Wednesday, November 12, 2014

If you can make this easier, I would love to hear it.

This is not the first chicken tortilla soup recipe I've posted. It's not even the first one using a crock pot. Sorry. BUT. If I promise that it's easier (AND tastier), am I forgiven? Yes? Fabulous.

Hubs is fighting the World's Longest Cold™ and I've worn a sweater two days in a row, so soup is officially in order. I'm feeling particularly lazy, however, so I figured I'd do it with as little work as possible. And I totally lazied the crap out of this one. If you have raw chicken, throw it in. Still frozen? Throw it in. Mine was straight out of the freezer and worked. just. fine.

The only thing that could have made it easier would have been pre-chopped onions so I wouldn't have a chopping board/knife to clean. (Hint: buy pre-chopped onions.) Well, to clean twice, anyway. You'll still need to chop up some cilantro at the end. Or not. Be as lazy as you want, my little slugs. That's all you.


Chicken Tortilla Soup 
Throw all of this into a crock pot*:
Half an onion, sliced or chopped (1/2-1 cup's worth)
1 heaping spoonful minced garlic (out of a jar)
1 tsp chili powder
1.5 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp thyme (or oregano)
1 bay leaf
16 oz jar fire-roasted salsa verde
1 can diced tomatoes
1 32oz box chicken broth (don't use low sodium. If you do, you'll need to add some salt. See? Pointless.)
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts

Set it on the 8 hour setting. Go do something else. I'm not bossy. Do what you want. After about 6-7 hours, pull the chicken out and shred it with a couple of forks. It should break apart easily. It won't be hard. I promise. Throw it back in and let it cook til your little light/timer goes off.

Top with any or all of the following:
Tortilla chips (hence the name...)
Shredded Mexican cheese (out of a bag, natch)
Chopped cilantro
Plain Greek yogurt

* It doesn't have to be in a slow cooker. Cook the chicken separately, shred and then throw it all together and simmer a half hour or so, and I'm sure it'll all still be just fine and dandy**.

** American Horror Story has now ruined the word Dandy for me. Amirite? Gahhhh.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Your kitchen willl totally reek of veggies after this.

I've posted a version of Divan before, but I wanted to change it up and get some extra veggies in here. Because the adults in this house like some greens. The child? Um, no. So rather than try and trick him into eating something he'll probably refuse to taste anyway, I just made this for us.

The last time I made Divan, I used a mixed veggie mix from Trader Joe's rather than straight broccoli and it was pretty awesome. This time, the steam in the bag fresh Brussel Sprouts were on sale, so I went that route. Next time I may try something else...everything I've tried so far tends to work. (But when does veggies and cheese NOT work? I mean, really.)

Speaking of, I added more cheese than I normally do, but with all the extra veggies, I went with it. A good call, I think.


Chicken Brussels Divan

About 16 oz. chicken breast
About 16oz halved Brussel sprouts, steamed
One small head broccoli, cut in small pieces and steamed
1 can condensed cream of broccoli soup (Campbell's is best)*
About 1/4 1% cup milk
1 cup finely shredded cheddar jack cheese
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
Curry powder
Salt & Pepper

*Cream of Chicken or Cream of Mushroom work well, too. Regular or low-sodium.


Season the chicken well with salt, pepper, and curry powder. Cook at 375 about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly and cut into bite sized pieces.

Mix chicken pieces with brussels, broccoli, soup and milk. Season with a pinch each of S&P. Spread into baking dish, sprinkle evenly with cheese and then breadcrumbs.

Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes until cheese is melted and everything is bubbly.




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lemony Quinoa Risotto

Well, hello!

I thought we were in need of something a little more upbeat after that last post. No?

How about Fall? That seems to cheer everyone up. I'm wearing a sweater today; I wore a Giants sweatshirt while walking the dog this morning (Yes, the ones going to the World Series TONIGHT. Oh, you didn't hear that? You must be a Dodger fan. Sorry about that.) I loooove me some cozy clothes. And cold weather food...the kind that often leads to the need for cozy clothes, unfortunately.

Know what else makes me happy? Risotto. And playing with new recipe ideas. Lemony Quinoa Risotto, this time. I started with a mushroom risotto recipe on the back of my quinoa package and jumped off from there, ditching the mushrooms and creme fraiche and instead bumping up the garlic, adding lemon, and tying in the cream cheese I used for my Spinach & Feta Stuffed Chicken (Which I totally made up, recipe also below). And it was Delicious. Capital D.

I used 2 tbsp cream cheese, but you'd be fine with 1 tbsp, depending on how creamy you like this sort of thing! Also, I totally forget how annoying stirring risotto can be. Pro*-tip: Grab a chair and hang out with some wine while you do it.

*I am not actually a pro. I just like to sit. And drink.



Lemony Quinoa Risotto
Half an onion, chopped
About 1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 cup rinsed quinoa
1/3 cup vermouth (or white wine)
3 cups chicken stock/broth
zest of half a lemon
1 tsp lemon juice
1-2 tbsp light cream cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion and garlic in OO for a couple minutes, then add quinoa. Move all of that around for a few minutes, til the quinoa starts smelling a little toasty. Over medium high heat, add the vermouth and stir until it’s almost all evaporated. Then add half cup broth, stirring often, until mostly gone. Repeat, half a cup at a time, until the quinoa pops open (each grain will have a halo-type look to it). It’ll take 20-25 minutes or so. It may take more than 3 cups. It depends on how high your heat is, how much you stir, etc. It usually works for me right around there.

Once the last of the liquid is evaporated, stir in the lemon zest and juice, then turn heat to low and stir in the cream cheese. Season to taste. Serve hot.

For the chicken, I stuffed the breasts with a mix of:
1 package frozen chopped spinach, steamed, then squeezed as dry as possible
A bit of minced garlic
a couple oz of light feta
2 tbsp light cream cheese
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Zest from half a lemon
Salt and pepper
breadcrumbs

Seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper, and rolled it in some bread crumbs. Cooked at 375 for 25 minutes. If you don't have/want breadcrumbs, all good. Hubs just made some last week and I'm trying to use them up.




Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Plans change.

Last Monday, I was officially 10 weeks pregnant. On Tuesday, we were set to take ultrasound pics, which we'd send out as fun "surprise!" texts to close friends on Wednesday.

That was the plan. It was a good one.

Instead, on Tuesday afternoon, mid vaginal ultrasound, my doc very matter of factly asked me how far along I was supposed to be. "10 weeks? This-see this? Remember from him? (points to E, who was suddenly being held very closely by my tight-faced husband) This should be full. This is where the heartbeat should be. This sac should be full…see how it's crumpled here at the edge? I'm very sorry." She kept talking. Something about how in this situation she's required to perform the ultrasound again for a colleague, who would confirm that what I thought was a 10 week old fetus was instead a roughly 6 week old non-viable embryo.

Instead, on Wednesday, I wasn't texting photos. I was sitting in a hospital gown, poked full of needles and IVs, in a pre-op room with my husband for 5 and a half hours while they waited for an opening in the OB/GYN surgical suite. Instead of texts of giggles and joy, there were texts to make sure E could be picked up from day care and watched, that the dog could be let out, assurances that I wasn't having a total freakout session.

But I wasn't freaking out. I went into that appointment on Tuesday completely expecting the doctor to tell me there was no heartbeat. I'd had a knot in my stomach all day. I'd had a bad feeling for weeks. It's not something I can explain. Half of me knew I was doing the pessimistic preparation I do before any big announcement-to better prepare me IF. But the other half. just. knew. A week before, I'd silently cried in the shower. I knew this baby was damaged. I struggle every day to be a good mother to a perfectly healthy, wonderful child. Having a second was terrifying enough. Having a baby with special needs? I just didn't think I could do it. Would I be able to do it? Would I consider not having it? I didn't know. But the guilt of even having those thoughts was paralyzing.

It didn't matter. There had been something wrong. My body had done its job. There was no baby.  I'd miscarried.

I've been struggling with how to mourn. I'm not religious. My idea of the soul is very real, but it is something that grows with a person, and dies when they are gone. There are no angels in my world. It was still an embryo. There wasn't even a sex yet. I didn't lose a baby. I lost the very real beginnings—the idea, really—of a baby. And that, I'm realizing, is still a very real loss.

A very, very wise friend put it more beautifully than I ever could. She's been through this twice, which is twice more than I'd wish on anyone. She also has three wonderful, healthy children. And will have another, if her body is kind to her.

And yet through (because of?) her own pain, she held my hand last week. And through our conversations, she made me something beautiful. Here is an excerpt of the most thoughtful gift anyone has ever given me.

Those roots, they may have died, but they are not gone. Just as a plant in the earth, they linger, still reaching into parts of us we didn't even know of. Eventually, like any part of the earth, they break down, begin to decompose. A day finally comes when your lost baby is no longer the first thing on your mind. And still, no matter how many years, how many other babies, the memory of this baby, these roots, is forever in you. A tiny piece in the soil of your life.

In memory of a life too short, but no less real. A tiny quilt for a tiny baby, who leaves a big bundle of roots in your life.
A photo of the now-framed quilt.

I didn't realize today was National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day when I started writing this. (No, I also did not know that was a thing). Kind of amazing how that sort of thing works out, though. Thank you to all of you who have and will share your stories with me. Miscarriage and lost pregnancies are more common than they should be. They're painful—debilitating—sometimes. But they're something—with the help of our loved ones—we get through. My heart is with you all today.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Kobe's back!

And so is Kobe soup!

You may remember that when Kobe scored 81 points in 2006, Hubs and I were eating Tom Ka soup, which we thereafter dubbed Kobe soup. It's one of those that I don't use a recipe for, so it's a little different every time...I realized, however, that the way I did it tonight was enough different (and enough better) than when I posted it last time to warrant a Take Two post.


Comeback Kobe Soup 
(Tom Ka Gai)
Peanut oil
8oz chicken breast, thinly sliced
1 package extra firm tofu, drained well and cubed in 1 inch pieces
2 cans light coconut milk (I like the Thai Kitchen brand)
14oz chicken broth (fill one of the empty coconut cans)
About an inch of fresh ginger, minced
1 tbsp or so chopped lemon grass (I use the kind in a tube from the produce section)
3 tbsp fish sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tsp palm sugar
about a tsp turmeric
1-2 tsp chili paste
2 dried chiles, chopped fine
One can peeled, broken (or chopped) straw mushrooms, drained
one can baby corn, drained (cut them in 3rds or 4ths if they're whole)
Thinly sliced green onion and chopped cilantro, to serve

Heat a large soup or stock pot over medium high, add a little peanut oil (1 tbspish). Add tofu and let cook, tossing or stirring occasionally, until they start to brown (takes like 10 minutes). Remove tofu, and add chicken, and cook a minute or two. Add turmeric, lemongrass and ginger and stir to coat. Cook another minute.

Add broth and coconut milk, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, stir tofu back in and remaining ingredients (besides the cilantro and green onion), and let simmer about 15 minutes.

Top with the green stuff, and that's it!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I know y'all are sick of turkey by now. Have a shrimp taco instead.

It's a lazy Sunday afternoon and it seems our parade of Thanksgiving weekend guests has finally come to a close. My girl Ness ("You can just call me Doctor") just left to finish the second leg of her drive home (one nice thing about being in the armpit of California is that the majority of my friends either live south but have family north or vice versa, and it's a long ass drive. Our pull out isn't mighty comfy, but it's always free. Cost wise, anyway. There's almost always a cat on it), and asked for my shrimp taco recipe from last night as she left. I told her I'd email it, but I figured as long as I was typing, I might as well share with all y'all.

They are some awesome tacos, it's true. And I think she was impressed by how fast (and easily) they come together. 

I didn't write anything down as I was making them, so this is rough, per usual. Adjust as you see fit. They're spicy but not unreasonably so. Adding more sauce and/or cabbage on top helps. There's no photo, but that's ok. You can take your own after you make them.

Chipotle Shrimp Soft Tacos
1 chipotle pepper (from the can), chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
About 1.5-2 lbs medium sized raw shrimp, deveined and tails removed
Peanut oil (or canola or olive)
About a cup greek yogurt (0% works better but regular is fine)
About a 1/2 tsp cumin
A little less than 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Salt and fresh pepper
2 limes (One halved, one in 1/8ths)
Water as needed  
Corn or flour tortillas, warmed (We did some of each, both are equally good)
Shredded cabbage 
Chopped cilantro to top
Salsa or hot sauce to top

Combine the chipotle, about 2/3 of the garlic, shrimp, a good sprinkle each of salt and pepper and maybe a tsp of oil. Combine well so everything is coated, and let marinate in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. 

In the meantime, combine the yogurt, the rest of the garlic (about a cloves worth) cumin, cilantro, a pinch each of salt and pepper, and the juice of one lime. Mix well and stick in the fridge until needed. 

Heat a swirl of oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Depending on how large your skillet is and how much shrimp you're using, you may need to cook the shrimp-as follows-in two batches. Add shrimp, and cook for about 3 minutes. Turn over each piece and let cook another 2-3 minutes or until opaque and cooked through. Remove to a clean bowl. 

Take the sauce out of the fridge and taste. Add more lime or more cumin (or a bit of cold water if too thick) as needed. 

Throw some shrimp, a handful of cabbage, and a glob of sauce on a warm tortilla. Add salsa and cilantro if you want. Squeeze one of those lime wedges over everything. Eat. Say "Mmmmmmm...I'm SO effing glad this isn't turkey." Repeat.  

This served 3 hungry people, 2-3 tacos each. 


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On my own, yet never (ever, ever) alone.



cross posted today at Saltandnectar.com.


When E was 8 weeks old, I went back to work part time. But as I worked for an ad agency with networked computers and servers (and email, the best invention of all time), working from home was a total option. Plus, I'd always had side clients who couldn't afford agency rates, so between the regular paychecks and the freelance work, I had plenty going on for a new mom who really wanted to work from home.

4-5 weeks old. I'm amazed only 1/3 of us are sleeping here. 
For awhile, anyway. Loooong story short, and without placing any blame one way or another, the agency and I eventually parted ways in January of this year.

At first, I freaked the &^@# out. No regular paycheck? No health insurance? Hubby was working for a local sports team, and it was definitely a job for a single 20 something, not a man in his 30s trying to support a family. But we support each other, because we're a team (seriously, I should make us T shirts for the amount of times we've reiterated this to each other the past year). So we talked, we freaked out together, and we realized that we'd make it work, no matter what. We had savings, we had motivation, and we had each other. And we had moms willing to help how they could—one subsidized rent, the other E's (incredibly pricey, but that's for another post) insurance. Thank you again and eternally to you both.

And then, because this is how things tend to work, a new job fell into his lap. A good union job with incredible benefits in a big company with plenty of room for growth. But it's also at the low end of the totem pole for now, so he's not making enough money for me not to work.

So, that. Not working has never been an option for me, anyway. I've got seven years of full time college education, two degrees, and enough debt to tell me that not doing what I love and pursued as a career would really just be, well, stupid unfulfilling.

Plus, I love E. He's incredible, he's amazing, he's breathtaking. I love being his mom. But I am still me, first. I decided to become a mom in addition to—as a part of—being me, not to redefine my life. I have the utmost respect for women who want and are able to be stay at home moms…it's just not for me. I need to be creative. I need to share the talents I've spent the past 10 years honing with other people. And I need to do it for a living and feel like I'm helping to financially support my family.

Meet my intern and personal stylist, E.  
And so now I'm a full fledged small business owner. Sole proprietor, according to my taxes. I get to work from home, I get to work part time, and I get to do what I love. I've been on my own for almost a year now, and I've never been happier. I've added clients locally and nationally, small and large. It's been, in a word, great.

Is it hard? Oh my god, unbelievably so. I work in an industry with deadlines, and I've got a 20 month old son with plenty of deadlines of his own. And his come first, but I'm not about to tell my clients that (though the vast majority of my clients ARE parents, as well as small business owners themselves, so I really don't have to). He has needs. They have needs. And I constantly have to find ways to balance that.

Priorities, people. He's showing me leaves. 

We struggle financially, seeing that some months I'll get 8 checks and some months I get maybe 2. I miss the stability of a regular paycheck, but we're making ends meet, so that's really all I can ask for at this point. Plenty of small businesses fold within the first year, and knowing that, I can hold my head up and say we're doing just fine.

But I'm still really looking forward to daycare when he turns 2. Mama needs a nap herself now and then.

Need logo/branding help? Brochures or business cards? Invites or other event collateral? Check out facebook.com/PamHuberDesigns or pamhuberdesigns.com for more info. And Pam can always be reached by email at pamhuberdesigns at gmail.com.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Kale's just a leafy green, people. The insanity confuses me.

Have you joined the Kale craze yet? It's freaking everywhere. That's not to say I'm not on board...I am, mostly. The hubby likes it, it's super healthy, it's not romaine...but it's a little bitter and thick and a little rabbity. 

But basically, I'm willing to play with it. I tend to just buy the pre-cut/washed bags, cause I'm lazy (what?) but if you do, make sure and pick out the pieces with the giant stems still attached. Cause they're what we refer to as nasty. 

Anyway, here's an easy one to try if you're curious and/or already on the Kale Train. Homemade Shake and Bake chicken with a roasted tomato and garlic kale salad. Try it. Let me know if you're on board.

And if you have kale recipes YOU like, let me know. Normally we do a golden raisin, pinenut, cheese with garlic lemon dressing concoction. So I'm open for new ideas!


Walnut Panko Chicken with Tomato and Kale Salad
12 oz chicken breasts (3 4oz pieces or equivalent) 
1 cup milk
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard 
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts 
1/4 cup panko, toasted
2 tbsp Parmesan 
1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/4 tsp fresh ground white pepper
1/4 tsp salt

A couple cups fresh kale, trimmed and cut in pieces (just buy a bag) 
Olive oil
A cup quartered cherry tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 
Balsamic vinegar 

Preheat oven to 425. 

Mix milk, vinegar and mustard in Tupperware or large bag. Add chicken, and let sit in fridge for 5 minutes-2 hours.

Mix remaining chicken ingredients (walnuts through salt) in shallow bowl. 

Place kale in a salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Use your hand to toss well, till everything is well coated. Set aside. (This tenderizes it a bit. Not a necessary step, but a good one) 

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Make a separate foil "bowl" about 6" square. Fold up the sides so the contents don't leak. In it, place the tomatoes and garlic. Sprinkle well with olive oil and a good dash of balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

Place bowl on one side of cookie sheet. 

Remove chicken from milk bath, let excess drip off, then roll in panko mixture till well coated on all sides. Place on other side of cookie sheet, then bake everything for 20 minutes (or until chicken is cooked through).

Let sit 5 minutes. Add tomatoes to kale and toss. Serve with a bit of Parmesan on top. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Break out the crock pot. The big one.

So, the crock pot.

We like to pretend it's magical and frees us from "cooking." It doesn't. It makes it easier. A little. Sometimes. You still have to chop. You still have to clean up. However...there's something about doing the work early in the day that makes it seem like you didn't really cook. And I'm on board with that.

Plus the house smells good all day. Though when you're watching your calories and all you smell is chicken and cumin deliciousness wafting from your kitchen all day this may be more obnoxious than "good," but I digress.

Anyway, I informed hubby we'd be having a crock pot heavy fall this year. I probably say that every year, but I'm going to try and mean it this time.

You need a big crock pot for this one, just to warn you. You could also just simmer in a stock pot on the stove for a couple hours if you had to, but that kind of kills the point of crockpotting, doesn't it?


Crock Pot Tortilla Soup
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used 2 large and 3 small)
One small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
8 cups chicken broth
Large can (28oz) diced tomatoes
4-5 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
3 bay leaves
1/4 tsp dried oregano
2 corn tortillas, torn into small pieces
about a cup frozen corn
juice from one lime
about 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
more chopped cilantro (to top)
shredded mexican style cheese (to top)
greek yogurt or sour cream (to top)
tortilla chips, crushed (to top)
Tapatio or Mexican hot sauce (to top, optional)
Radish slices (to top, optional)

Throw everything from chicken to oregano into the crockpot. Stir gently, and turn on for however long works for you. I did 6 hours.

After about 5 hours (or 30-60 minutes before you have it set to be done), remove all the chicken to a big bowl. Use two forks and shred into pieces (it should basically fall apart). Add back to soup and add in the tortilla pieces, corn, cilantro, and lime juice and keep cooking.

When it's done, serve with more cilantro, cheese, yogurt and tortilla chips, etc. on top. People tend to like to top their own food to taste, but you can be a Type-A host and do it for them. Just really depends on how many small bowls you have/want to wash/fancy you want to be.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It's still like 80 out. Don't care. It's fall. It's stew time.

Ok, raise of hands, please. When you hear the phrase "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme" do you humm along, or do you have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about?

Yeah, not so much a raise of hands situation, more of a polling question, but still.

My husband and his best friend Chef (actually the opposite of a large black man...still with me? Too many cultural references in one post? You can do this.) had no idea what I was talking about when I came prancing into the living room mid-meal-making singing it. I believe the question from Chef was, "Are you singing about herbs?" And I'm like, um, the guys who sing the Mrs. Robinson song? What's their name? Simon and Garfunkel? WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT? (Possibly it was the prancing, now that I think about it)

So I play it. Chef goes, "Oh, I know that." Hubby just looks at me. We've been married 5 years. I should know his faults by now.

Annnnywho, I made stew tonight. It had...wait for it...parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. And bay leaves. And wine. And deliciousness.


Herby Beef Stew

1.5 lb stew meat, cut in bite sized pieces if needed
2 cups baby carrots
About 20-25 pearl onions, peeled
3 stalks celery, sliced in 1/2 in pieces
1.5 lb fingerling potatoes, cut in half or thirds (so all are the same size-ish)
1/4 cup Flour (I used oat flour)
Salt and pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup red wine
3.5 cups beef broth
1tsp rosemary
1tsp dried parsley
Good pinch dried thyme leaves (1/4 tsp?)
Good shake sage (1/8 tsp?)
2 small bay leaves

In shallow bowl combine flour, garlic powder, and a good pinch each salt and pepper. Add meat cubes and toss until well coated. 

In large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add meat, and brown about 3 minutes, turn, and cook another 3 minutes. Add wine, and move everything around to deglaze pot. Add broth, rosemary, parsley, sage, thyme, and about another 1/4 tsp pepper, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer. Cover and cook one hour. 

Bring back to a boil, and stir in potatoes, celery, carrots, onions, and bay leaf. Reduce to a simmer, re-cover, and cook another hour. Add salt to taste, if needed.

Remove bay leaf before serving.