The little things; Fried Chicken

With the passing of a loved one you start to remember the little things you learned from them. Today I am dedicating this writing to my dad who passed away a week ago and loved his fried chicken.

So today’s topic is Chicken, fried, grilled and ummm…corn! My dad loved fried chicken and grilled chicken, as a kid any time I went to his house he had fried chicken in the fridge and if it was running low he was making more! He was a great grill cook too.

The best way to grill corn on the cob – soak it in ice cold water for an hour before hand,  leaving the stalk attached but peeling it back gently so you can replace it back around the corn, and add some butter to the corn too, before you grill it.  That trick will give you the juiciest corn on the cob.  I will never forget when my dad taught me that trick and now even my in-laws grill it that way and always credit that great corn back to my dad.

Chicken was almost his passion; he had chicken down to an art. So, what makes a good fried chicken you ask? The seasonings are key, the breading is important and the hot oil makes it all come together. The seasonings are simple for a good batter.  Add into your flour onion powder, garlic powder and a little pepper.  You can add little or lots but for me it is lots.  If I am frying up approx 4 breasts, or wings equal to about that, I’ll put in a tablespoon of each.  Since my days of learning this though I have now transitioned into fresh ingredients so today I would press in about 4 to 6 large garlic cloves and about half an onion.  If you chop your onion small you can then press it in and the juices will flavor your batter.  If you want your chicken a little crunchier mix in corn meal with your flour, half and half to heavier on the corn meal.  You don’t need an exact science on these mixtures, start with a small amount of everything and then if you run out you can mix up more. Get creative too; add herbs of your liking rosemary, oregano and basil are all good compliments to chicken.

Now you are ready to coat your chicken. This is where you will need patience, or at least I do.  Crack open a couple eggs in a bowl and beat them and pour either some cream or milk in a bowl.  Now for the assembly line to get your chicken ready to fry.  At this time you want to make sure you have a pan of oil heating up on the stove.  Place enough oil in the bottom of a deep pan so it will come up to about half the depth of the chicken, heat it on high and before you put your chicken in the oil it must be hot.  Get a little bit of water on your finger tips and fling it on the oil, if it crackles, pops or sizzles then your oil is hot enough. Oh and it is a good idea to have some tongs or a couple forks ready too because you will be flipping these over in the hot oil.

For my assembly line I dip the raw chicken into the flour mix, then into the egg (or you can brush it on lightly) then into the milk and then back into the flour mix. On this second flour dip you should make sure you coat it thick. The egg and the milk will help the flour stick to it.  Some dip their chicken into the egg first, some the milk first and some the flour first, for me I do flour, egg, milk then flour because it just works for me. You need to find the way it works for you because the only right way is the way that works for you. This is where my patience is sometimes tested, if I am doing a lot I get sloppy on the dipping and don’t coat it well which I guess is okay too though because we don’t like a lot of breading on our chicken.

As you get a piece coated place it in the oil. Continue this process until you have finished. As the chicken cooks you will see the sides start to brown, this is when you flip it. If needed you can turn the heat down now to ensure the inside of the chicken gets cooked and the outside doesn’t burn.  A trick to know when it is done is always cook an extra piece (your first piece) because then you can cut it in half to ensure it is no longer pink inside and that will allow you to gauge the timing of all the following pieces.  Then this extra piece can later me shredded or cut up for another dish.  Viola you have fried chicken.

Grilling is an art form in its own, personally I suck at it. But I can offer this knowledge; grilled chicken will still be kind of pink inside.  It is probably best to use a meat thermometer to ensure the inside of the chicken is at 160 degrees and then you can let it rest for 5 minutes or so and the temp will settle at 165 degrees.

It sounds like a lot of work but once you get thru it a time or two you’ll be able to knock it out in no time. Enjoy some chicken tonight!

 

Bright Blessings

Ruby DragonLily

The Work Night Meal

We are all so busy in today’s world. Between work, families, friends and life in general we tend to forget we also need to take care of ourselves.  One way to do that is to sit and have a good meal.  Who has time for that?  Hopefully this will help.

Place a chicken in the crock pot before you leave for work.  Add to it water (fill the crock about half way up with water) and some herbs of your choice or instead of water you can just add chicken broth.  My choices are thyme, pepper and turmeric.  For a whole chicken add about 2 or tablespoons of thyme, tablespoon of pepper and at least 2 to 3 tablespoons of turmeric.  It doesn’t have to be exact, I eye ball it.  These herbs are in there to give your chicken flavor but not necessarily give your meal the end flavor you want.  Put it on low and let it cook for 8 hours or more if needed. By now you may be asking what type of chicken do I use.  I prefer a whole chicken because then I have endless choices on what I can make and it is cheaper than buying already cut chicken.  It’s okay if you don’t use the entire chicken right away, use what you want and then you can freeze the rest if needed.  This sets you up for a future fast meal. It takes about 5 minutes to drop the chicken in the crock pot and cover it with liquid and turn it on.

Once that chicken is cooked you are ready for meal preparation. If I am in a hurry my go to is a noodle.  I prefer udon noodles because they cook quickly with less water than pasta noodles.  Fun Fact too, udon noodles are the original noodle for making ramen noodles.  Boil a little water, drop in your noodles.  While they are boiling cut or shred some of that chicken.  Drain your noodles and add the chicken.  Now you can do a couple different things to jazz it up a bit.

In a small pot pour in about ¼ cup of milk, drop in a block of cream cheese and start simmering it on a low heat.  If your pot does not have a thick bottom then place the pot inside a pan with an inch or so of water and place that pan directly on the heat.  This will allow you to heat up the milk and cheese without burning it.  This is in essence a type of homemade alfredo sauce.  If you want more of a true alfredo then add parmesan cheese but me I add whatever cheese I have in my fridge.  Add some pepper to this and a little thyme or rosemary or oregano – about a teaspoon or two each.  I add turmeric to this usually because we like the flavor of turmeric.

You can simply stop there if that is all the time you have. On each plate add noodles, chicken and sauce. My family likes veggies though.  If I am short on time I will cut up an onion and sauté it on the cast iron and add it or a nice yellow pepper or tomatoes.  Basically if you haven’t figured it out yet I cut up whatever easy veggie I have and add it either raw or sautéed a little.  By having flexibility with not worrying over an exact recipe it takes the stress out of cooking.

This entire meal could be made within 20 minutes if you precook your chicken in the crock pot.  This meal is also healthier for you than a frozen something you bought or fast food.  If you really start watching how long you stand in line to get fast food or pop something from the frozen section in the oven and wait while it heats up you will see in that same amount of time meals like the above can be made.  Yes, that means we all must find time for those steps to be done but I bet if you evaluate what you are doing you can find those 20 to 30 minutes.  After all, Americans, on average, spend over an hour day just on social media so maybe it is worth stepping away from it to cook a good meal.  Your health and budget will improve in the end.

Until next time, Happy Cooking!

 

Bright Blessings,

Ruby DragonLily

The Smile Challenge

In today’s world it sends me joy when someone does a good deed. We have so many negative interactions in today’s world, people are in a hurry, stressed out and just plain not thinking.  It bothers me when I smile at someone and they roll their eyes or act like they didn’t even notice.  The simple act of smiling can turn a day around. When I do get that return smile then I smile even bigger! It really warms my heart more when I smile at an elderly person and they perk up and smile back.  I walk around work most days smiling and even when I have a bad day I at least smile when someone approaches because who knows their day might be even worse than the one you are having. I have a theory that if everyone makes an attempt to put a smile on their face no matter how bad of a day they are having then the day will always end better.

At work I gave an employee a thank you for working as hard as she does and putting in the long hours to fill in and she is never grouchy and always has a smile.  You can tell she is getting tired but still she pushes on and never complains.  As a thank you I gave her our equivalent to ‘work bucks’ and she can turn those in for gift cards.  She felt bad I was giving them to her and asked for me to give them to the other employees.  I explained to her that I wanted to thank you for all the extra work she has been doing filling in for the leads that are off.  She took the bucks reluctantly but the next day came back and said she didn’t feel right and she was giving some of it out to other people and she wanted me to pick who.  I told her if she wanted to do that then she needed to pick who to give them to.  She liked that.  Now keep in mind while you are thinking about this, it was equivalent to $200 and she could have gotten that much in gift cards to use anywhere she wanted.  She told me just me smiling and saying Thank you was indeed enough for her.

The point of my story is to remember to be happy it doesn’t take money it takes pushing the negativity out of your soul.

I challenge you this week to smile even if you are having a bad day. Smile at people as you pass them, smile even if you are waiting in that long grocery line, smile and laugh a little when that idiot cuts you off and when someone presents something negative to you smile back at them.  When you smile back at someone presenting something negative to you it brings positive light to a situation and will allow you to fix it easier. Do this for a few days and see how you feel. Also notice the person you are smiling at, see the sparkle in their eye and how they slowly muscle up that smile and know you did that!

 

Bright Blessings

Ruby DragonLily

 

Cooking for flavor not for salt

Before we dive deep into cooking let’s talk a little about flavor versus salt. In today’s world everything seems to be flavored with salt or some type of MSG or sodium.  It doesn’t matter which name you go by in the end it is salt.  On average we consume over 3400 milligrams a day but we should only be taking in between 1,500 and 2,000 milligrams a day.  1500 milligrams of sodium is equal to about 3/4th of a tablespoon. That is a lot of salt! Why not add depth to your food instead with herbs? Not only do you get great flavor but herbs have healing properties and can stop something before it even starts.  You can also be bold and enjoy the flavor of the actual food itself.

For instance turmeric is good for inflammation and keeping colds at bay.  It will also help lessen the pain of arthritis.  It has a nice spice to it that is flavorful and not hot and paired with other herbs or a nice homemade alfredo sauce you will find a flavor depth that will jump start your senses all over again. Let’s not forget it adds a nice yellow tint to your food that is just festive J

A simple act of sautéing onions over a cast iron skillet and adding them to a dish can drastically change what you are eating.  Left over mashed potatoes can be changed up for the next day with this simple addition.  Onions help boost memory so why not sauté some up to go over your sauces, meat and veggies.

To add depth to any other herbs add Thyme. Thyme brings out the taste of the food and the herb allowing for a flavor that melts on your taste buds.  Thyme, Rosemary, black pepper, all are complimentary herbs you’ll want to always have on hand.  Play around with them and slowly mix a little in with different dishes to see how it can add depth.

Garlic on the other hand can compliment or stand alone. You can smash it, chop it or leave it whole.  I prefer to smash mine with a garlic press because then it is fine enough you can work it in to the whole dish.  Garlic adds a nice flavor while healing you as well.  Garlic is a natural antibiotic and will help keep you healthy in a natural way.  I always use fresh garlic because when you but powdered garlic most of the time it is salt that is garlic flavored and if it is just garlic powder you won’t get the flavor fresh garlic will give you.

Don’t discount the actual full flavor of just the food itself.  Veggies such as zucchini, potatoes, onions, bell peppers, jalapeño peppers (if you like it spicy) all cooked lightly together give a full flavor palette for a meal.   If you don’t feel like cooking add corn off of the cob, a cut up avocado, a cut up tomato and a little cut up onion to a bowl and mix it up well.  Avocado has an oily texture that will blend as a dressing and all those flavors mixed together will delight any eater.  Cut up some andouille sausage and heat it up on the stove and add to the corn mixture for a nice meal and then cold left over’s the best.  In this instance notice no herbs and no salt was added, this is pure food flavor.

Let me throw in a note about oils.  Olive oil can leave a strong flavor in your food.  If you want to change that up you can use oils such as Grapeseed, Sunflower, Safflower and others that will not leave that after taste as Olive oil does.  All of three of the above are high heat oils.

I challenge you to go a month without adding salt to your food and instead dabbling in herbs and eating foods as they are and you’ll see that after that month everything else just taste salty. The only salt in my house is kept in the bathroom for baths.  Add salt to a hot bath with a few drops of an essential oil, light a candle, dim the lights and sit back and relax the cares of the day away.

 

Bright Blessings

Ruby DragonLily