January 20, 2009

Simplicity. That's the Ticket!

Back to basics. This is a phrase you're going to be hearing a lot of in the near future. We are starting to see it in commercials, magazines and TV shows. Basics can mean many different things depending on who you're talking to. It's all relative to a person's level of income, social status and location. For some it might mean eating at home once in a while and not driving the Hummer as much to save on gas. To others it will mean bringing back the ways of their parents and grandparents by making less expensive meals, using coupons or hanging their clothes out to dry.

However you look at it the time has come to cut back, do your part and make do. We're reducing what we spend on entertainment, food and luxuries. My children are adults now so it's a bit easier to control the budget, but we still have to feed and house four people and various pets so things can get pretty tight if we're not careful. One of the things I've started doing is going back to my mother's recipes. I grew up in a family of seven siblings with very little income but we always seemed to eat well and I never remember thinking I was going without. My family enjoys simple, flavorful foods that are easy to make and go a long way so it's a win/win situation for me.

I will share my mom's recipe for Spanish Chicken & Rice, but keep it under your hat. It's a family secret! The amount below will feed 6 hungry teenage boys or dinner and left-overs for an average family.

Spanish Chicken and Rice
  • 1 chicken cut into pieces (with skin or without)
  • 3 cups uncooked rice (I use Minute Rice)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 - 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 cups chicken broth (you can use bullion cubes and boiling water)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (you can use any vegetable oil but EVOO tastes best)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350º F.
In a large frying pan heat 1-2 teaspoons olive oil. Wash and pat dry the chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Add chicken to hot pan skin side down and brown lightly, about 5-8 minutes. Transfer chicken to a 9" x 13" baking dish and bake at 350º F for 20 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking add 1/4 cup olive oil to the frying pan you used to brown the chicken. On medium heat add the chopped onions and garlic and saute until onions are soft.
Add 3 cups of uncooked rice and stir to lightly brown. Add the tomato sauce, herbs and chicken broth and bring to a boil, then remove from heat.

At this point the first cook time of the chicken should be done. Carefully spoon the rice mixture on top of the chicken and spread to cover. Bake uncovered an additional 20-30 minutes until chicken is done. We serve this with garlic bread and a big green salad. It is simple and delicious. You can gussy it up a bit by adding mushrooms, olives or peppers if you like but we adore it just the way it is. Leftovers are even better as the flavors have time to mingle!

My mother passed away some years ago and we all miss her terribly, but her creative frugal ways and determination to raise her family well will stay with us always. When I put the food in the oven tonight I silently thanked her for the important life lessons and wisdom to teach us to make do and make it good. I have a feeling that will come in handy these days.


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Anna said...

This is one of my favorite dishes, thanks for sharing your mom's recipe. Simplicity is absolutely the ticket! I love cooking meals like this - hearty and lots of flavors intermingling. Nothing beats homecooking. Delicious.