Bet I got your attention with that title, didn't I?? :)
OMG, what a month it's been. I've been out of town on business 3 times, and have barely had time to tend to anything except work stuff. This week, except for Memorial Day, I have been too preoccupied, exhausted, or busy even to venture into the kitchen. DC and I have been eating out instead. Sad indeed! I miss cooking, and blogging, and reading and commenting on everyone else's blogs. Thanks so much to all of you for continuing to read and support DomesticMuse!
As you can imagine, my only 80% unpacked house is in sad, sad shape as well. And this has not been helped one bit by the fact that our idiot dog, Huckleberry, dined out of the garbage can two days in a row (despite the fact that I made certain the lid was tightly shut) and on day three, finished off his spree by eating a bag of DC's Doritos from the kitchen counter. (The counter!! Such bad, bad manners!)
Huckleberry has been extremely indisposed for the past several days, even needing to go out for what my dad so charmingly referred to as "hurry calls" in the middle of the night. Plus, we have almost used up a whole bottle of carpet cleaner!
Today, I was determined I was going to clean the downstairs thoroughly AND cook dinner, even going so far as to steam-mop the kitchen while DS and his dad were having an impromptu algebra tutoring session at my kitchen table. Poor DS has exams all next week. (DS's Dad: So what is the greatest common factor here? Me: WHOOOOOOOOSSHHHHHHHHH! WHOOOOOOSSSSSSSHHHHH! DS: What? What? Dad: OK, you need to use the reverse FOIL method-- Me: WHOOOOOOOOOSSHHHH! (skid, crash) OH, SH$T! THAT WAS SLIPPERY! DS: Wait, what's a polynomial, again??)
For dinner, I was happy to find I had all the ingredients in the house for Nathan's Cuban Meatballs, always a huge family favorite. I posted about this fantastic dish earlier, but have included this don't-miss recipe below. I had also been cherishing the idea of making a cherry pie, but when the meatballs were finally simmering, I realized I was just too exhausted to do A Whole Pie. Still craving a homemade cherry dessert, I hit upon the idea of a clafouti instead.
In case you are unfamiliar with this humble but tasty traditional French dessert, a clafouti (claw-phoo-tee) is sort of a cross between a custard and a cake, and is generally fruit-based. Cherry clafouti is a classic flavor, but you will find recipes for everything from Apple Clafouti to Pumpkin Clafouti.
It's in the category of desserts that I call "Dump Its"-- where you open a few cans or chop up a few ingredients and dump everything in a pan, yet still come out with a yummy homemade treat. Of course, I wanted to put my own special spin on the clafouti, and here's what I came up with. It could hardly be quicker or simpler!
Cherry-Chocolate Chip Clafouti by DomesticMuse
1 can cherry pie filling 1 c. milk chocolate chips 1/2 c. slivered almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
Spray a 2 qt. baking dish with non-stick spray and layer the above ingredients in it. In the blender, combine 1 c. whole milk, a pinch of salt, 4 eggs, 1/2 c. sugar, 1 t. vanilla, the grated zest of 1 lemon, and 1 stick butter, melted. Blend on low speed. With motor running, pour in 1/3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour and process until combined. Pour the batter over the other ingredients, and bake at 375F for 40-50 minutes, or until browned and set.
I served ours with some vanilla ice cream, but it really doesn't NEED more than a dusting of powdered sugar.
A quick and easy dessert was a great way to end a busy day!
DC woke up with a migraine this morning and I am still recuperating of a week's worth of sleep deprivation (getting 5 or fewer hrs. of sleep per night) so we got quite a late start this morning. We went out for brunch around 2 and got home around 3:30, so my thoughts (and stomach) did not turn to dinner until about 7:30. I was feeling hungry, but not ravenous, and in the mood for something non-fussy.
For some reason, I've had a craving for BLTs lately, but wanted to think of a way to dress it up enough that I could get away with calling it dinner. I thought it would be fun to play with the idea of a caprese-salad style BLT. Caprese salad is one of my favorite things about summer, when sweet, ripe and sun-warm tomatoes are plentiful, along with fragrant basil. And of course, the divine creaminess of fresh mozzarella (I swear I could just sit down and eat about 1/2 lb. plain, all by myself). For dinner tonight, I whipped up some open-face Caprese-style BLTs, with fresh basil chiffonade standing in for the lettuce.
To start, I toasted some sliced semolina bread (from WF). I spread each slice with a generous slather of basil pesto. To spice things up a bit, I added some thinly-sliced hot Genoa salami. I would have preferred some hot Sopressata, but WF was out. I topped the pesto and salami with some fresh sliced tomatoes, and topped them with some fresh basil chiffonade, along with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. The tomatoes were crowned with crisp bacon and velvety slices of fresh mozzarella. I ran the sandwiches under the broiler to melt the cheese.
This is DC's plate, after drizzling the sandwiches with sme balsamic vinegar:
This dish was perfect for tonight-- simple, flavorful, and quick. The hot salami added a nice touch to the sandwich. If I'd had time, I would have marinated the fresh mozzarella slices in some balsamic vinegar, more sliced fresh basil, red pepper flakes, and a little olive oil. That would have brought a lot to the party. I make a really tasty and tender foccacia style bread, and this sandwich would have been fantastic on that bread, split.
This combination would also make an awesome grilled pizza. Alas, I no longer have a bbq grill, but if I did, I would definitely be coming up with a margherita-style grilled pizza. My little sammies are yet another example of how the simplest dishes can be the most delicious, with just a few great flavors and textures. The combination of the melty, gooey cheese, the juicy tomatoes, and the crisp bacon was amazing. Yum-o!!!
I am so furious with Chase Bank right now I could just spit. I really need to get some work done, but I'm so mad, I can't concentrate. So I'll finish this post for the Chili Cook-Off Challenge, and I'll feel better, LOL!
I recently watched DC and DS eagerly devour a plate full of greasy french fries covered with melted cheese goo and some chili, with apparent enjoyment. Perhaps it's because I lack the Y chromosome, but the charm of chili cheese fries simply eludes me. For one thing, the chili and cheese make the fries soggy. Then when you pick up a french fry to eat it, all the chili and cheese fall off, leaving you with a naked piece of sodden potato.
There really must be a better way to enjoy the tastes and textures of chili, cheese, and fries. So just for fun, I decided to create a recipe for
Chipotle-Cheese-Fries Chili By DomesticMuse
Ingredients: 1 1/4 lb. ground sirloin 1 lb. hot pork breakfast sausage 1 large onion, chopped 6 cloves garlic, minced 1 green pepper, chopped 2 serrano peppers, seeded and minced 2 T chili powder 1 t. oregano 1 T dark brown sugar 1 t. salt 1/2 t, freshly ground black pepper 1 T ground cumin 2 t. chipotlechile powder
1/2 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped 1 can Rotel tomatoes with green chiles 2 cans Mexican-style stewed tomatoes 2 cans kidney beans 1 1 lb. bag frozen corn 5-6 c. V-8 juice 1/2 bag mini tater tots 1/2 lb. Velveeta, cut into 1/4 in." cubes
First, brown the pork sausage and the ground sirloin. When well browned, remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add 2 T extra virgin olive oil and saute the onion, pepper, garlic, and serrano over medium heat. Return the ground sirloin and sausage to the pot. Add the chili powder, chipotlechile powder, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. Cook together for 1-2 minutes. Then add the Rotel tomatoes, the Mexican-style stewed tomatoes, the chipotle peppers, the kidney beans, the corn, and the V-8 juice. Bring to a boil and simmer, partially covered, for 1 1/2 -2 hrs., until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Chili is just starting to cook:
About 3o minutes before serving the chili, preheat the oven to 450F. Spread the tater tots on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until browned and crisp.
Now it's time to build our chili masterpiece!
Put some of the hot tots in an individual serving bowl. My velveeta cubes: You know, the Mexican-style Velveeta would have been really good here, but the Teeter didn't have it. Put some of the cubed Velveeta on top of the tots. Ladle some of the hot chili over the cheese and tater tots. Then add some of this: And some of this: And some sour cream and some shredded Mex blend cheese.
Voila! Chili heaven!
I was amazed at how delcious this chili turned out to be! We really enjoyed the combination of flavors, from the smoky heat of the chipotles to the creaminess of the Velveeta to the earthy crunch of the potatoes. Yeah, I know Velveeta isn't real cheese. But some dishes just wouldn't be right without it! The melting factor is kind of critical here. Perhaps I should have called this "White Trash Chipotle-Cheese-Fries Chili." :)
Between the serranos, the chipotles in adobo, and the chipotlechile powder, this is some seriously spicy chili! The heat from the chili and the tater tots melts the Velveeta cubes, which blend right into the chili and, along with the sour cream, tame the spiciness perfectly. For maximum crunch, you could put the tater tots on top of the chili rather than underneath it.
To go with the chili, I made a very refreshing salad of julienned jicama and pineapple tidbits tossed with the juice of one fresh lime, salt, pepper, anchochile powder, a litttle pineapple juice, and some olive oil. I'm crazy about the juicy crunchiness of jicama, so I was glad that DC and DS enjoyed the salad too. The anchopowder had an unfortunate effect on the color of the jicama, but it tasted good!
For dessert, I made homemade lavender and lemonade ice cream, but we ate dinner so late we didn't get around to dessert. I'll have to report on that another time.
Well, I'm back from my conference in Atlanta, and more or less in one piece. Holy cats, my day job has gotten so busy and stressful I am struggling to do anything else. Geez, don't you hate it when real life gets in the way of blogging?? LOL!!!
The conference was grueling, but it was so, so great to see colleagues in person. Phone and email are just not the same! I had a BLAST meeting my new colleagues from Philly, too. I have to say, I am in total awe of the amount of pure genius contained in our new, merged organization. Plus, our members are the absolute best. Wonderful people that are a joy to work with.
But enough about that. Several weeks ago, I received a case of 100% pure pomegranate juice from the lovely folks at POM Wonderful. I was thrilled, because while I love pomegranates, they are both a pain to eat and hard to find. They are usually only available here around Christmas time. Pomegranate juice??? Brilliant!
While reading Girlichef's post about her POM experience, I had to laugh, because I did the same thing as soon as I retrieved my box from the clutches of the evil apt. people-- I grabbed a bottle and chugged. AWESOME!!! That POM juice really IS wonderful-- tart, tasty and so refreshing. Making me wish I could drink juice on a regular basis (generally a no-no for my volatile blood sugar levels which are prone to crashing)!
I am happy to report that despite receiving my juice under less than ideal circumstances, it is still delicious many weeks later. You see, the apt. people didn't bother to tell me that my Pom juice was waiting for me in the apt. office until about a WEEK after it arrived. I guess they didn't notice the Gi-normous warnings all over the box that said REFRIGERGATE IMMEDIATELY. (????) I was royally pissed off at the prospect of being the recipient of a whole case of spoiled pomegranate juice, but I popped it right into the fridge and it's fine.
I also received several coupons from one of the BEST natural foods companies under the sun, in my opinion-- Stonyfield Farms. I love their yogurt, and it is the only brand of "regular" yogurt that I will buy. Kristina Drociak at Stonyfield sent me some coupons to try OIKOS, Stonyfield's Organic Greek Yogurt product, which is totally new to me. One of the biggest differences between Greek-style yogurt vs. regular yogurt is that Greek-style yogurt is strained, meaning that some of the liquid (whey) has been removed from it, resulting in a yogurt that is much thicker, milder, and richer-tasting, as well as significantly higher in protein and calcium. This means that compared to other yogurts with the same fat content, the Greek-style yogurt tastes richer.
I finally had a chance to use some of my OIKOS coupons this week. I've tried both the honey flavor and the vanilla flavor. All OIKOS yogurt is non-fat, but you would never guess because it tastes so rich and delicious! Generally, I detest the flavor of non-fat dairy products and avoid them like the plague. I personally feel better when my food has SOME fat in it, as it keeps my blood sugar more stable. The OIKOS, however, was delicious, and it's high protein content helped keep me from having a sugar crash. The fact that it's organic, too is a real bonus! I greatly enjoyed eating both the Vanilla and the Honey flavors directly from the carton.
For me, the big problem has been that with the triple whammy of moving, work duties heating up, and my travel schedule getting much heavier, I have hardly had time to enjoy creating new recipes for the POM Wonderful or the OIKOS.
I know this is totally boring, and everyone is probably already using both the POM juice and the OIKOS for smoothies, but this morning I wanted to try my hand at creating a great-tasting protein shake using these ingredients.
You see, I am in the process of getting back into my 6 meals-a-day and 6 workouts a week routine. (You can read more about these struggles in PhitDiva, my other blog). One of the staples of my routine is protein shakes.
I use 2 kinds of protein, both whey powder and calcium caseinate powder. I don't want to go into the boring details of whys and whens here. The point I'm trying to get to is that I've been forced to use just the caseinate lately as I've run out of whey and haven't had a chance to get more. Which is a bit of a bummer, since I MUCH prefer the flavor and texture of the whey over the caseinate. To make the caseinate shakes palatable, I usually end up adding some chocolate syrup or other sweetener, which kind of defeats the purpose of a healthy shake, LOL!
Good news!!! Using my OIKOS yogurt and POM Wonderful juice, I've been able to create a Levantine-inspired Power Smoothie with the caseinate powder that is so delicious, even DS just inhaled a large glass. And not only is it delicous, it is jam-packed with tons of nutrition to power you through even the busiest morning.
Here's what I did:
POM-Raspberry Greek Yogurt Power Smoothie by DomesticMuse Makes 2 turbo-charged servings
1 c. Pom Wonderful 100% pure pomegranate juice 1 scoop vanilla-flavored calcium caseinate powder (I use the 100% Gold Standard ("ON" or Optimim Nutrition) brand) 3/4 c. OIKOS Greek Yogurt, vanilla flavor 1/2 c. fresh or frozen raspberries 1 packet, cooked, Kashi G0Lean Hot Breakfast cereal, Truly Vanilla flavor 1 T. tahini 2 small bananas, preferably frozen, in chunks 1 1/2 c. ice cubes (this is a guess, since I took one of our drinking glasses and filled it with ice from the dispenser in the fridge door)
Combine the ingredients in the blender, and blend to preferred consistency.
I am LOVING my caseinate protein shake this morning! It is truly "yummy good," as DS used to say. I have quite a sweet tooth, and normally find I need to add some kind of sweetener when I'm using the caseinate, but the above combination is perfect for me as-is (a miracle!). But if you are preparing this for, say, children, here are some things you could to add make this shake even MORE delicious:
malted milk powder
a spoonful or two of raspberry jam
Nutrition-wise, this shake is pretty impressive. Here are some approximate data per serving:
Protein: about 28 g (12 from the protein powder, 8.25 from the Oikos, 3 from the tahini, and 4.5 from the GoLean)
Calcium: 39% DV (25% from the protein powder, 12% from the OIKOS, 2% from the tahini)
Whole grains: 11 g (22% suggested DV)
Fiber: about 10 g. or 42% DV (3.5 g from the GoLean, .75 g from the tahini, .5 g from the protein powder, 2.6 g from the banana, 3 g from the raspberries)
Omega-3 fatty acids: 234 mg (175 mg from the GoLean, 59 from the tahini)
Omega-6 fatty acids: 3400 mg (from the Tahini, recommended daily intake is 1500 mg, I think)
You also get the benefit of the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals in pomegranate juice, raspberries, and bananas, including potassium and vitamin C. The combination of protien plus whole grains plus the fat from the tahini is sure to keep you satisfied and feeling strong for hours.
I also have to give kudos to my new blender. which handles the thick consistency of the caseinate shakes (including ice and other frozen ingredients) with ease. I purchased the Breville Ikon blender recently as my old faithful Kitchen Aid bit the dust last fall. With cycles created specifically for crushing ice and making smoothies, plus its unique blade design, the Breville quickly and easily handles my toughest jobs. It is the best blender I've ever used, and I highly recommend it.
As DS used to wail across the house when he was about 3, "I NEED SOME HAY-ULP!!" Do I ever!! I need to clone myself or something, because there just are not enough hours in the day. I so wanted to do this post in time for Mother's Day, but did not make it. Did not even get the photos I wanted. But since we could all use some pampering any day, moms or not, photos or not, I'm going to share a few product recommendations here.
First, the incredible, amazing, one-and-only MojoSpa. Mojo is one of the things, along with Frontera Grill, I miss the most about Chicago. I miss having Irene do my monthly mani and pedi. I miss George's friendly greeting when I walk in the door. I miss the hip, fun vibe, friendly staff, superb service, delectable food, fantastic products, and all-around awesomeness that is Mojo Spa, at 1468 N. Milwaukee Ave. (Blue Line, Damen El stop).
I particularly miss Sundays at Mojo, when you get a FREE, FABULOUS brunch with your mani and pedi package. Yup, the awesome George brings you a Mimosa (Whoo, YES!!) and a whole tray full of delectable, homemade brunch goodies (homemade by chef and spa founder Amanda Kezios) while your tootsies are soaking. Now THAT is luxury!!! Read moreabout Beauty and Brunch.
Guests enjoying brunch while getting a pedicure.
Mojo Spa is the brain child of Cooking Goddess and All-Around Genius Amanda Kezios. You can read all about Amanda and how she created Mojo on their website. Here is Amanda with a tray of homemade cupcake soaps. And for you crafty types, Amanda also makes the cutest original bags, jewelery hats, and scarves and sells them not only in the store but also via her Etsy shop, MojoSpaStyle. I believe the hat she is wearing in the photo is one of her original designs. What is so great about Mojo Spa? Well, first of all, all of their products are developed personally by Amanda and handmade with love and care from all-natural food ingredients. From the Pumpkin Spice Scrub you may experience during your pedi to the Finger Fluff cuticle butter for your mani, Mojo Spa has the most wonderful spa products I have ever experienced.
And even better??? You don't have to be in Chicago to enjoy them! You can order via their website! Though, if you are in Chicago, get yourself over there ASAP for some real pampering!
I recently purchased one of Mojo's gift sets for a sick friend. I got her the Biscotti Breakfast Healing Body Cream and Body Scrub. They are made with real oatmeal and honey, so are very, very soothing for dry, irritated skin (or just a frazzled you!). Most of the cream bases include soothing ingredients like olive oil, cocoa butter, and lanolin. This one also includes soybean oil. I have a tub of the biscotti cream and it works wonders on the dry, itchy skin on my legs, as well as my dishpan hands.
My hands-down favorite, however, is the Sugar-Me-Sweet Face and Body Polish. I have very, very sensitive, dry skin--everywhere. I am allergic to many ingredients, including shea butter. In the winter, the skin on my legs gets so dry, it is almost unbearably itchy, and I have awakened in the morning bloody from scratching in my sleep-- that's how bad my skin can get. Well, not any more, since I started using Sugar Me Sweet scrub on a regular basis. It is great all over, not just on the legs. In fact, you will not believe the difference if you use it in the posterior region-- the skin feels so soft and firm, it's like you lost 10 years and had a fanny lift to boot!
Sugar Me Sweet Body Polish contains pure cane sugar in an olive oil and cocoa butter base. It smells kind of like cotton candy, but in a good way. It is an amazingly effective exfoliant, getting rid of all those dry, flaky patches. Sugar is pretty coarse as an exfoliant, so make sure you don't scrub too hard. And it is the most incredibly soothing and moisturizing scrub I have EVER used-- you will be absolutely silky-smooth from head to toe when you use it. You don't even need to moisturize afterwards. There IS a companion body cream that goes with it, Sugar-Me-Sweet Whipped Body Cream, but I have never tried it because I've never needed extra moisturizing after using the scrub, or "polish" as it's called. I highly, highly recommend Sugar Me Sweet.
Mojo Spa has a wide variety of products for sale, from makeup to skin care to bath goodies. And best of all, the prices are super-reasonable. A jar of body scrub or body cream sells for around $15; you can get a gift set that combines a scrub and a cream for $26. I love these products and have never been disappointed by anything I have tried. You can order via the website, however, for faster service, I HIGHLY recommend ordering by phone from the friendly staff at Mojo, at (773)235-MOJO. Ask for George, and tell them Karen from NC who used to live in Chicago sent you. If George asks, tell him, YES, I AM STILL GLOWING!
Recently, Mrs. Jelly Belly did a fascinating post on solid shampoos, exposing the evil effects of the sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) in our liquid shampoos. I just learned that it is basically made of poison and one of the uses for which SLS was originally developed was degreasing commercial garage floors. (And I've been putting that on my HEAD for years??? Yikes. That might explain... oh, never mind!) APparently it can damage the hair follicle and cause hair loss. Again, yikes!!
Anyhow, Mrs. J ordered some SLS-free, all-natural shampoo bars from Chagrin Valley Soaps and reported some very positive intial results. She purchased the Coconut Milk, Carrot Milk and Honey, and the Rosemary Mint shampoo bars, all of which sound appealing to me. Along the way, she also mentioned that Lush Cosmeticscarries highly-recommended shampoo bars as well.
My ears perked right up at this. My Macy's in Chicago (I say "my" because it was just blocks from my office) had a hugeLush Cosmetics counter in one corner, so I had actually heard of the stuff before. What's more, the last time I visited our local version of hell-on-earth, aka "Crabtree Valley Mall," I had noted that a Lush CosmeticsBoutique had replaced my beloved Papyrus store.
This weekend I paid a visit to Lush Cosmetics. It was just the way I remembered it in Chicago: overwhelming--- stocked with a dizzying array of soaps, bath bombs, bath melts, creams, lotions, balms and all sorts of things. Between the barrage of smells saturating my nostrils and the visual busyness of all the wares, it was definitely sensory overload! Not that it smelled bad, but it's the kind of place I usually run away from very quickly, because there is too much to look at! This time, however, since I had a specific product in mind, I grabbed the nearest salesperson and asked for help with the shampoo bars.
There was a wide selection of shampoo bars to choose from! I smelled them all, and after reviewing the primary ingredients, I chose 2 to take home to try. I ended up with the Ultimate Shine bar, which contains elemi, ylang-ylang, and sweet violet leaf oils, and also the Squeaky Green bar with nettle, rosemary, tea tree oil and peppermint. I had actually planned to try more varieties, but at $9.95 a pop, I didn't want to invest in more than 2 bars! (They did give me a free tin to store the shampoo in.)
I wish I had done a bit more research before purchasing, because BOTH bars contain Sodium Coco-Sulfate, and the Ultimate Shine bar also contains Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate. Leaving me wondering if I was any better off than with the SLS! I have no idea what either of these compounds is,
According to one site, sodium coco-sulfate is a SAFE, coconut-derived alternative to SLS, less irritating than sodium laurel sulfate, that does not contain any cancer-causing by-products. (Always a plus in my book! I found conflicting info (in my brief and unscientific research) on the safety/harshness of ammonium lauryl sulfate, so for me this ingredient is still a big mystery factor.
Last night, I tried the Ultimate Shine Bar and LOVED the results. Like Mrs. Jelly Belly, I found the lather left my hair incredibly clean, soft, tangle-free, and shiny. As well as smelling great. I haven't tried the Squeaky Green bar yet, but am taking it with me on my business trip tomorrow. Since it doesn't have any of the ammonium lauryl sulfate in it, I will be interested to see how I like it compared to the other one. Sadly, almost every conditioner I have looked at, even those at Lush, contains the dreaded SLS. Chagrin Valley's shampoo bars supposedly combine both shampooing and conditioning action, so that may be the way to go. A Chagrin Valley shampoo bar is the very next thing on my must-try list! Thanks, Mrs. Jelly Belly!
A true Gemini, I am the product of 2 cultures: the American South (on my mom's side) and the Anishinaabe nation. I'm a librarian, a CEO, and a mom to a teenager and a greyhound. Passions include cooking, fitness, wild rice, chocolate, fine cuisine, bbq (NC-style, of course) and hot buttered biscuits.