Every once in a while, I’ll go through my collection of cookbooks that are gathering dust on my bookshelves and pull some out that I haven’t really used since purchasing. Just a bit ago, I decided to do this again. I found a ton of magazines that were awaiting their turns to be recognized and used. The chicken recipe comes from one of those. It’s a “Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications” magazine called 5-Ingredient Meals from 2008. I changed the recipe up a bit, mainly using fewer shallots, which this blog reflects, so feel free to add more depending on your taste. As a side, I made couscous using a recipe (click here for original recipe) I found on allrecipes.com. Each dish was bursting with flavor and they tasted great together.

Chicken Couscous

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Shallots

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • Salt & pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 3 large shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-in slices
  • Parsley

Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat oil over med-high heat. Reduce to med. Add chicken. Brown on both sides. Add shallots to skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook covered for 8-10 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, stirring shallots occasionally. Transfer chicken and shallots to a serving platter. Cover to keep warm. Add zucchini to skillet. Saute for 3-5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add to platter with chicken. Sprinkle with parsley.

Company Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 pinch dried basil
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper
  • 1 dash balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (we didn’t have Parmesan so I used Mozzarella)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Stir couscous into boiling water and return water to a boil. Cover and remove pot from heat. Let stand 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

While couscous is cooking, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic, green onions, and peppers. Saute briefly. Stir in tomatoes, basil, cooked couscous, and salt and pepper. Mix together and transfer to a 1 1/2-qt casserole dish. Splash some balsamic vinegar on top.

Bake in oven for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese while still warm.

Over the mountains and through the dunes, to grandmother’s house we go… Welcome to Themed Thursday! This post is all about our adventures in Phoenix, Arizona.

Mars and I spent a few days in Phoenix where we visited our Arizona family members. And, of course, we stopped by some wow-worthy places in the area to share on the blog. After six hours or so of travel, Mars and I decided to stop by a restaurant called The White Chocolate Grill. Its interior was so elegant that I was even impressed by the elegance of their bathrooms! To start our lunch, Mars and I split a caprese salad. Then we split the BBQ bacon burger with a side of couscous (topped with golden raisins and roasted pistachios). All of it was very tasty so we weren’t very hungry by the time we finished, but we were at the White Chocolate Grill! How could we pass up dessert? So we ordered the brownie, which was great, but we couldn’t finish. We boxed it up and took it to Grandma (who ended up eating it for lunch the next day declaring it one of the best brownies she’d had from a restaurant). Next time we’re in town and end up here, I want to try their AZ egg rolls and their bread pudding!

WCG 1

WCG 2

One morning, Mars and I decided to do some Christmas shopping and hit up breakfast while we were out. We found a bakery nearby called the Wildflower Bread Company. It has a charming feel and the menu was extensive. Mars tried a sausage egg sandwich and I ordered lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry and maple syrups. For those who are particular about their maple syrup being warmed, let me tell you, they warm theirs at this place! I had to use my napkin as an oven mitt/pot holder to pick it up. That was a pleasant surprise. Their food was very good and fresh. We were tempted to go back the next day, but we decided against that as we’re both the type to be easily embarrassed if we’re recognized. But while there, I bought Wing a present of their own green (iced) tea with guava. He hasn’t brewed any yet, but the leaves smell delicious and refreshing.

Wildflower 2

That same day, Grandpa took us to the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge to see their display of gingerbread houses. They had built a small town where all of the buildings were about four feet high, using gingerbread “bricks” that were a bit larger than a sheet of graham cracker. Their gingerbread houses were impressive, but more impressive than that was the resort itself. If we ever need a place to stay in Phoenix (aside from the grandma & grandpa inn), this will be our spot. They have three or four restaurants inside, a small shopping area, golfing, tennis, fire pits, and a fancy pool with a lazy river. All Mars needed to hear was “lazy river” and he was sold!

Marriott 2

Marriott 1

I’m still recovering from my mouth surgery and so I’m still on the perio-diet for about another week. Even then, per the doctor, I’m to take it easy and not start right away on chips or foods of that sort. Anyway, just when I was starting to feel like my old self again (I even was lifting weights and cleaning!), I suddenly became super tired and slept all of the next day. I thought I had overdone it, but the following day it became apparent that I had a stomach bug. Yikes! I had a low-grade fever and, well, stomach bug things were happening. Not only could my mouth not eat very well, now my stomach couldn’t eat very well. I can’t drink hot tea yet, nor can I eat crackers or have hot soup so I was limited to apple juice, bread slices very lightly toasted, bananas, and lukewarm Cup Noodles (I always want to say cup of noodles…). On the bright side, I shoved tiny pieces of graham cracker on the non-surgical side of my mouth and I had no bad side-effects either on my mouth or stomach! Add graham crackers to that list!

Over the weekend, KlyRad, Avalanche, and Wing & KlyRad’s sister, whom Wing affectionately named Nerd for the blog, joined Wing and me for lunch. Wing and I introduced them to a place we’d been to before called Ali-Baba. At a previous job, I had some co-workers from various countries in the Middle East and each of them agreed that Ali-Baba is great tasting, authentic Middle Eastern food. The exterior of the restaurant has a colorful mural and the interior is elegantly decorated.

Ali Baba decor

The food itself is a little pricy, but don’t let that stop you from going there. It’s always great quality and they serve huge portions. The pita bread for the hummus is the size of a pizza crust and is served soft and warm, and their hummus is the best in town. We make a point to bring Wing’s mom the leftover hummus and pita bread because she devours them! This time, Wing and I split their chicken kabobs and, between the two of us, we still barely finished it. KlyRad ordered the schwarma with fries, Avalanche ordered chicken tekka, and Nerd ordered the beef kabobs. Everyone loved the food. Of course, the hummus was the huge hit, but everyone was impressed by all the food. Even the picky eater, KlyRad, who was hesitant to go because it was new to him, ended up loving the schwarma. He and Avalanche now want to try making it at home. Unfortunately, I’m still on my perio-diet otherwise, I would have ordered some baklava for dessert. Mmm!

Ali Baba food

I missed the past two Friday Failures because nothing really seemed to fail. I’m not saying I suddenly became awesome or that nothing in my culinary life went wrong, I just was in no mood to care about much. I was busy keeping up with my schedule of pain killers, trying not to drool too much in my lap when drinking, putting ice & heat on the green golf ball residing in my bottom left jaw (thankfully the bruising & swelling seem to be back to almost normal), finding a brand of iced coffee where the lukewarm/refrigerator-cold temperature isn’t too disgusting (still working on that one, by the way), that sort of thing. Finding failures for my blog wasn’t at the top of my priority list. (For those that don’t know, I underwent oral surgery. I’m really not transforming into a zombie… that I’m aware of anyway…)

This week’s Friday Failure is the story of a lonely perio-diet follower who has been having dreams of sticky s’mores, crunchy peanuts, gooey chocolate chip cookies, spicy habanero salsa, hot Christmas flavored coffee at the local Starbucks, iced or blended Christmas flavored coffee at the local Starbucks… none of which she can have. She’s very lonely in the world, especially when she sees her husband crunching on carrots (you’d be amazed how delicious carrots seem once you’re told you can’t have them), her brother drinking hot coffee, her dad who keeps asking her when she can have popcorn (imagine those little skins from the kernels getting stuck on two-week old gums… aaaack!!!), her mom popping almond dark chocolate morsels whenever she’s around. It’s torture really.

Over the weekend, when Mars suggested Wing and I go out to breakfast with him, the lonely dieter jumped for joy at the invitation (not literally, that might have hurt the mouth, believe it or not). At the restaurant, I looked at the menu and sighed mournfully while reading the pancake section. I was tired of pancakes and eggs, having been eating those perio-diet-approved breakfast foods all week. I wanted something else. Then the sausage sandwich caught my eye. I’d had it before there, and my brain told me it was perio-diet approved. English muffin with eggs, sausage, and white cheddar cheese. Nothing my recovering mouth couldn’t have. I was so excited. But when it came, the English muffin was toasted and crispy. My brain then told me that it would be fine to eat, despite the toasted muffin, so long as I followed the diet rules of keeping it on the non-surgical side of my mouth. But my brain lied. It had no clue what kind of trouble it was getting my poor mouth into.

My brain was so excited to taste the deliciousness of forbidden toasted bread that it caused my fork and knife to cut too large a piece. Strange as this may sound, it was hard to keep that bite on the appropriate side of my mouth. And as I was trying to do so without spitting it out onto my plate in a disgusting heap of half-chewed sandwich (I try to keep my dignity while dining out…), I cut my gum. I felt the sharp stab in the roof of my mouth behind the last molar. Thank goodness it was on the non-surgical side of my mouth, otherwise I might have had to take myself into the periodontist and confess my sin. But for the next few days, eating was painful. As if cutting a banana into bite-sized pieces wasn’t annoying enough, now I had to endure pain every time I chewed. It was so bad that I bled every time I brushed my teeth.

Moral of the story is this: Next time your periodontist tells you not to eat certain foods, listen to him. You might be slick enough to keep it from ruining the surgery, but the surgery gods will punish you by striking your healthy gums with the unsuspected weapon of toasted English muffin.

Although San Diego’s weather hasn’t yet realized that it’s December (trust me, I’m not complaining…), it’s finally cool enough to enjoy a piping hot bowl of soup. But in my case, since my post-operation instructions don’t allow me to consume anything piping hot, I get to enjoy my bowl of soup lukewarm. I suppose that’s an appropriate and fair trade — enjoying lukewarm soup on a not-so-hot-yet-not-exactly-cold day. Anyway, they say soup is good for the soul, but I say soup is good for the healing mouth/body. It’s perio-diet approved (when served lukewarm), nutritious, and tasty.

The chicken and dumpling soup was flavorful and the dumplings were flaky throughout. However, I made them rather large (I put them in using a whopping tablespoon and they tried to take over the pot). I recommend actually following the directions and making them the size of a real tablespoon (so they’re dainty and won’t try to take over the kitchen). Also, there was a ton of leftover dough, but I’ve left the recipe intact, just in case making them smaller allows for more room for more dumplings. Next time, too, I’ll season the dough just a bit. I think I’ll try some onion powder and parsley to see how that goes. Unfortunately, I have no idea where I got this recipe, so I’m unable to give credit where credit is due. But thanks to whoever you are!

Chicken and dumplings

Chicken & Dumplings

  • 2 cans (10.75 oz ea) condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup chopped celery (I used about two teaspoons celery seed)
  • 2 onions quartered (I used 6-8 pearl onions, whole)
  • 1 teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 5 carrots, sliced
  • 1 package (10 oz) frozen peas
  • 4 potatoes, roughly diced
  • 3 cups baking mix
  • 1 1/3 cups milk

In a large pot combine soup, water, chicken, celery, onion, salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. Cover and cook over med-low heat for 1 1/2 hours. Add potatoes and carrots; cover and cook for 30 minutes. Remove chicken from pot, shred it, and return to pot. Add peas and cook 5 minutes longer. Add dumplings.

To make dumplings: Mix baking mix and milk until a soft dough forms. Drop by tablespoons into boiling stew. Simmer covered for 10 minutes, then uncover and simmer an additional 10 minutes.

It’s been almost two weeks since my surgery and I’m finally sitting down to start blogging again. Part of it’s procrastination, I’ll admit, but part of it is because I’m a little like a cat. I eat, I sleep, I wake up to patter around a bit, then I eat again, then go to sleep. It’s really not that bad, I exaggerate slightly. When I say I patter around a bit, I’ve gone shopping or just out for a walk for a bit of exercise, played video games with Mars (he claims to have purchased the PS4 specially for me so I would be entertained during my recovery…), or watched TV with Wing. But I get tired easily because of the surgery so I usually go on one small excursion a day with my mom, then it’s back home to rest.

Anyway, as this is a food blog, I’ll get to the point. I’ve eaten a lot of foods in this time (in the first few days, I felt sooo hungry!), but most of it wasn’t wow-worthy (like cottage cheese and yogurt or not-so-tasty but edible homemade split pea soup) so it won’t make it on my blog. Actually, this scalloped potato recipe isn’t wow-worthy either, and normally it would be a Friday Failure (as it sort of bubbled over and out of its dish while cooking and the potatoes weren’t completely soft), but it’s perio-diet approved and it wasn’t bad for a quick and easy side (for a recipe that usually takes about an hour in the oven), so I decided to post it anyway.

Scalloped potatoes

You can see where the sauce spilled over into the microwave

I found the recipe in one of my mom’s old cookbooks (1979 to be exact). It’s a microwave cookbook called The Microwave Guide and Cookbook brought to you by General Electric, Co (or more commonly known as GE). Below is my version of their recipe.

Quick scalloped potatoes

  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt & pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder *
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups thinly sliced white potatoes (about 3 medium)
  • 1-2 cups Cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
  • Paprika (optional)

In melted butter, mix flour and seasonings. Gradually stir in milk. Microwave on high for 8-10 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes.

Layer half of potatoes, half the sauce, and half the cheese in greased 2-qt (microwavable) casserole dish. Repeat layers. Cover. Microwave on high for 17-19 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes. Sprinkle with paprika if desired.

* If you’d rather use minced onion (the recipe calls for 2 tablespoons), layer them with the potatoes (I simply forgot to chop any because I had a surgery-addled brain so I opted to use powder last minute).