Monday, September 27, 2010

Asheville Weekend Update!

I was a huge jumbo blog slacker this weekend. I took no pictures and had to send Tom out to take some of Asheville so I could post something here. I took no pictures or video at the conference either and was an all around lazy girl about it.

I had a great time at my conference though. I actually got some really useful information in some of the sessions. It is always fun seeing some of my bloggy, tweety and facebooky friends in real life. The Type-A-Mom conference is one of the best conferences around. I can't wait until next year. And once again, I have to thank my friend Liz for winning a pass and letting me have it! YAY!

Tom was able to come down as well. We stayed at the Sheraton Four Points and it was nice because it was right across the street from the conference hotel. And although I couldn't hang out with him during the day, we were able to have a great meal and a really good breakfast. It is always nice to travel with him even if it's just to Asheville.

I also took an Asheville Photowalk tour (yes, it's shocking I know but I did walk) around the downtown area and saw places I had never seen and it was a lot of fun. Of course, I zoned and forgot my camera - DOH! I had a great Southern meal at the Tingles Cafe. We had a great meal on Saturday at Vicenzo's Restaurant with my friend Liz and her beau, Mike. It was a great meal and a good time! Tom was also able to have his Thai food and he found a cool little breakfast place called, OverEasy Cafe, that he took me to on Sunday.

It was nice to have a little weekend break although we came back to lots of laundry and cleaning. I can't say it enough, I need a cleaning lady!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Random Willynillyness Cooking Presents: Arroz con Pollo

It's Sabroso Saturday and I am sharing a meal that is one of my favorites and that I made the other day. With the weather changing, I actually change my cooking style. I stop grilling meats and eating salads and I start making comfort food.

So the other day I decided to make some Arroz con Pollo (Chicken & Rice) for Tom. Tom is a gringo through and through. But there are certain Tico dishes that I cook that he really loves and Arroz con Pollo is one of them. It is also one of my favorites. It is actually quite easy to make and the secret is in the sauce.

Costa Rican Arroz con Pollo is actually quite different from what I make. My abuelita used to make delicious Arroz con Pollo. It was filled with carrots and peas and the rice was actually fluffy and dry. I love it that way and when I go to Costa Rica, I order Arroz con Pollo all the time. But when I lived in Miami, I had Nicaraguan and Cuban Arroz con Pollo and it was quite different.

It was soupy and sticky and I really liked it. I liked it better than the Costa Rican type because it was just rice and chicken in a soupy broth. So when I started making my new willy nilly Arroz con Pollo, I took a little of both recipes and put them together to come out with what I make now.

I always start with onions and cilantro. I saute the cilantro and onions in some olive oil. Then I add some achiote. Achiote is annatto seed made into a paste. I get mine from Costa Rica. I am sure I can find it here in the States but I never had to. Achiote is what is used to make white rice yellow, at least in Costa Rica. I know other cultures use other things to make the rice yellow but all I know is achiote.

So I saute the onions, cilantro and the achiote with the oil. I then add the chicken and brown it in the mixture. I use bone in chicken thighs because we love dark meat. If you use chicken with a bone it also gives the broth more flavor. After the chicken is browned, I add salt, pepper, ground cumin and ground coriander. I add chicken broth and, of course, my ever trusty Salsa Lizano. Salsa Lizano is the Worcestershire sauce of Costa Rica and we Ticos use it in everything!

I let this boil for a few hours to get as much flavor from the chicken as I can. Then I taste the broth and add spices and Salsa Lizano as needed. I also add some fresh cilantro for good measure. Then add some rice. I never have any idea how much rice I add but I would guess a cup and a half to the chicken and broth mixture. You want to have less rice than the amount of liquid you have in the pot because remember you want it soupy.

After I add the rice, I let it boil and then I turn the burner down and let this simmer for about 20 minutes. I then add some green stuffed olives and the olive juice. Trust me, this gives it a really nice taste. Then I let it simmer until the rice is cooked through and the mixture is soupy. That's it.
While not my mother's or grandmother's Arroz con Pollo, my version is pretty darn tasty. It is also the perfect meal on a cold day!

Buen Provecho!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Quick Update!

I know I have been lax about posting lately but with work and my other blog, it keeps me busy. Plus, my life is extremely boring so there is really nothing to tell.

The weather here is getting pretty nice. It has been slowly cooling down in the daytime but the nights and mornings are getting downright chilly! I even have my heater on at work sometimes because it gets really cold in the office.

I will be MIA this weekend because I am off to Asheville to attend another conference. I wasn't planning on attending it but my friend Liz won a friend's pass and she gave it to me. YAY! So I decided to go because it is so close and this was the first ever conference I attended last year. Plus, it gives me a chance to see my online friends in real life and meet some new ones!!

It also takes me to Asheville where I can get some decent food! Maybe I will have a little Japanese, Thai and we discovered there is a Tapas restaurant in downtown Asheville so that is an option as well.

My only complaint about living in Sylva, is that there is not one really great restaurant here. Well, El Pacifico is really good Mexican but I wish there was another place we could go and have a great meal. Some are good but very middle of the road. The other day a Japanese restaurant opened up and we went to have lunch. We were all full of excitement and good expectations. They were dashed as we got some very mediocre food and really horrible service.

I tell you Gordon Ramsey's head would have exploded at the signs of chaos in the kitchen and the lack of good wait staff. We were back at square one when we walked out of there. No good Japanese food in Sylva. BOO!
So anyway, that's about all I have to talk about. I wish I had something else to say but maybe I will have some great stories after this weekend.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Random Willynillyness Cooking Presents: Fried Chicken

Okay this is not the healthiest meal but then again I rarely cook healthy. And let me tell you, I have the figure to show for it!!

Anyway, I decided to make Fried Chicken. Usually, I don't make fried chicken often because, frankly, it's a messy thing to do. If I had a deep fryer, it would be much easier. I don't so I have to pan fry the chicken and there is a lot of splatter and then you are stuck with a bunch of oil you need to dump.

But fried chicken is one of our favorite meals ever. And because I live in the South, I almost feel like I should make fried chicken at least once a year. I started making fried chicken when we lived in Florida. I was sort of forced into it because a hurricane was coming and I needed to make a meal we could eat cold in case we lost our electricity. Thus, the Hurricane Meal was created. You can read more about the Hurricane Meal in an earlier post.

But I digress, as usual, anyway a few weeks ago, I won a basket filled with House Autry breading and other goodies. It had been sitting on my kitchen table for a while so when I saw it I decided I should try the chicken breading. Usually I make my own willy-nilly coating with flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and sometimes some of my green Chile powder. It is really good but sometimes heavy and super duper messy.

The House Autry breading only required me to dredge the chicken in the breading and then fry it up. I used my trusty Ziploc bags to bread the chicken. That makes is even easier because I don't have to dirty dishes and I can toss it out.

What I loved was that I used no eggs or milk to coat the chicken before it went into the breading and the breading stuck on it like white on rice. It was great. You know I am paranoid about undercooked chicken so that is always my issue when I make fried chicken. I never really know how long to leave it on.

Luckily, the breading box said 20-25 minutes if I was pan frying. It worked. I have to say the chicken came out delish because the House Autry breading was light and tasty. I served the chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and some squash casserole I found in the freezer. It was so good.

Let me just tell you that fried chicken, although not the healthiest of meals, is an easy meal to make. It is also versatile. You can eat it hot or cold. You can have it for lunch or dinner or anytime.

Buen Provecho!

YUMMO!! Remember to go visit Latina on a Mission for more Sabroso Saturday meals.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Change of Seasons Part Two

I have new pictures this week of various areas around my house. It is my new project to document the change of seasons. There isn't much change this week. It's funny because in the higher elevations like on my drive to work and where I work, the change is more obvious. Some trees are bright red and orange already!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

We will Never Forget

Mediterranean Chicken Recipe!

Yes, my dears, it's Sabroso Saturday. My recipe today is something I came up with after watching Alexandra Guarnaschelli on the Today show. Alexandra is, of course, a Food Network star and you all know I am a Food Network Junkie.

She was making a recipe with flank steak. The marinade looked really good because she added feta cheese to it. I figured I could make something like that. I had some chicken thighs in the house and some of the same ingredients she used. So I said what the heck, let's give it a go.

Of course, there is no recipe just a hodge podge of ingredients, I threw together. I call it Mediterranean Chicken because I used the flavor profile from that area. I took 3 large lemons, dried oregano and olive oil and mixed them together. Three lemons make a lot of juice so you have to put at least as much olive oil as lemon juice in the marinade to compensate for the tartness of the lemon. There is a formula or recipe to the amounts you should use but I was too lazy to actually look it up on the internets. I ended up using dried oregano because I forgot I had fresh oregano in the garden. DOH! I would have added some dried rosemary but I had none in my spice cabinet.

I cannot believe I didn't have rosemary because there are always herbs and spices that everyone who cooks must have in the spice cabinet. Among them, rosemary. But alas, I ran out and never replaced it. Anyway, instead of the rosemary, I found some saffron and decided that might add a little extra flavor. Now if you don't know what saffron is or ever used it, it is like gold. The little bit I had cost me $26 dollars. Of course, it lasts forever because you only use a few threads of the saffron in any dish. If you use a lot, it will overwhelm the dish.
And while saffron is super duper pricey, I actually have tons of saffron in my house because when I was in Costa Rica, I found Spanish saffron in the grocery store for pennies on the dollar. I couldn't believe how much cheaper it was in Costa Rica. I snatched up a boatload, stuffed it on my suitcase and brought it back here. I am set for life on saffron. And if I ever need more, I am so telling my mom or sister to send me some from Costa Rica because it is so wickedly expensive!

Okay, I am off topic, sorry. Anyway, to the marinade, I added the saffron (a few threads) and salt and pepper to taste. You HAVE to taste the marinade before you put it on the chicken to make sure it tastes good. You can add salt, pepper etc. if it needs it. Lastly, I added finely crumbled Feta cheese because that is what Alex did. I mixed it well and it tasted really good.

I used to marinade my meats in a baking dish or bowl but now I only marinade in Ziploc bags. It is the best thing to do because it actually gets all over the meat instead without having to use tons of marinade. If you push out all the air it will seal in the taste. The other reason to marinade in this manner is the clean up will be easy peasy lemon squeezy! You take out the meat and throw out the bag. Sure, it's not that green but it will save you time and cleaning!

That's it. Now you can grill the chicken but I decided to bake it since our grill is wonky and it burnt my pork ribs into charred pieces of meat the other day. BOO! I baked it at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Of course, you need to make sure the chicken is well cooked. I have an obsession about cooked chicken because I got salmonella poisoning one time and it was the most horrific thing! So I am paranoid about raw poultry and refuse to eat any poultry that is not totally cooked!!

For the meal, I decided to serve this with some couscous that I added fresh tomatoes, lemon juice, lemon zest and shallots. Along with that I pulled out the Barefoot Contessa's Argula, Feta and Watermelon salad. I have to say that we LOVE this salad. I figured that I better make as much as I can before I can't find watermelon anymore. Let's just say, dinner was delicious.

Buen Provecho!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Change of Seasons!

I decided to document the change from Summer to Fall and possibly Winter. So now on Fridays, I will try to post pictures I took around the house. I will take the pictures from the same angles just to see how the seasons change. This is my first batch.