Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Beef or Chicken and Veggie Skewers - recipe theme

I originally posted this recipe on Facebook back in 2015 and thought it was a great recipe to wrap up the recipe theme and fulfill my wish to make simple recipes.  Don’t be daunted by the long ingredient list, you can use any vegetables you have in the house.  Even though that are on the way out, all veggies work great on skewers, so use up the rubbery carrots and limp celery and make these tasty skewers and if the weather is good where you are, try them on the outdoor grill, if not roast them in the oven.

The sauce for this is bright and springy with a tangy yogurt-garlic-cucumber combination.  We like to use Greek yogurt because it has a thick enough texture to blend with high-moisture ingredients without becoming too thin.  And they are just as tasty with chicken as they are with beef.

Beef and Veggie Skewers

1/2 cup grated peeled seedless cucumber (or regular cucumber)*
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 large garlic cloves, minced, divided (or 2 tsp garlic powder)
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, divided (optional)
3 teaspoons lemon juice, divided
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
12 oz. stew meat or beef top sirloin steak, cut into 1 1/2-to 2-inch pieces
      If you only have chicken, cut 2 large breasts into 1 ½ inch cubes
4 large cherry tomatoes
1 diagonal cut carrot (optional)
2 wide cut celery ribs
1 green bell pepper, cut into 2-inch pieces
8 (1/2-inch) wedges red onion


Grate the cucumber and drain in fine strainer over small bowl, pressing with spatula to extract juices; discard juices. Combine cucumber and yogurt in small bowl. Stir in half of the garlic, 1/2 tablespoon of the mint, 3/4 teaspoon of the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of the oil, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and dash of the pepper.

Place beef in shallow dish. Combine remaining minced garlic, 1 tablespoon mint, 2 1/4 teaspoons lemon juice, 2 teaspoons oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper and herbs in small bowl; pour over meat, turning to coat. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Heat grill. Thread beef onto 2 (12-inch) metal skewers, separating pieces slightly. Thread vegetables onto 2 (12-inch) metal skewers, beginning and ending with tomatoes. Grill, covered, over medium heat or coals 6 minutes for beef for medium-rare and 10 to 12 minutes for vegetables or until crisp-tender, turning to brown all sides. In the over broil on high for about the same amount of time, turning to brown all sides.

*Seedless cucumbers, also called hothouse or English cucumbers, are thinner and longer than regular cucumbers. They're sold wrapped in plastic.


Each month a theme is chosen and a number of recipes on that theme from my massive archive will be shared.  This year we have 12 new topics, different from the topics of last year.  To find the recipes of last year, check out this recipe link or search the blog with the topic Recipe2018, or Recipe2019 

You can search the monthly theme by looking for the theme keyword in the search box and it will pull up the recipes on that theme as posted, so look at the bottom of the recipe in each posting for the KEYWORD in the () to search for each  month.  All recipes this year will be tagged Recipe2020 so you can find them all.

The themes are:

Feb 2020 - Footbal Tailgate Favorites (AppFeb)
March 2020 - Kabobs (KabobMar)
April 2020 - Brunch (BrunchApr)
May 2020 - Non-Traditional Pizza (PizzaMay)
June 2020 - StirFry Dishes (StirJun)
July 2020 - Salads with no lettuce (SaladJul)
August 2020 - Pickled things (PickleAug)
September 2020 - Quiche (QuicheSep)
October 2020 - Squash Soups (SquashOct)
November 2020 - Pumpkin (again) (PumpNov)
December 2020 - Turkey Recipes (TurkDec)

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Easy Recipes for the Weekend - Basil and Sage Pork Chops

Here in Illinois we are in week 2 of shelter-in-place and we have a well stocked larder, but that does not mean we want to make something complicated every meal as we stay at home.  We have treated ourselves to interesting recipes.

Mint Meat Rub on pork roast was one meal this week

Last night it was Chicken Carbernara my husband made from scratch for the first time.

I wanted to help folks find quick easy recipes to make a tasty dinner or lunch with few ingredients and very little special prep.

I have shared a few in the past so you can check those out:

Vegetable Soup
Buttery Shrimp
Slow Cooker Chicken Creole
Beef Empanadas
Salsa Meatloaf
Saucy Chicken

Today I have a quick and easy pork chop recipe.  It is good with fresh or dry herbs.

Basil and Sage Pork Chops 

4 lean pork chops
1 Tbls olive oil
¼ cup water
1 Tbls fresh chopped (1 tsp dried)
1 Tbls fresh sage (1 tsp dried)

Brown the pork chops in oil.  Add water.  Cover and simmer on medium high heat for 10 minutes.  Scatter the basil and sage over chops.  Add more water if pan is dry.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until chops are cooked through.  Serve with green beans.  I love to sauté the green beans in the pan after I remove the porkchops, just add a Tbls of butter nad stir until warmed.

Friday, March 27, 2020

House Cleansing Simmer

To link with my scented herb bundles of a few days ago, here is a simmer you can do on the stove to cleans the air and freshens the house.

It is raining here again and just chilly enough we can't open the doors, so I pulled together this scented simmer to clean the air and brighten and freshen the house.

I am making dried lemon peel, a task I ususally have trouble finding time to accomplish, but not right now!  As a result I purchased a couple dozen organic lemons and am zesting them.  Then I took several lemons and made this simmer.

House Cleansing Simmer

2 lemons, sliced
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
2 sprigs Rosemary

Place all items in a pot with water and simmer together.  Remember to continue to add water as it boils away.

Use some simple ingredients to clean your air and continue to stay safe indoors!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Eggplant Rigatoni Easy Meal

I have been looking through my recipes for those that have only a few ingredients, or easy to get ingredients that one can make while cooking at home. I found this to get us started as I keep sorting and looking.

This one uses eggplant.  I figure if you have produce left in your store this will be one of the items still remaining.  Also if this summer you grow a garden, this would be a good plant to add to your vegetable garden.

This recipe is tasty with fresh or dry basil, so use what you have on hand.  No basil, try oregano or marjoram instead.

Eggplant Rigatoni

1 Eggplant

1 medium onion

1-2 cloves garlic

Half and half or cream

1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes

½ cup fresh chopped basil or 4 Tablespoons dried basil

1 cup fresh mozzarella, cut into a rough dice


Cook rigatoni to package directions. Remove skin from eggplant and dice eggplant. Dice onion and garlic sauté in olive oil until softened but not browned. Add diced eggplant. Cook until tender.  Remove half to a bowl.  Add the can diced tomatoes with sauce.  Add a bit of cream

Add ½ cup cut fresh basil, or 2 Tbls dried to sauce.  Add back in ¼ cup egg plant. Add cooked rigatoni to sauce.  Add reserved eggplant and basil. Add diced mozzarella and stir in, cook until melty and serve immediately.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Disinfecting and Uplifting Herb Blends for Quarantine

Previously I shared a disinfecting herbal cleaning spray you can make with herbs, but I also like herb scents in the house and I thought maybe I could use a combination of herbs to scent the house and disinfect the air around me. 

For more information on any of the herbs discussed in this post, I suggest looking at our A to Z Herbs page which features links to learning posts containing details of all the herbs here as well as others we have posted on previously.

Disinfecting Herbs

You need a selection of herbs that have disinfecting properties and fresh herbs are best.  I got all of these in the produce department of my fruit market.  Your grocery should have at least a few of these.  You can use whatever you can get.  It is still Winter here, okay Spring, but the plants have done nothing yet, so I could not harvest from the garden.

I did use a combination of fresh and dry herbs, as finding fresh lavender in winter is almost impossible, but the scent from even dry lavender is still nice and aromatic.

Disinfecting Herb Bundles







Take a sprig or two and bundle them together with a rubber band.  Hang the herbs and allow then to air dry.  The scent will waft through the air adding disinfecting properties.

I started with the lavender that was dry giving stiffness and the thyme which has very small stems. 

I added in the rosemary whose woody stem gave support to the mint, sage and dill I added to finish each bundle.

I placed the bundles on a hanger so I could just hang it in the office or from the hall railing to let the scent spread.

Uplifting Herbs

Sometimes when cooped up in quarantine you want to lift your mood.  The seriousness of all this pandemic discussion can make it hard to be optimistic. So the scent of uplifting herbs can make all the difference.

This blend of herbs focuses on citrus and its uplifting effect on the mind. I was able to find my favorite black stem peppermint and used dried lemongrass and dried roses.

For this bundle I cut the peel off a grapefruit in long strips.  Since I am not eating it, it did not matter if I cut into the pith (white part) under the skin (which is bitter) so I could make sure I got a couple nice long pieces. That were strong enough to keep their shape during the drying process.

Uplifting Herb Bundles







Then using a rubber band bundle the herbs together into a decorative presentation.  Tie with pretty ribbon or raffia and hang in a nice prominent place to allow the scents to spread through the room.  Someplace where you will touch or bump the bundle is even better.

I used dried lemon grass, because the bulb is available in winter, but the fronds are not. I had some long pieces, so I pulled them up from the bottom to make a loop on each side to become the base for my bundle.

Then I added the herbs.  The geranium are my scented geraniums which I bring in every winter.  The stems are thin and soft from the lack of light so a base to place them on really helps then hang better.

I added the rosemary, mint, and some oregano (which is a wonderful germ fighter.) The dried roses just did not look right so I did not end up using them, but you can get a rose or two from the floral shop and add great color to this bundle. I had some fun with the grapefruit peel wrapping it in and around the other herbs.

I think I like my second bundle better than my first. One I hung on the back door, so every time we slide the door the scent is released.  The other I hung in my new home office (this is a work from home quarantine you know.)

As these bundles dry the scent will be released and act on my environment and they will be nice decorations in my home, even as the scent fades during the hot summer months.

No one said we had to have a stuffy house if we were quarantined, so grab some fresh or dried herbs and freshen your space!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Play the Game Tangle - Indoor Craft with Scented Herbs

Below I will be giving you instructions for making a simple game like Twister with an herbal twist.  And the best part is you make it from recycled materials.  It is actually part of my kids program called "Play-it-Again Games." 

If you needs some calming and some activity, then this is a great game to play.  It is raining here for the third day in a row, so there is no outside play going on, so to keep from becomeing couch / computer potatoes, my hubby and I decided to try the game after I made it.

What this really caused was a great deal of laughing, because my husband and I are not as limber as we thought we were.  Thank goodness there is no photographic evidence.

Make the Game of Tangle

All you need is:
 2 milk or juice cartons
6 colors of construction paper

Steps to Create Tangle Game:
      1.                Cut 2 squares boxes from carton bottoms.

     2.                Cut a slit at one corner of one box 

 3.   Create a combo of aromatic herbs in any amount inside one box.  Use about 2 to 3 Tablespoons of mixed herbs. Roses, lavender, lemon herbs mints, etc.  

If you do not have herbs, but have some essential or perfume or potpourri oil, place a few drops and some scraps of paper.

4.  Push the 2 boxes together with the scented items inside.  They fit tightly, no glue required.  When you shake it (toss it,) the herbs stay inside, but give off their scent.

5.              Trace the sides of the box onto 6 different colors of construction paper.

6.              Cut out 5 squares of each color.

7.              Glue one square of each color onto the 6 sides of the cube, creating a colored die.

The splash of almond milk makes it look like I poured glue on the box, but that is actually a glue stick, which worked perfectly.  I smoothed the paper over the glue putting one color on each side until entirely covered creating a color dice.

Now you are ready to play the game.  The entire process took me about 15 minutes, so you can have a game ready in no time.

TO PLAY TANGLE – 2 to 6 players

1.   Find a clear space on the floor for play.

2.   Scatter the paper squares (4 of each color) on the floor.

3.   Roll the colored dice once.  The color on top is the color to use.  

4.   Try to get both hands and both feet on the matching color in the scatter on the floor.

5.   Try not to get too tangled. I put the phone down and hubby and I tried the game.  With me getting blue first and him getting red, he had to stretch over me to reach his colors and when I tossed the dice for my next color we ended up in a pile on the floor laughing!

6.   Play continues with other members of the team. If you have more than 4 players, you can work with 2 squares instead of 4 for each person and alternate hands and feet.  Have fun!

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