Sunday, February 15, 2009

Can't wait for spring...

We gave Ethan his birthday gift today. It was a few days early, but given that the gift was a new bike, the sidewalks were clear and the sun was shining, it seemed fitting. And, we've all been holed up in the house all weekend- each of us with some degree of illness. Fresh air was what we were all craving!

We also invested in a TrailGator, so we can tow Ethan when we want to go for a longer ride. It's going to be great! It's been a long winter and now we're really looking forward to spring....

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Arroz con Pollo (Puerto Rican Chicken & Rice)

This is a delicious one pan meal- once you make the sofrito and achiote oil that is! I made more of the sofrito and froze it in 1/2 cup servings. It'll be handy for future bean soups (Cuban Black Bean maybe?) and rice dishes.

The recipe makes a ton of rice- much more than the 6 servings it said it did - maybe 6 linebackers! I added corn, peas and more red pepper to it the following day, and served it with a slow roasted pork shoulder. Then I added the leftover pork to the rice and froze it all for another meal. Like I said...a ton of rice!

Arroz con Pollo
From Viva Daisy by Daisy Martinez
1/4 cup Achiote Oil - recipe follows
3- 4 pounds of chicken pieces
Fine sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Sofrito - recipe follows
1/4 cup alcaparrado or coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch ground cloves
4 cup long-grain rice
4 cup homemade or store-bought reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 large bottled roasted red peppers -- cut into 1/4-inch strips (about 1 1/2 cups)

In a paella pan or wide, shallow pan with a tight-fitting lid, heat the Achiote Oil over medium-high heat until the oil is rippling.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add as many pieces skin side down to the pan as fit without touching. Cook, turning as necessary, until well browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove the pieces as they are done and set aside. Adjust the heat under the pan, especially after you start removing chicken, so the chicken browns without the oil darkening.

When all the chicken is removed from the pan, add the Sofrito and alcaparrado. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to high and boil until most of the water is evaporated from the Sofrito. Add the cumin and cloves.

Stir in the rice until coated with oil. Return the chicken to the pan, pour in enough broth to cover the rice by the width of 2 fingers (about 1-inch), and bring to a boil. Cook over high heat until the level of liquid reaches the rice. Stir gently and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan and cook until the liquid is absorbed, the chicken is cooked through, and the rice is tender but firm, about 20 minutes.

Fluff the rice with a fork. The arroz con pollo can be brought to the table right in the pan or transferred to a large serving platter. Either way, garnish with the red pepper before serving.

Achiote Oil
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons achiote (annatto) seeds

Heat the oil and annatto seeds in a small skillet over medium heat just until the seeds give off a lively, steady sizzle. Don't overheat the mixture or the seeds will turn black and the oil will turn a nasty green. Once they're sizzling, remove the pan from the heat and let stand until the sizzling stops. Strain and reserve in a jar with a tight-fitting lid at room temperature for up to 4 days. Makes about 1 cup.

1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cubanelle pepper
1 cup chopped spanish onion
4 clove garlic
1 small tomato
1 large bunch of cilantro including stems

Puree in a food process. Store in the fridge until ready to use. Makes about 2 cups.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Office.... done! Remember this? We started this little project almost a year ago. We got the bulk of it done, but the painting and finishing touches only happened over the Christmas holidays and this past month.

This project was almost exclusively IKEA supplied. We used IKEA kitchen cabinets, countertop and rolling file drawers. We cut down some old Billy bookcases and even re-purposed an old piece of IKEA art (it's not quite done yet...).

My favourite part is the large cabinet which houses all the computer gear, shredder and even our work bags! Colin had to build in a venting system to keep the computer cool, but the effort was worth it because it's hidden and quiet.
And there's even a hook bar for my purse and the assorted bags that find their way to our house.
It's all about being organized around on to the rest of the house!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Two-Pea Soup

I made this soup last weekend, as part of my "stock the freezer with healthy meals"'s very good. The addition of frozen peas (or I suppose fresh when in season), parsley & lemon juice give it a fresher taste than ordinary pea soup. And it's pretty too!

As I usually do, I ramped up the seasonings and probably added more vegetables. I did it in the slow cooker (but you can also do it on the stovetop) and found it needed more salt, pepper & savoury after it was finished cooking. The original recipe also called for ham hocks, which I replaced with plain old ham at the end....the sight of ham hocks is disturbing to me!

Two-Pea Soup
(adapted from Better Homes & Gardens- Feb 2009)

2 large onions, medium dice
4-5 medium carrots, medium dice
4 stalks of celery, medium dice
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups (1 bag) dry split peas, rinsed & drained
1 1/2 tsp. dried summer savoury or marjoram, crushed (I used summer savoury)
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
4 1/2 cups water, chicken broth or vegetable broth (I used Imagine brand low sodium chicken broth)
1 lb smoked ham, cubed
32oz package frozen green peas
2/3 cup packed fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley, chopped
4 tbsp plus fresh lemon juice

In a 4 to 5 quart slow cooker, combine the chopped vegetables, dry split peas, summer savoury, pepper and water/broth. You can add some slices of ham for flavour as well. Cook on low for 9-10 hours, or high for 4-5 hours. Remove ham slices if you added them- they will be fairly tasteless at this point.

Thaw peas slightly. Add peas and chopped parsley to soup. Use a hand blender to puree until about half smooth, half chunky. Add ham cubes. Heat until warmed through. Season with salt, pepper and more savoury if required. Stir in lemon juice.

It freezes well....enjoy!