So here is an age old question, how long does a defrosted piece of chicken stay fresh, after you put it in the fridge? The answer is between 24 – 72 hours according to a Google Search. According to a Grill Boy Mommy phone call the answer is DON’T EAT THE CHICKEN ON THURSDAY YOU DEFROSTED ON SUNDAY. Just don’t risk it!!!
So now that the planned dinner of General Tsos Chicken was out how do you make a quick and delicious dinner with odds and ends in the fridge. The answer is THE FREEZER.
We had a few frozen meatballs, some tomato sauce, a green pepper, an onion, garlic, tomato, some bread and BOOM we had a wonderful dinner.
Bruschetta , Spaghetti and meatballs and a delicious sauce!!!
Dinner Disaster Over!!
Tonight we married two cultural cuisines together to create a culinary trifecta (yes I realize we only had two cuisine, but the addition of the cast iron pan makes it a trifecta in the eyes of Grill Boy and Baker Girl). Having read about a sweet potato enchilada pie on Gracefulfitness I wanted to give it a try with a few tweaks. The layers just looked super appealing, I couldn’t pass it up and of course Grill Boy loves using his cast iron anytime he can.
I looked up a few recipes for Enchilada pie, just to get a sense of what people typically put in, but we mostly made it up as we went along.
1 large cast iron pan
5-6 large tortillas (a size that will fit in your large cast iron pan, a large round casserole dish would work as well, but Grill Boy finds them inferior for no plausible reason.)
2 cans enchilada sauce (or about 3 cups if you are brave enough to make your own)
1 green bell pepper, diced,
1/2 large onion, diced
1 can black olives, diced
1 cup frozen corn (or 15 oz can drained).
1 chicken breast, butterflied and then hand-pulled
1 can refried beans
1 tsp cumin
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese,
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Filet your chicken breast, just to make it thinner and cook faster, cook in a frying pan, about 10 minutes (flipping occasionally). Set aside to cool.
2. Add all the vegetables to the frying pan you just cooked the chicken in, that way you absorb the chicken flavors. Add salt, pepper and cumin. Saute for about 8 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Then add about 1 cup of enchilada sauce, I added some taco seasoning and crushed red pepper flakes as well just to spice it up a bit.
3. Lightly cover the bottom of your cast iron pan with enchilada sauce, add a tortilla, and then spread half a can of refried beans on top of the tortilla.
4. Add another tortilla on top of the refried beans, and cover with your vegetable mixture and 1/2 cup of cheese.
5. Meanwhile, hand pull and shred the chicken, and saute with another cup of the enchilada sauce in your frying pan. Add another tortilla and top with the chicken mixture and 1/2 cup of cheese.
6. Top with another tortilla (I used 1.5 tortillas, just to cover the whole top), spread with the remaining refried beans, enchilada sauce and cheese.
7. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes, then uncover and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to sit before cutting.
8. Serve and enjoy deliciousness! Of course the best way to enjoy is with a nice margarita, guacamole, salsa, sour cream and some corn bread. The margarita was an adventure for Grill Boy. I tasked him with trying to make me a tasty beverage to go with the meal but we lacked lime juice and triple sec. So he made a 1 to 1 to 1 ratio of tequila, lemon juice, and simple syrup and it was quite tasty and was a nice addition to the meal.
Baker Girl: YUMMMM, this dish is winning!
Grill Boy:Holy Cast Iron Pan Batman, this was AMAZING!! — Stop what you are doing right now and go make it!!!
Feeling domestic and hankering for a hearty meal, I decided to tackle something I haven’t ever attempted but have been meaning to master, Tomato/Pasta/Spaghetti Sauce from scratch. I checked out a couple different recipes from allrecipes.com which has a giant like encyclopedia of tomato sauce information and Smitten Kitchen. I tried asking Siri “How to make homemade tomato sauce?” Her answer: “I found 12 restaurants nearby who’s reviews mention tomato and sauce.” Clearly someone does not have faith in my cooking abilities, that saucy minx.
Compiling the best of the recipes I found, and shocked to see carrot and celery as popular items in homemade sauce, Grill Boy and I ventured out on our weekly shopping excursion to purchase the ingredients. Including 4 pounds of tomatoes, aka a lot of freaking tomatoes.
The combination of recipes I settled on:
Homemade Tomato Sauce
4 lbs fresh tomatoes (I used plum, although I might seek out a redder tomato in the future as the sauce is quite orange)
1 small sweet onion
1/2 celery stalk
1/2 large carrot (perhaps I should have gone with a smaller carrot)
Fresh Garlic (3-5 cloves)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon-ish Oregano
1/2 tablespoon-ish Thyme
a few shakes of Marjoram (cause its just fun to say)
Boiling and Blanching
Boil a large pot water, get your tomatoes ready, with a slotted spoon. Also prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. Plop a few tomatoes into the boiling water, and boil (blanch) for about a minute, or until you see the skin tear. Drop into ice bath (Note: ice bath made infinitly better if you have a shark fin ice mold floating in it to scare the tomatoes).
Next up you will take the tomatoes from the ice bath and peel the skin off, I switched back and forth between peeling and kind of squeezing and having the tomato shoot out.
Finish up blanching the large pile of tomatoes and then slice them in half. Now comes the fun part, squeezing and removing all the seeds and seed guts from the tomatoes. Do this over a strainer so you can reserve any liquid that comes off the tomatoes. You also might want to break the tomatoes up a bit while you have the tomatoes in your hot little hands.
Veggies and Flavor
While you do the tomatoes, solicit help from a partner in crime, to finely dice/mince, the onion, carrot and celery. Toss in a large stock pot with about 1/4 cup of olive oil and cook for 10 minutes. At this time also add in the fresh garlic (I use a garlic press, but mincing works just fine as well), the thyme, oregano, marjoram, salt and pepper to taste and any other spices you are feeling like.
And now comes the waiting game. Add the tomatoes, some fresh basil to the veggie mixture, bring to a simmer and cook for at least 45 minutes. The longer you cook it, the thicker it will get.
Now as I mentioned in the ingredients list, the sauce was looking pretty orange, so I ended up adding a 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes after about an hour of cooking, as well as about 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. I thought about adding some red wine too, but didn’t want to open a bottle. The sauce looked very much like a Vodka sauce after about an hour, but again I think due to the carrots, I might cut those out in the future.
I didn’t chop up the tomatoes before tossing them in the sauce, so I wanted to puree it a bit. I threw about 1/2 the sauce in a blender and pureed, just to give a little more smoothness to the consistency.
After about an hour and a half:
After two and a half hours:
Tossed with some chicken sausage and served on four cheese ravioli:
Grill Boy: Was slow to cook down, but not surprising. Sauce went really well with Parmesan cheese. Orange color was a little bit weird, but overall not terrible, just needs some tweaks.
Baker Girl: Thinking this might be a good vodka sauce from scratch recipe (yes I did contemplate throwing some vodka in). I think next time I will skip the blanching step, and just go with whole canned tomatoes, they have more vibrant red color and are canned at their peak versus having been on a truck and in a store before we bought them by the pound. I agree will Grill Boy, a good start, just needs some tweaks. Next challenge homemade pasta, I’ve done it before but not in like 10 years.
Baker Girl is typing, but Grill Boy is dictating. He is knee deep in grape plucking:
One of the things that is always problematic is having a good breakfast without having to wake up early to cook it. Grill Boy is usually running out the door as soon as he is out of the shower and generally forgets to eat breakfast, but thankfully always remembers pants. So on their most recent trip to Costco Grill Boy and Baker Girl bought a GIANT crate of grapes, so he is plucking them off of the stems, so he and Baker Girl have an easy to go breakfast and more sleeping time.
Grill boy did the same thing with sandwich bags full of cheerios, as he has found grapes and cheerios are a wonderful breakfast snack for his 40 minute commute to work. Preparing on Sunday is an easy way to get ready for the week, and a great activity while watching the DVR’ed Patriots Game. We watch it in just under an hour, without listening to stupid football announcers, commercials, or repetitive instant replays. There are only so many times you can watch a kick off.
But breakfast prep and football aside, the big culinary experience of the day was Tortilla Soup with Chicken and Black Beans. Baker Girl unfortunately had to work all day, so Grill Boy was left to his own devices in the kitchen. [Baker Girl: I pictured him slaving over a hot stove ALLLLLL day].
Tortilla Soup with Chicken and Black Beans
1 small sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
15 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
4 cups Chicken stock
1 skinless boneless chicken breast
Salt and Pepper
2 tablespoons lime juice.
1. Continuation from last nights dinner, where Grill Boy made a quick marinade of an extra defrosted chicken breast. He diced up the chicken into tiny edible pieces, tossed it all into a ziploc bag with a 1/4 cup of lemon juice, an a few healthy dashes of cayenne pepper [Baker Girl: Not so sure on that definition of “healthy dashes”].
2. Then the day of soup making began with finely dicing onions, garlic, cilantro.
3. In a fry pan, add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, and saute the onion, garlic and cilantro mixture, until the onions are just about translucent (but only just).
4. Add to a blender with one can of diced tomatoes [Baker Girl: 15 oz can]. Puree until smooth.
5. In the pan from the onion/garlic/cilantro give your chicken bits a little fry.
6. Toss the tomato/onion/garlic/cilantro puree into a large sauce pan and let simmer until it begins to thicken. Add some cumin too.
7. While your two fry pans of chicken and tomato/onion/cilantro/garlic/cumin simmer, toss your frozen corn into a large stock pot, along with dice jalapeno, black beans, line juice, chicken stock, a small dash of chili power and red pepper flakes (large enough for all the ingredients you have going right now).
8. Once the tomato puree has thickened up a bit, and the chicken is a bit pink but white on the outside, toss everything into the big stock pot. Cover and cook at a simmer for about twenty minutes.
9. While it cooks, it may look a little watery, and since Grill Boy had no idea what it should look like, he added some flour. Grill Boy was mistaken, it got clumpy and took some serious effort to declump. [Baker Girl: I recommend corn starch if you are ever trying to thicken something up, although I would suggest just simmering soups on low to cook off excess liquid and thicken up].
10. Serve with shredded Monterey jack cheese on each bowl and enjoy with some delicious tortilla chips. And remember to take a picture before you start eating …opps
Outcome (We are thinking this should be a new feature for each entry…what do you the readers think?)
Grill Boy: I thought it was pretty tasty and even though Baker Girl is not a huge fan, 4he cilantro gave a needed taste to the dish. It was a little spicy but not terrible. I think the chicken chunks were too small because I really dont recall eating any. The crunchy chips were an important addition as was the appetizer of guacamole.
Baker Girl: HOLY SPICE BATMAN. The first bite delicious, the second bite, FIREEEEEE, in my mouth. But tasty nonetheless, I am now very curious about the definition of a “healthy dash,” methinks that healthy dash will put hair on my chest.
Sangria, one of the tastiest beverages on a hot summer day, yet always so expensive when you go out to eat. Bertucci’s why don’t you take a page from Tasca’s book and offer $5.00 pitchers of sangria? I’ve come up with a tasty homemade recipe that also helps you out if you have any fruit about to spoil.
1 bottle red wine (I have found Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Shiraz work best)
A few cups of Club Soda (I usually use half a 33 oz bottle)
1 Apple (non granny smith variety, I like Fujis)
1/2 cup Sugar
Basically add all the ingredients to a big pitcher or carafe, mix up and little, chill for at least 2 hours but up to 24 (the longer the better) and serve over ice. Do be careful if your sangria vessel is airtight, once you mix things up, open it to let out the gas from the club soda.
For a little fun after you have enjoy all the sangria, pour some vodka (or gin if you are my dad) over the fruit, allow to steep for 24 hours, and then enjoy pink vodka. After this little adventure, we went to a vodka and gin distillery to learn about making alcohol. Fun fact if you want to infuse alcohol with a flavor, don’t use the fruit you already infused sangria with! Distillery pictures to come!