Thai-Style Soft Chicken Tacos

Cook’s notes: Use a cut-up rotisserie chicken for an even faster weeknight meal. I reduced the sugar by a great deal and switched out soy sauce for coconut aminos to bring down the sodium.

Serves 6.

Sauce 1 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3 Tablespoons coconut aminos (or low-sodium soy sauce)
2 to 3 Tablespoons water
2 garlic cloves, minced
Chicken Either 3/4 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts or

1 rotisserie chicken, skin and bones removed

Stir-fry vegetables  4 cups broccoli coleslaw mix
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon minced fresh gingerroot (jarred OK to use)
Tacos 6 soft flour or corn tortillas (8-inch size), any flavor
Lime wedges for garnish.

Whisk the sauce ingredients together.

Prepare the chicken. Set cooked chicken aside.

  • If you are cooking chicken, cut chicken breasts into strips. Season with garlic salt and pepper to taste. Heat olive oil in skillet, and stir-fry chicken strips over medium heat until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • If you are using rotisserie chicken, cut the chicken breast meat into strips. Save the dark meat for another meal.

Stir fry the vegetables in the same skillet you cooked the chicken in. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 3 minutes.

Warm the tortillas. Stir in peanut butter sauce into the broccoli mixture. Spoon into warm flour tortillas and top with cooked chicken. Squeeze fresh limes onto tacos.

Source: Adapted from a recipe by Trudy Williams in Taste of Home Simple & Delicious, February/March 2017.

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Crochet a Hat for Charity

chartThere are many articles listing charities that take crocheted items, and there are many worthy charities. However, I’ve decided to focus on making hats. For any charity, use a crochet stitch to produce a tighter fabric. Hats should always be handmade, new, and free from smoke and pet hair.

As Red Heart says, “make sure your item matches their guidelines before you send it in. Groups may have restrictions or guidelines on size, color, etc. on the items they can take”. They may only accept items made from an approved pattern list or only those items made with specific yarns.

Tips on better hat making:

  • Seamless hat:  The chain at the start of a round does NOT count as a stitch. Ch2 and hdc in same place [1 hdc]; or ch 2 and dc in same place [1 dc]. Join the last st of the round with slip st to the first st, not the chain. This will hide the seam.
  • Start with a twist: Sloppy Slip Knot adapted from http://www.freshstitches.com/wordpress/?p=19
  • Color Change Join adapted from jogless color instructions at http://needlenoodles.com/home/node/139

Free Patterns by Yarn Weight

These are all patterns worked from the top down. I strongly prefer starting at the crown and working to the desired diameter (see the chart).

Worsted Weight

Alpine Nights Beanie. Crocheted in a waffle stitch with an I (5.5 mm) hook. Pattern recommended to me by someone who uses this to crochet hats for the homeless.

Basic Men’s Hat Seamless Crochet Pattern by Little Monkeys Crochet. hdc stitch.

Beanies for the Homeless. Similar to the Little Monkeys pattern, but with dc stitch.

Better Late Than Never Beanie. A wonderful striped hat pattern that I’ve made at least 4 times. Designer Kathy North alternates rows of dc and sc. I average 1.6 oz total yarn, 91 yds for both colors (52 yds main color and 39 yds contrast color).

Caron Cakes Slouchy Beanie. Worked in a cute yarn that changes color. hdc stitch, H-8 (5 mm) hook.

Cuffed Cutie Hat. For children. Uses K-10.5 (6.5 mm) hook and post stitching to create a turn-up brim. Recommended by Wool-Aid.

Double-Double Crochet Hat by Kathy North. Extra warm; made with 75 yds. each of 3 colors worsted weight yarn (light, medium, dark color) and a K-10.5 (6.5 mm) hook.

Shanti Hat. For children or adults. Uses K-10.5 (6.5 mm) hook and 60 – 190 yards (55 – 174 m) yarn. I’ve made this hat 4 times.Wool-Aid also recommends this pattern. Some of my pattern notes:

  • Medium size: 18″ head size, 5.75″ across and 10.25″ long, will fit a variety of head sizes. Looks better inside out. TOTAL: 2.44 oz, 132 yds (1.4 balls).
  • Medium size, with stripes: Total yarn: 2.64 oz, 143 yards. Work to 6″ across, then stop increasing. Work rounds 6 to 16 even, then add ribbing.

Two Stripe Beanie by KT and the Squid. A cute way to use up leftover yarn. Worked from the top down in a variety of sizes.

Chunky / Bulky Weight #5

Chunky Beanie Hat. This pattern uses a contrast color for the last round. She also provides tips for a neat finish.

Gumdrop Slouchy Hat. Uses a J-10 (6 mm) hook. Author says, “This is a really simple slouchy hat that even a beginner could handle! It’s a heavier slouchy hat that is perfect for colder days and nights. You can make it a solid color or change colors after every round to make stripes.”

Just Like That Hat. A thick and warm hdc beanie.

Lovely Lady Slouchy Hat. Uses a K-10.5 (6.5 mm) hook. Pattern calls for Homespun yarn.

Maia’s Hat. Free download from Ravelry. One of my favorite patterns. Because you work from the top down, you can actually use any weight yarn, not just bulky yarn. Work crown to desired diameter. Using the back loop only (blo) for hdc puts a lovely ridge on the hat and makes in stretchy.

Mama’s Easy Hat. A dc hat that is slightly slouchy. Note that pattern calls for Lion Brand Jiffy, which has been discontinued. Use 135 yds/123 m of any acrylic yarn with #5 weight instead.

Super Bulky #6

Lion Brand Junior Crochet Hat. Free pattern, but you must be a member of the web site to see the pattern. Uses a N-13 (9 mm) hook. One size; will stretch to fit a range of sizes. Finished circumference about 21 in. (53.5 cm). Finished length about 11-1/2 in. (29 cm).

Lion Brand Ridge Hat. Free pattern, but you must be a member of the web site to see the pattern. Uses a N-13 (9 mm) hook and J-10 (6 mm) hook. One size; about 20 in. (51cm), Hat will stretch to fit a range of sizes.

Under the Bridge Hat. Hat is worked in continuous spirals without joining. The author says, “I designed this hat to meet the charity group Bridge and Beyond Project’s specifications for donations, but it’s a great unisex project that works up quickly in super bulky yarn. Crocheting in the round in the half double crochet stitch’s third loop creates a look to mimic to the stockinette stitch in knitting.”

Finding a Charity By Fiber

Start with this section if you want to work through your stash by fiber (such as, “I have a lot of wool hats on hand; where can I send them?” or “Which charity wants washable acrylic only?”)

Wool Only

Generally, these charities serve children and adults in cold climates.

  • Wool-Aid: Fiber used must have 80% wool content. Their biggest need is for children 8 to 12 years old. Hats should be thick and dense, not lacy; consider adding a cuff.
  • Hats and More for War-Torn Syria (wool preferred but not required). Washable fibers preferred.

Acrylic or Cotton Only (Washable and Soft)

Generally, these charities serve cancer patients, who need extremely soft yarn and seamless caps. Hats should cover the ears.

Any Fiber

These charities will accept hats made from any fiber.

  • The Hat Box Foundation collects hats for cancer patients and others in need. They accept hats for all ages and genders. They say, “Hats for children should be at least 18″ in circumference; hats for teens and adults should be at least 22″ in circumference.” They prefer soft yarns (see the approved yarn list from Knots of Love).
  • Operation Gratitude (sends care packages to US military). Items for adults only, 21 to 23-inch heads. Since items sent in care packages are not regulation, they can only be worn by people who are off-duty. They request colors “on the subtle side–blues, browns, olives, grays, maroon, and black.”

Pineapple Coleslaw (no mayo)

IMG_2347Cook’s notes: I adapted this coleslaw recipe without mayonnaise from Let’s Dish Recipes. The original recipe says, “Shredded cabbage and pineapple tidbits come together in a sweet and tangy dressing in this unique take on a classic salad.”  I modified it to make it less sweet (omitted brown sugar, cilantro, and jalapeño). A sprinkle of Tajin seasoning would also be delicious.

Prep Time: 10 minutes. 6 to 8 servings.

20 oz can pineapple chunks
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
6 tablespoons pineapple juice (reserved from canned pineapple)
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 cups shredded green cabbage, about 1/2 head
1 cup chopped green onions (1 bunch)

Drain the pineapple chunks, reserving the juice for the dressing. Chop the pineapple chunks; you’ll have about 2 cups.

In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, vinegar, pineapple juice, salt, and pepper.

Add the cabbage, green onions, and pineapple. Toss to coat well and serve immediately.

Pickled Red Onions

Cook’s notes: I used Mollie Katzen’s recipe for years, as posted on the Global Gourmet, but that site is down (web site can no longer be found). Luckily, I found the link saved to archive.org.

In the meantime, I tried a different version with red pepper flakes from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles. Both recipes are quick and easy, and both yield delicious pickled onions.

onions

The original recipe from Global Gourmet

 

Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes Redux

fullsizeoutput_18ebCook’s notes: I keep reworking my recipe for small batch pancakes. This simple recipe makes 8 pancakes. If you don’t eat eggs, it should work just fine without the egg (or try one of these substitutes).

Dry ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoons Pie Spice (Penzeys brand)

Wet ingredients
1 beaten egg
1 cup almond milk
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

Frozen blueberries without added sugar (1 Tablespoon per pancake)

Combine the dry ingredients (flour to spice) in large bowl. Whisk together to blend well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and oil. Make a well in the dry ingredients; add beaten egg mix. Whisk the batter together with as few strokes as possible (There will be a few lumps in the batter.)

Lightly oil the surface of a large skillet, and heat over medium heat. Make two pancakes at a time: Pour 1/4-cup batter onto griddle for each pancake, spacing them out so they have room to spread without touching. Add 1 Tablespoon frozen blueberries to each pancake after you pour the batter on the hot skillet.

Cook until bubbles form on the surface, about 3 minutes; then flip gently and cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Continue cooking batches with remaining batter.

Serve with maple syrup and your choice of toppings.

Adapted from http://www.oprah.com/food/Pancake-Mix-Recipe#ixzz3siBKxkto and Review: Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes

Best Recipe: Fudgy Cocoa Brownies

IMG_1934Cook’s notes: These are similar to the Best Recipe: Dark Cocoa Brownies but the preparation method is different (and flour reduced with cocoa increased). I was out of chocolate chips and wanted to make decadent brownies for a party. These are amazing and very rich. They bake at a slightly lower temperature.

Beating the eggs vigorously is the key to the crackly top. Beating the batter too much once the flour and cocoa powder are added will “create air in the batter, which will give you cake-like textured brownies.” That is not our goal, according to Cafe Delites.

Makes 16 brownies

1 stick (4 oz or 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt

Heat oven to 325F degrees. Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with parchment paper and lightly coat with cooking spray.

Using a stand mixer, beat together the melted butter, olive oil, and sugar for 1 minute.

Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat on medium speed for 1 minute, one at a time. Eggs will lighten in color.

Add cocoa powder, flour, and salt. Beat on low only until dry ingredients are just incorporated. Stop stirring when no traces of flour remain, and do not beat too long. (Note: You may want to do this step with a rubber spatula.)

Pour into pan, and bake about 25 minutes, or until brownies are set and barely firm in the middle. Cool on a rack before cutting.

Source: Reduced the sugar and adapted recipe for a stand mixer from Bon Appetit and Cafe Delites.

Kefir Smoothie

renderedcontent-7272beda-1819-48e4-a940-c74ff8af47b6Cook’s notes: Kefir gives this smoothie a wonderful tangy flavor. This is a great smoothie without greens, similar to the transitional Low Fiber Smoothie: Peach.

Makes about 3.5 cups. (2 servings)

 

2 cups vanilla Kefir yogurt drink
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 banana, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup frozen blueberries (unsweetened)
1/4 cup frozen cherries (unsweetened)

Add all ingredients in the order they are listed (from liquids to soft to hard to frozen) to the Vitamix container. Secure the lid.

Turn the machine on to Variable speed 1 and slowly increase to speed 10. Turn the machine to High.

Use the tamper to push frozen fruit into the ingredients as needed.

Blend for about 45 seconds or until desired consistency is reached. Serve immediately.

NOTE: This recipe has been written for the Vitamix 5200 with Standard 64-ounce container. If you are using a different machine, you may need to make adjustments to the speed or processing time. Know your blender and don’t overload the machine.

DISCLOSURE: This post is not sponsored by anyone. I paid for any products listed here and liked using them. This is my personal blog, and I am not compensated to create posts.

 

Pack a Protein Lunch

Cook’s notes: Inspired in part by dietician Megan Kober’s article on Balancing Blood Sugar and Dana Shafir Wellness. I’m always looking for ideas on better ways to pack lunch. These are balanced meals that emphasize veggies over bread for the starch portion. Non-starchy vegetables are unlimited: eat all you want!

The formula

See the Building Blocks section below for details.

  • Protein: 1 serving = 20 to 30 grams / 1 serving for snacks and 1 to 2 servings per meal
  • Healthy Fats: 1 serving = 12 grams / 1 serving for snacks and 1 to 2 servings per meal
  • Fiber: at least 5 grams per meal. Mostly vegetables and fruit.

Sample meal: 3 to 4 oz. protein; 1 healthy fat; 1 to 2 vegetables (1/2 cup cooked vegetables or 1 cup raw vegetables); 1 fruit serving; and 1 optional starch (1/2 cup rice, quinoa, pasta, or potato).

Vegetarian

Black bean burrito, 1 oz. tortilla chips, 1/4 cup guacamole, 1/2 cup raw jicama slices, and 1 cup pineapple chunks.

Chili with beans (1 cup) and shredded cheese, 1 corn muffin, 1/2 cup cooked green beans, and 1/3 cup fruit salad.

Hummus platter: 2 Tablespoons Hummus, 1/2 whole-wheat pita, 1 oz. mozzarella cheese, 12 olives, 1 mini cucumber, 6 cherry tomatoes, and 1/2 cup grapes.

Quiche (1 slice), 12 baby carrots, 1 oz. pretzels with Greek yogurt dip, and 6 strawberries.

Quinoa platter: 1/2 cup quinoa mixed with 1/2 cup beans, 1/2 cup roasted veggies, 1/2 cup steamed broccoli, 1 to 2 Tablespoons vinaigrette, and 1 pear.

Chicken, Tuna, or Turkey

Chicken salad (3 to 4 oz.), 1 oz. cheese, 1 serving of crackers (2 g fiber minimum), 1 cup raw red bell pepper strips, 1 cup blueberries, and 1 oz. dark chocolate.

Mixed green salad with crackers: 2 cups mixed greens, 3 oz. chicken, 1 oz. cheese, 1/3 cup beans, 1 cup raw veggies, 6 black olives, and 2 Tablespoons vinaigrette. Add 1 cracker serving.

Mixed green salad with quinoa: 2 cups mixed greens, 3 oz. grilled chicken breast, 1/4 cup diced cucumbers, 1/4 cup diced tomatoes, 1/4 cup black beans, 1/4 cup cooked quinoa, and 2 Tablespoons vinaigrette.

Sandwich (2 slices whole-grain bread spread with mustard, 3 to 4 oz. chicken or turkey, and 1 slice cheese). 1/2 cup coleslaw, 1 cup side salad with vinaigrette, and 1 banana.

Sandwich (3 to 4 oz. chicken or turkey) with avocado slices, grape tomatoes and bell pepper slices, and 1 cup of berries.

Stir fry: 3 to 4 oz. chicken, 1 cup cooked veggies, 1/2 cup brown rice topped with 1 oz. almonds.

Sweet potato: 1/2 baked sweet potato topped with 3 oz. diced chicken, BBQ sauce, 1 oz. cheese, and 1/4 cup black beans. Serve with 1 cup cooked spinach.

Taco salad: 2 cups mixed lettuce, sliced tomato, 1 oz. crushed tortilla chips, 3 oz. sautéed ground turkey, 1⁄2 cup black beans, 1 oz. cheddar cheese, salsa, and diced avocado.

Teriyaki chicken (3 to 4 oz.), 1/2 cup noodles, 1/2 cup sautéed spinach, 3/4 cup raw snow pea pods, and 1 orange.

Tuna salad (3 to 4 oz.) sandwich, 1/2 cup cooked zucchini, 6 cherry tomatoes, and 1 cup watermelon chunks. To make tuna salad, combine a 5 oz. can tuna, drained; 1 to 2 Tablespoons plain yogurt; 1.5 teaspoons lemon juice; 1 Tablespoon sweet relish; and salt and pepper to taste.

Turkey kielbasa or chicken sausage (3 to 4 oz.), 1/2 cup brown rice, 1 cup sautéed baby spinach and mushrooms, and 1 cup diced mango.

Turkey roll-up: Spread 1 whole wheat tortilla with 2 Tablespoons cream cheese, and top with 3 to 4 oz. sliced turkey. Roll up and slice. Serve with 12 baby carrots, 1 mini cucumber, and apple slices.

Turkey meatballs (3 oz.), 1/2 cup pasta with tomato sauce and shredded cheese, 1/2 cup sautéed spinach, 1 cup side salad with vinaigrette, and 1 peach.

 

Building Blocks

  • Protein: 1 serving = 20-30 grams / 1 serving for snacks and 1-2 servings per meal
    • Chicken or turkey, 3 to 4 oz.
    • Cottage cheese, 3/4 cup
    • Eggs, 3 each (or 6 egg whites or 3 to 4 oz. egg salad)
    • Greek yogurt, 1 cup
    • Salmon or other fish, 3 to 4 oz.
    • Shrimp, crab, or lobster, 3 to 4 oz.
    • Turkey bacon, 4 strips
    • Tuna packed in water (or tuna salad) 3 to 4 oz.
  • Healthy Fats: 1 serving = 12 grams / 1 serving for snacks and 1-2 servings per meal
    • Avocado, 1/2
    • Cheese, 1 oz.
    • Cream cheese, 2 Tablespoons
    • Guacamole, 1/4 cup
    • Hummus, 2 Tablespoons
    • Olives, 10 to 12 each
    • Nut butter, 1 Tablespoon
    • Nuts or seeds, 1 oz.
    • Vinaigrette dressing, 1 to 2 Tablespoons
  • Fiber: at least 5 grams per meal. Prefer produce over grains: add 2 vegetables and 1 piece of fruit to your lunch.
  • Vegetables
    • 12 baby carrots
    • 5 cherry tomatoes
    • 3/4 cup snow peas
    • 1/2 cup cooked vegetables or vegetable juice
    • 1 cup soup
    •  

      1 cup raw vegetables

    • 1 cup leafy greens
    • 1 cup coleslaw
  • Fruits
    • 2 Tablespoons dried fruit — raisins or dried cherries
    • 4 dried apricots
    • 1/2 cup canned, fresh, or frozen fruit; or fruit salad
    • 1/2 cup cherries, grapes, or pineapple cubes
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened fruit juice
    • 1 cup berries
    • 1 cup melon
    • 1 medium piece of fresh fruit (4 oz.) apple, apricot, plums, nectarine, peach, pear)
  • Optional starches:
    • Bread (whole-grain), 2 slices
    • Beans, 1/2 cup
    • Corn, pasta, quinoa, or rice: 1/2 cup cooked
    • Crackers or tortilla chips, 1 oz.
    • Mini pretzels, 1.5 oz.
    • Pita pocket, 1/2
    • Rice cakes, 1 to 2 each
    • Sweet potato, 1/2 cup

Small-batch salad dressings:

  • Zone Dressing: Combine 2 Tablespoons water, 4 teaspoons rice vinegar, 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard, and 2 teaspoons jam without added sugar
  • Vinaigrette: 4 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar; 2 Tablespoons olive oil; 1 Tablespoon mustard; salt and pepper; 2 cloves (1 teaspoon) minced garlic; and 1 teaspoon sweetener (honey, jam, or maple syrup)

 

 

Mild Guacamole and a Southwest Babe Bowl

img_1757Cook’s notes: Sometimes guacamole with a lot of garlic and jalapeno is tough to digest. Lime juice is more authentic, but we only had lemon juice, and it still turned out well. This perfectly mild version is delicious and easy.

Serves 8

  • 4 ripe Hass avocados, halved and pitted
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1.5 teaspoons dried cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Scoop the avocados and place in a medium bowl. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the avocado halves. Toss to coat with lemon juice. Sprinkle the dried cilantro and salt over the avocados. Using a fork, mash until a smooth consistency is achieved. Taste the guacamole “(over and over)” and adjust seasoning if necessary. Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator. Stir before serving.

The next day, you can use the guacamole as part of an “Ultimate Babe Bowl” (balanced macro bowl) from Megan Kober, who is a registered dietician. “The whole purpose of a Babe Bowl is being able to pack loads of vegetables, fiber-packed starchy vegetables or grains, healthy fats and lots of protein into one meal,” Kober says.

Southwest Babe Bowl

Place the ingredients in a bowl, mix, and eat.

  • Protein | 4 oz. rotisserie chicken, skin and bones removed and meat cut into chunks
  • Healthy Fats | 1/4 cup mild guacamole
  • Vegetables | 2 cups baby spinach
  • Starchy Carbohydrates | 1/2 cup black beans (rinsed and drained) and 1/2 cup corn kernels
  • Bonus Bites | 1 to 2 Tablespoons homemade salad dressing, such as Small Batch Italian Dressing

Adapted from Chipotle — The Not-So-Secret Guac Recipe and The Nutrition Addiction

Chicken Casserole with Tortilla Chips

Cook’s notes: My sweetheart made a huge batch of Mexican-style slow cooker stew with chicken, black beans, corn, red pepper, and cilantro. We had a 4-quart cooking pot full of delicious stew, but there are only two of us in the house. I turned the leftovers into a casserole for a potluck dinner with friends.

Heat oven to 350°F. Coat a 13×9-inch baking dish evenly with cooking spray, then scatter 1.5 cups of crushed tortilla chips evenly on the bottom.

Cook 1 bag frozen brown rice, and spread cooked rice over the tortilla chip pieces.

Spoon leftover chicken and sweet potato stew in a thick layer over the rice.

Sprinkle about 3/4 cup (6 oz.) shredded Mexican cheese over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Adapted from My Favorite Mexican Casserole recipe | Epicurious.com