Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Cooking with Jen

October 10, 2009

I’m not the most domestic wife and soon-to-be mom.  I don’t win any awards for housekeeping or laundry (I’ll wash the clothes, but folding and putting away…not so much), and pretty soon I’m going to start teaching private English lessons from home so we can afford a housekeeper once a week.  Granted, I do love the satisfaction I get after cleaning the house myself…AFTER being the operative word.  But with my lack of energy lately and the hub’s constant work schedule, the house is quite a mess.

The one domestic chore that I love?  Cooking!  Mmm, mmm, fooood…

I find nothing more gratifying lately than experimenting with my limited resources and cooking utensils and whipping up something delicious.  Experimenting is key here because it’s like a whole new ball game over here.  I’m not a gourmet chef by any stretch of the imagination, I barely know how to make rice.  I’m also used to the easy, pre-packaged, frozen, canned type of meal starting.  You can’t really find anything in a can here besides tuna.  And frozen veggies?  Fat chance.  I also have very few cooking utensils–I have two smallish pots, two skillets (although I mainly just stick to the large one) a small bamboo cutting board, one chopping knife, a cheese grater, a couple of wooden spoons and small wooden spatula.  That’s it.

This month we’ve been short on money, so I’ve had to get really creative and make our food last, but I’ve been quite successful at it.  Here’s the ingredients I’ve had to work with






Packets of powdered soup






On Tuesday I made fried chicken and mashed potatoes.  Pretty easy for me, any self-respecting Southern girl knows how to make fried chicken.  I usually batter the chicken with a whipped egg before dipping it in the breading, but since I didn’t have any eggs, I used milk instead, then rolled it in the cornmeal mixed with salt and pepper.  Worked out just fine, and actually made the breading lighter, which I liked.  I’ve always prefered to pan-fry chicken as opposed to deep-frying it because that way I can see what’s going on (over-cooked/under-cooked fried chicken is the worst) so I fried it as usual using oil in the big skillet.  Mashed potatoes are extremely easy too, and I have to say as far as my favorite foods go, mashed potatoes are at the top of that list.  I simply chopped up potatoes, leaving the skins on, boiled them until they were falling apart, then added a little milk and A LOT of butter, salt and pepper, and mashed them up using the end of my wooden spatula.  I chopped up some raw carrots to have on the side and add a little bit of “healthy” to the meal.  It was supper yummy.  (Side note:  I love to dip my fried chicken in honey, weird, I know, but it’s delicious!  All out of honey though, so I had to substitute ketchup.  Hub’s european side comes out when ever he eats anything fried…you guessed it, mayo…yuck)

On Wednesday night, I made chicken and rice.  Here’s how I do it:  I get out my two pots and fill them both with water.  When they boil, I add all the chicken to one (the smaller one) and I pour the other one over the dry rice sitting in a bowl.  This softens up the rice, but doesn’t completely cook it.  While the rice is preparing and the chicken is cooking, I take two or three carrots and grate them completely, then set that aside.  When the chicken is cooked through, I take them out and use two forks to shred them on the cutting board.  I drain the rice (remember, it’s been softening up in a bowl with hot water) and then dump the rice into the larger pot.  I take the chicken broth I’ve just made in the smaller pot from boiling the chicken and pour that over the rice until it covers it by half an inch.  Then I turn on the burner to cook the rice.  While the rice is cooking, I put all of the chicken into a skillet with butter to brown it a little bit and add seasoning.  When it’s almost done, I add just a little bit of the grated carrots to carmelize the carrots and add some more color to the chicken.  When the rice is just about done, I turn the burner off, dump all of the chicken on top of the rice, add the rest of the grated carrots and then cover.  I put a few layers of paper towels between the lid and the pot to aid in steaming.  I let it sit for 20 minutes to finish with the steam.  After that, I just stir it to combine the rice, chicken and carrots and then eat.  It lasts for days and it’s delicious.

After we ate our way through the chicken and rice, I made chicken and pasta.  Now here’s my dilemma with pasta.  You can buy any kind of pasta imaginable, but you cannot buy sauce!  I guess Turkish women are just required to make it from scratch.  I’m not really a sauce maker, nor did I have any sauce making ingredients so I had to figure out how to make chicken and pasta interesting without sauce.  I don’t know the name of the pasta I had, but it was just like penne, only cut into much shorter, straighter pieces.  Whatever, pasta is pasta.  So to make it interesting, I decided to fry the chicken before combining it with the pasta.  Instead of battering and breading it like I usually do, I cut the chicken into really thin chunks for faster cooking and breaded it only.  It was really light, and I was hoping to give the chicken just a slight crisp.  It worked out really well.  While the pasta boiled, I quickly fried the chicken in the skillet.  When they were both done, I drained the pasta, put it back into the pot, added a few slices of butter and the chunks of chicken.  When I plated it, I added salt and pepper, then grated a bunch of mozzarella cheese over it.  For a recipe I came up with as I was going along, it was super easy to make and very tasty.

Tonight I discovered how to make really yummy, really easy chicken noodle soup.  We’ve had these powdered chicken noodle soup packets in our shelves for a while now, but to me they always looked sorta boring and bland.  They kinda remind me of ramen, with the powdered broth and dinky noodles (these are more like angel hair pasta, only slightly thicker and flatter).  But tonight, inspiration struck and I decided I could make this powdered soup rock.  I started by boiling one large chicken breast.  When it was cooked, I removed the chicken to cut it up.  I was about to drain the pot to put in water to make the soup when I stopped myself.  Why the hell should I throw away perfectly good chicken broth and rely on the soup’s powdered broth…(duh, Jen) double broth=double delicious!  So I put the pot back on the stove, added two packets of the dry soup mix (to make it extra thick and noodley) chopped up the chicken breast and a few carrots, added them to the soup and let it boil for about 15 minutes.  It turned out super thick, and indeed, double delicious.  This one I am definitely making again very soon.

Cooking and eating are awesome…cleaning up the mess I make afterwards…not so awesome, but it has to be done.  Now off to finally do the dishes and think of new and exciting ways to combine chicken with carbs.  I hope I’ve made you hungry!