Archive for September, 2013


This summer did not go as planned at all. My husband was forced out of his job by Obamacare, but found a new and better job before the old one ended. That in itself is a pretty big thing. But we were also supposed to be able to get out of my in-laws house by moving to where my husband’s old job had been. That didn’t happen- which was a blessing because not only would we have moved for a job that wasn’t to be, but we also would have been trapped in Estes Park when the recent devastating flooding occurred. So it was a disappointment to not get to move, but it was also a major instance of God watching over our family. So then we were supposed to be able to move out of my in-laws house because of this great new job. Well that didn’t happen either. Our minivan ate every penny of our money that wasn’t earmarked for necessary bills (like rent, phone, etc) over the entire summer. Also, the oven broke at the beginning of the summer and the in-laws refused (and continue to refuse) to fix it or let us fix it & take it out of our rent. Then there’s the whole issue of the flooding of my home town as well as parts of the city we live in now. That was very stressful and disrupted many lives in our area. I’m thinking my Summer Sucks series was a pretty good idea at this point; it’s one of the only things that gave me something fun to occupy my time when not doing what needed to be done.

I said all of that to say this: If your summer didn’t go as planned and/or wasn’t the fun time you imagined, I completely understand and sympathize with you. I was trying to come up with something to post this week and was coming up rather empty since it’s still fairly warm for now. I didn’t want to do a soup or stew quite yet, and casseroles or baked goods are out until I have an oven once again. But we had Hawaiian chicken a few nights ago and I thought that would be a great one for those who want a new idea for grilling out (which we do year round here in Colorado- rain, snow, or shine. We just set things up in a somewhat protected spot if conditions aren’t ideal) and maybe want to have one last “summer” hurrah. Maybe there’s someone out there who had a trip to the tropics planned that fell through during this very disrupted summer. If so, maybe this will make you feel a little better 🙂

The recipe came from this blog and is pretty good as is. But I knew it wasn’t as good as it could be so I played with it a bit. The changes I made turned this into an AWESOME chicken marinade! I halved the coconut milk, used pineapple juice instead of water (apple juice works really well too), I use regular soy sauce- but only one cup instead of 2, and I add several whole, smashed garlic cloves instead of a couple of minced cloves. One of the things I stuck with from the original recipe though is using chicken thighs. I don’t normally use boneless, skinless thighs because of all the fatty and sinewy bits- yuck! But I tried this recipe with boneless, skinless breasts and it was truly lackluster. But with the thighs it’s an incredible chicken dish! I just work around the bits I don’t like 🙂

As I didn’t decide to post this until we were getting ready to cook it, I don’t have an ingredient picture. I am bad about that, aren’t I? I do apologize. Life happens. Often. So please bear with me. I like to think I make it up with wonderful food, clear instruction, and a little snark for good measure. But I do have to admit; aside from the individual liquid ingredients, you do get a pretty clear picture of what goes in…

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You can see the two kinds of onions, the garlic, and the chicken. And let me tell you that this smells fantastic! Don’t let the amount of onions deter you if you aren’t terribly keen on them. Use the full amount anyway. The onion flavor is not over powering and leaving them out ruins the marinade. I know- I tried to leave them out once when I had no green onions and only a tiny bit of white onion left and a grocery trip was still days away. I regretted it and so did my hungry family!

As I mentioned here, you should never try to cook super cold meat in a pan or on the grill (such as right out of the fridge). So about half an hour before you plan on cooking this chicken you should set it out- covered- on the counter.

I was all set to show you a beautiful picture of the chicken cooking over the fire… then the wind picked up and brought rain. Yes- I realize I just said that here in Colorado we grill RAIN or shine. But if you will notice, I left out the word WIND. Grilling in the wind in an exercise in futility. So only the first few ended up being cooked over the fire. They are the ones in the back in this picture of a beautiful; plate of incredibly tasty meat…

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A note on pan-frying this chicken: Because of the sugar in the marinade, these will make a mess of whatever pan you cook them in. They only need about 4 minutes on each side on medium high (for my stove- yours may vary) but the pan looked awful! I do have a trick to take care of the pan in such an event though! Remove the food to a plate or serving dish, turn off the burner, and, while the pan is still VERY hot, pour water into it. You can take it to the sink & use the faucet or you can have water standing by the stove. Doesn’t matter. The water will “deglaze” the pan. Only in this instance you aren’t getting the tasty bits off the bottom to put into a sauce. Instead you are getting the cooked on nastiness to come off without using a scrubby and damaging your elbow! After you put the water in the pan scrape the bottom with a spatula. If the gunk lifts easily you can wash the pan whenever you like. If not, just let the pan sit & soak for awhile then try again.

So if- like me- your summer brought none of the things you expected but lots of things you didn’t, maybe this chicken served with some fried rice and a tiki drink will transport you to someplace a little more fun!

The Recipe:

2 Lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs, frozen OR thawed (Fresh)

1 Bunch Green Onions, roughly chopped (a “bunch” at the stores I shop at is usually about 6-8)

1/2 Large Onion, any color, sliced

8 Cloves Garlic, smashed

3/4 C Brown Sugar

1 C Soy Sauce

1 C Pineapple Juice (apple juice or water will work fine too)

1/2 of a Can Of Coconut Milk (I use half of a 13.5 ounce can and just freeze the other half for later. Usually I make more Hawaiian marinade out of it but it’s good for lots of other things too!)

The Method:

*Layer the chicken & vegetables into an adequate pan or a ziptop bag. Make sure the chicken has lots of contact with the vegetables.

*Mix the remaining ingredients and pour into the pan or bag.

*Let marinate in the fridge for AT LEAST 24 hours. I usually let mine sit for 2-3 days.

*If using frozen chicken, start timing marination from when the chicken is about half thawed.

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As I write this, the people of my hometown are beginning the long road to rebuilding their lives after a catastrophic flood. I am from Estes Park, Colorado- “The Gateway To Rocky Mountain National Park”. The floods you may have heard about on television have devastated Estes, Glen Haven, Drake, and several other towns. Thankfully no one in Estes or the surrounding area has “officially” died (there are 2 missing, presumed dead but no confirmations yet and we all know there will be a death toll- they just have to be found first). Miraculously many have made it to safety with fairly minor injuries. I wish I could say the same for the houses and a large number of the businesses too but I can’t. So many homes and so many livelihoods have been simply washed away. So many people I know personally- that I went to school with, that I worked with, that I’ve been friends with for decades- have had everything they owned taken from them. This has not been a week for fun recipes and snark. This has been a week for staying by the computer waiting for new news, praying like mad, and taking my phone with me everywhere- even to the bathroom- as I wait for some word from my BFF. I finally heard from her Saturday and I wept. I wept for joy that she and her family are unharmed. And I wept because the dream they have worked for for so long hangs by a thread.

Summer is finally over and I am so very glad for it. The harvest moon is tonight and Autumn officially starts (by the calendar, anyway) this weekend. I plan to greet this new season with open arms and joy. And as soon as I possibly can I plan to head up to Estes and see what I can do to help- even if it’s something small. I encourage you to do the same- even if you’ve never even heard of Estes Park, Colorado. Even if all you do is pray for the town & it’s people, please do something. If you prefer to do something more tangible, I have included the link to the Estes Park Flood Recovery page on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/epfloodrecovery

It’s been hot again lately. Really hot. Because the air conditioner is no longer functioning. And it’s been in the high 90’s outside again, therefore it’s been in the mid-80’s to low 90’s inside. Sigh. Summer sucks. So I’ve been trying to keep meals on the cool side of the spectrum. But I also know perfectly well that “cold” meals all the time gets tiresome quickly. So there are times when I have to use the stove. One of the things I’ve taken to making in this situation is pressed sandwiches. They’re technically hot sandwiches, but making them doesn’t heat the house up too much. You don’t have to have a panini or sandwich press to do them either. I was recently given one by a dear friend but up until then I made do just fine without one. They are fun- and useful for several things besides pressed sandwiches- but in this post I will be showing you how to make a go of it without the actual press.

All you need is a skillet and a pot big enough to cover the sandwich you’re making, but small enough to fit inside the skillet. Assemble your sandwich(es) and heat the skillet on medium-low. While the skillet is over the fire, fill your pot with water. Not enough to slosh over the side, but enough to give it some heft. You see where I’m going with this, don’t you?

Indeed; you’re going to use the pot to press the sandwich while it cooks on each side. So brush, spray, or otherwise add lubricant to the skillet. Add the sandwich, then put the pot of water on top of the sandwich and press down- thusly:

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Depending on the bread or roll you’ve used you may need to stand there and hold the pot of water on the sandwich. Even if you don’t have to hold the pot in place, don’t go anywhere. With the added weight the sandwich will cook faster than a non-pressed sandwich so you really have to keep an eye on it. Once it’s browned on one side, brush (or spray) butter or oil on the uncooked side and flip the sandwich over. Put the pot of water back on top and check the sandwich after 30 seconds to minute, depending on how dense the bread or roll is; this side will cook faster. Once the second side is browned, move the sandwich to a plate to cool for a minute and then enjoy! If you need to do more than one sandwich you have a couple of options; one being to just cook them and not worry about keeping them hot. If you’re only doing 2 or 3 you don’t have to worry about keeping the cooked ones warm because it won’t take that long to make the rest so long as you have them assembled & ready to go before you start cooking the first one. And if you have a skillet & pot big enough you can do at least 2 at a time. Problem solved. But if you’re doing more than a few, or you really feel like you HAVE to keep ALL of your sandwiches piping hot, then your only real option is to go ahead & turn the oven on to “warm” or the lowest setting it has and keep the pressed sandwiches on a pan or tray to keep warm. That will heat the house up more (soon that won’t matter, but as it’s still hot here that’s what I’m trying to avoid) but your sandwiches will stay hot.

Here is what I made for breakfast this morning…

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Sausage, egg and cheese- yummy! I was fiddling with taking pictures so I let it cook a little too long on the first side (the bottom), but it still turned out well. It only needed about 30 seconds on each side- so it’s a fast option too! In the time it takes for the panini grill to heat up you can already have your sandwich done when you do it this way! This is a great way to make a fast, portable dinner for those (hopefully rare) nights that you have to be running at dinnertime instead of sitting as a family and enjoying a meal. Just make up some pressed sandwiches, wrap them in paper towels or parchment, grab a drink, and you’re out the door.

So we’re down to a week & a half of summer. 10 days. It’s finally coming to an end. As I write this, it’s dark, rainy, and cool, and I’m in heaven! It’s supposed to stay like this for the rest of this week and then heat up again going into next week. After this wonderful little break in the weather I think I might just make it through the next bout of hot weather before the first hard frost. I do hope it comes soon though!

I have come to the realization this year that I really can’t complain about this summer too much. I started the Summer Sucks Series as a way to get through what was promising to be an incredibly hot and miserable summer. It was a way to continue blogging like I wanted to but also to help myself and all of you out there in internet-land to enjoy a season that can be miserable. This summer, however, really hasn’t been all that unbearable. Yes, we’ve had some super hot days but they were mostly at the beginning of the summer. Up until last week, the weather has been cooler and we’ve had MUCH more rain than we had last summer. It’s been downright tolerable- nigh enjoyable. But I won’t go too far; we are back up into the 90’s after all.

As I said in my last post, summer is very close to being over and that means it’s nearly time for me to start planning for Christmas. I do this so incredibly early for a variety of reasons- one of them being that the really good sales on baking supplies will start soon, as they keep moving these things earlier & earlier in the year. Pretty soon the holiday baking sales will start sometime in May! But the deals really are too good to pass up simply because it’s too warm to start thinking about Christmas. So today’s recipe is a way to get into the holiday planning spirit as well as lift my morale and help me make it through the last leg of summer. Frozen Hot Chocolate is an incredibly tasty way to while away some time during the summer; whether it’s sitting at the desk making out the menu for Christmas dinner or sitting in a chair in the shade, dreaming of the cold weather to come!

You only need a few ingredients…

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(I do apologize if the pictures aren’t up to even my fairly low par. I’m having to get used to Windows 8 now and there’s definitely a learning curve when jumping from Vista to 8!) 

There are a few hot chocolate-type things you can use for this.  I happen to have some hot chocolate mix from last year hanging around in my pantry. It was part of a gift someone (who had no idea I would much prefer to make my own rather than use a mix- and I’m not ill-mannered enough to say anything; it was a GIFT after all) gave me and I hate wasting things, so I figured I’d use it for something. Turns out it works perfectly well for this. But you could also use Ovaltine, chocolate milk powder (such as Nesquick), or a homemade hot chocolate mix (there are dozens of versions out there. I urge you to find one that strikes your fancy and forgo the mixes). This recipe is done in two parts: making the chocolate mixture and blending everything together. You can make the chocolate mixture and then go work on your to-do list- like weeding the garden- while it cools, then come back and put the whole thing together and enjoy your frosty reward 🙂

You’re going to use a bain-marie, or double boiler, for this recipe. A lot of people find this intimidating because they’ve heard horror stories of scorched chocolate and steam burns from people who weren’t paying attention while they worked. Naturally these people made it sound as though they were minding their own business, being careful like the needed too, and the double boiler just burned their chocolate for no reason or steam just maliciously flooded out from the lower pan and gave them a nasty burn for no reason at all. In reality they weren’t paying attention and let the water boil dry in the lower pan and they ended up scorching the chocolate because the heat was too high. Or they decided they could just pick up the upper bowl without being careful; either not remembering or not caring that there is, in fact, steam in the lower pan and that it will burn you if you’re not paying attention. Anyway, it’s incredibly easy to make your own double boiler. No one needs those ridiculous double poiler pan inserts they sell at the store. Here’s my rig:

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A pan with about an inch of water in the bottom (or 2 if you’re using a pan as big as mine) and a bowl that will fit inside snugly without touching the water at all.  Bring the water to a simmer and keep it there- all you’re doing is creating enough heat to gently melt the chocolate in the bowl.  If your water starts to get low, add more and keep the simmer going. But as you’re only melting a few ounces of chocolate you should be fine with just the initial water.

Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, add the sugar and chocolate powder of choice. You’ll get something that looks grainy and no longer beautifully smooth…

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That’s how it should look- don’t worry. Now add 1/2 a cup of the milk, slowly. You may want to switch to a whisk for this. I found it made things easier. Keep the heat under the double boiler while adding the milk so that the chocolate doesn’t cool too quickly and make things harder to mix. You’ll end up with a nice, smooth mixture:

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Very nice! Now let this sit for a little while and come to room temperature. Once it’s cooled you’ll need the rest of the milk and some ice- about 3 cups. Add the chocolate mixture to the blender as well and hit the “icy drinks” button until everything is as smooth as your blender can get it. You end up with…

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Something frosty and intensely chocolatey! I used semi-sweet chocolate chips for this batch and it’s almost too chocolatey for me, not being a huge chocolate fan.  Normally I make this with milk chocolate chips or bars but I was out. This is also fantastic with a little mint extract or candy canes crushed and added before blending. A drizzle of caramel wouldn’t go amiss either 🙂 I should also warn you that this WILL NOT taste like a milkshake- just like hot chocolate tastes a bit different than regular chocolate milk. This tastes like hot chocolate, just cold!

I know, I know; I skipped a week. I was a fool to think that I could get a blog post done while getting ready to send my girls off to their first day of school (Zachariah is in preschool and they didn’t start until this week). So I missed a week. I am sorry about that. But the up side is that this week I get to write that there’s only TWO MORE WEEKS OF SUMMER LEFT!!! YAY! I am so done with the heat that has made it’s way back to our little part of the world and I am beyond ready for Autumn!

The Recipe: 

3 Oz Chocolate of Choice (I prefer milk but you can use anything you like/have on hand)

5 t Sugar

2 t Hot Chocolate Mix (Homemade, NesQuick, Ovaltine, or any kind of hot chocolate mix works)

1 1/2 C Milk, divided

3 C Ice

The Method:

*In a double boiler (as described above), melt the 3 ounces chocolate until smooth.

*Add the sugar and chocolate powder and stir to combine.

*Add 1/2 C of the milk and whisk until smooth, still over the heat in the double boiler.

*Remove mixture from the heat and let cool to room temperature. (This will only take about 15 minutes)

*Put ice, remaining milk, and chocolate mixture into the blender and blend until smooth (as smooth as you can get it. It seems every blender leave a little ice un-crushed.)

*Pour, garnish as desired, and enjoy!