I know it is really popular to dis Rachael Ray. Next to George Bush (and Sandra Lee) she probably elicits the most negative response on the blogosphere. But she is popular,with two Food Network shows, books and a magazine, and she is almost everywhere. And while RR is no Julia Child, she has encouraged a whole generation raised on fast food to break out their pots and pans and start cooking for themselves. That in and of itself is something good, in my book.

As a working woman, I often go to her 30-Minute Meals archive to find something to make in a pinch, and yesterday, after catching the end of her show on a spicy barbecue chicken, I looked up her menu to try an make something new and different that would appeal to my husband's latest addiction to Mexican food (it has become so much an issue that my oldest daughter got him a sombrero and pinata as a joke for Christmas!) The menu included some spice-rubbed boneless chicken, pumpkin polenta, and a salsa salad with grilled pineapple. I didn't have everything in her recipes on hand so I made a few substitutions and some additions, but the final products together made a perfect blend of spicy, savory, sweet, and fresh that went over very well at our table. Even my polenta-hating (he often calls it placenta) husband loved the pumpkin polenta even though mine turned out a little bit lumpy.

I was only cooking for my husband and myself since Bridget was working and Molly was not feeling that adventurous, and again I forgot to take pictures before we devoured the whole dinner. Here is my version of RR's BBQ Spiced Chicken, Salsa Salad and Pumpkin-Chipotle Polenta or you can look it up and try hers by the book, but this is a recipe that you can really play with. While it is good with chicken, I also used this same rub on a pork tenderloin, and I am thinking this would also be great on salmon.

Spicy-Rubbed Chicken Thighs

1 tablespoon Montreal Steak seasoning

2 tablespoons smoked chili powder

1 tablespoon coriander

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

5 boneless skinless chicken thighs

Extra-virgin olive oil

Mix spices and sugar in a zip-loc bag. Add chicken and rub spice mixture into meat. Let sit for 15-20 minutes. Brush grill or stove top griddle with oil and grill chicken for 5-7 minutes on each side depending on thickness. Serve with pumpkin polenta and grilled pineapple salsa.

Grilled Pineapple Salsa

4 yellow heirloom tomatoes, chopped

handfull of fresh cilantro, chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 red onion, chopped

1 avocado, chopped

5 pineapple rings (canned, packed in juice) or fresh pineapple spears, grilled

2 limes

2 tbsp olive oil

A handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and juice of two limes, oil with salt and pepper to taste. Toss and chill.

Pumpkin-Chipotle Polenta with Monterey Jack Cheese

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup fat free half-and-half

1 chipotle chili in adobo, finely chopped with 2 teaspoons adobo sauce

3/4 cup quick cooking polenta

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese

Heat the stock and milk or half-and-half in a sauce pot with chipotle and adobo sauce. Whisk in the polenta and thicken 2-3 minutes, stir in pumpkin to warm through. Stir in butter and season with salt and pepper. Stir in cheese just before serving.

Serve polenta with chicken and salsa.

Though sometimes RR uses a lot of prepared foods, this menu focused on fresh and simple ingredients combined to compliment one another. So, while I am not about to make a YouTube video crying, "Leave... Rachel...alone..." I, for one, will be giving RR a pass for a great idea that resulted in a delicious, simple and quick dinner.


Ketutar said…
Why are people dissing HER?! She's wonderful! Always so happy and friendly, and a NORMAL person - she makes me smile and feel good about myself... And she makes good food.

Are they bugging her because she uses tins and such? But so do WE!
Doodles said…
Think they diss RR because of her extremely fast popularity. You know people like to knock down those at the top. Also her terms of food like YummmmO and EVOO. I myself like her. Use her ideas for the needed quick meal. Not a fan of prepared foods however.

But hey I'm OK with Oprah and Sandra Lee too.
Scotty said…
The problem with her is the problem with FoodTV, or what it has morphed into. Are they dumbing down the culinary expectations of our fellow Americans, or simply reflecting the fact that most Americans think the Olive Garden is fine dining. I want my cooking shows to teach me something I might not otherwise know.

Besides - she causes cavities! ;-)
Deborah Dowd said…
Ketutar - RR makes cooking accessible, that is why I admire her.

Doodles - The Yummo and sammies get on my nerves, too, but for a quick meal or inspiration, she is great. Also, as far as Sandra Lee is concerned, I am all for someone who has a cocktail to go with every meal!

Scotty - I agree that there needs to be variety and it is great to have shows that are challenging even for accomplished home cooks or chefs. But everyone has to start somewhere. There is Cooks Illustrated, Julia Child, Michael Ruhlman, and Tony Bourdain for a challenge and good cooks will find ways to challenge themselves. I started this blog because many of my freinds and coworkers are intimidated and don't think they can turn out a great meal themselves. Food Network and its ilk are great for that.
kristen said…
Hey Deborah, just letting you know that I am hosting a swap if you are up for joining another one :)

and about Rachel Ray...at first she really annoyed me, but the more i watched the more i liked her--i'm all up for quick and easy "fancy" foods and helpful shortcuts...
Kevin said…
That pumpkin and chipotle polenta sounds really good. Sweet, spicy and cheesy...mmm...
s'kat said…
RR annoys the ever-lovin' crap out of me, but I agree that she has a valid place in the food world, Plus, anyone that can get ye average Joe excited about cooking is okay by me.
Deborah Dowd said…
Kristen- I will check out your swap- it was so much fun before.

Kevin- It was absolutely delicious, a great combination of flavors.

S'kat- I am with you, she is horribly over-exposed,but helping to demystify cooking is a good thing.
Deborah Dowd said…
Kristen- I will check out your swap- it was so much fun before.

Kevin- It was absolutely delicious, a great combination of flavors.

S'kat- I am with you, she is horribly over-exposed,but helping to demystify cooking is a good thing.
Glenna said…
Good for you, Deborah, for standing up for her. I admit that I'm personally not a big fan of RR or of Sandra Lee but I have made good food from both of them and I have seen biographical info that makes me admire both of them. Hey, I'm all for anyone who has the drive and guts to succeed. I think it's great that you stood your ground because they do get tagged a lot. Sandra Lee in particular drives me nuts just because I'm not even sure other than I don't like the way she talks BUT I admire her for doing eveything in her life she has especially considering where she came from!
Penny Kent said…
I love RR but keep getting distracted by the size of her diamond and wondering what her husband is like.
Linda said…
I love Rachael Ray... most of the recipes on her blog are ones of hers that I've tried. I just ignore people when they said she is loud or annoying because no one is forcing them to watch her!
Kiara said…
I just love cooking and have many easy to make recipes...