Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cooking as Creative Expression

One of my favorite things about cooking is the ability to create, to improvise, to invent - and have it turn into something useful and meaningful and purposeful. (Even when the improvisation turns into something inedible - at least you learned something from it in the process!)

Now, I am not a chef. I have no distinguished palate. I don't make gourmet meals or create elaborate modern presentations with my food. But - I enjoy the fact that I can put a meal together and think that perhaps no one has ever quite had that meal before.

I tend to play it pretty safe with my cooking most of the time now - when you're feeding a house full of picky eaters - improv and invention is not always the best way to make sure they are fed. But, every once in a while I have time to just cook for myself.

Tonight I went to the grocery store with no meal in mind and wandered around gathering items. I ended up with some chicken, saffron rice, and the ingredients for guacamole.

Cooked the rice, mixed the guacamole, grilled the chicken. I kept some of the onions, tomatoes, and cilantro to sprinkle over the top of the chicken and rice. Nothing fancy - but I enjoyed the mix of flavors and the ability to just cook without a line of people coming in the kitchen and asking what it is :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chicken and Rice - Cheap and Easy!

This is a recipe I kind of made up the other week. I was originally planning on making a chicken casserole dish - but one of my kids is lactose intolerant and I didn't feel like making two dishes in order to have a dairy-free one - so I just made this. My grandmother made an amazing chicken and rice dish - I have no idea how she made hers, but this one turned out pretty well! It got rave reviews from my critics anyway ;-).

4 lbs. chicken thighs
4 cups white rice
8 cups chicken broth
2 tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs red pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cheddar Cheese
Italian Bread Crumbs
2 cups prepared chicken gravy (package or your own recipe)

servings: 12

Boil chicken thighs until done, shred

Meanwhile, Cook rice in chicken broth.

In a saute pan - heat olive oil, onion, and garlic.

Mix onion/garlic mixture, chicken, rice, red peper, salt, and pepper together.

Serve with cheese, breadcrumbs, and gravy as topping choices.

*You can boil the chicken thighs ahead of time and then reheat the shredded chicken in the olive oil along with the onions and garlic. I actually think it tastes a little better this way.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Project 365: February

Heavy snows, self-pampering, and unexpected time
with family due to my grandmother's funeral.

Coffee DesignsDonuts at Drop OffSnow AngelLake Michigan
Happy Cute Animal DayBreakfast and BeautyChicago and MeTwo Words
I <3 WisconsinI'll Fly AwayDream LifeCheers!
Juice BoostFamilySoothFriends

Link to 2010 Reading List also posted today.

2010 Reading List

I'll update this post throughout the year with the books I read. Most recent on top! Hopefully there will be quite a bit of nonfiction showing up as I'm trying to up my smart reading instead of just fluff and fun!

10. Love in the Driest Season by Neeley Tucker. This book broke my heart – It’s a memoir of a couple trying to adopt a baby girl in AIDS ravished Zimbabwe in the late 90s. The reports on the conditions of the orphanages there as well as the cultural beliefs that prevent many children from being adopted was hard to read – especially as someone who really has a heart for adoption.
9. Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers. Of course the book was wonderful – it’s Francine Rivers! This is her first new book in years – I was so excited to get it! This is the first in a two part series as well – and I’m certainly glad that I’ll get to see the continuation of this story line. If you enjoy it when books cover vast amounts of time and when they have characters who are very human in all their flaws and weaknesses – you’ll enjoy this. I also enjoyed the immigrant aspect of this book – the main character went from Switzerland to France to England to Canada to America – she lived quite the life!
8. The Dead Don’t Dance by Charles Martin: Martin is a recent discovery of mine. I love his books – his characters are meaningful and his southern settings are beautiful. A bit of a tear-jerker. My favorite scene (which I later leanred was the first scene that the author saw and knew he’d write this book) had the main character standing in a ditch full of icy water yelling at God about where He is at. Despite the fact that I’ve never stood in a ditch full of icy water – I could so relate. And I think being able to relate to a character is what makes books amazing.
7. After You by Julie Buxbaum: This book was a good read. The characters were likeable in all their flaws. Nothing too amazing to classify it as a must-read - but a good book for some pleasure reading.
6. mennonite in a black dress by Rhoda Janzen: I picked this up at a consignment store. I’ve attended a few weeks at a Mennonite church in the Chicago area – and the church I visited seems nothing like the Mennonite church described by the author – but I’m sure it’s normal to have such a wide range of beliefs and practices – and the fact that the church I visited was urban I’m sure had a lot to do with the differences. It wasn’t the best memoir I’ve ever read –but it had some interesting parts


5. Perfect Match by Jodi Piccoult: A coworker gave me this one to borrow. It’s probably not one that I would’ve picked up on my own as it deals with a District Attorney who suddenly has the tables turned on her when her child becomes the victim - and the book was difficult/unpleasant to read at parts. I like Piccoult’s writing though – and she did a good job of exploring the fuzzy distinction between “right” and “wrong” that we often see in our lives.
4. Through Painted Desserts by Donald Miller: This one I read off and on for the past few months. I started it as I was riding through a painted-dessert like landscape myself – looking out from the lounge car of an Amtrak train on my way to Arizona for my brother’s wedding last fall. I first read Miller a few years ago (Blue Like Jazz) and already knew that I loved his no-nonsense, realistic approach to faith and God in our world. I love that he doesn’t sugarcoat religion and just writes about it as part of his life – flaws and all.
3. The Red Tent by Anita Diammant: This is the story of Dinah – the Biblical Jacob’s only daughter. The author took the Biblical story and made some inferences and then told a fictional story. It was a very interesting read and gave a good perspective on what life could have been like for some of the Biblical characters we think we know so well.


2. My Sisters Keeper by Jodi Piccoult: I was waiting for this one on but managed to get it for a deal when the bookstore at the local mall was going out of business. I had seen the movie first but had been told the book was still worth it – that was good advice. Without spoiling the book for anyone – I enjoyed the extra characters and the fact that the ending was still a surprise.
1. Love The One You're With by Emily Griffin: I picked this one up off the bargain table at Books-a-Million while visiting my parents for Christmas. I wanted something light and fluffy as an entertaining read. It's pretty typical chick-lit. This time the successful city dwelling woman ran into an old ex and the book details her range of emotions and thoughts as she deals with her reaction to that ex and her commitment to her husband and marriage. The book ended correctly as far as I'm concerned and it did it's job well of being something light and fluffy to read.