Monday, April 28, 2014

Ways to Use Leftover Chicken

So I spend a lot of time blabbing on about how we should all eat our leftovers. And we should. It doesn't matter if you're low-cal, paleo, or gluten-free. It doesn't matter if you're poor or rich. Generally we agree that we shouldn't waste perfectly good food. At least we agree in words. Statistically, we Americans waste 1/4 of our food--our perfectly good, usable food. One quarter. Can you believe it? That is like throwing away 1/4 of the clothes you buy without ever wearing them. It's like paying 200K instead of 150K for a house and then closing off 3 of the rooms and never ever using them. That means that if you spend $400 on food each month, you take a $100 bill and throw it in the trash. Crazy talk, right? Except that's what the average American does with food.

And why?

I believe that it's often simply because the average American is busy and doesn't know what to do with that handful of leftover shredded cheese or that leg of cold chicken or those nubs of cheese or those few spoonfuls of vegetables.

Consequently, I thought I'd spend a little time on the blog throwing out some ideas for how to use our leftovers. We'll start with chicken--meat tends to be the most expensive after all.

1. Stir Fry. A little oil, a few veggies, some soy sauce, and in goes that handful of random leftover chicken (also great for random leftover vegetables).

2. Fried Rice. Pretty much the same as above, except then you're going to add rice and fry it in some oil.

3. Chicken Divan. This is great when you've roasted a chicken and have leftovers, but your leftovers aren't the parts everyone likes to eat the best (surely we're not the only family with this problem). Well, take that light or dark meat, or those yummy bits from the back that can be shredded but not really served as a, well, serving. And make this. I was very surprised how much leftover meat I got off our roast chicken the next day. (This is pictured just above.)

4. Chicken wraps/tacos/burritos. This works well with plain chicken, but it's also nice because it works welly with that leftover 1/2 C of flavored chicken (BBQ, ranch, mustard, whatever) that might not have worked as well in a dish like chicken divan. Also, the nice thing about a wrap is that if you have just a bit of chicken you can still make yourself a wrap for lunch. If you have a cup or two of chicken, you can make wraps for the whole family.

5. Chicken Salad Sandwiches. A little mayo and some kind of crunchy veggie and you're set. But if you want something fancier that your whole family will never ever suspect was a leftover meal, try this Tarragon Turkey Salad (only with chicken).

6. And while we're talking chicken sandwiches... This is THE BEST sandwich ever. And you can totally rock it with leftovers. Again, if you don't have enough for four sandwiches, well, for heaven's sake, make yourself one. (This is the lovely pictured at the top of this post.)

7. Pizza with chicken. This is also a great way to use up random nubs of cheese (yes, I'm asking you to think outside the mozzarella bag--or at least to think of mixing other cheeses with it) or various raw vegetables to very good effect.

8. Chicken Pot Pie. If you don't have enough chicken for a full pot pie, you could make tiny ones in ramekins or make a sort of galette where you plop some chicken and sauce/cheese onto a crust, fold it over, and cook. Basically what I'm saying is that if you add a pie crust to chicken, good things will likely happen.

9. Cream cheese. Yeah, I don't have a recipe. All I know is that if you add cream cheese to chicken, it's a good thing. I bet you could also add other cheese and vegetables, maybe even some rice or noodles. Cook this up stove top or bake it. It'll make you a little magic.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kale Apple Celery Green Drink

As opposed to every other human being in the Western world, I kind of like Mondays. After the debauchery that was the weekend (for us that means overmuch Easter candy or, in my case, a few too many pieces of coconut cake) I start to reassemble our house. Oh, I don't go all crazy. A few years ago, I tried the Flylady thing--daily cleaning, sink cleansing, lists. And then I realized something shocking. If I cleaned my house every day, people messed it up every day. Rude. And kind of depressing. If I exercised every day, no one could take it away from me (well, not exactly, though coconut cake doesn't maybe do it lots of favors). If I wrote every day or went for walks with my children or talked to sisters and friends, then I still had that. But a clean house--nope, nada, gone. Still, I knew I couldn't quite give up until the chaos consumed us in a whirlwind of sticky crusts, cat fur, and poop smears on the toilet. I really couldn't. So every Monday, I clean my house. Very well, or at least pretty well. (Note: If you would like to see my house clean, please come by around 11:00am on Monday. But don't stay long.) And it feels really good. I sit there and enjoy the sunlight and clear counters and loveliness. And I know--even on Friday night when the corners of the kitchen floor are starting to look a little dodgy--that once this week my house was clean and that it won't suffocate me in messiness. And I like that too.

Somehow this Monday tradition sort of started to extend past cleaning and into a more personal realm. Every Monday I do a nice little yoga session with myself. I even feel all yoga-y while I'm doing it. And if I'm lucky and have time I make some healthy food.

Last week I discovered this. It was called Green Energy Detox Cleanse Drink. Which I think pretty much covers every crunchy/healthy key word possible. Kind of like those workouts that promise energy, muscle, beauty, endurance, thin waist, lottery wins, and let's not forget the reversal of male pattern baldness (in two weeks or less!).

Anyway, I thought the drink would be gross. I thought I'd have to add sugar. But I didn't. It was sweet and delicious. And, while, I'm not sure about the whole energy detox cleanse promise, it did involve two vegetables and two fruits. I've never put celery in a drink and liked it, so I've got to give them that. Also, it kept me full until lunch time, which I consider impressive for a green drink.

Kale Apple Green Drink
adapted from Skinny Mom
Makes 2 smoothies, or a big one
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cost: $1.15
banana: .15, celery: .10, kale: .25, peanut butter: .20, apple: .25, almond milk: .20

1 banana, frozen (and ripe)
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 handfuls kale
a nice, fat spoonful peanut butter (I probably used 2-4 Tbsp though the original recipe called for a mere 1/2 Tbsp)
1/2 apple, chopped
1/2 C unsweetened almond milk (I used a coconut, almond mix)

Blend it all together in a decent blender. A crappy-ish blender will probably work too, though you might have to add more milk.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lemon Chick Cookies

Motto: If I can do it, so can you. I am probably the least artistically inclined baker in the universe. I'm not particularly visual in general and I care a lot more about how a food tastes than how it looks.

But this week in-laws came to visit and my mother-in-law brought a magazine with these cute little chick cookies. How could we resist? We both thought the kids would love them. The original recipe was a cake box recipe. If you follow this blog at all, you know that I'm not a huge fan of cake box recipes in general. Although truth be told, I might have just gone with it for cuteness sake. Except that I had a better idea. What if I made the chicks with my Lemon Doodle recipe? Why, yes, it was brilliant.

Although when I first pulled those "chicks" out of the oven, I wasn't so sure. They were, to put it sweetly, the most obese chicks I'd ever seen. They'd spread quite a bit and run into each other and I couldn't picture them ever looking like chicks. In fact, I didn't even bother taking a picture of the cookies straight out of the oven because I was so sure they wouldn't make it onto this blog.

But then we added the eyes and little beaks and I'll be darned if they didn't come alive--those fat little Siamese-twinned cookies.

So then we decided just to do this thing and topped them off with little tufts of chicky, um, hair.

And of course there had to be a girl chick too (long hair and even some accidental eyelashes from those melty chocolate chip eyes because we all know--at least if we are four--that long hair and eyelashes is what makes someone a girl).

And then we ate them and they were soooo delicious. And so cute. And they would be super easy to make into snowmen in the winter. Or cats for Halloween (tail plus pointy ears).

I should also say that your chicks may actually come out not obese. We like to mess things up a little just to keep it real. We did not chill our dough as we were supposed to and my 9-year-old was measuring flour with a 1/4 C measuring cup and at one point lost count. This may have resulted in 1/4-1/2 C less flour than we were supposed to use. Can I just say that you know a recipe is a winner when you mess it up and it still comes out okay.

What You'll Need:

-Lemon Doodle dough
-Lemon sugar (optional). You could also use yellow sprinkles to very good effect if you've got them.
-mini chocolate chips (for eyes)
-Orange Tic Tacs (for nose)
-a bit of white frosting (for "hair")

What to Do:

1. Make 1 recipe of Lemon Doodle cookie dough (1/2 recipe is one sheet of cookies and actually what we did). Dye it yellow if you wish. We did and used several drops yellow food coloring.

2. Make your lemon sugar for the lemon doodles and dye it yellow as well if you wish. To do this, put the sugar and lemon zest in a Ziploc bag with a few drops of food coloring and mash it around (see here). (Note: If you don't love lemon or lemon zest, you can just use sugar).

3. Chill the dough if you want slightly less obese chicks.

4. Roll dough into small balls and big balls. Our small balls were about one inch and our big ones were about two inches. Note: I was worried the small would cook too fast and be burned, but surprisingly this was not the case. It just worked.

5. Place on cookie sheet--little ball touching big ball with plenty of space in between chicks. Bake for about 10 minutes at 400.

6. AS SOON AS cookies come out, plop on some mini chocolate chips for eyes and an orange Tic Tacs for the nose. You've got to do this while the dough is warm or it will be hard to get them to stick into the face properly.

7. Let cool. Then, if you desire, pipe a tiny bit of frosting onto the top for "hair." I had a little bit of this white chocolate frosting left in my fridge and that's what I used (though this would work too). I just scooped it into a Ziploc bag, cut a tiny bit off the corner and piped away. I should say, though, that if you skip the "hair," probably no one will hate you and they're still pretty cute...

Some of you want that cake box recipe, don't you. Fine. Though I'm gonna promise you that they won't taste nearly as good (and I'm even going to say that that Lemon Doodle recipe is not that hard to put together). This is from Woman's World.

1 pkg. lemon cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 C oil
yellow food coloring

Mix this together, then follow the directions above.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hot Honey Vinaigrette

This month for Secret Recipe Club, I had Suzanne from Thru the Bugs on My Windshield (which is an awesome blog title, don't you think). Suzanne used to be the moderator of my Secret Recipe Club group and she was always super helpful, so I was happy to get her this month.

In the spring I always get a hankering for salad. (And ice cream.) But let's pretend for today that I only have good impulses--nice salady impulses. I did, after all, recently purchase a spring mix, a tub of arugula, and a bag of spinach at the grocery store (and Breyer's ice cream). And I'll be darned if I didn't need something great to top it off with (dressing for the salads and Magic Shell for the ice cream, thank you very much). I was especially wanting something good for the arugula. I've been fixing to jump on the arugula bandwagon for a while. If you, like me, are a little behind the times in your greens--arugula is a slightly bitter, peppery green. Now I don't know about you, but when I hear bitter green, I tend to think of those garden greens that have shot up in your garden and are nasty and bitter. Yeah, those are gross (they are also the type of lettuce I'm most skilled at growing in the garden--arg). But arugula is not that kind of bitter. It's got a bite and a peppery taste, but it's not like those nasty bitter greens at all. It's more intentional in flavor--like a green with a strong personality. I found that I really liked it (hello, bandwagon, sorry I'm always so late jumping on). But for a green with a strong personality, I wanted a dressing with a strong personality. Suzanne's vinaigrette was just the thing: a little mustard, a little chile, a little honey. It totally worked. She used it for a Napa cabbage slaw, but it totally rocked my arugula

Happy Spring!

Hot Honey Vinaigrette
Makes about a cup
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cost: $.70
vinegar: .20, olive oil: .30, honey: .10, other stuff (totally estimating here, sorry): .10

Note: Because this uses olive oil, it will sort of harden/set up in the fridge. Thus, you'll want to take it out of the fridge a half hour or so before use so it can "relax." If you find that planning ahead far enough to allow your food to relax is stressful, (hello, dinner in two minutes), run it under some hot water for a minute and that should do the trick. 

1/4 C rice wine vinegar
1/2 C olive oil (extra virgin)
2 Tbsp honey (or agave for a vegan dressing)
1/2 tsp chile powder (Suzanne used green; I used red)
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp salt (I used a tiny bit more)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder (I used a bit less)
1/4 tsp onion powder

Add ingredients into a shake proof jar and shake your little heart out until the ingredients combine and seem to slightly thicken (emulsify). 

Or, if you'd like to spare your arm muscles, you can put it in a mini blender or mini food processor and blend/process. (I've done mine both ways.)

You can also put everything into a bowl and whisk, then slowly pour your oil in, whisking as you go. I've never done this since I have a terrible syndrome called "lazy arm"; otherwise known as "person of weak moral fiber syndrome." But don't worry, I'm working through it. 

No matter the method used to combine your dressing, if you have leftover dressing you want to use the next day, you'll likely have to re-shake it (so you may have to seek some treatment for your "super lazy arm" syndrome or perhaps just enlist the help of husband or hapless child).  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Moroccan Carrot Soup

Generally speaking, I like my soups straight-forward and savory. Salt and pepper please. I have such a carrot soup on here. It's a carrot soup for carrot lovers because it is simple and, well, carroty. I've tried several other carrot soups that sound and look divine (ginger carrot soup, cardamom carrot soup, etc.) and they've been fine, but they just haven't been my cup of soup (ha ha--how hilarious am I?) Consequently, I wasn't sure if I would like this new recipe at all. It's chock full of spices (and they're weirdish ones, people) and it uses--gasp--a little honey. Usually, this is my veggie soup red flag. Even among all those squash soups of autumn--you know the ones--they use a little sugar and some cinnamon or whatever--I just can't quite get into them. If I'm going to have sweet vegetables, then I need you to pass the zucchini bread or pumpkin pie. This soup also uses coconut milk. Now I do love me some coconut milk. But again in soups (except a nice Thai soup of course) I like it, but I still usually prefer to go the old fashioned heavy cream route.

The point is, I wasn't sure if I was going to like this soup. But I super super soup did (sorry--been watching too much children's programming apparently). The combination of the carrot and the foreign-ish spices and the coconut just rocked it. An absolutely perfect combo.

Moroccan Carrot Soup
adapted from This Gal Cooks
Serves 4
prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20-25 minutes
Cost: $2.65
carrots: .75, pepper: .15, onion: .10,  coconut milk: 1.00, chicken stock: .35, spices: .30

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small red pepper, chopped
5 average carrots, chopped
1/2 C onion, chopped (I used half a small onion--however much that was)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 C chicken stock (or veggie stock)
1 C coconut milk
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
salt to taste

Heat oil in large pot. Add onion, red pepper, and carrots. Cook for 5-7 minutes. Add garlic. Cook one minute. Add spices and cook another minute.

Add 1 1/2 C chicken stock. Cook for 10-20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Put in blender and blend with remaining 1/2 C stock, coconut milk, and honey (Note: don't forget the honey--it makes this recipe sing. I forgot it at first and it was fine when I tasted it, but when I added it, then it became awesomeness).

Reheat a bit if necessary.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Lemon Poppy Seed Donuts

We usually have breakfast for dinner at least once a week. I think it's one of the best ways to keep your food budget down (unless you go overboard with the bacon, people) and it can be healthy and fast. This week I'd planned to make a variety of muffins, hash browns, and some eggs. Because I forgot that one of the purposes of breakfast-for-dinner night was also to keep things simple, which does not involve anything like a "variety of muffins" so I just made a few eggs and one type of muffin. Well, donut. That's right. I fancied it up by making my muffins into donut shapes, which took no extra effort on my part (though it does require a donut pan). I even gave it a glaze. Why? Because my kids are ever grateful for all my sacrifices and hard work. Ha ha. Just a little joke there. No. I did it because I wanted to, that's why. And I did not regret it. Everything was simple and delicious. And I even threw a little whole wheat flour into those donuts and they were still awesome. And I felt better about eating them for dinner (though as we all know, that was just denial/justification of course).

Of course, if you don't have a donut pan, you can make this into muffins and then dip the top in the glaze.

Lemon Poppy Seed Donuts
makes 6 large donuts
adapted from Healthy Delicious
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

1/2 C plus 1 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp sour cream
1 1/2 C flour (I made 1/2 C of that whole wheat)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp butter
1/2 sugar
1 egg
1 lemon, zested and juice (zest goes in donuts; juice in glaze)
1 Tbsp poppy seed
1 C powdered sugar (for glaze)

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly coat a donut pan with cooking spray.

In small bowl, whisk milk and sour cream.

In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt.

In large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg, lemon zest, and poppy seeds. Beat until combined.

To this, add half flour mixture and half milk mixture and beat.

Then add the rest of the flour mixture and the rest of the milk mixture and beat.

Put batter into the donut pan. You can do this by just plopping it in. If you worry about neatness, you can put the batter in a pastry bag (or a Ziploc bag with one of the bottom corners cut off) and pipe it in. This is neater, though I find that I always make such a mess getting it into my bag that I'm not sure it helps me personally that much.

Cook 15 minutes or until you can stick a toothpick in and it comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then turn out and cool completely.

Now for the glaze:

Take the lemon juice from your lemon and add it to the cup of powdered sugar. Whisk it together.

When the donuts are cool, drizzle this on them. I did this on a plate so as not to waste any precious glaze. Also, I didn't wait until my donuts were completely cool, but all was well anyway. If they're cool it will make a better "glaze." If they're warmer it will sink into the donuts more and still create amazingness.



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