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.