Monday, October 24, 2011

It Took Some Time

My first baby turned six this month.  I still remember every detail about the day he was born like it was yesterday.  We were so excited to have a kid. I reiterate...Kid.  I say KID because I remember, in all my naivete, the images that filled my head when I found out we were pregnant with a boy.  Playing catch with Dad!  Camping trips!  Bike rides!  Sports every weekend!  I thought we were giving birth to a 6 year old.  

Being the first of our friends to have a baby, we didn’t really know much about the baby/toddler phase.  We started our family the day he was born and the years to follow were some of the best I’ve ever had! But, there were many years and experiences before we got to know the big kid I’d expected to meet 6 years ago.  

For his 6th Birthday we bought Drew his first, shiny new big-kid bike.  When Kevin brought it home, I was doubtful that the large 2-wheeled contraption would even be his size.  It looked twice his height!  The tires were huge and narrow!  Nonetheless, when he hopped on to give it a spin it fit like a glove.  

Yesterday, for the first time, I ran alongside my first born baby while he rode his bike to the store.  It was a perfect, crisp fall day.  The kind of day that took me right back to my own childhood family bike rides.  I said a silent prayer of thanks… Thank you Lord for blessing us over and over again in our six years as a family.  Thank you Lord for giving me a healthy body so I can run and bike with my own children.  It took some time, but we are right where I’ve always wanted to be.

When we got home from our trip to the store (thanks Camelback for carrying groceries) I put this stew together for the crockpot.  It is not your standard dump and go crockpot recipe.  It took some time, but it was worth it!

Sweet Potato Beef Stew

1 pound (or more) of lean stew meat
32 oz (1 box) beef broth
3/4 cup wine
1 onion
1 large sweet potato
1 package (not an exact measurement here) of mushrooms
4 slices of bacon
a couple cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon thyme
couplea bay leaves
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup tomato paste
parsley for garnish (optional)

I wanted to avoid flour this time so I used corn meal to coat the stew meat and cornstarch to thicken the stew.  Go ahead and just use flour if that works for you!

First off, I put the stew meat, a couple spoonfuls of corn meal, salt and pepper in a ziplock bag and shook it up.  (Again, flour does the same trick…)

Then I sliced the four pieces of bacon

And threw the in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add in a couple cloves of chopped garlic.

After a few minutes, add in the chopped onions and mushrooms, give them a toss, then let them do their thing for a few minutes without touching them.

While that’s going… get to the sweet potato.  First I took the skin off, then cut in half.  Slice the ends of both sides.

Stand half the sweet potato upright (on the flat base you created by slicing off the ends) and slice down into thirds.

Then lay them flat and cut into sticks.  Hope that made sense! (You could also save half here in their stick form for sweet potato fries another night in the week)

After cutting into sticks, cut the opposite direction to create evenly diced sweet potatoes.

Now your onions/bacon/mushrooms are done!

Put them both in the crockpot

Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil into that same skillet and heat it before adding the stew meat.  You want to just sear the sides, so high heat for a few minutes.

Then add into the crockpot.

Add the whole container of Beef Broth

About 3/4 cup of wine… I really only measured for the blog’s benefit :)

About 3 oz of a 6 oz can of tomato paste

Tablespoon of thyme and the bay leaves

Set it on low for about 5-7 hours.

When you’re about half an hour out from being done, thicken the sauce by adding 2 tablespoons cornstarch to 2 tablespoons of cold water.  Whisk, then add into the stew.

Add the cup of frozen peas too.

I garnished with a little chopped parsley because I happened to have it and it was just so dang pretty.  Seriously, how good does this look.  I need to go heat up some leftovers now.

Monday, October 17, 2011

HungrySister Presents: BBQ Chicken Paninis

Me again!  

I mentioned many moons ago that my office holds "Iron Chef Competitions" monthly at work. We've done pineapple, cheese, basil, honey, berries…and a dessert has won every.single.time. Yup, a marscapone tart won during the cheese round, a pineapple upside down cake destroyed pineapple the competition, caprese cupcakes dominated the basil challenge. As I've said before, I'm a pretty sorry excuse for a baker so it has been a rough road! :)

So this month the competition was SANDWICHES - less of an ingredient, more of a dish, but hey, I'll take it. I decided to make these BBQ chicken paninis because I figured no one can deny toasty buttery bread and melty cheese. I forgot to pull out my camera until about halfway through the assembly process, so a picture of TGB will more than make up for the first couple of food photos!!

 You'll need:
1/2 red onion
Balsamic vinegar
3 chicken breasts (I wanted to get a rotisserie chicken from Teeter but they were all sold out at 10 PM on a Monday night, who knew?) 
Your favorite bbq sauce
Fresh mozzarella
Any pre-sliced bread from the bakery section of the grocery store (I grabbed a jalapeno cheddar loaf )
Butter for the bread, if you're so inclined
NOTE- for crockpot, add chicken thighs (thighs are way better in crockpot than breasts.  would you rather eat 10 more calories or eat dry chicken breast.  thank you), 1 cup bbq sauce and sliced red onion to crockpot.  cook on low for 6 hours and shred then continue with rest of recipe as normal!

 Put chicken breasts in a shallow baking dish and cover with a whole lotta bbq sauce. Bake for 30 minutes or so at 350 and then shred with 2 forks until it looks something like this:

 While the chicken is a-bakin, cut up the red onion and cook slowly in a pan with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkle of garlic powder, salt, and pepper until caramelized (about 20 minutes).

Melt a tbsp or 2 of butter in the micro and spread over each slice of bread. Assemble the soon-to-be panini by adding the shredded chicken, a little extra sauce, onions, and the sliced mozz. Top with a slice of buttered bread and get ready for some magic.

Three ordinary sandwiches awaiting greatness

Melt, melt!!!!! At this point I think I was dancing around my  kitchen in anticipation.

That's what I'm talkin about

Finished product, and my first iron chef win! Victory is mine!!! 

If you don't have a panini press you could also make these grilled-cheese style in a frying pan - I'm pretty sure there is no way to mess it up!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Everybody’s Doing It

Yesterday was one of those days you just want to be outside.  The noises I could hear through my open windows were a few of my favorite suburban sounds… lawn mowers going and kids playing.  Around 10 am I was able to lace up and sneak away for a little run of my own.  I ran out of my neighborhood and into the next “town” over.  I passed no less than 15 runners, 10 walkers, and 200 kids on bikes.  Okay maybe a few less than 200 but I’m probably in the right ballpark.  I had no plans and no expectations to run far or fast, but ended up doing both because it was just one of those perfect days.

I LOVE seeing so many people outside getting their fitness in whatever form.  This time of year, everybody’s doing it.  There is no better time than the fall to get outside and get healthy.  Even better if the good exercise habits we start today stick with us through the cold winter months, when being bundled up in your blankets sounds a lot more appealing than braving the cold for some fitness.  But let me tell you what else sticks with us in the winter.  Apple pie.  Sausage stuffing.  

I hope you get out and savor the perfect weather this week… after all, everybody’s doing it!

Here’s an easy easy easy Fall recipe that EVERYONE can do.  I tried it out in the oven last week but meal planned it for the crock pot this week.    This is one of my new fall faves!!  It was simple, easy to prep in the morning, and I got everyone in the house to eat it!!

Maple Baked Apple Chicken

3 to 4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
2 apples, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1/2 cup Maple Syrup (or pancake syrup)
1/3 Cup Zesty Italian Dressing

First off, I just put the chicken in a zip lock bag so I could pound it (to make it thin, read: to stretch my dollar farther and make the chicken look bigger)

Add the marinade straight to the bag, 1/3 cup Zesty Italian and 1/2 cup Maple Syrup

Well, that was easy.  Off to the fridge.

By the way this was so easy I could make it in literally 10 minutes before we walked to the bus stop.  Getting dinner ready is way easier with a happy baby around at 6 am then a grumpy one at 6 pm.
 Halve the onion

 I do my apples this way because I don’t have a corer.  Slice off the top and bottom…

Then cut into quarters...
Take your knife and slice on a diagonal so that you cut the seeds part out
 See?  Easy

Then lay flat and slice all the apples

In a bag, ready to go for dinner

When dinner time rolled around I arranged the apples and onions in a baking dish, then topped it with the chicken/marinade.  This dish was way too small but I was too lazy to get a new one and wash this one… go for a larger one so that everything can lay flat and cook evenly.  I had to take this out halfway and rotate the chicken and apples so that everything cooked.

Bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes.  Halfway through, flip the chicken and toss around the apples and onions a bit to make sure everything is still soaking in that yummy sauce.  

NOTE:  For the crockpot, even easier, just DUMP the 2 bags of apples/onions and chicken marinade into the crockpot and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours.  For the crockpot I prefer this recipe with pork tenderloin vs chicken

I served it over white rice because I’m bad like that.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Little Yellow

I’ve been feeling like the weather.  Blah.  Since the marathon ended I haven’t had much motivation to be a master juggler.  The role every woman plays.  No need to set my alarm an hour+ earlier to squeeze in a run.  No motivation to be on top of the meal planning and grocery shopping.  No need to keep up with the family blog.  No desire to even wipe the massive amounts of pee that has amassed behind the toilet (if you have little boys, you know what I’m talking about).  I blame it on the weather.  Rainy and chilly just don’t do much to motivate me, but then again maybe God was just giving me a guilt free excuse to chill out.  Maybe a little break from reality is good for the soul.

This morning we woke up to some sunshine.  A little yellow.  After taking almost a month off I’m feeling ready to get back in the swing of things.

I love a recipe that I can make with ingredients I usually always have on hand.  Lemons are one of those things.  I always keep a bag around because a little citrus, a little yellow, can brighten up any marinade, side dish, or soup!

Simple Lemon Chicken with Broccoli
(recipe found via Katy Hayes on Pinterest… I made a few changes to speed up the process because I didn’t get my act together early enough in the day)

5 Drumsticks or Thighs (any cut of chicken is fine, but I wanted to try Drumsticks to see if Superman would think they were cool… he didn’t.  But the rest of the little people did.  To follow recipes directions, marinate the chicken for 2 hours in the next three ingredients)

2 tablespoons melted butter

Rosemary, Thyme, salt and pepper, and fresh garlic

2 lemons, zested as well as their juice

1 head of broccoli

Arrange the drumsticks in a baking dish and preheat the oven to 425.

Zest both lemons onto the chicken.  Contrary to the picture’s depiction, I actually do not have even a little bit of a green thumb.

Squeeze the juice from both lemons all over

Sprinkle with a dash of rosemary and thyme.  Enough to cover the top… it’s not a science.  You can’t really have too much.

Crush and chop three cloves of garlic

Sprinkle on top of the chicken.

Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl.

Drizzle over the chicken.  This will help to get the skin browned and golden and yummy.

In the oven she goes for 50 minutes.

Halfway through, at the 25 minute mark, I added a bag of broccoli.  I tossed it around in the lemony buttery sauce and let it roast under the chicken.

25 minutes and 165 F later and the chicken was goldeny crisp.  A simple but satisfying end to the day, just no picture to prove it.