Monday, October 27, 2014

Spicy Chicken Stew

I don't even really know what to say about this besides I love soup and stew.  All kinds.  The only kind of soup I don't fancy is gazpacho.  I've tried, believe me.  It's cold.  Cereal should be cold.  Not soup.  Maybe one of you can rock my world with your famous gazpacho,  but for now no I don't like it.  I dare you to wow me. 

This recipe is really  a one pot wonder.  Last Thursday Kevin made chilli,  which I also love.  The spice in it was awesome,  and it really inspired this recipe.  Kevin and I are kind of on par with our cooking abilities,  except that he thinks outside the box even more than I do.  His cooking is always unique,  and yummy.  I've never been unhappy with something he's made me.  And come on, he's a man who can cook.  What is their not to love?  You don't have an answer for that. Well, neither do I.  With that being said,  thanks bub for the inspiration.

The stewed tomatoes in this are awesome because they add a touch of sweetness.  The sweet and spicy really does a number on your tongue that's awesome.  This recipe does call for flour,  but think of the serving size.  This stew could serve 10 people, so the flour in it is really minimal in comparison with the entire recipe.  If you want to make it just soup, omit the flour and butter (rue).

Add potatoes and wow a crowd, or like me make the whole pot Sunday to eat during the week.  It made four 2 cups containers,  plus one wonton soup container.  This is a total side note, but I have an obsession with Wonton Soup and the containers which they come in.  I'd eat it every morning for breakfast if I had a resident Chinese Wonton Soup maker in my house.  A girl can dream....

Spicy Chicken Stew
Prep: 10 minutes, plus 30 minutes for chicken to cool
Cook: 3 hours, 40 minutes (roughly)
Serves:  8-10

1 Whole Chicken,  4-5 pounds
6 8 ounce cans of Sliced Stewed Tomatoes
2 cups Chicken Stock (homemade if you have it)
2lb of Sliced White Button Mushrooms
1 bag of Petite Carrots
2 Medium White Onions
1 Bag of Celery, Cleaned with stems removed
4 large Cloves of Garlic
1 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp Paprika, divided
1 1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (or less if you can't handle the heat)
3 Large Bay Leaves
4 tbsp Butter
1/2 cup Flour (you could try to use Almond Meal, but I can't guarantee that will make a rue)
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Parsley for Serving

1. Heat a large stock pot over medium high heat with 1 tsp of olive oil.
2. While your oil is slowly heating clean and dice: celery, onions, and garlic.
3. In the pot add in Mushrooms, Onions, Carrots (I keep mine whole since they cook down),  and Celery.  Do not add garlic just yet.
4. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Allow to cook about 4-5 to minutes stirring throughout to avoid burning.
6. While your veggies are sauteing clean and wash your chicken, removing the bag inside or the liver and shit.  Older people enjoy chicken livers, if you know one you can save it for them, otherwise chuck it.
7. After your veggies have sauteed in the olive oil add in your garlic.  Season with 1 tbsp Paprika and 1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes.
8. Allow garlic to cook 2 minutes, or until fragrant.
9. Once fragrant,  place your chicken breast side up on top of the vegetables.  Season with more salt and pepper,  and the remainder of the paprika.
10.  Pour all stewed tomatoes and all chicken stock into pot.
11.  Add in 3 Bay Leaves (no matter how many you use remember the number so you can remove them at the end).
12. Place lid on top and allow to boil over medium high heat for 3 hours.
13.  After 3 hours remove the chicken to a separate plate to cool for picking.  Make sure you get all of the bones.
14.   Allow chicken to cool uncovered.
15.  In the microwave heat 4 tbsp of butter.  After it is melted whisk in 1/2 cup flour.   Once it becomes tight it is now a rue.  Drop this into the soup and allow it to continue to boil. In about 30 minutes, the rue will have thickened your soup into a stew.
16. Once the chicken is cooled pull it apart with your hands,  discarding bones and fat.  
17.  Place chicken back in stew to heat through,  about 10 minutes.
18. Serve with parsley as a garnish

Monday, October 20, 2014

I Remember the First Time I Thought I was Fat

   Isn't it funny how you remember things from such a long time ago? How every so often your mind brings up this memory you have stored somewhere deep within it?  It's like our brains subtle way of telling us "Hey,  you ain't all that.  I can prove it. Remember when...."

   The memory I'd like to share with my dedicated readers is well over twenty years old.  It's one of those memories that you only think about once every four years.  But once every four years, it hits you in the gut like a brick.  You remember exactly how you felt in that moment,  and every time you remember it you wanna go HAM.

   I was in gym class as a little tyke doing the Sit and Reach. Even to this day I ponder the genius behind the Sit and Reach. When in life will I need to know how far I can sit on my ass and reach past my toes?  When in life will I need to know how long I will need to hold myself on a bar for the flexed arm hang? Besides in the pending Zombie Apocalypse....which is a whole different ball game,  and even then I highly doubt being able to sit on my ass and reach past my toes will even help me. Who knows,  maybe I'm under estimating the Sit and Reaches value to my life.  DOUBTFUL.

   Anyway,  I was a little wee one in this memory,  maybe 7 years old.  The whole class was sitting behind me in a neat line (why are schools so anal about quiet, neat, lines of children anyway?) discussing whatever the topic of the month was--- Saved By the Bell, Pogs,  Tickle Me Elmo,  Tamagachis, Furbies....

   I sat on my rear and reached to the ominous yard stick someone had taped to a foam long square.  The goal of the sit and reach is to see how far you can touch on this self made yard stick foam square thing.  I reached....1.  Other kids bent into pretzels and reached 6 inches, 10 inches, 12 inches.  I reached 1.  I tried and I tried and I tried.  My body just wouldn't bend like that. To this day, it doesn't.  Well,  as a child the yearly Physical Fitness Assessment was basically like the Olympics for 6-14 year olds.  The Physical Fitness Assessment was life in the world of Elementary Education Physical Education.  And,  I had failed. Essentially,  I had failed at life at that moment according to standard archaic gym practices.

   So,  I stood very gingerly and walked myself to the back of the line fighting back my tears. And,  do you know what my gym teacher said to me?  She said "Elyse,  that's what we call no Flexibility".   She didn't say it to just me.  She said it to this entire line of neatly seated children who were staring at me.  If I was witty then as I am now I may have responded "Hey lady,  take a walk with your matching neon swooshy tracksuit with geometric shapes" or I would have walked to the back of the line and said to my best friend Hozz "Thisssss bitchhhhhh".  But,  I didn't.  I just sat down and I didn't cry. Big girls don't cry. 7 year old children don't cry.  Now they do, but when I was 7 we were taught to keep it all in.  We were taught that emotions aren't for outsiders.  Now we teach kids cry about everything,  which I also don't necessarily agree with but that's a different blog post entirely.

   Isn't it funny to this day I can still remember that happening? I can still remember the discoloration of the wooden gym floor as I walked to the back of the line with my head down. I still remember the dumbass yard stick taped to the dumbass foam thing that was rectangular and blue.  I still remember the color of this idiot's matching swooshy track suit (neon blue with green geometric shapes). That night I decided well I am not flexible, so I must be too fat to be flexible.  I WAS 7 AND I DECIDED I WAS FAT.  IF I WAS FAT,  I HAD TO BE UNWORTHY.

Look at this kid:

     Was I fat then TRACK SUIT LADY?  No way.  As far as I was concerned,  I was the best that ever did it. Still am.  Okay, take into account that I did not learn how to smile until well into my 20's.  Every picture I have that same smile.  It took me awhile.  Regardless of the smile,  I wasn't fat.  I just wasn't flexible.  I'm still not.

     Look at that bowl cut.  It was ON POINT. No one back then had a better little boy cut. Maybe they were more flexible,  but as for my hair I was queen.  Like Beyonce,  if my hair would have been recognized for what it really was they would have called me Queen Bey.  Was I fat then?  Nope.  But,  I constantly felt fat. Talia was so tall and lanky,  and I was so short and so stubby.   I was always short. I always had these chubby little cheeks that would make Santa Clause jealous.  To this day I still joke that if I laugh too hard I cry because my cheeks are so chubby they shut my eyes when I chuckle a good chuck.

My weight has fluctuated throughout the years. Up and down, always usually landing at the same spot.   Down, up, down, up, down, up.   I spent a lot of time blaming one of three things:

1. I'm "big boned"
2. I have bad genes
3. I do everything right,  why me!?!

     Of course,  anyone on the same path I am knows these are all outward lies.  I've internalized these lies day after day,  and told myself them day after day.  It's okay Elyse,  your big boned.  It's okay Elyse, you got the shit end of the stick as far as genes go.  It's okay Elyse,  you just had 5 beers,  it doesn't make sense that you gained 1/2 a pound,  it's the scales fault.  Ladies,  let's stop lying to ourselves.  We are in charge of our health destiny.  We decide weather we can be buried in a regular size coffin, or an extra large one.  We decide HOW, WHEN, AND WHERE we reach our fitness goals.  Not destiny, not genes,  and not the "size" of your bones.

     My point in this blog post I think is, there is always someone who is going to make you feel like an inflexible seven year old.  There is always going to be haters.  There are always going to people trying to steal your bowl cut shine.    Don't let them.  Tell them haters to take a walk.  It's your journey, not theirs.

     My second point of this article is...words truly do hurt.  My mom always said kill them with kindness.  Perhaps this gym teacher,  who I have yet to name,  was instead told Kill their spirits.   If you have a daughter or are a teacher guard your words,  for your words become their thoughts.