September 26, 2009

Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater!

Last weekend I was determined to make progress toward my cooking challenge goal. I did. Sorta. I used two cookbooks, but think I can only count one of them because I sorta cheated.

Well, I feel like I like I cheated because a couple of the dishes really didn't meet the qualifications for the new-to-me rule, even if they did meet the qualification for the waste-not rule.

A third dish met all of the qualifications though. That makes me feel a little bit better, but only just a little bit.

Anyhow, on the roster for last weekend's cooking shenanigans were Chicken Fricassee (this is the qualifier recipe), Curry-Coconut Chicken Tenders (cheater recipe - i've made tenders of a different flavor before) and Blueberry Muffins (cheater recipe - please. muffins? muffins?! there's nothing new about making muffins).

Both chicken recipes came from Betty Crocker's Best Chicken Recipes. This is one of a number of cookbooks I received in a previous life as a perk of my job. There were several recipes in the cookbook that looked interesting and that were very pretty in their photos.

The challenge I kept running into is that so many of them called for some sort of jarred, pre-made sauce or some such thing that I'm sure was intended to make it easier to put dinner on the table. However, this recipe approach assumes that you're not up to the challenge of making your own sauce or that you keep the jarred stuff hanging around the house. I don't. In fact, I'm not sure I can imagine buying jarred alfredo sauce. Meh...

Anyhow, the Chicken Fricassee recipe (top photo) did appeal to me (hello dumplings!) and I had all the ingredients in my cupboards already. Although, oddly enough, this Betty Crocker recipe recommended that you make the dumplings from scratch. I don't have anything against from scratch dumplings, but a Betty Crocker cookbook didn't recommend the use of Bisquick? I find that odd.

In any case, I made the Chicken Fricassee and, if you know me, then I'm sure you won't be surprised to know that I actually did make one recipe modification. I skipped the whole from-scratch dumplings step in favor of using Bisquick. Yes, I used the Bisquick. I like the Bisquick.

Once the Fricassee had simmered and the dumplings had finally cooked through, I sat down to a nice casual dinner. For never having made Chicken Fricassee before, I think it turned out pretty well. In fact, it's a dish I'd make again, especially on an overcast, damp sort of day when comfort food seems so right.

The following day, I set out to use the remainder of my chicken as an easy way to adhere to
my waste-not rule. From the same Betty Crocker cookbook, I picked out Curry-Coconut Chicken Tenders (middle photo).

This should have been a very simple, enjoyable dish. It wasn't. Due to what I'm sure was operator error, it was icky.

Let's start with the fact that even though I own just about five bazillion spices, curry is not one of them. So, I substituted chili powder. No biggie, right? Wrong. That substitution combined with the use of sweetened, shredded coconut and some other undetermined flaw led to a dish that was barely edible.

The coconut did not crisp up. I used too much chili powder. And the sum total was a bunch of chicken tenders that tasted not so good.

I redeemed the cooking adventures that day with a batch of blueberry muffins (bottom photo) using a recipe from "The Joy of Cooking: All About Breakfast and Brunch." Going against my own belief that not-Maine blueberries are bad, I had picked up a pint of Georgia blueberries along with some other berries. Having committed this egregious error, I had to use them before they went bad. I will concede that these were not awful in the muffins, but that's as much as you'll get from me.

The fun twist in this muffin recipe was using brown sugar instead of white. I liked this twist and think it might account for how moist the muffins were.

At the end of the day, I feel like I technically can say, "Check! One more cookbook down!" However, I feel like I cheated too much in making the blueberry muffins. To redeem myself, I will have to make something else from "The Joy of Cooking: All Breakfast and Brunch" cookbook.

Then, and probably only then, my guilty conscience might shut up and leave me alone.

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