Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I Need to Buy a Chef Hat

After seeing the movie Julie and Julia a few weeks ago, I have been inspired to start cooking more frequently.

We purchased a crock pot the week before I saw the movie, so that was a baby step in the right direction for me. First we made a Pot Roast which turned out to be very tender and delicious, and so very easy to prepare! Phil browned the roast and then we just put in cut up onion, potatoes, celery, and baby carrots and a can of beef broth with some seasoning and it was delicious about 6 hours later!

Next I made a Southwestern Chicken Stew that my friend Lesli gave me the recipe for. It is basically her adaptation of a recipe that was in the SA newspaper in October.
  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken (we used the pre-cooked and pre-seasoned chicken breasts that HEB sells so I just heated in the microwave and then cut into cubes)
  • 1 sm can green chilies
  • 1 can whole black beans
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 cup salsa
  • Juice of 3 sm limes
  • 1 sm can tomato sauce
  • 3 chicken buillon cubes (I used 1/2 can chicken broth instead)
  • 3 whole bay leaves (I omitted these because I did not have them)
  • Dash of cilantro
  • Dash of pepper
  • Dash of McCormicks mesquite chicken seasoning
  • Chili powder to taste
  • 2 t. dried onion
  • 1 cup white rice

Dump all ingredients into crock pot. Add water as needed to cover ingredients (I did not need to since I used the chicken broth). Set pot to low and let cook for at least 8 hours or until mixture is piping hot. Before serving stew, prepare rice and stir into crock pot mixture. Service topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, and/or tortilla strips.

Phil and I both really enjoyed this recipe and it also made good leftovers!

I used the crock pot again to make my friend Kate's award winning chili! I don't think I should give out the recipe here, but I can divulge that it included butternut squash which was my first experience working with the ingredient, and the chili turned out to be so spicy that Phil and I both ended up appreciating the butternut squash in the recipe as kind of a neutral flavor to tone it down. It was delicious enough that I plan to prepare it again tomorrow while I'm home sick from work!

For Thanksgiving I had plans to prepare another dish with butternut squash that I had seen in Real Simple magazine. However, we ended up not needing extra food with everything else on the menu so we brought the ingredients home and I made it on Sunday for dinner. The recipe is called Roasted Butternut Squash with Mustard Vinaigrette and the receipe can be found here. Let me back up and say also that when shopping for the groceries for Thanksgiving we found out that 3 butternut squash cost us $15 so I was a little nervous that the recipe was going to turn out badly and Phil would be upset that we wasted $15 on it! Fortunately, the recipe turned out great. Mine even ended up looking pretty much like the photo! (Special thanks to Phil for peeling the butternut squash for me... as we continue to prepare recipes we are learning the things that we should upgrade in our kitchen. One such thing is our potato peeler; it is in sad shape.)

On Sunday evening I also had a need to use up a bunch of red apples that had gone uneaten for a few weeks. I decided to look online for a random recipe for Apple Crisp, which if you don't know was basically my favorite thing in high school. The cafeteria served this delicious crispy, cinnamony, sweet dessert every so often and I would always try to eat as many of my friends' servings as I could, in addition to my own. I found a recipe that ended up being perfect, and so simple to prepare! It is certainly not healthy by any means, with the main ingredients being butter and sugar, but it turned out to be mouth-watering, and even the leftovers taste good (it stayed crispy on top, didn't get soggy as I feared it would).

I have a few more apples left so tomorrow I am planning on baking an apple cake and maybe making hot fudge pudding cake from my mom's recipe just because I feel like having something that reminds me of home/childhood while I am sick (home for the next day and a half with strep throat).

Truth be told, I know that my cooking skills need quite a bit of work but I know also that the old adage "practice makes perfect" certainly has some truth to it, so I think that the more cooking I do, the better I will be at it and the more comfortable I will be in the kitchen. I still consider myself a novice but hopefully am on my way to being a decent cook! I am interested in trying new recipes now, so please send me your favorites!