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and other joys in life

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Big Ass Cab, Peking Chicken and Bison Quesadillas

First things first.  I love wine.  Particularly I love cabernet.  Once upon a time I was an easy wine drinker; not picky, was satisfied with the cheap stuff.  Not so much anymore.  I don’t like to label myself as a wine snob, but some may call me that.  It all started this summer on our trip to California.  Good wine from wine country will do that to you.  We were visiting Tyler’s aunt, who I will call a wine snob 🙂 (in a nice way of course).  Let me tell you, she drinks some great 

wine.  We had a glass (or 2) every day with her.  Then Tyler and I spent a day in Napa Valley. Of course we toured all  of the great wineries and tasted them all.  Our last stop was Del Dotto, and it was the best of the best.  I will spare you the details, but we left a couple hundred bucks poorer (and only bought one bottle).  It was a gift, and she was impressed.  Since those great wine experiences, I don’t enjoy the cheap stuff.  I certainly don’t buy the $200 bottles on a regular basis, but try to find the good ones that are still reasonably priced.  Anyway; that was a long introduction to my point… we had a fabulous wine the other night! It wasn’t too expensive; about $20 from Mama Jeans.  Big Ass Cab.  Yep, that’s the name.  And it lived up to that name.  Very robust and bold, just like we like it.
Now on to the food.
No-Peeking Peking Chicken.  I have a dilemma with chicken.  Tyler doesn’t like it; it’s too dry.  I do like it; I think it tastes good and it’s a great source of lean protein.  My biggest problem is that I refuse to buy ‘conventional’ chicken.  There are a few brands that claim to sell cage free chickens without adding steroids or hormones.  Problem is, when mass produced and sold in a store like Wal-Mart or even Hy-Vee I question if these unregulated claims are true.  Therefore, I haven’t bought any chicken in months.  Until the other day… when I bought some from our natural food store, Mama Jeans, that came from a local farmer.  I chose the bone-in wings .  Raw chicken, especially the kind I have to ‘clean up’, really grosses me out.  But, I pushed through the blood and sliminess and created something beautiful.  Peking duck is a traditional Chinese dish that has crispy skin and is eaten with ‘pancakes’.  We saw a special on the Food Network about a New York restaurant that injected air between the meat and skin so the duck’s skin could get really crispy when slow cooked, keeping the meat moist.  My chicken was not ‘real’ Peking, but had the same flavors.  From Rachael Ray, here is the clifnotes version of her recipe:
Season about 4 pounds of chicken, skin discarded, with pepper and put in a slow cooker.  In bowl, combine ¾ cup chopped green onions, 4 cloves garlic, ¼ cup soy sauce, 3 tbsp. honey, 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger(I used powdered), and ¼ tsp sesame oil.  Pour this mixture over the chicken and cook on low heat until the chicken is cooked; about 4 hours.  I served this chicken shredded over some brown rice with sautéed carrots, peppers, green beans, onion and garlic; drizzled with pan juices and sprinkled with some green onions.
If you like Asian cuisine, you’ll love this dish.  The chicken was actually incredibly moist and flavorful.  They say that when you leave the bone in, the chicken remains moist (or in Rachael’s words, “produces more succulent results than boneless”)  Skin on is also supposed to keep it from drying out, but since this dish is slow cooked and has lots of juices, it is not necessary.
Bison & Beer-Cheddar Quesadillas.  One night, Tyler wasn’t home but I felt like having something yummy anyway.  We had some extra bison leftover from meatloaf and tortillas.  I came up with quesadillas, since I also had some yummy ‘beer cheddar’ from Osceola cheese.  It’s incredibly simple; I just browned the meat (grass-fed beef is yummy on here also) with some garlic and onions.  Then, I shredded some cheese on the (whole wheat) tortillas, sprinkled some meat on them and topped with some chipotle Tabasco.  Put another tortilla on top, and pop in the oven until they get crispy (on 350 or so).  For the guacamole on top, I mashed some avocados and added some lemon juice! Easy as pie J  As a side, I heated up a can of black beans (usually I use dry, but didn’t have them ready).  To the beans, I added some ‘taco’ seasoning (paprika, pepper, cumin, chili powder and tumeric), corn and fire roasted tomatoes.  Let me tell you, I am not typically a fan of Mexican food-especially when it’s authentic.  But this was so delicious.  The quesadillas only had a few flavors, so I could really savor the richness of the bison, the creaminess and unique taste of the beer cheddar, and the fresh avocadoes.  Put that all in a crispy tortilla, and you get a little slice of heaven in your mouth.
As a side note to the above- bison is a great alternative to beef; not only does it taste incredibly rich, it also has less ‘bad’ fats, and more of the good kind.  And there is another healthy part you may not think of, tumeric.  It is believed to reduce inflammation and could help ward off cancer.  And, we all know the wonders of beans (seriously) and tomatoes.  And avocadoes, and garlic and onions…  So yes, good tasting food (even easy food) can be good for you!