Monday, June 19, 2006

Cookin' for Cash

Rita is my experimental personal chef customer, who I've been cooking for, off and on, for about 3 months now. She gets me cheap, because she's willing to be experimented on, plus I promised not to poison her if at all possible.

It's sort of Rita's fault (in a roundabout way) that I'm this whole culinary school thing...actually, it's more of her daughter's fault, because she has a personal chef. Sometimes, the's convoluted. Anyway, when I got laid off, I was depressed and watching a lot of food porn and cooking a lot. The Man thought this was great, because he had some wonderful dinners and yummy leftovers for lunch. He mentioned this to Rita, who worked with him at the time, and she mentioned that her daughter had a personal least I think this is how the story goes...and the next thing I know, Bam! The Man says I should look into this cooking gig, and here we's kismet, I'm sure. Or, I really must have been Marie Antoinette in a previous life. Which might explain why I can't bake. Or not.

Anyway, I try to make some healthy things for her, and she's been very good about giving me feedback. I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I had cooked her several meals for when her daughter and son-in-law came to visit, and the daughter was most pleased and impressed and said she wished I'd come to Seattle and cook for her. (Plane ticket is all I need!!)

So, for Rita today, I am cooking the following: 2 recipes of Black & White Chili with Pork, 2 recipes of Chicken with Carmelized Onion sauce, Tex-Mex Stuffed Peppers, Pork with Tuscan Beans, and Basil Pesto Chicken. Except I completely forgot about the Pork with Tuscan Beans, so I'm going back next week to cook it for her. Where my brain was this morning, I have no earthly idea. It just completely slipped my mind, and I didn't realize it until I was packing some stuff up at her house and sort of counting the number of dishes up in my head. I've always said my math skills were bad, but I think this takes the cake.

Rita is diabetic, so I take that into consideration when I'm cooking and try not to add alot of extra sugar or salt. I've collected recipes from Weight Watchers folks, Cooking Light, and other places to put into my reptoire for her. So far, she's been very pleased with everything I've made, with the exception of this weird vegetarian pasta dish. She said it looked good, but it just didn't ring her bell after the first few bites, so out it goes. The B&W Chili and the Chicken with Carmelized Onions were big hits from the last time I cooked, so she's requested those again.

The B&W Chili is a Weight Watchers meal that can be cooked in a crockpot. It's only 5.5 points per serving, and is very filling. I usually ratchet up the chili powder a bit, which is what I will do today, because she mentioned it was not spicy enough last time. I also ignore the yogurt addition and just throw cilantro on top if I happen to have any lying around. I suggested she serve it with some Mexican-style corn bread.

Black and White Chili with Pork

3/4 pound lean boneless pork -- cut into 1/2" cubes
1 15 ounce can black beans -- drained and rinsed
1 15 ounce can small white beans -- drained and rinsed
1 pepper -- red or yellow, chopped
1 medium tomato -- peeled and chopped
1 small onion -- thinly sliced
1 clove garlic -- crushed
1 teaspoon cumin -- ground
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1/3 cup lowfat yogurt -- or sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro -- chopped

Combine pork, beans, bell pepper, tomato, onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, and tomato sauce in a 3.5 quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low about 6 hours or until pork is tender. (I have cooked it on high for about 3.5 hours, and it was fine...sometimes, I get a late start on my day...)

Ladle into individual bowls. Spoon about 1 tablespoon yogurt or sour cream on top of each bowl; sprinkle with cilantro.

The Basil Pesto Chicken is something I gleaned from Supper Suppers, and I've actually cooked a version of it before, so it's not like I'm springing it on her sight untasted. It's pretty darn simple and will freeze pretty well. At the store, we use frozen chicken breasts, but I figured the fresh ones will work as well.
Basil Pesto Chicken

6 Chicken breasts (I like to pound these and flatten them a little for even cooking)
1 7-oz container of prepared fresh pesto
1/4 cup Djion mustard
1-1 1/2 cups Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350˚. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Take the pesto and mustard and combine in a small bowl. Lay the chicken breasts in the sprayed pan and top with pesto-mustard mixture. Sprinkle with the cheese and cover with foil (spray foil to keep cheese from sticking) if you are going to freeze it. If serving immediately, bake at 350˚ for 20-25 minutes.

If you freeze it, thaw completely. Preheat oven to 350˚. If frozen or partially frozen, add 10-20 minutes covered baking time before proceeding with uncovered baking time. Remove foil & bake 20-25 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked (165° on instant read thermometer). Cooking times may vary due to differences in ovens. Serve with some salad, maybe buttered pasta.

I know, I know, it's too damn simple to get paid for, but the paying for part comes from not having to do it yourself, which can be priceless for some folks. The downside is now I have to cook my own dinner...and I'm not getting paid for that!


Erin said...

Yummy yummy yum yum yum.

Food porn - so true! I've been off work a lot lately for various reasons, and just wishing I still had the Food Network. I miss the food porn!

georgiabelle said...

I've always wanted to take cooking courses!

The food sounds absolutely wonderful!!!

Hats off to the chef!

Mary said...

Mmmm...Sounds wonderful. I think I'll try the Crock pot one -- B&W Chili.

I'm salivating and I just had dinner too!

Poodlebugz said...

You may want to adjust the seasonings on the B&W Chili--it is a Weight Watchers recipe, and therefore it's kinda bereft of salt, which I can't seem to live without.

Anonymous said...

Now everyday as I begin my day, I catch up on your cooking activities!! along with working my daily jigsaw puzzle on line.

Since I have retired, I have become
"hooked" on the FoodNetwork, I am cooking more...I hope you can find someone to publish your stories, they are just wonderful. Miss seeing you, but I have asked about you and JeannieP sent me your blog.
Life is good for me, doing everyday just as I please, just do not know why I did not retire sooner. Jackson sends you a big kiss!!! AnnB