Friday, June 29, 2012

Cast Iron Skillet Cajun Butter Chicken Recipe - Healthy!

 I made the easiest, yummiest dinner the other night. I picked up a jar of Cajun Injector Creole Butter, a whole chicken, carrots, celery, onions and potatoes. 

Although the marinade has the word "butter" in the name, it is not bad for you. The nutrition is:

1 tablespoon:
Calories: 0
Saturated Fat: 0
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 1g
Sodium: 330mg

Start off with your birdie. The instructions for the injector show where to stick the bird. I feel like a doctor performing plastic surgery on a bird.
Melt a tablespoon of butter and some olive oil to cover the bottom of a cast iron skillet
Put the birdie in, 5 minutes each side to get a nice crust on. Check out her plumpness!
While the bird is crusting, preheat your oven to 400 and chop up your veggies. I used celery, onions, carrots and red potatoes.

Add the veggies to the skillet and cook until your chicken is cooked through, about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the size of the bird
I added some chicken broth to the pan with 20 minutes left, to give the veggies some more flavor. My final product looked like this:
REALLY REALLY REALLY GOOD. The chicken was unbelievably moist. Gabe, who once put me on Chicken Restriction (I wasn't allowed to cook chicken for weeks because I cook it too much), asked me to make this again. He said it was the best chicken he has ever had, and I know he wasn't trying to get brownie points.

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken, giblets removed
1 Tbl butter and enough EVOO to coat the bottom of a cast iron skillet
2 - 3 carrots, chopped
2 - 3 celery stalks chopped
1 vidalia onion, chopped
5 red potatoes
Cajun Injector Creole Butter marinade

Preheat oven to 450
Melt butter in skillet with oil
Add chicken and let it crisp for 5 minutes each side
Meanwhile, chop your veggies
Add your veggies to the pan after the 10 minutes in the skillet
Cook for an hour to an hour and a half, use a meat thermometer

I ended my night of cooking with smores in the oven. My oven saw a lot of action this night!

June Foodie Pen Pal Revealed!

Wow what a Foodie Pen Pal treat I had this month! The fabulous Anna from The Days When I'm Not A Nurse sent me a summer themed box full of stuff that has Megan written all over it. I don't think she could have nailed this better.

Here are the contents out of the box

The first item that caught my eye was the Red Velvet Pancake Mix. I have to be honest, I immediately thought it was Red Velvet Cupcake Mix. Then my eyes bugged out and I got very excited for breakfast on Sunday morning after my 6 mile run (looking forward to the pancakes, not the run).
Then my eyes darted to the little spice container because I saw the word BACON. Thank you Anna - you have NO idea how long I have been wanting to try out Bacon Salt!!!! I think this will be delicious as a drink rimmer for a spicy bloody mary. I may have to add that to my breakfast on Sunday!
Next on the list was a Chocolate covered graham cracker with marshmallow filling. JO'S SMORES!
Pumpkin Risotto Mix. This will be so good in the fall. I will serve it alongside of Butternut Squash Soup and a roasted pork loin!
The funniest item in the box was the Caramel Corn on the Cob. I have never seen this and couldn't stop giggling when I saw it. I don't know if it was the nature of seeing popcorn on the cob or the fact that we saw Magic Mike last night...or what it was
 Anna also got me adorable summer straws. Upon first sight, I knew I had to make myself a Pisco Sour. I make mine w/ Splenda instead of sugar water - keep it a little healthy. One thing about this recipe is how people are afraid to try it since it has egg whites in it. It is a refreshing drink with a Margarita like taste - and I prefer it to the classic Margarita. And yes - I am showing off one of my new Mackenzie Child's Canisters that I received for my Birthday. The large and small canisters didn't make the shot. You know you're getting old when you get overly excited over high end canisters.  

Anna also sent me a cute jar of honey, but I didn't get the shot.

This was my 4th month of being a foodie pen pal and I absolutely love it. You get to make new friends and get things you normally wouldn't be able to find yourself or buy yourself. Thank you Anna for this great collection!

I sent Brittnye from The Healthy Living Chick a fruit themed box. She mentioned her favorite thing to eat was fruit, so I made sure that everything was fruit related, with the exception of the BBQ Pop Chips that I was introduced to last month!

If you are interested in becoming a foodie pen pal, contact Lindsay at the Lean Green Bean. Here is a link to the registration sheet.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Keep Calm and Run On!

In February, I ran my first 5K - Disney Tangled during the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend. I remember finishing it, so proud of myself and I wanted something to remember the day by, other than the cotton shirt Disney gave us. There were tons of cute shirts and items for the half marathoners but I couldn't purchase any of them - because they weren't geared towards a 5K.

Many months later, while training for my first Half Marathon, I thought I would put myself to work and create shirts for runners of all levels. I have a design company called Halftime Designs and knew this would be a perfect addition to the 50 designs already in my online store.

With the ever so famous Keep Calm Carry On saying that is being turned into everything under the sun right now, I thought it would be a perfect fitting to Keep Calm and Run On with the different level of runs! I was especially happy to find out that one of my online vendors carry's Bamboo Performance Tanks and Tees by ALO. Click on the photo or link to be taken to the store.



(What Darlynn is going to be rockin at BlogHer12 5K!)

Women’s Bamboo Performance Tank by ALO 
A flattering, competitive edge: this bamboo blended racerback tank gives you both freedom of movement and a great fit. Naturally anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic without chemical treatment, the bamboo fabric wicks away moisture and is breathable. A color-contrast thread adorns the bottom hem. Made from 67% bamboo, 29% cotton, 4% spandex. Fabric weight of 5.5 oz.

Women's Bamboo Performance T-Shirt by ALO 
This performance t-shirt for women provides comfort, freedom of movement, lasting recovery and a great fit. It has a rounded collar with an open edge and contrast thread on the shoulder seams, sleeve cuffs and bottom hem.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lemongrass! Oh how I love thee

Recently, I have found myself really into Vietnamese cuisine. There's a restaurant in Downtown Tampa called Bamboozle Cafe. Ordering at Bamboozle is set up a lot like Chipotle but that is where their similarities stop.  The food is amazing - you can build your own salads, Banh mi's, spring rolls, pho, etc. I always order their lemongrass beef or 5-spice BBQ pork. It's out of this world. My favorite thing there is the Bamboozle salad with lemongrass beef, mango, cilantro, carrots, cucumbers and jalapeno's.
Then there's the Lemongrass Pork Lettuce Wrap from Stinky Bunz food truck. The cucumber kimichi and cilantro hides the pork, but this was out of control good.
If I find myself in the Brandon area, I love going to Saigon Cafe. It is in the Home Depot shopping center and the prices are excellent. They have wonderful Pho and really cheap Banh Mi's ($3.50). I love their Banh Mi Thit Nuong (lemongrass pork)
So here is what I am wondering - how is it that I haven't experimented cooking with lemongrass? When I was at Sanwa this weekend, I decided to pick some up. Here was the shocker. It wasn't grass (I envisioned something along the looks of cilantro). I had over 20 sticks of lemongrass in my $2 bundle. My recipe for Tom Yum Soup called for 1 stick.....

What's a girl to do! Pour yourself a large glass of wine, get out your knife, Cuisinart and Foodsaver and have a party in your kitchen. I found a very helpful step by step guide on how to prepare, cut, cook with and store lemongrass.  

This intimidated me. 
Peel away the rough outer leaves to find the fleshy layers. Then cut off the bulb and top of the stick.Cut into smaller pieces. Then put your food processor to work. What on earth am I going to do with all that Lemongrass?!

I learned Lemongrass freezes well. This is great news, as one of my most used and favorite small appliances is my FoodSaver. I split the Lemongrass up in 2 tablespoon increments, used 3 tablespoons for my recipe and voila:
I have 7 remaining pouches of Lemongrass. I think I may cook Lemongrass beef tonight.

This is the recipe I based my soup off of, but I did not follow it at all so it is unfair to relate the two. I ended up making a Tom Yum Chicken Pho and I did not get photos and I could not tell you the steps, as I started throwing stuff in the pot. Bad blogger.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Indoor Baby Back Ribs - Take that Tropical Storm Debby!

Bayshore Blvd, June 25th, 2012 - photo rights of TBO.com
Tropical Storm Debby has put a little damper on my life with her wind and rain. I can't run outside & Bayshore is flooded. The winds are 35mph and I hate wind in my ears about as much as I hate clowns.

Of course I set out Baby Back Ribs for tonight and obviously we can't put them on the grill. Growing up, my Father made the worlds best ribs. He even considered selling his business and opening up a rib shack before he passed away. After I lost my Dad, it took me nearly 8 years to eat ribs. I had to learn to make them  myself to get over the rib hiatus.

Issues w/ me cooking ribs:
  1. I cook A LOT but had never cooked ribs, Dad did that. 
  2. I had high standards to meet up to.  Daddy had the best ribs on the planet
  3. One thing I knew growing up was Ribs took a lot of time to cook - and a grill. We live in a condo. We don't have a grill.
So a few months ago, with the help of my Mom, I came up with a Par Boiled Baby Back Rib recipe that has received RAVE reviews on Just a Pinch Recipe Club.  I made this a few times. They were always perfect but I hated the mess and length of time they took. After some reviewing online, I found out (Brace yourselves BBQ connoisseurs) you can cook Baby Back Ribs in the CROCK-POT! I was very skeptical about doing this, but it exceeded my expectations and Gabe says they are the best ribs he has ever had.

So here are the steps and the recipe for my almost famous Crock-Pot Baby Back Ribs

Start out with a 3lb slab of Baby Backs. My Martha Stewart Pig Cutting board decided to make a guest appearance in this post:
Remove the silver lining on the back. This is a must. If you don't do this, your ribs will be tough.
Cut into four smaller slabs - about 3-4 ribs per slab
Make a dry rub. You can use pretty much any spice combo you want, it depends on your taste preferences. I prefer my ribs spicy and sweet so I use a combination of dark brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, Cavender's Greek Seasoning, Pepper, Salt and whatever else I feel like throwing into the mix that day. There is no science to this and I have no idea how much I use but it always comes out good.

This is what it should look like after being mixed:
Now it's time to get down and dirty. Give those ribs a nice rub down. Piggy got down and dirty with it too:
Place the two largest slabs on the bottom of the crock pot and take the two smaller ones and either crisscross them or slightly layer them on top of the larger ones. Cook them for 8 hours on low (if it is a little longer, that is fine). This is what the finished product before adding the BBQ sauce should look like:
You will notice liquid on the bottom, that is from the ribs being cooked, not anything I put in there. This is a dry Crock Pot recipe. When you go to add BBQ sauce, use your preference. I am a Sweet Baby Rays kind of gal. I prefer his Sweet and Spicy, since it goes really well with my dry rub.  These ribs are very tender and juicy so they don't need much. I add just enough to baste the top and put it on high for 30 min to soak in.

And the finished product, served along with baked sweet potato fries (I used the Bacon Salt my foodie pen pal sent me this month!) and a glass bottle of Robert Mondavi Private Reserve Pinot Noir.

I know this recipe would make Bobby Flay cringe but honestly, it is really good and a healthy alternative to BBQ. A half a slab of ribs BBQ'd with tons of sauce would get you at 500-700 calories, whereas this one with the rub and 2 tablespoons of sauce will only be around 250 calories.

A runners tip: I usually do something in the crock pot on Monday since that is a day I do night runs. I hate cooking after running and this is a snap to clean up, just throw the crock pot in the dishwasher!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My latest obsession - Kale Chips

I know I may be a little behind the game but I have a new obsession and it happens to be homemade Kale Chips. We braved the rain & wind of Tropical Storm Debby and did our weekly shopping at Sanwa Market yesterday. I made the mistake of going in hungry. I came out with all sorts of fruits, vegetables & spices I have never cooked with! Darlynn and I were having a discussion about Kale the other day and I noticed it was being sold in a package of 4 heads for $3. How could I possibly turn that down? I'm going to be a nice friend and share my bounty with her.
So experiment one with Kale is making Kale Chips. We are making an effort to eat healthy this week. I removed the rib from the kale and cut it into 1" pieces.
Sprayed them lightly with Pam Organic Olive Oil Spray and seasoned them with Cavenders Greek Seasoning (my "I put this on everything" seasoning) & Chef Pauls Veggie Magic.
I put them into the oven for 20 min at 275. Flipped them over at the 10 min mark. I devoured the bowl in minutes.

I wish I got a photo of Gabe trying these out. His face was scrunched up, thinking he would dislike them. But he ate a bowl of them - his Mom would be so proud. These chips are practically guilt free, especially if you use the olive oil spray vs. traditional olive oil.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Farewells, Princess Pigs, Cakebread and an iPad

Yikes I have been a neglectful blogger this week. My Friday's are literally running into each other and I have no idea where my work week goes. Last weekend was Fathers Day and my Birthday. I was actually born on Fathers Day and this year, my bday fell on it. I lost my father in 2003 at the young age of 53 unexpectedly to a cerebral hemorrhage. While we had a service for him in 2003, we never spread his ashes. We decided to get the family together and have a celebration of his life in Ponce Inlet at Lighthouse Point Park, one of his (and my) favorite locations to go to in the Daytona Beach area.

We said our goodbye's, shared a few funny stories, shed a couple of tears and honored his memory. It took 9 years to do this but the outcome was perfect. The beach, food, everything was great. After I said goodbye to Dad, two manatees swam up to where I was sitting. Scared the living daylight out of me but I really think it was Daddy saying hello and goodbye.

I got some wonderful photo-ops with the girls
Got my butt kicked playing cornhole (don't you love my custom Florida Gator boards!). I blame the defeat on my sober state of mind. The beer in my hand was #1 and I usually need triple that to be at the top of my game.
And of course a photo with my Momma
Speaking of Momma - she is crazy. I sarcastically asked for a pink piggy cake. Not only did I get one, I got a pink piggy princess red velvet cake, false eyelashes and the works. This masterpiece came from Vanilla Bean Cupcake Bakery in Port Orange and was ONLY $20!
We had dinner that night at Malibu Beach Grill. One of the reasons I picked there was the fact that they have a private glass room that seats 14. My group can get loud at times, especially my step-father, who has an infectious loud laugh. One thing that always surprises me about Malibu is their prices. They are very moderately priced and the restaurant is nice. The food is great and the wine is cheap. I got their surf and turf special, a sirloin and 6 oz Maine lobster tail, it was only $19 and delicious. They have an amazing happy  hour which has Robert Mondavi Private Reserve for $20 until 7pm (along with other wines that are normally priced at $40).
And speaking of wine - I couldn't make a trip to Daytona Beach without going to Mr. Dunderbaks and having a bottle of Cakebread with Keri. This always surprises people. That a) Mr. Dunderbaks has Cakebread and b) that it is so cheap. It is $35 a bottle and we split a Ruben Sandwich. Yes - you heard that correct. Rubens and Cakebread at a German restaurant in a dive mall that has three Dillards. Yes, you read that correct too....three Dillard's in one mall.
It was a perfect weekend with the perfect people. I love when weekends work out that way. I couldn't be more grateful to my family and friends for making my 33rd Birthday and the celebration of my father's life a memorable one. I am closing out this post with a photo of my new iPad (thanks Gabe!) - which Boo-Kitty likes to play with, while laying on the remote control. Such a techie kitty!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hello Pisco Sour - Bye Bye Margarita

Pisco Sour
I love a good margarita from time to time. Those time usually consist of when I visit Cantina De San Angel located in Mexico land at Epcot. There margarita's may have been the reason I am a season pass-holder (that and all the other eats & drinks at Epcot). My favorite margarita of all time has to be the Jalepeno and Cucumber Margarita. It's spicy but the cucumber cools it off.
Jalepeno and Cucumber Margarita
OK this blog post is NOT about margaritas, or the fact that I want that margarita right now. This blog is about this drink that my friend Wayne recently introduced me to. The Pisco Sour. There is an argument over where this cocktail was invented - Peru or Chile. But either way, I am so happy it is here.

This drink consists of Pisco liquor, lime or lemon juice, sugar or simple syrup and an EGG WHITE! The first time I ever tried a Pisco Sour was at Mojito restaurant in Tampa. Wayne suggested I try it and boy am I glad I did.
Pisco Sour at Mojito Restaurant
I also gave the Pisco Sour a whirl at Carousel Bar & Lounge at Hotel Monteleone while in New Orleans. This one was a little different as it had the bitters, but just as good.
Pisco Sour at Carousel Bar, Hotel Monteleone
So I decided to go to Total Wine and pick myself up a bottle of Pisco. I created a recipe for a healthy Pisco Sour and used splenda instead of sugar. Since there is only fresh lime and/or lemon juice in this cocktail, it is much better for you than a margarita made with sour mix.

Here is my Healthy Pisco Sour (no bitters) - You need a cocktail shaker for this recipe
1 1/2 oz of Pisco
1 oz water
1 TBL lime juice
1 TBL lemon juice
1/2 packet of Splenda
1 TBL Egg Beaters eggwhite

Put all ingredients into the shaker with 8 ice cubes. Shake vigorously for 1 minute. Pour over ice. The egg white should be frothy as it shows above.