Posts Categorized: Food

Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala

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I know this is in no way “authentic” tikka masala. I use cream cheese in place of heavy cream, for one. Um…pretty sure they don’t do that in India. And I cook it in a crockpot. But it’s good! And it’s easy! I think I’ve finally (after the “terrible” trial of making and eating this over and over again) nailed this yummy, comforting recipe for you…so without further ado:

Aryn’s Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala

Prep Chicken:
• 2-3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thigh, cut up into 1-2 inch pieces (TIP: no need to cut off the fat…you want it there to keep the chicken from drying out…and I use a kitchen scissors to do the cutting…so much easier!)
• 1 tsp kosher salt (regular is really just fine though)
• 1 Tbl ground coriander
• 2 tsp ground cumin
• 1 Tbl garam masala (you can find this in the bulk section of our local co-op…check yours, or the spice section of your favorite grocery store)
• 3/4 plain yogurt
Cut up chicken and mix up with above ingredients in a bowl. Set aside for now.

Everything else:
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 2 cans (16 oz) garbanzo beans (chick peas).
TIP: If I only have 2 lbs of chicken, I add a third can of beans. This is a saucy recipe and my kid LOVES spicy “bongo” beans!
• 6 cloves of garlic, minced
• 1 large piece of ginger (2-3 inches in size), peeled and grated
TIP: really do use a grater…it makes it so much nicer
• 1 Tbl kosher salt
• 2 Tbls garam masala
• 1 lg can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
• 1 Tbl sugar
• 1 tsp cocoa
• 1 whole jalapeno, washed, stem removed, and pierced several times with sharp knife
TIP: Make sure the jalapeno doesn’t explode…or it’ll be super hot. Remove it if it’s starting to fall apart. If you make chopped, pickled jalapenos (we do), just throw a few pieces in there instead with a bit of the pickled juice. Yum!
• 8 Tbl butter (Yes, that’s a whole stick…you need it all. Just cut into Tbl and pop into slow cooker.)

Later (about 30 minutes before serving… do this right before you make rice!):
• 1 brick (8 oz) cream cheese, cubed up
TIP: I actually use Neufchâtel and it’s totally still great
• 1 Tbl coconut oil (if you’ve got it…it’s a nice addition…could be optional though)
• Juice from half a lime

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1. Put all the “everything else” ingredients into the crockpot. Then put the chicken mixture on top – don’t stir it in. Why? Chicken can dry out in a crockpot, so keeping it father away from the heat source is best. It will clump together initially, but will break up when you stir it in. I tend to stir it in about halfway through cooking (yes, I open my crockpot while cooking, gasp!)…if you’re not home, it’s fine to just stir it in when you add the cheese.

2. Cook on LOW for 5-6 hours. So if you work out of the house, it would be good to have it all ready to go in the fridge, then come home for lunch and put it on.

3. 30 minutes before serving, stir in the chopped up cream cheese (or Neufchâtel), coconut oil, and lime. Cook rice.
TIP 1: I always make double the rice I need so we can use it for leftovers.
TIP 2: We like to use basmati rice and add in some frozen peas at the end of the cooking. It adds some sneaky vegetables to the dish and stops the rice from getting overcooked!

Stir up the tikka to make sure all the cheese is melted and serve over rice, and maybe with some naan and a bit of plain yogurt if you’d like (we like).

Enjoy!
XO,
Aryn

 

 

 

Wisco Pop!

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Story by Aryn Henning Nichols . Photos by Komifoto

It’s no big surprise that it was a bit of a treasure hunt to find great soda with all-natural ingredients.

“If you think you’re in the wrong place, you’re probably in the right place,” says Hallie Ashley, one of the three founders of Wisco Pop, Wisconsin’s Holy Grail of soda.

WiscoPop kitchen headquarters can be found in a non-descript, former cash register factory on the north side of Viroqua, Wisconsin. From the outside, it appears that there’s very little happening there, but things are really – and literally – cooking inside.

The Vernon Economic Development Association (VEDA) has turned this 100,000 square foot building – with the help of a $2 million grant – into a Food Enterprise Center. It’s an incubator for businesses that are involved in local food production, processing, marketing, and distribution, and the just-added element: exercise and movement.

Keewaydin Farms, Just Local Foods, LuSa Organics, Fifth Season Cooperative, Sole Expressions Dance Studio Cooperative, Kickapoo Coffee, and – of course – Wisco Pop all currently or will soon utilize the space in one way or another.

The day Inspire(d) made the trip to Viroqua, Wisco Pop’s Austin Ashley (married to Hallie) and Zac Mathes were in the center’s commercial kitchen cooking up a 60-gallon steam kettle of ginger for their popular ginger soda. Bits of ginger peel and spent lemons, juiced one-at-a-time, marked the start of their 125-gallon Monday production. The two self-proclaimed “cosmic brothers” obviously work well together, as conversation easily flows from the Food Enterprise Center to Viroqua to the Driftless Region and even pizza farms. A reporter could easily get off track!

“Let me get out my list of questions so I don’t forget anything,” I say, pulling my notebook out of my bag just as Hallie arrives.

“That’s funny,” Austin says. “We have a list of questions for you too! Is your first one, ‘Why are we so good looking?’ ‘Cause we just can’t explain it.”

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Jokes aside (even though they are a dapper crew), what they can explain is their quest for really delicious soda.

It all started with Austin. He was making ginger beer and kombucha at home, and wishing there were more options for natural and even organic sodas.

“I was sitting on the idea for a long time,” he says. “Hallie kept saying to me, ‘Just start it. Just do it.’”

And so they did. Wisco Pop launched just over a year ago at the Kickapoo Country Fair in Viroqua. The response has been amazing, and rightly so.

“People at first are all, ‘Craft brewed soda?’,” Austin says. “But then they taste it and are like, ‘Oh! We get it now! Craft brewed soda!’”

“This is what soda is supposed to be. It’s the way it used to be,” Zac continues. “No chemicals, just good ingredients.”

They stand by their motto: “Keepin’ it real. No processed corn, no artificial flavors. Just fresh fruit juice, pure honey, genuine spices and herbs for a real brew.”

Take their Cherry Bomb soda, for example. They whisked me across the kitchen to take a whiff of the kettle brewing for this batch. (Below, much lower-quality photos, by Aryn Henning Nichols

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“You really have to get your face in there,” Austin says as I lean in for a sniff. “Can you guess what’s in it?”
“Hmmm…something I cook with,” I muse.
“You’re on the right track,” sings Hallie.
“I can’t quite place it…”
“It’s probably the vanilla.” Zac interjects.
“No, that’s not it…”
“Cinnamon?”
“Yes!”

Each flavor – they currently have three: ginger, cherry bomb, and root beer – is filled with complex flavors that keep you guessing, “What’s in there?”

“Comparing it to craft beer is a good analogy,” Zac says. “We spend a lot of time making sure it’s just right.”

The root beer was recently released and is Austin’s Sistine Chapel, although like an artist, he’s his own biggest critic.

“Ask Austin how long it took him to ‘perfect’ the root beer,” Zac says with a smile.

“A while,” Austin replies. “I don’t know if it will ever be perfect.”

It’s pretty darn delicious though. Not too sweet, with hints of maple syrup – local, of course. That is just one of the ingredients keeping the root beer subtly different with each batch. If the syrup’s different, so’s the soda. Same goes for the local honey in the oh-so-delicious ginger brew. Following that ever-changing notion, in the future Wisco Pop hopes to release special seasonal brews that will highlight special flavors or fruits.

Even though they’re obviously a happy little a Wisco Pop family, they’re business partners as well. Austin is the head crafter and develops those new brews – they’re working on a cola recipe now! – then Zac and Austin head up production together. Zac follows through on details such as ordering supplies and building useful things. “He’s our mathematician,” Austin jokes. And Hallie is the manager, bookkeeper, and customer contact person. All three work together on sales.

On top of that, Hallie works at Kickapoo Coffee and Zac runs Heartbeet Family Farm – along with a brick-oven-on-wheels pizza business called Homegrown Pizza – with his wife, Sara, and four-year-old daughter, Noa. Austin holds down the Wisco Pop and daddy front – he and Hallie have three kids: 11-year-old Alden, two-year-old Fern, and newborn Otis.

It’s this combination of family, business, community and good taste that brings it all together. In a time when soda gets a bad rap – commercial soda is filled with high fructose corn syrup and preservatives – Wisco Pop is out to bring back the charm and integrity what was once a very real craft. As they like to say: “Wisco Pop makes it okay to drink soda again. So welcome back old friend, welcome to…craft brewed soda.”

—————–

Aryn Henning Nichols is amazed she failed to use any bubble puns in the story. Guess she’ll have to save them for the story on carbonation! She wants to be part of the Wisco Pop! family ‘cause they’re so fun, and also because she’d like to have a lifetime supply of ginger soda. Yum.

Luckily, Wisco Pop! is making the great soda search a whole lot easier for the rest of us. You can find it in the Driftless Region here:

Driftless Cafe
Brew Dog
Rooted Spoon
The Root Note (La Crosse)
Viroqua Food Co-op

Plus multiple locations in Madison and Milwaukee. See www.wiscopopsoda.com or Wisco Pop! on Facebook for details.

Update: Wisco Pop held a Kickstarter fundraiser in December of 2013 to move on to bottling their delicious brews for the masses. They’ll be available EVEN MORE locations soon. Hooray!

Science, You’re Super : Garlic!

The “Science, You’re Super!” segment is a regular feature in Inspire(d) Magazine… we bring you this seasonally appropriate feature on Garlic!

By Aryn Henning Nichols
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Garlic sure has been purported to have a lot of uses: it can apparently cure the common cold, prevent heart disease, and keep vampires away. All I know for sure is it can make my food DELICIOUS! I love crushing fresh cloves with the flat of my knife and mincing them into most all of my savory dishes. So it’s handy we inherited a pretty large patch of German Extra Hardy garlic when we moved into our house several years ago (thanks, Rhodes’!). Every summer, we pick out the biggest heads out of the harvest – and there are some giant ones – to be planted that fall, and every year, without fail, I marvel over the fact that one little clove turns back into a whole head garlic. Magic! Science!

Interesting garlic facts: China definitely wins the garlic growing contest, with approximately 23 billion pounds grown there annually – that’s more than 77 percent of world output! The United States (where garlic is grown in almost every state) is in sixth place with a sad 1.4 percent of the world’s production. And most of THAT is grown in Gilroy, California, the “Garlic Capitol of the World” (they might need to rethink that title…)(1)

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Courtesy Seed Savers Exchange

Garlic is generally propagated by planting cloves, which are the small sections that are broken out of the whole head. Each large garlic bulb, or head, contains about 10 cloves, depending on variety. The bigger the cloves you plant, the larger the cloves and heads you get at harvest. (2)

It’s time to harvest when the tips of the leaves become partly dry and bend to the ground. The bulbs are gently pulled and gathered to dry (or cure) for about a week. (2)

But how, exactly, does that head of garlic form? We turned to Seed Technician Heidi Cook at the world-renowned, but local-to-us Seed Savers Heritage Farm for some answers.

How does that one clove of garlic magically become a whole head of garlic under ground?

Within each clove of garlic a leaf begins to form even before planting. At the base of this leaf, tiny cloves begin to develop and in spring they continue to grow or swell around the stalk. Essentially each clove is but a tiny garlic plant. It is a common misconception that the bulbs form cloves later in the season but they actually begin to form even before planting.

I read that garlic actually does better when it’s planted close together? Is this true? If yes, why?Garlic_Bulbs

Planting garlic cloves 6 to 8 inches apart, depending on the variety, can allow the bulbs to grow to a desired size and aid in the care they need to be given, from the gardener, as they grow. Having a layer of mulch on the beds will help in the spring and summer for suppressing weeds. A weedy bed of garlic will result in an undesirable harvest as garlic does not compete well with the weeds.

Why does garlic need to be exposed to colder temps in order to form bulbs in the spring?

Garlic should be planted roughly four to six weeks before the ground freezes. This allows the garlic cloves to develop a good root system and yet not enough time to send up leaves. If leaves emerge before winter it can damage the plant so waiting until October to put your cloves in the ground would be a fine recommendation. The soil around the garlic cloves and a good layer of mulch over your planting will allow protection from cold winter temperatures. The period of cold over winter is ideal for encouraging a better flavor for the garlic.

What’s the difference between hardneck and softneck garlic? What works in the Midwest?

The Midwest can be an ideal area to grow large, vigorous, and tasty cloves of garlic. Garlic is divided into two main types by how they grow. Hardnecks varieties are directly related to wild garlic and are especially hardy in this area. These send up flower stalks in the spring which are more commonly called scapes. Breaking off these scapes as they begin to curl will allow the energy to be directed below ground and at harvest time the bulbs will be larger.
Softnecks are varieties of hard necks that developed later. In our climate, soft necks generally do not send up a flower stalk so the energy to produce the bulbs is continuously directed to creating larger cloves of garlic. They have become the most commonly grown varieties on the market as they are known for their longer shelf life, bulb size and more distinct hot or mild flavor.


What do YOU love about garlic?

Garlic is a very easy and satisfying plant to grow. It requires little maintenance and at harvest time it gives a great reward. It can be an extension of off-season garden work for an avid gardener giving the grower one last shot before winter to work in the garden and an early harvest reward for the following year. There are many different varieties all unique in flavor and use. I like the hardneck varieties because the scapes are yet another tasty addition to my garden.

Seed Savers Exchange offers a nifty pictorial guide to growing garlic – they also sell over a dozen varieties of garlic (they all taste amazingly different!), but supllies often sell out quickly. Start checking by early July and plant in late fall for a summer harvest!

Sources:

  1. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garlic
  2. www.plantanswers.com/garden_column/oct03/2.htm
  3. Heidi Cook, Seed Savers Heritage Farm seed technician

 

Aryn Henning Nichols loves garlic. She is lucky Benji Nichols loves garlic… for a variety of reasons.