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Fiesta Arroz Con Pollo
Fiesta’s Arroz con Pollo

Today’s post is not sponsored, but more of a love letter to Bolner’s Fiesta Spices Company. If you like a good chicken and rice, you’re reading the correct blog today.

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Hi, again, Dear Readers:

If you’re in Texas, you probably look at Fiesta Spices like you look at the shelves when you shop–it’s in every grocery store, everywhere. Of course, it is, because the company is in San Antonio, and their spices are widely available throughout Texas. But when you find it in the middle of Louisiana, where Hatch chiles are not embraced, that’s something to celebrate.

I can get a small selection of Fiesta spices and products at Albertson’s, which includes their River Road brand of Cajun-style spices. I had no idea that River Road was a Texas company until recently.

BF’s Seasonal Mantra

Yes, he’s saying it: “I hate cold weather!” Repeatedly, and more often if there is an implication and/or inference of snow in the forecast. Despite my sincerest hopes, snow has not made an appearance, and for this BF is happy. However, despite the incredible Arctic chill, we’ve fared well. And as BF is fond of saying, “it gets cold in the piney woods.” He’s not kidding, either–it was 17F when that cat showed up five years ago.

Still, the closest thing I get to a fireplace is streaming on my Roku through YouTube or another streaming channel. I look for the ones with music, but there are some with just the crackling sounds. PlutoTV’s fireplace channel is now just a loop of commercials until Christmas.

For many years I’ve asked BF for a space heater that looks like a fireplace. I’ve shown him multiple available models that look and feel like a fireplace but don’t carry as many risks as a real one. We could even build a nice little wooden mantel for it and put the “fire” inside. Nope–didn’t think it was a good idea.

But last week saw the purchase of exactly that–a space heater with a fireplace-like inset. We got the last one at Walmart. All the rest of the heaters were gone in anticipation of the sub-freezing weather. Obviously, last year’s big freeze is still on everyone’s mind, both here and in Texas. I use it in the back room where it gets really cold, and the pit bull pulls his little cushion in front of it to stay warm. Awwww. . . .

Powerless

Sure enough, last week we woke up to no power. The weather was fine, just really cold. BF got up, started the camp stove like he’s done many times before, and got cracking on bacon and eggs for us. After a short phone conversation with his brother, he went back to sleep. He had to go to work at noon. Meantime I started dusting because I don’t need power for that.

Entergy said the power would be back about 9:30 am, which came and went. About 11 am, I asked him to please get the generator set up so I could plug in a heater. He dragged it to the house, filled it, and started it up. I went inside to get an extension cord, only to see the ceiling fans start turning. Nevermind! I flipped the switch to turn it off and that was the end of it. BF was out in the shop snickering because he knew what happened. I plugged the heater in for the back room, the HVAC system kicked on, and he went off to work.

BF also purchased another indoor heater this week, one that runs on the same propane bottles as the camping stove. It will keep us from freezing if we have another outage, and no need to go into town for petrol if we don’t need it.

Mr. Heater propane heater

And it works well, too, because we tested it.

Since it is winter, though, we always need something warm and comforting for dinner. Luckily, I found something that’s easy and fast.

Finding Fiesta Spices

Living in Texas as long as I did, I got used to buying certain things. When I moved here, I had to find what I needed locally or order it online. Ask our mail ladies how many packages they handle from all over the US with my name on them.

A few years ago I found in Winn-Dixie one spice brand I used to buy, but not many of the Mexican variety. What am I supposed to do with a tiny bottle of cumin?

I always bought Fiesta because it was there, it’s good stuff, and readily available. I brought a fair amount of it with me when I moved. Leave Texas and the brands are all different–and you can’t always get those big containers of ground cumin, coriander, and chili powder. Then one day I stumbled on Fiesta Spices in Hammond. Oh, Happy DAY!!

It was kind of an accident–I went into the Albertsons to look for something Rouses didn’t have available. I walked down the spice aisle and there it was! A whole section of the shelf of JUST Fiesta Spices. And River Road, too!!

I was so happy, I didn’t know what to buy first. (I think I bought a big container of chile powder.) BF stayed in the truck while I went into the store since he’s not enamored with grocery shopping. Really. He’d rather not be bothered with grocery shopping, ever.

Foodies Of Instagram

In the quest to make a good dinner for both myself and BF, it’s frequently a hit-and-miss proposition. Really, the thing I think he’ll dislike is the thing he asks for again. And the thing I think he’ll enjoy is what he’ll turn up his nose at, loudly. (“She’s tryin’ ta kill me!”) But this time, things went well, and all because of an innocent Instagram post a couple of weeks ago.

I follow a myriad of people and companies on Instagram, including some food bloggers and culinary celebrities I’ve mentioned here. Jen Fisch of Keto In The City and Emilie Bailey, The Texas Granola Girl, are two of them. Others include Stephanie O’Dea, Ina Garten, (The Barefoot Contessa) her protege Lidey Hueck, Rachael Ray, Valerie Bertinelli, Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) plus her two daughters, and of course, the Goddess of the Home, Martha Stewart.

I originally joined Instagram to follow sewing maven MimiG, who occasionally posts foodie stuff, some of it in sponsored posts. I also follow her talented sewing/designing husband Norris Danta Ford, both of whom are very nice folks. Since then I’ve followed more like Emilie Bailey and Jen Fisch, both of whom are active on IG.  I even follow a couple of personal injury lawyers who produce interesting video content. Many will answer questions if you ask (the lawyers don’t give legal advice) and interaction seems to be easier on Instagram.

Of course, food companies are all over Instagram, including Caulipower, and a Texas favorite, Fiesta Spices. And that’s where it started.

Fiesta’s Instagram

So this particular day, the folks at Fiesta Spices posted a picture of Arroz Con Pollo, or Spanish chicken and rice. The post (and the recipe) featured Fiesta’s Spanish Rice Seasoning.

screenshot of Arroz Con Pollo on Instagram

Oh, don’t you want some?

That sure does look good. . .so I asked:

Screenshot of questions on Instagram

They answered.

Dinner is solved! The recipe is also on Fiesta’s website.

We had another reason to head to Hammond, and a quick trip to Albertson’s was added to that trip. There it was, the Spanish Rice Seasoning right on the shelf. Also got some chicken thighs on sale, broth, and promptly forgot the cilantro.

Bottle of Fiesta Spanish Rice SEasoning.

Found it!

Recipe on side of Spanish Rice Seasoning bottle

There it is!

Wait, hang on–you mean they have it in the big bottles? For $8.72? Yep, that’s good to know.

Making Arroz Con Pollo

This couldn’t be easier to make, and it’s faster than the jambalaya BF insists upon making occasionally. (I know, keto what?)

Ingredients for Arroz con Pollo

The setup

BF isn’t a fan of chicken thighs the way I am, but that’s been the least expensive option lately:

Two bags of chicken thighs for the freezer

Ready to freeze.

Ideally, boneless and skinless chicken thighs would be the best option, but I got what was on sale and just removed the skin myself.

Skinless chicken thights

Usually, the bones fall off anyway, but not this time.

Just get all your ingredients together, and get started.

Arroz con Pollo setup

The setup, part 2

I used my chili pot, and it worked perfectly. First, add the olive oil:

Adding oil to the pot

Not a whole lot

Then start frying the rice in the oil:

Toasting rice in oil

Just like this, until it starts turning brown

Then add in the tomato sauce:

Adding tomato sauce

Just like that, 7 ounces

Then the seasoning:

Adding Fiesta seasoning to pot

One tablespoon

The 2.5 cups of chicken broth:

Adding chicken broth to pot

Instead of just water.

Carefully add the chicken thighs:

Adding chicken thighs to pot

Just lay them on top

Cover and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the chicken is cooked. I think.

Covering pot with Fiesta chicken

And don’t mess with it, either.

I actually don’t know how long I cooked it for, I just looked at it a couple of times. I cut open one of the chicken pieces, and it was done. Might have been 25 minutes, but of course, the chicken is the barometer. You can add a little more water or broth to the rice if needed.

When you open your pot, this is what you get:

Fiesta Arroz Con Pollo

Oh, YEAH!

The rice is deliciously cooked:

Fiesta cooked rice

Just like that.

And you’ve got a tasty one-pot meal that’s on the table in less than an hour.

Feeding Arroz Con Pollo to BF

Now comes the scary part: will he like it?

Two plates of Arroz Con Pollo

Arroz con Pollo a la Fiesta, or Spanish Chicken & Rice

I’m happy to report that it was a two-thumbs up! BF really enjoys this dish and will be happy for me to make it again. I better order a restaurant-sized bottle soon. He’ll keep me around for this one.

Arroz con Pollo could be a perfect dish for our Valentine’s Day “dinner and a movie” night.

Now that I think about it, I bet you could make this in the Instant Pot, too, although maybe not using the pressure cooking function. I’ll have to fiddle with it and see how it works. If the power goes out, I can plug the IP into the generator, saute the rice, add everything, and then cook it normally until done with the glass lid. Maybe pressure cook it for 15 minutes? I’m thinking ahead to the next winter power outage, and if we can do this on the generator.

What Happened Next?

Two days after this success, Fiesta posted a picture of a spatchcocked chicken seasoned with their Chicken Rub, featured by a different poster.

Spatchcocked chicken

Featuring their Chicken Rub

As you can see, I also mentioned the previous night’s dinner from their post. And when I went to Hammond the next morning to run errands, I picked up a bottle of their Chicken Rub for us.

Bottle of Fiesta Chicken Rub

There it is!!

A few days later I took two chicken thighs out of the freezer and used this chicken rub:

Two chicken thighs coated with chicken rub

Ready to roast

I forget what else I made with it, but BF enjoyed this dinner and said I should make it again.

Two winners in a week! (Although BF may soon complain that he is “clucking” from all the chicken.)

Fiesta’s Tamale Kit

During the holidays, lots of companies have online contests for different things. In the case of Fiesta Spices, it was a bottle of this or a that. Not expensive things, but it was fun, so I entered and tagged people every day.

Then on December 19th, at 8:37 in the morning, I got a message on Instagram from Fiesta. I won their Tamale Kit!!

Fiesta Tamale Kit

Here it is, right from the factory in San Antonio!!

As requested, I sent them the address, and it arrived on December 28th. Woo hoo!! But checking their website, it’s out of stock right now. So I guess I got the last one.

Now for the bad news: making tamales is a long-term commitment. Seriously. Lots of labor and a little hand cramping. But done correctly, well-made tamales are delicious. At this point, I don’t know when I’m going to be making our own tamales. When I do, I will need to get a Food Saver to freeze five dozen of them. Meantime, Texas Tamales will have to take care of our cravings for real tamales.

Buying Fiesta Spices

If you’re in Texas, you already know where:  your local HEB, Kroger, Food Town, Randall’s, Fiesta Mart (the grocery store chain, I miss them too), and every other little place that sells Hispanic foods and goods. Toss a quarter in any direction in the state of Texas and you’ll likely find at least a few Fiesta Spices products.

Locally, there are two stores I’ve found that carry Fiesta Spices. The first is Albertson’s in Hammond. Chances are the other Albertsons carries them too, but I’ve only been in the Hammond store. Amazingly, the Walmart in Covington also carries a huge selection of Hispanic foods and spices, and I believe they had some as well.

I don’t remember seeing Fiesta products in Los Primos last year, but I may have also missed something. In my defense, I was just wide-eyed at all the wonderful things from Mexico they have. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, but I should make more Salsa Macha soon.

But if you’re in a place like, say, Idaho, chances are Fiesta Spices aren’t something in your regular grocery store. For that, you have the option of a) buying from their own website, or b) ordering from their Amazon store.

Prior Exposure

Now, this wasn’t the first time I’d ever had Arroz con Pollo, nor will it be the last (now that HE likes it.) My mother had a complete set of The Betty Crocker Recipe Collection, circa 1971. In it was a recipe she used, sort of, and made many times when we were growing up–Arroz Con Pollo.

Recipe card for Arroz Con Pollo

This was one of the few I remember her making from the hundreds of cards.

If I remember correctly, she didn’t use pimientos or olives:

Back side of recipe card for arroz con pollo

The 1970’s version of haute cuisine.

It was pretty easy, so that was the draw, plus everyone ate it. The recipe was scaled down for a family night dinner for six. But we didn’t know it was simply Spanish chicken with rice. This was New Orleans in the 1970’s, before Paul Prudhomme and Emeril and all that.

Recipe “collections” like these were sold as a small package bought monthly for a small price, and the storage box usually came with the first package. Over a year or two at that price you’d have the entire collection in your kitchen. Most people didn’t add up the total cost of these little “collections” that you bought for a small sum every month. My father bought the whole thing for my mother, and I only recall that recipe ever being used. Maybe one day I’ll go through all the cards and if there’s anything else that rings a bell.

Then one day, about 15 years ago (and probably more) my mother decided to get rid of her Betty Crocker Recipe Collection. I convinced her to give it to me instead of tossing it in the trash. As a fan of the always amusing and occasionally crass Vintage Recipe Cards website (also on Instagram), I might actually use one of these recipes one day. But nothing with aspic, gelatin, or other “gourmet” techniques of the day. Occasionally recipes from this collection show up in the postings.

Until Next Time

If you’re looking for something new and different for dinner, Fiesta’s got you covered. Their website has a huge library of recipes featuring their spices and products, both Mexican and Cajun. Let’s face it, a muffuletta has nothing on these Fishing Sandwiches.

Wait. . .did someone say Chorizo? Hang on, is that an Overnight Oatmeal recipe?

There are also keto recipes featured, and guess what? The links take you to The Texas Granola Girl’s website! These were two of the many recipes that feature Fiesta Spices (and of course, sponsored by the company.) Keto Deep Dish Pizza and Keto Shrimp Etouffe look like two dishes I need to try really soon, especially the second one. Oh, wait, there’s a Mexican Shredded Beef recipe for the Instant Pot.

Wonder if he’ll *almost* want to yell at me as he wanted to the first time I made the Wheat Belly Gumbo recipe.

Another warm and delicious vegetarian recipe is coming, along with a couple of cookbook reviews and another Spencer story. Right now, we all need warm comfort food, and I’m looking for more of those too. Don’t worry, spring is on its way, and soon we’ll be watching the Gulf of Mexico again. Meantime, make some delicious Arroz con Pollo and find something funny to watch.

Happy Dining!

 

 

Shishito growing on vine
Have You Tried Shishito Peppers?

Shishito peppers really are a thing, and I’m not swearing. They’re delicious, and generally not hot. 

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Hi, again, Dear Readers:

Just popped in for another blog post, this time on something new I can’t believe I discovered. Thank heavens for streaming and Philo TV.  Shishito peppers are a new item in the US produce market, and of course, I’m one of the last people to know.

Let me tell you what’s been happening.

A Zucchini Recipe

If you’re seeing lots of zucchini, I have a simple recipe for you. The inspiration is out of the book from which my favorite cheesecake comes, The 30-Minute Low-Carb Cookbook by Pamela Ellgen.

I had some leftover roast chicken and zucchini. I flip open this book and there is this recipe using pesto, chicken, and zucchini.

You have my attention. 

So I read it and realize that I have the ingredients, including the basil and other ingredients for pesto. I probably have 25 containers of pesto in the freezer dating back to 2018 (or maybe 2017.) Why should I make more? (I will, because I need to cut the basil soon.)

The recipe calls for spiralized zucchini, but I don’t have a spiralizer. What I do have is a Norpro Apple Master, which does much the same thing.  Sort of. I’ll get a spiralizer one day, OK? For now this is what I have to work with.

Two cups of cooked chicken are called for, and so I managed to pick and chop exactly two cups from the chicken carcass in the fridge. I used some of the recently made tarragon butter. BF really enjoyed the chicken, and it was really tasty, but he didn’t want to know what was in it.

Once I finished with the zucchini (cutting the cores into matchsticks and cleaning the machine), I sauteed it in a tablespoon or so of olive oil for two minutes. Then, I added in the chopped chicken, sauteed for another couple of minutes. Then I added in an entire container of my home-made pesto from 2019, which was I presume to be a cup, but I think was more. It was the first one I grabbed when I opened the freezer. It was probably too much. Next time I’ll just use measure out one cup.

Well, when I finished it, this is what I ended up with:

Pesto Chicken And Zucchini

It’s so GREEEN!!!

The recipe also suggests serving it with additional Parmesean cheese (because you would have put some in the pesto) but I forgot to add some.  It was delicious as-is, and if you’re a fan of zucchini and pesto, this is highly recommended for a quick dinner.

If you don’t have chicken already cooked, you could also pick up a rotisserie chicken (or chicken parts, if HEB still sells them that way) or cook a couple of thighs in the toaster/convection oven, air fryer, or heck, even poach it if you’re really in a hurry.

It’s low-carb, gluten-free, and without cheese, it can be dairy-free, too.

BF’s reaction to this delicious dish was to exhibit another of his retching noises.

Speaking Of Him

We’ve had another flora and fauna fiasco.

It seems that although BF remembers his Dad having a garden and a bounty of fresh produce every year, he doesn’t remember everything. I should have seen this early on and paid closer attention to what he was doing.

BF wanted some green beans, and he planted them. These beans grow on vines, and so at some point, he asked for a stake to let them grow up onto. The corn, watermelon, beans, and potatoes were pretty much BF’s domain, so I didn’t ask questions.

Last week after our garden massacre, I was out there looking for the cucumbers, zucchini, and any peppers ready to pick. Pulling up more dead cornstalks, I thought to myself, “we should have been picking those beans by now.” I look over at one stake, where I saw one bean before, and realize that it’s about dead. Not only are there no beans, but there are also no leaves.

On the other stake, there were plenty of leaves and little purple flowers. No beans, just flowers, and leaves. That’s when I realized it.

He Staked Weeds

The next day I brought him outside to ask him about it, and said, “Show me the beans.” He turned around and walked inside without a word!

I pulled out as much of the weed as I could find, and there was a considerable amount. Even off the stake, there was so much that it was like pulling a heavy quilt off a bed.

When I got inside, he said, “you don’t have to be so judgmental.” I wasn’t trying to be, but if it was indeed, planted beans, I want to harvest some.

I’m not mad at him–it’s actually funny. So now I ask him, “where’s the beans?” It’s along the same lines as asking, “didn’t you pay the light bill?” when we have a power outage like we did this past weekend. (Yes, we paid it early and everyone else was out of power, too.)

Well, anyway, we’re nursing some tomato plants. The Chocolate Cherry plants have flowers and are looking good so far.

We really need to get an earlier start next year.

On another note, the wife of one of his car-guy friends posted a picture of something they cooked out of their garden. BF mentioned that this friend keeps his garden free of Mother Nature’s creatures with the use of an electric fence. I like it.

The Shishito Discovery

As always, I’m watching Ina Garten while sewing, and it’s a show I’ve never seen before.

She starts talking about this tasty appetizer and these little peppers that you just saute up and eat, seeds and all (skip the stems.) They’re not big, about the size of a lipstick. Picked green, they’re sweet, but if left to turn red, they’re hotter.

Ina also says that there is always an occasional hot one, and she seems to get that one.

So I did a little reading on the subject. Although Ina says they are from Japan, they’re actually grown all over Asia. They’re small, with thin walls, and cook quickly.

Of course, nobody has them here, but I remembered them when I saw the plants at Tractor Supply. 

Growing Shishito

If you’re in Houston, you may be lucky enough to see these small, spark-plug sized peppers in Central Market, select HEB stores, Rice Epicurean Market, Whole Foods and maybe Trader Joe’s. This being Louisiana, I can’t imagine where you’d find any unless you were in a bigger Rouse’s, or maybe Whole Foods, since they sell Hatch chiles in late summer. And of course, they would be in Baton Rouge or New Orleans–IF you found them at all.

But in our case, the local Tractor Supply store had some, and I grabbed two of the plants. I was on my fruitless search for more Anaheim chile plants, but I really wanted to try these.

Oh, am I glad I did!

They took a while to start producing. But once they did:

Shishito pepper with bell

To the left are some Anaheims and one little bell pepper called Tequila.

I just let them grow for a while, but one Friday night, I realized I had to pick them. The larger of the two plants had so many peppers that it was tipping over. I picked them and came inside to find the recipe.

Turns out the recipe is in Ina’s last book, Cook Like A Pro. I’ve used this book for several recipes, but this recipe passed me by. It’s my first introduction to these delicious peppers.

Fast And Easy Saute

Of course, I didn’t take pictures, but it’s a quick one. You can find the recipe here on The Food Network’s website.

But it really was simple, you saute them on a fairly high heat with olive oil. While they cook, add salt and pepper. Remove them from the heat, squeeze over some lime juice, sprinkle on some flaked sea salt, then toss. (Yes, I have Maldon’s Sea Salt as well as a few other types.)

I had to do them in two batches because I didn’t have a really big skillet. No matter.

One of BF’s car-guy friends was over, and we were also having some Texas Tamales. BF offered him some tamales, and I asked him to try one of the peppers. He had one of each, and loved both.

No, BF didn’t want any, but I did:

Tamales and shishito pappers on red plate

A truly diverse, multicultural dinner!

My little surprise was that there were no hot peppers in the bunch. I ate some of them that Friday night, and the rest I ate with dinner a couple nights later. NO HOT ONES. Woo hoo!

Ina’s Next Book

The next Barefoot Contessa cookbook comes out in early October, titled Modern Comfort Food. She announced it on social media a few months ago, and Clarkson Potter moved up the publication date by a couple of weeks because of the current events. We all need comfort food, yes? 

Has the fair Ms. Garten discovered alternate waffle maker recipes? It seems so–in the description, it says:

In Modern Comfort Food, Ina Garten shares 85 new recipes that will feed your deepest cravings. Many of these dishes are inspired by childhood favorites–but with the volume turned way up, such as Cheddar and Chutney Grilled Cheese sandwiches (the perfect match for Ina’s Creamy Tomato Bisque), Smashed Hamburgers with Caramelized Onions, and the crispiest hash browns that are actually made in a waffle iron!

It’s gonna be great. All of Ina Garten’s books have delicious food with great directions, so this will also be a good one.

If You See Some, Get Some

When I went looking, I noticed that Giada de Laurentiis also has a recipe for these, but she makes a “baked salt” with olives to go with it. I haven’t tried that one yet. Like Ree Drummond, Giada is doing her show at home. I’m catching up with all my favorite shows as I can, hence Philo TV.

A Google search will turn up more results for you, like this blog from Paleo Scaleo. Jessica is in South Carolina, and also grows them herself. I will be saving more of the seeds before the season is over so I can grow them again next year.

Don’t forget that if you buy them, you can save the seeds in a Ziploc bag and start them next year. Ditto for Hatch chiles. That’s always my plan.

Shishito peppers are a delicious thing to have, whether you’re snacking on them in front of the TV, or serving them at your next cookout or dinner party (whenever that is, right?) They’re healthy, gluten-free, low-carb and keto, so why wouldn’t you? Just make sure you have some dairy milk around, even skim, for the possibility of a hot one.

Don’t worry about BF. He’ll either come around one day, or he’ll keep eating ravioli from the can. He likes that stuff.

Enjoy!

Cooked chicken tarragon with sweet potato fries
Last Night’s Dinner With Tarragon

What to do with that tarragon plant in the garden? I found something to start with.

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Hi, Again, Dear Readers:

After I published my June Updates post, it dawned on me that I could do something right then with some of the tarragon: a compound butter. Then it became digging out that lone chicken breast from the freezer and cooking it with the compound butter, and adding some cut sweet potato fries.

Hungry yet? Let me tell you how I did it.

The Realization

I was actually walking the dogs when I realized that I could do this. Compound butter!

If you’re not familiar with compound butter, it’s simply a stick of softened butter with some herbs, spices or other flavorings mixed in. They can be savory or sweet, depending on what you want to use it for. There’s a longer explanation here on The Pioneer Woman’s website with some recipes. You can always make a recipe on your own.

But I didn’t have a recipe, it was mostly for using some of the tarragon. And it was easy!

I let the butter soften up for a while, and just dropped it into a bowl. You don’t want to melt the butter, because then you have to chill it and let it get malleable again.

I simply cut two stalks of the tarragon, washed them, and began chopping it with a big, sharp knife, until it was very fine. Dumped it into the butter, mixed it up well, and, voila:

Tarragon butter mixed in container

Tarragon compound butter.

I added a small amount of salt for taste–like maybe 1/8 teaspoon of that salt. Just taste it to make sure it has enough, but not too much, to your taste. And mix it VERY well, of course.

Making Dinner

At the same time I took out the butter, I took out the bag with the lone chicken breast in it and let it thaw as well. It was just a plain, boring, flavorless chicken breast on its own.

chicken breast on cutting board

That doesn’t look terribly exciting, does it?

Because it was damp, I dried it off:

Raw chicken breast in paper towel

This gives a better surface for the butter to stick to.

Using two small spatulas, I dug some of the butter out and dropped it on to the chicken and rubbed it on each side:

Compound butter and chicken

It looks easy because it IS.

Then I added it to a baking sheet with some cut sweet potatoes coated in a bit of olive oil and salt:

Sweet potato fries on baking sheet

Just the perfect amount

Once I got the sweet potatoes in one layer, it was ready to bake:

Chicken and sweet potatoes on baking sheet

It was just enough for me, but you could always make more.

And because I wanted to eat soon, I heated the little oven to 425F. It was ready in about 25 minutes.

Freezing The Remainder

Now, this “recipe” didn’t use the entire stick of butter. If I were cooking for me and BF, or more people, I probably would have used the whole thing. But this time, it was just me, and I froze the rest. You could also do this if you were making several types in advance.

Get some waxed paper, parchment paper, or butchers paper, and plop it down on the paper:

Tarragon compound butter on waxed paper

Just like that, but it’s not ready to freeze yet.

Because it’s soft but not melted, you can turn it into a roll, just like on the Pioneer Woman’s website:

Rolling the compound butter into a log

It takes a small amount of fiddling and rolling, but it’s easy once you get the hang of it.

Now roll it all the way up and twist up the edges like a Christmas cracker:

Rolled up butter in waxed paper

Twisting the edges keeps it in place for when it freezes

I stashed mine in a freezer bag to hopefully prevent freezer burn.

Tarragon compound butter roll in freezerbag

That’s all there is to it.

If you wanted to store multiples, just use a felt-tip pen to write the type on the waxed paper. You don’t want to mix up tarragon compound butter with orange honey butter, right?

When you’re ready to use it, just slice off what you need to add delicious taste to anything you’re cooking.

Dinner Smells Good

About the time I finished this up, dinner was ready. I plated it and it was perfect:

Cooked chicken tarragon with sweet potato fries

It was delicious!

The chicken was perfectly cooked, tender and moist, and the butter also made it over to the sweet potatoes. Maybe I should have left off the small bit of olive oil, but it tasted fantastic.

Where was BF, you ask, when I was making this deliciousness? He was at work, and got a pizza for his “pit crew.” He came home with three slices left of it for lunch.

Tarragon Gifting?

Ok, not everyone is going to appreciate a couple of branches of the plant–that’s OK. But I did do some checking on Pinterest for some more ideas.

I also discovered that the tarragon I’m growing is called Texas/Mexican tarragon. (Being a naturalized Texan, I bought it.) It’s not the French tarragon we’re used to buying. I found the plant. . .somewhere, and stashed it in the ground when it was time to plant. No complaints.

Tarragon vinegar is a longtime favorite, and I may check into making some of that. I did that once, a long time ago, so maybe it’s time to do that again.

Tarragon oil may not be a good idea for long-term storage because of the possibility of bacteria. I learned that back in the 90’s when I made seasoned bottles of vinegar one year for Christmas. I had fun collecting wine bottles from one lady I used to know in New Orleans–she drank a lot of wine and kept me supplied with empty bottles for months.

I also saw a reference to adding tarragon into pesto, so next batch, I’ll be trying it out. I have plenty of basil to work with, trust me.

Maybe compound butter as gifts? It’s an idea, and it’s quick. Just have to make sure it stays frozen until use.

That was just a quick glance at Pinterest, I’ll do a more in-depth look soon. If I have to start making gifts now, it’s a great time to do so and have them ready for the holidays.

Which will be showing up sooner than you think.

Need a dinner idea tonight? Here you go–try some tarragon compound butter on your next chicken, turkey or other poultry dish for a delicious herb taste.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Dinner
Cookbook Review: The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook

Italian food fan? I’ve got the book for you! Prefer easy, quick meals? I’ve got a new book for you, too!

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Remember the two free cookbooks I received last week? Well, I used the first one over the weekend. I also had two surprise dinner guests who didn’t know they would be taste-testers. I also heard from Neighbor E, who was visiting our HEB over the weekend and had. . .free ice cream! Oh, the things I miss here. Let’s get started!

National Ice Cream Day

Ok, somewhere, it became this holiday, and I heard about it on Facebook. HEB brought out a truck to the Clear Lake Marketplace to celebrate, and Neighbor E was kind enough to send some pictures.

HEB Ice Cream Truck

Next to Blue Bell, HEB ice cream is one of the best. Ask anyone in Texas!

I’m sure that in the heat of this summer, everyone was happy to see that when the arrived.

HEB Ice cream float

Look! An ice cream float! On wheels!

Is that not a happy sight?

HEB ice cream truck

There was ice cream all around.

Speaking of friendly faces:

Miss Lei in HEB

Look who it is!!

Hi, Miss Lei!! I was so happy to see your face when he sent me this pic. Hang on, what were you serving?

Speaking of friendly faces, Neighbor E enjoyed his ice cream and hammed it up with one someone from the local aerospace community:

Neighbor E with Astronaut pic

Looking good, Dude!

Loved this picture too.

Ahh, HEB ice cream. . .another thing to look forward to one of these days.

The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook by Francesca Montillo

As I mentioned last week, I was gifted two cookbooks by Callisto Press, and this book was one of them. I really like this book, even though it doesn’t have as many pictures as one by Giada de Laurentiis. It has good food and some pictures, as well as good info. That’s a good one in my book (pardon the pun.)

When I explained it to BF, I reminded him that “Italian food isn’t all about spaghetti.” We’ve been to Olive Garden a few times, and he responded, “If you’ll notice, I order the Alfredo.” As in Fettuccine Alfredo, and that’s still like spaghetti, and it’s PASTA. I giggled at him and explained the difference. He looked at me funny, as usual.

The introduction answers the question, “What Is Italian Cooking?” Ms. Montillo goes into the regions, and the different things you’ll find in each. “When it comes to Italian cooking,” she says, “the quality of ingredients far outweighs quantity.” I wholeheartedly agree. Italian food in Italy is cooked in this fashion, while Italian food cooked in American kitchens tends to have more ingredients because it can. Everything is clearly explained, with cooking time, designations like “kid friendly,” “family friendly” and “30-minutes or less.”

The Accidental Dinner Party

Let me say here that I always appreciated Neighbor E’s honest input when I tested recipes in Houston. And that I’m going to test his resolve now, but will post the recipe soon.

So, Sunday BF was home, and asked his cousin from Mississippi to come for a visit and help him work on a car. He did, and I figured I’d cook for him. At some point, I went outside and asked BF in an officious voice, “has this man been notified that he will be used as a taste-tester?” He was, but right before I began cooking, he was called home. The man lives about 30 minutes away, just north of the LA/MS border on the “L” part of the state, so it wasn’t like going back to Houston. But he had to leave, and then it was just me and BF.

I worked until 7 pm, and then got started right as he left. When it was ready, he said, “Oh, JE is here!” Say what? Yes, JE and his wife J dropped by to drop off a motor for BF to evaluate. They drove up from Baton Rouge, about an hour away. Now, he gets those calls frequently: “I’ll drop by after while,” and they never show up. But not this time!

I was getting hungry, annoyed, and it was getting late, so I sat down by myself and had some of this delicious chicken. When I was finished, BF walked in and said, “I’ve got two more taste testers for you!” Again–say what? He invited this husband and wife to dinner!

Let me say at the outset that they are very nice people, and I certainly didn’t mind them coming to dinner. As a rule, I’m not really happy to get surprises. But this one was good, and they enjoyed themselves. They didn’t even know what I cooked up, unless he told them “chicken.”

Saltimbocca alla Romana

Dinner was from page 103, Saltimboca alla Romana, or “Jump-In-Your-Mouth Chicken.” That, Ms. Montillo says, is what “saltimboca” means. I also made the stir-fry broccoli from one of Suzanne Somers’ cookbooks to go with it.

Broccoli stir fry

A quick stir-fry with olive oil, toasted sesame oil, frozen broccoli, garlic, red pepper flakes, and a quarter-cup of soy sauce

But the chicken is the focus here, so I won’t bore you with the broccoli stir fry.

Ingredients

The Setup. The prosciutto was already in the freezer

The recipe calls for 4 thin breast cutlets that are pounded out to a 1/8″ thickness. Of course, this was the day Walmart didn’t have any, so I asked BF to get whole boneless/skinless breast pieces. I cut them flat:

Slicing chicken breasts in half

Sometimes you have to make do with what you can source when you don’t live near HEB (Photo courtesy BF)

And pound them a little:

Pounding Chicken flat

Hit it, but not too hard (Photo courtesy BF)

And then slice it in half:

Breast half slices

Just like this. It doesn’t come out perfect like the cutlets (Photo courtesy BF)

Next up is a light salting (kosher salt is fine) and adding the next step:

Chicken and sage

Fresh sage from the HeatCageKitchen garden!

Then top each with that paper-thin prosciutto:

Chicken topped with ham

Handle the prosciutto with care, it tears easily

Then dredge it in flour, and carefully shake off the excess. In this case, I used coconut flour, the same stuff I used in Gumbo La Casa. I could have also used oat flour too, but this was what I put my hands on first:

Coconut flour

Just a half-cup

Grabbing the first dish I could find, I started coating the chicken, which is difficult when you’re trying to hold the prosciutto and sage in one place.

Flouring chicken

Just a little coating, not a full breading.

Cooking The Chicken

Once you’ve done all that, it’s time to fry them in a pan with two tablespoons of butter and three tablespoons olive oil:

Butter and olive oil heating in the pan

A good start to any chicken dish!

Although the pan was big, I had to cook them two at a time:

Chicken cooking

Cook prosciutto side down first

At this point, BF started talking to me, and I forgot to take additional pictures. But what you end up with is this when they’re finished cooking:

Cooked chicken

This is what it looks like out of the pan

Then you add to the pan the other two tablespoons of butter and the quarter cup of broth and let it boil. Put the chicken back in the pan for a couple of minutes in the sauce, and it’s ready.

Another thing I did differently was to put a cover on the pot so the chicken would cook faster. They were cooked and done but didn’t have a “crust” on them like they would if the pan was uncovered. Didn’t affect the taste at all, and BF said it was just fine.

The Reaction–Dinner Is Served

So, this is what we all had for dinner:

Dinner

A delicious dinner is served

Understand that these two drove an hour from Baton Rouge, and, as I was told later, were actually talking about where they were going to get some dinner when BF invited them in. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

They take two bites of the broccoli and tell me that it’s really good. The husband takes a bite of the chicken, looks up, and asks, “are you married?” We respond: “no.” Husband: “She cooks like this and you ain’t married? You better marry this one!” We were laughing at that one, but normally, it’s one of those topics not for discussion. We didn’t mind, but I think he’s going to take BF ring shopping one day.

Dinner was three thumbs up, plus I liked it too. BF and I knew what the broccoli tasted like, but nobody knew what the chicken would be like.

Dessert

I didn’t make a dessert, but BF bought one of those frozen “chocolate silk” pies when he thought his cousin would be having dinner with us.

Well, I asked them to try a bit of my favorite Yeast Free Brownies. Once they did I explained that they were made with oat flour, coconut oil and erythritol, but no sugar. Two thumbs up, and the husband said that you’d never know it didn’t have any sugar in it.

Then BF cut the pie and brought each of them a piece, which they didn’t refuse. Needless to say, J&J left very happy–and full.

Success!

I’m sure J&J will be back for dinner again one day, so I’d better make sure I have a menu ready and in my pocket for them. Many thanks to them for sticking around for dinner, giving me another opinion, and great conversation that lasted a little later than we should have been up.

I’ve got another book to review and try, this one on Keto, so that will be in an upcoming blog post.

Meantime, if you’re interested in delicious Italian food you can make on a weeknight, quickly without a lot of ingredients, check out The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook by Francesca Montillo, priced at under $20 (last time I checked.) You’ll be pleasantly surprised by a fast, delicious dinner that’s as good or better than any takeout you can find.

Buon Appetito!

Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili

Do you like chipotle chicken? I’ve got more slow-cooked good for you today: Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili

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Hi, again, Dear Readers:

How’s your week so far? Thinking about dinner? Thinking about some slow cooking this week? You’re in luck.

I’ve got a good one for you.

I’m still writing on Upwork, and although the big project has cooled off for a bit, I’m still at it. This past week has been particularly busy, and so have the slow cookers at the Casa de Rurale. We’ve had a pot roast, some lima beans, some of Stephanie O’Dea’s Chicken with 20 or 40 Cloves of Garlic, and an unexpected new favorite.

Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili

I’m still getting Stephanie’s emails every day, but some of them are, shall we say, not suitable for our purposes. Last week she sent out this recipe for Thai Coconut Soup. If it’s your thing, go for it. I started reading it, and I see that it includes coconut milk. First thought: “no way he’s going to eat this.” Then I saw that it includes 1/2 pound extra firm tofu, cubed. And then I thought, “no way I’m going to eat this!” So that was the end of that. But I’m holding it in my back pocket for April Fool’s Day, along with a couple of other irritants for BF.

Chicken & Garlic

I managed to find a package of on-sale cut-up chicken in Winn Dixie the other day, and I was pulling up my email in the store so I could find the recipe for Chicken with 20 or 40 Cloves of Garlic. Turns out I only needed. . .garlic and chicken. So one night, that’s what we had. Really, really good chicken, and not strong like you’d think , but BF gave me a funny look when he saw all that garlic. It’s a slow-cooker version of a classic French dish; this is Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa version, although, admittedly, I’ve not made this one.  I posted a comment on Facebook about how good it was (BF was working late) and three people asked for the recipe and said they would be making it. It’s pretty straightforward, so I’m not reviewing it here. Go try it, it’s darn good. Thanks, Stephanie.

So what *are* you talking about today, Amy?

No, the recipe here is another chicken dish that came to me via Bloglovin. You’ve obviously seen my header about it, and of course, you can find this humble blog with many others on that site. I get an email every day about “blogs you need to read today,” but I can’t say I read them all. I primarily get blogs about sewing, but this particular recipe was in one of the daily emails.

And I talked BF into letting me make it. He did not regret his decision.

Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili

It started with a packet of chicken thighs and a busy day.

Despite getting up early, things didn’t go exactly as planned, and the prep stage took longer. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s make this deliciousness, courtesy of Lisa Lin at Healthy Nibbles & Bits.

The setup. (That’s the saddest bunch of cilantro I’ve ever seen.)

Admittedly, the chicken was supposed to be breasts, but I’m cheap and use what I have on hand. Unfortunately, the chicken was neither boneless nor skinless, so guess what I was doing in a big hurry? Oh, well. At least I could get some cilantro in Walmart that night. (I so miss my HEB.)

Hunt's BPA-free cans and no GMO tomatoes

See? BPA-free and no GMO

I got all the cans opened:

Beans and tomatoes–OK, so it’s not TEXAS chili, but bear with me.

Rinsed the beans:

And dumped them into the slow cooker. Then diced a sweet potato:

Just an ordinary sweet potato.

And diced the onion. . .although not without incident. The knife slipped, and. . . .

Then this happened. And I had to finish while keeping anything acidic away from it.

It’s all REAL in the HeatCageKitchen

After adding those to the crock, there were the chipotles:

These are ancho chilis in a spicy sauce.

My Texas readers will recognize these immediately, but if you’re not familiar with them, you’ll find them with the taco shells, seasonings and sauce. You also add one tablespoon of the sauce these babies come in:

It’s called “Adobo sauce,” but no idea why. It’s not ketchup, that’s for sure!

Goes right into the pot:

 

And cumin. . . .

Ahhh, cumin. A favorite of Southwestern and Tex-Mex cuisine. (That’s why I have that huge container.)

Some salt:

These are ancho chilis in sauce.

Now the tomatoes:

Just pour right in.

Mix that all up:

Just stir it well until they’re all combined. Watch what comes next.

Enter the chicken

So, now I realize that I have to skin and debone this chicken, which, unfortunately, took a while. For this kind of recipe, I HIGHLY recommend boneless and skinless! But I got on with it:

Why does Winn-Dixie pack them upside down?

Now, this is Lisa’s little trick: don’t mix the chicken into the chili. Park them on top, like this:

Yes, they’ll sit there, don’t worry. But don’t mess with them, either.

And follow Amy’s basic rule of slow cookery: Put the food in. Put the lid on. Plug it in. Turn it on. Leave it alone.

Hours later, it’s dinnertime

 

Are you ready to eat?

Open the lid, and you see and smell this, but there’s one more step to this chipotle chicken chili:

Ready to shred

Scoop out the chicken and shred it with two forks:

Like this.

You’ll have a pile like this.

Dump that back into the crock.

These two ingredients are added last. Putting the cilantro in water and into the fridge helped:

Return all the shredded chicken to the pot, stir it again, and add the lime juice:

One more ingredient, then stir

Put it into a bowl, chop some cilantro and drop it on top, and you’re ready to eat:

Delish! (You might need salt, taste it first.)

This rich, flavorful chipotle chicken chili is good anytime you want a satisfying meal in a bowl. We ate it twice and froze the rest for another day. So far, I haven’t had any trouble freezing most of my slow cooker soups. Might need to cook and frreze more often, too.

Oh, and I forgot to buy and add corn. But it was still really good.

Caveat

The chipotle peppers and adobo sauce add spice, but it’s not really, really hot. But if you eat it hot out of the pot, the spiciness is intensified. Let it cool a bit. I still have a painful burn in my mouth!

The reluctant taste-tester

Now, BF approached this strange looking concoction with a little hesitation, (and a funny look on his face), but agreed to try it. Nothing weird in this soup, just an unusual combination of ingredients (at least, for him.) Here’s a picture of his reaction:

He likes it!

So, another win for me.

Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili is a real treat with simple ingredients that will make any night of the week special. I just keep looking for more good things to slow cook, and we keep enjoying it. That comes in handy come summer in the south!

I hope you try this soon and enjoy it like we did. The print version from Lisa’s site is here on the Recipes page. I’ve got a couple of posts in mind that just need a little research and phone calling. Meantime. . . .

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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