How to Open Difficult-to-Open Jars

When I’ve got a jar that just won’t open, I tap the outside rim of the lid with the handle-end of a butter knife. Most of the time, this will break the seal and I’ll be able to open the jar easily.

If it’s jelly or some other sticky kind of thing, I’ll also run the top of jar under hot water for a minute. Sometimes some of the sticky stuff got caught in the threads, and the heat melts it, enabling it to open!

Another thing to try, if you’re having trouble getting a grip on it, is to wear a rubber glove. It works like one of those rubberized jar openers, except it does double duty when you’re cleaning.

Curried Cauliflower Recipe

When I was shopping at our local Sunflower Market the other day, the cauliflower looked so lovely – and was on sale for cheapcheapcheap. So I bought a head to have with our tandoori chicken and naan that evening. I decided to make curried cauliflower, and it was delicious.  Two of my kids declared it “the best cauliflower ever!”

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt (divided)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
Pinch of cayenne
1 head of cauliflower, cored and cut into bite-size pieces
1 15-oz. can coconut milk
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped (plus some sprigs for garnishing)
1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)
1 cup frozen peas (optional)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and half the salt, and cook until golden, about 8-10 minutes. Add the rest of the salt and the spices and stir for a minute, and then add the cauliflower, coconut milk, and broth. Cook uncovered until the cauliflower is tender, about 15 minutes. Increase the heat and reduce the sauce until it coats the cauliflower. Stir in the cilantro. Stir in the raisins and peas, if using, and let heat through. Garnish with sprigs of cilantro.

We skipped the raisins and peas because… well, because we really dislike raisins. And I forgot to buy peas.

This actually makes a good meatless dinner, as well as a side dish. And it’s yummy, and inexpensive – and wayyyy less expensive than eating out. I love that I can introduce my kids to a lot of different cuisines, especially since two of them want to be chefs.

 

Healthy Apple Crisp

One of my favorite things to eat is an oatmeal-based apple crisp. My favorite flavor in the world is cinnamon, and there’s nothing better with cinnamon than oatmeal and apple, right?

I wanted a treat tonight, and we had some apples to use up before they went bad, so this is what I decided to do with it. It was a definite hit with the kids, too.

I did all the mixing in a zip-top bag, so the only things to wash are two measuring spoons, a measuring cup, and the pan. It took all of 10 minutes to throw together.

5 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
1/2  tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup quick or old-fashioned oats
4 Tbs brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray an 8×8″ baking pan with nonstick spray.

Mix the 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and white sugar in a large ziplock bag. Add the apple slices and squish around to coat. Spread the apples in the pan.

In the same bag, mix the remaining ingredients and spread across the top of the apples.

Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes, or until apples are soft and topping is crispy.

Servings: 9

Nutrition (per serving): 176 calories, 54 calories from fat, 6.2g total fat, 13.6mg cholesterol, 68.1mg sodium, 152.9mg potassium, 29.1g carbohydrates, 3.5g fiber, 14.9g sugar, 2.8g protein.

This was tasty as-is, but I think it would be to die for (although a bit higher in calories) with vanilla ice cream!

(And here I am labeling something “healthy” when what I mean is that it’s homemade, low in calories, and has fruit and fiber in it. I really hate the designation of “healthy” being applied to things because they are low-calorie — it’s one of my pet peeves, and here I am doing it. I will work on a different title for this recipe when I’ve had some sleep.)

 

Menu Plan from June 27 to July 3

Doodle’s out of town visiting  her paternal grandmother for the next two weeks, so it’s just me and the boys. For snacks, we’re going to get our fill of raw bananas, nuts, broccoli, and carrots, so she won’t have to watch us eat them in front of her when she gets back! (The boys don’t have any food allergies.)

And on to our dinner menu:

Sunday: Ham and lentil stew

Monday: Black bean burritos

Tuesday: Macaroni and cheese and green beans

Wednesday: Sushi and birthday cake and banana “ice cream” (X-man’s birthday)

Thursday: Kids will be spending the night at my mom’s – I’ll eat leftovers

Friday: Boca burgers, baked beans, carrots

Saturday: Chicken of some sort

These dinners are all quick to cook, because it’s HOT, and I don’t want to heat the house up any more than we have to. We will be taking time to make sushi for dinner on Wednesday, though, and I’ll be baking a cake (probably in the middle of the night, so it won’t be as hot) for my youngest’s 11th birthday.

I hope this plan works, because the heat is really getting to me this year – and it’s only June (barely)!

 

Super Tasty Salsa Recipe

This is almost the last of the recipes from Doodle’s birthday party.

The menu was:

Guacamole, salsa, and corn chips

Green chile pinwheels

Roast beef, horseradish, and basil pinwheels

Deviled Eggs

And, of course, birthday cake

We love my deviled eggs – I’ll post that one soon, too.

Making everything except the corn chips from scratch enabled me to give my daughter a lovely party with lots of food for a small outlay. And she’d prefer homemade to store-bought any day!

And now, on to the salsa. It’s really simple and quick, and wayyy less expensive than store-bought salsa. It also tastes a lot better than store-bought.

2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded and finely diced
2 shallots, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons lime juice

Put the shallot, jalapeno, and garlic into the food processor bowl and pulse a few times until they’re chopped very small.  Add the cilantro and give it a whirl or two to chop the cilantro. Add the tomatoes, lime juice, and spices and pulse again until only slightly chunky.

Servings: 14

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 25 calories, 2 calories from fat, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 86.2mg sodium, 212.3mg potassium, 5.7g carbohydrates, 1.4g fiber, <1g sugar, 1.2g protein.

This keeps for awhile in the fridge, but you can also use freezer jars or ice cube trays to freeze it.  I don’t can, but I’m sure it would be wonderful canned, too.

Guacamole Recipe

Yesterday, I told you how to keep guacamole from turning brown, so today I thought I’d share how I make guacamole.

2 avocados
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon  kosher salt
1/4 cup salsa
1 small tomato, seeded and finely diced (optional)

Peel and seed the avocados. Mash them in a bowl – use your potato masher, or a fork. Add the salt, lime juice, and salsa, and mash a little more. Don’t mash it until it’s uniform, though – you want some small chunks. Stir in the tomatoes, if you’re using them.

Servings: 8

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 77 calories, 56 calories from fat, 6.7g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 170.2mg sodium, 274.8mg potassium, 5g carbohydrates, 3.2g fiber, <1g sugar, 1.1g protein.

You can spread this on your chicken or burgers, or put it in tacos or burritos, or (my favorite) just eat it with corn chips. It will make you a very popular person if you bring it to potlucks, too!

While not really low-calorie, it’s not that high either (but those chips usually are!) – and most of those calories come from good fats. This time of year, avocados are plentiful and really inexpensive, so I try to have guacamole often.

Keeping Guacamole from Going Brown

Sometimes, you just need to make everything ahead – it’s a potluck, or a kids’  party and you’ll be busy with other things later, or you just want to be relaxed at dinner time.

Guacamole is easy to make ahead (and even yummier, I think, if there’s been a chance for the flavors to meld), but if you just stick it in a container and put it in the fridge, the surface will turn an icky black-brown color. Acid helps, which is why most recipes call for lemon or lime (I much prefer lime in guacamole), but if you use enough to keep the guac from turning color, your dip may taste more like citrus than avocado!

The thing to do is put a piece of plastic wrap on top of the guacamole, and push it down so it’s touching the top of the dip, and then put it in the fridge.

 

This keeps the air from getting to the guacamole, and keeps it fresh and green. Now, guacamole won’t keep days and days – you’ll want to serve this within a few hours, really. But it will stay pretty!

(This also works for homemade or cooked-from-a-mix puddings, to keep the skin from forming. I kind of like the skin, though!)

Green Chile Roll-ups (or Pinwheels, or Rollers, or Whatever) Recipe

It’s been a crazy busy week so far this week! Sunday was Doodle’s actual birthday. The kids spent the day with their dad, since it was Father’s Day, too, and came home for dinner. In our family, the birthday kid gets to pick what they want for dinner, and Doodle picked Chicken with Shallots and  Buttered Noodles. It was tasty!

Today, we had a field trip with our homeschool group. It was a walking tour of our downtown. It was really interesting, and fun, too. If you live in a city, I highly recommend calling your city’s historic society and seeing if they give tours!

Here’s another recipe from Doodle’s birthday party last week.

8 oz. Neufchatel, brought to room temperature
1 can chopped green chiles
1 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 sun-dried tomato wraps or whole wheat tortillas

Mix the cheese, chiles, garlic, and salt. Spread on three tortillas and roll up tightly. Wrap in parchment or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-3 hours. Cut into 14 thin slices.

Servings: 14

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving of 3 pieces): 76 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5g total fat, 12.3mg cholesterol, 249.3mg sodium, 33.1mg potassium, 6.5g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 0g sugar, 2.7g protein.

Birthday Cake

I made yellow cake with chocolate chips again for Doodle’s birthday party last weekend. I was so grateful that it was a chilly, rainy weekend, so the house didn’t get too hot while I was baking!  I made the chocolate cream cheese icing again, too, but this time, I added a little espresso powder (about a tablespoon) for a mocha frosting. It was a hit.

I didn’t think the cake was very pretty, even though it was super-tasty, but Doodle and her best friend (who was staying with us last week – she flew in just for Doodle’s party!) thought it was very pretty.

Here are some pictures (I didn’t get to take a picture of it once sliced).

I’m not very good at writing on cakes, either!

I also got very lucky — after I put the aqua rosettes on the cake, I realized that the spaces left for candles in between the rosettes were exactly 16! Score!

 

 

Sage and Thyme Marinated Chicken Breasts Recipe

We love chicken! I don’t think there’s a way I ever cook chicken that my kids don’t clamor for more. This is one of the easiest ways to add lots of flavor and make chicken into something a little different from the everyday (not that regular ol’ chicken isn’t wonderful).

I am really looking forward to trying them on the grill, once we get one. Soon!

 

4 chicken breasts
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons chives, snipped
1 1/2 teaspoon parsley chopped
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspooon salt
1  teaspoon sugar
(Optional) 3/4 cup white wine or chicken broth

Either slice the chicken breasts in half, making two thin pieces out of each, or pound them thin.

2. In a large zip-top bag, mix the 1½  tablespoons olive oil, thyme, chives, parsley, sage, cayenne, salt, pepper, and sugar.  Add the chicken and mush around with your hands to cover all the pieces.  Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.

3. Dry the chicken off with paper towels. Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Spray with nonstick spray and put the chicken in. Do this in batches if you have a smaller frying pan. After the chicken browns on one side, turn it and let it brown on the other. Don’t overcook – the chicken should be thin enough to cook through by the time it’s brown on both sides.

4. (Optional) Remove the chicken breasts to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.  Add the white wine or chicken broth to the pan and use a spatula to pick up all the brown bits. Let the sauce simmer until reduced to a syrupy consistency. Spoon over the chicken.

Servings: 4

Nutrition Facts (without the pan sauce)
Nutrition (per serving): 311 calories, 72 calories from fat, 8.1g total fat, 136.9mg cholesterol, 1026.1mg sodium, 617mg potassium, 1.5g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 1.1g sugar, 54.6g protein.

If you’re curious about those side dishes in the picture, they are Cucumber, Onion and Dill Salad (we call it Primordial Ooze Salad, after a sauce I make for salmon), and Low-Calorie Smashed Potatoes. I’ll be putting those recipes up soon.