Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Greek Chicken and Rice

IMG_2004
Greek Chicken and Rice with Feta Cheese, accompanied with marinated cucumbers and onions (refrigerator pickle)

I’m not trying to present anything authentically Greek like your native or first-generation Yaya made, but rather to elevate the simple chicken and rice dish with the flavors most Americans associate with Greek or (generically) Mediterranean food. In fact, if you leave off the Greek-ish additions, you could just say this is Lemon Pepper Chicken and Rice and stop there :-).

To easily change up a wonderful dish when it’s getting a little stale in the dinner rotation, consider adding lemon juice to your chicken and rice bake and serve with a sprinkle of feta cheese and olives.

Ingredients for a 4-serving bake

  • 1 cup uncooked white or brown rice (jasmine, basmati, American long grain, whatever)
  • 2 cups water or chicken stock or combination
  • 1-2 lemons, juiced (1-2 T prepared lemon juice) – to taste
  • 4 4-6-oz pieces of boneless chicken – any combination of breasts and thighs
  • 1t salt (only if using water because even low sodium chicken stock already has salt)
  • 1t – 1T black pepper – to taste
  • 1 package of crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped kalamata olives (or black or green if you like those)

NOTE: you might think that dicing the chicken before putting it in the bake will make this easier, but the smaller pieces cook so much more quickly than the rice that they become dry and rubbery. Not pleasant, IMHO.

IMG_2001Preheat oven to 350°F.

Layer rice, water/stock, juice, chicken, salt, and pepper in a 9×9 baking dish in the order listed above for the least messy assembly.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Stir – this is essential for all of the rice to get cooked.

Bake uncovered for 10 more minutes.

IMG_2002Use two forks to shred the chicken. Stir to mix thoroughly with the rice.

Serve with a sprinkle of feta cheese and chopped olives.

LEFTOVERS: if you have any leftovers, they make for a great cold rice salad with artichoke, cucumber, tomato, and sweet onion and a drizzle of olive oil or Greek salad dressing added to the feta and olives. Mmmmm, lunch!

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free

PaPa’s Fish Stew from my Grandfather’s Personal Recipe Book

IMG_1993My dad and brother go on a fishing trip every year in August, and brought back some shark that we’ve been wondering how we want to cook. And about a week ago, in a fit of nostalgia, I was flipping through my grandfather Joe Jones’s personal cookbook and came across his Fish Stew recipe, complete with variations for 21-, 15-, 10-, 5-, and 2-gallon batches. I rubbed my hands together and giggled with fanatical glee: PaPa would LOVE shark in his fish stew!

Bonus! This is such a pantry meal since every ingredient is a staple in our family pantry.

As I’m interested in batches for a standard 4-5 person family, I made just a few adjustments, mainly in the liquid ingredients:

  • 3 slices of bacon, chopped into strips or dices
  • 2 medium sweet Vidalia or yellow onions, chopped small
  • 1.5 lbs potatoes, diced (roughly 3 cups)
  • 2 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes (recommend fire roasted with garlic)
  • 2 cups V-8 juice (recommend original or low sodium)
  • 1 cup fish or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce or white wine (but not both)
  • 1/4 cup Worchestershire sauce or soy sauce (but not both)
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce (like Tabasco or Texas Pete)
  • 1 T Old Bay seasoning (or similar)
  • 2-3 lbs white fish (shark and gator work well also)
  • Optional ingredients: shrimp, crab, clams, lemon juice.

IMG_1989In a large stock pot over medium heat, drop in the bacon and onion and let sweat and sizzle for 3-4 minutes, just until the bacon starts to firm up and the onions start to get clear but NOT browned or caramelized.

Add the potatoes, diced tomatoes, V-8 juice, white wine/fish sauce, Worchestershire/soy sauce, hot sauce, and seasoning.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

IMG_1992Add the fish. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

Use your stirring spoon to break up the fish into smaller pieces. Flakier fishes like catfish and flounder will “melt” into the stew. Sturdier fishes like mahi mahi, snapper, shark, or swordfish will hold up as chunks.

Serve with cornbread or breadsticks or any sturdy bread. Soft breads like croissants or yeast rolls will get gummy and chewy. For this night (photos), I heated some leftover Papa John’s parmesan breadsticks in the oven for 15 minutes on 350°F.

Confession: I HATE tomato juice and tomato soups, which extends to PaPa’s fish stew, but my family loves it. It’s often what we make with any leftover fish from a fry or a restaurant rather than reheating (stinky!) or choking down cold, dry fish.

Posted in Branding and Marketing, Small Business Tips

Under-appreciated Branding and Advertising Tool: button makers

I recently found myself volunteering to make about 100 buttons for my mom’s church group’s national convention: one each for the delegates to wear and extras to trade with delegates from other states.
And as I was studiously working in a familiar loading and pressing rhythm, I thought how nice it was to be reunited with the button maker I had purchased for a former employer. Naturally, we parted on great terms since he continues to let me borrow the button maker.

You see, for short-run branding and advertising needs, you can’t beat the cost and ROI of a single-purchase button maker for about $300, and supplies so cheap!

For large runs of general branding items, you’re still going to get the best cost through outsourcing. But when you need it dated, featuring the employee of the month 12 times a year, or fewer than 500, make the investment in the button maker and give yourself the freedom to design what you need and make only the number you need, even if it’s the night before you need them!

Buy the American Button Machines 2.25″ kit shown above here.

Posted in Children, God Loves Me!

Children’s Sermon on The Holy Spirit for Pentecost: Acts 2: 4

Scripture: Acts 2: 4

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Props: handheld fan, candle and light (if your church doesn’t light candles for service), cotton ball with essential oil, recording of strong wind

 

Do you know what special day this is? This is Pentecost Sunday. It’s the time when we remember that before Jesus returned to heaven, he promised that God would send a helper — the Holy Spirit — to live inside of those who follow him. He promised that the Holy Spirit would give them the power to do great and mighty things.

One day, after the Resurrection at Easter, the disciples were all together and they heard a sound from Heaven: a loud, powerful rushing wind. And a flame appeared – no candle or anything – and touched on each disciple. And the disciples felt a great power and immediately went out to preach – that’s what the power of the Holy Spirit helped them to do – to tell others about God and Jesus.

How do you think you can tell when the Holy Spirit is giving you the power and the urge to tell someone about God and Jesus? Let’s test our senses to see how many ways we can feel that mighty rushing wind of the Holy Spirit:

Can you feel the Holy Spirit? (use a battery-powered hand fan to blow on the children) Can you feel the wind like you’re at the beach or high in the mountains? YES! That’s the Holy Spirit making sure you know it’s there for you.

Can you taste the Holy Spirit? Hmmm, that’s a tough one, isn’t it. Wind doesn’t have a taste, but it we stick out tongues out when the wind blows, we do get another way to feel the wind and know the Holy Spirit is encouraging us.

Can you smell the Holy Spirit? (hold a cotton ball with essential oil in front of the fan to send a scent on the wind) Let’s try it: we already know we can feel the wind when it brushed past us, but the wind – the Holy Spirit – can also use smells to let us know how we can minister to others.

Can you hear the Holy Spirit? (cue Crystal to play the wind storm sound on the Clavinova) Wow, right! That’s a big mighty wind. That’s definitely the Holy Spirit when it really needs to get our attention, right!

Can you see the Holy Spirit? Take a look at the candles on the table. That’s the light of Christ we bring in each Sunday and we take out into the world each week. What makes that light move so that we can see it? YES! The Holy Spirit.

Our basic senses are how we feel and know that the Holy Spirit is with us and ready to help us to do what God asks us to do. This is what we are reminded of each year on the day of Pentecost: that when we know God and follow Jesus, we are filled with the Holy Spirit which gives us the power and the instructions to do wonderful and mighty things for God.

Let’s pray:

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending us the power of the Holy Spirit. Please fill us up each day with the Holy Spirit that we would have the power to live for Jesus and let His light shine in our lives. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

Delivered on Sunday, June 4, 2017, at Palmetto Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Easy Spanish-style Sausage and Rice

My best friend has her abuela’s pot for making Arroz con Pollo, but my family is much less discerning of that level of authenticity. Instead, we get close with this flavorful sausage and rice dish.

You’ll need

  • 1 family size package of Vigo Spanish Rice (with seasonings included in the package)
  • 2 lbs cooked link sausage, such as kielbasa, turkey sausage, venison sausage, etc.
  • 1-2 packages of frozen peppers and onions (roughly 1-2 cups of chopped frozen or cooked peppers and onions)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup whole green Spanish olives stuffed with pimentos
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced (optional)

Cook the rice according to package instructions.

While the rice cooks, slice cooked sausage into coins and brown in skillet.

Note: Vigo seasoned Spanish rice is not corn-free. Use unseasoned white or yellow rice and Sazon with Saffron seasoning.

Thaw/steam frozen peppers and onions (with poblano pepper if using) in the microwave. Or, if using fresh veggies, sautee in skillet after sausage is all browned.

Spanish_Sausage_and_Rice.jpgWhen rice is finished, mix in browned sausage, warmed peppers and onions, and olives. I leave my olives whole because all of my peeps like them; feel free to slice or chop yours up if you need to hide them ;-).

Serve directly from the rice pot, accompanied by fresh fruit salad or seasonal marinated vegetables.

Tip: maintain healthy overnight blood sugar by skipping the “bread on the side” with dinner when you already have rice, pasta, or potatoes. Even non-diabetics can experience unhealthy blood glucose levels when consuming extra complex carbohydrates.

Posted in Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free

Colombia Restaurant 1905-inspired Summer Pasta Salad

I’ve eaten at the Colombia Restaurant just once and was most impressed by the simplicity and the goodness of their signature salad with their 1905 salad dressing. But I can’t eat lettuce, so I looked for a way to make this a robust salad without it. Enter pasta…or quinoa or even rice for a Northern Italian-style dish.

Here’s what I used for the “salad”:

  • 1 box of orzo pasta, prepared according to package instructions (GF: use any small piece gluten free pasta; GF & CF: use quinoa)
  • 3 standard cucumbers, seeds removed, quartered lengthwise, chopped
  • 6 roma tomatoes, sliced in rings
  • 1 cup green Spanish olives stuffed with pimentos, whole or sliced (I like whole)
  • 8 slices of swiss cheese, cut into 1/2-inch squares (or julienned if that’s easier)
  • 1 package of diced prociutto (4 oz)
  • 1 package of julienned Citterio ham (4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup pepperoncini rings (optional)

For the dressing, which is based on the Colombia Restaurant 1905 dressing:

  • 1 cup good oil (EVOO)
  • 1 cup ACV
  • 1/4 Worcestershire sauce
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced finely
  • 1t dried oregano
  • 1t black pepper
  • 1/2 t salt

Whisk up the dressing and let it sit out on the counter to marinate for several hours before you dress the pasta salad.

Dress and serve at is or over a pile of lettuce to make it more “salad-y.”

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

1-pan Dinner: Chicken Marbella with Roasted Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

IMG_1859For a family of 2-4, this meal can be made using 1 cutting board, 1 chef’s or chopping knife, 1 mixing bowl, and 1 large baking sheet. You can make clean up even easier by lining your baking sheet with foil.

For this dinner, you’ll need

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or comparable chicken strips or chicken thighs)
  • 4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced (Yukon gold, red, russet – whatever kind you like)
  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
  • 1 Vidalia or sweet onion, large diced (optional)
  • 2-4 T good oil (olive, grapeseed, coconut)

For the Marbella marinade, you’ll need

  • 4 prunes, chopped roughly
  • 6-8 green Spanish olives stuffed with pimentos, chopped roughly
  • 1 T capers, chopped roughly
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup good oil (olive, grapeseed, coconut)
  • 1/4 apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper

The night before you’ll be cooking this dinner, combine all of the Marbella marinade ingredients and whisk to mix well. Pour over the raw chicken (yep, it can even be frozen still); make sure the chicken is one layer when you put it in the fridge. It is super important that you marinate the chicken overnight.

For baking, prehead the oven to 375°F, line your baking sheet with foil and spray it down well with cooking spray.

Toss your diced potatoes and halved Brussels sprouts in good oil and salt and pepper. You can certainly add any other spices you like at this time; for pairing with the Marbella flavors, I recommend lemon pepper or dijon, something with a strong, tart flavor to contrast with the salty and sweet of the Marbella.

Lay out the chicken in a row across one end of the pan, layer the potatoes in the middle in one layer, and layer the Brussels sprouts and onions on the other end of the pan. Pour any remaining Marbella marinate over the chicken.

Place the pan on the upper rack in the center of the oven, and set the timer for 30 minutes.