Monday, October 26, 2009

Miracle machine

I finally went back to the doctor again on Saturday (the second time in under two weeks) and it turns out I have bronchitis. They gave me a nebulizer treatment, a couple prescriptions and instructions to use the inhaler I received during my first visit more frequently. I am still pretty tired but I am feeling so much better!! But I didn't really want to write about that...what I wanted to say is that when I went to this urgent care clinic, they had a prescription vending machine - It was awesome! What a difference that can make when you are sick. I was not looking forward to driving over to the pharmacy and then waiting around for my prescriptions to be filled. (Especially after being there for three hours.) Nope, they just gave me a piece of paper with my drug information on it and a code. I walked over to the vending machine and typed in the code and within 2 minutes, I had both of my prescriptions filled and the machine took cash, credit cards and drug insurance cards. Maybe I am totally out of the loop but I have never seen one of these miracle machines before??

Recipe Roulette: Chicken Biriyani

This week we chose a random recipe from Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything. The winner was chicken biriyani, also known as the most expensive recipe I have ever made. Of course I had to buy whole cardamom, cloves, cinnamon sticks and - the winner - saffron. Ahh. (Unlike Nichole, I was able to find a thimble's worth for $5.69) But now my spice rack is sufficiently stocked. And don't let the spices scare you, this was an extremely easy dish to make and it gave me the chance to experiment with some new flavors.

My only regret? My dish wasn't quite as flavorful as I'd expected. I mean, what does a pinch of saffron really mean? Next time, I will use more and step it up a bit. And, yes, there will be a next time. Not only do I now have all the ingredients, my husband applauded this tasty meal. My only other complaint was that it was impossible to pick out the cloves and whole cardamom and I did not find either to be a tasty surprise while eating.

Did I mention it was healthy, too? I substituted brown basmati rice in place of regular basmati and we are also trying, whenever possible, to use all organic meats (and dairy) these days so I felt even more special about the chicken in the dish, too.

Now that I have spices on the brain, let me know what your favorite spice is to use in a recipe. Mine is cumin.

Go here to read about Nichole's adventure.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


My kitchen currently resembles a science experiment gone terribly wrong. That or there was an explosion in the Betty Crocker test kitchen...or Bridget Jones has been here baking for hours.

It all started at about 8:50 this morning when my husband emailed me that tomorrow was his turn to bring treats to the office. He told me that he thought he'd pick up some Dunkin Donuts and maybe something else. I don't know if he was serious or if that was his way of asking for help. I kept thinking about my husband letting everyone down at the office when his unemployed wife sent him to work with Dunkin Donuts. And now, hours later, I think I was a little too ambitious.

So this morning I ran off to the store for supplies. While I was there I excitedly picked up black and orange plaid napkins with matching black plates. I should have known I was not in my right mind when I found the too cute Halloween cupcake liners and practically started squealing in the middle of Target. That adrenaline rush would not last.

One tray of brownies and 46 cupcakes later and I am exhausted. And we aren't talking your average cupcakes either (well aside from the chocolate ones I made). I decided to try my hand at cheesecake-filled pumpkin cupcakes. (Sorry, I'm too tired to type the recipe out.) It didn't seem too hard when I ever so quickly glanced at the recipe. Clearly, I didn't read about the icing which involved three sticks of butter (three entire sticks!!) and the 20 or so minutes of mixing and even placing the mixing bowl in simmering water until it reached 160 degrees. Yes, clearly, I didn't read those instructions first. If I were really a kitchen genius I would have skipped the last several steps and would have just bought the darn icing. Ahh.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Recipe Roulette: Creamed Chicken with Gnocchi Dumplings

This week's Recipe Roulette meal comes from Rachael Ray. I picked it because Joe and I have both been sick and eating lots of chicken noodle soup. I thought this might be a good spin on the ultimate get-well-soon meal. While it was good, it was not quite as good as I'd expected; I think my sauce turned out a bit too thick.

One 1-pound package of potato gnocchi
4 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into thin strips
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup chicken broth
2 scallions, chopped

1. Cook the gnocchi according to package directions; drain.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

3. In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until toasted, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the half-and-half and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until thickened. Whisk into the chicken mixture, then stir in the gnocchi. Bring to a simmer, then season with salt and pepper and top with the scallions.

Nichole enjoyed the recipe very much. Read her review here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wanted: Tickets

I made my first Craigslist purchase this week to get sold-out concert tickets (Wilco) for face-value. Seemed like a pretty good deal to me. Obviously, meeting in public is a safety no-brainer but I will tell you it's awfully odd to be sitting at Caribou watiting for some guy to show up that you've never met so that you can exchange cash for tickets. Joe went with me on Saturday morning and we only made the mistake of approaching the wrong guy twice. Oops. But finally the right guy, with the tickets in hand, came and we made the exchange. My husband did actually make a purchase from Craigslist about a week ago and was approached by two policemen while walking to his car. They were questioning whether or not he just gave someone cash. After he explained he had just made a CL purchase, and showed them, they finally believed him and went on their way. Only in my house would my thirty-something husband get questioned by the cops for buying a longboard.
P.S. The concert? Awesome!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Recipe Roulette: Apple Dijon Chicken

Nichole picked this week's recipe. I'll admit that I was not necessarily looking forward to this one; it didn't sound that good to me. But the good news? It was awesome! And Joe must have complimented it 20 times. He said it reminded him of a German meal. Since I only made two chicken breasts, I used half the onion and only one apple but still made the regular amount of sauce.

4 boneless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 Golden Delicious apples, cored and sliced into rings
1 small onion, sliced
3/4 cup of chicken broth
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1/3 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon of cornstarch

1. Place chicken-breast halves between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. With meat mallet or rolling pin, pound breasts to an even 1/2-inch thickness; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper.

2. In nonstick 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add breasts and cook 6 to 7 minutes or until browned on both sides and chicken loses its pink color throughout, turning over once. Transfer breasts to platter; cover with foil to keep warm.

3. While chicken is cooking, in glass pie plate, combine apples and onions. Cover with waxed paper and microwave on High 3 to 4 minutes or until tender, stirring once.

4. To skillet, add apple mixture; cook 2 minutes or until browned. Add chicken broth, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cook 2 minutes to reduce broth mixture slightly. In bowl, half-and-half with cornstarch; stir into apple mixture with any juices from chicken on platter. Cook 1 minute to thicken sauce slightly.

See Nichole's results here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Joe posted this essay on Facebook and I felt compelled to post it here. It's quite touching. Read it and let me know what you think.

Something amazing

Something amazing is starting to happen - I'm meeting people. I've been taking yoga twice a week and am meeting the ladies in my class. This past week I spent four days volunteering for an event at my church which allowed me the opportunity to meet people. I feel like I already will have a full week next week with things going on and have plans to help a new friend bake, have dinner at her house with her family and bunco again. I am meeting people. I could get much more philosophical about the situation but will refrain for now.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Farm Aid 2009

I had the pleasure of going to Farm Aid with Breanne on Sunday. The timing couldn't have been better since I was already in Missouri and was still sulking about having to miss Wilco this month in Chicago. We had a great time! And B was such a trooper! Her ankle is still not healed after recently breaking it and having surgery. In fact, up until this week she wasn't walking at all without the use of crutches or a cane. I was so impressed by the venue which took us in a golf cart from the entrance to our seats and upgraded us to excellent seats since B couldn't sit on the lawn due to the stairs. And even though there was a perk to this broken ankle fiasco, please note: I would take a healed Breanne ANY DAY over upgraded concert seats. But, again, I was so impressed by how nice and accomodating everyone around seemed to be.

The performances included: Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, Jason Mraz, Wilco, Gretchen Wilson, Jamey Johnson, Ernie Isley, Billy Joe Shaver, Will Dailey, Phosporescent, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, Titty Bingo and Ron Blackwood and the Blackwood Quartet. Since I don't listen to country music, I will admit that I was fairly clueless about a lot of the music. (Basically everything except Wilco, Jason Mraz, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews.)

But beyond it being a great day and a great concert, it was a really great event that raised money to help support family farms. Even the food stands at the event featured organic and local foods. Go here to find food from family farmers.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Best. Cookie. Ever.

It was my turn to pick a recipe for this week's Recipe Roulette when I realized that there would be no opportunity for a real meal. My husband had class two nights during the week, the other two nights he had work events/meetings and I would be out of town the entire weekend. There's no point in cooking if nobody is there to eat. But dessert is a different story. I found a recipe for Monster Cookies and decided they looked too good to not try. Turns out I was right. I also decided to use Halloween M & Ms to make them more monster-like and decided to forgo the raisins. This is one recipe that will be made again!

3 eggs
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (12 ounce) jar creamy peanut butter
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup multi-colored chocolate candies
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup raisins, optional
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats (not instant)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

2. In a very large bowl, combine the eggs and sugars. Mix well. Add the salt, vanilla, peanut butter and butter. Mix well. Stir in the chocolate candies, chocolate chips, raisins, baking soda and oatmeal. Drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

3. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake. Let stand for about 3 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool. When cool, store in resealable plastic bags.

See how much Nichole likes Monster Cookies.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


Friday I made the trek to Missouri to see my family. It was a particularly long ride because the day before I fell down my stairs. You read that correctly - I fell down my stairs. I wish I could tell you that I had an excuse. But, no, I do not have a neurological disorder that causes me to trip, fall and hurt myself. My only excuse? I am clumsy. So I made the five hour drive with every muscle in my body hurting. I'm sure it will go a long ways to helping my neck improve. Anyway, back to the real story, the main reason for the trip was Adyson's second birthday bash.

Adyson is trying out her new tricycle. Last year the weather for her party was down right hot and everyone was inside wanting to be outside. This year? Freezing.

Adyson was particularly taken with the quilted puppy purse from Aunt Amy and Uncle Joe.
Me and my niece. Next time I will wise up and be prepared with a coat!

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