 head space. Do the whole jar wiping, lidding process as for any other canning.  Process for time appropriate to your altitude – for me that is 10 minutes.

Conclusions:

The original recipe called for spicing of cinnamon, cloves et all – you know, the usual suspects. And I just wasn’t feeling that combo. It seems to be the combo that gets thrown into everything and it gets a little old. For apple butter I can see it – but the flavors are just too wintry for citrus as far as I am concerned. Coriander is one of my favorite spices, and it never gets to take center stage. Always in the chorus but never the Diva, now is it’s time. Or thyme. hehehe

Now the question is, other than toast – what shall I eat my concoction upon?

A Confession:

I was weak and I didn’t just buy oranges, there were Meyer lemons and how does one say no to Meyer lemons? Those bad boys are currently soaking in the ‘fridge all sliced up and mangled, biding their time. So obviously there will be a Citrus can jam version 2.0 in the near future.

It is way beyond obvious to state that I took a hiatus from this blog. Don’t know if anyone particularly cared, but I had a very good reason. It was just a reason I didn’t feel comfortable talking about on this here interwebs.

Due to the ass-tacular economy my husband had to take contract work. Not bad if you can get it – but it was a three month contract.

In Columbus, Ohio.

We live in Atlanta, GA.

I could draw you a map, but I am gonna assume that you passed 3rd grade and save you from my mad drawing skillz. His absence put a huge cramp in my giddy-up blogging wise, and there was the whole sole caregiver to our three year old thrown into the mix. It was very hard for me to come up with anything to post that didn’t involve whining about how lonely and frantic and stressed out I was.

And short of hanging a sign out at our Mailbox saying “HEY AXE-MURDERS. WOMAN AND CHILD LIVING ALONE HERE. OK? THX”, I didn’t think there was a way that would make me feel more exposed than admitting my alone-ness on this blog.

But as of tonight he is home. And he has his own axe so back off!

To ensure at least one post a month (and I am hoping for more) I have signed up for a blog “event”. Yeppers – an actual commitment that is in print on someone else’s blog – so it is a fact, correct? The event is tigress in a jam’s can jam. She apparently has a phobia of capital letters, or maybe I need to mail her a spare Shift key? How very e.e. cummings.

I have a second confession to make. Another reason that I quit posting and that I really need to get over. Tastespotting. I got very depressed by all the rejection. Almost paralyzed and unable to post for fear of it not being “good enough”. I consider myself a pretty good photographer – but the lighting in my kitchen is for shit. And I have better things to spend my money on than an itty bitty food photography studio, really doesn’t everyone?

So the only decent light I get is in late morning – and unless I turn this into a breakfast food blog that isn’t gonna fly. I usually get to cooking and have an opportunity to take pictures at dinner. Once fall rolled around light went bye bye way too early for my schedule.

OK ’nuff kvetching. Although it is not a food photo, I will leave you with one of my favorite photos I have taken. To put my money where my mouth is regarding photography.

And I think of it as Cat Jam. So that is sorta foodie.

ps: I totally got kicked out of Daring Bakers.