Food and Garden Dailies started as a way to record my family's favorite recipes. It has come in handy many times when I'm asked for a recipe. I simply email a link to the blog! But I couldn't just stick to recipes. The kitchen is tied to the garden in so many ways...and so I let you into my ever changing garden as well.

If you're interested in my all-time favorite recipes, check out this post first: My Favorite Recipes

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sabbatication: Everything's Falling Into Place

Pin It What a nice feeling that is! Brian's research is continuing on (you can read all bout it in his Facebook "Note" section), I'm driving people where they need to be, volunteering a bit, and playing way too many Facebook games (hey, I have a bit of time on my hands!) I know, I know...I'm supposed to be using my camera and getting beyond lesson 3 in my Photoshop tutorial. I will, I will....

Katie, though, has made the most progress and I am so proud of her! The friend situations have settled; she has made some nice friends and is starting to do things with them outside of school (Girl Scouts and birthday parties so far). She's doing EXTREMELY well in her classes, and is more organized and on top of things than she ever has been. She's paying attention to deadlines and is completing homework ahead of time.

If you read my last notes, you might remember that it was only a couple weeks ago that we learned she was placed in the wrong math class. We *thought* she was in the higher group, only to learn that she was basically repeating last year's material. Sadly, it was 6 weeks into the school year that this was discovered.

She's finishing her third week in the new class (Algebra 1). We've (OK...Brian, mostly) been working with her to catch up and understand material that took the others 6 weeks to learn. She's been working tirelessly on her math, both before and after school. She's gone in for tutoring. Today she had her first test and got an A on it. In fact she "came in third place," as she put it...doing better than most of the class. 'Atta girl!! She was so proud. Proud enough to declare that worthy of an Eegee! Mom and Dad were VERY proud of her as well.

Weather-wise (because it's ALL about the weather in Tucson's fall/winter) it's been FABULOUS. Mid-70s-80's, blue skies, fabulous clouds (I think Tucson has the BEST clouds!), breezy winds. OK, there is absolutely no fall or winter here, and I do miss the crimson maple leaves that are starting to peak in McMinnville right about now. The rains, which are about to start (there, not here) I can do without! All in all, the weather's wonderful. Our only regret is that we can't leave the windows open at night. The neighborhood's too sketchy and the alarm system won't set unless they're all closed. We have been opening them in the afternoons when Brian's home, and it's refreshing to let the air in the house.

Cooking...with my limited supply of pantry ingredients I've been relying on simple dishes, though I'm on the look out for new recipes that use these same ingredients. I made two new recipes this week from Cooking Light that were true winners.

Friends...That's such an awesome part of being back in Tucson! In the past week or so I've had the pleasure of lunching, brunching, and visiting with Stacy McAlpine (met in 7th grade), Tami (Holman) Dillon (met in 6th grade), Suzy (Garra) Carver (met in 7th grade), Felipe Garcia (met in 7th grade), and will soon be getting together with Fong (Tom) Smith (met in 6th grade) and the most wonderful (retired) high school teacher of all, Cindy Schiesel.

Activities...we've been attending the UA's volleyball games and are becoming avid fans. We also attended the Greek Festival, but only stayed a short bit as it was blistering hot! This weekend we look forward to more volleyball, Tucson Meet Yourself Festival, and going to Sabino Canyon with one of Brian's former students.

Oh, and we'll probably treat Katie to that Eegee because she deserves it!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Spicy Chicken Sandwiches with Cilantro-Lime Mayo

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In my quest to find recipes that only use ingredients from my limited supply of pantry staples, I came upon this little gem in the December 2008 issue of Cooking Light: Spicy Chicken Sandwiches with Cilantro-Lime Mayo. The prep was simple, other than the fact that I overlooked the part about marinating the chicken for 2-8 hours....which is why we didn't have these for dinner last night!

Now, I am not a mayo fan...never have been. Still, I wanted something flavorful with my chicken. So I made a bit of a lime juice, garlic, and cilantro mixture to spread on mine. That's what you see in the little glass on the right.

Since this recipe (and most of those from Cooking Light) are available on, there are lots of ratings and comments. You can read yourself silly with all the comments, especially since many cooks change the recipes in subtle (and not so subtle ways). After reading a few of them, you start to wonder exactly what recipe they rated, and which altered recipe is actually better than the others. I appreciate what they've done, but I usually decide to prepare the original recipe, and then compare my thoughts with the comments. In this case, though, I did make one little tiny change....I used 4 TB hot sauce instead of 3. I like things spicy, and some reviewers didn't find this recipe spicy enough...even recommending 6 TB of hot sauce.

OK...I'm coming clean...I probably made as many substitutions/changes as the average reviewer. You can see mine below, along with my thoughts about them. In the end though, the sandwich can be summed up best by my husband who said, "That was delicious!" at the end of the meal. Most definitely a keeper!

And, another great thing about this recipe is that it will freeze well. I cooked up two of the chicken pieces for tonight, and flash froze the other two for later. Next time I'll make more!

Spicy Chicken Sandwiches with Cilantro-Lime Mayo
(Cooking Light)
Chicken cutlets are encrusted with tortilla chip crumbs, which yield a satisfying crunch. You can also use spicy chips for more heat.
4 servings (serving size: 1 sandwich)
  • Mayo:
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Chicken:
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 3* tablespoons hot sauce (such as Tabasco**)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano***
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 4 1/2 ounces baked tortilla chips (about 6 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

    Remaining ingredients:
  • 4 (2-ounce) Kaiser rolls, split
  • 12 (1/8-inch-thick) red onion slices
  • 4 lettuce leaves
1. To prepare mayo, combine the first 4 ingredients.
2. To prepare chicken, combine egg substitute, hot sauce, oregano, and salt in a large zip-top plastic bag. Cut chicken breast halves in half horizontally to form 4 cutlets. Add chicken to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 2 hours or up to 8 hours, turning bag occasionally.
3. Place tortilla chips in a food processor; process 1 minute or until ground. Place ground chips in a shallow dish.
4. Working with one cutlet at a time, remove chicken from marinade, allowing excess to drip off. Coat chicken completely in chips. Set aside. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken and chips.
5. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add chicken to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned and done. Spread mayo evenly over cut sides of rolls. Layer bottom half of each roll with 3 onion slices, 1 lettuce leaf****, and 1 chicken cutlet; top with top halves of rolls.
*I used 4 TB, which I thought was just right. It might be too spicy for the Pace Picante crowd or kiddos, but if you want a bit of heat (not a lot) try 4 TB.
**I used Tapatio
***OK...I changed the recipe more than I admitted...I didn't have oregano so I used Italian seasoning! Tasted great to me!
****OOPS! I had the lettuce all ready to go, and forgot to put it on the sandwiches! DOH!

Calories: 419 (28% from fat) Fat: 13.2g (sat 1.7g,mono 6.1g,poly 3.4g) Protein: 28.1g Carbohydrate: 46.8g Fiber: 2.6g Cholesterol: 49mg Iron: 3.2mg Sodium: 759mg Calcium: 101mg

To make these ahead for the freezer, prepare steps 2-4.  Freeze the raw, coated chicken in a single layer.   I usually make a dozen or so of these, so I just have to cook them up and make the sauce (which won't freeze well).  But having steps 2-4 done ahead, really is a time saver!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Prosciutto and Fontina-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

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One of the greatest culinary challenges I'm facing on Sabbatication, is that my food staples are quite limited. I don't have endless types of vinegar, spices, seasonings, etc. I have (literally):
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Italian seasoning
  • cajun seasoning
  • crushed red pepper
  • seasoned salt
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • sesame oil
  • white wine vinegar
  • chardonnay
  • dijon mustard
  • soy sauce
  • hot sauce
  • garlic
I don't want to go out and buy a bunch of ingredients; I'd like to keep it simple. For those of you who know me well, keeping things simple is a challenge. When cooking, I use a lot of ingredients. I make my own sauces, and nearly everything is from scratch. So, I've been going through my tried and true recipes looking for foods that use what I have. I've checked out cookbooks and cooking magazines from the library (Yes, I know it's all on-line...I just love to flip through a bound publication.) perusing them for recipes that use these ingredients. The challenge I have is that I don't want it to all taste the same. I want variation!

Last week, I found a few recipes from Cooking Light, and made the first one last night. It's from the December 2008 issue (a GREAT issue by the way...found several recipes to add to my "To Try" file), Prosciutto and Fontina-Stuffed Chicken Breasts , p. 177.

I tripled the recipe, planning on making some to freeze for later, because I knew we'd like this one. The first thing I noticed was that the filling looked a little skimpy. I wasn't sure how I would have enough to stuff 12 chicken breasts with 2 TB of filling each. In the end, I added a bit more fontina (1 cup instead of 3/4 cup for a tripled batch), but I could have used a bit more.

The chicken breasts were HUGE, so I chopped each one in half (OK...that means they were really quartered, because they're already halved), and made a pocket in each piece. I only had enough filling for 10 of them. So, if I were to make this again (which I will) I'll make a bit more filling.

We had them for dinner last night and, OMG, they were delicious!! This will be the next entree I make for our meal exchange. I liked the simplicity and the fact that they'll freeze well. I love to have food like this ready-to-go in the freezer.

Right after I made them I learned that a friend's husband broke (really crushed!) his ankle yesterday and the whole family had been in the hospital all day. He came home today and I brought some chicken over for their family to eat. I LOVE having food on hand when someone's sick or in the hospital. I was especially glad that even in our little temporary digs, I was still able to help a friend!

Prosciutto and Fontina-Stuffed Chicken Breasts
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 ounce chopped prosciutto
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded fontina cheese
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 42 saltine crackers (about 1 sleeve)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil

1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add prosciutto to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until browned. Add rosemary and garlic to pan; sauté 1 minute. Spoon prosciutto mixture into a bowl; cool to room temperature. Stir in fontina cheese; set aside.

2. Cut a horizontal slit through thickest portion of each chicken breast half to form a pocket. Stuff about 2 tablespoons prosciutto mixture into each pocket; press lightly to flatten. Sprinkle chicken evenly with pepper.

3. Place crackers in a food processor; process 2 minutes or until finely ground. Place cracker crumbs in a shallow dish. Place flour in another shallow dish. Combine egg whites and mustard in another shallow dish, stirring mixture with a whisk.

4. Working with one chicken breast half at a time, dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess. Dip chicken into egg white mixture, allowing excess to drip off. Coat chicken completely with cracker crumbs. Set aside. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken, flour, egg white mixture, and cracker crumbs.

5. Heat pan over medium-high heat. Add oil* to pan, swirling to coat. Add chicken to pan; reduce heat to medium**, and cook 10 minutes on each side or until browned and done.

Calories: 381 (33% from fat) Fat: 14g (sat 3g,mono 6.4g,poly 2.9g) Protein: 46.6g Carbohydrate: 14.1g Fiber: 0.6g Cholesterol: 113mg Iron: 2.4mg Sodium: 591mg Calcium: 74mg
*I also added a smidge of butter. I think foods brown better with a bit of butter.
**Medium might be a bit high. If the outside is browning too quickly (which happened to me at first) make sure you turn down the heat a bit. You want a nice golden brown

Ready to flash freeze ----------->