Since our very first class in this session of Cooking Matters, Lisa has been mentioning that she likes to make fried chicken. She even brought a recipe in for me -- now, if that’s not a hint as to what she would like to make in class then I don’t know what is! Doug has also revealed that some of his favorite items from the Food & Friends meal bags are the cold salads, especially vermicelli noodle and curry chicken salad.
To me, fried chicken and cold salads scream summertime! A menu like that makes me want to grab a picnic basket and mix up some pink lemonade. I know I am not the only one who has noticed the sudden drop in temperatures and the influx of scarves and gloves this past week. So, I decided to give the people what they wanted, but with a seasonal twist.
Two issues come to mind when thinking about fried chicken. One, there is no deep fryer in the kitchen at Food & Friends. And two fried chicken is not healthy eats (news flash)! Instead of greasy fried food, Greg and Tom got busy slicing and dicing some spicy ginger and fragrant garlic. Lisa grated some fresh orange peel. We all enjoyed the scent of the sweet, aromatic essential oils released from the orange zest. These ingredients were the base for the sauce that went over our baked orange chicken. The smell coming from the oven as the chicken cooked was nothing short of remarkable!
To address Doug’s request for cold salads, we turned classic pasta and potato salads into comforting autumn masterpieces. Bridgette and Sara got to work on chopping some seasonal veggies including turnips, carrots, parsnips, and broccoli. The veggies were tossed in olive oil, roasted to bring out the inner sweetness and lightly covered with a simple lemon vinaigrette to finish our weather-appropriate pasta salad. Greg and Tom cubed some sweet potatoes which were roasted until crisp on the outside and soft and buttery on the inside. These were tossed with sweet red peppers and crisp celery and mixed with homemade mustard vinaigrette for a festive potato salad. Yum!
The oven worked hard for us in this class -- roasting fresh veggies for two side-dishes and baking chicken until perfectly tender and juicy is a tough job! Because of this, I decided to give the oven a rest for dessert. When you are craving the perfect pumpkin pie, but don’t want to put in the work to make a pie, the solution is a creamy, spiced pumpkin mousse parfaits. But these were not what gave me the greatest satisfaction during this class. When Lisa tasted the meal and said “this is better than fried chicken,” my day was truly fulfilled!