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Immunity Boosting Elderberry Syrup

March 15, 2016
immunity boosting elderberry syrup recipe old fashioned modern living

While winter is nearing an end (yes!) and cold and flu season is largely a thing of the past, the unfortunate warm weather illness or summer cold is still possible, and elderberry syrup is a great addition to your germ fighting natural arsenal. Elderberries themselves are high in vitamins, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and have been shown to both prevent flu and speed recovery from illness. The other ingredients pack a powerful punch as well, making this syrup a star for immunity boosting.

Back when I was in high school, my mother started buying Sambucol syrup, a commercially available elderberry syrup. It recommends daily maintenance dosage, and more intensive dosage when you are actually suffering from a cold or the flu. It’s a thick, sweet syrup that did seem to help. As an adult, I’d buy it periodically, but at $12.99 for a 4 ounce bottle that goes pretty quickly, I decided to try making it myself. It’s a simple recipe that yields a good result; me, my husband and Little Miss all use it.

To give you an idea of the cost of making your own elderberry syrup for comparison, the only expensive part is dried elderberries – and by expensive I mean I’ve found them online for about $4.75 for 4 ounces (at Mountain Rose Herbs), and you’ll need 1-2 ounces per batch. Also check local health food stores that carry bulk herbs. Then you’ll need water, honey, and some spices. It works out quite inexpensive all told, with a batch yielding about 16 ounces.

I’m just going to get this out of the way here, if you’re a certain type of person, the word “elderberry” probably brings one thing to mind. The French Taunter. So I’m just going to put it out there, while your mother is likely not a hamster, if you make this syrup, your house will smell like elderberries.

About the ingredients

immunity boosting elderberry syrup recipe old fashioned modern livingAny of the spices in this recipe can be left out if you prefer, but they do all serve a purpose. Let’s take a look at why this homemade elderberry syrup is such an illness fighting, immunity boosting powerhouse. All of these ingredients have a myriad of uses and health benefits, but I’m going to give a brief summary of the specifics that are relevant to this preparation.

  • Elderberries – They are anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory and boost the immune system. They can help sooth a sore throat and help coughs be more productive.
  • Raw honey – Honey is a natural anti-inflammatory as well as being anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Consuming local honey can help sooth seasonal allergies as well, so I order New York honey rather than purchasing whatever is on the shelf at the store.
  • Cinnamon – Packed with anti-oxidants, cinnamon is an anti-inflammatory and helps fight bacterial and viral illnesses.
  • Ginger – Ginger reduces inflammation, increases circulation and inhibits the growth of many bacteria.
  • Clove – Antibacterial, and a great immune system booster, encouraging production of germ fighting white blood cells.

A quick Google search will turn up a number of recipes, but this is the one I use. You can use dried spices or whole spices; I often use both because I have them on hand.

An important note – elderberries are dark purple and can stain! I use my silicone spoon and rinse it after each stir (you only stir rarely). I do this in my white non-stick pot and it does not stain, but I’m still not taking chances with my beloved wooden spoons.

Homemade Immunity Boosting Elderberry Syrup Recipe

You’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup dried elderberries
  • 3 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder, and/or 1-2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tbsp dried ginger root (or use a few slices of fresh ginger)
  • 1/2 tsp dried clove powder (or whole cloves)
  • 1/2 cup raw honey

Directions:

  1. Pour your water into a medium pot/saucepan with elderberries, cinnamon, ginger and clove (dried or whole). Bring to a boil and give it a quick stir, then cover and reduce to low simmer for 30-45 minutes until the liquid has reduced by roughly half.
  2. Remove from heat and allow to cool to a manageable temperature, then pour through a wire strainer into a glass bowl. Discard elderberries and whole herbs.
  3. When the liquid is still somewhat warm but not hot, add in your honey (you don’t want the heat to kill off the beneficial stuff in the honey) and mix well.
  4. Pour into a glass bottle (I use a mason jar) and refrigerate for up to several months. Take a spoonful every day for maintenance and an immune system boost, or take twice a day when you’re feeling unwell.

That’s all! It’s inexpensive and simple, and doesn’t take that long. And I’m not going to lie, this elderberry syrup tastes pretty good! If you wanted to drizzle it over vanilla ice cream just for the sake of it, I’m not going to say not to.

Note: I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. Do your own research and as always, use your best judgement.

Life Review Uncategorized

Quick- read these books before you see the movies: Room, Brooklyn, Me Before You

March 9, 2016

I am lucky enough to have spent a week with my sister in Virginia recently! I tagged along for my husband’s business trip, rented a car, and drove out to her dorm (more like an apartment) every day while he was a work. We spent time going to the mall, visiting puppies at the pet store, watching Married at First Sight, and eating Chick- fil- A. My sister also walked me around her beautiful tree lined campus, showing me her classrooms, as well as the on campus coffee shop, Cafe Moka. That’s where I spent part of my time when she was in class. The PB Moka Frozen Latte was amazing! Plus, the college kids did not snark at my complicated soy and decaf order…that time. Luckily my sister had a few classes canceled that week- so we got to spend even more time together. Sister time is the best. It was also fun to travel with my husband. I love taking adventures with him. I’m so glad I got down to Virginia Beach before the baby is born!

Although seeing my sister was the best part of the trip, I also enjoyed a freshly made hotel bed and a tidied room every day- as well as a yummy (and expensive ) room service breakfast. It was nice not to cook or clean for a week. I’d say that I spent most of the time that I was in my hotel room reading until my husband would roll over and mumble, “Turn off the lights. Go to sleep!” Between the plane, the hotel room, and the coffee shop, I read more than I have in a very long time. It was so, so nice. I also got lucky with my book choices, so now I am here to review them for you! It just so happens that they have all been made into movies that have been or will be released soon. I cannot speak for the movies, although I have heard good things- but I do recommend these books.

Here’s What I Read:

Room, By Emma Donoghue

This book is told from the perspective of 5 year old Jack.  He chronicles his and Ma’s days spent in Room, which to Jack, is the whole world. They spend their days playing, reading, exercising, and once a day, they climb onto the table and scream up at the sky light- the only window that exists in Room.  The reader quickly comes to the sinister conclusion that Ma is actually a young woman being held captive by a man Jack calls Old Nick, and Jack is the child who was born to her in captivity. Although the premise is horrifying, the story is riveting and is ultimately one of survival, and the love that connects a mother and her child. I could not put this book down. I do not want to say more and give anything away!

Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin

Eilis is a young woman living a fairly contended, if predictable life in Ireland with her mother and an older sister Rose, whom she adores. She goes to dances with girlfriends, and works a job below her education level to help support her family. Rose and her friend, Father Flood, a priest visiting from America arrange to send Eilis to America, where they believe more opportunities for her to succeed await. Eilis goes along with this plan, although it is very clear that she was never asked if she wanted to leave home. At first, Eilis is crippled by homesickness and has trouble making friends. However, once she starts taking night classes to move up at work and falls in love with a young Italian man, Eilis’ confidence begins to grow. When circumstances bring her back to Ireland, she faces the decision about where her heart and her home actually lie.  Eilis is a frustrating heroine, continuously letting life happen to her, instead of taking a more active role. It is a constant struggle for her to take charge, although there are times when she does manage to stand up for what she wants. By the end of the story, it does feel as if Eilis is painted into a corner, although she does face the choices that she has made, leaving the reader just as torn as she is.  It is a beautiful story with an imperfect heroine. Perhaps that is what makes Eilis so relatable.

Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes

So, I actually read the sequel to this book on my trip- but I am not going to tell you anything about it because I loved this book so much more and don’t want to give anything away! This book tells the story of Louisa Clark, a young woman killing time in her small town because she is afraid to ask for more out of life, and because she believes she doesn’t deserve more. When she finds herself suddenly unemployed, Louisa takes a job caring for a quadriplegic man named Will Traynor.  Although Louisa is intimidated by his sarcasm and haughty attitude, the two eventually forge a strong bond, and Louisa realizes there is more to Will, and her job than she initially thought. They both manage to change one another’s lives, and Will helps Louisa to come to terms with an abusive past, and let go of old demons so that she can begin living again.

So there you have it- three  book recommendations! Have you read any of these or seen the movies yet? If you are a real life friend or family member and would like to borrow one of these books- I am happy to share! However, you must promise to sit down and discuss it with me over good coffee and maybe this bread. I made it this morning and it is quite delicious:)

IMG_2299

Cooking Uncategorized

Easy Make Ahead Breakfast: Burritos

February 28, 2016

I know this is way, way late but-how was everyone’s Valentine’s Day? I hope you ate chocolate and spent it with people you love! We had our fancy Valentine’s Day dinner out the Thursday before at Cella Bistro. It was, as always, fantastic. We are planning to go back sometime this summer and sit in the more casual bar area, if Tiny Baby has a personality that will cooperate with that sort of thing. As for the day of, we spent a very low-key Sunday, and it was pretty perfect. I made waffles, bacon and eggs, and we braved the sub zero temperatures and ventured out to church. I took church membership vows in front of the smallest group I’ve seen in awhile- probably due to the insane cold. That was okay with me though- as I hate standing up in front of big crowds! Once we got home, we spent the day cooking a whole lot of comfort food- and doing the dishes we created.  We made mini apple pies and chocolate dipped strawberries for dessert. We also made garlic mashed potatoes and the meatloaf style meatballs. It wasn’t fancy, but it was a delicious accompaniment to catching up on Downton Abbey, and watching a ton of Top Gear.

We also decided to take care of breakfast for a few days! My husband made breakfast burritos, and I supervised and then took over the rolling responsibilities. He did all of the hard work though! I’ll share our recipe, which includes meat, but this could easily be made vegetarian if that is your thing! Just substitute out the sausage for black beans or tofu- or just let the egg and avocado be your protein! Cheese would also be delicious in this- but we wanted our burritos to be dairy free.

Breakfast Burritos (makes seven servings)

You’ll need:

7 large flour tortillas

4 eggs

1 lb ground sausage

1/2 a diced onion

2 potatoes (cut into small strips, drizzled in olive oil, covered with a paper towel and microwaved for about two minutes to speed up their cooking time)

a few bunches of spinach leaves

1 avocado

salsa

Salt and pepper (according to your taste)

Making the omelet filling:

First, we cooked the sausage, and then set it aside. Next, we sautéed our diced onions with a little olive oil, until they were soft. We threw in our microwaved potatoes, and sauteed them for a few minutes as well. We again added the sausage to the pan, and let everything mix together.

Next, we cracked four eggs into a bowl, whisked them together with a little salt and pepper, and added them to the pan to make a scrambled omelet. Once the omelet was cooked, it was removed from heat, and allowed to cool enough to handle as filling.

ingredients cooked

 

Assembling the burritos:

By the way- try not to overstuff your tortilla, or it will fall apart when you try to roll it! We learned this after attempting to assemble our first burrito!

We set out a square of tinfoil that was larger than our tortillas. We added raw pre-washed spinach leaves to the bottom of the burrito (Next time, I would like to cook the spinach and add it to the omelet filling. It didn’t bother my husband, but the texture of raw spinach in the morning isn’t my jam. This is a total judgment call though!) Next, we added some of the omelet filling to the tortilla. After that, we added three thin slices of avocado and a drizzle of salsa to the top.  The tortillas were then rolled up carefully in the tinfoil. We chose tin foil because this would be easy for my husband to grab on his way to work, and heat up in the toaster oven. If you know you’ll just be eating your burrito at home, you could always roll them and carefully place them in a small casserole dish for storage.

burrito wrapped

We think these breakfast burritos were a delicious grab and go breakfast, which is ideal for us- since my husband leaves for work at 6:00 am sharp! Except for today, when he was a little late because he cleaned off my snowy car. He’s the best.

Try this recipe! I’d love to hear what you guys decide to add to your own burritos!

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Mommy and Me: Testing a nondairy breakfast muffin recipe

February 16, 2016
healthier nondairy breakfast muffins old fashioned modern living

Yes, I said “breakfast muffin”. Muffins are often considered a breakfast  food, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that not all muffins are a healthy breakfast choice. Being made in a muffin tin with paper liners may technically qualify a baked good as a muffin, but in a lot of cases, that sugary little cake is more like a naked cupcake than a healthy breakfast muffin.

Just yesterday I baked sweet, fluffy, chocolate chip laden muffins for my husband to bring to work for a party. Sure, they’re pretty and yummy, but they are totally not suitable for breakfast. They, my friends, are naked cupcakes.

This all started last week when my husband asked if I could make him some breakfast muffins to bring to work. Sure, I said, just let me come up with a recipe.

Here’s what I had to consider:

  • Taste – it had to have enough flavor to be to his liking
  • Non dairy – as always, the mister can’t handle dairy, so eggs are in but milk and butter are out
  • No whole nuts – he hates the texture of nuts
  • Protein heavy – plenty of protein to keep him full, but no whole nuts
  • Not too sweet – something tasty, but breakfast appropriate and fairly healthy
healthier nondairy breakfast muffins old fashioned modern living

My little helper.

I ended up deciding to use white all purpose flour mixed with almond meal and oats for the base. To sweeten, a ripe banana and a little genuine maple syrup. Water, eggs and a little vegetable oil eliminated the need for dairy. The almond meal, oats, a little PB Fit and ground flax and chia seeds added a hefty punch of protein and fiber for energy.

Little Miss helped me drop ingredients into the bowl and mix, and soon we had a lumpy dough to bake. I was a little nervous, as I always am when trying a new recipe, but everything worked out! I got tasty, moist, not too sweet muffins with plenty of texture. They stuck to the paper a little bit, but that happens. I worried they wouldn’t be sweet enough for my husband’s taste, but he said they were just right! He actually preferred the plain ones to the ones I had dropped fresh blueberries into.

This recipe can be adjusted to taste though – add in sliced almonds for more texture, mixed fruit for some tang, extra maple syrup for sweetness. Adjust however you like to get the perfect healthier breakfast muffins. I haven’t tried it yet, but based on other things I’ve made I’m going to take a guess and say that substituting a gluten free flour mix for the all purpose flour will work just fine.

I made this in my KitchenAid, but it can easily be mixed by hand. If you don’t have PB Fit or ground flax/chia seeds on hand, just leave it out. That kind of change won’t affect the recipe very much.

Healthier Non-Dairy Breakfast Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (I used sunflower – safflower, avocado, coconut, any should work)
  • 1 ripe banana, broken into pieces
  • 1 tbsp PB Fit
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground flax/chia seeds
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup water

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a muffin tin by spraying the indents or dropping in paper liners.
  2. Measure and place the dry ingredients (flour, almond meal, oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, flax/chia) into your bowl and mix to get it all nice and combined.
  3. Add eggs, water, vegetable oil and maple syrup and mix until everything is combined. A lumpy dough is okay!
  4. Spoon into your prepared cups, filling 1/2 to 3/4. Depending on how much you fill, this should make 10-12 muffins.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until muffins are puffy and a toothpick in the center comes out clean.

You can see in the photos above, the color and shape of the muffins. In the photo of the two, the blue liner was filled about halfway, and the yellow closer to 3/4, so you can see the difference in size when they bake.

This may be our new go-to breakfast for weekdays! This batch lasted nicely sealed in plastic for 5 days, then the remaining muffins went into the freezer for the next week. Will you be trying this out? And if so, what are your favorite mix-ins?

Baking Health & Home Life Parenting Uncategorized

Things I’ve Been Loving Recently

January 16, 2016

Hello folks, Kristen here. Just stopping by with a quick list of things that have been making me happy recently:

  1. Homemade Laundry Detergent– My mom came to my rescue with this fantastic detergent recipe. You see, store bought detergent is a huge trigger for my gag reflex. Prior to getting pregnant, I loved the smell of our detergent. Now, I can’t wear clothes that have been washed in that detergent without getting sick! There are a few other advantages to this detergent as well. It is gentle on your clothing, and is gentle for people who have sensitive skin and are prone to allergic reactions. It is also cheap to make, and easy to customize to fit your needs. I like that it smells only faintly of soap, but if you’d like a stronger scent, add your favorite essential oil to the recipe. Ilana recently posted some great information on that topic. The recipe is as follows- 1 bar of ivory soap (grated), 1 and 1/2 cups borax, and 1 and 1/2 cups of Arm and Hammer washing soda. I’ll be making some more as soon as I  run out!
  2. Smitten Kitchen’s Oat and Wheat Sandwich Bread– Holy moly- this is good bread, guys. I know that bread is not the healthiest thing to eat, so if you are going to eat bread- why not make it really delicious, good bread? I love the experience of baking bread on a cold day when you are cozy and warm at home. This recipe is not difficult at all. I didn’t have whole wheat flour, so I just used unbleached bread flour, and it turned out fine. The beginning of the recipe is a little time consuming, but once you get past that part, you can totally do other things while the bread is rising and proofing. I used that time to do dishes and clean up the house. It makes the house smell amazing, and it makes two loaves, so you can always freeze one. The simplicity of the recipe is inspiring me to see how long I can go without buying store bought bread! We ate ours with this yummy chicken salad. I left the sugar and poppy seeds out of the recipe when I made it, and used almonds instead of pecans, because that is what I had. I also added a bit of shallot pepper and rosemary to season it more.
  3. Electric City Roaster’s Coffee– Now that I am past my first trimester, coffee is back to being delicious! I do limit myself to one cup of half caf, but it’s a nice way to start the day! Recently, a friend has been making fun of us for buying the cheapest generic coffee the grocery store has in stock, and he encouraged us to try out this company. My mom has also been on me to make sure that my decaf is water filtered, because apparently a lot of decaf is filtered using some kind of chemicals. On Sunday, we took the plunge and ordered a few bags of beans online. By Monday morning, my coffee was hand delivered to my door. We are super impressed. The coffee is delicious and we ordered a roast with low acidity, so it’s not as tough on my sensitive stomach. So far, we are pleased and plan to reorder more when we run out. I highly recommend checking them out!
  4. Bringing Up Bebe and The Happiest Baby on the Block– I read Bringing Up Bebe a few months ago, and it was a really enjoyable read. It’s interesting to read about raising children in other countries and different parenting methods. It does make the French childhood sound idyllic, but some of it isn’t realistic for me because I do not live in France. I will not deliver my baby in a fancy private hospital with fresh baguettes and champagne on the menu! A girl can dream though! However, I enjoyed the chapters on gentle sleep training and making sure your child’s diet is diverse. I’ve witnessed how well that works with my niece! Little Miss happily eats whatever Ilana puts in front of her. It is pretty fantastic! I’ve been rereading it again recently, and my husband promises to read it soon. I just started The Happiest Baby on the Block. It deals with methods of soothing your baby. I witnessed my friend using a few of these methods on her newborn, and they really seem to work.
  5. Finding out our baby’s sex- a boy!!! We were in total shock, because everyone who looked at me predicted girl! I’m not sure how to feel about that- I guess I’m carrying kind of low and round? I am a short girl with hips though, there is not a lot of space for this baby weight to go! Luckily my doctor says that my weight gain is healthy and right on target. We are so thrilled to start being able to call Baby “him” and to start making plans for our little fella! His tiny kicks are the happiest part of my day. He even kicked hard enough for his Daddy to feel him the other day. It’s the best. I am so thankful for him, and pray for him pretty much all day every day.

That is all for now! I hope you can all find a few things every day that make you feel happy. It’s the little things, right?

Cooking Recipe Uncategorized

Easy and Delicious Weekday Breakfast: Avocado Toast

January 13, 2016

Anyone else bored with their weekday breakfast routine? I was loving my granola and yogurt until I wasn’t, and I overdid it on the cereal during the early days of my pregnancy.  I need change! When my sisters were here, we were on a muffin making kick, which was pretty awesome, but my husband usually needs a little more protein for breakfast to get through the morning.  Then I remembered something I have not made in about a year- avocado toast!

Here is my favorite way to make it:

Avocado Toast For Two

Toast two slices of whole wheat bread.

Mash up one ripe avocado and add a splash of lime juice, and a little salt and pepper.

Spread over your toast and enjoy OR-

Get creative with more toppings!

Add a fried or medium well done poached egg,

add some chopped up bacon,

add a thinly sliced tomato or other sliced veggies of your choice,

or maybe add some leftover beans that you had in the fridge.

When I made some toast  for my husband and I this morning, I topped ours with some leftover bacon and a poached egg each. I highly recommend that you give this breakfast a try if you are an avocado lover!

 

Cooking Recipe Uncategorized

I have broth bowl envy, but no time. Let’s make stir fry instead!

January 6, 2016

I don’t know about you, but I have been seeing a lot of pictures of beautifully styled broth bowls on Pinterest, some of my favorite blogs, and one particularly inspiring Instagram feed. My friend’s picture on Instagram looked particularly enticing, so I looked up recipes from the chef that she was trying to emulate. David Chang’s ramen bowls look lovely, but the broth takes hours to make. Also, I hate mushrooms and don’t have any pork belly on hand. Eww. I’m a carnivore, but that even grosses me out.  This is not ideal for a week day meal. Maybe I will attempt some version of this on a weekend one day, but today I have work and do not want to create a huge mess. We don’t have a dishwasher. In fact- I am the dishwasher. My husband helps, but the poor guy works over 9 hours a day, so I try to handle this stuff during the week. I have learned if the dishes are not done by 8:00 pm, they will not get done until the next morning. Bedtime comes early when it’s winter and you are growing a human. So let’s keep dinner simple tonight, shall we?

However, now I am craving some kind of asian food. I am going to be practical, and use what I already have at home in the name of economy and also, because it is currently four degrees outside.  When I am examining what about the broth bowl I am craving, its mostly the noodles and the egg portion. A stir fry over rice noodles should satisfy this craving, and I can make it colorful and pretty and top it with an egg for extra protein! The good thing about stir fry is that you can use whatever meat or veggies you have around. This would be just as delicious with broccoli or even brussels sprouts or whatever you want!

Easy Week night Stir-Fry

Here’s what you’ll need:

Sesame oil for sautéing or olive if you don’t have sesame

1 chicken breast, cut into short strips

1/2 zucchini, quartered

1/2 yellow summer squash, quartered

2 carrots, peeled and cut into short spears

1 green pepper, cut into short strips

a handful of frozen spinach

1/2 an onion, diced

1 garlic clove, diced

Light soy sauce

1 tspn Powdered ginger, plus a little extra

A few shakes of hot red pepper flakes

1 package of rice noodles

By the way- I am kicking myself for running out of chili garlic sauce. About a  tablespoon would be lovely in this dish if you happen to have it and like the spice!

First, cut up all of your veggies, and sauté them in sesame oil over medium heat. I like to use my wok, but any large pan will do. Once the veggies begin to soften a bit, add a few drizzles of light soy sauce, and about 1 teaspoon of powdered ginger to season the veggies. Add a few shakes of hot red pepper flakes according to taste. We like things pretty spicy at our house.

veggies-2

I ended up sautéing the chicken separately because the veggies took up so  much space.  I removed the cooked veggies from the wok once they were soft and added the chicken. I seasoned it the same way- just used less- a drizzle of soy sauce, a few shakes of ginger and red pepper flakes. The chicken only took a few minutes to cook because the pieces were so small.

I prepared the rice noodles according to the directions on the package. In this case, the package said to soak the noodles in very hot water for 10 minutes, and then strain them. Once the noodles were done, I mixed the noodles, chicken and veggies in a big bowl. Tonight, when I serve this, I’ll  probably drizzle it with a touch more soy sauce, and top mine with a poached egg! Don’t worry, it will be cooked all the way through for the sake of tiny baby!

plate plate2

I hope you give this stir fry a try some night! Has anyone tried to make those trendy broth bowls?

 

 

 

Cooking Recipe Uncategorized

Easy Dinner: Spicy Chicken Pasta

December 3, 2015

Now that we are finally finished with our Thanksgiving leftovers, my husband requested that I make this spicy chicken pasta dish.  We had some for dinner last night, along with a tomato and mozzarella salad. It’s best enjoyed with a generous glass of red wine, or some sparkling cranapple juice- if that’s more your speed! My husband enjoys it so much that he was excited to bring leftovers for lunch today, despite the fact that it is Chinese Food Day, one of the happiest days of the work week. Anyone who has worked long hours at a job, especially one where you sometimes feel a bit cooped up, knows how exciting ordering out is, or even just lunchtime in general. When I worked as a job coach, the Starbucks and McDonalds runs that I’d make with my coworkers got us through the long days at the office when we weren’t out coaching. The point is, on Thursdays, I’m competing with Chinese Food Day, and today, I won.

This is an easy enough dinner to make on a busy week night. Just be sure to take some chicken out of the freezer to defrost in the morning. We usually use one large chicken breast, but you can add more if you like a dish that is a little more meat heavy. You could also use spiralized zucchini instead of pasta if you are looking for a gluten free or lower carb dinner. You can adjust the level of spice, but please don’t- the spiciness makes this dish interesting.  We think it’s pretty perfect, but it is really spicy, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 Large Chicken Breast

1 Shallot or about a quarter of a small onion

1 Cup of Frozen Peas

1 Pound Pasta (we like rigatoni)

1 Jar Tomato Sauce (Homemade is best, but your favorite store bought brand works too:)

1 Tablespoon Italian Herb Mix

2 Teaspoons Hot Red Pepper Flakes  (plus a little more to sprinkle on top)

Grated Romano Cheese (for a topping when you serve)

 

Before you start chopping, put up some water to boil the pasta. Dice up your shallot, and sautee it in olive oil over medium heat. While keeping an eye on the shallots, cube the chicken breast. Add the cubed chicken to the shallots and sautee them together. Once the chicken is beginning to cook, sprinkle on the Italian herb mix, and toss the chicken so that everything is spiced. Next, do the same with the hot red pepper flakes.

onions  cutting-chicken

Is the water boiling yet? If so, add your pasta and just mix it once in awhile and keep an eye on it while you are cooking the chicken.

boiling

Once the chicken is nearly done, add the peas into the mix to defrost (make sure you are adding loose frozen peas because a giant frozen block will take too long to defrost. Hit the bag on the counter if you need to break up clumps of peas). My least favorite part about cooking chicken, is making sure everything is cooked. I end up using my spatula to break a bunch of the bigger cubes in half to check if they are cooked. Its not the best method, but that’s how I do it!

chickn

Once the chicken is cooked, as well as the pasta, get out the biggest bowl that you have. Add a little tomato sauce to the bottom, and then add your pasta to the bowl. Top with the chicken, shallots and peas, and then pour on the rest of your sauce. Mix everything evenly together, and then feel free to sprinkle on some more hot pepper flakes if you like things extra spicy.

pasta

Enjoy it for dinner! And then maybe again for lunch tomorrow!

bowl tomato-salad

*For those of you interested in the salad, we used mozzarella pearls and halved cherry tomatoes drizzled in olive oil and balsamic. I also sprinkled Italian herb mix over the top. No measuring required, just follow your heart. Unless your heart tells you you to add the whole jar of seasoning or something. That’s just wrong.

 

 

Baking Cooking Uncategorized

Friendsgiving 2015

November 23, 2015

I will start by saying, we had a fantastic Friendsgiving weekend! However, like most  best laid plans, things did not go exactly as I thought they would. I did not hang the sparkly ‘Give Thanks’ banner I made last year, nor did I type up a menu or make place cards as planned. My husband and I finished cleaning the house the Friday night before, and we decided to take a nap because our friends were due to arrive around 11:30 pm. I started to realize that I wasn’t feeling so great, but managed to shake it off, even staying up talking for a few hours after our friends arrived.

The next morning, I felt slightly refreshed after getting some sleep, and we all went to Oliver’s Cafe for breakfast. The plan was to go shopping for the ingredients everyone needed after breakfast. By the end of breakfast, I still was not feeling great and I asked my husband if he could go shopping with my friend’s boyfriend, so all of the girls go stay home and I could relax. I felt worse when we got home, so it was ultimately decided that my husband would take me to the doctors and my sweet friends offered to do the shopping. I felt so guilty because we really needed to get started on shopping and cooking, and who wants to go to the doctors when you have a house full of guests and a dinner party to cook for? I was at the doctors for about two hours, which isn’t the longest time considering that it was last minute on a Saturday. Everything was okay, but it was determined that I was dehydrated, so I was sent home with instructions to put my feet up for the rest of the day and drink a lot of water.

When we got home, we found a clean kitchen. My friends cleaned up all the cups and snack dishes from the night before. They also went shopping for the remainder of the ingredients. The long, rambling point I am trying to make is, my friends are the best. They totally pulled together to make dinner happen when I wasn’t feeling well, and they even cleaned up all the dishes again after dinner, so I could lay on the couch. All in all, it turned out to be a good weekend, and dinner was only delayed by two hours. I got the ham in the oven, chopped veggies at the table with my feet up, and gave my husband directions to make the stuffing. Instead of the pie we planned to get, my other friends brought delicious homemade peanut butter cookies and apple cider donuts from Indian Ladder Farm for dessert! No, I did not put out the planned decorations, but to be honest, the table was full of food anyway. I also did not document the entire experience as thoroughly as I thought I would, but I still have some recipes to share! So to my friends-thanks guys! I love you all!

Here is what everyone made:

Turkey Cheese Platter

turkey

You’ll Need:

Sliced pepperoni

Sliced hard sausage

Two types of sliced cheese

Arrange all of your items on a flat platter platter to look like a turkey! It came out pretty fancy as you can see!

 

Chili Cheese Dip

You’ll Need:

1 can of chili

Cream cheese

Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Tortilla Chips

Spread the cream cheese over the bottom of a glass dish and microwave it to soften it- about 30 seconds. Next, spread the chili over the cream cheese, and sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top. Microwave everything for about 4 minutes, or until everything is hot and melty. Serve with tortilla chips. This dip is so good. My friend learned to make it from her mom, and now I want her to make this every year!

 

Pineapple Ham

ham

We ultimately decided to make a ham instead of a turkey, because we figured everyone would be having turkey soon anyway! This is how my mom makes her holiday ham.

1 bone in ham (we used a 7 lb ham)

2 cans of Pineapple

1 can or small bottle of ginger ale

Brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place your ham in the baking dish, and pour the ginger ale over it. Next pat the ham with a little brown sugar. Place the ham in the oven, and bake it for 20 minutes per pound. For us, that ended up being 2 hours and 20 minutes. Once the time is up (don’t turn off the oven), remove the ham from the oven, and let it cool enough to cut it up into smaller pieces. Drain some of the liquid, but leave a little at the bottom of the pan. Reserve some of the liquid that you drained and add a few table spoons of brown sugar to it. Now you are going to drain about half of the liquid from the pineapple cans and pour the rest over the ham slices. Finish by pouring some of the brown sugar mixture over the ham and pineapple. Put the ham back in the oven for another 40 minutes to an hour to let the pineapple and juices soak in.

Bacon Bourbon Stuffing

stuffing

I used the recipe from A Beautiful Mess. However, this year, instead of buying fresh loaves that I cut up, I used pre-cut hardened cubes from the bakery. I have to say, it did not come out as good. Buy fresh loaves of bread and cut them up the night before you use them. It makes all the difference. This recipe is also a great starting off point if you want to leave out the bacon or the bourbon and do your own thing to it. This Thanksgiving, I am making stuffing to bring to a vegetarian friend’s house, so I am excited to eliminate the bacon and possibly add fresh cranberries or something. Make it your own!

 

Potato Croquettes

Sadly, I do not have the exact recipe my friend used to make these delicious potato croquettes, but I searched online for a recipe that seemed similar, and provided it for you here! He did a fantastic job, and made these shaped exactly like baked potatoes, which he swore was a happy accident.

table

Mac and Cheese

This is the recipe my girlfriend used to make us delicious mac and cheese. Clearly, we did not avoid dairy this holiday! This mac and cheese is actually called Smack Yo Mama Mac and Cheese, and was featured on Good Morning America. It really was that good, although nobody was smacked on Friendsgiving! The name  did make us laugh though.

Cornbread

I did not get a picture of this, nor did I get the recipe for my friend’s famous cornbread! I do have two tips from her to share with you though. 1.  Use a glass baking dish. Cast iron skillets tend to dry out the cornbread (this is very true- its happened to me multiple times). 2. Once it comes out of the oven, rub butter all over the top. I never said this was healthy cornbread!

Although I don’t have the recipe for the exact cornbread my friend made, I do have a really good recipe given to me by one of my husband’s coworkers. I used the above tips with this recipe yesterday, and it came out really moist and delicious!

You’ll Need:

1/2 cup butter (plus extra to spread on at the end)

2/3 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk (I had none, so I added 1 teaspoon go white vinegar to slightly under a cup of almond milk  to make my own “buttermilk”. This trick works with regular milk as well. It’s a  decent substitute. I even used the almond milk version in coleslaw once, and nobody noticed!)

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1 cup of cornmeal

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Preheat the oven to 375, and grease an small glass pan. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add it to a bowl and stir in the sugar and two eggs. Combine the buttermilk with the baking soda and stir the mixture into the other ingredients. Add the cornmeal, flour, and salt until it is well blended and only a few lumps remain. Pour the batter into a prepared pan. Bake the cornbread for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. I baked mine for 35 minutes. Next, spread butter over the top, and let it seep in as it melts. Enjoy!

Greenbeans

Believe it or not, but we did in fact eat something green on Friendsgiving! Sadly I did not get the recipe for these yummy green beans, but I believe they were sauteed and dressed with some kind of lemon, garlic sauce.

Applesauce

Remember when I made applesauce a few weeks ago? I brought out one of my jars for this occasion and sent a few back to Long Island with my friends. It was a big hit, so if you haven’t made some yet you totally should make some for Thursday!

 

I hope that you’ll try some of these recipes for your own celebrations this year! Don’t let the holidays get you down if things don’t work out exactly as planned. Sometimes they end up being pretty wonderful anyway!

 

 

Review Uncategorized

A Few of Our Favorite Spots in Schenectady

November 11, 2015

Hi there, Kristen here.

After a busy afternoon at work yesterday, I came home expecting to scarf down leftovers and make some meatballs for lunches tomorrow while my husband worked late. I was absolutely exhausted, and feeling a little shaky with hunger. Instead, while I was letting the dogs outside, my husband walked in with burritos from La Mexicana! “Are you my hero?” I asked. “No,” he replied, “They were out of carnitas, so I got the chicken.” Still, he’s my hero. Plus, the first bite of my burrito was almost entirely guacamole, so that was pretty exciting. If you’re into that sort of thing.

It has been a crazy few weeks here at our house. Between having a lot of company, me going back to work part time, and trying to catch up on housework, we have been relying more heavily on eating out and take out. While this is not ideal, it has been delicious because we are lucky enough to live near some really awesome restaurants. So while I don’t currently have any recipes to share (yet! Friendsgiving is this weekend!), I can share with you some of my favorite restaurants in and near Schenectady, and what you should be sure to order there.

La Mexicana

Located on State street in Schenectady is a small restaurant attached to a Mexican grocery store. They do have a small room if you would like to sit down, and I heard that they now serve drinks if that interests you. We usually just get take out and eat at home. While you’re at La Mexicana, I recommend that you try the carnitas burrito and the carnitas tacos, although the spicy chicken is really good too. The burrito is huge, so if you don’t want to feel stuffed, definitely get yourself a few $2 tacos and use the green sauce. My husband prefers the red, so maybe you should just try both and see which you like better. Tips: the enchiladas there are only okay. If you want really good enchiladas go to Casa Real on Altamonte Avenue in Rotterdam. That is the best hot plate Mexican restaurant that we have discovered close to our house. Also, at La Mexicana, don’t ask for extra guacamole on your burrito. The only times we have ever done that, we have gotten no guacamole. Don’t be presumptuous, just let the guacamole happen the way its going to happen.

 

Jasmine Thai

I first tasted Thai food at Ilana’s 22nd birthday when I first started dating her brother. It’s been true love ever since. Thai food. And my husband. We were very excited to discover this little gem on Broadway in Schenectady, very close to where we live. We go so often that the staff now recognizes my husband when he calls and picks up the food. Our usual order is Chicken Mango Curry and Prik Pow Fried Rice, with the spring rolls to start. You’ll want to drink the plum sauce that comes with the spring rolls. I am telling you the truest thing you’ll ever hear. We have also tried the Pineapple Fried Rice, the Pad Thai, and the Drunken Noodles. We have never been disappointed.  Just make sure you inquire about the level of spice because things can get pretty hot! Also, they are closed on Sunday, when you will inevitably be craving thai. Don’t go to a different thai food place. Just get something else. My friends and I have made that mistake.

The Bier Abbey

The Bier Abbey is located on Union Street in Schenectady. You’ll go for the extensive rotating beer list, but you’ll stay for the Abbey Cheese Fries and the wings in bierbeque sauce. We have tried other things on the menu, the burgers, the salads, the chicken fingers- one of my friends even tried the brussel sprouts. It’s all good stuff. Ultimately, we always return to the fries and wings for the perfect accompaniment to the beer.  It’s a good spot for a date night or to bring friends! As for beer, my husband loves IPA’s and I enjoy dark beers. If you are anything like me, my old reliable there is always Beanhead. If you are uncertain- order a 4 oz. just to try it.

 

Cella Bistro

I first walked into Cella Bistro wearing cutoffs and a tank top and I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Don’t be like me guys. To clarify, no one made me feel that way but myself- it was just a little fancier than I expected. We now reserve Cella Bistro for special occasions like anniversaries or birthdays since it is a little expensive. We discovered Cella Bistro not long after we moved upstate. It’s located on Rosa Road, not far from our old apartment complex. I always thought of Cella Bistro as nontraditional Italian food, but really, their menu offers so much more. I also discovered that they use  mostly local ingredients, which is really cool.  If you go, be sure to sit in the front by the bar, where the Tapas menu is always offered. There are a few delicious constants, such as the bread and cheese fondue, and the beef rib, but the menu offers something new each day. My husband and I usually choose a small plate to share and split the spinach and arugula salad in addition to our meals.  My absolute favorite dish is the Roasted Poblanos- a vegetarian dish-peppers stuffed with rice and beans and smothered in some kind of creamy white cheese.  My husband has gotten the duck, the steak and the bolognese, and has been thrilled with everything that he ordered. If you are in the area, I definitely recommend Cella Bistro for your next special occasion. Order a French Martini for me!

Ambition Coffee and Eatery

Ambition is the coolest allegedly haunted sandwich shop that you have ever been to. Its located on Jay Street in Schenectady, a place which Harry Potter fans will recognize as resembling Diagon Alley. It is covered in bottle cap decor, cute knick knacks and pictures of celebrities. I even discovered a picture of young Brad Pitt in the bathroom. My husband tells me that there is one of Madonna in the men’s room. I have only been there for lunch, but apparently they also have breakfast and are open late enough for dinner on the nights that there are shows at Proctors- our local theater. The sandwiches are all delicious and have funky names. We have gotten the Ambition, and Jeremy’s Package. There are apples, bacon, and cranberry pesto involved. Oh- and did I mention the pretzel bread? I’ve also tried multiple soups, gazpacho, and their coffee-  everything has been delicious. Just go there.

Oliver’s Cafe

I will leave you with this one last place, Oliver’s, although I am realizing that I have a lot of favorite places that I haven’t mentioned.  Perhaps there will be a part two forthcoming, but for real. Not like that time we were going to do a part deux of our Fall beer tasting, but instead my husband drank it all and did not describe it to me. There will be an actual part two.  We have not even covered dessert. Or sushi. My husband loves sushi.

Oliver’s is actually just outside of Schenectady, over the bridge in Glenville. Anyway, it is open for breakfast and lunch, but we just go there for breakfast.  The breakfasts are amazing. If you have not learned by now, I am a creature of habit, and I tend to have a favorite dish at every restaurant that I go to, and I order it every time. At Oliver’s, that dish is the Texas Benedict. Its a poached egg and sausage on an english muffin, covered in sausage gravy. You get two of those, plus home fries that are more like chunks of baked potato that have been lightly fried in some kind of delicious, mysterious grease. I recommend eating half and saving half for the next day. Or you will probably get sick. But you won’t be sorry, because your breakfast was that good. They also have other exciting things like cornbread french toast and giant pancakes. Really though, who cares? Just get the Texas Benedict and make sure you bring cash! They don’t accept cards. Go early or expect a little bit of a wait. I promise it will be worth it.

Well that’s it for today folks! I’ll be back soon to document Friendsgiving and share some of our recipes!