Friday, April 29, 2011

Chicken in Rose-flavored Sauce

This is a lovely elegant dish that goes well with jasmine rice. Any rice is fine but jasmine's floral taste accents this dish perfectly. Be careful when adding the rose water - too much will over power this dish and ruin it's lovely flavor. Rose water is inexpensive at International/Asian markets. A bottle lasts a rather long time. I use an entire small can of minced chilies instead of purchasing whole chilies. I make this on the stovetop but was just thinking that if you used a cast iron or other all metal skillet/pan, you could easily cook this in the oven after browning the chicken. Don't skip the browning step as it adds another level of flavor to the dish.

Chicken in Rose-flavored Sauce
3 TB oil
1 ¼ pd skinless chicken legs (or whatever cut, I usually use boneless skinless breasts)
2/3 cup plain yogurt
1 TB gd ginger
2 fresh green chilis minced
½ teas cardamom
3 TB gd almonds
2/3 cup heavy cream
½ teas rose water
Heat oil and lightly fry chicken. Add yogurt, chilies and cardamom. Cover and cook until chicken is tender. Stir in almonds. Simmer for a couple minutes. Add water as necessary. Add cream and rosewater just before serving.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lemon Cheese

A few years ago I was working towards becoming more self sufficient and starting a little farm. We bought 2 goats and I got a catalog from so that I could learn to make goat cheese. I had lots of other plans but a house fire in June of that year put an end to a lot of those plans. Our goats, fortunately, were staying with a relative while we got things ready at our house for them. A week after the fire our goat gave birth and we suddenly had goat milk for days. Sadly, that goat died 2 months later because we didn't have a firm grasp on goat nutrition (many milking goats die of calcium deficiency but no one told us that). Anyway, during this time we were living in temporary housing and trying to use the goat's milk. We gave some away to family and friends but we were bringing home over a gallon a day. The cheesemaking catalog has some easy soft cheeses using lemon and vinegar - one lemon cheese and the other Queso Blanco. Over time, we just started calling them lemon cheese so this recipe is really a combination of the two. The process of lemon cheese is heating milk and then adding an acid that will force the milk to separate into curds and whey. Drain off the whey and press the curds into a cheese that resembles ricotta. You can add herbs to the mix but I never did. I did experiment with different vinegars and citrus acids. Each acid gives the cheese a unique flavor. We tried Balsamic vinegar and I have to say we liked it least but the cheese still got eaten.

Lemon Cheese
1 Gallon milk
2 Large Lemons or 1/4 cup vinegar (1/4 citrus juice works too)
Warm milk to 165-190 degrees F. For citrus juices you can stop at 165 but vinegar should be no less than 185. Stir often to avoid scorching the milk. Add the acid to the milk. Stir and allow to sit off the stove for 15 minutes.
The warm milk will separate into a stringy curd and a greenish liquid whey. Line a colander with cheesecloth and pour the curds and whey into the colander. Save the whey for baking bread if desired. Tie four corners of the cheesecloth into a knot and hang the bag of curds to drain for an hour or until it reaches the desired consistency. (I often would wrap the curds in the cheese cloth and leave it in the colander with a weighted plate on top to facilitate draining)
Remove the cheese from the cloth and place it in a bowl. Add salt to taste -- usually about 1/4 teaspoon. You may mix in herbs. Place the cheese in a covered container and store in the refrigerator. This cheese will keep up to a week.

This cheese freezes beautifully - make baseball sized rounds of the cheese, four to a one gallon freezer bag.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Indian Chicken Bites

I love Indian food. The food is so rich in texture and flavor that one falls in love with it. This recipe is an Indian inspired chicken nugget. There is no breading and can easily be made gluten free. The sauce does not and did not sound appealing to me but it complimented the chicken nicely. Here is the recipe as it was written, my changes are after.

Indian Chicken Bites
2 tablespoons molasses
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 tablespoon Sesame Seed Oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons Cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
3 boneless chicken breasts (8 ounces each), trimmed and cut
into 36 cubes
1/4 cup Sun Butter
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 – 2 teaspoons hot sauce
Combine molasses, soy sauce, garlic powder, sesame oil, vinegar, cumin and coriander in a small bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the marinade in a medium bowl. Place chicken in a large sealable plastic bag. Pour the remaining marinade into the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight. Add Sun Butter, water, ketchup and hot sauce to taste to the reserved marinade and whisk to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use. After chicken is done marinating, place them on a broiler pan that has been lined with tinfoil or on a non-stick cookie sheet. Position an oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the broiler. Broil the chicken bites until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink in the middle, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Remove from oven and place a toothpick in each piece. Serve with the reserved Sun Butter sauce for dipping and your favorite raw vegetables.

2 tablespoons molasses
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 tablespoon Sesame Seed Oil
1 tablespoon rice wine (still out of rice vinegar at the house)
1 tbs. garam masala
3 boneless chicken breasts (8 ounces each), trimmed and cut
into 36 cubes
1/4 cup Peanut butter
2 tablespoons ketchup

I created the marinade in a gallon zip-lock back and dropped in all the chicken without reserving any marinade. I let the chicken set for about 30 minutes, turning the chicken every so often. Using a slotted spoon, I removed the chicken and put it on my baking sheet. While the chicken was baking, I poured the marinade into a saucepan and let it come to a boil. I, then, added the peanut butter and let melt. After removing the sauce from the heat I added the ketchup to taste. I had actually scooped out a spoonful of the sauce and added a drop of ketchup for everyone to taste before I added the ketchup - everyone preferred the ketchup added.
I served the chicken with rice and hot veggies.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dieting and Sparkpeople

I have a love hate relationship when it comes to dieting. For years, I battled Bulimia and it took far too long for me to get help. One of the big reasons it took so long was - I was fat. I am still fat but that's not the point at this moment. Fat people can't really have eating disorders because dieting is good for losing weight and all fat people need to lose weight. It is this attitude that has left me a really bad feeling when it comes to my own weight. It's really hard to be a fat person with an eating disorder. First of all, everyone assumes that if you mention having an eating disorder and are not skinny then your problem must lay with eating too much or binge eating. I did have a little binge eating problem, usually due to the lack of food from before. My method of losing weight had to do with severe restriction of my intake followed by excessive exercising and other techniques for removing calories from my diet. The reason why I wasn't losing actual pounds was my body was fighting for every fat cells survival. I had a lot of muscle mass from working out but I couldn't make the number on the scale shrink.
Fast forward many years and lots of therapy. I weigh more now than I ever did. The heartbreaking part of eating disorder recovery is that you gain weight. I had gotten pregnant and had to see a nutritionist. My whole life changed and I gained 50 pounds when it was all said and done. My body knew it had a chance and took it. I knew I had a problem when I forgot to feed my son one day when I was not eating. He was still a baby. Fortunately my mothering instinct kicked in and I got myself help. I managed to maintain my weight and give up dieting all together. Later I got married and my life changed again. Things happen and one day I weight a lot more than I really want to weigh and realize that something needs to change.
How do I go about dieting when I know I have this problem? I talked with a friend who ran a weight loss group and eventually joined. I love my friends but I soon learned that I couldn't be a part of that group - there was too much self hate. I hadn't noticed it before but being in that group I had to be super vigilant. I wanted someone who could make sure I didn't go off the deep end. The sadest day of my life was when my friend mentioned getting off her fat butt and kicking her diet into gear. There was so much venom in those words that I realized that I had to be even more careful.
Fortunately during this time I discovered Sparkpeople. It's a free dieting site but it can be so much more. There are so many different avenues one can take that it pretty much creates a program for each person. You can choose to have the site select an actual diet for you and a workout plan but you don't have to. There are so many articles and e-newsletters in many topics that can assist you along the way. What I like is the nutrition and fitness tracker. Sparkpeople "assigns" me a number of calories a day. These calories are based on your current weight, the amount of weight you want to lose and the amount of time you want to take to lose that weight. My calorie amount is about 1600 to 1900. Notice that it's a range. All the parts of the diet are ranges not exacts, giving you flexibility. It tracks my calories, fat, protein and carbohydrates. At the end of the day, it tells me where I went too high and too low. Then it offers some suggestions to make a change. It's a little frustrating because I rarely get it all to balance but I love the challenge. I don't look at it as a diet but as a scientific experiment to get me healthy.
The fitness tracker is just as great. You put in what you did and for how long and it tracks calories burned. The tracker doesn't really yell at me (even though I say they do) but it encourages me to spend a certain amount of time exercising and gives me a calories to burn goal. They are not huge goals - maybe as much as 1000 calories a week. That sounds like a lot but it comes down to 90 minutes of exercise a week.
You can also earn points to spend on icons to send to friends you make on the site. I have made some great friends. Almost everyone is encouraging. Those who are negative are coping with their own problems not really being mean to you. I found those people were easy enough to avoid.
My favorite part of Sparkpeople is that it's all about me. There's no pressure. There's no negative part. There are no restrictions. If I choose to eat ice cream and popcorn for dinner - it won't hate me or tell me I am a loser. It just encourages me to eat better the next day.
I can't say that I have been perfect with Sparkpeople but I am learning. I struggle with my own emotions when it comes to eating and my body. I haven't been punishing myself for slipping and I found like minded people who encourage me with their own struggles. We all remind each other to use kind words about ourselves. We get to see each other's struggles (Sparkpeople encourages blogging on site about your process).
I had hoped to find that perfect solution to my weight issue. It's not out there. Weight is like particles that build a mountain. Most of the time, the gain doesn't happen overnight. (It can happen quicker than we plan - like during an illness or pregnancy but it didn't happen all at once. Even with my pregnancy, it took me months to put on all that weight and nature was against me the entire time.) However, a mountain doesn't crumble overnight either. It's warn away. Sometimes there are events that wear it down faster but it still takes time. Our bodies are made up of all these particles. We can't expect them to just go away. They need to be made useless and unnecessary. We have to provide our bodies with consistent nurishment and then put those cells to work with exercise.
Exercise can be as simple as walking a little out of your way, dancing while dusting the house or as complicated as a gym membership or training for a marathon. It's time to stop seeing this as a battle of wills and do something good for your body. I encourage anyone to ask questions and lets see what ideas I can come up with. I do think I will offer some tips I have learned along the way. Just because I am fat doesn't mean I don't understand healthy eating. I just struggle with some of the emotions that affect my eating (I still can't help it and need to work on them harder).

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cinnamon Snails

Years ago, we saw this recipe on an episode of Zoom. I made it several times for maybe a year or two and then completely forgot about it. Recently, I came across it in my files and thought what a fun recipe. It's super easy. I made it with margarine this weekend and the thing about margarine to remember - when you melt it, it becomes fat sitting on water. I used all the liquid from the margarine and my family could not tell which pieces had been dipped in the fat and which were in the water which goes to show that you could use a different liquid.
It is time consuming to make these "snails" so I suggest making them for special occasions or just because instead of making them a daily snack (unless you have the eaters make their own).
I have only used white bread to make these but I think they could be good with a wheat bread. Homemade bread may not hold up to the rolling (mine wouldn't).

Cinnamon Snails
slice of bread with the crusts removed
cream cheese - leave it out of the refrigerator for a little while so that it gets soft.
three tablespoons melted butter
some sugar mixed with a little bit of cinnamon
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Flatten the slice of bread by rolling over it with a rolling pin. Spread a thin layer of cream cheese over the flattened bread. Roll up the bread and seal the seam with more cream cheese. Slice the roll into three pieces. Dip each piece into the melted butter and then into the cinnamon and sugar. Put them on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil. Put the snails in the oven and bake them for 8-10 minutes or until they are crisp and brown. Let your snails cool a bit before eating.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dinner Party Chicken

I swear even when my plan is to make a recipe exactly as it's written I just can't do it. I wanted to try this recipe from Mystery Lover's Kitchen using the lemon cheese in my freezer from our summer of fresh goat's milk. It was the only substitute I had planned until I realized that recipe needed the bones and skin left on the chicken (I always buy boneless skinless in the bag because of convienence). I told myself I could still deal with that and would just pound the chicken flat and roll the breasts around the stuffing. Then I realized that I didn't have any dried cranberries. Dried cranberries is a staple in our house and early that day I had passed over buying some because I knew I had a ton left in the house (apparently we used them up with baking at some point in time). So when all was said and done I didn't have any of the ingredients for this recipe.
Here is the original recipe:
Dinner Party Chicken
6 bone-in chicken breasts (with skin)
¾ cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries
¼ cup dried bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper to suit yourself
2 tsp butter and 2 tsp of oil
Combine cheese, cranberries, bread crumbs, egg, time and seasonings in a bowl.
Make a 2 – 3 inch slit on the side of each chicken breast, deep enough to put filling. Stuff 3 or 4 tablespoons of the filling into each chicken breast. You can prepare the recipe to this point and refrigerate the chicken until an hour before you plan to serve it. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil and butter in a non-stick pan and brown the top of the chicken breasts. Transfer to a baking dish lined with aluminum foil. I use a jelly roll pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until cooked through. Don’t over bake! It will smell wonderful while cooking. If there's any left over, it will be great - hot or cold - the next day.

Now here is what I did:
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup lemon cheese (next week I will provide a recipe for this fresh cheese)
5 fresh strawberries, chopped
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs (ours were quite small)
dried thyme
Pound the chicken flat and even. Mix together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Set a portion of the filling on top of the chicken and roll it closed (I stuffed them so that only the far ends touched and did not overlap). Bake at 350 until the chicken is fully cooked. Because the chicken was so thin this only took about 20 minutes but I may have overcooked it slightly. The chicken was still juicy and tender and so tasty.

I had leftover filling and because of the raw eggs and contact with the raw chicken I opted to turn it into biscuits by adding 2 cups bisquick and the necessesary liquid. From there I followed the instructions on the box.


Starfruit can have 3 points up to 6 points, making the fruit look like a star. In the US 5 points is most common amongst the starfruit. They start out green and ripen from yellow to orange. They have a thick-ish edible skin.
Starfruit are fun and really mild in flavor. To me, they taste like fruit-hinted water. They have a flesh similar to melon, crisp and wet but have a core that reminds me of an apple or pear. The core is softer and edible that other fruits but take care to remove the seeds. Around the seeds can be a slightly tough "shell" like in apples but it too is edible.
Children might like the fruit's shape and find it's mild flavor appealing. It really has little flavor so it's all about visual appeal for this fruit.
Pick a darker yellow or orange but avoid spotty fruit or dark brown blemishes. I did notice that they can mold but the mold seems to stay on the peel so it can easily be cut around.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mini Vegetable Cakes

I have to admit I have no idea where this recipe came from but I was intrigued when I discovered it amongst my recipes. I had originally planned to make this with carrots until I found two cucumber sized zucchinis in the bottom of my basket (I had thought they were cucumbers when I first saw them). I opted to use the entire Jiffy Cornbread box and make these like muffins which came out great. I, also, used pickled beets which weren't bad but I think my son would have liked them better with some other vegetable.

Mini Vegetable Cakes
1 package (8.5 ounces) corn-muffin mix
1 egg white
3 tablespoons water
3/4 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup chopped canned beets
2 tablespoons canola oil
Combine half corn-muffin mix with egg white and water. Stir in shredded zucchini and beets. Drop batter by the tablespoon in hot canola oil. Cook 2 minutes; turn and cook 1 to 2 minutes more, until browned.

My version:
1 package corn-muffin mix (Jiffy)
1 egg
2 med. sized zucchini (cucumber sized) shredded
1/2 cup chopped pickled beets
Mix egg into muffin mix. Mix in vegetables. Drop into muffin tins (I use silicone liners in my tins). Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes or until done.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cast Iron Cookware

Cast Iron had always appealed to me. I don't know why but I really wanted cast iron cookware. The problem was - it intimidated me. As a teen, a friend's mom always had her cast iron filled with nasty rusty water (she was not a good housekeeper anyway). Her excuse was they were so hard to clean.
I am an overthinker so when I had decided I wanted cast iron, I started doing some serious research. Everyone I talked to made it clear that cast iron was not hard to clean and soaking it was ruining it. I took a scout class on cast iron cooking from a neighbor. Not long after, I found my chicken skillet (it's a deep skillet with a special lid for frying chicken) on the clearance rack. It was so inexpensive I had to buy it.
Once I got it home, I called up my neighbor in a panic - I didn't know what to do next. It was still intimidating. The truth is - in the beginning cast iron can be work. Many come pre-seasoned but my neighbor said he didn't put much stock in it. To season a cast iron means coating it with oil and baking it at 300 degrees for an hour (this may be debatable).
You can season your cast iron any time but I am a lazy owner so I rarely season my cookware this way. The reason is - I use them all the time and have gotten a good coating on my pans. My husband hasn't quite gotten the hang of it but it's not really that difficult.
The trick with cast iron is to have patience and never use soap on it. If you do use soap, rinse well and season in the oven. (I'll get to cleaning in just a moment).
I always set my cast iron (empty but with a thin coating of oil on the inside) on high heat and let it warm up. Sometimes the oil coating disappears and that's okay, I just brush on a little more (I use a silicone basting brush to oil my pans). Then I turn the heat down and cook. I can make fried eggs this way with just a little oil and no sticking but I have to remember that some foods just stick - like bacon so I always make the eggs first.
To clean my pans, I buy a round toilet brush from the dollar store (they look like large bottle brushes). The reason I use a toilet brush is because the handles are a little longer. This allows me to use really hot water to clean the pan. They won't come out squeaky clean but should be completely smooth and devoid of any food particles. The reason they don't come out super clean is because you want to preserve that oil finish. I wipe my pans with a towel and give them a quick oil if I think of it. I do have some cast iron seasoning stuff that comes in a tube but plain ole oil works just fine (I won the tube at a Dutch Oven contest).
I pick up my cast iron anywhere I can that's reasonable. I would love to have the money to buy the "good" stuff but I don't. I usually pick up my cast iron at grocery stores. They may not be brand name but they sure hold up just fine. It's not like buying any other cookware. The trick to cast iron is the care not the brand. You can even buy cast iron second hand. If it's really yucky - clean it really good and season well. They are amazingly durable. Don't let a little rust scare you - clean well and oil.
We had a garage fire (that took half the house) a few years ago. The garage was completely leveled - nothing salvagable. As my family is cleaning up the rubble, two cast iron pans were found completely unharmed. We had steelbelt tires and expensive tools that didn't fare as well so let me tell you - they are practically indestructible.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Radish Dip

In one of the e-newsletters I get was a recipe for Radish Dip. I knew that radishes were one of the vegetables often in our bountiful basket so I saved the recipe and tucked it away in my brain. This weekend I discovered a bunch of radishes in my rotter (name my mother gave the crisper when I was young). The radishes, themselves, were still good but the greens attached had grown very slimy. I scrubbed the green slime off the radishes and set them aside to realize that the only ingredient I had for the dip was the radishes (well and some salt).
I have misplaced my flash drive so I can't give you the original recipe's exacts but it was radishes, green onions, sour cream and salt.
I used spanish onion in place of the green onion and I have to say it made the dish very oniony (and more so as the weekend wore on). We ate it on toasted baguette slices which accompanied the dip really well. I may try doing something with the remaining dip since we are now out of toast (like add it to chicken).

Radish Dip
1 bunch radishes, cleaned and diced
1 inch of small spanish onion, minced as finely as possible
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 teas salt (I used kosher and it was a little salty so start with less and add as needed)
Mix all the ingredients together and serve on toast or crackers.

If I served this with crackers I would have left out the salt due to the saltiness of the crackers. It's a nice fun way to use up radishes.
My husband and father really liked the dip. My son said it wasn't very good and way too hot. Spanish onions are hotter onions than I normally use - I prefer Walla Walla Sweets (they are native to Washington) but Texas Sweets are rather good as well. If you have picky eaters or those who are sensitive to hot onions - switch to the sweet onions or use chives to give it a hint of onion flavor. Don't use more than about 2 tablespoons of minced onion.

Note* After my revelation on Friday about needing food to be a creative experience, I spent the weekend making some amazing dishes. I feel like a new woman. Food not only nurtures the body but it feeds the soul and I think mine has been starving. Stay tuned for several new recipes coming this way - Stuffed chicken breast, lemon cheese, ricotta cheese cookies (made with lemon cheese instead of ricotta), vegetable cakes and indian chicken bites (there may be more that I am forgetting).

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Poetry of Food

I have been really busy this week and what happens in our house when mom gets busy is that the cooking becomes uneventful. Either we cop out and go to a restaurant (usually a fast food place that makes me sad to admit I feed my family there) or I make simple foods like spaghetti or hamburgers. The big problem with this, is I find myself brought down by the food. I never feel great when we eat out, especially greasy fast foods. I can barely stand to travel and not make something fresh (we try to stay places where we can cook). My body doesn't like that sort of cooking and eventually I start to feel sick.
I love things like spaghetti and my quick go-tos but it doesn't feed my soul like "real" cooking does. There's something wholesome in cutting up vegetables and spending time over the stove with rich smells and wonderful colors that gives me hope and joy. I had forgotten that until I read The Poetry of Food on a friend of mine's blog. I remembered that food is more than eating. It's creating and may be the missing part of my soul lately. I haven't slowed down to nourish my soul lately. I find that when I lack creativity outlets, my ability to function decreases. I don't enjoy life because I have forgotten how to. It seems like a strange thing to say - not cooking and creating makes me depressed. Today I have been wondering what is wrong with me. Why can't I care? I'm not unhappy but I can tell something is missing. All I have wanted to do this week is play on facebook. I have barely looked at recipes and crafting has been out of the question (haven't looked at any of my writing in far too many weeks). I have been blaming my blues on the weather and my family and the lack of time and .... but the real problem is I stopped feeding my soul. Sometimes I forget that reading doesn't really nourish my soul. I love reading and it inspires me but it's not creating. Sadly, all of this has affected my ability to blog (I have no recipes to share either).
My solution - I plan on doing some cooking this weekend. I have some frozen goat cheese and a couple recipes that I want to play with. Hopefully, I can force myself to make time for this through my somewhat busy weekend. I think there's always time to make cookies.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hamburger Stew

I have a very busy week going on here and am sorry about falling behind. I'm not sure I will catch up or just let this week be a mess. My son starts high school in the fall and we are busy getting all the things in place for his transition.
The other night I made a pot of hamburger stew. I had intended to throw it in the crockpot for the next day but for some reason the dutch oven was calling to me. I love cooking in the dutch oven. This turned out to be a rather quick meal - one we could have eaten that night, if it wasn't bedtime. I cut it in half (sort of) and omitted the rice because my husband wanted noodles in the stew. We ended up serving the stew with macaroni but not together. I don't remember where I found this recipe but it's designed to be frozen for future meals.

Hamburger Stew
2 pounds ground beef
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) stewed tomatoes
8 medium carrots, thinly sliced
4 celery ribs, thinly sliced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups water
1/2 cup uncooked long grain rice
1 to 2 tablespoons salt
1 to 2 teaspoons pepper
ADDITIONAL INGREDIENT (for each batch of stew):
1 cup water
In a Dutch oven, cook beef and onions over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the tomatoes, carrots, celery, potatoes, water, rice, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables and rice are tender. Uncover; simmer 20-30 minutes longer or until thickened. Freeze in
3-cup portions for up to 3 months. To use frozen stew: Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Transfer
to a saucepan; add water. Cook until hot and bubbly.

I used:
1 pd hamburger
2 small spanish onions
3-4 carrots (they were broken so I can't be certain exactly how much)
3 stalks celery
4 red potatoes (these were good sized potatoes)
1 quart canned tomatoes
Worchestershire sauce (to taste)
Bay Seasoning (to taste)
I made sure there was enough water to cover everything and then served it with buttered macaroni noodles and shredded cheese.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

L'oreal Paris

This is a stretch I understand but sometimes a woman needs to use makeup even if it's just to feel better. I, personally, don't wear makeup. I have some weird makeup allergies and it just feels weird on my face. I don't mind a little lipstick or eye makeup now and again but I haven't bought any in a long time (means I no longer have any makeup in the house). Because I keep thinking I'd like to buy some makeup, I jumped at the chance to try some of the new L'oreal Paris eye makeup.
I received the One Sweep Eye Shadow and the Double Extend Eye Illuminator Mascara that had been specifically selected to go with my green eyes.
The One Sweep Eye Shadow is neat. It has a specially designed applicator that allows three colors to be applied to the eyes at once. I did find that it applied lightly and I would have liked it a little darker. Aside from that it was a great product.
The Mascara had a normal black color and a golden color designed to go over the black. I found the black to be clunky and I didn't like the way it felt on my eyelashes. The gold color did nothing for me. My husband said he thought they looked nice but I really didn't care for it.
I have no idea what these products cost but if it's reasonable I would recommend the One Sweep Eye Shadow just because it does seem to be a nice short cut.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Coconut milk pudding rolls

I found this recipe in a magazine years ago. I can't remember the magazine but I remember my family's surprise at the final result. Even though these are pudding rolls, they are not very sweet. The rolls, themselves, are a great dinner roll but add the pudding into the mix and what you get is a sweet touch to an already great bread. This is one recipe I haven't really tinkered with (except to make just the rolls). It's so easy and tasty just as it is.

Coconut milk pudding rolls
1 package yeast
3 1/4 cup + 1 tb flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
13 ½ oz can coconut milk
Dissolve yeast in 1 cup warm water. Stir in 1 ½ cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter and egg. Stir in 1 ½ cups flour and knead into soft dough adding flour as needed. Cover and let rise until doubled. Punch down and let double again. Whisk together coconut milk, remaining sugar and 1 tb flour until smooth, set aside. Divide dough into 24 balls. Put in 9x13 dish and let rise until doubled. Preheat oven to 350. Pour coconut milk over rolls and bake about 25 minutes.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Asian Chicken Salad

This was a salad my husband created during his days at the deli. It was a great way to use up leftover rotisserie chicken. We now cook boneless skinless chicken breasts for this salad. Feel free to season your chicken anyway you want, this time we used citrus pepper and Mrs. Dash fiesta lime seasoning. The seasonings mentioned in the recipe are from the time we wrote down the recipe as he made the salad. There is a fair amount of oil in the dressing so you may want to experiment if you want a lower fat version. Also, my husband didn't realize we were out of rice vinegar and used rice wine by accident and the salad still turned out great. I like to eat the salad shortly after making it but my husband likes the noodles to get a little soggy. That is completely up to the person making the salad.

Rob’s Asian Chicken Salad
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, chopped, cooked and seasoned with citrus pepper, jerk seasoning and garlic powder
½ head cabbage, sliced or shredded
3 packages oriental flavored top ramen
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup sugar
1 cup oil
½ cup rice vinegar
Mix chicken, cabbage and almonds in large bowl. Break up dry ramen noodles and add to bowl. Mix ramen seasoning packets with remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over salad and refrigerate for several hours before serving.


I apologize for not having this post out yesterday and will make up for it today with two posts.
Recently, a friend of mine was asking about avocados. She wanted to know how to buy them and then what was the best way to use them. That may seem like a strange question but avocados are the new "superfood". They are full of good fats and nutrients. It's been claimed that avocados help make hair and skin healthier. It is also said that avocados can make you look younger and help your heart.
I don't know about all those claims but I do know that avocados are a great tasting part of a healthy diet. They are one of my family's favorite foods (avocados are a fruit but our society often treats it like a vegetable).
Picking a good avocado is rather easy. However, in the northern states - like here in Eastern Washington, it's a little more difficult. There are two basic types of avocados in the grocery store - the "normal" or Hass avocado and the large avocado (which should have a variety name but I couldn't find it). Southern states that grow avocados may have more variety but determining a good one for purchase should be the same.
For a normal sized avocado - look for a dark green skin, the flesh should give slightly when pressed but should not leave a depression. Black skin and soft fruit are too ripe. The sooner you plan to use the avocado the riper you can go. Avocados do not have a long shelf life. For best taste, store avocado on counter but if ripening too fast store in refrigerator but for no more than a couple days.
Overripe avocados make fine guacamole.
I grew up eating northern guacamole which was basically overripe avocados mashed with salsa (usually a tomato based paste like substance). There was even a time you could buy guacamole mix which allowed the chef to make an even pastier version of guacamole. When I went to San Diego, I was surprised by the guacamole I found there. It was chunks of avocado, tomato, onions, peppers in a clear "sauce". I have yet to find something in the northern states that comes close to the goodness of that condiment. In defense of northern states - we don't get the same quality of avocados due to their short shelf life.
Before I completely forget - to determine a good large avocado - look for unblemished skin, they do not always change color. You still want a firm but giving fruit.
To cut the avocado - first thing to remember is there is a large seed in the center of the wide part of the avocado. Cut down the middle, starting at the small end. Cut around the seed and pull the avocado apart. Leave the seed in one half while attending the other half, this will prevent browning. If you are only going to use half the avocado, place the half with the seed in a ziplock bag and refrigerate (use in 24 hours). You have several choices at this point for cutting up the avocado, you can remove the flesh from the skin with a large spoon (tablespoon sized serving spoon works best but you can use a "normal" sized spoon as well) and then cut it into the desired pieces (or use whole). If I am cubing the avocado, I gently cut the fruit still in the skin and then spoon out - sometimes I do this with slicing the avocado as well.
I like avocados on salads and sandwiches. A family favorite is bagels, cream cheese, avocado and turkey (sometimes tomatoes and sprouts). My other favorite is a Cobb salad - salad mix, bacon, blue cheese and avocado (and anything else you want).
I have tried avocado in a smoothie. It was okay - you couldn't taste the avocado and I like the way they taste. They are a great addition to mexican food.
Avocados don't have a very strong flavor so they are a great addition to any dish. I like them on hamburgers - (with mushrooms and swiss cheese and nothing else).
April and May seem to be good times to buy avocados on sale. I have found them for as little as 4 for $1. With prices the way they are I think finding them 2 for $1 may be as good as it gets.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chicken Biscuits

I try to plan meals before going grocery shopping so I know that I have everything I need, somehow last week I forgot what I was planning to make when I opted to not get certain things at the store. It happens - I change plans due to prices and sales. The Chicken Cresent Rolls I had planned to make turned out to be a more expensive dish than I had originally planned for. When I passed on the cream cheese I thought it was part of breakfast because I had planned on getting bagels (I wrote bagels down so we'd have something to go with the leftover cream cheese). Anyway, last night when I started to pull out the ingredients for this recipe - I realized that I didn't have anything but the chicken. Not one to be deterred, I made up a new recipe and we found a new family favorite. I will post the original recipe at the end of this post. Canned biscuits were on a great sale last week (3 for $1) so I had picked some up to replace the cresent rolls because those were nearly $3 for 1. Over the weekend my husband baked a 3 pound bag of boneless, skinless chicken breasts to prepare for a couple of dishes for the week.
So I had chicken and biscuits but I really wanted those special rolls. Okay enough with the build-up and on to the recipe

Chicken Biscuits
3 chicken breasts baked, cooled (preferrably heavily seasoned with flavored pepper and a mix seasoning - we used Mrs. Dash Feista Lime Seasoning and Citrus pepper) and chopped
1 small onion, minced (I really think 1/2 would have been better - it was too oniony for my taste but no one else felt that way)
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 lemon
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tin canned biscuits
Mix chicken, onion and celery. Juice lemon over meat and stir in yogurt. Roll biscuits flat. Top with a generous spoonful of "salad" and pinch closed. Bake on cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes at 350. Eat and enjoy.

Chicken Crescent Rolls
6 oz cooked, chopped chicken
4 oz light cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup chopped mushroom
2 T diced green onion
1 pkg crescent rolls (can of 8)
1 T melted butter
3/4 cup seasoned croutons, crushed
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine chopped chicken, chopped mushroom, green onion, and softened cream cheese in a bowl. Unfold crescent rolls into rectangles. Separate until there are 2 rectangles (perforations pinched together) to form a larger rectangle (there will be 4 rectangles, total). Add a 1/2 cup dollop of the chicken mixture to the center of each of the 4 rectangles. Pull the dough up over the mixture and pinch the dough closed. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with crushed croutons. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes at 375, covering loosely with aluminum foil until the last five minutes.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

SCJ Smart and Easy Spring Cleaning

I participate in a few product sampling/promotion programs and one of those happens to be Bzzagents. I sign up to test products or websites and then share that information with my friends and family. I realized that I can share some of that with my readers here. I promise not to unindate you with product promotion (only once a week for any product or service I opt to share) and to only share those I feel really belong here.
SC Johnson is a large company that owns a variety of brands. This particular promotion covers Pledge, Scrubbing Bubbles and Glade. The kit that I got in the mail had Lemon Pledge, Scrubbing Bubbles Shower spray, Scrubbing Bubbles Toilet Gel, Glade Spring candle and a Glade Oil plug-in refill. I haven't tried the Pledge or the oil re-fill (I don't have an oil plug-in and forgot to get one my last trip to the store). I didn't try Pledge because I still have the notion it's for dusting and I haven't really dusted in awhile. The company swears that it can be used on any surface but it just hasn't happened yet.
I do enjoy the Glade candles (I am a big candle person and often get them as gifts). The spring scents are really nice but I like all their scents. So about this time you are asking yourself - what is the point of this post.
I want to share the Scrubbing Bubbles products with you. I tested the toilet gel a couple of years ago and was hooked. I live in an area with really funky water and my toilet seems to develop this nasty orange slime in the water unless I scrub it all the time. The slime has something to do with the water because we get the same problem in the shower any where the water sits. When we tested the toilet gel the first time, I was so impressed. Not only did it keep the slime away, it made my toilet smell good.
The toilet gel comes in this magic wand that attaches a lump of gel to the inside of the toilet. It does take some trial and error to get the wand to work just right but it's not all that difficult. The gel stays in the toilet for about a week making the wand good for 6-7 weeks. It is a little pricey for a toilet cleaner at about $4 depending on the store but it's so worth it.
The other product they provided was a shower cleaning spray. I loved it too. I have a real hard time getting everyone to understand (in my family) that the shower needs cleaning too. It just gets gross. It may not be visibly gross but if the floor feels slimey then the shower is well overdue for cleaning. I don't know how the orange slime doesn't gross my boys out but it never seems to. The shower spray was easy to use, it foamed slightly and can be rinsed or wiped off. I opted to wipe it down with a wet rag as I slid into the shower to wash myself right after. I was really impressed by how easy the product was to use and how nice my shower looked when I was done.
I like scrubbing bubbles products and often forget about them when I go to the store because I don't like one purpose cleaners. The bathroom is one of the few exceptions I make. I want something that kills all the germs in the bathroom and helps battle the water issue.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Indian Beef Patties

This was a recipe I got in my email but I can't remember from where (I think As always, I changed the recipe some. The burger is a little bland but went well with the yogurt sauce I made. The sauce was 1 cup yogurt with a packet of cucumber dill mix from Watkins. I have made that sauce before and have substituted ranch dressing mix and found they taste similar enough. If you want a more authentic sauce use 1 cup yogurt, 1 cucumber chopped (preferrably seeded) and 1 teas dried dill (or to taste). The original sauce is not at all salty so you will want to add salt to the burger. I served this with Aloo Gobi which I will post on Wednesday.

Indian Beef Patties
1/8 Cup minced dried onion
1-2 teaspoons dried mint, crushed
1-2 Teaspoons Garam Masala
1 Teaspoon bottled minced garlic (1 clove) or 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 Teaspoon salt
1 pound lean ground beef
Mix all the spices into the ground beef. Form into patties and fry until internal temperature reaches 165.
Serve with yogurt sauce and on buns or flat bread.

*Garam Masala is an Indian spice blend and easily found in Asian/International grocery stores. I buy mine from San Francisco Herb.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Carmelized Garlic Chicken

I don't know where I originally found this recipe or how long it sat unnoticed in my recipe file but it quickly became my family's favorite dish. I like it because it's easy - last night I made it with top ramen as a side dish. The chicken was ready before the water was boiling. I do cheat a little and buy chicken stir-fry (thin strips of boneless skinless chicken breast) but it can still be fairly quick if you cut your chicken into strips instead of using whole breasts. I am going to share the recipe as it was originally written (or copied as the case may be) and then the instructions for how I have been doing it.

Caramelized Garlic Chicken
3 teas olive oil
6 cloves garlic, pressed
6 teas brown sugar
6 chicken breasts, halved
oven to 500 degrees. line shallow roasting pan with foil, lightly greased. heat oil in small skillet over med-high heat until hot. add garlic, cook 1-2 minutes or until soft but not brown. remove from heat and add sugar. place chicken in roasting pan, spreading mixture over chicken. bake 10-15 minutes.

The only real ingredient change I have is I use an entire head of garlic. I remove the loose paper and seperate the cloves, attempting to remove the hard bottom. I then smash the cloves with something heavy, such as a full can of veggies. Smashing the cloves makes the cloves easy to peel and removes the need to chop the garlic (or press it). You can cheat completely and buy pre-minced garlic which is what I normally use when I don't have several bulbs of garlic needing to be used.
Heat the oil in a skillet. Add garlic and let cook for a few minutes, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add the chicken pieces (as I previously mentioned I use sliced pieces of chicken). Let fry for a few minutes while stirring frequently. Top with 6 TB brown sugar and cook until the chicken is done and the sugar has liquified.
We have served this over rice and noodles. I think it would be great with anything, including a tortilla. It's not really spicy and it's nicely sweet.