Saturday, January 8, 2011

Memories of Abuela Gilda. Oh and Shake 'N Bake chicken

Okay, this is not so much of a recipe than a remembrance. The other day I was thinking what to make for dinner. Tom wanted chicken. Chicken is always a good thing. Anyway, I wasn't sure what chicken recipe to make until I looked in the pantry and saw a box of Shake 'N Bake.

Yes, I know you are saying right about now: WTH? Shake 'N Bake, really? Are you kidding me? Yes, really and no I am not kidding. It is really funny that one of the dishes I most remember my abuelita making is Shake 'N Bake chicken because she was such a wonderful cook.

I am not even sure why she started making it because they didn't have that in Costa Rica. But somewhere along the line she would make Shake n' Bake chicken for us almost every time we visited her. Of course, when we got older we would visit at least once a week sometimes two.

This was always one of the meals she would make. Of course, she made all her other more traditional and delicious meals but Shake 'N Bake chicken, rice or mashed potatoes and a green salad with Bob's Big Boy Blue Cheese dressing was a mainstay.

Side Note: If you have never eaten Bob's Big Boy Blue Cheese Dressing, I am sad for you. It is probably the best stuff around, if it is still around. When I lived in Los Angeles, they were everywhere and, in general, Bob's Big Boy food was rocking. That dressing was the bomb. My granny would water it down with a little milk because it was so thick!

Okay back to the story. Again, I have no idea why she started making us this dinner but it became a constant in my life. Once I moved away to go to school in Miami, I stopped eating Shake 'N Bake chicken. Not because I wanted to but because I lived in this tiny studio apartment with a tiny kitchen. I only have 2 burners and a toaster oven. It was hard to bake chicken in the toaster oven.

So for years, I didn't eat Shake 'N Bake. Once I moved in with Tom and had a decent kitchen, I still didn't make it. Then one day at the store I saw the box and it brought back all these wonderful abuela memories. I got crazy and bought some. I made Tom the chicken and he approved. So now I make it a few times a year.

Side Note: This is a woo-woo tale of spirits. After my grandmother died, she would come to me in my dreams for over a year. The continuing theme of her visits were to ask me not to forget her. I honestly think she thought I would. I remember the last time she came to visit me. She came as her younger self and was very happy. She came and told me she knew now that I would never forget her so she was leaving. That was the last time we had our dream visits. I have dreamt of her after that but they were just dreams not interactive dreams. But she would have never been forgotten because it was memories like this one that always keep her alive in my mind. And every time I make this meal I think of my abuela.

Now making this meal is pretty easy. I mean, if you screw up Shake 'N Bake chicken, then really you need to banned from the kitchen. It can't be easier. Take chicken, stick it in the bag, toss in the coating and shake. Then bake. Easy peasy.

The tricky part of this meal is the rice. My grandmother used to make her rice the old school way. No rice cookers for her. Me, I use the rice cooker and/or make rice the lazy girl way. Even then, it comes out pretty good but always stickier than usual. It doesn't matter what recipe I use, it always come sticky.

My lazy girl way of cooking rice is to toss a cup in pot, add 2 cups of water, add salt and then boil. That or toss some rice and water in the rice cooker and turn it on. But my grandmother and mom make rice differently. It takes more time and it it tastes different and better. I decided I would do my rice this meal the abuela way.

First she would chop onions and green peppers. I didn't have green peppers so I left those out. Next you take a pot and heat some oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and saute. Then you add the rice and toast it. Not too much but at least a few minutes. Then you add some achiote (annatto seed) for color and a little flavor. Once that melts, you add the water and boil the rice for a while. I can't tell you how long but enough to reduce the water a little. Then you simmer the rice for about 20-25 minutes until it is done.

I didn't have Bob's Big Boy dressing so I used another Blue Cheese Dressing that is not quite as good but it worked. The rice came out tasty but sticky as usual. The chicken was also very good. I have to tell you that there is nothing like Shake n' Bake chicken skin! YUMMO!

There you have it. My abuela Gilda's Shake 'N Bake legacy. As long as there is Shake 'N Bake, she will never be forgotten. It will always remind me of her. And, I also have some of the rice left. So tomorrow for breakfast, I will be having another meal she would make us: fried eggs and rice. OMG eggs and rice rock!

Buen Provecho!


  1. I never had shake and bake till I got married. Weird huh? I made it one day with my hubby and I was hooked. Ever so often, I'll take the easy way out and make chicken or even pot chops with shake and bake and the whole family loves it. I'm definitely coming to your house for dinner! Lol

  2. Shake N Bake is great! I never used it until after I was married and was looking for some
    "gringo-ish" recipes. LOL
    I love the picture of your Abuelita; bella mujer. (My Abuela has come to me in my dreams too so I get it.) Thanks for the rice tips and recipe!

  3. Would you believe, I've never had Shake 'N Bake? I know, it's practically unheard of. My mom tried making breaded chicken ONCE - she used a paper bag, it ripped .. well you get the idea.

    I'll be putting Shake 'N Bake on my list for the next grocery trip, to start making tradition with my daughter.

    As for Abuela Gilda - I'm sure you made her proud. {HUGS}

  4. I can't believe it, but I have actually NEVER had Shake n' Bake! Crazy, no? I didn't even know it was a bag you put the chicken in. Oops. And I do know what I'm doing - sort of - in the kitchen. I think now I need to try it. I'm not that great with rice, either. It doesn't get sticky, more like clumpy. So I stick w/Uncle Ben's and do what I can!

    Nice to *meet* you. I'm in Carolina, too! Is it snowing where you are?

  5. I never had Shake 'n Bake, but this dish looks so yummmieeee and I know that I really NEED to try it!!! GRacias por la receta ;)

  6. With everything that we women do day in & day out, easy cooking is very welcoming. They closed Bob's Big Boy some years ago then revitalized not too long ago. There is one near me in Pasadena that I have yet to visit. Maybe I'll go there for lunch! I love how you remember your abuelita with such love. Thanks for sharing your story and meal with us.

  7. Your abuelita was beautiful Caro! I love that photo of her. Your writing also made her come to life for us, thank you for sharing =)

    Its funny about the rice, when I first began cooking as a teen my Tio would tease me and say it was so moist he could throw it and it would stick to the ceiling LOL But I have to give it to him, he ate it!!!!

    Like you I cook rice based on instinct, which is why I am having a harder time with the slow cooker. I'm still trying to get the hang of it.

    Oh and the first time I ever had Shake and Bake was last year! It was tasty but can't replace the old style for me :)