Chicken & Broccoli Stir Fry

Fresh, lean meat.

Fresh, healthy veggies.

That’s what this dish is all about…

It’s also about being quick and simple, making it perfect for a busy work-week or an evening you are just short on time.
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Ingredients:
3/4 C soy sauce
1/2 C sesame oil
1 T honey
1 tsp corn starch
Olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 T fresh ginger, minced
1 large head broccoli, florets separated
1 large chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces

Instructions:
-combine soy sauce, sesame oil, honey & corn starch. Whisk together & set aside
-heat oil in wok, add garlic & ginger, cook 30 seconds
-add broccoli, cook until just short of desired crispness, remove from wok
-add more oil to wok, add chicken & cook until no longer pink
-scoot chicken to side of wok, give soy sauce mixure another quick stir, add to wok
-allow sauce to heat & thicken slightly
-return broccoli to wok, stir to combine all ingredients & re-warm broccoli
-taste and add salt/pepper, as desired
-serve over rice

You might also consider serving this alongside some yummy cheese wontons – especially if you have some already assembled in your freezer- recipe here:
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Enjoy!
H

 

 

 

 

 

 


Seedlings: Getting Started

Last week I shared with you a tidbit about the seedling project I have started this winter. If you missed that post, you can read it here.

Today I wanted to share with you how I went about getting started, and what eqiupment I’ve purchased — at least for now. As I mentioned previously, I’m sorta learning as I go and it’s really unknown what twists and turns this thing will take (and whether or not I’ll really have any success)!

I started planning for my seedling project last summer, and spent a great deal of time looking for unique seeds and the best prices. It’s not necessary for you to spent as much time, or for online ordering, unless you want some unique and cool stuff…in which case, unless you have a super cool store locally to purchase seeds, online becomes a necessity. Local nurseries carry seeds, as do places like Walmart and Home Depot so they are easily accessible.

So, first and foremost, pick out what flowers or veggies you want to grow and purchase those seeds. I ordered lots of catalogs online, and things I knew I wanted but couldn’t find in the catalogs I did some internet searching for (I’ll do a post another time about a site I found that has the uniquest seeds, that come beautifully packaged, from overseas).

Then, determine the approximate date you will want to plant outdoors. Using a calendar, count back the number of days until bloom (instructions on back of seed packets, or google for this info)–this is when you will want to get your seeds started indoors. I’m planting lots of different varieties and there is a wide range of start dates, especially since some will go in the greenhouse in April, while others have to wait until after Mother’s Day for outdoor planting. A simple calendar with the calculations already done has helped keep me on track for getting the ball rolling indoors.

I did a rough calculation of how many of each variety I will want to plant outdoors. This is important as you will need to have an idea of how many seedling starter pod spaces you will need. Then I purchased these starter kits made by Burpee, and bought online from their store:
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I bought both the regular (for most of the flowers) and extra large size (for veggies). I intend to do another post with my feedback on these handy kits – for now, just know I’m pleased with them.

My online cliffs notes education also informed me that there are 3 essential elements for successful seedling growth:
1) Light – 16 hrs per day
2) Water – consistent moisture, balancing too dry versus too wet, hence the reason for the starter kits that are self-watering.
3) Heat

So my setup looks like this (beware, terrible picture to follow):
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I found this heat mat on amazon.com for MUCH cheaper than I could find anywhere else. If I’m remembering correctly, it was about $35. It’s actually a bit too big for my current operation, but I believe <or hope> I will quickly ‘grow into it’ – pun intended!

The plant light came from Home Depot, to the tune of $50. The store carries them in stock; in the department where other industrial-type lighting is stocked. I also bought a timer to control the 16 hrs per day lighting requirement, and highly recommend you do the same if you are embarking on a similar journey. It just makes things easier.

So, here’s your ‘getting started’shopping checklist:
-seeds
-calendar (these can be printed for free online)
-seedling starter kits
-heat mat
-plant light
-timer

And, your ‘getting started’ to do list:
-select seeds
-purchase supplies
-calculate starting times for each seed variety

So…that’s that!

Happy Planning!!!
H

 

 

 


White Chicken Chili

There’s lots and lots of snow happening in my neck of the woods. Nineteen inches and counting. Just when I never thought it possible, we got a snow day from work! Woo Hoo!

So, I’m snuggled up inside with a hot cup of coffee and dreaming about soup. This one, in particular…

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It’s a white chili made with chicken and topped with cheese and tortilla strips. Mmmm…

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp lemon-pepper seasoning
1 tsp cumin seed
4 chicken breast halves
1 tsp olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 cup onion, chopped
2 (9 0z) packages frozen white corn (thawed)
2 (4.5 oz) cans chopped green chiles, undrained
2 (15.5 oz) cans white beans, undrained
1 tsp cumin
1 lime, juiced
Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
Tortilla Chips

Instructions:
-Combine water, lemon-pepper & cumin seed and bring to a boil
-Add chicken, cover, simmer 20-30 minutes (until chicken is cooked through)
-In medium skillet, heat olive oil & cook garlic for about 1 min
-Add onions and cook until soft
-Remove chicken from cooking liquid (don’t toss your liquid, you need this!), shred and return to pot
-Add onion and garlic as well as corn, chiles, cumin and lime juice to pot
-Bring to boil, then add beans and cook until heated through
-Ladle soup into bowls, top with cheese and tortilla chips & serve

It’s the perfect way to warm-up and re-fuel after battling drifts of snow. It’s also perfect if you have no intention of leaving the confines of your house and dealing with snow in any way…so…really, perfection all around!

Stay safe & warm out there, my friends!
H


Seedlings

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I love to garden. Veggies and flowers. We own a beautiful home with a gorgeous yard…lots of areas to plant, not to mention my sizeable veggie garden. In an effort to save money, several years ago I vowed to spend more money up front and put lots of perennials in the ground. The idea was that over the years our yard would be stunning and it would cost less an less.

Clearly that plan was a bust because each year, regardless of the perennial plan, I end up forking over lots of money for plants anyway. Annuals mostly.

There are just too many annuals to love <and buy>. And, I live in Colorado so there isn’t a veggie plant to survive our winter.

So this last year I came up with a new plan. I determined to start lots of my own little seedlings. I got excited flipping the pages of seed company catalogs — you have no idea (or maybe you do, how do I know what you know?) what sorts of wonderful and unique plants exist out there that you don’t usually find at your local nursery…or, I don’t find them at my local nursery anyway.

I launched into this project with enthusiasm and determination. I carefully selected many varieties of unique plants, researched the cheapest resouces to purchase, waited for sales and free shipping offers. I researched and read about starting seeds indoors and bought the recommended eqiupment (after shopping for the best deals, of course). I planned which seeds would need to be started at what time, since they all have different ‘time to bloom’ timelines. And then I waited…and waited…and waited…(I was way ahead of planting timelines).

Finally, the weekend arrived when the first seeds needed to make their way into moist soil and be nurtured with just the right amount of moisture, light and heat. Suddenly, my excitment faded into something different…anxiousness. You see, I rock the world of outdoor gardening. I can totally handle the uncontrollable elements outside the walls of my house. BUT, I have NEVER been successful growing plants from seeds in the controlled environment that exists within the confines of my own home. And here I am, in all my arrogance, with a full on seedling project planned. Yikes!

So, here’s what I do know:
1) I have only minor expertise of how to make this happen, thanks to the internet, not based on any of my own successful experience (as there has been none)
2) If I hadn’t already spent the money, I might have talked myself out of this project all together. But, since that ship has sailed, I’m diving in with moderate confidence.
3) I’m going to take you on this journey with me,via Simply Eclectic.
4) This project could be a total flop OR maybe I’ll find my new calling, quit my job, and open a nursery….(long shot, but hey, a girl can dream!).

Stay tuned…more to come on the specific details of this project…

Hope your weekend was relaxing and rejuvenating!
H

 

 

 


My Favorite Smoothie

A smoothie can be a really nice grab-and-go breakfast, or morning snack…or any time of day snack, really. I’ve tried several varieties, but this one is my favorite. In fact, I never get tired of it and drink several of them most weeks.

It’s one of those smoothies that people look at and ask, “WHAT is THAT?”. Or feel the need to comment, “What are you drinking, it looks GROSS!”. Here’s the thing: It’s green. And for whatever reason, that puts some people off as they automatically think I must be drinking a salad I ran through the blender and am now slurping through a straw. Here’s the other thing: people’s filters are evidently broken because I’m pretty sure commenting on how gross you think someone’s food or beverage looks isn’t etiquette best practice. Aanndd…one final thing…you will quickly learn to brush off the unfiltered comments because this smoothie is so wonderful in both flavor and amazing creamy texture…it’s totally worth it!

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Ingredients:
1/2 very ripe banana
1/2 ripe avocado
1/4 cup mango (I use frozen)
2 T plain greek yogurt
1/2 of a lime, juiced
1/8 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
Directions:
put everything into the blender and process until smooth

Note:
Since this recipe calls for using half of several ingredients, I prep 2 smoothies at a time and throw the second one in the fridge so it’s a quick grab-and-blend the next day. If you juice the lime over the top of the avocado, the avocado will hold its color well until the following day.
Do you have a favorite smoothie recipe? One that you never tire of and would like to share? I’d be willing to forego my favorite to try some new varieties…share in the comments below!

H


A Slow Start To 2016

Hi there! I just wanted to stop by and say  a quick hello. It’s been a couple chaotic months in my world, with lots of time away from home. Hence the reason for my blogging absence. I’m hopeful things are slowing down and I can start getting back into a routine.

In the meantime – here’s a frosty picture from a trip to Wyoming…
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I’m totally ready for Spring!

Hope your 2016 is off to a fabulous start – and I’ll be back soon.
H


Red Lentils (Side Dish Recipe)

Most of the meals I plan include some sort of side that consists of either rice or potatoes. I love rice and like potatoes. My husband loves potatoes and tolerates rice. It becomes a delicate balance as I have to draw a line somewhere otherwise risk becoming short order chef — which my life just doesn’t allow the time and energy for.

Back in early Sept I attended a women’s retreat with my church and Saturday night we were served a most delicious meal of roasted chicken and vegetables, alongside lentils. Having never had lentils before, except for maybe in soup (which is where I discovered lentils are typically used) my mind was blown. They were incredible! I HAD to figure out how to make them myself.

Fast forward a couple of months…I took my first run at lentils in side dish fashion. I’m quiet pleased to say they turned out as incredible as I remembered them from the retreat. And, what might be even better is that my husband is 100% on board. FINALLY I have another staple to add in the potatoes and rice rotation!

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Ingredients:
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
2 cups chicken stock
2 T olive oil (or you could use butter)
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (could use a can of diced as well)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp fresh pepper
salt, to taste

Instructions:
-heat oil over medium heat in deep skillet, saute onion and garlic until onions are beginning to brown
-add tomatoes and cook for a couple minutes
-season with turmeric, cumin and fresh pepper
-add lentils and chicken stock, cook, uncovered, until lentils are desired firmness (30’ish minutes), stirring occasionally
-add salt to taste and serve warm

There will be a little bit of sauciness left after the lentils have reached their desired doneness (some people like them a touch firmer while others prefer them pretty soft – the choice is yours – I tested mine along the way to determine how ‘done’ I preferred them). This sauciness is wonderful to soak up with some grilled chicken so don’t be afraid to flood your plate!

Lentils are rich in dietary fiber, a good source of protein and folate, and high in iron. They certainly have a lot more going for them than my beloved rice…or potatoes.

It’s so awesome when an adventure in the kitchen turns into something that will be a frequent flyer in your meal planning. Give this one a try – it’s wonderful – and easy!

Light at the end of the tunnel, the work week is nearly over!
Have a great weekend!
H


Italian Sausage and Potato Soup

We had a gorgeous couple of Fall days recently. Unseasonably warm and absolutely wonderful. It was short lived and we are back to weather more representative of the season: cool and damp. It’s not my favorite, but when life hands you crummy weather, make soup!

This is a new recipe that will be going in the soup rotation at my house (I’m not certain what that rotation is exactly – if I’m lucky there’s enough winter to make my favorite soups a couple times, and others that were just good enough to make the cut, once – but you get my drift).

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Ingredients:
1 lb spicy Italian sausage
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
pinch of red pepper flakes (if you desire some added heat, if not, skip it)
5 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
1 pound of red potatoes, diced small
3 cups baby spinach
1/4-1/2 cup cream
salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:
Brown sausage in soup pot, crumble while cooking into desired size
Remove sausage from pot
Add garlic, onion and carrot and cook until soft (add in olive oil if needed)
Season with oregano, basil, pepper flakes, salt and pepper, stir to combine
Stir in broth and water. Add bay leaf and potatoes. Return sausage to pot.
Bring to a boil, stir well, cover, reduce heat and cook until potatoes are soft (then keep warm until ready to serve)
Just prior to serving, add spinach and cook until it begins to wilt.
Add cream. Taste and adjust seasonings (i.e. salt and pepper)

Serve with cheesy garlic bread, or half a panini on the side. This is a hardy soup so you won’t need a lot…but what fun is soup if there isn’t something to dunk in it?

Psst…this is another recipe that is good if you are stocking the freezer. Follow the recipe until you are just short of adding the spinach and cream – and freeze. When you are ready to eat this one, thaw, bring to a boil, drop the heat down, and finish the last 2 steps (spinach and cream) and Presto! Dinner on the table in a flash!

Stay warm out there, my friends!
H


Crock Pot Mexican Chicken

Busy week? Short on time? Out of energy by the time dinner rolls around? Here’s a crock-pot recipe that is quick, simple and will fit right in with that hectic schedule.

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Ingredients:
2 chicken breasts
1 green bell pepper, cut into thin slices
1 bed bell pepper, cut into thin slices
1 medium onion, cut into thin slices
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp cayenne powder
1/8 tsp salt
pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 lime, juiced

Instructions:
Place all ingredients, except cilantro and lime juice, in crock pot. Cook on low until chicken is fully cooked and shreds easily (crock-pots tend to vary, mine takes right around 4 hours for this recipe).
Once cooked, remove chicken from crock-pot and shred.
Return to crock-pot along with cilantro and lime juice.
Stir to combine all ingredients
Taste and add additional salt, if needed

Serve in warm tortillas taco style, top a salad or tostada, fill a quesadilla, create a chicken burrito bowl…the possibilities are endless.
This recipe also freezes well so don’t hesitate to make a double batch and throw half in the freezer for an even quicker homemade dinner — you know — for one of the other hectic 364 days of the year. You’ll be glad you did!

I hope you are all having the most fabulous Monday!
H


Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

This soup recipe is one of my absolute favorites. There aren’t many soups that get a repeat appearance in my house through ‘soup season’ because there are too many good soups and not enough time, but this one will have it’s day in the cool weather at least twice…maybe three times!

Having pre-cooked chicken and wild rice in the freezer helps this one come together in pretty short order – but it’s not a pre-requisite, so if you don’t have these prepped and in waiting just be sure to tack on a little extra time on the front end to boil the chicken and the rice. These don’t come into play until near the end of the recipe so there is prep and initial stages of cooking happening during which the chicken and rice can be prepared as well.

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Ingredients:
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1/2 cup wild rice, cooked according to package directions
1T butter
1T olive oil
1/2-3/4 cup celery, chopped small
1/2-3/4 cup carrot, shredded
1 green pepper, chopped (note: in the picture you will notice I used red bell pepper for this batch because I had them out of the garden to be used up. It was good but not as much so as the green — stick with green if you can)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 T whole wheat flour
Salt & Pepper to taste
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 cup cream
1/3 cup sliced slmonds, toasted
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions:
Saute veggies in butter/oil
Add flour, salt & pepper – stir to combine and cook for approx 1 minute
Whisk in stock and water
Bring up heat to a boil, add chicken and rice to the pot
Cover, drop heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve (skip this step if you are serving immediately)
Just prior to serving, stir in cream, parsley and almonds
Taste and adjust seasonings (salt and pepper) as needed – I always add more of this, in small increments until it tasts just perfect but everyone’s palate is different so there’s no specific instruction on what the exact measurements would be.

Tip: this recipe can be made in advance, up until addition of the cream, etc., and frozen. If you are someone who likes to do freezer prep cooking – add this one to your list! On the day of serving, simply thaw and warm over the stove. Add in the last ‘just prior to serving” ingredients and you will be all set to go!

There is something about the addition of the toasted almonds that just send this one over the top. It’s ridiculously good. I don’t even mind eating the leftovers every day for an entire week afterwards — sometimes even for breakfast.

Happy Souping!
H


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