Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Gluten-Free Crispy Chicken

Chicken provides an excellent platform for gluten-free recipes. Rice or corn substitutes are commonly used to flavor, coat, and replace anything from bread crumbs to pie crust.

This recipe is no exception as it incorporates a crunchy, affordable, and delicious replacement for your average flour coating.


  • 4 cup(s) cornflakes, crushed
  • 1/2 cup(s) buttermilk
  • 4 (6 ounces each) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 cup(s) sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon(s) white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup(s) (about 2 ounces) blue cheese, crumbled, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoon(s) chopped fresh chives
  • 1 head(s) iceberg lettuce, cut into 4 wedges
  • 1 cup(s) cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced


  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick foil. Place the cornflakes in a shallow bowl.
  2. Using 1/4 cup of the buttermilk, brush the chicken breasts on all sides, then season with the cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Coat the chicken in the cornflakes, pressing gently to help them adhere, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, vinegar, and remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk. Stir in the blue cheese and 1 tablespoon chives.
  4. Divide the lettuce and tomatoes among plates. Spoon the dressing over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon chives and additional blue cheese, if desired. Serve with the chicken.
what I did differently

In addition to the cayenne pepper, I added smoked paprika. Lettuce wedges are a novel idea, but not big on nutrition, so instead of a lettuce wedge I prepared a spinach salad. 

A swap option I almost always use it plain Greek yogurt to replace sour cream. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Hair: It's Not Just a Musical

I started losing my hair because of a condition called Telogen Effluvium four years ago when my brother passed away. A close friend noticed first. I brushed it off (pun intended) as temporary but after years of continuous loss--literal in a variety of forms--my hair kept gradually falling out. Sometimes just a bit, other times in clumps. Trauma is a main cause of this condition but the triggers vary:

  • major physical trauma
  • major psychological trauma
  • iron deficiency
  • hormonal changes
  • extreme weight loss
I was officially diagnosed by a dermatologist in Charlottesville, Virginia who didn't think I had any issues until she really started to look through my scalp (of course, being a Web MD addict, I had already diagnosed myself). 

When I was younger, I was always known for my hair. I rarely cut it, mainly due to laziness, and it was long and thick and simply different than everyone else. 

Although this particular issue wasn't age related for me, many aging women start to lose their hair. This is what I have done to combat the problem:

1. I started cutting my hair shorter. 

When the hair thins, the longer it is, the more stringy and sparse it appears, so I started keeping my hair like most people should keep their stated opinion: short and simple. Not only do I enjoy a short hairstyle because of low maintenance and less product, but I also started to cut it myself. The first time, I trimmed it a bit and layered it and it turned out very well so the second time I cut it, I really went for it. What was the worst that could happen? Now my haircut is free and my hair looks fuller.

2. Explore different hair products. 

Because of my involvement with Swagbucks, I was able to try Wen products through a sixty day free trial. Wen has a money back guarantee--even if the bottles are empty.You will see more than a few bad reviews about Wen however, my impression of the negative reviews pertaining to erroneous charges is that people just don't know how to manage the program. You can order it online without even speaking to a representative and choose how often they replenish your order. It's not difficult at all if you're paying attention. 

Everyone has different reactions to hair products. At first, I thought it made my hair too greasy but then I realized that I wasn't rinsing properly. It's not like regular shampoo, it's closer to massaging your scalp with conditioner. 

I believe it does clean your hair better because I could go two days without washing my hair and it still looked acceptable. I felt good about the level of moisture since I tend to have an oily scalp but dry ends--even when it's first cut. It also smells good and the lavender and mint aroma was spot-on and I felt that the tingle stimulated my hair follicles. I used to add peppermint to my shampoo since this is another recommendation for women with hair loss. 

To stretch the product even further, I used Biotera dry hair shampoo between washes. It adds lift, which is what you need--extra volume. Look into products that promise volume, lift, and fullness and do your research. 

There are other products on the market like Rogaine for women and Joan River's Great Hair Day (which I can't help find amusing) but know the potentially adverse affects for both your head and your wallet. 

3. Create a New Personality

Personally, I've always worn hats. My mother has always been jealous about that aspect of my life. She felt that her nose was too big to wear a hat and some women who are not used to wearing something on their head could feel the same. If you don't like drawing attention to yourself, any new "look" can feel intimidating. But the aging process is also about reinventing yourself so if you're having an issue with thinning hair, why not take a new risk and discover a new you?

Honestly, I have to wear hats now because so much of my scalp is exposed to sunlight that I burn very easily and the last thing you want is a red, splotchy scalp to add to your issues. I have a collection of hats and because I feel most comfortable being casual, I wear my cowboy hat or baseball cap the most,

Here I am in Richmond with my short haircut and cowboy hat. I'm feeling confident and I'm not worried about a thing except going to see the recent exhibit at VMFA that celebrates beauty. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Salmon and Ginger Beer

Ginger: it's not just a redhead. 

I've known for a long time that it helps reduce nausea (hence, ginger ale when you're sick) but ginger has a number of other health benefits as well:

1. Ginger reduces gas.

2. Ginger whets the appetite.

3. Ginger is anti-inflammatory. 

Apparently, ginger and fish are BFF's since Woman's Day has published more than several recipes that include salmon and ginger and if you're a sushi fan like me, you're aware that raw fish is served with thin slices of ginger to cleanse your palette between servings and aids in the digestion of raw fish.

If you can get through this clip without being thoroughly annoyed by the narrator's voice, then be my guest. 

Broiled Salmon with Gingery Cucumber Salad

This is a fairly easy recipe that doesn't take a lot of time. 

If you want to get fancy, you can try ginger beer with the meal. I have never tried it but I heard a rumor you can buy Jamaican ginger beer at Kroger. Ginger beer is non-alcoholic. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Beef Rainbows and Corn

Woman's Day Magazine is terrific for recipes but let me tell you--they are almost always telling you to go get some sort of beef cut that no one ever has. I've even gone to my local butcher and they don't have what I need (this is usually when I'm asking for flank steak). Super markets have plenty of rib-eye and T-bones but ask for a flank steak or skirt steak and you know what you'll get from the Kroger staff? Crickets. They don't have a clue either. So listen, I'm going to help you out here. This is what a skirt steak looks like and this is what Wikipedia says about it:

Skirt steak--a beefsteak cut from a diaphragm muscle. 

Was that helpful? Not really? Yeah, me neither. So for this recipe I simply bought thin steaks and told myself I tried because I totally did.

So I opened my meat and pondered this nugget of question: why does some meat have that iridescent sheen?

Beef rainbows--that's what The Atlantic called them. I could go on a tangent about how this sounds like an assortment of things from a 1960's album to something PETA created but I won't. I'll just get to the answer:

"Speaking of ham, beef is not the only meat known to have rainbows. However, when cooked beef is sharply sliced against the grain of the muscle fiber, this, coupled with the moisture in the beef, creates an excellent surface for producing rainbows."

So there you go. Not spoiled.

Also, I'm not sure what makes some jalapeno peppers more powerful than others, but my fingers burned for hours after preparing this recipe so you might want to invest in disposable gloves and use them when peppers are involved. 

The "Tips and Techniques" section of the recipe suggested one could make tacos and that's exactly what I did. 

While you're driving around town, stop at your local produce vendors and pick up the basics. That's what I did too. It just makes the meal taste better--it just does. 

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." --Psalms 51:10

Susan Spencer, Editor-in-Chief of Woman's Day Magazine, shared her response to shoulder pain this month in the August edition and I'll confess that I can relate. I have diagnosed myself with breast cancer, a gall stones, and multiple sclerosis within the last few years, all by visiting Web MD to staunchly accept my fate: every new ache or general malady and I'm convinced I'm terminal. 

Illness touches all and a lot of my concern stems from believing the worst can happen at any time--from knowing for certain that it can without reason. I just turned 35 a little over a week ago and I have considered that in five years I'll be forty and two women I know personally who are my age have already had double mastectomies. I am sorry for them and often I am sorry for myself, yet I realize that after years of abusing my body with the wrong foods and addictions, I deserve whatever illness I have welcomed upon myself, door flung wide open--off the hinges at times.

This month's Reader's Circle (so glad to have that back!) mentions Angela's Ashes as the featured "Bergen Book Buddies" favorite read. One of my favorite quotes from the book is "I am for who I was in the beginning, but now is present and I exist in the future." We exist, we existed, we will exist. We exist and how will we exit

The body, heart, mind, and soul--they are all connected. The abuse of one will demand the others to work overtime. We feed and nurture them all or we choose to neglect them all at once or one at a time. Deprive yourself of sleep, refuse to say no, confuse your priorities. Cleansing, purging, seeking, and the ultimate cycle of change can exist in the midst of whatever unfortunate events life offers. 

Ask yourself these questions over the month of August: 

1. Why is forgiveness important and who should I forgive?

2. What habit or behavior is in my life that makes me ashamed?

3. What one change do I want in my heart, body, and mind?

Sometimes the answers to these questions aren't deep. I believe forgiveness can happen without a renewed relationship, that shameful thoughts or motives, when confided to a trusted friend or clergy, can begin a process of restoration, and that sometimes change comes through painful experiences we didn't choose but also through choosing the pain of what may be uncomfortable or unfamiliar, but absolutely the right thing in the long run.

In the mean time, I am no longer in my twenties. I am thinking about what I eat, beauty rituals (I hate even taking a shower!) and changing bad habits. 

It may not be in the Bible verbatim, but I am certain that cleanliness is next to godliness--and that obviously goes for every aspect of how we choose to exist. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Drifting Satellites

"But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another." John 1:7

It's from the Bible. I don't mind saying I prefer the Tool version:

And in my darkest moment, feeble and weeping
The moon tells me a secret, a confidant
As full and bright as I am
This light is not my own and
A million light reflections pass over me
Its source is bright and endless
She resuscitates the hopeless
Without her, we are lifeless satellites drifting.

I've always been dark. I remember a picture I drew as nine-year-old a child, the top of a desk, bird's-eye view, with things a teenager would have--lipstick, concert tickets. In the far left corner was part of a suicide note and an pill bottle was strewn across the apologetic message. I entitled it "Sissy's Desk."

Thank God back then we didn't call the police every time a child called another child a name or put them in counseling for bloody drawings. It's the darkness. It was beautiful to me. It meant that a teenager had committed suicide and she had a younger sister she left behind along with all her other mess. It spoke to the connection of humanity, the consequences of a life wasted, the naming of a circumstance--the perspective of such a thing--from the innocent who lie in the wake. In the wait. 

This month we celebrate Mother's Day, and although I had a good mother, who worked hard and remains humorous, fun, admirable, and generally good and decent, I always think about the mothers who can never be mothers, those who had terrible mothers, mothers who have lost a child. We smile and say nice things to one another on holidays and anniversaries that are supposed to be pleasant to most--that are nightmares for others--and pretend there is no darkness.

There is light and there is light in the darkness. 

I enjoy my blogs about recipes, crafts, the lighter and brighter side. But I've never had the social skills not to hand my mother a picture that represents a suicide, taking it for granted that she would think it was brilliant.

I am the same girl that I was when I was nine. Angst, anger, addition, apathy, cruelty, deception, hatred, bitterness. 

If you're afraid of the dark I suggest you enjoy the icing and lay the fork aside. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's SUPER FOODS!

In this blog, you'll learn how to get thyme leaves off the stem, how to select salmon, and approaching your first time making greens. You'll also learn this, that, and the other.

Let's start with the thyme. This guy does it just like I do. Thyme is one of my favorite herbs next to rosemary and lemon balm.

Why don't we have the Thanksgiving meal more often? Seriously. One of my favorite things is rosemary turkey and gravy. I also have a recipe for thyme biscuits.

Over lunch, my mother and I recently discussed fish. We both love salmon and tuna steaks, although she was aghast that I often eat tilapia. Does "fresh" fish really matter if you don't live on a shore?  

Thanks to the Huffington Post--King of Numbered Lists--the top concerns about salmon are summarized neatly:

1. Wild or farmed?
The first choice you should make is whether to buy wild salmon (and all Alaskan salmon is wild-caught) or farmed Atlantic salmon. In most instances, I opt for wild salmon. Why? Environmental groups such as Seafood Watch and the Environmental Defense Fund, have put nearly all farmed salmon on their “red” or “avoid” list. The reason: many farms use crowded pens where salmon are easily infected with lice, may be treated with antibiotics and can spread disease to wild fish (one reason Alaska has banned salmon farms). In addition, it can take as much as three pounds of wild fish (and fishmeal) to raise one pound of salmon. However, there’s some good news. Salmon farmers are currently in talks with environmental groups about improving their practices and there is a proposal before Congress to set standards for aquaculture. Already some farms, such as Sweet Spring in British Columbia, are raising coho in closed pens, that reduce the impact on wild fish. Others, such as Verlasso in Patagonia, are using feeds fortified with the omega-3 EPA, which helps cut back the ratio of pounds of fish needed to feed the salmon to 1-to-1.
2. Should I buy organic salmon?
There is no USDA organic standard for salmon and no guarantee “organic” label means anything except the salmon was farmed.
3. Is fresh salmon better than frozen? What about canned or packaged salmon?
You can order fresh salmon by mail order or find it in your markets from June-September. Most fish is flash-frozen when caught to preserve its freshness and allow for shipping. Frozen salmon is good for up to four months, when properly frozen and thawed overnight in the refrigerator. Canned wild salmon is an excellent and economical choice. Look for BPA-free cans (Wild Planet has these) or better yet, pouches.
4. Does salmon carry PCBs or other toxins?
Wild Alaskan salmon, which spend most of their lives in open oceans, generally have very low levels of toxins. Coastal and farmed salmon, depending on the fish and meal they are fed, may have higher levels. The Environmental Defense Fund lists farmed Atlantic salmon as an “Eco-Worst” choice and recommends people eat no more than two servings a month due to high PCB levels.
5. Do different types of salmon taste different?
There’s a wide range of price, color and taste among the six species of salmon we commonly eat, so it depends on your budget, what's available and the recipe you have in mind. The largest (and often most expensive), the king or chinook, is prized for its high fat content and buttery texture and is rich in omega-3s.  Sockeye, an oilier fish with deep red flesh, is also high in heart-healthy omega-3s but has a stronger flavor and stands up well to grilling. Coho is milder and often lighter in color. Pink and chum are smaller fish and most often used in canning or smoking and are good budget choices. Last, the most common fish you will find at the market, the species known as Atlantic salmon, is a farmed species. It has a rich, fatty taste but is not recommended by environmental groups

  • 1 medium (about 2 pounds) acorn squash, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoon(s) olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon(s) fresh thyme leaves
  •  Kosher salt
  •  Pepper
  • 2 tablespoon(s) honey
  • 1 1/2 pound(s) skinless salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 small (about 1 pound) bunch kale, thick stems discarded, leaves chopped
  • 3 tablespoon(s) red wine vinegar

This is what you're getting in doses over 50% of your daily recommended dose:
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin B3
  • protein
  • phosphorous
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Place the squash on a large rimmed baking sheet, toss with 1 tablespoon oil, scatter with half the thyme, and season with 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Roast for 15 minutes

Push the squash to the outsides of the pan and drizzle with 1 tablespoon honey. Place the salmon in the center, sprinkle with the remaining thyme and season with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Roast until the salmon is opaque throughout and the squash is tender, 8 to 12 minutes more.

Heat the remaining tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the kale, season with 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Drizzle with the vinegar and remaining tablespoon honey and bring to a simmer.

I think greens should probably be cooked with some sort of "hock" but these really were delicious and better for you. I do prefer greens with vinegar.
Now, here's the deal about this recipe: if you season squash, potatoes, or parsnips, oil them, and bake or broil them, they are an uber fabulous replacement for fries. Cut them as thin as you can. For seasoning, I use salt, pepper, and Cajun spices. I made this recipe as is. It was delicious