Thursday, July 23, 2015

Lazy Chicken

I hardly ever follow recipes exactly as they are written. Sometimes I do, like the first time I cook something (or when I'm baking), but most of the time, I don't bother to pull out the recipe book, and I'm always making alterations and substitutions. Let's call it "flexible cooking." When friends ask me for cooking help, they get a little frustrated with my vague answers:
Friend: At what temperature did you bake it?
Me: 350... Or maybe 400... 375! I'm not sure... I bet I use a different temperature each time. 
Friend: And for how long?
Me: Until it's done.

Yes, I can be very unhelpful at times. Then there are those recipes I just throw together, and Paul says "this is really good! You should write down what you did!" And of course I don't, and the recipe is forever forgotten. 

But not this time! Because I'm writing it down! And I've made it a few times already, so I haven't forgotten it!

This chicken is so super easy. That's why I call it Lazy Chicken. We usually have it on a Monday, since I buy the chicken fresh that day (not because we like fresh food but because we are all out of frozen chicken and won't have time to thaw it). 

This is so simple. Seriously. Here's your ingredient list:
1. Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. You could probably use drumsticks or wing drumettes too. We use thighs. The key is to have the bones and the skin. 
2. Open your spice cabinet. Pick what goes good on chicken. I use salt and poultry seasoning, which has thyme and sage and something else. Sometimes I'll add pepper or paprika to spice things up. I bet lemon pepper could be good too. Don't know. Haven't tried it. Pick what you like. I don't recommend omitting the salt though. It brings out the flavor. 

Ok, so if that paragraph was too long, you need:

1. Bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
2. Salt and Poultry Seasoning

This is the super awesome lazy part. Open the package of chicken. Sprinkle the salt and seasoning liberally on both sides. 

If you're feeling ambitious, you can even lift the skin and season underneath it so the flavor gets in the meat. I only do this sometimes. I also sometimes trim away the extra fat and skin when I'm being an overachiever, but that is totally optional. 

The fat melts away during cooking, and I peel off the skin (might nibble a bite or two) when I eat it. So it's healthy, right?

Put the chicken in a big oven-safe pan (or Dutch oven if you're fancy--I'm not) skin down. Oh! I just remembered another shortcut: you can sprinkle salt and seasoning on the bottom of the pan for quick, instant seasoning when you place the chicken in there. Remember, skin-side down!

Then depending on how soon dinner is, you can either stick the whole thing in the fridge to let the flavors penetrate the meat or just preheat your oven to... 350? 

While your oven heats, it's time to sear the chicken. Really you're going to cook most of it on the stovetop. Crank the burner up to high, and cook that chicken. No oil needed because it'll cook in its own fat. Yum. It can be a little messy; the melted fat likes to jump out of the pan, so if you have one of those mesh oil guards, it might not be a bad idea to use it. I don't have one. My stovetop gets messy. Avoid this recipe on cleaning day. 
Flip to cook both sides, but definitely give the skin side more time in contact with the pan. When it looks like this, check the temperature with a meat thermometer. If it's 165 (I think), it's done. If it's not done, stick the whole pan into your preheated oven, uncovered, skin side UP this time (it helps keep the skin crispy). 

Check the temperature every 5 minutes or so. Usually at this point, my kids are hovering around the kitchen, wondering if it's dinnertime yet, so I get them to be helpful and set the table. 

By the way, while the chicken is crisping up on the stovetop, you should start cooking your sides. This time we had green beans (from a frozen bag... shame) and macaroni and cheese (from a box... shame again). 

Anyway, when your chicken is ready, it'll look like this. See that crispy skin? Better than a rotisserie chicken from Kroger!

And there you have it. Lazy Chicken. And lazy green beans. And lazy mac and cheese. It's what's for dinner. 

If you're like me and scroll through the rambling part of a blog to get to the succinct recipe, here it is:

Lazy Chicken

Ingredients:
10 chicken thighs
Salt and Poultry Seasoning to taste

Instructions:
1. Sprinkle salt and seasoning into a large oven-safe pan or dutch oven, and place the chicken thighs in the pan skin-side down. 
2. Liberally sprinkle the other side of the chicken with salt and seasoning. 
3. If not cooking immediately, refrigerate. Otherwise, preheat oven to 350F. 
4. Sear chicken on the stovetop, flipping once or twice, until skin is golden. 
5. Check internal temperature with a meat thermometer. If it does not read 165F, put it in the oven. Check temperature every 5 minutes until done. 
6. Enjoy!
 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

LEGO Week

After taking a week off from themes, we spent a week playing with Legos in just about every way imaginable. First, to give credit where it is due... I got most of my ideas from here, here, and other places that unfortunately I lost track of, but Google and Pinterest are my friends. Big time. Oh, and this looks awesome for older kids... we'll have to do it in the future!

On Monday, I printed some activity sheets with challenges, like building the tallest thing and the shortest thing with a set number of pieces, so there was counting, sorting, building, patterning, letter and number making...


 We made dresses for the Lego Friends using fabric scraps and fabric markers.

We made boats out of Legos and tested their ability to stay afloat in the pool.

Another challenge I gave Ellie was to create something using only one color. She chose purple of course.

We also played Roll-a-figure from this packet, which was fun, and the girls spent a lot of time playing with their figures afterward. We also made sure to watch the Lego Friends show (Katie calls it "Me and the Girls") on Netflix so as to completely immerse ourselves in LEGO fun.

At this point, I should probably mention that I came down with a nasty cold all week... but I plugged on. Life doesn't stop for germs! I was, however, in a medicated, congested fog, so the order/coherence of events may not be 100%... And for that I'm sorry.

On Tuesday, we did the stuff I had planned for Wednesday because of my cold.
That included making the kids' names in Legos,

Coloring their own mini figures,

A Lego brick themed lunch,

Lots of free play while mommy blew her nose on the couch under a blanket,

 The construction of a cool candy dispenser (Anthony called it the Jelly Bean House),

And the construction of their new kits we got at the Lego Store a few weeks ago. Paul helped Anthony build his plane.

 Katie didn't help me build her giraffes.

That evening, everything was not awesome in my head, so we watched the LEGO Movie before bedtime because I was all out of steam.

On Wednesday, I was feeling a little better, and we did some measuring with Duplos.
The girls guessed how many bricks different household items measured, and then they tested their hypotheses.
 They worked together, counting and measuring.
Then I gave them cards on which I had traced the outlines of different Duplo structures, and they had to make them based on the outlines matching.
 More teamwork... they did them all!
Even though these were "baby" Legos, they did not complain, and they actually really liked the activity.
I had made a few simpler cards for Anthony to do, just matching the colors to make sticks. This was more his speed, though he didn't mind playing along with all the other activities either (or just parallel playing his own thing right next to us).


 After we made our pattern sticks, we used them as bowling pins.
 Ice balls were the balls, which made the activity last just long enough. Once they couldn't stand the cold or the ice balls cracked, it was lunch time, so getting them to switch activities was easy.

I made them a Lego man lunch with corn on the cob, meatballs, peppers, cheese, and bread. They always like lunches with character, but they do sometimes play more than they eat.

We then tried making shadow art. Ellie built a structure, then she traced the shadow of it on her paper as I held the flashlight... cool idea in theory, but she didn't care for it too much.

At naptime, we made a marble run. Katie really got into it and mastered it in no time.

And since we were playing with marbles, the girls decided they wanted to play marble works, which Anthony was happy to play after he got out of his bed.

 We continued with physics by making balloon-powered Lego cars.
Then they wanted to just play with their balloons...

On Thursday, we ran some non-Lego-related errands and didn't get to our activities until the end of the day... but we made some cool stop-motion movies with the Lego Movie Maker app.
Katie's:
video

Ellie's:
video


Then for dessert, we decorated Lego cookies with icing and M&Ms.




And we ended the day playing a board game that didn't quite hold the attention of the little ones, but Ellie LOVED and wanted to play over and over again.


On Friday, we didn't do anything Lego-related because we were in the car for a lot of time, traveling to Dallas to visit my parents, but on Saturday we made up for the lack of Legos by going to Legoland Discovery Center in Grapevine... They had a blast; I'll let the pictures do the talking.















We spoiled them and bought them some new sets at the play place, which they built (or rather, Paul and I built for them).


 And everything was awesome! Yay Lego week!