Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Birthday Cake …made for me

A cake baked for me for my birthday...delicious and allergen free

As most of my blog entries, this one is about food.  And as most food, it’s not just caloric intake to satisfy some basic hunger. 

For various reasons, my birthday celebration with my daughter was a few days early.  Instead of getting some dessert that was store bought (which a tough find because I really don’t consume dairy) and would exclude Jordan (due to his food allergies), she made a birthday cake for me.  Because it’s allergen free, Jordan could also eat this cake.  She couldn’t buy commercial decorator icing (never know if they are cross contaminated).  Instead, I got unique candles. 

I haven’t had a birthday cake baked for me since I was a teen (baked by my mother).  After that I got cakes from bakeries (some real good ones).  Then once my son’s food allergies kicked in, that also ended.  I wouldn’t celebrate with a cake he couldn’t eat and I wouldn’t bake a cake for myself (pathetic). 

Cherrybrook Kitchen is a family owned business (inspired by their daughter with multiple food allergies).  The mixes are made in a dedicated facility that is free of dairy, nuts, tree nuts and eggs (so no worries about cross contamination).  So if you are not big on baking, this is a great substitute for making a cake from scratch.  Or if you hope that a family member or friend will bake you a cake for a change, drop a hint about Cherrybrook Kitchen.

After being surprised by this homemade cake, I realized that I do prefer a homemade cake to a store bought one.  There is a lot more thought and effort that goes into it.

Cherrybrook Kitchen cake and frosting for people who are not expert bakers but do want to make someone feel good

(note:  the frosting mix was made with Spectrum)

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Smell of Someone Frying Chicken*

Oven Fried Chicken

My 'substitute for buttermilk
basic ingredients (the stock is for the balsamic red cabbage dish)

the buttermilk substitute

One of the many sidedishes you can add...European style red cabbage with wine and caraway seeds

Final product
Nothing goes to waste....great easy to make chicken stock with the rest

I have not blogged for a while because I’ve been so busy.  Yet, I have all these photos we’ve been taking while I cook, but just haven’t had time to update the words to go with it (the recipe and a list of ingredients).

I’ve recently read “Food Rules” by Michael Pollan.  This is an excellent book that reemphasizes to the reader that we should just stick to real food, not ‘food like’ edible things (processed food).  It’s an easy read with some great rules.  The book also reminds us that ‘nutritional science’ is new and not much is known.  So instead of getting overly technical, the book lists some basic time proven food rules.

So, it’s Sunday.  Isn’t Sunday Fried Chicken American tradition?  I know it was sort of Hungarian tradition (at least back in Budapest in my home….unfortunately when we came here, my parents discovered Popeye’s, KFC and Church’s….not good).

Real fried chicken isn’t really all that bad for you when it’s real.  I haven’t met one person (who eats meat) that doesn’t love fried chicken.  But because it’s deep-fried it’s somewhat fattening. 

So how can one still have fried chicken without clogging their arteries and all that bad stuff?  Basic food rule: eat real food.  Fried chicken from a franchise is very unhealthy.  For example, they reuse the oil that lends carcinogen qualities to the oil.  They use over processed ingredients and horrible factory farmed chicken that due to its diet doesn’t even have nutrients that chicken has (grass fed is always better).

So here are some simple ways to get your friend chicken without the carcinogens and artery clogging qualities of franchise fried chicken.

Use real chicken-I buy organic free range chicken-the nutrients in this chicken differ from mass processed chicken.  Yes, it costs more.  But I wait for sales on such chicken.  And as Michael Pollan discusses in his book-eat less!  So ultimately it will not cost more.  Balance out the chicken meal with vegetables and other things.

Oven fry-you can still get that oil-fried flavor if you oven fry.  With just a few tricks, it will taste a lot like deep-fried.  Plus with the flavor of real chicken (yes it does taste different)-your taste buds won’t rely so much on that oil flavor.  Instead, you will actually enjoy the flavor of the chicken too.

Use parts of the chicken for making great chicken stock (this again will help you reduce the cost of the meal).

Customize the breading to your tastes/preferences.

Don’t eat the whole chicken by yourself – instead, balance it out with exciting vegetable side dishes.

Some friends tell me “I can’t afford organic chicken,” yet they can afford premium beers and drinks.  It’s just not a priority.  This is most likely because they cannot see the benefit of eating real wholesome meat vs. the cheaper mass-produced ones.  Another way to look at it is that eating out is not cheap.  If you add up the cost of wholesome friend chicken at home (made with real chicken), it is around the price of eating out, but it’s real food.   I like to eat out, but I usually have less ‘unexplained’ stomach upsets when I eat at home.  I know the ingredients, I control what to use and how much.  And of course home cooking is so much cleaner…..

Oven Fried Chicken Recipe

One real chicken (free range, no antibiotics, no hormones)
Some coconut milk (this is my substitute for buttermilk)
A few cloves of garlic

Cut up chicken – I leave the skin on for most pieces except the breast.  Since I tend to eat the breast, I debone it and take the skin off.  Jordan, who is a growing kid, can handle the fat from the skin.

Soak the chicken in some coconut milk with paprika, pepper and garlic (and any other flavor you might like).

Bread the chicken
This too is variable.  I like to bread in organic whole wheat flour, real eggs and a mix of corn meal/matzo meal with oregano.  Sometimes I use bread crumbs (finally found some without dairy cross contamination warning) or panko.  Putting some Dijon mustard in the eggs can provide for a slight hint of Dijon mustard flavor. 

My breading technique is the traditional European breading for schnitzel, etc.
Dip in: Flour-->eggs (beaten) -->breading

After breading it, I put the breaded pieces  on a foiled broiler rack (see photo).  I cut little slits where the broiler slits are so that the chicken drains while baking.  Then I take some oil (by hand) and work it into the coating of the chicken (pat it into it).  This will give it that nice fried flavor.

Bake on 420 for about 45 minutes.  The high heat gives it a crispy texture (if you oiled it well).  If it’s going too rapidly, reduce the heat (after 15 minutes) and prolong the baking time (I use a convection oven-and all ovens differ….so the heat/duration will have to be fine tuned).  It is important to initially put it in at high heat though.  This will ensure that you get the crispy quality.  If you start baking at 350 it will not be crispy.

I also made chicken stock from the bottom part…so nothing goes to waste.

And like Johnny Cash, you too can catch that Sunday smell of someone frying chicken* (you).

*Sunday Morning Coming Down, Johnny Cash

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