Month: January 2018

Chicken Marinade with Dijon, Honey and Lemon

Chicken Marinade with Dijon, Honey and Lemon

  I called the doctor’s office again, since I was pretty sure it was Monday and that they’d be open. I’m just kidding.  I may think a Saturday is a Friday, but I’d never mistake a Monday! Of course, next Monday and Wednesday, Bill will […]

Burritos on Homemade Spinach Tortillas

Burritos on Homemade Spinach Tortillas

  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.  […]

Restaurant Style Mexican Rice

Restaurant Style Mexican Rice

 

Restaurant Style Mexican Rice

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.

Mexican Rice

Serves 6

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

Salt

½ minced fresh cilantro, optional (or MORE)

Pepper

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.

Kosher Hot Dogs

Cheers!

Vicky

 

 

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Greek Pizza

Greek Pizza

  Bill asked for ground beef pizza tonight.  I’ll make him one that’s maybe 8 inches in diameter and throw in plenty of vegetables. I’m having Greek.  It’s pretty amazing and still healthy! This is Alton Brown’s recipe for homemade pizza dough.  It took me […]

Lemon Chicken with Oregano and Thyme

Lemon Chicken with Oregano and Thyme

  I really do love my FitBit (click on this for the Amazon link) that my daughter got me.  It specializes in two things: constantly reminding me of what a slothful, useless individual I am, always sitting on my rear end at this laptop; and, […]

Living Life On A Whim

Living Life On A Whim

 

Living Life On A Whim

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.

Living Life On A Whim

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?

Living Life On A Whim

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.

Living Life On A Whim

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.

Living Life on a Whim

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.

Living Life On A Whim

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.

Living Life On A Whim

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.

Living Life On A Whim

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.

Living Life On A Whim

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!

Cheers!

Vicky

 

 

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Whole Grain Mustard and Sage Chicken Salad

Whole Grain Mustard and Sage Chicken Salad

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Parmesan Tarragon Chicken

Parmesan Tarragon Chicken

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Lemon Thyme Chicken

Lemon Thyme Chicken

 

Lemon Thyme Chicken with Parmesan Crisps

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

Dried thyme

Kosher salt

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

Orange medallions

Granny Smith apple, sliced

Avocado

Cherry tomatoes, halved

Orange bell pepper, chopped

Celery, sliced

Craisins

Chopped almonds

Sunflower seeds, shelled

Shelled walnut halves (thank you, Joan!)

Flaxseeds, sprinkled on top

Red Quinoa, thawed and sprinkled on top

Lemon Vinaigrette

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ to 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Parmesan Crisps

Preheat your oven to 350°.  Line a baking sheet with either parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Lemon Thyme Chicken with Parmesan CrispsUsing 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.

Lemon-Thyme Chicken with Parmesan Crisps

I hope you try this chicken.  I really love it!  And, yes, I ate every last bite!

Enjoy!

Vicky

 

 

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Black Bean Soup with Coconut Milk

Black Bean Soup with Coconut Milk

  You’ve seen one, you’ve seen a million.  There is nothing all that unique about this Black Bean Soup, with one exception: Light Coconut Milk. Coconut Milk is my new best friend and I’m going to start stocking it, from here on out.  Any time […]

Lean and Mean Burgers and Fries

Lean and Mean Burgers and Fries

  Yesterday, Bill and I got a chance to see our granddaughter attend her circus class.  It was amazing!  I have to admit that, in spite of its horrible traffic and exorbitant cost of housing, Portland is a great place for raising kids – if […]

Liebster Awards

Liebster Awards

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!

Cheers!  Vicky

 

 

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Ground Chicken Tostadas

Ground Chicken Tostadas

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Figgy Balsamic Glaze for Chicken

Figgy Balsamic Glaze for Chicken

 

Figgy Balsamic Glaze for Chicken

This “recipe” tonight is brought to you, courtesy of the Food Angel that sits on one of my shoulders.  Swear to God, if the nuns and my mother hadn’t instilled in me such a huge Super Ego, I would weigh 400 pounds.  So, thanks, guys!

I went down the hill into town today to get my roots done.  Man, that place is a hoot.  It’s our town’s version of “Steel Magnolias,” where everyone knows and talks to everyone else – customers, hair stylists, the manicurist.  None of that highfalutin, snobby crap that my old town was so famous for.  Over the past 10 years, I have grown to love those gals, each and every one of them.  In fact, were it not for my hair stylist, I can safely say that I would’ve jumped off a bridge, during my 2 youngest’s teenage years.  She’s one hell of a shrink!  And to make things even better, my buddy Joan was sitting there, chatting away, waiting for me to arrive so we could say hi.

I was under the dryer and thought I’d check out Instagram.  Oh, my God.  Everyone had posted photos of their Taco Tuesday dinners.  I had only had ½ a mug of my Healthnut Soup this morning, and I was starving.  Those pictures made me want to stop at the first Mexican joint I passed and order me a couple of tacos.

And I had leftover taco meat and crispy tortillas in the fridge.  Aaargh!  What to do?

I made myself make a salad with my routine chicken.  But, I wanted to kick it up a notch.

I’ve made Balsamic Sauce with Raspberry Jam and Apricot Jam, as well as with Orange Juice.  I thought I’d give Figgy Syrup a try.  I’d never heard of fig syrup before a client of Bill’s brought this to us from one of her trips.  It is really, really sweet and syrupy, but I thought it would make a nice glaze.

And I was right.

As always, I used chicken tenders, but you could use skinless chicken breasts, cut on a diagonal.

Pat your chicken dry, and add enough extra virgin olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of your hot skillet.

Sauté your chicken on medium high heat until cooked through.  Remove to a pie plate.

Into hot skillet, add

2 Tablespoons figgy syrup

3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar

Let reduce, bubbling, until thicker and really syrupy, and then turn off heat.  Add your chicken back into pan to coat with the glaze.  Let cool.

 

Figgy Balsamic Glaze

If you live in a small town, as we do, you may not be able to get Fig Syrup (I just call it Figgy Syrup because of the Christmas song, We Wish You a Merry Christmas – you know “oh, bring us some figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer”).  I found Fig Syrup on Amazon, and here’s a link, if you’d like to try it.

My salad pickings were slim tonight.  For someone who prides herself on always maintaining a well-stocked pantry, my fridge was in a rather alarmingly pathetic shape.  But I managed to come up with some ingredients for my salad.

I had on hand:

Fresh spinach

Romaine, chopped

Celery, sliced

Granny Smith Apple, sliced

Shelled sunflower seeds (kept in the freezer; bought in the bulk section)

Chopped almonds (kept in the freezer; bought in the bulk section)

Red Quinoa (pre-cooked from a previous night – kept in a quart freezer bag in my freezer).  I just broke off a chunk, wrapped it in a paper towel and nuked it for 20 seconds.  It’s a great source of protein.

I had taken my Lemon Vinaigrette out of the fridge earlier and put it in a liquid measuring cup filled with warm water to loosen it up.

I didn’t need any more sweetness in my vinaigrette.  If you would like to know how I make this, here you go:

In a mason jar, pour

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon

½ teaspoon salt

¼ to ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Shake like crazy and drizzle over your salad.  Keep refrigerated.  The last thing you need is a case of botulism.

I hope you’re inspired to eat something nice and healthy tonight.  I’ll have to remember to stay off Instagram on Wednesdays!

Figgy Balsamic Glaze for Chicken

Enjoy!

Cheers – Vicky

p.s. And, no, I didn’t eat the entire thing!

 

 

 

 

 

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Coconut Panko Chicken Tenders

Coconut Panko Chicken Tenders

  One of my very least favorite chores is scrubbing the bathtub. Because of my two knee replacements, I just can’t kneel. It’s excruciating to even try. Well, last night I decided to get a hot bath for my poor, achin’ back, since Bill wouldn’t […]

Orange Salad Dressing

Orange Salad Dressing

I was starving by 4:00 this afternoon.  What I wanted to do was get into the leftover Homemade Crunchy Beef Tacos.  Surprisingly, the taco shells do not get soggy or tough or anything when microwaved the next day.  They were kind of broken, but I […]

Homemade Crunchy Beef Tacos

Homemade Crunchy Beef Tacos

 

Homemade Crunchy Beef Tacos - these are amazing; better than anything you'll get at your favorite taqueria! You've got to try this! Click here to find out how!

My halo is shiny enough for the moment.  I just finished yet another mug of Healthnut Soup.

I was going to make Ground Beef Enchiladas for tonight, but then I thought of all that cheese.  So, I settled on some good old comfort food in the form of Crunchy Beef Tacos.  Yes, the tortillas are fried, but I use very little cheese and no sour cream.

These are absolutely  awesome.  My definition of a good taco is one that you can’t put down, once you’ve started eating it.  The reason is not because you’re so ravenous (although I usually am), but because it will crumble and fall apart all over your plate if you dare to put it down between bites.  Crunch is the word here.

If you’ve never made your own taco shells, you really need to try this.  YOU WILL NEED TONGS.  I really don’t know how you would make them, if you don’t own a pair of tongs.

If you don’t own tongs yet, you’ve got to get some.  I have 4 or 5 pair, different lengths and sizes, and I use them constantly.  Here’s a link for you on Amazon:

http://amzn.to/2iaUeLq

If you have little kids or pets, make sure they are out of the kitchen and your baby gates are locked.

Before I go further, I’ll share with you this amazing salsa that came from the Pioneer Woman.  We occasionally give this away to several friends, and they all love it.  It freezes fairly well, too, if you don’t use salsa that often.  This recipe makes a huge amount of salsa, so you may want to halve it.

Red SalsaRestaurant Style Salsa

Prep: 10 Minutes       Level: Easy

Serves: 12

Ingredients

1 can (28 Ounce) Whole Tomatoes with Juice

2 cans (10 Ounce) Rotel (diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies)

1/4 cup Chopped Onion

1 clove Garlic, Minced

1 whole Jalapeno, Quartered And Sliced Thin

1/4 teaspoon Sugar

1/4 teaspoon Salt

1/4 teaspoon Ground Cumin

1/2 cup Cilantro (more To Taste!)

1/2 whole Lime Juice

Preparation

Note: this is a very large batch. I recommend using a 12-cup food processor, or you can process the ingredients in batches and then mix everything together in a large mixing bowl.

Combine whole tomatoes, Rotel, onion, jalapeno, garlic, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. I never buy Rotel, so I just combine diced tomatoes with some canned mild green chilies.

Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you’d like—I do about 10 to 15 pulses. Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed.

Refrigerate salsa for at least an hour. Serve with tortilla chips.

(Or on tacos. Or burritos. Or nachos.  Or eggs.)

Awesome Crunchy Beef Tacos

CilantroCorn Tortillas

Canola Oil

7% Ground Beef

Chopped onion

Taco Seasoning

Water

Shredded Lettuce

Chopped Tomato, optional

Guacamole or chopped Avocados

Sour Cream, optional

Cilantro, optional

Shredded Mexican Cheese Blend (or Queso Fresca)

Salsa or Hot sauce or both

Icy cold Mexican beer with lime (optional)

avocadoI keep my guacamole very simple.  I just mash an avocado or two, throw in a bit of salsa and sour cream, taste for salt, and add a squirt of lime, if I feel like it.  Then I cover the guacamole with plastic wrap, so that it lays tightly on the top surface of the guacamole.  Then refrigerate.  The plastic wrap against the guacamole with keep it from turning brown.

Chop your onion, and cook it in a large skillet in some canola oil on medium low heat, until soft.  Add ground beef and turn up heat, to medium high.  When cooked through, add taco seasoning and water and cook down, until it’s a nice consistency.

Personally, I have yet to find a homemade taco seasoning that I like.  I’ve kind of given up, so I just buy the packets.

Heat a separate, small skillet to medium high.  The one in the photos is an 8 inch cast iron one – great for pan frying. You can use a larger pan, but it will just require more oil.  Here’s a Lodge 8 inch skillet on Amazon – it’s great for baking cornbread in, too, and it comes pre-seasoned!  What a steal!

Fill this smaller skillet with about an inch of canola oil.  Make sure you don’t fill your skillet more than half full!  It shouldn’t bubble up that much, while you’re cooking your taco shells, but better safe than sorry!  To test the heat of the hot oil, take a wooden spoon and insert the handle into the oil, touching the bottom.  Immediately bubbles should rise up the wooden handle.  You want a temperature of about 365°.

One time, I was making crunchy tacos.  After cooking the taco meat, I covered it, so the meat wouldn’t dry out.  I had heated my oil, and thought I’d check on the meat, to see if it was sticking to the bottom or needed more water.  When I lifted up the lid, the condensation dripped into the hot oil!!  Oil went flying all over my kitchen but, luckily, not all over me.  I am working very hard these days, not to ever mix water and oil – it is nothing to mess with!

Heat your oven to 200°.

Flat tortilla in hot oil

Line a pie plate with several paper towels, and put in oven, to heat.

Put your serving plates in the oven to warm.

Prepare all of your condiments and sides in advance.  If you put your beer glasses in the freezer, it will stay icy cold.  Yum.

Let oil heat for about 10 minutes, while you get all your ducks in a row.  Ask someone to set the table.

Using your tongs, take a corn tortilla and lay it flat, in the hot oil.

After one or two seconds, gently grab the edge of the tortilla.  Fold over the top of the tortilla and pull the folded tortilla toward you, so that the tortilla is against the side of the pan.

Cooking Corn TortillasHold the tortilla in place for a few seconds, trying to hold it open, so you have plenty of room for your fixings.

Now, when the tortilla has cooked enough to be slightly crisp, take the tongs and put them in the middle, holding the taco shell open.

With the tongs, now turn the taco shell over, so that it browns on the other side.

 

Flipping taco shell overWhen you’ve got the color you want (I like them super crispy, but that’s up to you), grab another paper towel.  Remove the crispy taco shell from the hot fat, holding it over the pan to drain.  Then open the oven door.  Place the taco on a piece of paper towel (so you don’t drip any oil), and transfer the cooked taco shell to the preheated pie plate that’s in your oven.

Repeat with the rest of the tortillas.

That’s it.  It sounds more complicated than it is.  And I do promise you, these will be the best tacos, hands-down, that you have ever had.

Homemade Crunchy Beef Tacos - you won't believe the difference frying your tortillas will make! Click here to find out how!

No soggy bottoms!

There’s one little thing I don’t love about this dinner.  After cooking the tortillas, my house smells like a taqueria, which is not exactly my eau de choice.  My kids turned me on to this cool diffuser they got from Amazon.  All I do is pour in a bit of distilled water, along with my favorite essential oil.  A cool steam comes out and fills the room with lemon, or lavender, or whatever you choose.   I liked it so much that I bought two more, just to spread the love.  With two smelly labs, these do help with the doggy aroma that I’m sure assaults anyone who walks into the house.

Enjoy!

Vicky

 

 

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Balsamic and Orange Chicken

Balsamic and Orange Chicken

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Chicken Pasta with Vodka Sauce

Chicken Pasta with Vodka Sauce

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Mediterranean Pasta

Mediterranean Pasta

 

Mediterranean Pasta - Sooo good! Make this tonight!

Man, oh, man, was I tired tonight.  I spent the entire day on Canva, trying to figure out how to create “long pins.”  If you are a blogger over 50, you may understand.  And my sciatica was killing me.  All I wanted was a hot bath and a cold wine.

But being the dedicated blogger (oh, yeah, and wife) that I am, I forged ahead with this dinner.  It really took only a few minutes and tasted so good.

This recipe comes from Tyler Florence (one of my very favorite chefs, ever).  I do tweak it a bit (naturally).  In the winter I don’t have fresh basil, so after sauteeing the chicken strips, I toss them in enough pesto to coat.  I also didn’t have any artichokes – no biggie.

Secondly, I use only half of the feta he calls for, and I omit the cream.  I also use my own sundried tomatoes from the garden, and they aren’t packed in oil  Gotta keep this halo of mine nice and shiny!

Tyler Florence's Meditteranean Pasta in Minutes

I also use whole grain angel hair pasta.  I don’t care for most whole grain pasta, but it’s fine with angel hair.

Mediterranean Pasta in Minutes (Tyler’s original version)

Serves 4

One pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced diagonally

Pesto, optional

3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 (8 ½ ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes, julienned (1 cup)

2 Tablespoons garlic, minced

1 pound angel hair pasta

¼ cup fresh basil

1 (8 ½ ounce) can artichoke hearts in water, drained and quartered (1 cup)

½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted

6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

¼ cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons dried oregano

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Freshly grated parmesan

A word of warning about Kalamata Olives!  I buy the type that says “sliced and pitted.”  Uh, unless you love going to the dentist for yet another crown, I suggest that you check each and every olive half.  Those machines have been known to miss a pit or two.  So, carefully check your olives!

Heat a large stock pot of water until boiling.  Prepare angel hair pasta according to package directions for al dente pasta.

Heat a large skillet on medium.  Add 3 Tablespoons olive oil to the hot pan.  I used my garlic oil, so I didn’t need to add actual garlic to the recipe.

Brown chicken strips until no longer pink – about 3 minutes each side.

Add sun-dried tomatoes and garlic to skillet.  Saute for 2 minutes.

Now add the basil, artichoke hearts, olives and feta cheese to the skillet.  Saute 1 minute (let the feta melt a bit), then stir in the cream.

Tyler Florence's Meditteranean Pasta in Minutes

Drain pasta and transfer to a large pasta bowl.  Add the chicken mix to the pasta and toss.

Season with oregano, salt and pepper before serving.

Doesn’t get much easier than that, right?

Tyler Florence's Meditteranean Pasta in Minutes

Cheers!

Enjoy – Vicky

 

 

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Herbal Chicken on Red Quinoa

Herbal Chicken on Red Quinoa

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Parmesan Chicken

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Saints’ and Sinners’ Homemade Pizza

Saints’ and Sinners’ Homemade Pizza

 

Bill has been a good sport about my health kick the last couple of weeks, so I thought I’d reward him with the “Sinners’” version of my much healthier “Saintly” version.

Pizza Ingredients

This pizza dough recipe comes from Alton Brown and, as usual, he is spot on.  I have tried many, many versions of pizza dough and his is, hands down, the best.

He grills his to achieve that thin, cracker-crisp pizza crust.  I described how to do it, here on Grilled Pizza for Dummies.  Since we’re in cold, soggy Oregon, our outside grill is probably pretty gross, and I’m not about to grill in this rain, anyway.  So, I’ve been trying different techniques in the oven to get that super crispy crust.  I think I’ve finally nailed it.

A few hours before dinner, prepare your dough:

Pizza Dough – Enough for 4 medium sized pizzas or 8 personal:

16 ounces (this is 3 ¼ cups) all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling

1 envelope instant or rapid rise yeast (this is 2 ¼ teaspoons) (also called bread machine yeast)

1 Tablespoon kosher salt (NOT table salt – they are not equivalent)

10 ounces warm water, approximately 105° F

2 Tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons for bowl

1 Tablespoon malted barley syrup, room temperature (or 1 Tablespoon brown sugar, instead)

Combine the flour and yeast in the work bowl of a stand mixer. Add the salt, water, 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, and malted barley syrup. (I finally broke down and bought malted barley syrup.  It turns the dough a very light brown, giving it the appearance of a whole wheat dough.  I’m convinced that ingredient had a lot to do with the awesome results I got, making this).

Start the mixer on low, using the paddle attachment, and mix until the dough just comes together, approximately 1 1/2 minutes. Now switch to the dough hook, and put your mixer on medium.  Knead for 15 minutes.  Of course, if you don’t have a standing mixer, you can do all of this by hand.

Fold the dough onto itself and form it into a smooth ball. Oil the bowl of the stand mixer or other large bowl with 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Put the dough in the bowl and roll it around to coat with the oil. Cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and leave at room temperature to double in size, approximately 1 hour.  (I’ve found that it takes much longer to double in size; not sure why).

Split the dough into 4 or 8 equal parts using a knife or bench scraper. Flatten each piece into a disk on the countertop. Form each piece into a ball. Roll each ball on the counter until they tighten into rounds. Cover the balls with a tea towel and rest for 45 minutes.

Before forming your pizza crusts, preheat your oven to 500°.  If you are using a baking stone, put it in now, also.  If you are only making one pizza, use the bottom rack.

Lightly flour the countertop and flatten 1 of the dough balls. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a round, rotating and stretching the dough as you go.   I like to sprinkle the cutting board with Semolina Flour, instead of regular flour.  Semolina Flour http://amzn.to/2CGNYDY.

This dough is a very wet one, and it is very easy to use a rolling pin to get it nice and thin.  It doesn’t resist you and pull back when you try to roll it, which is great.  But I found that if it was too thin, it burned in those spots in mere moments.

So, when I’m rolling out the dough on my lightly floured cutting board, I stop shy of paper thin.

Line an rimless cookie sheet with parchment.  Transfer your pizza round onto the parchment paper.

This entire process is really much, much easier than it might seem.  I guarantee you, the end result is absolute heaven, if you like a thin-crust, crisp pizza dough.  For heating up the next day, I have tried every method I can think of to reheat it and, although it’s still very yummy, it doesn’t retain its crispiness.  Bummer.

Since it’s only the two of us, we only use 2 of the 8 pizza balls and, even with that, we always have leftovers.  I simply take the other 6 balls of dough, flatten them with my hands, and wrap them well in cling wrap.  Then I lay them in a flat layer in a large freezer bag, and put them in the freezer.  The frozen pizza balls thaw very quickly, and you can grab as many as you’ll need for dinner and be ready when you get home after a day at the beach. Or at work. You get it.

Garlic Oil

Garlic OilI like to use garlic olive oil to coat the pizza dough.  This way, you can get the great flavor of the garlic without the actual bits getting in the way and possibly getting burned.

Into a small saucepan, pour about a cup of extra virgin olive oil and then add 5 to 10 raw garlic cloves, or just a tablespoon of the stuff that comes minced, in a jar.  After about 20 minutes warming on low, remove and cool, then pour through a sieve into a container.  A mason jar works fine. You can keep this garlic oil in the fridge indefinitely, but it MUST be refrigerated.  If you keep it in the cupboard (same as any homemade salad dressing containing garlic), you run the risk of botulism.  So, the cold garlic oil should be put out on the counter for about 15 minutes before needed, in order to come to room temperature.

When your pizza is ready to go into the oven, lightly coat the top of the raw pizza round with a pastry brush dipped in garlic oil. Then take the cookie sheet to the oven, and pull out the rack with the baking stone on it.  If you hold the cookie sheet toward the back of the stone and pull the pan toward you, the parchment (along with the dough) will stay on the baking stone.  The parchment paper won’t burn.  If you don’t have a baking stone, just put the cookie sheet, parchment, and pizza onto the rack.

After a few minutes, use a spatula and peek at the bottom of the pizza dough.

When you’ve peeked at the bottom and like how it looks, it’s ready to flip.  Use a large spatula or the original cookie sheet, and slide it under the parchment paper and remove from oven.

Remove parchment paper.  To flip the pizza onto the baking stone, either take ahold of the edges and manually flip it back onto the baking stone.  Or you can use a large cake spatula (like this very cool one) to flip it.  This is one of the few tools I actually had to order because when I’m grilling pizza, that surface is hot!  There’s no way to grab ahold of a pizza on a grill.  Anyway, this awesome cake spatula I found on Amazon does the trick.  But it is non-stick, so you have to be careful your pizza doesn’t land on the floor!   So, slide it under the pizza and use your fingers to hold it onto the spatula, then flip.  And if you’re a baker, you can use this large, round spatula to transfer your cakes, after decorating.  You can also move the second cake layer onto the first, frosted one, without risking it breaking in half.

After a few minutes, take a peek at the bottom of the pizza.  When it is nice and brown and crispy, remove it from the oven.

You can top the pizza with pizza sauce, pesto, white garlic sauce or garlic oil.

Then add your toppings.

Toppings on Pizzas

I found both of my pizza stones, brand-spankin’ new, at Goodwill for about $10 apiece.  If you don’t have any luck going the thrift store route, you can order one here, on Amazon.  I use my baking stones for my artisan breads, too, so they get a lot of use!  Be aware of the fact that they will get discolored and ugly over time.  It’s just the nature of the beast!  Here’s the Amazon link:  http://amzn.to/2CFbBwt

Pizza Stone

Saints’ Pizza

Garlic oil, brushed on the pizza

Chicken breasts or tenders, sautéed, cut into bite-sized pieces and coated in Pesto (my sister-in-law’s awesome idea!)

Red bell pepper, chopped

Baby spinach, chopped

Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Freshly grated parmesan

Saints Pizza

Sinners’ Pizza

Pizza Sauce (see below)

Ground Beef, cooked

Ground Italian Sausage, cooked

Chopped onion

Black olives, sliced

Red bell pepper, chopped

Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Baby Spinach, chopped

Freshly grated parmesan

Shredded Italian Cheese Blend as a final topping

Sinners Pizza

There’s really no end to different toppings you can use.  A nice variation is to use Kalamata olives and feta, as well.

Pizza sauceEasy Pizza Sauce

15 ounce can tomato sauce

½ teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 heaping teaspoon chopped garlic

I can’t let you go without this Amazon link for an awesome pizza cutter.  I’m telling you, I’ve had 4 or 5 different pizza cutters, two of them mezzalunas.  These are the big old things that they use in the pizza joints.  They rock back and forth and cut up the pizza in no time.  If you’re a strapping 18 year old kid who happens to be 6 feet tall, that is.  Well, Bill has given me two of them over the years, and they were not cheap!  But I’m 5’2″ (down an inch and 3/4, thank you very much) and my counters are way too high for me to put my weight on those.  I finally went onto Amazon and found this pizza cutter by Dexter and I’ve never looked back.  To start your cut, place it a few inches inside the pizza, from the outer edge of the pizza.  Do a forward/backward motion and come back through the crust edge.  Then move toward the other side of the pizza.  Pizza cutting will be a dream!  Here’s the link on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2Fg0bku

Pizza in front of fire

This is perfect in front of the fire!  I wanted a beer but settled for ice water.  Hmmmph.

Cheers and Enjoy!

Vicky

 

 

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Three Herb Chicken and Mushrooms

Three Herb Chicken and Mushrooms

 

Three Herb Chicken and Mushrooms on Red Quinoa.  This doesn't look like it, but this is super healthy, with a wine sauce.  Yum!

I just got home from schlepping some groceries.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, except for two things.  One, my sciatica (on both sides – ouch!) is horrible today; and two, there was a gal not that far from me in the produce aisle who kept coughing all over the vegetables.  The flu is going around this state like crazy!  She didn’t even cover her mouth.  It took everything I’ve got not to say something.  I figured it wasn’t worth it; if someone is that clueless, I’m not going to have any luck in educating her.

But I sure didn’t buy any of the veggies anywhere around her, that’s for sure!  If I get the flu, at least I know who to blame.

I have two good-sized herb gardens, and I grow thyme in the vegetable garden, too, because it’s a good companion to so many veggies I grow.

Herb Garden

I am pretty diligent about drying them each Fall.  I use my awesome Excalibur Food Dehydrator (here’s a link on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2EV7vSF), which makes quick work of them.  I only dry one type of herb at a time, since sometimes the herbs will fall into the little holes in the trays, and I don’t want to mix them up.

This is one of the signs I made for my Etsy shop, Lofty Perch.  I really do love herbs.

Herbs sign

Some herbs, like sage or oregano, pile up a few inches, so I’ll dry only 3 or 4 trays at a time.  The dehydrator has 9 trays, and you could fill all of these trays if you’re drying something like sundried tomatoes or banana slices, or anything that will lie flat.

My tomato crop was pathetic this year, so didn’t get many sundried tomatoes.  Hopefully, I’ll have more luck this coming summer.

After drying my herbs, I put them in labelled mason jars and store them back in my cool laundry room/pantry.  By “cool,” I don’t mean awesome.  I mean, it’s always cold back there.  And the fact that they are in the near-dark is a plus for maintaining their fresh flavor.

Growing herbs is unbelievably easy.  They love lousy soil; they love the heat; they don’t like to be fertilized; they don’t need much water and, miracle of all miracles, the deer don’t eat them!  Also, insects generally stay away (although sage will get white fly on the back of the leaves, which can be washed off with water and your fingers) and they aren’t prone to any diseases, that I know of.  There are no other plants in the garden that are as easy to grow.

Best of all, herbs have amazing health benefits and they bring otherwise boring things like chicken to life.

So, there you go!

ThymeThis photo is of my tiny thyme plants I’m trying to grow in our sunroom.  To be honest, we have no decent light in the house during the gray, soggy Oregon wintertime, so its conditions are not the best.  Eventually I’ll put it under a grow light.  But herbs are very hardy, so I’m hoping this will grow up so I can add it to my collection!

This recipe today comes from Better Homes and Gardens.  In the interest of my health (and my ever-persistent muffin top), I’m using chicken breasts.

I’m thinking that when the thighs come out of the oven, there is going to be some residual fat in the pan, in which to cook the mushrooms.  That can’t be said for using breasts.  If there isn’t any fat in your pan when you’ve cooked your chicken, I’d add a Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil or a pat of butter to the pan before adding the mushrooms.  Plus, let’s face it: butter just rocks!

Three Herb Chicken and Mushrooms

Serves 4

8 chicken thighs, skin on

2 Tablespoons snipped fresh rosemary (2 teaspoons dried)

2 Tablespoons snipped fresh thyme (2 teaspoons dried)

1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

8 ounce cremini or button mushrooms, quartered

1 Tablespoon flour

1 cup chicken broth

½ cup dry white wine

2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 Tablespoon snipped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

3 Herb Dijon Chicken

Preheat oven to 400°.  Season chicken on both sides with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, 1 Tablespoon (or 2 teaspoons dried) of the rosemary and 1 Tablespoon (or 2 teaspoons dried) of the thyme.

In a large cast iron or other oven-going skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add chicken, skin sides down; cook 5 to 7 minutes until browned on one side.

Turn chicken pieces over and transfer to hot oven.  If using skinless chicken breasts, turn over and lightly brown the second side, and then move to the oven.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until chicken is done (170° for thighs, 165° for breasts).

Remove chicken from skillet; set aside (cover with foil).  In the same skillet, cook and stir mushrooms over medium high heat for about 4 minutes.

Add 1 Tablespoon flour to skillet, stirring to coat mushrooms.

Whisk in chicken broth, wine and mustard.

Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; cook and stir one minute more.  I wanted a slightly thicker sauce, so I sprinkled a tiny little bit of more flour over the bubbling mixture.  Then I cooked a bit more, to cook the flour and get rid of any flour taste.

Remove skillet from heat.  Only if you are using fresh herbs: Add remaining 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, remaining 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, and fresh parsley.  You never want to add dry herbs at the last minute in any sauce or dish.  You’ve already added them at the start.  That’s why I said “2 teaspoons dried.”

Serve mushrooms and sauce over chicken.

I’ll confess, I am not the biggest fan of regular quinoa, but I really like red quinoa.  It maintains its firmness better than the regular.  It’s pretty yummy when you can pile up chicken and sauce on top of it.  It’s really high in protein and red quinoa is pretty, to boot.  If you have any leftover, you can add some to your salads.  You always need to rinse any quinoa before cooking, to remove the saponin.  This is a phytochemical that occurs naturally and adds a bitter taste to quinoa.  So rinse, first.

I cook one cup red quinoa to 1 1/2 cups water.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring water to a boil, and reduce to a simmer and cover.  It will take about 1/2 an hour to 45 minutes.  Fluff with chopsticks or a fork.

Three Herb Chicken with Dijon on Red Quinoa

Enjoy!  Think about growing some herbs this summer.  They’re really fun and easy to grow!

Cheers – Vicky

 

 

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Homemade Corn Tortillas and Soft Chicken Tacos

Homemade Corn Tortillas and Soft Chicken Tacos

 

Yesterday I finished my Healthnut Dump Soup that I made sometime last week (yay, me – I had a mug every single day!), so I had to make another batch.  So, I’ll be good for another week.

And I forced myself to do 45 minutes on the bike.  I’m feeling pretty darned proud of myself, I’ll tell you.

Tonight Bill has to breeze in and then out again, for a meeting.  Dinner will have to be chop, chop and easy to eat.

I thought I’d make some homemade tortillas and have some soft chicken tacos.  Uber healthy and low in calories.

Making your own corn tortillas (or flour, for that matter) is a lot of fun.  I don’t do it all that often, but I enjoy it when I do.

We used to go to this little taqueria in town for soft chicken tacos.  They were to die for because the tortillas were fresh and warm and made by this little ol’ Mexican lady on the grill outside.  She could turn those puppies out like nobody’s business.  We watched her, fascinated by her rapid-fire hands, as she turned out dozens of warm, tender corn tortillas.

That’s how I came up with little tips for you in how to form them.

Tortilla Press

This is the tortilla press that Bill made for me a couple of years ago.  Yeah, the handle is an old wooden table leg he had stashed out in the garage.  He got the design off the internet (of course – where else?) and it turns out that this type of tortilla press is actually an antique one.

In case you or your husband don’t happen to have an old wooden table leg lying around the garage, you can buy a great tortilla press on Amazon.  Bear in mind that I do not own this Amazon tortilla press, but I did do my homework.  Here’s the tortilla press link on Amazon, if you’re interested.  http://amzn.to/2lIaFAr

The only real problem with making these is keeping Bill out of my kitchen because he’ll always steal one or two.  He gets his hand slapped for it (just like he does with bacon) but that hasn’t stopped him, yet.

I decided to make up a new batch of Red Salsa for tonight.  You can find the recipe here.  It only takes a few minutes if you have a Cuisinart food processor.  And the taste is pretty darned amazing.

If you don’t yet have a Cuisinart food processor, here is the Amazon link http://amzn.to/2CjitQ8 .  I’ve owned 2 in 35 years and the only reason I updated was because all these kids kept appearing and the first one was too small.  They are a real workhorse in the kitchen, as long as you keep them out on the counter!

If you want to use store bought tortillas, that’s fine with me.  As I’ve said before, I’m not the food police.

Soft Chicken Tacos

Corn tortillas

Chicken breasts or tenders, sliced thin

¼ cup canola oil

½ teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon ground coriander

Any combination of the following:

Lettuce

Chopped tomato

Shredded lettuce

Shredded Mexican Cheese or Queso Fresca

Diced onion

Cilantro

Salsa or taco sauce

Sour cream

Guacamole or avocado slices

If you like a lot of options in your soft taco, you can buy extra large ones now.  I’m a purist, so all I put in my taco is chicken, cilantro and salsa, so the smaller ones are fine.  You can also double up your tortillas, for extra strength.

Place chicken pieces in a pie pan.  In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together oil, chili powder, cumin and coriander.  This is not terribly spicy.  You can up the spices, if you like, but I like my salsa to take center stage, instead.

Pour this mixture over the chicken slices and stir to mix.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 5 minutes up to overnight.  No biggie. Obviously, the longer you let it marinate, the stronger the flavor will be.

Heat your oven to 200°.

When you’re ready to saute the chicken, heat a skillet to medium high.  With a slotted spoon or spatula, scoop out the raw chicken pieces into the hot skillet, leaving most of the oil in the pie plate.  That would be way too much oil, if you were the dump the entire thing out!

Brown both sides and keep warm in a 200° degree oven.

Cooked Mexican chicken

Warm your tortillas by heating in a dry skillet that is set on medium low.  When warmed on both sides, remove to a pie plate (yes, I have at least 6 of these babies) and loosely cover with foil before putting them in your oven.

I have found, at least with my homemade tortillas, that if I store the tortillas in the oven completely uncovered, they’ll dry out.  On the other hand, if I cover them completely, they may start to steam in the oven and that will cause them to become fragile and they’ll fall apart.  So, I just lay the foil over the pie plate but don’t crimp it tightly.

Assemble your tacos however you like, pour yourself your favorite Mexican beer with a squeeze of lime, and enjoy!

Homemade Corn Tortillas

Instant Corn Masa Flour

Water

You can find masa flour in the Mexican aisle of your grocery store.  Follow the package directions.  They will tell you how to make whatever number of tortillas you need.

Heat a skillet to just over medium.

Now, I’m going to give you some awesome tips.

First of all, use a regular size ice cream scoop.  Scoop out the mixture so that it fills the scoop but doesn’t go above the rims.

Make round “meatball” type shapes.  When the dough is nice and round and smooth, gently take your hands on both sides and act like you’re trying to start a fire with a stick.  (You know; gently move your palms in opposite directions a few times).  You should end up with an oblong “meatball” of dough.

Corn tortilla oblong

On the bottom of the tortilla press, put a piece of parchment paper big enough that it overlaps the circle a bit.  You’ll want to cut out just two of these pieces of parchment paper.

Also cut a large, heavy freezer bag into this same shape.  You’ll want two of these, too.

With the parchment paper on the bottom, place your oblong of dough like so.  It will be only 1/3 up the distance of the press, not halfway up.  If you see the photo, you can see how it’s supposed to lie.  Now, cover with the freezer bag, and gently press down on the dough.

Corn tortillas in press

Close the press and pull the lever down, as far as you can.  I am really short, so in order to get a lot of oomph on my press, it helps to place the tortilla press on a bar stool that I put next to my cutting board.  When it’s lower, I can put my full weight on it (which is saying something!).

The oblong will now become a perfect circle.  You may need to practice this a couple of times, but you can reuse the dough, so no big deal.  Thanks, my tortilla-making wonder!

 

Perfect round corn tortilla

After you have your perfect circle, gently remove the freezer bag.  Don’t pull it up – instead, pull it slowly, close to the tortilla, toward you.

Pick up the parchment paper with the tortilla attached.  Take it over to the hot skillet.  Grabbing the outer edges, flip the tortilla over so that the parchment paper is on top.  Using your spatula, gently press down on the parchment, so that the tortilla is pushed flat into the pan. Don’t remove the parchment yet.  At this point, it will very likely take some of the tortilla with it.

Tortilla cooking

Instead, let it cook for a minute or so, then gently peel it back.  If the tortilla sticks to it, let it cook a bit longer.

When the parchment paper will come free, check the underneath of the tortilla.  You want it lightly browned.

Cooked tortilla

Use a metal spatula, and flip like a pancake.  I love my nice, long, delicate fish spatula for this.  It’s my favorite spatula.

If you don’t yet own a fish spatula (I do and I hate fish!) here’s a link to a great one on Amazon!  http://amzn.to/2CGCGQT

Stack of Tortillas

Check the underside after a minute and remove to a plate.

When you get more practiced, you will find you can prepare your second taco while your first one is in the skillet.  This will make the process go that much faster.

Homemade Chicken Soft Tacos

I hope you’ll try this.  It’s really pretty fun and the results are so worth it.

Enjoy!

Vicky

 

 

 

 

 

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