Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's always good to have a back up plan

If you've been on this blog for any length of time, you know I'm pretty good about my menu planning. It's one of the best ways I know to save money. But, sometimes life throws things at you and you aren't able to follow your menu plan. That's when you have to pull out your magical bag of cooking skills and throw together something quick.

Tonight was such a night. And when things go bad for me in the kitchen, it's really bad.

While I've pretty much mastered chicken stock and various soups, my personal challenge for this year is to stop buying cans of whatever. I have built up a store of dried beans and gosh darn it, I am bound and determined to figure out how to use them. They intimidate me, and not many things intimidate me in the kitchen any more.

My last two bean experiments turned out really well. I made black beans. DELICIOUS in a burrito with cumin and chili seasoned quinoa. I also knocked a chili out of the park.

Today, I planned to use my poached chicken in a white bean chicken chili. I prepared the beans according to the directions on the package. I sauteed my onions and peppers. Added my chicken, tossed in the tomatoes then the beans...And that's exactly where I went wrong.

Cooking 101 here: highly acid foods like tomatoes will seize up beans. It will prevent the moisture from entering the beans. So if you cook said beans starting at 4 p.m. thinking dinner will be done by 6...when you taste the beans at 615 and they are still rock solid, you will go in to a panic!

This is why it's good to have that poached chicken on hand. At least you don't have to prepare a new protein!

D was due home any minute and I had no dinner to serve. Not a good thing.

Leelee is always my kitchen shadow. She says she's my sous chef. While my mind is racing trying to figure out a solution, she pipes up "Is this like Top Chef where they have to come up with something quick?" Yes, my own personal quick fire challenge!

Inspiration hit me in the form of chicken biscuits and gravy! It was incredibly simple. I can make biscuits in my sleep now, thank Alton Brown goodness! So tender.

While the biscuits were baking, it was time to tackle the gravy. This is where knowing how to do a bechamel sauce comes in handy! It's a fancy term for a white sauce. Even if I don't have any other idea of what I'm serving, a nice sauce will make it all better. Except instead of using all scalded milk, I used warm chicken stock. Added salt and lots of pepper...voila! country gravy.

Dinner was gobbled up and the kids wanted seconds! And, it was probably all done in less than 20 minutes.

I'm going to try to perform life saving measures on the chili for tomorrow. If not, It's gonna be cheesey chicken and rice for tomorrow's dinner. Again, relying on that basic sauce and adding cheese. Except then it's mornay. We'll tackle sauces on the blog later.


  1. Funny post. Nice you have such a wonderful helper in the kitchen;-)

    I have found that my simple dinners are the ones everyone enjoys. The ones where I think I'm Martha Stewart, always are met with so-so results.

    Of course, I continue to slave away in the kitchen. One day I'll get it.


  2. I LOVE white sauce.. I use lactose free milk in mine. One TB Oil, 1 heaping TB flour and 1 Cup milk. I use the white sauce in creamed spinach, or to thicken a soup. White sauce becomes gravy when you add stock instead of milk, except when you make sausage gravy, then you should use milk as a tradition. I also (I never knew it's French name, is it French?)

  3. Reading your post was just so funny. Glad you were able to pull another rabbit out of the hat!!

  4. See, it's the basic *science* behind cooking that I don't think I'll ever grasp...thus I would have been totally in the dark about why the beans were not soft! And pizza would have been the new choice :P

  5. wingnut: the problem is everyone was hungry and ordering pizza would have taken longer! There have been a couple times dinner has failed and my husband said we should just go out, but I was like by the time we drive there and order and get the food, I could have dinner served here!

  6. LOL! Poor you! That's exactly how it usually goes for me as well. Rice is a big issue for me (Beans aren't simply because I don't like them!). Last night I did manage to make chicken/rice bake and thought that turned out well! Nice thing is that it made so much that we'll have it for dinner again tonight. I <3 nights when I don't have to cook!!!

  7. Sounds good! Love the idea of your kitchen helper!



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