clean eating…

lately i have been attempting new things in my world. it can be exciting, yet also intimidating, and a little fumbly.

step one: i have been trying to create more peace in my life. a friend of mine started a meditation group, which i attended a couple wednesdays ago. i am a woman of faith, specifically believing in Jesus Christ, but i think meditation can be a spiritual course for all religions. i really enjoyed the session. it is certainly something to get used to.

step two: i have been diving into new artistic endeavors. i recently visited The Paper Source in Nashville, TN…and i can safely say i am in love. i already knew i loved paper and stationary, but now i feel like i would like to swim in a sea of patterns and techniques. i am very excited about all this! i think i might take some of their instructional classes soon. i learned how to “hot-box”…atleast i think that is what it is called. i will be posting about a specific project i recently completed tomorrow thanks to the lovely ladies and their helpful guidance.

step three: adam and i have been “clean-eating” lately. i might have mentioned in the past that adam was into paleo eating when i first met him. he still visits this style of eating in different intervals, and right now i am trying to pitch in by cooking some healthy meals.

i bought a magazine called “Clean Eating” to try out some recipes. tonights dinner had its ups and downs. i cooked a Moroccan-Spiced Salmon, which turned out delightful. i tried to cook Grilled Vegetables with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette…..this was NOT up my alley. turns out i don’t like the combination of honey, lime, cilantro, ginger, and chili-powder. i think it is the ginger. but if you are a fan of these flavors, you should give it a whirl.

as for the salmon, i will share that with you. it was unbelievably simple. it is just a rub of the following ingredients:

1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. sea salt
4 x 4-oz. boneless salmon fillets, skin on

you just mix all the dry ingredients, rub it on the salmon, then cook face down (skin up) for 2 minutes, flip, and cook until opaque (skin down). the combination was pretty tasty. it probably took me 10 minutes total to prepare and cook.

my last goal is to try and get more sleep…so off to bed with me!

winner winner chicken dinner

ok….so, i have been so out of touch. i recently got promoted at my job (yay!) but thanks to the promotion, i have been working much more than normal….in my head AND on my feet. so, my apologies for being so out of touch for those of you that follow me. good news is, today i have my all time favorite best in the entire world lick your lips comfort food chicken casserole dinner to share. it is very unassuming, but blows me away everytime. more good news, hopefully next week i will be able to share with you a DIY craft of my very own….as long as it isn’t stupid, which i am hoping it won’t be. so, on to dinner.

ok, this is NOT a quick one. with prep-time and cooking, you are looking at about 2 hours, but it is fully worth it. in fact, i am cooking this one this weekend. (i usually repeat it about every 3 weeks). i got this recipe out of one of my favorite cookbooks “Apples for Jam”.

if you have never looked into it, you certainly should. the recipes are broken into “colors” and memories. i love the visuals in the book. the recipes take some time to prepare, so it is something you want to do when you are feeling the cooking or baking spirit. they are all excellent so far!

on to the chicken casserole….

ingredients:
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large chicken, cut into 8 portions (i prefer to buy 4 large legs because i looove them)
salt
1 red onion, chopped (my favorites are sweet yellow onions instead)
1 small leafy celery stalk, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (i typically only use 2)
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups hot water
2 large rosemary sprigs

mu lady Tessa Kiros (the author) adds a nice tip to get a “small cauliflower, break it up into florets, and boil them in lightly salted water for a few minutes, just to soften, pat them dry, saute in olive oil over high heat until golden, and add to the casserole just toward the end so they don’t collapse”. so, that sounds so so good to me, but i have yet to add this to my casserole. i figure why mess with a good thing. i DO, however, add zucchini, carrot chunks, and baby bella mushrooms to mine toward the end because i find them to be perfect.

preheat your oven to 350 degrees. your first major step is to brown the chicken over medium-high heat in the oil so that it is golden. this can get messy, so i recommend using either the lid of the pan to deflect the splatter or get one of those splatter guards. i tend to forget this important step, but be sure to do all this in a large flameproof casserole. if you do not have a pan/pot that is safe for both the stove and the oven, you can put your casserole dish in the oven while it preheats and pour the goods in it after you do the stovetop process. it works just as well. you don’t have to be stopped by a lack of millions of special pots and pans.

i don’t own a splash guard, so i use the lid of my pan to spare my walls and counters and skin of hot oil splashes.
i also, for extra protection, wear an oven mit when i rotate the chicken. my husband makes fun of me for this. ūüôā

after you fry the chicken, you can place it on a plate and salt the heck out of it….because i like salt!

now, leave the oil and add your chopped onion, reduce the heat and saute until they are all very golden and well-cooked. breathe it in….yummy smells!

once the onion is cooked to your liking, add the celery and cook until it is all a bit sticky looking and well cooked. stir in the garlic and paprika and, when you can smell the garlic, add the tomatoes. i know the “a bit sticky looking” seems abstract, but you will be surprised how you can actually tell. season with salt and pepper.

let this bubble up for a bit then add 2 cups of hot water and the rosemary and return the chicken to the casserole. bring to a boil. cover the casserole and move it to the oven. this is the big time issue. you have to cook it for 1 hour, then take off the lid and spoon the juices over any exposed bits of chicken. cook uncovered for another 30 minutes so that the sauce reduces and the cicken pieces brown a bit. i usually add my diced zucchini, carrots, and baby bellas after about 45 minutes or so of the covered cooking.

put the lid back on, turn the oven off, and leave the casserole in the oven until you are ready to eat. the chicken will literally fall off the bone. it is amazing!

oh please do enjoy this meal! it will soothe your soul.

today is my friday since i have the next 2 days off. (sigh) a rest very much needed. happy thursday!…(it’s thursday, right?)

a good southern meal.

i love going home to see my family. it is so relaxing to sit on the couch with my dad while he watches golf or some old movie i can get into….or sit down to a big glass of wine with my mom while having endless conversation. i love being with my parents, much more now than when i was young, now that we can relate to one another and i’m not fighting for my independence. if anything, i am fighting to have them take care of me on occasion again. well, one of the absolute best things about being at their house is that my mom cooks dinner for us. and i LOVE my mom’s cooking. sometimes she does things from scratch, but other times she makes something semi-homemade that rocks my socks off. my mom is from Portland, Tennessee and grew up on scratch-made biscuits, fried chicken, bacon galore, and a constant stream of home-cooked meals. being a working woman herself who raised 2 daughters that kept her on the run with sports, music, and school events, she learned how to make these meals a reality for a busier lifestyle. i thought i might share dinner with you…

what would dinner be without adam decorating all the food?

meet ozzy, my parents’ pug.

ozzy will be here to demonstrate drooling.

let’s start with baked beans. i could eat so many of these things i would make myself sick, but i just love the combination of bbq sauce and brown sugar. basically, this is all to taste. you add a bit of worcestershire sauce, a bit of yellow mustard, a big bit of brown sugar, some nature’s seasoning (which i’m pretty sure my mother would use on everything), our family’s-secret homemade bbq sauce and then you bake it in the oven for about 30 minutes on 350.

after you put the beans in, you can whip together some oh-so-unhealthy potato casserole that will make you oh-so-happy. this one is basically putting several ingredients together, so it is very simple.

2 lbs. frozen potatoes, 2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese, 1and 1/2 cups sour cream, 1 can cream of chicken soup, 1/2 cup chopped onion (optional), 1 whole stick of butter, and salt and pepper to taste

start with a casserole dish of frozen potatoes.

my mom usually uses the shredded ones, but we tried cubed this time. you can always make this with real potatoes if you have the extra time.

melt the butter in a pot over medium heat, then add the onion. cook down for a bit. then add the cream of chicken, sour cream, and shredded cheese. stir well until all is melted together like a sauce.
poor the melted sauce over the potatoes. be sure it covers everything.
add some of the shredded cheese on top of the casserole before baking

my mom happens to make mashed potatoes that are the best, but they take quite a bit more care, and we wanted to go simple. these potatoes are so deliciously simple. bake 30-40 minutes on 350.

let’s take a short break to meet all the characters my mother likes to surround herself with.
first, there is the pig that holds utensils….

then we have the chef that informs us of dinner plans…

and don’t forget james, our family butler…

james has been around for atleast 10 years, maybe more. such a loyal butler

….ok, back to the food…

ribs time!!! every year for mine and my sister’s birthdays, our family comes together to go out to eat, and we get to pick our restaurant. when i was younger, i always insisted on going to Tony Roma’s to eat ribs. they eventually closed it to make way for a Hooters (c’mon), but it lives on in memory. so, for dinner, my mom asked me what i would like her to grill, and, of course, i requested ribs. my mom has a dry rub that she puts on them first, and it literally is called “Butt Rub”. i said, “what brand is it”, to which she replied again, “Butt Rub”. so, i guess look for “Butt Rub” at the grocery store. we also add the family bbq sauce. if your family doesn’t have a secret sauce, i recommend “Sticky Fingers” bbq. i think it is delicious. you can order it online if you can’t find it in your grocery store. be sure to turn down your beans and potatoes when it has been 30 minutes. now, go outside and grill.

begin grilling with just the dry rub on.
wonder woman all the way
take time to relax and play with your phone and drink some wine while you cook
don’t forget to treat ozzy as well. (we didn’t really give him any wine)
when the meat begins to separate from the bones, brush on your bbq sauce

now it is time to eat!!!

give ozzy some bread for all his hard work.
lucky old man (my dad)

honestly, i would love to hear about some staples of culinary delights in your own families. i am always looking for new recipes.

could i be a culinary genius?

my mother always cooked for my family….every night…no matter how late we got home from swim practice or school events. ¬†my husband and i lead very busy lives with schedules that are constantly changing. ¬†dinner together is not an easy goal for us. ¬†typically what happens is we both get home, get caught up in our own little tasks, then realize we are famished, yet too lazy to think, much less actually move our muscles to cook, so we end up out to eat. ¬†well, this can really be a pinch on the budget and the jeans. ¬†so, i have decided to take up after my mother and cook as many nights a week as possible. ¬†some amazing things are coming out of this endeavor……(pictures to come).

 

Sunday night i made a meal from a cookbook my sister gave me a few years ago (yes, just now using it) called “jamie at home”. ¬†his meals, so far, are proving to be some of my favorite. ¬†I made Roasted White Fish and Leeks. ¬†i used haddock, which i had never had until that night….so good! ¬†this was also my first time to cook leeks and they were the best thing on the plate!

Monday night i cooked a new dish as well, also from his cookbook. ¬†This one was not so simple. ¬†The cooking time was one hour, but the prep time…sheesh….call me inexperienced, but that took much longer than i thought. ¬†i probably prepped for 45 minutes to an hour, but was it worth it! ¬†That meal was Balsamic-baked onions and potatoes with roast pork. ¬†very strong flavors, but am amazingly hearty meal. ¬†apologies to my husband for not eating till almost 9pm that night.

Tuesday i was out of town, so i think my husband took a little trip to August Moon while i ate sweet cici’s with my sister and niece. ¬†everyone deserves a little treat from time to time, right?

Wednesday night i had to work, so i made lunch instead. ¬†let me tell you, having lunch together is such a blessing that i do not want to ever ignore. ¬†most couples work 9-5, and lunch is either rushed or not possible as a joint activity. ¬†i felt like it was summer at home with my family after a morning of being at the pool and an afternoon full of naps, laying in the sun, and reading ahead of me. ¬†because of my feelings of fun and childhood, i decided to do a healthier spin on a simpler lunch. ¬†i made homemade sweet-potato fries with sauteed chicken in mushrooms and onions and steamed broccoli. ¬†(i wouldn’t touch onions OR broccoli when i was a kid, so really it was all about those sweet potato-fries….which i never ate either, but now i love them!) ¬†the chicken meal is something adam cooked for me right after we starting dating. ¬†i loved it so so much that i make it all the time now. ¬†it’s even better topped with some Chevre.

Last night i cooked something from good ‘ol reliably quick Rachel Ray. ¬†(Look and Cook) ¬†my mom and dad got me this cookbook this past christmas and i find it a grand experience. ¬†since i learn visually…or, of course, hands on…this book is perfect. ¬†it shows all her recipes in a sort-of pictorial step-by-step method. ¬†Adam says this one was his favorite. ¬†I cooked Bacon-wrapped halibut (i used Cod) with shredded brussels sprouts. ¬†i love brussels sprouts. ¬†who knew?

tonight will be another new adventure with Rachel Ray, and i will be entertaining friends with this one…Porkchops with balsamic strawberry salad and my own sauteed asparagus (a recipe i learned while staying with friends in Italy)…stay tuned!