I was pretty bummed today, because of my dog, Bo’s, increasing arthritis pain. I know the end is coming soon and it’s pretty much breaking my heart. He still has moments of joy, especially in the morning, when it’s time to go out and […]
I’ve been pouring through my recipe binders, cookbooks and, of course, the internet, looking for some new recipes.
One of the reasons I used to stick to my tried-and-true recipes was because I hated the thought of all that work to turn out a dish I wouldn’t like. Also, in the back of my mind was the question of whether the kids would like/eat it. My kids never had to finish a dish they didn’t like, but they did have to at least try it. And I sure as hell wasn’t about to fix any of them a separate meal. With 5 kids? Forget it! Still, I tried to play it safe because I really didn’t want any of them going to bed hungry.
My daughter told me I should make a curry with coconut milk. I haven’t made curry in years, but it sounds good to me. I’ll share my dinner with her telepathically. Boy, I wish they’d move closer before my grandsons are in college.
Back when I was a young hottie (ha ha), I lived in San Francisco. Occasionally, a date would take me to this awesome Indian restaurant. I absolutely loved it, including the lamb curry.
Years later, when I was pregnant with my first baby, my husband took me back there. Obviously hormones were messing with my tastebuds, because my lamb curry tasted like I-won’t-even-say. I haven’t had lamb curry since. And I’m not having it tonight, either! We live in farm country. All those cute little lambs gamboling around their pastures? Not going there!
This recipe comes from Epicurious and it’s one of their 22 minute meals, which is nothing less than awesome.
I’m going to make one small change. I think I’ll saute the curried chicken first, then cook the onion, and then combine with the coconut milk/ginger/garlic mix.
I used a standard brand curry, which is very mild, with no heat, whatsoever. You can always start with a little and add a bit more until you find the right degree of spiciness. I know how varied different curries can be.
I went onto Amazon to look up a few different curries. You may want to check these links for some interesting ones that you won’t find in the grocery store. Here’s a super hot curry. Here’s a yellow curry paste from Mae Ploy (that’s the brand of sweet chilli sauce I use with my homemade wontons). Here’s a medium hot curry. It’s probably a lot of fun to experiment with these. This one is fun: it’s a six pack of green, red and yellow curry pastes.
Coconut Curry Chicken
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (about 4 breasts or 7 thighs), cut into 1″ cubes
2 1/2 teaspoons mild curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons virgin coconut or vegetable oil (plus 2 teaspoons; optional)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk (preferably full-fat)
1 (2 1/2″) piece ginger, peeled
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup raw cashews, chopped (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons yellow and/or black mustard seeds (optional)
5 ounces baby spinach
Frozen peas (my addition – with enough spinach, maybe I can get out of making a salad tonight!)
Cilantro leaves with tender stems and cooked rice or naan (Indian flatbread; for serving)
Toss chicken with curry powder, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.
Heat 2 Tablespoons oil in a large skillet (at least 12″ in diameter) over medium-high. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes.
Purée coconut milk, ginger, and garlic in a blender until very smooth.
Add chicken and coconut milk mixture to skillet and cook, tossing occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and sauce has thickened, 7-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, if using, heat 2 teaspoons oil in a small skillet over medium. Add cashews and mustard seeds and cook, stirring, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2–3 minutes. Immediately transfer mixture including the oil to a small bowl.
Fold spinach and frozen peas into chicken mixture and cook until spinach is just wilted, about 1 minute. Divide among 4 bowls. Top with cilantro and cashew mixture, if using. Serve with rice or naan alongside.
I can’t believe it! In the dark recesses of my shelves, I found some whole mustard seed. I was wondering if they were still good (last time I tried to make mustard with them was years and years ago!), so I tasted a few. Wow! Pretty darn hot. I toasted pinenuts with the oil and mustard seed, because I didn’t have cashews. They were very good, but cashews or peanuts would’ve been even better. I was expecting this little condiment to be super hot, but the cooking seems to have mellowed out the whole mustard seed.
I hope you’ll try this. It really does come together in mere minutes.
Cheers – Vicky
I love Instagram. I can’t believe I would ever like any form of social media, but I do, and here’s why. It’s filled with thousands of ordinary people, living their lives in the best way they possibly can. There are parents with adored children, […]
I made two awesome hot sauces this past week, but haven’t actually had a chance to try them, until now (except for with tortilla chips, that is; it is absolutely essential one tests one’s fresh hot sauce multiple times in order to get it just right.) Right?
Ok, that being said, I’m trying to find a way today how to justify Mexican Food. Bill keeps offering to take me to Maria’s, but just the thought of that plateful of refried beans and rice and chips and enchiladas – sigh. Maybe I can make a healthier version at home.
I’ve never made taquitos before. I’m not sure why; probably because they’re fried.
I went onto Pinterest and found a recipe for baked chicken taquitos from Maria and Josh at TwoPeasandTheirPod.com. I’m loosely following their ideas.
I am not over-seasoning the chicken in these, because with my amazing hot sauces, I shouldn’t need the extra flavors. I am going to add a small amount of shredded cheese, just for the creaminess. Guacamole, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and green onions (along with cilantro!) will complete the yumminess! Warning: these babies will not win any beauty contests, but they are really, really good. We both gave it a two thumbs up and Bill said he’d like this again – and often!
Baked Chicken Taquitos
Shredded chicken breast (or rotisserie chicken, shredded)
Freshly ground black pepper
Shredded Mexican Blend Cheese
Green onions, sliced
Shredded cheese and/or Queso Fresco
Chopped cilantro, optional (I know many people hate it, but not me!)
Jalapeno Hot Sauce, optional
Dried Chile Hot Sauce, optional
Heat your oven to 425°.
Trim chicken breasts and place in a medium saucepan. Bring to a medium high heat to gently bubble. Don’t boil! This will take no time, at all.
Remove from heat; drain and rinse with cold water (get rid of that weird stuff covering the chicken! What IS that, anyway??) Shred cooked chicken with a fork or your fingers. If you have a lot of chicken, try putting it in your KitchenAid Mixer from Amazon and, using the paddle on low, shred it. Keep an eye on it – it’s easy to end up with chicken string!
I don’t know if I’m the only one, but every time I poach chicken I get all this crud stuck to the sides of my saucepan, and it’s a royal pain to get off. So, I studied the situation and filled the pan back up, added some dishwasher powder, and heated to medium high for about 20 minutes. All that crud came right off – no kidding! I was so proud of my invention.
When cool, mix shredded chicken with salt, pepper and a light coating of salsa.
Lay a long, damp paper towel in a pie plate, and stack white corn tortillas on it. Wrap them up, about 5 at a time, and microwave 30 seconds, to soften them up and make them easier to roll without breaking. As you can see in the photo, I did get some tearing. I think that’s because I heated all 20 at the same time.
Spray a 9×13 (or whatever size you need) pan with canola. Lay warmed tortillas out. Spray one side with canola oil, then turn over, so that oiled side will be the outside. In the middle of each corn tortilla, add a sprinkling (I used about 2 teaspoons of cheese per taquito) of Mexican Blend Shredded Cheese and your salsa/chicken mixture. Roll up and place, seam side down, in the baking pan. If you don’t have or like canola spray, just wrap up the taquitos and when they’re all in the pan, give them a coating of light olive oil with a pastry brush.
Continue with the rest of the tortillas.
Bake at 425° until toasty and golden, about 15 minutes.
Serve with shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, sliced green onion, guacamole (for me, just mashed avocado with a bit of salt) and chopped cilantro.
Serve hot sauce or salsa on the side, for dipping.
Guilt free indulgence!
I saw something the other day on Pinterest, which reminded me that I have a silicone heart muffin mold.
I’ve always made a semi-big deal about Valentine’s Day with the kids. I’d decorate the table and get them all a book. One time I told my daughter “I just got you a little something, just to show you how much I love you.” And she replied, “you only love me a little?” Ha ha. Kids.
Anyway, Valentine’s Day is awfully close to Christmas, so they certainly didn’t need more toys. But I didn’t want to overdo it too much on the candy, so that’s why I would give them a book, all wrapped up in Valentine’s Day paper. It’s such a nice holiday.
If you want to start out your family’s day with a little love, try these cheesy egg crustless quiches.
It might be a bit too late to order these Silicone Heart Muffin Pans from Amazon, but you’d at least have them for next year. And, of course, you’re not limited to using this just for Valentine’s Day. They make adorable muffins and cupcakes, too.
Valentine’s Day Breakfast Hearts
Makes 4 hearts
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ sweet onion, diced
Fresh baby spinach, chopped
Feta cheese, crumbled
Shredded cheese (either a blend, or cheddar)
Spray silicone muffin pan heavily with canola spray. (If you don’t, you’ll have a difficult time removing these little “quiches.”) Place muffin pan on a cookie sheet.
Preheat your oven to 375°.
Heat small skillet on medium low.
Chop onions and spinach.
When skillet is hot, add a bit of olive oil and saute onions and spinach for a few minutes. When soft, add in crumbled feta and remove from heat.
Mix eggs, milk, salt and pepper in a bowl.
Distribute onion/spinach/feta mixture among 4 muffins. Add shredded cheese on top and pour in some of the egg/milk mixture. Leave ¼ of an inch gap from the top, as the eggs will rise.
Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
If you don’t feel like sauteeing spinach and onion, just spray the muffin tins, add shredded cheese, and pour in egg mixture.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Enjoy – Vicky
I want to tell you about my blogging friend, Verla Fortier. She is this beautiful, vibrant gal who looks half her age, because of her love of trees and exercise in the great outdoors. She’s a passionate, happy woman who positively glows. Hiking, skiing […]
The only reason I was looking forward to grocery shopping this morning was the chance of making it to 10,000 steps. I only did 4,000, but tell my knees that!
The one thing that is so awesome about my store is their huge bulk foods section. I love to store all of my grains, beans, etc., in large mason jars in the kitchen. It’s so much cuter than a pantry full of limp plastic bags that break open if you stare at them too long. Not to mention, there’s the pain of storing plastic bags full of split peas, or whatever. Plus, I can see at a glance what I have, how much I have, and when it’s time to refill something or other.
I’ve also discovered all sorts of new items, like Pink Himalayan Sea Salt. Did you know that this comes from a dried up bed that is 800 million year’s old?! It is incredibly rich in minerals that are processed out in other types of salt. And because the salt mines have never been exposed to water or air, it is never polluted. It is the cleanest salt on the planet; think about it: much sea salt is from polluted waters! Not great, when you think about it.
Tonight’s stir fry is really good and you can throw in a ton of veggies and skip the salad. Between you and me, I could use a night off from salad-making.
Chinese Pepper Steak on Basmati
1 cup Basmati Rice
1 pound stir fry beef (I got a petite sirloin)
¼ cup diced onion
Bell Peppers (I used green, red, orange and yellow)
Broccoli florets, cooked but still with a bite
1 cup sliced celery
Snow peas, rinsed, and sliced in half
2 cans beef broth
¼ cup water
2 T cornstarch
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Minced ginger, optional
Chili pepper flakes, optional
Toasted Sesame Seeds, optional
Toasted Sesame Oil, optional
Sliced green onion, optional
In a pinch, I have been known to just buy some buy sliced roast beef from the deli. It works fine, as long as it doesn’t have any Italian Seasoning on it, or something. You won’t need to stir fry your sliced roast beef.
You can use long grain rice or Jasmine, if you don’t have Basmati. I just like the way it comes out, nice and delicate, with separate grains.
Rinse Basmati well, to remove starch. I like to put one cup rice in a two cup measure, fill with lukewarm water and let it sit for about 5 minutes, after stirring. Then just pour into a sieve and rinse under cold, running water.
Measure 1½ cups cold water into a medium saucepan and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Add rinsed Basmati, give it a stir, and watch it while you bring it to a boil.
Immediately reduce to a simmer. Stir again and put the lid on it. Lift the lid from time to time to make sure it’s not boiling. You want a nice, gentle bubbling. Stir with chopsticks occasionally, keeping an eye on the rice so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
After about 15 minutes, give it a stir and remove from heat. If the rice has a slightly damp texture still, just put the cover on and let it sit.
To prepare your beef, put it in the freezer for 30 to 60 minutes, or until semi frozen. Remove from freezer and trim, then slice as thinly as you can. Set aside.
Thinly slice your bell peppers and celery and finely chop your onion. Slice your snow peas in half.
Heat a pan or wok on high.
Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.
Rinse and cut your broccoli into bite-sized florets. Pour about 2 cups of water into your hot wok.
Use a bamboo steamer (if you have one) set into the wok, and cook florets only a minute or two, to retain the broccoli’s crispiness.
Remove the bamboo steamer and dump the broccoli into the icy water, to retain its bright green color. Let it sit in there until cooled. Then remove the broccoli and dry off well. Remember, water and oil don’t play well together, so do this thoroughly.
If you’re interested in getting a steamer, here’s an Amazon link for you. Broccoli is so much better when cooked this way. The nutrients don’t escape into the water, and you won’t have soggy broccoli. You can also steam dumplings and all sorts of things. Check out this bamboo steamer.
If you don’t have a wok yet, this is Joyce Chen’s Wok on Amazon. It’s very reasonably priced. Personally, I never use my wok’s lid, so I just don’t think you need one.
The actual cooking process will only take minutes, so get someone to set the table and pour the milk or water, or whatever.
Dry off the wet wok, and return it to the stovetop on high. When it’s nice and hot, add 1-2 Tablespoons of Vegetable, Canola or Peanut Oil.
When the oil is shimmering and hot, carefully add your sliced beef. Stir fry a few seconds, leaving it pink. It will continue to cook in the sauce.
Remove the cooked beef to a pie plate.
Add more oil, if necessary. To the oil, add bell peppers, celery and onion. Don’t overcook! You want the veggies bright and crunchy. Toss in snow peas and garlic, which will only take seconds.
Remove to the pie plate with the beef.
Mix together cornstarch, water and soy sauce.
Pour beef broth and cornstarch slurry into wok. Bring to a boil and cook for about 2 minutes, to cook off the taste of the cornstarch. Add in ginger and/or chili flakes, if you like. Reduce heat to medium and add in all of your veggies and cooked beef. Heat through and remove from heat.
Serve over Basmati, that you have fluffed with chopsticks or a fork.
Top with toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions, if desired. We also like to drizzle our dish with very watery Chinese Hot Mustard and a bit of sesame oil.
I’ve got to come up with something for dinner tonight that doesn’t involve my spending hours and hours in the kitchen. My sciatica has reached an all-time high! Ugh.
I got the nicest surprise in the mail yesterday. My eldest daughter used to get me this Avocado, Olive and Basil Bath and Shower Gel from Crabtree & Evelyn every year for my birthday. I absolutely adore the stuff and haven’t had any for many years. The minute it arrived, I limped upstairs and made myself a hot bubble bath. There used to be a Crabtree & Evelyn store in the mall when we lived in Portland, but I don’t know if they still exist or not today. Anyway, my daughter ordered this on Amazon, so if you’re looking for an amazing gift for a friend or yourself, check out the link above.
So, thanks, honey! I’m going to give myself a nice, long soak before I hit the kitchen tonight!
This is a very fast recipe and it’s healthy and really good, too. The American Heart Association actually recommends wine sauces, which is how I started using them with so many of my dinners.
Pork Tenderloin with Red Wine Sauce
Red Wine Sauce
3 cups beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
¼ cup water
Freshly ground black pepper
Pork tenderloin, sliced into one inch medallions
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Taking the silver skin off pork tenderloin is the biggest pain in the rear end! I made the mistake of letting my pork tenderloin fully defrost, so it was like trimming moss off wet, limp grass. Do yourself a favor and trim it when it is slightly frozen; even 10 minutes in the freezer will help. That makes the process so much faster and easier!
To cook the pork: Heat a non-reactive skillet over medium high heat. Season the pork lightly with salt and pepper. Brush the pork medallions with oil and sprinkle with thyme, then cook until barely pink at the center, just a few minutes per side. Remove pork to a pie plate and allow it to rest for 5 minutes, covered with foil.
To make the sauce: Deglaze your hot skillet by pouring in red wine and letting it cook a minute or two, then add the beef broth. Bring to a bubble over medium high heat and reduce by one third. Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk the cornstarch with ¼ cup water until smooth. Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the bubbling sauce, and continue whisking until the sauce thickens. Keep warm over low heat. Since you’ve already salted your pork, don’t add more salt until you’ve tasted the sauce, right before serving. Some beef broth can be pretty salty!
Pour sauce over the pork and serve! Dinner in minutes!
Rosemary New Potatoes
I’m serving this pork with new potatoes. We might even have some potatoes down in the garden, but somehow we never got around to harvesting them this past Fall. I can’t do it, because of my back, but Bill will get to it one of these days. I hope they haven’t rotted in the rain, but I’m not counting on it.
Anyway, I am capable (barely) of getting some potatoes out of the horrible little closet under our stairs. The ceiling is so low that it’s a killer to grab anything in there! I’ll pick a couple of yellow potatoes, then wash, dry and quarter them. The skins have seen better days, so I’ll peel them, first.
I’m heating my oven to 400° and putting a large cast iron skillet in there to heat.
After cutting up my potatoes, I’ll pat them dry and toss them with some olive oil. Then I’ll sprinkle them with salt, pepper and some chopped, dried Rosemary, from the garden. (Actually, tonight I didn’t use Rosemary. I thought there would be leftovers, maybe for some hashbrowns for Bill, so I left it out.) Turns out we ate every last bite. We should have gone with the Rosemary!
They’ll take about 25 minutes in the oven, flipping half way through.
I hope you’ll try this easy and flavorful dinner!
Cheers – Vicky
I’m going to really go out on a limb, here. I found out yesterday that coconut milk has a strong tendency to curdle when heated. So, while I’ve never had that particular problem, now I’m paranoid. Personally, I think ignorance is bliss. To make this […]
My original recipe for Chicken Marsala calls for either heavy whipping cream or plenty of butter, to thicken and enrich the sauce.
Since I have discovered Light Coconut Milk, I’m trying to find ways to use it as a substitute. It’s very healthy and low in calories, too!
Give this recipe a try! I honestly swear I could not tell the difference, when using Light Coconut Milk, instead of whipping cream or butter.
It turns out that I lucked out with boiling my coconut milk. According to the very smart people at Our Every Day Life.com, coconut milk tends to curdle if cooked at too high a heat. They advise cooking without a lid (which I did); whisking constantly (which I also did) and at a lower temperature (which I didn’t). I guess my constant whisking saved the day. You can also add a bit of cornstarch to the coconut milk before adding to the sauce. The cornstarch will help it not to curdle, too. If you’d like more information, click here.
Light Chicken Marsala
This serves two, so adjust accordingly. My two chicken breasts were huge, so we had plenty of leftovers.
Two chicken breasts
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/4 cups Marsala
3/4 cup Light (or full fat) Coconut Milk
Sliced Green Onions
Heat a large skillet over medium high.
Preheat your oven to 200° and put a pie plate in there.
Placing your palm firmly down on the chicken breast, slice in half horizontally, using a sawing motion. Bend down so the chicken is at eye level, and it will be easier to see where your knife is going.
It’s really important to have good knives and to sharpen them often (I do this daily). I highly recommend investing in this Wusthof Santoku 7 inch Knife and Sharpener that’s available on Amazon. If you ever have a problem with one of your knives, Wusthof will send you a new one, without any hassle! I also have 4 or 5 others from them and love them all.
Cover chicken with plastic wrap and pound until 1/4 inch thick.
I actually did use chicken breasts, although it looks like tenders. After slicing in half horizontally, I cut out anything that’s white. I’m weird that way, yeah.
Pat chicken dry.
In a pie plate, combine 1/3 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher Salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
Press chicken down into the flour, and then tap to shake off excess.
Add about 2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil to your hot skillet. Add chicken to pan, (but don’t overcrowd!) You will probably have to do several batches.
After a minute or so, flip your chicken. Continue to cook for another minute or two, or until the chicken feels firm when you press down on it with your spatula.
Remove the cooked chicken to the pie plate in the oven. Add a bit more olive oil, heat, and continue with your second batch.
When all of the chicken is in the oven, deglaze the pan by adding the Marsala, all at once. After a minute of bubbling away, add the coconut milk and whisk like crazy. The sauce should be boiling and reducing.
When the sauce is the consistency you like, return the chicken plus juices back into the sauce.
Sprinkle with sliced green onions and serve. Tonight I’m trying this on mashed cauliflower.
There was a time, years ago, when I would make mashed cauliflower on a regular basis. My youngest and I loved it, and I liked having a healthy alternative to potatoes.
Although he never complains about anything I make, Bill wasn’t really sold; I could tell. I’m trying again tonight, and I’m not telling him it’s cauliflower – unless he guesses.
Back then, though, I used fat free milk with it. So, although the texture was pretty good, it definitely lacked a creaminess.
When using coconut milk, it’s important that you stir the solids on top into the milk. If you try and do this in the can, you’re going to have a big mess on your hands.
Open the can (wash the lid first – just imagine how many hands have been touching that can!) and pour into a bowl or measuring cup (a 2 cup should do it). With all that extra space, you can whisk it more easily and you won’t lose half the coconut milk over the sides.
Cauliflower florets (one head) (I’m just using 16 ounces frozen for the two of us. This gave me just two cups of mashed cauliflower.) If I were to make this again, I’d definitely go for fresh.
½ teaspoon fresh garlic, chopped, or baked
1/4 to ½ teaspoon dried thyme
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Coconut Milk (light or full fat)
Finely chopped chives
In a sauce pan, add Cauliflower florets to boiling, salted water. Reduce to medium high.
Add 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic.
Cook cauliflower until fork tender.
Drain really well in a colander; otherwise, it will be runny. Transfer to a food processor.
Process until smooth and then sprinkle in the dried thyme. Gradually add enough coconut milk until you get the consistency you like; it won’t take much. Start with a couple of teaspoons. Remember, you can always add more, but you can’t take liquid away. Taste and add salt and pepper.
I didn’t have any fresh heads of garlic, or else I would have baked it. Baking garlic brings out its sweetness and eliminates its pungency.
To bake a head of garlic, cut off the entire top. Wrap loosely in foil (making a loose pocket), drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and bake in a 400° oven for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until garlic cloves are soft and squishy. Cool, and then remove about 3 cloves. Squeeze them from the bottom and the cooked garlic will pop right out. Add this to the hot cauliflower in the food processor.
I cannot tell a lie. Bill wasn’t thrilled, but he didn’t say so. I could tell by the fact that he ate everything but the cauliflower! Guess next time I’ll reach for a couple of potatoes!
I hope you enjoy!
Cheers – Vicky
I just spent about 10 minutes cleaning orange juice concentrate off of my kitchen counter, drawers and floor. What a mess. People who invent these cute little tabs that you’re supposed to grab and peel obviously don’t consider those of us with arthritis. I […]
Today should be one of the happiest days of my adult life. It is Bill’s last day of having to commute to Portland.
From here on out, he’ll only be working locally. His work schedule will be shaved in half and we’ll actually get to have dinner together every night. My wonderful husband will no longer be drop-dead exhausted every night.
The French Champagne is chilling, ready to pop open when he walks in the door around 8:00.
Instead, I am trying to gather up all my courage in order to be able to say goodbye to the Dog-Love-of-My-Life, Bo.
I don’t know where to find it. I don’t want to say goodbye to him; not ever.
I realize that all life ends, as surely as it begins. But I can’t imagine the void in my life his death will bring. I can’t imagine my life without him.
About 11 years ago, Bill went away with his old friends for a guys’ weekend at one of their cabins.
The kids were at their dad’s, so I had the weekend to myself. It was awfully quiet, rattling around that big house, all alone.
I had wanted a dog for some time, so I decided to check our local Humane Society.
What I had in mind was a scruffy, long haired mix, about 35 or 40 pounds. As I walked into the horribly depressing pound, I was instantly drawn to a big, black lab mix. As I paused to say hello, he pressed his body against the bars, keeping his eyes on mine.
So, I talked to him for a bit and moved on.
For the next hour or so, I kept returning to his cage, time and time again. Finally, I asked one of the caretakers if I could take him outside to the play area and get to know him better.
Bo wasn’t as interested in playing with the ball as he was in leaning against me and maintaining that soulful expression.
Another hour in, I admitted to myself that I was as smitten with Bo as he was with me. But I’d have to talk Bill into adopting him.
Reluctantly, I left Bo in his awful cage and went home. Bill wasn’t exactly tickled to hear my plans, but he agreed to them, in spite of his best judgement.
Bo came home and over the course of the next year, I discovered how fiercely protective he was. The neighbors weren’t happy, and neither was I. I was beginning to think I had made a big mistake.
Luckily, our move to the country gradually changed Bo into a sweet, mellow lab. He and Molly still raise a ruckus every time someone’s car pulls up to the house, but it’s all bark and no bite.
For the past 11 years, Bo has been my constant companion. Every time I was recovering from surgery, he would lay by my bedside, comforting me with his presence.
During the warm months, he would follow me wherever I went, playing in the pasture while I was down in the garden. He and Molly stick together like a couple of thieves. I worry about what his leaving us will do to her.
A few months ago, Bo started having a hard time putting any weight on one of his back feet. The vet said his arthritis in both hind legs was horrible. I got two types of medications from her and went home, hoping for the best. Secretly, I was praying he had partially torn his ACL, as he had once before, in his youth. I knew I was lying to myself, hoping against hope, but the dread in my gut told me I wasn’t kidding anyone.
As his lameness has progressed, I have had to come to the painful realization that, in spite of the pain meds and anti-inflammatories, Bo is in constant pain. Having suffered from severe arthritis for 11 years, I, of all people, should know how miserable he is.
I can’t bear to see him suffer. And I can’t bear to say goodbye.
I have never had a dog like Bo and I will miss him always. But I will somehow summon the courage to show him how much I love him.
I love you, Bo. Thank you for giving me a lifetime of love.
Tonight I am making Ground Chicken Burritos with Pureed Black Beans, Restaurant Style Mexican Rice (that I wrote about yesterday), and Homemade Spinach Flour Tortillas. I can’t wait for dinner! You can throw all of this together in minutes, if you use store-bought ingredients. […]
I called my doctor’s office today to complain about their giving me one, 30 day supply of a med I’ve taken for 20 years, with NO refills! God, those people. Sometimes I feel like I’m dealing with the federal government!
When I got the answering service, I asked if they were at lunch, and she said, “no, they’re closed.” I wracked my brain for a moment and it occurred to me: it was Saturday. Well, Bill had gone off to work, so obviously, I was in work-week mode. I laughed my head off, but I could hear this 20-Something thinking “okaaaay, some crazy old lady on the phone, here!” Oh, well. I always wanted to be eccentric. (Maybe I should go work for the government!)
This is the best Mexican Rice you will ever eat. It is so flavorful and fluffy, with the light, separate grains that you get in a Mexican restaurant. You know, the rice that you smoosh up into your beans and eat with a tortilla chip?? God, I love that! Of course, with us, it’s never “a” tortilla chip. We’ve never walked out of a Mexican restaurant without clearing out the entire bowl.
This is not the saucy, wet Spanish Rice that you might make with packets from the store. This is the Real Deal. You’re welcome.
Back in ’08, we were snowed in for 7 days before Christmas. (If you want to read about it, click here on what to do and not to do during an emergency!)
We had to postpone Christmas with the older kids, because our town in Oregon literally had no way to get rid of 7 feet of snow.
We brought in the camp stove (yes, we opened all the windows) and I made this on Christmas Eve, along with Enchiladas and refried beans. We had the two youngest at home, still, and I wasn’t going to let my depression over Christmas get me down. Thank God, we had a generator with enough fuel to crank up the little plug-in oven. As it turned out, it was a pretty good meal.
I’m making this rice today because tomorrow I’m making Ground Chicken Burritos using my homemade Spinach Flour Tortillas. Not wanting to spend my entire Sunday in the kitchen, I’ll make this rice today and refrigerate it overnight.
Although this takes a few minutes of hands-on time, it really isn’t hard. When you’re browning the rice in oil, you don’t need to stir constantly. Step away and load the dishwasher, and stir occasionally, keeping an eye on the color.
This recipe makes quite a lot. No fear! Although I halved it, since it’s just the two of us, I could have easily made the entire recipe and then frozen it.
The problem is, my freezer is getting positively loaded to the gills. Why? Because I keep cooking and freezing dishes, but I never go back and thaw anything. I have to keep coming up with something new every day. What’s a woman to do??
Half of this recipe makes enough for Bill and me to have two separate meals out of it.
This recipe comes from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, which my son and his adorable girlfriend gave me, several years ago. I haven’t had a bad meal out of it, ever. So, thanks, guys. That was so sweet of you!
This recipe calls for the use of fresh tomatoes. If it were summer and I had a nice, juicy crop, I would definitely use them.
Our tomatoes in the market, however, pretty much taste like pale red cardboard. I mean, really, why bother?
So, I process my onion and then add 1 ¾ cups red salsa, instead. It should come out to 2 cups, total. I also think the salsa gives the rice that much more flavor.
2 medium tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1/3 cup vegetable oil (exactly this amount!)
2 cups long-grained rice, rinsed and drained *
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded and minced
2 cups chicken broth
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
½ minced fresh cilantro, optional (or MORE)
Lime wedges, for serving
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350°.
Puree the tomatoes and onion in a food processor until smooth. You should have 2 cups puree. Measure it out, so that you have 2 cups, exactly! Save the excess for another dish. Even freeze it – every little bit helps, right?
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. After a few minutes, add a couple of grains of rice to the oil. If they sizzle, the oil is ready.
Add the rice and saute, stirring frequently, until light golden, about 10 minutes.
If you don’t have a Dutch Oven yet, check out this one from Lodge on Amazon. It’s very reasonably priced and I love Lodge products.
Stir in the garlic and two thirds of the minced jalapenos. Cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
Stir in the pureed tomato mixture, broth, tomato paste and 1 ½ teaspoons salt.
Bring to a boil. Cover and bake until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring well after 15 minutes.
(I always use chopsticks or a fork to stir the rice, so that the grains don’t get mushed together.)
Fluff the rice with a fork. Fold in the cilantro. Taste. If you want more heat, stir in the remaining jalapenos. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve, passing the lime wedges separately.
You will be so happy you made this!
Enjoy and stay tuned for my homemade Spinach Flour Tortillas tomorrow!
* They say to rinse the long-grain rice in a sieve under cold water for a minute and a half to get rid of the starch in the rice. This is very important to achieve the light, fluffy rice we’re aiming for. But I found an easier way, that I saw on tv once. If you are using 2 cups rice, measure it out into a 4 cup liquid measuring cup. Add warm water to the pitcher and fill it to the top. Stir occasionally from time to time and let sit. You won’t believe how cloudy the rice water will get! Then after 5 minutes or so, pour into a large sieve and rinse off well under the faucet.
It’s important to drain this well, so you won’t get splattered, when you add it to the hot oil. A word to the wise!
Since I’d spent enough time in the kitchen and laundry room today, we celebrated with Sinful Saturday. Seriously, these are the Kosher Hot Dogs that Bill had for dinner. I only had one, with mustard. But was it ever good! Yum.
First, I put the Kosher Hot Dogs in a medium saucepan and covered them with cold water. When they came to a boil, I turned the heat off and covered the pan. They sat for about 5 minutes or so. Then, I dried them off, put them on a cookie sheet, and stuck them under the broiler until the skin was blistered all around. Not as good as over a campfire, but a close second.
Bill and I bought our property in the Oregon wine country 10 ½ years ago. We still talk sometimes about why we would do such an impetuous thing, on a whim.
We’ve come to the conclusion that the “sudden” decision to move to the country wasn’t such a “sudden” thing, after all.
We were living in boring suburbia, outside of Portland. I have to tell you, it was one of the strangest places I have ever lived, and that’s saying something.
We had this very cool cat named Smokey. Well, Smokey had this long, long hair that was forever matted. Seriously, we should’ve named him lumpy, because of all his mats.
No matter what we did, he was all matted up. He would sit underneath all of the Doug firs and their sap would get stuck in his hair. I would cut off most of the mats, but couldn’t get them completely removed, unless I wanted to cut him, which I didn’t.
Across the street lived some very odd people. They had a renter who lived in a basement room, and she was really strange. Something about her just wasn’t right.
One time, Smokey went missing for about 2 nights. When he came home, we were shocked to discover that half of his body had been shaved. That’s weird enough, but the person had cut him! We were pretty sure it was the odd renter, but couldn’t prove it. I was livid.
Then there was the gal right next door. We lived on a hill, and she was situated higher than we were. Her bathroom overlooked our back yard and we could see her silhouette, listening to us. (One time, she even opened her bathroom window to listen, when I was talking to a realtor and a potential buyer out in the back yard!) The “buyer” looked up and said “okaaaaayyyyy.” Pretty sure Spy Woman cost us THAT sale!
Whenever I went out to either relax or work in the yard, she would start talking to me behind the arbor vitae that separated our two yards. Whenever I went out there, there she was. It was really creepy, so I finally started sitting out on the other side of the house. Which, unfortunately, overlooked the odd balls across the street. This guy would crank up the music and work in his garage in his wife-beater (hairy back – ugh!) at midnight. When Bill politely asked him to please turn down the music, he said something about “oh, you must go to bed early!” Uh, yeah, if midnight on a work night is early.
Spy Woman would wash her car, inside and out, EVERY TIME she came home from ANYWHERE. She spent hours and hours washing and re-washing it. It was very strange. I mean, how dirty can a car get after a short trip to Safeway?
I remember one Memorial Day weekend. It was one of the first sunny, warm weekends we had had since the previous summer, and Bill actually had 3 days off. We were really looking forward to a great weekend.
Spy Woman rented a power washer and started washing her driveway at 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning. She would quit at around 5:00, and then repeat the same thing on Sunday AND MONDAY. When she FINALLY turned it off on Monday night, I said “well, FINALLY.” To which she replied chirpily, “Thanks for your patience.”
Who said I’d been patient? She’d ruined our entire weekend and I’d been ready to strangle her.
One Sunday morning, we were sitting in our dining room, having brunch. My mouth dropped open as I looked out the window. There was Spy Woman, in our yard, pulling up ivy! Whoa, there! I know the stuff is invasive, but that is not cool. Our yard was manicured, like nobody’s business. We weren’t letting it get into her yard!
And then there was all the illness. I swear, our neighborhood must have been built on an ancient, cursed Indian burial ground or a toxic dump! Every single family on both sides of the street got cancer, including (I do feel bad about this) Spy Woman. Even the poor man from whom we bought our house had only weeks left to live.
Man, that neighborhood had some bad vibes.
On a “whim”, I started searching Craigslist for homes on an acre or more in this town, which we’d gone through often on our way to the coast. A realtor made us an appointment to see this place on 7 acres and we brought a picnic lunch.
Coming down the long, long massively tree-lined driveway, I was sold. Bill said, “I wonder what the house looks like,” to which I replied, “I don’t care what the house looks like.” We were instantly in love with the property. That afternoon, we drove home and put an offer in that evening. The minute it was accepted, we listed our own house. Unfortunately, our old house took 8 months to sell (the real estate market had just crashed) and Bill was stuck there during the week, making sure it was ready to show. The financial toll of two mortgages was pretty crippling.
It’s been a 10 year work in progress. We ignored the house while we planted about a dozen Red Maples, perennials, shrubs, bushes and a massive garden. I took a Master Gardener’s course, and the next year, we bought a greenhouse.
We’ve been growing lots and lots of veggies, herbs and flowers, ever since. Our beautiful back yard was originally just pasture. Now it’s a beautifully manicured yard (thanks to Bill) with lawn, trees, and gardens.
Since Bill still worked in Portland, he had to put up with the horrific commute. The drive takes him an hour and a half. If it were a matter of getting on a freeway and zooming along, that would be one thing. Oh, no, it’s one tiny town after another. The streets are lined with cops, since tickets are probably a huge source of their revenue. As the area’s population has exploded, the congestion has gotten worse and worse. Stop and go, stop and go, at 25 miles an hour. Awful.
We’ve been working on the house itself for years now, as well as the property. The list of things that needs fixing seems endless; we just haven’t had the time or the money to make the progress we’d like to see. Very likely we’ll be fretting about something or other until the day we die. Most of the time I’ve come to accept the length of our “to do” list. Other times, I want to tear my hair out.
All of Bill’s commuting comes to a final end next Wednesday. I’ve got the French Champagne our very generous friend gave us, chilling away. I don’t know how long it will take for us to realize that this will be the new normal, his semi-retirement.
There were other things going on in our lives back then that were propelling us toward the country. But the point is, many, many things led up to our buying this property “on a whim.” In hindsight, it wasn’t a whim, at all. It was one of the best decisions of our lives.
If you think back over why you made a certain decision, I’m pretty sure you’ll find your answer. There’s usually a good reason behind our choices!
In spite of the fact that trusting my instincts has led me to make some lousy choices in my life, I still believe in myself. We all learn from the repercussions of bad decisions, and come out a lot smarter. I never want to live my life paralyzed by indecision or fear.
Here’s to making your dreams come true!
If you have a similar dream of moving to the country, I have the best book ever for you! I read this for a couple of years when I got it, and I still consult it. Carla Emery wrote The Encyclopedia of Country Living back in 1974, but much of it is still relevant today. Click to see the link on Amazon; there are used copies available, too. This massive encyclopedia addresses every single issue you could imagine about homesteading or just building a garden or having chickens. Her life is an amazing tale of living in the country, having a ton of kids and travelling the country, trying to sell her books. It is a classic, now. It’s a great read! Promise!
I’m still atoning for my food sins of the past weekend. Calorie-wise, it will probably take me about 2 weeks to compensate for the pork (1/2) burrito and ½ a croissant sandwich. Why is that, anyway? Oh, well; I don’t really mind, because it was worth it! I do so love food.
I managed to get in half an hour on the bike and also did arms and legs. I am so proud of myself because my knee and back are in such pain. Hopefully, in another 5 months I will have fully recovered from my knee replacement. Recovering from my first knee replacement took an entire year! Ugh. Doing the bike doesn’t help the pain any, but it does help the old ticker and circulation. I guess I’m just stuck with it.
The first thing I do every morning is think about what to make for dinner. When I’m not on a super strict health trend, my choices, obviously, are much more varied.
I’ve been trying to come up with some interesting ways to vary my salads with chicken that I have twice a week for dinner. In exactly 9 days (but who’s counting?), Bill will be home for dinner every night (yay!). We probably won’t have salad for dinner very often, at least not until the nice weather arrives. And that could be a long, long time yet, here in soggy Oregon.
Wow, did I hit a home run with this one! This lemon-thyme chicken would also be good over rice.
To accompany this salad, I made up some Parmesan Crisps, and it only took about 3 seconds of effort.
Lemon Thyme Chicken
Chicken tenders or breasts, sliced diagonally
Finely grated lemon peel
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Dry white wine (I used half a cup)
Pat your chicken pieces dry and heat your skillet to medium high. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and lightly with dried thyme.
Grate a lemon (or two, depending on how much you’re cooking) over the chicken pieces. I used this Microplane Fine Grater that I got on Amazon. I love it!
Lightly coat the bottom of your skillet with olive oil. If you use too much oil, you won’t get those brown bits that we’re looking for, on the bottom of the pan.
Sauté your chicken pieces until cooked through and firm. Remove chicken to a pie plate.
Deglaze your hot pan with dry white wine and boil until reduced. Turn off heat and return chicken to the skillet and move around to coat.
That’s it! If you want to serve this over chicken, deglaze your hot skillet with 1 cup chicken broth and ½ cup white wine. Place chicken atop a bed of rice, and spoon sauce over it. Yum!
This is what I used in my salad tonight.
Lemon Thyme Chicken
Romaine lettuce, cut into bite-sized bites
Fresh baby spinach
Granny Smith apple, sliced
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Orange bell pepper, chopped
Sunflower seeds, shelled
Shelled walnut halves (thank you, Joan!)
Flaxseeds, sprinkled on top
Red Quinoa, thawed and sprinkled on top
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ to 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat your oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with either parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Using a medium grater, grate fresh parmesan onto the baking sheet, forming small mounds. I got this grater on Amazon, as well as the super fine grater and the shaver. If you don’t have a really, sharp grater, check these out. With a box grater, you’re having to push the box down hard on your cutting board. With this Microplane Grater, you press down on it at such an angle that you’re not fighting yourself. It’s way easier to use!
Bake crisps at 350° until lightly browned, about 10 minutes or so.
Important: when you remove the pan from the oven, you must let the crisps cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet. Cooling them will firm up the melted cheese.
Using a metal spatula, gently remove crisps from baking sheet and enjoy. These are really yummy but delicate! If you want, you could also crumble these over your salad.
I hope you try this chicken. I really love it! And, yes, I ate every last bite!
Woo, Hoo! I just got home from visiting the kids for the night and I found a very sweet email, saying my buddy Angela at StrivingforBalance.com has nominated me for the Liebster Award, after being nominated herself. All of her nominees are supposed to answer the questions she has come up with and these are my responses.
What inspired you to start your blog?
I’ll be honest. Initially, I didn’t want to start a blog, at all. I consider myself a very private person who, before this, had never even posted on Facebook. The only reason I even had a Facebook account was so I could have access to my kids’ photos. But I wanted my husband, who is a fitness trainer, to start one, so that he could possibly get out of his horrible daily commute. He has no patience, whatsoever, and doesn’t have the time or the inclination to tackle WordPress, so I figured, no problem! I’ll figure it out and then teach him. Ha ha ha ha ha. Learning all the ins and outs of WordPress, linking, advertising and all the other details has been a grueling (and addicting) 4 month nightmare/joy ride.
What have you gained or learned since starting you blog?
I have learned that even a 63 year old dinosaur, lacking even the basics of computer technology, can learn amazing things if I put my mind to it. I’ve also gained some confidence and met some awesome fellow bloggers. They are all so friendly, helpful and sweet. It’s like an entirely separate world out there with this huge community of people!
What is the most challenging part of blogging?
There are endless numbers of things to master, as a blogger. As soon as I think I’ve got it all down, a new challenge comes up. Younger bloggers who have been raised with computer training can master these skills in 1/10 the time I can. It took me 3 ½ days to figure out how to design “long pins” on Canva. I had no problem downloading them, but then couldn’t figure out where they were on my computer. I love the lightbulb going on when you finally figure something out!
What is a current goal you are striving for?
I would like to make a little money, to be honest. Two of my kids (and one of Bill’s) live on the other side of the country. To have the ability to go visit them would be a wonderful thing. I miss them all so much.
If you could shape shift into any animal, which would it be and why?
I would have to say I would shape shift into my cat, Leo. He has it made in the shade and thinks he’s a dog, which is an awesome thing to be. Well, except for the fact that dogs have to eat deer poop and sniff each other’s rear ends.
If you could go anywhere in this world, where would it be?
I’d go to Maryland and Florida to visit the kids. I have never travelled and really have no desire to. I love our home out in the country and seldom leave it, to be honest!
What do you love to do when you’re not blogging?
When I’m not blogging, I’m either figuring out what to make for dinner or actually making said dinner. When I’m not doing that, I’m obsessing over blogging. Weird. I’m also a Master Gardener and spend hours growing vegetables and flowers from seed. Weeding? Not so much.
I’d like to nominate the following bloggers!
Nisi at NisiWanders.com – she is adorable. One night, I was up in the middle of the night with back pain. I had subscribed to her blog, and I opened it up. She was discussing how her Da always said whisky was a cure-all for most of what ails you. She described her frustration of figuring out how to publish an e-book and her hilarious discussions of having a little nip (that left her feeling a “oh-so-lushy”) just hit a nerve. Boy, could I relate with the feeling of I’m-going-to-pull-my-hair out! She actually had me laughing outloud at 1:00 a.m. She’s also helped me with all the ideas she posts on advertising and Ebates and things like that.
Latoiya at – MyFamilyMix.com – she’s a gorgeous, funny mom of four who somehow manages to be a great mom to 4 darling, young kids and finds time to blog, too! I don’t know how she possibly does it.
Verla at TreesMendUs.com. Her amazing photos are mind-blowing and her awesome attitude toward being healthy and active is an inspiration.
Laura at LifeIsNowInSession.com. She has a very inspiring story to tell about a very rough past she’s has endured. Her positive attitude and photos give us all room for hope when we are struggling.
Kari at AMachinist’sWife.com. She posts adorable photos and blogs about building a business. You can just tell she is a real sweetheart.
Here are some questions for the 5 blogs I have mentioned above.
When and why did you start blogging?
What are the main benefits you have derived from your blog?
Have you ever felt frustrated by not achieving your blog goals and thought about shutting it down?
What advice would you give a beginner blogger?
Do you ever feel your blog interferes with time spent with your friends/family/spouse?
What do you love most about your blog and blogging?
Nominate 5 to 10 blogs yourself and give links to their blogs.
When you have posted your answers to these 6 questions on your blog, head over to https://theglobalaussie.com/liebster-award-2018 and leave a comment with your blog link.
This is a great way to get to know other bloggers. Make sure you visit their blogs and leave a comment that you have nominated them.
Have fun with this!