Moving through life one recipe at a time

Moving through life one recipe at a time

Friday, March 20, 2015

Homemade Teriyaki Sauce

I was looking to change up our menu from our standard Mr. Tom's Grilled Chicken and thought, why not try teriyaki sauce? Only problem was that I forgot to buy the teriyaki sauce at the store. I Google-ed several recipes and found it was a very straight forward fix and we have all the ingredients in the house!

I doubled the recipe below for 5 large chicken breasts (2 - 3 lbs?) and added in 2 smashed cloves of garlic and about 1/4 inch of sliced ginger into the pot to simmer. The corn starch will make the sauce thicker if you prefer. We were just hungry so I didn't bother trying to figure out the consistency :)

Homemade Teriyaki Sauce

4 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. corn starch
2 Tbsp. water
garlic (optional)
ginger (optional)

Combine all ingredients into small pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally. 

If using as a marinade - pour sauce (and garlic and ginger) over the chicken (or whatever you are marinading) and let it sit for about 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile start to preheat the grill. 
When grill is ready put the chicken on the grill and let it cook. 
Thicker pieces of chicken will take upwards of 6-7 minutes per size while thinner pieces can cook about 3-4 minutes per side. 
If you gently push down on the chicken you'll be able to tell the difference between squishier uncooked chicken and firmer cooked chicken. If you cut it open you can also see if it is cooked through.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Chicken and Clouds

This was a creamy, filling, and comforting soup from The Pioneer Woman. If you go to her site the not chicken and dumplings.  However, As I'm assembling the soup Anthony says, "Oh yum! Chicken and Clouds!" Well then, if you think of this as chicken and clouds you won't be disappointed.

The comments on the origional recipe are great. People have definite opinions on what is a noodle and what is a dumpling and how her recipe is

Because I had some time and enjoy this stuff, I decided to take the more labor intensive path and so this soup was a labor of love. It took me 2 days to make but you can also make it in less time if you don't buy an uncooked chicken and use canned broth.

Roasted Chicken - I took a little 3lb chicken and rinsed it in cold water. I seasoned it with salt and pepper on both sides and rubbed it in with olive oil. I roasted it about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let the chicken cool on the stove. While I was waiting I made Brown Butter and Toffee Cookies. Once the chicken is cool remove all the meat from the bones. The meat goes into a container for use the next day and the bones went into a larger pot. 

Homemade Broth - large chop about 1 cup of carrots and a stalk or two of celery. Cut an onion into half. Nestle it all around the chicken bones. Cover with water (I did about 8 cups of water). Season with salt and pepper if you'd like, add thyme or rosemary or any seasoning if you want as well. Bring to a boil on high heat and then reduce the to a simmer on low. Let it hang out on the stove for about 2 hours while you do other things. Like the dishes. When it is done, pour the broth through a strainer into another pot. This will remove all the bones and weird chunks. Then let it refrigerate overnight. Before using I skim the coagulated fat off the top of the broth. If you have never made broth before, it will be a squishy almost jell-o like consistency. It is OK and will be fine. 

Now that you have done this prep work, follow the directions below!

Some changes for next time (and updated below)
- omit apple cider (I just didn't like it)
- omit thyme (because I had made the broth with thyme it was a bit over powering)

Changes I made (reflected below): 
- I used half and half for whole recipe because it was cheaper than purchasing both heavy cream and half and half
-As the chicken was already cooked I put it in the bottom of the soup bowls. The chicken heated up when the broth and dumplings were put on top so that way the chicken didn't over cook.

I'll make this again! It was so good!

Chicken and Clouds
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Serves 4

1 whole Chicken, meat is bite sized
Salt And Pepper
1/2 cup Finely Diced Carrots
1/2 cup Finely Diced Celery
1 whole Medium Onion, Finely Diced
1/2 teaspoon Ground Thyme
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric
6 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1/2 cup Half-and-half

1-1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
1/2 cup Yellow Cornmeal
1 Tablespoon (heaping) Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1-1/2 cup Half-and-half
Salt As Needed

In the large pot, add diced onion, carrots, and celery. Stir and cook for 3 to 4 minutes over medium-low heat. Stir in ground thyme and turmeric, then pour in chicken broth. Stir to combine. Cover pot and simmer.

While chicken is broth is simmering, make the dough for the dumplings: sift together all dry ingredients, then add half-and-half, stirring gently to combine. Set aside.

Add cream into the pot and stir to combine. Drop tablespoons of dumpling dough into the simmering pot. Cover pot halfway and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Check seasonings; add salt if needed. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Put meat in the bottom of the bowls (and some spinach) and cover with dumplings and the broth.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Brown Butter Toffee Chocolate Chunk Cookies

This takes a bit more effort but based on everyone's responses it was worth it! These are soft, chewy, salty, sweet, chocolate-y, and actually pretty good! 

I think these cookies would be better larger rather than my normal small bite size cookies if only because it was more difficult to sprinkle the salt. 

Keep your eyes on the browning butter. It is similar to making caramel where nothing happens and then it happens all at once! 

And you do need to wait a couple minutes before removing the cookies from the baking sheet otherwise they will become awkward oval shapes and you'll have to eat them because they are funny looking :)

Brown Butter Toffee Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Adapted from Two Peas and Their PodYield: 32 cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch (if you don't have any use an extra tablespoon of flour)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chocolate chunks or chocolate chips (milk or dark)
1/2 cup chopped Heath  or Skor or toffee candy bars
Coarse sea salt, to sprinkle on top

Place 1 stick of butter in a medium skillet. Melt the butter over medium heat, swirling it in the pan occasionally. The butter will foam and pop. Continue to swirl the pan often. Remove pan from heat once the butter starts to brown and smells nutty. There will be small brown bits on the bottom. The butter should be an amber color. Pour butter into a small bowl and cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

While the brown butter is cooling, in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the remaining 1/2 cup butter with dark brown sugar and granulated sugar. Beat until creamy and smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Add the cooled brown butter and mix until smooth.

Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix until combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda. Gradually mix in the flour on low speed until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks and toffee chunks.

Chill dough for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with Silpat baking mats and set aside.

Remove dough from fridge and form into 2 tablespoon sized cookie dough balls. Place on prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake cookies for 10 minutes or until slightly brown around the edges. Remove from oven and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and cool completely. Store cookies in an air-tight container for 2-3 days. These cookies also freeze well.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Italian Bread

I found this recipe on AllRecipes. I didn't wait for the water to get hot enough for the yeast so the bread didn't rise as well and we ended up with a flat loaf of bread. Still very tasty but my Dutch Oven Bread Recipe came out better and was less "touchy". Italian bread needs a bit more attention. It also would have improved if I added some Italian herb seasoning or garlic into the bread dough.

Italian Bread
Makes 3 loaves

3 cups warm water (110 degrees F)
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt
7 cups all-purpose flour

Add the sugar and yeast to the warm water and let proof.
Stir in 4 cups of flour and beat until smooth. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
Beat in the salt and then add enough remaining flour to make a stiff dough. Knead until as soft and smooth as a bambino's behind. Turn in a greased bowl, cover, and let double in size. (I put it in the oven with the light on - perfect rising temperature.)
Once doubled, punch down and divide into three. Place back in the bowl, cover, and let rise.
Once doubled again, punch down and form into three fat "footballs." Grease heavy cookie sheets and sprinkle with corn meal. Place the bread on the sheets, cover with a towel, and let rise.

Once risen, mist with water and place in a preheated 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) oven. Mist loaves with water and turn occasionally while they bake. Bread is done when golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Meat Lasagna

I found this Lasagna recipe on AllRecipes. I made a couple tweaks but nothing major. I omit the parsley and used oregano instead of basil. I used spicy sausage and ground turkey. I reduced the sugar from 2 tbsp to 1 tbsp and I think the sauce was still very sweet. Next time I will omit the sugar completely and add some red pepper flakes.

Served with my Italian Bread recipe!

Meat Lasagna
Makes a heaping 9 x 13 baking dish

1 pound Italian sausage (sweet or spicy)
3/4 pound lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
1/2 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 (6.5 ounce) cans canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves (or oregano)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)
1 box lasagna noodles
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large pot, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned.

Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Arrange noodles over meat sauce. Spread with one third of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with handful of the mozzarella. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella and repeat the layers.

Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia

Continuing on the fish meal experiments. This recipe is from Martha Stewart.

It was tasty but very heavy and made a bit more of a mess than I wanted to deal with. I also think it would be better if I had made some veggies to go with it. I forgot to separate the thick part from the thin part of the fish so the edges were a bit overcooked so that the middle part would be cooked.

Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia
serves 4

1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons paprika
Coarse salt and ground pepper
4 (6 to 8 ounces each) skinless tilapia fillets
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup prepared tomato salsa

In a shallow dish, combine cornmeal and paprika; season generously with salt and pepper. 
Separate fillets into thick and thin sides. 
Dredge each piece in cornmeal mixture, patting it on to coat completely.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. 
Cook as many pieces as will fit (without crowding) until golden brown and firm, about 2 minutes per side for thin pieces and 4 minutes per side for thick ones. 
Transfer to a plate; sprinkle with salt, if desired, and cover loosely to keep warm. Repeat with remaining oil and fish. Serve with salsa.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Steamed Fish with Soy Sauce, Ginger, and Scallion

Happy Lunar New Year! I used the Steamed Fish with Scallion-Ginger-Soy Sauce recipe from Nomnomcat. What a taste of home! My mom and my grandmother used to make this for the family.

The only change from the recipe is that I omitted the sugar.

At banquets this is an entire steamed fish, not just the fillet. But you can make this with fish fillets and it can be microwaved! I used the individually frozen tilapia fish fillets.

A fresh healthy dinner in less than 10 minutes! And another perk? This recipe pretty much creates NO dishes. Seriously, for dishes I had: a rice pot and lid, a pie plate, a plate, scissors (from the scallion, cilantro, and opening the fish packets), a knife from cutting the ginger, and chop sticks.

If you don't have a rice cooker, here are straight forward white rice directions that I wrote up a while back!

Fish in the soy sauce with ginger on top

Noonk! This is the rice at the bottom of the rice pot that gets crispy.
Take the rest of the rice out of the pot and leave a thin layer.
While you are eating put the rice pot on low and let the bottom cook.
Pry it out of the pot and put some butter and salt on it and enjoy!

Steamed Fish with Soy Sauce, Ginger, and Scallion
serves 1-2 people

White rice, cooked
2 fish fillets, tilapia, defrosted
2 green onion stems, sliced
3 stems of cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp cold water
1/2 tsp fresh ginger or 1/4 inch of fresh ginger in chunks

In a glass Pyrex pie plate combine soy sauce, sesame oil, cold water. Mix to combine.
Toss the fish in the mix to coat.
Put the ginger on top of the fish.
Cover with saran wrap tightly.
Cook for 5 minutes, until fish is opaque and flaking.
Carefully remove the saran wrap.
Put rice on the plate, top with fish and garnish with green onion and cilantro. Then pour the sauce from the pan onto the fish and rice.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Pennsylvania Activities

Roundtop - Sledding, Lewisberry, PA
We have gone here the past two years (2014 and 2015) What fun! We get the full day pass and arrive about 15 minutes before they open. This means we have been to the bathroom and are in our gear and ready to go the second the magic carpet starts! We are able to get about 15 runs in before it gets crowded. Around 1 it starts to get a lot busier and can take about 20 minutes a run.

There is a small hill for those under 5 years old but I wouldn't pay to do that... you can probably find a similar hill in your neighborhood.

The lodge has bathrooms and the lodge is separate from the ski lodge. You can purchase food and drinks and there are tables that you eat at. We bring our food and hot chocolate because it is typical expensive lodge fast food.

Philadelphia, PA - Check out my post from our weekend trip in January 2014!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Peanut Noodles

I have never tried any of Melissa d'Arabian's recipes because I wasn't a fan of her show (Ten Dollar Dinners or her cooking on Food Network Star). But this recipe is great and I think I'll try some more of her recipes later on. This is her Peanut Noodle recipe which was delish! I will be making this again. It was very easy and came together in about 25 minutes.

I added chicken to the meal for protein and I increased the peanut dressing to make sure it would cover the additions. Tofu would also work nicely. This could be a great base to add any veggies wilting in your fridge. I think the sauce would also be good with rice too... but then again I just love peanut butter.


Peanut Noodles
Serves 2 very hungry people

3 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)
12 ounces linguine
2 chicken breast

1/2 cup loosely-packed chopped fresh cilantro
3 green onions, sliced
1/2 head green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/3 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup roughly chopped skinless roasted peanuts, for garnish

Peanut Dressing:
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Sirracha
1 ½ teaspoon sesame oil
Zest and juice of 1/2 lime

Chop and combine salad ingredients, put into a large strainer. 

Heat medium size frying pan. Add a little oil, soy sauce, and sirracha. Stir occasionally and cook until chicken is done (about 8 minutes). Set aside.

Put the peanut butter in a medium size glass bowl. Microwave about 15 seconds to soften. Whisk in with the soy sauce, vinegar, canola oil, ginger, honey, Sirracha, sesame oil and lime zest and juice in a small bowl.Thin with the starchy pasta water if needed, 1 tablespoon at a time. (Dressing should be thick, but pourable.) 

Toast sesame seeds in a frying pan until light golden in color, 4 to 6 minutes, and set aside. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente. Pour the pasta over the salad in the strainer. The hot water will soften the veggies. Put back into the pasta pot. Pour the peanut dressing over the pasta and veggies, combine.

Top with the chopped peanuts and toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Honey and Soy Tilapia

Here is a new fish recipe from All Recipes! This was about 5 minutes of prep and 20 minutes of baking! I marinated the meat for about an hour and thirty minutes because I was finishing up some things around the house.

Would I make it again? Maybe. This has all the ingredients that I normally have laying around the house. I also think this would be a tasty marinade for grilled chicken.

As not everyone likes fish, it was convenient that I could cook chicken in the oven at the same temp and for the same time. There wasn't the feeling of cooking two meals. (I butterflied a chicken breast and marinated it in Wegman's Savory Marinade for the same amount of time as the fish. Then put the chicken in a tin foil lined pan and bake for 20 minutes at 350F) 

Honey and Soy Tilapia
serves 4

3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
Olive oil
4 (4 ounce) fillets tilapia

Mix the honey, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and garlic together in a bowl. Place the tilapia fillets in the mixture; allow to marinate in refrigerator at least 30 minutes.

Preheat an oven to 350F. Prepare a glass baking dish with a layer of tin foil and a healthy drizzle of olive oil

Remove tilapia from marinade, and pour in some (or all) of the marinade. Place fillets into the prepared baking sheet, and sprinkle the black pepper over the fish.

Bake in the preheated oven until the fish flakes easily with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Breaded Baked Fish

I went to one of my friend's houses for dinner (thanks Angela!) and she made this yummy baked fish! It seemed so easy that I asked for the recipe so I could try it. I've never really made fish before so this was an experiment. Other than the fish, I almost always have these ingredients in the house.

I purchased frozen boneless Tilapia fillets. They seemed forgiving and not as scary as other fish. I defrosted 2 fillets in the fridge for dinner the next night. I will be honest, I ate both of them and did not make any sides or veggies or anything

It took me 5 minutes to prepare and then 15 minutes to cook, so it in 25 minutes (to allow for a bit of cooling) you can have dinner ready!

Checking for flaking

Breaded Baked Fish
2 fish fillets (tilapia, defrosted)
1/2 tbsp of butter, melted
1/4-1/2 c bread crumbs
2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400F. Prepare a baking dish or cookie sheet with tinfoil and grease it.
Open fish package and put the fish on the prepared pan.
Drizzle a tad bit of melted butter over the top of each fillet.
In a small bowl combine salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan cheese.
Sprinkle mix over the fish.
Bake 15 minutes. Fish is done when it flakes.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Italian Chicken with Almond Rice

Happy New Year! My goal this year is to try 2-3 new recipes a month and to get back into the swing of writing. Ready? Here goes a new one! Italian Chicken with Almond Rice. This was adapted from SparkRecipes

I couldn't believe how easy this was and the chicken was very tender. Adding the nuts to the rice makes it similar to a rice pilaf. I will be making this again because I almost always have these ingredients in the fridge or pantry!

This time I cooked my rice according to my dad's rice instructions. Next time I would cook the rice in 1 3/4 cup broth + garlic powder + Italian dressing. Then use the remaining broth to cook the broccoli and deglaze the chicken pan. 

Italian Chicken with Almond Rice
2 very hungry grownups

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (1 lb), cut into large chunks
1/4 cup Italian Dressing
1 can (10 fl oz) low sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 cups broccoli florets
1 cup white rice, cooked (under cooked by 5 minutes, when the rice has absorbed most of the water)
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Cook chicken in 2 tbsp. dressing in large nonstick skillet on medium heat about 4 minutes on each side or until evenly browned and cooked through. Remove chicken.

Pour in broth, garlic powder and remaining dressing; bring to boil. Add rice, broccoli, and nuts. Cook until rice absorbs most of the liquid and the broccoli is tender. 

Serve chicken over rice.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pasta Sauce: Tomato + Onion + Butter

I started to eat then realized...wait! Picture! :)
I read about this pasta sauce recipe on Smitten Kitchen and since I have an onion lazing about on the counter... I decided this would be perfect for lunch!

I cracked open 2 cans of tomato sauce, chopped the onion in half, cut a hunk of butter and plopped it all into my pot. Let it simmer for 45 minutes and volia! Time to eat!

I will say that I was skeptical to make pasta sauce without any Italian seasoning or garlic...but I gave it ago! Next time I would add it just for the taste test opportunity.

This sauce was very very rich and very very good. I was very surprised at how much onion flavor came through and now I will never feel the need to chop up an onion for pasta sauce again!

Now what to do with the soft, sweetened, tomato sauce coated onion? I tried a nibble of the onion and it was quite tasty. One of the suggestions was to eat the onions on some warm bread.

Pasta Sauce: Tomatoes, Onion, and Butter
serves 3

2 cans tomato sauce (or diced tomatoes or whole peeled tomatoes, plus juice)
5 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted)
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste

Put the tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes.
Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.
Remove from heat and take out the onion.
Add salt to taste and keep warm while you prepare your pasta.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

Skyline Drive - NPS Link. Wonderful drive! During nicer weather people will go for a nice motorcycle ride and many will bike it! There are scenic overlooks along the way. A few sections have bathrooms but be sure you plan ahead!

Baby Copperheads! Watch out!

Old RagNPS Link
This is a great 10 mile car-door-to-car-door hike. Get there early to avoid crowds. We have done this hike several times. As we are faster hikers this takes us about 5 hours with a long break at the top. Bring LOTS of water. Also helpful to pack bug spray, sun screen, gloves for the rock scramble part and lunch/snacks. I don't wear my rings because I get nervous about losing a finger to a rock.

Park at the Ridge Trail Trail head. This is where you leave your park fee. Then it is about a mile to the actual trail. The first bit of the hike is steep switch backs under the treeline. Then it changes to rock scrambles and amazing views. To get back down there is the Weakly Hollow Fire Road trail and or you go back the way you came. Keep in mind that on busy days there can be quite a wait in some sections. Be patient and courteous! Oh, and pack out your trash! I always bring a grocery bag to collect folks trash along the way, but please don't litter!

If you are going to attempt this hike please do some research before on what to pack, what to wear, and how long you expect it to take. You don't want to get stuck on the mountain without a flashlight!

View from the Summit of Old Rag 9/2014
White Oak Canyon/Cedar Run Loop -
8-10 mile loop. There are some very pretty places to stop along streams and some great waterfalls. This is one of the more popular hikes so be prepared for crowds if you go during the summer and on weekends.

We parked at the trail head (Hawksbill Gap Parking) and it went down into the valley using the Cedar Run trail. Once you get almost to the edge of the park you hike back into the park using Cedar Run Link Trail to the White Oak Canyon trail. This will take you past the upper and lower falls. Be prepared to do LOTS of stairs. The trail is well maintained but it is rocky and a good portion of the trail is stone steps. From there you take the White Oak Fire Road that will take you back to the trail head.

This a great hike and one that I'd like to do again soon!
Giant Spider
Upper Falls

Fluffy Caterpillar
**Cannot bring in outside wood due to the Emerald Ash Borer threat**

Mathews Arm Campground (mile 22)- This is one of our favorite campgrounds for car camping. The three times we have visited (July, August, and October) it has been relatively quiet and we have been able to pick a nice site without reservations. It has an of an outdoor/woodsy feel to it and is much smaller than Big Meadows. There are no showers. There are few hikes (Traces Trail) that are in the campground and a section of the Appalachian trail cuts next to this park as well.

Big Meadows Campground (mile 51) - We stayed at this campground once and have decided that this would be a great place for "intro" campers or for those with families. The bathrooms are close to the sites and well lit. The sites are also close together which would be fun for families or groups that want to hang out. The roads are not very busy and the kids can ride bikes around the streets.

Some of our other VA adventures here!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Virginia Activities


Mt Vernon - 6/2013 The home of George Washington! Beautiful gardens and a great view of the Potomac River. We spent a few hours there with the kids (2 kids elementary school age) one summers day. Bring lots of water and prepare for some lines going into the house tour. This is mainly an outdoor place with lots of outdoor exhibits that the kids can touch and explore. We spent most the morning there because we took a break to play on the lawns. No outside food or drinks (other than water) is permitted inside. Which was what caused our visit to be shortened. Review the What To See section on the site to determine how long you will want to visit. Prices are $9 for kids and $17 for adults.

Luray Caverns - 7/2013 What fun! This is located in the western part of VA just outside of Shenandoah National Park. We drove out early one day and spent the morning and early afternoon exploring. We did the tour which was very informative and the kids enjoyed. The caverns are pretty incredible and it is one of the larger caves on the east coast.This was a pricier activity at $26 for adults and $14 for kids but it was unique and interactive. Wear good shoes as the path underground can be a little slippery. There are stairs on the tour and some cramped walk ways. Would we go a second time? Maybe in a few years. There isn't much to do outside of the cavern tour and all the other activities that are offered on location are additional fees. After we finished our tour we drove part of the Skyline Drive at Shenandoah National Park.

Williamsburg - Check out my post from 7/2013 here.

Shenandoah National Park - 2013-2014 See other post here.
from the Summit of Old Rag at Shenandoah National Park

Monticello -  TBD

Natural Bridge -  TBD

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Chinese Rice Soup (Jook)

Oh the wonders of hindsight! This was my first Thanksgiving away from my family and Thanksgiving is not complete without some jook! I took the turkey bones from my fiance's family dinner and decided to make my first attempt!

Jook is Chinese porridge rice soup. In my family we serve it after dessert - around the time when lots of families are having some left over turkey sandwiches.

Once the turkey is served the bones are thrown into a pot withe some rice and cooked in that broth until thick. This is served with some green onions, crispy noodles, and some of the left over meat.

What I did:
Picked most of the meat off the turkey bones. Put the bones into the largest pot in the kitchen. Filled the pot with water until it was covered and then added in 3 cups of rice. This made a TON of soup. I ended having to take some out of that pot and starting a second pot. Once the rice was tended and mushy the soup was done. Carefully pick out all the bones and then we eat!

Next time:
I will make the broth first. Put bones in a large pot, cover with water, let simmer 30-40 minutes. Strain the broth with a sieve to catch all the bones, bone parts, and weird floating things. Pour the broth back into the pot and then add the rice to the broth (1 cup rice to 3 cups broth). Let it simmer until thick, approx 20-30 minutes. Then add the turkey meat and serve!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Homemade Shake n' Bake Chicken

Need a dinner idea? This ended up being a crowd pleaser and I will make this again. I was going to purchase store brand Shake n' Bake or Oven Fry but both use High Fructose Corn Syrup. Since it was mostly breading I figured I would try and make it at home and I would also save some money!

I decided to use this recipe from The Black Peppercorn. I did make a few changes based on what was available in our house. I omitted the onion flakes, reduced the sugar to 1 tsp and reduced the black pepper to 1/2 tsp. Instead of a mix of parsley, basil, and oregano I used 2 tsp of Italian seasoning. I did use the 1/2 tsp cayenne but I would use 1/4 tsp or omit next time. It was ok, but the kids commented that there was a bit of spice (not that it stopped them from eating it).

Instead of shaking the chicken in a plastic bag I used a glass pie plate and dipped the chicken.

I used almost all of the seasoning on 6 flattened chicken breast so I estimate that the full amount of seasoning made below would coat 8 chicken breasts.

I served this with mashed potatoes and Oven Roasted Broccoli. I cooked the broccoli for about 15 minutes while the chicken was baking.

Homemade Shake n Bake Seasoning 
3 cups Panko bread crumbs
¼ cup vegetable oil
just under 1 tbsp salt
3 tsp paprika
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp Italian seasoning

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until evenly mixed and the bread crumbs are no longer 'clumpy' from the oil. Pour jar or plastic container and store in the freezer for 1-2 months.

Shake n Bake Chicken
  • Preheat oven to 400F. 
  • Pound chicken breast to about ¼- ½ inch thick. 
  • Rinse chicken in cold running water. Let excess water drain off.
  • Place chicken, one piece at a time, in the bag with a couple cups of the shake n bake.
  • Seal and shake the bag so that the chicken is totally coated in the breading.
  • Remove the chicken from the bag, shaking off excess breading.
  • Place on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil or on a silpat mat
  • Bake boneless chicken for 20-25 minutes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dinner Rolls

These rolls are easy and can be prepped ahead of time. I followed this recipe from The Kitchn. I made these to go with The North Carolina Pulled Pork. While great as regular dinner rolls, these would work smaller for sliders or larger for burger buns. 

from the fridge overnight 
1 hour from the fridge
with the pulled pork
Dinner Rolls
Makes 12 rolls

1 tablespoon active-dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter

1. In a stand mixer: stir the yeast into the warm water and let it sit until dissolved.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, oil, sugar, and salt. Add this to the yeast mixture and stir until combined.
3. Add all the flour and stir until it forms a shaggy dough.
4. Knead the dough at low speed for 8-10 minutes, until smooth but slightly tacky. It should spring back when poked.
5. Cover the mixing bowl and let the dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about an hour.
6. Dust your work surface with a little flour and turn the risen dough out on top. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Roll the dough against the counter or between your palms until round.
7. Line a 9x13 pan with parchment and spray with nonstick coating. Arrange the rolls inside the pan spaced a little apart*.
8. Let the rolls rise until they fill the pan roughly 30-40 minutes. While the rolls are rising, pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
9. Brush the rolls with butter. Melt the butter and brush it over the risen dinner rolls. This helps the tops to brown and keeps the crust soft. (I forgot this step)
10. Bake the rolls until golden, 15-18 minutes.
11. Lift the rolls from the pan using the parchment and let the rolls cool on a wire rack until cool enough to handle.

*At this point you can also cover the rolls and put into the fridge to rise over night for dinner the next day. The next day let the rolls come to room temp (about 1 hour) prior to baking. Then continue with step 8.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Homemade French Fries

"These taste like real french fries!!" The kids were pretty impressed that I was able to turn potatoes into french fries at home.

Super easy and a relatively healthy side dish. The silpat mat helps make the fries extra crispy.

Often these are served with Mr. Tom's Chicken and Oven Roasted Broccoli.

French Fries
1 potato = 1 to 2 people

Preheat oven to 400F. 
Peel raw potatoes. Slice them up. Thinner will cook faster.
Put sliced potatoes on silpat/foil/parchment lined cookie sheet.
Drizzle with olive oil and your choice of seasonings. I do a little garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat all the potato pieces. If it was for adults I would add some cayanne or oregano.
Bake 25-45 minutes. The difference will be how thick the potatoes were cut and how crispy you want the fries. Fries are done when you pierce with a fork and the potato is tender.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Peanut Butter Cookies

Cookie time! I made this recipe with some homemade peanut butter. But other then that it is a very basic cookie dough and most people will have all the ingredients on hand.

I used a small cookie scoop so these cookies are all bite sized. I'm not sure why but I almost always make cookies that are small. But between the size and the sticky dough, the criss cross pattern was not meant to be. The recipe recommended rolling the cookies in granulated white sugar then doing the criss cross. If I did that, I would have reduced the white sugar in the cookies to 3/4 cup. But rolling the cookie in the sugar would have prevented the fork from sticking. Another thought that I think could have helped was if the cookies were larger and the fork was floured or buttered. 

Long story short, instead of making the fork prints - I gently pressed them flat with my fingers. That means I touched EVERY COOKIE! Touch it you take it, right?

Since I didn't want to wait 3 hours to chill the dough so I put it in the freezer for 30 minutes then popped it in the fridge for another 15 while I waited for the oven to free up. Yes, I would love to have double ovens in my kitchen!

What was interesting was the difference in the cookies with chilled batter vs not chilled batter. In this picture the top left is the 1st sheet from the fridge, top left is the 1st sheet without the criss-cross, bottom left is the 2nd round of cookies. Then I put the dough in the fridge between the 3rd and 4th cookie. Taste didn't change but the look certainly varied.

Regardless, these cookies didn't spread very much and I was able to fit 20 cookies on a regular sized cookie sheet.

The recipe said they would look kind of underdone when I take them off the sheet so I probably overcooked them, but we all thought they were great! I cooked them for 12 minutes.

The recipe below is adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction. The site says that the cookies will store at room temperature for up to one week and that the baked cookies or dough will freeze for up to 3 months.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes 80 small cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature preferred
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until smooth. Add the egg and mix on high until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and peanut butter and mix on high until combined. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, toss the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. Dough will be thick, yet very sticky. Cover dough tightly and chill for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Press fork into the tops to create the criss-cross pattern. Bake for 12 minutes or until very lightly browned on the sides. The centers will look very soft and undone. The cookies will continue to "set" on the baking sheet during this time.