Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tuesday Tip: How to Fix Crystalized Honey

I did not like honey in my youth, but every few years, your taste buds change.  Typically, the older you get, the more bitter foods that you like.  Anyway, now that I have come to my senses, I keep a bottle of local honey in my cabinets at all times; sometimes even with the honeycomb in it because the hubby likes to chew on the beeswax (he is a strange creature).  I use it to sweeten hot teas, to bake, and in my beauty routine.  I go through quite a bit of honey a month (about 2 quarts), but my mom does not.  She had some honey that had crystalized (turned back into solid sugar); this happens because the temperature it is being stored at is too cool or has been sitting for too long.  Don't throw it out though!!!  You can turn the honey back into a liquid in a very easy process!

{See how the honey is solid at the bottom?  That's because it's crystalized!}

{Bottom view of the bottle}

{Simply heat a pot with water--you want the water just beginning to steam.  Don't boil!}

{Place the bottle in the warm water, being careful not to let the plastic bottle touch the bottom of th pan}

{Check the honey every minute or so until the honey has returned to a liquid state.  This bottle took about one minute--the more crystalization you have, the longer it will take!}

And that's it!  Pretty simple right?  How many bottles of honey have you thrown away because you thought it was hard?  I won't lie--I've thrown out a few in my time, but my grandfather told me about this method.  Now no honey goes to waste!  Especially since the poor honeybees are getting lower and lower in number not only in America but other places too.  In fact, Europe just banned the use of three pesticides to allow reserachers to see if they are affecting the honeybee population.

I love honey and all the cool stuff it does.  It's a natural antibiotic and helps sore throats.  During my illness in mid-April, I drank honey and lemon with hot water and sometimes would take a tablespoon, straight, when my throat was unbearable.  Hmmm--maybe it should be my next Spice It UP spotlight....

If you want to find out more about honey head over to the National Honey Board.

Pin It

Monday, April 29, 2013

Yogurt Bites

I love yogurt in all forms--drinkable, frozen, and regular.  However, sometimes I get too much, and I don't want to eat it all before the expiration date.  So I came up with something rather ingenuiness if I say so myself--freezing the yogurt into bite-sized chunks to eat whenever!  Yup--genuis right here!

{Frozen yogurt bites}

{I added strawberries and chocolate chips for a light and easy dessert!}

{A favorite yogurt although it was a bit runny for this project--still worked though!}

{Place yogurt in a bag and cut one of the tips off}

{On a frozen baking sheet, make dots with the yogurt bag}

{Place in the freezer for about 1 hour}

{Scrape off with a spatula--they came off easily for the most part, but there was one or two stubborn ones per sheet.  You have to be quick though because you don't want them to thaw!}

{Store in a bag in the freezer and grab a handful whenever.  This will be great for summer!}

One of my to-dos for the summer is creating a fantastic homemade frozen yogurt.  I attempted last year, and it did not turn out to say the least.  I know that if I can't do it, I'll always be able to make these!  ;o)

PS--Another item I'll be adding shortly is a sort of "look back".  I'm coming up on my 1 year anniversary with the blog (WOOT!!!), and every time I post (or whenever I remember), I'll link back to what I did the previous year on that date.  smitten kitchen does it, and I love the idea so I'll be doing it!

PPS--I hope that this weather decides what it wants to do!  It's May for heaven's sake!

Pin It

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chicken Vindaloo

A few years ago, to expand both mine and my husband's culinary appetite, I bought a package mix of vindaloo.  We loved it sooooo much!!!  Then I discovered all the crap (and it really is crap) that goes into pre-made mixes like that, and I was sad because I knew I would never eat it again unless I made it.  Fast forward a few years, and in my crockpot recipe search, I found a chicken vindaloo recipe to make in the crockpot from scratch!  I about cried!!!  And guess what???  It is fantastic!!!  (with a few alterations to make it easier)

{Yes I know what it looks like, but I PROMISE it tastes better than it looks!}

{Chicken and onions together ready for marination}

{Marinade--be careful because tumeric stains!}

{Marinating chicken the night before}

{Dump in a crockpot and cook!  The chicken FELL off the bone--so delicious!}

Chicken Vindaloo

Serves 4

1.5 pounds chicken thighs (bone-in) or breasts, skinless
2 large onions, sliced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
7 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (can add more if you like it really spicy)
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard
3/4 cup brown rice
2 cups chicken broth
  1. Mix chicken and onions together.
  2. Mix remaining ingredients, except rice and chicken broth, together in a bowl until well combined.
  3. Pour marinade over chicken and allow to sit overnight.
  4. Place chicken and onion mixture along with rice and chicken broth in a crockpot.
  5. Cook on warm/low for 6-8 hours.
  6. Serve with steamed vegetables.
This dish was even good cold--I would know since I ate it for lunch the next day and was unable to heat it up.  Warning--this website also has a recipe for tikka masala in a crockpot which is my FAVORITE Indian dish ever!  I'll be making it shortly!

Do you have a favorite recipe you would like converted for a crockpot?  Let me know, and I will help!

Pin It

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Italian Lentil and Barley Stew

As you all know, I have been diving--head first--into the world of crockpot cooking.  Let me tell you--I don't know why I didn't do it sooner.  Really, I don't!!!  I have had one issue--mainly the heat of my crockpot.  I've read it's not supposed to boil, but on high, mine does.  Plus, if I leave it on low all day, the food gets overcooked (mainly rice).  Thankfully, my crockpot has a warm setting which is hot enough to cook food.  Strange but true!  Moral of the story--learn your equipment!

So after finding at least 50 recipes for the crockpot, I've been working through them.  So far we have loved 80% of them which is a pretty good success rate.  I am loving the crockpot because I can add more legumes and whole grains like barley into our diets without the husband freaking out....  (and I can use less meat, but don't tell him!)  I saw this recipe for Italian Lentil and Barley Soup, but after reading the comments and using my cool skills, I came up with this version.

{Italian Lentil and Barley Stew}

{Getting everything that needed cutting the night before done}

{Throw everything into the crockpot in the morning}

{Add parsley and vinegar at the end}

Italian Lentil and Barley Stew

Serves 4

1 cup lentils
1/2 cup hulled barley
4 oz country ham, diced
8 oz smoked sausage, sliced
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 bay leaves
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups beef broth
1-15 oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (sub 1 tablespoon dried and add at the beginning of cooking)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  1. Put everything in a crockpot.
  2. Turn crockpot to warm/low for 6-8 hours.
  3. Add fresh parsley and vinegar about 30 minutes before service.
Why the cider vinegar?  Because it gives the recipe a nice little tang!  I wasn't sure about it either, so I tried a before and after taste (what could it hurt right?) in a small bowl, and I was blown away about how much better it tastes.  Just do it!  Please?

Pin It

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tuesday Tip: Glass and Surface Cleaner

As many people expressed interest in homemade, all-natural cleaners, I'll be sharing what I use in my home.  Mainly because I am an advocate for making cleaners at home using simple, non-toxic ingredients.  Most of which can be found in the kitchen!!!  First, I'd like to share my back story!  (Don't worry--food tips will be still be happening!)

I've never been very fond of using chemicals to clean; they are noxious and toxic.  I have several chemical allergies so cleaning was like playing Russian roulette--will I get hives this time or not?  Not pleasant.  Plus, my cats learned how to open cabinet doors which presented a problem for me; I was constantly worrying about them ingesting something!  I've since moved my cleaners to a large tub that is stored in a closet (which they haven't figured out how to open...yet).  I also switched to more natural cleaners progressing from store bought all-natural cleaners like Green Works and Seventh Generation.  However, these are expensive, and so I took to the internet for recipes.  Most recipes use a combination of the following ingredients: vinegar, citrus, baking soda, castile soap, borax, washing soda, essential oils (lemon, lavendar, and tea tree), and water.

Glass/surface cleaner I picked up in culinary school.  Whenever we had a mirrored platter or glass container, you didn't want to see water spots!  We would dip a rag in vinegar and rub it on the platter and viola!  No spots, and it shined like you wouldn't believe!  Plus, it was ingestible so we didn't have to worry about someone eating off of the platter.  I found a more refined version which has vinegar, water and castile soap.

{I store my homemade glass/surface cleaner in an old Green Works bottle}

{Castile soap can be bought at any health food store or in the health food section of larger chain grocery stores.  It produces little to no suds and is plant based}

{Just like regular glass cleaner, you just spray it on and wipe with a 100% cotton towl or newspaper}

{So clean, shiny and pretty!}

Glass/Surface Cleaner

Makes 1 quart

2 cups white distilled vinegar
2 cups water
2 teaspoons castile soap
  1. Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle (castile soap will turn the solution milky--this is normal!).
  2. Spray on surface.*
  3. Wipe with clean cloth, paper towel, or newspaper.
*Please make sure to test a small, inconspicuous part before spraying the solution on the entire piece!

When you first start wiping the cleaner off, the surface will 'fog' up, but I PROMISE if you keep wiping, it will go away and leave the surface clean and shiny.  Yes, it will smell like vinegar for a few minutes after you first spray, but the smell does go away after about 5 minutes of spraying.  I am working on a method to make the vinegar smell better, but it's new to me so I want to put it through paces before I share it with you guys!  I can say that breathing in vinegar is much better for you than breathing in the chemicals and perfumes found in commercial sprays.  Just saying!

This bottle of cleaner (not including the price of the bottle) cost approx $0.90, and it lasts for quite a while.  It's environmentally, pet, kid, and physically friendly!  I use this on my mirrors, pictures, windows, and lacquered coffee table with no problems (and have for years). 

I'll be getting into linoleum floor cleaner, air freshners, garbage disposal cleaners, drain cleaning, all-purpose cleaners, mattress cleaning, dishwashing detergent, carpet cleaners, laundry detergent, foaming hand soap, and anything else I stumble across.  If you have any questions, or want to know about cleaning something outside of those areas, let me know!

Pin It

Monday, April 22, 2013

Lemon Ginger Cookies

Sometimes in life, you want something sweet to eat that's light but not chocolate.  I had one of those cravings the other day.  I had a leftover package of sugar cookie mix from Christmas baking so I took to my fridge to see what else I had.  Oh look!  Lemon and ginger!!!  Let's just say--this is an epic cookie!  The flavor is clean and crisp, sweet and indulgent, but not overpowering...  I'm a bit sad that I shared with co-workers and family.....

{I'm pretty sure this is what summer tastes like!}

{Regular sugar cookie mix}

{Cookie ingredients with the addition of lemon and ginger!}

{Mix all ingredients together until dough forms} 

{I have a cookie scoop that I am sooo glad I invested in--makes even, beautiful cookies!}

Lemon Ginger Cookies

Makes 16 cookies

1 pouch (17.5 oz) sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  1. In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients until a soft dough forms.
  2. On waxed paper, shape each half into an 8 inch long roll; wrap dough in waxed paper.
  3. Freeze dough for 1 hour or refrigerate for 3 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 350.
  5. Cut the roll into 16 slices; place on ungreased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake 9-11 minutes or until edges are golden brown.
  7. Cool one minute on cookie sheet, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.
These cookies are very soft especially when you get them right-as-they-are-turning-golden (I'm a soft cookie woman), but ziploc bags are not a good storage solution for these cookies.  By the time I gave some to my mom, they were crumbs!  She tasted a larger piece and instantly forgave me for bringing her 'crumbled cookies'.  I hope she ate it over vanilla frozen yogurt like I suggested (and deep down wanted to come over and have some myself) or even out of the bag with a spoon.  Yes--these cookies are that delicious!!!  So go make some!  Like NOW!!!!!!

Pin It

Friday, April 19, 2013

Food for Thought: The Spring/Summer List

With my illness last week, spring kinda SPRUNG up on me.  I mean--you lay on a couch for 4 days, sleeping, hacking your organs up, and then you wake up to trees budding and flowers blooming.  No worries--I'm still enjoying the spring with the last few days feeling like summer.  My favorite trees are the ones with colored buds like pink, white, burgundy, and purple!!!  Plus spring heralds in a new tradition that I personally started last year--The Spring/Summer List.

I am the queen of lists!!!  At any given time I have at least three going--not including work lists.  Sometimes, if I have lots going on, I'll make a list entitled "on my mind" and just let go--write the thoughts down and move on.  Afterwards, I take a break and then go over the list separating them by importance, control, etc.  This process just helps me de-stress and re-evaluate.

Anyway--on to the fun Spring/Summer List for 2013!!!  I try to do things that I haven't done before or in a long time.

Spring/Summer List 2013
  1. Visit McConnell Springs (one of the last parks in Lexington that I haven't visited)
  2. Visit Cincinnati Zoo
  3. Go on the Zip Line tour of Red River Gorge
  4. Prefect a frozen yogurt recipe (last year's was a definite fail)
  5. Plan a few themed parties (a few ideas--Mexican, ice cream bar, tropical, French...)
  6. Day trip somewhere (I've always wanted to see the covered bridges in Fleming County...)
  7. Visit one of the many wineries around Lexington
  8. Visit the park and picnic where my husband and I had our first date
  9. Perfect homemade lemonade
  10. Go stargazing--telescopes and all--at the local parks who offer it (been trying to get to one of these for years...)
  11. Have a spongeball fight!
  12. Light dandelion heads on fire (the puffy looking ones--apparently it's supposed to burn really pretty)
  13. Make a few fruity frozen desserts (popsicles, sorbert, ice cream, etc)
I think that's a pretty decent list!  According to the Farmer's Almanac, July and August are going to be brutally hot so frozen desserts will be made and tested then!

What about you?  Do you have any plans for the spring/summer?  Do you make a list of fun activities for the season?

Pin It

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Middle Eastern Garlic Chicken

This was a recipe I found on my exploration into the world of crockpot cooking.  A recipe for Middle Eastern Garlic Chicken?  No brainer for me just because of the word 'garlic'.  This dish is fantastic!  I made soooo much, that my husband, mom, and I have had it in so many different ways: in a pita, on a salad, straight from the bowl (that would be me), in a tortilla, on bread, etc.  I took a gamble and made about 4 pounds which made at least five meals between my mom, husband, and myself.  So feel free to half it for a small family or just eat on this fabulous chicken for a week :o)

{I had mine on lettuce with some feta cheese!}

This recipe was not "in-your-face" garlic despite having roughly 14 cloves of garlic.  The spices really help to round this dish out and tone down the garlic.  In my house, this is definitely a repeat!  In fact, my husband has already asked for this again, and it's only been a week since I made it!

{The original recipe called for allspice which I missed on my grocery list.  Instead I substituted cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper which worked out just fine!}

{Getting the chicken ready for marination!}

{This is the amount of garlic I used for this dish}

{Mixing the marinade; I sliced half the garlic and mashed the other half}

{Chicken reveling in garlicky glory!}

{Dump everything in a crockpot and turn to warm/low}

{Shred chicken about 15 minutes before service}

{I invited my mom over for dinner; she had hers in a pita pocket}

Middle Eastern Garlic Chicken

Serves 8
4 pounds chicken breast, boneless and skinless
12-15 cloves garlic (depending on the potency), half sliced and the other half minced
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup olive oil
  1. Mix all ingredients together except chicken until well blended.
  2. Place chicken in a container with lid; pour marinade over chicken and marinate overnight.
  3. Place marinated chicken in a crockpot on warm/low for 6-8 hours.
  4. Shred chicken.
  5. Serve chicken over a Greek style salad or in a pita pocket.
Seriously easy dish to make.  Seriously versatile.  Seriously delicious (eyes might have rolled into back of heads and deities might have been blessed).  Seriously just go make it!
Pin It

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tuesday Tip Recap

I could give you guys sooooo many excuses why I don't have anything ready for you, but I will give you the big, main reason.  I wasn't physically able to do much last week/weekend because of the respiratory illness, but I have been brainstorming some ideas which I will showcase over the next few weeks like freezing tips, storage tips, how to revive honey, how to thicken sauces, how to use kitchen ingredients to create natural cleaners, etc.  If you have any requests, please let me know, and I'll work it in!

For now, I figured I would review what I've done over the last few weeks just in case you missed anything:

Cutting Round Ingredients
Cleaning Baked-On Messes with Baking Soda
Mise en Place
Stablize a Cutting Board
Cut Peppers
Use Bananas to Make Ice Cream
Peel Garlic in 5 Seconds
Work with Hot Peppers
Dice an Onion

Whew!  That was quite a list!  Thanks for your patience!!!

Pin It

Monday, April 15, 2013

Beet Salad

I know what you are thinking--man this woman is weird eating beets!  Well--I am, and I'm not ashamed!!!  I LOVE beets in this salad.  I eat it every week either at work (where I got the recipe for this from the woman who makes the salads) or at my grandparents' house when I visit them.  My husband tried this salad the other day, and he loves this salad too although he was pretty skeptical about eating beets. 

{Beet and onion salad!}

Beets are really good for your liver (mainly why I eat them because I have to take daily meds).  Be careful though--that purple juice of theirs can stain VERY easily!

{Only five ingredients!}

{Drained beets and onions}

{Add flavored juice back to beets and let sit overnight}

Pickled Beet and Onion Salad

Serves 4

2 cans sliced beets, drained with juice kept in a microwavable container
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons white vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar
  1. Mix onions and beets in a bowl; make sure the bowl cannot be stained from the juice (so avoid plastic).
  2. Heat beet juice and remaining ingredients until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Add flavored juice back to beets and onions.
  4. Refrigerate overnight.
These are sweet and tangy--so delicious!  Plus, this is pretty cheap--a can of beets costs less than $1 AND healthy for you!

Pin It

Friday, April 12, 2013

Lentil and Chickpea Salad

Sorry for my absence the last few days.  I've had a nasty respiratory infection that literally came out of no where and knocked me out for two days.  I'm feeling better, but talking and breathing are still a bit difficult.  So instead of going on a wonderful mini-vacation with my husband like we were going to do this weekend, we will be spending quality time on the couch with him as my nursemaid.  ;o)  As an irony to this situation, my hubby and I saw the episode of The Big Bang Theory (which we both LOVE) where Sheldon takes care of Amy while she has the flu--HILARIOUS!!!  I ended up having at least five coughing/laughing fits.  If you haven't seen it, please go watch it now!!!

Anyway, I saw the recipe for this salad from the smitten kitchen and knew I had to make it!  Not only did I have almost everything--minus the sage and feta cheese--at home, but the salad sounded DELICIOUS!!!  Plus so very healthy...  I almost asked for the day off to make it.  Thankfully, I restrained myself and waited to share this with my family at a barbeque we had last weekend.  It was a crowd pleaser!

{Good-for-you grains, spices, and oils make this a healthy and nutritous salad!}

{Cooking the lentils}

{Mixing the remaining ingredients together}

{Cooked lentils}

{Toasting sesame seeds}

Lentil and Chickpea Salad

Serves 4

1 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
3 cloves garlic, mashed
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
3 tablespoons olive oil, separated
2 cups broth
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, mashed
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sesame seed oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons broth
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1/2 medium (or 1 whole small) red onion, sliced
1/2 cup fresh parsley or cilantro
6 oz feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted (optional)
  1. Mix lentils, garlic, sage, 2 cups broth, and 2 tablespoons olive oil together in a saucepan and turn to medium high heat; once the lentils start to simmer, turn the heat down to medium low and gently cook lentils until just tender about 25-35 minutes adding more broth if needed.
  2. Meanwhile mix remaining ingredients except cheese in a bowl.
  3. Cool lentils for about 10 minutes and then mix with the remaining salad.
  4. Chill the salad for about 4 hours up to overnight before serving.
  5. Sprinkle cheese in salad immediately before serving.
I drastically streamlined this recipe.  No offense, but I don't have time to toast all the spices and then grind them into a paste with a mortar and pestle (not that I have the equipment anyway).  I love this cook to death because I have not had a bad recipe from her, but she likes to get a little detailed and silly sometimes. 

After making this in about 30 minutes (I got everything else together while the lentils were cooking), I am thinking about making a few salads once a week like this to eat on throughout the week as a side for crockpot meals.  Hmmmmm....  I'm off to look for some recipes (between naps and over the next few days)!  Unless you have one you want to share!

Pin It