Thursday, July 28, 2011

See You In September!

Hello Friends.....

Yes, I'm still alive.  So.... Where have I been??  Well, those of you who have known me for some time or from a "previous life" may recall that I have a laundry list of health issues that unfortunately come with a significant amount of pain.  Especially when/if I overdo it to any degree. The cold and snow of the Winter months here in the Northeast usually means that I'm at home and a lot less active and that tends to help keep any major flare-ups to a minimum, but when Summer finally rolls around in my neck of the woods, I have a tendency to push myself well beyond my limitations, trying to cram as much activity as I can into a pretty short period of time. 

The first half of the Summer has been an extremely busy one for me and I've found myself struggling to get heightened pain levels under control and my overall health back on track. Sadly, it's become necessary for me to have to put much of my life on hold in order to achieve that. Why haven't I posted at least once or twice over the last few weeks? Well, you might not think that spending time on the computer would be much of a problem, but due to some pretty severe joint inflammation and muscular stress and strain, even a small amount of time spent typing can be quite painful. (I began composing this post at around 1:00 pm and it's now after 5:00 pm... 'nuff said?!) Add in some pretty intense back pain and spasms and just the thought of sitting here poised over my keyboard makes me cringe. Of course there are medications and other therapies that can be a true Godsend, but with the plethora of unpleasant side effects that come with both prescription and over the counter drugs, I do my best to keep the amount of medication that I take to a minimum. Kind of a "Catch 22" situation, I suppose...

So.... with all of that being said and with a big old sigh, I've realized that I have little choice but to take an "official" break from blogging.  I'm hoping that I'll be back to my old self by the beginning of September, but it's possible that it might be sooner or even (God forbid) later. Sadly, one of the most frustrating aspects of living with chronic illness is that you never really know what to expect... good or bad.  I'd love to at least be able to do a little reading and catching up around the blogosphere during this time, but I'm going to have to decide if that's gonna happen on a day to day basis.

I've seriously missed the heck out of you all and I hope this post finds you all well and enjoying your Summers! Who knows?  I might be back before my projected return date or I might surprise you with a visit and/or a comment or two, but for now I thank you so very much for your patience and understanding and I wish you health, happiness, peace and blessings....

Warm Summer Hugs,

Mrs B

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Seasonal Food Friday - Week Eight

Here we go again... Grrr. This was supposed to launch Friday morning, but didn't!  Better late than never, I say!
Welcome to the eighth installment of Seasonal Food Friday!  This week I'm featuring another summer salad and this time around, it's origins are Greek. Like the Asian salad and the Nicoise salad that I've featured already, this salad makes for a refreshing summer supper and it's really quite good for you. How could that be bad?
One of the many dishes that my daughter and I both tend to crave, is a Greek Salad with Grilled or Pan-Fried Chicken Breast. Since she's here for a quick visit, (much too quick :~( for my liking) I decided it was a must have for dinner. (Mr B loves it too...) If there's any of the chicken left over, it makes a delicious chicken salad for sandwiches too!
There are several Greek salad dressings on the market, but it's much easier to make one from scratch. Most people probably have the ingredients right in their pantry and spice cabinet. Not only is it simple, but you have control of the fat, salt and sugar content. Even though there are low sodium, low fat or sugar free dressings available these days, I've found that they lack the fresh, bright flavor of a homemade dressing. Aside from that factor,  many I've tried even have a kind of funny, often overly vinegary after-taste.

Greek dressing is  really just a basic vinaigrette recipe that has a few added or different ingredients. Once you know how to make a basic vinaigrette, you can change up your ingredients to make all kinds of flavor profiles. It's a total "win-win" in your culinary repertoire. (See the video on how to make a basic vinaigrette on my "How To Videos" page. (here)
Greek Salad With Grilled Chicken

The Salad
  • 2-3 Heads Hearts of Romaine
  • 1/2 Medium Red Onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 Large Tomato, sliced or cut into wedges
  • 1 Medium Green or Red Bell Pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1 Large Cucumber, peeled (or not) and sliced thinly
  • 1 Cup Kalamata Olives, pitted and halved
  • 1 Cup Feta Cheese, crumbled or cubed

The Dressing
  • 1 Medium Shallot, minced
  • 1 Clove Garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbls Dijon Mustard
  • 4 Tbls White Balsamic Vinegar (or Red or White Wine Vinegar)
  • 2 Tbls Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 Cup Light Olive Oil
  • 2 Tsp Dried Oregano or 1 Tbls Fresh Oregano, chopped
  • Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper, to taste

The Chicken
  • 4-6 Boneless Chicken Breasts
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tsp Dried Thyme
  • 1 Tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 Cup Light Olive Oil or Vegetable Oil
  • 3 Tbls Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tbls Balsamic Vinegar

Assembly and Cooking
Place the chicken breasts in a large zip-top bag. (or two if needed) Mix all of the other ingredients in a small bowl and pour the mixture over the chicken. Close the bag(s) and work the marinade all around so that the chicken is well coated. Refrigerate for at least one hour or up to 6 hours, turning the bag occasionally if you can.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk the mustard with the lemon juice and vinegar. Add the minced shallot and garlic, oregano and salt and pepper and whisk again to combine. Add the oil in a slow stream while continuing to whisk the other ingredients, til the dressing is emulsified. OR, You can throw all of the ingredients, except the oil into a small food processor or blender and blend to combine.  Through the hole in the top, add the oil slowly while the processor or blender is running and stop when the dressing is emulsified.  May be made ahead and refrigerated (covered) for up to one week.

Wash and dry the lettuce. Cut or tear it into bite-sized pieces and arrange it on a large platter or shallow serving bowl. Layer the onions, peppers, cucumber and tomatoes on top. Sprinkle the olives and feta cheese over the salad. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours or set aside if the chicken and dressing are ready to serve. (I usually hold off on adding the feta if I'm going to refrigerate it for a while; then add it just before serving.)

Preheat your grill to a medium high temperature. Remove chicken breasts from bag(s) and wipe off the excess marinade with paper towels.  Cook the chicken on the grill for approx 4-5 minutes on each side (depending on size of the chicken breasts) or until juices run clear when pierced with a knife.  This can also be done in a lightly oiled skillet over medium high heat on top of the stove, if you don't have access to a grill. If cooking on the stove top, turn the chicken frequently to avoid charring. Remove the cooked chicken and cover with foil and allow it to rest about 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.
Slice the chicken breasts into (approx) 1/4 inch slices or cut into bite-sized cubes and place the pieces  over the top of the salad just before serving. Slowly drizzle the dressing over the top and serve immediately.  You can also serve the salad, chicken and dressing separately and let people assemble their own salads.  Enjoy!

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