Sunday, May 23, 2010

Easy Sunday Dinners: Perfect Roast Chicken

Oh Yeah...
I've enjoyed cooking for as long as I can remember.  When I was a little girl I used to sit on the counter next to the stove and toss random spices and ingredients into a pot on the stove.  I called it Witch's brew. It was in no way edible but just a fun outlet for my creativity.  I've progressed since then into making edible creations but between my grad program and work I really don't have as much time (or money) as I would like.

I should also mention I married a man who was spoiled ridiculously by the women in his family and expects a "Sunday Dinner" every Sunday.  Don't you worry, I've already stood up for women on this one.  Most of the time, though, I am happy to oblige.  Here is one of my favorite creations that is incredibly easy (so easy I'm pretty sure its fool proof and even my husband couldn't screw it up) and inexpensive.  The chicken only cost me .99/lb and the other ingredients were also cheap.  My total for a delicious, easy, and healthy dinner?  About seven dollars.  Also, if you like to feel like you're cooking with the greats - Jamie Oliver does a pretty similar version.

Here's what you'll need:

1 whole chicken (mine was about 4 1/2 lbs)
1 lemon
1 yellow onion
3 red potatoes (I actually used red golden potatoes in this recipe - hence the yellow fluffy insides)
1 clove of garlic
Baby Carrots - as many as your heart desires.  I always keep these in stock - in this recipe i probably used about a cup or so.  And if you're really concerned about needing a count - you're welcome to look at the picture below.
Olive Oil
Rosemary and Thyme (fresh is prettier and tastier but more expensive - unless you have a green thumb and grow it yourself.  I recommend for parties or impressing people.  Otherwise, dried will do)
Sea Salt and Black Pepper

Okay, you ready?  I'm telling you - this will take you all of 5 minutes which is why its so awesome.

Get out your ingredients.  Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Okay, you're oven is preheating.  Get out a glass roasting pan (or whatever you happen to have that you think will work.)  Take your whole chicken out of the fridge.  Remove the innards - you can keep them for gravy if you want - I tossed mine this time.  Rinse the chicken with cold water and set it in the pan.  Cut the lemon into eighths and stuff it into the empty cavity of the chicken.  Cut the potatoes into about 2 inch size pieces.  Cut the baby carrots in half.  And cut the onion (I'm assuming you're smart enough to know to peel it) also into eighths.  Slice the garlic into thin pieces.

See - you're done!  Well, pretty much.  And honestly, this is one of those amazing rustic dishes where you can freelance your cutting.  However large or small and uniform or uneven you want your cutting to be.  It really doesn't matter.

Your last real effort?  And by effort I mean dumping everything into the roasting pan around the chicken.  Now, drizzle the olive oil on the chicken and on the vegetables.  If you have fresh rosemary and thyme, place it inside the chicken with the lemon.  If you are using dried - just shake it on top - as much as you think looks pretty.  Finally, sprinkle some salt and pepper on top of that bad boy.

Now throw it in the oven - uncovered.  And let it cook.  It should cook for about 20 minutes per pound.  Just check it with a meat thermometer before you eat it or you can pierce it - if the juices run clear you are also in the clear!  Somewhere in the middle, get out a turkey baster or pastry brush and take the juices from the pan and baste it.  Your skin will come out super crispy and delicious.

Sit back and do nothing.  Five whole minutes of work?  And this is what you'll get.

Serve and enjoy!  (And don't worry - if you lack knife skills - roast chicken really shouldn't be served in neat little slices anyway.)

Shiny New Product Review: Oreo Dairy Queen Blizzard Creme

Okay friends, I know you all rely on me to be the guinea pig and eat things for you.  So of course I HAD to buy these new Oreos.  Absolutely no choice in the matter.  Sometimes, I just have to accept my lot in life.  Also,  kudos to Nabisco.  First they lured me into becoming their Facebook Friend in order to get a buy one get one free coupon for Oreos and now they have tempted me into test driving a new product for them.

When I saw the post come up on my newsreel I knew I had to try them.  I have fond memories of Dairy Queen as a child - ice cream cakes, deliciously seasoned french fries, and most importantly, Blizzards.  What can I say?  I'm a glorified ice cream junkie.

Needless to say I was pretty excited at the prospect of combining two fantastic things.  It took two trips to the store before I found these on the shelf.  They were about the same price as regular Oreos but when I came home I saw that I had been gypped.  The packaging was much like that of the Fudge Covered Oreos - spaced inside so you have only half as many.

That didn't turn out to be an issue as I was in no way addicted to these.  Normally the husband lectures me on eating an entire row at the time.  Not so much with these.  Product Fail.  Don't bother buying these.  It's not that they tasted bad but regular Oreos win out any day of the week.  The chocolate cookie is rock hard and you could risk breaking a tooth.  And the cream is nothing special.  I was momentarily excited when I opened the Oreo up and saw the little cookie bits but that passed when I bit in.  The cream and cookie combination actually tasted like a generic Oreo - which I think are a crime against humanity.  Nabisco, I'm afraid you've disappointed me.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What Do You Do When You've Had One of THOSE Days?

Yes, Some Days, You Need THREE Cartons

So, today has been one of THOSE days.  You know, the ones where nothing seemingly goes right?  AKA, a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  Truthfully, you don't need anything to actually be or go wrong to have one of these days.  But if you're having one of THOSE days, everything can feel like its going wrong.  Small things like a mannerless lady stealing your parking spot that you've been waiting for with your signal on (you know who you are and karma will find you!) or perhaps your professor called on you and you felt like an idiot in front of all your fellow MBA classmates (it never feels good to momentarily appear to be the dumb one amongst geniuses).

Anyhoo, like I said, it was one of THOSE days.  So, I took life into my own hands and did something about it.  I have a few guilty pleasures in life.  Prepare to judge - I know you will - and frankly I don't care.  I will still love these things.  Taco Bell, a childhood favorite, always brings comfort (although, I curse them for taking away my beloved Chilito.  P.S. if you find a Taco Bell that still serves these - tell me!  I will fly pretty much wherever!).  I also find solace in my UGGs (judging again), and general TV watching (killing brain cells always makes a day better).  However, at the end of this long, rainy day, (did I mention one of my windshield wipers stopped working?) I chose to stop at the grocery store.  And bought some Ben & Jerry's.  Soothing my woes in ice cream.  Didn't you know that Ben & Jerry found a way to contain sunshine and happiness?

I had recently found the elusive new flavor, Flourless Chocolate Cake (I had to scour several Walmarts to find this sucker - so I bought three) but I decided a day like this required more. I needed B&J's Boston Cream Pie and while I was at it, might as well try their new Milk & Cookies.

I dove into the Milk & Cookies first.  It's described by B&J's as, "Vanilla Ice Cream with a Chocolate Cookie Swirl, Chocolate Chip & Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies."  I think its always a good sign when you peel off the lid and immediately see "texture."

Check my swirl!

Yum, I could SEE the Chocolate Cookie Swirl already!  This was the only flavor my husband was interested in (and you thought I was a pig and going to eat all three by myself?  So wrong - I'm eating all three, minus a bite or two).  The cookie swirl was like a very finely ground Oreo.  The two cookies were a bit tougher to scout out.  But I finally found them.  No getting away from me, you yummy ice cream bits.  The cookie pieces (both chocolate chip and chocolate chocolate chip) were good but I was in no way wowed by this ice cream.  The ice cream base was not creamy enough.  Perhaps they were attempting a "skim" milk version of Cookies and Cream.  There is just no "oomph" to this ice cream.  Good but I'd rather leave my stomach space to the next.

I'm worth the wait

Ohhhh, my heart just did a little leap!  Okay, I'm trying to be patient and tell the story, but I can't be.  This ice cream was soooooo worth the multiple ventures into crazy land, aka, Walmart.  Pictures cannot possibly capture the creamy, fudgy deliciousness of this ice cream.  B&J's courtesy description, "Chocolate Ice Cream with Pieces of Flourless Chocolate Cake & a Chocolate Frosting Swirl."  YUM. YUM. YUM.  My day just got better.  The ice cream base is creamy, chocolatey, and the perfect dark chocolate balance.

Ribbons of frosting and chocolatey goodness

The frosting swirl (which I was unsure of - I don't really love frosting) is more like a thinned ganache and is subtle throughout.  But the flourless chocolate cake - whoa.  Crunchy, chewy perfection.  Amen.  Heaven on a spoon.  Buy it.  You won't be sorry.  You'll be sorry if you only buy one.  And Ben & Jerry's?  You guys had better permanently add this or I shall be forced to buy several freezers for my garage.

See the cake?  It's hiding but its definitely there

Finally, my evening finished with a few bites of Boston Creme Pie.  By this point I was feeling so much better.  But, why not?  It's been haunting my crave taste buds ever since I ate it the first time.

Go Sawxs!  Makes me laugh everytime.  If only all of B&J's packaging were so comical.

So, if you're having one of THOSE days, what do you eat?  Personally, it depends on my mood, what's available, and the severity of that day.  But, do tell, what makes it all better for you?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Stories of a Full Stomach: New York, Day 1

Somehow "Brooklyn" and "Sweet" don't seem like a natural association.  But its not really untrue - especially if you visit Jaques Torres.

A month and a half ago I decided to go to New York (the city - the rest of the state will have to wait to see me again).  I must say I was ecstatic.  It has been a very very loooooong three years since I have been out there.  I immediately began to plan my food visits and kept a log in my gmail account.  It got - well, lengthy.  I was only out there for four days and my stupid human stomach with limits did not allow me to eat at all these places.  Also, my inability to stop time while I traveled inhibited my ability to make it everywhere.  

But my friends, as much as I failed myself, I did not fully fail you.  And I have at least one more trip out there in November for the New York marathon.  And potentially one more lengthy visit - which I'll let you in on once I make an important life decision : ).

My husband and I caught the red eye out on a Thursday night.  I was looking to have as much time as possible when I booked it - it also didn't hurt that I could use only 25K miles instead of 40K or 50K.  Of course, once I went to catch it I realized - I am not as young as I once was.  And I am not as scrappy either - I'm kind of a lover of luxe things.  Where's my first class dangit!?

We arrived early Friday morning.  I was lazy enough to have booked a town car (cheaper than a taxi) so that was at least one thing I didn't have to be awake for.  I may or may not have taken an Ambien in hopes I would sleep on the plane.  I slept an hour.  Whoop dee doo. 

We checked into our hotel (which I loved!).  My only real sadness was that they no longer put brownies on your pillow. 

Fat Witch Brownies, How Cute Are They?
You can judge me, but I was really looking forward to them.  Chris promptly passed out while I had the good fortune to shower, dress, and hoof it up to Chelsea.  I am not familiar with the Financial District and must've looked a bit lost for a moment.  Fortunately, three adorable old New Yorkers stopped and asked if I needed help (and they called me "Sweety,"  I loved every second of it).  I requested directions to the Chamber St Metro stop and they proceeded to argue for a minute over the best route. 

I found the station alright but felt positively naked while strutting towards the station.  Apparently, men in the Financial District don't see women very often - or at least not ones with legs like mine. 

Anyway, back to what you care about.  Food.  I'm telling you, there was not enough time!  I'm working to remedy that.  Also, it is a really good thing you have to walk so much in the City.  Or, I would have come back 50 L'B's heavier. 

After my meeting we headed over the Brooklyn Bridge.  I had to resist shoving annoying tourists out of the way multiple times.  I swear, no one knows crowd etiquette.  We walked up to Grimaldi's after taking a detour around a filming crew, just to stand in line.  Fortunately, not a terribly long one and relatively fast moving.  Twenty minutes later we were ordering this.

The cool thing about this place is that you can watch them work and its amazing.  They churn out pizza like I watch TV.  Or eat.  Well, I guess even I have my limits on both of those.  Either way, they tossed dough, slathered ingredients, and rotated pizza in and out of the coal oven like it was nobody's business.  I have no idea how those guys do it.  That oven was HOT!  And my one real complaint is that I smelled a bit like charcoal for the rest of the day. 

We ordered sausage.  Of course, there was also fresh mozzarella (not that crap shredded stuff from a bag) and basil.  Grimaldi's also ladles their sauce on after they place the sliced mozzarella di bufala.  It was good.

I'm a bit critical of pizza so here's what I think.  The sauce was fresh tasting but lacking.  The texture of the crust was good - the coal oven definitely adds a nice touch - but the actual flavor left me wanting.  I did not feel passionate about eating the crust ends - and I am not one of those people - the crust leaver-behinders.  The sausage was good.  It could have used a little more zing but not bad overall.  We debated over which size to order and ended up with the "Small" 16".  It was a good decision.  We wiped the pan clean but could not have packed more in.  I guess I should add, thinking back on it.  I thoroughly enjoyed the pizza at the time.  I tend to be critical when in New York, but then when I head back home, I long for good pizza again and appreciate what does not really exist outside of New York. 

We then headed uptown (and back over to Manhattan) to Grand Central Station.  I always have to stop here if I have time.  Not only do I love sitting and watching all the people go by in a whiz but I also love to stare at the beautiful constellations on the ceiling and overall structure.  Oh, and did I mention, if you walk down a level, there are many food options?  I've spent decent time at Grand Central waiting for a train after missing the previous one by seconds.  So, I grew an appreciation for the delights downstairs.  When Donald Trump was doing one of "The Apprentice" shows, the challenge was to create a new flavor of gelato for Ciao Bella.  One group added Dunkin' Donuts to the gelato.  IT WAS FAB.  And they sold the flavor at Grand Central.  Oh, I miss being a New Yorker.  They are so spoiled by food choices!

Anyways, I am beyond waxing on.  The point of this story is that I fell in love with Two Boots Pizzeria.  It was my comfort food.  One slice in particular made its own little cubby in my heart.  The Newman.  It has Soppresetta and Sweet Italian Sausage on a White Pie.  And it is heaven.  It makes me feel calmer and happier every time I take a bite.  And, even though I'm still unsure about their expanding (I appreciate more availability but am anti-franchise) I am still sure I love it.

How could you not love this pizza?  It is sooooo good.  I'm salivating just looking at it. 

Finally, my night ended at Shake Shack.  New York Institution.  And I don't mean the kind for the crazies - although there were a few around.  We headed to the Madison Square Garden location.  Waiting in line for thirty minutes?  I don't remember - I was cold and attempting not to punch the girls behind me who needed to stop oversharing their life details loudly to the crowd.

This is what entertained me in the meantime:

I couldn't help but laugh.  I mean, I grew up surrounded by 'shrooms.  Oregonians - I know you'll appreciate this.  Also, I was a little sad that we were here on a Friday and not a Saturday.  Take a gander and you'll see why.  Curiosity more than truly believing it could be greatness.  But still, you can't judge 'till you try. 

I ordered the Shack Burger (double), Cheese Fries (crinkle cut with cheddar and American cheese), a Shack Attack concrete, and a lemonade.  Yummy.  The Shack Attack consisted of chocolate custard, hot fudge, chocolate truffle cookie dough and Valrhona chocolate chunks, topped with chocolate sprinkles.  They are not messing around.  I decided it lacked something - so I had them add peanut butter syrup.  Here's the result.

The burgers were mighty tasty.  The buns were a delicate softness and the meat was meaty.  Really. Delicious.  And, they use the good lettuce.  It was a win.  The beef patties were moist and juicy and the cheese was melty.  The real surprise to me was how much I loved the fries.  The cheese looked like the cheese you'd find on mac' and cheese.  I've eaten Velveeta on fries before but that wasn't this.  The fries were crisp and delicious.  They had a lovely bite on the outside without being too dried out on the inside.  And the cheese sauce literally warmed my soul.  Which was necessary because I was freezing!  I scraped every last bit off the wax paper.

The Shack Attack?  I'd alter it next time.  I don't want to say there's such thing as TOO much chocolate - because that doesn't sound kosher.  But, I found the sprinkles unpleasingly and crunchily unnecessary.  And the Valrhona chocolate chunks?  Overkill.  It was still good - but a bit much.  I'll subtract those out next time and come out with perfection.  Either way you can't go wrong at the Shake Shack.  Which is why its a New York Institution.

Okay, I've eaten up enough of your work time for the day.  You'll just have to stay tuned for the next addition of my April in New York food trip.  I will leave you with my view as I ate dinner (including the homeless lady picking through the trash in desperation for yummy Shake Shack leftovers - I mean - if you had to pick a place to root through - wouldn't you pick something good too?)