Saturday, May 27, 2017

Kitchen Duty

I am on vacation this upcoming week - finally. To say I've been looking forward to this is an understatement. The one fear I have, though, is that I'll spend it just lazing around, not actually getting any needed chores done, nor actually having any fun.

As with other vacations, I have a "list". Haven't looked at it yet, though I know what the highlights are. One of those things is a two-part goal of 1) Cooking more of my meals, rather than grabbing some sort of takeout/fast food, and 2) Cooking through the stuff in the freezer. Notice how those two things dovetail so nicely?

When I went grocery shopping a week ago, lemons were on sale three-for-something. Since then, those poor lemons have been languishing in the refrigerator, until I remembered a lemon/chicken/orzo soup I've done before. A quick look at the ingredient list showed I was only lacking the boneless thighs and the orzo. I have plenty of bone-in thighs in the freezer, but thawing and taking them off the bone seemed like a bit too much work for the first afternoon of vacation (when I went to put the orzo away after making the soup yesterday, I discovered I did, indeed, have half a box of orzo in the cupboard...I really do need to cook more often, so I can remember what I do and don't have on hand).

While today the sun came out and the temperature hit the low seventies, it will not stay that way. The soup is actually pretty light, particularly with the lemon and rosemary flavors. Do not use chicken breast; thighs have more flavor and are much juicier.

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

2 T olive oil, divided
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1" chunks
salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 t dried thyme
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
2 bay leaves
3/4 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1 sprig rosemary
Juice of one lemon
2 T chopped fresh parsley

Heat 1 T oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to the pot and cook until golden, about 2 - 3 minutes; remove from pot and set aside (chicken will not be cooked through).

Add remaining T of oil to pot. Add garlic, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3 - 4 minutes. Stir in thyme until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Whisk in chicken stock, water and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Stir in orzo, rosemary and chicken; reduce heat and simmer until orzo is tender, about 1-0 - 12 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and parsley; season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Another thing on the vacation list is to cook some breakfast-type things for the freezer. I have the supplies to make homemade Egg Muffins; they taste almost like the fast food ones, in addition to freezing/reheating well. But the easier way to make breakfast ahead is to make a big old egg casserole, cool it, cut it into portions and freeze them. I'd uncovered a recipe I'd saved for "Sausage Muffin Egg Casserole" that sounded like the right blend of carbs, protein and fat.

However, the English muffins I have on hand are earmarked for the sandwiches. I'm not about to make a special trip to the store for more.

My extensive recipe collection came to the rescue. I've never made English muffins - too much standing over the skillet watching them cook. I have, however, made English muffin bread. It bakes in a traditonal loaf pan, and putting it together is as easy as putting together a quick bread (in other words, no kneading). The muffins form the base of the casserole, on which you put pork sausage and sauteed onion (more on the pork sausage adventure/solution another time).

As I told a friend with whom I shared this, toast a slice of the bread, top with peanut butter and/or Nutella, along with (maybe) a sliced banana, and you have an excellent breakfast.

I use a nonstick spray to coat the loaf pan, before dusting it with cornmeal like you would dust a cake pan with flour, and the finished loaf slides right out.

English Muffin Bread

1 pkg. yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons, or 7 grams)
1 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup Warm water
1-1/2 cup All-purpose flour
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
7/8 cup Milk, nonfat, warmed

Combine yeast, sugar and warm water; stir until dissolved.

Combine flour, salt and soda and add to yeast mixture. Add warm milk (not too hot or you'll kill the yeast). Mix well.

Cover and let rise until double in size, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Stir down and put in greased bread pan sprinkled with cornmeal. Sprinkle top with cornmeal. Cover and let rise 40 to 45 more minutes.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool on cooling rack. Makes 12 servings.

Not that I want to spend the entire week cooking, but...I have Italian sausage in the freezer and had a vague idea of making brioche hot dog rolls to have them on, along with homemade tomato sauce and parmesan. It's been a while since I've made brioche, so I pulled out Julia Child's The Way to Cook, and flipped to the bread section. Since I'm making sauce, I'd like to make pizza from scratch later this week, so I flipped to her section on pizza doughs. Be still my heart, she has a recipe there for an onion and anchovy pizza! I grew up begging for anchovies out of the can, and in fact, have three cans in my pantry right now. I cannot wait to try this.

Anchovies and onions...well, at least I can be pretty well assured I won't have to share.

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