Today, I bring you a few cooking tips (hopefully some of them new!), followed by a great tasting Chicken and Sausage Stew that has a slight Cajun flair. After all, Mardi Gras will be here soon and we need to get our Cajun minds on!
1. Softening bananas: Don’t want to wait for the bananas to soften naturally for your banana nut bread? To soften bananas for banana bread/muffins, pierce unpeeled bananas with fork and microwave, uncovered, about one minute, turning over at half time. Cool and peel. Bury the peels in your rose bed for potassium.
2. Mushrooms: Sauté mushrooms on low to medium heat for the best flavor; on high heat for the best texture. A short cooking time yields a more delicate flavor.
3. Milk chocolate chips: Despite the “expiration date”, chocolate chips do not go bad in that they are unsafe to consume. If they have turned light brown, the discoloration, or “bloom” is nothing more than the cocoa butter, which has separated. Once melted, the cocoa butter will be re-incorporated.
3. Garlic: When a recipe calls for adding oil, garlic and onions to a pan, always add garlic last, which keeps it from burning and tasting bitter.
4. Pudding: Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of cooked pudding or pie filling immediately after pouring to prevent a skin from forming.
5. Boil-overs: To prevent foods from boiling over, rub a thin coat of olive oil to the inside of pots. When cooking oatmeal, coat the pan with non-stick cooking spray; this keeps the oatmeal from boiling over and sticking to the pan.
6. Delicious spread: Mash about six garlic cloves into a 1/2 cup softened butter. Add chopped chives or parsley, then form into logs, wrap in plastic, and freeze. Slice as needed to melt onto meats, veggies or use as a spread.
7. Drink calories: Soda and other sweetened drinks add extra calories and get in the way of good nutrition. Water and milk are the best drinks for kids. Juice is fine if it is 100 percent juice, but kids don’t need much of it – four to six ounces a day is enough for preschoolers.
8. Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii), a parasite carried by cats, which can easily contaminate food. Most often, toxoplasmosis results from eating undercooked meat and poultry or unwashed fruits and vegetables, from cleaning a litter box, or from handling contaminated soil. Toxoplasmosis usually causes mild flu-like conditions, however in pregnant women, the bacteria can be passed to a developing baby, resulting in miscarriage, disability, and retardation.
Ok, enough of that. Now for a great soup recipe. It’s comfort food at it’s best!
Chicken and Sausage Stew
10 tablespoons butter
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat, cut into bite-size chunks
Salt and pepper
8 ounces Andouille sausage, sliced
1 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into thick rounds
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
5 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup water or white wine
Melt half the butter in a large, heavy bottomed stewpot. Add the chicken; season with salt and pepper. Cook until browned. Add sausage. Cook 2-3 minutes then remove meat to a large dish; set aside.
Melt remaining butter in the same pot. Add onion, garlic, carrot, fennel, thyme and bay leaves and cook over medium 15-20 minutes.
In the meantime, warm the chicken broth in the microwave, and set aside. When the vegetables are tender, add the reserved meat and any juices to the pot. Mix well. Add the flour and stir to coat the vegetables and meat. Cook 2 minutes. Add the water (or wine) and stir. The mixture will thicken immediately. Add the warm chicken stock to the pot 1 cup at a time, stirring, until all stock has been added. Bring stew to a simmer for 20 minutes. Great served over hot rice.