Dijon Roasted Chicken & Potatoes

I made up a recipe for dinner tonight and it was quite tasty and very easy. Give it a try.. I also need to write it down so I remember how I made it. They had bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts on sale & I like roasted chicken that way.. it turns out more moist and flavorful than boneless, skinless, I think.

4-5 bone in, skin on chicken breasts
6-8 red or yukon gold potatoes (mine were garden fresh.. even better)
1/2 onion (sliced)

1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 T dijon mustard (I used a grainy, country style Grey Poupon dijon)
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. garlic powder
juice of 1/2 a lemon

Mix the sauce together until well combined. Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet (can line with foil for easy clean up). Brush the sauce onto the chicken. I tossed the potatoes in a bowl with just olive oil, salt & pepper and then placed the potatoes all around the chicken on the pan. Put the onion slices on top of the chicken. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes until the chicken is done (165 on a meat thermometer) & the potatoes are tender. I would have included carrots in the mix with the potatoes, but I didn't have any.


Peanut Butter Playdough

I got this recipe from my friend Becky. Its a fun snack/activity once in a while.

1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup honey
1 cup powdered milk
1 cup powdered sugar

Mix all together in mixer until its a dough consistency. You may need to add a little more powdered milk or sugar to get it just right. Give the kids a glob of it to play with/eat with cookie cutters, raisins, chocolate chips, etc. I usually give the kids their portion to play with and then use the cookie scoop to make the rest into balls and store in the fridge. Then I can snack on the leftovers & its easier to give the kids one little ball than a whole mound of it.


Chicken Tikka Masala

The recipe is from allrecipes.com. I took out the salt, since it called for an absurd amount in both the marinade and the sauce. Just sprinkle some on at the end to taste. Some commenters said it's a lot better if you add a teaspoon or two of garam masala to the sauce. I need to get me some of that. You can do the sauce with something not so calorie-laden as the heavy cream, but it won't be quite as good, so that's your call.

When I made it, it was okay the first day, but seemed a little gritty and tasted like there was either too much cumin or maybe like I'd burned the spices somehow. The leftovers the next day were awesome. It was much better after the flavors in the sauce had time to mix and settle down some.

I'd recommend just mixing up both the marinade and the sauce the day before. Let it marinate overnight and let the sauce settle overnight, and it should be much better.

And if anyone can come up with a good naan recipe to go with this, let me know.

Serve with Basmati rice.


1 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
4 long skewers

1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
salt to taste
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, and 4 teaspoons salt. Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat a grill for high heat.

Lightly oil the grill grate. Thread chicken onto skewers, and discard marinade. Grill until juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side.

Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic and jalapeno for 1 minute. Season with 2 teaspoons cumin, paprika, and 3 teaspoons salt. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Add grilled chicken, and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, and garnish with fresh cilantro.


Crockpot Sausage and Tortellini Stew

I made this for Sunday dinner yesterday.  Rob and I liked it and ate the leftovers for lunch today.  The kids picked out the sausage and tortellini to eat since they aren't tomato or onion fans.

4 sweet Italian sausage links
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes with basil, garlic, & oregano
1 pk (9 oz) frozen cut green beans
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 pkg (9 oz) refrigerated cheese tortellini

Remove the casing from the sausage and form into small balls (about 1/2 inch diameter).  Stir tomatoes, beans, onion and seasoning. Add the sausage and cook in slow cooker for 3 hrs on HIGH. When 20 minutes is left, add tortellini and 1 cup of water.

I couldn't find crushed tomatoes with the added ingredients so I used diced.  I left out the green beans since I'm the only one that will eat them, but added about a 1/4 head of cabbage since it came in the Bountiful Basket the day before.  I never add a whole onion to anything...maybe 1/4.  I used a package of frozen tortellini.

Crockpot Ranch Chicken

My kids will pretty much eat any variation of chicken and rice so here's another chicken and sauce recipe to serve over rice.

4-6 chicken breasts, each cut into 4 pieces
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese
1 package ranch dressing mix
1 can cream of mushroom soup
Frozen broccoli (optional)

Mix everything together and put in a crockpot. Cook on high 3-4 hours or low 5-6 hours.  The broccoli should probably go in half way through or so. Serve on top of mashed potatoes, rice, or even pasta.

This is not so low fat so I used the neufchatel cream cheese (you could probably go fat free) and the healthy request cream of mushroom.  Again, you've probably seen different variations to this using cream of chicken or dry Italian dressing mix.

Crockpot Apricot Chicken

I started going to a Fitness Club on campus last week from 5:15-6:15 pm so I was trying to have dinner all prepared when I left so we could eat as soon as I got home.  My friend compiled a big list of recipes from friends and emailed them out.  I've been trying alot of the crockpot ones since I can start them earlier in the day and they are all done after my workout.

Four people submitted variations to this recipe, which surprised me because I had never heard of it.  I'll put the variations in parenthesis.

1 package dry Italian dressing mix (or 1 package dry onion soup mix)
1 18 oz. bottle of Wishbone brand Russian salad dressing (or Catalina dressing)
1 small jar of apricot jam

Mix these all together in a crockpot.  Add 1- 1 1/2 Pounds chicken (breasts or tenders). Cook on high 3-4 hours or low for 5-6 hours or until done.  Serve over rice or potatoes.

My mom makes apricot jam so I used what I had from her.  I put probably 3/4 of a pint jar in it.  It makes alot of sauce so you could probably use a cup of jam or add even more chicken than it calls for.  I used the dry onion soup mix since I had it already.  My friend said she thought it tasted like Tiny Spicy Chicken when she used the Italian dressing mix.  I think I used 4 or 5 chicken breasts and cut them into 4 strips.


Baby Back Ribs

I've become more of a fan of ribs lately, getting past the fact that you're going to get a little messy eating them. There are lots of different types of ribs. The only beef ribs I've had weren't all that great, so I suppose at some point I'll try them again, but for now I'd recommend pork ribs over beef ribs.

There are many cuts. I learned a little about them when doing a secret shopper assignment at a local grocery store, and I had to ask questions about something in the meat department. For more information than you ever wanted to know about the different types of ribs, go check out amazingribs.com, otherwise just take my word for it that you want the baby back ribs. Some of the other types look bigger, but they have longer bones and thinner meat, so not really worth it.

Alton Brown from the Food Network has a good basic rib recipe that many other recipes out there appear to be based on. At least there is a troll that has posted on most of the top recipes that it looks like they copied Alton's recipe. It may actually be Alton. Who knows?

So if you want a specific recipe, you can go check out the proportions he uses. I just googled around to get a basic list of the spices people often use in their dry rub and sprinkled them on.

Before I jump into that, most recipes out there call for two racks of ribs. Both times I've cooked them, I've just purchased one rack, which will generally come in somewhere between 2 and 3 pounds. I think the idea, though, is if you're going through all this work, you might as well make twice as much, or else you're throwing a party, so you want to make sure there's enough for everyone.

The membrane is the weird part. The first time I made them, I couldn't find something that matched others' description of the membrane, so I assumed it had already been removed, and it came out fine. This time, I found a video that shows how to remove the membrane from the back of the ribs. I followed his directions, but it shredded all up instead of coming off in one piece. So if anyone else out there has better experience with this step, I'd appreciate your advice.

From there on, I took a good handful of brown sugar and sprinkled it all over one side of the ribs, maybe not quite as thick as you'd put it on cinnamon rolls. Then I sprinkled on cumin, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, pepper, and salt. I didn't measure at all, just sprinkled it out. This is where you can get pretty creative. If you want to add red pepper to spice it up, ginger to add an Asian touch to it, Emeril's Essence, whatever. These are your ribs.

Rub it in like you're giving it a good back rub, because pretty much that's what you're doing. Flip it over and do the same to the other side.

Wrap it up and seal it tight in some foil. Depending on how the bones stick out, you can rip some holes pretty easily, so you might need to do two layers or use heavy duty stuff. Throw it in the fridge overnight.

When it's time to cook, pull the ribs out of the fridge and unroll one end of the foil packet. We're going to add some braising liquid to the packet and reseal it. I used 1/2 cup apple juice with a tablespoon or so of red wine vinegar and about a tablespoon of honey. I also added a teaspoon or two of beef bouillon, mainly because we have a huge can of it. Microwave it to soften up the honey and mix it up. Some people recommend you add the same seasonings to the braising liquid as you used in the dry rub in case it gets washed off while you're pouring in the liquid, but I wasn't too concerned about that.

Pour the liquid into the end of your foil packet, and seal it back up. If you're not sure you have a great seal, just wrap the whole thing again in another layer of foil.

Place it in the oven on a cookie sheet, at 225 degrees for four hours. You can maybe bump it up to 250 for three hours, but don't push it. High temp, fast cooking = tough ribs.

I put them bone side up so the majority of the meat is soaking in the liquid. You can flip them halfway if you feel like you should do something to them, but resist the urge to open the packet. Just leave it closed. Don't worry, it's doing its thing. Go on a hike or something.

After the four hours is over, pull the pan out and carefully open your packet. Yes, we're cooking low and slow, but 225 degree steam still burns. It's best to just open one end first, pour the liquid out into a sauce pan, and then open the rest of the packet.

Use your little fat separator measuring cup thingy with the juice to get rid of most of the extra fat, and boil until it thickens up a bit, being careful not to burn it. Here's where you can add a little Sweet Baby Ray's if you want. Don't go crazy on the sauce, though, as we only need maybe 1/3 of a cup of sauce per rack. Brush the sauce over one side of the ribs, either on a new piece of foil or if you were careful, just use the remnants of your foil packet. Broil for a few minutes so the sauce caramelizes even more and gets nice and sticky. Flip it over, extra carefully, because if you did this right, it's going to be falling apart on you. You might need a helper. Sauce up the other side and broil again. Many people will do this part on the grill. If your ribs stay together well enough to toss it around on the grill, feel free.

Show the awesome ribs to your kids, let them tell you how disgusting it looks, and proceed to eat it all yourself.


Tomatoes at last!

Our tomatoes have been slowly ripening. This means dinners like BLTs (with added avocado and bleu cheese..yum).. and this delicious treat. I fed the kids mac and cheese and ate this for dinner tonight:

Baked Caprese Salad (or tomato cheese toast)
adapted from Giada Delaurentis

slices of crusty bread (today I used ciabatta)
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
sliced tomatoes
sliced fresh mozzarella
fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Arrange the sliced baguette bread on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake until the bread is pale golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn! Remove from the oven. Top each slice of bread with a slice of tomato and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top each slice of tomato with a slice of mozzarella and sprinkle with salt. Return the baking sheet to the oven until the cheese and tomato are warmed, about 5 minutes. Top each toast with a basil leaf. Using the brush, drizzle the remaining olive oil over the basil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve.
*photo from foodnetwork.com

Homemade granola

I have been trying to make better breakfasts for the kids before school. I pulled out the recipe for granola from mother. Caleb was having it for an after school snack with vanilla yogurt, so tasty.

So here it goes

Put 3 cups of oats in a 2 quart dish and microwave for 2 minutes. To the oats add and mix

1/3 c wheat germ
1/3 c coconut
1/3 c sesame seeds
1/3 c nuts (I used walnuts because that's what I had and I doubled the amount so I used 2/3 c and would probably add more next time because I always pick the nuts out, they are so good.)
1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/3 c sunflower seeds

To dry ingredients add
1/3 c vegetable oil or butter (used canola oil)
1/4 c honey
1 t vanilla

Mix until well coated. Cook in microwave on power level 7 for 7 minutes. Stir twice. If you want to add raisins add 1/2 c and cook 1-2 minutes more on full power.