Exhausted Love

I disappeared for a while again because I had a baby! He’s freaking adorable and perfect and sweet. 

I’ll write up my birth story sometime soon, but here are my initial thoughts:

I have never been more tired, frustrated, proud, happy, and bursting with anxiety-ridden love in my entire life. It’s an exhausted love; I’m pushing through because I love the stuffing out of him. When I was pregnant  I hated when people would say, “Until you meet him, you don’t get it,” because shut up, I get it, but no I did not

He’s me + the love of my life + genetic magic which = something much greater. He was tried for and wanted and he is loved. And I am tired. 

Week 13: Citrus Chicken

This is the first recipe I haven’t automatically tweaked in a long time. It’s so beautifully simple, so insanely good, and so easy that I actually prepared it as written. The recipes in the New York Times rarely fail; this is worth making again and again. 

All hail Mark Bittman, for he deserves every delicious bite of credit. I served this with roasted beets, which became extra good when they mingled with the citrus butter sauce. 

Citrus Chicken

From the New York Times 

  • 2T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2T butter
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • Salt and black pepper
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 large orange
  • 2 limes
  • 1T sugar

Put a large skillet over medium-high heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Add olive oil and butter to the skillet and swirl it around.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Put flour on a plate. When the butter foam subsides in the pan, dredge the chicken in flour, shaking to remove the excess.

Add the breasts to the skillet and cook, turning once, until the chicken is browned on both sides and nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. (Chicken should be constantly sizzling but not burning.) Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

Cut the orange in half. Section one of the halves as you would a grapefruit, removing any seeds. Juice the remaining orange half and one lime.

With the heat still on medium-high, add the orange juice, lime juice and sugar to the skillet and let it bubble, stirring, until it is reduced by half, about 2 minutes.

Add the orange sections to the skillet and turn heat to low, stirring, until mixture is slightly thickened.

Return the chicken to the skillet, turn it in the sauce, then serve, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. Cut the remaining lime into wedges for garnish.

Week 12: Chicken & Black Bean Soup 

Yep, Week 11 doesn’t exist because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. 

This soup is AWESOME. It’s like burrito soup, which does not sound great, but trust me. 

Chicken & Black Bean Soup

Adapted from Make It Fast, Cook It Slow by Stephanie O’Dea

  • 1.5C chopped vegetables (I used carrots and onions, but you could really use whatever)
  • 1T minced garlic 
  • 3 (15oz.) cans black beans (don’t drain or rinse)
  • 1 little can Hatch chiles
  • 1 (15oz.) can diced tomatoes 
  • 2C chicken stock 
  • 2 packets of taco sauce (from that Baggie of sauces you keep in the fridge)
  • Two big handfuls of frozen corn
  • 4 chicken thighs (mine went in frozen)
  • 1T taco seasoning 
  • Salt and pepper 
  • Cheese, sour cream, chopped avocado, and/or hot sauce to top

Plop everything but the toppings into the crockpot. Mix. Cover and cook for 8-10 hours on low. Halfway through cooking time, carefully remove chicken from crockpot and dice. Use an immersion blender to mostly smooth out soup. Add chicken back in, cover, and continue cooking. 

Week 10: Chicken & Rice Soup 

So I’m modifying my resolution, guys. Two new recipes a week while I’m five weeks away from giving birth is not feasible. Who knew? I’m an idiot. 

Last week I made this soup when it was crappy out, which was great, and then had it as leftovers for two days when it was 70° out, which was also great, but very warm. 

Chicken & Rice Soup 

Adapted from Make It Fast, Cook It Slow by Stephanie O’Dea

  • 2C blended vegetables (I used broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower–just whizz them up in your food processor with a little water until they’re a purée)
  • 4 chicken thighs (mine were frozen)
  • 8C chicken broth
  • 1C water
  • 1C raw brown rice 
  • 1t herbs of your choice (I used oregano and an Italian blend)
  • Half a package of frozen spinach 
  • Salt and pepper 

Dump everything in the crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. This is surprisingly good and, like most soup, is better the next day. 

Week 9: Crockpot Chili & ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

My baby shower was this weekend so last week was kind of bonkers. But last week I made really good crockpot chili that lasted for a few meals! The original recipe called for chicken but we’re pretty sick of chicken so ground beef it was. It was delicious. 

Crockpot Chili 

Adapted from Skinnytaste

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can black beans, not drained
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 10 oz package frozen corn kernels
  • 2 (10 oz) cans diced tomatoes w/chilies (aka Rotel)
  • 4 oz can chopped green chili peppers
  • 1 batch taco seasoning
  • 1T cumin
  • 1T chili powder
  • 1lb. ground beef
  • Salt and pepper 
  • Avocado, sliced
  • Shredded cheese 
  • Sour cream
  • Hot sauce

Put everything through salt and pepper in the crockpot. I put the beef in raw; it didn’t get greasy at all. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Serve with avocados, etc. 

Happy 4th birthday, Gainfully Something!

I started this blog four years ago. My first entry ended with my original tag line: Unemployed and Annoyed. Those adjectives were very fitting at the time. (I’m still frequently annoyed.)

My tag line has changed since then. Now it’s Life Worth Living. I was very purposeful when I switched over. I’d realized that I was being unnecessarily negative, which, yes, is another frequent state of being for me. I needed to look at my situation from a different angle. 

I’m still unemployed, technically, and as I’ve said, I’m still annoyed. But I’m a very fortunate person and due to my circumstances, I have the option of being a housewife and a stay-at-home mom. My life is worth living, and I’m not just waiting around for something better to come along anymore. I’m Carpe-ing the shit out of this Diem. 

When I started this project, I was 26, I had a cute boyfriend, and I was still desperately trying to get a library job. Aside from my awesome boyfriend I was pretty bummed about my life. Now I’m 30, I have a cute husband, I’m having our first child in 6 weeks (holy shit), and I’m good with where I am. I still have aspirations of working for Planned Parenthood someday, maybe when our brood enters high school, but for now:

Carpe the Shit Out of This Diem. 

Chocolate Banana Date Smoothie 

I was at Costco the other day, as you do, and picked up a giant bag of dates. I’d eaten a date exactly once before, at which time I thought, “This is not fruit, this is tree candy. It’s weird and I hate it.”

But eating dried dates by themselves is not the ideal way to use dates, Past Me. Dates are little weird sugar pods that happen to also grow on trees. Use them as sugar. 

This smoothie might change your life, not to put too fine a point on it. It’s not too sweet, super chocolatey, and full of healthy crap. I have not tested this, but you might be able to trick small children into thinking it’s terrible for them. 

Note: I have the world’s crappiest blender. I manage to make this smoothie by running it for about twelve years. If your blender is better than garbage, you’ll have an easier, faster time. 

Oh! And this could be vegan if you substituted something vegan for the dairy yogurt. 

Chocolate Banana Date Smoothie 

  • 2T chia seeds 
  • 4T water

Mix these in the blender pitcher and let sit for 5-10 minutes. It’ll turn into a creepy-looking gel. This is what we’re going for. 

  • 4 dried dates, finely chopped (oil your knife so they don’t get stuck)
  • 1T coconut oil 
  • 1C cashew milk (or coconut, or almond, or cow)
  • 1/4C plain yogurt

Add to blender pitcher and blend. Blend the living hell out of this. Blend until you can’t see any date chunks. 

  • 2T cocoa powder 
  • 1t vanilla extract 
  • sprinkle of wheat germ
  • dash of cinnamon 
  • 4 ice cubes
  • 1 banana (frozen or fresh)

Add to pitcher and blend until smooth. Serve. Love. Enjoy. 

Week 7: Cottage Pie with Spinach Potatoes & Jalapeño Popper Chicken Sandwiches/Rice Bowls

Yesterday I wrote up this lovely post, with two recipes, and it was so gorgeous, guys. There were bulleted ingredient lists and underlined words and everything. Then I pressed “Publish,” and it disappeared into the void of the Internet and apparently no longer exists.

This one time in grad school, I went to the library to work on a huge paper. I always worked on huge papers at the library because then there were no distracting cats to pet or episodes of Judge Judy to watch. I wrote my paper, which was at least 10 pages, and got up to stretch, and in the five minutes I was away from my computer, my paper had gotten erased from existence forever and ever. I cried. In the library. Loudly. Ironically, I was in school to become a librarian so I knew how obnoxious I was being. You bet your bippy that I became a CTRL+S junkie for the rest of grad school. Every sentence: CTRL+S.

So I guess I didn’t learn my lesson six years ago. That’s the point. Well, the point was really that I was SUPER PISSED about my recipes, which actually take a while to type up, going away with a tiny *bloop* sound. The saddest bloop.

But you’re here for recipes, yes? Yes. These two were sure winners. I made up the first one. I’ve made cottage pie a billion times, but never with such success or such fancy potatoes. The jalapeño popper chicken sandwiches were awesome, and yes, they have about a million elements to them, like most sandwiches, but make them anyway because they are so good. We used some of the leftover chicken for burrito bowls last night, and that worked out super well.

Cottage Pie with Spinach Potatoes

  • 1lb. ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cubes beef bouillon (or 2T beef stock concentrate)
  • 1C water
  • 2T tomato paste
  • a dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • a handful of frozen peas
  • 1 Russet potato, chopped (and peeled if you feel fancy)
  • 3 smallish red potatoes, chopped (there’s really no need to peel these)
  • 1/2C-1C cauliflower, chopped
  • 1/2C frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • heavy cream
  • butter
  • salt and pepper

You can make this in advance and then just warm it up later. If you’re making it all at once, preheat your oven to 375F. Brown beef with onions and garlic in a largeish pot. Pour into a colander in the sink and let it hang out there while you get the rest of the filling ready.

Add the bouillon, water, tomato paste, and Worcestershire into the pot you used for the beef. Stir to mix, then add parsnips and carrots. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the parsnips are almost tender. (Parsnips take longer to cook than carrots.) Add the peas, stir, then add the beef and onions back in. Stir, and heat through.

While all of that’s going on, cook the potatoes in heavily salted water until they’re very tender. Cook the cauliflower (I used the microwave) and blend it up in the food processor until it’s totally smooth. Add potatoes and pulse until almost smooth. Add heavy cream, butter, salt, pepper, and spinach, and pulse a few times.

Pour the filling into a large casserole dish and spread the potato mixture on top, sealing the edges. Spray the top with cooking spray and bake for 20 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the potatoes are browned. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Jalapeño Popper Chicken Sandwiches/Rice Bowls

Adapted from Food Fanatic

For chicken

  • 2.5lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28oz. can of Rotel (I used two 14oz. cans of diced tomatoes plus two little cans of Hatch chiles)
  • 2T chili powder
  • 1T cumin
  • 2 cubes chicken bouillon (or 2T chicken stock concentrate)

Place all in crockpot on low for 6-8 hours. I plopped my chicken in there frozen and it only took about 7 hours.

For breadcrumb topping

  • 1C panko crumbs (or other breadcrumbs, preferably coarse)
  • 2T butter

Melt butter in a small pan. Brown breadcrumbs in butter until crispy. Take off heat.

For cheese sauce

  • 1/2C heavy cream
  • 2oz. cream cheese
  • 4oz. Cheddar cheese, shredded (I used Cheddar slices that I tore up)

Heat cream in a saucepan. Add cream cheese and whisk to melt. Add Cheddar and whisk to melt. Keep on very low heat until you’re ready to serve.

For jalapeños

  • chopped, seeded jalapeño (I think I got a couple of dud jalapeños, because they weren’t spicy AT ALL. Next time I might get the pickled kind.)

Assembly

Using a slotted spoon, place chicken on buns, then top with cheese sauce, jalapeños, and panko crumbs. Alternately, you could skip the buns and put everything into a bowl of cooked hot rice. That was surprisingly good.

Also, do not skip the breadcrumbs! I thought they seemed kind of unnecessary, but they add crunch to something that is otherwise very squishy.

This makes a stupid amount of chicken, so freeze some leftovers, or use the extra to make burrito bowls.

Week 6: Chicken Parm and Honey-Baked Chicken 

So I kind of cheated this past week. I made two things I’ve made before, but in my defense, I hadn’t made them in a very long time.

Anyway, these are delicious. The Parm is probably not authentic, and since I’m from New Jersey I should care, I guess, but I’m too tired for that crap. Eat it. It’s good.

The honey-baked chicken is my mom’s recipe. When I was a kid, I had no idea it had curry in it. (Come on, Past Me, get it together.)

Chicken Parm

  • One recipe Crockpot Pasta Sauce, with or without leftover meatballs
  • 2-3 chicken breasts, butterflied or cut thinly
  • Breadcrumbs of choice (Progresso Italian worked well)
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Provolone, if you’re feeling zesty

Spoon a little sauce in a Pyrex baking pan. Dredge the chicken in breadcrumbs and Parmesan, and brown in olive oil in a big pan. Drain on paper towels and place in baking pan. 

Spoon more sauce over chicken, sprinkle with mozzarella, and top with slices of provolone. Cover with foil, taking care not to touch the cheese. Bake at 350°F for 20-30 minutes, depending on how thick you cut the chicken. Remove foil and let cheese brown. Serve with pasta and more sauce. 

Honey-baked Chicken 

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4T butter
  • 1/2C honey
  • 1/4C mustard (brown, spicy, yellow; pretty much whatever you have)
  • 1t curry powder
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F. Melt butter in a baking dish (I used a Pyrex pie pan). Stir in honey, mustard, and curry powder. It’ll be a really pretty color. Add chicken, coating each piece in sauce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Serve with brown rice. Lick your plate.