Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!
Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Vegetable Dip with a Kick!

Kitchen hint:

I have memories of Mom tearing up from chopping onions and us kids just laughing and laughing at her. We knew how to push her buttons. She would then start laughing and be crying at the same time. It is one of those kitchen memories which stick with you and you just smile and chuckle to yourself  every time you think of it.  I never said I was an easy kid to live with.

Anyway, to prevent crying from cutting raw onions, several websites online state to place the onion in the freezer for 10 minutes before slicing.Check out the Ehow.com website  as an example! This will prevent sulfides from being released when you chop up that onion. These pesky sulfides are what cause your eyes to water.  I have tried this and it actually helps, although personally I feel crying while chopping onions is a right of passage for any home cook.  It also brings me back to that great memory of my Mom in the kitchen.


Mom's recipe card, SO 1970's!

Every one of Mom's parties had a cruditΓ© platter (raw veggies). My mom made a wonderfully vegetable dip with a touch of curry. It is not overly hot but it hits you with a spicy tangy bite at the end. She would serve the vegetables in the same 1970's red circular tray with a matching red bowl for the dip. These days, if I ever have a party, BBQ, or get together, I always have a cruditΓ© platter and dip set out. It's an easy addition to your appetizer table.  Get four types of favorite veggies; I often use cherry tomatoes, carrots, snap peas, and colorful sweet peppers. Add whatever dip you would like. If I am not making Mom's dip, I usually have two dips on hand, a ranch and a French dressing. For my recent Christmas Eve party, I made her dip and had a ranch dressing on hand as well.

Mom's favorite crudite' and dip platter. 

The problem was that I couldn't find any curry powder. I have every spice imaginable except CURRY POWDER! I called four friends and no one had any.  I looked up online if there was substitutes and found that curry powder is actually a spice mix, something which I had not known. Luckily, I had every spice available to make my own curry powder, something I became pretty excited about. Below is the recipe for Mom's veggie dip and then after that, the curry powder recipe I came across online. Unfortunately I do not have the link to it but there are plenty of variations out there for making your own curry powder. 

VEGETABLE DIP by Abby Deeds

2 cups Miracle Whip
3 teaspoons curry powder
3 Tablespoons chili sauce
Pepper
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½-1 teaspoon grated onion 

Mix well – chill 2 hours
Serve with fresh vegetables.
(Can be made the day prior and chilled overnight, just mix well again before serving. -Marc)

CURRY POWDER (recipe found online) 

1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder, to taste
optional:  pinch of nutmeg, pinch of cardamom powder, pinch of cinnamon
Mix well.



Saturday, January 4, 2014

Baked Chicken and an Important Cooking Tip!

Baked chicken was one of the weekly staple meals in my family. We rarely had steak and if we did it, it was almost always London Broil, sliced thin. That was for special occasions or if it were on sale and Mom had double coupons. Otherwise, chicken was king in my family. We also had fish, but back in the 70's and 80's there wasn't a great selection of fresh fish in the supermarkets, usually just flounder, haddock, or cod. I actually enjoyed fish sticks and beer battered fish filets far more!

Chicken, cleaned and ready for baking!
This was my Mom's weekly recipe for baked chicken. Simple and flavorful. These days, one might not top it with butter, opting for a healthier approach. How about drizzling olive oil?  I opted for my Mom's recipe with the butter pats. It tasted SO good! I like the combination of spices, just enough pepper and paprika to give it a zing. We always used the cheaper cuts of chicken, dark meat. Special occasions called for mixing in the more expensive chicken breasts. Personally, I think legs and thighs have more flavor and tend to stay juicier.

While beginning the recipe, I thought back to a recent online argument about washing and preparing the chicken. Should you or shouldn't you rinse and trim the pieces? The old argument was that one should rinse the chicken to "clean" it off and trim the excess fat. Health advocates now argue against that as the water hitting the chicken sprays potentially dangerous bacteria like salmonella around your kitchen and possibly on yourself. I guess I am old school and decided to carefully rinse off the chicken pieces like my Mom did. Research it online yourself and make your own decision.

While rinsing off the chicken I had a mental block which I think deserves mentioning although I am opening myself up to embarrassment (what else is new).  Mom's recipe says, "Clean chicken." Now I know that there is a "cleaning" spray which you spray on fruits and vegetables to remove pesticides but wasn't there one for chicken? How do you clean chicken? Is there a cleaning agent or just water? Now I know I was drinking wine while cooking but I wasn't drunk, I just couldn't get past this mental block.

I decided to call my cousin Jennifer to ask her. My sister Sheryl was up at her home overnight in North Jersey so I figured I would have two great cooks to answer my question.  I called Jennifer and tiptoed around asking.

"Jennifer, um, when recipes say 'clean chicken', is there something you use to clean the chicken with like ... (My voice kinda of trailed off) ... soap?"
Chicken Soap
"What!?!? Marc! Are you kidding me!? Are you serious?!"  Jen exclaimed.
"Umm .. (carefully choosing my words) well I thought there was a cleaner like for vegetables and fruit."
"Sheryl! Your brother wants to know if he should use soap on chicken!" she yelled passing the phone.
"What?!?!?" exclaimed Sheryl into the phone. 
"I am having a brain fart!!! When we clean chicken, do we just rinse and trim or is there something I put on it?"
"Marc, are you kidding me? You don't use soap on chicken."
"I just was double checking. I figured you didn't but just wanted to DOUBLE CHECK!"
"You just rinse and trim the fat off the chicken, OK honey?" Sheryl stated firmly. "Don't use soap. Just don't use soap. OK?"

"For those not so fresh "fowl" smelling days."
For the record (which got lost in translation), I was referring to an agent like pesticide remover on veggies and fruit, to help remove the bacteria not realizing that it would be killed off by cooking.  Using soap was JUST an example. It was also an example of a typical "Marc" blond moment. Thanks though to my sister Sheryl and cousin Jennifer for helping to set the record straight

So guess what arrived just in time for Christmas from my cousin Jen?  Thanks Jen! A bar of chicken soap, no further explanation needed.


Mom's Baked Chicken

BAKED CHICKEN by Abby Deeds

1. Clean chicken  (DO NOT USE SOAP -- Marc)
2. Pat dry
3. Put in glass or buttered baking pan
4. Add salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and or poultry seasoning
5. Top each piece with a pad of butter
6. Set oven to 350-375'F
7. Baste
8. Check after 1 hour then after, every ten minutes, do not overcook!