Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chicken Marsala, Dairy & Egg Free

Dairy, Egg and Nut allergies are quite a challenge to deal with.  I am always trying to find and modify recipes that my sons can eat and that taste good.  My son David doesn't like chicken for the most part, but was willing to try my modified version of Emeril Lagasse's Chicken Marsala recipe.


  • 1/2 cup flour with a sprinkle each of the following spices:
  • paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in halves and pounded thin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons Fleischmanns Unsalted Margarine (this is a soy based margarine and is completely dairy free)
  • 3 cups sliced mushrooms (I use baby bella)
  • 3/4 cup Marsala wine  
  • 1 cup chicken stock - I use College Inn light and fat free chicken broth as it is dairy free (some of the chicken stocks contain dairy)

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped parsley
8 oz pasta (if you wish to serve this dish over pasta)

Combine the flour with a shake of each of the herbs in a bowl.  Dredge the chicken breast halves in the seasoned flour mixture, shaking to remove any excess flour.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking then add 1 tbsp of the margarine.  Brown chicken breasts about 3 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate and put aside. 

Add another tablespoon of the margarine to the pan and add mushrooms.   Cook until mushrooms are golden brown and have given off their liquid, stirring frequently. Add the Marsala wine and bring to a boil, scraping to remove any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Once the marsala is reduced by half, add the chicken broth and cook for 3 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Lower the heat to medium, put the chicken breasts back into the pan and continue cooking until chicken is fully cooked and sauce has thickened, about 6 minutes or so.  Add the remaining butter and salt and pepper to taste.  

At this point, I reduce the heat to low and allow the chicken to simmer while I cook 8 ounces of pasta (we like penne with this dish).  When pasta is finished cooking, drain, place in a pasta serving dish and top with the chicken and marsala sauce.  Sprinkle chopped parsley or chives over the top and serve!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

School is starting today, the unofficial, official close to summer.  Of course when I was a kid, school started the Tuesday after Labor Day, as well it still should.  But here we are, a week early and it's a little dreary and rainy outside.  Apropos for the 'end of summer'.

Unlike most parents who are eager to get the school routines underway, I am sad to send my sons off to school.  My sons both thrived under their teachers' guidance in the early years of school, but they now also thrive at home, both of them spending countless hours reading and even watching the news.  They can talk politics and current events with adults and are sometimes more informed than the adults they are conversing with.  They love to visit historical sites and museums when we come across them in our travels.  But alas, I am not capable of teaching in a home school situation so school is a necessary evil.

As much as I hate to summer leave us, I do love the fall.  Here in New England we are fortunate to experience all four seasons and while I adore being at the beach in summer, I have to say fall is my favorite season.  The weather is comfortable, the changing colors of the leaves is beautiful.  We go apple picking, pumpkin picking and decorate for fall/Halloween with cornstalks and beautifully colored mums, scarecrows and even a Halloween graveyard. There are hayrides, the Pumpkin Spectacular at the zoo (over 5000 lit up carved pumpkins) and Thanksgiving.  So while I reluctantly say goodbye to summer, there is a little twinge of anticipation for our fall activities!

Our Graveyard! 
My beautiful children!

Pumpkin Spectacular

Thursday, August 23, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Make lemonade...Or better yet, make Lemon Drops!

My friend Mary & I met at the beach last year and she always raved about the lemon drops her family would make after spending the day at the beach.  This year, I just had to try one and one evening, the kids and I went to her beach house and she made one for me.  And at that moment I discovered my new favorite drink.  The secret to her lemon drop was that it did not taste like alcohol.  It tasted like fresh squeezed lemonade.

In spite of the fact that I still have no official followers on my blog, I do see that there are quite a few of you viewing my posts so I am sharing this wonderful refreshing recipe with you!

You will need the following:

Mary suggests not using a top shelf citron vodka such as Absolute as it gives a stronger alcohol taste.  She prefers Svedka Citron.

In a martini mixer about 1/2 full of ice, using the top (jigger), add 2 jiggers of Svedka Citron and 1 jigger of Triple Sec.  Mix 2 (single serve) envelopes of Truvia with 8 oz of water and add to the mixer.  Juice 2 fresh lemons and add the juice and the skins to the mixer reserving a piece of the skin to rub the rim of the glass.  Rim the glass with additional Truvia, let sit a couple of minutes, shake  and pour.  


(Let me know how you like it!!)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Appreciate the Simple Things

My yard is home to a very large butterfly bush that over the years has attracted assorted species of butterflies, dragonflies, bees, birds and even the occasional hummingbird which is quite unusual being in the city.  But yesterday, while helping my husband catch up on some yard work, I noticed an extra flurry of activity on that bush.  It looked like there were dozens of monarch butterflies, however on closer inspection, I realized they were similar to but not actually monarchs.  After a little research on google, I learned they were called Painted Lady or American Lady Butterflies.  

Fascinated by the sheer number of them and the flurry of activity, I grabbed my camera and started shooting from the deck and then from even under the bush.  The time flew, daily stresses ebbed away, and there was nothing left but sheer enjoyment and appreciation for these little beauties of nature.  

Swallowtail Butterfly


A real Monarch butterfly

Monday, August 20, 2012

50th Birthday Luau

Last Thursday was my luau at the beach house.  We arrived home from Vermont on Saturday night and my husband drove the mini van to the  house that same night, packed tightly with boxes of my luau decorations.  We went back home after emptying the van and on Sunday afternoon, the boys and I moved back into the beach house.  My friend Cindy helped blow up 6 foot palm trees and other assorted decorations and I sorted through some of the boxes. 

Mikey, David and I were able to squeeze in some afternoon beach time, mornings were utilized for shopping, nights for food preparation.  On Monday night, we put together the straws, lanterns and the table top tiki bar.  

I had tried out the recipes during our July stay at the house, but we hadn't tried any scorpion bowl recipes.  I found one online and we decided to try it.

Scorpion Bowl

1 oz gold rum
1 oz dark rum
1 oz 151 rum
2 oz vodka
2 oz gin
4 oz pinapple juice (adjusted to 12 oz)
4 oz orange juice (adjusted to 6 oz)
4 oz grenadine (adjusted to 3 oz, but also cut the grenadine and add maraschino cherry juice)

I looked at this recipe and thought this didn't sound right, but I grabbed the various liquors at the store and mixed it as directed.  My friends Linda and Cindy, who were helping me out each tried a sip.  It was really tasty, but too strong!  Linda said "I can't drink this, there's too much alcohol in this."  We all agreed, and I added more pineapple juice.  We only drank about an inch or so of the drink and were all pretty buzzed.  I doctored up the recipe and adjusted to 6 oz orange juice and 12 oz pineapple juice.  To fit in my 3 1/2 gallon dispenser, we timed the recipe x 15 and it was delicious.  We even made garnishes for the drinks!

And washed out plastic pineapple cups to serve them in...

The tent was delivered on Wednesday and my daughter and I decorated the tables with grass skirts and tropical themed plastic table cloths.  

Linda and I prepared the dishes of food on Thursday, while my daughter, Cindy and two other friends (Valerie and Lori) worked on the outside decorations.  We were running a little late, but by 6:30, the party was underway and I am happy to report that the food was wonderful, the drinks were divine and a good time was had by all!  I guess we should do it again next year!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Our Favorite Vermont 'Hot Spots'

We have been fortunate to have the opportunity to spend a week at Smugglers Notch in Vermont every year for the past five years.  While the 'Notch' runs family oriented activities and programs, we utilize the condo as a base and travel extensively through northern and central Vermont.  

Vermont is a truly beautiful state.  The people are very friendly and engaging.  In addition to spending some time seeking out and exploring Vermont's covered bridges, we have made some friends in the past five years that we visit annually. 

Mr. and Mrs. Walker live in Underhill, VT and they make maple syrup.  Many years ago, my uncle and aunt gave us a bottle of their maple syrup.  They purchased several bottles as Christmas gifts while their son and daughter attended St. Michael's College in Burlington.  We looked forward to that bottle every year and once my sons began to eat waffles and pancakes, I needed more than that one bottle.  I called the number on the bottle's sticker and Mrs. Walker filled an order or me, shipping out a gallon bottle and told me if we were ever in the area, stop by and say hello.  She said her husband would give us a tour of their farm.  About five years later, during our first trip to Vermont, we showed up on their doorstep, restocked our dwindling supply of maple syrup and sure enough, as promised, Mr. Walker showed us around their property, explaining how they gather the syrup and then finishing with a tour of the sugar house, where the raw syrup is made into the finished product.

The Sugar House, where the magic is made!
The Walkers have a stunning view of Mt. Mansfield from their home.
During that first visit to Vermont, while exploring the area close to the Notch, we discovered a quaint country store, Miller's Country Outfitters in Morrisville, Vermont.  They had a sign in the window saying Vermont Sweatshirts $10.00, so we stopped in.  The store had an extensive selection of clothing, from Levis and Lee jeans to high end knitted sweaters.  They also had a wonderful selection of men's shoes and my husband wound up with a couple of pairs, some sweatshirts, hats and I got some jeans and shirts.  We struck up a conversation with the owners Brent and Jan and have visited them every year.  A couple of years ago, their daughter Jamie took our sons next door to their farm to see their dairy cows.  She had married and moved to the Burlington area, but happened to be at the store this week when we stopped in for our annual visit.

Miller Country Outfitters
Montpelier, the state's capital is an interesting place to visit.  There is a small museum on Main Street that the boys enjoyed, and we have visited the capital twice.  Last year, we took a free tour of the state house and our tour guide who is a volunteer, took us into the house and senate chambers and even the governor's office where she took a photo of me sitting at the governor's desk.  

Me, sitting at the Governor of Vermont's desk, Montpelier, VT
J. Morgan's Steakhouse is a must do if ever in Montpelier.  The food is wonderful, the service is impeccable and the restaurant was recently redecorated and is gorgeous inside.  

Inside of J. Morgan's Steakhouse, Montpelier, VT
If you are lucky enough to have Rod as your bartender and Josh as your server, you will go back there again and again, as we have done.

Rod's Cosmo with Champagne Floater
 if you like Cosmo's, you will LOVE this one.
Chicken Mediterranean is scrumptious!
Creme Brûlée trios are just a perfect for a sweet treat.
Burlington offers a lot to do and see, including a children's museum on the waterfront and the Spirit of Ethan boat tour of Lake Champlain.  

If you like Mexican food, Madeiras is fantastic.  It is currently on the waterfront, however, our waitress told us this week that they were moving about a block away.  The food is fantastic!  They have a great selection of margaritas, entrees and deserts, although their flan is so good that we never try any other deserts.
Fajita Burrito - Madeiras in Burlington, VT
Flan - Madeiras, Burlington, VT
Just this year we were looking for a late night dinner which is nearly impossible to find in Vermont as most restaurants are closed by 9:00pm.  We found a place called Sweetwaters on Church Street in Burlington which had a limited menu from 9pm - 11pm.  My husband and I ordered French Onion soup, he ordered a specialty salad and I ordered a tomato and mozzarella salad.  The food was so good, we will be going back on our trip next year for a full dinner.

French Onion Soup
Sweetwaters, Burlington, VT
Tomato & Mozzarella Salad with Balsamic Glaze
Sweetwaters, Burlington, VT
Smugglers Notch is near Stowe.  The town before Stowe is Waterbury which is the home of Ben & Jerry's.  They offer tours and beautiful grounds where people visit the graveyard of discontinued flavors as well as a factory tour of their ice cream making process. (no photos are allowed inside the factory, but there are fabulous photo backgrounds outside!) This is a must see for young and old!

Ben & Jerry's - Waterbury, VT
Great Photo Backgrounds at Ben & Jerry's
Waterbury, VT
These are a few of our favorite places. Hope you have enjoyed looking at them and perhaps you will have the opportunity to visit yourself!