Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Crafting the perfect meal

Anyone who knows me, knows I love life and almost everything about life. Probably my biggest love in life (other than my toddler bundle of joy and my husband), though, is cooking.

I truly believe cooking is a lot like crafting. You have to have the perfect ingredients and utensils to make the perfect meal. You really have to craft it together and it often takes a lot of pre-planning -- unless you live with a toddler like I do. Then, I do my best to pre-plan and throw together a meal.

Last night, I wanted one of those perfectly crafted meals. I wanted something decadent, but comforting. I decided to use some chicken I had already thawed for a different meal to make a deconstructed chicken cordon bleu.

I wish I could pretend this chicken cordon bleu was healthier than the version you can get at the store all boxed nice and neatly and cooks in about 30 minutes. This was probably as unhealthy if not more unhealthy than that comfort food!

I cooked a 12oz package of bacon in my skillet while salt, pepper, garlic and paprika had time to soak into my chicken (only one side, because you can season the 2nd side while the first is cooking!)

This gave me the perfect amount of fat to cook my chicken breasts. I should note that I don't like chicken breasts that are really thick, so I usually cut them in half like I'm butterflying the chicken breast and then cut it all the way through, and voila! A perfect way to make chicken more economical for a big family, or a way to make a 2nd chance dish without having to cook much on the 2nd night!

Yes, I cooked my chicken in bacon grease. A friend told me while I was cooking that I was mean because while they had take out for dinner, I was making a chicken dish that was going to be delicious just because it was cooked in bacon grease.

I made a cheese sauce with leftover pizza cheese from a time when we made pizza. The cheese was going to expire by the end of November, so I took my chance to use it up before it did. It might be the first time I've ever used up the cheese before the expiration because I usually forget I have some and buy a new package. I frequently have two or three of the same types of cheese in my fridge at any given time!

I made a simple roux with four tablespoons of butter, two tablespoons of flour and four cups of milk. Then I took the cheese and mixed it in until it was the right consistency. Sometimes I use less milk and add later just because it's dangerous to put too much milk when you have a limited amount of cheese.

I piled the chicken with a slice of bacon, some cheese sauce and paired it with boxed stuffing. Yup, some may call me a kitchen goddess, but I cook out of a box like everyone else. The meal was delicious, though, and I am excited to put another dish into my rotation when I have leftovers that need used up! The entire dish, because I was using items already in my fridge, cost me nothing. It was fantastic.

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