I am a pack-my-lunch kind of girl. This would probably be a good opportunity to go off on a tangent about how packing your lunch will keep your food and caloric budget in check. You know how it is – you go out for lunch with every intention of ordering the grilled chicken salad with vinaigrette. But then you sit down and before you know it the server comes to get your order and in a moment of weakness you decide that your salad needs french fries, crispy chicken, and ranch. After all, it’s been a rough day, some crispy chicken won’t hurt. You deserve a treat. Clearly, packing your lunch that day would have been a healthier option. Blah blah blah. You know it, I know it. When it comes to rationalizing, I’m the queen. I can rationalize just about anything. A reason to eat that crispy chicken salad? Please, I could write a whole page about it. Given my proclivity for food-related rationalization it is in my best interests to pack lunch most days so that I can maintain some control over what I’m eating. This works well for me in the end because I am nothing if not a person who likes to be in control. Suffice it to say, when I find something new that works well for me to make ahead on the weekend and pack for my lunches during the week, I’m pretty siked about it.
As I sit here, the remnants of Winter Storm Stella are whirling around outside, although the major storm is blessedly moving on, leaving mostly flurries and wind behind. At our house we have a little over a foot of snow, which I spent the morning shoveling while I carried on a strongly-worded internal dialogue regarding the snow’s lack of cooperation. “I’ll do the driveway, you shovel the walks,” Ray said. It seemed like a pretty good deal given that we have a long driveway. Except I didn’t take into account that this snow is ridiculously wet, which means that upon scooping it up, the blasted snow immediately packs down, sticking together and to the bottom of the shovel. It never really slides out of the shovel, no matter how hard you attempt to heave it in your intended direction. So you scoop some, deposit about a quarter of it where you wanted, then bang the shovel on the ground to unpack it, then scoop it up again. And repeat. I consider it a great personal achievement that I finished both the front and back walks, twice, without actually launching the shovel into the woods. Or at Ray.
Is there anything more comforting than roasted chicken for dinner? If I was being honest with myself, I would have to say that doughnuts are at the top of my list of comfort foods, so far ahead of other treats that they may as well be the only thing on the list. Sadly, despite my undying devotion and publicly-expressed love of those little gems of fried dough, doughnuts no longer like me, so I have had to find comfort in other foods. Which is how we got here, talking about chicken.
Roasting chicken sounds like something that should be difficult, but it isn’t. Bypassing the whole chicken and just buying all split breasts makes the process even easier because all of the meat is going to cook together and you don’t have to worry about the breast drying out while you wait for the legs and thighs to cook. If your breasts are all about the same size, they should cook in about the same time. Look for packages labeled split breasts that still have the skin on and rib meat included.
If there is one type of food I make more than anything else, it’s soup. At any given time, my freezer is filled with soup. So much soup in fact, that we are always left scrambling trying to find space for my husband’s venison after hunting season. This is a situation which I know he finds to be especially irksome, however I have told him that this could be resolved if we got a larger freezer. He has thus far refused. And so, the Battle of the Deep Freeze will continue to be waged into the new year.
Pumpkin is a tricky ingredient. By the time November rolls around, we are conditioned to think that everything we eat needs the pumpkin spice treatment. We get used to the sweet and warm spiced flavors that often accompany pumpkin, so adding it to your smoothie or coffee sounds like a good plan, but have you ever eaten a spoonful of plain pureed pumpkin? It’s really not so awesome. However, if you don’t sugar it up first, pumpkin is super healthy. Pumpkins are low in calories and high in fiber, antioxidants, and minerals, so it is well worth your time to seek out savory pumpkin recipes that don’t require lots of additional sugar to make it palatable.
I think of a recipe as something that requires measurements and specific amounts of this and that, but since this sandwich is absolved from all of that fussiness, I guess you would actually call it a non-recipe. I list below about how much of each component I use for reference but the beauty of this non-recipe is that you can use as much of each ingredient that you think looks good.
Tomato. Bacon. Jam. Tomato Bacon Jam. TomatoBaconJam! I have a hard time not getting pretty excited about any food that involves bacon. That being said, I get that tomato bacon jam sounds a little weird. Tomato jam alone sounds strange, but bacon jam? With onions? Weird, perhaps. Delicious, absolutely. If you are up to your eyeballs in tomatoes, then consider taking a break from canning them, and mix up some of this jam. Don’t be put off by the amount of bacon called for. The recipe makes approximately two cups, which comes out to 16 2 tablespoon servings. When you break it down, each serving has less than the equivalent of one piece of bacon. While I try to eat healthy on a daily basis, I most definitely believe that even a healthy diet has room for a smidge of bacon!
The idea for this salad came from dinner that I recently had at my sister’s house. I had traveled down with the kids for our first overnight at their new house (which is an old schoolhouse, how cool is that?!) and she made delicious Mexican rice bowls for dinner. It was perfect because she knew how much I love Mexican flavors and my husband who may or may not have a cumin allergy (long story), was not with us, so we had ourselves a little fiesta! There was seasoned rice and black beans, guacamole, fresh salsa, and pickled cabbage and you just piled whatever you wanted in your bowl, which of course, was everything. I had a bowl and a half and I had to force myself to stay in my seat and not allow myself to go back for a third helping.
Arugula pesto, you are one of my new favorite things.
Sidenote: Arugula is also known as salad rocket, garden rocket, or simply, rocket. Doesn’t that make you laugh? What a funny name! Apparently this name is due to arugula’s lightning-fast growth rate. It makes me wonder if even I, Allison of the Black Thumb, could grow it. But then, a plant that is fast-growing doesn’t necessarily make it an easy-to-grow plant. And by easy, I mean that the said plant has to be able to survive and thrive through drought and intrusion of weeds, aka a general neglect on the part of the gardener –>me.
Pesto is a genius creation, don’t you think? Basil, which can have sweet, floral undertones is way different than arugula but substituting arugula is just as good. Instead of sweet and floral, you get grassy and peppery, which works very well with the earthiness of roasted beets. Adding arugula pesto to some quinoa and beets makes a salad that is a fantastic combination of grains, vegetables, and nuts. I first made this with barley instead of quinoa, and I loved it with barley too, but if you are gluten free, quinoa works just as well as is pictured here.
I love candied pecans. Are you with me on this? OMG, they are so very very good…and so very very bad for you. I tried to clean them up a bit, cutting out ingredients such as refined sugar and butter and simplifying the process. Making a cleaner, slightly less unhealthy version of candied pecans was fantastic, but I admit that I was driven to make them this way as a direct result of my not wanting to wash a baking sheet. Don’t ask me why, but I hate washing cookie sheets. They are unweildy, they don’t fit well in my sink, and they end up splashing water all over the place. And, in cases like these, they are about 5 times bigger than what I need. So, I fired the cookie sheet for nut toasting purposes and brought out the nonstick skillet. It works just as well and clean up is a bit, well, cleaner.