Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cooking 101

I have been cooking for as long as I can remember. I know for a fact that my kitchen adventures started when I was two years old, right when my brother was born. My mom wanted to make it a point of spending some one-on-one time with me every day. Since she went back to work when John was 8 weeks old, that time was preparing dinner. I'm sure I was in the way more than anything, but I loved it. The kitchen has always been a wonderful, safe place for me because of that. My adventures in culinary creativity started not long after I learned to read and found out what cookbooks were. These were almost better than storybooks because they let me combine several of my favorite things - reading, creativity, and food!

When I was in high school, I discovered the wonders of food network and those wonderful TV people who told me it was ok to not just follow a recipe and to change stuff up! I started to learn what herbs and spices went well with which foods and even discovered a few new foods I never knew I liked. It was great.

Most of my culinary creativity was put on hold when I went away to college because there is only so much you can do with a microwave, a blender, and an illegal george foreman grill! When I came home I did some cooking, but most of the time I was just lazy and enjoyed eating mom's cooking. When I went to divinity school I got my first apartment and started cooking again, and being a little more creative with some things. 

Now it's three years later and I am happily married so I am now cooking for two. It is great because it keeps me motivated and I don't have the room for frozen dinners, plus I rarely have to eat leftovers if I don't want them!

One of our family staples growing up was chicken casseroles. Ironically, one of my new favorites is a casserole I had never tried until just before we were married! It's a very simple baked chicken and rice that has become our standard whenever neither of us is in the mood for anything in particular or want something easy.

Here is the basic recipe. It's very easy to customize however you'd like.

1 1/2 c. uncooked rice
2 1/2 c. water (you can use broth, but you've got a lot of other flavors going on so you don't really need it)
1 can cream of chicken soup (or cream of anything really, whatever you like!)
1 packet onion soup mix
2-3 chicken breasts, cubed
Herbs to taste - I use basil, thyme, and parsley from the garden or a little bit of cajun seasoning if we need a little kick. (you don't need salt because of the onion soup mix)
You can also add your favorite frozen vegetables if you need a bit of color and something healthy.

Mix everything together in a casserole dish, cover, and bake 60-90 minutes at 350 degrees

See, does it get any easier? I'm going to try my hand at a mexican version in the next week or two. I'll let you know how it goes!

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