Saturday, January 12, 2013

Recipe of the Week (And My Stance on Food)

My first venture in blogging was a food blog called One Sassy Chef.  I love everything about food:  learning about it, cooking it, eating it (especially the eating it!), but I've decided it's time to say goodbye to One Sassy Chef.  Keeping up a food blog requires much more time and effort than I have to give right now, and I feel like that neglected space of the internet is staring at me accusingly each day, so I need to close up shop.  I'd rather spend time blogging about more than just food.  I like the freedom this blog gives me to do whatever I want to do, but since I'm a total foodie and I'm always trying new recipes and experimenting in the kitchen I know I can't walk away from food blogging completely.  So I'll just post one recipe here each week.  It'll be something new that we've discovered or an old favorite that finds its way into our meal plans over and over again.  Whatever strikes my fancy.

It's hard to talk about food without putting it into a category (low-fat, low-carb, clean eating, etc.).  There always seems to be a new nutrition claim out there.  Let me tell you how I approach cooking for my family.  Last year I read several books about the food industry, most importantly In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.  I believe wholeheartedly in his message.  The book has wonderful information, and although I think he gets unnecessarily sarcastic and condescending, I believe his conclusions are 99.9% accurate.  However.  (You could feel that "however", couldn't you?)  However, I live on a budget of less than $100 per week for groceries.  Most weeks I'm lucky if I have $50-75 including diapers and household items like toilet paper.  We cannot eat only locally raised grass-fed meat or purchase only organic dairy.  I wish we could, and if you can I think you should.  But we can't.  So over the last year I've had to figure out how to balance my convictions with my financial reality.

I try hard to put healthy, unprocessed food in front of my family.  I don't buy many packaged foods or pre-made ingredients.  I buy pasta, rice, cereal, tortillas and tortilla chips, frozen waffles (I hate making waffles!), canned tomatoes, and occasionally canned beans.  Everything else comes from the produce, meat, dairy, bulk grains, or freezer (veggies/fruit) sections with an occasional convenience food purchased in desperation (granola bars, frozen pizza, a can of soup).  We eat clean most of the time, but I'm not a fanatic about it.  I buy organic produce when the price is comparable.  Most of the time I use whole wheat pasta, but occasionally I crave good old fashioned plain pasta.  Most of the time I make my own sauces/marinades, but occasionally I'll buy a jar of something.  We don't eat sweet things very often, but when we do I make the real thing with sugar and butter and flour.  I read labels, educate myself, and work within our budget.  I take an "everything in moderation" approach.  In other words, I don't believe that a meal with regular pasta every 10-14 days will have a disastrous effect on my health.  It becomes unhealthy when that regular pasta replaces fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein on a regular basis.  I believe in common sense.  My only absolute is my refusal to consume artificial sweeteners (aspartame, splenda, etc.).  That being said, now you know the type of recipes you're going to find here.  Most of them don't fall into a "bucket".  I'm not advertising this as low-fat, low-carb, 30 minutes or less, paleo, clean eating, or approved by the Fad of the Week Dietary Association.  There won't be a pattern.  I believe in cooking and eating good food.

So let's get to the good stuff!

This week it was cold and rainy which is pretty usual around here, and I got a serious craving for soups and stews and one-pot, slow-simmered meals.  This one hit the spot just perfectly.  It's a recipe from One Sassy Chef that I've pulled over here.  It's spicy and hearty and the perfect "raid the meat freezer" kind of meal.  It's my Jambalaya.  Substituting chicken sausage for pork sausage or chicken breast for chicken thighs won't affect the flavor much, but it will change how well it reheats so you might want to make less if you go that route.  I serve it over brown rice and garnish with chopped green onions and freshly shredded parmesan cheese.  A crisp green salad on the side makes it a meal.

Sassy Chef Jambalaya
Serves 8 (or 4 hungry Cajuns)
Printable Recipe

1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
1 pound andouille sausage, cooked and sliced thin (If you can't find andouille you can use hot Italian sausage)
1 pound small shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups diced onion
2 cups diced celery
2 cups diced bell pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2-3 Tbsp Cajun seasoning
1 Tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 (28 oz) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup basil chiffonade (click the link if you don't know what I'm talking about)
1 Tbsp Tabasco or Franks Red Hot
Salt to taste

1) Heat a very large deep skillet or Dutch Oven over medium-high heat until it's very hot.  Add 1 Tbsp olive oil and heat until it shimmers.  Add the chicken thighs and cook until no longer pink.  (I usually season the chicken with salt and pepper but that's optional).  Remove the chicken its juices to a bowl and set aside.

2) Add the sausage and saute until browned and hot.  Remove the sausage and its juices to the the same bowl as the chicken and set aside.

3) Add the butter.  When it is melted add the onion, celery, and bell pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until for 5 minutes until the veggies start to soften.  Add the garlic, Cajun seasoning, thyme, and bay leaf.  Cook 3-5 minutes more until the vegetables are very tender.

4) Pour in the tomatoes (with their juices) and the chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook (uncovered) for 15 minutes.

5) Add the basil chiffonade, Tabasco, and shrimp.  Stir to combine.  Cook on low heat until the shrimp are pink, 5-7 minutes.  Add salt to taste and serve.

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