The deadline for the first pass edits of Emerald Blaze is Monday. I still have a lot to go. We edit separately, because while we write together, editing at the same time is too fiddly. The matter is a little bit complicated by the fact that I am exhausted. I lock my private Facebook, otherwise all of you would be subjected to incredible freakouts regrading this and other things. We had to cut 3,000 words, then put them in in a new way. Bunny has a cameo in this book and every time I try to edit that part, I cry.
Don’t worry, Bunny doesn’t die.
Anyway, I don’t want to talk about it or the book. Too hard. You get cooking talk instead.
I’ve cooked something every day this week and most of the last week. Somehow cooking has fallen by the wayside in the last year. We’ve been ordering takeout way too much. The weird thing is, I like cooking. I’ve been thinking about it and realized something odd: it’s not because I am too busy or too tired. It’s because I stopped doing the prep.
For years, we would go to the store and I would buy roughly two weeks worth of meat in bulk. Large trays of cut up chicken, two or three shoulder roasts, skirt steak, ground beef, etc. Then we’d get home and I’d break out plastic wrap and ziploc bags. In thirty minutes all of our purchases would be broken down into dinner portions, wrapped, ziplocked, labeled, and stored. At any given time, I knew exactly what I had in our freezer.
Knowing what was in the freezer opened a variety of options for me. If yesterday was stew day, than today could be a chicken day. I could marinade chicken in Italian dressing. (Most people over-marinade. Really for chicken, an hour or 2 and you’re good, so for me it was a same day decision.) I could do the mayo/Miracle Whip coat. I could do teriyaki. I could do honey mustard. Then, once the recipe for the chicken was determined, I would look at my sides. Miracle Whip chicken goes well with everything, so my options could be rice, potatoes, corn, or salad. If it’s teriyaki chicken, I could take it off the bone and turn it into chicken fried rice. Italian dressing chicken goes best with salad. Southwestern rub with lime would give me meat for fajitas.
By not buying for two weeks, I broke this process. I stopped repackaging and sorting, since I only bought for a week or less. I just threw stuff into freezer. I would open the freezer door and hit decision paralysis, because I wasn’t sure what we had and what we did have didn’t go over well, because we had something similar yesterday.
I guess I’ve just trained myself to do this over the last two decades and I can’t undo it now. Looks like the garage freezer is going to stay even after lock down.
Other lessons learned this week: Instant Pot is awesome. It makes amazing pot roast in an hour and fifteen minutes. It makes pantry vegetable soup. It makes great carnitas. I wouldn’t use it for stew, however. Stew needs to naturally thicken, so some of the water would have to cook out of it, and I just don’t see it happening. I mean if you did it in the Instant Pot, you would have to saute it for the last thirty minutes to get the broth to the desired consistency.
Before anyone asks, here are the recipes. It’s nothing Earth-shattering but it might give you some new options on the menu. 🙂
Miracle Whip chicken.
Enough chicken to feed the family.
2-3 tablespoons of mayo/miracle whip.
1 tsp dry dill
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Preheat oven to 375. Mix spices and mayo/whip in a small bowl. Coat the chicken. You don’t want to have blobs of the mix sitting on it. It should be just coated. Pop in the over at 375 for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the chicken pieces. This recipe does yummy things to chicken skin, but even on skinless chicken breasts it will add interesting flavor.
I often pair it with yellow rice. Traditional yellow rice uses saffron, which is expensive and quality saffron is kind of difficult to get. You can buy saffron in the States – I did – and despite using the right amount, I couldn’t taste it. Maybe they store it for too long? It’s just not the same. So I went with turmeric and seasoned salt. I put rice into rice cooker, add about 1/2 tsp of turmeric per two cups of rice, sometimes a bit more, add 1/2 tsp of Lawry seasoned salt, mix, then add my water and cook as normal. Once done, I pull the chicken apart into bite sized pieces, skin and all, toss it in there, and mix. I also add a little bit of butter or a little chicken grease to it, to make it extra delicious.
It also pairs very well with baked potato or roasted potatoes.
Requires Instant Pot
1 medium onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 largish potato
1 sweet potato
1 small butternut squash
2-3 largish carrots
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cumin
Oil for cooking
1 carton of chicken broth, about 4 cups
Peel everything. Mince onion and garlic. Chop everything else into inch size pieces or so.
Set the Instant Pot on saute, pour some oil in, and toss in onion and garlic. Cook until smells good and stuff is sort of transparent, maybe 4-5 minutes. Pour in broth. Dump all the veggies in. Dump all the spices in. Stir. Cover, press soup. Walk away laughing.
Let the soup cook and let it stand for maybe 15-20 minutes. Then open the pot, ladle the whole kaboodle into the blender and blend on lowest speed for about a minute. Should be the consistency of apple sauce.
You could do this with a slow cooker. I would say high heat, maybe 6 hours.
Homemade Teriyaki sauce.
I found this recipe online. And now I can’t find the original source of it. I’ve seen several people copy it and claim it, but that recipe was from a Japanese chef, who patiently explained that American teriyaki sauce tastes like corn syrup. It does. After making homemade one, it’s night and day. Gordon now turns his nose up at the bottled teriyaki. So this chef came up with a variation on Japanese recipe that would appeal to American palate. Translation: It’s sweet. You can try reducing the sweetener, although I don’t know if it would thicken properly. That’s why I only make it in small quantities. A little goes a long way. .
So not my recipe. I wish I could find the link.
Equal quantities of soy sauce, sweet rice vinegar, sake, and brown sugar. Throw everything into a pan or a pot. Cook until the sauce naturally thickens.
Now, I have messed with this. You can use sweet balsamic vinegar instead of rice vinegar. I’ve also used cherry wine instead of sake with great success for slightly different flavor. I’ve tried honey instead of brown sugar, and I don’t recommend it. It didn’t thicken right.
Cook the meat and the sauce separately, then combine in the last few minutes of cooking. If you’re baking chicken, brush it on and bake for 5 minutes more. If you cut up meat or veggies for stir fry, add the prepared sauce into the pan in the last minute and stir to coat. If you attempt to cook the sauce with the ingredients simultaneously, you will end up with vegetable mush, overcooked beef, and burned chicken.
Well, my break is over. Back to editing and deciding what’s for dinner.