Food Friday! Because things seem more intentional if they’re alliterated, when, really, I just happen to be posting this on a Friday. This isn’t going to become a thing. I’m not that consistent, so don’t get your hopes up. Whatever, here is a recipe for Spicy Chicken and Cream Cheese Roll-Ups.

Happy Friday! These roll-ups are delicious, easy, and deceptively unhealthy! I say “deceptive” because they involve spinach, and when things have spinach in them, people tend to think they’re healthy. Therefore, you can bring these babies to a party and people will eat the shit out of them instead of the Rotel cheese dip and the mini pot pies and the chocolate fondue fountain (I have never been to a party where all three of these things exist, but one can dream). They will do this because they will see the spinach and the elegant wrap and think, “Thank GOD someone brought something healthy that wasn’t the boring old vegetable tray! I was worried I’d be eating celery all evening! Who even likes vegetable trays? What even is celery? Celery is just crunchy water! What the hell is up with that? Ergo, these roll-ups are my salvation!” And you, my heroic friend who has brought the roll-ups, can stand beside the buffet table and watch these delicacies disappear as fast as anything marked “Açaí” (those fancy letters are so exotic!) in a suburban grocery store, and you can feel confident that your appetizer is the most popular while also reveling in totally tanking everyone’s Weight Watchers points for the evening. Because in addition to the spinach, these little delights also have TONS OF CREAM CHEESE HAHAHAHAHA. You’re not a very good person, are you? No, you’re not. For shame. But your roll-ups are, like, really good. What’s in these?

chicken cream cheese rollups

Spicy Chicken and Cream Cheese Roll-Ups

  • Olive oil
  • 2 packages cream cheese (You can use the reduced fat kind, but they won’t be as tasty and you do not appropriately appreciate cream cheese, you skinny wuss.)
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cups spinach
  • 1 packet Medium or Hot Taco seasoning blend (The kind that come in the, well, packets in the Mexican Food aisle.)
  • 8 flour tortillas (or whatever strikes your fancy)
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded by pulling apart with a fork

First, cook the chicken breasts. However it is you do that. This would be a great recipe for re-purposing boring, leftover chicken breasts that no one wants to eat. If you don’t have leftover chicken and you want to make this recipe even easier, just buy a small rotisserie chicken from the store and shred it with a fork. There’s no shame in that. That’s what I usually do, because I HATE handling raw chicken. Every time I open a package of chicken breasts, I feel like I’m at the freaking Bodies Exhibit, except not everything is all neatly preserved yet. So, I guess I feel like I’m INSIDE A BODY because you know what? I AM. For some reason, chicken drives this home way more than any other raw meat, probably because they look so muscly, probably because THEY ARE ACTUALLY MUSCLES. Gag. Gag. Gag. I hate handling raw chicken on the same level as you would probably hate handling someone else’s poop. Not that you enjoy handling your own poop… You know what, I’m sorry for even bringing poop into a recipe for food. I really didn’t think that through. I apologize. But anyway, the point is I really hate raw chicken.

Another thing you could do, especially if you don’t really like the people you’re feeding that much, is use canned chicken. Yeah, I know, that’s horrible and gross and stocked in the same aisle as Spam. But, real talk: people eat tuna from a can all the time! This is pretty much the same thing, right? No? Not right? Fine. Suit yourself, chicken elitists.

Okay, here is where the instructions really start. Sorry for that tangent. I really hate raw chicken.

Right. You have some form of cooked chicken. It is shredded with a fork. Excellent.

Now, warm a little bit of olive oil in a large sautée pan over medium heat. Throw in the chopped bell pepper and saute until tender. Add the cream cheese and lower heat, stirring constantly to prevent the cream cheese from burning. When it’s starting to warm up and become easier to stir, add taco seasoning and shredded chicken breasts. Keep stirring till heated through and spreadable. Add additional spices (CAYENNE PEPPER YOU GUYS) to ramp up the spiciness, if you so desire. Remove from heat.

Spread chicken/cream cheese mixture onto tortillas–don’t go too thick, and spread it almost all the way to the edges because this is going to be the glue that keeps your roll-up together. That is obviously not what I did in the above photo. I just kinda clumped it into the middle and rolled. But do as I say, not as I do. Top mixture with a layer of spinach leaves, and roll up. You can either eat these like so, burrito-style, as your main course, or cut them into 1-inch rounds and spear them with toothpicks for a lovely appetizer, as in above, completely hypothetical party scenario.

*Note: the cream cheese mixture isn’t going to look like the tastiest thing on the planet. In fact, it’s going to look kind of like cat food. That’s what Todd calls this dish–“the cat food”–but in an excited way, as a cat would be excited about eating some really delicious cat food. Do not let this description stop you, because, hell-o, this thing is like 50% cream cheese, and if you make anything that is half cream cheese that doesn’t taste absolutely wonderful, you are doing something really wrong.

Enjoy!

I’m going to be at AWP! Also: Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Sneaky Spinach Quesadillas.

It’s been awhile. I won’t bother you with excuses because they all boil down to: I’m busy and tired and a lot of the time all I want to do is collapse on the couch and watch the entire second season of Scandal and eat my body weight in potato chips. (That is a play-by-play description of last weekend.)

POTATOCHIPS

I am not kidding about the potato chips.

Some things that have happened: I went home to Alabama for five days and saw lots of people I love and spent time with my brothers and my grandma and it was wonderful. My parents also threw a belated wedding reception/celebration for the husband and I, who if you weren’t aware ran off to Niagara Falls and got hitched last July, and it was beautiful. My aunt came down from Wisconsin to officiate a blessing ceremony, there were people there who I haven’t seen in ages, and it was an all-around incredible night. My kindergarten teacher was there, guys. No joke. Also, the open bar included margaritas because my mother knows me well. Mom, you know how to throw a party. Well done.

A sorta-blurry surprise photo of me, my mom, and my grandma. My grandma who, by the way, is a rockin' 93 years old.

A sorta-blurry surprise photo of me, my mom, and my grandma. My grandma who, by the way, is a rockin’ 93 years old.

Writing things that have happened: Not much. I have only one story currently out for submission, but I have several more in revision, so hopefully I can get those out there soon. The story I have out is really long (just under 8,000 words), and it also involves ghosts and at least one guy in a cape, so it’s been having trouble finding a home. However, almost every rejection I’ve got for it has been a complimentary, we-hope-you-send-us-more-of-your-work rejection, so it must be doing something right? (Just got one from One Story two days ago, which was awesome even though it was a rejection.) The folks at Hayden’s Ferry Review were even kind enough to ofter an editorial suggestion in their response when I submitted the story to them last year, which I ended up using when I re-edited the story for this round of submissions. Let me tell you, responses like that excite me almost as much as an acceptance. It feels so good to know that your story has really been considered and thought about, and that someone thought your story was good enough to be given that amount of consideration. And from an editor’s standpoint, I also know through my work at Nashville Review how difficult it sometimes is to even find the time to write a personal note to a submitter. That’s a special thing.

Fall-2012-2Speaking of Nashville Review, I will be at AWP next week(!) and one of the things you should come to is NR’s Off-site reading at the Back Bay Social Club from 3:30 to 5:00 on Friday. It’s only half a block away from the Convention Center, it’s free, and you’ll get to bask in some amazing words by the likes of Bianca Stone, Ben Loory, Joellen Craft, Bryan Furuness, and Rosanna Oh. So come hear some great prose and poetry and say hi! I would tell you that you would be entered in a prize raffle or something by mentioning you saw this on my blog, but you won’t. I will, however, be like, “Holy crap, thanks for reading my blog!”

Changing the subject, let me tell you a story about this one time that I tried to cook a recipe that involved grating some uncooked sweet potatoes. First you should know I have zero coordination or strength when it comes to wielding knives. Second, you should know that I have baby-soft, lily-white hands because I have had a privileged life and I am a writer and manual labor/general handiness is absolutely nowhere on my resume, unless you count typing as “working with your hands.” While cubing sweet potato for enchiladas, I have completely lost feeling in my cutting hand, I guess because of the pressure I’m having to exert to cut the damn things?, and I didn’t regain it for about an hour. While cubing butternut squash for this amazing warm salad recipe a friend gave me, I developed a huge friction blister on my palm that I didn’t notice until it popped and started bleeding because my hand had, once again, gone numb. I have also sliced my fingers a-plenty. You can tell I cooked last night if I have a band-aid around at least one finger. Cut (ha-ha punny! I’m a writer!) to me finding this recipe for Sweet Potato Quesadillas and reading, “4 cups grated peeled sweet potato (about 3 potatoes).”  I was like, no probs, I’ve got this cheese grater.

PROBS. LOTS OF PROBS.

I grated my knuckles, guys. I grated them so much. It looked like I had a fist fight with, well, a cheese grater. My husband and I probably ended up ingesting some of my knuckle-flesh. You might be thinking, “How hard is it to keep your knuckles away from the cheese grater?” And if you are thinking that, it means you don’t know me at all. I once made myself bleed while playing a game of pool. And not because I was hustlin’ and the bikers I was playing against took offense and a bar fight broke out. It was a calm, civilized game in a friend’s father’s basement game room. There was no violence. Pool is not a contact sport. And yet I somehow managed to bleed.

Anyway. The aforementioned Sweet Potato-Claire Flesh Quesadillas were actually incredibly tasty, and I was saddened that I would not be making them in the future in order to retain my fingers.

Until now, that is. Because FOOD PROCESSOR!!!!!!!

I AM FOOD PROCESSOR

Cuisinart Elite Collection 16-Cup Food Processor, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

1. Adjustable slicing disk with 6 widths.

2. Two-sided shredding disk for fine and medium shreds.

3. Three bowls for multi-tasking!

4. Dough blade and dough setting for kneading dough?!

5. Puréeing things.

6. Dishwasher safe.

7-16. ALL TEN OF MY FINGERS.

Guys, this might be the best thing that has ever happened to me, aside from meeting my husband or whatever. My life in the kitchen will never be the same. I have been having dreams–actual dreams–about all the things I can make now that I don’t have to worry about cutting off my fingers. (It also takes me a REALLY LONG TIME to prep anything that involves a lot of cutting or dicing because I have to be So. Very. Careful. But, no longer!) So, while I was fantasizing about what to make that will utilize my new food processor to its fullest, I remembered the aforementioned delicious but ill-fated quesadillas, and I knew I had my first dish.

BEHOLD, THREE UNCOOKED, GRATED SWEET POTATOES IN AROUND 10 SECONDS! AND WITH NO BLOOD!

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(The bowl on the right is cheese, which, for once in my life, I didn’t buy pre-shredded! Yay, blocks of cheese!)

It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

I also decided to mince my garlic and chop my onion in the food processor, just because I could. That, however, didn’t work out so well. What I should have done is pulse the onion a few times to chop it to my satisfaction. Instead, I left the processor running as I added it through the feed tube, which resulted in this:

IMG_5531

Onion pulp.

There is a learning curve.

I used my onion baby food anyway, though, because I didn’t have another onion. Remarkably, it turned out fine.

So, thanks to my food processor, I bring you:

Sweet Potato-Black Bean-Sneaky Spinach* Quesadillas

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(Recipe after the jump)

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I got a new cookbook! And therefore, I give you: Curried Fried Rice.

I did something special for myself a few weeks ago and bought myself the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home cookbook, which, as I understand it, is a staple of the vegetarian cooking bookshelf. I also ordered the Dear Sugar (a.k.a. Cheryl Strayed) book, Tiny Beautiful Things, at the same time, so you can imagine how excited I was when the package arrived. (Very.) They seem to go together, these two books: one containing raw, honest, often difficult advice on life and the other recipes for building a healthier existence. It was a little cardboard package of joy on my doorstep, saying Do better! To which I replied, Okay! And I’ve been doing a fairly good job, except for my requisite daily potato chip intake (dill pickle flavor, mmmmm) and finding totally transparent reasons to skip yoga. (I know. Vegetarian food and yoga. My cynical side hates me, too.) Baby steps.

Anyway. I haven’t posted a recipe in a while, but I have been cooking, I promise. I have this one, and then Sweet Potato and Spinach Quesadillas with Mexican rice, and then my super-easy Canned Food Stir Fry, and tonight I’m cooking Seitan and Green Bean Curry with Carrot and Parsley Salad (getting fancy!). Yes, I have an obvious bias toward Asian, Indian, and Mexican foods. Also, I hate Italian. Sorry, I just do. You’ll probably never see an Italian recipe on here because I think it’s generally bland, and pasta is just long rice that’s harder to eat, so what’s the point?

But back to Curried Fried Rice. I don’t have a particularly entertaining food disaster story relating to cooking ignorance or wine intake to go with this one. It’s pretty hard to screw up and turned out really well, despite the fact that I still didn’t measure the ingredients precisely, opting to go with a generous handful of spinach rather than measuring 1/4 pound and dumping in a can of diced tomatoes instead of dicing two tomatoes myself, the latter of which I’m sure is horrible in the foodie world, but hey, I’m not a foodie. I’m just lazy. So here it goes:

Curried Fried Rice

barely adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home

The Eggs:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs, beaten, with a pinch of salt

The Rest:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon curry paste (mild or medium-hot, you pick)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (or for the less lazy, 2 medium tomatoes, diced)
  • generous handful of fresh spinach, stems removed and large leaves torn
  • 4 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen green peas (or fresh, if you insist)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or more to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice (I just squeeze a whole lime in by hand, which might result in a little more, but I like lime)
  • mung bean sprouts and chopped scallions to garnish

If you don’t have 4 cups of leftover rice, cook some. The recipe calls for brown rice, and that takes longer than white (around 40 minutes total), so put the rice on while you’re preparing your other ingredients.

Have all the ingredients ready before starting to stir fry. This is important. You don’t want to be opening cans and rummaging through the fridge while your stir fry is getting all over-cooked and soggy.

In a large skillet or wok, heat the 1 tsp of oil on medium high heat and add the beaten eggs. Scramble them with a heat-proof spatula as they cook. They should be done in 3-5 minutes, when no longer runny. Scoop into a bowl and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet or wok and heat the 2 tbsps of oil on medium heat. Add garlic and curry paste and cook for one minute, stirring constantly to keep it from burning. Add tomatoes and spinach and stir-fry on high heat until the spinach wilts but isn’t soggy. Add the cooked rice and peas and cook until heated through. (This will take longer with frozen peas, obviously, so I set mine out for awhile beforehand to defrost a little while the rice was cooking.) Stir in the egg, lime juice, and soy sauce, adjusting soy sauce to taste.

Serve immediately and garnish with mung bean sprouts and chopped scallions. (Not required, but they add a great crunch to the dish, so I recommend it. You can also add chopped toasted nuts, but I didn’t, only cause I didn’t have any.)

Eat and enjoy!

 

Recipes for the Cooking Challenged: Kale and Cheddar Frittata

The other week I made this stir-fry with kale and lots of other stuff, which I christened “Tons of sh*t stir-fry,” and I had a bunch of kale left over so I perused the internet for something I could put it in to make food. Todd loves, LOVES, quiches for reasons I can’t understand because a quiche is basically a glorified omelet in a pie crust, so why not just make an omelet and cut out a ton of the hassle. But I found this recipe on Orangette for a kale and cheddar frittata, and I thought, okay, you cut it into pie slices like a quiche and it’s like an omelet but better because I can just mix everything together and let it sit there till it cooks and not have to bother with folding it. So: perfect. How can I screw that up? I’m making a frittata.

Well, turns out I can, indeed, screw that up. But I saved it with the help of Todd running to the grocery store at the last minute, and I can use my mistakes to create a valuable teaching moment, and it was good in the end so this post is maybe still worth reading.

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Tons of sh*t stir fry, including plums. Or, Wok this way. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

This week, the husband (still weird to say that!) and I are in Indiana, Pennsylvania (yes, I find that confusing, too) while he does a job, and I am drinking crappy hotel coffee (seriously. SO BAD.) and eating out constantly and missing cooking my own food like I never thought I ever would. I’ve only been for-real cooking (as opposed to, like, canned soup, which is fake cooking) for a short while, but already my body is hooked. It wants the veggies. ALL THE VEGGIES. Even Todd declared that he wanted a salad–A SALAD–last night. (My maniacal health plan is working! Bwahahahaha.) So anyway, we are both missing the home cooking this week. Reminisce with me, if you will, about last Monday’s stir-fry.

So Monday night, I decided to plunge into this actually learning to cook thing and made a recipe that included three ingredients I’ve never cooked before: kale, eggplant, and tofu. I do love an adventure!

One thing you should know about my cooking strategy is that I endeavor to become sufficiently tipsy before I do it. I’m not very good at doing things that require tedium or standing up or following directions in general (because I don’t like being told what to do), but I find that if I have some booze in me, these things are suddenly vastly more entertaining. The cooking experience becomes less like the stressful and mysterious food alchemy that it is, and more like fun with knives and heat sources. I put on music and dance around in the kitchen and drink more wine or beer or whatever’s on hand and feel capable and cultured and healthy and like some sort of life-giving earth goddess providing a bounty of sustenance to the worshipful masses (Todd). I throw things onto the stove and don’t particularly worry about the exact quantity and proportion of each, because I’m having FUN!

It also helps me deal better when things go wrong, which they almost inevitably do, because I’m new to cooking. And also drunk. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Safety advisory: Don’t be drunk while cooking.

Have you ever watched My Drunk Kitchen? It’s like that.

Anyways. Now to the cooking.

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Vegetarian by default: a not particularly moral or healthy woman’s very subjective rationale.

I’m not really a vegetarian; I just don’t eat much meat because, well, I don’t like it. If given the choice between chicken or eggplant, steak or portobello mushrooms, fish or tofu, I would choose eggplant, mushroom, and, well, fish every time. (I do very much like fish, and is it really a meat? Like, really? I think it’s more of a sea vegetable. No offense, fish.)

This is not a moral thing. I respect life. I love it. It’s great. But, you know, animals eat each other all the time. And humans are animals. So it’s perfectly natural and not immoral at all to eat you some animals, in my book. It’s the circle of life, Lion King, etc. Now, I am against the inhumane treatment of farm animals, prefer to eat local and organic, and suspect every large food corporation of evilly making shortcuts at the expense of the public’s health in order to line their pockets because I am a conspiracy theorist at heart. Chiquita Banana? Money-grubbing whores! (Just kidding Chiquita Banana don’t sue me!)

It’s also not really a health thing. I do try to mostly eat healthy, but then again, I eat an alarming quantity of potato chips, which I believe are deep fried in the fat of a thousand babies they’re so good. (Unhealthy AND immoral!) So, obviously, I’m not that concerned with my health. I’m still in my 20’s, after all, and therefore immortal.

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