Author Archives: swampkitty05

Catching Up – and Big News!

Wow, can’t believe it’s been 3 years since my last post – seems like yesterday. And I apologize that it seems like I disappeared off the face of this earth with no warning.

Long story short, after dealing with so much illness between 2011-2015, I kind of lost the identity of blogger, and picked up the identity of being a patient. I ran to New Jersey, hoping to repair severed family ties and get back to my roots so I could find myself again. Unfortunately, moving back to my hometown was anything but. It cost me my marriage, my passions in life, and so much more.

Faced with so much violence around me, watching friends die one by one because of either drugs or other bad choices, watching corrupt politicians win local elections, and dealing with the same sort of racism, homophobia, and other things that caused me to flee to Ohio in the first place, it became clear to me that if I stay here any longer, I’ll never be able to leave a place I’m so unhappy with. I’ve seen it happen too many times – brilliant people who are stuck here against their will, because they don’t have the economic resources to relocate. I’m blessed enough to be able to leave.

So that’s the big news – I’m headed back to Columbus. I’ve already sold my house, will be leaving New Jersey in mid-May, and this time around, I’m here to stay. And I’m picking up right where I left off. So excited. Will update via Twitter – I kind of went black on social media except for Facebook. I’ve got so much to say to catch up with where I am in life, but I’m gung ho about diving right in when I get back. So many new restaurants, changes in the past 3 years, that it will take me a while to rediscover the city I grew to love. See you all soon, I’ve missed you all dearly!

5 For $20 Challenge: Authentic Puerto Rican Chuletas and Arroz Con Gandules

To close the chapter on our 5 for $20 Challenge, I decided to take the package of pork chops and, with a little bit of assistance from B’s bestie Ronni, got the recipe for Chuletas (Pork Chops) and Arroz con Gandules (Rice with Pigeon Peas).

I’ve written previously about my version (adapted from one I cajoled out of B’s mother) of this dish; to be completely honest, this one is far better than mine.

Pork Chops and Arroz Con Gandules

Note that to properly prepare this version of Arroz con Gandules, you need to use a thick-walled caldero; nothing else will allow the coveted golden-brown pegao (a layer of deep-brown, crisped rice) to form in the bottom of the pot. If you wish to purchase one, you can find it at Amazon through the link below.



2 pork chops (I used boneless loin chops, but bone-in center cut loin chops work best)
Goya Sazon con culantro y achiote, to taste
Goya Adobo con pimienta (red cap), to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray pan lightly with nonstick spray.
  2. Season the chops lightly on both sides with sazon and adobo. Place them in the pan.
  3. Bake for 20-30 minutes depending on thickness, or until internal temperature reaches 165F. Serve with Arroz con Gandules.

Arroz con Gandules


4 C rice (I use medium-grain; long-grain will work as well)
1 packet Goya caldo de pollo (chicken bouillon)
2 packets Goya Sazon con culantro y achiote
6 oz Salchichon (summer sausage will also work), sliced then quartered
15 oz can gandules (pigeon peas), drained
12 oz jar of Goya recaito
sufficient canola oil to coat rice (about 1/4 C)
2 T tomato paste or 1 C tomato sauce
4 C water if using tomato paste or 3 C water if using tomato sauce


  1. Combine the first seven ingredients in a thick-walled caldero on medium-high heat. Stir well to coat rice evenly. Allow the rice and seasonings to warm up for about a minute.
  2. Add either 2 T tomato paste and 4 C water, or 1 C tomato sauce and 3 C water, to caldero. Stir well and raise heat to high, bringing contents of pot to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and let cook until liquid is nearly completely absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  4. Turn bottom to top. Cook another 20 minutes, until a nice layer of pegao has formed at the bottom of the caldero. Serve with chuletas or roast pernil.

Lemony Chicken and Orzo

This recipe has everything I love going for it. It’s low fat, super high protein, delicious, and comes together easily in 30 minutes or less. It’s very protein dense if you follow the original recipe, but I’ve been known to keep the chicken ratio where it is (have you seen chicken breasts in the grocery lately. We swear they must come from mutant birdzillas, because each breast half weighs in at nearly a pound – so no need to double the chicken) and then double the other ingredients to be able to stretch it enough (and in a very economically sound way, considering the low cost of the other ingredients) to feed a family of 6 or more.

It’s got kind of a Greek vibe to it (think avgolemono soup flavor, but not thickened as much), which I’m sure you could amp up by adding a little Greek oregano and pairing it with a Greek side salad. But it’s super filling all on it’s own.

Lemony Chicken and Orzo

Lemony Chicken & Orzo
Recipe from Family Circle

PREP TIME: 5 mins

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 tsp. each salt and black pepper
1 can (14.5 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 c. lemon juice
2 tsp.honey
2 1/2 tbsp.low-fat sour cream
3/4 cup orzo
8 beans, cut into 1-inch pieces

Cut chicken into 1-inch cubes. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper.
Pour broth and lemon juice into a Dutch oven; bring to boil and add chicken. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 9 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Remove chicken from pot; set aside. Increase heat to high and cook sauce for 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; whisk in honey and sour cream.
Add 2 cups water to pot and bring to a boil; add orzo and cook for 10 minutes or until pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add green beans to pot for final 4 minutes of cook time. Stir chicken back into pot and serve.

Per Serving: cal. (kcal) 384, Fat, total (g) 4, chol. (mg) 106, sat. fat (g) 1, carb. (g) 39, fiber (g) 3, pro. (g) 47, sodium (mg) 685, Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Introduction to the Cooking for Kids Series

It’s really difficult to tell sometimes when kids are ready to cook – some are extremely precocious and are able to compete like old pros on shows like Masterchef Junior, others lack the interest or even the drive to boil a kettle of water. Every once in a while, the child comes to you and asks if they can help. Believe me when I say that kids like that are a rare thing indeed, so you want to foster that interest as soon as they show it. My great-grandmother started teaching me her recipes at 4 or 5 years old, whether it was helping her with Apfelkuchen, sitting out back snapping the ends off of green beans, or what not. I was still using a step-stool when I started cooking with her.

Yahnni Cooking

Yahnni is my best friend’s daughter, (but is more like a niece to me), a 10 year old extremely intelligent, and extremely creative ball of energy who leaves her mark on everything she touches. We’ve agreed to let her pick out a dish for us all to make on the weekends, and this series will talk about those experiences, what we’ve learned (because as much as we’re teaching her, we learn from her as well), and how it all turned out. So keep your eyes peeled for some of her inventions.

P.S. If you’d like to join in, put the link to your entry as a comment. I will see all that are submitted and will edit the entry to link you all up.

Weekend Dog Blogging: Farmer’s Market Edition

When B. hasn’t been feeling well, she sends me out to the Saturday farmers’ markets alone. I usually go to the North Market, Worthington Market and Clintonville Market. Of late (read: 2014), I’ve gone to just the Clintonville Market, since all my favorite vendors are there, and it seems pointless to fight the crowds in the Short North and Worthington when there’s little reason to do so.

Since there are so many people bringing their dogs to the Market, I’ve made a point of taking pictures of them — at least when they’ll let me. Dogs are fickle about taking candids; not these fellows, however.  Shout-out to Hamilton the Pig, whose owner takes him to Worthington regularly (fifth picture below).

Wistful Dog


Italian Greyhound


Hamilton the Pig




Australian Shepherd

Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken and Fried Rice

I have to admit, my luck is a bit hit or miss when it comes to trying to reproduce Asian recipes that I see on Pinterest. Sometimes things that look awesome on camera turn out tasting like an abomination that ends up in the garbage can, pin deleted never to be seen again (I’m looking at you, tamale pie). Other times, you happen to stumble upon a recipe that tastes as good as it looks. This baked sweet and sour chicken tastes just as good as the fried version, and is a dead on reproduction of the stuff with the bright orange sauce that you get at your favorite Chinese takeout. In my book, that makes this recipe a winner. I served it with leftover fried rice from earlier that week, but the recipe for fried rice below sounds like it’s a perfect partner for the chicken.

Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken and Fried Rice

Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken
recipe courtesy Life in the Lofthouse

3-4 boneless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1 c. cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
¼ c. canola oil

Sweet and Sour Sauce:
¾ c. sugar
4 tbsp. ketchup
½ c. distilled white vinegar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. garlic salt

Start by preheating your oven to 325F. Rinse your chicken breasts in water and then cut into cubes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Dip chicken into the cornstarch to coat, then dip into the eggs.

Heat ¼ cup oil in a large skillet and pan-fry chicken pieces just until slightly browned but not cooked through. Place chicken in a 9 x 13-inch greased baking dish.

Mix all of your sweet and sour sauce ingredients in a bowl with a whisk. Pour evenly over the chicken. Bake chicken for one hour, uncovered. During the baking process you will need to turn the chicken every 15 minutes.

Serve immediately with the fried rice recipe below.

Fried Rice

3 cups cooked white rice (day old or leftover rice works best!)
3 Tablespoons sesame oil (or vegetable oil)
1 cup frozen peas and carrots (thawed)
1 small onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 eggs, slightly beaten
3-4 Tablespoons soy sauce

On medium high heat, heat the oil in a large skillet or wok. Add the peas/carrots mix, onion and garlic. Stir fry until tender. Lower the heat to medium low and push the mixture off to one side, then pour eggs on the other side of skillet. Stir fry until scrambled.

Now add the rice and soy sauce and blend all together well. Stir fry until thoroughly heated!

Review: Bibibop

Since I’ve spent the better part of the past year in a hospital bed (both inpatient and here at home), and the last 4 years struggling with my health, I’ve become a bit out of the loop when it comes to the food scene here in Columbus. More than a bit, actually. Your average person on the street can probably give you better advice than I can when it comes to somewhere great to eat. Openings, closings, so many changes in so little time that I’ve lost track. But part of the joy is in the rediscovery. Old favorites. New haunts. With old and new friends.

But the one thing we can all agree on, I’m sure, is that hospital food SUCKS. Really sucks. Sucks to the point where you’d rather eat nothing at all than another dried out, bland piece of what is supposed to pass for a chicken breast. For the time I was inpatient, Paul was my proxy, both by getting me outside food to eat and by taking over some of the blogging duties. One of the new discoveries, and new favorites, is Bibibop.

Rice Bowl from Bibibop

Think Chipotle, but with an Asian spin. Pick a base (bowl, salad or wrap). Choose a protein (regular or spicy chicken, seasoned tofu, or seasoned steak), with sautéed potatoes, bean sprouts, and black beans, and steamed white or purple wild rice. Or all of the above. Pick toppings (cucumber, lettuce, carrot, daikon, corn, cheese and egg). Pick a (or more than one) sauce (teriyaki, yum yum, siracha, or Korean red sauce). Personally, I find a kids bowl ($3.95 base) to be more than enough for two meals. My personal fave? A kids bowl with half white rice, half purple rice, potato, a few sprouts, black beans, double steak ($1.75 extra), with all of the toppings, including double egg (for the added protein). I top it with 1, maybe 2 yum yum sauce. Mayonnaise based, so be careful not to make your healthy bowl unhealthy by loading it down with 4 or 5 like Paul does. Walk out the door with two filling protein-dense meals for well under $6. If you have a bigger appetite, get the regular sized portion for well under $10.

With 4 locations in Columbus (Grandview, Upper Arlington, Polaris and Easton), there’s no excuse not to try something new in the “make your own meal assembly line style” vein.

Chocolate Cherry Croissant Bread Pudding

To me, bread pudding (whether savory or sweet) is definitely a cold weather dish. There’s nothing quite like waking up on a cold morning to eat something warm and filling. A little goes a long way, and this is one of those dishes where it doesn’t pack much nutritional quality, so I enjoy it in moderation. It reheats beautifully in the microwave. I love the combination of chocolate and cherry – this recipe is definitely a winner, and will go into the rotation.Maybe next time I can scale it down to half, so it’s more suitable for a couple with no kids.

Chocolate Cherry Croissant Bread Pudding

Chocolate Cherry Croissant Bread Pudding
recipe courtesy Betty Crocker

Prep Time: 25 min
Total Time: 2 hrs, 20 min
Servings: 12

Bread Pudding:
4 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
¾ c. sugar
2 ½ c. milk
2 ½ c. whipping cream
1 tbsp. vanilla
7 large (5 ½ x 4 ½ inches) croissants, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces (10 cups)
1 c. dark chocolate chips
2 tbsp. butter, melted
2 tbsp. sugar
½ c. dried cherries

Cherry Sauce:
¼ c. sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch
½ c. water
1 bag (10 oz) frozen dark sweet cherries
½ tsp. vanilla

Heat oven to 325F. Grease bottom and sides of 13×9 inch (3 quart) glass baking dish with shortening or cooking spray. In large bowl, beat 4 whole eggs, 1 egg yolk and ¾ cup sugar with wire whisk until well blended. Beat in milk, whipping cream and vanilla until well blended. Stir in 7 cups of the croissant pieces. Let stand for 20 minutes. Pour into baking dish. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Lightly press remaining 3 cups croissant pieces on top of mixture. Brush top of croissant pieces with butter, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Sprinkle with dried cherries.

Bake uncovered 55 to 65 minutes or until top is light golden brown (center will jiggle slightly). Cool 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, mix ¼ cup sugar, the cornstarch and water until blended. Stir in frozen cherries. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and thickens. Boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Serve sauce over warm bread pudding. Store bread pudding and sauce covered in refrigerator.

Nutrition (per serving): 600 cal, 330 cal from fat, 37g fat (22 g sat, 1 g trans), 200mg chol, 120mg sodium, 57g carb

Lazy Sunday Casserole

I love to try new recipes, and most often, my favorites are ones that use ingredients I already have on hand. This recipe, in particular, uses a ton of root vegetables. We always have sausage in the freezer (yay, Costco), and the only ingredient we had to go out and get was the fennel. Great winter meal, highly recommended. Paul absolutely loved it, and we plan on making it again.

Lazy Sunday Casserole

Lazy Sunday Casserole
recipe courtesy Kayotic Kitchen

4 sausages (beef or pork)
1 pound potatoes
1/2 pound carrots
1/2 bell pepper
1 large onion
1 fennel bulb
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp oil
freshly cracked black pepper
1 1/2 tsp Italian herbs
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Peel the potatoes, wash them and cut each potato in four pieces.

Peel one large or two smaller onions and cut them in wedges.

Remove the base and stalks of the fennel, and turn that one into wedges as well. Looks so fresh green.

Red is good. Red is really good. Slice 1/2 to 1 bell pepper in strips.

Place everything in a big roasting tray. I cheated and bought pre-grated and pre-cut carrots *hangs head in shame*.

Use a big bowl to combine the oil with the Italian herbs, grated or chopped garlic, and chicken broth.

Pour this witches’ brew all over your veggies and toss them around a bit.

Season with a generous amount of salt (kosher salt would be great) and cracked black pepper.

Cover the tray with aluminum foil and pop it in a preheated oven. Bake at 450F (225C) for 45 minutes.

That gives you plenty time to brown the sausages. No need to cook them all the way through, just lightly brown them.

Slice each sausage in half. I’ve used half pork/ half beef sausages btw. You can also use Italian sausage or any type of flavored sausage.

After 45 minutes the potatoes and vegetables should be fork tender. If they’re not, cover the tray with the foil and pop them back in the oven for a few more minutes. If they are fork tender, place the sausages in there and pour the balsamic vinegar all over. Place the tray back in the oven, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes.

Take it out after 15 minutes, flip over those sausages and ladle some of the juices lurking at the bottom all over the vegetables and sausages. Put it back in the oven for the remaining time, until everything is nice and brown.

Pioneer Woman’s Salisbury Steak

Continuing in a week where all I’ve craved is comfort food and hearty meals, this Salisbury Steak recipe by Ree Drummond is one we use again and again. Because of the gravy. We Ohioans are lucky to have a House of Meats in the Anderson’s Market in Dublin that makes their own Salisbury Steak patties. We’ve been so pleased by them that we rarely ever make the meat mixture from scratch as this recipe does. We pick up the instructions from the part where you fry them in a skillet. We also serve it with mashed potatoes, plus whatever vegetables we’re in the mood for. Green peas, as suggested in the recipe, are an excellent choice.

Pioneer Woman's Salisbury Steak

Salisbury Steak
recipe courtesy The Pioneer Woman Cooks

1-1/2 pound Lean Ground Beef
1/2 cup Seasoned Breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons Dry Mustard
1 cube Beef Bouillon, Crumbed (or Powdered Beef Base)
4 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tablespoon Ketchup
Salt And Pepper

1 whole Onion, Halved And Thinly Sliced (or Diced If You Prefer)
2 cups Beef Broth
4 dashes Worcestershire (additional)
1 Tablespoon Ketchup (additional)
1 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet (optional)
1 teaspoon Corn Starch Mixed With A Little Beef Broth To Make A Thin Paste
Salt And Pepper, to taste
More Broth If Needed For Thinning

Mashed Potatoes, For Serving
Buttered Peas, For Serving
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil, For Frying
1 Tablespoon Butter, For Frying

Combine all the ingredients for the meat mixture and knead until all combined. Form into 4 to 6 oval patties, then make lines across the patties to give them a “steak” appearance.

Fry in a skillet with oil and butter over medium-high heat on both sides until no longer pink in the middle. Remove from the pan and pour off excess grease.

Reduce the heat to medium and add in the sliced onions. Stir and cook for several minutes, or until golden brown and somewhat soft. Add the beef stock, Worcestershire, and ketchup. Stir and cook to reduce.

OPTIONAL: Add Kitchen Bouquet, which will give the gravy a deeper color and a bit more flavor.
OPTIONAL: Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of the cornstarch/broth mixture to give the gravy a little gloss and to thicken it up a bit without lightening it (as flour would.)
**Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and more broth if needed for thinning.
Return the steaks to the gravy. Spoon gravy over the top and let them simmer and heat back up for a couple of minutes.
Serve with mashed potatoes and peas!
**NOTE: If you omit the Kitchen Bouquet, no problem. If you omit the cornstarch/broth mixture, just cook the liquid a little longer in order to reduce and thicken it a bit.
**Another optional thing is to add sliced mushrooms to the onions and cook them together. Yum!