Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jerk Chicken Knock-off

(Check out the very poor quality photo.  Shouldn't have used a flash.  Poor rice pile looks ghostly! And the black beans?  What's up with them.  But if you could only SMELL it all!!!)
A couple of weeks (or so) ago I needed to fix supper and had no clue what I wanted to fix.  I picked up a couple of recipe books/magazines from the plethora of cookbooks, etc. we have around here searching for some kind of inspiration.  I found one.  It was a Jerk Chicken Casserole.  I thought it sounded kinda weird--as a casserole--but the ingredients seemed interesting so I tried it.  Well, I kind of blew it because I transpose numbers and I don't remember things I've read six seconds after reading them . . . sometimes.  So I tripled the amount of cornstarch and had to do some fast foot work to compensate for that near fiasco.

My family seemed to like the meal.  I did like the chicken part and the sweet potato part and I love black beans, but I didn't exactly LOVE it all as a casserole.  So today, I got creative.  Oh, I didn't have the spice named "Allspice" for the first go round.  And, forgetting being what I do so well, I didn't have any today either, but I bunted.

[I'd like to try some REAL Jerk Chicken one day--the very spicy, hot kind, but in the mean time, I'll share my knock-off version, of a knock-off version.]

I began by thawing four large chicken breasts.  Next I made up a "rub" using ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, garlic, salt (Kosher, of course), brown sugar, thyme, red and black ground pepper and brown sugar.  I coated each thawed piece of chicken with the rub and covered it to marinate in the refrigerator for an hour or two.  If you want a more original version, you'll have to add some hot peppers.  We have a little person who does NOT like spicy foods like the rest of us do. So this worked for everyone.

In the mean time (between trips to move the garden hose from shrub and tree to the next shrub and tree, and keeping an eye on the grandsons) I finely chopped some onion and sauteed it in a small amount of olive oil then added a can of black beans, cumin and chili powder and let that mixture simmer.  (This is NOT part of the recipe.  I just put this in to let you know how/what I fixed as a side dish.  (*Sphew*  I almost had you wondering, didn't I?)

When it was time, I sauteed more chopped onion in a frying pan coated with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil  then removed the onion when done to a casserole dish sprayed with vegetable oil.  Next, I browned the chicken on each side .  The chicken went on top of the onions in the casserole dish where I added some peeled carrots (cut in chunks) around the chicken pieces (because someone else had used the sweet potatoes earlier).  If you try this recipe (or another knock-off of your own design, please DO NOT use baby carrots.  Use the biggest, fattest, deepest orange carrots you can find instead.  The flavor is SO much better!  Unless of course you actually use the sweet potatoes suggested by the original (knock-off) recipe.

To the drippings left in the pan after browning the chicken, I added the left-over rub + juices, as well as a mixture of freshly squeezed lime juice, equal amount of honey, a little water, a little less soy sauce, and not quite enough cornstarch.  I ran out.  I thought.  I stirred all of that over medium heat constantly until it thickened--which, due to the lack of enough cornstarch it didn't quite thicken enough!  That mixture was poured unceremoniously over the chicken and carrot chunks and popped into the 375 degree oven to simmer and get yummy for the next hour.  I did baste it from time to time, as well.

In the mean time (again) I did proceed to move the garden hose another time or two and work on fixing some frozen corn and heating up left-over rice.

I was in a time crunch since choir practice was getting closer and closer and I had to finish my preparations, feed the little childrens and get myself ready to go!  I then rinsed a handful of cilantro and pulled off the leaves to add to the finished meal for each person to add or not, and also sliced green onions for the same purpose.

After loading up the kids' plates with food, I thought:  "I ought to get a picture of this and post it on my blog."  I really like the way it turned out, and so did my family.  I think.  Well, they did eat it and said it smelled really good.

Since I had about 20 minutes to load my plate, take a couple of quick shots, gobble what I could before running off to Choir Practice (and because I'm anything but a professional, or regular kind of photographer) the picture I'm hoping to add to this blog post looks as amateurish as I figured it would.  Too bad you can smell/taste it from here.

If I haven't scared you off by now, I'll add the recipe just in case you're really brave and want to give it a try.

(It is NOT the spicy version.)
4 to 6 chicken breasts (I used boneless, skinless--you can use what you like)

 2 tsp salt
2  tsp cinnamon                                                           
½ tsp nutmeg
½  tsp cloves                                                            
¼ cup brown sugar
¾ tsp thyme leaves                                                     
1 tsp ground red & black pepper  mix
½ tsp ground ginger                                                      
½ tsp garlic powder

1 Tbls vegetable oil  
1 small onion, chopped 
 3 cups peeled, cubed sweet potato (or carrots) 

THE SAUCE:                    
3/4  cup+ lime juice                           
3/4  cup honey
1 - 2 Tbls soy sauce
2 Tbls cornstarch
¼ cup water                                                                                

3 or 4 sliced green onions 
1/2 cup cilantro leaves

1.   Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray 2 quart, flat baking dish with oil.  In a small bowl, mix salt, brown sugar and spices.  Rub mixture on all sides of chicken and marinate an hour or two .  In a 12 inch  skillet, heat oil over medium-hi heat and saute chopped onion; remove to the baking dish.  In same skillet, cook chicken 2 – 3 minutes per side, until brown.
2.   Top onions with browned chicken pieces and sweet potato or carrot chucks.  In small bowl, mix honey, lime juice, water, soy sauce and cornstarch.  To the drippings in the skillet add what's left of the rub and the lime juice mixture.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Pour over chicken.
3.   Bake 45 min. to 1 hour or until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut and sweet potatoes (or carrots) are fork tender.  Sprinkle with green onions and cilantro, if desired.
4.   Serve with rice, black beans and corn--only if you want to.  Because I did!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What I Found

I thought I heard Blue Eyes reading to his brother, Little Britches.
Yep!  I was right!
Can I just say how much I enjoy being a Grandma?!!!

I Should Already Be In Bed

I'm tired.  I had a full day, starting at about 6:15 am.  Before 9:00 am I went to the Elementary School where I worked for about 3 years, like 14 years ago, so my #1 grandson, Blue Eyes, could be "evaluated" before starting Kindergarten at the end of this week.  He's already reading.  He does math in his head and knows insects by their scientific names in more cases than I do.  (Okay.  So I DON'T know their scientific names.  I confess.)  (But then, his Mom [not me] studied insects for years and has a large collection of them that she donated to a museum on the campus of BYU, where her college career began.)  Today was her first day of school--in a few years, and she's excited, too. 

Little Britches, #2 grandson, is also looking forward to his first year of school.  He too, unbelievably, can read a few words.  He continually confuses gender pronouns, but we're about to figure out that he does it intentionally.  When he was mad at his Mom for some imagined injustice the other day, he declared that he was changing her "she" status to "he" status.  She nearly cracked up over that one. He's quite the pistol.  And he's our most continual entertainment here at home.  There's a large, pink rubbery, stretchy frog toy that he's affectionately named "Seaweed."  Little Britches is highly incensed if we chuckle or tease about "Seaweed's" abilities to do things.  I've been admonished for insensitivity.  "Grandma, you not bein' nice.  You hurt "Seaweed's feelings."  His comments were accompanied by a very sad demeanor and tone of voice.  I did have to muffle another chuckle.  I did not want to bring wrath down upon my head, if you know what I mean.  Seaweed has been known to lash out from time to time.  Not sure if said frog intends malevolence, but the little guy slinging him around by one appendage or another knows the damage said rubber amphibian can create when wielded in that manner. 

Big sister, Miss Noodle, started 1st grade last Friday.  She's happy and doing well in her own reading skills and though complaining loud and long about the injustices of the huge workload at school AND having to do homework as well . . . was delighted to learn that she could accomplish said homework assignments in 5 minutes.  Mom and Grandma encouraged her to contemplate the great rewards diligence and hard work provide and the corollary that lack thereof has its own deleterious effects.  Mom also tried to soften the blow by telling her daughter that she (Mom) had her own pile of homework, homework that would take many times more than 5 tiny minutes.

I miss being in school.  I always loved learning--formally--though I must admit I did complain about some of the teachers I had to cope with along the way.  For the most part, I loved many of my instructors, and as an older student about 13 years ago, I found a lot more common ground with them.  I still learn what I can about a lot of things, and don't ever plan to stop!  There's so much more I want to know!!!

And because of the late hour, I think I will do a little reading and then hit the sack.  Nite, all!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Things That Happen Along the Road

My family and I traveled from Louisiana through Arkansas (even Little Rock, just so you know, Bob), Missouri (probably not too far from you Mary P) and even managed to nick through extreme southeast Iowa and into Illinois.  It was an exhausting trip in some ways.  The Illinois visit was in Nauvoo, a very historic spot for LDS folks, and a sweet religious experience for me and my two youngest daughters.

The temperatures were blindingly hot everywhere, but somewhat tempered by the tremendous gift of air conditioning in the vehicles, homes, etc. where we spent most of our time.

On our first and last nights on the road, we got to visit with my second oldest brother and his family, which was a wonderful blessing.  It's been too long since we've been able to visit face to face.  Three of their daughters and their children were so kind and fun to be with.  The grandchildren/cousins had so much fun together.  We're not going to wait so long before visiting again.

The scenery along the highways and byways was, for the most part, very beautiful and interesting.  THEN . . . on the last leg of the trip home, somewhere along I-30, east of Texarkana, I noticed a vehicle parked on the shoulder with a young guy in a white T-shirt and jeans with his back to the road and a young gal on his left, facing traffic, with her cell phone at her ear.  I was a little shocked when I realized that white T-shirt boy obviously didn't learn from his Momma that it's in very poor taste (??) to relieve oneself on the side of the road in full view of on-coming traffic.  That's all I'm going to say about that.

In a similar vein, however, my daughter and I found ourselves in dire need of facilities to properly relieve ourselves (sorry I'm so blunt) a few miles further down the road.  At that point, there were no facilities for nearly another 30 minutes or more.  (In all fairness, maybe T-shirt guy knew this fact and just didn't care to be even slightly discreet.)  We were getting more miserable by the moment--and silently praying the Lord would bless us with some kind of business (on a Sunday evening) where we could find respite.  And then . . . we found our answer.  It was a liquor store (with a gas pump or two in front) just outside of Ida, Louisiana barely south of Arkansas' southern boundary (and according to Kelly, Bob would classify it as being in LA--Lower Arkansas.)

After availing ourselves of the courtesy of the lovely lady (probably a few years past her 50's) working the counter, I mentioned to her that this place of business was an answer to prayer (I didn't mention how fervent or frequent in the last 1/2 hour).  Her expression was one of dismay, perhaps even shock.  It seems she'd never heard such a comment from those not coming in to purchase alcoholic products, but she eventually smiled.  She was so polite and understanding, it was an even further blessing to us.  We purchased a few bottles of nice, cold water--since that's all we'd drink from their stock, and moved on down the road.

I'm so grateful for good people everywhere.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Whenever Laundry Overwhelms You

Even with all the modern appliances we have today to help us with our daily chores around the house, keeping up with the laundry seems a daunting task much of the time, particularly if you have a few little children around--or even older children . . .

As I cleaned off the refrigerator this evening, an OLD item there (a bookmark someone gave me years ago stuck up there with a magnet) caught my eye.  I thought about how much we take for granted and decided it might cheer someone up who struggles with mountains of laundry these days. This is it:

Washday 1916

Years ago a Kentucky grandmother gave a new bride the following "receipt" for washing clothes.  
It appears below just as it was written, and despite the spelling has a bit of philosophy.

1.  Bilt fire in backyard to heet kettle of rain water.
2.  Set tubs so smoke won't blow in eyes if wind is pert.
3.  Shave one hold cake lie soap in bilin water.
4.  Sort things, make three piles.  1 pile white, 1 pile collored, 1 pile work britches and rags.
5. Stir flour in cold water to smooth, then thin down with bilin water.
6.  Rub dirty spots on board, scrub hard, then bile.  Rub collored don't bile, just rinch in starch.
7.  Take white things out of kettle with broomstick handle then rinch, and starch.
8.  Hang old rags in fince.
9.  Spread tee towels on grass.
10.  Pore rinch water in flower bed.
11.  Scrub porch with hot soapy water.
12.  Turn tubs upside down.
13.  Go put on house dress, smooth hair with side combs.  
Brew cup of tee, sit and rest and rock a spell and count blessings.

Hang this above your automatic washer, and when things look black, read again.
Mrs. Gray McDaniel
Pinedale, N. C.

I'm so grateful I don't have to "heet a kettle" in the backyard and do my laundry there.  Especially not in the heat we've been having!  I do, however, miss the wonderful clean fragrance of laundry dried on a clothesline outside!  Yet, I'm grateful for my automatic clothes dryer and fabric softener!

More Weather News. (Yippy Skippy.)

A very welcome change in the excessive heat wave (that has smitten us for a few weeks) occurred yesterday.  We had rain.  Indeed we did.  Nearly a whole inch--dumped unceremoniously in probably 30 minutes, I think. (And dropped the temperature to a more easily tolerated temperature around the low to mid 70s last night!  *sigh* :-) )

You can't imagine (or maybe you can) what an inch of rain can accomplish to an otherwise parched and dying lawn.  (Despite our attempts to keep it watered and still be able to buy groceries.)  When I walked outside this morning the grass was a lovely, lively GREEN (not crunchy, faded, nearly-brown green).  AND, it had grown a good 1/2 to 1 inch.  It did, too!  It didn't need mowing on Friday morning.  But this morning.  Um hm.  It did.  Does.  The rest of the vegetation on the property looks equally refreshed, if not growing at such a phenomenal rate.  Rain is good for the soul.  I like it.  I'm grateful for it--especially when it's not flooding the country side--but enough to freshen and enliven life all around.  Except for the obnoxious insect population.

Besides, I think the heat index was back up to 106 F this afternoon. Proof that both sides of the coin still exist in nature.

Okay, okay.  Along with the blessings come the trails.  I mean trials.  Kind of like the corollary, "along with the trials come the blessings."  It does seem to work both ways.  Though maybe not expressly that close together time-wise.

I'm closing this now.  Before I sound more like a space cadet than I do now, at this moment.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Not to Beat a Dead Horse, But . . .

On the same theme as my last post . . . When I got up this morning, it was still darkish.  And hot.  Before t he sun was even resting on the horizon, the temperature at my house (outside) was registering 83 degrees.  The humidity was between 85 and 90 per cent.  Yeah.  Today's gonna be another tough day temperature wise.

But . . . I bought ice cream yesterday.  Yes, I did.  And I'm happy about that!

(Except for the pounds it'll add.  And inches around my middle.  What can a person do?)

Friday, Aug 6 addendum:

(Bob--close your eyes for a few minutes.)

Yesterday afternoon, I thought we somehow shifted our place of residence to the Amazon!  It had sprinkled a little and the temperature was 90 something.  The humidity was around 90%+ and the windows were steamed on the outside!  It felt like a sauna.  Seriously.  Sorry to grouse so frequently, but I'm just tryin' to report the facts.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Weather . . . Is Soooooooo HOT!

I don't ever remember summers like this one.  Usually, our top temperatures are in the 90s, maybe the high 90s toward the end of July and into August.  Occasionally, we have those really hot, sultry nights when the low is 80 degrees and the humidity is 80% and you think you're going to die . . . particularly if you have a huge thunderstorm and it knocks out the power and you have neither fans nor air conditioning to cushion the blow.

Well, we knew we were in trouble last month when the high temperatures started creeping toward 99 and then touching 100 here and there.  Today our forecast high was (at one time) 100 degrees.  Then they changed it to 98.  When I looked at the thermometer I have outside, in the shade, I might add, it said 103.  The advertised temp on "the weather channel" web site said it was 98 with heat index of 113.  (Or 45 C.) 

It is currently 86 degrees in my bedroom.  The A/C is on.  The fans are running.  The humidity is registered at almost 70% and the outside temp (according to the professionals) is also 86 degrees.

I was not built to endure this kind of heat and humidity.  Seriously!  I was born during a record breaking blizzard in Salt Lake City, after all, and I loved----L O V E D----cold weather and snow.  So now you know.  I've melted all over the place.

Yet . . . I somehow have managed to acclimate.  I know.  It shocked me too!  A couple of weeks ago my daughters friend was flying in for the weekend and before she got to the house I HAD TO SWEEP the front porch, sidewalk, patio, etc.  It was 1:00 in the afternoon and about 99.  Not sure what the humidity was, but it was definitely there.  When I walked outside to fetch the broom, I thought:  Dang!  I'm going to die out here!  And that's without even starting to get to work!  

Well, I sucked it up, and began my task with determination that whether or not I died of heatstroke, I was going to get my porch, sidewalk and patio swept clean!  (Someone had mowed a couple of days before, then it rained and, you know.)  As I got into the sweeping, I noticed that it was getting hard to see clearly, but I stuck to my task.  Perspiration was dripping into my eyes.  My head was dripping wet, but I kept at it.  I had to wipe my brow occasionally with my sleeve, but I continued to sweep.  The spot between my thumb and forefinger began to feel like that recurring blister was developing--since I forgot to grab my gloves--but I didn't give in.  Then it was DONE!  Eureka!  I had not expired.  I had conquered the beastly heat and grass clippings and  leaves and all that nasty stuff.  Even the miserable heat!  The blister was a doozie.  It formed.  It burst and most of the skin pulled free.  (I medicated it.  I bandaged it.  I moved on.  But it did hurt.)

*Sigh*  I want to buy another leaf blower, really, really badly!!!

So, when I came back inside, it was a lovely cool.  My face was the color of beets.  My hair was plastered to my head from the perspiration.  And I was thirsty.  I drank copious amounts of cold water.  (Don't tell me you're not supposed to!)  I did.  And it tasted wonderful!  Then I showered in COOL water.  It was glorious.  Then I dressed, grabbed my suitcase, and other necessaries and left for my oldest daughter's place to spend the night because I was catching a flight at dawn-thirty, or rather fifteen, to go see my youngest daughter.  And you already heard about some of that adventure.

Oh, even with all the complaining about the HOT weather.  I still DO NOT buy into the ridiculous (false) theory of "Global Warming".  Sorry.