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All posts for the month April, 2010

2318392698_ed973af0ac_mGrilled Green Onions

It’s not May and I’m already bored with the usual cast of grilling characters.  In the WellDone household, we do the usual suspects on the grill: chicken breasts, steaks, flank steaks, carrots, onions, and peppers.  Sometimes we even do tomatoes to make a nice fire roasted salsa.

But me, I want something more.  So we’ve been playing around a lot on the grill and we’ve really become fans of grilled green onions.

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2010 Continues!

A lot of exciting things are supposed to happen this year.  If Arthur C. Clarke is right, this is the year that Jupiter will turn into a sun thanks to Roy Schneider.  We’re 2 years away from the Mayan (Aztec?) apocalypse.  Yep, this is an exciting time to be alive!

In all seriousness, while 2010 is a year of great opportunity, it’s also one of great challenge with the glocal economy still on shaky footing, joblessness soaring acros the world, and some very credible evidence that the environment is getting more and more unstable.  Fixing the environment is a big job, but it’s not so big if we all pitch in.  That’s why Caitlin from Roaming Tales and I are doing this series on sustainable eating: so everyone can make informed decisions about food and the food supply. 


Happy Earth Day!  Ready to celebrate with

Good Shepherd Heritage Chicken

Last weekend I had the honor to judge a Good Shepherd heritage chicken cooking contest alongside Gardening expert (and generally one of the most gracious men I’ve ever met) P. Allen Smith, LA Times food critic Jonathon Gold, Cookbook Author M0lly O’Neill, and Kansas City culinary legend Jasper Mirable (who you might have noticed I talk about on the blog a bit.) 

During the contest, we tried four recipes.  All were delicious, but sadly only could win: Chicken a la Tucson.  I’ll post the link to the winning recipe as soon as I get it.

Still, as much as I enjoyed the contest, last Saturday was more than a taste experience for me.  It was an educational experience.  I thought I knew what went into making a good chicken.  I was wrong.

Heritage Chicken — Read If You Care About Your Food

I learned something this weekend that I found completely shocking.  Most commerical chickens that you buy at the store come from a single, genetically engineered species of chicken.  This chicken has been breed to be several hundred times larger than a wild chicken and to reach maturity far, far sooner (like months sooner.)  This is a poor breed.  These chickens cannot survive without human invention and cannot reproduce without being artificially inseminated.

These chickens are so huge they can barely move on their own power.  Their meat is flaccid because the chickens are immobile and their bones are limp and weak because the chickens are not allowed to mature before they are slaughtered.

They are creations from a lab and sadly, even some organic chicken, which is supposed to be better for you, comes from this breed because the term “organic” governs how they were raised, not what species they are.

So What’s a Heritage Chicken

A few chicken ranchers, including the people at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch, have literally scoured the globe  to find original, natural breeds of poultry.  These ranchers are trusting nature, not technology to produce superior birds.  They then raised the poultry with a lot of care, but without antibotics or GMO food.  Basically, the same thing as your organic standards, but the chickens are real, natural breeds of bird.

These birds are hardy and healthy.  Even better, they can reproduce for years without needing to help from humans.

But Why Does Heritage Chicken Matter?

There are a couple of reasons why heritage chicken is important.  Take your pick.

  1. Protection of the food supply.  Biodiversity (many species)  is crucial to our survival as humans.  Why?  Well, let’s imagine a scenario where a flu for bids, a bird flu if you will, infects the chicken population.  The more species of chicken out there, the greater the likelihood that at least one of those species will prove resistant to flu.  Also, they are naturally hardy and can survive adverse conditions.
  2. Environmental Impact.  Heritage chicken is better for the environment because it requires less artifical help for living and reproduction.
  3. Taste.  They’re delicious.  Did you know that chicken does have to flat and flavorless?  It’s not when it’s heritage chicken.  Oh, heritage poultry has won a few awards, too.

I mean, they have to be on to something for me to write this post.  Their CEO, Frank Reese, is a K-State fan and I’m still giving him mad props.  You know how I feel about K-State fans!

Is Heritage Chicken Perfect?

No.  Let’s be honest.  Heritage chicken has two issues with it.

The first is cost.  Sadly, currently heritage chicken operations do not have the same economies of scale that more common chicken operations enjoy.  Still, if you want to fall in love with chicken again, it’s worth it.

The second is preparation.  I should have known something was up that the cooking instructions for every chicken, no matter if it was raised locally, 200 miles away or 2,000 miles away, uses the exact same cook times.  That shouldn’t be possible unless they are using the exact same chicken. 

Heritage chicken, on the other hand, varies by breed.  So when you buy your chicken, you have to know what breed it is because you cannot use certain birds for certain applications.  Then, you’re just going to have to cook it longer than you might otherwise because heritage poultry are real birds with real firm bones that actually benefit from cooking for far longer than you could ever hope to cook a lab bird.

Interested in Heritage Chicken?

I hope you’re interested in trying it.

I think you’ll be happy with it.

The best thing you can do is ask around.  I get my Good Shepherd heritage chicken at my local non-Whole Foods grocery store so ask around.  You can even buy your heritage poultry online.

So, give it a shot.   It’s sustainable.  It’s delicious.  It’s good for the future.

Enjoy.

insideheaderLimoncello [n]- Italian for awesome. No seriously, look it up.

That’s why you gotta go to

Jasper Mirabile’s Limoncello Experience

What is limoncello you ask? I already told you! It’s awesome. It’s also something like the greatest lemonade in the world with some pretty darn good (and very, very strong) liquor swirled in. It’s a nice refreshing drink to cap off an Italian feast at Jasper’s or to drink all by itself.

But beware imitators. Jasper’s has been doing his own limoncello for the past 25 years. If you haven’t had limoncello before and are anywhere near Kansas City, you want to go with a limoncello pro. Go to Jasper’s.

With that said, whether you’ve had it or not, you need to get ready for

The Limoncello Experience

If you’ve not been to a Jasper Mirable experience before, the man finds an ingredient (two months ago it was the whole hog) and takes it to its limit. On May 3rd, he’s set his sights on doing the same thing to limoncello. He’ll be offering a range of limonccello breads, limoncello antipasta, limoncello pasta, a limoncello shrimp dish (I’m thinking scampi + awesome) and the world premier of a limoncello torte.

photoI’m not sure what the whole “world premier of the torte” thing means, exactly, but I’ve had Chef Jasper’s limoncello cake and if the torte is 1/10th as good, it will be worth the price of admission alone. (That’s the cake there on the left.)

You can get all of the particulars about the dinner on Jasper’s website as well as make reservations online. I’m not sure how many seats are left, but the pork dinner was filled pretty much to capacity and it was a great time. So reserve your seat now or miss out.

So to recap:

  • If you like adult lemonade, go to the Limoncello Experience
  • If you are as intrigued by the torte as I am, go to the Limoncello Experience
  • If want a fresh springtime dinner, go to the Limoncello Experience
  • If you want a great meal, well go to the Limoncello Experience.

Hey, what are you still doing here?

Enjoy!

Larger image taken from Jasperskc.com.

Why Cook With Your Kids

Over the past six days, we’ve looked at several different recipes which are kid friendly, both in how they taste and (mostly) in how they are prepared.  At the very least, the recipes were reasonably healthy and there were at least a few steps that younger children could do under adult supervision.

But one question remains.  Why?  What’s the big deal about your cooking with your kids?

I wish this question were a no-brainer, but the more I read about health issues, childhood obesity, and even childen who fail to adjust as adults because no one spent time with them, I just keep wondering how we can afford to not cook with our children.  Really, in the end, cooking with your children isn’t just a great way to nourish their bodies, but their minds and their hearts, too.

Nourishment of the Body

Without a doubt, food you cook at home from basic ingredients (ie nothing straight out of a box and into the microwave) is going to be healthier than what you get at a restaurant or from a box.  Restaurant food (while delicious) is stuffed full of butter and oil and sodium and stuff you and your children really don’t need.

That’s why we stressed healthy over the past six days.  It was imporant that we didn’t just show how to make a burger and fries or chicken strips.  They are easy enough to do, but they should be sometimes foods.

And granted, we didn’t always succeed.  There was butter in the noodles and oil in the rice, but overall those dishes are going to be healthier than their equivalent dish at a restaurant.

Still, that’s largely secondary to the real reason you should cook with your kids…

Nourishment of the Mind and the Heart

Cooking with my son is time we spend together and as a dad who travels a lot and works a lot, that’s invaluable.  If I were to be nothing more than pragmatic, when BWD, Jr. and I cook together it kills two birds with one stone.  We get food on the table and we spend a good thirty minutes together.

But it’s so much more.  My son takes genuine pride in the fact that he’s my sous chef, I’m the head chef, and Mrs. WellDone is the pastry chef.  (Well, technically she’s the bakestry chef, but that’s close enough.)  We use cooking as a way to get him to try new things, learn new skills (like counting, fractions, colors, etc.) as well as learning to love cooking. 

Plus, he takes pride in the things he makes, even if at this point all he makes is um… interesting combinations of soy sauce, seasoning salt, and whatever cheap spices we can find on sale at the grocery.  (Oh, by the way, he makes us try them using the same logic on us that we use on him when it comes time to try something new… shudder.)

Ultimately, there was just something deeply profound about the last time I had to travel for work and I told him that he was the man of the house.  His reply: “Does that mean I’m the head chef and mommy’s the sous chef?”

Pretty cool.

Cooking With Your Kids: The Guide

Despite these recipes and the fact I love cooking with my son, cooking with your kids is hard.  Especially when they are younger and can’t read recipes.  Here are some things I keep in mind when I cook with BWD, Jr.

I look for recipes which involve minimal cutting (which I always do) and lots of steps that he can handle.  At this point, those steps are fairly limited, but include stirring, rinsing, kneading dough, and using a pizza cutter on dough.  You know your kids and you know what they’re ready for…find recipes that fit their skills.  Then let them participate.

The important thing you have to remember is not to get upset.  That’s the problem I have…I start worrying more about the dish than about the time with my son and sometimes I have a tendency to take over or get short.  It’s not worth it.  Use the time to be with your children.  Leave the gourmet for some other time.

Hopefully that helps.  Now, get out there and cook with your kids.

Enjoy!

I can’t believe I haven’t shared my recipe for

The Sushi Chef’s Noodles

Seriously, this is one of my son’s absolute favorite dishes in the world.

What is it?

It’s the noodles we get when we go to “sushi.”    Which to the rest of the world is usually called “Japanese steakhouse,” but in my family goes by the name sushi.

Why do we call it sushi?  As the story goes, I love sushi.  Love it.  Love it.  There’s only one problem.  As a restaurant experience, waiting for a platter of artfully arranged raw fish takes time, especially in the quantities in which I like to order it.  Sadly, the amount of time it takes to make the sushi far outweighs the patience of a typical one, two, three, or four year old.

Enter Japanese steakhouse and the fire, the onion volcano, the banging on the stove with wooden sticks, etc.  All of that is more than enough excitement to keep a little one entertained for as long as his father needs to wait (un)patiently for his sushi.

Even better, my son will actually eat the food at the Japanese steakhouse, including the noodles, which he loves so much we always have to order extra.  Here then, is the recipe for those noodles.

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Happy #MeatlessMonday!  Today we’re talking about Cooking with Your Kids and making

Apple, Banana, and Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Yes, this recipe is very simple, but it’s important to know that there are fun, meatless alternatives we can give our kids that aren’t fried or full of sugar.  Sure, some peanut butters are little more than hydrogenated oil and sugar, but this recipe can be healthy if you use the no sugar added peanut butter.

Besides, if you add enough apples, bananas, and perhaps a touch of honey (or agave), they’ll never know the difference!

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BWD, Jr. loves his rice, so let’s talk about

Healthy Fried Rice

I know, there’s something about “fried rice” that means it can’t be healthy, right?  It has the word fried in it, so it has to bad.  Listen,I know I’ve seen fried rice made where it in no way resembled a health food.  It was dripping with oil and butter and who knows what else.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way, trust me.  The way we make it at Blog Well Done central uses only a little oil, some soy sauce, and whatever veggies or meat we want to throw in there.  The version we make is a little high in sodium because we use soy sauce, but you can use low sodium soy to get around that if you like.

In terms of making this with the kiddos, this is a perfect recipe.  It requires a little cutting in the beginning (the type only adults should do.)  However, once that’s over, all that is required is stirring.  As long as you don’t mind a little mess, kids of just about any age can handle this recipe.

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Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs

So as coincidence would have it, tonight my son wanted to make homemade spaghetti and meatballs.  Never one to turn the boy down, I thawed out some hamburger, found the flour, and we started cooking.

As a meal to make with your kids, spaghetti and meatballs is pretty good.  Most kids like it and though there is a not-so-trivial effort in handmaking noodles and meatballs, a lot of that effort can be done by even the youngest child.  On the other hand, it’s not exactly a speedy process.  In order to constantly give your children tasks to do, make sure you follow the order as I have it laid out here.  That way, something is always cooking.

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Red CabbageReady for something a little daring, try

Purple Cabbage Slaw

(Note: purple cabbage = red cabbage, but at home we call it purple cabbage.)

Okay, as a “kid dish” this slaw is a bit of a risk.  First and foremost, it’s a slaw.  That means lots of vegetables and in the case of this slaw, there’s no sugared mayonnaise to mix in to mask the presence of so many vegetables.  Secondly, the flavors are a bit more, shall we say, mature.

On the other hand, the flavors are not so far out there that kids should get turned off.  Plus, this is something they can help to make.  Younger kids can mix the dressing and the slaw while older children can shred the cabbage (as long as they are well supervised.) 

Of course, all of this misses the obvious point: the slaw is purple.  And kids eat purple.

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MacAndCheesePoint of order.  Yes, I skipped a night last night.  My fault.  But I’m back and blogging away, this time with

Macaroni and Cheese with Tuna Fish

Let me start off by saying that I despise this dish.  Yeah, I know, I should keep it positive, but seriously, bleck.  And I mean bleck from the bottom of my heart.

However, my son loves the stuff, which as far as I am concerned, is as good a reason as any for a paternity test.

With that aside, you might be wondering how healthy mac and cheese with tuna fish can be.  It’s a fair question.  A lot of mac and cheese comes from a box and tuna is pretty high in mercury.  Also, unbleached flour isn’t exactly fantastic for kids.  Plus, there’s a lot of cream and butter in mac and cheese and that’s not so good.  And if you are wondering all that, you have a lot of nerve.

Still, I have solutions to all of these issues.

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