Summer Projects

My Spring semester of teaching ended mid-May, although grading and meetings continued after that life definitely slowed down. Then I thought I’d be teaching a 10 week ESL summer school but enrollment ended up being too low.

So I have this summer off from work. As those with teaching jobs know there is joy and difficulty in having time off in the summer. Summer time gives teachers an opportunity to step back from their work, see the big picture, review student surveys, and see what needs to change for next semester. It also gives time to read new books on the teaching subject, on teaching methods, and attend professional development meetings.

But it also means a lack of routine. I need more to do beyond making changes to curriculum and creating new class activities. I can “relax” without a routine for only so long before I’m caught up on Netflix shows.

House warming: Even though we’ve been living here for more than 6 months a lot of  necessary home maintenance items have come up and home decorating has continually moved to the back burner. Since we’ve had so much rain this month I’ve been able to get Luke’s help to fill holes, from previous owners wall hangings, touch up paint in the house, and plan house decorating. Even though Luke cares less about  what I decorate with he is helpful, and more particular about the where. Which is OK because he’s more spacial than I am. Of course decorating projects will be shared as they get completed.

Editing Website: I have been the editor in chief for my mother-in-law who is a self published book author for almost 4 years now. I started my own editing business more than a year ago but got busy with a move and new teaching job before I got to the advertising end of things. So I’m taking this summer to get my editing business on it’s feet with designing a website, logo, and making business cards. (More of this including a link to my new site to come).

VBS/Bible Study: Since I’m not socializing with co-workers on a constant basis I realized I need to get out of the house and with people during the week. I decided to join the women’s Bible Study at our church. It meets on Tuesday mornings so I may not be able to continue in the Fall but it is good to be with these women. Plus we are using one of my mother-in-law’s books for the study. I also have volunteered to help out with our churches’ VBS heading up the missions projects. I will be explaining  to the kids and how they can help raise money or collect cans for humanitarian needs in Nepal and Latin America.

Curb Appeal: We had a late spring and as I said earlier a wet summer but we are finally learning what plants we have in the front yard. I am working to clean up the front yard and garden beds around the house: weeding, cleaning out leaves, categorizing plants, transplanting plants , and buying new plants to add color and interest to our front yard. It has been a great learning experience since I’m not used to working with such moist and shaded ground. (more blogs on this to come).

Garden/Yard: This project Luke is leading right now. Because we live in a very shaded valley we need to clear trees and brush in order to create sunlight for a garden. Luke has been working in the yard to kill weeds, cut down trees, and do controlled burns on one of the hillsides of our property to create a garden space. We are hoping for a late summer/fall gardena.

So this is how I am staying busy this summer. What are your summer projects?

Playing tourist with the Grandparents

It’s always fun when family come in from out of town; we love to play tourists and being hosts.  The season they come during and their personal interests determine which types of activities and locations we get to share with them.

This past week my grandparents (dad’s parents) came into town for a visit on their month long travels. They started from their home in California in their camper-van and are on their way up to Maine and back again. The last time I’d seen them was at my brother’s wedding last August (see: https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/snapshots-halvorson-wedding-behind-the-scenes/)

So I was thrilled to get some time with them.

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My husband took off work on Friday so we were ready for them when they rolled into town that afternoon. We took them downtown Market street on a walk after some much needed catching up. While downtown, we stopped in the Crystal City olive oil store. My grandpa took samples of everything and enjoyed talking to the store workers since we had the place to ourselves. Luke and I bought a bottle of lemon basil white vinaigrette we thought would go well on both salads and for marinades and my grandmother picked up some very early christmas gifts for a few friends.

For more on Corning’s Market Street see:https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/my-new-hometown/

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We came back to our little rented house and made them our traditional Greene pizza with a twist. Instead of the usual ingredients we used artichoke hearts, olives, crushed fresh garlic, grape tomatoes, onions, and spinach with an Alfredo base instead of tomato. And for meat? Chicken breast pan fried in olive oil and oregano. It was extremely delicious and a great experimental sucess.

For more on our homemade pizza see: https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/pizza-a-la-greene/

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The next day we took the grandparents on a hiking/nature tour. We stopped by their beautiful campsite with my homemade quiche and fruit for a picnic lunch (see: https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/a-good-spring-quiche/)

Then we took off in our car to Walkins Glen to hike the Gorge Trail. Although the parking lot was crowded the trail was not too busy and my grandparents had not problems keeping up on the incline of stairs (which is pretty great since my grandfather turned 80 this year!) It is just as beautiful as last year when we first discovered this amazingly breathtaking view.

For more on Walkins Glen state park see: https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/walkins-glen-state-parkgorge-ous/

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Next we drove up to Ithaca passing by one of the finger lakes (Seneca) on our way to the base of the other (Cayuga) through beautiful country. We stopped by the Ithaca Farmer’s Market where we split off: grandpa and Luke sampling cheese and other foods and Grandma and I tasting local ciders and wines.

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We left with some local maple syrup and hard cider and headed to another state park: Buttermilk Falls. We chose not to conquer two gorge trails in one day but instead enjoyed the view from the picnic tables at the base of the falls.

For more on the Farmer’s Market and Buttermilk falls see: https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/an-ithaca-birthday-adventure/

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We drove back towards Corning a different route to show more of the country-side then ended up in Horseheads for dinner and dessert. We took my grandparents to our favorite little mom-and-pop sushi place where we enjoyed our delicious sashimi, miso soup, and traditional rolls while my grandparents enjoyed yakisoba  (although they did try a shrimp, avocado, and egg roll). And for dessert? We went to sweetfrog; the local frozen yogurt joint where we could all get a variety of topping and flavors for our unique personalities.

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On Sunday after church we went to lunch at one of my favorite spots: Walker Cake Co.: Barn Owl Cafe where we got breakfast for lunch: breakfast burritos, gluten-free breakfast sandwiches, and traditional two egg breakfasts all with coffee.

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After a hearty brunch we took our grandparents to the Corning glass museum (how could we not?). They were concerned that we would be bored since this was our fourth or fifth time in the museum. We assured them that we weren’t; the contemporary art exhibit had completely been changed out; the demos were being done by new people which always means different information, each live glassblowing creates new and unique items, and the main art display always has a changing/rotating exhibit.

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So although we had taken my parents  at christmas we were far from bored. We also did a very early christmas gift ; the grandparents made a sculpture at the art-glass studio. Much like what we did from my parents; grandma chose the colors and grandpa made the sculpture. Since they are traveling they chose to have it shipped to my parents place where they will end their travels.

For more on the glass museum see:https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/a-corning-christmas-present/

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After a long tour day at the museum we headed back to our house for another Greene dinner: fish tacos. My grandfather tries every fish taco place in California when he has the chance and gave ours a thumbs up for approval

For more on our fish tacos see: https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/greenes-tilapia-fish-tacos/

We finished our last night together enjoying the thundering rain storm on our porch while eating some of my homemade popsicles.

See some of them at: https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/tropical-banana-creamsicles/

As a parting gift as we took my grandparents back to their campsite I gave grandma one of my swedish rye loafs (will be my bread of the month post) and little horseradish cheese from our trip to Ellicottville.

For more on Cuba cheese see:https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/wine-tasting-in-ellicottville/

It was a great weekend playing tourists and hosts. It was also a fun overview for us of what we have explored, learned, and discovered in the past year living in the Corning area. Can’t wait to see what we will explore and discover the rest of this summer and into next year as we transition into a new location (but more on that later).

Do you enjoy hosting friends and family?

What are some of your favorite meals to cook for them?

What local restaurants/tourist spots do insist showing them?

 

Variations on Teriyaki Chicken

I have always loved teriyaki chicken. It was one of my favorite meals growing up served with broccoli and brown rice and a little pineapple in the summer time. But I fell in love with it even more when moving to Seattle; where everyone has their favorite teriyaki place, which they claim has the best rice, sides, or sauce.

As I have mentioned before I have learned  to adapt some of my favorites from the West coast into my home cooking challenges here on the East coast. Teriyaki chicken is no acceptation to this.

(See https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/bbq-teriyaki-bowl/).

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I am lucky to have gotten a basic marinade from a good friend and past tutoree from Japan. I won’t give out specific portions (because it’s mostly up to personal preference) but I use mayo, honey, soy sauce (and a little ginger) mixed together.

Here are some recent summer variations off of one of my favorite meals:

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1. Teriyaki chicken burgers

I took two boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cut both into patty shapes. Then I took the time to pound down the meat with a tenderizer to make sure that they are as even as possible for grilling. If the “patties” are too thick the outside could crisp up before the meat inside is cooked. Then I placed them in a gallon size bag with the marinade. I placed the sealed bag in a bowl in the fridge until grill-day (the longer it marinades the better it tastes).

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The day- of I defrosted our hamburger buns gluten free for me and regular for Luke. When the chicken and corn on the cob goes to the grill I cut up the pineapple and prep the table. We chose to eat them simple: with fresh pineapple chunks , chicken, and provolone cheese. But you can add typical hamburger fixings such as lettuce, tomatoes, onions and/or more teriyaki sauce.

It was wonderful!!

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2. Teriyaki chicken kebabs

I took the cut off pieces from the burgers and combined them with two more boneless, skinless, chicken breasts cut into kebab size pieces. Then stuck the chunks in a gallon size bag and added the marinade then placed the sealed bag in a bowl in the fridge.

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The Kebab assembly is very similar to how I made my steak/beef kebabs for memorial day weekend. (See https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/memorial-day-steak-kebabs/) To review; I cover baking sheets with tin foil take the chicken meat out of the fridge and cut up fresh pineapple, green peppers, and onions. Then combined them on the kebab skewers and they were off to the grill!

These kebabs are great on their own but are also good with BBQ’ed corn on the cob, a light salad, or some fresh fruit.

Do you have a favorite marinade? A favorite grilled meal?

Belated Birthday Outings

As I mentioned on Saturday Luke was out of town for his birthday so we put off birthday celebrations until he got home on Friday. On Friday I made him one of his favorite desserts: cinnamon rolls (see Bread of the month: Irish Cinnamon Rolls). Then to continue the celebration had him open b-day cards and presents.

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Then on Saturday we enjoyed a morning/afternoon of lazy sleeping in (and cinnamon rolls) at home then drove up to Dryden NY. Why Dryden? It is the home of a new hop farm and microbrewery: Hopshire.

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Outside of it’s awesome name, Hopshire serves high quality brews made with local honey, grains, and their own home-grown hops. We discovered them at the Ithaca Chili fest (see Ithaca chili Cook Off) where they were giving away samples of two of their brews: a light honey beer called :Beehave and a spicy brown ale called: Round Yon Virgil.

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We pulled up to the brewery and stepped into their taproom:s a cozy room  with a bar and a spare room with a large dinging table. Each door way was framed with  ornately decorated wood framing  carved with leaves and hops and the taproom walls were decorated with vintage beer advertisements.

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Luke decided to try a flight of what was on tap starting with the lightest beer and ending with their IPA’s. His thoughts: they revile the northwest’s beers  (which if you know anything about beer that is saying something). The favorite picks included: Fiddler’s Grain a red ale and their best seller the Shire a darker scottish ale. Even though I am allergic to barley there were one or two tasters I couldn’t resist doing more than smelling. For more on this see (Wait Barley-Free means no beer right?). After signing the guest log Luke decided to use some b-day money and take home a growler of the Fiddler’s Grain and a new hat.

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To finish of our birthday outing we drove into Ithaca for dinner at Maxie’s Supper Club a cajun/southern inspired restaurant serving: blackened fish, gumbo, jambalaya, BBQ,  grits, and more. They offer their full menu every-night until 11pm and in addition to their 4-6pm happy hour they are also an oyster bar.

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As we were brought to our seats I could see that even though it was early on a Saturday night the place was getting busy.  Decorated with new orleans style color themes and decor it wasn’t long before our water glasses were filled and cornbread with honey butter was brought to our table. After glancing at the menus Luke ordered the shrimp and cheese grits with their tasso gravy sauce and I got the house jambalaya.

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As we tried not to fill up on cornbread we watched other people receive delicious looking dishes of ribs, shrimp skewers, green fried tomatoes, and crabcakes.

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And our dinner? Amazing, Luke’s shrimp ‘n grits came with an open face andouille sausage on top and had an awesome  texture, and kick and so did my jambalaya filled with chicken, andouille sausage, and shrimp. We quickly filled up and never had to wait for service; our water glasses were always full as were the multiple baskets of sweet corn bread.

It was a perfect birthday dinner out.

Gluten-Free Low Cal. Meatloaf

Some nights it is just easiest to throw everything into the oven at once and with one dish have all of dinner ready.  Luke’s meatloaf is one of those dishes but between chunks of cheese and torn pieces of whole wheat bread it was getting to be  higher in calories per serving than we were willing to eat.

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With a little creativity I created a variation on his very Italian  meatloaf. After crunching the numbers I discovered the whole loaf was only 1270 calories. That means if you split it into 4 slices it’s 320 calories a piece, or if you slice it into 8 pieces its only 160 calories a piece. The best thing is it’s an all-in-one dinner of veggies, rice, and meat-what more do you need? And for taste? Let’s just say there wasn’t much of a meatloaf left after we were through with it. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

1 lb of 97/3% ground beef

1 C quartered zucchini

1C chopped onion

1 C chopped mushroom

1 C uncooked instant brown rice

1 egg white

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tbsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Pepper

¼ C Parmesan cheese

½ C to 1 C Hunt’s garlic and herb sauce

Instructions:

1. Chop mushrooms and onion and quartered zucchini

2. Combine the vegetables, uncooked meat, instant brown rice, and 1 egg white

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3. Add in spices: garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper

4. Place all in a large loaf pan

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5. Sprinkle the top with ¼ C of Parmesan cheese

6. Pour the ½ C Hunt’s Garlic and Herb sauce over the Parmesan

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7. Place in the oven at 350F for 45 min to an hour

If you let it cool for a little while it will cut much easier into loaf pieces. Because it has large slices of zucchini in it the loaf may fall apart more easily then other meat-loafs but its just as tasty and a whole lot more healthy.

Crock-pot Chicken Enchilada Soup

Adding to my fall favorite recipes (see fall food round up) is a new crock-pot soup recipe I’ve been working on. Much like our Lime Chili Chicken Soup (crock-pot lime chicken chili soup ) this one is inspired off of a Chili’s restaurant soup. I have always like the Chicken Enchilada soup. After awhile I start to crave the cheddary, mexican flavors. So I finally decide I’d take the challenge of creating my own, hopefully healthier version. Here are the results!

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The first time I made it we were beyond excited with how it turned out. A few weeks ago we did the soup and salad deal at Chili’s and after having the Chicken Enchilada soup my husband tells me my soup is a lot better. Now I know you may think my husband has to say this, but believe it or not he is a pretty good cook himself and is more than willing to critique mine or anyone else’s food. So I will take the full complement.

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Ingredients:
3 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 large onion, diced
2 cans green chili
1-2 small jalapeno pepper chopped

1-2 green pepper diced
2+ tablespoons cumin
2+ teaspoons chili powder

2 or more teaspoons garlic powder

1.5-2 boxes chicken broth (32 oz each)

2 small cans tomato paste (or one large one)

1 can black beans
1 cup greek yogurt
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
2 chopped chicken breasts

Instructions:

1. Place chicken broth, tomato paste, greek yogurt, green chili, and shredded cheese in the crock pot on high for 1 hour and add seasoning: garlic powder, chili powder, cumin and little salt. (You can use plan tomato sauce for a less thick texture.)

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2. Meanwhile cut up tomatoes, onion, and green peppers (for advice on chopping veggies see homemade pico de gallo).

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3. Then cut chicken breast into strips. Pan-fry them with seasoning: garlic powder, salt, and chili powder.

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4. After hour on high, add the rest of the ingredients: tomato, onion, green pepper, chicken, and black beans

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5. Set the crock-pot on low for 3 hours or longer

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6. Add cut jalapeños depending on desired heat. I usually put them in an hour to half hour before serving. The longer the jalapenos are in the hotter the soup will be.

It is a filling and flavorful soup. One bowl usually will fill me up! You can also top it off with:  sour cream, more cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, avocado, or lime. So it’s your turn make this soup and decide for yourself it is is equal or better to the restaurant version.

And enjoy!!

Gluten-Free Low Cal. Chicken Marsala


Luke loves mushrooms and I can’t say I dislike them either so awhile back I decided to try to make chicken marsala at home. If you don’t know chicken marsala is a typical Italian dish in which the chicken is parmesan crusted and pan-fried served over angel hair pasta with a creamy mushroom sauce (usually made with Marsala Wine) poured over it.

The first time around I attempted to adapt a few recipes I had seen online. It was the middle of summer and humid-I was sweating in the kitchen trying to balance hot pans of boiling water and popping oil. The final dish was not bad but it was extremely carb. heavy. Not a light easy summer meal.

Still I was determined to try again. This time I needed to make some major adjustments. I took out the pasta and made the dish gluten-free and much lower in calories by using zucchini instead. After a few trial runs of substituting this and a few other items I finally fine-tuned a recipe both of us were happy with. Now this low calorie gluten-free chicken marsala is a common under 600 Calorie chicken-night dinner.

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Ingredients

  2 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts

1 tsp of: salt and black pepper

1 tablespoon garlic (depending how much garlic you like) and Italian seasoning

1/4 C Parmesan cheese

(if you want to cut calories you can take out the Parmesan cheese but it is a great gluten-free substitute for flour or bread crumbs)

½ cup olive oil

8 ounces container of mushroom, sliced and cleaned

2 tablespoons butter  (I use I can’t believe it’s not butter light)

¼-1/2 cup chicken stock

¼ cup sherry or dry white wine (I use cooking sherry which can easily be found at any grocery store)

2 medium to large zucchini’s or yellow squash (you can instead make the pasta alternative of spaghetti squash)

Instructions

1. Split (Butterfly) each chicken breast into two pieces.

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2. Place plastic wrap over them or place them in gallon size bag. Pound each one with a meat tenderizer or a rolling pin until about a quarter inch thick.

IMG_14123. Combine dry ingredients, mixing the Italian Seasoning, Garlic, Salt and Pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Place the mixture in a pie tin or on plate with a good edge.

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4. Pour 1/4 C olive oil into another pie tin or plate. Dip each piece of chicken on both sides in the olive oil then transfer it into the dry ingredients tin, coating both sides.

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5. Meanwhile cut up the zucchini or yellow squash into rounds. Steam the veggies on a low heat so they will done the same time as the rest of dinner.

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6. Heat the other 1/4 C of olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium sized pan. When the oil is hot place each piece of coated chicken in the pan. Allow the pieces to cook for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden brown. (It is always good to play it safe and cut into the thickest piece to double check that it is done.)

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7. Remove the chicken and place them on a plate covered in tin foil (to keep the chicken warm) and a paper towel (to absorb extra oil). Then cover the plate with another plate or pot lid.

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8. In the same pan used to pan-fry the chicken brown the butter then add the clean and cut mushrooms to the pan.

9. Saute mushrooms for about 4-5 minutes seasoning with a little salt and pepper.

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Then add cooking sherry, or white wine and chicken stock, allowing the liquids to reduce slightly, about another 3 minutes.

When it is time to serve the steamed zucchini  is layered on the bottom.

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Then a crispy piece or two of the pan-fried chicken.

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Then last of all the mushroom sauce.

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Then you are ready to enjoy!

What is your favorite veggie? Way to cook chicken?