simplicity

I believe the first place I saw instructions for making a slow cooker whole chicken was in the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer. They were, after all, interested in interested in selling their giblet-free whole chickens. It said, in essence, put the chicken in the crock pot and turn it on. That was pretty much it.

I have done this a few times, and I don’t know why I don’t do it more often. That was, however, our dinner yesterday.

slow cooker chickenThe closest Trader Joe’s is a half hour away in the very congested town of Temecula. (I don’t know how you get from one block to the next in Temecula without getting bogged down in complete gridlock. Somehow, though, you eventually get to where you’re going.) Fortunately, however, our local Sprouts here in Hemet sells giblet-less small organic chickens, and that’s what I bought.

Shortly after eleven in the morning yesterday I put together a slightly modified mixture of Jamaican Jerk Seasoning Blend and rubbed it on the chicken. I put the chicken in the slow cooker and set it to low, so it was in the crock pot before eleven thirty. I then left it alone.

Around twenty to seven in the evening I put a rice mix on the stove and at seven o’clock I checked the internal temperature of the chicken. It was well above the required 165° for chicken. I put everything on the table.

It was a delicious dinner. The Jamaican jerk seasoning was great. And there was enough left over to seal up and freeze for two more dinners.

Sometimes a simple approach produces great results.


vegetarian chili

LightLife GroundI continue my quest to try plant-based alternatives to meats. Sprouts Farmers Market market recently added a couple of LightLife products in addition to their Beyond Meat line. I bought a package of their Ground product and used it to make chili. I sautéed it with chili con carne seasoning and then added crushed tomatoes, black beans, and tomato sauce. I seasoned it with cumin, coriander, garlic, freshly ground pepper, and minced onion.

It was good. Really good. I’ve made a similar chili with Morningstar Grillers Crumbles and this was far superior.

The food industry is making great strides in this realm. I anxiously await the arrival of the Impossible Burger at Burger King here in Southern California.


vegetarian improvisation

Generally when I cook I pull out a recipe – usually from my Living Cookbook database. I may not follow the recipe exactly, I generally don’t follow the recipe exactly, but I have it there. Sometimes, though, I don’t feel like selecting a recipe and I don’t feel like shopping for ingredients.

macaroni and cheeseI was in that kind of mood last week. Add to that the fact that I’m still supposed to be avoiding red meat and I ended up doing some vegetarian improvisation. On Thursday I made my own macaroni and cheese. I cooked the shells, threw them in a casserole dish along with two remaining slices of pepper jack, added shredded cheddar, and  topped it all with panko drizzled with garlic butter. I baked it for fifteen minutes. It turned out well.

For Friday dinner, we had some spinach and mushrooms in the fridge that needed to be used before they went bad. I cooked a cup brown rice, threw in the spinach along with mushrooms which I had sliced, added to that shredded cheddar and there was dinner.

Not elegant or fancy, but nutritious, easy, and inexpensive. As the tagline from the old Smooth Jazz TV program (I hate smooth jazz!)  used to say, “Life is like jazz. It’s best when you improvise.”


impromptu gazpacho

I have been following through on my plan to do more vegetarian cooking. As I wrote previously, it has to do with the fact that I’m not allowed to have red meat for the time being and my perception that I can’t fix poultry for dinner each and every day. I could, yes, but I certainly don’t want to. The vegetarian approach also fit in nicely with Earth Day, as I reflected on Monday while noting all the various celebrations reported online.

gazpacho soupIt was in fact on Monday that I made a Cajun Skillet Beans recipe from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. The recipe included beans (I used garbanzo), celery, bell pepper, tomatoes, Dijon mustard, honey, and a lot of spices. The spice mix included thyme, basil, oregano, black pepper, and cayenne. I used hot chili powder rather than cayenne.

Terry and I both enjoyed the dish. There wasn’t enough left over for a second meal for two, so I was struck by an idea. On Tuesday at lunch time, a relatively warm day, I used our Vitamix to purée the leftover mixture that I had stored in the fridge. It made for a marvelous cold gazpacho soup (I know, that’s redundant). I added to that a slice of garlic bread from my home-baked sourdough loaf.

It made for a very tasty lunch.


grilled chicken kebabs with pineapple salsa

I was looking for something different for a Saturday dinner and for something that I could grill on our new stove-top grill pan. I found this recipe for grilled chicken kebabs with pineapple salsa in my database, which originally appeared in Shape magazine in September 2010.

pineapple chicken kebabsThe marinade called for pineapple, garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper pureed in a blender. The salsa consisted of diced pineapple, tomato, spinach, garlic, cilantro, and salt. I omitted the cilantro and salt in the salsa. I cooked the chicken on the grill pan along with pineapple pieces, forgoing the skewers. I also cooked rice as a side, which turned out to be completely unnecessary.

It made for a very tasty Saturday evening dinner.


Manhattan clam chowder

Manhattan clam chowderTerry recently said that she wanted to have Manhattan clam chowder, so I pulled up this recipe from my database, which originally appeared in the Cooking Light issue of May 1999.

It’s really quite straightforward, calling for garlic, a chopped and peeled baking potato, oregano, black pepper, diced tomatoes, and clam juice along with the clams. Terry added cumin and chili powder and a couple of slices of microwaved bacon.

I took care of the garlic bread. It made for a really nice dinner on a cold evening.


chocolate chip cookies

I originally had this chocolate chip cookie recipe in my bulky three-ring binder, and it got transferred to my Living Cookbook database when I made the conversion. It’s from the old Yahoo Vegetarian Group and was written by the group owner, the incomparable Donna.

I followed Donna’s ingredients, but went my own way with the instructions.

The ingredients:

¾ cup sugar
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup butter or margarine, room temperature
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (optional)
1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

chocolate chip cookiesThis time around I doubled the batch. I was making the cookies for Terry’s physical therapy team after she completed treatment.

I mixed all of the dry ingredients in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and then threw in the wet ingredients. I next added the chocolate chips and then walnuts which I chopped using the chopping attachment for my immersion blender.

I used a soup spoon to place the dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper and baked at 375° for twelve minutes.

They turned out great!