Living in a new place is many things . . .

I have lived in Kentucky for six months now. I have a lovely home, a beautiful man, and blessings abound. I want for nothing but a job and new friends. It’s frustrating to know that I have skills and value but can’t convince anyone else of that. Yes, I have my passions but I also have a need to work and ultimately I’m not that picky about what I do for emplyement. I want to be of value, use the professional skills I’ve developed and support my hobbies.

Speaking of which, last October I planted some crocus and tulips. It’s the end of February and they are already coming up. I hope a freeze doesn’t get them. I’m amazed they’re coming up at all but I would have liked them to come up when they were supposed to.  I’m anxious to get started on my garden. I bought a giant book on gardening and I’m learning more about planting vegetables. I’m going to start slow but I hope to grow some cucumbers, cabbage, lettuce, green beans, potatoes and perhaps even some corn.

Speaking of gardening, I’m thinking of applying at the local green house. This will function to teach me more about planting (especially her in Kentucky).

I realize this blog is rather boring and I haven’t said a single informative thing. Nor have I made you laugh. I’ll work on that. I will say that I’m probably going to get in trouble with D because I opened a bottle of wine that was probably one he wanted to save. It’s delicious. I mean YUMMY!

Guess I’ll get back to cooking this weekend for D. I’ll keep you updated.

Another job rejection … so I baked and made soup.

Comfort food. If there’s one thing my mother taught me to do well it’s comfort food. I’m battling depression over my lack of employment by baking whole grain rolls and making super spicy Mexican Chicken Soup (aka … white chili). One is really good for you and the other just makes you feel really good.

Mama taught me how. These rolls are amazing and the soup is spicy!

It took me a several tries to get mom’s dinner roll recipe right but I have done it. I even managed to put them together without calling mom to make sure I was doing it right. It’s something you learn to do by feel. I even remembered the right amount of salt! Miracles never cease. I can’t wait to see Derek’s face when he bites into one of these rolls. If he wasn’t convinced I knew how to cook before, he most certainly will now.

Modesty would be becoming right now I know but I needed an ego boost, even if I had to do it myself.

The soup on the other hand may turn out to be just too hot. I’m going to attempt to temper it by thickening it up some but that usually won’t work. We’ll just dump some tortilla chips and sour cream in it and hope for the best. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some spicy food but no one want’s blisters when they eat.

I suppose the moral of this story is when you’re feeling down about your life and skills or ability to do something right, go do the one thing you KNOW that you can do well and it will help to mend your heart at bit. I know what I can do is cook. I love doing it. I am afraid to translate that into a career for reasons I can’t articulate. It’s pressing on my spirit however and eventually I will find a way.

Happy eating ya’ll!

Only a slight dilemma . . .

I want to cook. I need to lose some weight. The things I want to cook always lean toward baking some tasty item like a cake, cookies or some other non-diet item. What to do what to do.
I suppose what this really means is I need a freaking job so I have something to do besides wander around my house cleaning, listening to Stephen King’s audiobook, “The Stand”. I read the book as a teenager and loved it. I’m listening to it now and it’s just as wonderful as the first time.

So, what should I do? Boredom sucks!

Learning the right way …

I love it when I figure out how to do something well. Cooking is after all for most of us a big risk and opportunity to fail. I love when I make something the right way and the response to it is, “Oh, wow! This is great!”. That’s how I learned to properly bake chicken breasts.

For years now I have been cooking chicken breast by cutting into bite size pieces and marinating them in what ever sounded good at the time then browning them and eating in a stir fry kind of way.  Recently however, I learned how to bake a bone-in chicken breast and have it turn out juicy and flavorful. I admit it, I was on the low cal, low fat bandwagon, and believe me I still am. What I have discovered though, is that you do not have to skip those flavor inducing tricks in order to have a healthy low cal, low fat dish.

What’s the secret you ask? Temperature, oven rack placement and time. The temperature of the chicken when placed inside the oven is important. The juices will stay inside the meat if you don’t place freezing cold chicken in the oven. Make sure your chicken is nearly room temperature before placing in a hot oven. I don’t understand the physics of it but after many bad attempts I know this to be true.

For years, I’ve always baked my chicken at 350. Wrong. Bump the temperature up to 400 and the oven rack in the upper two-thirds of the oven (electric) and the juices are sealed inside the meat. Cook it for 25-30 with the skin down. Yes, you need to buy chicken breasts with skin and bones, it’s only way to truly retain the proper flavor. Then flip the oven to broil and the chicken skin side up and broil for 2-3 more minutes (max). This will crisp up the chicken nicely and seal juices in even better. Once the chicken is done, let it set for no less than 5 minutes before cutting into.

Try it this way just once and you will not want to have chicken any other way. Promise. Now for many of you I’m sure this is old news. But for the novice or even learned cooks (as I consider myself) this can be the difference between dry tasteless chicken or over seasoned bite-sized pieces.

Enjoy ya’ll.

Muffins … bran muffins … oh how I want a perfect one.

Perhaps because I’m in my early forties and regularity has suddenly become very important to me. I thought this is a sexy topic I can explore, come along with me and we’ll make a tasty treat!

I have been trying to bake the perfect bran muffin since I had my mother-in-law’s at Christmas. My first attempt was tasty but very, very, very dense. Very dense. To be honest I neglected to add enough yogurt. Oh, and I forgot to include the raisins. Lesson learned. The second batch was much better because I actually measured the correct amount of yogurt and included the raisins but they were still very dense. Perhaps, that’s okay and that’s how they are supposed to turn out. We ate them all because they did taste good but I really wanted a lighter texture.

I’ve been using Kellogg’s All-Bran for the recipe which it seems is recommended by most recipes and makes a tasty muffin. This time I switched it up by used half All-Bran and half Hodgkin’s Mill wheat bran. I also add in two tablespoons of flax-meal to all of these which in the end turned out spectacular, see look . . .

MY Delicious bran muffins ... trust me they are a joy to eat!

No, they don’t look sexy but boy do they taste good! I got the base recipe from, you guessed it, Cook’s Illustrated but I modified it in several points. Yes, that is shocking! Here are the deets:

1 cup raisins
1 tsp water
2-1/4 cups (5 oz) All-Bran Original cereal
1 cup plus 2 tbsp (6.25 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 c (2-3/4 oz) whole wheat flour
2 tbsp flax meal
2 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg plus one large yolk
2/3 cup packed (4-2/3 oz) brown sugar (I used dark)
3 tbsp molasses or sorghum
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp unsalted butter melted & cooled
1-3/4 cups plain greek style yogurt
1/2 cup buttermilk

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 2, 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray OR use what I use, a twelve -cup stoneware muffin pan (mine is from Pampered Chef) which I LOVE!

2. Combine raisins and water in small bowl, cover, and microwave for 30 seconds. Let stand, covered, until raisins are softened and plump, about 5 minutes. Transfer raisins to prepare plate to cool.

3. Whisk all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, flax meal, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until well combined and set aside. Whisk egg and egg yolk together in medium bowl until well combined and light-colored, about 20 seconds. Add sugar, molasses, and vanilla to bowl with eggs and whisk until mixture is thick, about 30 seconds. Add melted butter and whisk to combine. Add yogurt and buttermilk, whisk to combine. Stir in wheat bran and All-Bran until well combined and let mixture sit until cereal is evenly moistened, about 5 minutes.

4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix gently with rubber spatula until batter is just combined and evenly moistened (do not over mix.) Gently fold raisins into batter. Spoon batter evenly into all muffin cups. Do not flatten or level.

5. Bake until muffins are dark golden and toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out with few crumbs attached, 16 to 20 minutes, rotating muffin tin halfway through baking. Let muffins cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.