Grilled Chicken with Pineapple Salsa

I’m doing this post for the families in our troop… we had our annual potluck (rescheduled from December because of the snow!) last week and I brought this. Some folks liked it and asked for the recipe. I said I’d send the link but I also fiddled with the method, so I thought it would be easier to put it up as a separate recipe than keep on referring to how I changed the original.

Sorry, no pic. I did take one before I delivered Father’s share the next day, but for some reason the file got lost. Here goes:

1 large pack of boneless chicken thighs (I told Alfredo and Aisa to get the large pack of chicken breasts but Costco was out, so they got the thighs, which worked out well!)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
water to cover

Combine the above in a large pot and let sit 3 hours or so.

Drain and grill (I used an indoor Lodge grill/griddle on two burners) chicken thighs on medium-high heat, about 7 minutes per side. Do not crowd. (I grilled about 4 pieces at a time.)

While chicken is grilling, whisk together

1 cup pineapple juice
8 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Cook in a small saucepan until lightly thickened.

After chicken is grilled, dip in sauce and arrange in serving dish. (You can also pre-cook the chicken for 5 minutes on each side, dip in the sauce, and refrigerate, covered. Before serving, bake at 250 degrees, covered, for 2 hours.)

Serve with salsa made from:

1 cup chopped pineapple (I used canned)
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper (Kroger didn’t have organic red bell peppers so we ended up with green, but the flavor and color would have been better with red)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
the juice of half a lime
1/2 jalapeno, de-ribbed and de-seeded, then minced, (or to taste — the one I got wasn’t hot AT ALL, so I added 1/2 teaspoon of minced red Thai chilies to bring up the heat)
salt to taste

Enjoy!

You can find the original recipe here.

Dr Weil Misses #9

Got this in my inbox today: 8 Reasons the French Are Slim. As usual with these lists, the focus is on the WHAT and HOW of EATING. But fitness isn’t just about eating. It’s about using up what we eat… which is why farmers of long ago were HEALTHY even on a meat-and-potatoes diet. And the farmers I know will argue that it really wasn’t strictly meat-and-potatoes either; they ate LOTS of veggies and fruits too. So going back to the French, #9 reason why they’re slim is because THEY WALK EVERYWHERE. I’m not French but when we stayed there for a bit, in the 18Γ¨me, we were struck at how easy it was to get our daily exercise. Their streets are made for walking. It seemed impractical to own or rent a car, and unless you were going far it didn’t make sense to wait for the train or bus. Very different from our neighborhoods here, most of which don’t even have sidewalks.

Two years ago, on a whim and after the Paris trip, we decided to walk to Panera in the middle of the day. A friend saw us, thought our car had broken down, and offered us a ride! People driving by slowed down and looked at us as if we were crazy. Since there wasn’t a sidewalk on the main thoroughfare we were forced to make our way through sometimes rocky terrain, crossing a small creek in the middle of one of the neighborhoods. It was only a few blocks, negligible by Montmartre standards. We entertained ourselves by flinging French phrases — including some mild insults πŸ˜€ — at each other, and pretending we were making the trek to our favorite boulangerie/patisserie. The destination wasn’t as exciting, but you try to be happy with what you have.

It’s ridiculous how our suburbs work…. to go walking anywhere, you have to drive first. If we want to go walking around our neighborhood, it’s best to do it before rush hour, otherwise we may be getting exercise but we’ll also be inhaling the carbon emissions from cars on the nearby highway. I would rather walk the streets of Paris than get on the machines at our local Y, four minutes from where I am. The genius of Paris is that you’re enticed to walk not just by the streets themselves and what you’ll find on them, you’re also led by your nose. All your senses are engaged, and rewarded at the end with some flaky, buttery stuff. While I’m all for delayed gratification, the short-term ones provided by a walk to the local bakery or pastry shop are infinitely more appealing than the thought of showing off a well-sculpted body at some crowded beach somewhere, several MONTHS later. Forget that.

There’s an idea for the Kinect and Wii Fit folks. Get us some Parisian scenes we can strap onto our heads. While you’re at it, infuse the program with the scent of freshly baked baguettes as well.

Hidden Rose Apples

Found this today in the organic section at Jungle Jim’s. At $6.99 a pound (!!!) I wasn’t going to get a whole pound just to try. The cashier did a double take when she rang it in and asked, “Is that right? $2.59 for a single apple?” I said it was my splurge for the week. What intrigued me was the name. I was thinking of all sorts of possibilities, esp. liturgical ones. Maybe St. Therese’s Feast Day (she with the Roses), or maybe Mama Mary’s (she being the Hidden Treasure). I found out it won’t work for St. Therese, as this apple supposedly is only available around November, and St. Therese’s feast is in October.

Despite it being pretty, it just didn’t deliver enough flavor to justify a second purchase. It’s tarty and crunchy enough, but a bit too starchy, almost like a (icky) Red Delicious. It was fragrant, though, and the pink is a nice watermelony hue that would be beautiful atop a tart or some other pastry crust, if it maintains color throughout the baking process. I’m not interested enough to try. The price doesn’t help either, even if it is organic. I do want to give kudos to the growers for introducing us to this heirloom variety.

Pineapple Celery Punch

2 cups frozen pineapple cubes (I drain canned pineapple, then freeze them)
4 ribs celery, trimmed
enough water to keep things moving in the blender
1/2 cup cilantro
your choice sweetener, if necessary

Puree everything in blender until smooth. Serve over ice, or straight.

Fichi al Galoppo

Fichi al Galoppo

Poached Fresh Figs from Lidia’s Italy, if I’m not mistaken (copied down the recipe a few months back and now I’ve forgotten where I got it)

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pound figs (I used Black Mission)
zest of half a lemon, in strips
1 bay leaf, crumbled

Combine sugar, water and lemon juice in saucepan/deep skillet. Set figs in pan, stem up. Add lemon zest strips and bay leaf.

Cook slowly over low heat, about 30 minutes, or until soft. Turn off heat and let figs rest an hour to reabsorb juices. Heat again and cook for another 30 minutes or until the figs are very soft and juices are thick and syrupy.

(Mine was perfect until 5 minutes before this last picture was taken — I had forgotten the skillet on the stove as I was slicing ingredients for another recipe!) The picture looks darker than it actually was though.

You can eat it as is, or as an ice cream topping, or with cheese.

“Vietalian”: Swai Matalotta

The recipe is “Grouper Matalotta Style” from Lidia’s Italy. I didn’t have grouper, but I had a bag of swai fillets that I found at Jungle Jim’s and picked up on a whim. Never seen or heard of or eaten swai before. Turns out they’re some kind of catfish. According to one website, they can’t be sold as catfish here because the US catfish farmers don’t want competition, so they’re sold as “Swai” instead. Another site says swai is often sold simply as catfish. No matter. They were inexpensive and quite tasty. I really didn’t think they were all that similar to catfish, more like a catfish-tilapia cross. I do like that they held up well in this dish.

2 pounds swai (or grouper as in the original recipe, or halibut, or other firm-fleshed fish)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup extra virgin oil, or thereabouts
all purpose flour for dredging (or a sub flour, if you’ve got allergies)
1 onion, sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
1/2 cup finely chopped celery heart + leaves
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup green olives
2 tablespoons capers (chopped if using large)
2 cups canned crushed Italian plum tomatoes
hot water
6 basil leaves
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Slice fish fillets into chunks. Season with salt.

Pour olive oil into a large skillet over medium high heat. Dredge fish pieces in flour, shake off excess, and pan-fry them, about 1 1/2 minutes on each side, in batches (don’t crowd them). Transfer with spatula to a platter.

Add onion and stir, scraping up any browned bits. Add garlic, celery and pepper flakes. Season with salt. Add olives and capers, then the tomatoes and 3 cups water. Turn up heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring. Lower heat to a bubbling simmer, and add basil and a pinch of salt. Simmer 10 minutes or so, covered partially. Return fish pieces to pan including any fish juices that may have accumulated. Bring quickly to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cover. Cook 20 minutes more. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Transfer to platter and drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Sprinkle parsley on top and serve hot.

Thanksgiving and To-Dos

At the beginning of this week, my mind was all set to do a VENT post. As things turned out though, there was no time to do a vent post and instead I have time today to give thanks.

What did I need to vent? Oh, the usual. What I thought of on Sunday as “financial woes”. A couple of months ago, the van’s windshield cracked. Just like that, no warning. Two weeks ago, the windshield on the car cracked. It made me want to pull my hair and blurt out my 19-yo’s current favorite, “REALLY!!!???” But that’s not all. The van’s brakes also needed fixing, and there were a number of small expenses that just couldn’t be helped, kids needing shoes, clothing, etc. Oh, and how could I forget the oven that died last week and needed a repair? And on top of all that dh’s mom is recovering from surgery and she needs extra care so there go some of the savings….. (I am not complaining at all about that, though — we are half a world away and the least we can do is send some much needed cash to her caregivers to whom we are indebted much!) But yeah, you could say my head was spinning a bit watching those savings dwindling right before my eyes…. and especially since I’m hoping we can save enough money soon so dh could get a new (old) car. Not that he wants one — he’s not the type to complain and he’s the type of guy who will drive a car to the ground — maintaining it as best he can — you wouldn’t hear one peep from him about liking this or that model, though I know he notices some of the spiffy ones, him being Mr. Engineer and all. But his car is a ’93 model and it’s rusting a bit in places and if I could go out and get him a trusty little Honda right now I would. But….

So, my fingertips were itching to type exactly that and many more little grumblings about this and that and how life is unfair sometimes and how the secular world is driving me crazy — between the oil spill and Lady Gaga and Kagan and the lawsuit against the Vatican and various other things I had gotten wind of somehow even though I don’t spend nearly as much time as I did a month ago online…. okay, Stef, breathe. Sigh.

Let’s try this again, shall we. I said this was NOT going to be a vent. So I’ll stop right here and instead ask you, dear reader if you’re out there, to pray with me for several families who need MANY MANY MORE PRAYERS than we do.

  1. My friend M and her husband, who’s been out of a job for I don’t remember anymore how many months…. that he will find employment soon.
  2. My friend C and her husband M, who’s been out of a job since January. They have six kids.
  3. Our friends D & F, whose family is apart right now because of jobs, etc.
  4. Old family friends S & S, who live in New Orleans… what else is there to say, huh? Still recovering from Katrina and the oil spill and then with the threat of storms…. you get the picture.

And I should have done this first, but I have a LONG list of Thank You Lords that I’m trying to focus on instead of doing the pity party:

  1. for a husband who saw fit to take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course and follow its teachings
  2. for savings in the bank, food in the pantry, a roof over our heads, cars to drive, and clothing and shoes
  3. for friends who love and pray for us — our lifeline
  4. for beautiful children who keep us inspired and keep us laughing and give us reason to work our butts off daily
  5. for my God who remains faithful no matter how neglectful and dismissive I get
  6. for my marriage and its many many joys and blessings
  7. for a Godly husband who knows his priorities
  8. for the health of my parents
  9. for our priest who is as sane and constant a shepherd as any sheep could want
  10. for the upcoming family reunion, which excites me no end….

…. and which brings me to: THE PLANS!

– dear youngest brother requested a picnic, so we’re having one this weekend! At one of our favorite parks!
farmer’s market on Saturday — hopefully to get some picnic items!
Momofuku’s chicken wings! I hope we have enough time to get some cooking done together! Four chef-wanna-be’s in the same place…. could get hairy! πŸ˜€ My other brother is *the* chicken wing connoisseur so this one’s for him.
– I’m also hoping to make some really healthy smoothies for my mom and dad
– fireworks with the kids

Okay, gotta go. I’ve got laundry to finish up, two loaves waiting to be baked, and almond butter to be whirled in the Vita Mix. (The Thank You list is actually much longer, but I had to stop typing at 10 to get to the end of this post.)

“Where’s the meat, Mom?”

Last year, I made a resolution that we would shoot for “optimum” in our diet…. meaning 7-9 servings of vegetables and fruits a day. And I was successful. Note the *I*. For a couple of weeks there I was able to get my servings of veggies and fruits. About half-way successful with the hubby. Not so with the kids. When I gave them the option, they always chose the meat and carbs, mostly ignoring the array of veggies and fruits on the table. (We still stick to the one-bite-of-each rule, so they did get *something*, just not a full serving.)

This week, I embarked on a self-designed program that I put into the calendar a few months ago, but never really followed, afraid it wouldn’t work. Day 2 was yesterday and it just might work this time. Mostly it requires a mental switch that I had to flip — the “I need to give the kids some meat!” switch.

Here’s how it works:

Our daily menu goes

beef-vegetarian-chicken-vegetarian-fish-vegetarian-pork-vegetarian… and so on. Which means we have beef, chicken, pork or fish only ONCE a week. Which cuts down on red meat intake drastically and not just for us but for the kids. Part of the difficulty before was that I knew hubby and I had to be more careful about our red meat intake, so I tried to limit *our* servings, but the kids always got their fill, *and* hubby’s notorious about eating little ones’ leftovers if any.

Now, on vegetarian days, I’ll serve NO MEAT OR FISH, not even leftovers. This is where I failed before. I would serve leftovers so that the kids would have *some* meat, but they would usually opt for mostly meat and hardly any veggies/fruits, even if it meant minuscule amounts for each of them and leaving the table hungry. Yesterday, they were forced to partake of whatever was on the table, and get their fill from that. So what was on the table?

  • 6-grain rice (from the Japanese grocery — contains several kinds of rice, 2 kinds of barley and 1 rye)
  • fresh blueberries
  • corn
  • green beans
  • edamame
  • glazed carrots, beautifully done by chef-to-be college student
  • broccoli sauteed in olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes
  • eggs for those who wanted them
  • bread
  • grapes
  • strawberry-banana-pineapple-orange-green tea smoothie
  • eggplant in garlic sauce
  • Korean-style zucchini
  • apples, peaches, nectarines, bananas
  • a freshly made batch of my “Ultimate Kimchi” featuring napa cabbage, carrots, cucumber, apples, green onions, ginger, and garlic

All of these, except for the rice, were organic and/or local. And I resolved to not worry about whether they had their fill or not, I just made sure the food was there and that they ate *something*. No one complained about being hungry at bedtime, so it must have worked. Two kids asked, “Where’s the meat, Mom?” but I stood firm πŸ™‚ . I’m already excited about tomorrow. It’s chicken/turkey day today (Papa’s adobo, turkey-black bean-chili plus roast chicken for the lunchboxes). Tomorrow I’ve got potatoes, mangoes, watermelon, avocado, and a whole bunch of other things at the ready. And wahoo! By tomorrow the oven will be fixed. That should give us more options.

This Week’s Bento Box Menu Lineup: Superfoods

  • Broccoli, Basil and Prosciutto Pizza (Broccoli, Basil and Prosciutto Rice Salad for Dad)
  • Orange Sections
  • Chocolate Spinach Smoothie
  • Blueberry Yogurt Cake
  • Turkey Black Bean Enchiladas
  • Green Salad with Ginger-Carrot-Miso Dressing
  • Montreal Arm Roast
  • Vanilla-Flecked Homemade Yogurt (sweetened with agave)
  • Homemade Granola-Crispy Rice Blend
  • Multi-Grain Struan, Homemade Almond Butter
  • Szechwan Celery and Chicken Stir-Fry
  • Hummus and Crudites
  • Salmon-Pasta Salad (Rice Pasta for Dad)
  • Black Bean Brownies
  • Broasted Tomatoes
  • White Tea
  • Dark Chocolate

Cultured Butter Using the DLX

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. We’ve made butter often enough in our DLX, but I’ve been wanting to try making it with Snowville Creamery’s heavy whipping cream (*not* ultra-pasteurized) since it became available at Whole Foods. The other — also important — reason for making butter is that I’m in love with Kerrygold’s Cultured Irish Butter…. and don’t mind paying a higher price at Costco for their 24-oz box… BUT I also would prefer to buy local when at all possible to support the farmers around us. The savings in cost, it turns out, isn’t anything to sneeze at either.

Two cups of the half-gallon of heavy whipping cream went with the strawberry shortcake I mentioned in an earlier post, so I had 6 cups left to work with. I added 1/3 + 1/6 cup of Seven Stars Farm Yogurt (my favorite store bought variety when I’m not making my own) and left it for about 13 hours in a bowl (whisked first of course!), covered with plastic wrap, at room temperature. After the overnight stay outside, I put it in the fridge to chill for a few hours. I’d have preferred to culture it a bit longer, but decided to make the butter in between lunch and dinner, since I figured by the time I got dinner started I’d be too tired to make it, and will have to put it off ’til tomorrow, which does me no good since I’m making our favorite loaf tomorrow, and it will not do to not have that butter ready!

So anyway, into the DLX mixer it went. And yes, some people don’t like making butter with anything plastic but my DLX has served me well all these years and has made me so much butter that it just tends to laugh off the criticism. What’s great about making butter in the DLX is that I can just plop a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the machine and I can observe what’s going on without getting all splattered. It’s almost like having an old fashioned glass butter churn, except this is for lazy people like me.

Just whirrrrr, whirrrrrr, whirrrrr….. it will thicken and turn into butter rather quickly. You’ll know because liquid (the buttermilk) will start splattering the plastic wrap. Let this go on for a bit, say, a minute, to get all that good buttermilk out (yum… for pancakes, dressing, any other recipe you like that calls for buttermilk!). Pour out the buttermilk (I used a plastic sieve but didn’t really need it much since the butter stayed put in the mixer bowl. Added (filtered) water, whirred again on high so that the butter leaves the beaters and gets slapped back to the sides of the bowl before coming together in the center again. Pour out the water and discard. Do this several times until the water runs clear. This is another reason I love the DLX! The washing part is a breeze!

The hardest part was squeezing out all that water at the end. I’m still not done. I’ve wrapped mine in plastic, parchment, foil, freezer paper, etc. Parchment is best but I’m out, so right now I’ve got it in a log-shape (kinda like those Amish butter logs) in paper towel and foil.

All in all, great results. I got about 2 1/2 cups of buttermilk, and 28 oz of cultured butter. (Not bad at all. I think the Kerrygold is $8(?) at Costco (sorry I forget the price)… the half-gallon of cream was $7.99, and I only used 3/4 of it. I love European butter, but I love my local farmers more.

That foamy stuff? Buttermilk!

Strawberries from Ohio Brush Creek Cooperative

Twenty-five pounds of these gorgeous beauties. Picked up Saturday from Adam Batson of Ohio Brush Creek Cooperative, at the Montgomery Farmer’s Market. Processed and packed for consumption! And going, going, going…. fast.

First up was the must-have summer treat: Strawberry Shortcake. I firmly belong in the camp of “cake” over “biscuit”. Yena made the cake recipe from her favorite cookbook. The flour was freshly milled, using wheat grains I picked up from Tiffany Shinkle on the same day (from last year’s harvest). I whipped the cream and macerated the strawberries in a bit of sugar and lemon juice. Unfortunately, the baker didn’t like the combo and settled for a bowl of strawberries after everything was assembled. And ugh, no pics — the batteries died soon after I took the pic above.

Dump Cookie Bars

The kids are tired of oatmeal, so today I did a variation of my Choc-Ban-Oat-Cran-Wal Cookies…. except I didn’t want to spend time scooping out cookie dough. Hubby is home helping me take care of the sick kids, for the second day, but the little one woke up early with a terrible sounding cough, reminding me of that bug he gut when he was just two weeks old. That time, dh had a trip to Germany and left me almost in tears, scared of the baby’s illness that made him sound pitifully like an old man with something blocking his throat.

I really should write up the recipe for next time…. but it goes something like this:

about 6 tablespoons of my favorite Kerrygold Irish butter, salted, which I broke into bits and mixed (with my hands, too lazy to start the mixer)
with about 3/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 cup white — maybe agave next time
then 2 large eggs from my favorite Amish farmer
a huge splash of vanilla extract
a small splash of rice milk
WHISK-WHISK-WHISK
add some freshly-milled whole wheat flour… about a cup
and then because i had it, i dumped in some White Lily flour too (trying to get rid of this bag which I used for baking some biscuits for a party)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
about 7 plain oatmeal packets from our Oatmeal variety box — it’s always the unflavored ones that get left out!
a handful of flax seeds
a handful of sesame seeds
maybe next time I’ll add in some hemp as well
LARGE handful of Craisins
handful of almonds, chopped roughly
handful of chocolate chips, just because it makes the kids feel extra-special <3
a mashed banana
a tablespoon or so of cinnamon
and finally, I meant to add only a few tablespoons of applesauce — however, I decided to “dump” instead of spoon (the spoons were on the other side of the counter and I was lazy)… and about a cup of applesauce fell into the batter.

The rest of the procedure is simple:
Pick up undiapered baby — who takes great pleasure lately in running around naked — put him on counter, hand him a spatula while you get yours, and MIX MIX MIX. Baby sees a chocolate chip and eats it without even asking! πŸ˜€

Spray baking sheet, the large one (I think mine is 10 x 15) spread evenly, and bake 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees. Whoops. I should have said *preheat*. Oh well.

ETA: I forgot to add. The inspiration for this comes from
– a recent try of an Oatmeal Bake recipe, a combo I made up from Martha and Lindsay’s recipes over at 4real, which was a hit with the soon-to-be-14-yo, the 1-yo and me
– our favorite homemade granola recipe
and the other blog post’s cookie recipe.

This Week’s Bento Box Lineup

Sunday evening, preparing food for the week….

Monday:

  • Baked Meatballs with Honey-Ketchup-Mustard-Soy Glaze
  • Potato Salad
  • Carrot and Celery Sticks with Ranch Dressing
  • Light Wheat Bread (BBA)
  • Pan-Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Olives
  • Apple and Cranberry Crisp

Wednesday:

  • Grilled Scallops (marinated in Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, agave nectar)
  • Corn, Red Pepper and Black Bean Salad (suggested by dd-19)
  • Baked Sweet Potato Fries
  • Microgreens (from the garden!) + Raspberry Vinaigrette

Thursday:

  • Salsa Chicken, in wrap for Aisa, with brown rice for Bong

I’ll add more as I finish preparing the food. The list will go on the fridge so packers [ πŸ™‚ ] can pick and choose if I don’t manage to get up early enough in the morning. I’m packing the lunches the day before so that I’m sure they get a bit of everything. Makes for a more balanced meal. πŸ™‚

Friday Update:

Two kids fell sick this week… cooking halted yesterday and we had leftovers and ramen noodles for dinner. Cooking commenced today but I’m filling in requests from the sickies — namely Filipino arroz caldo and spaghetti with Bolognese sauce. College kid brought home a package of plantain bananas from the kitchens at school, so I’m baking several with their skins on. I *may* stir-fry some surimi crab sticks with asparagus if they need more food tonight :D. If you’re reading this, please pray that no more kids get struck down by this icky virus. Thanks!

Adventure Base 100/Taste of Cincinnati next weekend!

Look at the menu!

My boys (scouts and daddy the scoutmaster) will be volunteers at Adventure Base 100 (that’s a link to the PDF flyer), so the girls (and Nino) are tagging along to sample food.

One strategy to consider: sample everything once. Then the good things twice. πŸ˜€ Ahaha… I just totalled all that up: $666.50. Maybe not.

Okay, maybe a better strategy would be try all the Best/Excellence/Merit awardees first… and if we’re still hungry double up :). That would bring down the cost to about 10%. πŸ˜€

Anal me has a spreadsheet ready.

Mom’s Africa Unit Study Wish List

These are resources I didn’t find in our local library. I’ve gone ahead and requested that they purchase these, so hopefully I’ll be able to read them one day soon. Make good use of your library’s “suggest this purchase” page! These are food-related books but I’m sure I’ll be adding more.