Tuesday, January 25, 2011

1 post, 2 recipes - hopefully that'll get me out of the doghouse

Sorry I have been out of touch for a bit - wasn't feeling great.  Many doctors, hospital rooms, needles, tests, test results, conversations, specialist appointments, rescheduled  specialist appointments etc later we still don't exactly know what the problem is.  What we do know is that God is sovereign & faithful & in control.  Thankfully, he also gives grace & peace - right now, He is teaching us to lean on Him for such things.

That being said, in an attempt to win back your affection after being MIA for so long, I present to you a special treat:  two, yes two recipes in one post!  What could be better than that?  (lots of things, I know - but just go with me on this one)
Remember a while back when I cooked my first whole chicken in the crockpot?  Well, I did it again recently, but this time, I even left the thing at home to cook.  I felt so brave leaving it there cooking away on the counter as I headed for the door.  (I know they're meant to work like that, but I can't help but think that something will go wrong and I'll burn the whole house down...)

Once again, we came home to a fantastic dinner with leftovers galore.  And I got to use said leftovers to cook up this amazing macaroni & butternut squash recipe that I made with the last set of crockpot chicken extras.  Technically, its a Butternut Squash Orzo, but subbed in the macaroni because I couldn't find whole wheat orzo anywhere and I'm stubborn like that.   I also made a few other small changes ...for no apparent reason, really. 

I just LOVE this dish - the textures & flavors are amazing (read:  addictive)!  And if you don't feel like cooking your own chicken, I'm sure one of those rotisserie ones from the grocery store will do just fine (but please try it on your own - its SO easy and so much better for you - that way you can ensure your bird is hormone/drug free and not drenched in salt & fat).  Or maybe just cook up some chicken breast if that's easier - just a thought.  (but having the carcass allows you to make your own broth for the recipe instead of buying the uber salty stuff that's been sitting on the grocery store shelf for so long - double bonus!!!)  The measurements below are approximate since I do it a little different every time - feel free to adjust to your tastes as well.

Butternut Squash Macaroni

 roasted chicken leftovers
(usually about 1/2 a small chicken in our case)

1/2 butternut squash
1/2 of a smallish red onion, cut into a couple of chunks
2 cloves of garlic 
(I would do more if it were just me on the receiving end - but apparently I am a little over-zealous in the garlic department...I blame my heritage!)

S&P (to taste)
1/4c - 1/2c [homemade] chicken broth*
*see below for recipe 
1 cup whole wheat elbow macaroni (or any pasta for that matter), fully cooked according to package directions

3 strips of bacon
grated parmesan cheese, to taste

-Preheat oven to 425*F

-Cut squash in half long-ways (see dramatic photo above)& scoop out innards (aka seeds)

-Roast squash (cut side up), onion & garlic cloves on a lined baking sheet until veggies are fork tender, about 30 minutes 
(longer if you are using a larger butternut - also, the onion and garlic will be ready before the 30 mins are up so keep an eye on them) The squash will easily scoop right out of peel when it is done roasting. 

- While veggies are roasting, cut your bacon up into small bits & cook till crispy.  Transfer to a paper towel. 
-Puree veggies with 1/4c chicken broth in a food processor.

-Add a more broth if you like until you get the texture you want for your sauce.  
(I like mine less runny than most...more of a paste, really!)

-Salt and pepper to taste.

-Combine cooked pasta, chicken, crumbled bacon, and butternut sauce.

-Dust with parmesan before serving.


I probably should have shared this next recipe first, since it's sort of on the ingredient list for the first recipe (sorry - my head is sometimes usually up in the clouds).  At any rate, with a whole chicken just hangin' around in your kitchen,  you may as well make a batch of broth with the carcass - you can never have too much broth in the winter (read:  soup season)!  It is SO easy to make - please try it! 

Homemade Chicken Broth

1 chicken carcass (<--wish I could think of a more pleasant word, carcass sounds kind of gross!)

Seasoning/Veggies* used to cook said chicken
Veggie scraps**
(* & ** = see clarifications below)


LOADS of time
(at least 4 hours, I would say - I usually let it do its thing for the better part of a day)

*re: Seasonings/Veggies:
I cook my chicken using a sliced up lemon, some herbs, onion & garlic - if I plan on making broth with the chicken I hang on to those bits that it cooked in and throw them in when making broth for added flavor.  

**re: Veggie scraps:
I've heard that some people hang on to veggie scraps (peels, ends etc) and freeze them until they've accumulated enough to make veggie broth or add to the mix when making other types of broths.  I imagine these would be aromatic veggies (carrots, celery, onions, etc).  Though I've never tried it myself (so I can't vouch for it from personal experience), it may be a good option to add flavor to your broth if you don't cook your chicken with anything (or perhaps just went the rotisserie or chicken breast route).  If you try this, let me know how it works out for you!  :)

-Place carcass & veggies etc in a large pot & cover with water 
(I used 10 cups of water this last time - it boils down some, so you don't actually end up with gallons of broth)

-Bring to a boil

-Simmer on low for 4 hours plus

-Once done, let cool & strain out all the 'bits'

-Cool further in your refrigerator then skim the solidified fat off the top

-Use immediately or freeze in serving sizes suited to your family size (we do 1c to 2c per jar)

That's it!  Easy, right?  And its not even labor intensive - you just have to do it on a day when you'll be kicking around the house long enough for it to "broth."  

Happy Cooking!

Monday, January 10, 2011

and with that begins the new year

wow - what a week!  we got home from our Christmas trip exactly a week ago and things are just starting to settle down.  the day we arrived we unpacked and did Christmas with my side of the family (more on that soon) then kicked off the work week with nothing else crossed off the to-do list.  we didn't even get around to shopping for groceries until yesterday (i had cleaned our cupboards out prior to leaving - you can imagine what our food looked like over the past week ...banana chips dipped in peanut butter, anyone?) 

but perhaps the most unsettling thing for me was driving to work on tuesday morning to see smoke billowing out from behind our building and police tape everywhere.  apparently the IGA just two buildings down from ours had broken out into flames just a couple hours before and by the time I had gotten to work, the scene looked something like this: 

the firemen and policemen were such troopers - they worked hard all day long in the unbelievable smokiness.  thankfully, nobody was hurt - the police have deemed it suspicious though.  it still seems surreal.  (i keep wanting to go grab something at the IGA only to remember that its not there anymore)  the rest of the week was a blur, to be honest - i probably only remember this because i have pictures of it...and i can walk up the block and see the pile of rubble that is left of the IGA.  anyway, its off to bed for me - i'll hopefully get a chance to post again soon about our Christmas away from and at home! 
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