On the 8th Day of Christmas

Happy New Year!

2020 started out strangely. Terry and I dozed off around nine o’clock New Year’s Eve but both of us woke back up after two o’clock New Year’s Morning. We both migrated back downstairs and dozed off again for another four or five hours. Ah the exciting life we lead!

I had promised Terry a breakfast of bacon and waffles. I put the bacon in the oven, and forgot to set a timer. Meanwhile, I continued drafting a newsletter for my local book club and lost track of time. I’m not sure how long I was editing, but I did eventually remember the baking bacon before it was reduced to charcoal.

Next I had to rearrange the kitchen counters a bit to make room to mix up a half batch of waffle dough from my King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook. In the process of shuffling items around I managed to drop and break a small measuring glass. This event foreshadowed how the rest of my morning evolved. Strike one!

Continue reading “On the 8th Day of Christmas”

Recipe Review: Alton Brown’s Lentil Soup (4 stars)

Traditionally, people tend to eat black eyed peas for good luck on New Year’s Day.  I bucked that trend (and to be honest I don’t actually remember ever having eaten black eyed peas) and decided to make, for the very first time, lentil soup.

I’ve had great luck with recipes from Alton Brown’s kitchen so when I found this Lentil Soup one, I decided to give it a try.

All of the ingredients I used were organic, which the exception of the spices.  And speaking of spices, I had to skip the ground Grains of Paradise as I could not find that spice at my local grocers.   I will have to special order that spice for the next time I make this recipe.  And there will be a next time.

This was super (or should I say ‘souper’) easy to make.  And it didn’t take me as long as his recipe stated to prep.  Probably just 15-20 minutes instead of thirty minutes.  I sweated the vegetables a little longer than his recipe stated because I used my new crockpot and not a dutch oven.

Terry and I both had two bowls of the lentil soup for supper.  Very good.  We have enough left over to freeze and/or eat again later this week.

Happy New Year!

Recipe Test and Review: Chef Meg’s Loaded Potato Soup

I needed to use the rest of my organic russet potatoes purchased while Rachelle visited us.  Terry suggested potato soup, so I went searching for a new potato soup recipe, one with fewer calories (for me … Terry needs to put on weight so he can really load it down with cheese and bacon).  I found one at SparkPeople, created by their Chef Meg Galvin called her Loaded Potato Soup.

Her prep time of fifteen minutes turned into my prep time of forty-five minutes, but I don’t have the benefit of years of knife skills honed to perfection on the culinary cutting board of her career.  I did learn the proper way to cut an onion, thanks to several online knife skills videos.

I got my large saucepan out to heat up and began following her instructions.  I did great until I reached the part where I was to add the spices.  I had not laid out my non-vegetable ingredients before I started cooking, so I looked up at a partial list of ingredients on the recipe web page (partial because I had scrolled down to read the directions and the first half of the ingredients rolled out of sight off the top of the page).  The pepper listed last was cayenne (a quarter teaspoon) which I immediately added to my saucepan.  Then I needed to add the thyme, and I had to scroll back up to find out how much.  When I found it, I realized the ingredient immediately preceding the thyme was black pepper.  So, I had just mistakenly added the cayenne pepper where I should have added a half teaspoon of black pepper.  Argh!.

I quickly read further through the directions and realized the cayenne was added, almost like a garnish, after you remove the bay leaf.  I shrugged and added the black pepper, thyme and bay leaf, since there was nothing I could do about the cayenne pepper at this point.  The rest of the process went without further mishap.

I simmered the soup for more than the suggested thirty minutes (probably more like forty-five minutes).  I did not opt to add the corn nor the lettuce.  And, rather than getting my blender dirty just to puree the soup, I used a mashed potato masher utensil instead.

I filled two bowls with the soup and crumbled turkey bacon over both of them.  I added a handful of colby jack cheese to Terry’s bowl, but left my dairy-free.  The soup had a bit of a kick, both from the yellow bell pepper and, I suspect, the too early application of the cayenne.  But, both Terry and I cleaned our bowls.

I will probably try this recipe again, now that I am familiar with the process and can refine it for our palettes.

Lower Sixties in Mid-January … Unreal

All that is left of West Kay
What's Left of the Street I Used to Live On (no longer has access to Main Street at the top of the hill)

I work up early Sunday morning. Nothing unusual for me, really, I try to wake up at the same time every morning, regardless of whether I work or not. I flipped on the Wii to do my morning weigh in.  I’ve discovered in the last couple of weeks that contrary to my own belief, I eat less on weekends than weekdays.  Perhaps because I’m more busy or distracted by housework and errands or fun stuff (like the benefit concert Saturday night).  I am steadily losing the pounds, slowly but surely (or safely as both the Wii Fit Plus program and SparkPeople website reassure me).  I decided to adjust my Yoga and Training routine to shorten it, with a goal to do roughly fifteen minutes every morning after my weigh-in.  I’m finding it very easy to insert my cardio into my daily routine.  It’s the strength training that’s tougher (in more ways than one).

Since I thought Terry had had a rough night with no sleep since he crawled into bed after five in the morning, I let him sleep and opted to attend church remotely via WFC‘s online campus.  The lead teach pastor started a new sermon series last week urging us all to know Jesus (as opposed to knowing about Jesus).  The second sermon of the series focused on Jesus as Creator.  My notes haven’t made it online yet at my other blog, but will sometime today.  Our plan had been to attend church at WFC’s Speedway campus, which just happens to take place inside the Legends 14 Theater.  We prefer the praise band that leads worship there and had hoped to take in ‘We Bought a Zoo‘ at the first showing of the day.  As I learned when Terry woke up around ten o’clock, we could have gone had I woken him up.  But I did not know that he had actually slept most of the night in front of the television.  Oh, well. We can still see the movie on Monday.

I started preparing the marinade for grilling our chicken.  Since the temperature outside approached the unheard of lower sixties (in the middle of January in Kansas … beyond unbelievable), we decided to fire up the outside grill.  Or rather I did.  Terry supervised since he’s still only got the use of one arm for the next few weeks.  After the chicken had marinated for over an hour, I placed it on the preheated grill and lamented not purchasing some asparagus while at the grocery store Saturday afternoon.  Steamed broccoli and a spinach and baby spring mix salad would have to do.  Thirty minutes of grilling later, we had perfectly cooked Honey Garlic Chicken to savor.

Terry and I had started watching a Christian movie I had sitting in our Netflix streaming queue while cooking lunch.  The Encounter proved disappointing for me at least.  Terry expected company to arrive soon after we finished, so I decided Roxy and I would go for a walk.

I walked at an easy, slow pace to accommodate her arthritis (and the fact that she hadn’t been walked since Rachelle returned to Texas last week).  We crossed Main Street and headed west on West Mary Street, but rather than continuing west, I turned right on a newly re-installed access road that cut parallel to Main Street back north to Kansas Street, crossing over West Kay Street, and the house we rented prior to purchasing the home we now own on Bambi Street.  We turned around at Kansas Street and decided to climb the hill back up to Main Street via the abandoned West Kay Street’s crumbling pavement (see photo above).

Roxy did very well walking on my left, even with cars and trucks whizzing by her not ten feet away.  Of course, by that time, she just wanted to get back home and take a nap on the memory foam topper on the hideaway bed.  She perked up and even pulled me most of the way home because she spied another woman with two dogs (one small dog and a medium-sized dog) about a block ahead of us.  I even thought about taking both Roxy and Apollo to the dog park, but worried that Roxy always overdoes herself chasing after the little dogs and the younger ones.  It usually takes her a day or two to recover from her dog park adventures.

After Terry’s friend departed, we sat down to watch another movie, this one a foreign film called ‘Point Blank.’  I liked it and did not realize that French films could be just as good as an action flick produced in the States.  A good story (if predictable) but better than average acting (even having to read English subtitles).  I’ll write a separate review later today.

For dinner, Terry wanted to use the last of the chicken pot pie filling and gravy.  I had another tube of croissants (of a different type) so I improvised some turnovers by placing the filling (without any extra gravy) in one triangle and placing a second triangle of pastry over it and pinching the edges together.  I had enough filling for four turnovers.  I popped them in the oven for twenty minutes at 375 degrees and warmed up the gravy when I took them out of the oven.  Not bad.  For our after dinner movie, we watched the re-broadcast of the Hallmark Channel’s most recently original film: ‘A Taste of Romance‘ – better than average and a bit of a tear jerker a couple of times.

I checked my e-mail and social networking sites before heading off to bed, noting that before dawn on Monday I had an interesting conjunction of moon, planet and star I could witness.  I stepped outside this morning, first through my front door (but couldn’t see the moon at all from that vantage point), then out my back patio door and looked directly south.  And what did I see?  The same exact thing displayed in the graphic to the right.  Saturn, the quarter crescent moon  and the star Spica.  Sadly, I couldn’t locate my binoculars nor did I have my tripod available (it’s in the trunk of the car).  Not that attempting to photograph the moon (always too bright a light source) with the dimmer planet and star in the same from would have resulted in any post-worthy photographs.  A grand sight to behold first thing in the today on such a clear, still, not-quite cold morning in mid-January.

Honey Garlic Grilled Chicken

First, the marinade:

2 Tbsp honey
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 mashed garlic cloves
2 tsp ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Now, what to marinade?  We used four chicken thighs, but you can just as easily use other chicken parts or even eggplant (something my daughter would love). We placed the chicken thighs in a rectangular plastic dish (one with a tight sealing lid) and added all the marinade.  We shook it up a bit to even distribute the liquid and then placed the container back in the meat drawer of the refrigerator for about an hour.

A stiff south breeze brought almost balmy temperatures (lower sixties), so rather than broiling the chicken, we fired up the outdoor grill.  Thirty minutes later we had perfectly grilled chicken.  We complemented the meat with a baby spinach and spring mix leafy green salad and a steamed fresh broccoli head (trimmed to just the florets and broken into bite size pieces).  A slice of my fresh baked honey wheat bread rounded out a delicious Sunday lunch.

Sadly, we were so eager to eat our freshly grilled chicken that I neglected to take any photographs.  I did, however, remember to add this recipe in my Spark recipe box, so I have the all-important nutritional information.

We will definitely be making this again.

Tenth Night Addendum

I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post the fantastic dinner my daughter cooked for us last night.  She whipped up a batch of spinach lasagna roll-ups from scratch, including four of them without any cheese just for me.  Exceptionally delicious and spicy (thanks to a mishap with the red pepper flake dispenser).  I can’t find the exact recipe she used online, but many of the ones I found sounded very similar to what she did from memory.  My small contribution to dinner included my home-made sourdough re-purposed as garlic butter and Parmesan toast.  I also helped create our pre-dinner salad course with organic baby spring mix, red peppers, green onions and a bit of my home-made raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

Divide and Conquer Chicken Pot Pie

Last week I received an e-mail newsletter from King Arthur Flour that included a recipe for Classic Chicken Pot Pie.  I forwarded it to my husband, who spends most of his afternoons watching the Food Network and surprising me with some fantabulous dinner when I walk in the door from work.   He found a couple of shows that demonstrated making chicken pot pie, including Anne Burrel’s Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.  We’ve watched several of her shows and the one thing both of us have noticed about her cooking is she loves salt.  This poses a problem for me, since I’m trying to cut out as much salt as I can from my diet.

Terry decided to try her recipe for Autumn Chicken Pot Pie with respect to the filling.  I decided to try the King Arthur Classic Chicken Pot Pie recipe with respect to the pastry shell.  Terry substituted potatoes for the butternut squash and pea’s for the haricot verts, the peas were not added to the simmering chicken and vegetables until the last ten minutes to insure they didn’t over cook. The gravy was made from chicken broth that had been fortified by the chicken and the vegetables cooking in it. The end result was a really rich and smooth gravy. By itself the gravy tasted wonderful, in the pot pie it seemed a little sweet without the added salt to offset the onion.

The crust recipe from KAF included a teaspoon of vinegar with the ice cold water, dribbled in by the tablespoonful.  Once I got the dough into a block, I covered it with clear wrap and refrigerated it until the filling and gravy were ready to fill the crocks.  I rolled out the dough on parchment paper, using the clear wrap as a buffer between my rolling pin and the dough.  I admit I was skeptical of the egg wash as glue between the crock and the crust, but it worked very well.

Mossy Chicken Pot Pie

“The crust was to die for, it was flaky and had a wonderful buttery taste.” –Terry

The only drawback I saw to this recipe was the amount of time it took Terry to get the filling and gravy done.   The Autumn Chicken Pot Pie recipe claims ninety minutes of ‘cook time’ but we spent nearly four hours … so we definitely have room for improvement.

Hot out of the oven, the pot pies delighted our palettes and stuffed out tummies with home-cooked goodness.

Quick & Easy Almost Vegetarian Spicy Chili Mix

When it gets cold outside, I make it hot in my kitchen with some spicy nearly all-veggie chili.  Besides chopping an onion and celery, there’s not much prep work to this crockpot concoction.

This morning, I pulled out two cans of Bush’s medium chili beans, one can of Bush’s hot chili beans, a can of black beans, a can of original Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilis, a bottle of Spciy V8 juice and a pound of ground turkey.

I browned the ground turkey.  I put all the canned items in the crockpot.  I added the celery and the onion.  I stirred it up well and turned the crockpot to high heat (since I want to eat this in a couple of hours).  I use Williams Famous Chili Kit for my seasoning and extra kick.  Did you know Williams is headquartered just twenty-five miles away from me in Lenexa, Kansas?

I removed the large chili packet from the chili kit box and add it to the crockpot.  Then I add the browned ground turkey.  Then I pour about a third of the 46 ounce bottle of Spicy V8 over the top and stir it all up.

About fifteen minutes before I’m ready to eat, I can add (if I need more ‘heat’) the Red Pepper packet from the chili kit and the Corn Masa packet (which thickens up the chili).

For the all-vegetarian version, substitute cracked wheat for the ground turkey.  You’ll have to soak a couple of cups worth in the Spicy V8 (16 ounces or so) in a small saucepan so that the cracked wheat puffs up and absorbs the tomato juice.  I sometimes add various peppers (red, green, yellow, orange) and chickpeas.

I’ll let you know in a couple of hours how well the chili turned out.  Usually, it’s good and hot!