So what if I like chicken nuggets?

It all started a few months ago at the grocery store. We have an excellent local chain grocery here and they often have sampling of new or interesting items. I had been craving fried chicken, and had just recently burned my arm with the oil while making what I considered (unfortunately) sub-par fried chicken. I still have a couple of marks from those burns. 

Anyway, we were at the store and the sample was breaded chicken tenders, an organic version and a gluten free version. Both tasted good for frozen food, and they had an excellent coupon so I bought a package for those super-hungry-kid moments. I think I ate most of them. 

Fast forward a couple months and I’ve bought them 2 more times (without the extra good coupon) and eaten them all myself on nights when, like tonight, the baby needed to get to sleep an hour ago but I haven’t eaten dinner yet. Each time I’ve thought, I should just make these – they’d taste better and be less expensive. I think the package was about half a pound for $11 – on sale. 

So today I made them. They were MUCH better, and much less expensive. As usual (especially with the first time I make something) I didn’t measure anything but this will be a repeat recipe. 

Here is what I used:

1lb organic boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut with scissors into strips (not uniformly)

Salt, pepper, cumin, red pepper flakes, ancho chili powder, fresh garlic

Grassfed lassi (yogurt is a potential substitute, as is an egg)

Fresh breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan, coconut flakes

Baked at 400F for 25 minutes

This is a good one handed recipe for moms with babies on their hips. As is the case with most everything I do, my baby was on my hip (mostly nursing) or at my feet creating obstacle courses for me with all the bowls, bags, and containers in her reach. 

The typical breading process is: dredge with flour, dip into beaten egg, coat with breadcrumbs. Here is why I did NOT do that: 

1. Chicken is bland, flour is bland. Salt and pepper (even with other spices!) in the dredging flour (even in the breadcrumbs too!) hasn’t satisfied me. 

2. I buy the really expensive delicious eggs and I eat them every morning. I didn’t want to waste one (or two!) in this breading process. 

3. Breadcrumbs are yummy, but the packaged ones had additional ingredients that I didn’t want. I knew I had an organic sourdough baguette end, so I toasted a few slices and ground them up to a nice texture. Parmesan was unnecessary but added flavor without more spice. Coconut was also unnecessary but added sweetness without refined sugar. 

First I added spices to the cut up chicken and mixed it with a fork. I was pretty liberal with the seasoning.  Then I added a few glugs of lassi to the bowl and mixed it enough to just coat the chicken. I mixed the breadcrumbs and Parmesan (about equal parts) with a handful of coconut, lined my cookie sheet with parchment paper, and one by one I coated each piece of chicken with the breading mixture. When I got to the last 3 little pieces of chicken, I was out of breading, had no reserve crumbs made, and had a fussy baby, so I opted for just Parmesan and coconut for those. The ended up much darker and also delicious. Next time I will periodically add more coconut to the breading, as it seemed to dwindle after the first few pieces. 

The end result was spectacular. I will need to make bigger batches because it won’t last long in the freezer. 

Lemon flavored something or other (just don’t call them lemon bars).

My child had a birthday party and I wanted to make a dessert. I decided lemon bars would be just right, but of course nobody uses the ingredients I would use, so I substituted sprouted wheat flour for white flour and xylitol for sugar. 

They’re not bad, unless you think it’s going to be a lemon bar, because then you’ll have this outrageous expectation. It’s a healthy lemon flavored bar, ideologically correct, you might even say. 

It’s very very lemony. My 1 year old tried it and spit it out. 

Steak and mashed roots

I don’t like potatoes. So I mashed turnips and rutabagas instead. Have you ever eaten turnips and rutabagas? I think they get bad raps. They taste great. 

I like to multi-task, but not in the kitchen. This is probably a pretty quick meal to whip up but it took me a while because I prepared one thing at a time. 

Salad: mixed greens, sliced cherry tomatoes, avocado, and bleu cheese dressing. Easy. 

Mashed roots: for 2 adults I selected 8 roots, each was a little smaller than my fist. Cut off the ends, peel them, and chop them into  cubes. Then boil them with some smashed garlic cloves until they’re soft. I used 10, but it was still a very gentle garlic flavor because of the boiling. Drain the liquid, but keep it all in the pot, and smash it with a potato masher. Liquid will emerge! Turn the heat on low, and add some butter, salt, and thyme. Let the liquid cook off a bit, but don’t worry much about it. 

The steaks I chose were Grass-fed NY strip steaks. They were about an inch or so thick. I let them stay out of the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to get up to room temp, and then I dried them with a paper towel. Pre-heat the oven to 400F.

Season with salt and pepper, and don’t be shy! I under seasoned them this time. Drizzle them with oil, and place them into a HOT cast iron pan, and then don’t touch them. I like my steaks medium rare so I let them cook on the stove for 5 minutes and then turned off the flame. I topped them with chopped thyme and 1 Tbsp of Kerrygold butter each, and put the pan into the oven for another 5 minutes. 

After plating the steaks, let them rest a few minutes so they stay juicy. Pour a little of the pan drippings from the meat onto the mashed roots. 

Now I’m hungry!

Make your own coconut milk

It’s labor intensive and you’ll need some equipment:


Nut Milk Bag

Wide Mouth 1.5 Pint Ball® Mason Jar is my favorite

Tongs and a gas stove really help.

I’m sure you know how to open a coconut but just in case: hold it over a large bowl, and hit it with the back of a cleaver or large chef’s knife. Turn the coconut so that you are hitting it in a line along the circumference. After a few whacks it will start to break open and fluid (coconut water!) will leak out into the bowl. Keep whacking if necessary to get the halves to split, or pull them apart of you can.

Empty the rest of the coconut water into the bowl. Smell it. It should smell good, and so should the coconut meat. Look at the coconut meat: is it firm? Are there any colors besides white? If it is soft and mushy, but not smelly , was it a young coconut? If it has pink on it, it might be ok to eat. Use your judgment. I had the tiniest bit of pink on mine and I chose to cut that piece off. Some people say colors are ok as long as the odor is good.

Now you have to get the meat out of the shell it’s daunting task. The following method may not be suitable for everyone, but it is what I did. Try it at your own risk, and take precautions! I used my gas stove and set the coconut half on the burner directly. I adjusted the flame to be high enough to hit the coconut but not lick up the sides all the way.

After a few minutes I could hear a hissing sound, which I believe was the coconut oil coming into the coconut bowl. I turned off the heat, held the coconut with tongs and placed an oyster knife in between the meat and shell. The bowl of meat slipped out easily.

I repeated the process with the other half. Then I trimmed the small amount of inner shell off the coconut meat.

Place the 2 coconut halves into a vitamix after cutting them into smaller pieces. Add all of the coconut water. Blend it until it’s smooth. Depending on how much coconut water there was you may need to add a little water.

Pour some into the milk bag, place the milk bag corner over the ball jar, and squeeze. You’ll be left with these two components: a container of dry coconut shreds and a lot of beautiful coconut milk.

It is best immediately. If you save it, refrigerate it. It won’t be as smooth cold because the oil gives it more texture when cold. But it is delicious, and additive free.

Picadillo again

Of course you know that’s not picadillo. It’s blue pigment. 

Sometimes I forget to take pictures of the food, because often there are screaming children at my feet wanting to eat the food immediately and not at all understanding why I would take a photo before feeding them. So use your imagination. Also, I make this weekly so I can post pictures another time. 

Picadillo is my favorite in what I call the “what we’ve got” series of recipes – which is just in my head. I don’t like to take very long in the kitchen, for practical reasons like children, but also because in an ideal world I like to do other things outside the kitchen. Plenty of time is spent in there for the 3 meals per day deal, I don’t need to prolong it. 

That said, here’s today’s picadillo recipe which fed 3 hungry adults and 1 pretty hungry kid. 

1lb grass fed ground beef 

1 large carrot, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

Bionaturae strained tomatoes (about 1 cup)

Green olives 

Raisins (the young one doesn’t like them so I added them when serving)

Wine (I forgot the wine this time. It didn’t matter)

Salt, pepper, chili powder –I didn’t measure them. I tasted it near the end and the few big pinches of salt I had put in wasn’t sufficient, so I added a few more big pinches. I count while I turn the pepper grinder, but only to get to an arbitrary number where I decide I’m done. And I shook in some chili powder until I thought it looked about right – which was probably about 1tsp. 

I used a horrible pan for it this time and the bottom of the pan was blackened by the cooking. I thought maybe it would mess up the food but it was delicious. 

Sauté the veggies in olive oil first, on medium or medium high depending on your comfort level with the speed of browning and ability to stay focused on the stirring to prevent burning – until they’re brown. The more you sauté them (to a point, nobody wants to eat charcoal onions) the yummier they are. Then clear a section in the center of the pan and put the meat there. Break it up with your tool of choice, and brown the meat. Again, the more brown you make it, the tastier it is. Add the strained tomato sand the olives, stir, keep cooking a bit longer. Add the wine and raisins – you can also soak the raisins in wine prior to cooking and add it all during the cooking. 

I like to serve it with garlic rice, a quarter of an avocado, and a dollop of (grass-fed) sour cream. 

RICE, but better.

This is an owl in my tree. Unrelated to the rice. 

Someone very dear to me who also cooks delicious things for me often recently said they had read recipes where the ratio of rice to water was 1:1.5. THIS IS WRONG. 

Rice to water should be 1:2 unless you’re making congee, also known as rice porridge and which deserves its own blog post. 

Do you say ratio: <Ray-show> or <Ray-she-yo>?  

I get bored by plain rice. It’s fine. I can add Kerrygold butter to anything, and rice is as good a butter delivery system as any, but I have enjoyed a recent experiment, particularly because it is so easy. (Tiny tangent: I used to make cardamom rice, also delicious, which would require opening the pretty little green pods of cardamom and emptying the little black seeds into the hot butter. This was tedious and not very easy with a babe in arms, as most of my cooking currently requires. Also, I ran out of cardamom pods and haven’t bought more yet.)

I almost always use garlic when I cook. I chop extra when I make rice, so maybe 6 or so cloves depending on what I’m making and what part of the bulb and how many peels I feel like pulling off the garlic meat. I mean 6 big outside cloves. Those are my favorite. 

Fresh turmeric has been readily available in my local grocery store (I ❤ New Seasons Market) so I buy a bunch of nubs of it. This was a happy accident. I had no idea what I would use it for but couldn’t resist buying it and then I started putting it in nearly everything.  I don’t know if they are usually called “nubs” but it sounds like the right word for them. 

About equal parts chopped fresh turmeric (no I do not peel it, that would take too long but I do wash it) and chopped garlic go into a big tbsp or so of KG butter, which has melted in a pot on medium to medium high heat. I quickly measure rice with whatever I’ve got handy, and rinse it briefly, I think because of arsenic? I should look that up, because I could really skip that step if it doesn’t do any good anyway. I toss that into the hot seasoned butter usually just in time to avoid burning the garlic, and then stir it up, maybe fry the rice a little, if I feel patient. Add water, use the same measuring cup but even a coffee cup is a fine measuring cup here because all you need is the right RATIO which again is 1 part rice to 2 parts water. I use berkey filtered water because I like to filter out chlorine, chloramine, arsenic, etc (I’ll have to check on whether it filters out BPAs…)

SALT it with a few big pinches of good salt if you’re only using about a cup/mug of rice. 

The rest is pretty easy. There is less chance of overboiling if you uncover it on high until it boils, then cover it on low for about 20 minutes. When on low make sure it’s still simmering lightly, not completely still, so “low” might mean slightly higher than the lowest setting, depending on your stove. 

I thought this post would be 1 paragraph long. 

Rice, the individual grains, should open up when they’re fully cooked. Also, all the water should have been absorbed. So when you test it with a fork, push aside a bit to see the bottom of the pot has no more water. 

Feel free to sub half (or all) the water with bone broth. 

I still made dinner.

Lots of things are happening. You know about most of them because you’re on social media too, or because you aren’t a hermit and you have spoken to another adult human recently. So I won’t talk about all that here. I’ll just tell you about what I made for dinner, because we are still eating food a few times a day every day.

Here is a beautiful photograph of tomato sauce: image

I didn’t really measure but it was about half the bottle. I used the bionaturae brand tomato sauce because I like it.

So that’s probably about 2 cups of tomato sauce.  I bet you’re wondering what I’m making! It’s an off the cuff chicken tikka masala with what I already had at home. Here it is with the spices:


That has turmeric, paprika, salt, cumin, pepper, and I couldn’t find the garam masala until it was almost done but it made a world of difference, so if you have that, add it. No measurements. Probably about a teaspoon or so each.

I cooked it over medium heat for a while, until it all blended nicely, and then I added a lot of heavy cream – about a cup and a half I would estimate, and let it cook more over low heat. I used enough heat that it would bubble on the sides but not so much that it would splatter. I don’t like splattery food.

Then I had a nice sauce.

I used it as a dipping sauce for roasted chicken legs. (ok the truth is there’s this awesome Thai place that opened up recently and they have a really delicious dipping sauce that’s very much like tikka masala sauce so I thought I’d try my hand at it, and it turned out pretty good!)

That was not the best use of this sauce.


So later, I chopped carrot (2), onion (1/2), red pepper (1/2), garlic (3), and fresh turmeric (1 nub), and sautéed them well in olive oil and butter. To that I added the pulled apart chicken breasts, about 3/4 of the remaining sauce, and another round of heavy cream until I liked both the color and consistency. I let that simmer a few minutes, and served it over white rice — I have been making my white rice with garlic and turmeric lately, I’ll get that out in a post soon too and update this one with a link.

This was one of the best dishes I’ve ever made – better than following any of the many chicken tikka masala recipes I have followed by far.

Check it out and please give me feedback! No pics of my final dish, it wasn’t photogenic. Just delicious.

The simple challenge of corn tortillas

I love a good taco. I also like using high quality ingredients. It is challenging to procure tacos of the quality I prefer. That’s predicament number one. 
The easy answer is to make them at home – easy except for one major component: the corn tortilla. 

Have you ever tried to warm those suckers up at home? Every time I do, I end up with a warm, messy, torn, un-taco-able stuff, and I eat my taco meat with a fork. Until today. 

I’m using (as always) organic, non-GMO sprouted corn tortillas. This method should work even if you are using a different type of corn tortilla.

First, get a bowl of cold water and a clean dish towel. Put oil in your pan. I’m using organic olive oil and a properly maintained cast iron pan, I used about 1 turn of the pan, which is approximately a tbsp, of oil. Heat up the pan, on medium-high. When the pan is hot, fully dip one tortilla in water, and then place it in the pan. Let it cook about 30 seconds, flip it, and give it 30 seconds more. Then remove it (use a pancake turner/spatula) and place it on the clean towel. Go through this process with each tortilla, stacking them after cooking, and when you’ve cooked all you intend to, fold the towel over the stack to keep them warm and soft. 

Tacos are better without forks!

Food: yellow split peas

Yellow split peas are my new favorite food, since beginning to experiment with my new Instant Pot 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker. I make a very simple dish, and I do not like to measure, so here are my ingredients. You can’t get it wrong.

Carrot, celery, onion, garlic, yellow split peas, broth (and/or water), salt, pepper.

And Kerrygold butterEdit of course.

Simple. Cook the chopped mirepoix (carrot, celery, onion) on the sauté setting in some butter until the veggies are soft and turning brown. Add chopped garlic. Measure the split peas, I usually use 2 or 3 cups. 2 cups at my house fed 3 adults and 3 kids with no leftovers. 3 cups let me have leftovers, which I preferred. Add 2-3 times as much liquid. Closer to 2x if you want them to stay a little crunchy. 3x as much liquid makes them mushy, which is also good. My preference is al dente so I use a bit over 2x. Close the lid and use the manual setting, 13 minutes. Add more butter after serving!

One time I used 2x the liquid and it overheated because it was beginning to stick on the bottom, but that was actually my favorite texture to date.

[EDIT: 8 minutes yielded the perfect consistency today. I didn’t measure the water, and there was plenty of water after cooking (so no overheating) AND this time I added a sliced burdock root – in Japanese this is called gobo, which is excellent for the skin and the large intestine.]

If you’re unfamiliar with the Instant Pot, it’s an electric pressure cooker but can be used as a slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, for warming or for browning/sautéing. I’ve had it for less time than my Vita-Mix and I’ve already used it much more. The learning curve is small.

Yellow split peas are an excellent source of protein, fiber, folate, manganese, and potassium.

What should we be eating?!

When is it appropriate to jump on the dietary bandwagon? Should you be eating “paleo” if your friends are losing weight because of it and you also want to lose weight? Since there is so much bad press about gluten, should you start eating only gluten free products? Maybe veganism is the answer?

There’s no perfect path that suits everyone when it comes to diet. But there are some good guiding principles.

1. Buy the highest quality food you can afford.

Start by reading labels. Avoid GMOs, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives like potassium sorbate and sodium nitrate, and excitotoxins. Learn about the brands that make the foods you like to eat.

2. Keep the following things in moderation if and when you have digestive issues: sugar, alcohol, raw food, fried food, very spicy food, soy.

If you consume a lot of any of those groups, and you have any digestive complaints, try cutting back that group by half. Then re-evaluate how you feel.

3. Pay attention to your body’s response to foods.

If you have a complaint (for example, skin issues, weight gain, fatigue, etc) take a look at what you’re eating by creating a simple food diary. Write down what you eat for every meal for two weeks or a month, and note changes in the issue that concerns you. Often you can find a connection between diet and body complaints.

4. If you think you have an allergy or sensitivity (to gluten, wheat, dairy, or something else) do a simple elimination diet for a month and then reintroduce the potential offenders by themselves to evaluate your body’s response.

5. Eat more vegetables. Try to add some veggies to breakfast.

Using frozen vegetables in a pinch is fine. Much of the nutritional value is preserved. Fresh is best, of course, but do what works for you. Find a good cookbook, like “Simple French Cooking” by Richard Olney, and try out new vegetable recipes.