Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

You're probably reading this blog post, shaking your head, and saying to yourself, what is this, Slow-Cooker Week, or what? Well, I hadn't intended for it to be, but it looks as though it is. I have been using the heck out of my slow cooker this week, and with incredible results. I don't think I really ever realized just how much I used it, until I started writing blog posts. Today I have another wonderful, easy, and delicious recipe for your slow cooker.

I like spicy foods of all kinds, so this was something that I have long wanted to try. I haven't done a lot of Indian food in the crockpot, but I hope to remedy that very soon. My first effort was the butter chicken that was absolutely incredible; this dish is a little spicier, but equally as flavorful. I like my food extra spicy so I added a couple of pinches of cayenne pepper. You may not want to do that, because that does turn up the heat quite a bit.


This is a great warming winter recipe for those of you whose tastes lean toward the more exotic side. As with all crockpot recipes, this one is very forgiving, just use what you have. In fact, just between you and me, I didn't really have plain yogurt, but I did have some Chobani peach yogurt with the fruit on the bottom, so I just scraped off the plain yogurt on top leaving the fruit in the container and dumped that into the crockpot. No one was the wiser, and it tasted just the same. It pays to get creative.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala


2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2½ teaspoons garam masala
1-2½" piece ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ medium yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1½ teaspoons turmeric
1 (14-ounce) can Rotel tomatoes
1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas
1½ cups plain yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Spray interior of crockpot with Pam.

Toss chicken with salt, pepper, and garam masala in a medium bowl. Place in crockpot.

Mix next 8 ingredients together in a small bowl.  Pour over Chicken.  Cook on low for 6 hours. Stir in peas, cook for 30 minutes. Turn off crockpot and stir in yogurt and lemon juice. Serve atop our favorite rice and garnish with cilantro.

Monday, December 5, 2016

In Winter's Kitchen by Beth Dooley, Reviewed

One of the reasons I was drawn to In Winter's Kitchen is because, like author Beth Dooley, my late husband was a native of New Jersey. He came to St. Louis when I was but a girl of 12 to begin his career as a professor at the University of Missouri. I didn't know him at the time, but he eventually confessed to me that he expected this part of the country to be pretty desolate. Easterners, he told me, really didn't think much existed west of Pennsylvania. I honestly think he expected to see covered wagons. He was pleasantly surprised, in a method similar to Dooley, both discovering that the center of the country has plenty to offer.

In Winter's Kitchen is more than a simple food memoir. This is the type of book that I was expecting to read, but I was wrong. This book is a journey for the reader, taking it step-by-step along with Dooley as her eyes are opened to food and food culture in her new home of Minnesota. I don't think I've ever learned so much about food in one book, and so fully enjoyed myself while doing it.

The book is divided into sections, each focusing on a specific food: apples, wheat, potatoes, beans and carrots, sweet potatoes, cranberries, chestnuts, corn, milk, cheese and butter, turkey, and wild rice. Reading this book during the autumn season when I was preparing for Thanksgiving just added to my enjoyment. Naturally I had to try some of the recipes, making use of the recipes for turkey gravy and cranberries, both of which were very much enjoyed by my family last month. As I was reading this book, learning so much about food, seed saving, and sustainability, I couldn't help but think this is the type of book that should be used as a text in high school classes. We teach our children so many things that, while important, have nothing to do with the basics of life.

In Winter's Kitchen is engaging and beautifully written. It is a lovely tribute to the people of Minnesota and their local cuisine. It is a joy to meet the people behind the food -- Native American wild rice harvesters, goat cheese farmers, sweet potato growers, etc. -- who are much more fascinating than you are likely to believe. I loved reading about a Vice President of marketing who put up pickles on an old stove in his garage while watching Viking games, perhaps because it sounded so much like me. Buy this book, read this book, and then become your own researcher into your local food culture. I cannot recommend it enough.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Last month a friend offered to treat me to lunch. She had invited me to join her at a restaurant that, for whatever reason, I had no interest in visiting. I don't know why. I hadn't read anything bad about it, it just gave me bad vibes. As it turned out, my vibes were right; the food was horrible. I'd ordered the strata figuring that this was, surely, one item that they absolutely could not mess up. Boy was I wrong. It came out of the kitchen in a brick-like slab, that was not only brick-like in appearance, but in texture and taste as well, although, honestly, I have never tasted a brick.

You're probably wondering why I'm telling you this. It's because the day did have a happy ending. I had decided, wisely, before I left for lunch, to try a recipe for a slow cooker version of chicken tortilla soup. I'm not sure why I did this, because generally when I go out to lunch I'm not particularly in the mood to come home and fix or eat dinner. But intuition told me that day that I needed to have something to fall back on, and I was right. This was a new recipe that I'd found on the Wine and Glue blog. It required nothing more than putting a couple of chicken breasts in the crockpot and dumping beans, corn, and spices on top. I hadn't anticipated that it would be all that good to be quite honest with you, but I had these ingredients and figured, why not?
I really should call this Life-Saving Chicken Tortilla Soup, because it really did save the day for me. When I came home from the disastrous lunch, the house smelled amazing. The aroma was very spicy and delicious, and drew me right into the house. The whole place felt cozy and warm and comfortable, inviting me to sit down and have a nice bowl of soup. It was very easy to make, obviously is low maintenance, and the return is wonderful. This is a great soup to enjoy during the fall and winter. I cannot recommend it enough. It is also economical and, divided into six equal portions, comes in at just under 300 calories. Life saving indeed!
Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
Slightly adapted from Wine & Glue

1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
3 cups chicken stock
1 16-oz. can kidney beans, drained
1 15.5-oz. can black beans, drained
1 10-oz. package frozen corn
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 T. chili powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. dried cilantro (optional)

Mix all ingredients together in slow cooker and cook on low for 5 hours. At the end of the cooking time, remove the chicken from the crock pot, shred and return to the soup. Serve topped with a squeeze of lime juice, and garnish as you see fit. I used cheese, scallions, and avocado. Yum!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Heavenly Slow Cooker Chicken

This year, in an effort to get my decorations up early, I pretty much put everything else on the back burner (if you'll pardon the culinary pun), and that includes cooking. So, these days when I make a meal, it has to be quick, easy, and crockpot friendly. This recipe is based upon one I had in the seventies called Angel Chicken. I decided to make it early one morning before I dug into the Christmas decorations, but had failed to thaw chicken overnight in the fridge. What the heck, I thought, as I tossed two rock hard chicken breasts into the slow cooker, stirred together the few other ingredients, and poured them on top.

As the day went on and my weariness increased, the faint aroma of beautifully spiced chicken filled the house. I was so tired that the thought of making something simple like rice or noodles to use as the base for the chicken seemed daunting. So, I went to the freezer and grabbed a bag of Cipolline onions that I had previously blanched, peeled, and frozen, cleaned a handful of large button mushrooms, and quartered them, scrubbed six Ruby Gold Potatoes, halved them, and tossed everything into the pot on top of the simmering chicken. A one-pot meal was certainly in order for the day.

As I spooned everything into a bowl that evening curled up on the couch with my cozy afghan and a fire in the fireplace, I dug in. That's when I decided that this new dish should be called Heavenly Slow Cooker Chicken because the flavor was absolute heaven. The chicken was perfectly tender and beautifully seasoned, thanks to the packet of Italian dressing mix. The onions were nicely done as were the mushrooms, the potatoes were like butter. It was the best meal I had had in a long time, and took virtually no effort.

This is a must have for you during this busy holiday season. And it's so good, that I really feel it's company worthy. Maybe not for your elegant dinner parties, but certainly for a Christmas tree decorating party, a cookie making party, movie night, football afternoon, or any gathering where good friends and family get together. You have to try this.
Heavenly Slow Cooker Chicken

1-1/2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts (about 3)
1 envelope Italian dressing mix
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 8-oz. carton cream cheese with chives and onions
can condensed mushroom soup
6 peeled Melissa’s Cipolline onions (or 1 medium yellow onion, quartered)
6 large button mushrooms, quartered
6 Melissa's Ruby Gold Potatoes, scrubbed and halved
Place chicken in slow cooker. Combine dressing mix, butter, cream cheese, and soup, and pour on top of chicken. Cook on low for 7 hours. Add onions,  mushrooms, and potatoes, and cook for an additional 45 minutes to an hour.
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Friday, December 2, 2016

Viki's Granola, Product Review

As you all know from the many recipes that I have shared with you, I make my own granola. Because I do, a commercial variety has to be pretty special in order to turn my head; Viki's Granola does just that. Good-for-you delicious, it has no preservatives, is sodium free, contains no trans fat, is full of healthy whole grain, is gluten free, kosher, dairy free, and gives you high energy while being sweetened naturally, so is not cloying like a lot of other varieties.
Not a cereal eater? There are loads of other ways to enjoy Viki's Granola. My new favorite way is to toss it with popcorn when making caramel or kettle corn.  It is a wonderful addition!  Other ways include:

Sprinkle on muffins or quick breads before baking
Use as a replacement for oats in streusel topping
Turn your favorite fruit and yogurt into a delicious parfait
Toss with salad
Stir into pancake or waffle batter
As a crunchy ice cream topper

I think you'll find that its uses are endless. You won't want to be without it.

Yep, it’s that good.

I received complimentary packages of Viki’s Granola in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Peanut Butter Rocky Road Fudge

Candy making season is upon us! I love candy-making season, don't you? There's just something about the smell of warm caramel, melting chocolate, and marshmallows that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Perhaps it's because my mother used to make candy every year for the church bazaar when I was a little girl. If you like to make candy as much as I do, you are going to love this recipe. No baking is involved, just melting, stirring, pouring, waiting, and then digging in. When I made this last month for my dad he gobbled it up and asked for more, so give this simple and delicious recipe a try, nothing is easier.

Peanut Butter Rocky Road Fudge

1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1½ cups peanut butter chips
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk, divided
2 tsp vanilla extract, divided
2 tbsp butter, divided
2 cups miniature marshmallows, divided
2 cups dry roasted peanuts

Line a 9” x 9” pan with foil, leaving a 1-1/2” overhang on each end. Spray foil with Pam; set aside.

Divide sweetened condensed milk between two microwave-safe bowls. (Just eyeball it.) In one bowl add chocolate chips and 1 Tablespoon of butter; in the other bowl add peanut butter chips and 1 Tablespoon of butter. 

First microwave the chocolate and condensed milk combination, stirring every 30 seconds until melted. Next microwave condensed milk and peanut butter chips, stirring every 30 seconds until melted.  Stir 1 teaspoon of vanilla into each bowl.

Pour mixtures into the pan, one at a time, swirling together if you like (I didn't). 

Sprinkle peanuts on top, and then follow with the marshmallows, pressing down lightly. Chill until firm.

Carefully lift out of the pan with the ends of the foil; cut into squares.
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Monday, November 28, 2016

Mr. Tom Turkey Tablescape

If you're anything like me, once Thanksgiving is over, you want to kick pumpkins to the curb. In any case, I still wanted to share the table that I had for Thanksgiving. This year I actually set two tables, but with all of the activity of Thanksgiving Day, only had the opportunity to photograph one. I hope you enjoy it as much as my guests did.

As you can see, I swapped out my more rustic looking turkey from my Neutral Thanksgiving Tablescape for the ceramic turkey from Crate & Barrel as a part of my centerpiece. Easy.

The white turkey plates are among my favorites; I wish I would have gotten more than four. These are years old and from Pottery Barn. They work great as salad plates or sandwich plates when I serve a turkey sandwich along with a hot bowl of turkey noodle soup after the big day.

If you look carefully you can spot the corncob candles from my last tablescape. Here they are in a pair of my favorite rustic candleholders of pilgrims, perfect for Thanksgiving.

The glass turkey tureens are from William-Sonoma; I have had these for 20 years or more. At the time that I got them they were affordable, but they no longer are, so I am really pleased to have these.
The flatware with the bamboo handles is from eBay. A fun find, and I use these a lot.
You'll see the familiar brown spice route plates from Pier 1 as the dinner plate, and the salad/sandwich/appetizer plate in gold on top of it. These are among my favorite plates, as they are perfect for layering; you will see the brown ones again in a holiday table setting coming up soon.

The pitcher and salt and pepper shakers I've had a long time as well, and they are from Fitz & Floyd. I love the look on the turkey’s face as he peers over the shoulder of the Pilgrim reading the recipe book. Both the salt and pepper shakers and the pitcher add a fun bit of whimsy to the holiday table.

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