Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Southern Fried Goodness

Being a Californian I sort of consider southern food to be ethnic. While not as exotic as Thai or Indian cuisine, food from America's south is uniquely crispy.

Of course, as a child, I ate fried chicken many times, my grandmother is from Texas after all. How many times have I heard the story of her mother (my great-grandmother) going out to the hen house, killing a chicken (yes, she did that herself), plucking out its feathers (and that too) and cooking it (that I can handle!). Although I am quite sure my life is nothing like the life led by my great-grandmother I find that I get a lot of inspiration from my ancestors, especially when it comes to food. I won't be wringing the necks of any chickens but I admire the way they ate and fed their children. Real food. Real ingredients. Time and preparation. I never met her but I am quite certain my great-grandmother never microwaved a T.V. dinner or made Top Ramen for her kids.

That brings me to this: A Recipe. It is not Nam's recipe nor her mother's, this is one I did on my own and I am quite pleased with it. I don't call it fried chicken, rather it is homemade chicken strips. It doesn't call for anything fancy and requires no special equipment, oh yes, and you don't have to kill your own chicken, unless of course you want to.

Here you go, readers. I love this one, Kyle loves this one, my mom and dad love this one. Freya is lukewarm on it, apparently no one told her that, as an American, she is required to love all things deep fried.

Joan's Homemade Chicken Strips:

1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders (Preferably organic and pasture raised - this is the only kind of meat I buy, please don't spend your food dollar on factory farm chicken!)
1 egg (again, pastured raised - I get mine from a neighbor down the street, hands down the best eggs I have ever had)
1 Tbsp of organic, whole milk yogurt (Strauss, can't say enough good stuff about them, or make your own!)
Whole wheat flour (enough to cover the chicken pieces)
Coconut oil
Spices - sea salt, pepper, paprika to taste

Okay, when I do this I like a stations. First I set the chicken out and open it up so it is ready. Next to that I crack my egg in a medium sized bowl and add the yogurt. Mix them together. Next to that I use a regular sized dinner plate and put about four small handfuls of flour.

Once you have that set up you will need a large skillet (cast iron or any large skillet). I have used a large pot before since I don't have a deep frier since it kind of simulates one. Turn the heat on your stove to medium high. Spoon out large spoonfuls of the coconut oil into the pan allowing it to melt. It should be about one quarter inch deep.

Next, place the chicken in the pan. You may have to do this in several batches depending on how big the pieces are and how big your pan is. Sprinkle with the spices while cooking. It takes about seven minutes per side to be cooked. I always end up cutting a piece to check. The meat should be white and any juices should be clear.

That is it, people! These things are amaze. You can dip them in BBQ sauce, homemade ranch sauce, or even raw honey. You can make a bunch and put them in freezer bags so they are ready for an afternoon snack or a quick meal. Just turn your oven to 400 degrees and put them on a cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes.

I don't even have to tell you that coconut oil is a healthy fat and that these babies are vastly superior to anything created at the Golden Arches. I honestly don't believe McDonald's is fit for human consumption, especially for children!

I hope you try this recipe. It is truly my own creation and one I am very proud of. Serve it up with sourdough biscuits, steamed greens, potatoes, and a beaming smile!

Monday, April 8, 2013

A recipe - a family favorite at that!

As an apology for my peanut butter rant I promise to keep my mouth shut and simply share a recipe that I turn to quite often. Tuna Noodle Casserole. Now, this is not you momma's tuna, unless your name is Kelli Andel, in which case I totally adapted this recipe from your mom.

Anyway, there is no cans of anything used in this recipe. Actually, once you master a simple homemade cream of mushroom soup you can use it as the base in anything you want. My family goes bonkers over my green bean casserole every Thanksgiving. Why? Because I make my own base from scratch and use fresh green beans. Amazingly, when you use fresh wholesome ingredients people really like your cooking. Go figure.

Okay, enough of me. Now here is the recipe for the soup base.

Basic Cream of Mushroom Soup:

1/2 Cup of Mushrooms (give or take, I can stretch em' if I need to)
2 Tbsp of Olive Oil
2 Tbsp of Flour
2 Cups of Milk (I use whole, non homogenized organic milk. You can use whatever milk you have, this just happens to be the milk I have.)
1/4 Cup of Fresh Parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

Chop up your mushrooms. Place them into a large skillet that has been greased with the olive oil over medium heat. Saute until the mushrooms are soft and coated in the oil. Next, add the flour. At this point you are making a roux. If you don't know what that is get off my blog...Kidding! It is when the flour mixes with the olive oil (or whatever fat you are using) and creates lumps. You may need more oil or more flour, depending on how your roux looks. The flour should bind around the bits of mushrooms. If you aren't sure, it is probably fine but I found this video. It is a lot more technical than I will get but it gives you an idea if you have never made a roux before. Think gravy.

Once your roux is set (about 5 minutes of cooking) add the milk slowly one cup at a time while you stir. From there you are basically going to stir and simmer. Your base will thicken as it cooks. As it is simmering I chop up my parsley and throw it in, plus I season with salt and pepper. Viola!

Tuna Noodle Casserole:

1 12oz. Box of Whole Wheat Penne (you can use white, gluten free, whatever strikes your fancy)
2 2.5oz. Cans or tetra packs of Tuna in water (I use the tetra packs because there is oftentimes BPA in the lining of cans. Check it out! Actually, due to concerns of BPA and GMO's, I recently ordered my first flat of tuna online. I will keep you updated but here is what I got.)
Cheese, whatever kind you want. (whether you like a little or a lot, it is up to you, I would say about two cups though. Also, I like a sharp, grass-fed cheddar. Bomb! Get it at Trader Joe's)

Boil the box of whole wheat penne. I use Hodgson's Mill. It is certified non GMO, grown in the United States, and available for a low price at Winco. Cook according to package directions. Drain and return it to the pot. Add all of the soup base you just made, the tuna, and a cup and a half of the cheese. Feel free to taste test and add more salt or pepper if desired. Stir until everything is incorporated. Next, place in a casserole dish and top with the remaining cheese and little bit more fresh parsley. Bake! For about 15 minutes until all the cheese is melted and it is hot throughout.

Enjoy! My family loves this recipe. It is totally kids friendly and they eat the mushrooms without a blink. I always serve with steamed peas and carrots and red chard on the side. Delish!