Monday, February 18, 2008

Monday again

Well, my grant is finally in to the federal government and over the weekend things began to get back to normal. (I am not going to comment on the multiple incredible horrific news stories... NIU - politics - etc. Anyone who reads this blog knows where I stand - and I am immersed in enough stuff with my job that I don't need to go there...)

Anyway - the kids are still fighting off some colds - but that doesn't stop them from eating!!!

So - tonight - as I was coming home (and after shopping lots yesterday for all assortment of things to cook...) I thought about what to make for dinner. Last night I made a fantastic vegetable stew with spaghetti (even my oldest ate the spaghetti from the pot - VICTORY!!!!) I will post that recipe another time.

Tonight - I wanted some additional protein - i.e. Chicken. and I had a bag of chips that was way past the "can't eat just one stage" - the last bits...

So - here was tonight's dinner - came out terrific by the way -

Potato Crusted Chicken Breasts...

3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (pounded - not pounded - whatever...)
1 cup potato chips - yes - the salted kind - Crushed into bits.
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs
olive oil
salt and pepper
2-3 slices of lemon

1. Put the chips and bread crumbs in a bowl
2. Crack the eggs into another bowl and whisk
3. Prepare the chicken - a pinch of salt and pepper on each side (pound flat if you want to)
4. Heat some olive oil in the pan (for these to be crispy - there needs to be enough "fat" to chicken... put in enough to coat the bottom of the pan.) Make sure the oil is hot - but not burning... a bit of the breadcrumbs in the pan should make that sizzle sound when it is ready.
5. Place chicken breasts in egg then in chip mixture... press the chips/crumbs into the chicken breasts. Place immediately in pan. Don't crowd the chicken in the pan - there should be enough room to see the pan between each piece...Also - do NOT move the chicken breasts too much.... 5 minutes on one side - you will see it turning "white" as it cooks.... flip the chicken - about 6 minutes on the other side... Cut into it if you need to check for doneness.
6. Transfer to plate - put lemon slices on top and serve.

Side dishes - rice and some sweet potatoes...

For those that don't remember... rice is always 2 to 1.

1 cup of rice. 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to lowest setting. Cover. Do not open lid. Wait 15 minutes. Turn off heat. Fluff and serve.

Sweet Potatoes - oven pre-heated to 425. Poke potatoes with fork. Put on tray. Roast for 1 hour.

Great meal - Kids loved it - used some leftovers.... certainly better than pre-packaged chicken "fingers" -


Monday, February 11, 2008

And another Monday night

So here I am at Caribou in our old neighborhood working on this grant that is due on Thursday. It is actually going pretty well, but I needed to take a break. And while I really do like sitting in coffee houses sipping my java (well, iced tea right now - but Mango!) sometimes the neighboring conversations are a bit much. Tonight there is a young college girl (I can tell because she is toting a college bag, college notebook, wearing her college's sweatshirt and wearing pajama bottoms) sitting next to me. She had a very long conversation on her cell phone with some friend....

Snippets of the conversation (which was kind of hard to ignore) included why her father expected so much of her - just because he paid for her flights to visit them and her college tuition. And, my personal favorite - how some "friend" on facebook was really old - "but not that old, I suppose... I mean my cousin is 26 and this guy is 22."


Talk about making ME feel aged...

SHEESH!!!! If 22 is "old, but not too old" - what about us poor blokes who are in their late thirties with 2 kids and a great job!!!!!

Well anyway - I always knew I had reached that tipping point when there really was a generation gap when the converstion about favorite movies focused on "American Pie" - and I thought they were talking about Mrs. Callendars.

Onto bigger and better things I suppose - like what I made for dinner last night.

I was really tired of pasta and rice (A also contracted this terrible stomach flu from her older brother so we were in bland city most of the week). At the same time, I didn't want to go too over the top - so chicken was the plan...

Here's what I made:

Simple Grilled Chicken with Olive Oil, Lemon and Tarragon

3 chicken breasts (I pounded them out to make them even - but not too thin - and you don't really need to do this if you don't want to)
2 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp crushed dried tarragon (I used some that was hanging from our kitchen window - dried from this summer's herb garden)
pinch of salt

1. Put chicken breasts in baggie (I pounded them out in the baggie, so it was just easier this way - less mess...more "sanitary" - whatever...)

2. Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, tarragon and salt (and pepper - forgot about that).

3. Pour marinade into baggie and smoosh around with chicken breasts. (You will need to "reflatten" the chicken breasts after this - but that isn't too much trouble - do it in the baggie so you don't get things too messy).

4. Heat up a grill pan with a small bit of olive oil.

(Or you could heat up an outside grill - it was 20 below with the windchill in Chicago - so grill pan had to do...)

5. Place chicken breasts on grill pan. Grill about 3-4 minutes on each side depending on thickness.

(This is another reason to pound out - besides releasing some tension and making your youngest daughter giggle to no end as she beats a pan and bowl with a spatual- it does reduce cooking time.)

6. Plate and serve.

I served the chicken with 2 side dishes - very simple saute of spring onions (aka scallions) and brocollini (cooked until crisp/tender in a small amount of olive oil) and a refreshing salad made of shredded green and purple cabbage (about 1/2 head of each) tossed with 2 tbsp of white balsamic vineger and 2 tbsp of olive oil along with a couple of pinches of salt - sort of very lightly "pickled cabbage" thing... Even the big guy (my almost 5 year old) loved it!

Enjoy! It is back to writing for me!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

And at the end of the day.....

So at the end of the day (actually 6:15 in the a.m.) I made my choice - and voted for Hillary. It was not an easy decision (although I pretty much was convinced - as played out in the polls - that Illinois would go for Obama).

But, I do think that she can clean up the mess left by this current administration. And, as my good friend Roni notes, hopefully if Clinton wins the nomination, Obama and his grassroots campaign will rally together around Clinton to organize voters for the Fall.

In the meantime, either way - I think this election is an incredibly powerful indictment of what has happened over the past 8 years under this administration. And while some may think that having 2 candidates in the Democratic primary will "divide" the party - I think it is quite the opposite.

Think about the boundaries that have been broken here - we are choosing (at least for the Democrats) between a woman and an African-American man. Unbelievable. Historic. And both could be outstanding Presidents - albeit different styles. The fact that we even have this choice means that Change is Happening!

The fact is that whoever is the nominee, I will fight tooth and nail for them. And, if egos aside, we get our dream ticket of Obama and Clinton (in either order) - I think that would truly be the path to a whole new world.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Great Salad and Spaghetti

The other day my son was quite ill.... but, on Friday nights, we always celebrate shabbat, so I wanted to make sure we still had something to eat for him. So, of course we had challah, grape juice, etc... but for dinner I made J (almost 5) spaghetti (he didn't want rice - and plain spaghetti works when he isn't feeling well)....

I also made a great roast chicken (my standby for Friday night dinner - and for quick dinners during the week when I get home from work) and salad for hubby and daughter A (18 mos)...

So, here is the recipe for the salad and chicken...

Note to everyone - I don't measure a whole lot when I cook - but I read lots and lots of cookbooks and have specific recipes for certain things, so unless otherwise mentioned - it is to taste. My dad, for instance, likes LOTS of pepper (he is a FABULOUS cook) - me, not so much....

Roast chicken with parsley, lemon, garlic and onion

Chicken (3-4 pounds)
Italian Flat Leaf Parsley (about 1/2 bunch - trim off ends of stems)
1 small onion cut in half
1 lemon cut in half
1 whole bulb of garlic cut in half across
1 cup carrots
2 tsp kosher salt
2-3 tbsp olive oil

1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Clean, rinse and pat dry chicken and put in roasting pan breast side up.
3. sprinkle 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste inside chicken, also about 1 Tbsp of olive oil - rub on inside of chicken.
4. Take onion, lemon, garlic and parsley and stuff inside of chicken.
5. Sprinkle top of chicken with remaining salt and pepper and olive oil - rub into chicken together (make sure you get all the parts of the chicken, including under the wings)

** Now, I know there is lots of debate as to whether or not to tie the chicken. I have done it both ways - and I like the fact that it is very "neat" looking when you tie the legs and wings. However, with 2 kids underfoot, I find it easier to simply let things go where they want to. If I am having lots of people over, I will often tie the chicken - or if there is a stuffing inside that I want to serve. Either way you prefer works fine.

6. Scatter carrots around the chicken (you could also add celery, parsnips - whatever - this is what I had on hand on Friday afternoon).
7. Put in oven and bake for approximately 1 1/2 hours or until juices run clear (I usually set the timer for 1 hour 15 minutes - check the temp - then determine if it needs more time).

About basting... I sometimes baste - sometimes I don't. Again, when I didn't have kids -this was much easier to do. I have found that because we use a kosher chicken, the method of roasting works pretty well - skin is crisp - and breast is juicy. If you want to baste - please do!

I made a quick gravy from the juices in the pan - after I removed the chicken and the carrots (hubby really likes to eat those) - I simply poured some leftover chicken stock into the pan and stirred with a "slurry" (1 tbsp flour mixed with 1-2 Tbsp water) over the heat of a burner. YUM!

Now - for the salad -


1 bag baby spinach - rinsed in ice water and dried in paper towels
1 bulb fennel - cut in half and sliced thinly
1/2 can chick peas (garbanzos) - rinsed
1 cup (or more if you like) - grape tomatoes

Dressing (I didn't measure this since I make dressing almost every night - but this should be about right... if you like it more acidic - add more lemon juice - if you like it sweeter, add more honey)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp kosher salt
pepper to taste
2 tsp garam masala (indian spice mixture)
2-3 tbsp olive oil.

Mix together lemon, honey, salt, pepper and garam masala in bottom of bowl. Whisk in olive oil to make dressing. Put spinach, chick peas, sliced fennel and tomatoes in bowl and toss gently with dressing.

Also - for those that are wondering - I also made some jasmine rice and grated some lime zest into it before I served it....

Happy eating! And have a great week!

Good evening to all

Since this is my first post, I thought I would start by writing a quick introduction...

I am the proud mom of 2 great kids and wife to a terrific husband (who puts up with an awful lot). I also am very passionate about my work and career - I plan programs and raise money for a large not-for-profit agency that provides healthcare for uninsured and impoverished men, women and children - definitely my calling working in this field....

And, like many people, I love to entertain - cooking for me is more than a way to feed my kids - it is part of creating a warm and inviting home for all the people I love. It is a central part of our life - and there is nothing more satisfying for me than creating wonderful meals for my husband, children and all our friends.

So - with that in mind - I begin my blog... a record of some great recipes - thoughts on issues of the day - and general musings on life as a working mom....