crock pot whole chicken

I have written about this before, but it bears revisiting. This is an incredibly simple way to get multiple meals. The great thing about cooking a whole chicken in your slow cooker is that you put the chicken in the crock pot and turn it on. It’s (almost) that simple. You don’t need to add any liquids because the chicken provides plenty of liquid.

crock pot whole chickenMost recently I bought a six-pound chicken at the grocery store. I pulled out the giblets and the neck and I rubbed it with a combination of za’atar seasoning and smoked paprika. I really prefer the Trader Joe’s whole chicken without the giblets, but the nearest Trader Joe’s is half an hour away in a very congested shopping district. I simply don’t have the culinary skills to work with those parts. (I can’t help but think of the Dan Aykroyd parody of Julia Child on Saturday Night Live: “Save the giblets!”)

I cooked the chicken on low for eight-and-a-half hours. Next time I need to remember to rub the spice mix under the skin. Otherwise it turned out great.

The chicken cost a little less than twice what we pay for a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. We generally get two meals out of a rotisserie chicken. This one yielded four: that evening’s supper plus three bags sealed up in the FoodSaver and put in the freezer. The math certainly works.

I have a number of recipes in my database that call for using rotisserie chicken. The crock pot chicken is, certainly, a perfectly fine substitute for that, and I don’t have to worry about going out and finding a rotisserie chicken. I just pull it out of the freezer.

There’s a lot to be said for chicken in the slow cooker.

tortilla soup

tortilla soupTortilla Soup was a Mexican remake of the Taiwanese (I believe) film Eat Drink, Man Woman. What was interesting to me was that aside from some changes in cultural references, it was almost a line-for-line remake.

That’s not what I’m talking about here, however. I’m talking about Terry’s tortilla soup. She has made tortilla soup before, but not this particular recipe.

The recipe called for rotisserie chicken, breast and thigh. I had made chicken on our stovetop grill a couple of nights before, and I had extra, we she used that. It specified a poblano chili, but the store didn’t have that so I bought another variety. The recipe included onion, which she omitted as Terry is allergic to onion. She did, however, throw in some frozen corn.

The result was a really tasty winter’s evening meal.

scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and cream cheese

eggs with salmonTerry and I don’t buy smoked salmon very often. We were spoiled by the marvelous product by (what I believe is) the late, lamented Creekside Smokehouse in El Granada on the San Mateo county coast. Every once in a while we do buy it, however, as we did to make and take salmon and cream cheese crostini to my brother’s house for Christmas.

We had salmon and cream cheese left over. What to do with it?

When we lived in Silicon Valley, that is actually in Silicon Valley and not the far suburbs of Gilroy, we would often have Saturday breakfast at Hobee’s, a Bay Area chain focusing on healthier fare. My favorite dish, other than their marvelous coffee cake, was their scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and cream cheese.

You know what? Terry makes that dish just was well as Hobee’s did. It’s a special treat for me.

buttermilk-hot sauce brined chicken

I took some liberties with this recipe.

buttermilk-hot sauce chickenI made the marinate pretty much as specified, with buttermilk, hot sauce, brown sugar, and pepper. The recipe said to marinate for twenty-four hours, I marinated for six. The recipe called for skin-on, bone-in breast and leg quarters. I used boneless breasts. The recipe specified cooking on an outdoor grill over indirect heat. I used our stovetop grill pan and because I used boneless breasts cooking took only several minutes, rather than the hour and fifteen minutes as stated in the recipe.

I made the baste more or less as specified with ketchup, apple cider vinegar, hot sauce, and butter.

The result turned out quite well.

thinking about pancakes (and then…)

pancakesI was thinking about pancakes recently.

We have an electric waffle iron and we make waffles for breakfast periodically. I have never really made pancakes, however. I thought that would be fun, but I didn’t want to buy an electric pancake grill when we had the electric waffle iron. I thought a stovetop grill would be a good idea so I checked with Terry. She agreed, but for a different reason. She had been looking at them and thought it would be great to grill chicken, fish, and beef inside when it was too cold, too wet, or even too hot outside.

I turned to Amazon (of course) and found an economical reversible grill thatburgers was just about the right size for our stove, and much less expensive than the ones that were a bit larger and would have probably been too big for our stove anyway. I ordered it.

I was a bit concerned about the pancake side of things (pun intended) as one of the Amazon reviews said the flat side was rough. I made pancakes the day after the grill arrived, however, and I was absolutely delighted with the result. That evening I made hamburgers on the side with ridges and they were marvelous as well.

The grill is cast iron, so with proper care it will last forever. It is a bit hard to clean, as is most cast iron, but for the cooking that we can do on the grill it is well worth the effort.

We made a great addition to our kitchen at a very reasonable price.

a tortilla problem solved, it seems

I’ve written here about buying a tortilla press and making my own tortillas. I have written about my struggles in getting things right. And I have never been totally satisfied. One of my problems was when we would make fajitas (or soft tacos, depending on your perspective) the tortillas would split.

masa packageWhen I bought masa I would always buy Bob’s Red Mill. The company is known for its quality, and I thought it a good choice. The last time I was planning on making tortillas, however, I was shopping at Sprouts. They carry the Bob’s Red Mill brand, but not the masa. They did have a brand called Gold Mine, so I bought that. The Gold Mine brand looked smoother and less grainy than the Bob’s.

When I went to make the wet masa mixture (I dive in with my food handling gloves) it definitely felt smoother and less grainy. I started to make the tortillas and I had a mess. They kept falling apart. But I knew what the problem was: too much water. I asked Terry to add more dry masa to the bowl. (Once again I was wearing food handling gloves and my hands were covered with the masa mix.) That did it. Terry and I got our tortilla production line going.

When we sat down to eat and I put the beef and toppings on the tortilla, folded it and began to eat there was no split! Wow. And that held true for two more tortillas.

I never thought that the brand of masa would make a difference, but it did. Bob’s Red Mill has a great reputation, mostly well-deserved, but it seems their masa is not the best choice for making tortillas. I’m delighted to have found Gold Mine which gives me the result I am looking for.

and now, interesting lunches

Lunch around here has been a rather boring affair except for those times when we go out to eat. Often I’ll heat up a frozen meal. Terry will open a can of soup. Sometimes we’ll make sandwiches using deli meat from Sprouts. Really pretty pedestrian.

paniniI was thinking about this when my dad asked for the second time what we wanted for Christmas. I don’t recall what jogged the thought, but it occurred to me that a Panini press would be really nice. I checked with Terry and she agreed. I looked on Amazon and found the Hamilton Beach 25460A Panini Press. It’s not expensive and it is quite compact (something that matters in our kitchen). I passed that information on to my dad.

Dad is really great when it comes to follow-through on Christmas presents. That is exactly what we got for Christmas. On the 26th I headed straight over to Sprouts (carrying a gift card from my brother and sister-in-law) and bought a bunch of deli meat along with a small loaf of sourdough bread. There was also that bottle of Sriracha mayonnaise that looked so inviting.

Terry and I got creative and we were both pleased with the outcome. I’m not sure why the same ingredients cold or heated in the toaster oven are so everyday but become transformed into such a tasty delight when made in the Panini press.

But they do.

Add to that the fact that my brother and sister-in-law gave us a copy of The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook, which is full of tempting and mouthwatering recipes, many of which scream, “It’s not just for lunch!”

Much to learn. Much to explore. Much to enjoy.