Cocoon CoolMax BlanketRead Now
When I went on my trip to Kentucky I realized that I needed a travel blanket and all the blankets I had currently wouldn't fit in my bag... so I headed online to start researching good options. I get either cold or overheated pretty much round the clock (there's not a lot of in between unfortunately) so I have collected a LOT of blankets over the years and found a lot of duds in the process. I needed something to keep me warm for those chilled times but still be lightweight enough that I don't have to devote my carry-on to a blanket. Typically I have a thick sweater I keep with me year round when I am out but I really wanted something that would keep all of me warm instead of just my arms as I was going to be trying to sleep on the plane and shivering doesn't work too well with that goal.
After reading a lot of reviews on travel sites I purchased the Cocoon CoolMax Blanket from Amazon as it seemed a good combination of quality and affordability. The cheapest color option was the 'tree frog' green so that is what I purchased. It ended up being basically a lime color which reminded me of my college dorm room but it wasn't a horrible color like some of the reviews had complained about (I didn't care so much about the color but rather the functionality). The color really isn't too bad but it is quite a bright color if you are opposed to vivid colors for your blankets. I ended up finding the bright color useful though as I could always find it... even when my niece decided it made a better ghost costume or superman cape than blanket and wandered off with it various times on my trip.
The blanket is quite large compared to other travel blankets I have had, which is a plus. The description states that it is 55" x 70" but I didn't measure it to verify... it covered me from shoulders to toes completely with a little room to spare so I was happy. Unfortunately, while it is large it is not particularly thick. The thickness is about what I would expect for a thicker bed sheet yet somehow warmer than a simple sheet would be. The warmth of the blanket was enough to keep me comfortable on the planes all but once, when it got particularly cold, but that was only for a few minutes and most people would likely be quite comfortable.
You can use this, or any travel blanket actually, even when you are not traveling. I keep my blanket in the trunk of my car in case I need it personally. I actually used the blanket today at the office as I forgot my sweater today at the house so I was freezing (why is it that office's are always so cold!?!).
Space-wise I was quite happy with the amount of room this blanket took up as it was able to fit into my already quite packed backpack without issue. One feature that I liked was that it comes in a bag with a drawstring to keep the blanket in. I suggest that you keep the bag if you purchase this item as you don't need to roll the blanket or do anything special with it... just quickly stuff the blanket into the bag, pull the drawstring and you are ready to go, the bag doesn't seem to get much bulkier than when it is neatly folded and rolled. The blanket in the bag is larger than a can of soda but quite a bit smaller than my travel pillow. These are not my hands (and it is not my photo) as I have pretty small hands and didn't feel that you would get a good comparison.
Overall I would say this was a good purchase for me but for some people it might be a little more expensive than they are willing to pay. If you have more room in your bag for a slightly bulkier blanket then there are a lot of other options out there that may work better for you. Let me know if you have found a fantastic blanket as I'm almost always cold so pretty much always looking at potential new blankets for my home or for travel.
Basic Roasted ChickenRead Now
Roasted chicken can be quite complex but it doesn't have to be. This staple in the kitchen can be completed in about 2.5 hours with minimal hands-on time and makes a wonderful dinner. I made two chickens at once in a roasting pan with about 10 minutes of prep from start to finish and kept it very simple for this recipe (the recipe and instructions below are for one chicken). I wasn't at home when I made the chickens above which means that I didn't have fresh garlic or herbs... so I just used minced garlic, salt and pepper for the seasoning and stuffed the chickens with onion alone. It was a hit even without the herbs and fresh garlic. Also, since I went very simple I didn't need to tie the legs together but if you are going to be using stuffing you might consider doing so. I'm all about simplicity and using what I have available whenever possible so most of my recipes are easily adapted for a wide range of options, this chicken included.
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Chop your onion and garlic (if using fresh).
3. Melt the butter.
4. Stuff herbs and onion into the cavity of the chicken. I tend to save any that does not fit inside to rub on the chicken after I salt and pepper it.
5. If you are using fresh garlic rub it onto the chicken. If not then you will add your dried garlic with the salt and pepper.
6. Sprinkle salt and pepper onto the chicken and place it breast side down into the roasting pan.
7. Baste the chicken with half of the melted butter.
8. Bake the chicken for 15-20 minutes.
9. Reduce the oven's temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
10. Baste the chicken with the remaining melted butter and continue baking at the reduced temperature for 1.5-2 hours depending on the weight of the chicken. (Do not consume under-cooked chicken. Please check internal temperature of chicken.)
11. Allow the chicken to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving it in order to maintain the moistness of the meat.
Back to Basics: How to Make GheeRead Now
"Ghee is a class of clarified butter that originated in ancient India and is commonly used in South Asian cuisines, traditional medicine, and religious rituals." -Wikipedia
In today's world there are a lot of people who cannot tolerate dairy, myself included. One of the good things about ghee is that, when it is prepared correctly, the milk proteins are removed. This means that many people who cannot tolerate butter can tolerate ghee. Basically, it is the best of both worlds: the benefits (and taste!) of butter without the casein and proteins that you may react to.
You can find ghee in the store:
... but I suggest you make it yourself if you have lactose intolerance as I have found that it is very easy and a lot more of the milk proteins seem to be removed when I make it myself than when I purchase it at the store. The exception to this would have to be Tin Star Food's ghee. I have heard awesome things about their ghee from people who do not tolerate dairy well. This isn't to say that other brands' ghee isn't great, I just haven't tried it so I don't want to speak to it. The brand of ghee you see above ended up making me decide to stop being lazy and make some ghee at home again. That's good for you guys though because you can now see how I make it!
1. Place butter in sauce pan over low heat. I couldn't find grass-fed unsalted butter so I am using a salted variation.
2. Check on butter regularly over the next 2-3 hours, stirring as necessary. It does take a long time to make but you don't have to stand over it the whole time. I often put it on and then go clean my house or do homework, checking on it about every 20-30 minutes.
3. When you see the milk solids have settled to the bottom and begun to brown so your liquid butter has become golden in color it is time to remove it from the heat. When it gets close to this point though I suggest you stick close to your pot to make sure you only slightly brown the solids verses burning them. I should have left this batch on the stove for a few more minutes so that the milk solids would brown a bit more but I was running behind. It still came out beautifully though.
4. Strain the liquid through cheesecloth into a non-plastic container (I have melted a plastic one before... oh the mess!). The milk solids will remain in the cheesecloth while your ghee will strain through the mesh to the container beneath.
5. Place your ghee in a container. If it has been prepared properly you won't need to refrigerate it and it will last for months.
The unrefrigerated ghee is on the left but if you do store it in the fridge it will look like you see on the right.
One thing to understand about ghee is that the flavor is more intense than the butter you started with. I would suggest adding a little at a time to your dish when first learning to cook with ghee for this reason. Another, awesome, thing to know is that the smoke point is incredibly high so it is great for high heat cooking like sautes and stir fries! I have heard it said that 'you flavor with it like butter but cook with it like oil' and I find that to be fairly accurate but I tend to use less ghee than butter when flavoring with it due to my personal preferences on taste.
Hi guys! I wanted to do a quick apology for the lack of posts recently and catch up with all of you on what is going on with me. Basically, my computer died (no bueno) which means that I wasn't really able to do much writing until I could get a new one. I was able to pick up a new one this past weekend thankfully so I am working on some new posts to get back up and running shortly.
On the health front I am pretty much 'post-flare' (back to my 'normal') at this point which is great. I had lingering after effects from the flare that dragged on for a few weeks it seemed which kind of sucked, not gonna lie, but the nearly two week full on flare was killer (and nearly ruined my vacation) and I am grateful it has passed. At this point all that's left most of the time is an elevated heart rate in the mornings/evenings beyond my norm and a longer morning routine as my bp is still too low first thing to get back to my old routine. It's all manageable though and I'm back to living my life.
My evenings are a bit more open as well since Oktoberfest season is over. I don't have practice or shows for another month or two with my folkdance group. I plan on using the extra time to work on writing some extra posts as well as study for my Economics and Finance classes. On that note, grad school is going pretty well this term. So far I have an A in both of my courses but they are more difficult for me than my Education classes the last time I was in grad school (this is my second masters degree).
I think that's pretty much it for me other than the fact that this is Dysautonomia Awareness Month so I'm taking to Instagram quite a bit with posts for that. Feel free to follow me @RealLifeWithHeather if you would like to take a look at those posts and/or see pics of my pups and upcoming posts.
Crock Pot Shredded ChickenRead Now
Shredded chicken is incredibly versatile. You can toss it in a variety of sauces for instant wrap filling, burritos, spreads, and more... or just eat it plain on a bed of salad greens with a drizzle of your favorite vinaigrette for a quick and healthful salad. I prefer to make my shredded chicken in bulk when I find a good sale and freeze it up in batches for later use. It's simple, quick, and saves time when preparing last minute meals or bulk cooking chicken meals in later weeks.
1. Place chicken in crock pot.
4. Allow the chicken to cool for a few minutes before attempting to shred. If you are using the two forks to shred the chicken I suggest that you allow it to cook quite a bit as I have been burned quite a few times trying to rush to get it shredded and off my to-do list... its not worth it.
5. Shred the chicken. My suggestion is to use the electric mixer to shred the chicken by simple putting the mixer in the bowl with the chicken and 'mixing' like you would cake batter. The chicken shreds very quickly with this method and you avoid burned fingers. :)
6. Allow the chicken to cool completely before freezing it into portions appropriate to your family's needs to avoid ice crystals forming in the containers and on the chicken itself.