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Monthly Recipe: Cast-Iron Chicken Piccata

Ingredients

4 (5- to 6-oz.) chicken cutlets
1/2 cup (2 oz.) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons (3 oz.) salted butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons brined capers, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Hot cooked pasta

Preparation

1. Place each chicken cutlet between two sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap, and flatten to 1/4-inch thickness, using a rolling pin or flat side of a meat mallet. Stir together flour, salt, and pepper. Dip each cutlet in egg white, and dredge in flour mixture, shaking off excess.

2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add 2 cutlets, and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate. Wipe skillet clean, and repeat process with 2 tablespoons butter and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and remaining 2 cutlets. Discard drippings; do not wipe skillet clean.

3. Add broth, lemon juice, and capers to skillet. Bring to a boil over high, stirring and scraping bottom of skillet to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Whisk in parsley. Spoon sauce over chicken, and serve immediately with pasta.

For more recipes, and to view this one, click here!

Spring Cleaning… Just how bad is it really?

Winter has nearly completed its course, although the official end date isn’t until March 20th, and many homeowners are preparing for the official overhaul that is Spring Cleaning. For us, this means the cleaning of anything and everything that might be contaminated with germs and/or pollen, not to mention the dirt and grime from the winter months that a winter clean just can’t seem to lift from our home’s surfaces.  We typically set aside a whole weekend to get through a full home clean like a Spring Clean can entail and will clean and wash everything from the floors to the walls to the curtains hanging over the windows. Here are some tips to get you through your Spring Cleaning tasks without the hum drum feeling of actually having to clean.

  1. Determine a starting point. Knowing where to start is key as it determines how often and to what extent you’re carrying your cleaning supplies. For us, starting in the upstairs, in the farthest bedroom is our focal point to start; and we start from up high and work our way down to the floor.  For instance, in the spare bedroom we may have curtains and a ceiling fan.  We would start by dusting the ceiling fan so that any dust and dirt particles will fall to the floor.  All the curtains will come down and be piled in the hallway to later be brought to the washing machine. From there, all dusting and glass cleaning would be done; removal of bed linens and lastly vacuuming or cleaning the floor.
  2. Determine whether you want help cleaning, or if you prefer to clean solo. There are pros and cons to both scenarios – if by having a partner in crime while cleaning means getting things done quicker so be it, but if you’re one of those people that gets solace out of cleaning and being alone with your thoughts (or your jams) then bring on the nasties and conquer the feat on your own! By having someone conquer one area of the house while you tackle the other, then you both have more time spent doing the things you actually want to do.
  3.   Don’t procrastinate! You know it needs to get done, so don’t sit on your couch all day telling yourself that “in an hour I’ll get up and start the laundry.” No! Get up early and hit the places that are the grossest and work your way around the house until every window has been scrubbed, every curtain rehung and every nook (and cranny) scrubbed.  Regardless of whether you have pets or kids, a house will always have one small mess or another, and there is nothing more gratifying than cleaning from top to bottom and having that one weekend where everything is in its place and clutter free!
  4. Don’t stop ’til you’ve had enough. When you know you’ve cleaned as much as you can clean in a day’s time then, and only then, can you kick back and relax.  At least then you’ll know you’ve accomplished a lot in your day while cleaning and that the task of having to pull your whole house apart only to reassemble it is done until the winter comes again.

So, gather up your cleaning supplies and hit the floor scrubbing!

Monthly Recipe: Baked Avocado Fries & Chipotle Dipping Sauce

Prep Time:      Cook Time:      Total Time:
5 Mins.         20 Mins.          25 Mins.

Ingredients:

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 400 Degrees F. Pour 1 tablespoon oil in sheet tray or baking dish; set aside.

Squeeze fresh lime juice on avocado slices to preserve their color while baking (this step is optional). Season with salt, pepper. Dredge in flour then dip in egg and coat in panko breadcrumbs. Be sure the avocado slices are coated very well in the panko.

Place in a single layer on the greased sheet pan. Drizzle with the remaining oil or spray with cooking spray. This will help the avocado slices crisp in the oven.

bake for 15-20 minutes or until the avocados are golden and crispy. If desired, more oil can be drizzle while they are baking for additional crispness.

Serve with my chipotle dipping sauce, or with ranch, ketchup, or your favorite dip!

Brought to you by: Gimme Delicious

Kitchen Makeovers on a Budget

Have you been considering a kitchen makeover, but simply have no idea where to start, or wonder if one is even needed? With new innovations in technology and fads popping up everyday, it’s only human to want to upgrade to the latest and greatest trend in kitchen gadgets and utensils; we don’t blame you. Here are some tips on making those upgrades you so desire, but without breaking the bank.

If it’s a pop of color you’re looking for, consider changing out things like curtains, cooking utensils or even a paint color. Curtains can be fairly inexpensive especially if you’re a crafter as you can pick your own fabrics and make them yourself, or visit a store that you’ve been eyeballing a set for a while.  Having a fun set of curtains in the kitchen windows will help brighten and liven the room up significantly.  If you have no windows in your kitchen, try updating your paint color to better accent your décor. One great idea is to have a focus wall – a wall which draws the eye in a specific room.  Usually your focus wall is a fun color different than that of the other surrounding walls. For a kitchen try a light blue or green.  You don’t want to choose a color or wall that, when painted, will make the space seem smaller than it is so try to avoid really dark colors like reds and dark blues. Another thing that can be painted are your cabinets.  Choose a vivid green, or a light eggshell for a clean vibrant looking kitchen.  If you’re not up to the task of painting, try pops of color on your counter tops with fun, colorful utensils.  Brands such as RSVP International have items with colorful, BPA free silicone which can be displayed in your utensil carafe and used when needed to add a little pep in your step in the kitchen.

Looking for a little something extra? If it’s not color that you’re looking for but maybe a new electric device consider something like a KitchenAid stand mixer, Keurig coffee maker, or sleek new toaster. The benefit in kitchen electrics is the fact that many of these devices come in different styles and colors which can fit into any cook’s kitchen décor.  Having a machine that can do the work of many is better than cluttering up both your countertops and cabinets with varying machines you may use occasionally or hardly ever.

Still not convinced? Some other ideas to help spruce up the kitchen might be: change out your flooring – vinyl is out and hardwood or tile are in; replace old dinnerware with new, matching sets that can be used daily or set as show pieces; change the hardware on your cabinets to something more befitting to your style – or simply add hardware in general.  Not all cabinets have a handle or pull on them and adding some will significantly change the look of your cabinet drawers and doors.  Or, add wall art.  Anything from a personalized photograph to a vinyl wall quote will liven up any space!

Contrary to Popular Belief – These Foods Really Aren’t Bad for You!

Every day studies are released listing the foods that are good for you and that aren’t. It seems there is always a controversy about whether one cup of coffee versus 3 or 4 is ok, or whether a glass of red wine helps prevent one illness over another or if it is a cause to cancer.  Whatever the case may be, know that these five foods are in fact good for you and you SHOULD be eating them – even if in small portions.

The first is potatoes. Although a starchy vegetable, they are still a vegetable which means you should be eating them. However, it is because of the high starch that makes them high in carbohydrates which is something you don’t want to eat too much of.  Obviously you’ll not be pairing potatoes with things like rice or pasta, but be sure your portions are low to avoid feeling bloated and too full.  Typically, people are eating potatoes in a very unhealthy manner whether in the form of chips or French fries. STOP THAT!

The health factor in potatoes all lie within how you prepare them.  Potatoes are high in Vitamin B, Iron, Vitamin C, Calcium and Potassium and various antioxidants and proteins so baking and/or roasting them, boiling or even grilling are your best options.

Second is Ghee. Ghee is a “clarified butter” and is extracted when heating butter.  It is the “liquid residue” which is taken from the separated cream.  When studies were released indicating that butter and cooking with fats was bad for us, we elected to cook with variants consisting of made-up materials or alternative ingredients.  However, Ghee is slated as having “incredible health benefits” because it is “rich in Butyric acid” which aids in strengthening the immune system and also aids in anti-inflammatory factors and antioxidants.  Additionally, it is better for cooking with than many oils as it burns better at higher heats than other oils such as vegetable or canola.  Additionally, Ghee is tasteful in that it tastes like butter but lacks the dairy aspect of it making it a great alternative for lactose intolerant individuals.  It is also a great source of Vitamin E, Vitamin A, and fatty acids.

Third is peanut butter (our favorite). Although high in sugar and fat, peanut butter is actually rather good for your health – when eaten in a sugar free version. Peanut butter is high in protein and great when paired with things like fruits, vegetables or even on toast. Peanuts, by themselves, are good sources of “folate, niacin, Vitamin E and manganese.”  They are also good at helping fight disease like heart disease, reducing your risk of colon cancer and warding off Alzheimer’s Disease on top of fighting against Type II Diabetes and developing gallstones.

Fourth is Chocolate.  Each chocolate for the sake of being a superhero.  Ok, well, not really, but you’ll see the gist. Chocolate, in its purest form, is actually nutritionally good for your body as it is full of antioxidants.  Nutritionists state “the darker the chocolate the better and this often correlates with lower sugar content.”  Some studies have shown that eating healthy chocolate may lower cholesterol, aid in “less cognitive decline,” lower chances of heart disease.  Although dark chocolate may be good for you, it is only good in moderation.  So snack wisely.

Lastly, is honey. The downside to eating honey is determining how pure it really is versus how processed it has become.  Many brand name, store bought honeys are processed – meaning ingredients like sugar have been added to them for flavor and richness.  However, true, raw honey has many health benefits such as it is full of antioxidants and antibacterial purities and can reduce inflamed areas. Eating raw honey in small amounts aids you in warding off infections and illness by boosting your immune system.  It also helps in fighting off allergies and hay fever.

For more information click here.

The Differences in Flour

A true baker, a connoisseur of of baked goods if we may, will tell you that with baking comes flour.  However, not every baked and/or cooked product is made, nor should be made, from the same types of flour.  It is also these people who may (or may not) tell you what exactly the differences in these types of flour are. We are all aware of the fact that many people are afflicted with gluten intolerances, wheat allergies, ect. So, there has to be a way that these people can still interact with and enjoy their favorite foods without having to succumb to  painful stomach cramps, or allergic reactions afterward, right? Yes. Knowing what your food is made from, how it is processed and just want ingredients are included is the first step in avoiding a nutritional break down.  In the following , we will visit the different types of flour and touch upon their various uses and suggested cooking methods.

Glutenous Flours:

  • All Purpose Flour: used for pretty much everything! Used for things needing a “firm structure”
  • Whole Wheat Flour: high in fiber, less gluten, good for breads or porridge
  • Semolina Flour – used mainly for pasta; highest gluten levels
  • Pastry Flour: “cake flour,” for light crumbly baked goods
  • Durum Flour: used for homemade pastas (give a more ‘Sticky’ consistency)
  • Spelt Flour: holds “texture and shape,” good replacement to wheat flour
  • Barley Flour: high in fiber, nutty tasting, good for things you need to rise like bread
  • Rye Flour: good for cookies
  • Kamut Flour: “mild and sweet,” with a “hint of a buttery taste,” good for muffins

Gluten Free Flours:

  • Almond Flour: good for swapping out at 1/4 the original amount called for; god for cooking root vegetables with
  • Millet Flour: high in amino acids & fiber; often used in cakes and cookies
  • Amaranth: nutty taste; loads of protein
  • Quinoa Flour: protein packed and full of needed amino acids; good for toffees or yogurts
  • Buckwheat: high protein, amino acids; used for soba noodles
  • Teff: comes from grass seed; molasses like flavor
  • Chickpea Flour: high protein and fiber
  • Corn Flour: tons of fiber
  • Rice Flour: very starchy; neutral flavor; good for cookies
  • Sorghum: good “depth of flavor;” good for cakes
  • Tapioca Flour: great for baking and tea; airy, “chewy texture and crispy crust;” sauce thickener
  • Tiger Nut Flour: full of fiber, iron, and vitamin E; good for cookies & brownines

So, never you fear, Baking Gods, you’re alternatives are there – you just need to know which one to grab for!

 

For more information on the flours listed above, visit here!

The Gap Between Marketers and Consumers’ Needs

As a consumer, have you ever felt as though your needs are not being met with new products that are produced specifically for people like you?  Not to fear, you’re not the only one.  Based on research conducted by IBM for their Listening to the Customer: 7 New Research Findings, “almost 90 percent of marketers agree that personalizing the customer experience is critical to their success.  Despite this… nearly 80 percent of consumers stated that the average brand doesn’t understand them as an individual.”  However, there is one brand out there that does just that and has thrived on it for over 95 years.

Vitamix is a well known name in the small appliance world, known particularly for their personal blenders but also for understanding their customers and what they want out of their products. Current President and CEO of Vitamix, also fourth generation family member to hold this position, Jodi Berg, states that the company has a few “guiding principles” they follow:

  1. “…the best way to get new customers is to never lose a customer we already have.”
  2. “…we aren’t actually hiring a new customer when we sell a machine, we are hiring a new salesperson.”
  3. “We would only reach out to you if we felt you were a good candidate to hear our message.”
  4. Understand your direction, stay focused and set the playing field.
  5. Teamwork and consumer understanding
  6. Market research, product knowledge and market trends are very important.

All this said, it can be stated that Vitamix as a company cares about their customers and their needs, and ensure that the products they produce are for the needs of their customers and not just the sake of the company’s bottom line.

To read more on Vitamix’s allegiance to their customers, click here.

Keurig and Recyclable K-Cups – Can it be Done?

Admit it, you went out, not long after they were released, and purchased a Keurig single serve coffee maker and just about every flavor of K-Cup you could get your hands on.  I know I did! We all know about the K-Cups; whether because of our own coffee makers at home, the neighbor’s house, the office or, heck, even the gym where you take Pilates.  With so many people owning these brewers, and even more companies producing the K-Cups for them it’s a wonder no one has formulated a design which allow the cups to be recycled.  Although many would like to believe the K-Cups are in fact recyclable, they are unfortunately not.

It’s because of the huge popularity of the K-Cup and the fact that they have sold so well and so far, that Keurig is now taking strides to redevelop the K-Cup with materials that would make them recyclable.  However, therein lies a problem.  Recycling centers these days are a vast array of machines which auto sort materials based on whether its paper, plastic, or metal with an occasional person there to hand sort items the machine cannot detect the material. The issue that is run into with the K-Cups are twofold – one, the plastic cup is not technically recyclable “largely because they’re made of mixed plastic and other materials,” as it stands currently and two, the size of the K-Cup is simply too small for the sorting machines and the hand sorters to detect on the conveyor belts.  According to Chittenden Solid Waste District MRF in Vermont, “objects must be at least 2 inches on two sides to be sorted properly.”

Keurig has committed to switching to a recyclable K-Cup by 2020, and is set to “getting the right combination of materials in construction, and then performance in the brewer,” says Monique Oxender, Keurig’s chief sustainability officer.  What are your thoughts? Do you recycle your K-Cups or merely throw them away?

Read the article!

Food Friday: Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes

Who ever said cinnamon rolls were only for breakfast? Umm, no one! Put a new twist on the cinnamon roll by making it into a cupcake with this delicious, easy to bake cupcake recipe! Grab your USA Pan Muffin PanKitchenAid Stand Mixer, a partner (or partners) in crime and let the baking begin!

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow cake mix, plus ingredients to prepare it
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 cans cream cheese frosting
  • cinnamon chips
  • 24 cupcake liners

Instructions

  1. Prepare cake mix as directed on the box.
  2. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl; set aside.
  3. Place cupcake liners in tins. Add cake batter to each cupcake liner with a spoon, just enough batter to cover the bottom. Sprinkle 1 tsp. sugar mixture over the batter. Then fill liners 2/3 full with batter and add another teaspoon of sugar mixture to the top. Swirl together with a toothpick.
  4. Bake according to directions on the cake mix box.
  5. When cool, frost with a 1M star frosting tip and sprinkle with cinnamon chips. OR frost with a knife when warm.

 

Cut Back on Salt

Salt, in every shape and form that is ingestible, is good for your body – to a degree.  In small doses, and we’re talking something like 1/10 of a teaspoon, salt helps the body – or, more particularly, the sodium in salt helps the body by transmitting nerve impulses and contract muscle fibers and working alongside potassium works to balance fluid levels. However, the salt that many of us are ingesting aren’t coming from natural food sources but from processed foods like deli meats, snack foods, canned juices and soups and fast food such as pizza. Here are five ways you can lower your salt and sodium intake wherever you are from Harvard Health:

heart-health-tip

  1. Use spices and other flavor enhancers. Add flavor to your favorite dishes with spices, dried and fresh herbs, roots (such as garlic and ginger), citrus, vinegars, and wine. From black pepper, cinnamon, and turmeric to fresh basil, chili peppers, and lemon juice, these flavor enhancers create excitement for the palate — and with less sodium.
  2. Go nuts for healthy fats in the kitchen. Using the right healthy fats — from roasted nuts and avocados to olive, canola, soybean, and other oils — can add a rich flavor to foods, minus the salt.
  3. Sear, sauté, and roast. Searing or sautéing foods in a pan builds flavor. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of many vegetables and the taste of fish and chicken. If you do steam or microwave some dishes, perk them up with a finishing drizzle of flavorful oil and a squeeze of citrus.
  4. Get your whole grains from sources other than bread. Even whole-grain bread, though a healthier choice than white, can contain considerable sodium. Bread contains quite a bit of salt — not just for flavor, but to ensure that the dough rises properly. You can skip that extra salt when you look for whole grains outside of baking. For example, instead of toast with breakfast, cook up steel-cut oats, farro, or other intact whole grains with fresh or dried fruit.
  5. Know your seasons, and, even better, your local farmer. Shop for raw ingredients with maximum natural flavor, thereby avoiding the need to add as much (if any) sodium. Shop for peak-of-season produce from farmers’ markets and your local supermarket.

To read more on this topic, visit HERE!

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