Koo Koo Roo (and Not Koo Koo Roo Chicken)

The first time I ate at a Koo Koo Roo I fell madly in love with the chicken.  Back then they offered very few sides – always tandoori bread, a vegetable, and either pilaf or roasted potatoes.  That was okay though, because for me it was all about the chicken.  I would rip off a chunk and wrap it in the flat bread, scooping up any of the marinade that dripped off the chicken before biting off a chunk.  That location closed and it was a while before we had another Koo Koo Roo in town.  I had my daughters by then and I remember that when I looked at the sides they offered I was amazed that the little hole-in-the-wall we had known had grown into this popular place with a dozen choices for sides.  We had to try them all.  The one that made the most impact on me was the roasted sweet potato which was served plain.  The one the girls loved was the mac and cheese.  We went back and had different sides until we’d tried them all, but we all agreed, it was really all about the chicken.

Koo Koo Roo has left Southern Nevada and I have missed it.  I have tried to replicate the recipe, but without the original for comparison, I’m afraid it proved impossible.  In trying I did manage, in one of my failures, to find a chicken recipe that my family loves.

Not Koo Koo Roo Chicken

6 oz can vegetable juice cocktail (I like regular V8)

8 ounces plain low-fat yoghurt

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2.5 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks

Mix all ingredients in airtight container that can be shaken and turned upside down.  Marinate anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.  Place chicken in covered dish, spooning marinade over.  Bake 350 for 45 minutes or until juices of chicken run clear when pierced.  Serve with Naan or Tandoori bread, Couscous and Raita.

Couscous: Bring two cups of chicken stock (or two cups water with 2 bullion cubes) to boil with 1 large chopped onion, cover and continue to boil about 2 minutes.  Add in 1 rounded cup couscous, turn off heat, and cover.  Allow to sit 10 minutes.  Fluff with fork.

Raita: In bowl mix 3/4 cup plain low-fat yoghurt with 1/4 cup low-fat sour cream.  Add 1 grated, peeled cucumber, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh mint, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro.  Mix well.




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Vehicle rental (and a little something for breakfast)

Today is the day my truck had to go in for the body work (a door was opened into the rear wheel well) and I had to get a rental while it’s being repaired.  I think my choice in vehicle is going to be a big disappointment to Harley Guy.  You see, he’d have checked out the lot to see what was available and made his decision based on what he’s never driven before – an opportunity to try out something new.  I’m afraid I’m no longer that adventurous, I don’t even drive on the freeways here.  What I did was explained that I drive a Honda Ridgeline and wanted something that would have the same feel and passenger room.  I ended up with a nice little Dodge truck (it’s even the same color as mine) that I think is a pretty close match in size and handling.

Harley Guy would probably have gone for a sports car, something fast and totally impractical for driving my girls to and from school.  Something that he would have liked to drive back when we were kids, when I was in high school and he was in the navy.  Back then he rode a bike too, but it was a Honda; a Harley wanna be.  And I drove a VW.  We’ve both owned a lot of vehicles in the 30 years we weren’t together.  Most of his were practical most of mine weren’t.  And now I’m the one that has to remember I have two girls that have to be chauffeured around, and he no longer needs a “work” vehicle.  Time sure does change things.

Since the girls were still in bed when I got home I thought it would be nice for them to wake up to the smell of pancakes, here’s the recipe I use.

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 cups milk

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup oil (plus additional to grease griddle)

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl.

Mix liquids together in medium-sized bowl.

Pour liquid into dry and stir just until blended.

Heat griddle over medium low heat.  Grease lightly between each batch.

Spoon about 1/4 cup of batter onto griddle for each cake.  Cook until edges are dry and bubbles that form on top do not close when popped.  Flip over and continue to cook until bottom is lightly browned and pancake is cooked through.    Makes about 2 dozen.

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Beans (Bean and Ham Soup)

Beans beans the musical fruit the more you eat the more you toot the more you toot the better you feel so let’s have beans at every meal. Clam chowder makes them louder.

I learned that, of all places, at church camp back in nineteen sixty something…  Like a wildfire it made the rounds of all the cabins the very first evening.  I truly believe it’s the reason I only went to church camp the one year.  My mom was not happy when she asked me what we’d done at camp and that was the first thing that popped out of my mouth. Definitely not what she’d sent me to church camp to learn.  And just so you know, my daughters, like my mom before them, aren’t very happy with me when I find the need to repeat that little verse – especially when they have friends over, and we’re eating beans.

And now for the recipe:

1 pound dry navy or baby lima beans

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups chicken stock, broth, or bullion

1 large meaty ham bone or a pound of ham cut or shredded into bite size pieces

2 large onions, coarsely chopped

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped celery

2 cups potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon tabasco sauce

salt to taste

Soak the beans overnight in a large bowl of water with 1 teaspoon baking soda mixed in (it makes the skins more tender and reduces the bean’s side-effects – see rhyme at top of post).  The next morning drain and rinse beans, add to large pot (or slow cooker).  Add all other ingredients with additional water to cover.  Cover pot and simmer over low heat about 6 hours stirring often, adding more water if needed (or set slow cooker to low for 8-10 hours).  Remove bay leaves and ham bone, return any meat from bone to pot.  Mash lightly with bean or potato masher to thicken a bit.  Makes 10 to 12 servings.


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Birds at our fountain (and a cookie recipe)

I am sitting at the dining table right now watching two adorable little yellow breasted finches bathe in our fountain.  We had a pretty cold winter, our harshest weather coming in December and January, and the fountain froze several times causing us to have to turn it off for weeks at a time until the temperature rose enough for it to flow freely again.  It has only been in the last week or so that it has been visited by birds again – first it was a dark headed hummingbird and now the finches.  As the weather warms and standing water becomes more scarce I know the mockingbirds and blackbirds will show up (and try to take over).  We always have pigeons in the yard but they are too large and clumsy to do anything but pick through the grass and rock for whatever they can find.  I’ve never seen a baby pigeon but last spring there was one very small young pigeon that sat all day on the lip of the base of the fountain, moving around during the day to stay in the shade, only leaving when I let the dogs outside.  I expect to see mourning doves at the fountain soon, and last year for the first time ever we had a robin.  Thing 1 and Thing 2 had never seen one before though they had heard about them.  They weren’t terribly impressed, I think they expected it to be more colorful.  That’s really not as strange as it sounds, robins are not common in southern Nevada though roadrunners are and I’ve only seen two of those in the 22 years I’ve lived here, and I’ve never seen a bighorn sheep.  I did see a gila monster once and that is supposed to be very rare these days.  Though it wasn’t at my fountain or even in my backyard.

I’ve been considering putting our parrot outside on the patio this year when the weather gets warm.  He’s a scaly headed pionus named Max, with a very loud voice and I’m thinking that a change in scenery might be good for him.  With all the birds the fountain attracts he should also be well entertained.  Of course he will have to stay in a cage, but the upside to this is that he won’t be in any danger of being caught or even chased by our dogs.

The recipe I’m going to share is one I typically make at Christmas; but I have nuts left over from the holidays that must be used before they go rancid, a container of chocolate covered cranberries from Trader Joe’s, and at the moment no cookies in the house.  This is basically a variation on shortbread so they will not be soft and puffy but stay dense and firm.  It’s been one of the girl’s favorites since they were little.

White Chocolate, Macadamia, and Chocolate Covered Cranberry Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup shortening

1/2 cup each powdered sugar and granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoons vanilla

1 tablespoon milk

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chocolate covered (or regular dried) cranberries

3/4 cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

6 ounces white chocolate – either coarsely chop baking bars or 1/2 package chips

Preheat over to 350 degrees

Cream butter with sugars in large mixing bowl.  Add egg, vanilla, and milk; beat until smooth.  Mix flour with salt then add, mixing just until incorporated.  Add cranberries, nuts, and white chocolate, stirring in by hand.  Drop by tablespoonfuls 2″ apart on parchment/silpat lined baking sheet.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes (cookies should not brown).

Because I send baked goods to lots of people at Christmas I look for cookies that are sturdy.  If I make them for shipping I use a scoop to shape, but I prefer the homey way they look just scraped off a spoon if I’m going to serve them to my family and friends.



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What a day! (and speedy pasta pie recipe)

It started with a quick check of county taxes for my property so I could work some more on taxes.  Property showed it was now owned by a trustee.  I did a quick check and found bank statements showing that property tax checks for the last 2 years had all cleared with time to spare.  A call to the county treasurer’s office turned up a typo mistake by them in the parcel number and a follow-up e-mail to me shows they are going to correct.  Fast forward a couple of hours and I’m in the grocery store really happy with myself because it’s one of my better coupon days.  When I came out I noticed a person parked next to me checking out my vehicle.  I walked over to them and saw that their door had been whipped out of their hand by the wind and put a crease in the wheel well of mine.  Insurance info exchange, pick the girls up after school, dentist visits (yea, no cavities), then a call to insurance company and an appointment set up with insurance inspector for tomorrow.  Not the day I had planned at all.  Thing 1’s birthday is coming fast and I haven’t been able to plan a thing (let alone get her gifts).

Dinner had to be something really quick and easy, I mean I really needed a break here.  I pulled a quart of spaghetti sauce out of the freezer to thaw, cooked up a pound of pasta – I used penne, thawed out a one pound package of spinach then squeezed out the extra moisture and opened an 8 ounce package of mozzarella cheese (Harley Guy won’t touch anything with ricotta, parmesan or romano in it but he likes mozzarella just fine).  I mixed the pasta with the sauce and put half into a 10 inch pie plate that had been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  I spread the spinach out in a thin layer then sprinkled the cheese over this.  The rest of the pasta went over the top and it went into a 350 degree oven for half an hour.  We like the slightly dry top of the pie but you could certainly sprinkle parm, romano, or even more mozzarella over the top 5 minutes before you pull it out.  I served it with sweet cherry peppers and Mediterranean olives I had in the fridge.  I also made a loaf of garlic bread.  Easy cheesy and everyone’s happy (except Thing 2 because it’s her night to do the dishes).

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Crazy mixed up Valentine’s Day (and an easy truffle recipe)

Poor Harley Guy, he’s all stressed out because he didn’t have time to do anything for Valentine’s Day this year.  It’s funny, he gets frustrated at my wanting to decorate for every holiday (I even change the dry pasta I keep in an Italian canning jar on the sink almost monthly) and yet he tends to go over the top with gifts or nights on the town for those same holidays – the Edible Arrangement he had delivered last year was huge and after eating our fill for a week I had to freeze over 2/3 of the melon, pineapple, and strawberries and we were eating popsicles and smoothies made from it until the end of May.

He has been working crazy hours this last week and tonight is his bowling league so I’m just glad that he’s able to get out and blow off some steam for a few hours with the guys doing something he loves.  Our anniversary is coming up in just a few days and then Thing 1’s birthday a few days after that so if he really feels the need to do something he has two more opportunities is the next week to do it.

This is only Harley Guy’s and my 6’th Valentines Day together, but it’s my 17’th as a mom and I’ve always done something for the girls so this year I found a box of really cute bug Valentine’s.  I also went to Trader Joe’s and picked up a 3.5 ounce bar of semi sweet chocolate and the same amount of white chocolate to make truffles.  I already had cream and butter in the fridge and cocoa, powdered sugar, and salt in the cupboard.  I was able to make 13 tablespoon size white chocolate and the same amount of the dark chocolate.

So now for the recipe:  In a double boiler or bowl balanced on a pan of water heat about 3  tablespoons of cream with 2 tablespoons of butter.  When the water in the bottom pan boils turn it off and add 3.5 ounces of chocolate (either white or dark) to the cream and butter.  Sprinkle in a few grains of salt then whisk to a smooth consistency.  If separation occurs don’t panic.   The white chocolate should re-incorporate as it cools, just put it in the fridge and stir every few minutes.  The dark chocolate will need a little help if it separates, just add a tablespoonful of powdered sugar and whisk in well.  Allow to cool in the fridge just like the white chocolate, stirring every few minutes.  When the mixture is butter-like, use a small cookie scoop and drop them into powdered sugar for the white chocolate or cocoa powder for the dark.  Sift additional sugar or cocoa over the tops then roll to coat.  Petit-four cases or mini muffin baking cups will be just about the right size to display them and they need to stay in the fridge until ready to eat.  Add ins are an easy way to change these up, next time I think I’ll try adding some toasted coconut to the white chocolate and maybe some chocolate nibs to the dark, or maybe a teaspoon of amaretto to the white and peppermint schnapps to the dark.  Once you have the basic recipe the possibilities for variations are endless.

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It’s a New Year (and an easy Tamale Pie recipe)

The girls are back in school, Harley Guy is back to his normal work schedule, and it’s time for the last of Christmas to come down – the tree.  I love to wait until after twelfth night to take down the tree; it’s the one decoration that all by itself really says Christmas to me.  And while I do find it a little depressing (because we won’t be seeing it again for another eleven months or so) I also like that it helps put me in cleaning mode which allows me to get a jump on spring cleaning.  Plus, Valentine’s Day is only 38 days away so in another week or so I can pull out my afgans with hearts on them and put my heart wreaths on the doors (which look so bare since I took down the Christmas wreaths)… and Thing 1’s birthday is just a few days later and now that she’s older she always wants a Valentine’s theme (which makes it so much easier for me to plan).  So, I’m off and running:  putting Christmas away, Thing 2 still has practices and fittings for a friend’s quinceanera she’s performing in in about a week, Thing 2 also has a school evaluation coming up in few weeks, then we have Valentines day, Harley Boy’s and my 4’th anniversary, and Thing 1’s 17’th birthday (17!!).  That should get us through the end of February.

So now for the Tamale Pie recipe.  Unfortunately I haven’t figured out how to take pictures and get them on my website so I’ll try to do this as simply and concisely as I can.  I remember a boxed mix my mom used to buy in the ’70’s (I think it was Schilling), as I recall it had a can of corn, a package of seasoning mix, and a package of cornmeal topping mix.  I also remember that it was very salty and the seasoning was overpowering.  So here’s my version, a hearty economical dish that makes 8 to 10 serving.

Continue reading

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Learning Curve (and sausage gravy)

When I first decided I wanted to start a blog I had a really hard time choosing between Blogger and WordPress (to begin with).  Blogger seemed to have more outside sources for free customization (like wallpaper) to make the blog look good but WordPress had more internal options for customizing the layout so I chose it hoping that as I learn what I need to know to create my blog, I’ll be able to add my own customizations. Unfortunately I am severely tech-challenged so this learning curve could take a while.

Now on to the gravy.  This is the second week of Christmas break which means the fridge is filled with lots of bits of this and dabs of that.  We had four small sausage links left over from Christmas breakfast and lots of sweet potato biscuits from dinner (so good with the ham).  How to stretch four sausage links to feed all three of us *and* encourage my girls to help use up the leftover biscuits?  I pulled out my little food processor and broke the sausage down into really small bits which I added to a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  I cooked it until the fat was all melted down and the bits of meat began to brown then I added about three tablespoons of flour and stirred it in well, allowing it to brown a bit too (like when you make a roux).  I added about a cup of milk, stirring well to break down any little clumps then added another cup, still stirring until it began to simmer and thicken.  I added more milk until I had the consistency I wanted (about another cup) then added salt and pepper to taste.  We toasted the biscuits in the oven and ladled the gravy over them and our breakfast was AMAZING!  And the best part is it made so much gravy that the girls have already told me they are looking forward to having the rest of the gravy and biscuits for breakfast tomorrow.

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Ta Da! It’s the beginning.

I’ve wanted to do this for a long, long time.  Everyone that knows me knows that my intentions are good but life can put plans on hold and hijack follow-through.  I’m not a phone person; my cell sits in my purse more often than not, sounding the alarm that tells me it’s time to pick the girls up from school more often than it rings (or I dial).  I’m pretty good at texting and returning texts.  I’ve always been a writer – whether it was fan-fic about my favorite T.V. shows in junior high, my journal in high school (thank you Ms. G for trying to instill that discipline in your English students, and for encouraging me when instead of writing about my life I wrote a story), or the stories I still work on occasionally now.  I’m hoping having this blog will help my family and friends keep up to date with the goings on of my oldest, Thing 1, my youngest, Thing 2 (they chose these names, I swear I had nothing to do with it), my honey (Harley Guy), and me.

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