Monday, June 15, 2009

Week 4 Recipe: CrockPot Indian Butter Chicken

I have an intense love for Indian food.

I love it so much that I can eat it almost everyday. In my fantasy, I am thin, totally hot AND I get to eat Indian food everyday. Every. Single. Day.

Cut back to reality.

Hubby isn't too fond of Indian food. The Kid is a little squeamish about the possibility of spicy food. So, the reality is, I don't get to eat Indian food unless I go out with someone other than my family and they are up for it.

...which means, I rarely or almost never get to have Indian food.

But I've planned and plotted and have been training and brainwashing my little five year old the past two years. I've talked about and glamorized Japanese curry to the point where when I eventually served it to him, he ate it without question and LOVED IT.

The problem is, I've been serving him the slightly-boring-but-better-than-nothing Japanese curry with absolutely no heat. He likes it that way.

And now, this week, I have pushed him to the next level -- the realm of real Indian flavors. Ta Da! Indian butter chicken (recipe here).

Oh, the aroma in the house was amazing throughout the day. The unsuspecting victim of brainwashing Kid and I couldn't wait.

The verdict:
The Kid kept complaining that he couldn't wait to eat dinner, that he was drooling smelling the aroma all day long while the slow cooker very SLOWLY cooked.

When he actually got to sit down for dinner, he took a bite, then, closed his eyes and SIGHED...a huge sigh and gave me a two thumbs up.

That is the ultimate compliment from this five year old.

To top it all off, he said that we need to open a restaurant so that everyone in the world can taste my delicious food. He even offered to be a waiter.

This kid really knows how to compliment a girl.

What I would do differently:
I found the sauce to be a little bit acidic so I added a tablespoon of sugar at the end. Next time, I think I'll add some half-and-half at the end as well. Also, after consulting one of my Indian cookbooks, I found that ground cashews are used in the sauce. I'll probably try to incorporate that next time.

But the sauce was pretty delicious and there was so much leftover, that the next day, I cooked some Garbanzo beans in the pressure cooker and later simmered the beans in the left over sauce. The Kid LOVED this too.

Definitely a keeper!

2 (success) : 2 (vetoed)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Week 3 Recipe: CrockPot Taco Soup

I like tacos. I love them very much. I am known to sneak a visit to Taco Bell from time to time when the craving gets to be unbearable and I need a quick fix.

So, taco soup just makes sense. What is there not to love, really?

Apparently, a few things...

But doesn't this recipe sound pretty good? Best of all, it's easy!

I went all out and baked cornbread, threw together some guacamole and sauteed fresh, crisp green beans to accompany the CrockPot taco soup and made it a fun dining experience by serving it outside on the deck.

In my opinion, it's pretty good. Though, if I were to make this again, I would change a few things: 1) crush the tomatoes a little more -- I prefer my tomatoes to be cooked into soups and sauces, 2) would definitely forgo the Ranch dressing packet -- too much artificial flavoring that made the soup almost too sweet and over-flavored for my taste, 3) use more kidney beans instead of the pinto beans.

The verdict? The Kid said, "Thank you, it's nice," but I know he was just being polite, judging from the lack of the usual thumbs up and the fact that it took him over an hour to eat a tiny bowl. The baby spit out the pinto beans. And Hubby, well, Hubby just mumbled, "I don't really like beans...."

Okay, no point in making a huge batch of this soup if my people do not like BEANS. (What is so wrong with beans? I ask, completely puzzled.)

This recipe will not be making it into our rotation unless someone is acting up AND I have a craving for taco soup....

What's the count now? 1 (success) to 2 (vetoed)?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Week 2 Recipe: CrockPot Rotisserie Chicken

The idea of baking a whole chicken in a slow cooker, to me, is just amazing. Not having to hover close to the oven to baste the chicken with it's juices while you, yourself, are roasting in your overheating kitchen? Priceless!

Can it really be this easy?

I had to try this recipe -- the CrockPot rotisserie chicken.

The verdict: it's good. The fam ate the dark meat up for dinner and I had plenty of the breast meat leftover to use for salads for lunch. Yay.

I used a whole skinless chicken that I found at a Chinese supermarket. I rubbed Kosher salt, pepper, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil all over the chicken before throwing it in the slow cooker.

My slow cooker came with a rack, so I didn't have to use the aluminum foil balls that are suggested in the recipe. I roasted on high for four hours and then put it on warm for a couple of hours until dinner time.

Without the skin, the chicken didn't brown much, except parts of the thigh meat, but the meat, even the breast meat was very juicy after four hours. I'll admit that after keeping it on the warm setting for two hours, the breast meat was a little bit dry.

And why would I do this if I can just pick up a delicious rotisserie chicken at the supermarket? Well, it's convenient -- that is if I already have a whole chicken in the freezer -- it saves me a well-timed trip to the market (because you have to get there as the chicken comes out of the oven and before they sell out). Plus, I often notice a strange chemical aftertaste in the store bought chicken and of course, when you make it yourself, you know exactly what you're putting on it.

I think I'll be making this again. I love having some protein to put on my salads for lunch.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Storm Cloud Shawlette

Storm Cloud Shawlette from Ever Green Knits (pattern here)

Yarn: Blue Sky Cotton
Color: 606

This project took me more or less a week to knit up -- so it's a very quick knit.

The problem was, it took me more than several tries to figure out what yarn to use -- Kidsilk Haze, Habu linen, Blue Sky Cotton. I was busy being indecisive for an entire week with many, many false starts and a lot of frogging.

In the end, my practical side took over and I decided to use the Blue Sky Cotton from my stash (save some $$), which is soft and likely something I could use even on summer evenings here in the Bay Area.

The only problem is that I'm not sure about the color -- it's pink. A very subtle and gorgeous pink, but it's still pink. The yarn was originally designated for a little girl's cardigan, but since I never got around to knitting anything for her, oh well. I like the feel and look of the shawlette, but I'll have to find a good outfit for it so I won't look like some crazy lady trying to wear a little girl's shawl.

Perhaps, I'll try making it in a darker color, which would definitely be more versatile.

The knitting of the shawlette itself was a little bit boring, but it was such a fast knit that it didn't really matter. Good TV knitting, I'd say.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Week 1 Recipe: CrockPot Korean BBQ Ribs

Now that my slow cooker and I have rekindled our relationship, I've been scouring the internet for new recipes.

Week 1 for my weekly new recipe challenge was a CrockPot Korean BBQ ribs recipe from here.

Wish I had a photo for you, but there were too many things going on (screaming baby and a five year old asking 20 million Star Wars related questions) and I missed the photo op.

Verdict: the marinade is good, but the texture wasn't quite what we wanted.

Don't get me wrong, the marinade is excellent -- it tastes pretty authentic. It's just that we are so used to really biting into a piece of Korean BBQ and chewing it. The problem (if you can call it that) is that the slow cooker really makes the meat so tender (which is normally a great thing) that it melts in your mouth -- just not the texture we want in Korean BBQ.

But if you have a very young child who likes meat or want to make a nice tender meat entree for the elderly, this is a great recipe.

Next time, I think I will use the marinade, but grill it on the BBQ grill. It is, afterall, BBQ Korean ribs.

Added on June 15, 2009:
I tried marinating the beef in this marinade (1/2 sake instead of water, plus 1 tablespoon of sesame oil) and had Hubby BBQ it on the outdoor grill.
Excellent! I thought we would have plenty of leftovers for the next day, but... uh, no.

Rekindling Our Relationship

I bought this slow cooker a couple of years back, with no prior experience with CrockPots or slow cookers. And some how, I had a temporary lapse of judgment and bought into the "bigger is better" mentality, only to be left feeling utterly stupid for coveting a kitchen appliance that is almost as big as a baby tub.

But in an effort to figure out whether to sell this and get a smaller size, I've lugged it out of semi-banishment and started to use it again.

And to my surprise, I quite like it. Yes, I do.

I have a 6 quart pressure cooker that lets me cook soups in under 30 minutes from prep to steaming finish. But there are days when even half an hour is too long for the kids to wait and I need to feed them as soon as we step in the house.

This is where the slow cooker comes in.

I just dump some chicken directly from the freezer, diced carrots, celery, onions, anything else I have in the fridge, herbs and add chicken broth and water and set it on low in the morning. By early afternoon, the house is filled with the wonderful aroma of home-cooked chicken soup that is ready to eat.


I think this slow cooker and I will have another go at our relationship.

My Mission

My new mission: to feed my men nutritious food without a big fuss and to introduce a new recipe into their lives at least once a week.

I used to try out new dishes that I saw at the restaurant where I was working or things I would dream up in the middle of the night, to encounter less than enthusiastic responses from the boy friend (who ended up becoming Hubby). Hubby just wasn't keen on "fancy cooking" -- as he calls it.

But I'm sick and tired of cooking the stuff Hubby and the boys like to eat. I need more variety, more creativity.... more! more!.... but without spending hours and hours in the kitchen!

So, I've decided, I'm going to slowly test out new recipes, especially ones that can be made in the pressure cooker and the slow cooker. Once a week, I'm going to be introducing them to a new entree. It's not so bad, it's just once per week. I know some will be successful and some, they will likely reject flat out.

That is my plan. Get ready denizens!