Monday, November 18, 2013

nicole's french bread

I met a few friends for breakfast one morning (our husbands work together) and Nicole brought us each a loaf of this amazing French bread.  It was so soft and delicious.  Would you believe that three out of the four of us lived in the same town across the country not many years ago?  It's the smallest world ever!

nicole's french bread (my friend Nicole W.)
2 1/2 cups very warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
6 cups flour
2 tablespoons yeast

Pour all ingredients except half of the flour (3 cups) into the bowl of a standing mixer.  Beat vigorously 2 to 3 minutes using the wisk attachment.  Stir in remaining flour except 1/4 cup.  Let rest in warm place for 10 minutes.  Gently fold down dough using a spoon.  Repeat until you have folded down the dough 5 times.  After the final 10 minutes roll out onto lightly floured surface, using the remaining 1/4 cup flour.  Lightly handle into long roll.  Cut dough into four pieces.  Roll each piece into a small rectangle.  Roll each rectangle jelly roll style tapering the ends.  Brush tops with olive oil and sea salt.  Make 3 to 4 snips on the tops with kitchen shears.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

What Nicole has to say- you can bake them in French bread pans instead of on parchment paper like she did.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

spinach chicken noodle soup

Remember that delicious chicken we had for dinner last night that my kids didn't eat?  I used our leftovers to make this soup that they are all now enjoying.  Actually, as my youngest daughter was enjoying hers, her older sister leaned over to her and whispered rather loudly, "You know you're eating spinach don't you?"  Fortunately, that didn't spoil her meal.  Delicious soup and so easy when you have leftovers on hand!  Making this soup is speedy because the chicken, spinach and onions are already prepared with such great flavor that make a meal without much effort.

spinach chicken noodle soup (pass the green peas, please)
leftover chicken with spinach from last night, cut into cubes (2 cups)
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup diced celery
8 cups chicken broth
3 cups dry whole wheat egg noodles

Take out a crock pot at 8:30am.  Place chicken, carrots and celery inside.  Pour broth on top.  Cook on high for 2 hours.  Add noodles and cook 1 more hour.  Serve for lunch.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

roasted spinach chicken

I knew this wouldn't be my kids' favorite but sometimes I don't cook for them (it's not as mean as it sounds).  When one of my kids asked what was for dinner our eleven-year old guest overheard and exclaimed, "I love spinach!".  She's a keeper, that eleven-year old.  The chicken was moist and the spinach was incredibly flavorful; even my husband appeared surprised.  Why is spinach so scary to some?  It's food!  And as this recipe demonstrates, it can taste delicious.  I really was amazed by this dish.

roasted spinach chicken (adapted from Tales of an Overtime Cook)
1 large onion, minced
1 pound frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
3 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1/2 lemon (I used 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons salt plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon black pepper plus extra for sprinkling
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (used extra large)

Preheat oven to 375.  Finely dice the onion.  Mix together with the spinach, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.  Set aside.
Clean the chicken and pat dry.  Spread half of the onion and spinach mixture in a prepared 9x13 baking dish.  Place the chicken breasts on top of the spinach mixture then spread the rest of the mixture over the chicken breasts.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Cover the pan with foil and bake for 1 hour at 375.  After an hour, remove the foil and raise the temperature of the oven to 425.  Bake for an additional 30 minutes.  Serve with rice.

What I have to say- delicious!  If you mix a little of the spinach with the rice on your plate you're in for a real treat.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

grilled mustard marinated chicken

Dinner was good I'm going to declare this chicken Hall of Fame!  The chicken doesn't scream "mustard" but everyone in this family likes mustard.  This chicken is super moist and savory and was complimented perfectly by roasted veggies and herb mashed potatoes. 
Note to self:  worthy of dinner guests.

grilled mustard marinated chicken (adapted from Tales of an Overtime Cook)
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons mustard
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine all ingredients except for chicken in a bowl, stir to combine.
Pour over chicken and let sit for at least an hour (I let it marinade for 3 hours which I recommend).
Heat the grill and grill until done.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

cranberry jelly

I love being an Activity Day leader and getting to do fun activities with the 8 to 12-year old girls at church.  We're going to make jelly at our next activity so I experimented with cranberry jelly since Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  My kids were my samplers and they gave it a two thumbs up.  We went through a whole lot of toast yesterday afternoon!

cranberry jelly (Kraft recipes
4 cups (1 quart) cranberry juice cocktail
1 box pectin
1/2 teaspoon butter
4 1/2 cups sugar

Prepare jars and keep warm until ready to use.
Measure juice into a 6- or 8-quart saucepot.  Stir in pectin.  Add butter to reduce foaming.  Bring mixture to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly.  Stir in sugar.  Return to a full rolling boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Skim off any foam with metal spoon.
Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8" of tops.  Wipe jar rims and threads.  Cover with two-piece lids.  Screw bands tightly.  Process 5 minutes.  Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely.  After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger.  If lids spring back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

fancy nancy punch- raspberry lemonade

Let me introduce you to our new favorite party drink- raspberry lemonade.  It's a breeze to make and everyone enjoyed it.  Perfect for a fancy nancy party or the most casual of occasions.

raspberry lemonade (
2 (12 ounce) cans frozen raspberry lemonade concentrate
6 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
24 ounces lemon-lime flavored carbonated beverage
2 cups ice
2 cups fresh raspberries
mint leaves, for garnish (optional) 

In a large punchbowl, combine raspberry lemonade concentrate, water and lime juice.  Stir in lemon-lime soda and ice.  Garnish each glass with a fresh raspberry and a mint leaf (or put the raspberries directly into the drink dispenser like I did).

party idea: fancy nancy

It was time for a Fancy Nancy party!  Five very fancy young ladies attended the party.  We enjoyed hors d'ouvres (raspberry lemonade, cucumber sandwiches, cheese & crackers, embellished celery sticks, fruit kabobs and poppy seed muffins), read Fancy Nancy stories, took a trip to the King's Crown for parfaits and played the game "Packing for Paris".  The girls left with party bags and the decorations- roses and balloons which made for a cost effective and quick clean-up!  You've got to try the raspberry lemonade, my new favorite party drink.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

chicken skillet with mexican green rice

Score!  A dinner that all four kids will gladly eat.  I wasn't sure about a "skillet meal" because my husband isn't keen on casseroles and I thought this might resemble a casserole but I'm sure glad I decided not to have a clean-out-the-fridge-night and instead try this dish.  It is super flavorful and delicious.  We even topped it with some sour cream- tasty, tasty.  I should have made more!

chicken skillet with mexican green rice (adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 (4 ounce) can green chiles
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
20 ounes green enchilada sauce (my favorite is Las Palmas, I get the 28 oz can, freeze the rest)
1 cup brown instant rice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach leaves 

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until it is rippling and hot.  Brown the chicken on each side for 1-2 minutes until it is golden but not cooked all the way through.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.
In the hot skillet, add the onion, chiles and cook until the vegetables are softened.  Stir in the garlic and cumin and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the enchilada sauce and rice, stirring to combine.  Add the cilantro and spinach and stir to combine.  Add the chicken.  Cover the skillet and set the heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the rice is tender.  Be sure to stir every 5 minutes to ensure the rice doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.  Serve!

What I have to say- if you want to use white rice, the original recipe says to use 1 1/2 cups and also 1 1/2 cups water.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

betsy's fool proof whole wheat bread

If you can't tell, this loaf of bread was HALL OF FAME and beautiful.  Betsy was so kind to deliver a loaf to us when we had just finished eating some delicious soup.  I had thought to myself how a nice slice of whole wheat bread would've made the meal perfect...and it became perfect!  I enjoyed mine plain because it didn't need anything but my kids topped it off with strawberry jam so this bread became their dessert.

betsy's fool proof whole wheat bread (my friend Betsy B.)
13 to 14 cups hard white whole wheat flour (about 10 cups wheat kernels)
5 1/2 cups hot water (like a hot shower but not hot enough to scald)
2 tablespoons yeast
2 tablespoons salt
2/3 cup honey
2/3 cup oil (Betsy used extra light olive oil)
3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten

Dump in hot water and 7 cups of whole wheat flour and gluten.  Turn on mixer (Kitvhen Aid or Bosch, not hand mixer) for maybe 20 seconds, until mixed.  Turn off mixer.
Add yeast, turn on.  Keep on while you add salt and oil.  Turn off to add honey because it makes a mess otherwise.
Now you have all the ingredients in the mixer, except the rest of the flour.  Let mix for a while, about 5-6 minutes.
Turn off for 10 minutes.  In this step, the wheat is soaking up the liquids, which really helps.
Turn on again and add the rest of the flour.  You want the dough to be elastic, but not super stiff.  Kind of sticky (slightly), about to stretch but not really sticky or really stiff.  Add enough flour to get that consistency and mix for a few more minutes.  Turn mixer off.
Let rise for 1 hour either in the mixer bowl or until you can move it to another bowl.
Pour some olive oil on a clean counter top and hands.  Punch down the dough and divide into loaves- usually 3-4 loaves (see below for guidelines about how much dough to use in different sized pans.
Karate chop each section (to get out bubbles) and form into loaves.  Put in greased bread pans.
Cover with light cloth and let rise for as long as it takes- about 1 more hour.  You want it to be as tall as you want your bread to be.  Make sure your pans are not too close together.  If the loaves rise together and touch each other over the edges of the pan, when you pull them apart to put them in the oven, they will sink.  You need to use a light cloth as in light weight because sometimes if you put on a cloth that's on the heavier side, it sinks into the dough and sticks a little.  It will deflate the bread a little when you pull it off.
When the bread is where you want it, preheat oven to 350.  When oven is ready, carefully place each loaf in the oven.
Bake for 25-35 minutes.  You want it golden brown on top and if you tap it, it sounds hollow.  If you bake it too long it will be too dry.
Use a spatula around edges of pan to separate bread from pan.  Tip out and cool on cooling rack right as it comes out of the oven so the bread does not get soggy (can butter top while hot, if desired).
There are no preservatives in the bread (except a little salt, of course) so unless you plan to eat it within a couple of days, store in fridge.
*The amount of flour you need will vary depending on type of wheat, age of wheat, etc.  Mostly, you'll just add flour until your dough is the right texture.

What Betsy has to say-

Tips and trouble shooting:
Amount of dough per loaf:
This is what I have found works best for my bread loaves:
1) 10.5” x 3.25” bread pan = 2 lbs 6 oz of dough
2) 8.25” x 4.25” bread pan = 2 lbs 3 oz of dough
3) 8.75” x 3.25” bread pan = 1 lb 13/14 oz of dough
4) 5” x 2.5” mini bread pan = 9 – 12 oz of dough
Some possible combinations: 3 - #1s and 1 - #4; 4 - #2; 2 - #1, 1 - #3 and 2 - #4; 9-10 - #4s.
Freezing Bread
After bread has cooled completely I always put one loaf right in the freezer.  I usually just put it in a bread bag (you can buy bread bags from a upscale cooking store) and stick it in the freezer because we use it in the later part of the week.  If you are planning on storing the bread in the freezer for longer then a few days you should also put it in a Ziploc freezer bag.
Remedy for Flat Bread
If your dough rises and flat tops over the edges of the pan (the bread has big ears and a flat head), your dough is probably too runny. Next time add more flour. If bread tastes a little dry, you may have added too much flour.
Rising Dough
A way to test whether the bread has risen long enough is to push lightly on the corner of the dough in the bread pan. If the dough shoots right back out, it’s not ready yet. If you push it and it stays sunken in, then it’s risen too long. If you push the dough in and it comes out a little bit, but leaves a small indentation, then it’s ready to bake.

Kitchen Aid Mixer

With a Kitchen Aid mixer, you may need to mix the dough a little bit longer and use a higher speed than recommended in the Kitchen Aid book. It says not to go over speed 2; however, if you use speed 4 or 5, the bread comes out much nicer.

Cost Benefit

Wheat:            $0.30   Honey:            $0.26
Yeast:              $0.03   Wheat Gluten:$0.08
Canola Oil:     $0.07   Salt:                 $0.03

Total cost per loaf: ~ $0.77

Nutritional Value

Wheat:            1780 cal. and 8 g. fat   Honey: 172 cal.
Yeast:  18 cal.                          Oil:      332 cal. And 40 g. fat

Total per loaf: 2302 calories and 48 g. fat – Bread weighs about 1 lb 10 oz when cooked
Total per 1oz slice: ~ 90 calories and 1.8 g. Fat.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

store bought favorite: tzatziki sauce & homemade favorite: tandoori chicken wrap

My husband declared our dinner tonight HALL OF FAME!  That's two nights in a row!!  We made this awesome tandoori chicken then put it in wraps with Trader Joe's Tzatziki Sauce, sliced red bell peppers, sliced tomatoes and reduced fat feta cheese.  Oh it was delicious.

store bought favorite: tzatziki sauce- creamy garlic cucumber dip (Trader Joe's)
thinly sliced cucumbers (!), kefir cheese, nonfat sour cream, water, lemon juice, garlic, salt, dill, mint, white pepper, locust bean gum, carrageenan
2 grams fat per 2 tablespoons
I will be going back to Trader Joe's tomorrow to buy another 12 ounces!

grilled tandoori chicken
3/4 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 teaspoon coarsely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
dash of ground nutmeg
4 (4 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
cooking spray

Place first 3 ingredients in a food processor; process until finely chopped.  Add yogurt and the next 8 ingredients; pulse 4 times or until blended.
Make 3 diagonal cuts 1/4-inch deep across the top of each chicken breast half.  Combine chicken and yogurt mixture in a large zip-loc plastic bag.  Seal and marinate in refrigerator 8 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.  Prepare grill.  Remove chicken breast from bag; discard marinade.  Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray.  Cook 6 minutes on each side or until chicken is done.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

pumpkin chicken chili

Could there be a more perfect, seasonal chili for the month of November?  I thoroughly enjoyed this soup and it was a cinch to make.  I will be making this soup again for sure.

Update 20 minutes later:  My husband came in from working all day in the yard and after a bite or two declared this chili HALL OF FAME!  The best part is, this man does not like all.  Never has.  I think because I omitted the beans I was able to disguise it well.  Success!

slow cooker pumpkin chicken chili (adapted from Get Crocked)
1 can (14 ounces) petite diced tomatoes
14 ounces pumpkin puree
2 cups chicken broth
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin, ground
1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, seeds removed, minced (optional; I omitted)
2 chicken breasts (I used 2 huge frozen chicken breasts- Foster Farms from Costco)
28 ounces chickpeas, rinsed (I omitted)
1 cup frozen sweet corn
cilantro, fat free sour cream, shredded cheese, tortilla chips for garnishing

Add tomatoes, chicken broth and pumpkin to a 4 or 5 quart slow cooker.  Whisk pumpkin mixture until well combined.  Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper and chipotles, combine well.  Add chicken (mine was frozen!), chickpeas and corn.  Cover.  Cook for 6-8 hours on low if chicken is not frozen, on high if frozen.  Serve with cilantro, sour cream and other yummy toppings.


Friday, November 1, 2013

yakisoba chicken

I so overate tonight.  It just tasted so good.  I ate my own portion, picked at my sons bowl while he slowly slurped noodles then shamefully had the few last bites of my daughter's.  I may have even had the last bite or two in the pan.  I highly recommend this recipe!

yakisoba chicken (adapted from
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 green onions, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
1/2 cup carrots, shredded
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 pound yakisoba noodles, cooked (I found them in the refrigerated section of the store with the won ton wrappers and such)

Heat a large wok over medium heat.  Add sesame oil, canola oil and Thai red curry paste and saute for one minute.  Add garlic and saute an additional minute.  Add chicken and soy sauce and saute until chicken is no longer pink.  Remove mixture from pan and set aside to keep warm.  In the emptied pan, combine the vegetables.  Stir fry until veggies are tender crisp.  Add the chicken and cooked noodles and mix it up.  Heat through.

What I have to say- this recipe was on the dry side which I loved.  If you want more sauce add another tablespoon of Thai red curry paste mixed with 1/4 cup soy sauce.

store bought favorite: kashmiri curry

Knowing I needed a quick, healthy meal I thought this little jar might do the trick.  And it did.  This is Maya Kaimal All Natural Kashmiri Curry- Indian Simmer Sauce.  The jar said it would mild with rich tomato and nutmeg.  No preservatives.  Less than 5 bucks- SOLD!  Our meal was super quick and easy- cut up some chicken breasts, carrots, celery and threw in the last of our spinach for good measure.  Poured the sauce over it and simmered it  15 minutes then served it over rice.  It was delicious.  The only thing that would've made our super quick, healthy meal better would've been some naan bread to go with it.

store bought favorite: kashmiri curry (I found mind at Market of Choice)
ingredients: onion, water, coconut milk, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, canola oil, spices, salt, garlic, ginger, sugar, hydrolyzed yeast, tumeric, zanthan gum.
Servings per container: 4

What I have to say- I squeezed way too much food into one jar of sauce but it worked out alright.