Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Guacamole and Chicken Soft Tacos

Mom and I found avocados at the store for 68 cents each, so we loaded up the buggy. (Okay, so we didn't buy a entire buggy full, but we did buy more than several. I am used to paying $1.50 for an avocado, so $.68 seemed like a steal.) All those cheap avocados made some great guacamole.

Mom made the guacamole in the food processor using avocados, onion, garlic, lime juice, salt, and salsa. It was really good!

Since we couldn't just eat guacamole for dinner, I also made some chicken soft tacos as a "side." I was going to use a pack of fajita seasoning on the chicken until I looked at the ingredients. It was all stuff with really long names that I didn't recognize- not what I want to feed my family. So, I came up with my own seasoning.

sliced boneless, skinless chicken breasts into thin strips
chili powder
cayenne pepper
garlic powder
lime pepper seasoning
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
fresh lime juice

Heat a skillet with some olive oil over medium high heat and add the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken liberally with chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, lime pepper, salt, and pepper. Stir in onion. Cook the chicken, stirring it often, until cooked through. Sprinkle with lime juice.

We served the chicken with wheat (and regular, for Art) flour tortillas, torn lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, black olives, refried beans, sour cream, and salsa.

Jacob seemed to enjoy the chicken. He also took a few bites of my soft taco. Everyone else had more than a few bites of their own tacos. Yum!

Monday, December 28, 2009

French Toast

Art and I got together with some friends from college last night and made breakfast for dinner. We had a frittata, home fries, ham, baked fruit salad, french toast, and a mix of left over Christmas desserts. We had a great time hanging out, cooking, and eating together.

I made the french toast. At home, I usually make a light version of "french toast" with wheat bread dipped in a mixture of egg and milk. But, I wanted to make something special for our night with friends.

I found a recipe in my Treebeard's cookbook. This was very easy to make. I combined the egg and milk mixture beforehand and brought it to my friends' house in a container along with the bread. Once we were ready to cook, I soaked the bread and browned it while talking with everyone in the kitchen. Many said it was the best french toast they had ever had.

1" thick slices French bread (I used two loaves of wheat French bread)
9 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Whisk together all ingredients except bread until well combined. (This may be done in advance, covered and refrigerated. Stir before using.) Put bread slices into the mixture, a few pieces at a time and press down in the mixture to coat. Remove after one minute or when bread has absorbed egg mixture, but before the bread gets soggy and falls apart. Place bread pieces in a pan.
Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add bread slices in a single layer and cook the bread until golden brown on the first side, about 2-4 minutes. Turn the slices and cook on the second side until golden brown, about 2 minutes longer. Repeat until all slices are browned.
Serves 10.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Oven Barbecue Brisket

I have never eaten a barbecue brisket that I enjoyed. They have usually been tough and lacking taste. I am more of a pulled pork barbecue fan. But, a barbecue brisket recipe in Treebeard's cookbook promising flavorful meat slow roasted in the oven with home cooked sauce attracted me.

Since we are staying with my father-in-law, I took the opportunity to try out this potentially impressive hunk of meat. This is a great dish to prepare if you have a long day at home. It does not require much hands-on attention, but it does have to cook for almost four hours. The brisket is trimmed of fat, so it is very lean. The sauce comes together very quickly, but I'm sure store bought sauce would be a fine substitute.

I served the brisket with the sauce, bread, roasted green beans, and salad. I was impressed with this brisket. It was so tender and full of flavor. Everyone else seemed to enjoy it.


1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
4 lb beef brisket, trimmed of visible fat
1 1/4 cups barbecue sauce (recipe follows)

In a small bowl, mix sugar, celery seeds, garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, salt, liquid smoke. With fingers, rub powder into both sides of trimmed brisket.

Wrap in double layer of foil and place in plastic storage box. Refrigerate 12 hours or overnight.

Unwrap brisket and place in shallow roasting pan. Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake at 300 degrees for 3 hours, or 45 minutes per pound of brisket until brisket is tender. Remove from oven and let cool. Refrigerate 1 hour to let fat solidify from pan juices.

One hour before serving, remove brisket from pan and using a slotted spoon, remove solid fat particles. Reserve pan drippings.

Cut beef into thin diagonal slices across grain and arrange slices in roasting pan. In a small bowl mix 1 cup pan juices and 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce. Pour over sliced brisket.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes until brisket is fork tender.

Serves 8 to 10.

Barbecue Sauce Ingredients
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
1 shallot, chopped
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons liquid smoke
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a 1 quart saucepan, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add more brown sugar or hot sauce to taste.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cupcakes for a Christmas Party

Last night, Art, Jacob and I went to Art's extended family Christmas party in North Alabama. The party involved a catered barbecue dinner. We were instructed to bring sides and/or desserts.

Since we were traveling to the party, I wanted to bring a make ahead dish that traveled well and could be served at room temperature. I made yellow cupcakes with store bought chocolate icing. I topped them with red and green M&Ms to add a festive flair.

This cake recipe made delicious cupcakes. I made them in mini cupcake pans since I knew there would be other dessert options to sample. The cupcakes were very popular with the kids.

(I do appreciate the irony in a post about cupcakes immediately following a post stating my resolve to prepare healthier meals. I have plans for healthy food for our next meal. Stay tuned...)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Baked Salmon and a Return to Healthier Food

Notice the title of this blog: "No More Nuggets." Any reader of my last several posts will notice that I have lost my focus. The amount of nuggets and other fried and/or processed foods my family has consumed over the last several weeks has been disconcerting. I am willing to accept the blame for this because I prepare our meals. I want to get back on track to healthy eating.
Our family Christmas celebration was a test of my resolve in this matter. Yes, we had white bread covered in sugar and butter for breakfast, but by supper time I was ready to take charge. We had a baked fillet of wild king salmon and green beans.
I roasted the green beans as I always do with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I marinated the salmon in a marinade recipe I got from my mom. The recipe is for grilled salmon, but I baked it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. This meal reminded us that healthy food can be delicious!

1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup frozen orange juice, thawed
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients and pour over salmon in a gallon freezer bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Bake or grill.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Monkey Bread

We will be spending Christmas with our families in Birmingham. Since we will be away from home on Christmas, we are having our family Christmas celebration at home today.

As I was growing up, making monkey bread for breakfast on Christmas morning was a tradition my mom practiced for many years.

Monkey bread is a delicious ring of gooey, pull apart sweet bread. Many versions exist, but I love the one my mom always makes using store bought frozen yeast rolls covered with butter, sugar, and butterscotch pudding mix. The little preparation time the recipe requires is done the night before.

This dish has very little redeeming nutritional value, if any. But, having it once a year can not do too much damage, right? I cut down on the amount of sugar just to make myself feel better. I really didn't miss it in the finished product.

1 small box cook and serve butterscotch pudding mix
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 package frozen yeast rolls (the kind that have to rise)
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1/3 cup butter, melted

The night before (or, about 8 hours before) you plan to eat this:
Butter a bundt pan.
Mix together the dry ingredients.
Place frozen rolls in prepared pan. Pour sugar mixture over rolls. Sprinkle with pecans and drizzle with melted butter. Cover the pan tightly with foil and place in a cold oven overnight.

In the morning:
Uncover the pan and return to cold oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (leave the bread in the oven) and bake until bread is golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. Turn bread onto a plate and serve warm.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Turkey, Corn, and Black Bean Nachos

Betsy and I had a great time in Brazil hanging out with friends, attending a wedding, and eating. We ate so much good food: beans and rice, chicken and cheese pastels, garlic pizza, endless amounts of beef at a churrascaria, pao de queijo, and more. Betsy's friends must think Americans eat all the time.

I was so happy to return to my family after a great weekend. My mom cooked a lot while I was gone, so we had leftovers to eat for dinner last night. (Thanks, Mom!)

Tonight for dinner, I made nachos based on an old recipe from Bon Appetit. This is a comparatively healthy version of nachos that is easy and quick to prepare.

We served this in bowls like chili with tortilla chips on the side. Art and Jacob really enjoyed these nachos. Jacob loves tortilla chips, but wanted nothing to do with a chip covered in nacho fixings. So, I broke up a few chips and mixed them into the nacho fixings. I served it to him with a spoon like chili. He ate a ton!


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup chili powder (Don't be nervous about using 1/4 cup of chili powder- it really adds a nice flavor and is balanced out by the sweetness of the sugar and corn.)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained
  • 1 16-ounce package frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • Tortilla chips
  • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and turkey; season with salt and pepper; sauté, breaking up turkey with a spoon, until the onion is very tender, about 8 minutes. Add chili powder, oregano, and sugar; stir 30 seconds. Add beans, corn, and tomato sauce. Cover; simmer until turkey is cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Mix in lemon juice and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with chips, cheese, and sour cream.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Today at 4:15, I am leaving for a long weekend in Brazil. My sister-in-law and I are going for a wedding. My mom is coming up from Birmingham to take care of Jacob while I am away (Art will be giving and grading final exams).

Taking care of a kid for four days is a big burden- among many other duties, Mom will have to learn an entirely new toddler language, learn to assemble and disassemble complicated straw sippy cups, and master changing diapers on a moving kid. So, I have tried to provide a bit of relief by stocking the pantry and planning some meals. I have made my mom a list of snack ideas: frozen pancakes, smoothies, pumpkin bread, apple sauce, etc. I have also bought ingredients to make spaghetti- in my opinion, one of the most easily prepared meals available.

I have soup cooking in the slow cooker for dinner tonight. I searched online for slow cooker recipes and was inspired by a soup recipe on Here is the version I created.

1 lb raw chicken breast, diced
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
1 10 oz can enchilada sauce
1 medium onion, diced
2 Tablespoons canned diced jalapeno peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5 oz cans chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
12 oz frozen corn

Place all ingredients in slow cooker. Cover and cook for 6-8 hours. Serve with tortilla chips and lime wedges.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pumpkin Bread

A few days ago, I used half a can of pumpkin to make pumpkin pancakes. Today, I used the other half of that pumpkin to make pumpkin bread.

Out of several pumpkin bread recipes, I chose to make a version from Treebeard's cookbook because I had all the ingredients. The bread turned out moist and not overly sweet. Jacob and I enjoyed a warm slice as a snack.

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x5" loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
Sift flours, salt, sugar, and baking soda together into a medium bowl. In another bowl, blend pumpkin, applesauce, oil, water, eggs, and spices. Add flour mixture and stir until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove bread from pan and cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dinner Party- Chili, Grilled Cheese, and Choc Chip Cookie

We had Art's Economics 101 students over for dinner. Any student willing and brave enough to come over to his professor's house on a rainy night should be rewarded with a home cooked meal. Usually, the students are not picky; they are just glad to not be eating in the cafeteria. I made chili, grilled cheese, and chocolate chip cookies.

I made the chili with ground turkey, diced onions, garlic, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, beans (pinto, kidney, black, and great northern), chili powder, salt, and pepper.

Making grilled cheese for 20 was a bit of an ordeal. Art and I formed a grilled cheese assembly line: Art put the cheese in between the bread slices and I grilled. Once one batch of sandwiches was grilled to a golden, gooey perfection, I would pop it in the oven set to warm and start the next batch. This seemed to work well for providing a warm grilled cheese sandwich to each student.

By far the most highly praised item on the dinner menu was the chocolate chip cookie. The cookies were made using a Pillsbury slice and bake cookie log. When buying these, I was a little apprehensive about the quality of the cookies. But, I knew I would be short on time. Obviously, I had nothing to worry about.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Chicken Nuggets and Waffle Fries

Tonight, we had Chick-fil-a for dinner. It was delicious. Jacob really enjoyed his nuggets and fries.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lemon Chicken Soup

I came across this recipe in Southern Living. The idea of lemon in a chicken soup was very appealing. It looked so soothing, warming, and satisfying- the perfect supper for a cold day.
This soup was everything I had hoped it would be. The broth had just a hint of lemon with lots of yummy flavor.

I changed up the recipe a bit. Here is the version I made tonight.


  • 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts
  • celery tops
  • leek, cut into large pieces
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 5 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 (1-lb.) package carrots, sliced
  • 4 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Toppings: cooked barley, lemon slices

1. Bring water, celery, leeks, salt and pepper to a boil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add chicken and reduce heat to low, and simmer 1 hour.

2. Remove chicken, reserving liquid, and let cool 15 minutes. Skin and de-bone chicken. Dice chicken.

3. Pour reserved cooking liquid through a wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, discarding solids; wipe Dutch oven clean. Add water to cooking liquid to equal 10 cups.

4. Sauté onion, celery, and garlic in hot oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat 5 to 6 minutes or until tender. Add diced chicken, cooking liquid, carrots, and next 3 ingredients. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook 20 minutes or until carrots are tender. Serve with desired toppings.

I only used four chicken breast halves instead of the six called for in the recipe. This turned out to be plenty of meat- the soup was packed with tender chicken. Also, the recipe called for boiling the chicken in just water, but I felt like doing so would deprive the meat and broth of an easy opportunity for a flavor boost.

I cooked some barley in a separate pot and served each bowl of soup with a scoop. It added substance and a good texture to the soup.

Art and Jacob really enjoyed this soup. Jacob especially liked the carrots.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Brown Rice with Tofu, Dried Mushrooms, and Baby Spinach

Tonight for dinner, I made a one pot meal in a small kitchen appliance. I assembled the ingredients in the pot, switched the dial to "cook", and waited while dinner was prepared.
I did not use a slow cooker. I used a rice cooker.

This appliance is very handy for making perfectly cooked rice. I also love using it to make brown rice with tofu and spinach. It is really easy and tastes great. I started working on dinner at 4:30. By 4:45, dinner was cooking. And, I was holding Jacob during most of the 15 minute prep time.

If you are scared of tofu, this is a good recipe to help you over-come your fear. The preparation is simple- it only needs to be drained on paper towels and diced. The tofu takes on the flavors of ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil. (You can find sesame oil in the Asian section at the store and tofu in the produce). Or, I'm sure you could substitute cooked, diced chicken for the tofu with excellent results.
The dried shitake mushrooms are re-hydrated during the cooking process. (These are in the produce section with the fresh mushrooms.)

This is one of my favorite meals. I really like the taste and texture. And, I like that it is healthy.

This is not one of Art's favorite meals. Tonight, I asked him how it could be improved. He thought a pound of MSG would help.

In the past, Jacob has eagerly eaten this dish. Tonight, he wouldn't even try it.

Later, we got out the wildberry gelato I bought at the store today. Yum! I had two servings.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I was thinking about how much I did not want the spaghetti I was planning to make for dinner when Art walked in the back door and asked if I wanted to go out. We went to Sakura, a Japanese restaurant on West Street in Germantown.

Sakura has been one of my favorite restaurants in Memphis since I was introduced to it two years ago. Among many other things, they serve a unique selection of sushi rolls that I like to refer to as "southern style." They are huge- two big, messy bites a piece. And, a lot of them are deep fried. If you have never tried sushi, come to Memphis and try these. I think they would seems somewhat normal to even the most sheltered American eater.

Tonight we ordered the Bubba, Joyce, and Tiger Eye rolls- all containing fully cooked fish since I'm pregnant and raw seafood is a no-no.

In previous posts I have expressed my reservations about taking Jacob out to eat. I was a bit nervous about tonight's dinner, but Jacob pulled out his best restaurant manners- well, if we don't count shoving fist-fulls of noodles in his mouth as bad manners. Seriously, he was so pleasant throughout the meal. The only time he got grumpy was when we had to leave. He really enjoyed the Yaki soba noodles (buckwheat noodles with chicken, Chinese cabbage, carrots, and some kind of sauce) and the Miso soup. Maybe we should eat out more often...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Turkey Enchiladas

I wanted to finish the leftover turkey last night. But, I was tired of eating plain turkey and turkey sandwiches. So, I shredded the turkey and mixed it into Spanish-style brown rice, black beans, and shredded cheddar cheese to make filling for enchiladas. (These were similar to the chicken enchiladas I made several weeks ago.)
This turned out to be an easy and tasty way to polish off that turkey. Jacob loved the filling. I'm glad he finally ate something other than cereal and crackers!