Monday, July 11, 2011

Roasted Chicken

I was talking to my sister – who is a much more talented cook than I – about brining chickens.  Now, I very rarely cook a whole chicken unless I’m smoking it.  I suppose it’s because it seems like an awful lot of work, it takes a long time to cook, I never know quite how long to cook it for, and there’s something I don’t like about pulling that bag of slimy stuff out of the cavity.  Tackling a whole bird seems somewhat intimidating, all in all. 

My sister argued that roasting a chicken is actually really easy and mentioned how delicious and homey the smell of roasting chicken is.  I began to wonder why I’ve been so scared of roasting a chicken…It’s inexpensive and there are myriad meals you can create with the leftovers…chicken sandwiches, chicken chili, chicken enchiladas, chicken salad…the list goes on and on. 

On our monthly trip to Costco I warily eyed the whole chickens.  They seemed to be mocking me…daring me…I gingerly reached out to grab a pair of birds, sure that their salmonella-infused juices were going to drip all over me.  But I managed to wrangle the birds into my cart without too much ado, and we were off. 

I paid $9.40 for two 5.25 pound chickens…quite a bargain.  I’ll be able to get at least three meals out of each chicken.  So far this experiement is going well. 

This afternoon I began to get nervous as I looked at the clock…hmmm it’s 2:00 now.  When do I need to get this chicken started to be ready for dinner at 6:00??  I pulled out my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook which told me to cook it at 325 degrees for a 3-3.5 pound bird…but mine was 5 pounds…so how long to cook it for??  I decided to plan on 2.5 hours and then reevaluate as necessary. 

Since I wasn’t quite sure how long the chicken was going to take to cook, I planned some simple sides.  Instant mashed potatoes (not my preference but a lifesaver) and fresh green beans cooked in the microwave. 

I managed to get the chicken out of its wrapping and pulled out the slimy stuff.  I almost gagged but I got through it.  Mia was very curious and wanted to help.  Normally I wouldn’t consider a recipe containing raw chicken to be kid-friendly, but I suppose it’s never too early to teach your children about food safety (My sister Jenny and my Grandma Jessie – a home economics teacher -  would be so proud of me).  So we went out to the garden to pick some fresh herbs…sage, rosemary and fennel.  I stuffed the herbs inside the chicken and allowed Mia to sprinkle the inside with salt and a bit of pepper.  Mia was still very curious and wanted to help, so we pulled up her stool.  I gave her the pastry brush and a cup of melted butter to brush over the chicken.  She did a great job.  She kept saying as she was brushing the chicken, “It’s okay, little fella, we’ll take good care of you.  Mom, I’m taking good care of my pet chicken!”  Then she kept asking me after it went in the oven how her pet chick was doing. 

All in all it was a relatively painless experience.  The chicken was cooked perfectly after 2.5 hours.  I allowed it to rest for 15 minutes, which gave me just enough time to prepare the sides.   I love the fact that the bulk of the cooking and prep work and cleaning up was done well ahead of time, so there was no mad rush at 5:30 to get dinner ready. 

The chicken came out perfect.  The kids loved it – they were gobbling it up faster than I could get it on their plates.  Thanks Hannah for the suggestion.  I am officially over my fear of oven-cooking a whole chicken.  Maybe I’ll even try a turkey next!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A note about this blog and my recipe rating system.

I've been thinking about starting a blog for a long time now, but I never seem to have the time.  Plus, I've never been exactly sure what a blog even IS.  At first I thought I wanted to do a blog devoted entirely to cooking, but then again, I really wanted to to something to keep my friends and family up to date on what we are doing, share some ideas, get some feedback, et cetera.  In short, this blog is an experiment and may change course over time. 

When we post a recipe, we use a three-category scoring system.  The three categories are as follows:

  • Taste (10 possible points)
  • Effort vs. Payoff (5 possible points)
  • Kid-friendliness (3 possible points)

     First and foremost, Taste.  Quite simply, we will rate the recipe on how good it tastes.  This being the most important category, has the highest possible point value of 10 points.
     Effort vs. Payoff is not quite as simple to explain.  Let's say you have a very simple recipe; quick and easy to prepare, common and inexpensive ingredients.  If this recipe has decent taste then it would score high in this category.  My taste expectations aren't very high when we're talking about a quick and easy, low-cost recipe.  However, let's say you have a recipe that has a lot of prep work, more expensive, less common ingredients, long cooking time, et cetera.  The complex recipe would need to have great taste in order to score high on the scale.  Most simply stated; if this recipe was a hassle to prepare, it had better taste pretty darn good!  This category has a maximum 5-point value.
     Kid-Friendliness will earn the recipe a maximum of three points;  I don't set a whole lot of value on the taste opinions of these little people who appreciate the subtle tastes of boogers and lint, but I do want to preprare foods that the kids like.  Can kids play an active role in preparing this meal?  Did the kids enjoy eating it?
     I also reserve the right to toss in up to three bonus points for health value.  If a recipe doesn't taste awesome, but is healthy, nutrient-loaded, or is low in sodium or fat, then I may throw in up to three bonus points. 

1-4 points: 1 Star
5-9 points: 2 Stars
10-14 points:  3 Stars
15-18 points:  4 Stars

     Now doesn't this sound fun?

52 Treats Recipe #1 - Blueberry Cobbler ***

There has been a change in this week's recipe.  I bought 2.5 pounds of blueberries since AJ has always loved them.  Of course as soon as I buy this giant tub of blueberries, AJ decides she doesn't like them any more.  So we'll be making Blueberry Cobbler in attempt to utilize this mass quantity of blueberries.

I thought this was a really good recipe and very easy to make.  Just toss the berries in the dish, add a little sugar and OJ, and scoop the batter over.  I was afraid it was going to come out soupy but it was perfect.  Not too sweet, either.  It would have been much better with a bit of whipped cream or ice cream, but we didn't have any.  We would definitely make it again.

Taste:  8/10
Effort vs. Payoff:  4/5
Kid-friendliness:  2/3
Total rating:  3 Stars ***

Thursday, July 7, 2011

52 Treats in 52 Weeks

The kids and I love to make (and eat) cookies, cupcakes, and other treats. It's something we like to do when it is either to cold, hot or rainy to go outside. I'm planning on trying a new recipe each week for 52 weeks.  We will be posting pictures and reviews of each recipe.  The first cookie we will be trying is Butterfinger Cookies.
My inspiration for this little project came from the 52 Cupcakes Blog. It is a great blog and I've really enjoyed it.

If anybody has any good recipes to share, please do!