Let's Just Try It

a compilation of inspiration and creative endeavors of a mom and daughter duo

Category Archives: Recipes

Zesty Mexican Chicken Soup

There is such a warm fuzzy feeling when the spices of Mexico meet a steamy broth filled with chunky vegetables and chicken.  Topped with a dollap of sour cream, a sprinkle of cheese and a few sliced olives, it will warm you down to your toes!

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Zesty Mexican Soup – serves 6 

Homemade

1 small chicken, cut into pieces (or 1 package of chicken pieces)

1 Tbl olive oil

1 onion – rough chop

1 celery – rough chop

2 carrots – rough chop

8 cups water

bay leaf

1/2 tsp oregano

salt and pepper

2 stalks chopped celery

1/2 c chopped green pepper

1/4 c chopped onion

1 clove garlic, chopped fine

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 can kidney beans, drained

1 cup frozen corn

1/2 tsp oregano

1 1/2 tsp cumin

salt and pepper to taste

In a stock pot, or large saucepan, brown chicken back, legs and wings in 1 tbl oil.

Add rough cut vegetables and brown slightly.  Add water, salt, pepper, oregano and bay leaf and remaining chicken

Simmer for 30-45 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Remove chicken from broth and set aside.

Strain broth into a colander to remove the rough cut vegetables.  Reserve 2 cups of broth for soup, and freeze the rest for another day!

Remove chicken meat from bones and break into chunks (bones can be used again for more broth making goodness!)

Saute celery, green pepper, garlic and onion in 2 tsp olive oil until just softened.  Add spices, tomatoes, chicken chunks, frozen corn and kidney beans as well as the 2 cups of chicken broth.

Simmer for 20 minutes and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of sliced olives and shredded cheese.  For an extra bit of yum, fry stripes of tortilla in oil and sprinkle with salt and serve sprinkled on the top of the soup.  Mmmm Good!

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Quick Quick Version

3 chicken breasts (or 2 large ones)

2-3 cups of water

Salt, Pepper and 1/2 tsp each of oregano, parsley and chopped garlic

1 jar chunky mild salsa

1 can kidney beans, drained

1 can sweet corn

1/2 tsp oregano

1 1/2 tsp cumin

salt and pepper to taste

Poach chicken breasts in water with salt, pepper, oregano, parsley and chopped garlic for approximently 15 minutes or until cooked through.  Watch carefully that the meat does not overcook or it will be tough.

Remove from broth and set aside to cool

In a large saucepan, add poaching liquid, salsa, kidney beans, sweet corn, oregano, cumin.  Bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, chunk chicken into bite size pieces

Add chicken to sauce and bring to simmer.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

Enjoy with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of cheese and delicious fried tortilla strips for an extra treat.

Curing the Cold Weather Chills- Curried Vegetable Soup

Leaves are everywhere… the wind is sending goosebumps up and down my arms… and I am day-dreaming about a big steaming bowl of soup!

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I don’t know about you, but I have two meat lovin’ manly men in my household.  And even thought of a vegetable will send one of them (I won’t mention which) running for his keys to grab himself a burger from a local restaurant.

But I LOVE soup – and vegetables!

And they love Curry! and Spice! and Bacon!

So, what’s a girl to do, but to lure them into the land of health with the things they love.

This is the first in a short series of my favorite soup recipes – each with two ways to fix it – one quick quick, the other a little more involved but more home-made.  You choose which fits your timeline for your next soupy-meal.

Curried Vegetable Soup     (serves 4)

Homemade                                                                                   

3 peeled and sliced carrots

2 stalks sliced celery

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 Tbl olive oil

3 cups cauliflower florets

2 cups homemade Vegetable or Chicken broth *

1- 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk

1 Tbl curry powder

1/2 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp cumin

1 cup frozen baby peas

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 Tbl chutney (optional)

In a medium size pot, add oil, carrot, onion and celery.  Cook until softened.

Add cauliflower florets, broth, and spices. Cook until vegetables are soft.

Add coconut milk, peas and chopped cilantro.

Heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste

Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro

Serve with flatbread or toasted pitas

(Homemade stock is easy! Simply toss in your lonely bits and pieces of vegetables hanging out in your fridge – carrot, onion, celery, garlic, sugar peas..whatever you’ve got – with some of your favorite herbs, salt, pepper and at least 4 cups of water.  Simmer at a slow simmer for as long as you can.  For extra color and flavor, saute the veg in a small amount of oil to soften before adding the water.   Want chicken broth?  Add chicken bones to your veg and brown slightly in the pot before adding water and simmer as above.  Freeze in small plastic containers and decant into freezer bags for easy use in all your favorite recipes)

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QUICK QUICK

1 -14oz can Vegetable or Chicken broth

1 small bag of frozen cauliflower

1 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables

1 cup frozen baby peas

1 Tbl curry powder

1/2 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp cumin

1/4 garlic powder

1- 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a medium saucepan, add broth, frozen cauliflower, mixed vegetables, peas and spices and heat to a slow boil.

Cook until softened.

Add coconut milk and cilantro and heat through.

Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro and enjoy!

Cardboard Cardboard Everywhere!

cardboard

When life gives you lemons  cardboard, make lemonade something amazing!

I’m sure that there are psychiatrists with treatment plans for people like me.  People who have rooms with ‘items of great potential’.  People whose hearts beat a little more quickly at the thought of what could be done with “that”.  People who love the phrase “another man’s trash…”   Yep.  That’s me.

So, here’s the story – we moved across an ocean.  Our life’s belongings are on a small container on a very big boat which has yet had the courage to leave port.  And we are in a big house full of …. nothing.

Never fear! IKEA is here!  Presto! We have beds, and a couple chairs, and a couple small tables (acting as desks)

and I now have a MOUNTAIN of cardboard and plastic.  It’s smooth perfectly clean surface is just calling to be made into something beautiful…something useful.

Oh and did I mention that I also have an abundance of time on my hands?

So, according to my mathematical equation :

[(cardboard + potential) /storage space] x extra time = useful or beautiful projects + happiness –  minimal financial outlay

This is an equation I can live with.

But what does one do with such an abundance of the stiff brown stuff?  The days of castles and cars are past.  Barbie has moved to another home, and Mr. Teddy now lives high on a shelf in my youngest daughter’s room where his primary job is now to be “cute”.

I contemplated building some amazing creation for our new neighbor’s 6 year old daughter and 4 year old son… but we’ve only spoken once… and they might find it a bit…odd.

I tried googling “cardboard projects” – let me just say there are some pretty creative people out there.

 How about some cardboard armor to slay a cardboard dragon?

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And considering the current furniture situation… perhaps a cardboard chair to relax in?

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Sadly, none of these are quite what I had in mind.

So my quest continues:  useful and/or beautiful,  fun and/or responsible.

Watch this space to see what kind of things I come up with

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Addendum

Even though so many creative ideas floated through my head… a more practical, and hopefully productive solution arose which required every last piece of cardboard I had gathered – and it will produce SO much more than any desk organizer or gingerbread village…

sheetcompost

Curious?  Jump to my next post here

Rainbow-licious!

You know you are getting old when the things that were popular when you were a teen are popular once again. Smurfs, puffed sleeves and yes, my favorite teen-aged trend – the rainbow.  In my day, it didn’t represent New Age, or homosexuality – it was just cool.  And we had rainbows on everything – t-shirts, stickers, bedding, you name it!

It is with much joy that I see that my youngest girls also think it is cool.  And for both of their birthdays this year, we baked rainbows. 🙂  Such fun!

For my newest teen – freshly 13 years old, we made tie dye cupcakes.

I didn’t take photos as I went – it was a midnight oil type of project – but they were very easy to do. Instead of a recipe I used a white cake mix and equally divided the batter into 6 bowls. Each bowl was tinted a colour of the rainbow.  One spoonful of each colour, done in reverse order, into a white cupcake paper resulted in 15 lovely full cupcakes with a funky tie-dye appearance.  A white fluffy buttercream frosting swirled on top and it was a hit!

For my youngest’s 11th birthday, she requested a monster of a rainbow cake – 6 tiers, “with white frosting and sprinkles, please Mommy!”

I read Martha Stewart’s recipe (consisting of 14 egg whites and endless hours of whipping and baking) and decided that a revamp was in order!

The basics are:  6 layers – each layer is 1/3 of one standard recipe (therefore, 2 recipes will produce 6 layers)

Helpful tips before you begin: Precise division of both cake batter and filling are imperative. I used a scale for the cake batter, and a measuring cup for the filling. Baking one recipe at a time made these divisions much more manageable.

Using white margarine made a cloud white frosting for the outer layer. I used a cream cheese frosting for the filling, but can imagine many delicious possibilities such as coconut, lemon or vanilla flavours

The Nuts and Bolts:  Betty Crocker has a great white cake recipe – using only 4 egg whites, mind you.  A doubled recipe is required, but I recommend mixing and baking them separately.

After mixing the batter, measure and divide into separate bowls (3 for each recipe), making sure each bowl holds exactly the same amount of batter.  Colour each bowl with the appropriate colour of the rainbow.  Orange is easy with a bit of red and yellow, and purple with yellow and red.  I found that a mixed green was muddy looking, so I used a bottled green food colour.

Each bowl will fill a 9″ cake tin about 1/3 full.  These bake rather quickly, so watch them carefully.  20 minutes should be sufficient. Use a toothpick to test.

As the first recipe cools, mix the second recipe and follow the same procedures.

 

Once cooled, begin stacking and filling in between each layer.  Remember to work in reverse of the colour spectrum – purple, blue, orange, yellow and red.  Use exactly the same amount of filling between each layer and spread evenly, extending slightly beyond the edge of the cake

Finally, frost the outside of the cake and top.  Add whatever (if any) sprinkles or embellishments you like and Voila! You can taste a rainbow!

Things I learned along the way

More filling! Having a nice white divide between each colour makes for a greater impact.

Use Green food colour instead of yellow and blue combined.

More colouring = more intense colour.  Best option would be powdered or paste colour, but my cheapy liquid worked well and didn’t noticeably change the flavour of the cake.

Make plenty frosting for the outside of the cake – This is not  your average sized cake so a double recipe will be required.

Next time, I would love to make a 3 dimensional rainbow to place on top – either from moulding chocolate or royal icing.  However, the surprise on everyone’s faces when we sliced into what appeared to be a lovely white cake, was worth the secret 🙂

 

 

Camping the Healthy Way

When I was a kid, we went camping often.  Mom and Dad would seemingly just decided we were going and we would pack up our tiny little Toyota Corolla (with roof rack), wedge our bodies in, and head off. From my child eyes, my mom would just throw all kinds of things into the cooler box and away we went.

We loved being outdoors, we loved the sounds of nature, we loved the activity… but most of all we loved the treats.  Camping meant treats – caramel corn, smores, trail mix and lots and lots of soda pop.

Now we have our own kids, and while we don’t camp nearly as much as I did when I was small, it is still a fun holiday… and a lot of work.

We are in process of bidding our fair summer goodbye, while all my northern hemisphere family and friends are just beginning to look forward to summer, we are packing for a weekend at the dam (lake for you northerners).

I am a huge list maker when it comes to camping, and I like to plan carefully my menus and snacks.  And, of course, with our healthier perspective on life now I need to break out the creative juices and get cracking!

I’d love to hear your favorite camping take-a-longs  and we will find ourselves with a great list of amazing yummy treats to add some flair to our next trips out-of-doors.

Breakfast ideas:

Potato Scramble – veggies, eggs and egg whites with a splash of salsa on top. Yum!

Yogurt and Papaya with a granola crunch topping and Health Muffins

Super Starter Oatmeal – oats cooked with chopped apple, peaches, raisins (or cranberries!) and cinnamon.  Mmmmm!

Lunch ideas:

Wraps made with homemade hummus, tomato, lettuce and a sprinkle of shredded white cheddar

Stuffed Baked Potatoes – broccoli, cauliflower, beans and a sprinkle of shredded white cheddar. Salsa and Plain Yogurt for a saucy topping

Dinner ideas:

Grilled chicken with whole wheat pasta salad, pepperdew and feta cheese

Chicken Chili and corn muffins

Easy Paella

Snack ideas:

Dried fruit trail mix  pretzels, peanuts and purchased dried fruit with coconut

Popcorn

Fresh fruit

Fresh Veggies and Hummus

Sweet Treat

(just because camping isn’t camping unless you have them…)

 

Marshmallows, chocolates and Marie Biscuits (if we were in the States, it would be graham crackers!)

 

 

So while we try not to look like the Beverly Hillbillies heading out on our adventure  at least we’ll know we’ve got “good eatin’s” in the food box!

Zesty Potato Curry : Whole Food Recipe

Lately, I’ve been focusing on eating less meat, less preservatives, and more fresh fruits and veggies at home. It’s been a challenge convincing my husband of the benefits of the “less meat” idea- especially since his favourite meal is a steak and potatoes. Ah, the stationary diet of South African men.

That said, I’m thankful for his adventuresome spirit. Since starting our whole foods journey in August 2011, I’ve heard nothing but good things about our new lifestyle from him. He is supportive, encouraging and willing to try anything that smells good.

And that meat story? It’s changing too! He’s choosing plant based foods over meat based foods more often than not, and so am I. Together, we’re consuming less meat and more veggies and legumes. Hooray success!

This recipe fits into our new way of eating, and is finished within about 30 minutes. It is flavourful and filling- and doesn’t require an ounce of meat to do so. And did I mention it’s cheap to make?

Potato Curry

With the beans and chickpeas, there is enough protein to keep your tummy cozy for a while. It’s really good just the way it is or served over brown rice, with  sliced bananas, sambles (chopped fresh tomatoes, cilantro and onions) and raisins. The peanuts add a nice crunch, but can be omitted.

Here’s how you can make it:

Peanut Potato Curry

2 pounds baby potatoes (scrubbed)
2 tins tomatoes (whole or chopped or both)
1 tin chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 tin red kidney beans
1 cup water
1 small onion
1 cup peanuts
Handful of sesame seeds
1/2 head garlic
1 T ground coriander
1 T ground cumin
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground ginger
2 T ground turmeric
Salt to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste

Prep work: about 10 minutes
Total Cook time: 20 minutes (mostly inactive)

Makes 8 servings as pictured

1. Scrub potatoes. If using baby potatoes, slice in half. If using medium potatoes, dice into 1/2″ cubes. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and beans.
2. In a medium pot, add the potatoes, tomatoes with the juice, water, drained and rinsed chickpeas and beans. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
3. Smash and peel the garlic cloves. Dice the small onion. Add to pot. Add spices, peanuts and sesame seeds. Once boiling, reduce heat until just simmering.
4. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Note: I used tinned (or canned) tomatoes, chickpeas and kidney beans for convenience sake. It is ideal to use BPA free cans, or to can your own. You can also be a super pioneer woman and cook the beans in your crock pot over night, and blanch and peel 4 fresh tomatoes for this curry. Go you!

Where have I been for the last 30 days?

I just might have been writing a novel.

In fact, this year, I was crazy enough to try for 50000 words in just 30 days. Sure, I didn’t write every day (just managed 12 days total with exams and other obligations) but I cranked it out – just short of my 50k goal. My story isn’t finished yet, but it is on it’s happy little way.

I guess I was waiting for the perfect time, the perfect inspiration, the perfectly honed skills to write my book. But that might never come. So I might as well just do it now.

It was good practice- and more fun than I ever would have expected. And now, I am ready to get off my butt and get things done. There is nothing like a little challenge to motivate progress don’t you think?

Easy Tamale Pie – Made Healthy


One thing we have missed since living in South Africa is South American food. Our home town in the States had a population of people from south of the border, and the cuisine readily available was “muy bueno”. I am always on the look out for food that we can make with ingredients we have available, but it’s not always easy.

Tonight’s dinner was a first time shot at a recipe in my new Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook that I was given as a gift this year (imported from the US, of course). It was a huge hit. Conversation around dinner was “You haven’t made this before…. please don’t stop”.

A few alterations made it a little more nutritious and didn’t take away from the flavour or texture of the dish. Next time I will add more green peppers and maybe sneak in some extra grated veggies on the sly such as zucchini (marrows) and carrot. I am sure that corn would also be a nice addition.

Ingredients:

■1 onion, chopped
■1 green pepper, chopped
■3 cloves garlic, chopped
■1 Tb. olive oil
■1 lb minced chicken breast (leave out for a vegetarian dish)
■1 1/2 tsp chili powder (more if you want extra zip)
■3/4 tsp cumin
■Salt and Pepper for seasoning
■1 can kidney beans – drained, rinsed and slightly mashed
■1 can cannelleni beans – drained, rinsed and slightly mashed (substitute black beans if available)
■1 can pinto beans – drained, rinsed and slightly mashed
■2 c. tomato juice (or V8 style juice if available)
■1 can green chilies (I substituted one-seeded fresh green “Thai” chili, chopped fine)
Cook the onion, green pepper and garlic in the oil until softened. Add the optional minced chicken and season with salt and pepper. Cook until no longer pink. Add tomato juice, cumin and chili powder and the undrained tin of green chilies (or fresh chopped chili as preferred) Heat through.

Transfer into a 3 qt casserole, or 9×13 pan. Heat oven to 400 F or 200 C.

For the topping

In a medium bowl mix the following:

■1 cup cornmeal
■1 cup whole wheat flour
■1/2 tsp salt
■2 tsp baking powder
Add to the above ingredients

■1/4 cup canola oil
■1 1/2 c. milk
■1 egg
Stir until just moistened.

Grate in 2 oz cheddar cheese and 2 Tb chopped flat leaf parsley or fresh coriander leaves

Spoon over the top of the bean mixture and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Serve topped with a dollop of sour cream and a splash of spicy salsa for some zip.

Finish as a meal with a nice side salad and you’ve got it made! Enjoy!

Apple Cranberry Oat Muffins

Feeling a little adventurous today, so I thought I’d free fall through an existing recipe, adapting it to 1) my new nutrient consciousness  2) what I had on hand

The original recipe  came from a great blog I follow Savory Simple . It included whole wheat flour, orange and cinnamon and had a crunchy brown sugar topping. 

After looking through my cupboards, I substituted and experimented and came up with the following recipe:

6 oz all-purpose flour (would have preferred use whole wheat, but was out of stock)

2-3 oz oat bran ( to make up for the lack of whole wheat)

1/4 cup muesli with dried cranberries (I picked through the packet and pulled out some extra cranberries)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

4 oz butter, room temp

2 Tb brown sugar

1/3 cup honey (we are trying to reduce the amount of refined sugar in our diet)

1 large egg

2 Tb sour cream (recipe called for buttermilk, but I had none, so I added the sour cream to the butter/sugar creaming process and added the milk later)

3 small apples, peeled, cored and diced.

Topping: 1/4 c muesli, 1 Tb. flour. 1 Tb softened butter. 2 Tb brown sugar for sweetness

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Combine dry ingredients (flour, bran, baking powder, baking soda, salt). Set aside.

Cream butter, sour cream and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add honey and beat further. Beat in egg and mix well – scraping sides as needed.

Alternately add the combined dry ingredients with the milk. Mix until just combined.

Fold in the apples and 1/4 c muesli.

Spoon into prepared muffin tins. (I get best results by greasing and flouring- or use liners)

Sprinkle topping over each muffin

Bake at 180 (350 f) for 25 minutes.

Remove from pan while still warm.

The results were very good. A moist muffin that is not too sweet flavored nicely with the apple and teased just a bit with cranberry.  Next time I would like to add extra dried cranberries for a little more punch or cinnamon to both the topping and the batter for a warm and homey spiciness.

Easy Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Tomato for a Crowd

 

The first time I tasted the food combination of pesto and tomatoes, I immediately ranked it as one of my favorite flavor combos. There is something about the sweetness of a tomato and the freshness and fragrance of basil that makes me smile.

My latest cooking challenge has been to come up with healthy (ish) dishes to feed to my staff of nearly 30 people twice a week. To add to the challenge is the lack of any cooking facilities at the office – other than a small microwave and a small fridge.  My (and Elizabeth’s) crockpots have become my tool of choice, if for no other reason than to heat the food through.  Our new offices will have more to offer, but for now it’s all about invention 🙂

While this is in no way a great inventive recipe, it worked really well for my purposes, but would also make a great meal for two.

Yield: 30+ servings

Ingredients :

            2 kg Spiral Pasta                         

     12 large chicken breasts, cut into pieces

            250 grams prepared pesto   

     500 grams cocktail sized tomatoes                    

             1 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

           Fresh basil, torn into small pieces  

Step One: Cook spiral pasta in boiling water until just tender – drain and set aside

Step Two: While pasta cooks, cook chicken in a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil – season with pepper, salt and garlic powder

Step Three: Mix chicken and pasta together, including cooking fluid from chicken for flavor

Step Four: Add pesto a large spoonful at a time, mixing well each time

Step Five: Quarter plum tomatoes and toss into pasta mixture. Season with salt and pepper if needed

Step Six: Add grated parmesan and fresh torn basil

Easy Peasy as they say – and healthy too! Served with some french bread and it is a great meal – hot or cold.