Honey Soy Chicken with Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Late Wednesday night, after my steak with garlic mushroom bok choy, I came down with a nasty stomach bug. Or the flu, the jury is still out. Thursday morning on my way to work I became violently ill on the side of the highway. It was…..not suitable to recount in a food blog. I ended up leaving work early on Thursday and sleeping for over twelve hours. Thursday I wasn’t able to eat anything at all, Friday I was only able to drink straight chicken broth, and by Saturday I had graduated to soup. This morning was the first morning that I was able to drink coffee (a miracle, that) and I had this lovely chicken and a bunch of brussels sprouts waiting in the fridge, so I decided to venture back into real, solid food. I’m still exhausted and generally worn out, but never to tired to cook!

As long as the cooking requires little effort, of course. I used this recipe for a lovely honey soy marinade, and I didn’t change a thing about it. My only post-dinner comment would be that, if you use a three pound package of chicken, there isn’t quite enough marinade to get a good solid coat over everything (at least I think). But it was still absolutely delicious.  This recipe was actually out of character for me, because I generally don’t use honey outside of desserts. But I love soy sauce. My hesitation for honey is because I usually find “sweet and sour” combinations to be far too much sweet, not enough sour, but this recipe does a good job of balancing the soy and honey by sticking to a simple 1:1 ratio.

I’ve also recently developed a taste for brussels sprouts. It is tricky, though, to get them to a point of being soft enough to pleasantly eat, without charring them beyond recognition. The natural nutty flavor of the sprouts quickly becomes overpowering if they’re over-cooked. This recipe is very simple and the cooking time is spot on. The acidity from the vinegar deliciously compliments the natural flavor of the sprouts. Not as good as brussels sprouts roasted in duck fat (that was a special New Year’s meal, shortly before I started this blog, but maybe I’ll post it anyways), but still scrumptious! Especially for a veggie.

Overall, this was a lovely, simple, delicious meal and I would highly suggest both recipes. And now that my stomach is cooperating again, it was an excellent transition back into real food.

Now, I believe there are some real Girl Scout Cookies in the cupboard that would aid my ongoing recovery…….

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A Crockpot of Love

Because I had so much homework to do today in preparation for the start of the semester tomorrow, I wanted a crockpot recipe for dinner. I found a great recipe on Pinterest for Chicken Fajitas in the crockpot, and I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t thought of that before. The original recipe can be found on Eat At Home – http://eatathomecooks.com/2012/12/easy-crockpot-chicken-fajitas.html. I made a couple of small changes – I added a can of black beans, and I used McCormick low sodium chicken taco seasoning.

When I pulled it out of the crockpot, I realized that we were out of taco shells (that’s me and my meal-planning-preparedness, for you), so we ended up putting it on top of tortilla chips. And of course, topping it with excessive amounts of shredded sharp cheddar, salsa, and that amazing substance which is known as sour cream. NOMNOMNOM. I would highly recommend this for a busy day when you know you’ll just need to come home and dig into something hearty and tasty. J’s only comment was that next time, he wants jalapenos in his portion. Which I think are gross and way too spicy, so next time he can get that nasty jalapeno juice all over his own hands and on his own plate.  Other than that, he chowed down two huge plates of it and complimented my dinner prowess repeatedly. Another win for the crockpot!

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I have a very close relationship with my crockpot. Two crockpots, actually. J’s grandfather, who passed away a couple of months ago, was visiting us this past summer and I made chicken and gravy in the crockpot to go over homemade biscuits. My crockpot didn’t have a timer, an automatic on/off, a stirrer, or anything else fancy. I ran late coming home one night, and the gravy ended up slightly burnt. Nothing that a good stir with a little milk didn’t fix, but Grandpa got it in his head that I needed a bigger, better, fancier crockpot. So he gave us some money, with strict instructions for me to go find myself the best crockpot I could find. He also told me to keep the first crockpot on standby, because eventually, I’m going to want two at a time.

The next time Grandpa visited – the week before he passed away – I dug out my fancy new crockpot for homemade meatballs. The new crockpot has a ‘keep warm’ setting, an on/off timer, an automatic stirrer, and little latches on the lid. Its quite the thing of beauty. Grandpa raved about the meatballs, and was just pleased as punch that he got me a new, fancy gadget.

Grandpa was my favorite person to cook for. Frequently, as we’d be sitting over dinner, he’d lean over and in a fake stage whisper, tell me that I was a much better cook than J’s mother (who openly admits that she hates cooking, and was very relieved when J married a gal who LIKES to tackle the holiday dinners). When he visited, we’d sit in the living room together while I flipped through my Food Network magazine, and he’d tell me about the different ways his wife, who passed away shortly after I met J, would make green beans or potatoes. Once we decided we wanted to make pralines. Grandpa sat at the kitchen table and looked on, giving me tips and words of encouragement, as I fought with a candy thermometer and tried to get sugar on wax paper without painting my kitchen with it. The pralines didn’t turn out very well, but Grandpa gave me a smile and a pat on the arm and ate them anyway.

His last visit to us was a few weeks before Thanksgiving, and we sat and planned the holiday meal together, making sure to work his special requests into the menu. Grandpa didn’t make it to that meal, and Thanksgiving was a somber occasion at our house. But every time I break out my crockpot, which is often, I think of him and smile. And as I pull whatever delicious dish I’ve whipped up out of that crockpot and give a plate of it to his grandson, I think of what kind of compliment or critique Grandpa would be able to give me. I miss him very much. But every time I cook, I know he’s in the kitchen with me, telling me, again, his favorite way to make green beans.

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