Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Greek Couscous with Chicken & Feta

I'm back on track with planning ahead, making menus, and cooking what I plan for dinner. Our hectic lives forced us to spend less time on dinner each night and I just hate that.

So I went to my trusty pile of recipes I've ripped from the pages of the countless magazines I am given, and found some great new recipes to try. 

This one was quick, easy, and absolutely delicious! I'll definitely be making this one again!

Greek Couscous with Chicken & Feta.
(courtesy of Family Circle - Sept 2010)

Makes: 6 servings
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 18 mins

1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
6 oz green beans, trimmed and halved
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken breast (I just took all the meat from one cooked chicken)
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
1/2 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta
1/3 up kalamata olives, halved (I omitted these because I hate olives)
2 tbsp lemon juice

1. Heat oil in a medium nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook garlic 30 seconds, then stir in onion, oregano and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 4 minutes.

2. Stir in couscous and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken broth and 1 cup water to pot and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 12 minutes or until water is absorbed. Add green beans to pot for last 5 minutes of cooking.

3. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, chicken, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, feta, olives, and lemon juice and serve immediately.

Per serving:
280 calories
6g fat (2g saturated)
16g protein
42g carbohydrate
6g fiber
968mg sodium
19mg cholesterol 

I sprinkled a little extra feta on each dish to garnish. 

DELICIOUS! Light, easy, healthy, and quick to make. Try it tonight!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fall days are here!

Yes, it really has been over a month since my last post. I'm terrible. Well, terribly busy. But still, I made a promise to myself when I started this blog to not forget about it after a few months and add it to my pile of unfinished journals and diaries from my childhood. I fully intend to keep this one up and running. 

So, what better way to get going again than to welcome a new season with some yummy treats?

Maple Cupcakes. Fantastic!

I usually reserve my dessert calories for something containing chocolate, but after my parents took a trip to Canada this summer and brought us some delicious maple sandwich cookies, I've been hooked on the taste.

The Mr. Maple cookies, or Mmmm Erables, as I like to call them (for obvious reasons - see below) are fantastic, and proudly produced in a peanut-free facility. Good news for me.

Jim and I savored these cookies and tried to ration them out for as long as we could. On the eve of the day the last cookie was to be consumed, I found some fantastic news in my local Trader Joe's:

Hooray! I delicious replacement. Not quite as amazing as the canadian version (a quick browse on the internet led me to a cookie fan club webpage who tell me that they are sometimes available in your local Dollar Tree - haven't looked yet), but still great for the tastebuds. I will be stocking up on these before the season is over.

Anyway, I had remembered seeing some maple cupcakes in Martha Stewart's Cupcake book:

Hers have marzipan maple leaves, but who needs them? The cake has maple syrup in the batter, the icing has maple syrup in the icing. They are amazing. I have the icing in my fridge and I intend to sandwich it between two plain cookies and enjoy heaven for a while.

These are amazing. Try them!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sunday Funday

Jim and I spent this past Sunday doing something that we've been talking about for weeks - cleaning out the garage. I'm happy to say that our garage wasn't as cluttered as it could be - we certainly still fit my car in there - but it needed some organization. Rather than tackling the whole thing, we just took care of one section first - what I like to call "the nook". The best part about this project? We didn't spend one penny! Everything we did was made with supplies we already had!

The Nook before.

The area to the right of the nook.

The right side of the garage - we mostly left this untouched... for now.

We started by clearing off the large shelf above the nook, and pulled out everything else.

Then, we assembled some shelving. Just some 1x2s and plywood.

 The shelves were very secure, but we added the front vertical support to stop any sagging of the shelves over time. Jim even took the time to notch out the wood for each shelf.

Then, we simply loaded the shelves back up - much more organized! Thankfully, we didn't need to throw out stuff as much as we just needed to organize it and make it easily accessible.

So much better, right? I love the shelf at the bottom for our outdoor work shoes.

Tutorial tomorrow on how to make the sports ball shelf/basket.

Phase two of the garage transformation will be getting rid of the old fridge (and putting a newer one in the basement), and creating a countertop and deep sink area at the end of the garage.

Phase three will be insulating the exterior walls and putting the epoxy finish on the floor. When will that be? Who knows! :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mosquito bite remedies

The only regret I have about this past weekend's visit to our friends' house in MA is that I did not douse myself in enough Off with DEET to kill a small elephant.

I thought that the several applications per day of regular Skintastic Off would have been enough to keep the little suckers at bay. It wasn't until we were about halfway through our six hour journey home that I discovered otherwise, and have been paying the price ever since.

So, as I sit here and type at the start of what will surely be my second near-sleepless night due to the torture that are my mosquito-bite-ridden feet, I have decided to experiment with some home remedies for the common mosquito bite, and tell you all about it.

After about 24 hours of too-frequently applying hydrocortisone cream to my feet, I thought I would investigate the natural home remedy route. I came across this list of 40 mosquito bite itch relief tips, and I'll let you know which ones work for me.

**So far, in all honesty, the best temporary relief comes from ice cold water from the tap - I run it over my feet for as long as I can stand it. Won't work so well when I have to go to work tomorrow.**

Hydrocortisone cream - not working at all. In fact, I think that the act of rubbing cream on the bites irritates them even more.

Benadryl cream - worse than hydrocortisone. No relief whatsoever.

Baking soda and water - mix into a paste and spread it on the bites. I tried this one about an hour and a half ago and it worked really well, but only for an hour. Pretty messy when the paste dries and then it cracks and falls all over the floor.

Vinegar - I tried this at the same time as the baking soda. Right foot was baking soda, left foot was vinegar. Vinegar was not that great. Left it for about 15 mins and then covered my left foot with the baking soda.

Antiperspirant deodorant. This is on my feet right now. Although they smell nice like Jim, they itch like hell. Time for another ice bath.

Bag balm. Usually a cure-all - this did nothing for the bites.

Hot water. Well, I did this when I took a shower and was in more agony than I had been all day. I think the heat aggravates the bites. Ended the shower with cold water on my feet to get some relief.

Ammonia - don't have any in the house, but used this as a kid in FL and it worked. 

Rubbing Alcohol - very temporary relief. Like 3 minutes.

Soap - not working at all.

Toothpaste - seems to be working. Gel kind of the peppermint variety is cooling. Quite messy. After 20 mins I can't tell if the peppermint tingling is soothing or aggravating. Going to wash it off.

Morning report: Woke up every hour throughout the night - my feet in burning agony. Doused them in cold water each time for a few minutes and went back to bed. Did the baking soda thing one more time - but again, this only lasted for about an hour, and made a horrible mess. I'm about to endure a hot shower, which I will follow with cold water on the feet, and apply some hydrocortisone that may or may not get me through the day. Taking a cold compress to work, and will likely have to apply that several times.

Perhaps I'm getting used to it, but I think the itching is lessening ever so slightly.

Tips, anyone?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back in the saddle...

Hello there. Sorry I've been away for a while. Busy, busy summer, and no time to tell you about it.

I think I'll start with the most recent happenings and blog about the rest in between throughout the coming weeks.

Jim and I just returned from a wonderful weekend in Lancaster, MA with our great friends Jo and Eric, and their new baby boy Dylan. They have a beautiful historic home (built in 1771!) with plenty of room for guests. Other friends were there also - Danielle and Gerard and their daughter Maya came up from Long Island, as well as the newest marrieds of the group - Kate and Kyle all the way from DC.

I took the weekend as a great opportunity to explore my new camera and some different settings, and then take those photos and play around with them on iPhoto.

I was really pleased with most of the photos, but then the editing process has me even more excited! I really should take the time to edit my photos more often...

Beautiful Maya before

Beautiful Maya edited - cropped, enhanced color, played with color saturation, tint, shadows, etc.

Maya in the sunshine

Maya in the sunshine edited - just cropped and enhanced.

Danielle and Maya

Danielle and Maya edited - blurred edges, faded the colors, fine tuned other color settings.

Handsome baby Dylan

Handsome baby Dylan edited - black and white, cropped, and got rid of those mosquito bites on his head :)

Joel and Dylan

Joel and Dylan edited - cropped, faded the colors, tweaked the color settings.

Maya in the pool

Maya in the pool edited - cropped, antique effect, changed color saturation.

Jim and Dylan

Jim and Dylan edited - cropped, black and white, retouched some of his skin, played with shadows and highlights.

Cutest Dylan

Cutest Dylan edited - cropped, enhanced, used color saturation to brighten and enhance.

Floating Maya

Floating Maya edited - cropped, antique effect, enhanced highlights.

Maya and Gerard

Maya and Gerard edited - cropped, enhanced, sharpened the image.


Arwen edited - cropped, enhanced color, played with highlights.

Not bad for my first real go at it. I like using some of the effects, even if the end result isn't exactly the true colors. I also have Aperture on my computer, and I've only played around with that a little. At some point I'll move my photos over to that program and try some more sophisticated editing. 

Do you edit your photos before blogging, posting to facebook, or printing? What program/s do you use?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Breakfast at Wimbledon - and celebrating the 4th

Most tennis fans know that the Wimbledon fortnight usually ends on Independence Day weekend. Not that the Brits care - in fact they probably planned it that way so that they could take their minds off of the fact that America is celebrating its independence from England :)

Anyway, I am English by birth, American by nature :) Also a big tennis fan. I've been lucky enough to attend Wimbledon twice as a kid, and I enjoy watching the tournament every year. After the last two mens championship matches, Jim and I thought it would fun to host "Breakfast at Wimbledon" in the hopes that we would have another amazing 5 set match to watch.

Turns out that wasn't the case. Well done to Nadal, but I was hoping that Berdych could have put up a better fight. Oh well. The food was good, the company was great, and overall we had a wonderful day.

The Menu:
Featherbed Eggs
Vegetable Strata
Baked French Toast
Quiche Lorraine with Pancetta
Make-your-own-waffle bar
Chocolate chip muffins
Grilled Pork Roll
Grilled Scrapple
Grilled Bacon
Mixed berries
Strawberries, shortcakes, and Devonshire cream
Mimosas, tea, coffee, juces

Anywhere on the Wimbledon grounds, you can get the best strawberries and cream you have ever tasted. I like them fresh with a little heavy cream drizzled over them, and a little sugar sprinkled on top. I was too busy devouring mine to take a cute photo.

I baked these shortcakes in the morning (so easy and delicious) and had some fresh whipped cream in the fridge to make some amazing strawberry shortcakes.

The chocolate chip muffins are to-die for. Jim asks that I make them more often, but if I did, we'd both be at least 20lbs heavier! So I make them on special occasions :) It is a simple muffin recipe from Everyday Food, and you can add whatever mix-ins you like. I haven't found a mix-in yet that we didn't like with this recipe. I'll post it one day :)

The breakfast buffet was great. Most of the food was prepared the night before and kept in the fridge, and then I just popped it in the oven in the mornig. Everything was ready from the oven pretty early, but stayed hot forever! Jim cooked up all the meat on the grill as the first guests arrived, and the rest was no-hassle entertaining!

The Featherbed Eggs are a recipe my aunt shared with me several years ago - I think she got it in the food section of the LA Times. Prepared the night before.

The Vegetable Strata was a recipe that I found in Gourmet Magazine - very easy, and again, prepared the night before. It's a lot like the Savory Bread Pudding I've made in the past, which means that it is great as leftovers for dinner!

The Baked French Toast was a recipe found in The Joy of Cooking. I used challah bread and soaked the bread in the egg mixture overnight. Delicious.

I made a traditional Quiche Lorraine with homemade pastry from The Joy of Cooking and added some cooked pancetta. Amazing.

As I mentioned, Jim put the scrapple on the grill. Everyone loved it. All the guys who ate it did at least. I cannot bring myself to eat it - I think you have to be a true Philadelphian :) He did the pork roll on the grill also, and for the bacon we put the griddle on the grill and cooked it that way. Nice and crispy.

I tried to get a little patriotic with the decor. Red, white and blue, and some festive flower arrangements. Nothing too fancy. I set up three separate small tables - like a bistro - so people could sit where they liked, and have multiple seatings for multiple rounds of food :)

After several rounds of eating and three sets of tennis (on tv), we spent some time outside playing baggo, followed by some relaxing time on the couches. We had a late lunch/early dinner, and then packed up some things to take with us on our next adventure...

...Our brother-in-law works in center city on the 40th floor of a building that overlooks the Ben Franklin Parkway. Steps away from the cathedral where we were married :)

(That's the cathedral in the bottom right corner) The Philadelphia Museum of Art is in the top left. 

Philadelphia was hosting a free concert and fireworks display on the Parkway, so Matt and Alison came up with the great idea to watch them from his conference room on the 40th floor. Amazing! We took some food and drinks, set up the TV so we could watch the concert, and enjoyed the show!

Hope everyone had a safe and happy Independence Day!

I'll post the recipes from this event later this week.