Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nothing Short of a Snacktime Revolution, I Tell You

So it's Thanksgiving Day (have a Happy!), you've read 18 different turkey recipes and seen one too many perky skinny person talk about how they actually lose weight over the holidays. Dinnertime isn't when it usually is. You may be at the home of "that aunt" - the one with the feral cat collection and the off-limits basement. Or, you may be having a perfectly lovely holiday with good friends and loved ones and tasty treats - good for you.

In any event, one of this year's losses was my favorite not-very-salty, fancy-foofy microwave popcorn from the International Organic Artisinal Free-Range Yummy Store. It has been counterbalanced by one of this year's successes.

And by that I mean "popcorn in a paper bag." My new blogcrush, Cheaphealthygood, has a terrific post on making regular, plain ol' cheap popcorn in a regular, plain ol' cheap paper lunch bag.

One quarter-cup popcorn kernels.
Place in paper lunch bag and fold over top.
Put in microwave for 4 minutes. Stop microwave when rapid popping stops.

That sound you hear is the money climbing back into my wallet since it's not going to Yummy HQ in exchange for popcorn. For that, I'm thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Finally! Rutbuster!

It was bad, y'all. New recipes, none of them fantastic. Then not even any new recipes that I wanted to try.

Oddly enough, life went on. And by "went on" I mean that Mr. Stinkycheese has been working his !@#$ off and I started re-caulking the windows and - wait - this scraper is not supposed to go straight through wood. Nor is wood supposed to splinter and crumble like foam.

This can't be good.

For some reason I expected Mr. Stinkycheese to know what to do, even though he's a first-time homeowner as well. "Your dad has rehabbed a lot of old houses. Should we call him?" I said. "I know what he'd do" replied Sweetie. "He'd have someone who knows what they're doing come out and fix it."

What a GREAT idea! Ever mindful of the time, I quickly changed clothes, consulted the computer, and high-tailed it to Chef Nancy's baby shower. Whew, that was a close one!

The window frame is being fixed (and caulked, might I add) and I even found a recipe to celebrate with. It would never have occurred to me to serve tuna with cannellini, but it rocked. Asparagus was the perfect side dish.

If you're also looking for new ideas - and not at the expense of your Nostinkycheese perusal - I highly recommend Tell them Stephanie sent you.

Pan-Seared Orange Tuna with White Beans

2 tablespoons grated orange zest (I didn't have any, it was fine)
2 tablespoons firmly-packed brown sugar (too much! I'm going with 1 TBSP next time)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground mustard
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper

4 (4 to 6-ounce) 1-inch thick sushi quality tuna steaks
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (I didn't have oranges, so Tropicana it was)
1 tablespoon Champagne or white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups cooked white beans (right out of the can and rinsed, as far as I'm concerned)
1/4 cup shredded fresh basil leaves

In a small bowl, combine the orange zest, brown sugar, garlic, mustard, cumin, basil, salt and pepper. Reserve 1 tablespoon of this mixture for seasoning the white beans. Rub the remaining mix on the tuna steaks, coating them well.

In a heavy bottomed sauté pan warm the olive oil. Increase the heat to high and place the tuna in the pan. Sear for 1 minute, then turn over carefully, reducing the heat to medium. Sear the other side for 1 more minute until medium rare. Remove from heat.

In a large saucepan whisk the orange juice, vinegar, and reserved spices. Bring to a simmer. Add the white beans and basil, tossing well until hot.

Place the beans on a large platter or individual serving plates; drizzle with olive oil. Place tuna steak over the beans and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Take More - Here, Take It All.

Years ago, when I was traveling non-stop for a Large Corporation, I would land back in Atlanta on Friday nights and leave again that Sunday. So really, I had 36 hours to wash clothes, pay bills, and call my mother before I left town again.

Since there was no point in grocery shopping - how weird it feels to write that! - I used to call my favorite Chinese restaurant when I was driving home from the airport. It got to the point that I could call to place my order and say "Hi! It's me. The usual. Twenty minutes."

There's a lot to be said for getting to know the owner of a great restaurant. She has told us about her childhood in China, her loser son who seemed to think he needed to move to New York, her son's girlfriend That Girl, etc.

One night Sweetie met some friends there - I was sick and whiny and snarfle-y and stayed home - and the owner pounced immediately, demanding to know why Sweetie was in female company (said female's husband was also at the table, but whatever. I appreciate the assist from the sisterhood.).

When she found out I was sick she packaged up a giant container of my beloved hot & sour soup, the panacea for whatever could possibly be wrong.

This is a good approximation that's terrific for fighting a cold, or just enjoying as a first course.

Hot & Sour Soup
3 oz. boneless pork, cut in strips (or use cooked chicken, or skip the meat entirely)
2 oz. bean thread noodle (replace with rice for a more filling meal)
2 small eggs
1 quart chicken stock
A few twists of the pepper grinder - this is where the "hot" comes in
2 TBSP scallions, chopped
3/4 oz. dried black mushrooms (I use fresh shiitake or oyster and saute them a minute)
8 oz. tofu, cut small (optional)
2 tsp. sesame oil
3 TBSP rice wine vinegar - this is the "sour" of the soup
2 TBSP soy sauce (low-sodium is fine)

Blanch pork in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain and set aside. Soak mushrooms in warm water (different warm water) for 20 minutes, drain, remove stems, and cut caps into thin strips. Soak bean thread noodles in warm water (yet a different batch of warm water) 4 - 5 minutes.

Whisk egg with 1 tsp sesame oil in a small dish.

Bring chicken stock to a boil. Add pork, mushrooms, bean thread, tofu, vinegar, pepper, and soy sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes.

SLOWLY pour egg mixture into soup, through a fork, to get strands. Add scallions and 1 tsp sesame oil. Stir and serve.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It Really Works

It almost never fails to amaze me when common knowledge turns out to be true. Like "eat less and exercise more and you'll lose weight", or "save your money and you'll have more of it." It's part of my charm.

When I yet again found God-knows-what in the back of the vegetable crisper, I decided that we've been wasting too much food and something had to be done. I am legendarily deficient at estimating volume/amount needed, so we usually have way too much or way too little of whatever produce we need.

That said, my wingin' it plan for dinners was a big part of the problem. Forgetting what was in the fridge, trying to come up with something reasonably healthful after a long day at work, shopping without a plan - pretty much ensured that this "making dinner" thing was a lot pricier and more stressful than it really had to be.

So it's time for a menu plan. It seemed daunting and constraining but hell, we set up a budget (thank you, Dave Ramsey) and what could be harder than that?

My friend Google showed me that some folks take this process WAY more seriously than I do. Relational databases with expiration dates and coupon notations? Auto-trigger shopping lists? SERIOUSLY????

More power to you.

Granted, I'm in the early stages on this, but it's working well so far. Here's what I've picked up along the way:

1. How many nights are we eating at home this week? Sweetie and I both have evening commitments a few nights a week and we just plan on eating separately those nights. Therefore, no need to plan for those as far as I'm concerned. I aim for planning 4 dinner menus per week.

2. What did I buy last week that I need to use up? I desperately want to believe that we have a salad-based diet. We don't. As a result there are usually some greens and cucumbers that I need to work into the first few dinners of the week (carrots keep much longer).

3. What do we have time for? If we thaw some frozen homemade soups, so be it. I'm not going to plan to make a 2-hour roast and several side dishes if I'm not getting home until 6:30 pm.

4. Assigning days - your mileage may vary. It works better for us to just make a list of entrees and side dishes, and not assign them to a specific day.

I also try to mix it up a little so that we're not eating chicken & green beans 3 nights out of 7. This week's list:

Sweet & Sour Salmon, brown rice, sugar peas

Sloppy Cubanos filling in hollowed-out baked potato, salad

Spaghetti, marinara, and Italian turkey sausage with broccoli

Lemon Lager Chicken, green beans

Pork Barbeque (currently frozen), corn

Tips? I'd love to hear them!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

And again!

The beating sun. Sweat. Running. Yelling. Uniforms and shin guards. The blur of the ball and the cheering (and jeering! WTF?) from the sidelines.

The threat of vuvuzelas.

Yes, it was 9- and 10-year-old soccer this afternoon. A brutal confrontation between our niece, Cutie, and her across-the-street neighbor ("Oh, hey, mind if I take this ball?" "Well, I guess it's your turn.").

It was unusual to spend a Saturday afternoon with my husband. Being a two-career couple Sweetie (Mr. Nostinkycheese) and I spend most Saturdays separately, catching up on Life Chores. Our Saturday night dinners are a great time to sit down to a hot meal, relax, chow down on whatever I picked up at the Farmer's Market, and pretend we're adults with real jobs.

We liked the Asparagus Chicken Roulade so much that we had it two weekends in a row. Of course, having all the ingredients on hand had nothing to do with it ("Can we please use up this prosciutto???"). Last weekend I had rice as a side dish, which was fine but just fine. This weekend I sliced a carrot and yellow squash, sauteed with garlic, and topped with parsley. Fab either way. For anyone who can't have dairy, just double the prosciutto and leave out the goat cheese.

Asparagus Chicken Roulade
Ladies' Home Journal (seriously?), Sept. 2010

4 (1 3/4 lbs total) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and black pepper
4 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
8 asparagus stems, cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces

1. Heat broiler to high with rack 4 inches from heat (Steph note: you know your oven, and in mine the chicken will be burned on the outside before it's cooked on the inside if I put it that close to the heating element. Adjust accordingly). Line a baking sheet with foil; set aside.

2. Slice chicken breasts horizontally into 2 thin pieces, using the sharpest knife you have. If necessary, layer between sheets of plastic wrap and pound to 1/4 inch thick. Lay chicken, smooth side down, on work surface. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Spread each with 1/2 tsp of Dijon. Layer with prosciutto, goat cheese and asparagus. Roll up, starting at the wide end of each breast. Place on the baking sheet, seam side down.

4. Coat lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with pepper. Broil until chicken is cooked through and tops are golden, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Like Sunday Morning...

Easy. Actually, FOR Sunday evening.

I served this with roasted fingerling potatoes and spinach salad. To give the dry rub time to seep in I wrapped the roast tightly in Saran wrap and refrigerated the roast for a few hours before cooking.

Maybe not the usual summer fare? True, true. But I'm too tired to be creative in this heat.

Chili-Glazed Pork Roast
Fitness magazine, sometime in 2007

1 TBSP packed brown sugar
1 TBSP snipped fresh thyme OR 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary OR 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I didn't have any so I used the dried red pepper that my dad used to shake on pizza)
1 2- to 2-1/2-pound boneless pork top loin roast (single loin)

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a small bowl combine all seasonings. Sprinkle evenly over roast; rub in with your fingers. [Note - I used the back of a large spoon, since the spices tend to stick to my fingers and I want all of them on the roast]

2. Place roast on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Roast 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, or until thermometer registers 155 degrees. The temperature of the meat after standing should be 160 degrees. If desired, garnish with rosemary sprigs.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


This whole gluten-free business has thrown me into a tizzy cooking-wise. Here's the scoop:

a) Unlike going vegetarian, going gluten-free is not going to result in dramatically improved health and well-being UNLESS you have a sensitivity to gluten.

b) It's not as much of a tragedy problem as I expected. Do I miss bread? You bet. I've got some brown rice flour "bread" that, well, it'll do, but it for darn sure isn't fluffy sourdough. That said, it also doesn't make me ill.

So there's that.

c) Once I found good cereal and good (quinoa) pasta, things fell into place reasonably well.

d) Gluten-free goodies include tortilla chips, chocolate, ice cream (unless there are mixed-in yummies like, say, Oreos), and wine. Yes, one can be just as un-virtuous on a gluten-free diet as if they had access to pie.

e) Crushed corn flakes make excellent breading for fish and chicken.

For Sunday dinner we had fish & chips, and I had brownies (happy, happy, joy, joy!) for dessert. "Brownies" is what the cookbook ("The Fitness Kitchen") calls them - "chocolate cheesecake filling" is what I call it and I absolutely adore it. They're chocolate and yummy and rich and, seriously, I would make these even if I could have regular brownies. Probably not instead of brownies, mind you, but...

I roasted some Yukon Gold potato wedges at 450 degrees for half an hour, with regular stirring and a good drizzle of oil. Actually, I put the garlic-infused oil, then the potato wedges, in a large Ziploc bag and tossed to coat. For the last 10 minutes I turned the oven down to 425 degrees so that I could put the fish in as well.

The fish was regular, inexpensive frozen cod from Trader Joe's. It's not a big deal if your pieces of fish are different length/width as long a they're reasonably close to the same thickness. I used a very sharp knife and cut a few pieces in half.

The source recipe is here: My changes (baking instead of frying, corn flakes instead of bread crumbs) are below.


1 cup crushed corn flakes
1 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 codfish fillets
2 large eggs, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet (line with foil if you wish) with wire racks. Mist racks with cooking spray.

Lightly beat two whole eggs with a fork; place in a shallow dish.

Place crushed cornflakes, cornmeal, salt, garlic powder, and cayenne in a separate shallow dish and mix well.

Dip one fish fillet in egg, making sure both sides are covered. Dredge both sides of filet in cornflake mixture, and place on wire rack.

Follow with other pieces of fish; do not allow pieces of fish to touch on the rack, or they won't crisp properly.

Bake at 425 degrees for 12 - 15 minutes.

The Fitness Kitchen, by Shelly Sinton

1 (8-ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 cup light sour cream
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use dark chocolate cocoa)
2 TBSP cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup semisweet chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8-inch baking dish with parchment or waxed paper.

Blend cream cheese and sour cream until smooth. Add cocoa powder, cornstarch, sugar, and eggs. Blend until smooth, scraping down the ides of the bowl a needed. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle with chocolate chips.

Bake until just set, 35 - 40 minutes, then let cool 20 - 30 minutes. Refrigerate for at least one hour (I just keep them in the fridge).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

All Snug!

Last year I ventured into the world of homemade potstickers and, like opera, put it on the list of Things I Can Say I Tried And Never Have To Do Again. Countless teensy spoonfuls of filling on countless smallish squares of doughy wrapper... pain in the ass.

Really, really tasty, though.

So - how to keep the tastiness and reduce the work to a manageable level? Spring rolls! And as a bonus (for me), the wrappers are made of rice flour and tapioca flour - in other words, they're gluten-free.

And forgive me, please, for not spinning stories and offering insight. There's a lot going on and, to be honest, dinner has been tomato soup or a turkey burger out of the freezer more often than not. Fixing my (lack of) house decor has sucked up my creative energy of late, and there just isn't enough to go around.

At any rate - spring rolls are easier because they're bigger. More bang for the buck. Less work for the yumminess.

Oh, and they're not complete without a dipping sauce. I threw some low-sodium soy sauce, a dollop of hoisin sauce, and a little grated ginger into a small cup. Done.

I made a few substitutions (of course...). Instead of ground pork I thinly sliced 2 pork chops. And since cabbage tastes like pencil erasers to me, I used baby bok choy instead. Also, I added mung bean sprouts - a quarter cup or so - for crunch.

Adapted from


1/2 pound ground pork
1 cup finely shredded cabbage
1/4 cup finely shredded carrot
2 green onions, thinly sliced (optional)
2 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro (SO optional)
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 TBSP oyster sauce (substitute hoisin sauce if you're allergic)
2 tsp freshly grated ginger root
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp chili sauce

1 TBSP cornstarch
1 TBSP water

12 7-inch square spring roll wrappers (mine were round, they worked fine)

4 tsp vegetable oil (substitute cooking spray/oil in a pump spray if you wish)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Saute pork over medium heat until thoroughly cooked; remove from heat, drain.

3. In a large bowl combine cabbage (or bok choy), carrots, cilantro, oil, sauces, ginger, and garlic. Toss to combine. Add pork and toss again.

4. Mix cornstarch and water in a small bowl. This is a slurry - you'll use it to seal the wrappers after you've worked your rolling magic.

5. Place approximately 1 TBSP of the pork mixture (or a little more) in the upper center of the spring roll wrappers. Roll like a burrito - fold the top over the filling, fold the sides inward (think "seam allowance' if you were sewing), and roll.

6. Dip your fingers in the slurry, moisten the bottom edge, and seal to the rolled spring roll.

7. Arrange spring rolls on a baking sheet - I lined my sheet with parchment paper so that they wouldn't stick to the pan.

8. Mist the spring rolls with cooking spray or oil, or brush with vegetable oil. This is what gives them that wonderful crispiness and browning.

9. Bake in the preheated oven 20 minutes. For really crispy spring rolls, flip them GENTLY after 10 minutes and mist again with oil.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ah, Chocolate...

These yummies from this month's "Everyday Food" magazine have been a big hit at my office (and with Sweetie). I halved the amount of chili powder, but will probably go to the full amount next time. Also, I used about half regular cocoa powder (to use up the open box) and the rest dark chocolate cocoa (which I had been dying to get into). I sooooo recommend dark chocolate cocoa!

Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (regular is fine, just use a smidge less)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
2 large eggs

Rolling Sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cream together butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs and beat to combine.

3. With mixer on low, gradually add dry ingredients and combine thoroughly.

4. In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, and chili powder (if using). Using heaping tablespoons, form balls of dough and roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture.

5. Place, about 3 inches apart, on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are set in center and begin to crack, about 10 minutes.

Let the cookies cool on the sheet for a few minutes before handling.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Personal and Professional

Disposable masks, disposable gowns, and disposable gloves are mounted on the door. The five feet betweeen the hallway door and my friend are called the Isolation Area. It's where I cover my breath and hands so that my presence, intended to bring comfort (to me? to her?), is denuded of its power to harm.

I hope.

"He's vent-dependent", I say at work, reviewing the paperwork of someone I don't know and clinically assessing that individual's need for attendant care and other services.

"She's on a ventilator", I say, with some level of amazement that this really happens to people who were walking around and breathing just fine last week. The respiratory therapist says he needs to clean out the vent tubing and "you can stay if you wish, but, well, some people faint." I have nothing to prove and literally turn my back on my friend. I don't like the symbolism of it, but I don't have great choices. Picking the least-bad of all choices has been rather the hallmark of this entire journey.

We, as a profession, are all about promoting and supporting independence. Driving is more independent than being driven. Being driven somewhere is more independent than being home-bound. Cooking is more independent than being cooked for and eating by mouth is more independent than a feeding tube.

And on a ventilator - Jesus, you can't even decide when to switch from "inhale" to "exhale." Of course, being heavily sedated, that's not an issue for her right now.

"She has a lower-level spinal injury so she has good use of her arms" I say at work, thinking this is really pretty good news.

"They can't say how much use she'll have of that arm," I hear in the hospital. And I wonder how she'll cook and if she'll play tennis again.

In the State Capitol, as I often am for work, I hear that X% (I wrote it down somewhere) of nursing home residents have no one to speak for their wishes in an emergency.

Twice this week I've walked past the bed of a man who has had no visitors that I'm aware of.

Isolation Area.

Friday, February 12, 2010


I know, I know, my fam up in Maryland and PA got 47 feet of snow over the past ten days - Snowpocalypse, SnOMG, etc. and we're shut in with nowhere near that. Don't be a hater.

Here in Atlanta 2 inches of snow is a very big deal for a 4 of the snow plows in the metro area.

It's pretty, though.

And while that in and of itself didn't keep me out of the office, waiting over 30 minutes for a train that never came did it. So there I was, conducting a conference call from my guest room, with door closed to guard against certain barky members of the household revealing my undisclosed location.

The completely unforseen wrinkle? Sweetie's Valentine Day surprise - delivering red velvet cupcakes to my office - went by the wayside. But isn't that the sweetest thing ever?? Our wedding cake was red velvet, and these are the only confection that has come anywhere near equalling the yumminess of our cake.

Let's get a look, shall we?

Look at the loft on that frosting. The rich chocolate of the cupcake and the whimsical crumb/walnut/sparkle topping. A perfect 10.

I love you too, Sweetie.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Short Cuts

Tear. Snip. "Ooooh!" That's me going through a cooking magazine, tearing out what I want to try.

"Oh, crap" - that's me realizing how many to-try recipes have stacked up in my desk drawer. The keepers, after Sweetie and I agree we'd gladly have it again, go in the recipe binder - plastic page protectors and all.

About six months ago I got 3 plastic envelope/folders, labelled them "Entree", "Side", and "Dessert." I grabbed a thick stack of recipes and got busy sorting (with a lot of them ending up in the trash; did I really think I was going to make a 3-page recipe??). Then I decided that in this new year, I wanted to actually MAKE thoe recipes in the folders. Crazy!

So I got started. And at the end of a Disappointing Food weekend - the Black Bean Catfish was OK but way too much work to be just OK, the Citrus Chicken was uninspired - I made a bold move with the recipe pile.

I threw it out.

Didn't look back.

In trying to declutter I've started looking at the library as the Place Where I Keep My Books, and for the most part the internet is the Place Where I Keep My Recipes. If it was published in a magazine, it's on the web somewhere.

So as for other goals... I'm still trying to pretty-up the house on a dime. The common areas of Cutie's house are a pale, muted yellow that I love. I wanted to duplicate that in our downstairs powder room and picked up some Behr "Butter Cookie." Once on the walls, it wasn't the sophisticated, elegant shade on the card. But if you're going for "we don't want to know the gender so we're going with a neutral nursery", it's totally the shade for you.

Since I had only bought a quart (TINY powder room) and I'm way on a budget I had to improvise. I went back to Home Depot and bought a sample of "Cornerstone", a tannish beige, and mixed and mixed AND MIXED it into the remaining yellow paint. Much better.

And I got this little Christmas decoration at Goodwill for $2. Ain't she a beauty? Note the flaking silvery balls and the sort-of silverish (in spots) vine-like attachment. And the gobs of wax in the votive cups. It's not showing up in the picture, but there was silver tinsel on there, too. Eat your heart out, Martha.

I'm thinkin' I overpaid at $2.....

De-crapified and painted black - much better. And of course, much better than paying $12 at the store. I hung some of Sweetie's historical prints that have some age & some wear on them and, actually, it's looking pretty good. Not your traditional powder room decor, but that's OK.

In progress at the moment - no-sew Roman shades. I'm most of the way through and, frankly, I have my doubts. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Not the F-Word

Quick food. Speedy food. Not-so-much-work food. But NOT fast food.

As part of my effort to get through my recipes-to-try pile I pulled this one from.... well, January/February 2010. Shaddup.

The two best parts? First, I could make the marinade ahead of time and just toss the chicken in when I got home from running errands that day. It came together SO fast. Second, by using crushed corn flakes instead of bread crumbs I got a terrifically crispy coating; not "pretty good considering it's gluten-free", but actually really tasty and I would make it that way even if I could eat the world's most common food. Not that I'm still bitter or anything.

Ideally I'd make my own BBQ sauce, because store-bought sauce can be REALLY high in sugar/high fructose corn syrup. But this is the real world where I'm in my busy season at work, so I just thank Trader Joe's for the assist.

Cost-conscious tip: cutting chicken breasts into strips will save you around 40 cents/pound (at least) over buying pre-cut tenders. And since DH likes drumsticks, which are way less pricey than chicken breasts, we did half & half.

A salad is a great side dish with this. If you're going for more of a party atmosphere, just do carrots and celery sticks. In the summer this would go perfectly with corn on the cob.

BBQ Chicken Tenders
Eating Well, January/February 2010

1 cup prepared barbecue sauce [check the ingredients if you're gluten-free, or make your own with ketchup, molasses, cider vinegar, and black pepper]
2 TBSP Dijon mustard
2 TBSP honey (I used a smidge less than 1 TBSP)
1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders
1/2 cup all-purpose flour [OR gluten-free faux flour]
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups coarse dry breadcrumbs, preferably whole-wheat [OR crushed corn flakes if you're going gluten-free]

1. Combine barbecue sauce, mustard, and honey in a large bowl or Ziploc bag. Set aside 1/2 cup of chicken tenders in half lengthwise, then add all the chicken to the large bowl with the remaining sauce. Stir to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat a large rimed baking sheet with cooking spray.

3. Combine flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish. Lightly beat eggs in another shallow dish. Place breadcrumbs (or crushed cornflakes) in a third hallow dish. Coat each tender in flour, shaking off any excess. Dip in egg and let any excess drip off. Then roll in the breadcrumb.

4. Place the chicken on the prepared baking sheet. Generously coat chicken with cooking spray.

5. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn each tender (or leg) over and continue baking until the outside is crisp and the tender are cooked through, about 10 minutes more. Serve with the reserved sauce for dipping.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


When I was getting ready for bed Sweetie said, "Are you setting your alarm? It's supposed to ice tonight." True, I said, but there was no reason to think I wouldn't go to work the next day.

And it iced and I went to work and they closed it twenty minutes after I got there. Super!

Before everyone from Minnesota and Chicago and other snow-ain't-no-thing parts of the country get all judgey, remember this - we have no snow plows. We have no snow tires. We have one or two salt/sand trucks. Oh, and we have a LOT of people who have never driven on snow or ice before.

The year Atlanta hosted the Felon Frolic Superbowl we had two ice storms in a row. I was sloooowly making my way to the supermarket around 7am that weekend, just post-storm, when a car behind me became terribly impatient with me. Horn honking, one-handed gestures waving, yelling in the car - the whole dramadeal. Where he had to go at 7am on a Sunday morning I couldn't tell you.

So as soon as it was possible to do so, he passed me - screaming at me the whole time.

He floored it, skidded, and ran into a phone pole.

Sometimes you get to SEE karma instead of just hope it's out there...

So anyway, after I made my way back home (the ice! the skidding! the cooooold!), I hit the supermarket to get what I needed to finally, finally make my sister's tortilla soup crockpot recipe. She sent me a passionate defense of her beloved slow-cooker after this post, and sent the accompanying recipe.

It is said that no two siblings grow up in the same household. And sure enough, I started researching recipes before I hit a double-digit age and Sis lost 8 pounds when I went away to college because "all I know how to cook is salad." She has become a terrific cook and hostess-with-the-mostest since then.

It's FABULOUS. It was just what we needed on an ice-bound day and the leftovers made a terrific lunch. Pork tenderloin is the most healthful/low-fat option. I suspect a Boston Butt would also work at less financial cost, but would be fattier. The texture would be different as well, since it would be more of a shredded/Southern barbecue deal. YUM.

Sis's recipe in Sis's words. I bought a big pork tenderloin and used 1/3 for the soup, froze 1/3 to use as a roast, and chopped the last part into, well, chops.

Tortilla Soup
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
3 garlic cloves, chopped or squashed through the press
1 can diced tomato with jalapenos
1 small can green chilies
1 can (15-ish ounces) corn
32 oz chicken broth (I prefer low-sodium, especially since there are also tortilla chips in here)
1/2 cup crushed tortilla chips

Heat skillet with oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook till softened - about 6 minutes. Stir in chili powder, cumin, and garlic - cook for 1 minute.

Transfer to slow cooker and add cubed pork, tomatoes, chilies, broth, and tortilla chips.

Cover and cook about 4 hours on high (or you can do all day on low, and turn it up for 30 minutes or so when you get home from work). Stir in corn at end (I have added it at the beginning with no difference). I have added canned black beans the last few times I made it. Definitely adds nutrition and flavor.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


New year, new possibilities, new recipes. Let's all hope for good things.

One of the best things to happen last year was that my creative juices started to flow. And not just in a circle, but actually down to hands and feet where they become action. I took my mid-90's Pier 1 box-on-a-frame coffee table out of the basement and, via magic, turned it from this (on the deck, just moments away from beginning a miraculous transformation)

To this, with power sanding and a doo-dad from Lowe's and carpenter's glue...

to this. Voila!

I attacked it with Valspar spray paint and quickly realized that Valspar spray paint is awful and chalky and blotchy. So back to sanding, and back to Home Depot for some Krylon spray paint. Luuuurve Krylon. The table is just inside the front door, so the basket of rolled towels underneath the coffee table is for wet/muddy paws.

Oh, and the dark candle-holder on top of the coffee table was a $4 find at the Step-Up Society (on Monroe, for those of you in Atlanta). It was bright, screamin' red with classy-brassy accents and weird faux-distressing when I bought it. Spray paint on oil-rubbed bronze is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

This was the Year of Spray Paint. The god-awful brass/walnut ceiling fan in the guest room? It's now a crisp, fresh, very liveable white. The SHINY faux-gold picture frame with the 1980s pastel print? Spray-painted the frame espresso brown, kept the glass & neutral matting, and replaced the print with a historic one that we needed to frame. This was an $8.50 project via Goodwill instead of a $75 custom framing job.

And fabric. I took the dining room chairs from here -

to there -

Also a great idea, this one Sweetie's.

Know what this is? It's probably a quick escort out of the security line at the airport, for one thing, but it's GENIUS. It's an empty prescription bottle with Sweetie's I-pod earbuds. They don't get tangled, they don't get wrapped around anything else. Hell, they don't even get chocolated (were anyone to carry both an I-pod and emergency chocolate in their bag... I never would, of course...).

One of my goals for the new year is to plow through the ENORMOUS pile of "to try" recipes I've accumulated over, well, longer than I care to think about.

I love Everyday Food magazine and, after my gift subscription from TechGirl ran out, I re-upped myself*. Now maybe (maybe??) in Martha's world is risotto an "everyday" dish, but around here it's for weekends/vacation days only.

That said, it's well worth the time. I'm still on this ridiculous gluten-free thing, and rice is wonderfully starchy and creamy and gluten-free! Sweetie and I are doing a fitness challenge at our gym, and I felt no hypocrisy at all about making this dinner and being in the challenge. I don't generally feel hypocritical about indulging in a little snacky-treat, so maybe that's not a good barometer... anyway, this is really a wonderful, comforting dish on a COLD winter evening.

Risotto can be tricky. If this is your first time making it be sure to have a back-up dish (leftovers, frozen pizza, whatever) to take the pressure and the starving off. Also, read the whole recipe before you start; always a good idea, but particularly important with this one.

You can not use any kind of rice other than Arborio or carnaroli. Those two types of rice are the only two varieties that create their own creamy sauce that makes risotto what it is. Basmati or jasmine or brown or a-roni will not work. Sure, you could make a rice salad or something, but it's way not risotto.

Tomato and Sausage Risotto
Everyday Food - November, 2006 (I told you I've been saving recipes for way too long)

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, with their juice

1 TBSP olive oil (or canola oil if that's what you have; and if you only have $16/bottle olive oil, use the canola and save the pricey stuff for salad dressing or bruschetta)

3/4 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casing removed - I used the supermarket-brand Italian turkey sausage, and it was FAB. 3/4 pound was about 3 sausages. Precise weight is not at all important here. And if you're vegetarian, leave it out altogether.

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 cup Arborio rice (uncooked) - Arborio is the go-to for risotto, but carnaroli rice will also work

1/2 cup dry white wine - use chicken broth if you don't keep wine around

1 10- to 14-ounce bunch spinach, chopped, tough stems removed (or not... that's a little picky for me)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (freshly grated yourself if at all possible)

2 TBSP butter (a little gratuitous, if you ask me - and you're reading my blog, so yeah, I'm opining. 1 TBSP or less is fine)

In a saucepan combine the tomatoes, their juice, and 3 cups of water. Heat it until simmering. It is VERY important to keep it hot.

In a larger saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add sausage and onion, season with salt & pepper (or just pepper - the Parmesan and sausage both already have salt). Cook, breaking up sausage with a spoon, until sausage is opaque and onion has softened. Martha says 3 - 5 minutes, but mine took a little longer.

Add (uncooked) rice, stirring until well coated with liquid, a minute or two.

Add wine or 1/2 cup chicken broth, stirring until absorbed, about a minute. And "absorbed" means the rice no longer looks shiny-wet but has a thickened, sauce-like quality.

Add about 2 cups of hot tomato mixture AND NO MORE to rice. Stir and simmer over medium-low heat until rice is absorbed, a good 5 minutes or so. The picture below is right after an addition of tomatoes/juice that has not yet been absorbed. Also, a wooden spoon is great for this as it doesn't get hot.

Continue adding tomato mixture, ONE CUP AT A TIME, stirring until absorbed and then adding another cup. This is a lot of stirring and waiting, so here's how I cook:


After you've added more than half of the tomato mixture (one cup at a time), it's time to start taste-testing. If the rice crunches you're not done yet. When it reaches a nice, toothy consistency - creamy and not soupy, with the rice at cooked-rice-texture (you're a grown-up, you know what rice should be), you're ready to proceed. You may have some tomato mixture left over, and that's fine (you can always season it with a little oregano and basil, stick it in the fridge, and toss it with pasta later for a light lunch).
Remove the pan from the heat and add the spinach. Since spinach cooks down so much it's easiest to do this a few handfuls at a time, let it wilt, then add more.

Note that in the picture above the rice has a creamy coating; that's what you're looking for in a risotto.

Stir in Parmesan and, if you choose to use it, butter. If you're planning to have leftovers the butter will help keep the risotto from getting pasty on the later re-heat.

Settle in, light candles, put on music, and be glad you're out of the cold and enjoying a healthful, tasty dinner.

* has a terrific deal right now on a year-long subscription to Eating Well for $5. I believe the deal is on for another few days - TERRIFIC cooking magazine.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Dawning of a New Year

This will be quick, y'all - it's January 1 and I've got to get busy on organizing my house, losing 12 pounds, finding serenity throughout the day, being more understanding...

Mom grew up in central Pennsylvania, which was predominantly settled by Germans. In fact, my Civil War ancestor fought in the Pennsylvania German Regiment. A lot of the traditional family favorite foods in that area are heavily influenced German dishes. And Mom inflicted pork and sauerkraut on us every New Year's Day for "luck." Which always made me think the new year would suck, as I had once again failed to dodge the sauerkraut.

If pork is part of your New Year's Day tradition, here's a terrific Asian-inspired pork tenderloin recipe. Seriously, this stuff is the bomb. I like to serve it with rice noodles (an Asian New Year tradition) and snow peas.

The original recipe is written for the grill and involves hickory chips. You can get the original recipe here; my version is below.

Hoisin and Bourbon-Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Cooking Light, 2002

1/3 cup hoisin sauce (you can find it in the Asian section of a regular supermarket)
2 TBSP rice vinegar (rice wine vinegar is fine)
2 TBSP bourbon
2 TBSP maple syrup (we didn't have any - honey worked fine)
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon chili paste with garlic (not essential - I wouldn't go out and buy it just for this recipe)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 1-pound pork tenderloins
Salt & pepper, cooking spray

Mix all ingredients (except salt, pepper, and cooking spray) in a large Ziploc bag, or whatever you use for marinating meat. Add tenderloins and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, coat the foil with cooking spray, and place tenderloins on sheet; dispose of marinade. Salt and pepper the tenderloins. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the pork is 155 degrees.

Note: tenderloins usually have a thick end and taper sharply at the other. I generally end up whacking off the "tail" and removing it from the oven between 5 and 10 minutes before the rest of the pork is done. That way, all parts of the pork are done without any parts being overcooked.

Happy cooking in 2010!