I must apologize for the severe lack in posting. It has been a bit of  a whirlwind since I was accepted into a Master’s degree program back east. Since then I’ve gone on 3 separate trips that left me with an utter loathing for airlines. Between the miniscule seats, terrible customer service, long flights and endless delays, I’m happy that my boy and I are road tripping back east for school. Right now out apartment is an assortment of boxes and piles to be packed.

It was very sad as all my kitchen stuff got boxed up yesterday, I’m left with a few utensils, one glass 8×8 and 2 bowls. On the bright side, we had one last hurrah of me cooking and my boy and neighbor eating. While using StumbleUpon, I happened onto a recipe for Crepes that would magically use many of the ingredients leftover in my fridge. It totally saved me from part of guilt trip over throwing out perfectly good food. Most of my cupboard went to the local Food Bank but some of it, being opened, partially used or what have you cannot be donated. I’m thinking I need to have locals over for grocery shopping in my fridge…

Anyway! Crepes! Usually I look at crepes and think I could never manage such a delicate creation, but with the recipe I found it was quite easy. The hardest part was deciding what to do for fillings. Scavenging my cabinets netted us peaches, frozen berries, butterscotch ganache (leftover from making butterbeer cupcakes, another blog for a different day), ham, cheese and whip cream. We had savory crepes with ham and cheese, sweet ones with peaches and butterscotch, berries and strawberry sauce… It’s fun to make your own! This would be a great brunch idea if you had company over! And chances are you have all the ingredients necessary! No, you don’t need any special equipment either, just a medium or large pan, a spatula and appetite.


Easy Crepes

(adapted from Food for my family)

1cup water

1 1/2 cup milk

2cup flour

5 eggs

6tbl melted butter

1/4 tsp salt


Keep the rest of the butter for frying. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and let it rip until frothy. Check the sides and scrape down as needed then continue to blend until well mixed. Chill the batter for at least 1 hr but no more than overnight. You can certainly make ahead the night before, just be sure to use it the next day!

Heat a sloped sided pan to medium/medium-high and melt some butter in it. Soon as the butter is melted fully, pour in 1 to 2 ounces of batter and swirl the pan around so it coats the entire bottom. I found that a large serving spoon held just over 1 oz and it was perfect for my medium sized pan. Let fry for about 45seconds then flip carefully. If you have trouble getting under the crepe, run your spatula around the sides, lifting it up just a bit to loosen it all the way around. Many times I found you could slide the crepe around in the pan to give you more room to maneuver underneath. Fry the other side for about 10 to 15seconds.

Add butter occasionally to keep them sliding off nicely. This recipe makes about 25 crepes if doing a little over 1 oz of batter each time. Serve with accompanying sides!


Strawberry Sauce

1 cup frozen or fresh strawberries

2 tbl orange juice or orange liquer

2 tbl sugar

1/4 c strawberry or raspberry jam/jelly


Using a blender or food processor, puree the strawberries and juice until smooth. In a pot over medium-high heat combine the puree, sugar and jam or jelly until it starts bubbling. Let simmer for about 5 minutes. The sauce will thicken as it cools.


Butterscotch Ganache

1 cup heavy cream

16oz bag of butterscotch chips


Bring about 2 inches of water to a boil in a pot. Place a glass or non-melty bowl over the boiling water. Combine the cream and chips, stir until everything is melted and smooth. The ganache will thicken upon cooling. Store in the fridge, it will keep for several days.


These crepes are just awesome, creamy and delicious. They pair well with sweet or savory fillings. You could always make a hollandaise or bechemel sauce to go with a chicken, mushroom or veggie filling. Maybe make a quick caramel sauce to go with fruit. Have any canned or frozen fruit sitting around? This is a great way to make use of them!  Or just dust one with some powdered sugar and enjoy it simple style. Get creative! Have some friends over and make it a crepe bar with all sorts of combinations, you’ll have them thinking you’re an amazing chef.


Well, that’s all for now. Our road trip back east starts Monday so there’s likely going to be another long break before the next post. Hopefully we have an apartment waiting for us so I can get straight back into cooking!


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Garam Masala Chicken & A Bday

Ok, hold onto your pants, this is going to be a long post. Saturday was my birthday and it turned out to be a great day! In the morning I went to downtown for a Farmer’s Market with my neighbor/friend. We checked out tons of booths, chatted over coffee, tasted a few excellent samples (toffee, chocolate, berries, cookies etc) and did a huge amount of people watching. There were plenty of people to watch too, it was interesting to see a large amount of people in what’s a city with such a small town feel.


For lunch we stopped at a local chain for Mexican, it’s pretty decent considering our distance from the border. The best part about it though, was the location. The restaurant was tucked in an alley on the side of the building, a very old building. It was originally three buildings (at least we guessed it was) that had several corridors and hallways built to make it all one big place.


This process left open brick on random walls, winding hallways, creepy little service doors everywhere and more nooks and crannies than you thought possible for just one building. It was great though, we spent a solid half hour exploring it, seeing where some parts were updated and others weren’t. One of the best parts was all the old antiques displayed in the building; clearly whoever owns it knows the history of the place. I loved it.


Later on my boy took me to dinner at a local tavern in downtown. It was such a great atmosphere with delectable food. Their menu had a lot of classic comfort food but with innovative twists. We both had one of their hand-made angus beef burgers that were delicious. I was thoroughly impressed and would gladly drag him back there.


After that it was off to the movies! X-Men First Class was very well done I thought. The main story revolved around Erik and Charles (Magneto and Professor X) plus the side stories of all the first mutants. If you look closely in one scene, you can even see Storm. My boy thought there was too much going on, too many stories etc. While that could be true, if you want to be immersed in the story though I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s easily the best X-Men movie in a long time. The movie is excellently carried by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. If you have any small inkling to see it, go. You’ll enjoy it!


So after such a full day, I realized the night afterwards that I’d have to cook dinner. Looking at my lonely tomatoes and green onions that needed using, I decided to find a recipe that would use them up before I have to throw them out.


I found a recipe for chicken using garam masala spices (a blend of several spices like cardamom, pepper, cumin, cinnamon etc) that are primarily used in Indian cooking. It was a bit of a gamble considering the picky, plain-preferring boyfriend who would be eating it too. But I rolled the dice and came up winning. It’s a pretty easy recipe, uses one pan and has great flavor!


It can be difficult to find a garam masala blend in your local grocery store. I ended up finding mine (and dancing excitedly) at Cost Plus World Market. You can buy it online from them or check your local stores that carry off the beaten path stuff. Should you live in a bigger city, there’s likely an ethnic market or maybe even a restaurant that would sell it.



Garam Masala Chicken

(adapted from


2-3 chicken breasts, trimmed

1 tbsp olive oil

1 ½ cup fresh tomatoes diced (one large and one medium or three small)

1 bunch of green onion, chopped

¼ cup water

1 teaspoon garlic salt

2 teaspoons garam masala, divided


In a large skillet, heat the oil then add in your chicken breasts. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly browned on one side. Turn the chicken over and add in the green onion. Let cook for 2 to 3 minutes.


Once the green onions are softened, add in the tomatoes, followed by water and garlic salt. Sprinkle 1 ½ teaspoons of garam masala onto the chicken and vegetables. It’s easiest to use a ½ teaspoon measure and take out 3 measures to sprinkle over. Reduce the heat and cover the skillet, let simmer for about 10 minutes.


Add in the last ½ teaspoon of garam masala, stirring all of the vegetables and chicken. Turn the chicken over again if necessary. Let simmer for another 5 minutes, stir occasionally while simmering. Serve over rice, couscous or quinoa.




The smell from the garam masala spice blend is really quite unique and fantastic. I’ll be trying to find more ways to use it!

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Tequila Lime Chicken & Rice

Unexpected post! After having a few variations of tequila lime chicken in the past week I’ve started craving it as a welcome break from Chinese and asian cuisine. While most stir-fry type stuff is very healthy, it gets boring when you have it every other meal.


So today while running errands my boy and I stopped to pick up chicken. Now with a few night’s worth of chicken chilling in the freezer, I went recipe hunting once more to fulfill my craving.


Several recipes later it was once more time to improvise. Drawing inspiration from Rachel Ray and Ina Garten (I secretly love her), I devised a simple but flavor packed marinade. It also gave me the excuse to use my new citrus juicer! Kitchen gadgets are one of the best parts of cooking.



Val’s Tequila Lime Chicken


2 chicken breasts, trimmed



2 limes juiced

Scant ¼ cup tequila (not quite the full measure)

Dash of Liquid Smoke

A few drops of hot sauce

¼ cup vegetable or canola oil


Spice Rub:


Black pepper




4 tbps ranch

2 tbsp salsa

Shredded cheese


Combine marinade ingredients, place the chicken and marinade in a ziptop bag. Leave it in the fridge for at least 30min but up to over-night is just fine.


Remove the chicken breasts, shake off the excess marinade and discard. Turn on your oven’s broiler. Put chicken in a lightly greased baking dish, sprinkle paprika, salt and pepper on both sides of the chicken. Broil for a few minutes each side (about 3-4 minutes each side) until the chicken is cooked through.


Mix the ranch and salsa together. Pour on top of the chicken breasts then top with cheese. Return it to the broiler for another 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Serve with Spanish Rice (recipe follows).




Spanish Rice

(adapted from


1 ½ cup uncooked rice

2 tbsp oil

3 cup water (or chicken broth, otherwise add in 2 bouillon cubes)

½ cup tomato sauce (or a heaping tablespoon of tomato paste should your cupboard be bare of sauce)



½ cup corn (or more, however much you like!)

1 medium tomato diced

1 4oz can of diced green chiles

2/3 cup cooked black beans



In a large skillet heat the oil then add the rice; cook until its slightly browned. Once golden, add in the water with cubes (or straight broth) followed by tomato sauce and whatever optional items you want. Cover and let simmer until the majority of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir it to check how tender it is. If done, remove from heat and serve up. If necessary add a bit more water to let it cook more or let it keep on steaming to get rid of excess liquid. It makes quite a bit of rice so be prepared to have leftovers.



Put the chicken and rice together. Enjoy it. And yes, it’s mostly healthy! Mostly is better than not at all, right? It’s close enough for me. This dish is seriously tangy and is on my favorites list now. The other tad-bit of exciting news is that my cucumbers have sprouted! Little plants are growing like no tomorrow! My strawberries are also going very strong and have some little buds that will hopefully grow into delicious berries. You can see the thriving strawberry plants on the left and the little cucumber sprouts on the right. Hurray!

Strawberries on the left, cucumber sprouts on the right!

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Smothered Pork Chops

Our road trip went quite well. We saw some boring countryside, a pretty river, lots of trucks and plenty of cows, horses, sheep and fields. Totally exciting, you’re jealous I know. But my boy’s interview went well and we eagerly await a response.


While waiting I came across two awesome deals offered by Borders Perks- two movie tickets for $9 and a $25 gift card to a restaurant for $3. Of course I jumped at the chance so now we have a great evening lined up for my Saturday birthday. I’m excited to see X-Men First Class, the actors for Magneto and Xavier are some of my favorite. Afterwards (or before) we’re also going to try out a local tavern that serves Kobe beef! Hopefully it will be incredibly delectable.


Next post, look for reviews on the tavern and movie! But as for this post, I found some nice little shortcuts to work with this eating plan I’m on. I realized that fully cutting out salt and oil is pretty difficult. Instead I am severely limiting them which is working out so far. Also, things like Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice frozen dinners are unexpectedly decent enough to fit into this eating plan.


Tonight I stood there with the freezer open, digging through all my bags of veggies, frozen dinners and popsicles trying to find chicken breasts that I swore I still had. Alas, they had been eaten up without my realizing. Plan B were some pork chops. Taking a look in the fridge there were mushrooms that needed using. After some recipe scouring it dawned on me that creating a new recipe was in order. Thankfully, it came out pretty good!



Val’s Smothered Pork Chops


4-6 pork chops trimmed

1 can cream of mushroom soup

2 cups sliced mushrooms

2 cups frozen broccoli

½ cup water

Pepper to taste


Optional: ¼ cup cornstarch


Side: rice prepared according to directions



Place the pork chops in your slow cooker and season with pepper. Layer the mushrooms and broccoli on top of the chops. Spread the mushroom soup over top of the veggies then add the water.


Set your slow cooker to high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Once done, take the pork chops out. You can add about ¼ cup cornstarch at this point to thicken the soup into gravy if desired. Serve over rice with veggies and gravy.




And that’s it. Surprisingly tasty and amazingly easy, just how I like it. Not to mention the clean-up is a snap. One pot meals are definitely a favorite of mine. More to come!

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New Beers & Road Trip

Well, not that the beer and road trip are mixing!

This past Saturday I went out with a friend, we explored some of downtown and tried out different bars as we went. It was a great time, really the first time I’ve gone out on the town here. Surprisingly there’s a rather large and vibrant area, several clubs, pubs, bars and grills. We went for a relaxed night and only had two beers each, but both of us being lightweights 40oz total was plenty!


The first beer I had was called Ace Pear, the server described it as “candy beer” which sounded awesome. If they had handed it to me in a wine glass and told me it was white wine, I would have believed them. The beer was an amazing clear canary yellow color, light, sweet, fruit notes and totally easy drinking. I could easily down a few glasses of it and be happy. If you can find it, try it.


Second up was another server suggestion at a different pub (affectionately called an ale house) which came from a California brewery and was called Summer Solstice. It had great citrus notes and this lovely mellow after taste. I would have gladly had a second helping but we were still deciding who was going to drive home.


All in all it was a fantastic night with good conversation and yummy drinks. Granted beer doesn’t exactly fit into my eating plan… But if you don’t occasionally enjoy life then what’s the point. Speaking of the shift in eating, it’s been going pretty well. I found some Lean Cuisine meals that fit into the plan which helps alleviate some of the pressure to find recipes and constant cooking.


Coming up on Tuesday though, my boy and I are taking a day trip to a nearby town where he has an interview for a big job! It’s about two hours away and considering I have to eat about every two hours now, I’m thinking some car friendly snacks are in order.


My first thought was- fruit salad! Yes, definitely a good choice. I have so much fresh fruit as it is, but how to keep it nice and cool on a long car ride… Frozen peaches, of course! So here it is, my own fruit salad mix.



Val’s Fabulous Fruit Salad

(enough for one but easily adapted for sharing!)


2-3 frozen peaches

3 strawberries


Pineapple (chunk or rings cut up)

1 packet of sugar substitute (I like Splenda)


Rinse and clean all the fruit. Hull and quarter the strawberries. Cut up pineapple if necessary and cut frozen peaches in half. In a small container combine all of the fruit with the sugar substitute, mix until dissolved.


You can make it ahead and pop it in the freezer overnight but I’d recommend making it the morning of as the peaches will keep everything cold. Blueberries, blackberries, pears or apples can also be added!



Hopefully the drive will go smoothly with this snack to help along the way! I’m rooting for my boy to get the job too as it would be a fantastic opportunity for him. He’s a smart cookie and deserves it for sure.


Well, a bit shorter today but more recipes with a bit of a healthy spin are on the way!

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June is here!

Welcome to the month of June! It happens to be a fantastic month in case you didn’t know. There are several wedding anniversaries, it was always the end of school and best of all- my birthday. Hurray! Other great things about June: kick off of Summer Movie Season (can’t wait for X-men First Class!!!!), pools open, gardens are in full swing and the weather here gets nice. Granted the A/C may need to run, but most days it’s just super nice.

This month also means something else for me. I’m starting a new eating plan to get healthier and so far it’s frustrating. Eliminating salt, oil, butter and nearly all dairy really hampers my cooking. But I am determined to stay the course as much as possible. I don’t want boring gross food though, so I’ll find a way to make it tasty, fun, easy and good. Will it be difficult? Most likely yes. Quite frankly cheese has always been one of those ultimate comfort foods for me and cutting it out is throwing me out of my comfort zone. Even so, I’m approaching this as a challenge, a test of will to expand my horizons and find new ways of cooking. =)

The plan I’m following suggests lots of fish of which I’m definitely not a fan. Then again, it’s fair to say I’ve never really given it a chance. Where I am currently doesn’t have good fresh seafood so canned tuna it is. I tried out some tuna on cucumber slices with mustard or red wine vinegar and it’s pretty tasty; at least, good enough that I didn’t mind the tuna.

The best part about this plan is all the fresh fruit I have to eat. Strawberries, raspberries, peaches and pineapple galore! I even finally bought a blender to make smoothies and such. Nothing beats a fresh fruit smoothie, I dug out my frozen peaches which will finally be put to use!

However, the first big thing I made with my blender was green salsa. Since salsa is just vegetables thrown together it’s a perfect seasoning to provide some deviation from spices alone. Red salsa is good and I’ll be making some later but since the first time I tried green salsa, I fell in love. It’s tangy, smoky and has this irresistible pop. Instead of being made with tomatoes, it’s made with tomatillos. They look similar to tomatoes but they come with a husk and have lots more seeds. Depending on the season and grower, they vary in size from medium tomato size to small apricot (or smaller!).

After much searching, I settled on trying a recipe from that didn’t require salt. Even without salt, the green salsa turned out amazing. I’m totally baking chicken with it tonight and likely with some egg whites tomorrow. Tangy awesome sauce should be its alternative name.


Tomatillo Salsa

(adapted from

10-12 tomatillos (depending on size)
3-4 serrano chiles (depending on how hot you want it)
1 medium white or yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
For Later:

juice of 1 lime
1/2-1 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped (measure before chopping)
salt, to taste (you may not need any)
a few tablespoons of canola oil

Remove the husks from the tomatillos and rinse them well to get rid of the sticky residue. Turn on your oven’s broiler, arrange tomatillos in a baking dish (it will catch run off juices) and place under broiler until they turn olive in color and have some blackened blisters. It took mine about 10 to 15 minutes under the broiler. Alternatively you can get canned tomatillos, it’ll take 2 cans in that case.

Heat the skillet you’ll use to cook the onions but do not add oil or onions yet. Once hot place Serrano chiles in the skillet until the skin blisters, turn and repeat for the other side. Remove them and let them cool off a bit. Add a wee bit of oil into the pan and cook onions until soft. Add in garlic and continue cooking until everything is beautifully browned.

While the onions cook, chop off the tops of the chiles then cut them in half length-wise. Take out the seeds unless you want it really hot. Place de-seeded chiles into blender or food processor. When the tomatillos are done, add them to the blender as well. Pulse until everything is roughly chopped together.

Add onions once they are finished cooking. Pulse until everything is well mixed and very soupy. Wipe out your skillet used for the onions, add a tad more oil and heat to medium-high heat. Wait until the pan is nice and hot before pouring the entire puree into it. The salsa puree is going to get a bit darker and thicken up, it may take a few minutes so be patient.

Once thickened, add in the chicken broth and continue to let it cook. It should come to a simmer and hold there until it thickens back up. It should nicely coat the spoon when it’s done.

Before serving, add some chopped cilantro and some lime juice to your liking. This stuff freezes very well and will keep in the fridge for a bit too.


It takes some time but the result is awesome. The green salsa goes great on enchiladas, nachos, chicken, pork, or great as salsa with chips! Hopefully yummy sauces like this will make my new eating plan easy to keep following!

More experimental recipes to come!

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Pretzels, Pretzels Everywhere!

Today it was pretty difficult to get up and get moving. I’ve been in a down and out funk, some anxiety here, some stress there… Lots of what if’s running through my mind. So I read for a little bit until my boy kept looking at me, hinting how French toast sounded amazing and his stomach was rumbling.

Reluctantly I got off the couch, surveyed the messy kitchen and got to work. One dishwasher load later, it felt clean enough to cook. My boy despite not being a verbose one, always finds the few words of comfort I need. He’s a keeper. French toast was made, enjoyed then set aside as I was sufficiently motivated to experiment.

In fact, I followed the whole scientific method. There was a control (a delicious salty control) and of course the experiment. I’m happy to report that with the addition of 2 ingredients and skipping of one step created amazing, better than the ones at the mall cinnamon sugar pretzel bites.

You have to understand, I’ve long loved pretzels. When I worked at Sears years ago I’d go to the Wetzel’s Pretzels for a snack at break time most days (they gave mall employees a discount!). I’ve been known to keep a bag of pretzel sticks by my computer and munch on them over the course of a week.

With all that in mind, when I found this recipe for easy and awesome pretzel bites I immediately had to try them. In my many hours of using StumbleUpon there have been several recipes pop up, but this one from Mel’s Kitchen is by far my favorite. Here it is:


Better Than the Mall Pretzel Bites

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (or 1 tbsp if using active dry yeast, dissolve in the water and let sit for about 5min)
1 cup very warm water

Add 1 tsp cinnamon for sweet pretzels

For later:

1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
Coarse salt (regular) or cinnamon sugar (sweet)
3 tablespoons butter, melted (more is ok 😉

Combine the dry ingredients well and incorporate the water. It will come together in a soft dough, you may need to add additional flour to get it past the really sticky stage and into the only slightly sticky stage. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes so that it’s smooth and soft. Flour a 1 gallon ziptop bag, place the dough inside to rise in a warm place for 30 to 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 500* (super hot, but trust me it’s how it needs to be done!) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. You can lightly grease it but under the high heat I prefer parchment to anything else. Plus it makes clean up that much easier. Turn out the dough and separate into 4 roughly equal amounts. Gently roll each section into a rope and cut into about 1 inch pieces. The size is really up to you, smaller bites, bigger ones, doesn’t ultimately matter.

Mix the baking soda into the water (it doesn’t like to stay mixed, keep a fork in there to quickly stir between each bit). Dunk in each piece and place on the baking sheet. They can be relatively close as they won’t expand much. At this point, if you’re doing regular pretzels then add some salt onto those puppies. Oh yeah. If you’re doing sweet ones, let them go in naked.

Take your time with it too, the longer they sit out the fluffier they can get. When ready, bake for 8 to 10 minutes, but watch them toward the end to make sure they don’t burn. You want them a perfect golden brown. Have the butter melted and waiting, believe me you do not want to skip the buttering step. It puts them over the edge.

Fresh out of the oven brush those babies with butter until it’s all gone. If you’re doing the sweet version, roll them in cinnamon sugar after the butter soaking. Yield about 2 dozen.

I recommend keeping them on the smaller side for the cinnamon sugar pretzels. You can serve with mustard, plain or however you eat your pretzels. Make a quick glaze with ½ cup milk, 1 ½ cup powdered sugar and a dash vanilla extract for a sweet dunking experience. Adjust the amount of sugar for thicker or thinner glaze. Honey would be a good choice too!

Well, go bake up these babies. You won’t regret it.

I actually baked these twice this past week as snacks while we played LA Noire. We finished the game today actually, it’s quite a ride to the end. The overall story that’s being slowly built up throughout the entire game gets a nice big finish. Definitely enjoyable and we’re likely going to go back to discover landmarks, secret cars etc. I’d say it’s worth the money to play this innovative, well constructed game.

Hope you had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

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