1/23/15

Foodie Friday--Lemon Chicken with Broccoli


This is a second lemon chicken recipe that you will find on my blog page. It’s just as good and as healthy as the other one. This lemon sauce is wonderful on broccoli . . . in fact, you could use shrimp instead of chicken if desired.

I have no idea who to give credit to as I seem to have cut the page down to fit into my notebooks and cut off the contributor. My bad. Sorry.  

Lemon Chicken with Broccoli


2 Tbls. flour
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
12 oz. chicken, thinly sliced
2 tsp. olive oil
 
1 ½ cups fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth
 
2 tsp. minced garlic
 
2 ½ cups broccoli florets
 
2 tsp. lemon zest
 
2 Tbls. fresh parsley, chopped
 
1 Tbls. lemon juice 


Toss sliced chicken in flour, salt and pepper mixture.

Heat oil in large non-stick pan over medium-high heat (I have a wok). Add chicken and cook until lightly browned and cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. Remove to a plate.

Pour one cup broth and garlic into wok. Bring to boil, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add broccoli; cover and cook 1 minute.

Stir 1/2 Tbls flour, ¼ tsp salt into remaining ½ cup broth; add to skillet and bring to simmer over low heat.

Cover and cook until broccoli is crisp-tender and sauce is slightly thickened, about 1 ½ minutes.

Stir in chicken and lemon zest; heat through.

Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice and parsley. Toss to coat.

 

Tips & Tricks:

·         This recipe cooks quickly, in about 10-15 minutes, so have EVERYTHING ready to go. I use tiny bowls, the kind you see on cooking shows, which keeps me from having to keep measuring stuff.

·         I used two large chicken breasts, which was almost 21 ounces, double the recipe. Adjust everything accordingly.

·         Gallon-sized Ziploc bags are wonderful to use when coating anything in a flour mixture.

·         I cooked the chicken in two batches since all the chicken would overcrowd the pan if I had done it at one time.

·         When pouring the one cup of broth into the very hot pan, be careful of the steam.

·         Two cloves of minced garlic worked well for the recipe. The cloves were of an average size.

·         Two heads of broccoli was enough to make a pile of florets.

·         One lemon provided enough zest and juice for this recipe.

·         I cooked wild rice, which was a nice side dish with this recipe. Time the rice to finish a little early. Set it aside, covered, until chicken is ready. This allows the water/broth to absorb into the thick hulls of the rice grains.
 
Enjoy!
 

1/21/15

Weighty Wednesday -- Breathing a Deep Sigh

True confessions here.

Last week after weigh-in, I had some not so good days. Hubby was out of town and I simply had not gained control over my foodie urges. Let's just say Fritos, raw cookie dough and queso were involved.

Not at the same time, or the same day, but the consequences were the same.

When I weighed myself at home on Saturday, I had managed to undo any good that I had done the previous two weeks.

Yeah, not my proudest moment.

So I did the only thing I could do--I changed my Weight Watcher technique from tracking points plus values to Simply Filling.

Two days later, and I feel so in control it isn't even funny.

Why does this technique work for me?

I think because it is restrictive with your food choices.

Here's the deal. When you follow Simply Filling, you don't have to weigh or measure your food. You simply choose Power Foods to keep you satisfied throughout the day. If you eat Power Foods all day, you will notice that you can mark off all your healthy checks for the day, plus you stay satisfied.

In essence, it does keep you from eating non-essential carbs in the form of sugar and flour. You can have whole grain products, but regular grain products will cost you. For example, one cup of brown rice is a power food worth zero points, while one cup of white rice will cost you 5 points out of your weekly points.

Lean meats are always good, but while they are power foods, Weight Watchers also has them listed with their recommended serving size, usually 3-4 ounces. Yes, I can eat a pound of lean chicken, but then again, would I want to? Er, no.

I do take it a step further and actually weigh and measure my food. I do this simply to train my 'eye' for the appropriate quantities for someone of my size. Yes, I can eat a tub of plain Fat Free Greek yogurt, but do I really want to? No.

Just because the Simply Filling technique narrows your food choices down, it doesn't mean I can't eat that piece of pepperoni pizza that's calling my name, or put real fat salad dressing on my lettuce, or use cream in my coffee.

I can.

But there's a price.

The price is in the form of my 49 weekly points. I can easily use up seven of those points on a daily basis even following Simply Filling.

One glass of wine, 5 ounces will eat up 4 points. See? It isn't hard.

So the reason I love the simply filling technique is because it forces me to take control of my food. The choices are fairly restrictive, but I don't feel 'caged' by my food choices.

I wrote this blog on Monday, but I'm setting it to post on Wednesday, which means I hope I have something positive to report from my Tuesday weigh-in.

Addendum: I lost 0.4 pounds. YAY! In other words, I lost the weight I gained last week, plus some!

But here's the deal. Even if I don't have anything positive to report, I still feel Simply Filling the best choice for me.

If weighing and measuring and counting points is frustrating you, or you are on a plateau, then give Simply Filling a shot.

What's there to lose?

Later, Peeps!

1/19/15

2014 Candy Stats


2014 Candy Stats


Caramels

Top layer of filled chocolates

Bottom layer of filled chocolates
I tried to keep track of my product usage as I made candy, but I got bored with keeping track and stopped about 3/4 through the process. These were the stats at that point:

12 lbs. Ghirardelli white chocolate
24 lbs. Merkens milk chocolate
15 lbs. Ghirardelli double dark chocolate
6 pints cream
3 lbs. butter
5 lbs. lightly salted peanuts
5 lbs. pecans, hand-picked
5 pkgs. Oreos
3 pkgs. Cream cheese
3 lbs. peanut butter
10 lbs. sugar

This list doesn’t include the bottles of booze that I used up. Many of these I bought for the 2013 candy making season and I used up the bottles this year when I made my fillings.
Busy day making fillings
Raspberry schnapps Cherry schnapps
Crème de Cassis
Jose Cuervo dark tequila
Rumple Minze Schnapps
Limoncello
Tanqueray Gin
Kahlua
Bacardi dark rum
Aftershock liquor
Grand Marnier
ButterShot schnapps
Amaretto
Frangelico
Barenjager
Jack Daniel’s Devil’s Cut whiskey
Dow’s Boardroom port

And, of course, the various and sundry other stuff, including:

5 lbs limes, zested and juiced
5 lbs lemons, zested and juiced
5 lbs oranges, zested and juiced
5 lbs. cherries
Real maple syrup
Assorted spices
Toffee bits
Walnuts
2000 Candy cups
35 1-lb boxes
35 ¼-lb boxes
35 goodie bags
250 smaller baggies used to seal the ‘other’ candies

Out of the 27 fillings that I used to fill my chocolates, I had to make 21 of them. The fillings freeze well and I do store them throughout the year with no issue. The quantity I use per each filled chocolate varies as to the size of the chocolate mold. For example, the Earl Grey filling was used in a small triangular shaped mold which takes about ¼ of the amount that is used in the Key Lime mold, therefore I don’t go through it as quickly as I do the Key Lime . . . and the fact that the Key Lime filling is simply freaking awesome!
 
Molding chocolates
Ready to get started

First batch finished

Finished for the day--5 batches of each mold (320-340 pieces)

 27 Filled chocolates (40-45 pieces of each flavor):

Velvety Caramel (I wanted a soft and gooey caramel to use in one of my new molds)

Fillings made with white chocolate

Midnight Magic (Blackberry/Cassis)
Cherries Jubilee
Bronx Cheer (raspberry)
Gingerbread
Cranberry Chaos
Pom Pucker (pomegranate)
Pilgrim’s Progress (maple/pieces of walnut)
Rumple Minze
Feel the Burn (cinnamon/chipotle)
Strawberry Margarita
Limoncello
Key Lime
Mango Madness
Smooth Dark Stout (yes, beer)

Made with dark chocolate

Porto
Rum Raisin
Whiskey Toffee
Frangelico (hazelnut)
ButterShots (butterscotch)
Black Forest (cherry)
Amaretto (almond)
Grand Marnier (orange)
Earl Grey (yes, the tea)
Barenjager (honey)
Lavender-Honey
Cup O’Joe

Six of the hand-dipped caramels had been made the previous year. This year, I made two batches of Sea Salt caramel and one batch of Maple-Smoked Bacon caramel. I plan to make the various caramels throughout the year, so I don’t spend so much time making caramel at the last minute. When wrapped in numerous layers of plastic wrap and sealed in a Ziploc bag, they work really well. Many of these recipes will have to be reworked—considering I can’t FIND the said recipes!—so I might need to make numerous experimental batches.  

All these caramels had to be cut and hand dipped before I squiggled decorative lines on them.

Seven flavors
Caramels:

Maple-Smoked Bacon Caramel
Devil’s Cut Whiskey Caramel
Lime Caramel (I need a cool name for this one!)
Devil’s Velvet (cherry) Caramel
Brownie Bits Caramel
Grand Marnier Caramel
Feel the Burn (cinnamon/chipotle) Caramel (yes, it’s the same name as the filling, but totally different method to make!)

Part of the time-consuming process of making the candy, on top of it simply being a very manual labor type of endeavor, I hand trimmed each candy to clean up the edges before I popped it into a paper candy cup.

Pongos, peanut brittle, fudge, polar bear & reindeer poop, turtles, toffee
I also made and bagged:

2 batches Pecan Toffee
2 batches Peanut Brittle
2 batches of MAG’s Decadent Fudge
100 turtles
33 Pongos
3 batches Polar Bear Poop
2 batch of Reindeer Poop

I already of have a short list of chocolate fillings that I’d like to make just to see how they taste:

Guinness
Merlot
Chinese 5 spice—with the bite of black pepper!
Chai
3 Ginger
Cranberry Orange
Molasses
Rose
And a violet-thyme infused. The problem with the last one seems to be actually finding dried violets to make the filling!

I also want to make Bear Claws, similar to Pongos with the chocolate and caramel, except with cashews.

And yes, in case you wondered, I did look into making this an online business. The problem is that I have to make my products in a commercial kitchen in order to sell them. As I don’t see this happening any time soon, I’ll just have to be happy with giving them away

…though I will take donations in the form of anything listed that I used up this year—namely, the very expensive liquor!  

And there you have it, the reason I don’t write, blog, or do much of anything else in the month of December!

Later, Peeps!

1/16/15

Foodie Friday -- MAG's Silky Pecan Pralines

A few years ago I made a couple of different pecan praline recipes--YUCK!

The problem that I had with these candies was that every single recipe resulted in a grainy candy that felt like you were eating sand.  Not good.

This year, my hubby was given a gift box of pecan pralines from one of his vendors . . . It was incredible. Smooth, almost dough-like, the praline melted in my mouth. THIS was exactly what my version of pecan pralines would be.

Now all I had to do was recreate it.

This recipe is the result of my first experimental foray. It's good, in fact, it's really good, but it wasn't exactly the result that I was personally aiming for. I will say that this version is very, very sweet, with the texture similar to the texture of MAG's Decadent Fudge--super smooth and creamy.

Not the best picture, but you get the idea
 
Here's my first recipe version of Pecan Pralines and in the tips and tricks part of my recipe I'll let you know what I plan to do for my second version of this candy {or notes in red}.

MAG’s Silky Pecan Pralines


2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup sugar
1 cup cream
2 tsp. honey {molasses}
½ tsp. kosher salt {1 tsp.?}
2 Tbls. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ½ cups pecans, chopped {3 cups toasted, chopped pecans}

Combine sugars, cream, salt and honey in medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugars are dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high, insert candy thermometer and cook until mixture reaches the soft ball stage at 236 degrees.

Pour mixture into buttered glass bowl. Dot with butter and splash vanilla on top. Place clean candy thermometer in mixture. Let cool to 110-118 degrees, about 45-60 minutes.

Once candy has cooled, using an electric mixer, beat the mixture until it lightens in color and creamy, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in chopped nuts.

Place a large sheet of parchment paper on counter. Using a cupcake batter/cookie scoop, quickly scoop onto paper. Press down slightly and allow to cool. Store in air tight container.

 Tips & Tricks:

 
·         The one thing that most people forget to bring to the table when making candy is PATIENCE. That is the number one ingredient.

·         And let me mention that ‘time’ laughs at you when making candy—it seems to take FOREVER to reach the appropriate temperature, but when you look away for two seconds, it has already zipped past the appropriate temp into another stage, or boiled over. No, this didn’t happen to me this time, but it doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future.

·         If you do have a candy catastrophe, remember the hardened sugar mess dissolves in water. Don’t freak out and start scrubbing away, just place hot water on the mess and let it do its job, repeat as often as needed to remove the mess or clean the pan.

·         Invest in more than one good candy thermometer—I love my new digital one. Periodically check them for accuracy. Many thermometers are simply attached to a piece of cardboard inside a glass tube. It can shift.

·         How do you check the accuracy??  Boiling water. We all know that boiling water is 100 degrees centigrade, right? Simply fill a large pan full of water, place your thermometers along the edge, and bring to a rolling boil. Check your numbers. Make sure the thermometers are NOT touching the bottom of the pan as it will skew the results.

 Enjoy!

1/14/15

Weighty Wednesday -- Tracking Trends

I lost another pound at weigh-in, but managed to undo any good I did last night.

*sigh* Sometimes it happens that way.

But I have the tools: tracking, portion control, knowledge and support to get back in control. Shoot, let's get real, even those people who aren't on Weight Watchers have the 'tools'. You know what you have to do, the key is to actually doing it!

So, what do I mean by tracking trends?

When I track, I provide more information than is technically necessary--if I do a quick add, I will add the time of the add. This gives me an idea of how often I eat along with the quantity.

Here are a few of my observations:

Portions--This is a biggie since our eyes tend to see things differently from reality. Weighing and measuring is the only way to figure this one out. Weighing in grams is more accurate than weighing in ounces. Another problem with portion control is plate size. The smaller the plate makes the smaller amounts of food look like more than it really is, which is better for those of us who enjoy quantity over quality. The fact is that if  you eat out, the plates are HUGE, which means you receive more than an appropriate portion, therefore 2-3 servings on your plate instead of one. You have to weigh and measure at home to keep yourself in the right mindset when you eat out.

Tracking--writing everything down is pinnacle to succeeding. When I was at goal, I became lazy. I knew the program. I knew what a portion was. I knew how to lose weight. What I didn't know was how to keep it off. Tracking even at goal, keeps you on the straight and narrow path. If you don't write it down, then you tend to convienently forget that you ate it. True, sometimes we have a bad day and don't track because we don't want to know what we did, but it helps to jot down a note about what happened.

Notes--are important. If you happen to have a busy day: meetings, errands, children, whatever. It helps to jot down what was going on, especially if it causes a non-tracking, overeating type of day. This is especially important in the future if you have another one of those days. Hopefully, a bad day will cause you how to plan NOT to have that type of day in the future.

Hoarding points--I am so guilty of this that it isn't even funny. Having only 26 points is a huge problem especially if your significant other has 43 points. He can eat a 7-10 point breakfast and lunch and still have more points for dinner than I do in ONE DAY! It's frustrating. So I tend to hoard points to allow for more points during dinner. What I need to start doing is figuring out my dinner points and then spread the rest evenly throughout the day.

Not eating until hungry--I also do this, but the problem that I noticed is that while I might not eat until I feel a twinge, I tend to keep eating even when I'm full . . . er, overfull.

What you eat and when you eat--we're told that we need to eat every four hours to keep our blood sugar at a steady rate. This doesn't mean a full meal every four hours, it just means something. One thing I learned is that while a banana might satisfy my hunger in the morning, it doesn't last. Fruits are carbs--good carbs, but still carbs--they are digested quickly, which means they don't hold you as long. I need protein to keep me, and my stomach, from grazing. Protein takes longer to digest, which means it sits in your stomach longer, thus keeping you from hunger.

So as I settle into weight loss mode, I'm analyzing my food choices more than when I wasn't trying to lose weight.

I make good choices, and I also make poor choices, but they are my choices. I'm the one who has to be accountable.

How accountable are you? Document everything and you will notice patterns and trends in your food choices. Sometimes it has to do with the monthly cycle, sometimes the lunar cycle, but the more you are aware of your personal trends, the better you are at making better food choices.

Later, Peeps!


1/9/15

Foodie Friday -- Three Layer Cheesecake

I don't know about y'all, but I'm pretty darn excited to have this blog written and ready the DAY BEFORE it's scheduled to go up!

Yay, ME!

So I finally revised and rewrote this recipe that I've been promising you since before Thanksgiving--late November, for those of you who aren't American. I've made it twice, and both times it turned out awesome! And when you cut into it, it's very pretty with three distinct layers.

So without further ado . . .



Three-layer Cheesecake


Crust:

1 pkg (9 oz.) chocolate wafer cookies
¼ cup sugar
½ cup butter, melted

Layer One:

1 8-oz pkg cream cheese, softened
¼ cup sugar
1 egg
¼ tsp. vanilla
2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate morsels, melted
1/3 cup sour cream

Layer Two:

1 8-oz. pkg cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 Tbls. flour
1 egg
½ tsp. vanilla
¼ cup chopped pecans

Layer Three:

1 8-oz. pkg cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
½ cup sour cream
¼ tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. almond extract

Glaze:

3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
2 Tbls. butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 Tbls. water
½ tsp. vanilla

Chopped pecans, optional


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Place and ungreased 9-in springform pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil (about 18-in square). Wrap foil around pan.

Crust:
Place cookies in food processer, process until fine crumbs. Add sugar and melted butter, process until combined. Press onto the bottom and 2-in. up the sides of prepared pan. Set aside.

Layer One:
In large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, blend well. Stir in chocolate and sour cream. Spoon over crust.

Layer Two:
In same bowl (wiped out), beat cream cheese, brown sugar and flour until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, blend well. Stir in pecans. Spoon carefully over chocolate layer.

Layer Three:
In same bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, beat well. Stir in sour cream and almond extract. Spoon carefully over pecan layer.

Bake at 325 degrees for 55-60 minutes or until center is almost set. Turn off oven and leave cheesecake inside for 30 minutes. Crack open oven door and leave cheesecake inside for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. Refrigerate at least 8 hours.

Glaze:
Melt chocolate and butter. Stir in the powdered sugar, water and vanilla until smooth. Remove cheesecake from pan and spread warm glaze over top.

Garnish with pecans, if desired.

Tips & Tricks:

·         I set this recipe up differently than the original one because the original one clumped all the ingredients into one list. I found it confusing to have to keep referring back and forth between the instructions and the list.

·         I also totally changed layer three from the original version. I made this recipe twice with the changes and it works quite well.

·         For some reason, it’s difficult to find chocolate wafer cookies in your basic Target or Walmart. I had to go to a local fancy-schmancy grocery store to find them. I was almost to the point of taking Oreos, eating the insides and weighing the cookie parts until I got 9 oz. …come to think of it, it might have been cheaper than buying the wafers at the richy-rich store.

·         When I press the cookie crust into the pan, I use a tall glass to evenly pack and smooth it. It helps that I have straight-sided glassware.

·         The double layer of foil takes the place of the traditional water bath. This helps prevent the cheesecake from overcooking around the edges while the middle remains uncooked.

·         I hate having to wash numerous bowls. The first time I made this recipe, I did use three separate bowls according to the original recipe—what a complete waste of time and utensils! And that doesn’t even count the time spent WASHING three bowls. Use the same darn bowl! Just use a rubber scraper to clean it out before going to the next layer. It’s not like you’re sitting around for hours in-between making the layers.

·         When placing each layer of the cheesecake in the pan, I dolloped small amounts of batter over the surface before I spread them together and leveled it out. Be careful around the crust edge since it is crumbly.

·         Do follow the cooling instructions. It will keep your cheesecake from cracking. But if it does crack, don’t worry about it since you have a nice chocolate ganache to cover it up!

·         I pulled the cheesecake out of the refrigerator when we started serving dinner. This allowed it to warm up for about an hour. If it is too ‘sticky’ on your knife, warm the knife under hot water before cutting . . . er, wipe off the water first, right?

1/7/15

New Year, New Attitude


Wow. One of my objectives for the new year is to be more timely with my blog posts.

Well . . . I'm not doing very well since I had every intention of writing and posting this blog on MONDAY.

Okay, no time to beat myself up. I have too much too do.

There are numerous goals that I've written down for this year, and I decided to clump them under topic.

Health--is on the top of the list. This one required my recommitment to Weight Watchers. This isn't to say that I haven't belonged to WW, because I have been an active member since 2011. Heck, I've even been attending the meetings while I've been gaining weight. There is one key item that I have in my corner this time around--my family. My hubby joined WW and is doing it online. His newness to the system has helped me be very aware of portions and points during this early phase of weight loss. This has also sparked my enthusiasm for getting healthy.

To this end, I managed to lose one pound this last week. That number doesn't really reflect the work I put in, but I know how ambiguous the weight game can be. For all I know its because I managed to eat something high in sodium the previous day, which caused me to retain water. So take it as a number, and don't freak out over the unexpected number.

I have started walking again, but the frigid cold weather and my gimpy knee have made this a non-regular event. I'll be working it in.

Family--as a member of the 'sandwich' generation, I need to nurture both my mother and my daughter, and making time for both of them...and my hubby. We can't forget the man in my life!

Writing--    For Christmas, I asked for Scrivener software, and hubs installed it on my computer. Now, it’s my job to learn it and use it. I have also started using a calendar on my computer again. This will be used to format my monthly goals, along with posting my daily words, or a note to explain why I didn't accomplish anything. Usually this is due to errands or my daughter being home from school. To that end, I want to:

o   It’s time for a major rewrite of GNOME. I know this seems like I’m going backward, but I think this story needs an overhaul before I publish it in print form—and that is my goal for this year. Sales on MG ebooks—at least mine--are non-existent. Oh, I’ve given away copies, but it is as I feared three years ago---there are so many books out there that it’s difficult for anyone to find you. This is especially true for me since I tend to hang around romance writers, and not children’s writers, therefore no cross-referencing. The frustrating part is that many ‘MG’ stories aren’t really MG, but the author has figured out some way to cross-reference their stuff through numerous genres.

o   I love blogging, and I want to still do that, but it does suck some creative energy from a writer. I took an off-and-on hiatus starting last June, but I do want to return to regularly blogging about stuff.

o   Finish book 4 in the Goblin’s Apprentice series. Yes, I’m still stalled on book 4. I’m about half way through, but still stalled. I’m hoping that revisiting the first book will help get me back into that world.
 
And maybe write a story that I started about seven years ago. All I have is two pages and some notes, but I'm excited about the idea.
 
Social Media--I need to make a point to limit my time on social media, namely Facebook. Television is also one of my problems. A timer will work--since it will work to complete my writing goals.
 
Read--I plan to read ...a lot. Last year, I managed to read over 60 books and this year I'd like to read between 40-50 books.
 
 
Candy--        I have made some pretty damn impressive candy. I’ve made 28 different fillings for my filled chocolates, three new ones this year – lavender honey, Earl Grey, and Creamy stout (yes, from beer). And one new caramel—maple bacon caramel—for a total of nine types of caramel. And all the other stuff (toffee, turtles, fudge, pongos, peanut brittle, reindeer poop, polar bear poop, and now, pecan pralines), but I wish I could figure out a way to make this a money-making proposition. I will be investigating through my local chamber of commerce to see if it is feasible to sell it.---And it isn't feasible since the law says you have to work out of commercial kitchen that isn't in your home. *sad face* Oh, well.
 
I also need to clean up my recipe folders, document all my candy stuff, update my blog and adding links to everything!
 
So this is a rough list of my goals. Let's hope my new attitude washes over everything I attempt this year!
 
Later, Peeps!