Tag Archives: Cooking

Leftover Challenge

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I posted this picture to Facebook & Instagram on Monday with the caption: “Just pulled all of these leftovers or soon to expire items out of the fridge and I’m determined to make two new meals. Will post to the blog later in the week with the results.”  So here they are.  As one of my savvy Instagram followers guessed, the hubs made a Chicken Stir Fry for dinner Monday.  On Tuesday morning, B made a Chicken & Rice Stoup.  That is not a typo; I meant stoup, and you’ll read why.

The hubs took the 2 raw chicken breasts, the partial sweet (white) onion, the pepper, zucchini, some carrots, stir-fry sauce and one box of take-out rice.  To that, he added garlic, fresh ginger, another half of a sweet onion (from our onion basket), cilantro left over from dinner guests over the weekend that I completely forgot was in the fridge (good thing he checked!) and he filled the rest of the stir-fry sauce bottle with this homemade teriyaki sauce we love and shook it all together (FYI – I do not add the cornstarch and the ¼ cup of water to the teriyaki sauce cuz the hubs does not like cornstarch.  Tastes the same, just doesn’t get thick.).

He sliced and diced everything, including the chicken breasts, and then I stole ⅓ of his ginger/garlic.  😀  He salted and peppered the chicken and cooked it in sesame oil in our wok.  Removed chicken and cooked veggies in the same wok – carrots, pepper and onions first and when they were almost done, he added in zucchini and mushrooms (that he begged me to go get from the store for him.  Which I did, cuz he’s really sexy and he was cooking for me!  He also texted me when I was in the store and asked for a can of water chestnuts.  Always nice to have a little crunch in your stir fry!).

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After meat and veggies were cooked, he added and heated more sesame oil and then pressed the container of rice into the wok to get warm and flavored.  He said was going to add a scrambled egg, but I didn’t see any in my bowl.  I also found the can of water chestnuts, unopened on the counter, when I cleaned up the kitchen after dinner.  He forgot to put them in.  My scatterbrainedness is rubbing off on him – poor guy!  Once rice was too his liking, he put meat and veggies back in wok, tossed, added in the sauce, tossed, served up and added chopped, fresh cilantro as a garnish to his and my bowls!  No cilantro for B, thank you very much.  It was, like all of the hubs stir fries, AWESOME!

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While the hubs had been furiously chopping all the veggies, raw chicken, garlic and ginger for his stir fry, I was chopping myself for a chicken and rice stoup.  From the ingredients in the top pic of this post, I took the baggie with the chicken thighs the hubs had smoked on the grill, celery, carrots, red onion and the other box of rice.  I realized that the waaaay too pungent odor of the red onion meant that it was past it’s prime and should not go into my dish and with shame and sadness, I tossed it.  I then grabbed the other half of the onion that the hubs took from our onion basket and didn’t use in the stir fry.

I removed and tossed the skin from the chicken thighs, diced the meat, placed it in the bottom of a tupperware container and covered it with a piece of plastic wrap.  Then I diced up sweet onion, carrots and celery and placed them in the same tupperware container on top of the plastic wrap.  Why the plastic wrap, you say?  Because the next day, when B made the stoup, it was easy to remove all the veggies from the container without taking meat with them nor having to pick out the bottom layer of veggies from among the meat.  I also put a little glass bowl in the container with the garlic and ginger I stole from the hubs, added the cover and popped in the fridge for the next day.  I know what you’re thinking: “You are brilliant!”  Thank you.  I have my moments.  They are few and far between but I do, occasionally, have them.

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While getting the tupperware container Tuesday morning, B found 2 opened boxes of chicken stock in the fridge and pulled them out.  He also got out the Wegmans Basting Oil and a pot.  He heated approx a tablespoon of basting oil in the pot.  How did he know the oil was hot enough?  After a minute, he wet the tips of his fingers at the kitchen faucet and then flicked some water droplets into the oil.  He knew it was ready by the height and loudness of the water droplets sizzling because his mama taught him that.  🙂  In went the onions, carrot and celery and he sautéed them for 7 – 8 minutes.  Then he added the garlic and ginger and stirred constantly while they cooked, but didn’t burn, for 2 more minutes.

He announced that all the basting oil had ben absorbed by the veggies and, before adding the chicken, he needed to add a smidge more oil. And by “smidge”, I mean that the bottle got away from him and the oil dumped in.  That’s alright, that’s alright, the finished product has a nice sheen of oil slick on top that adds to the flavor and “beauty” of the dish.  😉  While he added the diced chicken thighs and heated them through, I dumped ½ of a box of take-out rice into a bowl and broke it up with a spoon.

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He added the stock to the pan and brought to a boil before adding and heating the rice.  There was not as much stock in those 2 containers as I had thought, but I didn’t want to open up a new one.  So, I declared the Chicken & Rice Soup to now be Stoup.  It’s a word used by Rachel Ray to describe a soup that is hearty enough or thick enough to be a stew.  B’s creation did not have much liquid and so we improvised in the kitchen.  That is what I love about cooking – it is an Art, up for change and interpretation by the artist.  Baking is not my favorite thing to do because it is a Science.  You can’t constantly tweak baking recipes based on what you do or do not have on hand because certain ingredients and amounts are non-negotiable.  They perform chemical reactions to get the desired, and more specifically an edible, end result!  We tasted his stoup and decided the smokiness of the chicken was a bit overpowering.  We added some pepper and salt, which balanced the dish and allowed the flavors of the stock and veggies to come out.

IMG_20141107_094319  And here is B’s end result!  I put some in a mug this morning, added some water from the tap and heated it up in the microwave.  Look at the beautifully shiny circles of basting oil sitting on top!  When I was done eating my stoup, my lips were so soft from that oil, I won’t need to apply lip gloss today.  😀  I love the dark flakes from the smoked chicken thighs!

I hope you are inspired to create new dishes from your leftovers and soon to expire kitchen items!  I have other posts on here about using leftovers.  If you are interested in seeing more, just search “leftovers”.

 

Series: Cooking Around The World With My Son – Italy

Tortellini with Skinny Basil Pesto (left) and Marinara (right).

The evening of August 21, I was on my Pinterest “homepage” and saw a pin for Kids’ Culinary Passport from Inner Child Food.  I did not follow Inner Child Food on Pinterest, but another pinner that I do follow had pinned this culinary passport post.  Although I immediately loved the idea of cooking and crafting with your kids from different countries, I was not going to repin the post.  B was signed up to take a camp the following week that was doing just that – cooking new foods from around the world.  So, I moved on and continued to scroll through my Pinterest homepage.  But a voice inside me said, “Go back and pin that; you might need it”.  I disagreed with that voice, but I’ve learned through experience to listen to it, so I went back and pinned it.

The next day, I received an email form the camp counselor, reminding me about the camp the following week and expressing his excitement to get cooking with the kids.  Right before ending the email, he mentioned that common allergens would be used throughout the week and to please let him know if B had any.  I replied that B is allergic to peanuts and was told that 2 days during the week peanuts would be used.  I promptly removed B from the class and requested a refund.  I called the hubs to express my irritation that the allergy information had not been divulged to parents during registration as well as B’s disappointment.  He loves to cook and was looking forward to the class.  The hubs said, “That’s alright.  We’ll just make our own cooking camp at home.”  Then that voice popped up again, “See?  I told you you’d need pin.”  When I got off the phone, I found the pin, went to the Kids’ Culinary Passport and read the post – five countries, five crafts, five recipes.  B’s camp was 5 days.  This was perfect!  We would just cover each country from Inner Child Food’s the following week and B would get his week of cooking camp!

Hahaha!  “The best laid plans of mice and men…”  Oh, well.  So goes the life of homeschoolers.  We learn through life and somedays life takes us out of the house and we’re not home to cook.  Or the pantry does not have all the ingredients needed to cook a new dish and it’s that last week before payday when I refused to run to the store and just work with what is already in the house.  Over the past 2 weeks, B has cooked 6 days from the 5 countries in Kids’ Culinary Passport from Inner Child Food.  We did not do the crafts because we do plenty of those.  We did not use all the recipes from Kids’ Culinary Passport, either, because we didn’t have the ingredients on hand or we wanted to do something different.

The plan was just to do the 5 countries in Kids’ Culinary Passport, but then I got a text from a friend this morning.  She asked me if we had done Korea yet because she had found a cool recipe for us.  I decided right then that we’ve been having so much fun, why not continue our culinary trip around the world?  I asked her for the recipe and I’m looking forward to trying it!  I don’t know how many countries we’ll do nor how often we’ll cook from them, but I’ll share our journey with you and be very grateful to Inner Child Food for inspiring us.

**UPDATE**  Below, I’ve added the details about Italy we talked about as well as my marinara recipe.

Our first country was Italy because I had fresh tortellini in the fridge that was due to expire at the end of the week.  B made my homemade marinara sauce and Skinny Basil Pesto from SkinnyTaste.com.  We eat marinara sauce all the time, but I had none on hand that day, so we needed to make a batch anyway.  It’s a staple I’ve been working with B to memorize.  If you can cook your own spaghetti sauce, you won’t go hungry and you’ll impress girls!  I chose the pesto recipe from Skinny Taste because I’ve enjoyed other recipes from that site and this recipe did not call for pine nuts.  I had no pine nuts and it was suck-it-up-I’m-not-going-to-the-store week.  Both sauces were delizioso!  Over dinner, the hubs talked to B about how the colors of the Italian flag remind us of tomatoes, Mozzarella and basil.  I had B point out Italy on our world map and asked him when we’d “visited” Italy during our 4th grade History lessons.  We covered The Middle Ages in 4th grade (July 2012 – May 2013) and B told me that Italy held the capital of The Holy Roman Empire as well as the Catholic Church.

A mom in B’s old playgroup kindly shared her dad’s spaghetti sauce recipe with me 6 or 7 years ago and I am forever grateful to her for that!  Here is the tweaked version that I make in my house:

Simple Marinara Sauce
1-2 tbsp Wegman’s Basting Oil (you can use olive oil, but I am allergic to it)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes (I stock up on Tuttorosso with Basil when they’re on sale; when they aren’t, I use Wegmans’ store brand)
heaping 1/4 cup brown sugar (adjust this to your taste, we like a sweeter sauce)
6 – 8 fresh basil leaves, minced

The simple version of directions: Heat oil in pan.  Add garlic and sauté, but don’t allow it to brown.  Add canned tomatoes, brown sugar and minced fresh basil.  Cover pot with lid most of the way – this keeps sauce from jumping out of your pan, but also lets steam escape so sauce isn’t watery.  Simmer for 1 hour.

The version that I do after many trials and errors: Get everything ready first, because this goes fast.  Mince your garlic, open up your cans of tomatoes and have them next to the pot, measure out your brown sugar and mince your fresh basil (or get out a heaping tsp of dried basil, Italian seasonings, salt & pepper or whatever you like or have on hand).

Heat oil in a large, non-metal pot with a lid; I use an enamel-coated cast iron pan.  Once oil is hot, add garlic and stir constantly.  You must keep it moving to prevent it from burning.  You don’t want the garlic to get brown, but you need it to cook enough so that it is no longer raw.  Smell your garlic when it 1st goes in the pan – it’s strong.  Keep the garlic moving and continue to smell it until the aroma has mellowed – no longer stings your eyes and nose.

Immediately add in about 1/3 of a can of tomatoes to stop the garlic from cooking further and stir quickly.  The pan is hot and those tomatoes will pop and bubble right out of you pan.  Stir them until they cool down the pan a little and stop bubbling, then stir in the rest of the tomatoes, the sugar and herbs.  Bring sauce up to a low boil (it bubbles on top), then reduce your flame as low as it can go.

Cover pot with lid most of the way – this keeps sauce from jumping out of your pan, but also lets steam escape so sauce isn’t watery.  Simmer for 1 hour, stirring every 10 minutes to make sure sauce on bottom does not burn.  Enjoy!

Stay tuned for the country of our next cooking adventure, Mexico

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