Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Two Pies!

I told you about the Christmas presents I made. Now what about the people to whom I brought them?

My husband and I enjoyed a fun but picture-free Christmas Eve at my dad's in Vero Beach. My grandparents on that side are proper to the point where they leave the rum out of the jingle bell punch (everybody's jingle bell punch... not just theirs), and I didn't know how well snapping pictures at the table would go over. So my dad's famous crab au gratin casserole will have to be a story for another day. I exercised the eating muscles plenty and rested up the picture-taking muscles for Christmas Day at my mom's.

Visit her blog if you want to hear her whine about leaving the green beans in the microwave overnight. Stay if you want to hear me rave about what a porktastic, cosmotastic, pietastic meal we were treated to.

Stuffed pork loin for dinner, cosmopolitans with a secret ingredient (she knew I'd suffered through the previous evening booze-free!), and a two-pie breakfast for Boxing Day... how much more completely awesome does it get? TWO PIES, PEOPLE. Quiche and apple-cranberry. COUNT 'EM, TWO!!

Now, as far as what the pork loins were stuffed with... I see she hasn't put either recipe up on her blog. Luckily she gave me a copy of one. It appears to be from page 234 of the December 2009 edition of Cooking Light. The unfortunately punctuated title is, "Fruit and Walnut-Stuffed Pork Loin" [sic]. (Or am I old-fashioned for wanting to add that extra hyphen after the word "Fruit"? Tasty Trix? Copyranter? Someone help me out here.) The other one was stuffed with sun dried tomatoes and gorgonzola, and I'm not sure what else. She made it up herself though, so don't expect to find it anywhere else in the known universe. I'm sure if you pop over to her blog and ask real nice in the comments, she'll let you have the recipe.

Boxing Day was spent as it should be... catching up with old friends. This meant my diet consisted of leftovers and takeout. Nothing exciting.

The 27th was my husband's grandfather's birthday, so my mother-in-law pulled out all the stops and served both lobster tails and beef wellington.

I snapped a picture of my beef after it was cut as well, but standard dinner party lighting rendered my camera fairly useless. Which I'm sorry to report, because that beef wellington was TO DIE FOR. The color, texture... everything was perfect. Oh, well. Sometime when you run a food blog, you have to stop, take a deep breath, and remember that food is fleeting. With cooks like the ones in my family, there will be plenty more pictures to take!

Beat the eggs. Whip the cream. Show no mercy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Presents

Another year of no money, another year of packaging cheap homemade foods up pretty and calling them gifts. This Christmas it was jam and cookies.

I had made jam before, but never canned it, and was excited to try. This recipe for Florida Citrus Marmalade (see below) was inspired by a recipe for Cranberry Orange Marmalade on page 188 of a Cooking Light holiday edition from November/December 2007. I wanted to see if I could achieve sufficient tartness using grapefruit and key limes instead of cranberries, which aren't native to Florida. In the future I may increase my limeage, but it came out pretty well for a first attempt.

As for the cookies, I made these of the potato chip variety (thanks a million to Brie le Grand Fromage!) and added chocolate chips. I wanted to dip them in chocolate, but there would be days' worth of car travel before many of these packages reached their destinations. As my Florida readers can tell you, the weather fluctuates like mad at this time of year, so I wouldn't want to risk making a melt-prone gift.

Here's what my kitchen looked like while I was making the cookies. Thought you may get a kick out of it:

Florida Citrus Marmalade


8 lbs. navel oranges (about 14 oranges)
2/3 of a ruby red grapefruit
6 key limes
6 c. sugar, divided
3 c. water


Zest two oranges and two limes. Remove peels from these and all other fruits. Chop the fruit and remove all seeds.

Combine chopped fruit and zest in a large saucepan with water and 2 cups of the sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes.

Add remaining sugar. Simmer approximately an hour and a half.

Meanwhile, sanitize your canning equipment. Pre-wash all jars, lids, and bands with antibacterial dish soap and water. Fill a pot with enough water to completely submerge your jars. Bring to a boil over medium-high and place jars, lids, and bands gently in the boiling water for five minutes or more. For the last minute or so, lower the end of a pair of tongs into the boiling water. When time is up, use the sanitized tongs to remove each piece from the pot and place it on a clean towel.

Spoon jam into the jars while still hot. Wipe anything that spills over the edge with a clean damp towel. Put on the lids and secure with the bands.

Lower jars gently back into the boiling water. Boil for ten minutes, then remove carefully with the tongs and place back on the towel. (The towel is there as a buffer between the hot jar and the cold countertop, a trick I learned from Alton Brown via a recommendation from Peas Love Carrots. This helps prevent spontaneous shattering). A couple hours later, check the tops to be sure they have sealed. If the button doesn't bounce back when you push it, hooray! Your jam will keep in the same condition for about a year. This recipe makes about a dozen 8-oz jars.

I had a jar left over for myself and my husband. Before I left to visit family on Christmas Eve, I had some for breakfast over toast and melted havarti. Yum! A little too sweet, but overall... yum!

Beat the eggs. Whip the cream. Show no mercy.

Chicken Thighs Stewed With Radish and Arugula

I have often wondered what stewed radish would taste like. A couple days before Christmas, I finally got around to it. Looking back, this recipe probably would have tasted better with white meat, but dark did the job.

Actually, "did the job" may not be the right phrase. My husband flipped out and said it was one of his favorite dishes I've ever made.

Now before you go adding radishes and arugula to all your stews, I doubt I have them to thank for the meal's success. Neither one tasted like much once it had been simmering for awhile. More likely I owe a debt of gratitude to my old humble friend garlic. I used more than my usual 2-3 cloves, which is something I'd definitely do again.

Chicken Thighs Stewed With Radish and Arugula


4 chicken thighs with skin
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, sliced thin or diced large
1 c. radishes, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
5 cloves garlic, sliced thin
Splash Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. fresh mixed herbs (I used flat-leaf parsley and oregano, but any herbs you might associate with traditional Southern Italian cuisine would do the trick)
2 tsp. dried mix herbs (I used marjoram, thyme, and more oregano... note that you can use more fresh herbs here instead; I just ran out)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 c. diced canned/packaged tomatoes (say it with me... "If you don't can your own, I recommend Pomi")
2 c. chicken broth
2 c. well-packed arugula
1 Tbsp. lemon juice


Season the meat with salt and pepper. Loosen the skin and get underneath if you can do this without ripping it.

Heat the olive oil in a stew pot over medium. Brown the chicken thighs for 10-12 minutes on the skin side; 5 minutes on the skinless side. Remove the chicken from the pot and place it in a covered dish. Alternatively, plate it and cover it with another plate to trap the heat. (Optional: Bellow, "Bwah-ha-ha-ha, heat, there's no escape for you now!")

Add the onion, radishes, carrot, and garlic to the pot and saute for 4-5 minutes. Splash on the vinegar and deglaze the pan. Add the herbs, salt, and pepper and continue sauteing until the onion is completely limp and translucent.

Arrange the chicken thighs over the veggies in the pot.

In a separate saucepan, combine the tomatoes and the broth. Stir well, then pour the mixture over the chicken and veggies. Bring the contents of the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer 45 minutes.

Remove cover and add arugula and lemon juice. Push the arugula down into the liquid-filled spaces between the chicken using a long utensil such as a wooden spoon or a spatula. Re-cover and simmer 15 minutes more. Distribute the chicken pieces among four serving bowls and ladle the liquid over. Optional: Put bread, rice, or mashed potatoes in the bottoms of the bowls; or prepare a warm bread basket to pass around. Serves 4.

Beat the eggs. Whip the cream. Show no mercy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bruschette Three Ways

My mom gave us some lovely garden-fresh produce to bring home following her boat parade party. You don't see tomatoes on this blog too often unless they've been pulverized into a sauce or soup, and the reason for that is because my husband is an extraterrestrial of some kind and dislikes un-pulverized tomatoes. But this time, I couldn't resist leaving them in their original un-pulverized form. I mean, look at them! Aren't they gorgeous?

They're not gorgeous? How can you say something like... Oh, you must be looking at the weird excuse for an eggplant that she so cleverly sneaked into my doggie bag. (Just kidding, I agreed to take it. There will always be a special place in my heart for misshapen orphaned vegetables that nobody loves!)

Other gifted items included dinner rolls and a chocolate bell pepper. I had herbs and cheese in the house, so my mind jumped straight to bruschette. But because of my husband's tomato handicap, I decided to make two different kinds. And because there were two types of rolls, I ultimately ended up with three different kinds.

I won't bore you with recipes, since I made them all the same way, and there was only slight variation among the ingredients. While pre-roasting the eggplant and bell pepper, I sliced all the dinner rolls (some white, some pumpernickel) thinly and sprinkled on some grated cheese. I used parm for the white ones, mild cheddar for the pumpernickel ones; but I imagine you could do this with an infinite number of different cheeses. Then I used the vegetables and herbs in varying combos and popped each batch into the toaster oven at 350 for five minutes.

Long story short, I ended up with the following combos:

1. White bread, parm, roasted eggplant, roasted bell pepper, herbs
2. White bread, parm, chopped tomatoes, herbs
3. Pumpernickel bread, mild cheddar, roasted eggplant, roasted bell pepper

I tossed the eggplant and bell pepper with olive oil, salt, and black pepper before roasting. In fact, the first bite of eggplant I got was covered in black pepper, and the way my mouth recoiled I thought it might be tannic. After I had chewed a split second longer, I realized this wasn't the case, but I still thought the eggplant might have bred with a hot pepper or something. Eggplants and peppers are in the same family, so considering how ugly the the little guy was before cooking, you can see how I might have jumped to this conclusion. I even went so far as to call my mom and ask if that could have happened, like if she'd planted the eggplants and hot peppers next to one another or something. It took me until my next bite to learn that I just hadn't stirred well enough.

In any case, the rest of the roasted veggies were very enjoyable, if a bit lacking in the black pepper department. My husband and I ate our bruschette with green salads, which made for a welcomed light lunch after a night of stuffing ourselves at the boat parade party.

Off to Harvill's! Got a lot of work to do in the kitchen before a string of Christmases is to commence. I'm grateful to have so many loving family members within a couple hours' drive, but I am able neither to host nor to buy gifts for everyone this year, which means I must contribute a mutant amount of cooking, baking, and canning instead.

Hope to find time to post again soon. After the holidays, stuff should pretty much go back to normal. This means you'll start seeing Chickenless Cooks of the Week again. What interactive activities would you enjoy? Do you guys want to do another TV Dinner or Baffling Ingredient? Would you like to see something new? Let me know!

Beat the eggs. Whip the cream. Show no mercy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Latkes at a Christmas Party

Actually, my mother considers it more of a "Winter Solstice Party." Whatever you choose to call it, it's the party she has every year when the boat parade goes by her lakefront house, and everyone stands down on the dock waving and shouting, "Merry Christmas!"

Do I have pictures of said boat parade, you might ask? Heavens no. Do I have pictures of the latkes I brought to wish everyone a Happy Whatever the Heck It Is You Celebrate? Yey-ah! (Ironically they were a little late if you celebrate Hanukkah.)

I got this recipe off the incredible blog Las Vegas Food Adventures. Yeah, I know, you're waitin' for it... "What did she change?" Well, this time, it was nothing. Nada. Not a single...

AAAAAAAUGH!! I can't take the LIES!!! I used olive oil instead of vegetable, damn it!!!!!!! Are you satisfied?????!!!!!

Well, if so, you oughtn't to be. Because they turned out looking like horrid gray blobs instead of the pristine brown beauties in the original picture. Did they taste great? Sure. Did they go over well at the party? Definitely, but only because there was such dim lighting that I didn't get any decent pics of the final product until we had them for breakfast the next morning:

Awwwwwww, yuck, gross! What is that gray blob on the plate next to my mom's beautiful fruit salad? Did someone hock a... or cough up a... oh, wait, no, that's just my dumb ass using olive oil. Okay, phew. Thought that might actually have been cat barf there for a sec.

To make it crystal clear, this was no fault at all of the original recipe's. They would have been perfect if I had followed along verbatim. But the only oil I keep on hand in large quantities is olive. So my mom's party mood lighting is practically a Christmas miracle in my opinion. It allowed me to rake in the compliments that Las Vegas Food Adventures so deserves for this tasty Jewish-inspired dish.

Happy Hanu-kwan-rama-solst-mas! (Please let me know if I'm forgetting anyone, and I will make an addendum.)

P.S. If you had to pick one type of oil to keep in your house, which would you go with?

Beat the eggs. Whip the cream. Show no mercy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ask for Pics of My Kitchen, and Ye Shall Receive

Mae over at Peas Love Carrots (where you can currently read everything you ever wanted to know about celebrity preservationists, by the way) asked me to post some pictures of my new kitchen. I'll admit I was hesitant. My husband and I have made some progress in that there are no longer a chest of drawers and a full laundry basket in the middle of the floor. And God bless Ikea and Target for any clever storage solutions you can pick out despite the mayhem. But is it virtual-dinner-party-suitable? Er, no.

On the other hand, I don't have a recipe to share with you today. I ate a delicious yet uninspiring omelette for breakfast (read: eggs, cheese, spinach, salt, pepper). And though my husband and I made a late-night raid on his office to collect leftover goodies from the party, I am happily munching one now without knowing whether it's ham or turkey... really, if anyone from the Weekly is reading this, please help me out! No offense to whomever brought it; it's very tasty. I just haven't the faintest idea what it is.

Therefore, in a move that is uncharacteristically personal for this particular blog...

Say hello to my kitchen, my cat Panzram, my half-full trash can, my defunct Aerogarden, my as-yet-unsold tennis rackets and golf clubs (feel free to make us an offer), my floor that hasn't been swept since we moved in despite the wellie-weather we're having, my empty wine glass from which I drank OJ this morning; and of course...

...that current bane of my existence, the temperature dial on my cantankerous oven... grr...

Have fun! It's kind of like one of those bar games where you circle the objects in the picture. Only it's my life. Yay.

Beat the eggs. Whip the cream. Show no mercy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Baked Brie (or, "The First Dish From My New Kitchen That I've Had the Guts to Post About")

By that, I mean my kitchen was so clogged with furniture and boxes for two weeks that I was embarrassed to let people see how I lived. And this is me we're talking about- not embarrassed that a tape measure once appeared in the background of a photo I posted, but sure as hell embarrassed of how big a tornado would have had to hit anyone else's apartment in order to make it look the way it has during my first weeks of residence here.

Luckily, this gave me a bit of time to get used to my new kitchen; including the new arrangement of equipment, the new not-so-double-wide sink, the old ottoman that newly lives underneath the new counter, and the new oven that is charmingly off by somewhere between twenty-five and fifty degrees. Cozy and romantic, I know. Let's just fantasize that it's in Paris rather than downtown Orlando, shall we?

Cue accordion music...

Tape poster of Eiffel Tower over window...

And let's bake some brie.

Baked Brie a la The Chickenless Chick's Sister-in-Law


1 wheel of brie
A few shots' worth of brandy
A couple handfuls of brown sugar


Heat oven to 350.

Put the brie in an overproof dish and dump most of the brown sugar on top of it. Pour the brandy over. Dust the remaining sugar over the top.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. The cheese usually oozes out of the wax (as you can see, I just cannot figure out my impossible oven... it was plenty soft, but I never got any oozage). Serves approximately 12 as an appetizer.

This particular recipe was inspired by my sister-in-law's, which uses Jack Daniels and is very tasty. The brandy was my husband's idea, and at this point I have no idea how it turned out, since he needed it for his office Christmas party. Would that we could scrape together the money for two wheels of brie!

Anyway, the Paris fantasy was over a little too fast, so I have another somewhat depressing activity for us: Let's pretend we're back at the Chickenless Chick's old house! Here were some of my Thanksgiving leftovers.

From top to bottom:

1. Smoothie made from plain Greek yogurt, banana, OJ, ice, and leftover cranberry relish
2. Quiche made from eggs and leftover Spicy Grand Marnier Rabe
3. Parfait layered with plain Greek yogurt, almonds, and leftover cranberry relish

If you didn't get to see my Thanksgiving recipes, you can find them here.

Did I cry during that little trip backward through time at all? Of course not. The Chickenless Chick would never cry because she's a hack who can't find work and can't afford to live in a space with more than one room. Never.

On a cheerier topic, come the Northerners' growing season my husband and I will be interning on a farm, and then I'll wonder what the big deal was about letting go of a dinky little house in the suburbs. Hooray! We've been searching Colorado for internships on a whim, being that neither of us has ever been to Colorado and we've both heard positive things. We'd like to go with a permaculture program, but would take on pretty much any learning experience with zeal. Though we have loved our time here in Orlando, and my husband loves his current job, we are both more than ready to begin this next stage of our lives. Managing a small permaculture farm of our own is the ultimate goal. Eventually I hope to open a slow food restaurant on the property as well (getting ahead of myself, since I have no idea where said property is yet). If you'd like to follow our internship adventures, be sure to bookmark Doveland Farm. Currently I don't spend as much time on it as The Chickenless Kitchen, but that will change this summer I'm sure.

In the meantime, prepare to indulge an epic slew of fantasies spun here on Livingston Street.

Addendum: The brie was a big hit at my husband's office party. I got the last tiny bite of it, and I have to say I prefer my sister-in-law's. Not enough contrast between the brandy and the brown sugar. Maybe if you served it for dessert instead of an appetizer, with wafer cookies instead of bread or crackers, it might work better.

Beat the eggs. Whip the cream. Show no mercy.