chicken

Cook and Go

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On Saturday night, I used a Groupon to check out a class at Cook & Go, a culinary studio that started in France and found its way to the US a few years ago. The concept is that you cook the food in class and then take it home to reheat and eat. In the warmer months, they offer picnic-themed classes, too. Most of the food is actually prepared in foil carryout containers, which makes it so easy! Another plus: free wine for evening classes.

I did the Healthy Living menu, which included

  • Roasted eggplant with tomato and goat cheese relish
  • Apricot chicken with rice
  • Flourless chocolate cake with chantilly cream and berry coulis

What was neat was that each person made their own meal (aka no strangers touching your meat). The instructor passed ingredients around along with spoons we used to add the amount needed for one portion. It was very informal and low-stress. The recipes are very simple, so you can feel good about eating mostly whole foods and can use as little or as much salt as you like. The only thing I didn’t love was that we used Splenda in the chocolate cakes, but in the grand scheme of things, a couple teaspoons of the stuff isn’t a deal breaker for me.

One thing that I find odd about cooking classes, though, is that I’m usually the only person flying solo. Maybe I didn’t get the memo that cooking classes were a couples-only thing? Whoops. Not like that would stop me. Of course, there are those occasional funny/awkward moments. This class was no exception. It started in the first two minutes:

Instructor (to Jess, motioning to the empty space next to her): Are you waiting for someone?
Jess: (turns and waves to other 24 students) I’ll be your token bachelor for this evening
(room laughs)
Instructor: Don’t worry, there’s always someone like that. 

Hm. “Someone like that?” What does that even mean?

Throughout the class, we were instructed to share things like stalks of fresh herbs with our “partner.”  Several times I had to raise my hand to ask questions like, “What should we do if don’t have a partner to, uh, share an eggplant with?”

Share an eggplant. I guess that’s what the kids are calling it these days?

Anyway, my classmates actually were really nice and a fun bunch of work with—there was a lot of laughing. I also left with a pretty nice spread to enjoy at home: IMG_4581
Because I had enjoyed some wine at class, I ditched the rice, since I don’t really care about white rice, and I enjoyed the eggplant salad over some greens I needed to use up. Just to be fancy, I served the chicken in a fancy little cup, like, so: IMG_4580

There was nothing fancy about the cake. I just reheated it in the oven at 350 until it was warm and enjoyed it while catching up on the morning’s Times, like the eccentric middle-aged couple I am.

I heard that we’re getting some low, low temps in the U.S. Coldest in decades. Guess I’d better get on that whole “someone to share an eggplant with” thing, if only for the body heat. Or I could just keep hamming it up in cooking classes and blogging about it and just, you know, wear a lot of sweaters.

Have you ever taken a cooking class? Does your partner like eggplant? 

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Chicken Chili

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Though it’s easy to complain about schizophrenic weather patterns and to whine about the chill when the pendulum swings back toward Seasonal December temps, there are some definitely bright points about it being balls cold outside.

1.) Boots. I heart boots so much.

2.) Soup, stew, and chili.

chicken chiliThis recipe came together when I was cleaning some stuff out of the cabinet one night recently. You can totally leave out the chicken, as it’s filling as is, but if you have some pulled chicken fresh from the slow-cooker, it makes a wonderful addition.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced (can omit)
  • sliced peppers, about 2 (I used about 2 cups of frozen, thawed)
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3-4 c water
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • extra cumin if desired
  • a few drops liquid smoke (optional)
  • ~1 c pulled chicken, preferably organic (optional)

Directions: 

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add onions and garlic. Cook until onion is soft.
  2. Add peppers, tomatoes, water, sauce, beans, spices, and liquid smoke. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add chicken (if using) and simmer another 30-45 minutes. Serve hot and topped with shredded cheese or other desired toppings.

I’m sure this would also be awesome with a little boozy something or other cooked in. Maybe I’ll try it with wine sometime. I know chili is often made with beer, but that would necessitate buying beer I’m not going to drink so…

What’s your favorite chili recipe? 

Pics & Links

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First things first:

Owls > Gargoyles

owl

cappuccinoYesterday I went to a few interesting seminars. When the first one turned out to be canceled, I was directed to a social media primer that turned out to be really helpful. I spent my coffee break brainstorming over a cappuccino at a cafe I would totally work at all the time if I lived nearby.

The second seminar actually turned out to be a wine-tasting class without the class part. It was just a bunch of tables with wines from different regions of the world. It was fun to try some new things and talk to the people pouring about the wines and where they came from. There was even a Riesling from Australia that I didn’t hate-most are too sweet for me the way that certain astrological signs are too overbearing sweet for me. My favorites were a Spanish red and this French red I actually finished almost the whole pour of (I’m one of those people who pours my wine into the bucket after a couple sips at tastings). wine tasting

Lately, I’ve been loving Sad Desk Lunch. You thought your lunch was bad? Check out this tumblr.

I want an excuse to make this cake. Vegan, fuss-free, and beautiful to look at. It also looks somewhat idiot proof. Maybe I’ll serve it at my hypothetical cocktail for my hypothetical new drinking friends.

Mark Bittman articulately addresses the question, “Should you eat chicken?” 

I kind of wish I was at FNCE this year, but maybe next year. Had to save my conference $$$/days for something I want to go to this winter. Besides, it’s been a nice week in NYC. No complaints.

What’s been the best part of your weekend? What’s your favorite cake recipe? Do you eat chicken? 

Spoil Yourself

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There are many things I love about living alone. However, something I’ve learned is that I need to make a little extra effort to spoil myself once in a while since it’s not like there’s anyone else around to do it.

For example: dinner. Yes, eggs & veggies are great, but sometimes I want the kind of presentable meal I would make for another person. So, it was in the spirit of “Treat Yourself Like a New Pet”/”Be Your Own Housewife” that I recently found myself slicing shallots into paper-thin strips to be caramelized (I loosely followed this how-to because it’s been 4 years since I first learned to caramelize onions & things, and I haven’t done it nearly enough since) and cooking up a batch of pulled chicken while I went about my to-do list. Instead of toast or a sweet potato, I decided to make sliced polenta as my grain because how often does that show up on my plate? sliced polenta

The end result was lovely. I made a salad with grape tomatoes and feta to go with the chicken, and the caramelized shallots were fantastic atop the polenta. Sometimes it’s nice to spoil yourself a little and mix things up.

There are plenty of non-food ways to spoil yourself, of course (DIY pedicure, anyone?), but few things hit the spot like a satisfying, healthy dinner that’s a step above what you’d normally dish out.

How do you spoil yourself? 

Healthy Shake ‘n’ Bake

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Friday was a weird day to cap off a weird week. As I mentioned Tuesday, I have a lot of friends and family in the Boston area, so I couldn’t seem to tear myself away from the radio/internet, except for that 45-minutes I went to the gym thinking I’d take a break there with a magazine, totally having forgotten about this thing called TV. So yeah.

After a long, hot shower, I stopped by the grocery store because, like my mother, my response to pretty much any stressful situation is to cook, if only to have something to do with my hands. That is, when I’ve already indulged in a little retail therapy. Payless shoe sale, what up?

IMG_2186

Writing last week about wimping out in the meat aisle motivated me to make a goddamn decision for a change, and I walked out with a package of chicken “breast tenders.” Hate the name (so awkward), love how easy they are to cook.

Growing up, my mom made a lot of healthy food, but we still occasionally had things like Shake ‘n’ Bake. I hadn’t thought about it in years, but after noticing I’d been making, like, the same 3 or 4 recipes over the past month, I half-assedly challenged myself to make a few new things. I’m still not sure how Shake & Bake specifically got in my head, but a recently conversation I’d had about cornmeal got me thinking of incorporating a cornmeal crust somehow. Deep thoughts, I know.

Since I’d never made real shake ‘n’ bake, I had to look up how it’s done. I know, I know…eHow to the rescue! This version is a lot lower in sodium than the original but packed with flavor. Not too shabby. I improvised a little but I’m glad I wrote down what I added—I’ll definitely be making this again. IMG_2190

Ingredients:

  • ~1 lb chicken breast tenders or chicken breast cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp each: dried oregano, ground coriander, ground ginger, dried basil
  • red pepper flakes (optional but delicious)
  • pinch of salt
  • ground pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine cornmeal and spices in a large ziploc bag. Shake to mix.
  3. Moisten chicken with water. (ugh, I just said “moisten.”)
  4. Add chicken to bag. Seal and shake vigorously.
  5. To avoid a messy clean-up, wrap tin-foil over a cookie sheet and spray with cooking spray of choice to prevent sticking. Place chicken strips on sheet and cook 20-25 minutes or until cooked through. Turn once about halfway through.

This was posted on the Weekend Kitchen Creations blog, where you can also check out recipes from other bloggers.

Did you/do you eat Shake ‘n’ Bake? What’s your favorite chicken recipe—or vegetarian version of a classic chicken dish? 

Fried Chicken Death Match

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Now, I know I’m an RD-in-training and all and “should” be telling you to never ever eat fried chicken, but when it comes to food, I don’t really believe in words like “never” or “good” or “bad.” What I do believe in is eating mostly foods that benefit your health—and taste good—but also enjoying a little bit of something you really, really love once in a while, even if it happens to be less healthy.

So if fried chicken is your jam, then you have to check out Mama Joy’s Fried Chicken Death Match, which runs at the Bushwick restaurant through September 23. Choose between 2 types and vote on which should stay on the menu—I’ve been hearing good things about both contenders. I don’t know the first thing about what makes a standout fried bird, but connoisseurs tell me it’s partially to do with the breading and the brine.

And hey, you can always pair it with some salad…

Do you eat fried chicken? How do you make room for indulgences in your diet? 

Poultry was Top Cause of Outbreak in '06

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In general, I’m not a fan of 2006. In fact, it’s probably one of my least favorite years thus far. I shouldn’t complain that much, though. It could’ve been a lot worse, had I also gotten food poisoning.

The CDC just put out a report tracking the top causes of food borne illnesses in 2006. Of the 17 foods tracked, poultry was number one. Surprise, surprise.

But before I go all smug quasi-vegetarian on you, it’s worth noting that salmonella found in peanut butter, spinach, and tomatoes ranked second on the list.
I can’t tell if this is good or bad, but apparently two-thirds of all food-related illnesses that can be traced back to a single ingredient are actually caused by viruses that usually come from restaurant workers who don’t wash their hands.
Lovely.
While none of this is comforting or anything, it’s good to see that some thorough research is being put into food attribution. Hopefully it will help lead to better food safety.