Thursday, April 14, 2016

Throw Back Thursday Trial and Error Tuna Patties

Tuna patties are decidedly a food from my childhood. I remember my petite, blond mama with her perfectly hot-rolled hair, sliding plates of golden-brown tuna patties, topped with melted American singles, across the bright orange Formica counter top in our dark-wood accent kitchen.

Since this IS a "throw back" post, here's a picture of the lady who was slinging those tuna patties off the griddle. "Hi, Mom!" that I am (hopefully) forgiven for posting pictures of retro-mom on the Internet, here's one of me, circa 1990, in the very same kitchen that I just described. Unfortunately the lighting in this picture doesn't really do the counter tops justice. They were pretty vibrant!

Why yes, I totally am canning pumpkin bread for Christmas gifts while wearing puffy satin pajamas in this picture. Isn't that what all of the cool kids were doing on a Friday night in the early 90's? #nerdalert

Every once in a while, I still get a hankering for a tuna patty. Golden and crisp on the outside, all savory perfection on the inside. Hold the cheese, please.

The great thing about tuna patties is that you can really make them your own and they're hard to mess up as long as you follow this basic formula: "bind" the tuna together, add extra ingredients for flavor and texture, season the patties, form the patties, fry the patties. Here's a closer look:

To bind (make everything stick together)

The main ingredient here is obviously tuna. Although, this formula works with other proteins as well. Think salmon, crab, even turkey. After you've got the protein ready, you'll need something to bind the meat together. Eggs and crumbs are a popular choice. I remember that my mom used cracker crumbs. Ritz, I think. Since we are trying to eat a little "lighter" these days, I opted for egg whites and panko bread crumbs this time. Traditional bread crumbs work great too.  

Add extra ingredients

The next step in the formula is to add in any extra ingredients for flavor and texture. This time, I added in diced sweet onion and sliced scallion (green onion) as my "extras". If you're going for a healthy boost, you could add grated veggies, such carrots or zucchini. Another flavorful option is grated or shredded cheese. Just a tip for the "extras": you don't want to add tons of extras because you still want those patties to hold together when you cook them up.


My husband requested Old Bay seasoning for this recipe. We're big fans of the Old Bay. In fact, our oldest child is border-line obsessed with this spice blend from the Chesapeake Bay area.  It turned out it to be a great choice. I also poured in a few "glugs" (a tablespoon or two) of hot sauce. You may want to try flavors like lemon and dill or Parmesan and basil or rosemary. Like I said, make them your own!

Forming the patties

The biggest challenge with this step is that you want patties that will maintain their patty "status" throughout the cooking process. As in, you don't want them to fall apart. Avoid making the patties too big or too thin so that they are easy to manage with your spatula once in the frying pan.


Make sure to "grease" your skillet so that the patties don't stick. A couple of tablespoons of olive oil should be sufficient. Heat the prepared skillet over medium-high heat so that you get a nice sear on the patties before you are ready to flip them. Browning enhances the flavor and appearance of the tuna patty and makes it less likely to stick to the skillet.

And now for the photographic play-by-play....

Here is the "cast of characters" for my recipe: 2 cans of tuna, eggs, panko, onion, green onion, Old Bay, and hot sauce.

First things first, open up your cans of tuna and drain off the liquid. I just use a can opener to cut around the lid, then press that lid down, squeezing out the liquid, while tilting the can over the sink so that the excess liquid pours out of the can and down the drain. Add the tuna to a medium-size mixing bowl with diced onion, green onion, hot sauce, and Old Bay seasoning.  


Stir it up, then add the panko and egg white to the bowl.

While I chose to add just the whites, you may want to add the whole egg. If so, use 1 or 2 whole eggs instead of 3 egg whites. The key is that you want the mixture to bind together. So, if the mixture is too dry, add another egg or a little extra water or milk. If it's too wet, you can always add more crumbs (Panko, cracker, bread, whatever you choose). Just keep in mind that the main ingredient should probably be TUNA in a tuna patty, so don't get all carried away trying to create the perfect balance; adding more liquid then more crumbs, then more liquid, then more crumbs...

You see how this could get out of hand, right? It's like trying to cut your doll's (or sibling's) hair when you were a kid. You make one snip, but something just doesn't look right. So you try to "even it out". Which requires another snip. Then another. And another...

Those of you who have been in this situation know exactly where this path to attempted perfection leads, right? 

Bald Barbie.

Or bald sister.

Either way, the moral of the story is that acting conservatively is probably a good plan when it comes to both the novice snipping of hair AND the addition of ingredients to tuna patties.

*As I re-read this segment, I realize that I may just be the first person in all of blogging to compare making tuna patties to novice hair-cutting. Talk about a "meandering mind"! Stay tuned for my next random thought....

Once you've got the ingredients all mixed up, it should look something like this. The mixture should stick together.

Like tuna Velcro.

Ewww. Never mind. Can you imagine? Tuna Velcro?! Gross.


Now that everything is mixed up, it's time to make the patties.

I prefer not to form tuna patties with my hands. This is probably not shocking news. Nobody wants stinky tuna hands. 

And so, I scooped the tuna mixture out with a 1/3 cup-sized measuring cup. As it turns out, by using the 1/3 cup, this recipe made 5 perfectly uniform tuna patties. Uniform is good, since you want them all to cook to the same desired golden brown, at the same temperature, within the same time frame.

When forming tuna patties, I spread a piece of waxed paper (parchment works fine too) on my kitchen counter, then drop each scoop onto the paper.

Then, I place another piece of waxed paper on top and press down with either my hand, or the bottom of a cup, or a spatula, or a rolling pin, or...well, you can use just about anything within reach that will flatten those puppies down.

I use this method with any hand-formed meat patty and for rolling out pie crusts too. The idea is that when you finish, you'll have clean hands and BONUS: no counter top clean up!

Now that I've shared my earth-shattering meat patty "life hack", check out these perfect tuna patties.


Okay, now into the skillet. Just pre-heat your skillet to medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil and fry up those tuna patties until they are nice and crisply golden-browned on the outside and cooked through. I think that I cooked mine for about 4 minutes per side.

You want to make sure that you let them cook for long enough on the first side especially, so that the surface of the patty holds together and starts to "crisp up" before you attempt to flip it, otherwise you may risk the patty falling apart.

These turned out awesome! My family demolished the entire skillet. My husband and I ate them with a little bit of homemade, "lightened-up" remoulade sauce that I had left over from another recipe. Our oldest daughter ate one sandwich-style between a "skinny bagel", grilled with a slice of cheese (a little throw-back to those tuna patties of my childhood). Next time I'm going to have to double the recipe...

Now follow the formula and make your own version!

Or you can copy my recipe. I'm cool with that.


Krista's Kitchen Tuna Patties

2- 5 oz. cans of chunk light tuna in water, drained
3 egg whites
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup onion, diced
2-3 green onions, sliced
1-2 tablespoons hot sauce, such as Frank's Red Hot
1-2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix the first 7 ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. Heat olive oil in a skillet at medium-high. Measure out patties by packing the tuna mixture into a 1/3 cup measuring cup. Turn onto waxed or parchment paper. Cover with another sheet of waxed paper and press the mixture down into patties that are 1/2"-3/4" thickness. Transfer patties to the skillet and fry for 4 minutes per side until nicely crisp and golden brown.

According to my smart phone calorie counting app (MyNetDiary) 1 patty= 94 calories

Thursday, April 7, 2016

"Pretend I'm a Deep Dish" Pizza Skillet

Because I love to eat, my key to sticking to a weight loss plan is that the food still has to taste really good and I need lots of variety. Plans that are extreme; like no/low-carb, no-sugar, no salt, no alcohol, no coffee, no meat, no fat, no....well you get the picture, make me a little crazy and more likely to "cheat". Truth be told, a "cleanse" of any sort makes me positively "postal".  I need an "everything in moderation" approach.  I can handle moderation. Except when it comes to those wasabi-soy almonds. Apparently those are a deal breaker. If those suckers are present in my house, I will kill a whole container of them in a moment of weakness. Just sayin'. 

A few months back, my husband and I decided to eat healthier with the goal of shaving off some pounds. As far as I can remember, this is the first time we have dieted simultaneously, and I have to say that it is much easier when my partner isn't trying to order pizza or suggest that we go out for breakfast while I am trying to watch my intake. It also keeps me accountable when I know that my husband is going to ask, "how many calories is this dinner?" It's been a fun challenge to make the most delicious, filling dinners that are healthy and lower in fat and calories.

That's how I chose this recipe for our dinner. We are a house full of pizza lovers. Since we started counting our calories, when the craving strikes, we have resorted to ordering thin crust pizza with vegetables or grilled chicken and practiced that annoying discipline of portion control; limiting ourselves to a slice or two.  Last month, we even made homemade thin crust and went light on the cheese. But sometimes I love a thick, deep-dish, loaded with sausage and boasting all of that great tomato flavor. Which is why this wanna-be pizza recipe graced our table this week.

I won't say that I didn't miss the crust, but at 225 calories per "slice" for this crustless wonder versus 500-600 calories per slice of my favorite carry-out Chicago-style deep dish, I'm a fan. These little sacrifices are paying off. In just a few months of counting calories (gotta love that "there's an app for that" these days!), eating more fruits and veggies, focusing on lean proteins, drinking plenty of water, and making exercise a daily priority, we have shed a collective 50+ pounds! So for now, "modified" pizza works for us. And it was so tasty! All of the flavors are there. Another bonus, this is a quick and easy meal that I was able to throw together pretty quickly after work.

So here's how it came together:

As is my tradition, I gathered the ingredients. We like our pizza "loaded", and so I rounded up turkey sausage and turkey pepperoni, diced tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, banana peppers, and cheese. I also grabbed some olive oil and Italian seasonings.

 To get started, I opened a can of diced tomatoes and poured them into a colander to drain while I prepared the other components of this dish.

Then I set about preparing the sausage. I purchased Italian turkey sausage in link form, then removed the casings.

I fired up my cast iron skillet and added a couple teaspoons of olive oil and a sliced onion.

The sausage went on top and I browned up the whole mess, breaking up the sausage as it cooked. You can also sprinkle with Italian seasoning or add garlic/garlic salt at this step.

Once the sausage was nice and brown and the onions were perfectly tender, I added in some sliced mushrooms.

Once the mushrooms cooked down a little, I built the "pizza". First, I topped it with the drained diced tomatoes. 

Then, I added some banana peppers and turkey pepperoni.

And finally, the cheese.

Then I popped the whole skillet into a 400 degree oven and baked it for 15-20 minutes until the cheese melted and the edges were bubbling nicely.

Then BOOM! I sliced the "pizza" into 6 pieces and tah-dah....Dinner!

Quick, easy, low-calorie, and delicious!

"Pretend I'm a Deep Dish" Pizza Skillet

1 can diced tomatoes, drained
16-20 oz. Italian turkey sausage, either link or bulk
1 onion, sliced
Italian seasoning
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
banana peppers
turkey pepperoni
2/3 cup low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drain diced tomatoes, set aside. Heat 1-3 teaspoons of olive oil in an oven-proof skillet. Add onions to the heated skilled. Remove sausage from casings, if needed. Add sausage to skillet and break apart as you brown the mixture. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and/or add garlic if desired.  Add mushrooms to skillet and cook until soft. Top sausage-onion-mushroom mixture with drained diced tomatoes, banana peppers, pepperoni, and cheese. Remove from burner and bake for 10-20 minutes, until cheese is melted and sides are "bubbly".  Remove from oven and slice into 6 portions.

1 "slice"= 1 cup of the mixture= 225 calories

If you're looking for a more labor-intensive Chicago-style pizza (with a crust!) check out this "Lightened Up" Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Recipe.

Happy cooking, everyone!



Friday, April 1, 2016

How to Roast a Chicken, The Tale of Two Ovens, and a Buffalo Chicken Salad

A new post? What?!? Is this an April Fool's Day prank?

True, my last post was in 2014. And then....silence. 16 months of silence. Although, to be honest, it was anything but silent in this household. Nothing exciting, just the day to day activities of my family and no time (or energy at the end of the day) left for me to sit down and document the happenings in my kitchen.

Luckily, all of the great recipes were here at my fingertips with the click of a keyboard or the touch of a screen. Back when I started writing this blog in 2008, I never imagined it would serve as my cooking journal and chronicle my experiences as I chopped, cooked, sauteed, and baked my way through over 700 recipes. Back then, I was just trying to provide my family and friends with access to my recipes without having to call me up every time they thought about Rotini Salad. That's right, CALL. Back then, I didn't even have a phone that would/could text. For real. And while my life right now is very full and blessed with all of the things that this busy stage of life entails, I've missed this space where I could share and critique and reflect. And so, I'm swinging my leg over the horse and climbing back on. YEEEEHAWWWW!

I'm starting back with 2 basics; a perfect roast chicken and a phenomenal salad made from the leftover chicken. If you've stopped by here before, you know I love to cook once and eat twice. I actually had the salad in mind when I prepared this chicken, and so I went with a spice rub that would go well with the flavors of the salad I had planned.

If you're in the market for additional tried-and-true roast chicken meals, check out these: Balsamic Roast Chicken with Red Onion Sauce, Rosemary Roasted Chicken and Potatoes, and Garlic Herb Roast Chicken.

Last night's dinner was no-fuss. I just grabbed a spice blend that I purchased from our corner store. They have the most delicious rotisserie chicken. One day I asked the girl at the deli counter about the spice blend and she offered to sell some to me. I paid $1.50 for the whole container. #winning

I'd estimate that I roast a whole chicken about once a month. I'm a fan because 1) it's pretty inexpensive- I snagged this bird at ALDI for $.95/lb and 2) my family will always eat it. Roast chicken falls into the same category as pizza and tacos in this household. It's a crowd-pleaser.

If you've never done it before, roasting a chicken isn't tricky. I'd recommend placing the chicken in your clean kitchen sink before removing the plastic, so that chicken "juice" doesn't run all over your countertop. Once the chicken is free from the packaging, remove the packet of "giblets" that is generally placed inside of the bird. You can either discard them or if you're feeling industrious, cook them up using your favorite method. Assuming you have a favorite giblet-cooking technique, of course. If not, there's always Pinterest. Or you could do what we did before Pinterest, and no, I don't mean "google it". Rather, call your grandma. I'm pretty sure the last time I ate a decent gizzard or any gizzard at all, it came out of my grandma's kitchen. Okay- enough on giblets, let's get back to the whole bird...

Next, give the chicken a rinse, checking for anything that would be unappetizing, such as say, pinfeathers. Promptly remove anything "yucky". Once your chicken is prepped, transfer it to a baking dish. I lined a glass baking pan with aluminum foil, which I placed next to the sink for an easy transfer from sink to pan. Plus, foil=easy clean up.

I rubbed the spices into this chicken under AND on top of the skin. To get under the skin, you can separate it from the meat using a wooden spoon. However, I just use my fingers. I like to put the chicken back into the refrigerator for at least 2 hours after it is seasoned to let the flavors "sink in". Ideally, you could rub the chicken the night before and then cover and refrigerate until you are ready to bake.

Typically, the next step is to place the chicken in a 350 degree oven to bake. The rule of thumb is 20 minutes per pound based on the weight of the chicken. The goal is an internal cooking temperature of 180 degrees, checked at the thickest part of the bird.

You will notice from the photograph of my bird that the thermometer is attached to the oven. And you're probably thinking, "Hmmm, I bet there's a story there." Or not. Ok, probably not. But I've been away for such a long time and this is sort of like a homecoming indulge me. Or if you're just here about the chicken, scroll on down. I'm cool with that. It's a really LONG story. Here goes...

This is the first roast chicken that my NEW oven has produced. I was super excited because my oven features a digital meat thermometer and I’ve looked forward to testing it out. According to the product description: 

“The digital meat thermometer automatically monitors the internal temperature of food, then alerts you and shuts off the oven when food is fully cooked, so you never have to guess at the doneness of your meal.”

Since it seems that every time I need a meat thermometer, I rifle through my gadget drawer to turn up 2 bi-metallic stemmed dinosaurs that need calibrated and 1 digital model with batteries that keep popping out, this option appealed to me. On the day I made this meal, I simply stuck the provided probe into my chicken and plugged it into the stove, then “told” my oven the desired internal cooking temperature, set the oven heat, and headed out the door to take the kiddos to the park. I had planned to come back a little before the chicken should be ready, just in case I had screwed something up or the feature did not work as I hoped it would.
We met friends at the park, and as often happens when everyone is having fun, time got away from us. When I realized that it was probably past time to check on the chicken, I hustled my group out of the park. We arrived home to the wonderful smell of dinner. The oven had turned off and the screen read “oven cooling” and the chicken was cooked perfectly! I almost got a little misty. I love this oven SO much!

Before you get oven envy and all, “It must be nice.” Let me detail the 3 years of OVEN HELL that brought me to this joyous moment.  This post is about to reveal two of my (sometimes undesirable) personality traits. #1-I am frugal (to a fault…which will become apparent after reading the following account) and #2-I can be stubborn.  You know what, I better make a #3- I have a tendency to tell really long stories.

When we purchased our home a little over 5 years ago, we knew that the appliances were old. They had been updated with a kitchen remodel approximately 15 years before (our home is about 85 years old), but still, we were aware that the appliances had a limited life. Aside from some uneven heating issues, the oven seemed to be ok.
We settled in, and before long,  I was big and pregnant with our 3rd child, working a full-time teaching position, and keeping up with 2 busy school-aged children when suddenly our oven started TORCHING everything and the control panel starting sounding angry warnings and flashing obscure codes like “F4”. I kind of panicked. NOOOOOO! Not now! The baby was coming any day, we were about to have all kinds of baby bills, summer day camp and swim lesson fees, we had just replaced the central air-conditioner, and I was preparing to take a 12-week maternity leave, half of which was unpaid. A new wall oven was not in the budget.

So, I called an appliance repair guy. After checking everything out, repair “dude” told me that he could fix it…IF he could find the part. If not, I had better start shopping. GAH!  Within a day or two, a part was located somewhere in Pennsylvania (Apparently the only one left in the world!) and I was feeling pretty happy that I had just saved us “all this money”. For about $300, the oven was fixed and everything was good…..for 2 whole weeks. And then the broiler quit and more over-heating, censor issues happened and I was on the phone with the repair guy again.  I assumed that his repair had failed and he would just fix it right up. NOT SO. It turned out that another part had gone bad and needed to be ordered.

Since we had already sunk $300 into the oven, I hated to scrap it and buy a new oven, and so I agreed to the repair. STUPID. In my defense, I was sleep-deprived, with a new baby cradled in my arms, milk dripping from my body, and there seemed to be like, 20 kids  (my munchkins and their buddies) all running through my house on summer break. I kind of wanted to cry. Instead, I made a decision. We all know that sleep-deprived new mommies are notoriously even-tempered, un-emotional, and excellent decision-makers. Right? Turns out that this repair cost about the same amount as the first. Grrrr.  I could’ve bought an inexpensive, NEW, single wall oven for about $300 more than the $600 I had now thrown at that sinking ship. I sure I am glad that I saved us from spending all of that money on a new wall oven.

But at least the oven was fixed, right? WRONG. There were future oven mishaps on the horizon. You see, that bundle of joy who had snuggled in my arms in the previous chapter of this story turned into a Herculean force of nature within a few short months. He surprised us by walking in his 9th month. And before he walked, he pulled up on everything in sight, including the wall oven door. And once he mastered pulling up, he figured out that he could also open that oven door and (BONUS!) stand on it. Visions of Hansel and Gretel danced in my head. To avoid baking the baby, we pushed heavy chairs in front of the oven (which Herculean baby used to climb up and onto the kitchen counter), then we wired the door shut (totally inconvenient when trying to cook and re-wire) and finally we purchased a baby-proof oven lock (which quickly broke).

It turns out that oven doors aren’t actually designed to support a lot of weight, and soon, our oven door would no longer close all the way, which resulted in more wiring shut. If I had to pick a moment in time when the universe told us that it was time to “let go”, I would say that “rock-bottom” occurred on December 31st of 2014. As is our tradition, all of the neighbors were over for a New Year’s Eve party. The event was in full-swing.  I had just placed 2 sheets of my famous bacon-wrapped water chestnuts in the oven and all of the adults at the party were visiting and laughing when…. BOOM! The entire door of the oven fell off and crashed onto our ceramic tile, in plain view of all of the guests. A hush fell over the crowd.  Oooops. We wiggled the door back on and propped a chair in front, but still, it was just a little embarrassing, even though we all had a good laugh.

The next day, my husband ordered new hinges and we decided that we could do the repair on our own. While the door was off, I decided to take the opportunity to “deep-clean” the oven. As I scrubbed at the “gunk” in the back of the oven with a baking soda-laden tooth brush, I realized that “the gunk” was actually rust. After it was scrubbed away, I noticed that the corrosion had left small holes along the back seam of the oven. In denial, I stuffed them with aluminum foil and helped my husband with the hinge replacement of our now super-clean geriatric oven.
Except, the new hinges didn’t totally fix the problem. Sure, they held the door on just fine, but it seems that the inside door tracks had been bent by “giant baby” and the door still wouldn’t close properly. At this point we did start shopping for a new oven. However, not aggressively.  We’d wait for a sale and then mull over the choices, debate doing a kitchen remodel instead, discuss possibilities…and then inevitably, get busy with life until the next time I hit “pre-heat”.  I realize that if you have read this far, that I sound absolutely crazy right now. Just get a new oven already, lady!

My mom and sisters began harassing me about getting a new oven, but hey, as long as I could prop a chair in front of it, and the thing still worked, I wasn’t rushing. Then last fall, my sweet grandma came for a visit. It’s fair to say, as a fellow baker, she was downright appalled that my oven door didn’t close properly.  Over the next few weeks, Grandma “stayed on my case” about the downfall of my kitchen. Which is how, eventually, I ended up with this fabulous, digital thermometer, wall oven as my Christmas/birthday gift.
So…if your oven stinks…I promise, I’ve been there.

I have to say all of that adversity makes me totally grateful for my new, awesome oven. You should see how evenly this thing bakes! (Maybe you will, as I’m working up future posts soon.) But this chicken…seriously….cake walk! So easy. 

While some folks like to rub the chicken with butter or brush with oil, I just basted it with the cooking juice when it came out of the oven. The skin was already perfectly browned and the meat was nice and juicy!

Notice the potatoes around the chicken? I just lined a baking sheet with foil, brushed it with olive oil and tossed 4-5 cut up potatoes with garlic, salt, and Parmesan. Use whatever flavor combination you like. Seasoning salt and rosemary are also good when baking potatoes this way. I just put the potatoes in the oven on the rack below the chicken and left them there the entire time. They turned out a little on the crispy side, but they must've have been good enough, because we didn't have any leftovers.

And now for that salad that I've been bragging about....

I had exactly one chicken breast half left from the roast chicken. While cleaning up after dinner, I shredded and bagged it and put it into the fridge for later. When lunchtime rolled around the next day, I gathered my ingredients. The chicken, garlic, and hot sauce for the "Buffalo Chicken", lettuce, tomatoes, celery, green onion, black beans, corn, and the makings of a low-fat ranch dressing.

Apparently I have a phobia about running out of hot sauce, because this is what I found when I searched our refrigerator. Does anyone else have hoarding tendencies focused on a particular ingredient? Or maybe my cooking is just that bad and my family is covering my flavor creations with hot sauce? This would also explain the abundance of Ranch, BBQ Sauce, and ketchup in our fridge. Hmmm.....

I heated a skillet and added garlic and hot sauce, bringing it to a simmer.

Then, I stirred in 10 oz. of chicken and heated it through while it soaked up the spicy goodness of knock-off Franks Red Hot.

While the chicken cooked, I rinsed and drained the beans and corn, chopped all of the veggies, and divided them into two bowls. My husband works from his home office when he isn't travelling for work, and I knew that he would love this flavor-packed, healthy salad. I also added a couple of tablespoons of cheese to each bowl. It wasn't originally on my ingredient list, but that's how I roll...
Livin' on the edge, Baby!

Next, I mixed 1/4 cup of light sour cream with ranch dressing mix and a couple of tablespoons of skim milk in a plastic container with a lid, then I shook it up to combine. You might need to add a little more milk to thin the dressing to the consistency you desire. Divide the dressing between both salads and then use 2 utensils to gently mix everything together.

Finally, top it all off with that delicious Buffalo-style shredded chicken.

And there you have it, a wonderful, healthy lunch for 2.

Wait, make that 3. We still have one cutie at home during the day. He's not picky and he eats his weight in food daily. Probably so that he can maintain his strength and eventually destroy the rest of our appliances.

Buffalo Chicken Salad
Prep time: 20 minutes


10 oz. chicken breast, cooked and shredded
2 t. minced garlic
1/3 cup hot sauce

3-4 cups lettuce, chopped
1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup canned sweet corn, drained
2 stalks celery, diced
4 green onions, sliced
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese, made with 2% milk

1-2 tablespoons ranch dressing mix
1/4 cup light sour cream
2-4 T. skim milk

Pre-heat skillet. Add garlic and hot sauce. Bring to a simmer. Stir in chicken and heat through. Turn off heat and set aside.

Divide the next 7 ingredients evenly into two large bowls.

Combine ranch dressing mix, sour cream, and milk in a container with a tightly fitting lid. Shake to mix thoroughly. Add additional milk (if needed) to desired consistency.

Pour dressing over the salads and use two utensils to toss salads and evenly distribute dressing. Top each salad with equal portions of the heated chicken.

Based on the nutrition app on my phone, 1 serving=325 calories

Happy cooking!

Love, Krista

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Freeing the Seed: A Review of Pomegranate Seed Removal Methods and A Few of My Favorite Pomegranate Recipes

This is a pomegranate. Right now, we are at the tail-end of pomegranate season. They are still available at your local grocer for a reasonable price. A few weeks ago, at the peak of pomegranate season, I could find them for less than a dollar per fruit. I love pomegranate season first and foremost because my kiddos love pomegranate. At this time of year it's a healthy, inexpensive snack packed with dietary fiber, vitamins, and anti-oxidants. It's widely recognized as a "super food". You can read more about pomegranate nutrition information HERE.

Aside from the health benefits, I like pomegranates because their sweet-tart juice is a wonderful component in recipes. In desserts and drinks, and even savory main dishes, the pomegranate, or it's juice, add flavor and color. The seeds on their own are gorgeous. They are like little sparkling rubies in a bowl. Bedazzle your dinner party! They offer a burst of flavor when eaten and also serve as a lovely garnish.

Now that we've established that pomegranates are delicious, healthy, and in season, we need to discuss how you can get at all of that fruit once you're in the comfort of your own kitchen. Read on to see the 3 methods I have tried.

The Water Method

The first time I ever seeded a pomegranate was about 6 years ago. I used the water method. You can see a detailed description of the water method HERE.  I like the water method because you get less pomegranate juice on your hands and the membrane floats to the top while the seeds drop to the bottom, making the membrane easy to skim off and discard.

The "Score and Pick" Method

Recently a friend posted a video about a new (to me) method for seeding the pomegranate on her Facebook page. You can view that clip HERE.  The speed and efficiency with which that gentleman seeds a pomegranate are impressive. It's worth a watch.

I decided to employ this method with one of our pomegranates. It involves cutting off the top of the fruit, then scoring the sides. The fruit opens up in a way that exposes a large amount of the seeds. You still have to pick them out, but they are very accessible and this method is fairly quick and less messy than the "Whack It With A Spoon" method which is up next. Another plus is that you won't need to strain anything when you are finished. This method certainly gets my vote for the best way to "field dress" a pomegranate.

Here is a view of the inside of the skin and membrane once nearly every seed was removed using the "Score and Pick" Method.

And now for the preferred pomegranate seeding method in our household.....

The Whack-It-With-A-Spoon Method

You can watch a detailed video of this method HERE.

You just cut the pomegranate in half horizontally, then....

Turn it over a bowl and whack it with a wooden spoon until all of the seeds fall out. I love this method because it is the fastest and easiest... and in my opinion, the most fun! Even a 6-year old can do it. I have to admit that I also enjoy this method because I am amused by my daughter's pomegranate-whacking expressions. Sorry for the fuzzy photos, I guess it was too dark in my kitchen for my old camera to sharpen up the details.

Here is the pomegranate once the seeds have been removed using the "whacking" method.

As you can see, there is quite a bit of  juice splatter involved when using this method. I'd recommend wearing an apron as pomegranate juice does stain.

As I mentioned, the most popular way to consume pomegranate in our home is straight from the fruit, as a snack. However, I do have a few favorite recipes that utilize pomegranate and they are perfect for this season. Maybe even a pomegranate-themed dinner? Sounds good to me....

And for dessert? Check out this Caramel Flan with Pomegranate Syrup.

And if you're in the market for a great holiday cocktail, the Pomtini's that I served at my in-law's anniversary party 5 years ago are still a favorite.

I hope that you all have a happy and healthy kickoff to this holiday season! Now go out and buy a pomegranate!

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