I’m not sure what has happened to me the past couple of weeks but I’ve found myself spending more and more time in my kitchen. (First guess would be that I have a new book I’m working on and yes, ask any writer who is also a procrastinator and they’ll tell you their homes and kitchens are never cleaner then when they have a deadline.)
It could also be that I’m just liking cooking more. Wow. Never thought that sentence would come out of my mouth. But it’s true. Now that we’re in our own home again (and back on a strict budget) – cooking has become a lot of fun. (I know. Again, not sure who I am or what has happened to me. But I like it.)
Part of it is that it’s summer time and I’m trying to find things for my son to do… and Caleb at 11 years old has taken a big interest in cooking. Like his daddy, he is pretty laid back and doesn’t show a real “passion” for things as much as I tend to – so when I find something he likes doing, I jump on it and try to encourage him as much as possible.
We started with the Creamy Jalapeño Dip his dad makes, which is very similar to the recipe Chuy’s uses.
Really easy and really good. He was one proud kid when the second time he made it, I stayed completely out of the kitchen. Blender use and all. (He had strict instructions not to put his finger anywhere near the inside of it.)
He just made it again the other day.
Then we needed to do something special for his dad for Father’s Day. Cliff has been traveling for work during the week this summer and unfortunately, what has become a Father’s Day tradition, he had his Navy drill weekend training too. So we didn’t get to see him until the evening of Father’s Day. But it gave us time to make this.
Caleb knew Cliff likes peanut butter, so he went online and found this recipe all by himself. The crust has graham crackers and Oreos… then a layer of peanut butter, then cheesecake, a layer of cheesecake mixed with hot fudge and then hot fudge on top, garnished with cut up peanut butter cups. Oh. My. Word. This will be a once-a-year thing – because my waistline can’t take more than that. The hot fudge topping makes it ridiculously rich – next time (heh if there is a next time) I’ll probably leave the hot fudge off. The 11-year-old disagrees.
Earlier this week I decided to try something different with chicken. It was one of those times where I’d pulled some chicken out but let it sit in the fridge for a day, so it was thawed, but I still had no idea what I wanted to do with it. I needed to do something with it so I decided I was going to do some rotel chicken pasta and boil the chicken. But my mom, who helps watch over Mamaw (Cliff’s 93-year-old grandmother) when Cliff’s parents are traveling, called and we decided to go to dinner with them, since Cliff was out of town.
While I was waiting to hear back when they were going to leave, so we could meet them at the restaurant, I finished boiling the chicken and thought I’d just leave it to cool and shred it when we came home. But there was a problem. I checked and the chicken breasts were still pretty pink in the middle. So I cranked the pot back up to high to finish cooking it, and suddenly got the text from mom they were headed out the door.
As I was driving down the street, leaving our neighborhood, the thought hit me – did I turn off that pot? Now - I ALWAYS have this thought when I leave the house. I might not even be in the kitchen and I’ll still have this thought. And usually, when I go back and waste 5 more minutes to check – there’s nothing on and I chide myself again for not having a better memory or being more confident or not being such a worry wart about everything. So this time, I just decided I was going to ignore that little pesky voice and head on over to dinner.
And when we got back to the house an hour later, I walked into a kitchen full of smoke. This time, my little voice was right and I HAD left the stove on and there was a nice thick layer of black ash around my chicken (though for the record the chicken seemed like it cooked nicely (of course, the one time I almost burn down the house and THAT’s the time my chicken comes out tender, when it’s surrounded by a 2-inch layer of carbon). A puffy plume of white filmy smoke was everywhere. I grabbed the pot, turned the stove off, yelled for Caleb to grab the dog so he wouldn’t get out, and opened all the doors and windows. I was really surprised the fire alarms hadn’t gone off.
Five minutes later, after I took the smoky pot outside and went back in to look – I realized we don’t HAVE fire alarms in this house. (We’ve only lived here since the end of March). Not one fire alarm in the entire house. So… if there’s a good thing coming out of almost burning your favorite pot up (and your house along with it) – it’s that we now realize we need to install fire alarms. And next time my little voice says check the stove – I’ll go back and check it.
I was happy to discover my pot wasn’t ruined – after soaking it in hot soapy water for 15 minutes and about 40 minutes of hard scrubbing with a combination of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda (a cleaning tip I learned from Pinterest just the other day actually), it came out looking almost new.
And then I decided I needed to try making chicken again.
I’d fixed sausage poboys for dinner when Cliff came home Sunday night, and I’d tried making aioli (garlic mayo). It turned out pretty well (followed the instructions from The Hungry Mouse here) and wasn’t as complicated as I thought it would be.
But we had a lot left over and I knew it was good for about 3 days so I thought I could find another recipe, with chicken, that I could also do something with the aioli.
That’s when I found this: Lemon-Basil Chicken with Basil Aioli.
All I had to do was add the fresh chopped up basil to my already prepared aioli and prepare the chicken according to the rest of the recipe. I really liked the flavor. The only thing that didn’t go so well was when I tried heating up my aioli. Not sure if I should have kept it cold – didn’t really think that would be good, but maybe I should have just left it to warm to room-temperature. Putting it in the microwave made it “split” (I think is the correct terminology) where the oil and the other ingredients started to separate and it wasn’t as smooth as before.
But still, it was a really good meal. I served it with pasta tossed with garlic and olive oil and green beans.
My husband even complimented me TWICE!
So, there’s my cooking adventures up to this point. Learned some new things. Avoided burning my house down.
I’ve also invited my in-laws, who are back in town, over for dinner (along with Mamaw) tomorrow night.
There must be something seriously wrong with me.