Poaching is a lost art. As a cooking teacher, I often teach students how to poach an egg. Usually, in every class, there are only one or two people who have poached an egg before. Everyone else stares at me blankly when I say the word.
And for most of us, poaching an egg might be all the poaching we ever do in our kitchen. I recently went on a quest, however, to figure out how to poach boneless chicken breasts. They had always been tricky for me, as they quickly cross the line from "done" to "dry tough leather" in a couple of minutes during cooking. With poaching, they come out juicy, tender, and full of flavor.
Not only that, but poaching has become a go-to technique for me when I need chicken for a recipe. I can easily poach my chicken, then turn it into chicken salad, enchiladas, or anything else! Also, this method of cooking is low fat, as you are not cooking with any oil.
Here are the fruits of my experiments, people. You're welcome.
First, you get some boneless, skinless chicken breasts. You put them in a pot and cover them with cold water. Add a generous amount of salt. I think I added about a tablespoon. Poaching is also a great way to add other flavors to your food. I added a vegetable bullion cube here. You can also add lemon zest, garlic, or anything else you want to flavor your chicken. But the salt is key. It helps keep the chicken juicy.
Then, bring the pot to a boil over medium heat. As soon as the water starts to boil, turn it down to low. You will have to play around with your oven's settings to find what will produce the right temperature water. Now, poaching is not the same as simmering. With simmering, you see a steady stream of small bubbles. With poaching, you should see the water steaming and moving around, but not actually bubbling. Cooking the chicken at this slightly lower temperature prevents it from getting tough.
So, you let the chicken poach for 25 minutes. Then, take the pot off the burner and let the chicken sit in the hot water for another 15 minutes. When you take it out of the water, it will be ready to eat or put in other recipes. You won't believe the difference this cooking method makes! Give it a try, and let me know how it goes!
I squeezed out some lemon juice into a strainer, and poured it into a bottle. This little spray bottle holds the juice of three lemons. With the lemon slices, I was only using about one lemon a week, so I calculate this bottle will last me three weeks! I do have to keep it in the fridge to keep it fresh.
So, to recap: lemons are cheap, they smell great, and apparently, they make really great deodorant! This seems like one of those things that's too good to be true, but it's continued to work for me. I've had no skin reactions and I have pretty sensitive skin. The only contraindication for putting lemon on your skin that I know of is that it can make your skin more sun-sensitive. But since armpits are rarely out in the sun, I think I'm safe.
Let me know if you try this!
Dilemma: You would like to wake up on Saturday morning and have fresh cinnamon rolls and coffee for breakfast. BUT, you don't want to get up at 4 am. I don't blame you. A staunch morning person, I feel that 4 am is too early for anyone. But I'm going to show you how to make it happen!
This recipe is awesome, and I can't take credit for inventing it. It was given to me by one of my coworkers. Man, FACS (Family and Consumer Science) teachers really have some good recipes, people. But the genius of this method is that you could do this with ANY quick bread recipe you like.
Allow me to demonstrate. Step 1: Friday night. Throw the following into a gallon ziploc bag: 2 c. flour, 1 T. baking powder, 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 c. sugar. Put that bag on the counter. Go to bed.
Step 2: Wake up on Saturday. Stumble into kitchen. Preheat oven to 350. Put the coffee on. Beat together in a bowl: 1 egg, 1 c. milk, 1/3 c. plain yogurt, 2 t. vanilla. Add the ingredients in your ziploc bag. Don't overmix! It should look like this:
Oil a standard loaf pan and put the bread mixture inside:
Then, melt 2 T. butter in the microwave. Stir in 1/3 c. sugar and 2 t. cinnamon. It will make a slurry-type mixture:
(Note glowing blue light of coffee pot in background.)
Next, put the cinnamon mixture on top of the bread. Use a knife to swirl the cinnamon into the bread:
Throw that bread in the oven! Now, go enjoy your coffee for 45 minutes. Check in on Facebook. Or, go back to bed! 45 minutes later, you've got breakfast!
Now, I'd like to say "wait 30 minutes until cooled before removing the bread from the pan." But I won't. Because honestly, I never do that. This bread is totally amazing when hot from the oven. So go ahead and hack out a piece while it's still hot:
Doesn't get any better than this! Recipe is included below. I love this method for making quick breads, preparing the ingredients the night before! Let me know if you try it!
So I've been having a thing with zucchini this summer. I just love it so much. Here at the tail end of summer, there is still a lot of zucchini around in gardens and stores. So, here is one of my zucchini inventions!
Now, some people have a special machine that turns zucchini into "noodles." I don't have one of those things. It's partly philosophical: why spend money on a gadget when a knife will do the trick? And it's partly financial: I don't want to spend money on a zucchini pasta maker. If you have one of those things, I'm not criticizing you, however. I'm secretly a teensy bit jealous.
Anyhoo, you can make this dish with a zucchini pasta-maker thingie, or with a knife.
So, first, you gotta julienne that zucchini. Step one:
Cut your zucchini in half, then make 1/4 inch thick slices out of each half. Step two:
Make matchsticks by cutting each slice of zucchini lengthwise. Now, you can cut each slice, but to save time, I make little stacks of the slices, and then cut them into the matchsticks. The whole process takes 2 minutes, I promise. Much less time then digging out your zucchini cutter gadget anyway...
The other players: Italian herbs (basil, oregano, marjoram, savory, thyme, sage, rosemary), garlic, olive oil, kalamata olives, and parmesan cheese. You could omit the cheese if you're going for vegan here.
Now, I know this recipe is sorta Italian and sorta Greek. Let's think of it as Mediterranean. You could easily use feta cheese instead of parmesan here. Or put any other kinds of olives you like. This is what I had, so this is what I used!
In a medium skillet, heat 2 T. of the olive oil over medium high heat. Let it get nice and hot. Add the zucchini, 2 t. of the Italian herbs, and 1/2 t. of garlic powder.
Saute that for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. While you saute, go ahead and rough chop one large tomato. Cut a lemon in half while you're at it.
When the edges of the zucchini start to turn brown, add the tomato, 1/2 c. of the olives, and squeeze half the lemon in there:
Saute for 2-3 minutes more, just until the tomatoes get soft, but not until they are falling apart. I like the zucchini to not be mushy; it should still be slightly firm. You can add a dash of salt here, but the olives are pretty salty, and the parmesan also adds salt at the end, so I chose not to salt at this point.
And serve with parmesan cheese! (Sorry for my weird thumb on the side of this pic!) This made a lovely, light summer dinner for me. You could always serve it as a side dish with some baked chicken or fish as well. Enjoy, and let me know if you try this!
OK, there have been some requests (actually several requests from one person; you know who you are) to demonstrate how I slice an avocado. This is a quick and easy hack that will save you lots of avocado grief in the future. So, here we go:
Slice that avocado in half! Gently pull to separate the halves. To remove the pit, I gently stick the tip of my knife into the pit, and pull upward. The pit will pop right out of its "socket." Now, you can rinse and save the pits of avocados if you are making guacamole. Once the guacamole is done and in its serving dish, stick the pit into the center of the dip. This is not only decorative, but it helps keep the guacamole from turning brown as quickly. There's another avocado hack for ya!
Now, make some vertical slices in the avocado half. Do not cut through the skin of the avocado as you do this. You can also create horizontal lines, like a tic tac toe board, and this will create neat little cubes of avocado for salads!
Using a spoon, scoop out the slices (or cubes) by sliding the spoon along the peel.
And voila! Perfect avocado slices (or cubes). This trick works really well with mangos also! Enjoy, and let me know if you've tried this technique!
Ok, in most people's minds, there is hot cereal, like oatmeal, and cold cereal, like corn flakes. Now, let me be the first to say I am not a big oatmeal fan. I don't like the mushiness, the blandness; it just doesn't do it for me. But then I discovered muesli. And it's like, the best of both worlds. You get the variety of textures and flavors that make cold cereal interesting, and all the health benefits (fiber, protein, whole grains) of hot cereal. And it's completely customizable!
What is this miracle cereal, you ask? Muesli is a Swiss invention. It usually consists of a variety of different rolled whole grain flakes, dried fruits, nuts, and seeds. You then take this dry mixture and soak it in milk (or dairy free milk, or kefir) for 20 minutes to overnight. This process softens the grains, making them more digestible. It's an alternative to cooking the grains.
You can buy ready-made muesli at the store, or you can make your own grain mixture. For the sake of convenience, a lot of people choose to buy a muesli mix and then add their own milk and fruit. A number of different brands make a dry muesli mixture, including Bob's Red Mill and Nature Valley. But for me, the queen of muesli is Familia.
I've included the nutrition label so you can see the amazing 4 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein in a mere half cup! I choose the sugar free kind, but if you're not watching your sugar intake, you can also get the regular kind, which has added cane sugar.
The Familia museli ingredients are: oat flakes, wheat flakes,fruit flakes (organic whole grain flour, date pulp, apples, banana puree), raisins, millet flakes, hazelnuts, wheat germ, and almonds.
So how do we make this stuff? Here's how I do it. For this batch, I used 2 cups of muesli mix. I put this into a large Tupperware. I cut up some fruit:
I added 2 cups of almond coconut milk and 1 cup of water. I also added 2 packets of stevia, to make it a bit sweeter. If you have another sweetener you like, you can use that! It's really good with maple syrup.
When you're done, the mixture looks like this:
It does look a little watery, but don't panic! The oats soak up a lot of liquid, and it gets thicker. This particular brand has the fruit pulp added, which also thickens things up. At the minimum, you want to soak this mixture 20-30 minutes. But I often make a batch like this and refrigerate it overnight.
The awesome thing about this recipe is that muesli gets better as it sits! So, I often make a batch of it in a Tupperware, and eat it for breakfast several days in a row! It also makes a tasty lunch!
You can add any fruits you want, but do remember not to add any citrus fruits or pineapple, as the acid in the fruit will curdle your milk. You can obviously customize this to add any nuts, any sweetener, and any type of milk you choose. It's great!
Yum! I added extra raisins at the end because I like them! I suggest adding raisins right before serving, because they can get a little soggy in the liquid otherwise.
Now, if you're afraid of cold oatmeal, don't be! For most people, it's love at first bite. The different fruit flavors, the chewy oats, and crunchy nuts -- it's great! Try it soon! And let me know how it goes.
Sometimes, you have simple tools and you use them the same way every time. Then, one day you wake up and think, "What if I used that ... to do something different"? Well, that's how it was with me and parchment paper. I'd been using it to make cookies for a long time. It's great for that purpose, by the way. Keeps the cookies from sticking or spreading, adds that nice crisp texture, and makes cleanup a snap.
But this summer, I started experimenting with parchment paper to cook, well, everything. I pretty much became a parchment paper fanatic. I started out with this one:
And it works great! But then I discovered this:
And these guys rocked my cooking world. Basically, it's like a Kleenex box with sheets of parchment that are exactly the size of a cookie sheet. Now, you may be thinking, how lazy is this lady? She can't even tear off a sheet of paper from a roll! But let me tell you, something about having those individual sheets made me reach for them again and again.
It was so easy! So convenient! And did I mention cleanup is a snap?
But that's not the whole reason I love parchment so much. I think I mentioned that it makes the edges of the cookies I bake on it crispy and golden brown. Well, I discovered .... IT DOES THAT TO OTHER THINGS TOO.
Like, it makes potatoes crispy and golden brown. Roasted vegetables caramelized and full of flavor. Fish tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside. And it allows you to do this using very little added fat.
As I experimented with roasting vegetables, I found I needed at most one or two tablespoons of oil to coat an entire sheet pan of food! So this cooking method is healthy, delicious, and adds the most wonderful flavor to roasted foods.
Here are some of my experiments! I tried potatoes, naturally. I added olive oil, seasoning salt, and garlic. Baked at 425 for around 20 minutes. And this:
Yummy! I tried zucchini a number of times. I found I needed to leave it in pretty large pieces so the pieces didn't get overcooked in the oven. Before:
See all that caramel-y goodness? I also tried this:
Unfortunately, it got eaten so quickly after coming out of the oven that there is no "after" picture. But it was dee-licious.
This is my next frontier! I want to try cooking whole meals all on the same sheet pan, and somehow get the size of the veggies and the meat right, so it all cooks to perfection at the same time. So far, I've used separate sheet pans so I can cook the meat longer than the veggies, or vice versa. But I love the idea of literally throwing all your ingredients on a sheet and baking them together.
Let me know if you've tried parchment paper and how your experiments came out! Happy eating!
This is my favorite thing right now. I know I'm not the first person to do this, nor will I be the last. But it's new to ME, and I have been eating this breakfast non-stop. Here it is:
Okay, lemme explain what I've done here. It's almost too simple for an actual recipe. I use Ezekiel Bread. Which I should write a whole separate post on someday. For now, I'll just say ... it's awesome. But you could easily substitute another kind of bread here: gluten free, regular, whatever floats your boat. I pop that bread into the toaster for 3 minutes. Then, I assemble all this stuff:
I use light olive oil, nutritional yeast, half an avocado, half a tomato, and salt and peppa. After my bread is toasted, I drizzle it with about 2 T. of olive oil. I sprinkle with nutritional yeast. (Check out my article about nutritional yeast here!) Then I add slices of avocado. I sprinkle it with salt and pepper. And lastly, I put slices of tomato on top.
Side note on my avocado slicing technique: I slice the avocado in half lengthwise. Using a paring knife, I make vertical slices to the fruit while it's still in the shell. (Husk? Peel?). Then I use a spoon to scoop out the pre-sliced pieces. Pretty nifty, huh?
Now, I just want to take a moment to say: Yum!
Nutritionally, this meal has everything I want in a breakfast: high quality protein, healthy fats, and fresh fruits. (Yes, tomatoes and avocados are both fruits.) And it has none of the stuff I'm trying to avoid: processed grains and sugar. I'm not a vegetarian, but having been vegetarian for 14 years in the past definitely sways my preferences. Plant based meals are still a staple in my house! I feel better and have long-lasting energy when I eat them.
Try this out sometime soon! And let me know what you think!
I'm a school librarian, cookbook author, and longtime fan of food and literature. Welcome to my blog!