Archive | May, 2015

Slow cooker chicken chile verde | Recipe report card

7 May

In Dinner:The Playbook, Jenny Rosenstrach recommends having a master plan for your weekly meals. Mine would be: something meatless (honestly, this would be fish for us), taco Tuesday, pizza Fridays, and some more elaborate meal on Sundays. Dave loves 1980s home meal-style tacos. You know, ground beef flavored with “taco seasoning,” hard shells, lettuce, salsa, and sour cream. No sides, just three (maybe four) of those and call it a meal. But I really want to make the taco/burrito meats that I like to eat: chile verde, cochinita pibil, carnitas (in other words, lots of Mexican pork). A lot of those are labor-intensive, which means there are slow cooker versions of them like this one, from!

Slow cooker chicken chile verde

  • Meal: dinner, sometime last week but not on a Tuesday
  • Kid tried?: Yes.
  • Keeper?: Yes.
  • Cook’s grade: A. LOVED THIS. OMG, I loved this. I love chile verde so much, and although this was not the traditional pork, the flavor was great. The chicken shredded easily, and I wondered if this might be a good way to get that yummy, moist, flavorful chicken that you get from store-bought rotisserie chickens (I know, it’s a guilty pleasure from my single days). I don’t know that it’s really necessary to use a whole chicken for this recipe, though, and it made the last few steps a bit messy. I might try it with chicken parts next time.
  • Kid’s grade: A. The Bug loved eating her “brrrito” and even successfully ate it wrapped up in the tortilla for a few bites before asking if she could unwrap it and subsequently making a mess. But that’s what toddlers do. I’m cool with that.

Cooking tips for busy parents:

  • I can’t believe I didn’t think of this earlier, but after making this, I bagged half of the leftovers and threw them in the freezer. Since I’ve been cooking more lately, we’ve had a lot of leftovers taking up space in our fridge and then going bad in our fridge. I hate throwing out food. My new policy is to immediately freeze half the leftovers so that on nights when it’s just the Bug and me, I can pull something out of the freezer, throw it in the microwave, and eat something healthy and homemade instead of getting burgers or something. I am ashamed to admit that the Bug probably eats chicken fingers at least once a week, which means I eat burgers and fries at least once a week.
  • As I mentioned above, next time I would try chicken parts instead of a whole chicken. Though, if you’re planning on making stock anytime soon, you might as well use the whole chicken and save the carcass for stock.

Moroccan-style braised pork with couscous and grapes | Recipe report card

6 May

A couple of weeks ago, Dave said, “Why don’t you make that pork thing with the couscous? That was really good” “What pork thing with couscous?” I had no memory of it. “It had grapes and Middle Eastern spices…” Apparently this was a hit, but I had no recollection of it. Dave kept talking about it for a few days and then finally, a vague memory started to resurface. (That’s why I’m doing this series on my blog. It’s really just because I have an atrocious memory.)

Moroccan-style braised pork with couscous and grapes, How to Cook Everything Fast p. 786

  • Meal: dinner, sometime last week
  • Kid tried?: Yes.
  • Keeper?: Yes.
  • Cook’s grade: A-. Although it is definitely a 45-minute recipe, this is a fairly easy dish to make: brown some pork, cut thin, with spices, add more flavorings (harissa and tomato paste), then liquid (white wine), then some more flavorings (onion, grapes, etc.). Bring to a boil, let cook for 20 minutes or so, add the couscous, and wait another 5 minutes. This one does pass my “dash out to daycare” test (you can either braise it for up to 2 hours or follow the recipe through adding the couscous and then dash out), and it’s pretty easy to assemble. I like that a lot of the ingredients are pantry staples (yes, grapes are a pantry staple when you have a toddler), so it’s a good end-of-the-week, what-do-I-do-with-this-pork-we-have-in-the-freezer meal. I downgraded it because cutting 1.5 lbs. of pork shoulder (I used tenderloin because that’s what we had) into 1/2-inch pieces takes a while. Though, to be fair, I need to get our knives sharpened. I also downgraded it because I don’t love it as much as Dave does, though it is a pretty tasty dish. I used Israeli couscous, which we like so much better than regular couscous.
  • Kid’s grade: B+. It’s always interesting to see which ingredient in a stew the Bug shows interest in. She wasn’t interested in the pork or the grapes (which I thought were a shoo-in). She LOVED the couscous. “More cooscoos?” I like finding those “gateway ingredients” to help me figure out other things that she’ll like.

Cooking tips for busy parents:

  • I bet, though I have not put this to a test, it would be a good slow cooker dish. I base that on my discovery of Bittman’s ode to the slow cooker, which I recently discovered, in which he says you can use the slow cooker for many braised dishes.

I served it with Bittman’s tomato salad with olive oil and yogurt, which I and the Bug liked but didn’t love and Dave didn’t touch (as I suspected). I probably wouldn’t make it again unless I had tomatoes lying around, waiting to be used, so I’m not doing a report card on it.

Jambalaya des herbes with shrimp | Recipe report card

6 May

Our pediatrician is very interested in getting the Bug (and, presumably, all her patients) to eat fish once a week. I am interested in getting out of my cooking/eating ruts and eating more seafood once again. I am also interested in using the Bug’s love of rice, pasta, and anything in noodle form to help her expand her palate.

I tried to take a shortcut and make the rice in the rice cooker, thinking this would buy me my much-needed 30-minute round trip break to pick the Bug up at daycare. Unfortunately, it became very clear that everything would not fit in our rice cooker, so I ended up dumping it all into a pot, adding some water, turning the heat too high, and letting it cook. Next time I will follow the recipe.

Once again, I did not take a picture, but the link to the recipe has a much nicer one than I could have ever taken.

Jambalaya des herbs with shrimpHow to Cook Everything Fast p. 380

  • Meal: dinner, tonight
  • Kid tried?: Yes
  • Keeper?: Yes
  • Cook’s grade: A. You have to chop an onion, two celery stalks, two green peppers, and two tomatoes, so there’s a fair bit of chopping. Fortunately, the onion cooks while you chop the celery; they both cook while you chop the peppers, etc. So it’s not wasted time, but it does push this up to a 45-minute meal as opposed to a 30-minute meal. Also, there’s only about ten or fifteen minutes when the dish cooks unattended, so it’s not a great “start it now, then dash off to daycare, and serve it when we get home” dish. The spices were right in between adult and kid tastes, probably a bit mild for us and a bit too spicy for Bug, but I would probably just dial back the cayenne next time. Still it was easy, really flavorful, and a good way to get some seafood in our diets. Dave loved it. And it was really good with a beer.
  • Kid’s grade: B. I cut the shrimp into small pieces for the Bug’s bowl, thinking I would hide it in the rice. She ate every bite of shrimp and even ate two or three more “big shimp.” She was fascinated with the Creole seasoning Dave put on his and left on the table (nothing is ever spicy or flavorful enough for him), so she added some to her bowl, then decided her food was too spicy. So this goes down in history as the first time she didn’t finish all her rice.

Cooking tips for busy parents:

  • Don’t try to make the rice in a rice cooker, thinking you’ll add the veggies and finish it off there, unless your rice cooker is very large or you’ve halved the recipe.
  • To cut down on the chopping, you could probably use a can of diced tomatoes.
  • You could cook all the veggies in advance, throw them in a bowl with the tomatoes and bay leaves the night before. Just add them to the rice as you make it.