Tasty Tuesday – Creamy Ground Chicken Casserole

You ever look at a recipe and think “I like all of these ingredients, but how are they going to taste together?” That’s how I find most of my recipes on Pinterest. When I found the original, it was intriguing but also sounded like a great comfort food dish.

I’m always looking for meals to add to my rotation. It results in a lot of dinners being duds or just okay, but sometimes I stumble upon a great dish that we don’t mind eating more than once.

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I gathered my (main) ingredients: Ground chicken since I don’t eat beef, some homemade chicken stock, some brown rice, tomato sauce, sour cream and frozen peas. Not pictured: 5 lb bag of shredded Mozzarella cheese from Costco.

First I put the rice on to cook (tip: start the rice way earlier. You end up waiting a bit because the rest is so quick). It calls for one cup of cooked rice, but I usually cook a cup of uncooked rice and add however much it turns out to be. It probably changes the consistency a bit, but it’s great either way. Then I browned the ground chicken with some minced garlic.

Once the chicken was browned, I added in everything else in the picture except the sour cream, plus some cheese. Then I popped it in the oven for fifteen minutes because I cooked it in my amazing, oven-safe Cuisinart skillet I got for Christmas.

After fifteen minutes, I mixed the sour cream with more cheese and spread it out on top. Fifteen more minutes in the oven and dinner is served. Delicious.
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Go here for the full recipe as I can’t take credit for anything but my substitutions. Bon appetit!

Monday Musing – Book Excerpt

Today I thought I would share the current opening passage from the book I’ll be working on for Camp NaNoWriMo next month. For camp, I’ll be rewriting an older book I wrote years ago, currently titled Faithfully. The title is definitely a work in progress.

My synopsis: Katherine Rawlings has always tried to be who her mother wants her to be, down to living the dream her mother chose for her. When Shane, resident bad boy, takes an interest in her and dubs her Kat, she wants to know who Kat is and if it’s not too late to become her. As she searches for herself, she’s also curious about the missing piece in her life, her absent father.

It all started with a yearbook. Well, officially it started about eighteen years ago, when my dad walked out on my mom. She doesn’t like to talk about it. In fact, in seventeen years, that’s as much as I’ve gotten out of her. “When I told your father I was pregnant with you, he walked out on me and I haven’t heard from him since.”
On my sixteenth birthday, she gave me a small round locket that when opened, E.R. was engraved on one side and R.J. on the other. “That was the only thing he ever gave me, as his daughter I suppose it should be yours.” E.R. was obvious. Elizabeth Rawlings, my mother, lawyer extraordinaire. She was tall, thin, with light blonde hair and hazel eyes. Her eyes are the only thing I inherited.
I look like my father, I can tell. The mysterious R.J. I’m almost as tall as my mother, but with more curves where she’s willowy. I have dark, curly auburn hair that I know didn’t come from her side. I see the bitterness in her eyes whenever she looks straight at me.
It’s not that I was unhappy, just the two of us. Mom is good at what she does and made sure I wanted for nothing when it came to material things. She also had super expectations for the behavior of her only daughter. She expected me to go to law school like she did. She expected me to get an A in every single class, on every test, assignment and paper. If I didn’t, she took my car away. Considering that’s what started everything, well, that comes along a little later.

This rewritten version is going to have a lot more character conflict, and I’m going to let bad things happen to my characters and let them make bad decisions. It’s something I’ve been trying to work on.

Weekend Haul

So Friday night I had the strangest dream. I dreamed I was in a makeup superstore where they kept their products in glass cases like a grocery store freezer. For some reason, I was searching over and over for the lipstick in my Wishlist post but never found it. When I woke up, it was Saturday and we were going shopping, so I took it as a sign. I had a coupon for Ulta, so here are some swatches of what I got.

(Sorry for the terrible quality photos, I’m working on it. I’ll try to update the post with better pictures later.)

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NYX Matte Lipstick in Sweet Pink, which their site says is a violet-fuchsia. I was hoping for a more of a purple color.

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NYX Creamy Round Lipstick in Chic Red, which their site says is a cranberry red. It is very very pigmented, just touching it to the lips leaves color.

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My new love, NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Istanbul, which they describe as a clean pink. They unfortunately didn’t have the one from my wishlist, Copenhagen, as it appears to be sold out everywhere (except on Amazon if you want to pay $21). I put it on as soon as I left the store and the consistency is amazing. It dried very matte and stayed on for hours with very minimal transfer. The light color does unfortunately show off all the cracks in your lips when they dry.

I will definitely be buying more Matte Lip Creams the next time Ulta sends me a coupon. And the best part is that all three of these were under $10 with their current BOGO 1/2 off sale and my $3.50 coupon!

Want to see more beauty posts? What are your favorite lip products? Leave a comment!

Fashion Friday – Wishlist

I don’t have much to say today but I thought I’d post a few things I’ve been wishing for in my wardrobe overhaul.

I got some Christmas and birthday money so I decided to save it up and get two big things on my list: a well-fitting bra and some plain flat boots. Foundations of anything are really important.

I found both of them, including these boots:
Boots

They’re plain and comfy, even though the soles sound like I’m walking around in tap shoes. Oh well, they’re well made and were on sale.

Now that the foundations are out of the way, here are a few other things I’d like to find:
Cambridge satchel
A satchel like this amazing(ly expensive) one.
Cardigan
A turquoise cardigan (because having ones in navy, gray, black, purple and white just aren’t enough. I have a problem.)
BlazerA casual gray blazer like this.
CopenhagenAnd a gorgeous berry lip color like this.

What are some things on your wishlist? Do you feel things are missing from your wardrobe?

Thursday Thoughts – March 26

Haven’t thought of a better theme for Thursdays yet, so I guess we’ll keep this one for now.

It’s finally warming up outside and I’m looking forward to everything that comes after winter: Not wearing my coat, not freezing, being able to go to Boston again without freezing, good food in season, farmers’ markets, pick your own food places, enjoying time outside, being able to wear dresses and skirts, the list goes on.

I’m not really the outdoorsy type but for some reason I’ve felt seriously cooped up this winter. I can’t wait to go for walks around our neighborhood and to the nearby stores, and just go places in general without freezing and fighting for the few parking spots in lots where people have no idea how to plow snow. I swear half the lots around here have entire rows where the plow trucks were just like “Yep, just dump it over here and we’ll never touch it again. They can have the spaces back when it melts.” I’m also looking forward to being able to drive around and not risk my life because I can’t see around a corner because of snow piles. Have I mentioned I hate snow yet? I’m not sure.

I have so much to look forward to soon. In April I’ll be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo and hopefully I can get some serious work done. I’m getting a new computer mouse shipped to me because this one is driving me nuts and double clicking all over the place. Then around Easter I get to see the boyfriend’s family, and my cousin I haven’t seen since her wedding in like 2012. Very excited to meet her baby.

That’s about it I guess. Here are five more random facts about me:

1. My favorite wild animals are giraffes and sea otters. Not river otters, there’s a big difference.

2. I say I hate a lot of some music that is popular but I’ll be there singing it anyway because it’s catchy. But the one album I can’t stand is Miranda Lambert’s Revolution. I worked at a Borders Books that played that album for months straight until the songs were permanently embedded into my brain. For the same reason, I can’t listen to the Country Strong soundtrack or Mumford and Sons. They all bring back memories of an okay job with some really terrible experiences, like closing the store.

3. I hate sweet potatoes. Really any kind of food that masquerades as dinner when it’s actually sweet.

4. I’m trying to switch to decaf coffee. Nothing is worse than the headache you get when you skip the morning caffeine.

5. I’ve met a few random famous people like Drake Bell (huge crush in high school), Sally Ride and Jerry Van Dyke (he gave me free ice cream).

What I Read Wednesday – In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

In Defense of Food

I didn’t quite finish the book I’m reading at the moment yet to write about it, so I decided to go back a bit and write about one I finished in January.

I bought this book for my dad because his diet is terrible and I thought reading about the ‘whys’ we shouldn’t eat that way would help him out. I read Michael Pollan’s other book Food Rules and thought this expanded version might be interesting for my dad.

I’m not a big reader of nonfiction in general. Given the chance, I’ll pick a novel every time. But I loved Food Rules so much that I borrowed this from my dad (he still hasn’t read it) just to see what else Michael Pollan has to say. A lot apparently.

His outline of the way to eat is the closest to my views as well. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. If it comes from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t. Don’t eat food your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. (Though on that point, I have my grandmother’s recipes and a lot of them involve processed ingredients more than whole foods.) Don’t eat food that has advertisements on TV or comes through the window of your car.

Other than his rules for eating, the anthropological information about how other cultures eat is seriously fascinating. There are groups all over the world that aren’t quite as advanced as the Western world in terms of health and dentistry, yet their diets almost keep them from needing it. It really illustrates how we’ve become so dependent on healthcare because our diet is so poor.

This book makes you rethink everything you eat and the role of food in society as a whole. It also covers how the food industry has such a grip on what is available so it controls what everyone eats in ways you would never imagine. I recommend everyone read this book and seriously question how we are told to eat.

Tasty Tuesday – Pizza From Scratch

In 2013, the year I started my cooking journey, I started trying to make pizza because frozen pizzas are okay but usually disappointing, and delivery pizzas are usually disgustingly greasy. (As a side note: Pizza Hut, you tried so hard with your stuffed pretzel crust. You tried too hard. Yuck.)

We started out trying to make pizza with store bought canned dough. When taking on something with so many parts, it’s best to start small. Then this happened:

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Yeah, that’s not the prettiest pizza I’ve ever seen. We found some success with premade dough from the Portland Pie Co. But then I decided to try making my own dough from scratch. Like the french fries, it’s a lot easier than it would seem at first. And I make it with whole-wheat flour so it’s much less floury and doughy tasting. Here’s how to make your own, no tossing required.

Pour one package (or 2 1/4 teaspoons) of yeast into a bowl with one teaspoon of sugar. Warm one cup of water for 40-50 seconds in the microwave. You want it hot but not scalding. Pour into the bowl and let sit for ten minutes.

Once ten minutes has gone by, add 1/4 cup of olive oil, a few teaspoons of Italian seasoning (or pizza seasoning), about a clove of minced garlic, a teaspoon of salt, and up to a teaspoon of red pepper flakes. We don’t like our dough spicy but I enjoy a little kick so I only shake the red pepper once or so over the bowl.

When those are all blended, add 2 1/2 cups of flour. You can use all-purpose but I feel like whole-wheat soaks it all up better and is less sticky in the end. It’s also healthier for you anyway. Now leave the dough alone for another ten minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 and press out the dough on a greased pizza pan or just a regular baking sheet. Make it as thin or thick as you like. Then cover it in pizza sauce. We buy our sauce jarred because I haven’t attempted to make it yet. Now is the time to add your toppings. I’m a big fan of spinach pizza but we’ve also tried pepperoni and mushrooms. Then cover your toppings in cheese.

Bake for up to 25 minutes or until the dough is set and the cheese looks good. Mine usually only takes 20 but that could depend on your toppings. Finally it will look like this:

Pizza

Delicious. While it takes a while to get from ingredients to dinner, you only have maybe ten minutes of actual work.

Another side note: Google image search thinks my fail pizza looks similar to a steak cooking while my good pizza comes up with similar pictures of actual pizza, and quiches. Well then, guess that is an improvement.