Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This one only took eight years or so.....

Hey Wendy.....remember that one Shop Hop when Kellie & I ran into You & Kathy at Thimbles and Threads? You and I were checking out the back room and we came across this amazing quilt class taught by Peggy Waltman. It was for this crazy Whimsical Star wall hanging and I remember looking at that with you and saying how bad I wanted to take that class but I couldn't imagine ever finishing such a project. It had all this applique and even then I had a pretty good handle on my proclivity for procrastination and putting away of unfinished projects. I figured, realistically, that having three little kids and all the busy that brings would totally preclude me from EVER finishing such a project!! You turned to me and said "I absolutely think you would finish that quilt. You should take that class!" I'm not sure why you said such a thing, I'm not even sure you really believed what you were saying, but apparently it was all I needed to hear 'cause I signed right up!

I remember the class and how much I loved learning from Peggy Waltman. She has all these crazy techniques and imaginative ideas and I had a blast! I remember that she said that circles in nature were never perfect, so why did our applique circles have to be? BAM!! This was a revelation to me! All of a sudden, I had PERMISSION to NOT BE PERFECT!! From an EXPERT!! I have since applied this life lesson to many areas of my day to day existence--one of the epiphanies I hold most dear!!

Well Wendy, you were right. I did finish that quilt and it's hanging on my wall right now! I actually got pretty far pretty fast. Then the applique held me up for a while, and then the quilting was another hold up. But DANG! I actually finished it! And thanks to Ella, won $50.00 off it in a quilt show which made up for the price of the class and pattern, so YE-HA!!

You are my quilt class taking muse, Wendy. The quilt class Whisperer! And apparently I believe in the fact that you believe in me more than I believe in myself!! So thank you very much! This one's for you!! (although not literally....'cause after all, it DID take me eight years....)

A little up-close of some of the blocks.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Raspberry Ginger Chicken

We had this last night. It pleased everyone! I altered the original recipe I found to make a sweeter, thicker sauce. Kind of plum-saucy. Just remember that when you brine your chicken, it adds saltiness, so keep this in mind as you salt your dish.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts that have been brined (*see note below regarding brining)
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup onion-chopped

1 cup seedless raspberry jam
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce--low sodium if you have it
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger (use a microplane)
3/4 tsp. crushed rosemary
3-4 Tablespoons brown sugar, depending on taste

cornstarch & cold water--to thicken

Cut chicken into approx. 1 inch pieces--like stir-fry. Sprinkle with pepper. Saute the onion in the olive oil. After 3-4 minutes, add the chicken and saute until chicken is cooked. I separated my chicken into 2 cast iron saute pans. You don't want to cook that much chicken together or it will steam, not brown & saute. Do two separate batches in one pan if you have to. In a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Pour over chicken when it's cooked and heat through. Add cornstarch & water mixture to thicken to your liking. Serve with rice.

*Brining chicken*

I'm not going to lie. The chicken we buy these days is pretty bland & not very tender. I don't make ANYTHING with the helpless, hormone-infused, ginormous chicken breasts without brining first. It makes all the difference in the world.

In a large Ziplock bag put

1 cup HOT water and add:

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt

Shake to dissolve. Add:

3 cups cold water

Place unfrozen chicken breasts inside bag and seal. Let sit about 2-3 hours. This does make your chicken a bit saltier, so adjust salt in your recipe accordingly. I rinse my chicken well before using.

How a brine works:


Moisture loss is inevitable when you cook any type of muscle fiber. Heat causes raw individual coiled proteins in the fibers to unwind—the technical term is denature—and then join together with one another, resulting in some shrinkage and moisture loss. (By the way, acids, salt, and even air can have the same denaturing effect on proteins as heat.) Normally, meat loses about 30 percent of its weight during cooking. But if you soak the meat in a brine first, you can reduce this moisture loss during cooking to as little as 15 percent, according to Dr. Estes Reynolds, a brining expert at the University of Georgia.

Brining enhances juiciness in several ways. First of all, muscle fibers simply absorb liquid during the brining period. Some of this liquid gets lost during cooking, but since the meat is in a sense more juicy at the start of cooking, it ends up juicier. We can verify that brined meat and fish absorb liquid by weighing them before and after brining. Brined meats typically weigh six to eight percent more than they did before brining—clear proof of the water uptake.

Another way that brining increases juiciness is by dissolving some proteins. A mild salt solution can actually dissolve some of the proteins in muscle fibers, turning them from solid to liquid.

Of all the processes at work during brining, the most significant is salt's ability to denature proteins. The dissolved salt causes some of the proteins in muscle fibers to unwind and swell. As they unwind, the bonds that had held the protein unit together as a bundle break. Water from the brine binds directly to these proteins, but even more important, water gets trapped between these proteins when the meat cooks and the proteins bind together. Some of this would happen anyway just during cooking, but the brine unwinds more proteins and exposes more bonding sites. As long as you don't overcook the meat, which would cause protein bonds to tighten and squeeze out a lot of the trapped liquid, these natural juices will be retained.

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