Italian Chicken Rub, a la Chickadoodle

Because when don’t I give recipes my own little twists? Or big twists?

I just kinda made this one up on the spot, actually. Not much to say about it, other than that these are stupidly inexact measurements. So, without further ado, for ~1 lb of chicken tenders:

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 1/2 tsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 3/4 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp minced onion
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • olive oil to make it stick

I would suggest adding lemon juice or using lemon-infused olive oil, and I would also suggest adding a little bit of the Tea and Spice Exchange’s Italian Street Fair.

Rub on chicken shortly before grilling.

Lemon-Pesto Chicken and Pasta

Every once in a while, I decide that what I’m having is good… but it could be better. Take Safeway’s lemon capellini salad. It is tasty. It is one of the few things I will eat containing capers. But sometimes, it needs a little… je ne sais quoi. So, I indulged myself.

As a side note, I would add cut up fresh tomatoes and capers to this, but the husband is no more a fan of them than I am. In fact, he’s not a fan of fresh tomatoes at all, whereas I love them.

DISCLAIMER: All amounts are guesses. Some are more of a guess than others. Most liquids were “a splash or two”, and most seasonings were “mmkay, looks good…”. Just remember that.

You’ll need:

~1.3 lb boneless skinless chicken breast.
~6 oz rotini (or other types of pasta, but rotini holds the flavor well)
lemon juice
olive oil
pesto
~1/4 tsp salt
~1/2 tsp pepper
~1 tsp dried oregano
~1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp garlic paste (roughly 1 medium clove of garlic, minced)

Directions:

Cut chicken breast into bitesize pieces and brown in skillet, using olive oil or cooking oil (a couple tablespoons) and around 1/4 cup lemon juice. When cooked, coat with the salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and ~1.5 tablespoons pesto.

Cook and drain pasta such that it is a little softer than al dente. Add roughly 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1.5-2 tablespoons pesto. Mix until coated.

Serve chicken over pasta with your choice of cheese (I recommend something like parmesan, romano, etc.). Goes well with steamed veggies of most kinds, as well as white wine.

A Dish for Any Meal: The Versatile Frittata

Okay, so it’s probably not an actual frittata. I have only one good frying pan, and while I’m pretty sure it’s oven safe… I have only one good frying pan.

It all started with the usual: me pondering what a good, quick-pack meal would be for my weekday lunches. Something pre-made, obviously, and something I could eat for other meals if I wound up not eating it for lunch.

I was tired of just veggie/meat dishes, and nothing with legumes was jumping out at me, and then, I remembered that one of my favorite Starbucks breakfasts is the spinach-feta wrap. The one with the egg white.

But I didn’t want any bread.

Heyyyy, frittata!

I went on a grocery run later that evening, and within fifteen minutes, my kitchen smelled like heaven and within an hour, I had an easy meal for the next four days.

The ingredients I used:

  • Open Nature chicken sausage with sun-dried tomatoes and provolone
  • arugula
  • Monterey Jack cheese
  • common white mushrooms (fresh)
  • sun-dried tomatoes (mine were jarred with oil and herbs)
  • diced red, yellow, and green pepper
  • cayenne, black pepper, oregano, basil, and the Spice and Tea Exchange’s “Italian Street Fair” seasoning

The instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Dice the mushrooms and chop the sausage (I used 2 of the 4 sausages in the pack). Sauté the diced pepper, mushrooms, and sausage for seven or so minutes in two or three teaspoons of olive oil with a bit of garlic powder. Let sit. Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Add two handfuls of washed arugula, and a half-handful of your cheese of choice. Add a few sun-dried tomatoes (I used maybe 7 halves). Stir. Pour in the sauté and stir again. Pour into a greased casserole dish–mine was a shallow 9 x 9 square. Sprinkle a little more cheese on top, and add a few shakes of each seasoning/spice/herb. Bake for 30-40 minutes, depending on how done you like your eggs.

I’ll confess, I had a bite while packing my first serving away to grab tomorrow morning. It was delicious. 10/10; would make again.

Meal in a (taco) bowl: Salsa-chicken mix

So… I need quick-pack lunches. Badly.

Salads are normally my go-to, but sometimes, I get bored of tossing lettuce (well, more recently, broccoli slaw) with some or all of the following: bell pepper (roasted or raw), tomato, carrots, celery, avocado, olives, and lunch meat. Oh, and also some manner of dressing, usually vinaigrette.

As much as I can do with it, it just gets boring.

I’d recently bought some Safeway Kitchens fire-roasted salsa, not knowing what I was going to do with it. I’d also picked up 3 bell peppers–one each of red, orange, and yellow.

On the walk back from the bus stop (got off one early to get in some walking on such a nice day!), it hit me: fiesta bowl!

I stopped into the grocery store to grab two grilled chicken breasts and a large avocado.

I chopped up the avocado and peppers, shredded the chicken, and tossed that together with the can of salsa. (Probably a 15-oz can–I’ve recycled it, good Seattleite that I am, and composted the leftover veggie bits. Yeah, I’m good.) I then smeared a bit of that on a tortilla and put some shredded cheese on that and microwaved it. I probably could have actually made a taco bowl (or 6) out of the mix, but I tried it as a burrito first.

The results were 100% delicious. Also messy. Very, very messy. And very, very worth it.

So, for those of you who want an actual recipe-format recipe…

Chickadoodle’s Taco Fiesta Bowl Mix… Stuff

1 red bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 large, ripe avocado (firm-ish, just a bit of give to the touch)
2 medium-ish grilled chicken breasts
1 can Safeway Kitchens fire roasted salsa (~15 oz) or similar

Wash, seed, and chop the peppers. Cube the avocado. Chop or shred the chicken. Toss that in an at least 4-cup container with the salsa. Spread as a burrito filling or use as a dip or its own salad. Top with shredded cheese if desired. As always, enjoy. (If you don’t, you’re probably doing it wrong.)

Health for its own sake

If you’ve seen me in person, it’s pretty clear that, like Meghan Trainor, I ain’t no size two.

I don’t want to be, either—not because skinny people are bad, but because with my broad shoulders, ribs, and hips, that would look weird. Like, really weird.

I could, however, definitely stand to drop a few sizes.

Now, I’ve been told that I’m beautiful the way I am. And I’m gonna toot my own horn here, but I really don’t disagree. To further quote “All About That Bass”, I’ve got junk in… well, most of the right places, anyway. I can stand in front of a mirror and have my first thought be “I look good!” in most situations. But there are a few places I have junk that I’d really rather not have it, or as much of it, anyway. From a previous weight loss journey, I can tell you that my body has more or less the same silhouette at most sizes, but a bit bigger or smaller depending on the weight.

(Yeah, I’ve lost weight before. Yes, it came back. That was not a happy time in my life. Or rather, the not-happy time fed pretty handily into gaining back some weight.)

But now, I’m getting married, and there’s all this stuff out there about looking perfect for that day… and to be honest, that’s a part of the reason. I mean, I’ll look amazing anyway, so that’s certainly not the whole reason, or even the majority, but I’m not going to deny that it’d be nice.

I just want to be a little healthier. I mean, I’ve always been healthy as a horse, even (or perhaps especially? Despite?) concerning issues that are primarily weight-related. The most any doctor has ever been able to tell me is that it’s probably a good idea that I lose some weight. Sure, my blood pressure is good now, but it may not be. Sure, I may not have diabetes or heart problems or arthritis now, and yes, I know that losing weight in and of itself may not necessarily spare me any of those issues, but weight can be a factor, and gosh darn it, like any person, I want to make whatever effort I can to keep myself healthy.

I don’t really subscribe to the “Healthy at Any Size” ideology. There are a wide variety of sizes at which humans can be healthy, but one must account for personal variance (again, I would not be healthy at a size two) and admit that, at some point, organs, joints, and muscles start having difficulty operating. However, I also acknowledge that, going with the whole personal variance thing, it truly is more difficult for some people to gain or lose weight. Now, we as people can certainly help or hinder ourselves, but not all metabolisms burn or store equally. Sure, you want calories out to exceed calories in, but I swear there are people who can expend a hundred calories merely by yawning, and people who are lucky to expend one calorie yawning. (No, I am not a nutrition/biology expert. My guesses are probably wrong. It’s called hyperbole, people—you get my point. Anyway…)

Here, I guess I should note that I don’t really look at the scale for “healthy”, despite having talked about weight. I can do a 6:30 minute mile on an elliptical with rolling hills, level 5/10. (Usually, I do between 15 and 30 minutes, still with 6:30 minute miles.) I can do 110 kettle swings, 110 crunches, and still go back for a 45-second plank. I could probably skip rope for a good few minutes without really breaking too much of a sweat or breathing too hard. And when I start finding these things too easy, I up the difficulty. It’s more that I want to be fit, and weight does play a part in that. I want to keep on being able to climb stairs without breathing too hard (in fact, at work, I fast-jog up 4 floors to get a 3-oz cup of frozen yogurt. No jog? No fro-yo.) or running several blocks to catch the bus if need be.

But more than that, I want to be able to travel some with the fiancé and walk around all these awesome places. When we start thinking about kids, I don’t want a doctor to look at me and go “yeah, about that…” When we actually do have kids, I want to be able to keep up with them, and set a good example. And again, I know that, in the end, I might not be able to out-run, out-crunch, or out-lift certain conditions.

I also might not be able to out-healthy-diet them, though I try to keep that up, too–tonight’s dinner was a some of that sausage-veggie bake I love so much, and fire-roasted-tomato sloppy joe stuff on top of baked beans. Freaking delicious. I try to go heavy on the veggies, whole grains, and protein, and lighter on the dairy and starchy stuff as a rule, but I’m also a firm believer in a little indulgence so that I don’t grab a chai latte every morning or generally over-indulge on sugar when offered.

But even if I can’t out-healthy everything, putting in the effort does pay off. I sleep better. I feel happier. I feel more satisfied, confident, and fulfilled. I don’t feel so guilty about spending a little time playing video games. Life is just overall better. As much as I appreciate hearing that I look good, I appreciate knowing that I feel good even more, and most of all, that I’m being responsible and making the effort to stay that way.

Cooking with Chickadoodle: Roasted Bell Peppers

So, like any normal, sane, and decent person, I love bell peppers.

Okay, like any person who likes bell peppers, I… like bell peppers.

I love ‘em in salad, on pizza, as an appetizer on a veggie tray, and most other normal ways they can be eaten. They don’t even have to be raw! I love them pickled, stir-fried, barbequed, and oven-roasted.

So, often enough, long about this time of the year, when the weather turns cold, I will get some bell peppers from the store and roast them.

I don’t really do anything special—it’s about a 45-minute process total, but dagnabbit, they turn out so tasty!

So, here’s my prep, complete with pictures.

First, I foil-line my pans, even the non-stick ones. Bell peppers stick. I also coat the foil with a thin layer of olive oil. Then, I cut the bell peppers into chunks and place them skin-down on the foil.

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After that, I pour a little more olive oil on the peppers, as well as some “Italian Street Fair” from the Spice & Tea Exchange. I stir the peppers to coat them.

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Next, I add some pepper, thyme, basil, and rosemary and stir some more, and put the peppers in at 425 F for 15 minutes.

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After 15 minutes, I check and stir the peppers, then set the timer for another 20 minutes.

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Tasty!

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French Breakfast Muffins, à la Chickadoodle

So, Betty Crocker has a recipe for some incredibly tasty muffins.

I have made these particular muffins many times. Only once did I fail, omitting the leavening completely and turning out dense disks of nutmeg-y goodness. I still call them my fail muffins in a somewhat affectionate way. (I think it was the time after that when I was making Betty Crocker coffee cake that I managed to triple the baking powder when doubling the recipe. That was the day I learned how to clean an oven. Also, all the new recipes use Bisquik. Much as I love the stuff, it does not belong in coffee cake.)

But, per the usual, I make them… a little differently.

Muffin ingredients:
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1.5 cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (or 3/4 or a full teaspoon. I like ’em nutmeg-y.)
1/2 cup milk

Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or 1.5 or 2 teaspoons. I like ’em cinnamon-y.)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted (1/4 cup is usually plenty, I find)

Directions
Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease 15 medium muffin cups, 2 1/2×1 1/4 inches.
Mix shortening, 1/2 cup sugar and the egg throughly in large bowl. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg alternately with milk. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Mix 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon. brush tops of hot muffins immediately with melted butter, then dunk thoroughly in sugar-cinnamon mixture. Serve hot.

My dad, however, is the champion of eating these muffins. He will cut off the top and eat it, then put the left over cinnamon and sugar on it. This is a good idea.