February 26, 2015

Kung Pao Chicken Tacos

This wasn’t my first kick at the can with this recipe.   I made it once before and it was a request for our one-day-late Chinese New Year supper.

5 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces *
3 tbsp lower-sodium soy sauce, divided
1/4 c plus 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch, divided
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp canola oil, divided
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp dark sesame oil
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
large garlic clove, minced
3 tbsp coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts
8 (6-inch) whole wheat tortillas*
1/2 c sliced green onions*
2 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced*
3/4 c diagonally sliced celery (about 2 stalks) *optional
4 lime wedges

Modified from Original Cooking Light recipe

Marinate chicken in 1tbsp of soy sauce at room temperature in a zip-top plastic bag f for 30 mins. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Place 1/4 c cornstarch in a shallow dish. Sprinkle the chicken evenly with salt. Add chicken to cornstarch in dish, and toss chicken to thoroughly coat. Shake off excess cornstarch.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add half of coated chicken; sauté for 6 mins or until done, turning to brown. Remove chicken from pan using a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Repeat the procedure with remaining 1 tbsp canola oil and coated chicken.

Combine remaining 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch, remaining 2 tbsp soy sauce, honey, dark sesame oil, rice vinegar and sambal oelek in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Microwave at HIGH for 1 1/2 mins or until slightly thick, stirring twice. Stir in garlic.

Add all chicken back to skillet, add red peppers and sauté 2 mins, add green onions and sauté 1 min. Add soy sauce mixture,  peanuts, and celery; toss to coat.

Toast tortillas under broiler turning frequently. Place 2 tortillas on each of 4 plates; divide chicken mixture evenly among tortillas. Serve and enjoy with lime wedges.

Thoughts:
The original recipe called for the tacos to be topped with uncooked red peppers and green onions (and celery, which I did not use), I chose to cook them slightly,  just a matter of preference.

From counter to plate, just over 35 mins, and with the exception of the staples and a bottle of Kim Crawford (which pairs fantastically), the entire meal cost under $25.00.

I had a great deal of difficulty photographing the tacos without them looking obscene... so I resorted to photographing only one.

I had a great deal of difficulty photographing two tacos without them looking obscene… what you see is the PG version.

This one’s a keeper for sure! Let me know how it goes.

February 24, 2015

The Salsa Adventure

When I imagine my comfort zone it looks like a cloud. It’s cozy and warm, gentle hues of pink and yellow light filter through the fluff, soft sounding music and the scent of gardenia fill the air; it would be a wonderful place to take a nap. I like it there and I haven’t spent much time away from it lately, in fact I haven’t spent any time away from it in a long time. Until last weekend.

Usually stepping away from my comfort zone is initially inspired by wine, involves my friend D, as well as hours of training for some ridiculous race. This time not entirely different, wine check, D check (as well as our poor husbands), there would be hours of training but this time it would be in the form of salsa dancing for an upcoming event that we are attending.

We arrived at the same time and nervously joined the rest of the class and waited to get started. I didn’t get the info that we needed leather soled shoes until the last minute, so showed up in ballet flats, D on the other had additional intel and presented herself in a pair of sassy patent leather kitten healed pumps so that she could pivot. Looks like I will be going shoe shopping this week. Our instructors, Alberto and Theresa, introduced themselves and were very lovely as they tried their best to put us at ease as we lined up to learn ‘basic step’.

Basic step seemed pretty basic, one, two, three, pause, five, six, seven, pause, left, right, left, pause, right, left, right, pause in a forward and backward motion, yay! Now add the arms…yeah, no…now add our partners, gulp, but and ladies your five, six, seven, pause, now becomes your one, two, three, pause…omfg…that was my foot, foreheads colliding…omfg…sorry that was your foot, smile…ok, ok, ok, I think we got this! Now change partners…say what? Oh yes, the ladies get to rotate clockwise and dance with each man in the class.

Second on my dance card was a smallish older gentleman (wrong side of 70 for sure), clearly he had done this before, he had the hips and shoulders moving and was very quick to give me tips on my arm placement, which I thanked him for. Third was Alberto, the instructor…I was in a complete nervous sweat, I smiled and wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans before we joined hands, and he lead me through our little routine. Fourth was a fellow who came late to the class with a leather bag (murse) strapped across his chest (and had complete intentions of doing the class with it there until Theresa asked him to put the bag down) so really had no idea what was even happening, there were feet everywhere, there are no words. D’s husband was fifth on my list, we counted and laughed our way through our first dance. As I made my way back to my husband to complete my dance circle, our eyes met with an ‘oh thank God’ look.

There wasn’t even time for a quick whisper recap of the events that had just unfolded, as we moved onto the cucaracha. Alberto was creating a mood for the step, there was some discussion of stepping on cockroaches…I was distracted and still processing. The step itself followed the pattern of the basic step, but instead of stepping forward then backward (in the case of the ladies, backward then forward), we stepped to the side and then back together. We caught on relatively quickly to this one. Alberto stressed the importance of the ladies letting the men lead, and as the men initiated the cucaracha step they were to push their lady to the side. My husband enjoyed this step as each time that we went into it he would repeat Alberto’s instructions, with his take of a Spanish accent, and say “and push your lady to the side”. Then it was time to change partners. Once again, the older gentleman was quick to point out that my elbows still weren’t high enough for his liking and my step to the side was a little too big. I felt that his expectations were a bit high for someone with a little over 30 minutes of salsa experience. I smiled politely and may have stepped on his toe. I was actually relieved to dance with Alberto next, and he really did push me to the side, not hard enough that I stumbled, but he certainly lead. Manbag was next. By now it was abundantly clear that it is not a good idea to miss the first 20 minutes of your first 60 minute dance lesson which teaches you the basic foundation of all of the steps that you will be using. D’s husband had the cucaracha under control and we had a good laugh at what was going on around us.

Time was ticking on and the next class, who were in the Intermediate level, had started to file in. We had learned a lot for a first class and I didn’t think that there could possibly be enough time for anything else, especially now that the Intermediates were there, and that was when we were introduced to the combia step. Again following the basic pattern as the other steps, but instead of stepping to the side, we stepped behind on a diagonal. This proved challenging, I had mostly been faking the arms, as the older gentleman pointed out, and now I had to actually do something with them. This is also where a sassy kitten heal would have worked well on the turn. I left my husband with very little confidence and started my clockwise rotation of dance partners. I knew it was coming and I think Alberto did too. As I joined hands with the older gentleman and he started to pick apart my every move, Alberto called over to him that he would explain when I got to him. And he did, he lead and I followed. Theresa spent some extra time with the man with the bag so I skipped ahead to D’s husband to finish off the rotation with some success.

Our homework for the week was to practice. We were excited about what we had covered and wanted to give our daughter a little demonstration when we got home. Before I could even find something with a little Latin flair on the music channel, we got the look and the retort that all parents of a teenage daughter know only too well…

EW!

EW!

It’s a damn shame that she will be walking to and from school again this week.

What did you get up to over the weekend?

image source: upi.com

February 19, 2015

Recipe: Pasta with Shrimp and Spinach

I am a sucker for quality 30-minute meal. Tried this last week, true to time and it was delish!

1 pkge whole wheat spaghettini *
1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1/2 cup fat-free/less-sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice *
6 cups coarsely chopped spinach
2 tablespoons capers (optional)

Modified from original recipe Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp and Spinach

Cook pasta according to package directions, Drain.

While pasta cooks, sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots; sauté 30 seconds. Add shrimp; sauté 3 minutes. Remove shrimp mixture from pan. Add chicken broth and lemon juice to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add cooked pasta, shrimp, spinach (and capers), and heat 1 minute or until spinach wilts, stirring frequently.  Serve and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Adding cherry tomatoes during the final minutes of cooking would have been a nice addition to this recipe.  I found that 1 1/2lbs of shrimp was a lot for this recipe, especially with the price of fresh shrimp right now.  But even with the suggested amount of seafood, of course with the exception of the staples, it stayed under $25, and served dinner for 3 with enough left overs for everyone to take for lunch the following day.

mmmmmm

mmmmm

Let me know what you think.

 

 

 

February 13, 2015

Wine Sipping Music

Two of my favourite songs, “Thinking Out Loud” and “I’m Not the Only One”, alone full of emotion, together…powerful! 

I hope you enjoy.
 

February 13, 2015

Passing the Baton

Oh how I have missed my Sunday morning training sessions at the track, said no one ever.  But I have.  And for the last three weekends I have arrived slightly giddy not just because my hamstring is finally feeling strong enough to make a comeback, but because my daughter (who is not giddy) is there with me too.  My early days of running were at the track, and I was excited to show her that I am not just that sweaty mess running at a snails pace that she sees stumbling over ½ marathon finish lines, and that I can still actually generate a respectable amount of speed.

On Sunday’s Soraiya is the boss, and as much as I give her a hard time, I like it that way.  After our warm-up she gives us our assignment, which has been 10  – 100 metre sprints with 300 metre recoveries in between.  Inside I scream “YES”, back in the day they were my specialty. Even though Ry has played sports at a high level for most of her life, I’m her Mom and felt the to give her a few tips but fully expected that she would follow my lead, of course from behind, as I showed her how it was done.

As our kick started to increase we hit the go line and the gloves were off, no longer mother and daughter, we were now two fiercely competitive athletes looking for the win.  What can I say?  We are cut from the same cloth.

She easily took the first one, and I was more than impressed.  Without batting an eyelid she took two as well as three. I fully chalked it up to young legs, and was confident that experience and pacing would prevail in the end.  As I predicted, I took four, and feeling just a bit little cocky, I looked back at her and said “don’t let me have it, fight me for it”.  She responded by taking five through ten.

In efforts to keep my darling daughter’s muscles fresh for an afternoon hockey playoff game, she did not accompany me to the track on week two, giving me an opportunity to dust off my ego and rebuild my confidence…which was once again handed to me after a 10-0 thrashing in week three. Sigh.

As parents we want nothing more than for our children to surpass us in everything that they do, and that even includes areas that give ourselves that feeling of ferociousness and glory. I’m proud of her, she’s out there upping her game early on Sunday morning when most of her teammates are sleeping and she will see the results.  And yes, while I do wish I had left a little more of my legacy on the track for her to see, she sees me out there busting my ass, albeit stuffed like a sausage into my core shorts, but I’m still out there giving my all.  And who knows, I just may take my title back when we move to 200 metre sprints.

Still not giddy, even with Starbucks in hand

Still not giddy, even with Starbucks in hand

 

February 6, 2015

Recipe: Slow Cooker Korean Beef

One of my gf’s was recently raving about a Korean Beef dish that brought her entire family to the dinner table, which is fairly impressive, she has one of the largest broods that I know.  Whether or not it would bring my gang to the table was besides the point, I couldn’t get the thought of it out of my head.  I did a little digging around and this is what I came up with:

3lbs. chuck roast
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 onion, sliced *
1 red pepper, sliced*
10 cloves garlic
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp chili paste*
1 tsp red pepper flakes

*modified from Baked Bree’s original recipe

Combine all ingredients except roast in a slow cooker, add roast and baste.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours (I did peek and re-baste several times while it cooked).  Shred roast and crush garlic cloves with a fork 30 mins prior to serving.

The original recipe was for Korean Beef Tacos.  I found it a little too saucy for a hand food and did not want to waste the delicious gravy, so instead served it over jasmine rice and sprinkled it with sesame seeds.

Delish

Delish

It’s a winner!  Brought my gang to the table and back again for seconds, unfortunately leaving me nothing for lunch the next day.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

 

January 29, 2015

What’s For Dinner?

When I announced that I was going back to school and would be immersed in the land of nutritional studies for the next couple of years, my daughter’s first response was “oh great, now we won’t be able to eat anything”.   Now, granted in my line of work I do have to eat well to maintain energy and fit into my workout pants without my ass glowing like a disco ball (oh yes ladies, if your lulu’s are too tight, they shine), but I do enjoy food and life.  So how do you create that healthy lifestyle balance without depriving your gang, and yourself, of butter, bacon and all that tastes good?

Contrary to the belief of many, there really is more in my fridge than carrot sticks, spinach and wine.   I am an 80/20 kinda girl, I do walk a pretty good walk, but I believe that life is about moderation, and even moderation in moderation sometimes. And a healthy lifestyle has to be that, a lifestyle. If you take away all of your dirty little pantry secrets and are forced to live a life of restricted calories, burpees and green tea could you honestly call it a healthy lifestyle? Absolutely not, so why waste the time setting yourself up for failure.

With all of my course readings I began to realize that although our diet was fairly healthy, it wasn’t as varied as it could have been.  Life happens and it gets busy, mealtimes become almost a hassle and you fall into what is easiest, repetition.  So in efforts to salvage our humdrum mealtime and add some variance I took on the challenge to cook something new every week, be it a side, main or snack.  Along with the epic fails, there have been some serious winners and I have settled nicely into my new kitchen.

So in addition to food stuffs, you can look forward to my weeklyish shares of what’s been cooking in my kitchen; no fancy pics, there are no food fluffers here and I like to eat my food while it is hot.

And in response to my little darling, quite the contrary, you get to eat everything!

 

An oldie but a goodie.  Copyright 1963

An oldie but a goodie. Copyright 1963

 

January 17, 2015

Project Vision Board

I mentioned to Conny a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to make a vision board. It seemed like a great way to take all of my New Year journaling and reflection full circle. She looked a little surprised, perhaps because she knows that my crafting resume consists only of a mediocre Christmas wreath that I made for my front door a few years ago and a very sad purple knotted scarf that quite possibly failed because I was crafting with wine. I don’t knit or sew, have no patience for beadwork, my drawing ability is sub par, hell I don’t even like to paint walls. My only artistic merit is my penmanship, if that even falls under the classification of art, none the less I think it is nice.

My vision board vision quickly turned into a project for two. We set a date and went about gathering our supplies.

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Getting started

Each of us brought an assortment of magazines to the table. Conny clearly was the smart one here, purchasing her stack from the thrift store for 25 cents a piece (I purchased three to round out my collection that I had at home and spent almost $20). Wanting to do this right, we went through a quick how to tutorial, took a moment as it suggested, snickered, poured the coffee and these two virgin vision boarders spent the next couple of hours tearing sections of pages from our mags.

Selection of material was based only on what resonated with us; quotes, images, colours and words. Once our piles seemed complete, lunch was served, giving us a great opportunity to see what we had collected. I found it interesting that I had accumulated many quotes and pictures of travel as well as views from windows, which I think reflects my day dreamy state of mind right now. Conny’s pile was more rounded out, filled with bits and pieces from all aspects of life.

Conny is hard at work

hard at work

After the cutting and trimming was done it was time for the main event, placement and adhesion to our vision boards! We each used different methods here; I used a jigsaw approach whereas Conny organized hers into facets of her life, inner, outer, work and Good Things.

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My vision board

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Conny’s vision board

After thoughts:
From start to finish the project took slightly over four hours. Usually when Conny and I are together the chatter is non-stop, during this project I think we went almost two hours without saying a word to each other, that my friends is focus! Would we do this again? Most certainly, we are going to make it an annual event but using a much larger array of magazines.

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Conny is very pleased with her board. And there is NO wine in that glass.

 

Final thoughts:
This project would have paired well with a good bottle of wine, so next time it will not be done when Conny is participating in dry January, but good for her.

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My vision board hanging in the corner of my office that is “an authentic reflection of all that feels good”.

January 11, 2015

The Man Cold

Shortly after 5:30pm on the eve of the eve of Christmas Eve, the man cold walked through my door.  He’s a bit of a legend you know, I’ve had the great fortune of meeting him several times before, as well as his cousin man flu, thankfully I have only met him once.  I greeted him warmly from an arms reach distance.
First impressions of man cold are usually one’s of sympathy for this pitiful creature.  His arms hang limply, his face sad, his legs so weak that he can hardly lift his feet as he shuffles his way to the couch (where he will stay for the next 4 days), his poor lips quiver so, making it hard to make out his murmur, I’m not 100% positive, I didn’t want to get too close, but it sounded a lot like “can you call my Mom?”
Man cold is a bit like an annoying relative; you can tolerate it over dinner, for the evening at max, but only if there is wine involved.  He looooooves to talk about himself; the drama, the pain, colours and consistencies.  Others who have had recent or epic battles with him gravitate toward him; they can’t help but share their story too.

I knew night one that man cold was going to be with us for a while and was grateful that he had a day and a half of work left before the Christmas holiday as my patience had already begun to wear thin.   He snoozed through Christmas Eve, joined us for Christmas dinner, picked up the tab on Boxing Day and tagged along with us to Seattle for the Christmas break.  He coughed and snorted his way through the University District, Nordstrom and Pike Place Market leaving behind a trail of soggy Kleenex and Starbucks napkins.   And by the December 30th, I was resigned to the fact that man cold may never leave us and that this may in fact be our life forever.

I’m not going to lie; I wasn’t very nice to man cold.  Although I only said “ewwww” in my mind (ok, I let it slip to my daughter once or twice), I am quite sure that it was written all over my face every time he coughed, sneezed or blew his nose loudly.  I gave all sorts of unsolicited advice on how he could live a more healthy life by working out more often, eating better, stressing less and of course using myself as the example of health, because you know, I hadn’t been sick in years. I may have also suggested that whilst I went shopping he should drive back to Canada to see a doctor and hoped that perhaps he could swing by our house on the way back and grab the bag of shoes that I had forgotten.  I know, I am horrible.

Not soon after New Year, I started to feel a tickle in my throat.  I was thankful that we were heading home that day because I had a package of Cold FX in my kitchen cupboard which I knew would nip whatever was brewing in the bud.  Before we had even hit the border I had developed a cough.  “Fight through it, think positive” I said to myself, as I had said so many times in the past week…

I caught the man cold.  The jury is out as to whether it was karma or that I had been trapped in such tight quarters with man cold for so many days, or maybe a bit of both. So in addition to the box of Cold FX, a bottle of Robitussin, Strepsils and numerous cough candies, I have also eaten a lot of crow.

So here is what I have learned over the past 8 days:

  • The man cold is real, it knocked me on my ass, but with the exception of day 2, I still made dinner and the laundry was done.
  • I did not feel the need to describe in HD detail what was in my throat or Kleenex to give others an accurate picture of how I was feeling, but I may have used the gross exaggeration that I popped a rib from coughing so much.
  • I do not make a good sick person.
  • My husband has a much nicer bedside manner than I, perhaps it is because he enjoys watching me eat said crow for a week.
  • Karma is a bitch.
and lived to tell ;)

and lived to tell 😉

I hope that you have had a a happy and  healthy start to the New Year.

 

January 3, 2015

I Guess the Cat’s Out of the Bag…

I love waking up in the city, the sight of tall buildings, reflected windows, and the anonymity of the hustle and bustle on the streets below. But as happy as my morning view made me, I was also happy that today I was going home; I love waking up there too.

Seattle sunrise, January 1, 2015

Seattle sunrise, January 1, 2015

Bringing my coffee and laptop back to bed has become a wonderful new ritual over the last few weeks, I check my email and then move onto my news feeds, look at pretty things…do I really have to give this up on Monday? I got a little surprise this morning, who am I kidding, my stomach did a flip-flop when I saw the notification that someone liked the Keri On Facebook page. I haven’t been keeping my new project under tight wraps, but I hadn’t officially announced it either. My first post was written at the beginning of December and I look at it everyday with a big gulp. I wouldn’t say that I have been stalling; it has been more like marinating.

I spent a great deal of time yesterday journaling and reflecting on last year as well as making plans for this year. I enjoyed last year, it was a nice place to be; I caught my breath after our move and nested. My only significant change was the addition of our beloved Stanley. I needed a year like that.

2015 is going to be quite a bit different, new projects, some big ideas coming to fruition and of course great adventures. In addition to IMM, Keri On is on the top of the list and I am looking forward to putting my heart and soul into it. This morning really was perfect timing. I took the leap all by myself, I just needed a little shove to tell someone that I did it, thanks Conny.

“Hey everyone, I just started a new blog!”

Now that I have got that off my chest, I want to hear about your big plans for 2015.