Part 2: Me and the Minimalist cook Stir Fried Chicken with Ketchup!

Continuing on my personal, rather minor, challenge to try all of the recipes that Mark Bittman (The Minimalist!) listed in a recent article in the New York Times as his top 25 favorites, I scrolled down the recipes listed, looking for my next choice. The spaghetti with fried eggs I made a few days ago was well received, and I was eager for another new taste treat. Some of the recipes have ingredients that I am not sure where to buy locally or that I’m not really sure I want to try (such as the squid). However, that really is the reason to try this exercise. It’s easy to look through a cookbook and try recipes that have familiar ingredients. The harder part is making things you don’t think you’ll like. But if Mark Bittman is raving about a recipe, I think it’s time to give it a try.

Still, as I was looking over the list last night, I realized that I had all the ingredients needed to make Stir Fried Chicken with Ketchup. Calling for chicken, flour, salt and pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic and ketchup, I bet that I always have the ingredients for this dish. It’s just that – well – it just sounds like of weird. But, as Mark Bittman commented “before you turn your nose up, think of hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, salsa and all the other condiments that somehow are often considered inferior in haute cuisine circles. Then think how good ketchup can taste.”

So, I cut up some chicken. I only had white meat, not dark, but proceeded anyhow and dusted it with the flour.

Then I got the rest of the ingredients ready.

Wow. That’s all the mess I can make? Seems pretty simple.

So, stir fry the chicken in part of the oil…

Remove it from the pan, and add the rest of the oil and garlic and peppers, cook a few minutes, then add the ketchup, and after cooking a few more minutes add the chicken back to the pan.

I steamed some pea pods and carrots to go with it. Looks good, doesn’t it? And – surprise? – it also tasted really good!

Here’s the recipe in case you want to also make “Manchurian” style chicken.

STIR-FRIED CHICKEN WITH KETCHUP

Time: 20 minutes

1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken, preferably dark meat, in 1/2- to 1-inch chunks

1/2 cup flour, more as needed

4 tablespoons neutral oil, like corn or canola

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons slivered garlic

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

1 cup ketchup.

1. Toss chicken with flour so that it is lightly dusted. Put 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, and turn heat to high. When oil smokes, add chicken in one layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. When chicken browns on one side, toss it and cook until just about done: smaller pieces will take 5 minutes total, larger pieces about 10. Remove to a plate. Turn off heat and let pan cool for a moment.

3. Add remaining oil to pan and turn heat to medium high. Add garlic and cayenne pepper and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add ketchup and stir; cook until ketchup bubbles, then darkens slightly. Return chicken to pan and stir to coat with sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve.

Yield: 4 servings.

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Me and the Minimalist

I watched the movie Julie and Julia last year. Enjoyed it. Wished I had been the one to have thought up the idea and turned it into a money making book and movie, But, I didn’t really feel bad that I hadn’t mastered the art of French cooking, and didn’t really care if I ever did.

But, I was reading the New York Times yesterday, and found one of my favorite food writers bidding goodbye. Mark Bittman, the “Minimalist” has written a food column for many years. I enjoy reading his recipes, love watching the little video clips that sometimes accompany the recipes, and occasionally even try the recipes. Usually with great success.

So, when he added to his farewell column an article on his favorite 25 recipes, from the more than thousand recipes he’s used in his articles, it got my attention. Here’s what was even odder. Dave and I have a routine where at some point in the day I ask if he has any ideas of what he’d like for dinner. Hit and miss. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t. But without me prompting yesterday, he said he’d like to try a recipe from Mark Bittman. Spaghetti with fried eggs. What? That didn’t sound at all right to me. But Dave saw it on a morning show with Matt Lauer that demonstrated this recipe.

So, I made Spaghetti with Fried Eggs.

It’s been a rather blah month. I love food and cooking normally, but just haven’t been getting excited about meals. So I was glad to have a suggestion for dinner, weird as it sounded. I’m still getting local eggs – dark colored yolks and HUGE in size. So it also seemed a good use for some eggs. I didn’t make a full recipe. While it said it would serve 2 to 3, I thought it definitely looked like enough for 3, so I cut it down some.

I steamed some asparagus to fill out the meal. Quick. Simple. Great tasting. I meant to get out my camera, but was too busy filling my plate. Plus, there really isn’t anything all that exciting looking about spaghetti and friend eggs. Just good tasting.

So, here is my “julie and julia” moment. Not nearly as ambitious, but I decided that in the next few months I am going to try EVERY recipe that Mark Bittman, the Minimalist, listed as his top 25 favorites. I’ll let you know if they work, and if they really are easy to put together. I am expecting a few disappointments, but mostly successes.

Biggest disappointment? That I can’t have you come and be my guests to try out the food!

The Wausau Story (that’s with “USA” in the middle!)

My mother brought to my attention a new video put out by Wisconsin Public Television called The Wausau Story.

Hey – That’s where I’m from.

Wausau, Wisconsin. I really enjoyed watching the video. It had so many good and familiar sites. Marathon Electric, where my father worked. The Grand Theater, where I watched movies in high school (and even on break while in college). The Wisconsin River. There was a lot I didn’t know about. While I knew ginseng is a big part of the economy in Marathon County, where Wausau is located, I didn’t realize that silver foxes, raised for their furs, had also been a big business.

But here’s what I was really struck by while I watched the video. “The Wausau Group”. This was a group of men (sorry, wish it looked like it also included women, but the photo looked like all men) who were early business owners/ entrepreneurs. While wanting to make money (which they seemed to succeed at!), they also were very connected to their community – Wausau. Arts and culture were important to them, and they viewed community building as part of their role. Seems to be something that some modern day self proclaimed patriots are missing.

I live in the Pacific Northwest. Last night I remembered one of the really big advantages to where I live. When the President of the US gives the State of the Union Address, people living on the east coast can’t watch it until 9:00 pm their time. When you are on the Pacific Coast time zone, you can easily eat dinner while tuning in at 6:00 pm. For early risers who are also “early to bed” like me, that’s a big plus.

Still, the Midwest, specifically Wausau, Wisconsin, is “home”. Please, , all politicians looking for smaller government, remember that we need to keep USA in the middle of all we do. Pay your share. Help those who need help. It benefits all of us.

Showing off!

I recently was in the mood for making a pie, and decided to make a Double-Crust Jumble Berry Pie. It has a mixture of different berries, including strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. It also gave me a chance to try out a pie top cutter.

Hey – looks pretty good, doesn’t it? Oh, it tasted pretty yummy also.

Odd to find what things we’re drawn to, isn’t it? This Nordic ware pie top cutter had intrigued me. And I finally tried it out. Doesn’t really make the pie taste any different, just a new way to mess around in the kitchen.

“on fire”

Ha. I recently opened up an e-mail from WordPress (my blog sponsor) and it gave me statistics for last year of how many people viewed my blog. It said that I’m “on fire!”. I think that’s funny. Somehow or another, there were several thousand “hits” on my blog last year. While I certainly appreciate that my mother and sisters and uncle are heavy contributors to the traffic to my blog, it appears that they aren’t they only visitors. Besides my relatives, there also are people interested in Bimbo Bread or the Bimbo Bread Bear. I did a post on that early in my blogging career, well over a year ago, and yet it remains my most popular blog from what I can tell.

It just seems so random to me. And weird.

My message to my “true” supporters – I like blogging. I like to know that you at least occasionally read my blog.

Thanks for the support.

And- by the way – is Bimbo Bread something I should blog about more?

Or would you just like to know the basics:

“Bimbo® bread (pronounced “Beembo”) has been bringing families together for four generations. A family-owned business since 1945, Bimbo Bakeries relies on its own family recipe to bring you the softest, most delicious bread possible.

Kids love the Bimbo Bear and his great tasting bread. Moms and Dads love the bread’s quality ingredients and nutritional value.”

I really love the Bimbo Bear for all the visitors it brings to my website! We might have seen a really cute red fox at Mt Rainer a few days ago, but the Bimbo Bear is far better for attracting attention.

Going to Paradise

Vacation time. I decided to use a few days to celebrate my birthday with a trip to Mt Rainer. It’s my favorite, and nearest, national park. High mountain meadows, rain forests, giant old trees. waterfalls, wildflowers, enormous snow fields. To get there in the winter takes a longer drive than in the summer, especially when a “short cut” forest service road is covered in snow. But I made reservations a while ago to stay at the National Park Inn at Longmire, taking advantage of their winter “stay and play” weekday package.

Sunday we headed off – into a blinding snowstorm. The drive to the park was slow. Beautiful with giant snowflakes, but slow, and kind of scary. Approaching the Park, driving through the town of Ashford, I noticed as we drove by the Faith Baptist Church there was a very large sign saying “To get to Paradise you have to go by Faith”. Paradise was where we ultimately were headed. It’s the “end of the road” at Mt Rainer and site of world record breaking snowfall. But I didn’t really want to rely on faith to get me there! As we drove by the sign, I thought that my bumper sticker would probably read “To get to Paradise, it’s good to have a Subaru!”

We reached the Nisqually entrance to the park to discover that road conditions were so bad that chains were required on all vehicles except those with 4 wheel or All wheel drive. There were all kinds of cars off to the side of the road putting on chains. I was so happy to not have to stop and put on chains. Our trusty Subaru Forester managed the drive to Longmire, the site of the National Park Inn, without problems.

The Inn was welcoming, but also kind of spooky. It’s the off season, and even with running a special deal of two nights for the price of one during the week, the place was close to empty. There are 25 rooms. As best as I could tell, about 5 or 6 were occupied.

Hey, I like it this way. Quiet. Secluded. No crowds. But still, kind of odd to wander through the Inn at off hours and find no one around. Except for the resident “non” wildlife. There was a very cute little red fox (except colored black and grey) who was way too friendly, along with a family of racoons.

Paradise lived up to it’s name. Absolutely breath taking. Cold. Stormy. Incredible.

Snow higher than I can hardly imagine. My Nordic relatives would understand.

for the goats…..

I stopped by our local library today. I had books to return, and reserved books to pick up. While checking out the new books, I let the librarian know how bad I felt to see that his very new snow bike, a prized possession, had been stolen. We chatted for awhile, and he at some point asked “would you like some eggs?”. Answer always is “of course!!!!”. He headed off to his stash of eggs from his chickens, and when he returned with a carton filled with pretty colored eggs, I asked something along the line of “what can I do for you?”. He, of course, waved his arms and said “nothing!” But then as he checked out my books he asked “did you get a Christmas tree?”. Well, yes we did. And it was mostly “undecorated” and ready to be taken down. He said that if we’d be OK with it, his goats would like the tree. i guess this is a treat to them – evergreens to nibble on. So he printed out a map of how to get to his house and Dave and I loaded our forest tree into our Subaru and hauled it away. We heaved it into the librarian’s goat pasture, and were delighted that the four very cute goats seemed happy with another tree to defoliate. Recycling couldn’t get more fun than this!

Mt Rainier winter adventure!

We have reservations at the National Park Inn that is located in Longmire, within Mt Rainier National Park, for Sunday and Monday night. I made the reservations a while ago, as a birthday celebration, with hopes for good winter snow play weather.

So, weather forecast is for snow tomorrow, then partly sunny on Monday. Hip Hip Hurrah! Maybe we’ll even see “THE MOUNTAIN”. That’s how we refer to Mt. Rainier. It’s spectacular when you can see it. The surroundings are spectacular even if you can’t see it.

So, I felt I’d better be prepared with some food for our expedition. While the Inn has a restaurant, I’m not reading great reviews, plus I’m still kind of frugal and don’t want the cost of eating out every meal. So I’ve packed some food to bring along. Granola for breakfast. I’m partial to recipe from Alton Brown. The maple syrup and nuts are perfect.

I also decided we need some rolls for sandwiches. I tried a recipe from King Arthur Flour for Ham and Cheese Buns.

Some wrote into the King Arthur Flour webpage “Holy Moses” when she saw how they turned out. I’ll second that. Wow!

Well, I won’t know until tomorrow what they taste like as I’ve forbidden Dave to sample any until we “hit the road”. But they sure look good.

Success at last.

Read Twice, Measure Once

It’s a New Year! 2011!! Time for celebration. And time for resolutions. After my baking debacle today, I think it’s time for resolutions. When I’m doing woodworking or carpentry, the rule I’ve been taught is to “measure twice, cut once”. And it’s good advice for woodworking. But after the mess I made today making biscuits, I’ve revised my rules for baking to “read twice, measure once”.

We were going out cross country skiing. The skies were blue. The sun was shining. Yes, it was cold. About 20 degrees. To folks in Central Washington, that’s cold. To me, it’s fine as long as the sun is shining.

Good day to head out skiing. Except I didn’t have much for a lunch. So I decided to make some mustard biscuits with ham and cheese. The recipe on the King Arthur web site looked easy enough, and I had all the ingredients. For just the two of us, though, I knew I didn’t need a full recipe. So I divided everything in half and merrily went on my way. Hmmm.. Sure seems to need a lot more milk than the recipe calls for. Oh well. Roll the dough out, spread with mustard, cover with bacon (in substitution for the ham) and cheese, cover with another layer of biscuit dough and bake. After it was in the oven it suddenly occurred to me that something wasn’t right. I went back and carefully read the recipe. Oh my. The quantity of flour listed wasn’t meant to use both amounts. I had missed the crucial word “OR”. So I had actually made a full recipe, except I’d halved the amount of baking powder, salt, and butter plus the shredded cheese and bacon. The huge biscuit in the oven baked, but didn’t rise like it should have if I’ve followed the recipe.

Out on the ski trail. Beautiful weather. Blue skies. Sun. Very dense ham and cheese biscuit for lunch.

Lesson….

Live life fully. Don’t worry about the mistakes. Happy 2011!