Thursday, May 23, 2013

Weeknight Dinner: Crockpot Chicken

It’s about time for another recipe post.  I think I’ve mentioned before how much I love my crockpot.  The crockpot is seriously the parent’s best friend.  I almost said “working parent’s best friend,” but then I realized we use our crockpot just as much on the weekend as we do during the week.  It’s just so nice to throw a bunch of stuff in the crockpot and then, magically, have dinner ready at night!

Today’s recipe is the easiest recipe you will ever find (other than maybe pouring milk on cereal).  You ready?  Ok, here’s what you need: chicken breasts, 1 cup of liquid, and whatever other vegetables you want, if you want them.  That’s it!

Here is how I did it tonight:
6 chicken breasts
1 cup chicken broth
½ bag of frozen stew vegetables from Ralphs
Kale as a side vegetable

Place the chicken breasts in the crockpot, add the vegetables, and then pour the liquid over all of it.  Set it on low for about 8 hours (though honestly, I’m usually out of the house for about 11 hours on weekdays, and it’s been fine).

Here’s the cost breakdown of tonight’s dinner:
Crockpot Chicken
6 chicken breasts
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 bag frozen stew vegetables
1 bunch organic kale
6 servings:
$1.12 per serving

The best thing about this dish is that there are about a million variations you can do with it.  One time I added ½ a cup of white wine and some lemons (which was super yummy).  I think my favorite variation was to use a container of salsa instead of the chicken broth.  Then I sprinkled some grated cheese on top just before serving.  So yummy!

Friday, August 10, 2012

First Immunizations

Guinevere had her first round of immunizations today.  She was given DTP, HIB, Polio, Rotavirus, Pneumo and Hep B . . . don’t ask me what any of that stands for because I don’t honestly know.  All I know is that seeing my daughter’s little face all bright red and scrunched up in pain made me so much more emotional than I anticipated.  I really didn’t intend to cry, but I did.  Somehow I thought I would go in there and hold her hand and tell her to be a brave girl, even though she can’t really understand me yet.  But somehow, I think I ended up being more emotionally scarred than my 6-week-old daughter.  Ok, that may be a slight exaggeration.  It wasn’t horrible.  In fact, it was over very quickly.  After the nurse finished giving her the shots, I picked Guinevere up to comfort her.  She calmed down in my arms – it kind of melted my heart.  She doesn’t always calm down when I hold her, but I will admit that it makes me feel like a good mom when I go to comfort her and it works!  Since we got home, she’s been alternating between napping and waking up crying in pain; then the cry dissipates into this pitiful little whimper and she falls back asleep.

Other than the shots, the appointment went well.  Guinevere is now 8 lbs 12 oz and 21 ¼ inches long.  She’s already outgrown a couple of my favorite newborn outfits.  You should see the cute little outfit we brought her home from the hospital in – it’s way too short on her now.  It makes me sad and proud all at the same time.  However, I am very excited to be able to start putting her in some of the adorable 0-3 month onesies that were so ginormous on her just 2 weeks ago.

In other news, Guinevere has started to smile and coo.  My sister visited from New York this week, and every time Guinevere would smile or coo at us, we would squeal with delight, which of course, made Guinevere smile even more!  Unfortunately, she tends to smile the most when there’s no camera at arms reach.  So of course, one of us runs to grab the camera and by the time we get back, she refuses to smile.  We’ve found that she tends to smile the most in the morning (I am secretly pleased to have a morning person daughter . . . though I guess it’s not so secret now that I’ve just posted it for the world to see).  She also seems to smile a lot on the changing table.  I’m guessing it’s a combination of a) being up closer to our faces and b) knowing that she will soon be clean and dry.

My happy girl this morning.
Nights are also starting to get better (though I always feel nervous saying that, like I’m tempting fate or something).  She even let me sleep a full 6 hours three nights this week!  Most nights I’m not that lucky, but she has been pretty good about going back to sleep after waking for her 3 am feed.  Honestly, that’s the most important part to me.  I have pretty much adjusted to the new reality of sleeping in 3-hour increments.  I am now able to wake up from a normal night like that and feel relatively rested.  It’s the nights when she refuses to go back to sleep at 3 am that are the worst.  I can’t quite decide if it’s more frustrating when she’s fussy at that hour or super cute.  There have been a couple nights when she wakes up at 3am and then is all smiles.  I feel so bad trying to get her to go back to sleep when it seems like she wants to be all bright and sunny and awake.  At least when she’s fussy, I don’t feel bad telling her to go back to sleep.  But I guess of all problems to have, that’s not a bad one.

One of G's goofy faces at 3am

One issue I would like to put out to the world: Guinevere seems to hate tummy time.  The pediatrician told me we should be giving her more tummy time than we are, but every time we put her down on her tummy, she starts screaming.  Does anyone have any tips on how to get her to like it?  Or at least do it without crying?  I’ve tried laying down next to her on the floor and encouraging her, or trying out different toys to see if any of them take her fancy, but nothing seems to work . . . yet.

And now, the sad little face that we will have to comfort tonight:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Our Anniversary

Five years ago, December 17, 2006, I woke up all nervous and giddy.  My sister and I escaped the chaos of my apartment, which was filled with bridesmaids and flowers to make a Starbucks run.  She made sure I at least ate a bagel, since my nerves were killing my appetite, and we all got ready for the biggest day in my life.  That sounds so cliché, but it really was the biggest day in my life: my wedding day. It’s that day that every little girl dreams about.  And it was finally here.  There were no movie moments of final nerves or last minute second-guesses.  I was just excited to be spending the rest of my life with my best friend.  I will never forget the look on his face as I walked down the aisle, or how my hands shook as my dad passed me off to my future husband.  People are often down on big weddings, but I truly loved every moment of mine – maybe it’s because we are theatre people, so we’re used to putting on big productions.  Or maybe it’s just because I’d been warned so many times that it all becomes a blur, so I tried really hard to sit back and take stock every now and then and remember each moment.  Regardless, it really was a great day!

To commemorate our five-year anniversary (can you believe it’s been that long?), Aaron and I decided to revisit the places we celebrated.  We started by driving out to Malibu and visiting the chapel at Pepperdine where we got married.  How many people can say that they got married on a cliff in Malibu overlooking the ocean? 

The weather was eerily reminiscent of the Saturday before our wedding – cold and grey.  Fortunately for us, it poured rain the day before our wedding, clearing the skies so you could see all the way out to Catalina!  Not so this year, but that’s ok. It was just fun seeing that skyline again.

After visiting the chapel, we had lunch at La Salsa in Malibu, which had been a favorite of ours while I was in law school at Pepperdine.  Then we drove further down the coast to Santa Monica and got massages.  Massages are a rare indulgence for us, but I will say it was a most welcome indulgence this year!

After that we had dinner at the location of our reception in Marina Del Rey.  The restaurant where we held our reception went out of business about two years after our wedding – we like to joke that our wedding was just so good, they knew they couldn’t top it. :)  The location has now been through several iterations, and just recently reopened as a restaurant called Killer Shrimp.  Even though it didn’t seem like a typical “anniversary” place, we knew we had to be cheesy and sentimental and try it out.  When we told the hostess that our wedding reception was at their location five years ago, she squealed and let us go up to the banquet room to reminisce.  After that, we got a table outside on the patio, next to a heat lamp, right next to the marina.  The food was delicious!  Aaron won best meal with his steak, and my shrimp were delicious and spicy.

Now that we’ve passed the five year mark, and are officially an “old married couple” (especially by LA standards), I guess it’s on to the next chapter . . . whatever that may be.  :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Here We Come a Wassailing

Sorry for the gap in blog posts – we've had some big things happening in the Stevens/Sherry family..  My sister got engaged to her boyfriend.  Then we had Thanksgiving.  And now it’s on to the holidays, which includes Christmas, plus my five year anniversary and my parents 40th anniversary!  Amidst attempting to plan for everything, the little bloggy got set aside.  Anyway, Aaron and I finally set up our tree and did most of our holiday shopping, so now I have a wee bit of time to blog.

Have you ever had wassail?  It surprises me how many people have never had it!  Wassail is a hot beverage (according to Wikipedia, it is English in origin), made with cider and citrus juices and spices.  My grandmother always had a big pot of it on the stove whenever we went up to Oregon to visit for the holidays.  It tastes like Christmas!  I was never a big eggnog fan, so this was my Christmas drink of choice.  And, bonus, it’s great if you feel like you are coming down with a holiday cold – it has so much vitamin C in it that it will knock that cold right out of you!

Yesterday, I made wassail while we set up the tree and watched “Love Actually” in the background.  Here is my grandmother’s recipe:

  • 1 Gallon Boiling Water
  • 6 Lemons – Juice and rind
  • 6 Oranges – Juice and rind
  • 2 to 3 cups sugar
  • 2 heaping tablespoons Lipton’s tea
  • Fresh mint.
  • Stick cinnamon, whole cloves, ginger, allspice, whole nutmeg
  • Cheesecloth
  • 1 quart apple cider.

Put sugar in boiling water. Add fruit juice and a few rinds. Add Tea last.
Remove from fire. Let stand 15 minutes. Strain.

Add handful of fresh mint. Make spice bag out of cheesecloth. Put in stick cinnamon, whole cloves, ginger, allspice; whole nutmegs are optional.

Add quart apple cider. Reheat and simmer until spiced to your taste – 20-25 minutes. Remove spice.

Float citrus slices on top.

Serve Piping Hot!

I couldn’t find any cheesecloth at the store, so I just put the cinnamon sticks straight in the pot and then used my tea strainer to contain the cloves and other spices.  I have no idea how many servings this makes.  We had 4 people at our house last night, and everyone had multiple mugs of wassail, and we still have over half a pot left.  It also makes a great breakfast beverage as an alternative to coffee, if you are looking to limit caffeine intake!

For those who are interested, here is the accounting:


1 gallon boiling water

6 Lemons

6 Oranges

2-3 cups sugar

2 tbsp tea

fresh mint


1 quart apple cider


~20 servings
per cup

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Dinner: Spinach Leek Bisque (with Persimmon Cookies for Dessert)

I often feel that opening my CSA box is like being on an episode of “Chopped” – especially when I am not familiar some of the items.  For example, this week we received persimmons.  I don’t know that I’d ever even seen a persimmon, let alone eaten one.  So, this afternoon I found a recipe for persimmon cookies and made them.  I can’t say the cookies really tasted like persimmon (which I did taste raw before turning it into a pulp and adding a bunch of flour and sugar).  By the way, I kind of faked making the pulp – I couldn’t find any instructions on it, so I just boiled the persimmons for about a minute and then stuck them in my food processor and essentially turned them into baby food.

I figure that’s what persimmon pulp should look like, right?  In the end, it didn’t really matter because the cookies were delicious!  They tasted more like a Christmas-y bread than a cookie – so I added some white chocolate chips to the last batch, and that made them taste more like a cookie (at least in my mind).

We also received some leeks.  Fortunately, I already had a fantastic recipe for leeks in my arsenal!  If this recipe looks familiar to you, it’s because I wrote about it in my (now defunct) blog that I was sharing with my sister (though it’s funny, this blog is turning more into what that one was meant to be – i.e. about food).  This time I added potatoes – and they were definitely a brilliant addition.  Of course, as we were eating, my brother-in-law said “You know what would make this even better? Bacon!”  Which is probably true, but then it wouldn’t be vegetarian friendly.  However, since none of us are vegetarians in the house, maybe I will try it next time.

Creamy Spinach Bisque
as modified from "The Whole Foods Market Cookbook" by Steve Petusevsky.

4 tbs butter
1 red onion, chopped
2 large leeks (sliced and washed well)
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 cups vegetable stock
12 oz frozen spinach (thawed and squeezed of any excess water)
2 potatoes diced
3 cups milk
1 pint half and half (or heavy cream)
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and leeks. Saute the onions and leeks until soft (the recipe says it should take about 2 minutes, though it may take longer).


I think the combination of the purple skins from the red onions and the green leeks is really pretty!

Add flour and cook for about 2 minutes to form a roux (which I learned from Top Chef, ironically on the first night I ever cooked this recipe, that roux is when you brown the flour and butter and other ingredients. While the recipe says 2 minutes, I guarantee it will take longer than 2 minutes for any browning to occur, and tonight I was too impatient to wait for it to brown.  But I still think the finished product was delicious).

Add the stock. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and thickened.

Add the spinach, potatoes, milk and cream - bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 30 minutes. Add salt/pepper to taste and cook for 5 more minutes.

And now for the accounting:

Spinach Leek Bisque

2 Leeks
1 Red Onion
¼ cup flour
vegetable stock
1 bag frozen spinach
2 potatoes
3 cups milk
1 pint half & half

10 servings
$0.66 per serving

Holy moly!  That’s cheaper than a can of Campbell’s Chunky soup – and waaay healthier!  No preservatives or weird chemicals in this soup.  And definitely a lot less sodium!  Also, we ended up with so many leftovers – even after Aaron and Dominick had seconds.  The Whole Foods cook book estimates 8-10 servings in this recipe, and I think my yield was actually more like 10-12, but for the accounting I decided to stick with 10, since that was right in the middle.

I really hope you try this soup – it’s soo delicious!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday* Dinner: Indian Simmer Sauce

I fell in love with Indian food when I was living in England during my junior year abroad.  Unfortunately, I have yet to find an Indian restaurant here in LA that fully satisfies that love.  A large part of it could be that I really like spicy food.  Here, the owners of the Indian restaurants see me as this little blonde, white girl walk.  So they assume when I say “spicy” that I mean “white girl American spicy.”  No, I mean “I want my eyes to water and my skin to sweat spicy.”  I never had that problem in England.  For example, one night in Bristol, a bunch of us went out for curry after a rehearsal for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (which I was directing).  Mid- conversation, I had to excuse myself so I could retreat to the restroom and splash my face with cold water.  Turns out, I bit down on a piece of chili pepper that was still whole in the curry sauce I was eating.  To this day, I have yet to eat anything that spicy.  It made my eyes water instantly!  As painful as it was, that is what I am looking for when I go out to eat Indian food.  Aaron and I have found one Indian restaurant near(ish) our house that we sometimes will order from for delivery (they can’t see the white girl over the phone, so they will actually make it spicy . . . relatively speaking).  However, we reserve ordering from them for special occasions, because it costs about $50 for a decent Indian meal for 2-3 people (from my experience that is the expensive standard in LA).

One day at Trader Joe’s, I saw jars of “Curry Sauce.”

I decided, “What the heck, I’ll give that a try.”  Boy, am I glad I did!  This has been a favorite dinner in the Sherry household ever since!  Aaron’s not a huge spicy food fan, so I don’t make it as spicy as I might otherwise like it.  It’s also not a permanent substitute for the real thing.  However, the price difference between this and restaurant Indian food definitely makes it worth it.

The recipe is super-difficult.  You ready?

-         1 jar Trader Joe’s Indian Simmer Sauce
-         Whatever veggies or meat you want to add
-         Brown rice for a side dish

Ok, ok, so it’s not really that difficult.

Here’s how I like to make it:

First, I take a can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinse and drain them.  Then I put them in a large frying pan with little to no oil.  I then add various spices depending on my mood – but usually including garlic salt, Lawry’s season salt, cumin, curry powder, etc.  

Once the chickpeas have warmed all the way through, I add whatever other veggies I have decided to use.  For this weekend, I added all the veggies from my CSA box that still needed to be used, which included kale, bok choy, greens of some sort (I am guessing collard?), beet greens and some red pepper.

Then add the simmer sauce and heat until bubbly.  Simmer until the rice is done. 

I like to serve with a glass of chilled Chardonnay.

Variations: I will often cook up some lentils and add them at the end to the simmer sauce (I didn’t this time because there were enough other veggies).  You can also chop up chicken or sausage and add it to the simmer sauce – though I tend to like it vegetarian-style.

Here’s the accounting:

Trader Joe's Simmer sauce

Simmer sauce


(I am guessing that I used about $5 worth of the remaining veggies from my CSA box)


6 servings
per person

As you can see, that is MUCH better than what we would spend had we gone out to an Indian restaurant – and we get leftovers to bring to work for lunch!

*Confession: I actually made this last night (Saturday) because I knew today (Sunday) was going to be jam-packed full of family fun adventures.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Joys of Homeownership

Oh the joys of homeownership . . . when you don’t have a landlord you can call when something goes wrong.  For example, in the middle of typing my blog about pumpkin bread, Aaron came in and informed me that our sprinkler system (which had been hissing/leaking since the afternoon) was now geysering (yes, I just made up a verb) in our front yard.  No landlord to call – we had to fix it ourselves.  Oh, and it was already about 6pm and the sun was going down rapidly.

A bit of background on our sprinkler system:  It looks like at one point in time, the house had a very nice sprinkler system.  There’s a control box in the backyard where you should be able to set the sprinklers to go off at pre-set times, and/or pre-set periods of time.  However, since the house was a foreclosure when we bought it, we have no idea at what point the system decided to stop working.  All I know is that it definitely does not work right now.  When we bought the house a little over 2 years ago, we had the inspector try out the sprinkler system, and it worked – when you manually turned the heads for each individual sprinkler area . . . one at a time.  So that’s what we were using to water the “lawn” (I use the term loosely because it was really more a dirt/weed patch at the time).

A little over a year ago, Aaron was out of town, and I was watering and the sprinklers decided they didn’t want to turn off at all.  It was stuck on, and no matter how much I tried they just would not turn off!  Oh, and did I mention it was about 9pm on a weeknight?  Fortunately, one of our really good friends happened to be coming over to pick something up and somehow through a series of turning off the water to the house and fiddling with various knobs and valves, we managed to get the sprinklers to turn off and stay off.  I haven’t touched the sprinklers since then – even when we fertilized and seeded the front yard, I used a hose attachment sprinkler for watering because I was too terrified that I wouldn’t be able to get the sprinklers to turn back off.

Yesterday afternoon, I noticed that the sprinkler system was hissing.  When Aaron got home, I asked him to check it out.  I guess in the process of checking it out, he must have been fiddling with something and one of the parts flew off as the water decided to spurt out into a geyser.  Aaron turned off the water to the house, was able to get the geyser to stop, but then the sprinklers (which haven’t been turned on in over a year) turned on and would not turn off.  Ultimately, we decided it was time for an emergency trip to Home Depot.  Aaron took a picture of the broken head on his phone so that we would know what part to pick up (thank goodness for iphones!).  About 30 minutes and $20 later, I was holding a flashlight so that Aaron could see what he was doing as the sun was long gone by this point.  After getting pretty wet because we couldn’t quite get the water to turn off, we finally were able to get the sprinklers off!

Even though it was an adventure, it ended up turning into a kind of nice husband/wife bonding experience.  J