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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grilled Chicken with Key Lime and Greek Seasoning Marinade

Tonight's dinner was super yummy if I do say so myself. I got a great deal on some chicken leg quarters (.99¢ a pound) and I marinated 2 of them in 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed key lime juice and generously sprinkled them all over with a Greek seasoning blend. My in-laws brought us a bottle of Greek Spices from the Old Towne Grille & Seafood restaurant in Charleston, S.C. You can order your own greek spice blend from them at www.oldtownegrill.com. I had the hubby cook the chicken (and a green bell pepper for tomorrow night's roasted pepper sauce) on our little charcoal grill while I made some beer bread, steamed the fresh corn on the cob, and made some sweet iced tea. I rounded out dinner with baby carrots for the kids and some green salad for me and the husband.

Want to try a new and fabulous iced tea idea? Make 3/4 of a gallon of iced tea (sweet or unsweet), add a bottle of peach nectar and a little lemon juice to taste, mix it up and serve it over lots of ice! Delicious and refreshing.

The kids split another of the individual key lime pies I made yesterday for dessert, but I was too full to have any.

We are planning on grilling some amazing ribs for 4th of July and attending the fireworks show they do out over the water here. Do you have any special plans for Independence Day? I think we might also make some strawberry ice cream this weekend. Stay safe and have fun!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lunch and new plans for dinner

Realized I have fresh sausage in the fridge that needs to be used up, going to make a red sauce with roasted bell pepper and sausage to go over pasta tonight. Also I just squeezed a cup and a quarter of fresh Key Lime juice from Key Limes from my MIL's tree. I have graham crackers in the cabinet. I am making a Key Lime pie!

Today for lunch I took last night's roast chicken and made chicken salad and placed it over chopped salad greens and served it with crackers.

Grilling Out

Grilling out tonight, making some marinated chicken, and a green bean salad tonight. And if I am feeling REALLY motivated I will make some beer bread today. Check back later.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: roasted chicken, steamed broccoli, baby carrots

To roast a chicken: Rinse bird, remove innards if necessary, pat dry. Salt and pepper chicken all over including inside cavity. If you like rub some butter under the skin and over the breast meat. I usually insert a lemon, whole and pierced all over with a fork into the cavity before baking the chicken at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the thigh when pierced runs clear juices, the drumstick moves freely in the socket, or internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. That is my simplest version of roast chicken. You can dress this as up or down as much as you like, by using compound butter, adding fresh or dried rosemary to the salt and pepper or by adding a carrot and onion to the cavity of the chicken. You can cook the chicken on a rotisserie, on a roasting pan with a rack in the oven, or by placing the chicken into a pan on top of thick slices of onion.

I made quick work of the broccoli by chopping it from the stalks, rinsing it and placing the florets into a glass dish in the microwave with some butter and a few table spoons of water. I microwaved it for about 5 minutes, still bright green and crispy but definitely cooked. Add salt and pepper and you're done. Our other side dish was raw baby cut carrots with a side of Ranch dressing dipping sauce.

Dinner -- done.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Where I've Been and What I've Done

So no posts for a week, I bet you were getting worried. My children went with my parents on vacation and we don't retrieve them until Thursday of this week. If I ever wondered if I cook for hubby and me or if I cook for the children, man, I now know my answer.

You know what we ate this week? Well, remember college? Not really? I have heard it goes something like this, ramen noodles, cereal and milk, scrambled eggs, "experiments" made with rice and canned soups... (or was that just me?) Our Meatless Monday Menu this week would have been 4 bowls of Cap'n Crunch between the two of us. Warning: that much Cap'n Crunch has a mildly laxative effect. It was not pleasant. There was an attempt at making a chicken (a lame attempt) and we ate off the chicken carcass like starving hyenas hunched over a bowl on the stove. We ate toast and bacon one night, toast and bacon washed down with some root beer. Saturday morning I made a big pan of cinnamon rolls (from frozen bread dough) and we ate on that all day. A whole day we ate nothing but cinnamon rolls!

Anyhoozle, it's a new week and we are starting over, this morning (Father's Day in the US) my husband made a big pan of oven baked french toast. Basically take some stale bread (I recommend something chewy with a good crust like Cuban or French bread) and cut it into slices and layer them in a well-greased 9 x 13 inch pan. They should be laid over like toppled dominoes if you can picture that. Mix together a couple of cups of half and half and a cup of milk, 2 TB sugar, 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp of nutmeg, a capful of vanilla and 8 whole eggs. Pour that over the bread and let it soak up to 8 hours in the refrigerator (can be made the night ahead). We have let it soak as little as 20 minutes and it is still wonderful. Then we make a praline topping by creaming 2 sticks of butter with 1 packed cup of brown sugar, 1 capful of vanilla, 1 tsp each nutmeg and cinnamon and a 1 C chopped pecans (we used walnuts today, you can also skip nuts entirely). Spread that over the top as best you can, bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or so. Serve warm. Can be topped with warmed maple syrup or whipped cream, but I like mine plain.

For dinner I made meatball subs. I took some frozen meatballs (but of course homemade would be 1,000 times better) and put them on a cookie sheet to bake for 20 minutes. Meanwhile I sliced half an onion and one red bell pepper and cooked them in a pan with olive oil and sea salt. When they had some nice brown color on them I added a small can of tomato sauce, a few tsp of Italian seasoning and mixed them together. To this sauce I added the now cooked meatballs. As they simmered on the stove I hollowed out two pieces of French Bread. This should not be construed by anyone reading this as a carb-saving measure; it should be apparent by now the only definition of "diet" that I recognize is the NOUN: The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats. I refuse to recognize the VERB: Restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight, because frankly there is nothing more boring to me than talking about all the food somebody ISN'T eating. Sheesh. Anyhow I hollow out the bread loaves to make the round meatballs nestle in snugly with slices of provolone cheese and not roll out and leave splashes of tomato sauce on your shirt or tablecloth. :) See? I am always thinking of you guys!

Tomorrow, and for the rest of the week I plan on using only what we have left in the house since we are leaving mid-week to go and get the kids and celebrate our youngest's 3rd birthday. Be on the lookout then for some cooking with my Mom and pictures of party food!

Meatless Monday: Black beans and yellow rice with veggies
Tuesday: Any leftovers with Roast beef
Weird: Wednesday: Leftover Choose Your Own Adventure
Thursday: In the air to go and get the kids (will try and post a lunch recipe)
Friday: Cabin cooking with my Mom
Saturday: Birthday Party Food
Sunday: Flying Home, or Snack-Tastic! at 30,000 Feet

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Saturday Sweets

It is Summer, Summer, Summer time... and what says Summer more than homemade ice cream? We pulled out the handy-dandy recipe booklet that came with our ice cream maker and decided to make Rocky Road ice cream. This necessitated some deviation from the recipe, we didn't have bars of semi-sweet chocolate, so we measured out an equal amount of semi-sweet chips. Lacking mini-marshmallows we instead chopped up a number of over-sized "camping" marshmallows (leftovers from the s'mores dessert of the previous night). We also lacked pecans and instead chopped up some walnuts.

Here's a few hints and tips for this recipe, a quick way to "chop" the nuts is to measure them into a plastic zip-top bag and bash them with a rolling pin; that's a fun way to get the kids involved too. Cutting up marshmallows proved to be much more difficult. Cutting them with scissors into small chunks only worked until the kitchen scissors gummed up, slicing them with a knife proved equally tricky and time consuming. Finally we hit upon pressing the marshmallows one by one through the largest grates on the Vidalia Onion chopper. We pressed them through by hand instead of using the chopper itself to keep it from getting gummed up. As the marshmallow was extruded through the grid it would stick together into a shredded lump, but once it hit the milk and chocolate mixture that formed the base it would break apart into discrete pieces again.

Another hint is to make sure you remove the ice cream from the ice cream churn (the metal tube it turns in) and pack it firmly into individual containers before freezing it in the freezer. We started making ice cream at 1 o'clock yesterday afternoon, but we didn't get to eat it until 8 o'clock that night, so it is certainly not a quick process! However it was totally worth the wait! Meltingly smooth and chocolatey with delicious chunks of walnut and marshmallow it went down a treat after a dinner of pulled pork, mashed potatoes, corn niblets, and green beans.

A brief note on the pulled pork, I read a recipe where you cover a pork tenderloin in A&W Root beer and cook it in the crockpot for several hours. I decided to try it but first I seasoned the meat with a spicy sugar-free BBQ pork rub and then used the root beer. There are a lot of recipes out there that call for cooking meat (especially pork) with various types of soda, ginger ale, Sprite, Coca-Cola even! The meat was very tender and very moist but I do have to say that it wasn't overly sweet nor did it have any discernible root beer flavor. We served it on buns and topped it with a vinegar based Carolina style BBQ sauce. Delish!

Friday: No Fish!

No Fish Friday this week, but we did have a very nice night. Our daughter's softball team celebrated a very successful and fun season with a picnic, wiffle ball game (parents versus kids) and a projector showing of "A League of Their Own". It was an awesome party!

It was a potluck; I brought watermelon and s'more fixings.

Potluck Menu:

Fried Chicken
Grilled onions
Grilled mushrooms
Macaroni and Cheese
Baked beans with apple chunks (delicious)
Homemade hummus and carrot sticks
Spinach artichoke dip and crackers
Chips and onion dip

The grilled mushrooms and onions were delicious and made possible by a flat cast iron skillet on the grill, they basically sizzled in the run off of fat from the hamburgers. Everything everyone brought was absolutely delicious. After we all ate dinner and played wiffle ball for awhile we made s'more as the sun set, when it was dark we went up to watch the movie and have some popcorn. We didn't get home until midnight, but the kids (even the toddler) held up and were very happy.

A return to Fish Friday next week!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Weird Wednesday and Thirsty Thursday

What made Wednesday so weird was the fact that someone else made me dinner. Our older daughter had to go to a softball award ceremony where dinner was provided. It was a kid-feast, big fat strips of white meat chicken fingers, tiny sliders topped with lettuce tomato and onion rings, salsa and cheese nachos and honey BBQ chicken wings. The kids loved it. Softball has been a ton of fun, but very difficult in terms of dinner scheduling. Practice and games went back to back from 5 to 7 twice a week! Here is the on the go, high energy snack I've been making the kids to get them through until we make it to dinner around 7:15.

Snack Mix:

3 parts whole grain cereal (I used Cheerios)
2 parts dried fruit (I used raisins and sometimes dried blueberries)
1 part chopped nuts (used walnuts)
1 part chocolate chips

I shake all of the mix up in a large bag and let the kids have a sandwich baggie full of them. If your kid is nut allergic I would use some sesame seeds. Or for a tasty different version you could use pine nuts, which are delicious!

Thirsty Thursday: It is H O T in Florida right now and to me, there is no better hot weather drink than Southern Sweet Tea. I suggest boiling briefly enough tea bags to make 1 gallon of tea in about 5 cups of water. Pour the hot tea concentrate over 1 C of sugar (more or less to taste) stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Next add enough water and ice to dilute the concentrate, making 1 gallon. You can garnish individual glasses with lemon slices or mint sprigs. If you make it this way you don't have to wait an hour or more for the tea to cool down and not instantly melt your ice cubes on a hot summer day.

Thursday's dinner was SUPPOSED to be Beef Stroganoff with Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts. I freaking LOVE Brussels sprouts and so does my hubby. Our kids will eat maybe one or two, which I consider an unparalleled success. But I had forgotten we were having a one of my daughter's friends over for a slumber party. I ended up making a box of mac and cheese and some steamed green beans with butter. That's like the same thing, right?

Tonight I am going to make the stroganoff because the meat is defrosted, but I am going to make some AWESOME fish this weekend.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tuesday: beef stew in the pressure cooker

I have put the beef stew recipe up before, but there is a reason I go back again and again to making it. It is super fast and super easy, contains inexpensive ingredients and is very tasty. I recently got a new super tiny gas grill that just fits the front step so I am hoping to start grilling out more often. One of my Mom's most go-to Summer recipes was to simply make some hamburger patties, a side of cottage cheese and a big "dinner salad" with lots of greens, carrots, garbanzo beans, chopped boiled eggs, and tomatoes. I make that and also grilled chicken breasts and grilled veggies. The more I cook outside the less I heat up the house, the less air conditioning I need and the happier I am. :)

Another hot weather favorite of mine is to take some canned salmon (super healthy wild caught) and form it into patties with beaten egg, chopped celery, seasoned bread crumbs, and minced onion, salt and pepper. It bakes or grills (in a grill pan) in no time at all and pairs well with one of those bags of 90 second seasoned rice and a green salad.

Rice salad is another delicious hot weather favorite. You can make rice in a flash the night before in a pressure cooker and refrigerate it for the next day before mixing it up with other ingredients. I like it made with chopped broccoli, or peas, chopped bell pepper and corn, it pairs nicely with fresh fruit and some sweet dinner rolls.

What are your good recipes for hot weather?

Meatless Monday Menu: Vegetarian vegetable soup, quesadillas

I prefer quesadillas to grilled cheese sandwiches, there I said it. They are just easier to make, faster, less clean up. You don't have to butter the tortillas, they toast just fine in a dry pan. Also, because you fold the tortilla in half it is less likely the cheese will fall out when you flip them. I make them ALL the time.

Anyhow last night the baby was very ill so I made 2 cans of Campbell's vegetarian vegetable soup and some quesadillas. I strained some of the soup and gave the baby some broth, a popsicle and some ginger ale. This morning she seems to be doing much better.

If you or a loved one comes down with a stomach bug there are some things you can have on hand to help settle the stomach.

Things that are always in my pantry:

Gatorade powdered mix (any flavor but no bright reds)
Saltine crackers
Peppermint tea
Peppermints or mini candy canes
white rice
jars of apple sauce

Things that I get from the store:
White bread
ginger ale
popsicles (not the good kind with fruit juice, the cheap sugar water pops, also no bright reds)

I grew up following the BRAT diet for upset stomachs, Bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. The reason I use white bread and white rice is that they are more easily digested and if your stomach upset also involves diarrhea then skipping the fiber seems like common sense. A cooled peppermint tea or a ginger ale can alleviate feelings of nausea and do not give the sick person anything dyed bright red to drink. If they do throw up again, red is the hardest stain to get out of clothes pr bedding or heaven forbid upholstery! I also avoid the high quality pops because the fruit juice could also aggravate the very delicate gastrointestinal tract. I only deploy the Gatorade if the sick person has been ill many times over several hours, otherwise ginger ale, water, very dilute apple juice, and tea are plenty to keep them hydrated. Once you've been up all night with a constantly sick kid then you can get the Gatorade out.

Be on the lookout for dehydration, signs can include:

Sunken eyes
crying without tears,
dry mouth
decreased urination (dry diapers in babies)
darker urination

Keeping your sick kid drinking small amounts of fluid over long periods of time is easier on the stomach then having a big drink, encourage them to take many small sips.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Wednesday: All the single parents, put ya hands up!

So I got a migraine. A nauseating, head splitting, bright light blinding migraine last night. When my husband came home from work he took one look at me and started making dinner. It was some sort of pot roast. I'd tell you more but I spent that time whimpering under the covers and chewing Tums. I didn't even eat later, just drank some more water and went to bed.

So this brings me to my real point. Do you know any single parents? Are you single parent? By nature of your partner's work schedule do you ever find yourself a part-time single parent?

If you know a single parent offer to make them dinner sometime. If you are making a meatloaf for yourself, it isn't that much trouble to double the recipe and make one for them too. Same with pasta sauce or casseroles, double it up and bring it over. Single parents never get a "night off" and lack the built in support that comes with another live-in parent.

If you are a single parent or part time single parent, I would LOVE to hear from you about your strategies for making dinner run smoothly! I rely on pawning my kids off on my husband while I finish dinner, what is your technique?

When I was a WAHM (work away from home) Mom I did have a few tricks. We ate a lot of stir-fry and fajitas, thinly sliced meats and vegetables cook very quickly. Plus I could find already washed and sliced veggies in the freezer section a lot of the time. A boil in bag side of 5 minute rice and we were good to go for dinner. When frozen pizzas went on sale, we loaded up our garage freezer; we called them Emergency Backup Pizza. We could cook one of those faster than you could call for delivery and with a bag of pre-washed salad on the side it was a fast and not nutritionally unsound dinner. Yesterday I spoke of the wonders of a grocery store rotisserie chicken, a great dinner starter for any busy parent, in fact you can even drive through KFC now and get a bucket of grilled chicken for an even faster dinner. Spaghetti and sauce, can of soup and sandwiches, eggs toast and bacon, can all be very fast meals on a busy night.

So if you have a loving partner and co-parent, give them a hug tonight, because as hard as it is being a parent it is at least twice as hard to do it on your own.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tuesday: The Quick and the Fed

Last night's dinner revolved around a store bought rotisserie chicken, heat and eat mashed potatoes and fresh corn on the cob. When you're home all day with two sick, lethargic kids making a big production out of dinner just won't cut it. In fact immediately after finishing her dinner (with 2 helpings of everything) the baby fell asleep on the floor of the living room and had to be transported fully clothed to her bed. The older child only lasted through a quick shower and into PJ's before she was also out like a light.

I love a rotisserie chicken! There are so many things you can do with the leftovers. Here's a list of my favorites.

*Chicken Salad (mix leftover meat with mayo, chopped celery, salt, white pepper, finely minced onion and a dash of dill.)
*Chicken Tacos (mix leftovers with seasoned black beans for a yummy taco filling.)
*Chicken and Rice Casserole (chicken meat, mixed with cooked rice, chopped spinach, cheese and mushroom soup, then bake.)
*Chicken Quesadillas (toasted tortillas filled with cheese and chicken)
*Chicken Soup (pull all the meat from the bones and use the carcass to make your soup base. Save the meat for the finished soup.)
*Chicken and Rice (make your favorite rice and load it with vegetables, carrots, tomato, onion what have you, in the last few minutes of rice cooking add your chicken meat, stir and serve as a hearty one dish meal.)
*Chicken Alfredo (add chicken to Alfredo sauce and pour over hot pasta, serve with a side of steamed veggies)
*Chicken Stir-Fry (Stir-fry all veggies, add chicken and mix, serve over cooked brown rice.)
*Chicken Fajitas (cook and season all veggies, onions, peppers, mushrooms, carrots strips, add chicken and serve in flour tortillas.)

If you are making a roast or rotisserie chicken at home here are some great flavoring ideas.

*Insert in the cavity of the chicken a quartered lemon and some rosemary sprigs.
*Rub chicken all over, especially under the skin and over the breast, with compound butter.
*Brush chicken liberally with mojo marinade before baking.
*Place chicken in roasting pan, resting on top of thick slices of onion, it will also flavor your pan drippings for an excellent gravy or reduction sauce.
*Brine chicken overnight before roasting in a large bowl or bucket filled with water, salt, sugar and bay leaves. Your chicken will be amazingly moist and flavorful.
*Cook and baste chicken in orange juice, the sugar in the juice will caramelize and make a gorgeous sort of glaze.