Thursday, January 31, 2008

Product Review: Perdue Perfect Portions

Let's talk chicken. I was given the chance to review PERDUE® PERFECT PORTIONS® Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, (which come in 7 different flavors) and I jumped at it. The selling point being "fast and even cooking" sounded like something I could really use.

I picked up the
All Natural packages, fettuccine, Alfredo sauce and frozen broccoli. I figured if I was going to see if these chicken breasts really lived up to their name I would cook up one of the fastest, but flavorful, meals I know of.

Before you get to thinking that you can clean and portion your own chicken, think of the fact that it's a very time-consuming job; I know, I do my own all the time. But, there are those nights when I don't have the time at all to clean chicken and I haven't already gotten it done ahead of time and stored it in the freezer, and Tuesday night when we were at a doctor appointment for
hubby a little longer than expected, was one of those nights. I also don't have a kitchen scale, so I don't know for sure that my portions are all the same. PERDUE® PERFECT PORTIONS® are all 6 oz. no matter what, and they all look the same; no slightly square pieces that look like a deck of cards - the most often size recommended for a meat or poultry portion.

So, do they live up to their claim of 10 minute cooking time? You bet. This meal was about 20 minutes in the making. Set 2 pots of water on the stove to boil - one for pasta and one for broccoli- take the chicken from the refrigerator and unpackage it-they're each individually wrapped.

When the water is boiling, add the pasta to one and the broccoli to the other (turn the broccoli off in about 3 minutes or it will get completely mushy). Add the chicken breasts to a heated skillet with minced garlic and olive oil.
Cook each for 5 minutes a side - salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the pasta (fettuccine takes about 10-11 minutes for al dente) and, while still hot, toss with Alfredo sauce or my favorite
"minimalist" Alfredo, which is just as quick, and plate with a garlic chicken breast on top and broccoli.

The only things I would change would be that there was no recipe on the packaging or included within, and the price is a little steep for a family our size; $9.99 for 6 breasts, and since we need 2 packages, it could get costly for just the protein portion of our dinner. I do think they're a good deal, especially for people on diets or eating plans like Weight Watchers where portion control is key.

Product provided by Alona Cherkassky of Fleishman-Hillard, Inc.. This is not a paid product endorsement.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Veggie Wednesday

The Lehigh Valley Vegetarians now has a website! If you live in or near the Lehigh Valley, Pa give them a look. Meeting announcements, veggie articles, tons of resources and a listing of organizations are all there in one spot. A truly great resource, a long time in the making, for the LV.

Also check out
Eating Healthy Nutritious Food with the URI FEAST for a whole host of veggie friendly and healthy recipes and tips!

Jackie's website,
The Vegan Diet, is full of real-life information and recipes that any "veggie" shouldn't miss!

This link is for my bean-loving veggie friends - BEANS - too funny not to share!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Olive Riley is Still Blogging!

Olive Riley is 108 and still blogging!
Please stop by and say hello to her sweet self - won't you?
The Life of Riley

Friday, January 25, 2008

Book Review: Table for Eight

I recently received a copy of Table for Eight, Raising a large family in a small family world by Meagan Francis, and I have come to one single conclusion after reading it and that would be that anyone who has or is thinking of having a large family should have a copy of this book. Kids are great, but even one or two can be challenging, and once you get up to four and beyond, it's a whole new ball of wax.

Oh, I know, many moms, especially those of us with lots of kids, know it all and don't need any advice, but my take on life is that until you cease to exist, you're learning.

Of course, I headed straight for the food chapter: Feeding Your Flock, and all I have to say about this is that the advice there is sound, sound, sound. There's info there (and all over the book) from real moms with many children who have been there, done that. There are also menu planning and pantry charts (click here for more of that type) to help keep your food stores and tummies full. The only thing I would add at all would be ALDI.

I really like the chapter Having Fun, since we tend NOT to have enough of this. We did go camping a few years ago and had a blast for very little cash, but that's been it. This chapter has websites and ideas I never thought of.

I also like Keeping the Household Running, not just for the great tips, but also for the fact that one of the Additional Resources is the URL to Lots of Kids, where I am on staff.

You can find your own copy of this terrific resource for large families at:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Veggie Wednesday: Retro

This recipe card is one of a collection I have that belonged to my late great-grandmother. Grandma died in 1974 just before her 90Th birthday. The 1930's then, when this card and many of the others in the collection was written, was mid-life for her. It was also the time of the Great Depression.

When grandma and grandpa weren't off in a foreign country doing missions work, they lived in the parsonage of whichever church grandpa was pastoring at the time. Grandpa was always there, wearing a clean, long-sleeved, white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a pair of suspenders. At a moment's notice, he could roll down the sleeves, add a tie and a suit jacket and be ready to preside over any ceremony necessary. As my mother told me, "You have no idea how many weddings he performed right there in the parsonage."

Being a pastor in those days often meant being paid in food, which was not so bad an idea, really. Grandma would have to entertain quite a bit and extra food certainly helped. Meat was a real commodity, though, so recipes had to be adapted and worked around what a person could afford. Grandma never served anything, even Creamed Peas and Carrots on Toast, that wasn't pretty enough to photograph.

Creamed Peas and Carrots on Toast
Creamed Peas and Carrots on Toast

This recipe reflects the life of a preacher during the Depression better than any other in that stack of recipes.

Creamed Peas and Carrots on Toast

As written on the card.
Printable Recipe

Take equal parts of cooked peas and carrots. Make a white sauce; using

1 cup milk,
2 tbs. flour,
2 tbs. butter,

Add white sauce to carrots and
Peas and return to fire and heat.
Pour over toasted bread.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

We used to play this little game...

...called, Ready, Set, Cook! named for the old Food Network show and followed loosely on it's rules. We haven't played in quite some time and I don't know when or if we'll ever play again! I'd love to do it, but life happened and I couldn't keep up and then another blogger came along and started something very similar and ... you know.

So, if anyone is up for it, monthly - weekly seemed too often - now is your chance to let me know.

The rules are linked up to the image above, if you're clueless about what this is - and follow the tags below to see games we've already played.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday Dinner

Dinner today is certainly not the traditional "Sunday Dinner" - I didn't roast anything! Actually, I think Sunday Dinner is whatever brings family - by any definition - together.
Chicken Fried Rice
Wonton Soup
Almond Cookies

Chicken fried rice is so easy that I don't really have a recipe for it. Technically, it's cold cooked rice, a little oil and soy sauce. I like to add garlic and ginger to mine along with diced onion and other veggies if I have them on-hand. For my family, though, the less there is, the more likely they are to eat it.

I start out with a hot wok or non-stick pan and add about a tablespoon of oil. Usually a neutral oil like canola is best, but I also use sesame oil from time to time. Toss in about 2 cups of already cooked and cooled rice - make SURE it's cool, or it will all turn to mush! Day old cold rice is best. Stir it around and toss in soy sauce to taste - a tablespoon or so - and stir until heated through. That's it! If I'm making it with chicken-like tonight-I add diced uncooked chicken to the oil first and cook until no longer pink. Then I finish up as above.

Won ton Soup is available in two different ways where I live; order it from a Chinese restaurant, or make it yourself. I like to make my own.

Here's another "no-recipe": I chop up chicken breasts, season with sherry, soy sauce - a tablespoon of each to a pound of ground chicken, garlic and ginger - about a teaspoon of each, freshly minced (and green onion if husband is not eating) and wrap up in won ton wrappers. Check out recipe HERE at A Thousand Soups.

Minced chicken with sherry, soy, garlic and ginger and wonton wrappers.

Centered on the wrapper.

Folded over.

Long corners brought together and sealed with a little water.

I set those aside - covered - and make the chicken stock.

Wontons in waiting.

To already prepared stock I add several slices of fresh ginger and garlic. Let that simmer for half an hour and strain.

Rapidly boiling.

Bring it to a rapid boil and drop in several wontons at a time and cook until they surface and stay there.

Surfaced and ready!

Add three wontons to a bowl, top with stock and sliced green onion.

Perfectly yummy.

As for almond cookies, that I have a recipe for.

Almond Cookies
Makes about 36
Printable Recipe

1/2 cup margarine, shortening or butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
whole almonds for the tops

Cream butter, shortening or margarine with sugar. Add egg and almond and mix well. Add dry ingredients - except almonds - and blend. Roll into 36 balls and place on ungreased cookie sheets lined with foil or parchment. Press an almond into each cookie and bake 20 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Apple, Pear and Almond Crostata

Crostata is yet another food that has many, many versions. The traditional "home" made crostata is simply pie dough topped with jam and sometimes a lattice of dough. Other versions, like this one, are made with whole fruit like apples or berries. Some use almond paste as a base under the fruit. I made this last evening to go with on of our favorite dinners of pasta with marinara and meatballs and my own cheese bread. Delicious!

Apple, Pear and Almond Crostata
Printable Recipe

1 cup flour
1 T sugar
1/4 t salt
1 stick butter - diced
2 - 3 T ice water

Stir flour, sugar and salt together well. Add butter and rub together until crumbly. Add water 1 T at a time until dough forms a firm ball. Flatten and chill between waxed paper while prepping fruit.

Filling ingredients


2 medium apples
2 medium pears
1/2 c sliced almonds
1/4 c sugar
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 t ground cinnamon

Peel and seed fruits-cut into small dice. Toss with sugar and spices.

Roll out dough between waxed paper to roughly a 12 - 14" round. Transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet. Top the center of the dough with fruit and sugar and toss almonds over the top, leaving a one and a half inch edge. Fold edge over, making a rustic looking tart.

Bake in a 400 degree F oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and fruit is tender. Top with confectioner's sugar or chocolate sauce.

The delicious finished product!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Coffee for One and Eating Better - FREE!

Right now at sign up for a chance to win a FREE Senseo® Single Serve Coffee Pod System. Fill out a short survey, and if you're selected (you'll be notified by e-mail within 2-6 weeks), you'll get a Senseo machine for $15 shipping and handling. That's a GREAT deal considering the Senseo retails for $70.

On a healthier eating note, is giving away free samples of Fiber One cereal. It's easy; sign up for the Eat Better America newsletter and your sample will be on it's way! Sign up

The newsletter is sent out once a month and offers recipes and tips for anyone seeking a healthier lifestyle.

*Fiber One provides 57% of the average adults daily fiber
requirement, has 0 grams of sugar and 60 calories per serving.*

Information provided by Charlie Kondek of Hass MS&L. This is not a paid product endorsement.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Someone wake me up when it's all over...

My husband has gone and hurt himself on top of his hurts. He fell on black ice yesterday at the kids' school and BROKE HIS FOOT. Honest.

We really are Irish; if we didn't have bad luck, we'd have none.

He'll be sitting for two weeks until this heals up. It's good that it wasn't so bad, but it sets his therapy back just that much further.

I think I wasn't waiting on him enough and he wanted more meals-on-trays.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cooking with Friends

There's a brand new website (don't you love those!?) that I'm going to ask you to check out. Cooking with Friends is the brain-child of Alison J. Bermack, Shannon Henry and Dana Bowen; all three accomplished writers, professionals and food lovers (my favorite part).

Cooking with Friends is the most brilliant twist on cooking ahead that I have ever seen. I've spent countless hours myself cooking up meals for Once a Month Cooking or even smaller weekly sessions, and I can attest to the fact that doing it alone makes it a chore. Cooking with Friends offers up a fabulous solution: do it with friends!

The site offers a blog, how-to, recipes and more! It's really worth a look. Even if you don't cook ahead, you'll be inspired to cook with your friends no matter what the reason!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Book Review: The Cornbread Gospels

My cornbread doesn't look as good as the photo on the book cover, but it sure tasted delicious!

I laughed, I cried, I sat spellbound and on the edge of my seat to the very end! I was reading the newest Harry Potter book, right? Wrong. I just finished reading The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon and I absolutely LOVE this book.

This is not just a cookbook. It's stories wound around history, looped with facts and hints and tied together with recipes that will join your repertoire and never, ever leave. It's not just cornbread recipes, either! It's muffins and pones and pancakes and go-withs like greens and soups.

I, like so many people that Crescent Dragonwagon met in her travels, grew up with cornbread and have a deep affection for it; not just because I love it, but because of the memories it brings with it each time it's pulled hot from the oven. When I told my mom about this book, the first thing out of her mouth was, "Grandma made cornbread every day of her life." I didn't know that! I knew grandma made it, of course, but I didn't know it was a daily thing for her. I asked mom if grandma had a recipe or if she (and I looked around and lowered my voice at this) made it from a box. Thankfully, mom said grandma always used a recipe, "...yellow cornmeal-always, a little flour, some sugar..." Just as I'd suspected.

At any rate, when I read about the history of cornbread and how it at one time was thought by some to be "poor people food", or that others were looked down upon for eating it, it nearly broke my heart. Cornbread is beautiful to me, and to think that anyone would think different was just not right. I kept reading, not able to stop, and found that thoughts turned around eventually. I didn't know there was so much to know about cornbread.

I couldn't wait to get started on making some of those recipes, so I chose 3 and got started. The first one was, of course, the first (and I feel-best) in the book, "Dairy Hollow House Skillet-Sizzled Cornbread", the very cornbread served by C.D. at her former Eureka Springs inn of the same name. Let me tell you, I didn't think there was much reason to make any other cornbread at all - ever - after that one. Even my husband a true *gasp* cornbread-hater (I'll deal with him later, don't you worry) liked it.

The next two were "Leora's Sweet-Milk Buttermilk Cornbread" and "Ronni's Appalachian Cornbread". Those greens I made the other day were made especially to go with these cornbreads - and they were perfect. The next day, I made Kush from the leftovers, which I only think we had since I'd made 3 pans of cornbread! I just loved having my cast iron pan out for something truly worthy of being made in it.

There is no other book you will ever need for a cornbread recipe. Not ever. This woman has traveled far and wide and found versions that span the globe. Did you even have a clue that cornbread was global?

I have lots of recipes left to try (there's over 200!), and I plan to update you all with each one, but I urge you to get out and get your own copy of this book. Or, better yet, sit still - right where you are - and order it from or Barnes and Noble. You sure won't be sorry.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A "Sweet" 16!

My second daughter turned 16 a couple days ago and this was another another "Bad Cake by Anne" for her - a little play on words:

Now, I know I'm probably scarring my children for life by continuing to make badly decorated cakes for their birthdays, but I can't help it. It's like a compulsion - you know, like rubber-necking for a car wreck.

Think they'll live through it?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Veggie Wednesday: Collard Greens

I know some people don't like greens at all, but I can't see what's NOT to love. Not only are they one of the greenest greens (which makes them really good for you-there's loads of calcium in these), they're inexpensive and versatile. This is my personal recipe for greens, but you could easily make it vegan (and healthier) by leaving out the bacon and adding a drop or two of Liquid Smoke. If you don't like the flavor of meat at all, leave out the Liquid Smoke and turn up the flavor with garlic and extra cayenne.

Gorgeous Greens!

Collard Greens
Printable Recipe

2 lbs collard greens
(I found some beautiful organic ones from Lady Moon Farms at my local Giant store)
4 slices of bacon - diced (optional)
1 small onion - sliced thin (also optional)
1 cup water or stock - chicken, vegetable-whatever you like
2 T apple cider vinegar
cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt to taste

Wash collards in several changes of water and remove the thick stems. I fold the leaves in half and rip the stem right out from bottom to top. Cut up or tear into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

Cook bacon and onion together in a large pot until bacon is crisp and onions are caramelized. Add water or stock, vinegar and greens. Lid and simmer for an hour or more until the greens are tender. Add seasonings and serve up with cornbread!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sunday Dinner

Orange Maple Glazed Ham
Wilted Baby Spinach with Honey and Bacon
Parmesan Potatoes
Betty's Carrot Cake

I love ham and I don't care if it's bad. Hog is good; mom grew up in Tipton, Indiana, and there's no way you'll tell a Hoosier not to eat ham. I figured this glaze would be good. I had orange marmalade on hand that I'd made for a Cookies to Caviar post and some really good maple syrup from Trader Joe's that our neighbors gave us. The two together are delicious.

As for the spinach, hot bacon dressing is big here in Pennsylvania--it's a Pa Dutch thing--and I adore spinach so I came up with this. It tastes like the dressing without being so heavy or sweet.

Parmesan potatoes are easy to make and taste just right with ham. The cake is a recipe from an old friend of mine that I met online and late in real life at another "computer friend's" home. This is GOOD cake--it's linked up to another Sunday Dinner I posted, so don't forget to click over to it!

Some of this...

...and a little of this makes a great glaze.

Orange Maple Glazed Ham
Printable Recipe

1/2 c orange marmalade
1 c maple syrup
sprinkle of cinnamon

Combine these and mix. Cook your ham - 3lbs is a good size - for 30 minutes at 400 degrees F. Take it out and score it if you want. Glaze it well and put it back in the oven at 350 degrees F for another 45 minutes or so, until heated through.

Wilted Baby Spinach with Honey and Bacon
Printable Recipe

2 lbs baby spinach cleaned
3 slices thick bacon-diced
2 T cider vinegar
4 T honey

Cook bacon in a heavy pot until crisp. Drain fat and keep the bacon in the pot. Add honey and vinegar and stir well. Add spinach and sprinkle with 1/4 c of water. Cook over medium high heat, covered, for about 10 minutes - just until wilted. Remove lid and stir up all that honey and bacon goodness throughout your spinach. Delicious!

These tasted better than they looked this time!

Parmesan Potatoes
Printable Recipe

5 good sized clean potatoes
olive oil
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Oil the bottom of a large baking pan. Slice potatoes into 1/4" thickness. Make one layer of potatoes and sprinkle with salt, olive oil and Parmesan. Make another layer and sprinkle again with salt, oil and Parmesan. One more layer should do it. Bake in a 350 degree F oven until tender and browned - this can take up to an hour and a half depending on what else is cooking in your oven and how often you open it up!

Here's that cake - don't miss the chance to make it!

Friday, January 04, 2008

What's Your Mediterranean Style?

Rocco DiSpirito has things cookin' at What's Your Med From a blog, to videos, to recipes, it's all there. Check out the winner of the co-hosting contest as well!

There's also a $2 coupon from Bertolli for their Mediterranean Style frozen dinners. Click on over and get started!

Edible Cuteness

Aren't they cute? I feel a little badly at having impaled them through their heads like that, but hey - culinary greatness has its price.

I found these HERE and plan to make a Chicken Cheese Spread igloo and landscape for them. The kids thought this was the best use ever for black olives.