September 12, 2010

Los Falcones - My First Digital Story

Well, I know that I have been really absent from my blog lately but it's for a good reason! I've finished my dissertation and have started a new collaborative diablog on feminist pedagogy with my good friend SLP called "It's Diablogical! A Collaborative Diablog on Feminist Pedagogy." Check it out! It's a great new project I've been a part of!

Also, I am defending my dissertation tomorrow. I am a little scared but I'm sure it will go fine. I'm posting my digital story that I will share in the open part of my defense. Please check it out around 9:30am and you can pretend that you're there with me.

I promise to be back on food blogging sooner than later. A and I are officially making the move to Fargo! So, I'll be in a new kitchen but will have some innovative ways to talk about the food as I play around with using final cut to edit some pictures and/or video together for my food blog posts!

July 03, 2010

Happy Fourth of JULY!

Yes, that's totally how my mama says it, total emphasis on the JULY as opposed to the usual emphasis being on the fourth. I spoke with my mama today to get her recipe (which she aptly titled Grandma's famous baked beans - you can surmise which grandma that comes from) for my fourth of JULY festivities tomorrow. It's not the holiday that holds importance per say, but it's more like the fun times and special place in my heart I have for the fourth of JULY because of my mom's love of it. Every year when I was younger, my mama would pop about four rounds of popcorn, salt it and put into a brown paper bag that she would staple up for the trip to Kirtland Air Force Base. As we traveled in our red Ford Aerostar van, we would go through security to find our patch of grass, lay our blanket and watch the fireworks, eagerly snapping the staples off that brown paper bag and digging into to the best popcorn that only my mama can make.

Fast-forward to my older years, joined by my two younger sisters by this point, the C-Family Fourth of JULY extravaganza became a family tradition. Let's be real, I love my country, but not blindly - it's the love of a place that has the potential to be so great, but has been proven over and over not to quite live up to its potential ya know? Anyways, when I was older we would often host our own firework shows in the comfort of our own home, either with sparklers on the back patio, or the full blown rate your favorite firework program orchestrated by my dad. So, all this is to say that I love the fourth of JULY because of my mama and the warm feelings I get inside when I celebrate it in my own way every year. Last year, I had an awesome 4th with A's mom and step-dad in the lovely Moorhead. Perhaps next year we'll be there over the holiday, but as for now, A and I are celebrating in the comfort of our Minneapolis home. Trying to sooth Sandie who gets so jumpy with those firecracker noises. I'll be making turkey burgers, corn on the cob, and the aforementioned baked beans tomorrow for dinner along with some delicious summer cakes.

As I've already posted the turkey burger recipe on here, I've decided to post the meal I made this evening instead. It's a variation on a recipe in my Maryana Vollstedt's "Easy Suppers" cookbook and I am a huge fan of a single pot meal. I prepped my veggies ahead of time and it was super quick to throw together. The worst part was waiting for it to bake in the oven for 50 minutes, so I gave A a pickle as an appetizer and she was able to hold out. This meal got a 5 (A's rating scale - meaning I received top marks) and I suspect that this will be a recurring meal for us as it was so easy and very filling yet nutritious.

So - without further ado - my own take on my Mexican-Inspired Chicken and Arroz (as adapted from "Mexican Chicken" recipe in "The Big Book of Easy Suppers.") Click for recipe print out.

I started by browning some chicken breasts in my Staub dutch oven about five minutes on each side until they were browned, in about a tablespoon of olive oil. This was already my first deviation from the recipe's suggestion, it called for 6 boned and skinned chicken thighs, which may have been more economical, but A doesn't really love the dark meat as much as I do, plus, we all know that the white meat is better for you yada yada yada. I removed the chicken after browning to a plate and in my same pot began sautéing my vegetables.

At this point, I had already deviated again from the recipe, I guess I'm a troublemaker like that, but I was not about to add an entire can of tomatoes and then salsa to the recipe because the entire thing would taste like a giant tomato and since I don't really have any salsa I love (besides my own - but clearly I do not have time to be whipping that up at this exact moment) I used one large jalapeño instead and sauteed it with the other veggies - that being one small yellow onion, and half a green bell pepper, along with three cloves of minced garlic. As I mentioned before, during my awfully productive day today I chopped these veggies already after whipping up some jalapeño, cheese cornbread to go along with my main dish here (see final picture) which made making the dish really quick and easy.

After the veggies were softened and cooked for about five minutes I added in 3/4 cup of long grain white rice to the mix. It was about this time that the animals came to investigate and A started saying "I'm hungry!" Which resulted in the pickle appetizers.

Exhibit A

And, Exhibit B

Or maybe that's Thing 1 and Thing 2 - I digress. Quickly after adding the rice, I added one can of diced tomatoes, 1 and 1/4 cup of chicken broth (a 1/4 cup more than recommended since I didn't have the moisture of the salsa I put some more in and also kept the remaining half of my can to moisten my rice and chicken 3/4 of the way through cooking it). I also added 1/4 teaspoon of cumin and salt (each) and allowed the flavors to marinate and cook for 2 minutes.

After combining all the ingredients I put my chicken back in and tried to bury it under the rice and veggies to allow it to retain as much of the liquid around it as possible.

So, I threw it in the oven at 350 degrees for right around 50 minutes. When it was at the 40 minute mark I opened it up and flipped my chickens as well as added about 1/4 cup more of chicken broth to avoid scorching the rice and then allowed it to finish up in the oven. When I took it out it looked like this! How yummy, the smells were divine, but it retained so much heat it was hard for us to dig into!

I totally chuckled when I pulled this out of the oven and the main three colors I saw were red, white, and green, not to be confused with this nation's flag colors, but the flag of la raza. I found this to be a perfectly fitting day-before-the-fourth-of-July meal.

Well, at least I put it in a blue bowl right? Now, off to clean that kitchen and get it ready for all of tomorrow's festivities. Our friend N is coming over for dinner and fun, so it will be a busy day of cleaning and cooking. But it will be worth it, as many of you know, familia is something that is really important to me, and so even though I'm not with my mama, my dad and my siblings, or even A's mom and step dad, to be with my little family of A and Sandie and JoJo and N brings a smile to my heart. Happy Fourth of JULY everyone, now go light something on fire.

March 03, 2010

Writing a dissertation is hard OR Why I really appreciate my crock pot

So, if I have any readers left after a month long retreat from my blog I want to assure you, of two things: one, I am actually still eating and/or trying to feed A, Sandie and JoJo and two, I've missed my blog terribly. Part of the reason I created this blog was to try to provide some stress relief for myself not to mention, as a distraction from the sheer panic that writing a dissertation can do to a person. Cooking and eating have truly become a refuge from the overwhelming stress - and this blog has been instrumental in helping me when the other writing becomes too much to handle. There are few things in my life up to this point that I can honestly say have been truly difficult, and writing a dissertation is currently topping the list. If it's not the solitude and the doubts that what you are creating is any good, the panic of looming deadlines and a total lack of funding and job security for next year will get you. And so, as my lighthouse in the storm I go to one of my go-to meals in our home, pulled pork barbeque sandwiches. The beauty of this is that you can get it ready in the morning and after a entire eight hours of writing a complete organizational nightmare of a chapter you can rest your weary eyes and refuel with a meal that can be left in the crockpot and doesn't need your attention for the rest of the day. I also enjoy the beauty of the pulled pork because you can use a variety of ingredients and still achieve a deliciously tender meaty meal that also serves as leftovers for your next day of dissertation writing. 

The cast of characters includes a crock pot (although to be honest sometimes I am too lazy to go down to the basement to retrieve it and if I am going to be home I also cook my meat on a low temp in the oven in my Staub), and some seasonings to adorn your meat. Some people like to sear the meat to lock in the flavor and really create a crispy crust on the outside. I have found if you're going to pour barbeque sauce over it you don't really need this step. If you're going to be fancy and just let the seasonings guide your way then sear each side of your pork shoulder before putting it in the crock pot to simmer. 

I always start with rinsing my meat and patting it dry. I put it on a cooking sheet to keep it contained. Also because I do a bit of a dry rub on it this helps keep the spices from flying all over the place.

I first applied a layer of olive oil and then generously salted the pork. Then you can use whichever spices you wish to flavor it. I used cayenne pepper, and garlic powder along with black pepper. Rub it on all sides, this is oddly therapeutic and also gets me in the zone for writing. At this point I like to say a little thank you to the animal that gave its life so that we could have nourishment. When you're rubbing a pork shoulder or any other large piece of meat I find it's pretty difficult to detach yourself from the fact that an animal was killed so that you can eat. Deep but true.

After applying your oil and spice rub place it into your crockpot. This is my favorite part, add a beverage to ensure that your pork stays moist throughout the eight hour cooking time. This time I used a miniature can of Coke but I also sometimes add about half a bottle of beer. I use whatever I have on hand, I've also been known to use a root beer if I have it in my fridge. Generally the flavor of the liquid is not really imparted into the meat, it really just acts as an agent to keep the meat moist over the long cooking period. Rest assured (besides the generous amount of barbeque sauce that I added at the end) the meat did not taste sweet despite the addition of a sugary sweet Coke. This picture is making me want a Coke in a real bad way though!

At this point you can also be creative with what you have in your kitchen to throw into the crock pot. I have placed onions and garlic cloves floating in the liquid to add a depth of flavor to my meat, I have also been known to add in a chopped jalapeño or two as well. Be creative and see what can happen with the flavor, the beauty of the crockpot is that the flavors will slowly infuse into the meat much like a marinade but they don't tend to be overwhelming. I am not sure the science behind this but I promise you can throw a few different things in here to experiment with as you make this.

So, after six to eight hours or until your pork reaches the appropriate temperature measured by your meat thermometer it will probably look something like this. Don't be alarmed, this is normal, and slightly unattractive. Although, it's a lot tastier than it looks I promise!

Potatoes are also a great go to item if you're busy writing for the day. I've found these little starchy gems to be good for writing in between their start and finish time. Mashed potatoes need to be boiled (and for some reason it takes forever for water to boil on my stove) baked potatoes take about an hour in the oven to cook, so potatoes provide plenty of opportunities for writing in the cooking process. These are the types of foods that I have really been reaching out for lately. Such as, bread, you can be amazed how motivated you can be to write in between the time you put your loaf in the oven to bake and when that timer buzzes. It's a great game to play with yourself to see if you can make it further than the night before!

For this meal I thought I could use some left over yukon gold potatoes I had laying around. At some point I really want to do a blog post on potatoes, when I was growing up I only knew of one kind of potato, Russet - that was it! I know this is specific marker of class that I am really excited to explore at some point, but today I made yellow golds because now that I'm an "enlightened" grad student I know about the diversity of potatoes ha! Anyways, I decided to make the Pioneer Woman's crash hots because they are really delicious and because you pretty much can't mess them up and because they go great with barbeque. It's like having your own little self contained (much healthier for you) potato salad to accompany your sandwich! But, you need to use small potatoes (reds, new, multi or yukon gold) for this. I halved them and boiled them for a few minutes to soften them up. They go into the oven and cook a while so you don't want to boil them until they start mushing in your pot.

Meanwhile, make sure you take your meat out and let it start to cool for at least twenty to thirty minutes. Believe me, you do not want to pull hot pork, it burns!

After boiling your potatoes for about ten to fifteen minutes (until just tender) lay them out on a baking sheet and drizzle olive oil over them and salt and pepper them.

Then, taking a fork or a potato masher gently press down on your potato half until is smashes but trying to keep it's skin attached to its insides enough. This is turning out to be a very graphic description of the food today, sorry about that! But you want to kind of keep it so you can just scoop them off of the pan after you bake them in the oven. I think I baked these on 450 degrees for about 20-25 minutes while my pork was cooling. You want to bake them until their tops are crispy and golden brown.

Meanwhile it's time to start pulling that pork. Some people use forks, I just use my clean brown hands. A deserves the photo credit for these next shots. She was in charge of documenting these steps because when you're pulling pork with your hands it's a pretty messy endeavor, obvi.

About this time the animals will start to flock to you. Sandie's little ears perk up as soon as the first pull of the pork happens and she comes running.

This is what your pulled pork will begin to look like as you continue shredding it. It should be easy to do and oddly satisfying.

And then your demon cat JoJo will come around the corner and want some meat too!

Toast your buns in some butter. I put A in charge of this part which is why there is a little puddle of butter accumulating in the corner of my lodge pan.

Toss your pulled pork with your sauce of choice. I really want to make my own barbeque sauce one day. Perhaps this will be my reward for finishing my dissertation. I don't have the time to experiment with barbeque sauce making techniques right now, honestly I only have a limited time to be in my kitchen these days and even less time to think about creative stories to accompany my recipes. But it is all worth it in the end, because A told me this was one of her most favorite meals. And this meal is pretty inexpensive - the fairy chef would be proud! Thanks for hanging with me despite my infrequent postings. I will try to be better but I can't really promise that I'll be back every other day. I am trying to defend my dissertation in three months - I don't know if it's possible, but in order for that to happen it means I unfortunately don't have much time to eat, sleep, or write anything besides my dissertation. But I'll try to be back, I know my readers miss me. Make this pulled pork and think of me...