Friday, February 3, 2012

I made an easy dinner tonight.  We call it "orange chicken".

From Trader Joe's my family likes the Chicken Masala Simmer Sauce.  It is an indian dish.  All our family likes indian food - thank goodness.  I like it (going left to right) with 0 fat greek yogurt, Trader Joe's Mango Ginger Chutney, and Trader Joe's Nan bread. Each family member likes their own combo of the tdifferent foods on my plate.  I also like it with lentils too, but I am trying to cut back on carbs.  I don't eat it with nan...again, trying to cut the carbs.  But it is GOOD stuff!!

All you need to do is follow the directions on the chicken sauce.  That's it.....the chutney adds a great sweetness and spice to the dish.  But that's also why I like it with the yogurt.  It cools it off and adds more protein to the dish.

This is a solid, easy, fast option for our family, and we all need those!!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

 With the new year, I decided to try to live, eat and cook healthier.  Here are a couple of things I have been doing:
I am starting to compost.  This is my little bucket I am keeping on my counter.  I have been putting the scraps from the meals I make.  I have been cutting them up smaller before I put them in the bucket.  I also put in coffee grounds.  I will eventually put them in my large tumbling composter that I just bought.  I am hoping I will have enough compost to use in my new garden that I will be starting in the spring.

Here are composting tips my friend Kurt sent me to share on the blog:
"I recommend having 2 composters because at some point you have to stop adding material so it  can finish and turn into dirt ( this can take 6-8 weeks) That way you can still keep adding to one composter while the other one is finishing. There are 4 main variables-- browns/greens/ air and water. Any fresh or wet material is considered "green"( grass clippings/ weeds/ food - fruits and vegi scraps) and  anything dried like fallen leaves/straw is considered "brown". Equal amounts of browns and greens make the best mix ( doesn't have to be added at the same time.) Most people keep some "browns"   (straw or leaves)  around in summer to mix in.  You need to add a  little water when you add material to keep the compost moist in order to keep the metabolism going. Too little water- nothing happens, too much -- it will really stink. The organisms also require air so it is important to mix the compost once a week. I follow the "no animal ingredients formula -- no meat, dairy, or eggs--keeps the raccoons out and the smell is better."

He calls composting "It is a very doable urban agricultural activity".

Luckily, the composter I bought has two compartments to deal with the issue that Kurt brought up.  I will keep you all posted.  Any other comments on composting are very welcomed!
This is a beautiful bowl my friend Jodi made.  She has been making beautiful pottery "for fun" and loves doing it.  She gave me this bowl because it has a crack in it and can't hold liquids, but it is perfect for what I use it for.  I use the special  bowl to keep clementines out on the table.  The plan is that they will get eaten if it is in plain sight, nice and easy....or so I hope that will happen.  
See what this crazy weather is doing?!  My flowers are coming up. NOOOOO.....not yet!!!!!  What is going to happen when spring is really here.  This is yet another reason why we need to live better.  Plants should not be coming up in February!!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Good dinner tonight.  Salmon for the adults, chicken for the kids and roasted brussel sprouts and carrots for all.

To start with I cut up the brussel sprouts and carrots (putting the scraps into my compost bucket) and put them on a tin foil (for ease of cleaning) lined baking sheet, drizzled with oil and into a 400 degree oven.
They cooked there while I put the chicken breasts on the grill and got the ingredients ready for the salmon.  I stirred the brussel sprouts and carrots around once and let them cook longer.  Once they were browned, I took them out and crushed sea salt over them.  Yum!!!!
See how nice and brown they all get??  Who ever says they don't like brussel sprouts, I challenge you to make them this way and not like them.  SO good!!!
For the kids I just grilled chicken breasts.  They like theirs simple.  I just grill the breasts with Lawry's seasoning salt sprinkled on each side - and that's it.  No others seasonings.  I didn't even marinade it. Simple.  Each kids like a different sauce - terriyaki or bbq sauce....whatever they want.  No pictures here....too boring!!

One of my customers inspired me to make the salmon tonight.  She told me a recipe and I tried my best to make it similar to what she had said.  Norweign salmon was on sale at work - I like to try to cook with whatever meats are on sale.  Since this does not have a strong salmon flavor, I thought I would like it and I did. I made a piece for myself and a piece for my husband.  I mixed together 2T reduced fat Miracle Whip (I know - there are two camps - the Miracle Whip camp and the mayonnaise camp.  I was raised on Miracle Whip, so I tend to lean that way.  I hope I didn't just offend anyone!), 1 full teaspoon of grainy mustard, and 2 squeezes of a lemon.  I spread that on top of each piece of fish.  I then mixed together 1/8 cp panko crumbs, zest of 1 lemon, 1/2t garlic powder and heavy pinch of kosher salt.  I put the crumb mixture over the spread on the salmon.  I put the pieces (skin side down) into a very hot pan that I had sprayed with Pam - a regular pan, not non-stick.  I let it cook there for about 5 minutes.  Then I put the whole pan into the 400 degree oven that the vegis were cooking in.  The vegis were on a lower shelf than the pan - making them closer to the heat source and the fish further away.  The pan stayed in the oven with the vegis for about 8 minutes.  I took the vegis out, turned the broiler onto high.  I kept the broiler on for about 6 minutes with the last 2 minutes moving the pan right under the broiler.  I wanted to brown the panko crumbs more.

SOOOOO delicious!  The coating was tangy and crunchy.  The mustard wasn't too evident, but the taste was.  Not sure if that makes sense....but that's the way it tasted.  The panko added a wonderful crunch.  You can see how the lemon zest browned more than the crumbs.  I think this made it so pretty!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

All right Super Moms - and others.  When do you draw the line?  I am SOOO tired of cleaning up after my kids.  I make dinner - no one clears the table.  I see junk all over the place.  Sure I could pick it all up....but again, and again???? Augh!!  Drives me crazy!!!

Anyways.....I made a simple dinner tonight.  I grilled marinated skirt steak, roasted asparagus, and cut up a cantaloupe. I grill year round.  I know some people don't, but I don't see why not to do it?  Grilling leaves all the smell and mess of what you are cooking outside.  Skirt steak is SO delicious!  The asparagus didn't go to well tonight.  It was very thin - usually a good thing.  I put it in the oven when I had just turned on the oven.  I ran to pick our son up from Hebrew and by the time I got back, it was over cooked.  Oh well....still edible, just not so great - a bit too crispy.  The cantaloupe was delicious though.  It is on sale at work ($2.50 each!), so I had bought one a few days ago, cut it up and it was a great ending to an ok meal.  Guess every meal can't be wonderful.

I am starting to compost.  Do you ever compost?  I bought a composter and a little bin to keep in the kitchen.  I'll keep you posted on how it goes. I just got sick and tired (I am seeing a trend in the post - I better go to bed soon!) of throwing away scraps of vegis and fruits from the dinners I make.  I am going to start a garden this spring, so I figured I should start the composting now. I would love to hear what you have to say about composting.  I am new to did it go for you when you started?  Do I need to cut all my scraps into little pieces?  Comment and let me know.

Monday, January 30, 2012

You must already know, I love me a good eggs benedict! I found another place to go and get a really good version on this - great hollandaise sauce and perfect poached egg - THE measure of a eggs benedict.
Benedict's La Strata
40 N. Williams StreetCrystal Lake, IL 60014

 We started with beignets. They only make these Monday through Saturdays.  They are made to order and AMAZING!!!  Fried, but not with that fried texture.  You could get them with or without apples.  We got some of each.  Worth the calories...I promise!!!
 Like a small, extra yummy apple pie!!!
 I had "Kevin's Fresh Zucchini Cakes and Eggs".  Below the perfect poached eggs covered with hollandaise sauce, were zucchini pancakes.  The pancakes were made with shredded zucchini, potatoes, onions and dill (that's my guess at least).  I would have liked them with a crunchy texture, but with that being was delicious!!!  I had it with fruit instead of potatoes, and I had them keep of the diced red pepper that the menu calls for.
This is what the waitress, Linda, recommended. "California Scrambler".  It has potato pancakes with scrambled eggs, bacon, avocado, and hollandaise sauce over it.  My husband had the hold off the tomatoes that usually is also over the top of the eggs.  It was also delicious!  Again, I would have liked the pancakes crispier, but the whole thing was yummy!  Their potato pancakes not only had potatoes and onion in them, but also some dill.  Yum!!  The potatoes on the side are onions or anything else.  Simple.  But simple is good.

I also like that they put a small pot of coffee on the table, as well as a water pitcher, so you don't have to wait for someone to keep up with  you.  And did I mention that use Intelligentsia coffee?!?!  That is my favorite coffee!!  Costly to buy it, but SOOO smooth and easy!!!

We will definitely be going back to here...I added their link to my site also!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I love trying to make new things using new methods.  My husband challenged me with making jerky at home.  I met that challenge - and with success I must say!  It was all eaten in one day.  With that being is pretty close to a break even in making it at home vs. buying it.  Maybe not enough of a difference for you...but I will for sure make this again, and again.

I got the "starter" recipe from  As you know by now, I like to look at a few recipes and put it into one recipe.  Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't.  This is a website I have been going to often lately. I put a link to it on my website.  I like this one because it is from "home cooks" and there are ratings to the recipes.  I didn't use their cooking method.  I used another one I saw in another recipe.  I will show you my version of the recipe below.

I also put some slices of beef in the marinade.  I used thinly sliced skirt steak.  It was packed at the butcher for "stir fry" but it worked perfect for this.

My Turkey Jerky recipe.....with pictures to follow lower on the page.....

1 boneless turkey breast (skinned and trimmed of fat)
Thin Slices of skirt steak
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar (firmly packed)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Best method of cutting meat thin: After removing the skin and fat from the turkey breast, place it in the freezer long enough to partially freeze.(about 30 minutes). When the turkey is partially frozen, slice it thinly against the grain.(an electric knife works best).

For my first time, I had the butcher cut the turkey.  He didn't cut it evenly, so I'll do it the frozen way next time.

Combine the rest of the ingredients (without the meats) in a zip lock bag. Shake it around to get everything mixed well.

Add the turkey and beef slices, and shake to cover all the meat slices in marinade.

Refrigerate overnight – shaking around the bag every so often.

Next day: 
Preheat oven to its lowest degree.  Mine was 170 degrees.

Wrap one oven rack with tin foil.  This one should be the lowest rack.

Spray the other rack with a non-stick spray.

Take the slices out of the marinade and pat the slices dry with paper towels.

Lay the slices of slices directly across your oven rack you had sprayed.

Prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon or something heat tolerant to allow moisture to escape.
Continue to cook the meat for 3-6 hours.

After 3 hours, test a piece by allowing it to cool,and then bending it.If there is any moisture present, continue to dry longer, checking ever so often.

Store in an airtight container for up to 2 months in the refrigerator, or up to 6 months in the freezer.
This is the raw meat (patted dry) laid out on the rack I had sprayed.
See how the racks are in the oven?
This is one of my favorite gadgets in my kitchen.  I bought it at work for only $4.  It is an over shelf puller.  It prevents you from getting that burn on your know the one I am talking about.  Everyone has that badge of honor every Thanksgiving.  Since it is heat resistant, it worked well for this purpose - and looked so cute!
Finished product.  See how much the meat has shrunk down??  Amazing that I made jerky!!!  Love it!!! This was all gone by the end of the day.  It took 6 hours to cook.  I did pull out some pieces sooner than others.