Skillet Moroccan Chicken

It’s time again for Tasty Tuesday.  Sometimes on Tuesdays I share a recipe, a cooking tip, or some combination of both. :-) You can always find all the Tasty Tuesday posts by clicking on the words “Tasty Tuesday” in the menu bar above or in the list of categories on the right.

Skillet Moroccan Chicken is one of my favorite chicken recipes.  It’s easy, quick and flavorful, with a slightly sweet taste that is a bit unusual.  I call it Skillet Moroccan Chicken to differentiate it from Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken, which is a whole different thing.  But just as good!

I made this for some friends last week and they requested the recipe.  So here it is:

Skillet Moroccan Chicken

printable version of Skillet Moroccan Chicken

¼ cup white wine
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp curry powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
¹/3 cup chopped prunes
¹/3 cup apricot jelly or jam
olive oil for sauteing
1 red pepper, cut into bite size pieces
8 oz (half a bag) of baby carrots, cut in half the long way
1½ lbs boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
salt to taste

  1. Combine wine, soy sauce, curry powder, cinnamon, prunes, and jelly in a small bowl.  Let this sauce sit for a few minutes to combine flavors.
  2. Heat a bit of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the pepper, carrots, and chicken, and sprinkle  salt over the skillet.  Cook and stir regularly until the chicken is cooked through, about 7 minutes.
  3. Stir in the sauce (from step 1) and cook it for about 2 more minutes so the sauce is heated through and thickens a bit.
  4. Serve!  I usually make Israeli couscous to go with this, but I think Moroccan couscous or rice would work as well.

Enjoy!  What’s your favorite way to make chicken?  Let me know in the comments below.

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Tasty Tuesday: Turkey & Black Bean Chili

It’s time again for Tasty Tuesday. On Tuesdays I typically share a recipe, a cooking tip, or some combination of both. :-) You can always find all the Tasty Tuesday posts by clicking on the words “Tasty Tuesday” in the menu bar above or in the list of categories on the right.

Astute readers will notice that today is not Tuesday.  Well, what can I say?  It’s not Tuesday but I’m still sharing a recipe.  Last night I mentioned on Facebook that I made chili for dinner, and I was besieged by a barrage of (drat –I’m looking for a word that starts with “b” but I’m not finding it) requests for the recipe.

It all came about because two nights ago I made a new recipe from of the America’s Test Kitchen‘s cookbooks.  I am a huge huge fan of America’s Test Kitchen, and I have always had great luck with their recipes.  Until now.

The Vietnamese-style Carmel Chicken with Broccolini was basically inedible.  Blech.

But I’m sure it was my own fault.  Probably did something wrong, or the fish sauce was too old, or who knows what?

So last night I made a tried-and-true recipe to be certain I wouldn’t have two bombs in a row.  I have no idea where this recipe came from, no photos of it, nothing.  But I do promise you, it is easy, yummy, quick, and almost all of the ingredients sit in the pantry until you are ready to make it.  Definitely my kind of recipe!  So here you have it:

Barb’s Turkey & Black Bean Chili

Printable version of Barb’s Turkey Black Bean Chili

1 Tablespoon olive oil
½ yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 – 1½ lbs. ground turkey
salt to taste
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes with chilies
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 can (15 oz) corn kernels, drained (or about 1 cup if you prefer to use frozen corn)
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat until just smoking.  Cook the onions until they are tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, stir, and cook for about 2 more minutes.  (While this is cooking, I usually “salt the turkey” which just means that I sprinkle a bit of kosher salt on the raw turkey.  You can use table salt, sea salt, or no salt, if you like.  It’s just a matter of what you like to use.)

Add the turkey and chili powder to the meat, and brown the turkey until it is mostly cooked through (a bit more than 5 minutes, for me), stirring regularly to heat all sides of the meat.  Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, corn, and black beans, and bring it to a simmer.  Simmer for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (I like to simmer longer, if time allows, as the flavors cook together and the meat becomes even more tender.)

And that’s it!  How easy is that?  My husband likes to mix the chili with rice, and some of my friends put grated cheese on it.  If I have guests I’ll serve it with salad and crusty bread, but if it’s just us we often just have chili for dinner and maybe fruit for dessert.

One more thing: this recipe freezes beautifully.  I usually spoon it into the muffin tin and freeze overnight.  Once the chili is frozen, I pop it out of the tin and put the muffin-size chunks into a freezer bag.  That way it’s easy to pull out  just as much as I need.


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Do your kids read?

The Monster at the End of this Book

I read this book a million times to my younger brother. He never tired of the silliness and always laughed at the ending.

I learned to read at a very young age. I taught myself to read, by first memorizing the books that my mother read to me, then learning to read the print that went along with the words, and then making the leap to other words in other books. I don’t recall any of this, of course, but that’s how my mother tells it. (Hi mom!) In my memory, I’ve been reading my whole life.

I can’t stop myself from reading. As a kid, I used to read the back of cereal boxes and milk cartons if that’s all that was available. My parents used to joke that I should “put down that book and watch some TV, like a normal kid!” Reading seems like part of my DNA.

But not so for my kids.

Somehow I’ve managed to raise two kids who are not all that interested in reading. I have no idea how that happened. Though it is tempting, I can’t in good conscience blame their father. His taste in books is different from mine, but he reads quite a bit and always has several books in his pile.

When I’ve looked for advice about “fostering a reading environment” (that’s the official term for it), the suggestions seem simple enough:

  1. Model the behavior. Let your kids see you reading, regularly, all different types of things.
  2. Read to your child. Set this routine at a young age, so the kids expect reading as part of their day.
  3. Remove distractions. Don’t allow your children to spend too much time in front of the screen (TV, handheld, computer, etc.). Make sure they have time in their day for reading.

But here’s the thing: if it was that easy, my kids would both be great readers. They see all the adults in their lives read, we read to them when they were little (and we still read out loud sometimes as a family activity), and both kids have plenty of time for reading.

Finally, I simply made a rule — 30 minutes of reading every day. Each child has to find a way to fit it in, and if they miss a day, they have to make it up the next day. Since I noticed that one child tended to discard books without giving them much of a chance, I also made a rule that they have to read at least 5 chapters of a book before they can decide they don’t want to read the rest.

I know it’s radical, and many people have told me that I run the risk of turning reading into something they have to rather than something they might want to do.

But I couldn’t come up with a better solution. The kids have to read. Reading takes practice. Part of the reason my kids didn’t like to read is because they did not find reading easy. And since they didn’t read much, they weren’t getting better at it. I had to find a way to stop this vicious cycle.

So far, it’s been a qualified success. Monkey (as my daughter is known around here) will rarely choose to read, but once she starts on her required 30 minutes she sometimes reads for longer. My son, Pumpkin, is a tougher cookie, and with a few exceptions only reads the required amount. He has found a few books such as The Hunger Games, which engaged him in such a way that he desperately wanted to know what happened next, and kept him reading much longer than usual. However, although he read the first two books in that series, he lost interest and never read the third one.

But at least they are reading. And their reading skills are improving. For right now, that’s plenty good enough for me.

What about you? Do your kids read? What are your strategies for encouraging reading? Please let me know in the comments below.

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Definition of Adulthood

Rabbi Moshe New in Montreal, defines being grown up as: “the ability to fully integrate that which we know, practically.” He then goes on to reference the Kabbalah, which has a Hebrew word for this: da’at. Da’at is usually translated as “to know,” but according to Rabbi New, it also means “to connect.”

So if I understand this statement, Rabbi New says that adulthood is a way of turning what we know into a practical application, and therefore knowledge creates behavior.  And this connection between knowing and doing is what makes an adult.

It’s interesting, no?

On the one hand, I do agree. The process of integrating knowledge, belief, and action is definitely an important adult trait. But I think there’s so much more to adulthood.

Childhood is a time when nearly everything is done for you, and nearly everything is given to you. Adulthood is a time when almost nothing is done for you, and almost nothing is given to you. And the growing up part? That’s what comes in between.

As a parent, I’m finding it difficult to find that balance. I love my kids and a big part of me wants to make their lives easier. But on the other hand, I don’t want to give my kids everything — the benefit of every doubt, the easy way out, solving all their problems for them. They need to make that transition between childhood and adulthood, not all at once, but slowly, in steps.

So, when my 14-year-old doesn’t start his English paper until 9:30 pm and struggles with understanding Shakespeare — do I help him? Or do I let him struggle and perhaps fail, but maybe learn an important lesson? When my 11-year-old prefers to do things entirely “by myself, mom!” do I remind her for the 400th time to bring her soccer gear to school since she’ll be going directly to practice, or I do I let her forget a few times in hopes of learning that lesson?

I remember those same questions when they were smaller, but the topics were different. When my daughter was a newborn, I didn’t expect her to sleep through the night. By the time she was 18 months, I surely did. But where, in between, would I set limits in order to encourage sleep? It was a difficult balance. Where to draw the line?

Parenting, to me, is helping my kids become adults. And adulthood is about independence, making your own choices, and understanding that no one owes you much. But helping my kids get there? That’s not something I find easy to do.

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What’s your biggest kitchen disaster?


Cake disaster at King Arthur Test Kitchen

We’ve been talking about kitchen mishaps, mostly of the messy variety, around here lately. At Casa 1Sentence, we started telling a few more cooking stories, of different types of kitchen mishaps.

Um, more like the type where the food comes out … awful.

I promised Monkey (as my daughter is known around here) that I wouldn’t tell you about her recent baking mishap. Instead, I’ll just say that it is important to measure the ingredients very carefully when you are baking.

Not to worry, though. I have plenty of my own stories to share.

Once, when I was in grade school, I made chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips. I was quite proud that I had made them all by myself.  We didn’t have a lot of peanut butter chips, so I cut the recipe in half. My inexperienced eye read the amount of salt required as half a cup, which I carefully halved to one quarter of a cup. Of salt.

You can imagine what the cookies tasted like!

I didn’t know what had happened, so I left them out on the counter thinking that when my mom got home she would help me figure it out.

My poor mother came home late, and saw these delicious-looking cookies on the counter. She took a big bite of one, and then got that terrible aftertaste. Of course, she was also rather thirsty! She finally realized the problem, and threw out all my hard work.

Apparently, I have a problem with salt.

When you bake bread, salt is a critical ingredient. Salt inhibits rising, so it is carefully balanced with the yeast to make the dough rise the right amount. It works perfectly, unless you forget to add salt to the dough! Which I did, just last year.

Oh no, I can’t blame this one on youthful inexperience. I have to blame it on the forgetfulness (and distractions) of middle age.   😀

The dough never stopped rising. It was huge. And while it baked, it kept on rising. The bread was light and fluffy, for sure, but it tasted terrible. And no matter how long I baked it, it tasted under-cooked.

Lesson learned! Never leave out the salt when baking bread.

Today, I am going to bake some muffins for the kids to have for after-school snack. I’ll try to use just the right amount of salt.

I also enjoyed these stories from King Arthur’s Test Kitchen.

Posted in Baking, Happiness Project, Kids, Random | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Kitchen Disasters

Yesterday’s photo from The Frugal Girl brought back such a fun memory.

It was about 2 years ago. My daughter, known around here as Monkey, was helping me in the kitchen. She added a bunch of flour to the mixer, and then turned it on high. Very high.

You can guess what happened. Suddenly, there was flour everywhere. Not only were the floor and countertop covered with a fine dusting, there was flour inside the container for kitchen utensils, in every crevasse of the stove, and basically everywhere else, too.

Monkey’s eyes got very large. Her expression told me that she was expecting to get yelled at, and was trying not to cry.  She was covered, completely covered with flour, and looked like the creature from the white lagoon.

I couldn’t help it. I started to laugh.

And that got us started telling kitchen disaster stories.

Like, the time my grandmother’s pressure cooker broke a gasket, and the chicken soup she was making turned into a geyser. As it spread across the ceiling, it seemed to be raining chicken soup in the kitchen. Oy.

Or, the time my grandfather, visiting us when I was young, decided to soften some orange juice concentrate in the blender. (It sounds odd, but it was a common practice in my house. It makes deliciously frothy OJ, and it’s a lot cheaper than not-from-concentrate cartons.) He accidentally left a metal spoon in the blender. As soon as he turned it on, it broke, sending fine pieces of glass along with sticky orange juice everywhere.

Monkey and I laughed and laughed while we cleaned the kitchen that day. And I think it helped her to realize that sometimes accidents happen. There’s no reason to get upset. Just grab a sponge and start cleaning. 🙂

What’s your favorite kitchen mishap story? Please share it in the comments section below.

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Snow Day!

View from my bedroom window today

It’s a SNOW DAY! Gorgeous.

Of course, I only feel that way because I don’t have to go anywhere. Plus, I had the good fortune of meeting some adorable high school kids who are raising money for the school science team. (How cool is it, by the way, that there’s a school science team!?) They have a snowblower and at this very moment they are clearing the snow from our cars and the driveway.

What could be better than that?

I’m working from home, getting tons done because most of my meetings were cancelled. And, though it’s 3:00 in the afternoon, I’m still in my PJs.

I know that by tomorrow this winter wonderland is going to seem more like a frigid wasteland. Getting the kids to school will not be easy, and I’m certain that the pretty whiteness will turn to gray yuckiness. But I’ll worry about that tomorrow.

In the meantime, look at the pretty snow!

Happy snow day, everyone. 🙂

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Parenting: Does discipline require isolation?

My daughter, known around here
as “Monkey,” at age 22 months.

Isn’t she a cutie?!

HELP! I’m stuck in rewind. Stuck in my head is a particular conversation from yesterday. It just won’t leave me alone. I don’t know how to get rid of it. I’m going mad!

OK, OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But I do need to stop thinking about it.

We were talking, a group of us, about parenting and about getting our kids to do what we need them to do. As parents, we are cheerleaders, encouragers, sounding boards, and loving supporters. However, being parents also means that sometimes we simply have to get our kids to DO something. The something might be “don’t run into the street” or it might be “buckle your seatbelt” or it might be “stop pounding on your brother.”

There were a lot of good ideas around the table. Some came from experience, and some came from imagination. Everyone was engaged, and interested in the discussion. It was fun, and interesting.

One lovely woman who I don’t know very well spoke up. She has two small boys, ages 2 and 4. She described her husband’s discipline technique. She said that whenever one of the kids was doing something he shouldn’t, her husband sends the child to his room. She described it as a quiet, relaxed move; her husband picks up the child and tells him that he needs to stay in his room. The isolation, she said, is a punishment that works.

Then she continued, “you’d think that this might engender some resentment from the kids, but in fact the opposite is true. When they come back downstairs, they are incredibly sweet and loving to their dad. I guess they just really need limits and they love him for setting boundaries.”


I realize that this is a loving couple whose children will most likely not be scarred for life from such a thing. No reason to make mountains out of molehills.

But it makes me so sad…

This is my two cents. You don’t have to agree, of course, I welcome differing opinions.

If you routinely isolate your child when he misbehaves, what’s the bigger message? Yes, you may get “better” behavior, if what you mean by “better” is “more compliant.” You may have a child who does what you want when you say you want it. But aren’t you also teaching him that when he misbehaves, you will withhold your love?

I have an entirely different view from these well-meaning parents. To me, it seems that the boys are not “sweet and loving to their dad” because they crave limits. I would guess that they act that way because they need reassurance. The dad made it clear to the child that if his instructions are not followed, the boy will be isolated from the family. After being banished to his room, the boy needs to check in and be sure that his dad still loves him. Which means that, at least on some level, the child has doubts.

I hope my kids know that they always have my love. Even if they make a mistake. Even if they do something that they shouldn’t have. Even…well, even no matter what.

That doesn’t mean that any behavior is acceptable. There are consequences for misbehavior. But those consequences do not include withholding of love. Love is something they get from their mom, unconditionally.

We’ve already discussed in a previous post that I’m not afraid of sibling rivalry. So it’s clear that I may be, let’s say, somewhat outside the mainstream on this issue as well.

What do you think? Am I being too sensitive? Or does this story make you sad, too?


Posted in Family, Kids, Observations | 10 Comments

Tasty Tuesday: Banana Cranberry Muffins

It’s time again for Tasty Tuesday. On Tuesdays I typically share a recipe, a cooking tip, or some combination of both. :-) You can always find all the Tasty Tuesday posts by clicking on the words “Tasty Tuesday” in the menu bar above or in the list of categories on the right.

Astute readers will notice…today is NOT Tuesday. Yeah, well, uh, the thing is, I wanted to put this recipe up as soon as I could after Thanksgiving, since it involves using up the leftovers. And apparently “as soon as I could” turns out to be a bit later than I had hoped. So, since it’s almost Tuesday, I thought maybe I’d just slip it in the regular recipe spot. Ahem.

So, back to business. This is a wonderful recipe to use up some of that leftover cranberry sauce. My beloved (known around here as Tiger) recently introduced me to the pleasure of homemade cranberry sauce. Who knew it was so easy, and so delicious? (Well, obviously, Tiger knew. And, um, lots of other people knew. But *I* didn’t know. And that’s what counts, right?) Anyway, since I knew how delicious the cranberry sauce was going to be, I may have slightly overestimated just how much would be eaten on Thanksgiving.  And by “slightly overestimated” I mean I made about 3 times more than we needed.

But never fear! I abhor food waste (and if you haven’t read this post on the Non-Consumer Advocate about Thanksgiving food waste,  you should!), so I found a wonderful way to use up some of that lovely cranberry sauce. I made Banana Cranberry Muffins for the morning after Thanksgiving, and they were duly enjoyed by all. So, if you still have cranberry sauce leftover (like I do 🙂 ), or if you just want to plan early for next year, here’s the recipe. Enjoy.

Banana Cranberry Muffins

printable version of the Banana Cranberry Muffin recipe

1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce, drained¹
1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1¾ cups flour
2 tsps. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 cup mashed banana
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

(¹If you don’t have extra cranberry sauce, don’t worry. It’s easy as can be. Combine 2 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer, stirring regularly, uncovered, for 5-7 minutes or until berries begin to pop. Drain and set aside to use in the recipe.)

In a large bowl, mix shortening and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add bananas. (Wondering how to mash a banana? Here’s a photo of how I do it.)

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a separate bowl. Add them to the wet ingredients all at once.

Now I will let you in on a secret. For lighter muffins, do not overmix. The more you mix, the heavier your muffins will be. Instead, mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Then, fold the cranberry sauce and walnuts in gently, again being careful not to overmix.

Grease your muffin tins and fill them 3/4 full. Bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Eat, and enjoy!

This post is linked to: Tasty Tuesdays at Beautiful Mess and at Beauty and BedlamTempt My Tummy TuesdaysSlightly Indulgent Tuesdays, and Tuesdays at the Table.

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What’s for dinner — tonight!?

“What are you making for Thanksgiving dinner?” seems to be the question of the week. I don’t know why. I don’t recall hearing that question so often in the past. I wonder: are folks expecting that I’ll be making something so unusual? Do they think that I have suddenly developed a new sense of culinary creativity? Um, well, that would be a big, fat: NO. Really, my Thanksgiving menu plans are not too different from everyone else’s.

I’m hosting Thanksgiving dinner at my house, for the very first time. So for me this year, the big deal is that I’ll be making my first turkey. Of course, I have enlisted Tiger (as my fiance is known around here)’s help. We’re following Alton Brown’s recipe for roast turkey (note the 2 short videos showing how he does it, too). Wish me luck!

Since this is my first Thanksgiving with Tiger, I asked him if there were any foods that make Thanksgiving feel like, well, Thanksgiving. I mean, I would hate find out after the fact that without Swiss Chard, Almond & Buttermilk Dip his Turkey Day just wouldn’t be the same. (Luckily, that didn’t actually come up!) It turns out that his list was quite similar to my own, with only the addition of a side dish of peas and pearl onions. Easy peasy. [Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.]

The only thing that makes our meal somewhat unusual is that the entire meal (with the possible exception of some of the desserts) will be non-dairy. In the main, our menu is quite traditional. I’m sure the food will be good, and mostly I look forward to hanging out with friends and family and having a relaxed day.

But after all that thought and effort around getting ready for the big meal, I always wonder what people are having for dinner … tonight! After all the planning and organizing and getting ready for tomorrow’s meal, how much effort do you put into tonight’s? Since you know that tomorrow you are going to eat very well, what are you eating tonight?

I’m planning a simple meal of fish, rice, and broccoli. Easy and quick, and light, in preparation for tomorrow!

Have a wonderful holiday, everyone.

[Apologies to my non-U.S. readers. I know that our “Thanksgiving” holiday is completely U.S.-centric. For anyone who is not celebrating this week, I hope you have a wonderful and relaxing week! ]

Posted in Happiness Project, Recipes | 6 Comments