Monday, June 30, 2008

Sesame Chicken and Noodles (Spaghetti)

I must be on a sesame kick this week. That bottle of sesame oil will sit unused in the fridge for months at a time, and then when I do finally pull it out, I can't seem to get enough of it. I'm still using up graduation party leftovers, and I had some green onions that were going to have to get tossed if I didn't use them today. I rummaged through the freezer and finally found that little stump of ginger I knew I had in there. I buy ginger about once every six months, peel it and chunk it into smaller sections, then freeze it. That way I always have real ginger to use in recipes.

Molly started her job at McDonalds tonight and I can't believe she opted to eat this before she left for her shift. She's still in that Big Mac phase of life. I have a feeling that's about to pass.

Sesame chicken and noodles (spaghetti)

8 oz spaghetti
8 chicken tenderloins
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup reduced sodium teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. fresh grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
couple dashes of Tabasco
1 Tbsp olive oil, for sauteing
1 tsp corn starch
salt and pepper
green onions, thinly sliced for garnish
sesame seeds for garnish

Combine soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and Tabasco in a bowl and whisk to dissolve sugar. Pour mixture into a gallon baggie and add chicken; mix chicken with marinade. Remove air from baggie and seal. Return to refrigerator for 3-4 hours.

Boil spaghetti in salted water according to box directions while sauteing the chicken.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Remove tenders from baggie, reserving marinade. Lightly season the tenders with salt and pepper and saute in the oil until juices run clear (approximately 2-3 minutes per side) Remove tenders to a plate. Add reserved marinade to skillet and bring back to a boil. Dissolve corn starch in a little bit of water, add to skillet and boil sauce until thickened. Return tenders to skillet. Serve tenders and sauce on a bed of spaghetti. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds.

Spicy Sesame Wings

Ask a hundred people what their favorite chicken wing sauce flavor is and you'll get a hundred different answers. That's how defined and specific we are about the flavors we want enhancing our favorite junk food part of the chicken. Sweet, spicy, tangy, just plain hot, and every combination of the above will fill in the answer sheet of that chicken wing questionnaire you're handing out.

We do chicken wings on the grill all the time. I'm the sauce maker and hubby is the grillmeister. Throughout the years we've practiced and refined our techniques (both sauces and grill) and finally last night came up with what he and I feel are the best wings we've ever had, both at home and in restaurants. Mind you, the fact that we BOTH agreed on this propels us into an entirely new dimension : we now wing as one.

Below is our recipe. Please keep in mind that I typed his grill directions, and although I made him read what I'd written, he had one eye on the TV at the time (football game reruns from last year... as if watching paint dry the FIRST time wasn't boring enough.) So I apologize in advance for any grill direction mistakes I may have made.

Spicy Sesame Wings

2 1/2 pound bag of frozen chicken wing sections (we like both the size and the flavor of Tyson)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
spray bottle
non-stick aluminum foil

Combine oil, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce and pour into a small spray bottle. Shake well to combine and each time spray is used. Heat grill on medium heat. Salt and pepper wing sections. Place wing sections on grill rack on direct heat. Brown wings on each side, spraying occasionally with oil/vinegar spray. When wings are browned on both sides transfer to sheets of non-stick aluminum foil, return to rack, reduce heat to low, and close lid. Cook for approximately 30-40 minutes (until wings are cooked thoroughly,) turning and spraying at regular intervals. Remove wings from grill. Heat the sauce listed below and place in a lidded container. Add wings, cover with lid and shake to coat. Place wings on platter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Wing Sauce

2 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce (I used reduced sodium)
2 Tbsp Hoisin sauce
1/2 cup tomato sauce (I used marinara sauce because I had some open in the fridge)
2 Tbsp honey
1-2-3-4 tsps. hot sauce, depending on how much heat you can stand
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. 5-spice powder (or more if you like)
1/4 cup sesame oil
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Place oil in a sauce pan and heat on medium heat. Add garlic and stir for one minute (don't let it burn.) Turn off the heat and add the remaining ingredients except the sesame seeds. Stir to combine.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hamburger Vegetable Soup

Soup is a weekly thing with me and is probably my favorite thing to make. There's something cathartic about chopping all those veggies and it's equally fulfilling to know that I've used up all those leftovers, end pieces, and quickly spoiling produce items that are spending their last days in my refrigerator. This week as I surveyed my fridge and freezer, I realized that I needed to find a way to use all the ground beef I'd bought for the graduation party. I'd overestimated the amount I needed (as I nearly always do.) I also saw that I had a couple of red potatoes that had gotten left out of the potato salad. When I saw the container of mushrooms I'd scored at Kroger's yesterday ($1.49 manager's special,) I knew that I had the main ingredients for this week's soup, hamburger vegetable.

The trickiest part of making soup is mastering the blending of flavors that is to become the broth or base. The best cuts of meat and/or the freshest produce will not make up for a bland broth. In most cases beef or chicken stock is needed as the base and this soup is no exception. I used two quarts of homemade beef stock that I had in the freezer, but canned/boxed is fine too.

Hamburger Vegetable Soup

1 lb. ground beef
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced (include the leaves if you've got them)
2 carrots, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
12 oz. button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp. flour
2 quarts beef broth
1 envelope powdered onion soup mix (I used Liptons)
1 beef bouillon cube
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet (browning and seasoning sauce)
3 medium red potatoes, peeled and cubed
couple handfuls of frozen peas ... a cup or so
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, brown ground beef seasoned with salt and pepper. Drain. Set aside

In a soup or stock pot heat the olive oil and add onion, celery, carrots, and green pepper. Season and saute until onion becomes translucent (6-7 minutes) Add the mushrooms and continue sauteing until mushrooms lose their moisture, approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for another minute or two. Sprinkle the flour over this mixture of veggies and stir to combine. Cook for a minute or two, stirring to prevent the flour from burning. Gradually add in the broth, increase heat and bring to a boil. Stir in onion soup mix, bouillon cube, thyme, Kitchen Bouquet and reserved ground beef. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Add potatoes and a 1/2 tsp. of salt and boil for an additional 15 minutes, tossing in the frozen peas just at the very end.

Friday, June 27, 2008

WallWords... Inspirational Overkill?

Our current home was on the market for almost two years before we purchased it last month. It's a lovely home but there are a few things that I feel may have turned buyers away such as the very strong paint colors of many of the rooms. However, I honestly think it's the WallWords that raised most prospective buyers' eyebrows. Wallwords are vinyl pre-pasted, pre-spaced decorative accents to place on walls, windows, mirrors, etc. Famous and inspirational quotes are some of the favorites and there are also graphics that can be used with the words. It's an interesting concept and I suppose I'm not totally against the idea, but it's definitely one of those "a little goes a long way" kind of things. In our eleven room home, only two rooms are without WallWords. There are a total of thirteen different quotes/sayings, leaving several of the rooms with multiple wordgasms. Each of these little ditties cost between $29.00 and $59.00, and has me wondering if I should have had a word rider (writer?) added to our insurance policy.

As you enter our home you're greeted with this saying and I can remember thinking the first time we saw the house that it was a nice touch. That was before I was graffitied to death by the rest of the rooms.

This quote is in the main level bath and is the only one I have memorized since I have to stare at it every time I do my bizness. I find it highly ironic that the one time I actually took these words to heart and "sang like no one was listening" and "danced like no one was watching," the neighbors called the cops on me. I guess there's an exception to every Wall Word rule.

And I'm guessing this one in the laundry room is supposed to inspire me to get creative while doing the laundry. Frankly, I try to spend as little time in there as possible. I don't even sort my laundry. That whole "whites in this pile" and "colors in that pile" thing just reeks of segregation, don't you think? (hee!)

This one should really be inside the freezer with an arrow pointing to the ice cream. Instead it is on our bedroom wall.

However, this picture now hides it because I don't need to be reminded that I'm a real minx in the bedroom. ;)

Love, faith, wisdom and joy must have been particularly difficult concepts for these people, necessitating that they be displayed twice. (I should have 'em down pat in another month or two)

This is the one that SHOULD have been over the bed.
Who needs books when you have walls to read.

As they say, the writing's on the wall

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Stuffed Peppers

While traditionally green peppers are the most popular pepper to stuff, I prefer to stuff the red and yellow varieties. They're much sweeter and don't have a bitter aftertaste that is sometimes found with cooked green peppers. I had some quinoa in my pantry that wasn't getting any younger and some Italian sausage that had been in the freezer for awhile so I decided to combine the two and make a stuffing for my red peppers. Quinoa is one of the world's "super foods." It is a complete protein and is a great source of fiber. Now I know I'm negating some of its healthy greatness by combining it with the fatty sausage, but hey, it's still healthier than if I'd used regular old white rice.

Stuffed Peppers

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups chicken broth

Place the quinoa and broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook until all liquid is absorbed (10-15 minutes) Set aside

3 Red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
1 pound Italian sausage
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup frozen, chopped spinach (thawed and squeezed dry)
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes (in olive oil) finely chopped
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste
one jar marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut peppers in half lengthwise and remove seeds and veins. Place in a shallow baking dish just big enough to hold them.

In a large skillet brown sausage, onions and garlic. Drain. Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes, cheeses, and cooked quinoa. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fill peppers with stuffing and pour half of the marinara sauce over them.

Place in preheated over and bake until peppers are tender, about 45-60 minutes. Baste with the other half of the sauce about halfway through cooking.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Congratulations Molly... and welcome to the neighborhood

We had a graduation party for the baby last weekend. THAT diploma was hard-earned, but that's an entirely different blog entry.

We've only recently moved to our present home, and now live 3-4 hours from the majority of our family and friends. This graduation party was probably as much a "check out our new digs" party as it was a graduation party, so we really did have a high attendance. Everyone who attended stayed the night so before I get lambasted regarding alcohol and driving, there was no such incident. I came from a family of German Catholic beer drinkers, and my childhood memories are comprised of high volume parties with lots of music and laughter. There are nine of us siblings, and we tend to get louder as the night grows longer. Stories start flowing like shit downhill, and each one's recall gets louder than the previous, so by the time the moon rises, we're in full form. Geeze, I love my family.

Our house has a two-tiered deck off the back and we spent the evening listening to music from our IPOD and dancing on the lower level. Around midnight, as we were listening to Le Regiment and lining up to march to "Script Ohio," the cops showed up and put a stop to our little performance. It appears our new neighbors weren't as entertained by our craziness as we hoped they'd be. Such a shame. Had they taken the time to come over and complain to us themselves instead of calling in a complaint, we'd have handed them a beer and asked them to join in the fun. To know us is to love us! Of course I was upset over this. It wasn't the fact that we're now probably labeled "trouble makers" at the police department, but because once again, I'm reminded of how intolerant people have become.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dad's Day... a brick to remember him by

Last weekend (Father's Day) my whole tribe went to Cleveland for an Indian's baseball game. The kids wanted to find a venue where Father's Day could be spent as a family, fun/beer could be had by all, and hopefully wrap up their gift to him in one big tidy weekend package. The plans for this weekend began last fall when my oldest son discovered that he could order a brick that would make his dad part of the Cleveland Indians Stadium forever. Heritage Park, located in the centerfield area of Progressive Field, is the home of the Indians Hall of Fame. It also has a floor made up of bricks, sold at varying prices dependent upon size, with inscribed dedication to whatever/whomever one chooses them to be dedicated to. After much discussion and deliberation, the kids decided on the shown text and ordered the brick to be in place by opening day this season. My oldest son and his wife then went to a game earlier this year, just to find the location of this brick. We arrived at the stadium early (premeditative) giving us plenty of time to wander about and "stumble" upon his brick. I can honestly say that in the 30+ years I've known my husband, I can count on one finger the number of times I've found him speechless, so you now know how this special event panned out. It was an awesome moment and tears were definitely shed.... by all of us.

The above picture shows the replicate souvenir brick that he took home with him. The original is part of the stadium forever. How cool is that?

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Turning 30 nearly did me in. I can still remember laying in bed the night before the big day, and my husband saying "tomorrow you'll be middle-aged." I couldn't get out of bed and to a dictionary fast enough, shaking with fear that I'd be going from barely out of my youth to middle-aged in a matter of a few hours! I breathed a huge sigh of relief when Webster's confirmed that I still had ten more years to go, stating that middle-age started at 40. That was nearly 20 years ago and since that night, I've not only become middle-aged, I've gone through half of my middle-aged years. In a few short weeks I will be 50 years old. Unbelievable.... truly unbelievable.

Twenty years has seemed to fly by so quickly, yet I know so much has happened in those fleeting years. I've raised three children, moved three times, lost a parent, married off a child, and retired. The memories related to all of those events plus the myriad of others would fill equally as many blog pages and be about as interesting to the reader as the slide show that would accompany, so I'll settle for saying that it's been a fun, fulfilling and difficult-at-times ride thus far. I've matured but I'll never grow up. I've mellowed but haven't gone soft. I've learned to not sweat the small stuff, but sometimes still have difficulty sorting out what's large and what's small. And... I'm looking forward to the other side of 50.

This blog is my documentation of those years.