Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The White Envelope

The "WHITE ENVELOPE" is brilliant!  I'd love to adopt this as my family Christmas tradition.

Christmas Story:  For the Man Who Hated Christmas
By Nancy W. Gavin
It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years.
It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it – overspending and the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma – the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else.
Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.
Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was on the wrestling team at the school he attended. Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.
As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.
Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them." Mike loved kids – all kids. He so enjoyed coaching little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his present came.
That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes, and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed a small, white envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done, and that this was his gift from me.
Mike's smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year. And that same bright smile lit up succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition – one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.
The white envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children – ignoring their new toys – would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the small, white envelope never lost its allure.
The story doesn't end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree. And the next morning, I found it was magically joined by three more. Unbeknownst to the others, each of our three children had for the first time placed a white envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down that special envelope.
Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.
I would love to hear about your experience after you've done your envelope! 
Thank you for reading my post. 
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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Chicken Thigh Teriyaki Stir-Fry

On a cold Autumn evening, why not heat up the wok and create a quick, cozy meal for two?
This recipe will make two dinner servings plus one lunch or leftover serving ~ but it can easily be doubled if you so desire.
And...there's an easy teriyaki sauce recipe.
Or two.
Perhaps three.

Chicken Thigh Teriyaki Stir Fry
Small Batch (2 Dinner and 1 Lunch Servings)

2 boneless skinless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 white onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, pressed
2 green onions, sliced diagonally
Seasoned salt
Black pepper
1 T Canola oil
1/2 tsp Toasted sesame oil
3/4 C Teriyaki sauce (homemade - my recipe(s) follow - or store bought)
Toasted Cashews
Sriracha Sauce
Red Pepper Flakes

Slice the peppers and white onion and put in bowl.  Set the green onions aside for garnishing later.
Season the sliced chicken with a dash of seasoned salt and generous amount of black pepper.
Heat a large heavy skillet or wok over high heat for 1 minute.  Add the oils and chicken.  Stir fry for several minutes until chicken is no longer pink.  Add the pressed garlic to the pan during the last minute of cooking. Remove to a clean bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the peppers and white onions to the pan.  Cook and stir fry for about five minutes on high heat until the veggies are crisp-tender.  Add a drizzle of canola oil if needed.
Return the chicken to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes until everything is hot and incorporated.  Push the mixture to the side of the pan, leaving an open space in the middle.  Add the teriyaki sauce and mix everything together.  Stir well and constantly  so sauce doesn’t stick to the middle of the pan and so everything gets coated.  Remove from heat and serve with hot steamed rice.  Top with green onions and cashews if desired.  For added heat, top with Sriracha sauce and / or red pepper flakes.

My Teriyaki Sauce:
1/2 C Coconut Aminos Teriyaki Sauce (this is gluten free and soy free) (I get mine at
1/4 C Coconut Aminos Soy Substitute Sauce (this is gluten free and soy free)
2 T corn starch
Dash of toasted sesame oil
Dash of rice wine vinegar
Dash of garlic powder or granules (optional)
1 T water
1 T brown sugar

This is just to stretch the expensive Coconut Aminos Teriyaki Sauce and make it more flavorful.
Mix all ingredients in a bowl to combine well.  Set aside until the end of cooking time.

If I don’t have the bottled teriyaki sauce, I will make my version using only the soy substitute sauce like this:
1/2 C Coconut Aminos Soy Substitute Sauce (this is gluten free and soy free)
1/4 C water
2 T corn starch
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
3 T brown sugar
Dash of garlic powder or granules

To make a lot of Teriyaki Sauce:
1 1/2 C cold water
3/4 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C soy sauce (Tamari for GF; Coconut Aminos for GF and Soy Free)
1 tsp garlic powder (or granulated garlic)
3 T corn starch
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp rice wine vinegar

Mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan and then put over medium heat on the stove.
Whisk it continually and don’t turn your back on it and walk away like I did.  The color will change and darken as the sauce begins to thicken. Once it has thickened, take it off the heat.

Serve over grilled chicken, fish, tofu, rice, or sautéed vegetables.

Tip: Make a big batch and keep in a mason jar or a recycled teriyaki sauce bottle in your refrigerator. It’s great to have on hand for last minute meals and it keeps well.

Greek Style Quesadillas

1 T olive oil
4 8-inch whole wheat flour tortillas
1 C coarsely shredded purchased roasted chicken
1/2 C feta cheese
1/4 C thinly sliced red onion
1/4 C chopped cucumber
1/4 C grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/4 C Kalamata olives, halved
1 T Italian seasoning
1/4 C bottled Greek vinaigrette salad dressing 

Using a pastry brush, coat one side of each tortilla with olive oil.  Place tortillas, sprayed sides down, on waxed paper. Sprinkle with chicken, feta cheese, red onion, cucumber, grape tomatoes, olives, Italian seasoning.  Drizzle with dressing.  Fold tortillas in half, pressing gently.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat for 1 minute.  Cook quesadillas, two at a time, over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes or until light brown, turning once.  Remove quesadillas from skillet; place on a baking sheet.  Keep warm in a 300* F oven.  Repeat with remaining quesadillas.  To serve cut each quesadilla into three wedges.  Makes 4 servings.
Note: omit the chicken for a vegetarian meal.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Mozzarella-Stuffed Chicken Parmesan

This is a little on the time-consuming side, but oh, so worth it!
You can make the patties ahead of time, even breading them and storing them in the refrigerator until it's time to cook.
Using ground chicken is easier to stuff than whole chicken breasts, but the flavor is the same.
This makes 2 large chicken patties.

1 pound ground white chicken breast
1 egg
salt and pepper
garlic powder
Italian seasoning
4 thick slices mozzarella cheese
1/2 C flour
2 eggs
3/4 C dry bread crumbs or panko
cooking oil (canola or olive)
1/2 C marinara sauce
1/2 C Parmesan cheese
1/4 C chopped Italian parsley

Mix the chicken and the egg in a bowl. Season well with salt, pepper, garlic powder and Italian seasoning.
On waxed paper, on a platter or cutting board, divide the chicken to make 4 large ground meat patties. Lay 2 slices of cheese in the center of two of the patties. Carefully top each with the second patty. With fingers, seal the edges well, making sure to conceal all the cheese.
Cover the patties with plastic wrap and place the platter or cutting board, with the patties on it, in the refrigerator and let chill well for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Alternatively, you may freeze the patties for 15-30 minutes. The idea is to get the meat to firm up enough to be able to bread it later.
Place the flour in a shallow bowl or a saucer. Beat the eggs in another bowl. Place bread crumbs or panko to a third bowl.
Remove the chicken patties from the refrigerator or freezer. Carefully dredge each one in the flour, coating it completely. Set on the wax paper-lined platter or cutting board. Carefully coat the flour-dredged patties with the beaten egg. Set on the platter or cutting board. Carefully coat the patties in the bread crumbs or panko, making sure to cover well with crumbs. Add more crumbs as needed to get a good coating. Return the breaded patties to the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 400*
Heat the marinara sauce in a small saucepan on low heat on the stove.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in skillet large enough to fit both patties.
Carefully place the patties in the hot oil and cook, undisturbed for 3 minutes.
Carefully turn the patties over with a spatula and continue to cook for 3 minutes.
Make sure the coating is evenly browned and the patties are staying together.
Remove the patties to a rimmed cookie sheet.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile cook pasta or potatoes; vegetables and make a salad if desired.
Remove the patties from the oven onto individual plates. Top with marinara sauce, Parmasan cheese and parsley. Serve with side dishes as desired.
If melted cheese is desired, you can top the patties with Parmesan cheese after they've baked for 10 minutes.

Simple Raspberry Dessert / Snack

Because sometimes you just want some fruit and chocolate to look elegant while remaining simple.