Monday, April 24, 2017

Spinach and Berries Salad with Curry Dressing


This is a favorite salad and with good reason! You guys, It's delicious!! 

I love Strawberry Spinach Salad with Poppy seed dressing. It is basically one of the main reasons people eat spinach, Yes, it is that good. we all love it, right?


So when I came across this recipe -- Strawberries AND Blueberries, a dressing with Curry ?! 

People, that is Next Level... and I am going to be eating it for the next... oh well, until I can't afford the berries anymore.  

Get making this, the sooner you make it, the sooner you can be eatin' it!


Ingredients:

6 ounces fresh spinach, torn in bite-sized pieces 
1 cup thickly sliced strawberries
1 cup blueberries
1 small red onion, thinly sliced, pulled into rings 
1/2 cup chopped pecans 


Curry Dressing: 
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
2 tablespoons rice vinegar 
4 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon curry powder 2
 teaspoons Dijon mustard 
Salt, pepper to taste


Directions:

Wash and dry spinach.
Whisk together dressing.
Add to spinach and toss lightly.
Add berries, onion and pecans. Toss lightly.



Friday, April 21, 2017

Tandoori Chicken


I love recipes like this. Yes, they take a little more work than a casserole or a stir-fry, but sometimes dinner can be a little bit of a production. (as long as someone else is doing the dishes)

I made this one a while back and my family went so crazy over it I made it again, they went so crazy over it again, that I decided that I had to share it with you. 

Make this with your spouse for a cooking date night. Make this for a special "I think You're Special" dinner for your kids.  It isn't an every night thing at our house, but when I make things like this, I think "yeah, I am finally getting this"

Plus, I'll let you in on a secret - this is super duper easy. (wink!)



Ingredients:

1 Chicken (cut up or you can use boneless chicken breasts and thighs)
1 tsp. Coriander seeds
1  Yellow onion
1 tsp. Fresh grated ginger
1 tsp. Garlic powder (or fresh garlic)
2 tsp. Garam Masala powder
1 tsp. Chili powder
1 or 2 chopped Tomato (I just used a can of diced tomatoes)
2 sweet potatoes cut into cubes
2 tbsp. Oil
Salt to taste
Cilantro leaves for garnishing


Marinade: 

1 ¼ to 2 tsp. Chili powder (depending how hot your chili powder is and how hot you want the dish)
1/2 tsp. Turmeric powder
2 tsp. Ginger powder (or fresh grated ginger)
2 tsp. Garlic powder
2 tsp. Coriander powder
Juice of 1 whole lemon
Salt to taste


Directions:

Mix the marinade ingredients in a ziploc plastic bag and then add your chicken.  Cover and keep in refrigerator for 15 minutes to an hour.

While the chicken is marinating, chop the onion, and dice the sweet potatoes, measure out the spices and chop the tomatoes.

Heat oil in a large pot or heavy dutch oven on the stove top. 

Add coriander seeds to heat and let some of them pop.  Then add onion and sauté, until they turn translucent.  (You might remember we did these steps when we made Basic Anything Curry)

Add ginger and garlic powder, garam masala, coriander powder and chili powder and sauté for a minute.

Add tomatoes and sweet potatoes. (you can also add any other veggies you want cauliflower, white potatoes, bell peppers). Add chicken pieces and sauté for a minute. Then add 1/2 cup of water.



Put lid on and let it cook away. Depending on whether you use boneless or a whole chicken will vary your cooking time. And if you want to reduce your cooking time, you can even dice your chicken into small pieces. For diced chicken - you'll want to cook it for 20 minutes. For chicken breasts cook for 30 minutes. If you have used a cut up whole chicken, you'll want to start checking at 40 minutes and use a thermometer. (remember chicken needs to be cooked to 165)

To serve - Place chicken on plate, spoon up the tomatoes, sweet potatoes and onions, and sprinkle with cilantro.  Serve over rice.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Beginner Steps to Eating Your Best


The Ultimate food trigger word right now is "Clean"

Clean Eating - everyone is doing it, the rest us think we should be doing it, some of us (me!) aren't even sure we know what it means. 

I have done some pretty scientific internet searches and I have come to the conclusion that no one can agree on what it means at all.

That leads me to believe that somebody is trying to make money off all this confusion. But that isn't the point of this post - so don't get me started. 

So, Let's drop the Clean title and let's talk about some really basic ways that we can start to eat better. If you are already doing some of these, Great! take on another one, then another.

  • Get Rid of Added Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners - I don't even have to throw any crazy facts or numbers at you. We both know that sodas, packaged cookies, chemical sweeteners and basically ANY nutrition label that has "sugar" as one of the first ingredients isn't good for you.  We might still crave them, enjoy them, and really want to consume them, but it we want to start eating better, we need to cut down on them and eventually quit them entirely. 
  • Read Your Food Labels - I am so guilty of not doing this. Sometimes I am in a hurry, sometimes I am lazy (it seems overwhelming and So confusing), and to be honest, sometimes, I just want to know the bad news. But if any of us hope to make changes for the better, we have got to start knowing what we are putting in our body. There are so many levels of food label reading, but for starters, just begin with the ingredients. What is IN your food. The more ingredients that you recognize and can pronounce the better. The more you know the better choices you can make. At least with starting to read labels, you can make the actual choice to put something in your body or not. 
  • Think Vegetables and Fruits First - Are you feeling like a snack, got a craving for something sweet - looking for a crunchy something? Try fruits and vegetables first. Keep the ones that you really like on hand - We always try and have snap peas on hand, my kids will eat them by the handful and I really enjoy them when I am looking for that crunchy something I usually try and satisfy with chips. We also keep lots of canned fruit around. It isn't a snack that I would choose but my teenage boys eat more canned fruit that I can even know what to do with. Pears, peaches and oodles and oodles of mandarin oranges. If you haven't found something that you like yet, just keep trying new things, frozen blueberries, freeze-dried corn, there are so many ways to eat them and so many of them to eat. You're sure to find ones that you really really enjoy. 
  • Balance Your Plate - Choose My Plate One of the first signals that a diet is to be avoided is that it eliminates entire food groups. Anyone telling you to completely give up Carbs or Dairy doesn't have the interest of your best health in mind. There are exceptions - that you Dr. can help you with, but most of us, most of the time, should be choosing foods from All the food groups. Keeping your diet balanced is the best way to keep your health and your body that same way - balanced. 
None of those were too scary, some might be a little bit harder than others, especially if you like an ice cold Coke as much as I do. But I am learning to drink more water and use something like a coke as a rare treat instead of beverage that I consume the most of.  

I always want to encourage us (me included) to keep making steps forward. To try and do a bit better each day, don't give up on ourselves and our families. We are absolutely worth the effort, the challenges and the rewards. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole


It doesn't get more basic and easy than this. I use this casserole recipe as a base from Broccoli Casserole, Mixed Veggie Casserole, you could add whatever you had on hand or in the freezer to it. 

And although the recipe can have any veggies added to it.  I will a lot of times, make it without any veggies at all. That doesn't mean that I don't serve it without veggies, I just don't put them in the casserole. The night last week that I made this, I had a great big green salad that I served with it. But you can serve any veggies sides since you don't have to bake them in. 

That makes this a perfect freeze ahead meal for me, because I don't have to fret about, well Lex won't eat cooked broccoli or Joseph doesn't like peas. Everyone eats the casserole because it is just chicken, cheese and rice and then I can add whatever I need to to round out the meal. 

And although casseroles lose the popularity in the summer, I love to make this in the summer months and serve it with fresh raw veggies and a big slice or watermelon.  Not baking the veggies inside the casserole leaves me a lot of rooms for fresh options. 



Ingredients:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
olive oil 
salt and pepper

4 cups cooked long grain rice
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour 
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk 
½ tsp salt 
¼ tsp smoked paprika
8 oz. medium cheddar, shredded


Instructions:

Cut the chicken breast into small ½-inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium, then add the olive oil and swirl to coat the surface. Add the chicken pieces and cook until slightly browned on the outside. Remove the chicken pieces to a large clean bowl.

Add the cooked rice to the bowl with the chicken and then stir to combine, then add ½ of the shredded cheddar (about 1 cup) and stir to combine again. Set the mixture aside.

Begin to preheat the oven to 350ºF and coat the inside of a 2 quart casserole dish with non-stick spray. 

Add the butter and flour to the same skillet used to cook the chicken. Cook and whisk the butter and flour over medium heat until it begins to foam, then continue to stir and cook for one minute.

Slowly whisk the chicken broth into the flour and butter mixture. Allow it to come up to a simmer, at which time it will thicken. Once thickened, whisk in the milk and allow it to come up to a simmer again. When it's thick enough to coat a spoon, season with smoked paprika, pepper, and salt.

Pour the sauce over the rice mixture in the bowl and stir until everything is combined and coated in sauce. Transfer the mixture to the casserole dish. 

Sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese over the casserole.

Bake the casserole, uncovered, for about 35 minutes or until it becomes golden brown around the edges. Serve hot.

As you can see in the picture, I put breadcrumbs on top of this casserole. Sometimes I do this, and sometimes I don't. It really all depends on whether I have bread crumbs or stale crackers or whatever. I just sprinkle them thinly on top. I think the cheese usually has enough oil in it to crisp up the crumbs.  


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Hot Cross Buns with Lemon Curd and Glaze


I just love the buns. They are more of what I would think of as a sweet roll, but I'll just go with it. 

My kids will probably grow-up, move away from home, eat a "real" hot cross bun somewhere and wonder the Heck I have been feeding them all these years and calling Hot Cross Buns. 

I love making these for Easter. I find so much comfort in the deep tradition of foods. 


Traditionally, they are supposed to be eaten on Good Friday (which was yesterday! So I already am messing them up.)  We make Resurrection Rolls on Sunday because that is the day that Jesus was Resurrected, so it make a lot of sense to be eating Hot Cross buns on Good Friday, but maybe I'll have that pulled together for next year, since I am going so well as to actually get these posted this year. (even though it is still a day late) 


There are LOTS of difficult and intricate recipes out there for these - anything that has been made for 100's and 100's of years, but millions and millions of bakes, it really bound to end up being made a zillion ways.  Here's how I do it and I really like it a lot. 


I just make my basic roll dough. I am comfortable with it, it is delicious and so I use it. 

After the first rise, but before the second, I stir in the fruits that I am going to be using. 

After the end of the second rise, right before I put them in the oven a cut the tops and tiny bit. 

Then after they come out, I used a jar of lemon curd to make the stripes and then a basic milk and sugar icing to make stripes on top of that.  

Here's the recipe: 


Ingredients:

2 c. whole milk  *this recipe will not work with 1% or skim milk
½ cup Sugar
1 tablespoon sugar, *divided from above
1/3 cup butter
2 teaspoons salt
2 packages active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm (105-115-degree) water
8-9 cups all-purpose flour
3 beaten eggs

Fruit - diced into small 1/2 in pieces
  ** you can use the fruitcake candied fruit bits, I like to use raisins and currents, but this year, I used raisins and craisins

1 bottle of Lemon Curd

1 cup powdered sugar
1 TB whole milk (see above) - then add more as need to thin



Instructions:

Combine milk, 1/2 c. sugar, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until butter melts. Remove from heat. Allow to cool to lukewarm.  ** This cooling process can take a while, but don't rush it - you don't want to kill your yeast with too hot milk.

While the milk mixture is cooling, dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes. This will make your yeast bubble, after 10 minutes if your yeast hasn't bubbled, you’ll need to repeat this step  with different yeast.  This is the part where most bread baking fails.



In a the bowl of your standing mixer, combine 3 c. flour and milk mixture. Beat on low for 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl constantly.

Add yeast mixture and beat on high for 3 minutes.

Add beaten eggs.

Stir in as much remaining flour as needed to make a soft dough. This dough should be very soft–it will be coming away from the sides of the bowl, but it will still stick to your finger when you touch it.
It will firm up after the first rise. Trust the process and don't add too much flour - this make the rolls heavy and dense.
Place the bowl in a warm place and cover with a clean towel; allow to rise 1 hour.

Lightly flour your work surface and turn dough out onto surface. Sprinkle the dough with your chopped fruits and then gently fold the fruits into your dough. Then divide in half.

Spray 2 9×13 glass pans with cooking spray. Roll first portion of dough into a rectangle and then cut it into 12 equal-sized pieces.

Shape each piece into a ball and place in prepared pan. Repeat with remaining dough in the second pan. At this point, I make a small x in the top of each ball.

Cover with a clean cloth and allow to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.

When dough has about 15-20 minutes to go (depending on your oven), preheat oven to 375.
Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden-brown.
 

After the rolls have finished baking, and once they are cool *Letting them cool is really important. If you try and add the icing while they are still warm, instead of staying nice and firm in little crosses on top of the rolls, all the icing will run into the cracks and you won't have hot cross buns at all - they'll still be delicious, but won't look as pretty. 

I put both the lemon curd and the icing once made into ziplog bags with one of the corners snipped off - and I ice the straight line on that way. Just be sure that you icing in still nice and thick and your rolls are nice and cool 

Happy Easter.  - and Next year - Good Friday, for sure.