Hunger Moon — Glitter and Dog Hair

I am haunted by words. I am hungry for metaphors. I am constantly searching for ways to express the thoughts that linger in my head. I have a thirst to find meaning. I am always looking for new ways to express my voice. As a high school English teacher I make a living out of […]

Hunger Moon — Glitter and Dog Hair

YEAR ROUND SUMMER SIMPLICITY – LATE NIGHT ZESTY BROCCOLI

“It was such a pleasure to sink one’s hands into the warm earth, to feel at one’s fingertips the possibilities of the new season.”
― Kate Morton

My ten-year-old stepson Lukas is the King of Questions. Not simple questions either. If you spend any time with young children you know exactly what I am talking about. Luke’s questions often border on the bizarre with a hint of gruesome thrown in. 

“So, Amy,” he inquires, “Would you rather swim with a shark or with an alligator?” “Would you rather be hunted by an invisible alien queen or a carnivorous dinosaur?” “Would you rather be trapped in a car without gas during a blizzard or in the path of tornado?” 

Therefore, I am always relieved when he asks me an easy question such as, “What vegetable would you choose if you could only eat one for the rest of your life?” Of course, when my response to him was that I would have a difficult time deciding between tomatoes and broccoli — he remembered our discussion last year that tomatoes were technically a fruit. So my answer had to undeniably be broccoli. 

For years broccoli has been a favorite. One of my college memories is of a Chinese take-out restaurant near the campus of Marquette University that my roommate Kat and I were known to frequent. Being frugal college students, and since the portions were large, we would share an entree. She would choose either Beef and Broccoli or Chicken and Broccoli. She would eat the meat and I would eat the broccoli. It was a perfect system and part of the reason that we lived together during all four years of our undergraduate studies. 

When I met my husband John, I was happy to discover that he shared my affinity for broccoli. Frozen broccoli became a staple in our grocery cart and it was one of the first vegetables that we planned for our garden. Since we have a hoop house, we are lucky enough to grow enough broccoli in the summer to last the entire year. We start our seeds in March, plant them mid-April, and for the past couple of years are able to start harvesting by the 4th of July. 

I can usually cut several heads of broccoli off of a plant before it starts going to seed. At that point I pull the plant and another takes it place. Therefore, once the seedlings go in the ground, I make sure to start another tray of seeds for backup. Most summers we are able to grow at least three individual crops of broccoli. 

I love when the seeds start to sprout!

To preserve I blanch the broccoli for three to four minutes (until bright green) in boiling water and immerse instantly into ice water. I then squeeze out any excess moisture and lay the broccoli out on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer for approximately 10 minutes. I then vacuum seal the broccoli in plastic bags which keeps it fresh all year long in the freezer. I find that freezing the broccoli, as well as squeezing out the moisture, makes sure that the vacuum bags seal properly without pulling the moisture into the sealing machine. 

I eagerly await the 2020 growing season.

Once we started growing our own broccoli, it would be hard to go back to store bought. The flavor of fresh out of the garden, or even garden fresh out of the freezer, is dramatically different. We use broccoli in pressure cooked meals, in green salads, as a simple side dressed with real butter and a splash of lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt, or even as a late night snack (our favorite especially in the summer). Truth be told, I am known to sneak out to the hoop house in my nightclothes to cut fresh broccoli, a few beans, and peas (if they are still growing) and whip up a batch with the seasoning mix I am sharing with you today. 

I think that meals and snacks should be fresh and simple, especially in the summer when our chore list is a mile long and we do not want to heat up the kitchen. Though this winter we’ve been turning to vegetables often as snacks to balance out winter’s comfort foods. After all, spring break is around the corner and we have a special bucket list trip planned.

LATE NIGHT ZESTY BROCCOLI

*1 head of fresh broccoli or one large frozen package (cut fresh into florets)

*Juice and zest of a lemon (you can use concentrate if in a pinch, fresh is always best)

*1 Tablespoon of soy sauce

*2 teaspoons of chili paste or to taste (found in the Asian food section. It can be spicy, so use an amount to suit your taste)

*teaspoon of olive oil or butter

*Optional – teaspoon of minced garlic. (Some chili paste already comes with garlic. However, you can always add some for good measure.)

Prepare the broccoli with your favorite method. When I use fresh I use the blanching method and with frozen I cook in the microwave for 3-5 minutes (depending on the amount I use). In a bowl add the lemon juice and zest, soy sauce, chili paste, garlic, and butter (the hot broccoli will melt the butter) or olive oil. Toss and serve warm. 

This sauce perks up other vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, green beans, or cauliflower. It makes a nice dressing for a cold salad and works well drizzle on vegetables before roasting. While most people may imagine a late night snack in the summer to be a creamy bowl of ice cream. Trust me on the broccoli. It if you also want something sweet then finish it up with a cool piece of watermelon, or in the winter, a juicy tangerine. It is a summer treat that you can enjoy year round. It is pleasing for the taste buds and the waist-line alike.

February is the perfect time to start planning your garden. I know that the seed catalogs have started to arrive at our house and the stores are starting to get the garden centers ready. Homegrown broccoli is a life-changing taste – you will be thankful all year long that you took the extra effort to grow your own.

Broccoli = Summer Year Round

LOW CARB CREAMY CHICKEN & MUSHROOM SOUP WITH CAULIFLOWER RICE

Winter Wonderland

If you have been paying attention, some of the most popular buzz-words right now are wellness, self-care, and low-carb. Though, I admit, as I age I realize how important paying attention to all three are. While I have not jumped 100% on the “carbs are evil” bandwagon. One of my intentions for 2020 was to be mindful of creating a meal plan for myself that was lower in carbs.

A couple of years ago, like many people I have encountered, I was diagnosed with thyroid issues. To be specific, Hashimotos Disease, where my antibodies are attacking my thyroid. As if the fatigue and mood swings that come with thyroid issues were not enough, my body has also experienced stubborn weight gain that does not seem to want to leave.

Thus, I’ve tried many different techniques to give my metabolism a boost. Exercise definitely helps and I have found that eating lower carb, helps me feel better. While the scale still moves at a snail’s pace, I feel less bloated and have more energy. So I am going to continue to reduce and do my best to eliminate my intake of sugar, pasta, rice, potatoes, and bread.

I have always been a self-confessed late bloomer. Therefore, while people have been enjoying cauliflower rice, mashed cauliflower, and other low-carb versions of their favorite sides – I was not. Years ago I tried mashed cauliflower and enjoyed it – but sometimes it is difficult when you cook for a family to have to prepare two separate meals. So this year I decided I would try my best to adapt the recipes I make my family to low carb ones for myself (then it would not feel like I am making two separate meals). For example, recently while preparing lasagna I made  a couple of individual servings for myself using all the same ingredients except I swapped out the pasta for a thin layer of zucchini in mine.

The recipe I am sharing today is one that I made for my weekday lunches. My stepson and husband both thought it smelled amazing and after taking a taste they both agreed that it was soup that they both would eat. The cauliflower gives it body and does give it the consistency that rice would. 

LOW CARB CHICKEN & MUSHROOM SOUP WITH CAULIFLOWER RICE

*1 roasted chicken. I used 1 cup of chicken for the soup and used the rest for another recipe  (I roast the chicken, remove the meat, and make bone broth from the carcass)
*4 cups of bone broth or stock
*2 Tablespoons of olive oil
*½ cup of finely chopped onion
*3 ribs of finely chopped celery
*Tablespoon finely minced garlic
*2 eight ounce containers of mushrooms
*12 ounce bag of cauliflower rice (you can find fresh in the produce section of most grocery stores or in the frozen foods. You can also make your own in a food processor)
*1 cup of heavy whipping cream (you can substitute with milk but I recommend the cream for the richness it imparts)
*Salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onion, celery, garlic, and mushrooms in the olive oil until the mushrooms cook down (approximately 5-10 minutes). Add the broth, chicken, and cauliflower and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cream and cook for 5 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy!

While this is not a super thick soup, the flavor is rich and hearty. I did not feel like it needed to be thickened. It would also be wonderful with kale or spinach added at the end with the cream.

If you made any new year’s resolutions for your health, I hope that you are still giving yourself the attention you deserve. Remember, we cannot always be perfect – but we can make small strides that lead to big results. We are worth it!

SOUL WARMING HOT & SOUR MUSHROOM SOUP 

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
― Edith Sitwell

If someone had told me a few years ago that I would look forward to winter, I would have adamantly denied the assertion. However, I must admit that this year I could not wait to buckle up my snowshoes and blaze trails in my backyard. Yet, I admit that this year during my first thirty minutes of heading out, I may have whimpered a bit. What a workout! Thankfully I have a spirited German Shepherd named Apollo who enjoys bounding through the snow with me. Since he spends a lot of time cooped up inside while we are at work, he depends on me to help him burn energy at night and on weekends. Apollo is the best personal trainer and nature is our gym!

One thing is for sure, I never regret a snowshoeing session. Especially at night when the moon is out and it is peaceful. I put one foot in front of the other – a primal rhythm – a magical blend of inertia and determination. Sometimes I have to force myself to stop.
It is easy to get lethargic in the winter and I need to move. Snowshoeing gets my heart pumping, but it’s probably more important for my head. It clears my thoughts and gets rid of stress. After all, self-care is supremely important for our health.

Yet, as much as I love snowshoeing I still love to curl up and be cozy in the winter. There is nothing better than a hot sauna before bed, a fire in the wood stove, and crawling under our electric blanket and flannel duvet.

Speaking of cozy, what is better for a cold winter day than a bowl of piping hot soup? Though, I am a soup girl (regardless of the weather) this recipe is one of my favorite winter warm ups. It is healthy, full of vegetables, and can be tweaked to fit your personal tastes.

My original recipe is plant-based, but you can use chicken stock and even add sliced chicken or pork if you want to. While I use thinly sliced cabbage to bulk it up, it is also wonderful when filled with rice noodles.


HOT & SOUR MUSHROOM SOUP

  • 4-8 cups of vegetable stock (depending on how much broth you want)
  • Two 8 ounce packages of chopped fresh mushrooms 
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips (½ cup)
  • 3 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped (or one bunch of green onions)
  • 1 can of bamboo shoots
  • 1 cup of cabbage, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon of sesame oil (you could also use coconut oil or your cooking oil of choice)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh ginger root, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons of tamari (soy sauce would work as a substitution)
  • Chili garlic sauce (to taste. I used two Tablespoons because I like my soup extra spicy. I find this sauce in the Asian section of the supermarket)
  • 1/4 cup of rice vinegar
  • 1/2 a bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped

Saute the onion, garlic, celery, and carrots in oil until soft. Add the mushrooms and lightly saute for approximately ten minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for thirty minutes. Before serving add a dash of rice vinegar, sesame oil (I highly recommend sesame oil since it imparts so much flavor), tamari, and chopped cilantro.

My advice to you is to make a pot of this delicious soup and head outside in the sparkling and beckoning snow. Whether your outdoor session includes snowshoeing, shoveling the driveway for a neighbor, or making snow angels — warmth will greet you when you come inside. While food may not be the answer to life’s problems, trust me, this soup comes close.

Home Is a Verb — Glitter and Dog Hair

BRANCHES LIKE NERVE ENDINGS How do I quiet my breath to match the stars – and make my papery eye-lids feel like rain? The birches are dressed in starch and my neighbor’s awkward garden raises weeds and a tangle of berries. The sky whispered lies yesterday screamed a false blue aqua like a Scandinavian […]

Home Is a Verb — Glitter and Dog Hair

Lessons Learned Outside The Classroom — Glitter and Dog Hair

Quote

“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.” ~ Stacia Tauscher I need to write about this moment. Writing helps us savor and even stop time. How fortunate we are to have language at our fingertips and tongues to help us remember. Friends, you know what […]

via Lessons Learned Outside The Classroom — Glitter and Dog Hair

RASPBERRY LEMONADE GREEN SMOOTHIE – A REFRESHING SIP OF SUMMER

“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television.”
-Aldo Leopold

Anticipation. The promise of summer has grown stronger each month. From the moment my daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips starting showing off – I have been waiting for the distinctive rattle of the cranes as they touch down in our pasture, the smell of fresh mown grass, and the warmth of slightly pink shoulders after a day in the garden. Not to mention, strawberries that finally taste like strawberries and tomatoes that taste like tomatoes. Knowing nothing will ever be as wonderful as that first bite.

Our beautiful Golden Gracie loves having me home for the summer!

As a young girl I always anticipated summer days so I could swim, ride my bike, and attend Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp. Since my birthday was at the end of the month, when school was not in session, my mom would always make a special treat for to me to bring to my classmates on the last week of school. I remember the year she made homemade cupcakes and topped each one with a gorgeous pink icing rose. I was so proud of those birthday cupcakes that I can still remember handing out each one.

One of the benefits of being a teacher is holding on to that anticipation of the end of the school year. While it ends up being a whirlwind trying to tie up all the year’s loose ends by wrapping up grading, tucking away my classroom, and finishing the end of year reports. However, when that final bell rings – I still feel the rush of freedom that comes with time off for vacation and projects!

Apollo loves walking up and down the “river” to our pond, but he does not jump into the pond.

While I feel fortunate to have the luxury of time in the summer, I have to be careful to make sure that I am productive. While it may sound tempting to lounge around in pajamas drinking coffee all day, I try to start my mornings with a schedule (imagine that) to make sure that my time is structured. This year part of my morning routine includes exercise and a green smoothie.

I prefer a tart smoothie over a sweet one (especially in the morning) unless I am drinking the green smoothie in place of dessert. If you are new to green smoothies, I always recommend starting with spinach since it is naturally sweet and easy to blend. A frozen banana is also essential. The banana imparts sweetness and makes the smoothie cold and creamy.

This recipe is for a surprisingly simple and refreshing summer classic. You can control how much banana and lemon you add depending on the level of tartness or sweetness that makes your taste buds happy.

RASPBERRY LEMONADE GREEN SMOOTHIE

*3 cups of spinach
*1 lemon (juice and zest)
*1 cup of raspberries (fresh or frozen
*1 small frozen banana
*1 cup of water (you can use coconut water)
*A handful of ice cubes
*Optional – chia seeds and/or fresh mint

It always makes me feel productive when I share a new recipe and focus on healthy living. I have plenty of projects this summer that will help fill the void of my empty classroom and I have to fuel my body properly to accomplish everything on my list. I hope you join me in lifting a glass to celebrate summer.

Make sure you check out the other green smoothie recipes on my blog. In fact, I have an entire month of green smoothie recipes, with printable shopping lists, posted in case you want to commit to a healthy challenge.

My photo bomber Apollo

 Tips for those new to green smoothies

1. Start by adding a small amount of greens. Spinach is naturally sweet.

2. A frozen banana is essential. It gives the smoothie sweetness and makes it creamy. Buy a couple of bunches of bananas a week and when they ripen, peel and toss into a bowl or bag in the freezer.

3. Fresh ginger root helps mask the grassy flavor of greens that have a stronger taste (such as kale and dandelion greens). Raw ginger also helps promote digestion, as do parsley and cilantro (it may sound odd to add cilantro to afruit smoothie, but it is a wonderful and unexpected addition).

4. If you do not like bananas you can use dates, maple syrup, or raw honey for sweetness.

5. You can add other liquids other than water: coconut water, milk, almond or coconut milk.

6. Chia seeds are filling and are a great source of calcium, protein, and Omega-3.

7. Protein powder and Greek yogurt are great additions to make a smoothie filling.

8. We use a Vitamix blender at our house, but if you do not have a high-powered blender, blend up the greens and liquid first and then add the fruit (cut up in small pieces) a little bit at a time. When you freeze your bananas you will want to slice or break them into small chunks.

My happy place.
My azalea bushes finally bloomed after several years!
Lupine and Iris
Iris

Not Your Grandmother’s Egg Salad

I am not sure exactly how it happens. It may come in the form of a manual, a hardcover book – or in modern times – the password to a secret website. However, I am fairly certain that when one becomes a grandma, somehow you receive underground information on the art of sandwich making. In my personal experience the grandmas of the world seem to know exactly how to satisfy even the pickiest grandchild’s appetite.

Trust me, I will never forget the day when my step-children Avalon and Lukas both took a sip of their “pink milk” (Strawberry flavored milk) and declared that it tasted just like Granny Barb’s. Talk about feeling jubilant!

I still remember my mom’s frustration when she could not get my brother Jamie’s sandwich quite right.

There was a bit of tension in her voice as she picked up the phone to call my paternal grandmother Edna Armstrong, “Okay, now what brand of bread do you use? And the peanut butter? Do you spread it on both pieces? ”

“What brand of margarine?” (Don’t judge – it was the 70s).

“Do you put it on before or after the peanut butter? How thick? So there is no jelly or jam on the sandwich? Cut at a slant or lengthwise?”

While my mom may not have “mastered” the perfect peanut butter sandwich at this point in her life, she knew that cutting the sandwich wrong could be detrimental to the entire process.

After she put the phone down on the receiver we both turned to Jamie and studied him intently. He was all of six years old, complete with big blue eyes, rosy cheeks, freckles, and a fringe of sandy brown bangs. He took one bite. Put the sandwich down and shook his head.

“No. It still doesn’t taste like Grandma’s!”

My maternal grandma Hilda Puskala, after rearing seven children, had a large brood of grandchildren. One of my sandwich memories of Grandma’s kitchen was her and my mom making Pickle and Bologna. She would haul out the metal grinder and clamp it to the kitchen table. I can still hear the squeak of the handle as they processed the ring bologna and dill pickles. For the perfect sandwich spread she would mix in mayonnaise (or was it Miracle Whip?).

While Grandma and Mom would mix up pounds of Pickle and Bologna in a large McCoy mixing bowl with pink and blue stripes, my Aunt Christina and I would fight them for space at the table with her Fuzzy Pumper Play-Doh Barber Shop. Anyone who grew up in the 70s knew that the meat grinder and the Play-Doh barber shop were soul mates.

I wasn’t sure if Pickle and Bologna was an Upper Peninsula thing, but my husband John (who hails from Muskegon) said he remembers his grandmother making it too. After a quick Internet search, I found recipes for this sandwich spread (most from the Midwest) that are probably inspired from someone’s frugal grandma.

To be honest, I cannot imagine eating Pickle and Bologna today, but I remember eating it as a child. While I probably enjoyed my mom’s, I guarantee it was not as good as when she made it with Grandma.

So in the spirit of Grandmas everywhere, I am introducing a new sandwich spread to the mix. After all, one day – way into the future I may add — I may be a step-grandma. Therefore, I need to work on my sandwich game (just in case no one delivers me that precious manual).

This is “healthed up” version of a traditional egg salad. I do put in a lot of crunchy additions, so you can make edits based on your personal preference. To cut down on fat and add an extra boost of protein, I substitute cottage cheese for salad dressing or mayonnaise.

I will also add that while I do tend to take an old-fashioned approach to cooking and do not invest in a lot of fancy gadgets, purchasing a pressure cooker (such as the popular Instapot) has been a game changer for hardboiled eggs. Since our eggs are so fresh, I didn’t even bother hardboiling them before because they were impossible to peel. Now I put them in my pressure cooker and use the 6/6/6 method. I cook at high pressure for six minutes, let sit in the pot for six minutes, and immerse in an ice bath for six minutes and the shells pop right off like magic. However, I have found that the number of minutes that I cook them for depends on how many eggs I am cooking, so you may want to experiment. Since I have an 8 quart cooker, I can hard-boil 3 dozen or so eggs at a time.

NOT YOUR GRANDMA’S EGG SALAD

  • 6 large whole hard-boiled eggs (since our eggs are farm fresh from our happy hens, I often have to vary the amount due to differing size)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/8 cup chopped onion
  • 1/8 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1 cup 1% low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1+ Tbsp apple cider vinegar (I add several Tbsp for tanginess)
  • 1+ tsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp dried dill weed or fresh to taste (fresh is even better)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • *Optional – sugar (if you are used to a sweeter tasting salad dressing)

I think it’s crucial to the taste of the egg salad to let it sit overnight to marry the flavors. It may get a bit runny, but you just have to stir and it will be perfect.

This egg salad may not be as creamy as you are used to, so you can add a touch of mayo or even a small amount of plain Greek yogurt.

Another great addition for healthy fat and flavor is a mashed avocado.

While the egg salad that I remember from childhood was always on white bread, I like to further break tradition and serve as a dip for crackers or celery, and make an open faced sandwich on rye or dark bread with lettuce and tomato. You can also make a tortilla wrap — or if you are watching your starchy carbs — serve on a bed of lettuce or use it to stuff a tomato.

While my egg salad may not be the version that my grandmother’s made, that is okay. Because as corny as it is, we all know that the secret ingredient that made their food delicious was love. ❤

As I create recipes, I try to enhance flavors with ingredients that reflect this unconditional love. We must nourish our bodies with food that is kind to us and that helps us reach our health goals and our potential.

It is an understatement to say that it has been a long winter. I wish you beautiful days full of the luxury of sunshine, songbirds, and green. In the coming weeks, take advantage of milder weather and plan a picnic. While you are at it, whip up some egg salad sandwiches. What a perfect way to celebrate spring and the Grandma Edna and Hildas in our lives!

Grandma Hilda Puskala with myself, my mom Karen Armstrong, and my niece Kristine circa 1996. How perfect that we are wearing our “Easter bonnets”. We were attending a gorgeous shower that my Aunt Christina planned for me.

Grandma Edna. She displays her spunky nature with her creative bonnet. 🙂

 

My brother Jamie and I in 1976.

Potato Encrusted Fried Chicken

Growing up in Crystal Falls in the 70s, with a traditional family structure, cooking was primarily reserved for my mother. She was a stay-at-home mom until my senior year of high school and the only time I remember my dad cooking was on hot summer evenings when he manned the domed charcoal grill. I know this set-up may sound familiar for many in my generation.

When I left for college, I noticed that my father, James Armstrong, started hobby cooking. He enjoyed making chili, hearty soups, and one of his specialties became Potato Encrusted Walleye. The fish was caught by either him or my brother Jamie on the Paint River — and I often requested it for breakfast when I was home on holiday. A sunny side up egg was the perfect accompaniment to the crispy coating of the fish and I can still hear and smell the fillets sizzling on the stove. My dad taught me that you had to be patient as you fry the delicate fish on low to allow the outside to brown to perfection. Of course, a squeeze of fresh lemon was the mandatory finishing touch. Fish may sound like a strange meal for breakfast, but most people who fish will agree that sometimes it is hard to wait until dinner to feast on your catch. So breakfast it is!

In our household, I try to do the bulk of the cooking. Not only was this the way that I was raised, but my workaholic husband goes above and beyond his share of household chores. However, he often pitches in at mealtime when we are in a time crunch (or when I need a cooking break) and he knows his way around the kitchen.

When I married John and became a step-mom, I tried to encourage my new family to eat healthier. Yet, I quickly learned that they were not going to get excited about hummus, roasted beets, or twenty ways to prepare avocado toast. Believe me, I learned this lesson quick. Our first summer together we spent many evenings at our backyard fire pit and my most important job was to make sure that we always had the ingredients for s’mores on hand (in fact, it is still my most important job). Avalon loves peanut butter cups on hers and Lukas is more of a purist and prefers the traditional chocolate squares and his marshmallows fluffy and toasted a mellow brown. Well, I thought that I would change things up a bit and suggested a ‘healthier’ s’mores substitute that I saw on Pinterest that utilized apple slices instead of graham crackers. I will never forget the looks on all of their faces. Avalon did not miss a beat with her tart reply, “Great job, Amy. You just ruined s’mores!” Thankfully, this was a moment that we still laugh about. Though, anyone with a blended family knows, this moment sums up being a step-parent perfectly.

One of the challenges of mealtime, not exclusive to step-parents, is finding ways to strike a healthy balance and satisfy everyone’s food cravings. One of the things that I discovered was that my step-daughter, who takes her s’mores seriously, is also a chicken finger/nugget/wing aficionado. While we do have hens for eggs, we also raise chickens on our farm for meat. I had the foresight to try out my dad’s walleye coating on chicken breasts and in the process I discovered a new dinner favorite for Avalon and the rest of the family.

The thing that I like about this recipe is that you can be exploratory with spices and it works well for a variety of meals: it makes great fish tacos with a cilantro slaw (check out my shrimp tacos recipe for the slaw. I recommend a firm fish like mahi mahi for the tacos) and I am a huge fan of it as a coating for zucchini or mushrooms. The main ingredient is simple: instant potato flakes. My father prefers “Potato Buds” but I buy whatever is available at the supermarket.

POTATO ENCRUSTED CHICKEN BREASTS

*3 cups of instant mashed potatoes (non-prepared)
*Tablespoon of oregano
*Tablespoon of garlic powder
*Tablespoon of onion power
*Tablespoon of paprika
*Tablespoon of lemon pepper seasoning (the seasoning I buy has plenty of salt – so I do not add any additionally)
*5 beaten eggs
*1 package of chicken breasts
*Cooking oil (1 inch in the pan)

Add all the dry ingredients to a gallon size plastic bag (if you like to recycle bread bags work great for this). Coating the chicken tends to be a messy process, but I promise you that it’s worth it. Coat the chicken near a sink, or have plenty of paper towels within reach (I tend to like to use my hands when I cook so I wash between each piece of chicken the coat).  I also cut the chicken into smaller pieces so it cooks faster.

We raise our own chicken, so happily I have not had to purchase chicken from the store in four years.

I pat dry the chicken with a paper towel and dip in the egg and then toss in the gallon bag and shake. I like to double-dip the chicken so once it’s coated, I dip it again into the egg wash and give it another shake in the coating. I try not to over-handle the chicken once coated. While the coating does maintain itself well (due to the double dipping) I am gentle with it when frying. I have found that if you coat all the chicken and then let it rest for the time that you heat the oil, the coating stays better intact when frying. I like to use a cast iron pan.

“Resting Chicken”

I heat the oil on low for 7-10 minutes and bring it up a few notches (3 or 4 on my gas burner) and cook the chicken for 5 minutes on each side (by then it should be golden brown).  I try not to overload the pan so the chicken cooks faster.  After each side is browned I transfer the chicken into a baking pan and cook at 350 for 20 minutes. While the chicken is baking I have time to finish my sides. Avalon’s favorite is mashed Yukon gold potatoes (I leave the peels on, cook in the pressure cooker for 5 minutes and whip up in the stand mixer with plenty of butter, hot milk — and if I am prepared – roasted garlic. Lukas’ favorite side is canned green beans from our garden.

While this chicken is fit for a Sunday dinner, it is easy enough to prepare for a weeknight. Sometimes I like to change out the spices and we like some heat with a blackening or Cajun spice and dill is fantastic as well. Just as my dad’s fish, I started serving this chicken with wedges of lemon, but I have found that the lemon pepper gives the coating a tangy finish (though personally I do not think you can ever have enough lemon).

As summer approaches after an arduous winter, I am dreaming of some of my dad’s fried walleye. I foresee time spent with him on the pontoon boat listening to Johnny Cash and sipping a PBR. Of course, the best fishing adventures involve stories around the campfire. I guess it is up to me to bring the s’mores. After all, it is the least I can do after nearly destroying the traditional dessert with one of my culinary adventures. Thank you, Dad, for helping me redeem myself!

 

 

Writing Prompt: The Kitchen Table

From my Sister Blog: Here is a universal themed writing prompt I use with my students that uses a powerful poem by Joy Harjo as a companion piece.

Glitter and Dog Hair

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
–Joy Harjo

As a writing teacher, I often use food as a prompt to help my students capture their stories. Food is universal and we have an intimate connection to the food that surrounds us.

Not only am I a food blogger, but I think that food helps a writer tap into their senses. Food is smell, taste, sounds, and texture. Food is comfort, culture, community, family, and a way…

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