Monday, March 31, 2014

Chicken and Rice redo

Busy Day Chicken, was one of several recipes my mother handed down to me. It must have originated in the 60's, when canned and packaged goods were simplifying homemakers' lives. The "highlights" of the recipe were a package of Lipton Onion Soup Mix and a can of cream of mushroom soup. I'm sure it was the overly generous amounts of sodium that made the dish something I craved.

Since daughter Fran has been cooking for us, I rarely think about those old standby recipes, until last week. And that's when it occurred to me--I bet she can turn that mostly unhealthy dish into something worthy of a spot on our table. I began a search and came across the recipe below--since she likes a starting point before she begins tampering and improving. So good!!

Chicken and Rice Casserole
via Simply Recipes

Chicken and Rice Casserole (photo) Larger photo
Chicken pieces browned then baked in casserole with mushrooms, onions, garlic, rice, stock, cream, and sour cream.
If you are avoiding cooking with alcohol, skip the sherry and deglaze the pan with a 1/4 cup extra of chicken stock.
Depending on how salted your stock is, you may need to more generously salt this dish. Can always salt to taste at the table.
You can make this entire dish on the stovetop instead of the oven if you want. Just use a large sauté pan with a tight cover, cook on low when all is assembled, low enough to keep a simmer, but not so high that you burn the rice.
Yield: Serves 6 (with leftovers)
2 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces, patted dry
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine
1 1/3 cups* chicken stock**
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup cream
1 cup raw, medium or long grain, white rice
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon each of Italian seasoning and poultry seasoning (or 2 teaspoons of one of these herb mixes, or 2 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme, and basil)**
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
*This recipe assumes the rice requires approx 1 1/2 cups liquid per cup of rice to cook. Some rice varieties, such as brown rice, require more liquid (and a longer cooking time). Adjust recipe accordingly.
**If you are cooking gluten-free, use homemade stock or gluten-free packaged stock, use gluten-free packaged herbs and spices.
1 Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high or high heat (hot enough to brown but not burn). Sprinkle a dash of salt on the bottom of the pan. Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown the chicken pieces on two sides, about 1-2 minutes per batch. Add a little more salt to the pan (and more olive oil if needed) after every batch. This will help prevent the chicken from sticking to the pan. Remove chicken pieces and set aside in a bowl. Note that the chicken does not have to be cooked through, only browned.
2 In the same sauté pan add 1 Tbsp olive oil, lower the heat to medium, add the onions, and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 30 seconds more. Remove onions and garlic to a shallow (9 x 13 x 2) casserole dish.
3 Raise heat to medium high, add the sliced mushrooms. Dry sauté them (no need to add butter or oil), allowing the mushrooms to brown lightly, and release some of their moisture. Add the mushrooms to the casserole dish.
4 Add 1/4 cup dry sherry or dry white wine to the pan to deglaze the pan, scraping off the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. (At this point, if you are making ahead, reduce the sherry to 1 Tbsp and pour off into the casserole dish. Refrigerate cooked onions, garlic, mushrooms, and browned chicken pieces until you are ready to make the casserole.) Let the sherry reduce to about 1 Tbsp, then add the chicken stock, and remove from heat. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, the cream, and the sour cream. Add the raw rice to the casserole dish. Then pour the stock, sherry, cream, sour cream mixture over the rice. Add the Italian and poultry seasonings (or fresh herbs) and paprika to the dish. Stir the rice, onion, mushroom, herb mixture so that they are evenly distributed in the casserole dish.

5 Place the chicken pieces on top of the rice mixture (in a single layer if you can, they will be crowded). Cover the casserole dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake in a 375°F oven for 45 minutes. Remove foil. If the casserole is still too liquidy, let it cook a few minutes more, uncovered, until the excess liquid has evaporated away.
Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Medical Supply or Insurance Depot?

Suddenly, there I was, hip pain that neither my chiropractor nor ibuprofen could tame. Let the hoop-jumping-waiting-game begin!

  • Appointment with doc
  • Schedule x-rays
  • Wait for report
  • Prescription for NSAID
  • NSAID caused stomach pain
  • Would you like PT or an ortho pain consult? (while PT is valuable, it postpones dealing with this pain)
  • Wait for referral
  • Wait for appointment
  • etc.

Meanwhile, I remember hearing how helpful a TENS unit was to a friend dealing with pain and discover they're relatively cheap on the internet. Knowing they're not for everyone, I was pleased to feel some pleasant distraction via the muscular stimulation. Sadly, the unit arrived with only one set of reusable electrode pads and after 3 days I needed a replacement.

"I bet I could find replacement pads at a medical supply store. We have several in town."

First stop, Providence Home Health Supply. Wow, not much on display in here and the two workers seem to be working primarily as telephone operators. What we learned is that Providence does not run a medical supply store. It's more of a depot where you can order items prescribed by your doctor or pick ordered items up. The nearsighted receptionist who helped me, gave me a number that turned out to be a FAX number. A detail she couldn't read without her glasses, but I could see from across the counter. After the correct number was handed over, the distributor on the phone soon determined I did not have a prescribed machine. No electrodes for me! Daughter, Fran, remembered another medical supply store on the north end of Commercial. Not only was Pacific a real medical supply store, but the person behind the counter (who happened to be wearing glasses) knew where to send me.

Current medical journey to be continued . . .
Ps. NEVER touch electrode wires that have escaped their pads when TENS is on. Unless, you enjoy a good shock, of course.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Crow Stories

The parent club at the local elementary school our girls attended, sold bags of popcorn to the students once a week. One day, as I was leaving the school after volunteering, I noticed every tree in and around the playground was filled with crows. The large numbers were so remarkable to me that instead of the hairs on the back of my neck standing up in horror, I began to wonder what event they were anticipating. Crows don't gather without purpose. I don't know if I put it together that day or later after witnessing the gathering another week, but it suddenly became clear they were all waiting for lunch recess when the children would emerge with their bags of popcorn and inevitably leave many many morsels behind.

Several years later, I was sitting in my car waiting for a walking partner near a Willamette University practice field. There was a team of young soccer players attending a summer camp out on the field. The wood bleachers were decorated with the player's backpacks and duffle bags. While I sat watching, one young man ran over to his bag and removed his water bottle for a quick drink. Minutes later, a crow landed on the bleachers and casually strolled and hopped from bench to bench, with one eye on the team members. The crow zeroed in on the thirsty boy's bag, hopped on top, grasped the zipper in its beak and began to unzip the bag. He resumed his casual hopping from one bench to another while watching the boys and then returned to the bag. The crow pulled it open, eyed the contents and lifted out a sandwich wrapped in foil. He carefully folded back the foil, removed half and flew away. When the boys returned to their bags for a break, the owner of the violated bag appeared incredulous that someone would take his food. An unsolved mystery that was probably the cause for suspicion amongst the team members. All because of a crafty crow.

Last year, a friend shared a story of a crow who visited her backyard squirrel feeder. The crow visited every day for a week (at the same time), trying to figure out how it might access the peanuts inside the plastic tube. The following week, the crow showed up with a second crow. My friend said the original visitor, showed the  second one how he'd been attempting to access the nuts. Then the second crow hopped up onto the feeder tube and showed how to grasp the tube while upside down. It worked! It was as if the stymied crow had called in a consultant. Amazing!