Any Kitchen Will Do

Give me a kitchen and I will cook.

Lemon Parmesan Chicken

lemonparmesanchknA few months ago my mom gave me a casserole crock pot. As you know, most crock pots are, well, pots. Four to six inches deep, they are great for slow cooking stews, soups and other concoctions you can sink a serving spoon deep into. This one is shallow and wide, just like the glass casserole dishes that sat unused on my shelf for this recipe. I was not sure if I would use the casserole crock when I first got it, but it works wonders to help get many a dinner made around here. When my oven is busy cooking stuff for my business, Grain Free Haven, using the casserole crock I can still have dinner on the table at a reasonable time.

The cool thing about the casserole crock pot is the ability to pop out the casserole dish and serve straight from it, and the kids are less likely to make a big mess serving from it for themselves, compared to a deeper crock pot. Granted, there will still be a mess, for they cannot grasp the concept of moving plate and serving dish near each other to catch dribbles. Trust me, I am still realistic.

Many days I begin thinking about dinner right after breakfast. Not because I plan on preparing it all day, but because a lot of our proteins are in the freezer, and waiting until 5pm to pull them out is just too late. Sometimes I don’t think about dinner until lunch, but I can still pull off the frozen chicken trick. That is what happened the other day, resulting in this lovely dish.

Fortunately, the chicken was in smaller packages, so doing a partial quick thaw in a sink of water was sufficient. While the thighs were still partially frozen I was able to pop them in the casserole crock pot and have dinner on the table at the usual 6pm.

I was wild and crazy with the preparation of the chicken, because it challenged the eyes and minds of our younger kids. One, the coating on the chicken was pale, whereas they prefer something more bold, like tomato sauce. Second, there were speckles (also known as green herbs) dotting the surface of the chicken. After one thinks they have a “bug” in their dinner the others are hard pressed to continue eating and not mistake a piece of parsley for a fly. There were many compliments all around, nobody spotted a “bug”, and my hopes for next day lunch leftovers were dashed as the last thigh was moved from platter to plate. That’s okay. A salad will do just fine.

Along with the chicken I served coleslaw and steamed broccoli. For the starch eaters I baked up some crispy baked chips and rice cooked simply in chicken broth.

Lemon Parmesan Chicken

12 chicken thighs, bone in and skin removed
2 cups finely grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
1 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried parsley leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt

Prepare casserole crock pot*. In a medium bowl combine cheese, lemon juice, garlic, onion powder, parsley, oregano and sea salt. Stir until well combined. Remove chicken from packaging and rinse, patting it dry with paper towels. Using your hands coat all sides of each thigh with the cheese mixture. Place the thighs bone side down in the crock pot. Two or three thighs may need to sit on top of the others, depending on their size.

Cover and cook on high for about three hours, until chicken is cooked through, measuring 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn off crock pot and let sit for about 15 minutes before serving.

There are two additional steps you can take to fancy up the dish a bit:

One is reduce the sauce. Pour the sauce from the cooked chicken into a sauce pan over high heat. Let sauce come to a boil and turn the temperature down by half. Let simmer until sauce volume reduces by half, about ten minutes. Serve the sauce to drizzle on the chicken.

Second is to make the chicken coating a little crispy. About ten minutes before serving (ideally while the sauce simmers and reduces), set oven to low broil with a rack on the second highest level. Place the thighs, bone side down on a baking sheet, being careful not to disturb the cheese crust that formed on top. Broil for five to eight minutes until crust is crispy but not burned. If your oven only has a single broil setting, lower the rack further and check often to avoid burning.

*If you don’t have a cool casserole crock pot you can make this dish in a traditional casserole dish in the oven. Arrange the chicken as noted above in the dish, then cook it uncovered at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about one hour, until juices run clear and chicken measures 165 degrees.

Fifth Blogiversary Protein Bombs


You may notice it has been almost six months since I posted here. SIX MONTHS!!!!! For those of you first visiting, that is a long time. Way long. When I first started this blog I had a lot of momentum, posting every other day. As life trundled along, the frequency varied more, sometimes every third day, sometime once a week. Once during a move across the country, when we lived in a kitchenless hotel, it was a month.

I want to explain why I have not posted in a while, and share a new recipe while I am at it!

About six months ago (hmmm….maybe a pattern here?) Big D, Little B and I started welcoming foster children into our home. We are licensed to welcome up to five at a time. For the most part, our capacity has been full for six months. That is a lot of mouths to feed. Not only feed, but make available food they will actually eat. Each child has had their own eating idiosyncrasies – some healthy, some not so much. Everything from a vegetarian to a voracious carnivore to some who don’t like speckles (a.k.a. herbs) in their food.

To develop and support consistent eating habits for the kids, I have had to focus on many foods with which they are familiar, in addition to introducing foods new to them. This means I needed to deviate from my grain free cooking some of the time. A lot of the food the kids are used to eating include many types of ‘junk’ food, canned and boxed foods. We don’t do ramen or canned ravioli here,. Yuck flavor wise and nutrition wise. Although I have cooked some grains for them, mostly including rice and corn, I still do plenty of grain free dishes.

As a result of almost tripling the size of hour household, my creative juices committed to cooking have dropped significantly. It has been sucked up focusing on feeding the masses, and trying to keep up with the demands of my business, Grain Free Haven. I continue to make many of the dishes I posted in the past, while making new stuff with some grain ingredients. I have made some really good tasting dishes, but hesitated to post them, since they are inconsistent with how I wish they would eat. I sneak in grain free versions of ingredients when I can, but the kids are sharp cookies, and cannot always be ‘tricked’. Other people try to sneak vegetables into food for kids. I try to sneak out grains and sugar!

I mean, I own a business that promotes grain free eating. How absurd is it to continue a food blog that promotes eating grains? I refuse to frustrate the foster children by not providing them foods they like just because they include grains, but I also refuse to have a kitchen that makes Big D sick, since he is extremely sensitive to wheat and other grains that include gluten. I firmly believe that avoiding grains and sugar have helped me, Big D and Little B avoid illness, internal inflammation, gastrointestinal irritation and diabetes. I am not at all interested in abandoning those tenets. It takes a little more effort to provide meals with grain free foods alongside those with grains, but it is very much worth it.

As the sixth year of this blog begins, I have decided to resolve my cooking and blog posting conundrum. I intend to continue fulfilling my love of cooking and creating new dishes, using this blog as my conduit. I look forward to posting  what I cook, whether it is grain free or not. I also intend to share substitutions I would use if making the grainy dish grain free. I will also include what I serve to sate the appetites of those eating grain free.

To begin this new approach, I share with you some protein bombs. I like making these for the kids to appease their sweet tooth without added sugar, and fill them up between the school day ending and dinner beginning. The kids are growing like weeds and I need to get as much protein in them as I can. It is based on a no-bake cookie my mom has made for decades. For a grain free alternative you can make my Chocolate Coconut No Bake Goodies.

Fifth Blogiversary Protein Bombs

1 cup peanut butter (use natural to make the result sugar free)
1/2 cup butter (use your oil of choice to make dairy free)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon pure stevia powder (equivalent to 1/2 cup pure cane sugar)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups gluten free oatmeal, uncooked

In a medium pot over medium heat add the butter, peanut butter, vanilla and stevia. Stir until butter is melted and ingredients well combined.

Add the cocoa powder and stir, then fold in the oatmeal. Stir until all the oatmeal is coated.

With a small ice cream scoop or tablespoon drop portions onto parchment paper. The bombs can be made whatever size suits your needs. Let cool to room temperature and serve. Store in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Makes 18-20 bombs.


Pizza Reboot

pizzarebootThe other day it was warm and rainy. We were hungry and had previously talked about creating a new to us pizza crust. Since we had time and wanted to stay dry, we made an absolute mess of the kitchen and had wonderfully successful results from our experiment.

It was a great day. Our schedules have been almost opposite lately, with each of us pursuing our multiple streams of income, while juggling the fun and awe we experience watching our Little B grow and explore. It was nice to be at the same place at the same time, in the kitchen, with our daughter supervising from the nearby barstool. Throughout our dozen years of marriage, the kitchen has been a foundation where we reconnect and learn new things together. It was so nice to be back in it after running around with our heads cut off lately!

This pizza crust is the closest to a traditional, grain-based crust we have created, with the ability to pick up a piece and take a bite while still hot. Our other recipes result in slices, but to handle them with other than a fork or knife (blasphemy!!!) they have to cool significantly. With our pizza reboot here, Big D especially enjoyed the ability to almost burn his fingers and run a string of hot cheese connecting slice to mouth.

Although not pictured, we made a second pizza for Little B, testing our crust recipe against one of pizza’s greatest critics – a seven year old. She loved her go-to combination of tomato-based sauce, pepperoni and black olives. I think the fact she ate four pieces between lunch and dinner tells you something!

In the past we have made some good crust with an almond flour base, with a neutral flavor that allows the topping and sauce to shine. Prior to that, we made a hearty cheesy crust that was our staple for years. Other variations on the pizza theme, absent actual crusts, included a squash based pizza casserole, portabello mushroom pizzas and little, two-bite pizza pucks! Whether you have two hours or twenty minutes, grain free pizza can be yours!

As always, there is no limit to the sauce and topping combinations you can use. I list below what we did for a sweet and spicy result. Have fun with it, whether it is raining outside or not!

Pizza Reboot

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
12 large eggs (about 2 1/4 cups), whisked
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup golden flaxseed meal
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 tablespoon garlic powder (we are garlic fiends, so if you are less so reduce the amount)
1 cup finely grated cheddar and mozzarella cheeses

Suggested Toppings

1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/2 pound ground hot Italian sausage, cooked
3/4 cup caramelized onions or 1/2 cup onion paste *
1 cup sautéed mushroom slices*
Crystal hot sauce
1 cup finely grated cheddar and mozzarella cheeses
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Additional dried herbs to taste (parsley, basil, oregano, garlic…)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare your pizza baking surface – preheat pizza stone as directed for stone, or line two shallow baking sheets with parchment paper.

NOTE: The pizza stone crusts will be smaller and thicker, while the 2 baking sheet version will result in a thinner, crispier crust.

ANOTHER NOTE: As an extra precaution we use parchment paper on our pizza stone (as you can see in the picture), but it may not be necessary. Since we have one pizza stone and make two pizzas, the paper makes it easier to remove the first pizza immediately and move on to the second.

In a mixing bowl combine oil, eggs, apple cider vinegar and water.

In a medium bowl combine the dry ingredients of coconut flour, flaxseed meal, salt, basil, oregano and garlic powder.

With the mixer on low add the dry ingredients to the wet. Increase mixer speed to medium until ingredients are well combined. Add cheese and stir until well distributed. Divide batter in half.

Pour half the batter on the preheated pizza stone or on a prepared baking sheet. Spread batter to desired thickness. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until top sets and edges begin to brown. The browning on top is a signal that the center of the bottom is cooked sufficiently to hold together when the pizza is done.

Remove crust from oven and add desired sauce and toppings. For the toppings I list above we did ranch dressing, Crystal, mushrooms and onions, herbs, Crystal, grated cheese, sausage, herbs, Crystal, cheese. We like Crystal and a little spicy bite to our pizza. Can you tell?

Bake pizza for 15 – 20 minutes, until crust edges brown and cheese in center is melted and starting to brown. After 15 minutes watch pizza closely until it is browned to your preference.

Remove from oven, let cool five minutes, then slice and serve!

*an alternative to separately prepared onions and mushrooms is a quick mushroom onion sauté

Baked Tilapia

bakedparmesantilapiaIf you scroll through my recipes you will notice there are not many including fish. Not because I dislike fish, for I really like it, especially salmon and tuna. I think it is because I consider it more delicate and not as filling as other proteins, like beef, pork and chicken. When I think about stocking the refrigerator with a few days worth of leftovers I don’t lean towards fish.

That said, this recipe for tilapia was absolutely delicious! The creamy sauce with egg and cheese protected the fish, allowing it to get cooked sufficiently without drying out. It was flavorful but not so strongly seasoned that it overpowered the fish. Surrounded by mashed cauliflower and sautéed baby spinach, it made for a lovely dinner. And the leftovers were good too!

Baked Parmesan Tilapia

1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon dill leaves
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup lemon juice 
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs, beaten
8 tilapia fillets, deboned
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium skillet over medium heat melt the butter. When it begins to bubble add the garlic and chives. 
Sauté until garlic begins to brown. Remove from heat. 

Add lemon juice and stir. Add cream and stir until incorporated. By this time the sauce should be cool 
enough to not cook the eggs. Add the  salt and eggs, whisking until combined.

In a 9x13 inch baking dish pour a thin layer of sauce in the bottom, no more that a fourth of the sauce.

Arrange the fish in the dish. If the fillets need to overlap, do so with the thin ends. Pour the rest of the sauce 
on top, gently lifting pieces of fillet that overlap, letting sauce spread.

Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Bake fish for 15 minutes until fish is flaking. 

Remove from oven and serve immediately.


Pecan Green Beans


One of my favorite low carbohydrate vegetable dishes is green beans. I especially love them with crunchy bits of nuts in them and a pleasant coating of butter.

Whenever I make these I am reminded of the green beans my grandmother used to make. She started with fresh green beans and a little fat like I do, but her cooking approach was very different. She would boil those suckers all afternoon until they were mush at dinner time. They tasted great, but there was no need for teeth to eat them! The great thing about them was flavors from the pork belly she used for the fat element. The pork flavor permeated the beans, so every bite was delicious!

I don’t make mine the same way, partially because I don’t have all day to monitor the bubbling pot, but also because I like my cooked green beans with a little snap to them. The cooking time in this recipe softens the beans a bit, but they can still hold their own as individual, non-mushy beans, and you will need teeth to eat them.

Pecan Green Beans

1/4 cup bacon grease or butter
8 cups trimmed, bite-sized fresh green beans
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped pecans
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

In a large skillet over medium-high heat melt the grease or butter. Add the pecans and let cook for about three minutes.

Add the green beans, garlic powder and onion powder. Toss until beans are coated and nuts distributed among them.

Lower heat to medium, cover and let cook for about five minutes, until beans begin to soften. Toss beans and cover again, cooking for five more minutes.

Season with salt and pepper, toss beans. Beans can be served immediately or cooked longer to make them the desired softness.


Chocolate Chia Strawberries

chocolatechiastrawberriesIt is a rare person who dislikes the combination of strawberries and chocolate. Since summer calls for fresh, light desserts I wanted to come up with a healthy version of chocolate strawberries that would be easy to eat.

I knew that my chocolate chia pudding was very chocolaty and good for us, so I figured stuffing it into berries would only make it better. They were a hit, and they made me wonder what else could be filled with chocolate….hmm….

Chocolate Chia Strawberries

2 dozen large strawberries, cored
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
4 tablespoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon pure stevia powder

In a blender (or a medium bowl with stick blender) combine the milk, chia seeds, cinnamon, cocoa powder and stevia.

Chill filling for about 30 minutes until it firms up.

Using a small spoon fill the strawberries, shape the top of the chocolate into a mound on top of each berry and arrange on a serving platter.

Chill until time to serve or store refrigerated in an airtight container.

Chive Goat Cheese Dip

chivegoatcheesedipI love cheese. Occasionally I get a craving for a particular kind and have to do something about it. This time it was goat cheese. A couple of days after the craving began I was sitting on the porch enjoying the morning breeze. Near me was a big pot of tall, bright green chives. With guests coming over for dinner there was a need to have an appetizer, so this dip was born!

Previous goat cheese cravings resulted in appetizers like these cucumber bites, also these stuffed sweet peppers or this mushroom goat cheese soup, or cheese balls, which I often make during the holidays. My favorite use of goat cheese is in these stuffed flank steaks.

The combination of the goat cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise made for a very creamy dip base, and the chives, garlic and onion bits added complimentary flavors that traveled well as part of crudités!

Chive Goat Cheese Dip

1 cup goat cheese
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 handful fresh chives (about 1 cup chopped)
1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt

In a medium bowl combine goat cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise. Whisk until smooth.

Add lemon juice, chives, onion, garlic and salt. Whisk more until everything is combined.

Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Curry Burger Cups

curryburgercupsI went a bit retro on this one – my mom gave us her electric skillet. For decades it has been used to make meals on the counter top. From pancakes to fried chicken we were well fed by the skillet (and mom, of course!). Since it was my mom’s it has of course been well cared for and is in excellent condition. I aspire to care for it as well, especially since I plan on using it a lot.

Compared to a stove top skillet, the electric skillet has a larger cooking surface and there is a bit more control over the temperature. I usually rely on iron skillets on the stove and forgot how fun the non-stick electric versions are! The big, domed top even has a vent to control moisture release. I may be a kitchen nerd, but it is so fun using it!

As for the lovely meal I made, using peanut butter in a burger might sound odd, but combined with the yellow curry spices the flavors were wonderful. Since the burgers aren’t flipped the bottom gets a good sear, which of course always goes well with cheddar cheese. Making the bowl in the burger helps retain the cheese instead of it dripping off the edges of a rounded burger top. Don’t get me wrong, I like the crispy cheese left in the pan when it dribbles off the edges of a cheeseburger, but I also like cheesy burgers that don’t lose any cheese while it melts.

Bites of the burgers with the peppery mix of raw baby kale, mustard greens, spinach and chard really made for a wonderful mouthful.

Curry Burger Cups

2 pounds ground beef
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons dried parsley leaves
2 tablespoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

In a large bowl place all the ingredients except the cheese. With a strong mixer or your hands thoroughly combine the ingredients. Form six patties, creating a bowl in the middle of each, leaving approximately 1/2 inch rim on the edges.

In a large skillet over medium heat (or electric skillet at 325 degrees) place the patties. Fill the bowl of each patty with 1/3 cup cheese. Cover and let cook for about ten minutes, until beef is cooked to desired doneness (medium is 160 degrees).

Serve immediately on top of raw greens or with a cooked side of vegetables.

Tomato Broccoli Chicken

italianchickenThe other day I was craving lasagna. In the past I have made it grain free by substituting zucchini or cabbage for the noodle layers. I wanted the same flavors a little easier and faster than prepping and constructing a casserole. The cheese and tomato sauce and chicken really hit the spot. The leftovers were even better!

Tomato Broccoli Chicken

8 chicken thighs, bone in (skin optional)
2 cups tomato sauce
4 cups diced tomatoes with juices
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup finely minced white onion
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups broccoli florets
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups grated colby jack cheese
Sea salt and and ground black pepper to taste

In a medium pot over medium heat combine the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, parsley, basil, oregano, garlic and salt. When sauce begins to boil turn temperature down to low. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes, then remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a 9×13 inch baking dish pour a thin layer of sauce. Generously salt and pepper all sides of the chicken and place, skin side up, in the pan. Arrange the broccoli florets in between the chicken thighs. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top of the chicken and broccoli.

Pour the rest of the sauce over the chicken and broccoli, leaving some room at the top of the pan for cheese and bubbling. Sprinkle the colby jack cheese evenly on top of the sauce. Place on middle rack of the oven and bake for 45 minutes, until chicken is cooked through (at least 165 degrees).

Remove from oven, let rest for ten minutes before serving.


Chicken Piccata


It has been so long since I had chicken piccata I just had to whip some up. I don’t typically work with chicken breasts, because I am a dark meat kind of girl. For the right sauce I will go so far as to work with the white meat, as is the case with piccata. I love the combination of lemon and butter in a sauce.

Only once in my life was the butter and lemon combination offensive, and it was my fault. It was an early chicken cooking experience and it was for a dinner date. I decided to do an aggressive marinade for some chicken breasts. I marinated the chicken overnight in a can of lemonade concentrate. What I wanted to do was make sure the lemon flavor was throughout the chicken. What actually happened was the concentrate practically cooked the chicken. I sautéed the chicken in butter and proudly served it to my guy, without first tasting it. After tasting it myself I realized he was being very kind when he said it was good. I, on the other hand, spit mine out. Lemon flavor overload! That day I learned to respect the lemon.

I applied my lemon respect to this dish. The sauce was filled with lemony goodness, but not too much! The traditional piccata recipe includes wheat flour, which I avoided in this version. I did not take the traditional step of dredging the chicken in wheat flour or use it to thicken the sauce. I left the chicken uncoated and chose not to use an alternative thickener, but instead decided to keep it simple and just add some cream. Worked out great!

A very common ingredient in chicken piccata is capers. I put them as optional because I did not include them in making this version. I like them, but Little B is not a fan, so they were left on the shelf….

Chicken Piccata

6 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 large onion or 2 medium shallots, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 large lemons, juiced
1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons capers, drained (optional)

Butterfly chicken breasts (cutting in half lengthwise), cutting all the way through instead of leaving the two halves intact. Season all sides with salt and pepper.

In two frying pans over medium high heat melt two tablespoons butter in each. Place six chicken breast halves in each skillet. Sear chicken, about three minutes each side. The chicken does not have to be cooked through. Place seared chicken in 9×13 inch baking dish.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine cooking juices and scrapings from bottom into one skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion. Sauté until garlic and onion begins to brown. Add white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen drippings, and cook until steam rises. Allow sauce to reduce for about five minutes.

Add lemon juice and parsley, stirring and cooking for another three minutes. Add the cream and the last two tablespoons of butter, stirring until butter is melted and sauce begins to bubble. Add salt to taste, if needed then remove from heat.

Pour sauce over chicken. Cover dish with foil and place in oven. Bake for 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and sauce is bubbling.

Serve immediately over steamed vegetables or spaghetti squash, generously drizzling sauce over the chicken.


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