Cajun Chicken and Rice

Happy Saturday everyone! I hope you are having a great weekend!

Today, I’m sharing a recipe I recently made and really enjoyed. While it is not necessarily an authentic Cajun recipe, it was really delicious and is very easy to cook. It also makes A LOT and reheats well. I will definitely be making it again!

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Cajun Chicken and Rice

Adapted from: Good Housekeeping

Cajun Chicken and Rice

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch chunks

6 slices bacon

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 medium red pepper, chopped

1 large stalk of celery, chopped

1 6 0z can (the small can) of tomato paste

*5-6 cups chicken broth

2 cups long-grain white rice

1 cup frozen peas

*salt to taste

*See notes at the end of the recipe

Instructions:

In bowl, combine paprika, thyme, garlic powder, cayenne, black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place half of spice mixture in a gallon size plastic bag, and toss chicken with spice mixture.

In 6-quart Dutch oven, cook bacon on medium-high 5 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. With slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel.

To same pot (don’t clean it!), add oil, then chicken. Cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. With slotted spoon, transfer to bowl.

Add onion, red pepper, celery, and remaining spices to pot. Cook 5 minutes, stirring. Add tomato paste. Cook 30 seconds, stirring. Stir in broth, rice, peas, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Heat to boiling on high. Reduce heat to maintain simmer. Stir in chicken and any juices. Cover; simmer 27 minutes or until rice is tender and chicken is cooked. Top with bacon.

Notes:

There are several for this recipe:

1. I doubled the amount of spice from the original recipe. If you are hesitant to use 1 full teaspoon of the cayenne, you can just use 1/2 teaspoon.

2. The original recipe called for smoked paprika, but I didn’t have any on hand so I used regular paprika.

3. I used an entire 6 oz can of tomato paste (the small can), while the original recipe only called for two tablespoons.

4. I omitted the salt from this recipe and I thought it tasted just fine.

5. The original recipe calls for 3 slices of bacon. I love bacon so I added 6. I say include as much or as little bacon as you like!

6. The original recipe calls for 4 cups of chicken broth. This was not quite enough to adequately cook the rice, so I would increase to 5 or 6 cups next I make it.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 19.0

Happy Monday everyone! I know it’s been a few weeks, but I’m back today to participate in the “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” meme.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

My thoughts on books I recently finished:

orangeisnewblack

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424—one of the millions of people who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system.

From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they’re there.

Although I hope to never go to prison (or even see the inside of one), it was interesting to take a trip there in Piper Kerman’s memoir. From the tales of her “bohemian” post-college days (when the crime was committed) to her feelings during the last moments of her prison stay, Piper tells her story in clear and entertaining prose. It was easy to get swept away, especially since I felt like she could be me or someone I knew (which I think is the main appeal of this book for most of the people reading it).

I think my favorite part of this book was the rich cast of people from all walks of life she encountered during her prison stay. She makes friends with many of the women, and I liked that she didn’t just stick with the ones who were just like her. Despite giving most of their stories a sympathetic telling, she also doesn’t make them out to be saints either, which made her experiences with them more real and believable to me.

In fact I enjoyed the stories of the people she met in prison so much that I was dismayed when the audiobook ended with no epilogue or afterward. The story just ends very abruptly and left me feeling a bit empty after becoming so invested in her (and the other women’s) stories. How does Piper adjust after she gets back to the real world? Does she have a different perspective on prison and her experience now that some time has passed? Did she keep in contact with any of the other women?  After a quick search on the internet it appears that the paperback edition DOES have an afterward, but since I didn’t get to read it I can’t comment on whether or not this would have allayed the unfinished feeling I still have about this book.

Other than the abrupt ending I really enjoyed this book. It gave a rare look into one woman’s experiences in prison, and put a human face on an often forgotten portion of our population. Don’t read this book if you are looking for a serious tome on prison sociology or some kind of “call-to-action.” This is a memoir, and thus although it asks a lot of important questions it does not answer them. 4/5 stars.

Books I recently read:

The_Pact

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

For eighteen years the Hartes and the Golds have lived next door to each other, sharing everything from Chinese food to chicken pox to carpool duty– they’ve grown so close it seems they have always been a part of each other’s lives. Parents and children alike have been best friends, so it’s no surprise that in high school Chris and Emily’s friendship blossoms into something more. They’ve been soul mates since they were born.

So when midnight calls from the hospital come in, no one is ready for the appalling truth: Emily is dead at seventeen from a gunshot wound to the head. There’s a single unspent bullet in the gun that Chris took from his father’s cabinet– a bullet that Chris tells police he intended for himself. But a local detective has doubts about the suicide pact that Chris has described.

 

Maya'sNotebook

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Isabel Allende’s latest novel, set in the present day (a new departure for the author), tells the story of a 19-year-old American girl who finds refuge on a remote island off the coast of Chile after falling into a life of drugs, crime, and prostitution. There, in the company of a torture survivor, a lame dog, and other unforgettable characters, Maya Vidal writes her story, which includes pursuit by a gang of assassins, the police, the FBI, and Interpol. In the process, she unveils a terrible family secret, comes to understand the meaning of love and loyalty, and initiates the greatest adventure of her life: the journey into her own soul.

TheNightCircus

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

This Week I am reading:

middlemarch bn

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Subtitled “A Study of Provincial Life,” the novel is set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch during the period 1830–32. It has multiple plots with a large cast of characters, and in addition to its distinct though interlocking narratives it pursues a number of underlying themes, including the status of women, the nature of marriage, idealism and self-interest, religion and hypocrisy, political reform, and education. The pace is leisurely, the tone is mildly didactic (with an authorial voice that occasionally bursts through the narrative),and the canvas is very broad.

Despite the fact that it has some comical characters (Mr. Brooke, the “tiny aunt” Miss Noble) and comically named characters (Mrs. Dollop), Middlemarch is a work of realism. Through the voices and opinions of different characters we become aware of various broad issues of the day: the Great Reform Bill, the beginnings of the railways, the death of King George IV and the succession of his brother, the Duke of Clarence (who became King William IV). We learn something of the state of contemporary medical science. We also encounter the deeply reactionary mindset within a settled community facing the prospect of what to many is unwelcome change.

This Week I am listening to:

moonisaharshmistress

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

It is the year 2076, and the Moon is a penal colony for the rebellious and the unwanted of Earth. The exiles have created a libertarian society in order to survive in their harsh and unforgiving environment, their motto being TANSTAAFL: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”. Looming over them is the Luna Authority, the heavy-handed Earth administration, who trades life necessities to the “Loonies” in exchange for grain shipments to the starving populations of Earth.

As the situation steadily deteriorates the inhabitants of Luna come to realize that they have little choice but to revolt against Luna Authority in order to save themselves from resource exhaustion and a subsequent environmental apocalypse.

A small band of dissidents emerges to lead the revolution. This consists of a one-armed computer jock, a radical young woman, a past-his-prime academic, and a nearly omnipotent computer named Mike. These people ignite the fires of revolution, despite the near certainty of failure.

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What are you reading this week?

It's Monday

Linking up with Book Journey!

Beef Stew in the Slow Cooker

Many apologies for the lack of posting last week–I had a winter weather related injury and I’m still sort of recuperating. More on that another day…maybe.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you are undoubtedly experiencing plenty of very cold and yucky weather (apparently the Southern U.S. isn’t even immune this year!). I think THE ONLY good thing about this weather is that it gives me plenty of excuses to make soup. Especially this soup. I’ve made it a couple of times already this winter and I think it is delicious. Enjoy!

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Beef Stew in the Slow Cooker

Adapted from: Butter, With a Side of Bread

Beef Stew

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 pounds trimmed beef chuck, cut into 1-2-inch cubes, patted dry with paper towels

1/4 cup of flour

2-3 Russet Potatoes (I left the skins on but you could also peel them)

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cups sliced carrots (about 3 good sized carrots)

2 cups sliced celery (about 2-3 stalks)

1 cup of red wine

1 cup beef stock or canned beef broth

1 can diced tomatoes, drained (14.5 oz)

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon allspice

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Instructions:

Toss the beef in the flour. Refrigerate beef for 20 minutes (this helps retain the flour coating during the subsequent frying step).

Put potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and celery in the crockpot.

Heat a frying pan up on medium-high and add in about 2 tablespoons of oil. Next, add in the garlic. Cook garlic for a minute or so. Then, add beef to the pan. Cook beef for 4-5 minutes, stirring twice. The beef should be seared on both sides, but not necessarily fully cooked.

Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the seared meat to the crock pot. DO NOT clean the pan.

Return the pan to hot stove top and add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Once oil is hot, add in the onions. Cook the onions for about 3-4 minutes. Add in cooking wine and beef broth, and heat to boiling. While the liquid is heating up, add in the spices, except the bay leaf. Once the liquid begins to boil, turn off the heat and pour entire mixture into the crock pot.

Add the bay leaf. Stir soup to combine and cook on low for 9-10 hours, medium 7-8 hours, high 6-7 hours.

About 30 minutes prior to serving, ladle out about  1/2 cup of liquid from the stew. Whisk in 2 tsp cornstarch and add it back to the stew, stirring gently to combine.

Notes:

You can substitute the red wine for an additional cup of beef broth if you don’t have/don’t want to use the wine.