Lemon Sage Chicken Scallopini with Apple Cider Glaze

Butternut Squash, Connie Cockrell

My Butternut Squash Harvest by Connie Cockrell

It’s NaNo! National Novel Writing Month to be exact. If I’m not done with my cozy mystery by now (I’m writing this early in November) I’m darned close. I’ve titled it Mystery at the Fair, and the series is called the Jean Hays Series after my title character. I’ve done the cover too, though I may be tweaking the back cover blurb for awhile yet.

The thyme I talked about last month? I finally got it down, the tiny leaves picked from the stems, an hour and a half of work while I talked to my mom on the phone, and put into a jar. Yay! I picked and washed sage and rosemary and they’re on the rack now. I also picked all of my butternut squash. That’s them up there at the top of the post. I keep them in the garage just like that.

But I held one out to use for supper that night. You can prepare squash by baking, boiling, roasting or grilling. I chose boiling for that meal. Here’s how I prepped the squash. Wash the outside of it with soap and water. On a large cutting board cut the stem and blossom ends off. Then cut the squash in half at the point where the neck meets the round bulb base. That makes the squash easier to handle. Cut the round part in half vertically, not around the wide part of the bulb and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the skin off. It’s too tough to eat. Then cut the neck in half, long-wise and peel that. Cut all of it up into 1 inch dice and put in a saucepan covered with water. A pinch of salt in there will season the squash. Cook for about 1/2 an hour on medium heat and test for doneness with a fork, just like potatoes. Drain, add a little butter, a tablespoon of real maple syrup, and mash. Yummy. There’s our side dish.

Lemon Sage Chicken Scallopini with Apple Cider Glaze

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1T fresh Sage chopped very fine

1 lemon, fine zest and juice

1/2 cup fresh apple cider

1/4 cup gluten free flour

Salt and pepper to taste.

Oil for pan frying

I first heard of Scallopini way back when I was a young wife. I got the recipe out of Women’s Day or Family Circle. Traditionally scallopini is veal but they used chicken breast or pork chops. I now use the basics quite often, mostly with chicken breast. It’s affordable, healthy and very tasty.

Cut the chicken breast in half, horizontally, as though you were butterflying them open, just cut all the way through. You can just butterfly them open but then you have a piece of chicken large enough to cover a dinner plate. I find that to be too much.  Put a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap on your counter. Tear off another to use in a second. Put a breast half on the wax paper. Lay the second sheet on top of the chicken. Pound it out with a meat mallet or a frying pan or a rolling pin until it’s an even thickness all the way around. Do that for all four halves.

Sprinkle the zest, sage, salt and pepper over all four pieces, be sure to sprinkle both sides. Sprinkle the pieces, both sides, with the flour. Preheat the frying pan with a little oil and put the pieces in the hot pan. Fry each side about 5 minutes, over medium heat, sprinkling each piece with lemon juice when you turn them. When both sides are golden brown and you’re pretty sure they’re just about done, pour the apple cider over all the pieces. The cider will deglaze the pan. Cook that until it’s boiled down to a thick glaze, about 5 minutes but be careful, it goes from thick to burnt in a heartbeat.

It’s done. I served this with the squash and quinoa. Hubby declared it delicious.

Thanks for stopping by Chicklets in the Kitchen. Please tell us about your garden or favorite chicken recipe in the comments box below if you feel so inclined.

My name is Connie Cockrell and I write SciFi, Fantasy, Women’s Fiction and a lot of other things and you can find links to all of my books at www.ConniesRandomThoughts.wordpress.com.

Firey Angel Hair Pasta

Rosemary by Connie Cockrell

Rosemary by Connie Cockrell

October has been a wild ride for sure. I’m busy with all sorts of volunteer organizations and I’m trying to get ready for the National Novel Writing Month challenge in November. What’s that, you ask? It’s a challenge to all writers, new or not, to write 50,000 words in a month. Yep, that’s novel length. You don’t have to finish a novel but if you don’t you’re well on your way. I outline my story so I’m not spending a lot of time wondering what comes next. That’s what I’m prepping this month. I’ve decided to try and write a cozy mystery. Since my usual genre’s are SciFi and Women’s fiction, this outline has been a struggle. Mysteries require a lot of planning.

The thyme I talked about last month? Still on the drying rack. I need to get it down and the sage cut and hung before we get a frost and it’s spoiled for drying. I want to dry some rosemary, too. Not just for the kitchen but for soap. I like to make my own soap. It’s easy, I know it doesn’t have aircraft cleaner in it and I can make it unscented or add any scent I want. I’m planning on adding rosemary to my next batch so I want to have some dried and ready to go.

Back to October. Yes, even here in Arizona the days are getting cooler and we’re all thinking of heartier fare. And as I’m still running crazy with volunteer work and NaNo is coming, I like to have quick and easy dinners. I know I gave you my spaghetti sauce recipe last week. Here’s another one, but easier. It comes with some prep though. You need to make up chili oil in advance. I make mine and store it in the fridge. It has to be warmed to room temp before using but a bottle of it will last through four or five dinners.

Chili Oil

2 cups Olive Oil         4 teaspoonsful dried crushed Red Pepper Flakes

To make exactly enough to fit in your storage bottle or container, fill the container with chili oil less about 1/2 inch from the top. I use an old olive oil bottle.

Combine the oil and the red pepper flakes in a heavy small saucepan.  Cook over low heat until a thermometer inserted into the oil registers 180 degrees F, about 5 minutes. Cool to room temp and using a funnel, pour the oil and flakes into the bottle. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

 

Fiery Angel Hair Pasta

From Giada De Laurentis

1 pound angel hair pasta   ½ cup Chili Oil   ½ cup chopped fresh Italian Parsley, 1 lemon, Juiced and zested,  Salt, Dried crushed red pepper flakes, ½ tsp grated lemon peel (optional), 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta by the package directions.  Drain, and reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.  Stir the shaken oil (you want to get some of those red pepper flakes), parsley, lemon juice and zest together in a large serving bowl. Add the pasta and toss with enough of the reserved water to moisten. Season the pasta with the extra salt and red pepper flakes to taste.  Sprinkle on the extra zest and cheese.  Serve.  To keep it gluten free, use gluten free pasta.

Thanks for stopping by Chicklets in the Kitchen. Please tell us about your garden or favorite pasta recipe in the comments box below if you feel so inclined.

My name is Connie Cockrell and I write SciFi, Fantasy, Women’s Fiction and a lot of other things and you can find links to all of my books at www.ConniesRandomThoughts.wordpress.com.

Spaghetti Sauce

Gluten Free Spaghetti with Meat Sauce by Connie Cockrell

Gluten Free Spaghetti with Meat Sauce by Connie Cockrell

Last month I talked about my Paleo diet. That worked well until mid-August when my work on the Payson Northern Gila County Fair ramped up. Any diet at all went straight out the window. I still had to be gluten free, of course, but mainly I was just trying to stay fed. The week-end of the fair I was lucky. We had four food vendors and three of them had gluten-free options. Yay! Don’t you just love fair food?

My garden here in central Arizona is beginning to look a little tired. The tomato plants have sprawled all over. The butternut squash has filled all of the space between the raised beds. The mint has grown wild and is in full charge of the one raised bed it’s in. I have to cut the mint back. I let it flower because the bees love it but now the whole mess is producing seed. Can’t have that. The oregano I hung to dry was nice and crisp so I took it down, stripped it off of the stems and put it in big steel cans I have for storing herbs. The whole kitchen smelled like oregano. I cut thyme, washed it and hung it from the drying rack I made. It’ll be dry in about 2 weeks. Then I’ll dry sage.

Want to dry herbs but don’t have a rack? I made mine from an old plastic picture frame I got for a quarter at one of the local thrift shops. I stapled garden netting to the back of it. I can lean it against the wall on top of my cupboards where it’s nice and hot and it fits just right and hang bunches of herbs from the frame or the netting. I’ll never have to buy oregano, thyme, sage or rosemary again.

So on to a recipe. I love spaghetti or pasta in any form, to be honest. I make my own sauce as I find the jarred stuff too sweet.

Basic Spaghetti Sauce
1 lb ground meat
1 c chopped onion
1-2 cloves minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp capers
2 – 3 anchovy filets
Dried basil, oregano to taste
1/2 cup of red wine
2-3 T tomato paste
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 T Olive Oil
1 32oz can crushed or diced tomatoes

Heat a large, deep frying pan. Add the olive oil. Salt and pepper the ground meat and put in the hot pan. Brown the meat till nearly done. Add the wine to deglaze the pan. Add the onion, garlic, capers and anchovies. Cook 3-4 minutes then add the herbs, tomato paste and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine. Add the canned tomatoes. Stir to combine. Fill the tomato can with water to get all of that tomato goodness and add to the pan, stirring to combine. Cover and let simmer for 2 – 4 hours until the sauce has cooked down to a thick consistency. Pour over the cooked pasta of your choice.

My mom likes to add sweet peppers to her sauce. I add a couple of bay leaves. Both are optional.

Thanks for stopping by Chicklets in the Kitchen. Please tell us about your garden or favorite pasta recipe in the comments box below if you feel so inclined.

My name is Connie Cockrell and I write SciFi, Fantasy, Women’s Fiction and a lot of other things and you can find links to all of my books at http://www.ConniesRandomThoughts.wordpress.com.

Introducing Myself With One More Chicken Recipe

Butternut Squash and Roses by Randy Cockrell

Butternut Squash and Roses by Randy Cockrell

Hi, my name is Connie Cockrell and I’ve been invited by the wonderful ladies of Chicklets in the Kitchen to participate on their blog. I write SciFi, Fantasy, Women’s Fiction and a lot of other things and you can find links to all of my books at http://www.ConniesRandomThoughts.wordpress.com.
I suffer from Celiac disease and my husband is lactose intolerant. That means I cook most of our food at home. I’ve also begun modeling my diet after the Paleo Diet to help both of us lose weight and feel healthier. And like any author, sometimes the freezer gets a little bare. The other night I had chicken breast thawed. Pre-Paleo, I might have butterflied those open, pounded them thin and turned them into a scaloppini, this particular night, I was sticking to the Paleo plan.
What is that, you might ask. It’s a diet that’s free from grains and dairy, as it is believed hunter/gatherers may have eaten. I don’t stick to it strictly, moderation in everything, but I stayed pretty close with the chicken breast.
I rubbed them with olive oil, salt, pepper and finely chopped rosemary (from my garden!). Then pan fried them until done. I deglazed the pan with a little white wine and let that reduce. I removed the cooked breasts and added plain, non-fat Greek yogurt to the reduced pan juices. Over low heat I stirred it to combine and put the chicken back in the pan. Yes, yogurt is a dairy but you only use two or three tablespoons. Like I said, I’m not crazy strict about it. The side dishes were green beans and cherry tomatoes from the garden. It was delicious. Sorry, I didn’t think to take a picture but you can see my garden where I have a nice crop of trellised butternut squash.
Thanks for stopping by Chicklets in the Kitchen. Please tell us about your garden or favorite chicken go to meal in the comments box below if you feel so inclined.

Mint-Watermelon Pops

You might have seen me post this recipe on The Chicklets Facebook page late last week.Mint-Watermelon Pops

I promised to put my new popsicle mold to good use by testing it out and reporting back. Well, here’s my report.

Turns out, watermelon-mint is not my favorite flavor combination.

I’m a little surprised. You see so many folks online raving about the watermelon-mint-feta cheese combo that I figured it’d be a natural winner.

Not for me.

The recipe itself couldn’t have been much easier. I halved it right from the start, because it seemed to me that 4 cups of watermelon would make way too much puree for my mold. (I won’t keep y’all in suspense: I was vindicated when it came time to fill the molds.)

I diced the watermelon and mint leaves. Figuring the blender would chop the mint into even smaller pieces, I didn’t chop it too finely. (That may have been a mistake. There were some too-large chunks of mint in my finished popsicles.)

I subbed Splenda for the sugar the recipe calls for. I think should have left it out altogether — the end result was way too sweet for me.

After several hours in the freezer, they were ready to enjoy.

I’ve already eaten two of the four popsicles. They’re OK, but not OMG delicious.

The semi-failure of watermelon-mint pops hasn’t stopped me from dreaming up other fruit-pop combinations, though. I picked up bags of frozen blueberries and cherries during my biweekly shopping trip — and I still have peaches, pineapple and mango in the freezer.

I bet flat-out pureed mangoes would be excellent in popsicle form. Oooh — how about Banana Ice Cream, flavored with cocoa powder and maybe peanut butter?

And in the non-fruit arena, how about root beer mixed with a little milk or cream? Black Cow, anyone? (Those used to be my favorite milkshake at Arby’s.)

I also have my eye on these Red, White and Blueberry Popsicles (using strawberries, not raspberries, because I don’t like raspberry seeds). They’re beautiful to look at … although with my rocket pop mold, they’d look more like an AstroPop than the American flag.

2014-07-06 22.12.47

 

Green Beans and Growing Pains

Y’all have probably noticed we here at Chicklets in the Kitchen have been enduring some growing pains. As we all get busier with our writing careers — and just plain living a good life — the blog has fallen by the wayside.

Well, it’s not dead yet. Our blog might be on life support, but I think the Chicklets will live to blog another day.

That said, we’re open to an infusion of fresh blood. If any of you would like to add your voice to the Chicklets’ kitchen, let me know. Zap an email to arlene.hittle.author@gmail.com.

Now, on to today’s recipe.

It’s summertime, and the eatin’ should be easy. At least that’s how I like it. The quicker, the better. When I’m busy writing, I’d rather not be tied to the stovetop.

And when dinner comes packed with produce, it’s an even bigger win.

This Green Bean Stir-Fry is a winner on all counts. It uses fresh green beans (and new potatoes), and takes less time than dialing Domino’s and waiting for delivery.

Green Bean Stir Fry | Chicklets in the Kitchen

The ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 2 cups fresh green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1 4-ounce red potato, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup red onion, sliced thin
  • Garlic pepper seasoning
  • 1 chicken sausage (I used Trader Joe’s Spinach Fontina flavor)

Simply heat coconut oil in large skillet over medium heat. (You could use olive oil or another kind of oil if you like, but the coconut oil gives it a lovely flavor.) Add potato and onion and cook for a couple minutes, until they start to brown. Then add in green beans and a liberal sprinkle of garlic pepper seasoning. When beans are almost cooked to desired doneness, add sliced sausage. (The sausage is already fully cooked, so it just needs to be heated through. I prefer mine slightly browned.)

That’s all there is to it.

Enjoy!

Eat to Live…

…not the other way around. (Yes, I’m the queen of cliches. Sue me.)

My dad is a former smoker, and to this day he has a real problem with people who smoke around him. Once, after changing seats because the person behind him was smoking, he told me, “There is no zealot like a convert.”

I live that concept. When I find an idea I like, I jump into it with both feet.

In the 90’s, I tried the Atkins diet. I didn’t buy the book; I just went with what my cousin told me, boosting my protein intake and cutting back on carbs and fats. I must’ve missed the part about having fats. I dropped 25 pounds in no time flat…and gained it all back.

In the 00’s, I tried South Beach. This time I got smart:  I bought the book. Loved the whole idea. Ate meat like it was going off the market. Finished the induction period and ate salads every chance I got. Actually, I found South Beach to be healthier than Atkins; I felt better on it. I lost at least 40 pounds and wore size medium pants. Then somewhere along the line, and I can’t remember what it was, I hit an emotional downturn and ate back all the weight I lost and then some. Not in one sitting, but eventually I ended up weighing the same as I did when I was 9 months pregnant.

Welcome to now. I’m a vegetarian. My son says it’s “just a phase Mom’s going through” but I’ve always been a veggie fan. My brother and I were polar opposites; he’d feed his broccoli to the dog while I slipped her the gristly pieces of meat I couldn’t bring myself to chew. Needless to say, she was one happy dog. Also a bit overweight.

Over the weekend I saw a show on PBS by Dr. Joel Furman about micronutrition. Unfortunately I missed the first half hour, but I got the gist of it. It suggested that for “incredible health”, we should focus on micronutrition and make GOMBS staples in our diet:

G – greens

O – onions

M – mushrooms

B – beans/berries

S – seeds

I thought, well heck, I’m doing that now. I’m a mushroom junkie. If I can find a way to work mushrooms onto my plate, they’re there. (For the record, mushrooms and low-sugar ice cream…no.) Supposedly this combination not only results in optimum health but after a short time making this your regular routine, it’ll taste delicious to you.

Know what? It’s right.

When I first became a vegetarian, I did this exact thing, and I came to think of cashews and macadamias as a treat akin to chocolate. Better still, I lost my chocolate cravings. I kid you not. My Girl Card is at risk but there you have it. Strawberries became delicacies; I’d see them on TV and salivate. Cake and cookies lost their appeal because I knew if I had one, I wouldn’t feel as good as I would after a small bowl of berries (okay, sprinkled with Splenda). And you already know about me and mushrooms. :-)

I’ll let you know my progress as I continue. In the mean time, what have YOU changed in your life to make yourself feel good?

Spinach Roll-Ups

Spinach Roll-ups | Chicklets in the Kitchen Hello again! It has been a while since I have posted, but I have been kind of busy lately.

I have decided to take on a new task these days. Instead of going with the old favorites of my family, or exotic meats, I am instead going to go through old recipe books that I have lying around. Many of them were passed down from my mother, who is still alive, but no longer uses these books (or never used them in the first place!) Read the rest of this entry

Break out the cranberries

Does your holiday table laden with all the trimmings include cranberry sauce? Or is cranberry jelly persona non grata at family celebrations?

I have to admit, as a kid, I wasn’t much of a fan of the stuff. Mom (or grandma, or some other relative) would dump the can on a plate and slice it.

Was I surprised when I discovered cranberry sauce doesn’t have to be a sickeningly sweet, gelatinous mass. Read the rest of this entry

From our kitchen to yours …

Happy Thanksgiving from The Chicklets!

ABOVE: A vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner. In homes across the country on Thanksgiving Day, tables will be set to accommodate everyone from vegans and vegetarians to those trying to eat like a caveman. (Matthew Mead/Associated Press, file)

ABOVE: A vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner. In homes across the country on Thanksgiving Day, tables will be set to accommodate everyone from vegans and vegetarians to those trying to eat like a caveman. (Matthew Mead/Associated Press, file)

Whether your feast is traditional, vegetarian, low-carb or gluten-free, we hope your day is full of great company and fantastic food.

I, Arlene, will be enjoying chicken, sweet potatoes and green beans that in my Crock Pot while I attend a Thanksgiving Day Jazzercise class. Then I’ll spend the afternoon/evening at the newspaper office, putting Thursday’s news in Friday’s paper.

What are your Thanksgiving plans?

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