Adaptable Recipes, Food Glorious Food, Makeover Monday Meals

Makeover Monday Meal- Summer Salad Edition

It’s hard to believe that we are already more than halfway through the month of July. With summertime temperatures rising across the country, light, refreshing, and easy-to-prepare recipes are the order of the day.

In our search to find the best of light, healthy, and tasty, this recipe from Simply Recipes for Tex-Mex Chopped Chicken Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing fits the bill. Moreover, we were able to adapt it to add protein to fit with vegetarian and vegan diets too.

This recipe fits the dietary requirements for:

  • Gluten-free diets
  • Low Sugar or No Sugar diets
  • Low-Carb
  • Keto-Friendly (don’t add corn or tortilla chips)

Tex-Mex Chopped Chicken Salad by Simply Recipes adapted by Chamein Canton

PREP TIME25 mins
COOK TIME10 mins
TOTAL TIME35 mins
SERVINGS4 servings

Ingredients

  • For the salad
  • 6 cups Romaine lettuce, chopped and packed
  • 1 medium red pepper, diced
  • 1 cup English or Persian cucumber, diced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon plus1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (2 medium ears) or frozen and thawed
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (1 package of extra-firm tofu, drained or 1 package seitan)
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix (low-sodium taco seasoning or your favorite taco seasoning in the packet or homemade)
  • 12 corn tortilla chips
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Cotija cheese (Feta cheese or Cheddar cheese can be substituted)  (For Vegans mozzarella or cheddar shreds are a good choice)
  • For the dressing
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Combine salad ingredients:

    Combine the lettuce, red pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, and scallions in a large serving bowl. Set aside.

  2. Char the corn:

    Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium or large heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the corn.

    Season corn with 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until blackened in spots and tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

  3. Season the chicken:

    Sprinkle the taco seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon salt over the surface of the chicken, rubbing it in and coating it so the chicken is fully seasoned.

  4. Cook the chicken:

    In the same skillet used to cook the corn add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook until deeply brown along the bottom and the flesh turns opaque about halfway up the side, 4 to 5 minutes.

    Flip the chicken and continue cooking, until brown on the second side and fully cooked through another 3 to 5 minutes.

  5. Cut the chicken:

    Transfer the cooked chicken to a cutting board. Once it is cool enough to handle, cut it into bite-sized pieces.

  6. Make the salad dressing:

    Place the lime juice, vinegar, honey, cumin, salt, pepper, cilantro, and olive oil into a blender and blend until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of water, if needed, to get the blender going.

    Alternatively, make this dressing by hand. Finely chop the cilantro and place it in a medium bowl. Combine all salad dressing ingredients and whisk until smooth.

  7. Finish and serve the salad:

    Add the corn and chicken into the bowl with the salad ingredients. Crumble the tortilla chips over the top.

    Add about two-thirds of the dressing and toss to lightly coat. Add more dressing and toss again, if needed. Divide salad into 4 bowls, top with crumbled Cotija cheese, and serve.

Notes for Vegan and Vegetarians

  • To replace the chicken, you can use extra-firm tofu or seitan instead. Prepare it as you would the chicken, being mindful not to crowd the pan when sauteing in the pan. To keep it from steaming, cook the tofu or seitan in batches.

For those who don’t like Cilantro

  • You can use parsley to make the dressing in the same proportions.

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Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

Food Fabulous Food- The Best Ever Fried Chicken- We put the recipe in Woman’s Day to the test

The Best Ever Fried Chicken

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The fast-food restaurant wars are back! Only this time, it’s not to crown the best hamburger, it’s all about the best chicken sandwich.

According to QSR, roughly 65 percent of the U.S. population ordered a breaded chicken sandwich from a quick-service restaurant in the last six months.  

Perhaps due to a frantic news cycle, around restaurants and across the country in general, it appears we’ve reached a lull in the chicken sandwich wars. But don’t expect that to last.

In Danny Klein’s April 2021 article, the reason brands jumped into the fray in the fall and winter of 2019 and over the duration of 2020, isn’t complicated. Ever since Popeyes’ August 2019 launch, quick-serves fixated on replicating its viral success. Even fast-food behemoth MacDonalds entered the wars with its chicken sandwich and saw a sizable boost in traffic in their restaurants.

I know people have definite favorites. Some love Popeye’s, while others head to Chick-Fil-A. There are a few new faces like the Florida-based PDQ, which recently opened a location in Farmingdale, New York.

While the fast-food chicken sandwiches are good, there is nothing like homemade fried chicken. There are countless recipes that all claim to be the best. As for this home cook, I prefer my grandmother’s recipe, but I am always up for a challenge. So, when a recipe says Best Ever Fried Chicken, I have to put it to the test.

The Woman’s Day recipe has all the essentials of southern cooking, buttermilk, and spices. However, the difference is in how the chicken is coated. The recipe works for a 10-piece chicken assortment or for the revered chicken breast. Not to mention when you make it home, you can add the spices you like. What’s not to like.

Is it the best ever fried chicken, no, but it is pretty good. You should give it a whirl.

Best Ever Fried Chicken Woman’s Day Recipe

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup sugar

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 

6 cups low-fat buttermilk, divided 

4 tbsp. celery seeds, divided 

Kosher salt and pepper

1 whole chicken (5 to 6 pounds), cut into 10 pieces

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. cayenne

4 cups peanut or canola oil, for frying 

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DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, garlic, 4 cups buttermilk, 2 Tbsp celery seeds, and 1/2 cup salt. Add chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour. 

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together flour, cayenne, 1 tsp salt, 1 Tbsp pepper, and remaining 2 Tbsp celery seeds. 

Attach a deep-fry thermometer to a large Dutch oven and heat oil on medium to 325°F. Place remaining 2 cups buttermilk in a second bowl. Working with a couple of pieces at a time, remove chicken from marinade, letting excess drip off. Coat in flour, shaking off excess, then coat in buttermilk and in flour once more. Shake off excess flour and add chicken to oil. 

Fry chicken until golden brown and cooked through, 4 to 10 minutes depending on piece. Repeat with remaining chicken, adjusting heat to keep oil between 300°F and 325°F.

PER SERVING: 485 calories, 27.5 g fat (6.5 g saturated fat), 37 g protein, 1,005 mg sodium, 21 g carbs, 1 g fiber

COST PER SERVING: $1.83

WD TEST KITCHEN TIP: Dip chicken in marinade and flour twice before frying for a shatteringly crisp crust. Switch it up by adding sugar, salt, and other seasonings to the buttermilk marinade. Remember, the temperature of the oils changes when the chicken is added. Be sure to temp the oil between batches to make sure it stays at 325-degrees.

Resources Woman’s Day magazine

QSR Magazine https://www.qsrmagazine.com/fast-food/chicken-sandwich-wars-will-ignite-again-2021

Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

Monday Meal Makeover

https://stillachicklit.com/food/

Welcome to the premier posting for Monday Meal Makeover. Here we will try to up your Monday meal game for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, or snacks. All the recipes that can be adapted will include:

  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Gluten-Free, Celiac Disease
  • Low Sugar/ Low Carb
  • No Sugar
  • Lactose Intolerance/Egg Allergies

For what I hope will be the first of many, welcome to the first Monday Meal Makeover.

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Blueberry Muffins by Tastes Better From Scratch adapted by Chamein Canton

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, millet, sweet or brown rice flour)

3/4 cup granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar, pulsed fine)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon or orange zest

1/3 cup oil (vegetable or canola oil)

1 large egg (2 tablespoons Aquafaba, ¼ cup silken tofu pureed with 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1 flaxseed or chia seed egg, or egg replacer)

1/3 cup buttermilk (dairy: full-fat, low-fat, or light)  (non-dairy: almond, rice, soy, or light coconut milk with 1 teaspoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, mixed. Let stand for at least five minutes before using)

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon lemon or orange extract, optional

1 cup blueberries , fresh or frozen

Crumb topping:

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar pulsed fine)

2 Tablespoons light brown sugar (Swerve brown sugar substitute, organic light brown sugar)

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, millet, sweet or brown rice flour)

2 Tablespoons cold unsalted or salted butter, chopped (vegan unsalted or salted butter)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a standard size muffin tin with liners, or grease well with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt, orange or lemon zest, and baking powder. 

Add oil, egg, buttermilk, vanilla, and orange or lemon extract (if using), and mix just until combined. Don’t over mix (the batter doesn’t need to be “smooth”) 

Toss the blueberries in a spoonful of flour. This will help them not to sink to the bottom of the muffin. Gently fold blueberries into the batter.  

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. 

If you are making the crumb topping:

Add all of the ingredients to a bowl. Use your fingers, pastry cutter, or a fork to work the butter into the mixture. 

Sprinkle crumb mixture over the tops of muffins in the pan.

Bake for about 5 minutes at 400-degrees, then reduce the temperature to 375-degrees. Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs. 

Remove muffins from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes

  • The bake time may vary by ovens. It may take a little longer or a shorter time depending on your oven. I tend to err on the side of a toothpick coming out clean or with a few crumbs when inserted in the center of the muffins.
  • I don’t recommend using shortening or butter-flavor shortening. It makes the batter heavier and the muffins oily.

Dinner

Cast Iron Roasted Chicken- Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen adapted by me

1 whole chicken. Fryer or young chicken

Canola or vegetable oil

This is the seasoning rub I use, adapt it to your likes and measure it out to the size of the chicken.

Paprika sweet or smoked

Onion powder

Granulated garlic

Black pepper

Chili powder

Kosher salt

Remove the chicken back. Set aside to make stock

Combine the seasoning in a bowl

Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.

Season the chicken skin side down

Place into a cast iron skillet

Make sure the skin of the chicken is dry. Rub the skin with oil. Season liberally and tuck the wings underneath. Roast In hot oven 450-475. Make sure there’s about seven inches from the rack to the top of the oven.

Roast for about 1 hour. It could be more or less depending upon your oven. So keep a watchful eye. The temp of the chicken should be about 160-165 degrees from the thickest part of the chicken.

Barbecue Sauce

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion finely chopped

3 cloves of chopped garlic

1 cup of ketchup

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/4 cup molasses * (sorghum syrup)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons Worcestershire

1 teaspoon mustard powder

pinch of cayenne

1 tablespoon chili powder

pinch of allspice

In a saucepan over medium heat, saute onions until tender, about four to five minutes. Add garlic, and stir for one minute. Add the tomato paste, and carmelize it stirring for two minutes. Add the ketchup, molasses, cider vinegar, and brown sugar. Stir for one minute. Add the chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, pinch of cayenne, and allspice. Stir. Add 1/4 cup water and cook stirring for four minutes until thickened. Take the sauce off the heat and let cool. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. You can also use a blender or food processor, but be sure it’s cool. It will make for quite the science lesson and a mess.

  • Spruce Eats list of molasses substitutes

If you don’t have molasses, you can make one of several quick substitutes. Replace one cup of molasses with one of the following: 1 cup dark corn syrup, honey, or maple syrup. 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/4 cup water

These substitutions may alter the taste of your recipe a bit. If the molasses flavor is vital to the success of your recipe, try the brown sugar substitute. Since brown sugar is granulated sugar and molasses it’ll be the closest flavor match. Maple syrup or dark corn syrup would be the next best choice.

If you have to use granulated sugar or honey as the substitute, consider increasing the spices in the recipe a bit to make up for the flavors that the molasses would have contributed.

Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

Spring is in the air again. Why not put blueberry muffins on the table?

https://stillachicklit.com/for-serious-foodies/

The first week after Daylight Savings Time is usually pretty hard for most people. However, the arrival of spring helps make the time change a little more bearable. The days are longer and we begin to see more spring vegetables and fruits in the market.

I love blueberries. They are rich in antioxidants, sweet, and a good source of fiber. I am always on the hunt for a good blueberry muffin recipe. Luckily, the majority of the recipes I’ve tried have turned out well.

I’m sharing this recipe from the Life Made Simple blog. I adapted it for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-sensitivities, low and no-sugar diets. It’s a tasty way to get more fiber in your family’s diets. I hope you try this recipe for one fine spring morning at your home.

Blueberry muffins by Life Made Simple adapted by me

 INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, or brown rice flour)

1/2 cup cake flour ( ½ cup gluten-free all-purpose less 3 tablespoons, then add 3 tablespoons gluten-free cornstarch, sift together)

1 cup sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar, pulsed fine)

1/4 cup vegetable oil – or coconut oil

4 tbsp unsalted butter – melted (vegan unsalted butter)

3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk (3/4 cup of soy, rice, almond, oat, or light coconut milk with 1 ½ teaspoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, combine and let stand for five minutes before using)

2 eggs ( ¼ cup Aquafaba, ½ cup silken tofu pureed with ¼ teaspoon baking soda, 2 flaxseed or chia seed eggs, or vegan egg replacer)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp baking powder

11/2 tsp vanilla extract

zest of 2 lemons or the zest of 1 lemon and 2 teaspoons of orange zest

1 1/4 cup blueberries – fresh or frozen

3 tbsp coarse sugar or raw cane sugar – optional topping

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 12 standard muffin cups with liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, lightly beat together oil, butter, vanilla, eggs, and milk.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt.

With mixing speed on low, slowly add dry ingredients. Mix until combined.

Remove bowl from stand, gently fold in blueberries. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups, filling 2/3 of the way full. Sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Place into oven and bake for 24-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Place muffins on wire rack to cool completely.

  • Notes
  • I used a combination of orange and lemon zest in this recipe. I also prefer adding the zest to the flour. I find that even when you mix the wet ingredients well, the zest has a habit of clumping together. If you add the zest to the flour mixture, it gets evenly distributed, and you don’t run the risk of clumps or over-stirring your batter.

Recipe adapted from Life Made Simple blog

Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

Finding the right work/balance for 2021

You can have the best of both worlds by using balance

We are nearly three months into 2021, and while life is beginning to show signs of being on the path to being normal, it seems that we still have a ways to go. While it’s been hard for everyone, if you’re a working mother with a career, job, or business of your own, you are likely burning the candles at both ends. On its face, it seems like working from home should be an ideal situation. You don’t have to deal with traffic, or long lines at your favorite coffee or breakfast place. There are different wardrobe choices to make when working from the waist up. Thankfully, there are ways to make lounge or active wear look more professional than sweats.

There are definite advantages to working from home, but one of the biggest drawbacks is defining the boundary lines between our home and professional lives. It’s easy to fall into the role of mother/wife/girlfriend/partner/daughter very easily. So many women find their work flow interrupted by hungry children, spouses, or even calls from family because you are at home, because they don’t see the line. To that end, there things you can do to remind people you are working from home. It’s not a day off with occasional bursts of work.

Most women are natural multitaskers and it’s easy to slip back into that mode. The problem is once you do, you’ve taken care of one thing, while leaving more for you to do in the end and it will be frustrating. As much as I don’t like to admit this, we are often our own worst enemies. So, it’s worth taking the time to really figure out how you can make working from home truly work for everyone, especially you.

Last year Healthline had some great tips at the beginning of the pandemic (April 2020). Here are just a few:

Designate a workspace

Set up an area of your house to use as a workspace. Sitting down in this space sends a clear signal to your brain that it’s time to focus. Stay away from your designated workspace when you’re not working.

Once you’ve completed your workday, resist the urge to check in with any professional obligations until you begin work again.

Move around

If creating a mobile workspace helps you concentrate, set up a few spaces in your house where you can work. This may help your posture since you’ll change up your seated position. Giving yourself a set amount of time in each location may help you manage your time.

Make sure that your workspace is ergonomic. This will remove risk factors that lead to musculoskeletal injuries and allow for increased performance and productivity. While sitting on a comfy couch or your bed may sound nice, typing on your laptop while doing so for a long time could strain your back or neck.

Get ready for the day

Take the time to go about your normal morning routine, take a shower, and get dressed for the day. If you normally go to the gym, supplement your routine with exercising at home with weights for strength-training and cardio. 

Designate some work clothes, even if they’re more comfortable than your typical professional attire. If you prefer to do your hair and makeup, then go for it, even if it’s only for you.

Or allow your skin to breathe and use this time to improve its health by applying only serums, toners, or masks.

Set a schedule

Instead of having a vague plan, create a daily schedule and put it in writing. Generate a digital schedule or jot it down with pen and paper, and stick it in a visible place. Come up with a detailed to-do list that’s broken down into categories based on importance.

Create an eating plan

Plan out your meals and snacks ahead of time, such as at the beginning of the week or workday. This prevents you from working to the point of hunger and then scrambling to decide what to eat. You should also avoid eating at your workstation.

Choose foods that boost concentration, try to avoid refined carbs, processed foods, and sugary drinks. These types of carbs lead to the afternoon lull, when many find themselves struggling to stay alert.  Look to food that aid in alertness with the protein needed to fuel you through the rest of your work day.

Get a little help from your friends

Whether it’s a coworker or a longtime bestie, your friends are always there to lend an ear. They can help talk you through a work issue, or give you a laugh to make the day better and lighten your mood. This kind of playing hooky has its benefits. It gives you a chance to reset.

Communicate with your spouse or partner

It is easy to fall into the roles of mom and dad or even husband and wife without ever really taking about the things that are actually on our minds. Set aside a time when the two of you can talk without distractions. No cell phones, children, or television. Communication is the life’s blood of relationships, but you must have conversation (s) to keep it flowing.

 Working with a baby

Use a baby carrier or wrap so you can keep your child close to you. To keep your hands free, use a dictation app. If you’re on a call, you can let your recipient know that you have a baby at home in case there are any interruptions or noises.

Use their nap times efficiently, and try to schedule work that requires intense focus or conference calls during these times.

You may want to have a conversation with your boss about a modified schedule that works for both of you while working from home with a baby.

7. Working with older children

If you have young children, you’ll want to focus on their needs. But if you have an older child that can take on some extra responsibility, you can set them up with some very clear instructions and activities for help taking care of younger children or completing household chores.

You may want to work in the early morning or late evenings while your children are sleeping, especially when you need to focus on complex tasks.

 Balance structure and play

Encourage your kids to entertain themselves, but help them manage their time wisely. Set up activities to engage them.

Children can also be overstimulated, so limit their screen time and allow for occasional boredom to arise. Be firm in your approach and set clear boundaries, expectations, and consequences.

Finding your work/life balance is a work in progress. Some days it will be blue skies and sunny. Conversely, there will be times when you’re ready to pull your hair out. Remember to take a minute, breathe, and let it pass. It’s okay if your plan goes awry, it doesn’t have to be perfect, and the best part is that tomorrow is another day.

If you’re like my family, everyone eats bananas, but there’s always one lonesome banana left behind. Here’s a quick recipe that uses one banana to make a delicious muffin.

One Banana deliciousness

Banana Nut Muffins

Servings 4 muffins

Ingredients

1 ripe banana

1 egg (2 tablespoons Aquafaba, 1/4 cup silken tofu pureed 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1 flaxseed or chia seed egg, or egg replacer)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons olive oil (virgin olive oil or olive oil, not extra-virgin)

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour)

1/4 cup granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, turbinado, or raw cane sugar pulsed)

1/4 cup brown sugar (organic brown sugar, Swerve brown sugar substitute)

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Instructions: Preheat oven to 325-degrees

Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners or spray with canola or vegetable spray

In a medium size mixing bowl, mash the banana. Then stir in the egg, vanilla extract, and oil until combined. Then add all at once the flour, sugars, baking soda, and salt. Fold until combined. Then stir in the chopped walnuts gently. Do not over-stir. Pour the batter into the muffin tin. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for five minutes before turning out onto a rack. Enjoy warm. Muffins will keep for three days at room temp lightly covered

Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

It’s about time. Hurry up and wait. It’s a part of more than just a day in the life of a writer or literary agent

The clock is always ticking

A day in the life of a writer can be filled with many things. We have appointments, errands to run, kids to raise, meals to cook, and dry cleaning to pick up. Mix in a day job, career, or business to run, and we have more than enough to keep us occupied. However, I have discovered that in the midst of it all, I find time to write. Most of the time, it’s a welcome relief and a way to put the worries of the day out of my mind. Then there are times when literary inspiration comes at a bad time, particularly when I need to focus on something else that’s pressing. Nevertheless, I’ve got that figured out for the most part.

The most difficult aspect of writing is when we have to cool our jets waiting for an answer once we have had our work submitted to an agent or a publisher for review. No matter the subject, fiction or nonfiction, writers pour a piece of themselves into every page. In fiction, we know every character intimately, the emotions in every sentence, the setting, and every verb. For nonfiction, we have researched the subjects thoroughly, done our due diligence, used our experience in an authoritative yet approachable manner. The work put into it is all about love. Writers love to write and we accept that all the time we put into our writing, may or may not be rewarded with an offer to publish.

Moreover, even if a writer gets a literary agent who is going to represent them to publishers, there is more time built into that proposition as well. Publishing is notoriously slow when it comes to reviewing manuscripts and that’s not a dig about editors. These days the business of publishing in terms of reading manuscript submissions is something that happens outside of business hours. That is true of literary agents as well and I can speak to that as an agent. I almost never have an opportunity to review a submission during business hours. I read in the evenings before and after dinner. I also spend weekends reading as well. This is an industry filled with hurry up and wait

I understand the frustration from both sides. I try to let writers know that the best thing they can do is to keep on writing. It’s also a good idea to incorporate other creative outlets to help ease anxiety. Cooking, baking, painting, sewing, or drawing, are just a few things that let you focus creativity and nerves in a productive way. I have several personal projects happening at the moment and if I stay too focused on them, I will drive myself crazy. As it is the winter, it’s not like I can go out and take a walk like I do in the warmer months. I use my kitchen as my ashram and experiment with different recipes or work on adapting recipes to make them healthier, gluten- free, or no-sugar. It keeps my mind busy. It wasn’t long before some story issues I couldn’t figure out, became clearer and I picked back up writing again. So, time does have its advantages

Your next big book idea could be a brushstroke or stir away

My advice to writers is always to write. However, when your mind needs a break, use the time to do something else productive. That said, spend time with the people you love, that helps. A little face time with a nephew or a daughter can do wonders. Attend your family’s next Zoom, call a friend, grab a coffee, bundle up and take a walk if it’s a nice, moderate day. Just take a couple of beats. It won’t derail you, but it will help you take your eyes off the clock.

Working on recipes is what I like to do. I also like to share them.

Pasties Pastry Recipe Recipe from New Orleans Kitchen Queens

1 cup all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, sweet rice, or brown rice flour)

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 ounces (1 sticks) cold unsalted butter (vegan butter)

1/4 cup ice water

In a large bowl combine the flours with the salt. Dice the cold butter into small pieces and add to the flour mixture. With the back of a fork press the butter into the flour until the butter is incorporated (there will still be small pieces of butter in the mixture). Make a well in the center of the dough and pour in the ice water. Gently blend the water into the dough until it forms a solid ball. Wrap the dough ball in plastic and refrigerate for at least on hour before rolling.

Chicken Filled Pasties Recipe adapted from Healthy Nibbles

½ pound chicken breast or tenderloins, cubed

1 large- sweet onion or 2 medium sized onion, diced 

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 large Russet or Yukon potatoes, peeled and diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 medium sweet potato, diced

1 teaspoon ground thyme

½ teaspoon dried rosemary

generous pinch of salt

black pepper

1 large egg, whisked (or 1 tablespoon Aquafaba plus 1 tablespoon water, whisked)

  1. Add diced Russet potatoes and sweet potatoes to a sauce pot. Cover with water, then add a pinch of salt. Cook the potatoes on medium-heat until they are fork tender. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, add oil over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the carrots and onions. Cook until the onions begin to soften, and the carrots are getting a little tender.
  3. Add the garlic in, and cook for thirty seconds. Stir in the cubed chicken and cook stirring until no longer pink and cooked through.
  4. Add the potatoes. Sprinkle the thyme and rosemary over the chicken mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook through until heated adjusting seasoning as needed
  5. Let the chicken filling cool before filling the pasties.

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into 4 or six pieces on a well floured surface. Use a floured rolling pin to roll into discs about 8 1/2-inch circles. Turn the dough over frequently to prevent it from sticking to the surface. You can roll all the circles out at once, or do it one at a time, depending on your counter space. If you choose to roll out one at a time, refrigerate the dough in between in circle. Cold is essential for flaky, crumbly, pastry without soggy bottoms.

Take a small handful of filling and place it in the center of the rolled out dough. You want to make sure that there is about an inch of clear space around the edge of the dough. Brush the egg white along this empty space.

Fold the dough over the vegetables to create a semi-circle shape. Do this with confidence! Seal the pastry. You can crimp the edges with a fork or fold it like I did. When I folded the edges of the pasty, I brushed some egg along the edge so that the folds stayed put. Brush some of the egg wash over the entire pasty. Repeat these steps for the rest of the dough.

Place the prepared pasties on the baking sheets and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until the pasties are golden brown.

  • You can make these vegan. Just omit the chicken and replace with more vegetables. Feel free to add traditional swedes (rutabagas) or other vegetables you enjoy.
  • I’ve tried this with shortening and it doesn’t come out the same. It’s a little heavier. Stick with vegan butter, even non-dairy margarine is a good choice.
Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

I was a teenage man snatcher and Martha Stewart is partially to blame

It’s a heck of a thing to call yourself a teenage man snatcher, and to point to Martha Stewart as the reason it happened. Well, I have to be honest, she was just one factor that contributed to my delinquency, and she is in good company. Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Charlotte Bronte, and Emily Bronte also contributed to my rep as a modern Victorian seductress.

I loved all things baking from a very early age. My dad gave me an Easy Bake oven when I was four, and once I saw a wedding cake, it was all downhill from there. I was hooked on stacking and frosting cakes. Eventually, my baking repertoire grew over time to include cookies, pastries, bread, muffins, and naturally more cakes. At eleven, I had a subscription to the cooking magazine, Cuisine, which eventually became Gourmet. I loved trying new recipes to challenge myself and improve my skills.

I was a teenager in the eighties. It was a time of big hair, shoulder pads, Dallas, and Dynasty. General Hospital’s Luke and Laura were the onscreen soap couple. Cooking shows were limited to PBS on Sundays and for a few precious hours on Monday evenings. I wasn’t allowed to date at the time. So, while other girls were getting ready to go out to a movie on Friday and Saturday night, I was at home or spending the night over my best friend Melissa’s house listening to the Beatles, Adam Ant, Michael Jackson, and Prince. Madonna got some airplay from us too. After all, she was a Leo like Melissa and me. Not to mention, Madonna and I have the same birthday.

I had friends, but my girl circle was fairly small, but I had a lot of guy friends. Who were really friends and not the euphemisms used to define friendship now. Melissa liked being in the kitchen as much as I did. As a result, we were able to monopolize (as other girls and some of their mother’s thought) all of the guys time with scones, chocolate cookies, muffins, and the like. By no means was it a den of ill-repute, we’d either be at Melissa’s house under her parent’s watchful eyes, or at my house with her mothership (my mother) and my younger sister.

In the beginning, learned how to set a table for company from my mother. She worked in my junior high school cafeteria as a lunch lady, but she also worked on and off for Stone catering company. That helped me get a grip on the basics, but I wanted to do it will a little more style. I was fifteen when I went on a mission to find a cookbook that combined both recipes with entertaining. I checked the shelves of my local libraries and bookstores regularly to no avail.

Then one Sunday afternoon PBS had a special on entertaining with a caterer out of Connecticut, Martha Stewart. I’d never heard of her previously, but her name and style made a lasting impression on me. I was fascinated by her attention to detail, her home décor and the way she presented food on a holiday table. Martha was my parents age and everything about her seemed smooth, elegant, and just plain regal. I scoured TV Guide to see when she was going to be on television again. I couldn’t get enough. Then one day at Waldenbooks, I saw it. Entertaining by Martha Stewart. There she was on the cover in a Victorian style white dress presiding over a perfectly decorated table. I was there with my friend Joel, who I begged to buy the book for me. Lucky for me, he bought it with the catch that I’d have him over whenever i made something from the book. That was one of the easiest deals I ever made. There was no way I wasn’t going to cook my way through the book, or die trying.

It felt like my own little storyline was happening in real life. I wasn’t going on dates but I was in the kitchen with Martha and my friend Melissa. I was in my Victorian phase. I loved Gunne Sax dresses and old lace. We made scones, muffins, bread, pies, cakes, and more kinds of biscotti than anyone could shake a stick at. Although I predate Kelis, her Milkshake song is appropriate here, except it wasn’t my milkshake that brought the boys to my yard, it was my pepperoni loaf.

Martha Stewart’s first book was my gateway drug to Cuisinart food processors, Kitchen Aid stand mixers, mini-herb choppers, wedding cake pans, Madeline molds, and more. My entertaining game was on the rise and my guy friends could reap the benefits from my properly set table.

Entertaining worked perfectly, and I had all the eligible guys were at my house and around the kitchen. The funny thing was I didn’t want anything more than friendship. Although I had to admit there was one guy I liked, and my mother was okay with him. My sister didn’t like him that much, but that was neither here nor there at the time. I wasn’t allowed to date, and he was already in college. All the man snatching hullabaloo happened because he was the object of someone else’s affection, and that affection wasn’t returned. I can’t say that I didn’t understand why she and her mother needed a heavy. Who wants to believe a guy rejected them straight out of hand. So, naturally, I was deemed a little Entertaining hussy, tempting men with baked goods and cooked meals. Still, I didn’t let it faze me in the least.


At the height of our entertaining jag, Melissa and I held a formal dinner for all the guys at her house. There was Melissa’s Greek Moussaka, my pepperoni loaf, rolls, roasted vegetables and cake for desert made by me. It was a success and enjoyed thoroughly judging by the number of second helpings and empty plates. It was the only dinner party we ever had as teenagers, but that was okay with us. I had the opportunity to show off my Martha skills long before her name became a verb and before Snoop ever heard of the lady who used to rule over an estate and property in Turkey Hill, Connecticut (at the time). I have come a long way from the wide-eyed sixteen-year-old girl when the first edition of Entertaining was released. My skills have gotten better and while I still prefer to make things from scratch, I am a little more relaxed about it courtesy of another lifestyle/tv-chef maven, Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. I’ve integrated Martha’s penchant for good things, with Ina’s how easy is that philosophy, and the amalgamation works.

I’m no longer a man snatcher and my milkshake is a little thicker, but I still bring all the boys to the table, only this time, the boys are mine and the loves of my life. My twin sons Sean and Scott, who are my ultimate good thing.

I am including one of the first recipes I ever made from Entertaining by Martha Stewart Copyright 1982.

Banana Bread recipe by Martha Stewart adapted for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-sensitivities, low sugar, and no-sugar dietary needs by Chamein Canton

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan (vegan butter, margarine)
  • 1 cup sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar, pulsed finely)
  • 2 large eggs (4 tablespoons Aquafaba, 1//2 cup silken tofu, pureed with 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 2 flaxseed or chia seed eggs, or egg replacer)
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free all-purpose flour, sorghum, millet, sweet rice, or brown rice flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (dairy; light sour cream, plain yogurt) (non-dairy; soy milk, or almond milk yogurt) (vegan sour cream)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions

  1. Step 1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan; set aside. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat to incorporate.
  2. Step 2 In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Add bananas, sour cream, and vanilla; mix to combine. Stir in nuts and pour into prepared pan.
  3. Step 3 Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Let rest in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.

Additional Notes

  1. To make a flax or chia seed egg, mix one tablespoon ground flaxseed/chia seed meal with three tablespoons of water. Mix together, and let sit in your fridge for 15 minutes to set up and thicken.
Flaxseed Egg photo from Chocolate Covered Katie