Sunday, April 14, 2013

Easy refrigerator pickles, for the pickle lover in your life

I know I'm not the only person in the world who loves a good pickle.

But I am one of the pickier pickle eaters out there.

I detest most store-bought pickles. (What is appealing about eating a florescent yellow/green pickle?!)

Not keen on sour pickles. Or sickly sweet pickles. Or whole pickles. Or pickles with too many seeds.

You see how I can easily make my family nuts at picnics, yes?

However, I ADORE homemade pickles. My grandmother makes a mean bread and butter pickle, and I tend to hoard them whenever I visit her.

This does not please aforementioned family members.

My grandmother's solution (bless her, she's a genius) was for me to make my own pickles.

I've never canned anything before, and I am not quite ready to undertake THAT project. She wisely suggested trying refrigerator pickles.

Essentially, these are pickles designed to be eaten quickly after they're made, instead of canned pickles that can be on the shelf for awhile.

I threw caution to the wind: for my first refrigerated pickle attempt,I made up my own recipe.

I know. I'm crazy.

But the crazy is tasty. Very tasty.

 Sweet & Spicy Dill Refrigerator Pickles

This makes a small amount of pickles. Double, triple, etc. to suit your needs.

Wash and slice 1 large cucumber thinly.
Dice 4 garlic cloves.
Layer the cucumbers into clean glass jars (I recommend you sterilize them with boiling water beforehand), sprinkling garlic pieces in as you go.

In a saucepan, heat 1 cup of white vinegar, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp. dried dill, 1/4 tsp. onion flakes, 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes. Heat until sugar dissolves. Let cool.

Pour mixture over cucumbers.

Keep pouring.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 day before eating. These can last bacteria-free for awhile in refrigerator (thanks to the acidity), but they will get mushy if left for too long.

I highly doubt they'll last more than a week, anyways. They're SO DELICIOUS.

Enjoy! xo

This recipe was posted to the following link parties (go check them out! They're great!)

Homemade Mondays

Skip To My Lou

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sexy Vegetarian Thursday, eggie style!

I'm one of those people who loves to randomly eat breakfast for dinner and brunch-type items at 8am.

I like to experiment with food. Dishes from different cultures and meals with a twist or quirk make me oddly happy. I like following my palette and letting it guide me to create something I envision in my mind.

This week's edition of Sexy Vegetarian Thursday is brought to you by one such culinary experiment. I wanted eggs, but didn't want an omelet or frittata. I wanted sauce, but not pasta. I wanted cheese, too.

I always want cheese.

So, I decided to throw all three ingredients into a ramekin and see what happened.

What happened was delightful scrumptiousness!

These baked eggs are inexpensive, indulgent, and yummy! They could work for any meal, which is the kind of flexibility I love.

Baked Italian Eggs

Each ramekin is a serving, and the following recipe makes 3 (2 for Mr. J, 1 for moi!).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Grease the ramekins using olive oil or nonstick spray.

Fill the bottom third of the ramekins with your favorite marinara sauce. Sprinkle desired amount of red pepper flakes on top, and stir to incorporate.

Crack each of the 6 eggs into a small bowl individually to check for shell pieces and any oddities. Place 2 eggs in each ramekin. Sprinkle desired amount of garlic powder, Italian spices, salt, & pepper.

Place ramekins onto a baking sheet. Bake for at least 15 minutes to help the egg whites and part of the yolk to set up. 15 to 25 minutes will result in over easy or medium eggs. For hard over eggs, bake up to 30 minutes. You really want to make sure those babies are cooked...obviously.

Remove baking sheet, and check eggs. Top eggs with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt, then with your favorite grated cheese. Change oven setting to broil.

Broil eggs for 5 to 8 minutes, until cheese is melted and eggs are the way you like them. Serve with toast, fruit, and vegetables.

Enjoy! xo

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

teens on relationships and a sunny breakfast

It may be lame to talk about the weather.


It was a perfect day: sunny, few clouds, light breeze, and 65 degrees. I could not imagine having program with teens indoors today without a rebellion either on my part or theirs.

Instead, we played for two hours on the playground. We had chalk, bubbles, swings, slides, and strange plastic dinosaurs that I guess little children are meant to climb. The purple triceratops and green brontosaurus ended up being the perfect "safe" zones for tag. And for hilarious photo ops.

The only "educational" activity we did was to discuss what a healthy relationship looks like and how it ideally develops.

A few funny things were said in this discussion.

Firstly, when I asked the teens to each think of a teen couple they see on TV or in movies, 6 of the 8 of them listed ones I did not know at all.

(Hilariously, another argued--quite persuasively--that Spongebob and Patrick were boyfriends, and the other said Bella and Jacob: her exact words were, "Someone needs to rip Edward apart and burn the body." Almost shat myself when she said that because I COULD NOT AGREE MORE.)

I high-fived her.

For the record, who the heck are Allie & Austin, and Beck & so-and-so from Victorious?? I need to educate myself, obviously.

Secondly, I asked the teens to imagine what their absolute perfect dating partner would be like. Here are some answers (keep in mind they are 11, 12, & 13 years old):
  • "She needs to have long hair, and a job. Because it's important to have a job, and some people look ridiculous with short hair."
  • "Hot and rich." She dug deep for that one.
  • "Uhhhh......"
  • "I'd want her to be the same age as me, funny, smart, and have a job."
  • "I want a smart guy. If I dated someone dumb, I'd prolly get annoyed and have to whack him upside the head." If only you could have heard her tone--sounded exactly like something I would say. "Oh, and he needs a job. And a lot of candy. I love candy. Then he could buy me a membership the gym." Hahaaaa. 
  • "I got nothin." At least she was honest.
 Yup. Today was pretty awesome.

I thought I'd share a recipe that reminds me of this sunshine-y, happy day. It's a recipe I came up with on Sunday morning under pressure because Mr. J had to get out of the house in 45 minutes. Turned out pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

Sunny Orange Muffins

This make 6 muffins. Double or quadruple as needed.

In a bowl, whisk:
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil or melted coconut oil
  • 2 oranges, quartered, pulp scooped out and chopped roughly
  • grated peel of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp. chia seeds
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Fold in:
  •  1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour

Divide the batter into greased or lined muffin tin. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Enjoy! xo  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What exactly does chicken have to do with Harry Potter and Hunger Games?

Hi, friends!

I haven't been on the writing bandwagon this week. I know, that sounds ridiculous coming from someone who started a blog, but my excuse is that I've been reading constantly for two weeks. I finished Mockingjay, the last book of the Hunger Games series, in two days, and I was emotionally destroyed. Did anyone else feel that way?! I felt much worse than after I finished the Harry Potter series. Before I tell you why, let me say this: both epilogues were hopeful in that the Potter and Weasley children could attend a diverse Hogwarts while Katniss and Peeta's children do not have to participate in or be witness to the Hunger Games. Both series end with democracy trumping dictatorship and genocide, a victory sorely won.

The difference between the two epilogues (and the reason I literally cried for an hour and had nightmares for three nights) is that the main characters survive the trauma of war and loss very differently. J. K. Rowling made it clear that Harry is completely committed to living in the present moment. He still mourns the deaths of loved ones, but he can live beyond those experiences to thrive. His thinking appears clear, and he celebrates his family and friends.

Katniss, however, seems to be living in the same mental fog her mother did after the death of her father, an emotionless state that Katniss could not understand or forgive. What little she shares about her life since the war is bleak. The images of her children are vague--she tells only what they look like with few words on more personable details or her connection to them. Katniss seems distanced from her own family, afraid to love them too much or hold them too close: "I'll tell them on bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in anything because I'm afraid it could be taken away." She is haunted by her past and those she's lost. What stuck with me is how disaffected and void she felt, like she was soul-less but still living (much like a prisoner who endured the Dementor's kiss: crossover alert!).

Even if the ending devastated me, I respect it immensely. Katniss's circumstances after such a brutal war are perhaps just as realistic as Harry's. I wouldn't say that one has more credibility than the other; rather, I like how different the epilogues are and how plausible they seem within the worlds of the two series. Overall, I really liked the Hunger Games series for its gutsy creativity and visceral reality. I appreciate that Suzanne Collins didn't shy away from bold choices, like killing Finnick and Prim, and altering Peeta's memories. It's not a story I could ever forget.


Is there really any way to segue from Hunger Games to homemade chicken tenders? "Here's something you could never make in pre-revolution District 12?" Oooh, that's pathetic... Anyways.

Maple-Mustard Chicken Tenders

 Slice 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts into strips. Use a fork to tenderize the strips.

Mix 3 Tbs. of whole grain Dijon mustard with 2 Tbs. of pure maple syrup and 2 Tbs. of EVOO. Add in 1 tsp. dried thyme, 3/4 tsp. black pepper, and 1/2 tsp. salt. This will be both the marinade for the chicken tenders and what holds the coating to the chicken later.

Marinate the strips in the maple mustard  sauce for at least 1 hour. Overnight would be even better.

Create a little assembly line: bowl of marinated strips, 2 cups of homemade breadcrumbs, and a baking sheet overlaid with a cooling rack or something similar. Spray or rub the cooling rack with oil.

Coat each strip with the breadcrumbs.

Place breaded strips on sheet, like so. Give them a bit of room so they can cook evenly and to allow the breading to crisp.

Bake for  30 minutes in preheated 250 degree oven.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce!

Enjoy! xo

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hoppy Belated Easter!

In the past, Mr. J and I spent Easter with our families, going to religious services and having dinner. But this year, we decided to stay in our home and make dinner for our friend, Jie. He enjoyed St. Patrick's Day with us last month and really enjoyed that American holiday, so we though we'd introduce him to the secular side of Easter (that is the Easter bunny, basket, eggs, etc.). 

We got him a nice little basket with chocolate and candy to get him in the holiday spirit. He brought us some gorgeous orange tulips!

In addition, we made a multicultural dinner of turkey, stuffing, Brussels sprouts, and lamb dumplings.

I considered making a more complicated Easter dessert, but in the end I whipped up some chocolate-covered strawberries. I have white and milk chocolate chips in the freezer, so I made a little of both!

They went perfectly with my red flower cake stand!

Mr. J and I knew we had to dye eggs with Jie for his first Easter! Instead of buying a box of fizzy dye tablet things, I used boiling water, white vinegar, and liquid food dye. You know, the kind you use for frosting and such.

 I made yellow, orange, red-pink, mint green, blue, and violet. For each color, I put 1/2 cup boiling water, 1 tsp. vinegar, and 20 or so drops of food coloring in a coffee mug.

We did have to leave each egg in a dye for a few minutes, but we weren't in a hurry.

Jie was so excited about the eggs becoming beautiful pastel colors. It was really fun to dye eggs again after so many years. It needs to be a reinstated tradition.

A couple of the eggs are sad!
I will be posting more this week on the dinner!
Enjoy! xo

Monday, April 1, 2013

March Pintest and Review!

I only tested one pin for March, but trust me when I tell you that it is worth an entire post to itself.

After seeing several pins linking blogs describing the possibility of making vegan ice cream with frozen bananas, I knew I had to give it a try. Especially considering that I am an ice cream addict. And I know this is not a good thing.

This recipe could not be any easier: you blend frozen banana slices. Done.

Slice however many ripened bananas you have into 1 inch slices. Place on plate or cookie sheet and freeze until solid. (Just for reference, 3 bananas made 2 healthy servings.)

Place slices into blender or food processor. Pulse.

At first, the slices break into pieces. Keep blending!

After a couple of minutes, the mixture becomes smooth and creamy. It's a food miracle!

I still can't believe that one ingredient turned into this lusciously textured treat. It had the consistency of premium ice cream with a fraction of the calories, practically zero fat, and only natural sugar.

Go make this! If you put your bananas in the freezer, you could have this ice cream in an hour. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!

Enjoy! xo