Imitation is the best form of a compliment

I just received my cookbook from my Facebook friend Letizia Mattiacci who lives  in Umbria in Italy.  She has a cooking school that looks like I would really enjoy attending should I ever have the opportunity to visit.   I was flipping through her book and saw a wonderful pork recipe that looked like braciole only better.

Her recipe uses guanciole, yep something I never heard of before but became acquainted with it this afternoon while watching Extra Virgin on the – it’s bacon, sort of.  If you can’t find guanciole use panchetta or heck, just bacon – I did.   The recipe inspired me to do something like this with chicken.

So here goes:

  • 2 skinned chicken breasts, rinsed, patted dry then pounded out
  • 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 T. melted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • slice of red onion, minced
  • 1 T. pesto
  • 3 T.  Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 T. fresh flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 8 slices fontinella cheese
  • 4 slices precooked bacon

Combine the bread crumbs, butter, garlic, red onion, pesto, and parsley.  It’ll be crumbly.

Assemble the chicken with bread crumb mixture, fontinella, then the bacon.  Roll up tightly and tie with butcher’s string.  In a pyrex plate, sprinkle black pepper, salt and a little Extra Light Virgin olive oil.  Roll each tied chicken breast in the pyrex dish.  Grill on indirect heat till internal temp reaches 160.

It was delicious!!!!!!!!  I don’t always have everything I need in the fridge but I have most things.  Improvising works  well most days.  It was so big I only ate half.  Enough for another day.  Thanks Letizia.



Can’t Judge a Recipe by it’s Photo

With Memorial Day on the horizon, I wanted a grilling item to prepare for the weekend.  Prior to the holiday, my social media sites flare up with lots of recipes.  Regardless of where I pulled the Chili Lime Chicken recipe from it was the photo that caught my eye.  After reading the recipe it had two ingredients that I personally steer away from, jalapenos and cilantro.  I threw caution to the wind deciding something THAT good looking can’t be all about the heat or cilantro.

2015 CLC 4The recipe was on the Rasa Malaysia site, known for her Asian culinary skills.  She has 900 + recipes on her site.  Meijer had chicken thighs for $.98/lb. Who could pass that up?  The package was Costco size so I split it up, half to us and half to my son.

I did cut down on the cilantro.  I only used 1 tablespoon of finely chopped cilantro.  I did use BOTH jalapenos, seeded of course.  The hubs loves heat.  I figured if it was too spicy for me, he’d enjoy them.

So here’s a tip, when you’re shopping and you remember you have limes at home, think of their size.  This requires ½ a cup of fresh lime juice.  Yes, I had 6 small limes that after I juiced them barely passed the 1/3 cup line.  I added water to get to ½.  I did use the requisite zest.

2015 CLC 22015 CLC 1OH MY GOSH, it was delicious and no hint of heat or cilantro.  NOT KIDDING.  I was sweating, on the way home from work,  thinking about it because I am not a heat seeker what-so-ever.  I served it with a watermelon and feta salad.  I’ve made this side dish many times.  It reappeared on Facebook with mozzarella with the watermelon cut into the shapes of stars.  That was just so cute.

In the end, it was a very good meal.  One I’d make for guests often in the summer.


Chili Lime Chicken

  • 5 lbs skin on chicken thighs
  • 3 t. fresh lime zest
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ c olive oil
  • 4 T fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped finely
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 T honey
  • 2 t kosher salt
  • 1 t chili powder, or to taste

Clean the chicken and pat dry.  I left the bones in.

2015 CLC 52015 CLC yUsing a 2 cup or larger bowl, whisk all the ingredients together.  The honey will fall to the bottom of your marinade so make sure you incorporate the honey into the marinade.

Place the chicken in freezer bags, they’re MUCH sturdier than regular Ziploc bags, and pour the marinade over them.  (I split mine into two bags)  Close the bag and coat well.  Place in the refrigerator for AT LEAST two hours, turning occasionally.  I left them overnight.

Grill till done.  The skin should be crisp.  Done is when clear juices run out when pierced by a knife.

No excuses when you food prep

Don’t you get a little overwhelmed by what we’re supposed to eat?  Doesn’t it just get you frustrated that you can’t drive through and just pick up breakfast (B), lunch (L), dinner (D), or a snack (S)?  Well I know full well what you mean.  Half my problem is prepping for BLDS.  Who the heck wants to stand there for half an hour cutting up all that stuff for one salad?  Honestly, could it get anymore gruesome?

WHAT would make it easier?  Hands up – someone make it for me.  That’s the answer I hear most from folks I know.  The biggest complaint is fixing it, that is to say, slicing up all the veggies and protein.

I’ve been following two Face book pages, Eat Clean, Train Mean, and Live Green  and Eat to Perform.  They both espouse to meal prepping which means in order to make it easier on us and be successful at achieving goals, we should do meal preps ahead of time.  Having said that, it takes planning but NOT A LOT.  Once you’re in the groove, prepping becomes second nature.

Each page has a website (Eat Clean, Eat to Perform) that can explain meal planning, menus, recipes, etc. but one of them likes to show other peoples fridges with meals already prepped. I was so impressed with these fridges of normal folks I was inspired to start prepping.  Plus both my trainers Tony and Randy encouraged me to meal prep.

I’m not here to discuss clean eating but to discuss availability of food in your fridge when you need it, to save time for that decent salad at lunch that you can assemble the evening before or in the morning, hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, or being the grill master of a Costco size pack of chicken breasts so you have sliced chicken (pork tenderloin, flank steak, salmon) already prepared for easy access.

IMG_0534One of my stresses is cutting all the stuff.  Part of that is having a SHARP knife which makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD.  A few years ago I found this Wosthof knife sharpener at Williams Sonoma.  It was really inexpensive and I purchased a bunch of them to give away as gifts.  Plus, a decent knife will make it less stressful.  A paring knife just isn’t the tool.


I purchase veggies and fruits all the time.  Sometimes the lazy cook in me purchases the cut up Meijer fruit.  You can see the my stock to the right.  The chicken was grilled this past weekend.  I sliced it up when I put it away.  Sometimes at Joe Caputos they have third day veggies that are much less expensive (carrots come to mind).


Look how nice and neat all that is now.  Containers of all sizes are a must.  I use the freezer lock bags for the lettuce.


Meal prep also makes for EASY storage in your refrigerator.

IMG_0533The end game here is to make it easy to create a meal.  This didn’t even take me five minutes to put together.

So as the title says, when you can food prep there should be “no excuses” for you or the family.


Garden Downsizing

We have our home up for sale because we certainly do not need all this room.  My gardens have become part of the marketing incentives as seen here at Lewke’s site.  I’ve really been taking in the depth and serenity of the gardens this spring.  Instead of planting, planting, planting I’ve decided to plant only the pots – because you know it’s not for me any longer.

2015 spr 1

2015 sp 2Being a gardner is very much like an artist.   You start with a blank canvas, or in this case empty pots and containers.  Add the coloring agents, or flowers from Tom’s or Home Depot.  I always stop at Tom’s because you could get lost in the gorgeous plantings or the bakery.  The Home Depot garden center offers many other types of plants to add to your garden at a lesser price.  This year I also stopped at Costco and found enormous geraniums for a GREAT price.  Of course they’re not there any longer – boo.

2015 sp3Potting plants you don’t need your entire entourage of gardening tools.  I always use leather gloves whenever working in the dirt.  In the major garden I use a garden ax which is my favorite tool.  Here we only need a trowel.

2015 sp7I started with the kitchen herb planter.  This year I removed the old coconut liner and added a new one but kept the dirt which lined the bottom of the planter.   I added more potting soil then laid out the herbs.

2015 sp9

Some of the herbs were root bound like the basil to the left here.  You just open the bottom of that root ball before you place it into the potting mix.  See the photo on the right. 2015 sp10 Add all the rest of your herbs, add more potting mix if you need to, then water.  Make sure you keep your tags so your hubby knows what he should be snipping when you ask him to bring you a sprig of Rosemary for tonights dinner.


Moving is a little cathartic as it forces you to consider what you really need.   I  de-cluttered a few of the pots.  I probably recycled 10 of them.  Nope, I will not need a gazillion pots where ever we are headed, and we don’t know the answer to that question either.

2015 sp14I do however need color in the deep shade of the gardens.  I chose white begonias and impatiens, red large begonias, lime green coleus, and a white wispy plant.  Those pots anchor the shade.  What you see at the right is one of the pots with Creeping Jenny and Bishop’s Cap on the ground.

Everything is potted, EVERYTHING.  Not spending any more on the flowers.  I’ve looked back at my garden photos, especially the ones where they were in the McHenry County garden walk.  OMG, just way too much planting but boy was it lovely.   I’ll have to get those out and post at a later time.

Take in the beauty of your gardening.  It gives you such a sense of peace along with a lot of sweat.

Passionate Influences

Janome sewing machineNot that I’m going to reveal my age but back in the day we had to take Home Ec where junior high young ladies were taught how to keep a house, cook, sew, wash laundry, and many other things.  Now mind you, this was all year for both 7th and 8th grade.  I had a leg up on the sewing piece because my Mother had her own home designing business where she designed and created all the draperies along with two other ladies.  My Mother’s mantra at that time was, “If you’re my daughter, you’ll know how to sew.”  Therefore, I did.227050_10150593424605463_5129500_n

Mom had a specialized table that was probably 8’ x 8’ with two sewing machines at opposite corners.  This was so that two people could sew large pieces of fabric when side hemming the draperies.    She also had a cutting table t’die for!!!!!!!!!!  She actually built that table herself out of 2x4s, plywood sheets, foam padding, and drapery lining material.  It had to be about 108” long and at least 50” wide as well as tall.

My Home Ec teacher, Mrs. Price, was the one that had the patience to teach me how to sew using patterns.  I really did enjoy creating a piece of clothing.  To this day though, I despise putting a zipper in and hemming.

What you may not know is that we really didn’t have much money then.  I can remember using left over drapery material to make skirts and dresses.  Back then, you couldn’t wear pants or jeans to school until my senior year in high school.  My mother made an entire wardrobe for me when I went to college.  Of course, I helped.

The garment that I remember the most from my early sewing days was my sister’s prom dress. This was after my Mother had passed away and I was the legal guardian of my brother and sister.  The sleeveless gown was made out of cotton pink eyelet with a pink cotton lining.  It needed something so I created a pink cummerbund.  This dress did not come with a bolero jacket so I found a pattern to make one for her.  To this day neither my sister nor I can find a photo of it.  I remember the gown had 6 yards of hem.  Holy Moses!

When my children were little I made all their fancy clothes.  I hand tailored a jacket for Tony.  It was a little black herringbone wool jacket.  (I never did take a photo of that one.)   Chrissy had lots of dresses, a coat, doll clothes, and night gowns.  One of my favorite things to do back then was to make a girls nightgown to match the American Girl nightgown and give as a birthday gifts to Chrissy’s friends.  I even made a doll for Chrissy that wore the same dress I had made her.

Instagram was not available back then nor were we laser focused on photos.

Whether by necessity or love of creating we find a passion.  Mom always said, “Necessity is the Mother of invention.”  I think you can see that is a theme of this post.  Today however, sewing is a creative outlet.  My Miss Mary bags are created for individuals whom I take a great deal of time considering fabric and style for that person.  I think my Mother would love these bags.  She’d probably help me design them.


No! Gym Intimidation is NOT OK

gym-etiquette-665x304I’ve written on this topic before but it happened again to me.  I’ve had about three hours to chill my jets and re-think the situation giving me a better frame of mind.  You have to ask the question, “WHY would someone want to impinge on your routine, question the validity of your work ethic, and question whether you know how to do a real sit up on the equipment?  You know my mind was on fire, right?

First, they don’t know my work ethic in the gym. I work at doing sets – mostly 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps that usually takes about 20 minutes. I focus on a small working area using equipment in the most immediate area so as not to infringe on another’s workout. AND I ask if it’s ok to use immediately available equipment when someone is working on a 4 part machine or in close proximity to what I’m about to do.

Second, they may be new to the gym, new to the time frame in the gym, or just a jerk. If you’re new to the gym, you have no idea who is really committed to doing their routines. You have no idea if they really know HOW to use the equipment. You may not even know that there are newer ways to attack a body group. If you’re an early person, lunch time person, after school person or evening person the vibe of the gym is TOTALLY DIFFERENT. When you are a daily regular at the gym, people know you, they respect what you’re doing, and let it be.

So lets just go over what my routine was today.

Ride the bike to warm up. 5 min.

First set, back training based on Back Training, 3 sets, x 20 all at 25/30 pounds.

Second set, rowing machine for 60 rows, squats and raises using 2- 12.5 lb hand weights, raised arms with a 15 pound kettle bell going up and down the isle. 3 sets of these. (You hold a 15 pound weight over your head walking the entire length of the gym to “Funk it up”.)

Third set, punched out arm raises using 10 lb free weights, slanted leg lifts, push ups. 3 sets, 20 each.

Ride the bike with intervals, 15 minutes.

PT exercises.

According to my Polar Watch I burned 566 calories in 1 hour and 31 minutes. NOT TOO SHABBY.

I’m not a wimp, and I know what I’m doing. In the third set is when I was questioned whether I needed the slanted bench because I wasn’t using it for a proper sit up. I told him yes I was using the bench. That condescending attitude just lit me on fire.

When I was finished, I let him know the bench was available. He was still a little put out and I couldn’t care less.

A long time ago I was told by a weight lifter to HOLD YOUR GROUND for your safety and those around you – it’s your space till you are finished.  Best advice ever. The other advice is just chill out. Think it through. If they get snarky call the management over to have a chat with the person.

In the end, it’s ok.  No one died.

Recipe Rescue – what’s in your pantry?

2015 baby it's cold outsideI’m a lazy cook in the winter.  When I’m thinking of something for dinner I hope I have most of the stuff in the house, and it needs to be low-fat, low sodium, and it better darn well taste good.  Accidentally I found a wonderful Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup based on Alicia over at Posie Gets Cozy recommendation.  I don’t mind telling you, WOW was it good, even after I de-fatted it and low sodium-ed it.

Before I ventured into the kitchen I read the recipe over.  I determined I could customize it to my needs, no have to leave the house, AND I had most of the ingredients in the pantry and fridge.

So what does a lazy cook have in the pantry and fridge to help make meals work?  Boneless skinless roasted chicken breast already cooked and vacuumed packed at Costco.  Garlic that’s been skinned already – I get that at Caputos – it’s probably $1.69 for 5 heads that have been shucked.   Success brown rice where you just boil in a bag, or in this case in the broth.  Aldi’s low sodium chicken broth.  Petite carrots, celery that’s been cleaned and stored.  Onions already cleaned and stored in the fridge.  Skim milk just waiting to be used in any recipe.  Half and half, oh I know, but it’s not heavy cream!  (Just think, if I did as the recipe said – using whole milk and heavy cream – it’d be like overdosing.)  Um, I did use butter, so kill me.  The only thing I didn’t have, dried rosemary but I used Poultry Seasoning instead.  I always have lemons and limes in the fruit bowl, so that wasn’t a problem but to my surprise a little lemon zest in this soup was simply AMAZING.

I did however use the flour to make the roux, but I believe we could gluten free this baby by using cornstarch.  Next time I’ll get out that yellow Arrow tub and try it.

So here goes:  This recipe was originally from – you’re welcome.2015 lighter creamy chicken soup


  • 1 package Success brown rice, no, it’s not wild rice
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced (If it’s a sweet onion, I use only half the onion.)
  • 1 cup carrots, diced (10-12 petite carrots)
  • 1 cup celery, diced (3 stalks)
  • 7 T butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 32 oz low-sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp marjoram
  • 1/8 tsp ground sage
  • ¼ tsp Poultry seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ cups of diced roasted chicken breast
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 ½ cups skim milk
  • ½ cup half n half
  • 1 tsp lemon zest


In a Dutch oven melt 1 T butter over medium heat.  Add onions, carrots, celery and garlic and saute until slightly tender.  Add broth, thyme, marjoram, sage, poultry seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Add the rice to reconstitute it.  Cook for about 10 minutes. Then add the chicken.

In a separate pan melt the remainder of the butter over medium heat.  Add flour and cook till well mixed, whisking constantly.  In a two cup liquid measure add the milks together.   Slowly pour milk mixture into the butter mixture while you continue to whisk (I know it’s difficult but keeping going).  Cook the mixture stirring constantly until it thickens.  Pour this mixture into the soup stirring to get everything mixed.

You’ll probably need to add about ½ cup of water as the soup starts to thicken.    Keep stirring as it could burn on the bottom.  When you have this beautiful soup all finished just use your rasp and a clean lemon and zest away.  YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE YOUR TASTE BUDS.  Never did I believe this would really enhance the flavor of the soup.  Fantastic.

When everything was mixed I turned the soup off and put the lid on it to wait till dinner.  Took me about 30 minutes from beginning to end.

One more thing, I believe that marjoram is the oft forgotten herb.  I’d forgotten how good it tastes in soups and stews.

So there you go.  Lovely dinner – thanks so much my friend Alicia from Posie Gets Cozy.  I do find great dinner ideas on your site.


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