I Wanted To Be a World Traveler, So Then I Was ~ Plus Some Delicious Honey-Orange Chicken

IMG_2730I have always, really, wanted to travel the world.  The furthest I had gone was Hawaii and of course Tijuana when I was 18.

This yearning, all of a sudden caught up with me.  The yearning was more of a gnawing in my gut and the only way to get rid of it was a ticket to China.  But first I needed a passport.

Yes I am 36 and just got my first passport.

Once that was accomplished I needed to apply for a tourist visa to China.  $100 later…I am purchasing tickets to Beijing.  Oh my god.  That was thrilling.  The whole experience was thrilling.  I had never taken an international flight before.  Nor experienced the cattle-like process of customs upon returning.  It was all worth it.  Every last moment.

Plus I’m really good at disassociating.

The Great Wall of China you ask?  As magical as you can possibly imagine.  Taking the toboggan back down?  Fucking unreal!

The whole experience made me realize that, as corny as it sounds, the world is, in fact, my oyster.  It is just waiting to be experienced by me.  As my best friend and I were going our separate ways at the Beijing Internal Airport, she turned and asked me,

Well, where to next?

Yes!

I believe Switzerland

is in the running for our 40th.

Back home I am wondering how to get to England and Iceland in February.  It’s one of my oldest and dearest friends’ wedding.  He’s in Manchester.  We met when I was 16 and he and his brother were years younger.  We were both in Kauai, stuck (haha, is anyone stuck in Hawaii?? No.) on the North Shore and so we spent the summer hitchhiking to Bubba’s burgers, laying on the beach, eating at my Dad’s restaurant and basically laughing the whole damn time.  It was epic.  We spent the summer laughing.  I had found the little brothers I was missing in my life.  From that summer on they would visit me in California periodically and we stayed in touch and now….19 years later…. I just bought tickets for my husband and I to fly to London to see my friend get married.

Just so happens we are flying Iceland Air so we get a ‘free’ stopover in Iceland.  Naturally, I made sure to book 3 nights in Reykjavik.

I am a world jet setter.  That is me.  How you ask?  Well, I simply decided it so.

The following New Years will be spent in the Dominican Republic.

After that…well.  I’ll wait to feel it out.  Maybe the oyster will whisper a sweet something in my ear…

To celebrate, let’s dig our teeth into this most delectable, savory chicken recipe.  Good news it’s all done in the crock pot.  All you do is mix and dump.  I believe my husband ate 10 drumsticks that night and my kids ate several (anymore than 1 is a miracle).

Thank you to Eating Well Magazine.  This is their recipe from the May/June 2014 edition.  I did change the recipe slightly.  I will post the recipe as it is in the magazine.  But here are my changes: after cooking in the crock pot for the said amount of time I put the drumsticks on a baking sheet and kept them warm in the oven (at about a 250 degree oven temp).  I then poured the sauce into a saucepan and simmered until the sauce was reduced by half (or more).  Once the sauce had reduced, I took the chicken out of the oven, topped with sauce, sesame seeds and cilantro.  Yum!  Serve with white rice (or I made smashed potatoes) and grilled asparagus.

Enjoy friends.  Happy travels.

Me and the Great Wall of China

Me and the Great Wall of China

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 12 medium chicken drumsticks (3-3 1/2 pounds), skin removed (see Tip)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

PREPARATION

  1. Combine honey, orange zest, orange juice, soy sauce (or tamari), garlic, ginger, vinegar and crushed red pepper in a small bowl.
  2. Coat a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Add drumsticks, pour in the sauce and mix to coat. Cover and cook until an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F when inserted into the thickest part of the meat without touching bone, 2 to 3 hours on High or 4 hours on Low.
  3. Transfer the drumsticks to a bowl. Very carefully pour the liquid from the slow cooker into a medium skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until reduced and syrupy, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour the sauce over the drumsticks and stir to coat. Serve sprinkled with cilantro and sesame seeds.

TIPS & NOTES

  • To remove the skin from chicken drumsticks, grip the skin from the meaty end of the drumstick with a paper towel and pull down toward the exposed bone until it comes off completely.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • Nada

Compost

  • Used and abused orange
  • Garlic, ginger and cilantro trimmings

Recycle

  • Any empty containers

Reuse

  • None

Brown Rice and Beans with Ginger Chile Salsa in Homemade Taco Bowls

gingerchilesalsaMy in-laws are in town *happy dance*.  I love them.  I refer to them as Mom and Dad and really, they’ll have to deal with that if they don’t like it.  Although, I think they do.  I love when my mother-in-law and I get together because we both love cooking and most importantly, we both love to trying new recipes.  I know that this is the time I can try a new recipe and not worry if it fails or not.  We won’t starve.  We are all very health conscience as well.  I have chosen a handful of recipes to make this weekend.  I want to start posting them now because I will be far too busy playing and not hoping into the blog world.  I have read through all of the recipes several times and will note potential changes.  For the first night, we don’t know when they will arrive as they are driving from Southern California.  I want to have a dinner ready to go and one where I won’t be preoccupied in the kitchen.  Although they’ll be all over their grandchildren, I will want to watch.  I love watching my boys with their grandparents.  Anyways, I’ll want something that is ready to go once we get around to eating.  I saw these DIY taco bowls in my Eating Well Magazine and knew I needed to try it.  I didn’t really think the filling that accompanied the taco shell article seemed good enough so I have decided to prepare this recipe I found in my Bon Appetit Magazine that we’ll use for the filling.  Even if you are not entertaining, these easy taco bowls look like they’ll be a big hit with kids.  Maybe It’ll get them to eat something green???

To make the bowls, you’ll first need to warm the tortillas to prevent them from cracking and breaking. Here is a way to heat the tortillas: Wrap stacks of 8 tortillas in foil; place in a 375°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.  Once warmed, coat each side of 4 tortillas with cooking spray.  Turn over a 12-cup muffin tin upside down.  Nestle a tortilla in the space between 4 cups to for a "bowl", repeat with 3 more tortillas.  Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes.

To make the bowls, you’ll first need to warm the tortillas to prevent them from cracking and breaking. Here is a way to heat the tortillas: Wrap stacks of 8 tortillas in foil; place in a 375°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Once warmed, coat each side of 4 tortillas with cooking spray. Turn over a 12-cup muffin tin upside down. Nestle a tortilla in the space between 4 cups to for a “bowl”, repeat with 3 more tortillas. Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes.

Here are my tweaks and suggestions: if you want a more carb-friendly meal, feel free to leave out the homemade taco bowls.  Those are not necessary in completing this meal.  The rice and bean mixture will be great in just a bowl, especially if you top it off with that ginger chile salsa.  My husband cringed when I told him the name of the recipe as he would prefer white rice., so there you go.  I am also going to shred up a rotisserie chicken for some extra flavor and to make this a little larger as I am feeding 4 adults and 2 children this night, I will also be doubling this recipe.  I will be leaving out the Cotija cheese, not our favorite.  My in-laws are bringing some home-grown limes and In cannot wait to slice some up to squeeze right before serving.  I am going to present this as a make-your-own-tostada bar.  I’ll have cheddar cheese, lime wedges, sour cream, shredded chicken, rice and bean mixture and the ginger chile salsa all lined up.  They can either fill a few taco bowls or just have it in a bowl.  Should be simple, fun and festive for their first night here.

Happy cooking friends, enjoy your family today…

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive  oil, divide

1 medium onion, chopped,  divided

1 cup brown rice (or white)

Kosher salt

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, divided

Freshly ground black  pepper

1 teaspoon ground  coriander

1 teaspoon ground  cumin

2- 15-ounce cans black beans,  rinsed

1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth or water

2 red jalapeños or Fresno or  Holland chiles, stemmed, halved, seeded

1 garlic clove

1 tablespoon chopped  peeled ginger

1 tablespoon finely  grated lime zest

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1 avocado, halved, pitted, chopped

1/4 cup crumbled Cotija cheese or feta

Lime wedges (for  serving)

Preparation

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add 1/4 of onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5  minutes. Add rice and stir to coat. Add 2 cups water and season with salt. Bring  to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until rice is just tender, 40-50  minutes.
  2. Remove from heat. Let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff  rice with a fork. Fold in 1/4 cup cilantro; season with salt and  pepper.
  3. While rice is cooking, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a  medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/3 of remaining onion. Cook, stirring  occasionally, until onion has softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add coriander and cumin; stir 1 minute. Add beans and broth;  season with salt  and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat,  and simmer,  occasionally mashing beans, until thickened, 8-10 minutes.
  5. Pulse chiles, garlic, ginger, lime zest,  lime juice, and  remaining onion in a blender until a chunky sauce forms. Season salsa with  salt.
  6. Serve rice with beans; top with salsa, avocado, cheese, 1/4  cup cilantro, and lime wedges.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • Increase water to 2 1/2 cups

Compost

  • Onion, cilantro, chile, garlic, ginger, lime and avocado trimmings

Recycle

  • Bean cans/lids

Reuse

  • All plastic bags vegetables came in

Stovetop Chicken and Broccoli Casserole – An A+ Recipe

stovetopchickenIt is teacher hiring season.  Teachers have until the mid of July to put in their notice although most do it well before then.  I have been busy re-amping my resume, compiling all of the necessary paperwork such as college transcripts, license, test results, letter of recommendations (circa 2007 – I’m doomed) and cover letters.  So I walk into my gym daycare to drop the kids off and this sweet girl who is a senior at the local high school who watches the kids is there.  Sweetest thing, my kids love her.  I’m always asking her about her schooling and all.  She mentioned how a lot of the teachers are getting pink-slipped.  In fact the budget cuts are so bad they are going from block schedule to a traditional 40+ minutes per class.  Yikes.  How am I, a teacher with no experience, suppose to compete with teachers that have decades of experience under their belts all vying for the same job?  I am trying to keep my spirits up and letting my Zen attitude take over.  I will get the job I am meant to have.  Yes times are tough, our budget is beyond tight (so tight ready to snap), but I need to trust in something larger than myself that I will be taken care of as long as I do the footwork.  So after talking with that sweet girl whose only care in the world is what color duvet to get in her new college dorm, I will continue to assemble my resume and will continue to answer any teaching ads that may arise.  I have actually applied for this one particular school and am trying my hardest to not get my hopes up.  I feel in my heart of hearts this is the place I want to work.  The teaching methods and ideas are different from a traditional school and aligns so completely with where I am at in my life.  I feel I have a lot to offer this school and am  hoping they will look past some requirements for which I do not have.  Either way I have done the footwork and for right now I just need to trust that the Universe will provide any and all that I need.  Although, I really want this particular job.  I’ll keep you posted….

So quick, easy, healthy, cheap and yummy meals are not only necessary to provide on this blog for my followers, but I may be utilizing them as a necessity come fall.  Here’s hoping.  I have chosen about 4 new recipes to try this week, one happens to have brownie/caramel/salt in the same title.  This recipe is for one of those hectic weeknights.  All of the ingredients are layered and then will simmer until all is cooked.  So easy.  This dish is also very healthy since it uses skim milk, just a small amount of mayonnaise and wheat noodles.  The best part of this recipe is that it is one of our beloved one dish meals.  Cook and serve in just one skillet.  Easy on the wallet as well.  The one change I made was that I have tried to sneak in wheat pasta.  My husband won’t have it so I used the white, extra wide egg noodles.  About a buck a bag.  There is no lacking of taste in this meal.  I love the dry mustard and the garlic powder.  *Shock* *gasp* my husband and kids love the melted cheese on top.

I have a special folder amongst my traditional Chicken, Pasta, Vegetarian, Breakfast, etc. folders entitled Go-To Meals.  It is a great folder for which I utilize when I am out of ideas or maybe I don’t have as much of a grocery budget that week.  This folder contains easy, healthy and cheap meals to make that the family loves.  Some of the recipes in that folder are: stir fry, macaroni and cheese, pizza, burger bar, etc.  This meal was a winner with my family and will become one of my go-to meals when I am in a pinch for ideas.

Thank you once again, Eating Well Magazine, for a fantastic dinner.  Happy cooking friends.

Ingredients

8 ounces whole-wheat egg noodles

1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1 14- to 16-ounce package frozen broccoli florets, thawed and chopped, if desired

1 1/2 cups skim milk

1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 cups shredded Colby-Jack or Cheddar cheese

Preparation

  1. Place noodles in a large skillet. Pour broth over the noodles. Layer chicken, then broccoli over the noodles.
  2. Whisk milk, mayonnaise, flour, dry mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour over the broccoli.
  3. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until the noodles and chicken are cooked through, 15 to 18 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler.
  5. When the casserole is done, sprinkle cheese on top and broil until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • Increase chicken broth by 1/2 cup
  • It may need an extra 5-10 minutes of cooking time

Compost

  • None

Recycle

  • Chicken broth container
  • Broccoli bag
  • Cheese bag

Reuse

  • None