Posted in Being Healthy, Children, Cooking

BuzzFeed Recipe Trial: 4-ingredient Chicken Bake

On January 29, 2016, I shared BuzzFeed recipe video below on my Facebook feed with a note to use the kale from my local CSA share to make this for Sunday dinner. And I did. And paired it with simple salt-and-pepper thin spaghetti noodles.

HUGE hit! Takes maybe 5 minutes to layer in the casserole dish (line with aluminum foil to make clean up faster and easier too), and it turned out to be a GREAT way to HIDE VEGGIES from my guys because what they saw looked like pizza on top of chicken. They just thought it was all chicken-y cheesiness and AWESOME.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FBuzzFeedVideo%2Fvideos%2F1826534510820756%2F&show_text=0&width=560

I’ve made this several times since that first weekend dinner with the following variations:

  • frozen chicken with fresh toppings – little bit juicier in the bottom of the pan, but otherwise no difference; the breasts were small and thin, and took 45 minutes
  • cubed chicken breast and everything layered more like a casserole for more servings, and baked directly over cooked penne pasta in the casserole dish; same temp and time as original recipe
  • “Mexican” style using canned chopped chilis and pepper jack cheese, still using the sliced tomatoes
Posted in Everyday Musings

LinkedIn’s Programmers are Missing the Mark

LinkedIn tells me I’ve been a member (aka, had a free profile) since January 25, 2010. Twice I’ve subscribed to the job seeker upgrade ($19.99/mo) when exploring career change opportunities. Once, for an extended period of time, I joined groups and mined connections in an effort to populate a list of prospective clients for an employer.

Two of the features that made the connection mining successful were Notes and Tags.

  • With Notes, I could identify how I found or knew the connection and what communication exchanges we’d had.
  • With Tags, I could create a collection of features by which to define each connection that would make it easy for me to search for smaller subsets of clients based on what my employer-at-the-time was focusing in sales and products.

linkedin-notes-and-tagsAnd today, January 11, 2017, LinkedIn sent me an email to tell me, since they know I use Notes and Tags, that they are discontinuing the two features but that, if I subscribe to their new service Sales Navigator, I’ll still be able to capture similar information.

I’ve watched LinkedIn struggle to find/create an identity for itself as part of the rise of social media. But its continued attempt to be both a sales CRM, competing with giants like Salesforce and Zoho, and an ATS, competing with giants like Indeed and iCIMS, while providing no content filters to minimize political, entertainment, and personal ad posts is crippling this platform.

Yep, I said it. LinkedIn’s programming and development priority towards revenue-generating strategic repositioning should be to create and implement an automated and a manual system for filtering content.

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

Pantry Magic: Chicken Enchiladas

img_1458The request: chicken enchiladas.

The problem: no one shopped for enchiladas this week.

The pantry, fridge, and freezer produce the following:

  • frozen chicken breasts and thighs
  • frozen turkey stock from Thanksgiving
  • bag of Mexican blend shredded cheese
  • half a wheel of Mexican fresco crumbly cheese
  • an absurd number of cans of chopped chiles
  • 1 can of refried beans
  • 1 can of enchilada sauce
  • 1 can of Rotel tomatoes
  • 1 baggie of leftover soft tortilla boats and crunchy corn taco shells

And with this, I made the requested chicken enchiladas!

NOTE: while this particular collection of ingredients includes gluten and corn elements, it’s super easy to make this both corn and gluten free with homemade or Pacific stock and Harris Teeter Naturals refried beans or Natural Value organic refried beans. So far there are no flour tortillas that are both gluten free and corn free, and many contain soy. This is a great time to try your hand at making your own GF/CF flour tortillas with one of the many flour-based or cauliflower tortilla recipes available online; it’s a simple and quick process! I get around the tortilla issue by baking a small dish of the filling and eating over rice; it’s a great way to use up leftover rice from a previous meal or even takeout.

Boil the chicken for 15 minutes if boneless or a good 30 minutes if bone-in. While it’s boiling, get out a casserole baking dish and lay out the soft taco boats and the crunch taco shells so that you get the most in that you can. I was going for 8 taco boats and 6 taco shells. Since the chicken is still boiling, smear a spoonful or so of refried beans in the bottom of each boat and shell; add/repeat until you’ve used the whole can.

Should be close to time to drain and cool and shred the chicken.

Saute 1 chopped onion and 1-2 cans of green chopped chiles, no oil necessary. Yes, you can use fresh chiles, but this is about using what’s in the pantry and not having to go to the store to make dinner.

Whisk 1/4 cup all purpose flour (gluten free all purpose flour works too) with 1/4 cup of your favorite cooking oil or melted butter in a bowl and add the blend to the sauce pan on top of the onions and chiles on medium until the mixture bubbles briskly. Add 1 cup turkey stock (or chicken or vegetable stock from a can or box) and 1/2 cup of milk (unsweetened, not vanilla almond milk or soy milk will work, but not rice milk). This will make a “white sauce” or loose turkey gravy. Add about a cup of cheese and stir until completely blended; I’m using the crumbly fresco cheese.

Mix the shredded chicken into the pot.

Spoon the mixture into each boat and shell until you’ve used it all. If you’ve got some leftover, pour it into a small baking dish to serve over rice or dip with chips.

img_1459Top each boat with one or both of the enchilada sauces. I prefer the green, but we only had a small can of red enchilada sauce.

Sprinkle up to 2 cups of shredded cheese on top.

Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes to get the enchilada filling good and bubbly and all of the cheese topping lovely and melty.

Sometimes it really is that simple. Ugly, but incredibly yummy!

Posted in Cooking, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Faux-sagna: Lasagna with help from Cheese Ravioli

img_1455I’m not anti lasagna noodle – whether the traditional cooked kind or the no-cook kind. But when I can combine two steps in the mixing and layering into just one, it makes assembling a lasagna so much easier.

And when you add using the delicious Celentano frozen gluten free cheese raviolis, you’ll have a wonderful, luscious lasagna to enjoy.

Today’s faux-sagna is vegetarian, makes 4 servings, and will be my lunch for this week:

  • 1 bag of Celentano frozen gluten free cheese ravioli
  • 1 jar of organic marinara (I’m using Publix Greenwise Roasted Garlic marinara)
  • 3 cups of chopped vegetables that you like (I’m using onion, tri peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini)
  • 1T preferred cooking oil (I use Pompeian Grapeseed Oil)
  • 2-4 cups shredded mozzarella (I’m using Publix shredded part-skim, low moisture mozzarella)

Boil your ravioli according to package instructions; drain and let hang out in the colander – it won’t hurt a thing.

Onions, tri peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and garlic.
Onions, tri peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and garlic.

In the same pot you boiled the ravioli, heat 1 T cooking oil on medium and drop in all of the veg at once. Lightly salt and pepper your veg and cook for 15-20 minutes until onions are translucent, peppers and mushrooms are darker in color, and zucchini slices are soft and fold easily. Remove from heat and prepare to layer.

My layering protocol is (from bottom to top of an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish):

  • Layer 1 of Raviolisauce
  • ravioli (12 pieces)
  • veg
  • cheese
  • sauce (use a spoon to tamp down the lumps and smooth out the surface for beginning the next layer)
  • ravioli (9 pieces)
  • veg
  • One full set of layerscheese
  • sauce
  • cheese

Before topping with that last layer of cheese, use a spoon to tamp down the lumps and smooth out the sauce, making sure the sauce goes all the way to the edges. That’s key for ensuring the pasta doesn’t dry out when you bake it.

TIP: make sure you get all of the sauce out of the jar by adding 1/4 cup of red wine or balsamic vinegar. Cap the jar and shake well. Pour the sauce and liquid right on top of the lasagna.

Remember, as long as you get it all in the pan and you’ve got a layer of ravioli stabilizing it at the bottom, your layering game can’t be wrong.

Full to the top and ready to bake!If I’m planning to eat the first serving the same day I make it, I’ll pop it into the oven to melt the cheese and blend the flavors at 350°F for 20 minutes. Otherwise, it goes in the fridge until I’m ready, when I’ll cook it at 350°F for 30 minutes – it takes a little longer when it comes straight from the fridge. After the initial cooking, I’ll heat individual servings on a plate in the microwave for 2 minutes, check, and then perhaps 1 minute more, depending on the microwave strength.

Why this isn’t corn free:

  • the Celentano gluten free pasta uses blends/ingredients that contain corn starch, the BIG BAD dextrose (aka corn syrup), and white vinegar
  • all pre-grated cheeses contain corn starch, which is used to keep the shreds separated
Posted in Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Cream of Mushroom Soup

img_1452These days most people have relegated cream of mushroom soup, specifically the thickened condensed version, to casseroles, but I was reminded a few days ago of my love of cream of mushroom soup as a straight up soup, especially with an ounce of brie crumbled and melted into it!

Here’s my gluten free and corn free cream of mushroom soup, which I’ll put up in 1.5 cup servings for freezing.

Makes 4 1-cup servings or 3 1.5 cup servings. The 1.5 cup serving is comparable to 1 can of condensed cream of mushroom soup frequently used in green bean casserole or creamy chicken and rice with peas.

If you’re serving as soup, don’t forget to crumble an ounce (or two) of brie into the steaming hot bowl before serving.

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces baby bella mushrooms (whole or sliced, doesn’t matter)
  • 4-8 ounces of any other mushrooms you like (I add a wild mushroom blend available from Publix)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup gluten free, corn free all purpose flour blend (Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour)
  • 1/4 cup of your favorite cooking oil (I use Pompeian Grapeseed Oil)
  • 1 cup whole milk or heavy cream (soy and almond milk will produce similar result; rice milk will not)
  • 4 cups mushroom or vegetable broth (I use Pacific Organic Vegetable Broth)
  • 1/4 t kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • Optional: 1-2 ounces of brie per serving, to be crumbled into the hot soup to melt

Add 1 T of your favorite cooking oil and 4 cloves of garlic to your stock pot over medium heat. You’ll observe the medium setting or you’ll burn your mushrooms and have a bitter soup.

img_1441Finely chop the mushrooms in your food processor (Cuisinart). If you don’t have a food processor, borrow one. You’ll thank me after your first hand-chopped or too-big-pieces batch! I find it easiest and fastest to do this in three batches, basically one batch per 8 oz container of mushrooms. Dump straight into the stock pot as you chop each batch.

img_1446Cook the mushrooms and garlic on medium for 15-20 minutes. You’ll see a lot of liquid bubble up out of the mushrooms, and your goal is to get that gone. You’ll both see the dry pan and begin to smell a slightly beefy aroma from the pot. That’s when you’re ready for the next step.

img_1444While you’re waiting for the mushroom water to cook all out, whisk together the all purpose flour and the oil; this is roux (pronounced “roo” like kangaroo), used to thicken liquids into thickened broth, cream soups or gravies. NOTE: if you find the first batch not thick enough for you, next time increase both ingredients to 1/3 cup; the more roux you use, the thicker your soup will be.

img_1447Once you’re sure all of the mushroom water is cooked out, make a hole in the mushrooms and pour in the roux. Let it bubble up for about 30 seconds and then stir it around into the mushrooms. Add the cup of milk/cream and keep stirring. It’ll look a little oatmeally at this point.

img_1449Add your vegetable or mushroom stock by 1 cup portions, stirring to combine before adding the next portion, until you’ve added 4 cups. And since that 32 oz box of stock is 4 cups, you can certainly guess your way through this step and just pour straight from the box.

img_1451Bring everything to a boil and let boil and bubble for about 3 minutes, stirring. Lower heat to the lowest setting you can and simmer for 30 minutes.

NOTE: If you’re using gluten free flour, you’ll see a “scum” or skin form on top of the soup; this is what happens when you try to get milk fats to combine with flour that has no gluten. Keep the skin; love the skin; use a whisk to re-blend the skin into the soup. This is part of how a gluten free flour thickens liquids when it has no gluten.

Turn heat off, leave the pot on the burner, and let cool before prepping individual servings for freezing or storing in a large container for refrigerator storage.

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking

Soy and Teriyaki Sauce Alternative – soy free, corn free, gluten free

I’ve got a growing group of friends who have straight up food allergies to corn, gluten, soy – and, Lord help me, all three! And that makes safe store-bought sauces that most think of as a single ingredient not nearly impossible but actually impossible.

Hibachi-at-home: steak, scallops, veggies (zucchini, carrot, onion, peas), rice.
Hibachi-at-home: steak, scallops, veggies (zucchini, carrot, onion, peas), rice – using this homemade soy sauce turned into teriyaki sauce.

Here’s my alternative to soy sauce when cooking for them – and now myself since I can control the sodium level so much more!

  • 1/4 cup strong beef or mushroom broth (use homemade or Pacific brand)
  • 1/4 cup organic apple cider vinegar (make your own with this recipe)
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 2 T molasses – be sure to get organic and check the label for corn syrup or corn-derived additives – I get mine raw from a local farm
  • 2 cloves finely minced garlic – I recommend using a garlic press
  • 1/2-inch of fresh, finely minced ginger – I recommend using a cheese grater
  • 1/4 t finely ground pepper
  • kosher or sea salt – add in 1/4 t amounts until you achieve the soy sauce saltiness you like

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Cool and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Did you know that Teriyaki Sauce is nothing more than a sweeter soy sauce? Add 1/2 to 3/4 cups of this soy-free soy sauce to a sauce pan with 1/2 cup corn-free brown sugar, combine well and simmer for 20 minutes.

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

Comforting Beef Stroganoff Casserole

Recently, I found myself craving something beefy and comforting, so I put out a call for ideas on Facebook. Boy, did my girlies come through for me. Beef Stroganoff. It has a rich history as a classic Russian dish. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s got its own website! But essentially, this dish is beef cooked in a creamy mushroom sauce.

Having spent a delicious month in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1993, I know that, at least at that time, most Russians didn’t have regular access to good cuts of beef, and I learned that both of my Russian families made their beef stroganoff about the same way: cooking down wild, handpicked mushrooms and onions, adding some beef in to brown, deglazing with some water (making a bit of broth), and cooking this for several hours on low, then adding in some sour cream at the end to thicken up the sauce.

Sounds like the perfect crock pot recipe to me, but I wanted something a little more compact since I’d be at work all day and wanted my family to be able to put dinner together themselves. So I settled on a casserole that achieves the same purpose and delivers 4 healthy servings an no leftovers to junk up the fridge.

Ingredients (in order of preparation)

  • 1/2 bag of egg noodles, cooked and drained (for gluten free and corn free, use Lehman’s Gluten Free Homestyle Egg Noodles)
  • 2 large green peppers, roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 8 oz sliced portabella mushrooms, chopped (alternatives: white button or baby bella)
  • 1 lb beef, chicken, or pork (cubed beef is traditional; ground is a great, less expensive alternative)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup (for gluten free and corn free, use Pacific GF cream of mushroom soup or my homemade recipe)
  • 1 cup sour cream (or milk if you’re out of sour cream)
  • 1/4 t kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 t ground pepper

You can see I’ve gone with a little help from the pantry rather than a totally-from-scratch recipe.

So I start with cooking the noodles. When they are drained, pour them into a casserole dish, lightly sprayed with cooking spray if you’re worried about sticking, which is not usually a problem.

Next I move on to the veggies…on medium heat and with 1 t of your favorite cooking oil, sweat the water out of the mushrooms and then add the peppers and onions for a quick saute; I’ve stopped cooking veggies in oil. I do these separate because I want to make sure they keep their crunch. If I put them in with the meat and sauce, they would cook down and have no texture left to liven up the casserole when it’s heated. Before they start getting brown, dump them in with the noodles and give it all a quick stir.

The last part is just as quick. We had some venison stew meat already cut up, so I tossed that into a pan with a little olive oil. When it gets just barely cooked through, dump in the cream of mushroom soup and sour cream, stir, and simmer for maybe 10 minutes, mostly to make sure the sauce comes together. Then dump this in with the noodles, peppers and onions, stir, and viola! Beef Stroganoff Casserole.

Now, certainly, you can pop this in the oven to finish and serve it up in about half an hour.

But I needed this as a make-ahead. And here are the instructions I’ll leave for the family to follow tomorrow:

To have dinner ready to eat by 6:30 pm, start at 5:45 pm

  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Take the casserole out of the fridge and stir slowly and carefully
  • Cover the casserole with aluminum foil
  • Put the casserole in the oven for 30 minutes
  • Take the foil cover off and put in for another 15 minutes

As I’ve got Harris Teeter brown and serve rolls to go with mine, I’ll add the rolls during the final cook since they take 12-15 minutes. My folks will also be cooking up some sauteed squash and onion to go with this casserole.

For 8 nutritional servings or for 6 fuller servings, double the noodle, beef, and soup quantities; I also fully double the veggies, but that can be too much for many. Do not double the sour cream; there’s no need.