Friday, March 29, 2013

Food for Thought: Carefree Crockpot

With my new busy schedule starting at the end of February, I have been struggling a bit to manage my time.  Going to yoga four times a week and walking 4 miles twice a week, sometimes I don't get home until 6 pm, or I get home after work just to turn around and go to yoga then get home at 8/9 PM.  I am not complaining--in fact I love it!  However, this new schedule has canabalized another love of mine--making dinner for my husband!

{I have a Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 5 quart crockpot.  I LOVE this crockpot!  It has three settings, and you can snap the lid on and travel with it--great for potlucks!}

What to do, what to do?  Well, I tried coming home and making dinner just to go to bed almost immediately when I was done.  So all the fun and relaxing stuff I like to do like read, watch some DVR TV shows (DVRing helps to cut down on my TV consumption!), spend time with my husband, play with the kitties, DIY projects (like a burlap wreath I just finished!), housework, etc was falling to the wayside.  I am in bed by 9:30 pm most nights because this woman needs 7-8 hours of sleep to function!  (Go ahead and make fun of me...  I know that I get the rest I need!)  I tried for a few weeks, but I wasn't liking it--at all.  Back to the drawing board!

I was getting disheartened about the situation; in fact, I contemplated cutting back so I could be at home more, but then it came to me!  CROCKPOT!!!  I really don't use it too often as I only have 4-5 recipes that I would make in it.  It's also not my strongest ability since in school everything was cooked on a stove/in the oven--not in a slow cooker all day.  So I spent last Sunday on the couch (it was raining, cold and icky outside anyway) looking up crockpot recipes and tips. 

The posts will start venturing into the crockpot world more often than not so hang on to your crockpot lids!  Yes--even in the summer!  I read somewhere that using a crockpot keeps your kitchen cooler in the summer because it's a low, insulated heat rather than the less effective stove or oven--never thought of it that way before!  Plus, cheaper pieces of meat are typically used because they are tough and need long, slow cooking methods.  Plus, you dump everything into one pot and slow cook all day without a care.  Plus, you have the incredible smell wafting through the house especially when you walk in the door!  YES PLEASE!!!!  Any suggestions or recipes for crockpots you want to share, I will be more than happy to have!

I'm very excited to take this opportunity to learn a new skill!!!  Have a great weekend! 

PS--WHY did I wait so long to get on the bandwagon?....  I should have done this YEARS ago!

Pin It

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mediterranean Turkey Burgers

I had EVERY intention of walking into the kitchen and making this fabulous turkey meatball recipe, but when I read over the recipe before I started--I just didn't feel it.  Don't know why, but I wanted something simple and quick.  I scanned my cupboards and saw falafel mix.  An idea hit--let's mix the ground turkey with falafel mix and make turkey burgers!  And so I did :o)  They were moist and delicious!  Ben even liked them!

{Mediterranean Turkey Burger with Curry Ketchup}

{Turkey burgers cooking in broth--so healthy!}

*Sorry for the lack of pictures--it was an after thought to take them since I didn't know how they would turn out.

Mediterranean Turkey Burgers with Curry Ketchup

Serves 4


1 pound ground turkey
1 cup falafel mix
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup ketchup
1-2 tablespoons curry
  1. Heat 1/4 cup chicken broth in a pan.
  2. Mix together turkey, falafel mix, egg, and garlic powder until well combined.
  3. Separate turkey mix into four equal sized balls and pat them out into patties.
  4. Add burgers to pan and cook until done about 8-10 minutes each side adding more chicken broth as necessary.
  5. Meanwhile mix ketchup and curry together; the curry taste can be as much as you want (I'm a 2 tablespoon woman while Ben is more of a 1 tablespoon).
  6. Serve turkey burgers with curry ketchup either plain (like pictured above) or on bread like a burger with spinach and feta.
Have you ever just invented something on the fly?  Did it work out?  What was it?

Pin It

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Peanut Butter Energy Balls

I started taking professional yoga classes with my mom in February, and can I say--what was I missing?!  The classes are definitely better than doing a DVD at home, and my body and mind are loving it!  However, after class (I'm up to four a week at the moment), I am usually hungry....Like ravenous...  I have no clue as to why I am (maybe I should ask the instructor...).  So I modified the peanut butter honey truffles which utilizes the TONS of oatmeal my brother left when he came for my wedding (yes--almost 6 months later, and I am still working on it!) and some other much loved ingredients.  They are quick and easy (not processing the oats into flour), and perfect to pop in when I am leaving to stave the hungry belly.

{My verison is without coconut}

{Cool layers that were completely unintentional}

{It does take some upper body strength to mix these puppies!}

This is a great base recipe, and then you add whatever you want or have in the cupboards!  My mom made these with coconut, chocolate chips, and chia seeds (instead of flax).  Make them yours!  Use a different nut butter if you want--hmmmm almond butter, chocolate chips, and coconut....  I'm off to make them!

Peanut Butter Energy Balls

Makes 18-20 (golf ball size)


2 cups oats
1 cup peanut butter
2/3 cups honey
2 teaspoons vanilla

These balls had:
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup ground flax seed
  1. Mix all ingredients together until well combined.
  2. Roll into balls.
  3. Refrigerate until set.
  4. Place in baggies and store in the fridge.
I can definitely see adding dried apples and cinnamon for the fall.  I would add dried ingredients (e.g. dried berries, etc) because the fresh would put too much moisture into the balls and would not hold together.

What do you like to snack on?

Pin It

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday Tip: Knife 101

As a culinarian, I get many questions regarding knives.  Here are the basics: what most people need, different kinds of knives, sharpening knives, and caring for knives.

{Wustof set of chef and paring knives I received as a gift; they are the knives that I use the most}

Knife Needs

There are sooooo many types of knives with sooooo many different styles, that it is mind-boggling; even for me!  However, unless you are doing some really fancy stuff, two good quality knives is really all you need: a chef knife and a paring knife.

{This is the large, clasic chef knife--about 12 inches!}

{This chef knife is about 8 inches long and more manageable especially since the blade is extremely thin!}

{A paring knife is about 3-4 inches in length.  This is used for small, detailed work.  I personally don't use it much in my kitchen, but it is good for cutting the tops of peppers and such.  Any time you want more control and detailed work.}

Knives are really all about preference; handles and styles are different.  I prefer the 8 inch chef knife because it fits better in my hand than the large chef knife, and I feel like I can control it better.  Not to say that when I have a melon or pineapple to cut up, I use the 8 inch---nope I use the big chef knife because it can handle those items better.  If anything invest in a good chef knife that feels good to you and a paring knife.

Some additional knives:

{Bread knife--it is serrated and extremely long!}

{Boning knife--used to butcher meat.  I have this because Ben goes hunting, and I have to break down the meat.  The blade is very thin and flexible so it can be easily manuevered.  This is the only knife that will not have a full tang (see below) and will be made with a plastic handle with texture so it doesn't slip from your hand}

Knife 101:  Knife Anatomy and Handling:

Everyone knows the blade of a knife.  However, the tang is what makes a knife!  What is the tang?  Glad you asked!

{The tang--the knife blade is one piece with two pieces on either side to make a handle}

A great quality knife will have a full tang meaning that the blade is one long piece going through the handle.

{NEVER hold a knife (ANY knife) like this!!!  This hold is very unstable; anything can push my wrist to either side; plus you have no control when you hold a knife like this}

{To properly grip a knife, move your hand all the way to where the blade meets the handle; strandle your index and thumb over the blade}

{This is the proper way to hold a knife when cutting and using it}

Knife Maintenance and Sharpening:

So how many of you have something similar to the picture below in your kitchen?

{Knife Steel}

Oh you do?  Great!  This is a honing steel; it is NOT a sharpener!!!  Let me repeat: A STEEL IS NOT A SHARPENER!!!  Many people make this mistake.  A steel, when done correctly, straightens a blade which makes the blade wear evenly.  Believe it or not, knife blades do bend/curl at the sharp edge.  Straightening the blade does make it cut better, but does not sharpen the blade.

{Not the angle needed to straighten the blade--just a pretty picture to show off the slimness of the blade of my Wustof chef knife}

How do you straighten the blade? Carefully run the knife from blade end to blade end at a 23 degree angle.  Watch this video on how to straighten the blade.  I do this EVERY time before using my chef knife.

To sharpen my knife when it gets dull, I prefer an electric sharpener.  I had to use stones in school, but I wasn't good at it; stones take patience and time.  I invested in a knife sharpener (and sharpened my knives at home rather than school), and I haven't look back!

I use Chef's Choice Asian Knife Sharpener; Asian knives are known for being super thin and sharp!!!

{Sorry for the stock picture--mine is currently residing at my mom's house because I needed to sharpen her knives but haven't had a chance yet.}

Knife Storage and Care:

Once you have your knives, and they are sharpened, how do you store them?  Storing knives can be done in many ways!

{In a knife block}

{With knife blade covers and put into a drawer}

{Or a drawer holder}

{Or a hilarious knife block like I got for my birthday from my brother!}

I have always wanted a magnetic knife holder, but with three curious (infuriating) cats, that would not be a good idea!

Knives should always be hand-washed and air dried to keep them sharper longer.  Plus the heat from a dishwasher could shorten the life of your knife by wharping the handle.

{NEVER put a knife in the dishwasher!!!}

As I said at the beginning of this post, there are many different styles and kinds of knives.  I do have one note about ceramic knives--they will keep a sharp edge for a long time; however, once they are dull you cannot sharpen them.  And please--only use kitchen knives for their purpose!!!  Don't open boxes and bags with your kitchen knives--get a box cutter or scissors!

Pin It

Monday, March 25, 2013

Chicken Hash with Sweet Potatoes

Although I haven't read the 50 Shades of Grey series, my best friend got me the 50 Shades of Chicken: A Parody in a Cookbook by FL Fowler which made me blush (and giggle!).  If you have someone who has read the series and loves to cook, then this will make a perfect gift!  The recipes sound DELICIOUS!  (I am testing them!) 

{Fried egg on top!}

{Sweet potatoes--learn how to cut them here}

{Parboiling sweet potatoes}

{Drain and dry sweet potatoes}

{Frying sweet potatoes}

{Nice color!}

{Add peppers, onion, and garlic (I added mushrooms that needed using--delicious!)}

{Add chicken}

Chicken Hash with Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4


1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 peppers, diced
2 cups cooked chicken, diced or shredded
Pinch of chili flakes
4 eggs, fried
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add sweet potatoes; cook until potatoes are halfway done (al dente).
  2. Drain potatoes and let dry (might have to toss them every few minutes).
  3. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons butter in skillet and add potatoes; let cook on one side without stirring them.
  4. Place sweet potatoes in a bowl.
  5. Add remaining butter to pot and let melt; add peppers, onions, and garlic; cook until tender.
  6. Add chicken and chili flakes and cook until heated through.
  7. Add sweet potatoes and heat through.
  8. Meanwhile, fry eggs in a pan.
  9. Serve hash with eggs.
Olive oil can be substituted for the butter in this recipe just fine.  You can add other veggies too like 1 cup mushrooms, spinach, carrots, etc  (I would almost call this a clean-out-the-fridge hash LOL)

Pin It

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Kitchen Beauty: Face Scrub

A very simple face exfoliating scrub you can make at home only requires three ingredients which I am positive you have in your cupboards at the moment!

{Face scrub with three ingredients!}

This face scrub is gently exfoliating and easy on the skin, especially of yours is sensitive.  I do this scrub once a week, usually on the weekend when I don't need to wear make-up so my skin can breathe and relax.

{Honey, baking soda, and sugar--that's it!}

{Mix honey and baking soda together}

{Blend until smooth}

{Add sugar and mix until combined}

Face Scrub

Makes 1 mask


1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar (cornmeal or sugar in the raw can be used for a more intense scrub)
  1. Mix honey and baking soda together until smooth.
  2. Add sugar and stir to combine.
  3. Put scrub on dry face making circular motions starting at your chin and working up, concentrating on your problem areas.
  4. Rinse off with warm water, follow with toner and/or face lotion.
This scrub should be made right before use; the honey and baking soda react and will start to bubble and thicken if you wait too long.

Pin It

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Chicken Fricassee

After getting the book, 50 Shades of Chicken, for Christmas, I've been itching to try most of them in the span of about a month.  However, Ben doesn't care for that much chicken so I'm having to spread it out :o(  He loves the country ham his parents got from a family friend so when I saw this recipe in the book that combines ham and spicyness, I knew he would love it!  (even if it was chicken....)

{Chicken Fricassee}

{Mixing the marinade}

{Chicken swimming in the spicy marinade}

{I used 3 peppers because they were on the edge}

{Country ham from Ben's parents}

{Searing the chicken}

{Frying the ham}

{Adding sauce ingredients}

{Reducing sauce by 1/3}

{Added chicken and baked in the oven}

Chicken Fricassee

Serves 4


6 bone-in, with skin chicken thighs
1 cup dry white wine
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 oz country ham, chopped
1 medium red onion, cut into wedges
2 peppers, cut into strips (see this post to learn how to cut peppers)
1-6 oz can tomato sauce
1-15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
  1. Place raw chicken in a dish with a lid and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Mix together wine, garlic, chili powder, paprika, and pepper flakes until combined; pour over chicken and marinate overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 325.
  4. Heat oil in a Dutch oven and sear chicken in the pan; when skin is crispy take out and lay back in the marinade.
  5. Add ham pieces to the oil and fry until brown; add onions and peppers and cook until softened.
  6. Add marinade, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and chicken broth to pan and stir to combine.
  7. Reduce sauce by 1/3.
  8. Add chicken back to pan, cover with lid, and place in oven for 1 hour or until chicken is done.
  9. Serve with rice.
This was DELICIOUS!  Of course he LOVED this recipe!  He even ate the leftovers which is a big deal because he usually doesn't eat leftovers.  If you don't like as much spice, please cut back on the spicy ingredients (chili powder, paprika, and pepper flakes) because this dish does have a strong bite!

Pin It

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesday Tip: Cleaning Baked-On Messes with Baking Soda

Soooo how many times have you cooked or baked something that stuck to the dish, and no matter how hard you scrubbed, some parts would not come up?  Too many to count, right?  Well, let me impart a special trick that I learned in culinary school (because having to wash up your own dish mess when you did something terribly wrong was time consuming).

{Baking soda!}

Baking soda, applied directly to a mess right after it happens, will get it out!  A little elbow grease is necessary, but the baking soda's abrasiveness helps cut the time and elbow grease down considerably.

{Baked on bacon and country ham mess from the feijoada (Brazilian Black Bean Stew)!}

{Apply baking soda directly to mess--no measurable amount but add more if you need it!}

{Scrubbed the whole mess off!  Side note--baking soda is a great way to get glass dishes sparkly and clean!}

{Rinse off the baking soda and mess!}

Easy, isn't it?  Another helpful tip if you can't clean a mess up right away is to put water and dish soap in the pan to keep the mess from drying out.  NEVER put water in a hot pan because the pan could warp or glass could crack!!!  I have learned the hard way on both counts--let the dishes cool before you put anything in them!

Pin It