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Chicken boring??? Not with this recipe

I used to think chicken was boring. Dry, flavorless chicken or fried chicken used to be the norm. I have been experimenting with different flavors and cooking techniques, and I haven’t had boring chicken in a long time.

One of my favorite new chicken recipes is a version of Apricot Chicken.  All you need besides the chicken, is some apricot preserves, either catalina or russian dressing, and onion soup mix. I serve this over rice. If  you like a little heat, you can add a drop or two of hot sauce.

Apricot Chicken

Ingredients
6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1 package dry onion soup mix
1 (10 fluid ounce) bottle Russian-style or Catalina salad dressing
1 cup apricot preserves (I used low sugar apricot preserves)
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place the chicken pieces in a 4 quart casserole dish. Mix the soup mix, dressing and jam together, and pour over the chicken.
  3. Cover dish and bake for 1 hour in preheated oven.               
  4. Serve over rice.

The BEST…

Mike and I like to watch “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”. Recently they were talking about the best thing they ever ate at a Deli, but I’ve seen the best desserts, the best steak, the best breakfast. This show always makes me think about what I would say is the best thing I ever ate. So here goes…the best things I’ve ever eaten, in no particular order…

1. Buffalo wrap from Shakey Jake’s in Stanhope, NJ. When Mike and I first got married, we lived in Netcong, NJ. One day we were out and about and got really hungry. We stopped at a small local bar near home and found our very first “favorite” place as a married couple. We have never had a bad meal there. The buffalo wrap had deliciously seasoned slices of buffalo, lettuce, and tomato all wrapped up in a tortilla. The juicy buffalo, which is difficult to do, keeps the wrap moist and delicious. A generous side of waffle fries completes the meal. We don’t live in New Jersey anymore, so I’m not sure if they still serve the buffalo wrap. If it’s not on the menu, make sure you ask your server. The owner, Chuck, will prepare off menu items for you.

2. Bang Bang Shrimp from Bonefish Grill, Ft. Myers, FL. Mike took me to the Bonefish Grill for our anniversary last year. It came highly recommended by several friends. We were told to make sure we tried the Bang Bang Shrimp appetizer. It was great advice. First, I have to tell you that they also make an AWESOME fresh apple martini. Be careful though, they are STRONG!!!) The Bang Bang Shrimp came out and it was delightful. It was served on a bed of lettuce in a bowl. The shrimp was lightly breaded to a crisp. Then it was tossed in this spicy tangy sauce that was to die for. We WILL be going back.

3. Changs Chicken Lettuce Wraps from P.F. Changs, Ft. Myers, FL. Mike and I love to visit Ft. Myers. There are so many restaurants down there and we are slowly working our way through them. Our visit to P.F. Changs was so wonderful that I’m actually writing the company to thank them. Our waiter was the best waiter I’ve ever experienced. Between the taste of Hot & Sour soup that he let me have to see if I would like it, to the FREE Chicken Lettuce Wrap appetizer that he treated me to because it was my first visit to P.F. Changs, he really went above and beyond to make our experience a good one. Now to the Chicken Lettuce Wrap appetizer – A plate of 4 huge crispy lettuce leaves came out with a delectable plate covered with crispy rice sticks was topped with a delicious mix of chicken, mushrooms, green onions, and water chestnuts. Take a spoonful of the meat mixture and put it on the lettuce leaf and wrap it up. On a side note, when the waiter wrapped up the leftovers, he included extra rice for my honey chicken AND fresh crispy lettuce leaves for the wraps. The food was delicious and the service was stellar.

4.  Sausage and Lentil Soup from Carrabba’s, Port Charlotte, FL – What can I say about Carrabba’s?  For an Italian chain restaurant, they never disappoint me.  A bowl of their sausage and lentil soup happens to be a bowl of happiness. From the spicy deliciousness of the sausage to the freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top, it is one of my favorite soups I’ve ever had in a restaurant.  I would be happy to just have a bowl of that soup and a glass (or two) of their blackberry sangria. Oh wait…I love their ravioli too.

5. The Shrimp Toast from Nine Dragons Restaurant at Epcot, Orlando, FL – Perhaps the most delicious, crispy treat I’ve ever eaten at Walt Disney World.  I can’t even put the flavor into words.  If you go to Epcot, make sure to save room for this appetizer.

6. Bacon and American cheese omelet at Peter’s Family Restaurant in Port Charlotte, FL – Peter’s gets this omelet right.  I hate when bacon is chewy.  The bacon in this omelet is crunchy and delicious.  The flavor of the American cheese, bacon, and egg mix so well together.  Just the memory of the last time I had this makes my mouth water.  It think it’s time to go visit Peter’s.

7.  The Garlic & Butter Blue Crab Clusters from Pincher’s Crab Shack, Fort Myers, FL –  I was dying for seafood and I asked Mike if we could try this restaurant one time when we were in Fort Myers.  I love crab, but hate digging the meat out of the shells, so I figured I’d get an order of crab cakes…until I read the description of this fantastic meal. Blue crabs are cut in half for easy access and sauteed in butter and fresh garlic.  So delicious and sooooo messy…but worth it.  I have to add that the crab and corn chowder was to die for.  I can’t wait to go back for more.

8. Carrot cake from Publix – I noticed a distinct lack of desserts on my list.  I know that you were expecting something more exciting than a cake from a grocery store, but I can’t help it.  Publix bakery has raised the grocery store bakery bar with their carrot cake.  The cake is moist and delicious and the cream cheese icing is to die for.  During “snow bird” season, I go through carrot cake withdrawal because the “two slice” carrot cake packages are usually sold out before I can get to them.  Only three more months to go!!!

9.  Apple Chimi Cheesecake from Applebees – This post is a sad one because Applebees no longer serves this delicious dessert.  Soft tortillas filled with apple pie and cheese cake filling, rolled, toasted, and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.  This was the only reason I ever went to Applebees.  I don’t go there anymore. I did manage to find a copy cat recipe for these and I think I’m going to make them and, if you are good, I will post it in my blog with pictures.

10.  Fish Tacos from Bar Louie – I love these fish tacos.  The flavors all mix together to make my mouth and my tummy happy.  I found a copy cat recipe for this one and I’m currently working on lightening it up.  I feel another blog coming up.

What are the 10 best things YOU ever ate????

Once a month cooking…is it for me??

I have been toying with the idea of trying a monthly cooking day where I prepare a months worth of meals in one day.  I’ve been having a hard time sticking to eating healthy due to Mike’s and my own work schedules.  My schedule is going to get even tougher with my job moving to a different library farther away from home with later hours. So, do I want to try to use up one of my days off and cook an entire months worth of meals in one day and freeze them?  I’m not sure.

I have found a really cool website that provides a monthly menu utilizing foods that are on sale that month.  You get a shopping list, chopping instructions, recipe cards, and printable food labels showing reheating instructions…all for free.  The website is http://onceamonthmom.com/. There are several menus to choose from: Traditional, Whole Foods, Gluten/Dairy Free, Diet, Baby Food, and Vegetarian.  Each menu has a downloadable recipe card that lets you change the number of people you are preparing for and adjust the shopping list and instructions for that many people.  On each of the recipe cards, they show the number and type of container you will need to put the meal in.  I have been exploring this website for about a month and I’ve been impressed with the recipes. They just started a “mini” menu which consists of 10 days worth of meals.  I may start with that one to see if I like it and want to do a whole months worth. If I decide to do this, I will post a full blog with photos.

Christmas dinner for my husband

I haven’t had much to post lately because I haven’t had much of a chance to cook.  No Thanksgiving dinner. No Christmas Eve feast. No delicious dinner on Christmas day.  This year I was a guest.  I know, I know…a lot of people would be happy to not have to cook a complicated holiday meal.  Well, I’m NOT most people.  I love everything about preparing a meal, whether it is just for Mike or for a whole crowd. I love chosing the main dish and the sides. I love trying new recipes before hand to see if it is something I want to cook for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I was extremely sad knowing that I would not get to cook for Thanksgiving OR Christmas. So, today I decided that, since I’m not working, I will prepare a Christmas dinner for my husband.

Roast beef with roasted tiny red potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Here is the before picture of dinner in my new Paula Deen roasting pan.

This is a really easy recipe for delicious roast beef.  Take roast out of refrigerator one half hour before cooking to bring to room temperature.  Place in roasting pan, sprinkle with garlic powder (NOT SALT) and cover with thinly sliced onion. If you are roasting veggies with it, place around the roast. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Once oven hits temperature, put roast into oven and set timer for 15 minutes.  When timer goes off, turn the oven off. DO NOT OPEN OVEN. Leave roast in the oven for 15 minutes per pound. (Thi one was in for 1 hour and 15 minutes.) Remove from oven and let the roast rest for 15 minutes before cutting.  DELISH!!

The finished product…

I can’t wait to feed him. It will finally feel like Christmas tonight. Merry Christmas, Mike!

The Thanksgiving Feast

As exhausting as it usually is, my favorite meal to cook is Thanksgiving dinner. Cooking the perfect turkey and preparing wonderful side dishes to complement the meal and then seeing the satisfied smiles on my family’s face is the most wonderful feeling.

This year at my house there will be no delicious smell of the turkey roasting, sounds of the mixer mashing the potatoes, or splashing of the folks washing dishes in the sink with talking and laughing. This year, we are not hosting Thanksgiving. We are going to be guests. Since there will be no new recipes to write about, I thought I would write about the previous eight Thanksgiving meals I have cooked since Mike and I got hitched.

Growing up in a three generation home was fantastic. Having our grandmother live with us as my brothers and I grew up exposed us to the wonderful stories of the past. Being the third female in the house however, relegated me to the position of sous chef’s assistant in the kitchen. I am NOT complaining that I didn’t get much “hands on” kitchen experience because I would give just about anything to be in my parents’ kitchen working with Mom and Gram to make that wonderful Thanksgiving dinner together one more time That is where I learned to make my delicious giblet gravy! (Yes Mom and Gram I WAS paying attention.) I was chopper and stirrer back then. When I got married all of a sudden I had to actually cook and feed my husband. I have many funny stories about my exploits in the kitchen but today I will stick to Thanksgiving stories.

How many times has my turkey not thawed in time to put right in the oven??? Out of 9 Thanksgivings together, my count is FIVE! Yes, I know, more than half of the time but I managed to get things done in time to eat. Thank you Alton Brown for sharing your quick turkey thawing prowess with the world!!!

Two years ago, my husband bought a 23 pound turkey for me to cook because he wanted lots of leftovers. It took so long to cook that darned bird that I believe we would have eaten it raw because we were so hungry. Luckily this was NOT one of the five ” not completely thawed” turkeys.

Number of times I have cooked the little bags of goodies inside the turkey? TWO. Yup, I apparently didn’t learn my lesson the first time.

Let me set the scene from last years Thanksgiving – turkey in the oven, parade on TV, guests on their way and zzzztttzzztt – the oven dies. Yes folks, the oven DIED while my turkey was cooking. What’s a girl to do???? In case this ever happens to YOU, here is my solution. I cut ALL the meat off the turkey and pan fried it. Instead of turkey drippings to flavor the gravy, I deglazed the pan. Dinner turned out delicious but it just wasn’t the same as that toasty, roasty delicious oven baked goodness.

And I saved my best “lesson learned” story for last. It was the eve of our first Thanksgiving that we were hosting at our tiny little apartment in NJ. My parents and paren-in-laws were coming for dinner the next day. Mike was working the crazy hours at the mall and I was home “prepping” for the next day. I opened a bottle of wine and by the time Mike got home, I had polished that sucker off and was feeling no pain. I was, however, feeling the pain the next day. I learned that cooking Thanksgiving dinner for six was not very easy or fun when hungover. Lesson learned. I have NOT repeated that mistake twice!!

Enjoy your family time and eat that delicious meal. Keep our troops and their families in your prayers. They are not together today because they are keeping our world safe. Thank God for what you have and what you DON’T have and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.