Friday, January 21, 2011

Recipe (sort of): Mandarin Chicken - needs improvement!

It was my turn to cook last night. I had fully intended on finding something new and creative to make on my lunch break yesterday, but with last week's "snowpocalypse" I'm completely behind on work stuff and didn't get much of a break at all. Therefore, when I got home at 6:15, I had a bunch of thawed chicken but no plan.

Desperately tearing apart my fridge and pantry, I found the beginnings of a Chinese-style orange chicken dish, so I punched a few ingredients into and found a Mandarin beef stir-fry recipe.  Bingo!  Just needed a little bit of improvising, right?  I'll tell you what I did, then what went wrong.  However, I think I'm actually on the right track with this one for once!
2-3 chicken boneless skinless breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes (it was actually a handful of chicken strips, but that's about what it comes out to in breasts)
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1 can of mandarin oranges (10oz, I think?)
1/2 c sugar
1 sweet onion, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
2 c broccoli, steamed
1 c rice, steamed
Olive oil

Combine soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and juice from mandarin oranges.  Place chicken in a bowl and pour just enough of the mixture over it to cover the chicken.  Marinate in the fridge for about 15 minutes.  (Don't put the oranges in the marinade - trust me on this.  Just set them aside.)  Set the rest of the sauce aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sautee onion and pepper until onions begin to caramelize and peppers are tender.  Drain chicken and add to skillet.  Cook until done.

(Here's where it went wrong)  Add sugar to remaining sauce, then pour the sauce and mandarin oranges into the skillet and bring to a boil.  Heat for about 2 minutes or until sauce thickens.  Pour over rice and broccoli and serve.
So what went wrong?  When I read the original recipe that I based this off of, I could have sworn I had corn starch.  However, I got to the part that said, "Combine the cornstarch and reserved marinade until smooth," searched for the cornstarch, and panicked.  I was out and that must be what thickens the sauce!  I tried to think of what thickens sauces, but what the hell do I know about cooking?  And I'll be damned if I ask The Bastard since I was so fucking confident walking into the kitchen that I didn't need help with this meal.  I mean, my pride was on the line here, people!  (Speaking of which, I rest my case about the Taurus thing.)

I finally settled on sugar because I knew that worked; I just didn't know what quantity.  I started with 1/4 c, then bumped it up another 1/4 when that didn't work.  It thickened just slightly, but not nearly to the extent I was going for.  Finally after about 10 minutes of simmering, I said, "Fuck it," turned off the burner, and started scooping the meat, onions, and peppers into the bowl with the rice and broccoli.  I slowly poured the sauce into the bowl so I wouldn't end up with rice soup.  After staring at it for a few seconds, trying to work up my courage, I tasted it.

Hoars, it was actually good!  Slightly sweet, slightly tangy - I actually improvised something that tasted good, and I didn't even set the kitchen on fire!  This is a major kitchen breakthrough for me.  There's just one thing left to sort out:  fucking sauces!  How do they work???  I don't want to ditch the sugar, so would I need to add the whole 2 tbsp of cornstarch?  Or am I off base about that being the thickening agent?  If anyone wants to help me out on this, hit me up in the comments.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Zodiac Killer? Not Hardly.

My sister posted this article on my Facebook wall the other day because she knows that I'm a very proud Taurus and have no regrets whatsoever about the Taurus tattoo that I got for my 20th birthday.

Because, let's face it, this tat rocks!
I read the article, laughed at the hype, and learned a bit more about the stars.  I figured that this would blow over pretty quickly and didn't think anything else of it.

But now it's everywhere - on every news site, on every radio, on tons of new Facebook groups - and I felt the need to say something:  "Calm the fuck down!!"

Seriously, if any of these idiots had taken 5 seconds for a quick Google or to look up a Wikipedia article, there wouldn't be any of this ridiculous "panic" I keep reading about.  The fact that these people are missing is that there's not one single zodiac calendar; many cultures have their own.  The traditional Western zodiac calendar is the Tropical zodiac calendar.  What's really interesting is that Ophiuchus, the sign that's causing all the fuss, is not a new sign at all, but has just been largely ignored in modern astrology.  Ophiuchus is a sign that is recognized in a variation of the Sidereal zodiac calendar, and even that's not unanimously agreed upon; most Sidereal astrologers use a 12-sign calendar.

I'm not sure how this recent hullabaloo got started, but here's where it ends in my world:  I'm a Taurus.  My stubbornness on this issue should be a perfect indicator of that.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Recipe: Crock Pot Chicken Tacos

We made Crock Pot Chicken Tacos for dinner Friday night.  And of course, being us, we improvised a bit.  This was mostly due to the fact that we were out of salsa, Aldi didn't have any, and Kroger was packed because we did our grocery shopping the day before the huge ice storm.  Click the link for the actual recipe; here's what we did:

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 can of diced tomatoes
About a dozen slices of jarred jalapeno
1 large sweet onion
1 can of whole kernel corn
1 packet of taco seasoning
1/2 c of water

Mix it all up, set it on low, and go to work.  The Bastard stirred it every couple of hours since it was still too icy for him to get to work on his motorcycle, but this may have been more out of boredom than necessity.  After 8 hours, the chicken pretty much falls apart just while stirring it.  I probably didn't need to add the water as it was a little... drippy.  Also, the jalapenos might have been overkill as our stomachs didn't really appreciate the spicy bombardment the next day.  However, I thought the flavor was awesome, and I'll probably do it again using salsa.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dinner: Pot Roast... Sort Of...

We tried the first of the crock pot recipes last night.  Here's what we did:

2 lbs (approx) stew beef
1 very large baking potato, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 16-oz. bag of baby carrots
1 sweet onion, cut into chunks
3 cups beef broth
1 cup water
Basil and parsley (to taste)

Mix all of these ingredients in a large crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours.

Verdict: It was good, but not great.  Next time, I think I'll cut out the water and add onion soup mix.  I'll let you know how it goes.  The cook time was dead on, though - the beef was done and falling apart, and the veggies weren't mushy.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year's Resolution: Food Edition

For the most part, I think New Year's Resolutions are a load of crap.  Most people do what they say they're going to do for about a week and then quit.  Hell, look at me: it took me a week just to make a New Year's resolution!  However, The Bastard, who is a huge LifeHacker fan, sent me links to a bunch of articles.  One of these really got me thinking:  The Bastard and I are both employed now so we're not home much; we have a tiny kitchen and not much time to spend in it; and we have a rice cooker, crock pot, and George Foreman grill.  So why the hell do we eat so much frozen pizza?  (As you can probably tell, we did not stick with P90X, although I would still recommend it to the very determined.)  We really need to start eating better, and lack of time and space is no longer an excuse.

So I'm going to share some of these sites that I found through the link above and, if I actually make myself sit down and do it, also write some reviews as I try these recipes out.  I might even actually take some pictures for once.

Potato chips in the microwave (just on principal)
Five-ingredient crock pot meals
Crock pot chicken tacos (these just look awesome!)
George Foreman recipes

If you guys have any other quick/easy/cheap recipe suggestions, let me know - bonus if they're healthy, too.  Also, feel free to try some of these with me and give your own reviews in the comments sections.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Customer Service Fail: Comcast Edition

Customer service for any business is crucial.  Unfortunately, a lot of companies have forgotten that lately.  I'm not going to say that the customer is always right because, well, they're not.  However, if you're running a business, you should at least do what you can (within reason) to make sure that your customer doesn't hate you.

I was tipped off to this one regarding a Comcast customer.  He's been going around and around lately with their customer service/tech support about several hi-def channels that he's paid for but is not receiving.  However, this last rep takes the proverbial cake.  You can read the whole story here, but I also nabbed the screen shots for you.  Check out this nonsense (click the image to see full-size):

"If I cannot help you, no one will!! MWAH HA HA HA HA!!!"

In other words, "Jose" got pissed when the dude asked him to escalate the issue and basically just "hung up" on him.  Really, Jose?  Really??  If you don't know your shit, and it sounds like you don't, pass it on to someone else.  Escalate it to a manager.  Don't get huffy with the customer when he is simply relaying what he's been told in the past and asks to speak to a supervisor.  Now, according to the website he put up, he's not only escalating this with customer retention, but several people who work at Comcast have seen this site and will be investigating the matter personally.  Congrats, Jose!  You may have not only lost your company a customer, but perhaps your own job as well.