Sunday, June 26, 2016

Driver's Ed Round Two

Well, it's that time again.  Our son is 15 and has started driver's ed.  We're doing it differently this time around.  With our daughter, we did the parent taught driver's ed since it's considerably cheaper.  But it's also extremely stressful. Putting a teenager behind the wheel of a car will make you go gray fast.  But this time we are taking him to the driver's ed school.  It wasn't really our first choice since it's a lot more expensive.  But my husband and I both have different cars now and neither one has a hand brake.  Therefore, we have no way to control the car while he's driving.  So we bit the bullet and paid the extra price.  And, while there's a lot of driving him back and forth every day, the stress is almost zero.  Until we have to do his 30 hours of drive time at home. Then the stress comes back.  But oh, well.  Part of being a parent, right?

It's funny how much kids change in such a short time.  Our son met a friend at the mall yesterday, and I picked him up after work.  He had purchased some mini pretzel dogs. When we got home, he started eating them with the mustard that came with it.  I looked at him surprised and said, "since when do you eat mustard."  He said, "I don't know, since forever."  I had never seen him eat it before.  He used to be extremely picky, but now he'll try pretty much whatever I cook.

Since driver's ed takes up part of our evening, I'm back to trying to make quick meals.  So I made this Cilantro Lime Chicken & Rice the other day.  It's a one-pan meal, so it's quick and is easy cleanup.  I used minute rice so we didn't have to wait a long time on rice.  The flavors were so bright and light.  We all absolutely loved this, even the not so picky anymore kid.  Enjoy!

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
2 T butter
Olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 C chicken stock
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
2 limes
One 14.5 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 C minute rice
1  Roma tomato, chopped
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
1 T cumin
1/2 T Adobo seasoning 

NOTES:  Adobo seasoning is a Hispanic ingredient that is a seasoned salt.  It's very tasty.  You can find it in the international aisle in a plastic spice bottle.  If you can't find it, you can just use salt. 

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium high heat. Drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the onion and jalapenos until they are tender.  Add in the chicken and garlic and cook 5-7 minutes or until the chicken is done through.  Add in the rice, black beans, cilantro, tomatoes, cumin, and Adobo seasoning.  Add in the chicken stock and stir.  Bring it to a boil and then remove it from the heat.  Cover it and let it sit for about 5-7 minutes or until all of the stock is absorbed. Squeeze the juice of the two limes all over the top and stir it. Serve with additional lime wedges and hot sauce, if desired.

Adapted from Cooking Classy

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Strange Occurrences

So yesterday morning at work was interesting, to say the least.  I get to the restaurant I manage at about 7:30 in the mornings.  All of the employees generally park in the same spaces every day.  I looked over, and there was an unusual truck parked in someone's space and a man was sleeping in it.  We were sure that he was drunk and passed out.  We tried honking my car horn from the remote, but he didn't budge.  Then my boss told me that there was a homeless man and his dog camped out by our back door.  Both kind of strange things to come to on a Monday morning.

My boss was concerned that the guy sleeping would drive somewhere, so he called the non-emergency police line. After he came back out of his office, the man sleeping backed up, backed all the way down the drive behind our building, and pulled into another parking space.  Meanwhile, the homeless man was gathering up all of his stuff to leave. If your workplace is anything like ours, all of the employees were watching and not accomplishing anything.  Next thing we know, the homeless man is peeking in through our front door.  We don't open until 8:30, so the doors were locked.

The police show up and talk to the sleeping man.  Next, the police then stopped to talk to the homeless man, who then went on his way.  Then the police come to the front door and tells us the sleeping guy wasn't drunk.  He had driven in all night to come to a construction job and was trying to get a little sleep before work.  So the sleeping man and the homeless man both went on their way, and my employees finally got to work.

While my day may have started out strange, it ended pretty great.  I decided to try a dish that is famous in the Philippines.  This chicken is called Chicken Adobo.  It's a crockpot recipe that has chicken thighs, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and peppercorns.  I was very worried that it would be a sour mess and that we would hate it.  But it turned out fantastic!  The peppercorns were soft enough to eat, but, boy, they packed a punch of heat!  My husband and son raved about it.  My poor daughter had to work until 10:00, so she didn't get home in time to eat.  She generally doesn't eat meat with bones in it anyway.  But I'm glad we gave this a chance.  It was easy and so darn tasty!  Enjoy!

About 3 lbs bone-in chicken thighs
1 onion, sliced
1 whole bulb garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 C rice wine vinegar
1/2 C soy sauce
1/2 C water
1 1/2 T whole black peppercorns
1 T oyster sauce
1 T brown sugar
3 bay leaves

NOTES:  The oyster sauce and sugar aren't traditional ingredients in Chicken Adobo.  I was concerned that it would be sour and thought the sweetness would help with that.  It was not at all sour, and the slight sweetness was great.  I left the cloves of garlic whole because I love eating mellow cooked garlic.  If you don't want to eat it whole, just mince it before throwing it in the crockpot.  Also, as I mentioned above, the peppercorns pack some heat when eaten.  If you don't want to take the chance of eating them whole, you can use a small amount of ground black pepper or put the peppercorns in some mesh tied up to still keep the flavor.
From the research I did on Chicken Adobo, it supposedly is only supposed to be eaten with white rice.  I made white rice. But with chicken stock.  And garlic.  And minced onion. Because I can.  Just saying...

Place the onions, bay leaves, and garlic in the bottom of a crockpot.  Place the chicken thighs skin side up on top of the onions.  Whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, water, oyster sauce, and sugar and pour it all over the top of the chicken. Sprinkle the peppercorns all over the top.  Cook the chicken on low for 8-10 hours.  

The next two steps are optional, but I recommend them both.
I scooped out the chicken thighs and veggies and put them in a casserole pan (chicken must be skin side up).  I put them under the broiler for about 8-10 minutes to brown and caramelize the skin to make for a prettier presentation.

Next, I took the liquid out of the crockpot and put it in a pot and boiled it for about 10 minutes to reduce it and thicken it up.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

New Life

Our daughter and first born just graduated high school.  She had one week off from school, and then she started both college and a new job.  I have been telling her for a while now that all of the drama and junk that happens in junior high and high school will all go away the last time she walked out of the door of the high school.  Of course, she never believed me and got caught up in drama.  Well, now she finally believes me.  She finally gets it that her life really starts now. She's so excited and scared at the same time, but it's time for her to go off on new adventures and start her new life.

I'm glad she got a new job since she's always worked after school until around 10:00 pm, and I never get to see her.  I work a lot of hours, and I have to go to bed early.  But now she'll work some daytime hours and I get to have her home for dinner.  

Last night we made a fantastic dish.  There were a few steps, but it was so worth it.  This Chicken Parmesan Pasta has bite-sized breaded chicken, a quick homemade marinara sauce, and lots of cheese.  We absolutely loved it!  And I got to have dinner with my daughter.  It was a great evening with good company.  I hope you and your family love this as much as we do.  Enjoy!

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
1 egg, beaten
1 C Italian breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Red chili flakes, to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste
Peanut oil

Two 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Drizzle olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste

8 ounces rigatoni (or your favorite pasta)
8 ounces shredded Mozzarella
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese

NOTES:  You can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts if you'd prefer.  Also, the sauce made a little bit more than I needed.  There was probably 1/2 C leftover.  Use more or less if you like. 

For the marinara sauce, put all of the ingredients into a pot and whisk it.  Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer.  You will want to keep it covered since it will splatter. Simmer, whisking occasionally, for about 15 minutes to thicken.

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

For the chicken, mix the chicken and the egg in a large zipper bag.  Add in the breadcrumbs, garlic powder, onion powder, chili flakes, and salt & pepper to taste.  Shake the bag around to coat the chicken.  Heat some peanut oil in a large skillet and fry the chicken in batches until it's browned and cooked through.  Drain it on a paper towel.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the drained pasta, the chicken, half of the Mozzarella and Parmesan, and the sauce together in a bowl.  Pour it into a casserole pan.  Top it with the remaining cheese and bake it uncovered for about 15-20 minutes or until it's hot through and the cheese on top is melted.