Cashew Chicken for the Slow Cooker

This simple dish can be served over rice, noodles or just wrapped up in lettuce. Alot of recipes call for frying the chicken first, but I didn’t want the breading on it so I left it alone. It’s best if you can use dark meat but white will work if you prefer.

cashew chicken

  • 2-3 pounds chicken, cut into strips or bite size chunks, peppered to taste
  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar (not packed)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger or about a 1″ chunk if you measure like me
  • 1/2 cup cashew, adjust to your preference

I generously dusted the chicken with pepper (no salt, the soy sauce is very high) and tossed it in the slow cooker. I mixed everything except the cashews, together in a separate bowl and poured on top of the chicken. I cooked on high for about 3 hours and left it on warm for an hour. When I put it over to warm I added the cashews. Give them a quick mix and cover. You can add sliced scallions on top for a nice finish.

I originally saw this on the Recipe Critic and have adapted it to my own neeeds.

Chicken with Honey Mustard Cream Sauce

I like food that you can serve in a bowl. It catches all the little bits and you don’t have to chase everything around the plate. There is no escape, I can catch every last pea. I don’t like letting food get away.

chicken with honey mustard cream sauce

This dish was lovely for a few reasons. First, it easily fits into my preferred low carb way of eating and second, it look only 20 minutes to make from start to finish. My husband liked it so much that he asked me to put it in the “regular rotation”.

chicken with honey mustard cream sauce

  • 4 chicken breasts cut in half lengthwise. You will want a total of 8 thin pieces. salt and pepper to taste2 Tablespoon olive oil
    1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Swanson’s Flavor boost- This is totally optional, I just put it here because I used it with great success in this dish
  • 1/2 tsp dried herbs- I used a mix of Italian spices and basil
  • 4 tablespoon course mustard- I used a spicy deli mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Start by adding the oil to the pan and heat. Add the chicken when it’s good and hot. You want to brown these lightly on each side and then remove from the pan. This should only take 3 minutes per side. You don’t want to overcook your chicken.

  • Once you have removed the chicken add the stock and flavor booster , mustard, herbs and whisk.
  • Add the heavy cream, whisk again. Finally add your honey and whisk it through.
  • At this point, add the chicken back into the pot, cover and simmer for 5 minutes on LOW.

Done. I paired this with buttered peas and simple red potatoes.

I originally saw this recipe on Let’s Dish and have since changed it up to suite my needs.

Chicken and Dumplings for the Slow Cooker

Chicken and DumplingsCold days call for soups and stews. Really anything you can ladle into a bowl is perfect for us. Today we are doing Chicken and Dumplings. We make this in the crock pot so we have time to do other, more important things like make snow angels and have snowball fights.

Add the following to the crock pot:

  • 1 Quart (4 cups) of good chick broth or stock
  • 1 oz cream cheese- we use the block kind but you can use the cooking cream too
  • 1 chopped sweet potato
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 large can of cream of chicken soup or 2 smaller cans- there are plenty of organic options that work well.
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry- this is totally optional. We enjoy a hint of curry. At this little amount, it will NOT taste like curry, it just leaves a layer of flavor that works well with this dish
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp dried basil (any herb or herb mix will work)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp of pepper
  • 1/2 cup milk with 3 tablespoons flour that has been whisked together
  • 2 chicken breasts diced into small bite size pieces

Give it a good mix to get things blended. Don’t worry if the cream cheese is in a chunk. In a few hours when everything is getting heated, give it another mix and the cream cheese will be melty. By the end of the cooking time, it will be incorporated well. Let cook about 5 hours.

To make the dumplings do the following:

  • Melt 6 Tablespoons butter with 1/2 cup warm milk (just nuke long enough to take the cold edge off)

To the liquid add the following:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 stalks green onions sliced thin

Don’t over mix. The batter will be wet and sticky. Drop small spoonfuls onto the boiling stew. Do this gently, you want them to float around the top. Cover and leave it alone for an hour.

Using my slow cooker for Mongolian Beef

Mongolian Beef

No one is ever going to accuse this dish of being beautiful but it sure is tasty. While I would like to say that I’m super organized and using a slow cooker is something that helps me streamline my busy day, that is not the case today. I have recently discovered the TV show American Horror Story and I’m watching the entire second season over a few days. I just couldn’t do that AND make an elaborate dinner, now could I? Thankfully my family didn’t much mind and I got to finish this series. Thank goodness, I wasn’t getting anything else done.

Get our your slow cooker and do the following:

Cut 2 pounds flank steak into strips and dip in corn starch (this will thicken the sauce). Place the strips in the slow cooker.

Add one onion and green pepper, also cut into strips.

Add the sauce on top, cover and cook. We cooked this for five hours and put this on top of rice and added a side of roasted asparagus.

For the sauce mix the following ingredients together before adding to the slow cooker:

  • 3/4 cup soy sauce (low sodium is fine)
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped or minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped or minced
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 or 2 whole carrots, peeled and shredded (we used a cheese grater)
  • 4 green onions, chopped

 

Beer Braised Pot Roast and Gravy

beer pot roast and gravy

One would think that because I run a blog, I would automatically be blogging about everything I cook or bake. Not so. In fact, it was a friend to brought it to my attention that I needed to add this one to the site. I guess I never thought about it because I don’t really follow a recipe. My family loves this because you can eat it as a roast (which we did tonight) or you can shred it and make the most wonderful sammiches. Think hoagie rolls and melted cheese.

You will need a few basic things.
A chuck roast. Don’t try and use a “better” cut because you want the fat and flavor. If you can get it on the bone, even better. We used one that was just under 4 pounds and I am feeding four adults. We’ll have enough for lunch for a few people tomorrow assuming we can all keep from fighting over it.

To start, sprinkle the roast liberally with garlic powder, paprika and pepper. You are going to sear it on both sides. I don’t add herbs because if you burn them during searing they tend to get bitter. If the pot (we use a dutch oven and cook all in one pot on the stove top) is nice and hot you only need four to five minutes on each side.

Once it has a nice brown crust, add the following right to the pot (you can also transfer everything to the crock pot):
1 bottle of beer (We used Fosters Premium Ale but you can use anything you have one hand, even Miller Lite)
1 cup chicken stock
1 small onion, chopped

Bring to a boil and then turn it down to a low simmer. Let cook a good three hours, turning over once.

Once it’s fork tender remove from the heat. What I do at this point is simple. Remove the roast to a plate and pour the juice (there should be about a cup and half) into a fat strainer or you can do as we do, a measuring cup. We use a small ladle and skim most of the fat from the top. Put aside.

In order to make this gravy, like most, you will need to start with a rue. This is intimidating for many people but if you follow three simple rules, you can master this. You need a fat (I am using butter for this) and flour.
1. Use equal amounts butter and flour
2. Melt the butter first, THEN add the flour and whisk
3. Keep whisking for about a minute until it is nice and bubbly

Once you reach this point, pour in slowly the liquid you previously strained. We also add about 1/2 cup UN-SWEETENED Almond Milk. I know this might sound odd, but you cannot tell the difference however milk can easily be substituted. We just try and keep dairy out when possible. Taste before adding any salt, it’s usually perfect. If it’s too salt, just add a touch more milk. Keep whisking and bring to a simmer for a few minutes. Done.

Cheesy Cauliflower puree, a low carb exchange for mashed potatoes

cauliflower mashed potatoes

It’s probably disingenuous of me to suggest that cauliflower in any state could replace my beloved mashed potatoes so perhaps I should just offer this as a different option. This is simple and delightfully good. If you are not used to working with cauliflower, it tends to be stinky but the final dish does not taste as strong as it smells.

Cauliflower puree, a low carb exchange for mashed potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 medium to large head of cauliflower cut down into chunks.
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk and half and half mix (see notes below)
  • a good dash of salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup cheese (we used sharp cheddar)
  • 1 clove of garlic

Start by boiling the cauliflower and garlic until fork tender. Mine spent about 15 minutes boiling.

While this is going on add the following to a blender:

  • buttermilk/ half and half mixture
  • cheese
  • salt
  • pepper
  • butter

Once the cauliflower is done cooking drain it well and let it cool for about 5-10 minutes. Add it to the blender (you can leave in the clove of garlic). Use the puree setting for about 10 seconds. You will probably have to do what I did and give it a mix a few times throughout to get it well blended. (Always stop the blender before doing this) Taste for salt and pepper, add more if you need.

That’s it! Now for a few side notes. This simple recipe is just perfect for experimenting. Add in more seasoning, maybe add some onions to cooking cauliflower and garlic, use all half and half if buttermilk is not your thing. Buttermilk does have carbs so be careful with how much you add.

When I used the blender, my cauliflower was still very warm so I only loosely held the lid on top. Never secure the lid on your blender with something that is steaming, you are asking for trouble.

This recipe, although I have changed it, originally came from the skinnytaste blog. Thank you for helping me find something to eat instead of potatoes. :D

Healthy Smoothies- They really do exist and without dairy!

healthy smoothieThe more I look info food and experiment with what we eat, the more shocking the conclusions. For example, although I grew up drinking serious amounts of milk and my own son is addicted to it, I firmly believe that the milk we drink (in America) is not only bad for you but harmful. We have all but stopped drinking it and for some of us the effects are huge. My son, who has suffered from severe acne for years (the kind that require constant anti-biotics to cure which only cause further issues), stopped drinking milk at my request. His acne went away. He struggles with keeping milk (and other forms of dairy) out of his diet but the effects of cutting it out for him were drastic. We is also losing weight.

I always wondered, why we give our children the milk of another animal. An animal by the way that is pumped full of chemicals to keep it producing milk when it should not be. I used to live in Europe and the milk there is very different. It is shelf stable, meaning you buy it in cardboard (recycled) boxes and store it on your shelf. Once you open it, you put it in the refrigerator. They are one liter in size. They use a different process (UHT) but I’m not going to bother going into that now. The struggle however was to find ways to get by without milk. We have incorporated it into so many things.

So this brings me to my original post idea, smoothies. For us, the point of a smoothie is a quick way to get some vital nutrients in. This is an easy “plug and play” smoothie and something that is GOOD for you. I should note that we use organic berries here. I think this is important for soft flesh fruit particularly strawberries and blueberries. I’m dangerously close to going off on another rant about chemicals but I’ll reel it in…..

One thing you will notice that we put in our smoothies is oil. I know this is going to be odd for many people but try it at least once. You won’t know it’s there. There is alot of research to back up the claim that incorporating oil (not in your food, we’re going for non heated oil) is very beneficial. I use different kinds. I keep on hand walnut oil, flax oil, avocado oil and safflower oil. Safflower oil in particular is high in antioxidants.  If you are eating a balanced diet, don’t let the calories or fat content freak you out. People NEED fat. I’m not suggesting you drink this stuff by the cup but a teaspoon a day will not hurt you or add to your waistline.

Throw the following things in your blender, feel free to substitute what fruit you have on hand although I would not use acidic things like lemons or oranges.

  • 3 ice cubes (or the crushed ice equivalent)[
  • 3-4 strawberries, halved (remove the tops)
  • 1/3 banana (optional of course)
  • Small handful of blueberries
  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 to 1 cup almond milk

You’ll notice we use almond milk. It’s very tasty and works well with this type of application. We never use the kind with soy (yet another thing I think we should not consume, processed soy). We use unsweetened but you will find that even if you choose the sweetened version it’s lower in calories than milk and has more calcium. Win!

So there you go, blend for at least 30 seconds and enjoy. We start our day with this almost every day. We feel better and are not starving an hour later and there is zero guilt involved.

 

 

How to Take that Red Pasta Sauce in a Jar from Blah to Fabulous~

Red Pasta SauceI know they say that making spaghetti sauce is the easiest thing in the world but I would be willing to bet that it is intimidating for many people, myself included. I also don’t like just opening a jar of something and serving it. So this is something I have worked on and I get rave reviews every time. It’s a great way to clear out some of those vegetables too.

This is what we use:

about 1/3 cup of diced onion
1 or 2 cloves garlic either finely minced or crushed
2 tablespoon finely diced bell pepper (we prefer red but any color will do)
2 Tablespoon oil (I prefer olive)
2 large Italian sausage links, casings removed
1/2 cup wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup tomato sauce
fresh herbs if you have them (we love basil)
1/2 teaspoon seasoning
any jar of red pasta sauce (at least 24 oz)

First, a few notes:

  • This sauce is easy to mix and match depending on what you have to use up. You don’t have to use sausage for example. If you have left over ground beef from the night before, use it! IF you don’t have bell pepper but you have some carrots and celery or even mushrooms that you need to use, great! We just always have onions and peppers so that is our go to vegetable for many dishes.
  • Regarding fresh tomatoes- we always have tomatoes that have to be used up. Whether it’s half a tomato left over from burgers the night before or like this week, I have half a pint of grape tomatoes left over from when I made bruschetta. Any kind of tomato will do.
  • Seasoning and herbs- again, this is just what is on hand. I use a Goya seasoning, it’s one of our favorite go to items in the pantry. But use whatever you like, garlic seasoning, lawry’s seasoning salt… whatever. The herbs again are whatever you like. We always have basil growing and I try and keep the rosemary and scallions alive. For this dish we prefer the basil. It adds a note that is just divine.
  • Start with one jar of sauce. I usually buy what I consider to be a better sauce, not the big brands that tend to be sweet and full of sugar. I typically use Marinara but you can get any flavor really. If you have several half jars in the fridge like we do, just use those. This is a mix and match kind of thing and you can easily add a little more of this, less of that….

Start with a medium sauce pan and heat up your oil. Add your onion, bell pepper and garlic and plenty of fresh cracked pepper. You can even add a pinch of salt. Cook until they begin to brown. At this point the pan might begin to look dry. This is when I add the wine and “deglaze”. Give that about 30 seconds or so to hang out and then add your ground meat and 1/2 teaspoon seasoning.

Once you add the meat, use a potato masher on it. I have found this to be the most effective way to crumble up any kind of ground meat. Plus, I want the vegetables and wine to be well incorporated in there. It’s ok to get the onions all mashed up, you want the sauce to meld together. I do not drain the fat once it is cooked. There is not that much to worry about and the it adds great flavor. If you drain this mixture you will drain all the goodness from the vegetables and wine.

When the meat is cooked mostly through add your chopped tomato, chicken stock, tomato sauce plus the jar of sauce and any fresh herbs. Let come to a simmer. The sauce may look thin but you are going to let it simmer on low (tomatoes burn easily so keep it on low and check it often) for about an hour. If it gets too thick for you just add more stock.

Your sauce is done. We have used this as a spaghetti sauce, in lasagna and with stuffed shells. It’s just a great way to take something that is typically blah (store bought  sauce)  and make it your own.

goya seasoning

Sausage Peppers and OnionsHome Made Spaghetti Sauce

Bacon, Beer and Cheese Soup. Low Carb but not Low Fat.

Beer Cheese Soup

 Warning* Those looking for a low fat soup, stop now. If however you like beer, cheese and bacon and don’t mind the fattening part, this may be the post for you. While usually I eat more vegetables and lean meat and fish when I cut out sugar, today is not that day. Everyone needs comfort food, especially me.

Generally speaking, beer and cheese soup is a “low carb” food assuming you stick to portion sizes…. but if you’re anything like me, you want to eat half the pot. I wanted to find other ways to thicken the soup without adding flour. This recipe worked for me and it comes out to approx 6 carbs per cup which basically means  that instead of eating half the pot, I can eat the whole thing.

8 slices of bacon (or more if you prefer)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 cup celery
1 1/2 cup carrot
1 1/2 cup onion
1 teaspoon pepper (fresh cracked if possible)
Bottle of your favorite beer, preferably around 12oz.
6 oz colby jack, shredded
4 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
4 oz cream cheese
2 1/2 cup chicken stock
1 1/4 cup heavy cream (Don’t think about it, just do it)
1/4 cup chicken stock with 1/2 tsp xanthan gum whisked in
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Lots more cracked pepper

Cook the bacon until crispy. I cut them into little pieces before I cook them. Add 1/2 teaspoon pepper as they are cooking. Reserve 3 tsp bacon fat when they are done. Drain the bacon bits and set aside.

Chop the onion, carrots, garlic and celery and sautee until tender. Put aside to cool.

Add the vegetables and 1/4 cup chicken stock to the blender and blend for about 45 seconds. They don’t need to be completely cool but you don’t want to try blending hot things. It ends badly. Add a little more stock if you need to get it moving. Add the softened cream cheese and blend for another 30 seconds or so, the more you blend the smoother it will be.

Add the puree mixture back to the pot and put on a medium low temperature. Whisk in the chicken stock and beer. Add the xanthan gum mixture and whisk until smooth.

Add another 1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper and the reserved bacon fat. Don’t leave this out! Remember, most traditional beer and cheese soup recipes call for quite a bit of butter so even with the addition of the bacon fat, you’re still ahead.

Let this heat up, but check and whisk often.

After it starts to get bubbly, bring the soup down to low and add the cheese and slowly whisk in the cream. You could probably cut some calories and fat by using half and half but honestly, this is BACON and CHEESE soup, live a little. Add the bacon pieces, salt and mustard and simmer on low until everything melds. The soup really only needs maybe 10 minutes but DON’T neglect it, you don’t want it to scald.

Taste and adjust your salt. Garnish with a little cheese, some more bacon (can you really ever have too much?) or scallions.

Apple Cake, a New Tradition

 

Apple Cake

During the holidays do you ever find yourself making the same thing year after year? I do. I think after a while it becomes almost an OCD thing because the thought of not making something just might be bad luck, even if it’s not that good. I have a few of those things. Green bean casserole at Thanksgiving would be one of those. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s OK but I could do so much better. This year I have decided to try a few new things and this is one of them. This recipe came to me via a friend and while I did alter a few small things, it was a big success. It is not to dense and smells divine while it bakes. I’m even thinking of adding a little caramel drizzle with my next slice.

First, fill a mixing bowl halfway with water. You’re going to put your apple slices in this while preparing the rest. It will keep them from turning brown. If you’re like me, you start stressing as soon as that blade hits the skin becaue the last thing any of us wants is a brown apple. (I stressed the same way over potatoes too until I learn this trick)

Step One:
Skin four apples. Once the skinned is peeled, I just cut them in half and cute the flesh off in thin slices. I don’t particularly like big chunky apple pieces and this works nice when layering. Cut the core out of course and throw them in the water when you cut them. For the record I used Braeburn apples. They are a sweeter variety and hold up well to cooking.

Step Two:
Mix together your wet ingredients. They are:
4 Large eggs
1 cup oil (I used light olive oil but vegetable is just fine)
1/2 cup juice- Now the recipe called for Orange but I used tangerine. I bet you could really use any juice including apple and it would be wonderful.

Step Three:
Mix together your dry ingredients:
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour (preferably sifted)
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

Step Four:
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just incorporated.

Step Five:
Strain your apples and discard the water. Add 2 Tablespoon melted butter and toss to coat. This is where you want to do a thorough job, make sure the butter coats them. Add 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 4 teaspoons sugar and toss again to coat.

Step Six:
The recipe I was given called for this to be cooked in a bundt pan however I used a polish pottery sheet pan. Spray with non cook spray and start layering.  Add a thin later of batter, then add a layer of apple. I know many pictures on the internet show an apple layer on the bottom but depending on how long it cooks and what you are cooking it in, you can easily burn them (they are coasted in sugar). Continue this until everything is used. The batter will be think so it won’t really pour. Do the best you can, it will settle once you put it in the oven.

Bake for about an hour at 350. Mine actually took about an hour and ten minutes so start checking after about an hour. If you are using a bundt pan it may take longer. Once I took mine out of the oven, I let it cool and simply dusted the slices with powdered sugar.

Need help finding quality polish pottery? We have the answer….

At Pacific Polish Pottery we import only the finest quality stoneware directly from Boleslawiec, Poland. We’ve been doing it for over ten years and we love what we do. Our primary factory is Ceramika Artystyczna however we also carry select pieces from other smaller factories. Each piece is designed by hand so no two are exactly alike. We offer very competitive prices and low shipping OR if your order is over 175.00 we will ship to you for FREE. Plus, at Pacific Polish Pottery you will find a few extra special items not found anywhere else and if you don’t find that special piece, we can special order just about anything you want. Every piece of pottery from us is safe to use in the microwave, oven, freezer, and dishwasher. Also, our pottery is lead and cadmium free.

Start Searching Now for your perfect piece!

Polish Pottery Store

Regarding Crepecakes… thin is in.

Crepe cakesI’m not going to give a recipe for this, because honestly it would be more complicated than it needs to be. You can achieve this without fancy recipes. You can even use Bisquick mix. It’s more the size and texture that matter here and I just like that you can eat 15 of these instead of the usual 2 or 3 pancakes.

I had the priveledge of living in Europe for a few years and we traveled all around during our time there. We particularly loved Bazaars and there was always one to be found. One thing you could always be certain of, particularly in France was the crepe maker. In my opinion the best way to eat one with sprinkled with a touch of butter and sugar but they were prepared to add just about anything you wanted. Fruit, nutella, lemon juice, sugar…. you name it. They kept you warm when nothing else could.

Since our time over seas we have played around with making crepes and it usually ended successfully. In my house we like pancakes but we don’t often make them. I thought it would be fun to mix the two things I like, but don’t often eat. If you want to look up a fancy crepe recipe, by all means go ahead but using a standard pancake mix is going to work best. Simply add a teaspoon of sugar and get out the milk. Milk is what you are going to use to thin down the batter and keep them moist. Pancakes tend to be fluffy and dry and crepes are thin and moist. Start by adding a few tablespoons of milk and mix the batter well. Have you ever had a glass of egg nog? That is about the consistency you are going for.

Use a good non stick pan, add some butter and heat well. The first pancakes (or crepecakes) usually end up a mess and it’s because the pan was not allowed to heat up enough. If this happens just scrap them, add a touch more butter and start again. The batter should be added in small sections because it will spread out. You may even think that you did something wrong but soon it will start to bubble and you can flip them. If they puff up more than 1/8 of an inch, add another Tablespoon of milk. When you flip them, use the spatula and pat them down. This prevents air from cooking into them and will allow for a dense consistency. You don’t want light and fluffy with these. I keep a covered dish by the stove and add them as they finish.

That’s it. Now you are the master of your own breakfast crepecake. Add your favorite syrup or a dusting of powdered sugar and enjoy~

A one dish wonder of chicken, chorizo and potatoes

Chicken, potatoes & Chorizo on Polish Pottery

If I could be someone other than myself, it would be Nigella Lawson. Most people usually say, “Who’s that?” She can be seen on the food network and I am always surprised that she is not more widely known. She exudes passion and I love it. It makes me want to try everything she talks about. So this meal is hers. I usually like to alter recipes and make them my own however I only changed the method on this one and not the ingredients.  It is rustic and simple and utterly charming and delicious. Yes, I used charming to describe this dish.

I know I favor polish pottery in all my cooking but just in case, I cooked two trays of this. One on a traditional baking sheet as she did and one in an xl polish pottery baker. The polish pottery baker wins hands down. It held in the moisture and I was able to use the drippings to baste the chicken. The baking sheet tends to dry things out and the juices can end up burning on the pan. Plus, the biggest benefit of all, it was a breeze to clean. The sheet pan is still soaking in my sink as I type this.

I know some of you are automatically going to replace the dark meat chicken with white. Resist the urge! Unless you are skilled at cooking chicken breasts it’s too easy to overcook and then you are left with dry chicken. Also, make sure you get the bone in and skin on. I did trim the excess skin on the sides but both the bone and skin gives it tremendous flavor and you will have a fantastically juicy piece of chicken. Just pull the skin off when it’s done if you don’t want it.  We paired our dish with roasted carrots, a fantastic side dish that you can also find on our blog.

8 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on

3 pounds of small red potatoes, skin on, sliced in half

One large red onion, diced

1 orange

1/3 to 1/2 pound of chorizo, casing removed

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon dried oregano

Coat the bottom of a large baking sheet with olive oil. Use polish pottery if you have it, even if you have to divide it up and cook it in two dishes, it’s worth it. Add olive oil to the pan, I used about 2 tablespoons. Place the chicken in the pan, skin side down and sprinkle with some salt & pepper. Rub the skin side of the chicken around in the olive oil and flip over so the skin is facing up. Salt & pepper the skin side. Pinch off a small piece of chorizo and place it under each piece of chicken.

Take the rest of the chorizo and pinch if off placing it around the pan. As it cooks the spices and oils from it will lend themselves well, seasoning the potatoes and chicken in the process.

Place the potatoes, cut side down, all around the pan and don’t be afraid to pack them in.

Sprinkle the onion on top along with the oregano

The last step is zest the orange over the top. DO NOT even think about squeezing orange juice on this, the sugars will cause the pan to burn (if using a baking sheet) and it will baste instead of roast.

Place in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for 60 minutes. If you have two dishes, rotate them halfway through so it does not spend more than 30 minutes close to the bottom. Also, at least twice I scooped up some of the juices (which will be orange in color from the chorizo) and sort of basted the chicken with it. After an hour if the top is not brown enough for your liking, turn on the broiler for a minute to finish it off.

The Difference Between Dogs & Cats

First, let me say that I did not write the following entry. It was forwarded to me in an email and I laughed all day long. This is the funniest thing I have read in quite some time. If you own a dog and cat you will appreciate this all the more. While I did not write the words, the pictures are my own pets and let me tell you, if they could talk, this is exactly what they would say. …

Read More »

Finally I Can Put Meatloaf Back on the Menu!

I don’t have fond memories of meatloaf. The only positive thing I can say about it was that it made great sandwiches the next day. I have tried a few variations of it over the years but I never worked really hard at it because I assumed all meatloaf was destined to be tasteless hard blocks of mushed up meat. I can hear you now…. “oh you have to try my grandmother’s meatloaf… it’s the best!”. Well, I don’t like different kinds of meat blended together and I certainly don’t like to cut into a meatloaf and see a whole egg staring back at me. So about 5 years ago I gave up. I stumbled upon a random blog that changed my mind.

I know the picture is not the best one I have ever uploaded onto this blog but to be honest, a good meatloaf doesn’t have to be beautiful. It’s what’s on the inside that counts. We paired it with a simple mashed potato and roasted corn and I have now realized just how good this little lump of meat can be. So much so that I plan on keeping ingredients on hand for a regular appearance to our menu. It is so simple, but the quality of ingredients make a big difference so since it’s an inexpensive dish to begin with, consider spending a little more for the ingredients I list:

  • 1 Pound GRASS FED Beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1 cup finely grated aged white cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup quick cook oats
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup diced Vidalia onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon mustard (use your favorite, not dried)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar

The key here really is the grass fed beef. Not only is this a better choice in general but the flavor absolutely superior. Cheap meat is cheap for a reason, you get what you pay for. Ok, enough said.

In a bowl, whisk the egg and milk together until well blended. Add the half and half, oats, breadcrumbs, onion, cheese and salt. Add the beef and blend well. This mixture will make eight individual servings. They will be juicy and perfect so resist the temptation to make it into a big block.

The last three ingredients are for the top. Mix the ketchup, brown sugar and mustard together and spread liberally on each one.

That’s it. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Eat and then come back here and tell me what you think!

The Sugar Sands & Aqua Waters of Siesta Key

I went to Siesta Key over the weekend. This is consistently rated one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world. The picture below, which I took, is all you need to see to know why it is a favorite among vacationers and locals alike. White sand, sparkling blue and green water, it really is a gorgeous site. I enjoyed my visit but for me, looking out at the ocean brought other thoughts and worries.
The Beaches of Siesta Key If you have read up on the current oil crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, you know that this oil leak is spilling in excess of 5,000 gallons of nasty crude tar like oil into our oceans. There is no way to clean this up completely. This is going to mix into the waters, and work its way into the food chain from the bottom up. This doesn’t just have lasting effects for OUR food, but for all kinds of species. What kind of genetic damage is this going to do? We already poison the waters with Mercury and other contaminates as well as dump tons of plastic and garbage into the ocean, most of which is swirling as we speak off the Pacific Coast and it’s about the size of Texas. It’s called the great pacific garbage patch and it’s implications are huge. Like the oil “leak”, this is something that is going to work it’s way into everything, on a cellular level. It’s almost as if we won’t be content until we have killed ourselves from the inside, out. Forget about terrorism, we are our biggest threat. We don’t need to worry about someone else coming and killing us, because we are slowly but surely doing it to ourselves.
I personally think that the effects of this are going to be devastating and I think that if it doesn’t visually affect the beaches we covet, it might become a case of “out of sight, out of mind” and that would be an even bigger tragedy. We need to stop being complacent and just because we see a beautiful beach, it doesn’t mean everything is ok. It’s almost like we walk around, and if everything appears to look good, no one is motivated to action. It’s only when things look bad, when disaster strikes that the majority of people get off their butts and try to do something. I have read more than once about how humans really are just a virus, invading, taking over, ruining what’s in their path. That’s all we seem to do, take take take and then when it’s exhausted, move on and take something else. The only problem with this? There isn’t much left to take.

Greek Yogurt….. I’m trying to like it, really I am.

Greek Yogurt
I consider my dietary life to be on a sort of sliding ladder. I continually try and replace no so good habits with better ones. As I do this I continue to move up the ladder. My ultimate goal? Well, I would love to live a vegan lifestyle but that ladder is awfully high and I’m not sure I’m gonna make it that high. So for now, I am working on the little things. Yogurt. I really don’t like it. I think it’s very good for you so I keep trying. Today I tried Greek Yogurt. You hear alot about it and with 14g of protein per 6oz serving it was worth a shot. I had strawberry flavored and topped it with some fresh blueberries. It wasn’t…. bad. It sort of had a cheesecake taste to it however the consistency was like eating sour cream. So I have decided that I am going about this wrong. After all Greek yogurt is gluten free and doesn’t separate when baking. The most obvious application here would be a smoothie, and with the consistency being much thicker than traditional yogurt, I think it will be a lovely creamy addition. I was reading about Greek yogurt online and I came across a blog that suggested the following:
“Peanut Butter Fluff. Take a cup of Greek Yogurt and add two tablespoons of peanut butter to it for an extraordinary treat. You’ll think you’re eating soft-serve peanut butter ice cream and your kids may be envious. If you’re trying to cut down calories, carbs, or fat, try adding the new PB2 powder instead of peanut butter, and sweeten it with splenda or a sugar free syrup for all the taste and none of the guilt”.
This is pure genius. While I might play with the peanut butter/ yogurt ratio, it seems there is hope yet that I might be able to find a way to eat yogurt in a way that doesn’t make me want to gag.

Grilled Turkey with Pear, Spinach, Manchego Cheese & Blood Orange Infused Olive Oil.

Turkey, Pear & Manchego Cheese Sandwich
I know this will probably sound conceited but I have truly outdone myself this time. The inspiration for this originally came from a place called Soups and Stews. They moved across town a few months ago and we decided to try out the new location. It went from fabulous to terrible. It was so bad, even the name turns me off now. I won’t complain too much because that trip brought me to a place called From Olives and Grapes where they sell all kinds of wonderfully flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars. I got two things that day and one of them was Blood Orange infused Olive Oil. I had no clue what to do with it but I knew it had possibilities.

So fast forward to today and I decided on soup and sandwiches for dinner. The soup, cream of mushroom. The sandwich, a delightful roasted turkey. I added spinach instead of traditional lettuce, manchego cheese and thinly sliced pears. I wanted to toast them but that usually means butter and I didn’t want that. Instead we lightly brushed some of the flavored olive oil on just one side of each piece of bread and bingo! One of the best sandwiches ever. It’s a little more involved, but only slightly and I would certainly recommend trying it.
The ingredients are simple:

  • Spinach leaves, stems cut off.
  • Manchego cheese, either thinly sliced or crumbled
  • Roasted turkey, sliced
  • Pears thinly sliced
  • citrus flavored olive oil

Preheat your oven to broil on HI
Start with a warm pan, only a medium heat is necessary. Lightly brush one side of each piece of bread with the flavored olive oil and lay them oil side down in the pan.
Pile your spinach up on one side of the bread, about 2 layers.
Add your cheese. About now, your bread should be starting to toast nicely.

At this point you should have both pieces of bread in the pan (oil side down) and one side should be layered with the spinach and cheese. Put on an oven mit and take the pan by the handle and hold it directly under the broiler. You are just melting the cheese and wilting the spinach. This takes literally 20 to 30 seconds. When this is complete, put the pan back on the stove top. At this point you might want to add some black pepper to the melted cheese.
Layer on the sliced pears
Layer on the turkey
Check the underside of the other piece of bread. When it is toasted to your likeness, put the sandwich together and remove from the heat.
And you’re done!

A few notes:

1. I know what you’re thinking… pears… on a sandwich? Try it, you might be surprised. We used Bosc pears but I don’t think it matters much. They are sweet of course but work well even when not as ripe. I like the flavor either way.
2. When it comes to the meat, the truth is, you can use left over turkey or even roasted chicken, either lends itself well
3. You will notice that there are no sauces on this sandwich, no mayo, no mustard, nothing. It absolutely didn’t need it but if you are unsure, make a small test sandwich first and cut it into pieces. Let everyone try it, that way you know what to tweek.
4. If you have a panini press, all the better!

Polish Pottery Myth #3: It’s really only good to use on low heat

My hutch

My hutch

One of the most asked questions regarding this kind of stoneware is, “are you sure you can use it in the oven safely”? Yes Yes Yes! Often times sites will tell you not to use them above 400 degrees. Most of the time they say this for one of two reasons. The first, they just don’t know. That is what they were told and they just accept it and pass it along. The second reason is to protect themselves from liability. Personally I have alot of pottery. 90% of the cooking I do is in a piece of polish stoneware. I stick it under the broiler and more than one Thanksgiving we put multiple pieces right on the grill. The only thing I would not do is put a piece on a warm burner. Other than that, 500 degrees, broil, and even grilling will not hurt your pottery. Remember, these pieces were fired in a kiln in excess of 2000 degrees, they can handle high temps. The secret is how you apply the heat. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  1. If you put your pottery in the freezer, do not take it from the freezer to a hot oven. You will crack it. This is basic info for any cookware. Extreme temperature changes will cause it to expand and contract and usually crack the piece. So take it out of your freezer or fridge at least a half hour before you cook and keep it on the counter and then I usually put it in the oven as it’s heating up so the piece warms as the oven warms. It won’t affect your cooking time.
  2. As someone who cooks alot, I like to clean up as I go. With polish stoneware, you need to let the dish cool before you start putting water in it or washing it. Again, temperature changes that are fast like that will cause problems. Let it sit while you enjoy your meal.
  3. Polish Stoneware does not have to sit for hours soaking in water after your meal is over. It used to be that I had to soak metal pans or other glass pans for quite some time to clean. Not so with polish stoneware. Run water for a moment and the food begins to “slip” off. It is almost a joy to clean. Imagine that.
  4. Don’t be afraid to put your pottery on the grill. Yes, I said the grill. There have been many occasions where we simply did not have enough oven space and we have put our pottery filled dishes right on the grill. We do have a gas grill and the flame was kept under control but again, you are not going to hurt your stoneware. The worst that will happen is you might have some discoloring on the underside from this way of cooking however REMEMBER, it is not permanent. It cleans off like anything else.

    Keeping these simple things in mind will allow you to completely enjoy the pottery that adorns your cabinets. Don’t be afraid to use it, you will find it’s a joy to cook in. The colors make you happy and if you take them to others houses, someone will always comment on your dishes.

    I should mention that if your pottery has a flaw in it, you CAN crack it or break it. If you are buying from a reputable dealer, the chances of that are very small. I personally have had a Pyrex dish shatter in the oven so it can happen with anything but it’s rare.

Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad with Cranberries and Pecans

Strawberry Goat Cheese SaladI am not a big fan of salad. The primary reason is that they lack creativity and are boring. How many times have I gone out to eat only to find that the only salad offered is some cold iceberg lettuce thrown together with cheese, egg and maybe some tomato if you are lucky. When I find a good salad though, you have me for life. This is my current salad of choice and it is a mix of sweet and savory. When you put a salad together like this it is important to find the right balance of ingredients.

Field greens or baby greens, but please please please don’t use iceberg or romaine
Pecans- resist the urge to use candy pecans, the fruit give it enough of a sweet vibe
Chopped strawberry- only a few, start with 2 strawberries cut down to small size
Dried Cranberries- these give a little bit of tart to the mix, don’t exclude them!
Goat Cheese- plain, no flavor added, crumble in what you like. I tend to like more rather than less
Honey Mustard Dressing- I like the kind made with yogurt, low in calories and fat and great flavor

Simple toss the above ingredients to your liking. Keep in mind that the salad should only have a hint of sweetness so go easy on the strawberries. Everything should be in even amounts so they balance well. If you want, adding chicken to the mix is a good thing and makes a great meal. Enjoy!

Perfectly Smooth Cilantro Salsa Every Time

Smooth cilantro salsa Chips and salsa. Who could resist. This is such an easy and delightfully wonderful dish to make, that it will be the first thing to disappear. You could spend hours blanching tomatoes or slow roasting them, but why bother when the truth is, the canned variety is just as good and has all the nutrients and flavor you need? Not to mention it keeps the cost down. This was originally given to me by my sister in law and it has been worth it’s weight in gold.  It has a few simple ingredients. One large can of whole tomatoes. No spices, no special flavors, just whole tomatoes. Then one can of Rotel. We use mild but you can use any variety that suits you. Add in one teaspoon sugar, one teaspoon garlic salt and one very large handful of fresh cilantro. Chop in a blender and enjoy. We use this with not only chips but our empanadas as well. It is fresh and full of flavor. From what I understand, the difference between Colombian salsa (this kind) and say, Mexican salsa is not only the heat, but how chunky it is. This is smooth and will work well with many dishes.

Baby Honey Peanut Butter Cookies with a Touch of Dark Chocolate

peanut butter cookies

So I like peanut butter. But every peanut butter cookie disappoints me in some fundamental way. I gave up for a while, until I came across these little babies. I have changed them around a bit but the sugar coating is key. It gives them a mix of soft in the middle and a bit of crunch on the outside. Here is what you will need:

3/4 cup creamy HONEY peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Colored sugar for rolling
Dark Chocolate Chips

Start by using a mixer to blend the peanut butter and butter well. Add both type of sugar and mix until well blended again. Add your wet ingredients, the egg, vanilla and milk. Mix again. Finally in small batches add the dry ingredients.

At this point, cover and put in the refrigerator overnight. Because you will be rolling small size cookies, the dough gets too soft and it is best when it can harden. Roll out small cookies about 1/2″ wide. Roll in the colored sugar and cook for 7 minutes. I would use parchment paper. Cook at 350. Press a chocolate chip in the top as soon as they come out of the oven. Let cool and then devour!

NOTE! We cook ours on a polish pottery cookie sheet so they turn out perfect however if you are using a standard cookie sheet they will burn easily on the bottom because of the sugar. Watch the first batch carefully. Consider some kind of stoneware for all your cookie baking, it makes such a difference in the final product.

 

Sweet Slow Roasted Carrots

sweet slow roasted carrotsLet me start off by saying, I really do not like carrots. I have tried them all different ways growing up and nothing appealed to me. So in an effort to get my kids to eat them, I continued to try different things. This is what I found and my kids not only love them, but I do too. The slow cooking time brings out the natural sweetness. Start with a 5 pound bag of carrots and peel them. After cutting off both tips (throw those out or add them to your compost bin) cut the carrots into large chunks. Put them in a large pan, really polish pottery works best for this because they won’t stick and the oil you will add will allow for even cooking. If you don’t have that, use a 13 x 9 inch pan. Dribble olive oil over them and mix to coat well.  The next step is to generously coat with freshly ground black pepper and rock salt if you have it. Regular salt will do if you have to. Slow roast them for 2 hours at 300, and mix them around every 1/2 hour or so. After that boost the temp up to 400 for the last 45 minutes and they should be done. They will shrink in size. These make a great dish to bring to family dinners, no one expects to like carrots but these will go quickly. Enjoy!

Heirloom Quality Polish Pottery- A New Way of Cooking

Polish Pottery Unikat Do you do alot of baking, cooking, entertaining or just experimenting in the kitchen? If you are like me, then your kitchen is the most popular area in the house. I was not always that way. Cooking was fun for me, but I hated the clean up and the problems that came with it, like uneven cooking, food that stuck to the pans, and cookware that was just not very pretty so that if you were entertaining you would have to transfer it from the dish you cooked it in to the dish you served it in. Something that you weren’t embarrassed for your guests to see. Polish pottery changed all that. Case in point, have you ever cooked a dish that you love but you literally have to soak it for hours, then use something sharp to scrape off the sides and even then you still have to use something abrasive to finish cleaning it? For me it was scalloped potatoes. I love them and so does my family but it meant a long and tedious cleaning process. When I started using polish pottery, all I had to do was run water in it and what didn’t lift away on it’s own, took one simple wipe down with a sponge. Literally 2 minutes to clean. My life has new purpose!
I know what some of you are thinking. It’s too pretty to use, it can’t possibly be used in the oven. Not only can it be used in the oven, but the microwave, dishwasher and I have even used mine on our grill. The only thing you want to be careful of are sudden extreme temperature changes. Don’t take a dish from the freezer and put it into a 500 degree oven. This is something you can’t do with Pyrex or corning ware either so that is not surprise. The pottery holds heat in a way that it cooks everything evenly. Gone are the days of having to transfer your dishes into something that is party worthy. Just cook and serve. Try it out for yourself, you won’t be disappointed AND you will be able to pass them down to your children. Ever piece is heirloom quality.

The Best Anti-depressant

Adorable Kitty Cat

So it’s probably no secret that I am not much of a dog person. I suppose I could be if they only stayed puppies but they are too needy for my personality. I am a cat person. I personally own too many cats and do not need to add to the brood but I have been wanting to foster them for a while. If you are interested, call your local shelter or SPCA and ask if they have a foster program. Most of these animals spend alot of time in cages and need people to love on them, even if only temporary until they find a home. So with that said we have some temporary kitties in our home. One is leaving for a new permanent home tomorrow and I will miss him terribly. They have been such a great source of laughter and just an over all mood booster. I highly recommend it. They eat and play and kitties are have a natural instinct to use the litter box. No potty training required. So foster a pet today!

Lemon Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

lemon-blueberry-oatmeal-muffins

Today was all about the lemon. Blueberry is good but lemon is better. So we tried something that at least on the outside, seems a bit more healthy than your average boxed muffin mix. These are good, different from the norm, but good just the same and even better if you like oatmeal. We baked them in individual tart dishes but you can make this into a loaf or muffins. First make the topping and put that aside and then work on the dry and wet ingredients separately.

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 2 Tb brown sugar
  • 1/2 Tb melted butter
  • 2 Tb finely chopped pecans

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup oatmeal (quick cooking is best)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tb baking powder
  • 1/2 Tsp salt

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk (anything but skim)
  • 2 slightly beaten egg whites

  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • 1 Tsp lemon zest plus 1/2 Tsp lemon juice (fresh is best)
  • 1 Tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Add the wet to the dry. If you don’t want a blue batter (I happen to like that) then wait to add the blueberries absolute last and just gently fold them in. Sprinkle the topping on each muffin. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Yummie!

Now, a few notes:

  • When using lemon juice in recipes, fresh is always best. Don’t skimp on this, it makes a difference.
  • You can use other oil, we just like olive oil for the health benefits and flavor.
  • When adding your topping, sort of push it into the batter so it “sticks” to the muffin.

style=”float:left; margin-right:10px; margin-top:5px; border:1px grey solid”healthy crescent rollsI originally saw a recipe similar to this on Pinterest but I didn’t like the look of it so I wanted to create something similar but very different. I like the idea of comfort food but increasingly I find I can’t indulge because of what are in many of the convenience type foods. Take the croissants in this recipe. Originally I thought I could never try this because I can’t (won’t) buy your typical roll of processed dough. Fresh Market saved the day with a brand that I could live with. I used two containers for this recipe.

For the filling
1 large onion chopped (we used Vidalia)
1 large red bell pepper chopped
1 clove of garlic minced
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 oz cream cheese (we used the cooking cream cheese)
1 tablespoon butter (we used an Irish salted butter)
chopped chicken (2 breasts)
chicken stocTo start place the chopped onion and pepper and garlic in a pan with a little butter or oil and cook until they are to your liking. When done, turn off the burner and let cool completely. Once the chicken is done add everything else in this pan and mix well. At this point check for seasonings. You may need to add more salt. While I didn’t do it, you can add other things at this point like some fresh rosemary, maybe a little curry or just leave it as is.

Take two large chicken breasts and put them in a pot that was half water, half chicken stock plus a teaspoon of salt. Don’t skip the salt. The water will season the chicken better than adding it later . Bring the pot with the chicken in it to a boil. Let continue to boil for ONE minute and then turn if off. Let it sit for a good 20 minutes. Pull from the water and shred or chop into small bits. You do not want to overcook the chicken this way so don’t be tempted to keep it boiling.

Before we rolled our little pockets of goodness, I used a rolling pin to flatten the dough of the croissants. Don’t go crazy with this but it

helps make a big enough space to work with. We put a heaping tablespoon onto each triangle of dough and then rolled up (see pictures).

For the sauce:
1 can of cream of chicken soup (we used an organic soup)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup of your favorite cheese, shredded (we used a blend of four cheeses)
1/4 cup milk (this is optional depending on the type of soup you use. If it’s very concentrated you will need the milk, otherwise you can skip it or adjust if it looks too thick)
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
Any leftover chicken filling (we had about 1/2 cup left over)

For the sauce we just mixed all the above ingredients in a bowl. Again, I think this would really benefit from some curry but I chickened out. We put curry in our chicken pot pie and it’s fabulous, I should have added a half teaspoon here. Mix everything together, adding more milk if it looks really thick. It should not be as thin as a soup would be and we left ours thick. Once you have this is mixed put 1/2 cup in the bottom of the casserole dish and then place your pockets of chicken on top of that. We used a 9×11 baking pan and 2 cans of croissants fix perfectly. If you want to you can just dump it all on top but I wanted to see the croissants and be able to gauge that they were cooked through so I ladled it all around and in between everything. If you want sprinkle with more cheese.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

chicken croissant casserole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.potterymonster.com/index.php/2002/