Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cheater Halal Chicken

Update: I've been learning my camera and I think the pictures are turning out much better than the iphone pictures that I had been posting. 

Two years ago I had my first New York City Halal chicken cart meal. It was so good. The magic white sauce makes it delicious. Certainly not the typical meat and potatoes meal I grew up with. We rarely had any kind of ethnic meal, unless you count my favorite,  taco night. However, it didn't contain any Mexican spices whatsoever. Unfortunately here in South Jersey, there are very few restaurants that offer any kind of variety. It's mostly Italian and Chinese, although a few sushi places have popped up lately. Being I lived in Italy for three years, I'm not much of a fan of American Italian food.

I was trying to come up with something different for dinner, because let's face it, you wind up making the same meals over and over again. The halal chicken popped into my head, but every recipe called for marinating the chicken for 6-8 hours and slow cooking it for another 3-4. Well, I'm impatient and didn't want to wait until 3 am to eat dinner. I came up with a quick way to cook it and it turned out great. My boyfriend ate two platefuls and said this recipe was a keeper.

Since this was a new recipe, I measured everything. I want to make it again the exact same way. I sliced the chicken into 1/2 inch slices, because it cooks faster and gets coated with seasonings better. I used a rice cooker and added everything at once, but you can cook the rice on the stovetop as you normally would. 

Halal Chicken
Serves 2 - 3


1 large chicken breast
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon curry
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 - 2 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup rice
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon butter

White Sauce
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
pinch of freshly minced garlic


Make the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate until you are ready to use. Follow the package for cooking the rice, but add the spices and butter. Slice the chicken breast into 1/2 inch slices. Sprinkle the seasoning mix on both sides and brown on medium heat in a skillet in a tablespoon of olive oil. While the chicken is cooking shred the lettuce, cut up the tomatoes and mince the cilantro for the salad. Once the chicken is cooked thoroughly, it's ready for plating. Rice on bottom, then chicken, then salad on the side or on top. It doesn't really matter since you're going to mix it all together anyway. Drizzle the sauce on top. Voila!


Monday, January 27, 2014

Remove an Avocado Pit Easily

This is the easiest way to remove a pit from an avocado. Cut it in half and put it on the counter pit side up of course. It's important that you put it on the counter. You know, if you like your fingers attached and everything. Give it a good whack with a big knife. Pick it up an give a little wiggle and it should pop right out. The best part is, it comes out clean. No messing around with spoons and scraping bits off the pit.

It's that easy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Seven Ways to Occupy Your Toddler

Now that it's winter and we are stuck inside, my son has tons of energy. If only I could discover a way to harness the energy of a toddler... Until that time, I've come up with several ideas to keep him busy. My son is a busy body. Like most boys, he's active. One thing that works for us is what I like to call Quiet, Busy. I'll do one active thing and then one quiet thing and rotate between the two. This doesn't always work, but when it does, things seem to go more smoothly. As time goes on, I'll add to the list.

1. Fort Building
My son is three and I'm pretty sure this is his all time favorite thing to do. Sometimes it's a rocket ship, sometimes it's a boat and sometimes it's a castle. We get all the cushions, pillows and blankets and have at it. I think I've made at least ten rocket ships this week. They even break down and we have to fix them with tools. Usually a screwdriver and hammer. I'm pretty sure he thinks anything can be fixed with a screwdriver and hammer.

2. Super Hero/ Fire Fighter/ Doctor
Dress up isn't just for girls. Boys love to do it too. And you don't need much. I found a super easy DIY cape online and made a few. Basically you just cut up an old t-shirt. Leave the neck and back in place and cut out the rest. Voila, instant cape. Santa was kind enough to give us a Firefighter outfit and he got a doctor kit last year for his birthday.

3. Play dough
Explanation not necessary. Buy it, make it. Whatever. Kids love it.

4. Painting/ Gluing/ Coloring
Whether it's finger painting or with a brush, it's fun, creative and messy. Kids love to get messy. Use junk mail for paper if you are running low. You know all that leftover tissue paper from gifts? Cut it up and let them glue it on the paper. Or let them tear it. Sometimes that's fun too. I like to cover the table with a dollar store table cloth for easy clean up.

5. Jump
Bounce houses are fun, but they can start to get expensive. Recycle that old crib mattress. Put it on the floor and let them jump until their hearts are content. Better yet, put on some music and jump with them.

6. Bake
This one can be a little tricky. Especially for the nibby nose, busy toddler. I've learned a lesson or two here. Like don't turn your back. Not even for a second. Seriously. Or something like someone dumping dirty kitchen sink water into the pizza dough you just made while you turn on the oven could happen. I usually let my son add pre-measured ingredients, turn on the stand mixer and "make" pizzas, pie's or cookies. Cookie decorating can be fun too. Just prepare things ahead of time.

7. Indoor Bowling
Two summers ago I bought a kids bowling set, but you could use some stuff lying around your house. If you have kids, I'm sure you have balls somewhere. You only need one. Use empty cans, tall skinny toys, or cut up some cereal boxes.

The Importance of Rotating Toys

It's only a few weeks after Christmas and the new toys are already starting to lose their luster. It's winter and we've been stuck inside. A lot. Mostly because of that damn Polar Vortex! I hate winter. The cold weather sucks. Being cold sucks. Rain and 33° really sucks. Enough with my rant. Like I said, we have been playing with all of our new toys that we got for Christmas a lot. I say we, but I really mean my son got a lot of new toys and since he's an only child, WE have been playing with them. I get bored really fast, so it's not surprising that my son does too. One of the best ways for him to not get bored is to rotate toys. Some I stash in a closet or up in the attic, and I also put some in the ottoman in the living room. (Outta site, outta mind.) When he seems like all he wants to do is watch tv or play on the iPad, I whip out an old toy. But since he hasn't seen it in a couple of weeks, it's like new and chances are he'll play with it for several days before he gets bored and it goes back in it's hiding place.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Crock Pot Chicken Soup

Nothing warms your body on a cold winter's day more than a warm bowl of delicious soup. My boyfriend makes this soup in the crock pot, mostly. I love it with a piece of homemade bread and butter. When I was a kid my mom always made chicken in the crock pot. It's great for chicken salad, sandwiches and soup. He had never seen chicken done in the crock pot like this before, but now he's addicted.   I use split breasts. They give you a lot of flavor because of the bones and skin are still on them. This is really easy and you can do the whole thing in one pot. Plus it freezes well.


2 large chicken split breasts
1/2 sweet onion
2 ribs celery
3-4 potatoes
2 carrots
2 T fresh parsley
spices - thyme, rosemary, sage, marjoram, salt and pepper

Chop celery and onion in large pieces. Dice the potatoes and carrots. In the crock pot add chicken, enough water to cover it, celery, onion and spices. If you read this blog, you know I never measure, so it's probably about a 1/4 teaspoon of the dried spices and 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley. Turn the crock pot on low for 5-6 hours or high for about 3 hours. Once done, take out everything, but broth. Take the meat off the bone and set aside. Discard the veggies. Add diced potatoes and carrots and turn the crock pot on high. Cook until the veggies are tender. Add back the meat. Ladle into bowls.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Summer Salad

It's cold outside. Really cold. Like most of the US, we are experiencing the polar vortex. It's the coldest day on record here in NJ. I'm not fond of winter. Not even in the slightest. It's only January and I'm ready for spring.

In order to try and fool my brain into thinking that it's not as cold out as it really is, I made a salad I usually only make in the summer. Mostly because that's when fresh strawberries are in season. I added fresh romaine lettuce, fresh pears, fresh strawberries, feta cheese and pecans. I topped it with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. As always, I hardly ever measure, so I'm doing my best to get the correct measurements.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp oregano
a pinch ground sage

Mix together until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over salad.


Banana Nut Muffins

Banana bread is one of my favorite non chocolate items, but it can be dense. However, these muffins are really light and moist. I used some really old nasty almost black bananas. I should have taken a picture of them. They may have looked gross, but they sure did make some delicious muffins. When my bananas are getting to the point of getting too brown for me to eat, I usually freeze them for smoothies, but they also work really well for banana bread, muffins and pancakes.

I made regular size muffins and some mini muffins. I baked the mini muffins for 18 minutes. They were the perfect size for my uber picky toddler. I didn't even think he would try them, but he ate one and liked it. They were pretty darn delicious.

Banana Walnut Muffins

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
3 oz. softened cream cheese
2 old bananas, mashed
1/4 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly grease muffin pan or use paper liners. I'm a fan of liners myself. Less clean up. Cream the brown sugar, butter and cream cheese. Add bananas, sour cream and egg until combined. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nuts. Don't over mix. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake for 23-25 minutes. Test with a toothpick. Makes about 18 regular muffins.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Sinful Cinnamon Roll Bread

If you've seen my bread post, you know I made bread on a fairly regular basis, although lately with the holidays and being busy, I have been buying it from the Amish market. I've also been craving some cinnamon rolls. I love Cinnabon, but they are loaded with tons of artificial ingredients and are a ton of calories. I've thought about making my own version and there are several online copycats that look good, but honestly I'm just too lazy to follow those recipes to a tee. So, I decided to just make a simple cinnamon bread.

I made it just like I make regular sandwich bread with a few additions. I added one more tablespoon honey in the dough and after the first rise, I rolled out the dough and spread a cinnamon sugar mixture on top, rolled it up and tadaa! Mouth watering cinnamon bread.

I guess it was pretty good because my boyfriend ate about four slices in about eight minutes. And I thought it was pretty good too.

You can get the bread recipe here. All you have to do for the cinnamon bread is add an extra tablespoon of honey in the dough. I mixed 1 cup light brown sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 2 tablespoons flour then spread that on top.

So easy! So Delicious! I think this is going to be my breakfast with a hot cup of chai tomorrow.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Romantic Meal for Two

I made this for an at home date night. It was great with a glass of white wine, candlelight and superb company. I love one bowl meals where everything is all put together and the tastes all combine in your mouth. 

I love seafood. Mostly crustaceans. Scallops. Shrimp. Crab. Lobster. Mmm... I prefer dry packed diver U-10 scallops, because I'm a food snob. I can admit it. I like to eat good food. What are dry packed U-10 scallops you ask? Well, besides expensive and extremely hard to find, even for someone like me who lives about an hour from the ocean, they are large scallops that divers collect from the sea instead of using nets and dredging from the bottom of the ocean. Those scallops tend to be grittier. The 10 simply means that there're about ten scallops per pound. Dry packed means that there are no chemical additives. Sodium Tripolyphosphate (STP) is commonly added to keep the scallops white and to plump them up. It's also commonly used in detergents. I don't know about you, but I don't want to eat something that's in dish soap. Be sure not to buy scallops with STP. 

I bought 10. Four for me and six for my boyfriend. It was plenty. The great thing about this recipe is that you can change what you have on hand. Add a sweet potato or a regular potato.

I do a lot of improvising when I cook and I never measure anything. So please forgive me if you have too much or not enough of something. I think when I made this the first time I had tons of veggies leftover which was actually perfect since I used them for dinner the next night. They reheated nicely. 

10 U-10 dry packed diver scallops
1 sweet potato or pumpkin
1 turnip
1 small baking potato or winter squash
1/4 sweet onion
1/4 fennel bulb
1/4 cucumber, peeled
1 clove garlic
1/4 c. dry white wine
1/4 -1/2 c. heavy cream
1 tsp thyme leaves
salt and pepper

Rinse and pat dry the scallops and set aside. Peel, de-sead and dice the potatoes and/or squash, turnip and cucumbers. Set the cucumber aside for later. Boil the potatoes, squash and turnip until fork tender. About ten minutes. While those are boiling, dice the onion, fennel and mince the garlic and sauté on low heat until soft in a little olive oil and a pat of butter. Drain the veggies and add to the sauté pan with the thyme and salt and pepper. Turn up the heat and brown the veggies slightly. Add cucumbers last when everything is browned. They are there to add a nice crunch. While those are browning, add the scallops to a saute pan on medium high heat and sear 2-3 minutes per side in a little oil/butter combo. Remove the scallops from the pan and deglaze with the white wine. Add the white wine reducing slightly. Place vegetables in a bowl, add the cream sauce and place scallops on top. Serve with a glass of wine. 

I hope all this makes sense. Please feel free to ask me any questions if it all seems like a garbled mess.