Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween, The Wrap Up

I live in a subdivision in suburban Birmingham.  I guess it is like most subdivisions with houses and families of all ages, though, as the older people either downsize or croak the houses are snatched up by people with kiddos.  This is the biggest advantage of living in a very good school district.  I also live in one of those incorporated areas that does not have enough available housing for the people who want to live here, so houses are listed with a "Coming Soon" sign and are sold before they are ever officially for sale.  Houses sell so quickly sometimes I never know someone has moved or that new folks have moved in.

The point of this rambling is to talk about my plans for Halloween.  Normally I have between 80-90 trick or treaters.  Though numbers are not my strong suit I do know of about 10 houses that sold recently and it doesn't take a genius to figure out how many additional kids that is basing it on 2 per house. So by my math I figure I need between 100-110 treats. However the weather forecast was for severe rains, which would skew the numbers a bit. In addition to the weather several local churches were having the equivalent of trunk or treat (cause we would not want anyone to actually celebrate Halloween, right?) indoors so no one would have to get wet.

I buy full size Hershey Bars for the kids.  I have for years and I don't mind the price.  It is worth it, especially since all the kids know that I am the Big Candy Bar Lady, but I have little will power and don't want a ton of leftover candy.  So I stood in Costco last night debating between 2 boxes of 36 or 3.  After debating the pros and cons of each I decided to go ahead and buy 3 boxes.  I figured that would give me 108 bars which should cover everyone, after all there are always a few who trick or treated last year who don't do it anymore.   Since the rains were supposed to hit at normal trick or treat time I expected the kids to begin early.  I just didn't expect it at 4:30.  By shortly after 5 I had gone through 65 candy bars and then had another 19 kids filter in and out until about 6:30.  Then the bottom fell out and that pretty much put an end to the whole evening.

Now I am sitting here with 2 dozen candy bars screaming at me.  I think they have to go to the freezer immediately.

As a little holiday aside, I found out for one family around the corner, I am their "consequence" house.  It seems if their kids misbehave during the evening they have to skip the big candy bar house. According to their mom this is the first year all three kids got to come to my door.  It makes me a little sad to think my Hershey Bar treat is punishment. Let them trick or treat and then confiscate it for a few days, but let them come!

And now Halloween is over, tomorrow all the Halloween stuff goes back in storage for a year and I will actually begin Christmas decorations.  I won't install any yet, but I will begin putting things together beginning tomorrow.  It is an illness!

Monday, October 26, 2015

The First Time

Remembrance number 3

My mother had arbitrary rules for everything under the sun.  It didn't matter how odd or contrived they seemed, when Mother made a rule it stood__forever!  If Mom declared there would be no supper until 7:30 during the summer, that was the rule, in stone and could not waver unless Mother herself declared it otherwise.  Then the exception took over. There will be no dinner before 7:30 pm unless The Fugitive was on and it was a re-run they had missed.  Or there would be no meals before 7:30 unless they were invited to play canasta with friends. Or there would be no dinner until 7:30 unless Dad was home early and was cooking on the grill.  In that case supper was whenever he had it cooked.

We had laws passed about everything imaginable. Remember those old rib cord bedspreads from Sears?  We had lavender ones and if the rib cords were not perfectly straight the beds had to be re-made.  Vacuuming was done in a north to south motion, because the rugs looked "funny" when the sun hit them if they had been vacuumed in an east to west order.  Silver had to be polished using the silver polishing rags, not to be confused with the dusting rags or the cleaning rags. (Understand all the rags were washed and clean but they could not be used interchangeably and God help the child who used the red flannel plaid rag to polish the silver, since that the blue flannel plaid rags job)

In addition to meals and chores, Mother also had a set timeline for major events in our lives.  We could walk by ourselves to school the third week of first grade. (Understand by ourselves meant with the neighborhood kids who all walked to school together)  We could swim 1 hour after eating and not 1 minute before. (This rule was torture during beach vacations).  We could play outside in the summer until 9 p.m. but not one minute later.

The rules continued as she applied future "ready" dates, for things we would be able to do.   11 was the predetermined age we  were allowed to stay at home by ourselves when Mother had to pick Dad up from work on the days she needed the car. (We were a one car family at the time and this was about a 15 minute round trip .)  We would be able to stay home sans parents at night when I turned 12 effectively babysitting My Beloved Sister. (She was my best bud so no bossiness was required but we could only be alone if they were not getting in late, otherwise we had to have a sitter.) I would be able to go to boy girl parties at 13 (supervised, and only if Mom knew the parents well)  I could wear makeup at 15 ( This was the one rule that Mom actually changed a little. I was one of the youngest in my class, so I started high school before my 14th birthday.  I begged and was allowed mascara and blush only midway through my freshman year.)  I could begin double dating at 15 as long as my parents knew the kids well. ( Attending a high school football game or an occasional movie ) My curfews weekend were set and  I would be able to stay out until 10:30, 11:00 and11:30 at 15, 16 and 17 respectively. All of these dates and times were scripted well in advance of them ever being an issue.

But the first milestone I looked most forward to was Easter of my sixth grade year.  In my community, that Easter was the year young girls started transitioning from children's clothing to a pre-teen look. I was going to be allowed to wear hose and heels. Now by heels I am talking about a tiny kitten heel and I am not talking about any pretty princess shoe here.  I am talking about a daintier Mary Jane with a thin strap across the foot and a 1 inch kitten heel.  And hose, real hose before panty hose were accessible to everyone. Hose that had to be held in place with that garter belt (the ones with a tiny rose in the front)  I was to be freed of the bondage and humiliation of wearing white ankle socks with lace around the edges and trading it for silky sheer leg wear.  I didn't care what you had to do to hold those suckers up.

A little back story here.  As I mentioned once before I did all of my growing very early and by the middle of the 5th grade I was as tall as I am now. (Taller possibly, because I may even be losing a little height now. )

Nothing says adorable on a 5th grade girl who looks like an Amazon among her peers than wearing black patent Mary Janes with white ankle socks.  Because I was still 10 my mother made sure I dressed like a ten year old, which was very difficult since I wore adult sized clothes.  Not only did I wear adult sized clothes, but I also wore adult sized undergarments and the females in the maternal side of the family were all very "healthy".  Again nothing says adorable like a girl who looks to the outside world like she is an older teen wearing young kid clothes. (Did I mention Mother sewed, so there was never a problem finding clothes she wanted me to wear in a size that fit me?). When I look back on pictures from that time I see My Beloved Sister with all of our friends, then me at least a full head above everyone else, standing with my shoulders hunched to try and have the appearance of a concave chest.  My Beloved Sister calls this time "The Lerch Years."

I somehow survived the fifth grade, the sixth grade fall, and winter wearing my "little girl" clothes,socks and shoes. Spring was coming with the promise of hose and heels.  Easter Sunday arrived and I woke early to dress for church.   I put on my first ever hose and heels, fixed my hair a million times, slipped on the blue linen dress with it's matching blue check coat then went to the dining room for the annual Easter picture before church.  I had never felt so cute in my entire life.  I had entered the new realm without the trappings of my little girl socks and little girl shoes.  The world was mine, it was a new day and a new beginning.  I felt fantastic until Dad had the pictures developed.   Then, My. Ego. Shattered.

You know how we can all be a little delusional sometimes.  I was so taken aback with my new footwear freedom and not looking like a little kid that I had not realized the visible peril of hose and heels combined with one of Mom's written in cement arbitrary rules: Thou (Anne) shalt not shave thou legs until thou art in the 7th grade.  And that is what my Beloved Sister called "The Gorilla Year".

p.s. Hell will freeze over before I post that picture!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

It's Chicken Man

They (whoever they are) say you can't remember anything prior to about 4 years of age, unless there is a trauma attached to it, which explains my first ever childhood memory. This a the 2nd in a 3 part series of childhood memories.

My parents were young when they married.  After a couple of years I came along and 20 months after me, came My Beloved Sister.  By the time they were in their early 20's, mom was a SAHM and Dad was not only the bread winner by day but was also attending college at night.  Throw in the two of us and their life was in a chaotic frenzy.

One of Dad's professors was very involved in the local Children's Theater and offered an
"A" in the class and also and "A" for the next quarter's class to anyone who would be a part of the upcoming production.  Dad was quite the student (Magna Cum Laude) and probably would have made an "A" anyway, but this was not only one "A" but also the promise of the next "A" without having to go to class which would free up time for him to take another course.  Like I said he was a smart guy.

They held auditions and Dad was cast as the male lead.  I have no recollection of how long they rehearsed.  All I knew was Dad was going to be in a play.  When it got time for the show to go live Mother and I got all dressed up, took My Beloved Sister to Grandmother's and went on our merry way to the play. (The only part of this I remember is climbing the stairs from the street to Grandmother's front yard.  I remember her meeting us there and have no idea why we didn't park in the back since that is how we normally went in their house. (Probably because there were about 25 steps from the street to the house level)  Anyway, I remember waving goodbye to them as we walked down the stairs and I remember getting into the back seat of the car. (Yeah, no stinking car seat for me or any other kid of my era.  They hadn't been invented yet.)

I am assuming the ride to the theater was uneventful because my next memory is being in the audience and things were happening on stage.  My dad was there in an outfit with a cool hat and a cape.  There was also a beautiful blond with long curly hair, and a woman, a bad woman, in a long black dress with wild dark hair.  I could not begin to tell you the storyline or what anything was about, but I can tell you what happened next.  The bad woman in black threw what I remember as a ball shaped object toward Dad, there was a huge puff of smoke which obscured most of the stage for a few moments and when the smoked cleared there was the bad woman in black, the beautiful blond with long curly hair and a man sized chicken wearing my dad's hat and his cape.

There was a brief moment of panic on my part then full out terror.  I remember crying and crying then being unable to catch my breath as Mother rushed me from the theater.  According to her I was not just crying but was screaming at the top of my lungs "Where my Daddy Go".

There was a small courtyard outside the hall leading to the auditorium and we hurried out there.  Mom sat on a concrete bench and held unconsolable me rocking me back and forth. I remember holding on the her as tight as toddler arms can hold, the rocking motion, and crying and grieving .  None of her soothing had any effect on me.  I have no idea how long we were out there, but I remember a very kind usher who came into the courtyard to see if she could help.  I remember her telling me not to cry, that it was just pretend, and then she gave me a magic"happy" pill, which was a peppermint candy. I remember clearly her opening it for me and I remember putting it in my mouth.

This is where my personal memory of that tragic day ends. The remains of it have been reconstructed for me.  Evidently the peppermint was enough of a distraction that I settled down and Mom and I stayed in the courtyard until the play was over.  After the curtain call the cast moved out into the hall and I was able to see my dad in his human form again and all was right with my little two year old world.  It was a pretty long time before anyone took me to a play again, though.  And to this day I find the aroma of peppermint immensely soothing.  Could be from this or it could be because peppermint is just a pleasant smell?  No idea, but I do know for one moment it's smell and taste were magic for a two year old kid.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Buffalo Chicken Salad

A couple of nights ago I had some friends for dinner, but not in that Hannibal Lecter way with a nice little Chianti and fava beans . It was time for book club and most often we meet at a restaurant. Instead, I decided to have it at my home. Maybe I was using my friends as an impetus to get my Halloween decorations up. (Why is it we will do things for guests that we won't just go ahead and do for ourselves?) Or maybe I decided to do it because I listed "have a small dinner party"as one of my October joy moments.  Or possibly I put it on my joy list because I already knew I wanted to have them here for dinner. Who knows what my thought processes were? Certainly not me!

I did manage to get the outside of the house as decorated, as is, until Halloween night. There are  a few additional things to put out but they don't like wind or rain and I really don't want them to die or fly . (Last year some of my rats and skulls scurried away.)

The foyer, dining room and the den are somewhat decorated but the jury is still out on doing the living room.  So, I am ready for the big night except for chocolate and I refuse to buy it more than a couple of days ahead of time. ( Because I can't be trusted around a Hershey Bar?)

I wanted the table to look festive, but did not want to just throw a couple of pumpkins on it  I put a black tablecloth on the table and created a centerpiece that had more of a fall theme than true Halloween, but I anchored it on burnt orange woven placemats, so it did have a touch of a Halloween look.

Several years ago a dear friend gave me these fantastic monkey candle holders. Is it even possible to not love a monkey with a fez?  I don't think so either.  The monkeys sat on opposite ends of the placemats and I filled in the center with some fall leaves I had dried last year. My only regret is that I didn't dry more leaf branches last year because the arrangement could have used a few more.  Since the leaves have not turned here, running out in the yard and grabbing a few was not an option.  I also had some sticks with dried buds that were stuck randomly in wherever space needed a little something extra. (No idea what they are, but they made an attractive filler material.)  Last and least were the small amber, orange and brown glass pumpkins used as table scatter

The menu was very simple, but we have to work with diets and food preferences: no tomatoes, bell peppers, cheese, red sauce, basil, cooked fruit, and must have paleo options. After racking my brain (thinking about it for maybe 15 minutes) I decided to do a cold meal. The appetizer was a purchased 7 layer dip and tortilla chips, with pinot nor.

Because I was opting for a cold meal, I wanted to plate our meal in a non-traditional way. (OK the cold meal was not really a qualifier for odd plating at all.  I like to use things in an unexpected manner.)  Rather than normal plates, I pulled out a sushi set and served the main course on the sushi plates.  The side was served in the set's sauce dishes .

 I decided on was buffalo chicken salad for the entree (?), wilted cauliflower marinated in ginger dressing, sliced tomatoes rolls, wine, tea and coffee, with caramel fudge frosted pumpkin butterscotch cupcakes for dessert.

  Buffalo Chicken Salad
(Paleo or not, your choice)

1 large roasted chicken, meat removed and shredded
1 small red onion, small dice
4 ribs celery, chopped
2 small carrots, finely shredded ( I did not do this but should have for color and added texture)
1/3 cup paleo friendly mayonnaise
1/4 cup Texas Pete Hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
(If you are paleo stop here)
2 tablespoons blue cheese crumbles
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon vinegar

In a large bowl mix the first 4 ingredients.  Stir in the mayo then add the hot sauce.  Mix thoroughly
Taste a bit and season with salt and pepper. (I don't like salt much so never rely on my measurements for what will taste really good. It is easier to have a salt shaker on the table so others can salt to taste add rather then over salting).  If you want a more traditional buffalo chicken flavor, mix the blue cheese, additional mayo and vinegar together then pour it over the buffalo chicken and stir well to blend.   Serve on lettuce leaves (paleo people can wrap their chicken salad in the leaf and eat it as a roll up) and pass the rolls.  No one here ate it as a sandwich, but that was an option.  If you like a tad of heat with your chicken salad by all means make this.  Personally, I would have loved this with some bell pepper and water chestnuts too, but as I said earlier, there are foods we just do not use because of diets, allergies or taste preferences.

This was a tasty, simple meal which was made so much better by good friends, good conversation and a good portion of wine!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Though it took me a little while I finally got the house looking Halloweenie. Thought I would share some photos.  It is finished with the exception of the skeletons and the creepy head in the crystal ball.  The ball head cannot withstand any rain at all and the skeletons have been known to fly about the yard when the wind blows.  So those will not make their debut until possibly the day before Halloween providing there will be no rain or high winds.

This is the front door.  It will be much better when the skeletons and the head make their appearance.

 Close up of the garland, thick chain (painted styrofoam), small skeletons on a jute rope and lighted skulls on a motion sensor that plays the theme from "Halloween".  A couple of large skeletons will flank either side of the door.

This guy hangs from a shepherds hook holder a foot or so from the door.  I used to have this wonderful fake flaming oil pot that hung on the other hook, but I found the hard way it does not tolerate rain. I keep searching for a replacement but so far no dice!

The rats live at the bottom of the holder.  Last year there were 5 of them, but I suppose they became restless and ran away.  I really hope some little kid picked them up and put them in his/her treat bag.  I would give anything to have been a fly on the wall when the parents did an inspection of the candy!

Next is the pot of marigolds with a skeleton hand buried in it.  It holds another chain that attaches to the stair rail.  This table is where the head in the crystal ball will live and the marigolds will move to the porch floor.  The chain will be attached to another skeleton who hangs out on the steps.

Inside the front door is the candy station. It will be empty until Halloween afternoon.  Every year I give full size Hershey bars to all the little tricksters, and I have about 70 kids each year.  I just don't trust myself with that much chocolate!

More bats fly from the fixture in the foyer.  I have no idea why I like them there, but I do.  My theory is that every suspended light should have something hanging from it on every decorating occasion.

The monkey butler hangs out in the foyer all the time, but he seems to like dressing for special occasions.  He has been known to sport a mask for halloween,  a santa hat, leprechaun, hats or bunny ears.  He also has been seen wearing red white and blue bunting on occasion.

Ghosts and metallic scarecrows, and black cats hang from the dining room light.  This is really not crooked, but I took the picture at a weird angle.

I love flowers and what is more appropriate for Halloween than a bouquet of black roses. Yes they are silk and disappear the day after Halloween to be packed away for next years appearance. I have no idea what the green ball things are but they hurt like a son of a gun when you grab them.  Luckily you only grab them once and then you learn to be very careful with them.  If you are going to have black flowers what is more natural to have alongside it than a skull with a fully articulated jaw.  Sometimes when I pick it up and make it talk it says "Alas poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio"  I am way to easily amused.

The last things occupying the opposite end of the dining room buffet are my animal skin pumpkins.  They originally were cheap carve-able pumpkins from Michaels.  I bought them one year after Halloween for next to nothing, painted them white then used a little tissue paper and Elmer's glue for a wildlife theme. So now I have a lion, tiger and leopard pumpkin.  They are showing a little wear and I might need to go on a tissue paper safari before next year.

How about sharing what you are doing for Halloween also?

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Little Drummer Girl

When I decided to do my October list of things to bring me joy one of the things on the list was to write about 3 specific childhood memories.  I thought as long as I was writing them anyway I might as well share them with the world.  As you will soon see I either have no shame or I am a deeply scarred individual in need of intense therapy.  You decide.

When I was growing up there was no such thing as public kindergarten.  Instead there were several private homes with a preschool, some churches had them, and just about every community center had a kindergarten. I don't know how many kids went or how many had their beginning educational experiences in public school's first grade.  I am assuming there were many who didn't go since I specifically remember my first grade class teacher having to teach some of the class how to print the alphabet and all the primary colors.

I was one of the lucky ones who got to go.  I am not sure if my parents wanted it as a learning experience, or if Mom just needed a break from me every morning.  Mine was at our  local Community Center in the park Monday-Friday from 9-12, and I loved nearly every minute of it. I imagine Mother loved every minute of it also.

My teacher, Mrs. Bradford was a very kind older lady (perhaps 45, funny how perception changes isn't it?) but she unknowingly both insulted and embarrassed me on the first day of class.  She went from chair to chair asking if we knew how to print our names.  Most of the class didn't and I was so proud that Dad had taught me how to spell and write my name.  When she got to me I told her I could and she asked me if I would print it, so I did.  In all uppercase letters, just as my dad had taught me. My feelings of being special were quickly gone when she chided me for using the wrong case.  I guess you could say I got a very early lesson on the dangers of pride, but I was a quick learner and never made the uppercase/lowercase mistake again. After that did pretty much everything I could to be as close to perfect as possible.

Fast forward to the annual Community Christmas Pageant.  Our whole kindergarten was abuzz.  We were going to put on a show and in my 5 year old mind it would be F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S!  I think for the most part it was the traditional Christmas story with a little Santa Claus action thrown in at the end of the show.  Of course every girl in the school wanted to be Mary, it was the plum girl part, followed by the angel to announce the Good Tidings and all that.  Well I wasn't chosen for Mary or the angel but that was no problem.  There was still some sheep and the heavenly angel choir girl parts.  I was not chosen as a sheep either, no problem.

The angels were kind of like a chorus line, with pretty little petite girl angels in white robes with tinsel covered coat hanger halos.  The angels would be singing and doing some angelic interpretive dance.  I was so excited, after all, I was blond and blue eyed and had a fairly sweet looking face. Plus Mother always called me her angel. I thought I was in like Flint.

It turned out I might have been my mom's angel, but I was her rather tall angel and would have looked out of place with the cute little angel chorus line, so at 5 I discovered my entire elementary calling__ to be cast with the guys. (Until I was in the 8th grade I was the tallest person in my class, then the world caught up with and passed me. After all, I quit growing when I was 10 years old) There was always some guy who was tall for his age, and I was always his counterpart balancing out whatever line needed balancing.

Oh well, so what if I was the ONLY girl who was a drummer boy? I would still get to wear lipstick and have my hair curled and I had a fairly decent singing voice so everything would be ok.  I would just play my drums for him pa-rum-pa-pa-pum and be the cutest little tallish drummer girl ever.

The night of the big event came and the place was packed__with parents, grandparents and brothers and sisters of the kindergarten kids. To my eyes though, I was going to get my big theatrical break, playing to a full house.  We lined up in the wings in order of appearance, drummer boys being last of course since we came after the birth story, the angels, the animals, the shepherds, and the wise men. Yep the drummers were last, but what a better place in a production than to have the entire stage at the end? It would be memorable.

Well, the show took a little while as shows with kids always do, and I was getting wiggly.  My one hour bladder was yelling at me so I asked the helper if I could go to the restroom very quickly. NO??? What adult in their right mind tells a kid doing the potty dance no?  As I mentioned before I tried to always be the model student, so when she told me no and just to hold it, I did.  We walked out on stage, me and the guys and I held it, and sang, and played my drum, until holding it was no longer an option.

When you look at the pictures taken from the audience that night you will see a line of happy drummer boys and one drummer girl wearing a look of abject horror and a tale tell dark track down the leg of her drummer boy pants.

And my career as a stage performer ended that night!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Monday, October 12, 2015

Simple Greek Chicken

Last night was one of those what do you do when you really don't want to cook nights.  For the past 4 days all I have done is cook.  We had one of those crazy good grocery store ad weeks.  The Pig had incredible prices on chicken and ground beef, so I have processed and frozen 30 pounds of now cooked chicken, and have cooked and frozen many packs of spaghetti sauce, chili and picadillo, as well as meatloaves put together but only partially baked before freezing. Add that 20 or so hamburger patties that were seasoned, pressed and frozen, 5 spaghetti squash baked, scraped and frozen, 5 cartons of now dehydrated mushrooms, frozen raspberries, broccoli and brussels sprouts, plus 4 different quick breads.  There seemed to have been no end to food prep.  I didn't mind doing it, but I was tired and wanted something simple with an easy clean up.  So I reached for one of our good old simple and simply delicious stand-bys.

Baked Greek Chicken

1 1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon marjoram
2 teaspoons parsley
1 teaspoon mint
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced onion
salt and pepper to taste (start with 1/2 teaspoon of each but taste and adjust upwards as needed)
1/3 cup olive oil
juice of 2 medium lemons
6 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Mix all the ingredients except for the chicken in a bowl and allow it to sit for about 30 minutes so the flavors can become well acquainted.  About 10 minutes before the "getting to know you" time is up preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the chicken pieces in a 9x13 pan.  Stir the olive oil mixture well then spoon all that deliciousness equally over the chicken pieces.  Put them in the oven, uncovered and leave it alone until the breasts are cooked through.  Since I always use small breasts for this it takes about 30 minutes until they are done.  Only you know how large or small the ones you use are, so vary your cooking  up or down time to accommodate their size.

Serve and spoons some of the goodness from the bottom of the pan over each piece.  Enjoy!

Because I was in a no prep zone, I heated some canned green beans and sliced some tomatoes and called it done!  There were no complaints from the peanut gallery and after a quick clean up TheHub went with me back to The Pig for more ground beef and more chicken.

Now guess what I am doing tomorrow?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Inspired by Sonya Ann

Hi, my name is Anne and I'm a Dumb A... and let me tell you why. Several days ago Sonya Ann at A Mom Money and More posted a super easy way to make Orange Chicken and I decided to try it. Her recipe called for exactly 3 ingredients, an orange soda, soy sauce and chicken. She declared it was really good, so why not try something really good and easy? Oh that is an easy question to answer.  I can't because I am rarely satisfied to leave well enough alone.

If you choose to continue reading this you can follow me on my long journey, turning a very simple recipe into a multi step process, just to have basically the same thing I would have had if I had done it the easy way in the first place.

Orange Chicken the Not So Easy Way

3 large chicken breasts cut in pieces
1 Izze soda
2 tablespoons coconut aminos
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon ponzu sauce or soy sauce
2 cloves minced garl
1large onion, sliced                                      
1 bell pepper sliced                                      
3 smallish zucchini sliced                                      
2 cloves garlic
1/2 inch slice ginger, minced                                    
1 8 ounce carton mushrooms, sliced                                    
1 more Izze soda                                      
1/4 cup soy sauce (or ponzu sauce)                                    
1 1/2 tablespoons demera sugar                                      
2 teaspoons cornstarch                                    
1/4 cup water

I planned to add vegetables to Sonya Ann's recipe since I add vegetables to everything now. It would have been fine if I had just used her recipe and stopped with the additional veggies, but did I stop my "improvements" No!  Instead of the orange soda I tried Izze, which is a clementine carbonated drink sweetened with pear juice. (At this point I was aiming for a paleo option and decided I didn't want the sugar a regular drink has in it).

After tasting the drink I decided it was not as intensely orange flavored as a Sunkist would be so I put 1 bottle of Izze, 1 teaspoon dried orange peel, 2 cloves garlic, into a zip loc bag and intended to add my coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. Unfortunately I only had 2 tablespoons of coconut aminos so I decided to go ahead and use the soy sauce.  It would not be paleo, but it wouldn't be too far off the mark, until I realized I had no soy sauce either and still needed 3/8th cup of something.  I found a bottle of citrus ponzu sauce in the back of the fridge and decided since it is soy based to use it instead. So I added it to the soda and mixed everything well (by zipping the bag and squishing the bag with my fingers.  I added 3 chicken breasts, which had been cut in largish chunks and stuck it in the fridge for the day. (I am guessing it marinated about 9 hours.

Now ask me if I even bothered to read her instructions about how to BAKE the chicken.  Negative Ghost Rider!  I just assumed it would be stir fried (wrong) so that is exactly what I did. I drained the marinade and stir fried the chicken in coconut oil.  DO NOT DO THIS!  Use olive oil instead.  Every time I use coconut oil with a savory food I regret it since the coconut  is a little too strong and overpowers the flavor of the food. I forget it each time.  I removed the chicken from the pan, tasted a bite to see if I needed more orange flavor, noticed all the coconut flavor and rinsed  the blooming pan to get rid of the coconut oil. Then I had to add additional oil to the pan(olive oil this time) and added the vegetables in the order they are listed so they would all be a nice crisp tender.  Then I tossed the chicken back in the pan to combine everything and realized when I had drained the marinade before stir frying, I lost all of the sauce components literally down the drain. I had to take the chicken and veggies out of the pan and add an additional Izze and more soy sauce (or ponzu since I had no soy) and cook it until it was reduced by half. In my quest to make something paleo I used the juice sweetened orange drink and no amount of reducing it would thicken the sauce. Aha! That is what the sugar in the drink would have done in the baking process.  I quickly added 1 1/2 tablespoons demera sugar (it was the first sugar out of the cabinet, any sugar would be fine)  and cooked it for a few minutes.  It still was not thick enough and I didn't want the sauce any sweeter, so I made a quick slurry of cornstarch and water, added it to the sauce and cooked it stirring until it thickened.  Then I put the chicken and vegetables in the pan and stirred to coat everything well.  By that time my ideas for paleo were totally out the window, so I served mine over the rice I had cooked for the others.
Whew! A gozillion steps instead of simplicity!

And the verdict was that it tasted very good, and TheHub said he would like to have it again.  I told him fine, but next time I am going to make it Sonya Ann's way and save myself time and clean up.  If you decide to try it I would suggest you do it her way too!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Chicken Inspiration Meal

There are several blogs I read every time they are updated and I also read most of the comments left on them. Sonya Ann from A Mom, money, and more had a recent post highlighting a simple chicken recipe. (Her recipe will be tried another day, since I did not have one of the key ingredients handy and I refuse to make a special shopping trip for 1 ingredient.)

A few people offered suggestions for equally easy chicken dishes (and I will try each of them) but Elephant's Child from  her blog of the same name left a comment for a quickie dish and I had everything on hand to prepare it.  I used it as inspiration for what became a new chicken rotation dish.

I just copied and pasted her recipe here, then I will explain what I did differently.

Brown chicken pieces in a pan.
Throw in:
A chopped onion.
A can of tomato soup.
A good dollop of seedy mustard.
A tablespoon of vinegar.
A couple of teaspoons of thyme.
Stir and forget for half an hour or so.

I thought I had taken 2 packs of 2 breasts out of the freezer to thaw, but once they started softening a little I found I had 2 ridiculously large bone-in chicken breasts. Because of their size I knew I was going to have to cook them more to the tune of "or so" rather than the recommended half hour.  I also figured I would need a little more cooking liquid to fully cook those breasts.  And since I was already going to have a pot dirty, why not add more stuff to it and make cooking supper a tad easier.

2 gargantuan chicken breasts (bone in) or 4 large breasts
2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 large carrots, sliced
4 medium potatoes, sliced
1 soup can half filled with dry red wine and half water, or just water, or just wine
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dried thyme (additional fresh thyme if you have it, for garnish)
salt and pepper as desired

In a large lidded pot, brown the chicken breasts in the olive oil until all the sides are a uniform pale brown.  Remove the chicken from the oil and stir in the onions, followed by the carrots and then the potatoes.  When the veggies have softened a bit put the chicken on top of them and pour the soup over the chicken.  Add the additional liquid, the mustard, vinegar and the thyme. Put the lid on,  turn the heat down to mid low and let it cook unstirred for about 15 minutes, then give it a few gentle stirs to mix everything together. I tasted just the sauce and added about 3 or 4 grinds of fresh pepper. Put the lid back on and cook it until the chicken is tender and the veggies are soft and the sauce thickens.

This is just about the easiest chicken ever and is so delicious. All I had to add was some steamed broccoli and we called it a complete meal.  We both agreed we want to eat this often.  This really is a keeper! I am going to experiment a little and see if I can come up with a way to get those same flavors as a paleo option.  I really don't know why, because I am flunking paleo eating right now.(  It's rice's fault! Well, rice and the Greek Food Festival)

Meanwhile if you are not paleo and want some seriously good tasting chicken try this.  And while you are at it hop over and blog visit both Sonya Ann and Elephant's Child.

Next up: Sonya Ann's orange chicken followed by Sluggy's quick chicken