Recipe #4: Baked Chicken Nuggets

Source:  http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Baked-Chicken-Nuggets/Detail.aspx

Like many busy parents, chicken nuggets comprise an entire food group for my kid.  Hey, both my husband and I work full-time and time is always of the essence.  Yet I've watched enough Morgan Spurlock and flipped through enough Cooking Light magazines to know that fast food pretty much scrapes the bottom of the nutritional barrel.

Sadly, knowledge alone is not enough to stop me from cruising through the drive thru when there is just not enough gosh dang time to get anything else to eat.  To combat the twinge of guilt I feel every time I see my kid pick up and put a McDonald's processed chickeny substance in her mouth (why is it that they're always the same exact shape?), I'm constantly in search of a healthier nugget alternative.

Did this recipe fit the bill?  Unfortunately, no.  Despite my modifications -- panko instead of standard bread crumbs, the addition of my beloved garlic salt -- these chicken nuggets were really just...... bland and boring.  Too boring to ever fool my kid into eating and liking them.  I do realize though that I am probably being overly critical and that my desire to eat healthier is not always successful at overcoming the fact that I truly love the taste of real, deep fried breading.

One thing I am learning as I wade through my clipped out recipe file is that I feel like one can never wholly trust user uploaded recipes from sites like allrecipes.com, despite high ratings.  Maybe my palate is just non-traditional or something, but it's pretty rare I've found something online, published by a home cook that meets my expectations.


Recipe #3: Apple Cranberry Galette

Source:  Parents Magazine, Sept. 2010, from the article "Easy as Pie."

Plenty of the recipes in Parents Magazine, which I really don't read all that often because it's just so good at making me feel like an inadequate parent, are the type you can do with your kids.  This one was true to its promise.  Here's my 5 year old forming the dough for the crust prior to putting it in the fridge to chill. 

And another pic, 'cause she's so dern cute.  The little one also helped me stir the sugar and cinnamon into the apple-cranberry mix.

Our pre-oven galette, which I learned is basically a free-form pie.  Mmmmm....  look at the cubes of unsalted butter dotting the fresh fuji apples and frozen cranberries from Trader Joe's (or as my mom used to like to say, "Trader's Joe").

And our absolutely loverly galette post-oven.....  Gotta say, score one for The Box!  This was completely delicious.  Not overly sweet, cranberries adding a nice tartness.  The crust was light, crispy, also not too sweet, and slightly healthier than usual due to the addition of whole wheat pastry flour (hey, gotta counteract the whole dotting the fruit with butter, right?).

3 recipes down, 36 to go, 2 additions to the recipe box.  Ah, progress feels good.


Recipe #2: Ikea Swedish Meatballs

Source:  A brochure picked up while on a random trip to Ikea which included a recipe for swedish meatballs from scratch.

Pretty meatballs before cooking, as made per directions, but with about a teaspoon of kosher salt added.

The final result.....  Which sadly looks much tastier than it actually was.  The meatballs themselves were a bit dense, but overall okay tasting.  The sauce though (condensed cream of mushroom soup, sour cream, and water) was pretty dang awful.  Ugh.....  Super bland and tasted nothing like the yummy sauce they put on the meatballs purchased in the Ikea cafeteria.  Good thing I found a packet of instant Ikea swedish meatball sauce in the back of my pantry to add and rescue this dish.

This recipe was definitely not one for The Box!  Oh well, I figured there'd be quite a few fails amongst the bunch.


Recipe #1: Lemon Garlic Roast Chicken with Potatoes

Recipe source:  http://bakespace.com/recipes/detail/Lemon-Garlic-Roast-Chicken-With-Potatoes/20108/

Printed this recipe out because I was looking for something to roast in my new dutch oven.  Made a few modifications.  Added salt to the butter/herb compound that went under the skin because I only had unsalted butter. Tied the chicken legs together because the chicken just looks so indiscrete, all spread-eagle, when you don't do that.  Here's a before pic....

And then out of the oven....

Plated up pretty.....

Verdict?  Into The Box it goes, with some changes.  The roasting technique was spot-on; never have I been able to produce such a juicy chicken (go dutch oven, go!), and the skin was nice and crisp.

But what this recipe lacked was SALT!  A whole bunch of it!  When I looked back over the recipe, I really should have rubbed that whole chicken with a generous helping of kosher salt after the lemon bath, followed by the compound butter.  I also found the lemon rind a bit overpowering and would probably like this better with thyme instead of rosemary.

Did the husband eat almost the whole dang thing?  Yes, so I take that as a good sign.  So that's 1 recipe down, 38 more to go (unfortunately I found 3 more recipes that I forgot to include in my first count).  Off to a pretty good start, I think!


2011: The Year of the Recipe

So, I've finally figured out a fairly reasonable and tangible goal for the new year.  Inspired by the need to clear out the kalat (tagalog for clutter) in my kitchen and watching Julie and Julia via Netflix instant queue, I am going to cook my way through the recipes I've collected on little scraps of paper from the Internet, various cookbooks and magazines, and coworkers and friends. 

After going through my bits of paper, I've narrowed it down to 18 entrees, 8 sides and salads, and 10 desserts. 36 recipes over a year......  Not too undoable I think, especially considering a few months of this year will be dominated by trying to stay awake as we transition to having 2 brand spankin' new babies in this house.  Armed with my slow cooker and my new dutch oven and immersion blender, I think I can do it!

Once cooked, I will determine whether or not those recipes are good enough to make it into The Box -- what I've designated as my permanent recipe collection to be shared with loved ones, at potlucks, and passed down to my kiddos.  Wish me luck!  Hmmmm...... I should probably sharpen my knives.


Getting me some Nook-ie

Here I present my new love, my Barnes & Noble Nook.  As a librarian who will always love the feel & weight of a printed book in my hands, it took me awhile to warm up to the idea of the ebook reader.  I find I am now almost embarrassed to say how much I love my Nook.  If you're willing to spend a little bit of money, less than the cost of a hardcover, to get the book you want to read right now, this is the thing. 

I bought a Nook instead of a Kindle because it combined eInk technology with color touch screen navigation.  Not that I don't ever buy anything from Amazon, but I just felt better about patronizing a bricks & mortar bookstore.  And, best of all.....  Barnes & Noble sells the cutest Nook covers like my snazzy Jonathan Adler one.

So far I've downloaded The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Help, Mockingjay, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and the newest by Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel.  (Can you tell my reading tastes are rather eclectic?)

Re: this last title, I literally woke up this morning and said to myself, "Oh, didn't Clockwork Angel come out yesterday?"  I tapped the little "shop" button on my Nook, searched for it, and downloaded it via wifi all in a matter of five minutes.  Completely addicting! 


Champurado, how I love thee

One of my favorite comfort foods is champurado, a Filipino breakfast food.  Think of it as chocolate oatmeal, except instead of oats it's made with rice.  Making it has become my Sunday morning ritual.  Champurado equates home for me.  You'd be hard-pressed to find champurado in a Filipino restaurant, although now our local Goldilocks has it at their weekend breakfast buffet.  When I want to feel closer to my mom who passed away two years ago, or introduce my daughter to a taste of my own childhood, or when I just need a dose of warm, carby, chocolatey goodness, I make champurado.

My Mom's Champurado
Serves  4

1 c. glutinous, sticky rice, uncooked
5 c. water
1/2 c. or more good quality hot chocolate mix
evaporated milk

Start with 1 cup of glutinous, sticky, sweet rice.  Do not use regular Calrose or Uncle Ben's!  I like this brand, Shirakiku:

Put it in a medium saucepan along with 5 cups of water.  Bring water to boil, then lower heat to medium-low to reduce to simmer. 

Add about 1/2 cup or more, to taste, of good quality hot chocolate mix.  I like my chocolate strong tasting, so I probably use more than 1/2 a cup.  I try to use Filipino tsokolate, that bittersweet stuff that comes in rolls wrapped in waxed paper from the Philippines when I can get it, but regular old hot chocolate mix, the good stuff, will do.  I happened to have this in my pantry, so this batch of champurado turned out rather fancy:

Stir in the cocoa until it's dissolved.  Simmer the rice, water, and cocoa for about 30 minutes, stirring occassionally.  During the last 10 minutes of cooking, you may want to stir more frequently, as your champurado should be pretty thick and goopy by then and you don't want it to stick to the bottom of your pan.  The rice by this point should be breaking down nicely, with little cracks forming around the edges of the rice grains, and you should have the consistency of thick oatmeal.  Adjust flavor to taste, adding sugar or more cocoa if needed. 

Serve warm with a little evaporated milk to stir in, or just regular milk if that's all you have.  Enjoy!