Hye Thyme Cafe: April 2012

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tide Coldwater - Take A Load Off Sweepstakes

I've been busy and not staying on top of my blog, e-mail, or much of anything else lately.  I received an e-mail about this promotion from She Speaks, and although I may be too late for Earth Day, it's never too late to save some energy, or cash for that matter.  Plus, this Sweepstakes is open through May 13, so it's not too late to possibly win a new High Efficiency Washer and Dryer!

The premise was that we should all "take a load off" the energy grid on Earth Day by washing our clothes in cold water.  I may not have done that, but I didn't do laundry at all that day, so that counts ... right?  ;)

Tide and Future Friendly have launched a sweepstakes to encourage people to continually wash in cold water.  I had no idea, but apparently, heating water for laundry accounts for up to 80% of the energy used per load.  Talk about an easy way to save!  I may not wash ALL of my laundry in cold water, but I can certainly do it a lot more. 

"Did you know that when doing laundry, heating water can account for up to 80 percent of the energy used per wash load in the U.S.? If one household switched to washing in cold for one year, they would save enough energy to watch TV for 1,363 hours! Making the switch to washing in cold is an easy change to make with Tide Coldwater, which is specially formulated to get clothes clean in cold water."

If you make the promise to switch to cold water washing on the  Future Friendly Facebook page, you'll be entered in the sweepstakes for a chance to win a High Efficiency Washer and Dryer, as well as a one-year supply of Tide Coldwater.  You can enter once per day, and a new winner will be picked each week through May 13.  You can check out P&G's press release about the campaign here.

Do any of you already do all of your laundry in cold water?  If so, how long have you been doing it, and what prompted the change?

Did any of you participate in Earth Day in other ways?  If so, I'd love to hear about it.

Take A Load Off Sweepstakes info:
Dates: Now through May 13th
Direct link to sweepstakes entry: http://on.fb.me/Hflgt5
Entry info: Enter once per day to increase your chances of winning. A new winner will be picked each week through May 13th.
Prize: Maytag® Bravos XL® HE Top Load Washer and Dryer and a one year supply of Tide Coldwater!

Twitter hashtag #takealoadoff 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Garnier Miracle Skin Perfector B.B. Cream


A while back, I was selected to participate in a campaign through BzzAgent to sample Garnier's new Miracle Skin Perfector B.B. Cream.   Of course the day I received the product, I was leaving town for two weeks, but that was OK, I brought it with me.  Ironically, it wasn't until that day that I started hearing the commercial everywhere I went.  I can still hear that voice in my head - a girl shouting B.B.!!  Do you know the one I'm talking about?  Have you tried it out for yourself yet?  I also received with the sample some coupons to share, so I brought those with me as well.

Their claim:
One Application, Five Results:
  1. Renews radiance
  2. Brightens your complexion
  3. Evens skin tone and blurs imperfections
  4. Hydrates for 24 hours
  5. Protects against UVA & UVB rays with SPF 15

Because the product touts coverage, protection, and correction, I was expecting to see some sort of a change in my skin.  That being said, I decided to be daring and wear it on only one side of my face.  Lucky for me, the tint (I received the light/medium) was a great match for my skin tone, so blending was not an issue.  

Sadly, I have to admit that after using the product for about a month, I did not any change at all.  What I did not like about the product is what I dislike about any skin product - that feeling of wanting to wipe my face all the time.  No matter how well I blend in any type of liquid/cream/mousse foundation, I always feel like I'm wearing a mask, especially if the weather is at all humid.  That's why I tend to stick with a light powder, or skip foundation altogether.  I actually found it to be so sheer that it did not cover any imperfections - freckles, birthmark, sun damage, etc.

What I did like about the product that was it gave my skin a sort of dewy, more youthful appearance while wearing it.  I can't quite explain this, as I don't mean to imply "shiny," which would make you want to run to the ladies room and apply powder.  I just mean that it gave me a slight radiance.  Hey, that's it; you know how people refer to some pregnant women as having a glow?  It made me glow ... at least on the left side of my face.  Nobody seemed to notice that either - or at least they didn't mention it. 

The final verdict?  If you're looking for a lighter, summer foundation and don't have any particular issues you're looking to hide, then by all means, go for it!  It will provide your skin with hydration and SPF coverage, along with a slight sun-kissed glow.  If, however, you have any skin imperfections you typically try to hide with a product, I would not recommend this particular item for you.

If you decided to try it, I'd definitely love for you to stop back by and share your results.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Guacamole Bread

Guacamole Bread : Hye Thyme Cafe

I was eating a salad the other night that had slices of avocado in it, and that got me thinking about how I keep hearing TV chefs slamming the idea of cooking avocados, while at the same time, I'm seeing more and more posts of avocado fries and eggs baked in avocados. Given that avocados have a similar texture to bananas, I was wondering if you could use them the same way as in Banana Bread. Sounded worth a shot to me.

Then I started wondering what to pair the avocado with. When I bake Banana Bread, I'll sometimes include chocolate chips and/or peanut butter, but what would I use with the avocados? That's when the guacamole idea hit me.  

I decided to Google Avocado Bread to see what would turn up. I was surprised to see it turned up several hits. Then I tried Guacamole Bread. I'll be darned! Not only did that produce several hits, but one of the first ones to turn up was that of a friend of mine - Danielle over at Cooking for My Peace of Mind. Hers was for Guacamole Focaccia and Breadsticks. How did I miss that one?

I decided to modify my general Banana Bread recipe to make a first attempt at this. Then something else occurred to me. What do you eat your Gauacamole with? Corn chips of course! I thought about swapping out some of the flour for corn meal, but decided that would be too coarse. Luckily, we had a bag of Masa (corn flour) in the pantry, so I used that instead.

I tend to have issues with loaf pans lately. I'm not sure if it's the altitude where I live now or what, but I almost always have an under-cooked middle, no matter how long I bake something, so I was very careful not the fill it past half-way this time. I spooned the rest of the batter into little souffle cups I bought a while back but hadn't tried yet. Those worked out great.

Guacamole Bread : Hye Thyme Cafe
1/2 c butter (1 stick)
3/4 c sugar
1 T lime juice
2 eggs
1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 c Masa corn flour
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
Guacamole Bread : Hye Thyme Cafe
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t+ cumin
4 Roma tomatoes
3 Hass Avocados
2 jalapeno peppers
4 T minced red onion
1/2 c fresh chopped cilantro
zest of 2 limes

Preheat oven to 350 and spray loaf pan with PAM Baking.

Start by prepping your veggies. I minced the jalapenos, removing most of the pith and seeds, minced the onion, chopped the cilantro, and zested the limes. For the tomatoes, I only used the outside flesh - petite diced - as I did not want all of the liquid from the center. I decided to wait on the avocados, wanting them to retain their color if possible. 

To avoid any extra moisture in the batter, I sprinkled the tomatoes with salt to draw out the liquid and set them aside for a while. When I was ready for them, I gave them a quick rinse and blotted them with a paper towel.

As for the onion and jalapeno, I didn't want to fully cook them, but I didn't want them to go in raw either, so I splashed them with a bit of water and zapped them in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Drain and blot those dry as well.

Cream together your butter and sugar until light and creamy, then add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the lime juice.

Now you can go ahead and prep your avocados. I mashed two of them with a fork like I would if using bananas, but I decided to dice the last one so there would be actual chunks in the batter. Add the mashed avocado to the egg mixture, leaving the diced aside for now.

Whisk together the flour, corn flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pepper, garlic powder, lime zest, and cumin, then add it to the egg mixture, a little at a time. I was surprised by how thick the batter was at this point, so I was glad I hadn't added the diced avocado yet. So they wouldn't get mashed in the mixer, I pulled the bowl off and stirred in the remaining ingredients by hand; the jalapeno, onion, tomato, and avocado.

Baking time will depend on your pan, oven, altitude, etc. I started checking it at an hour, but it still needed a few minutes. As for the minis I baked off, those took 35". I really got a hoot out of smelling it when it first started to come together in the oven. It seriously smelled like chips and guacamole!

Guacamole Bread : Hye Thyme Cafe
Guacamole Bread : Hye Thyme Cafe
Guacamole Bread : Hye Thyme Cafe

Guacamole Bread : Hye Thyme CafeGuacamole Bread : Hye Thyme CafeGuacamole Bread : Hye Thyme Cafe

Because the minis baked faster than the loaf, I was able to cut into one sooner. I was very excited when I sliced it open and saw that the avocado stayed green. I thought for sure it would have discolored.  

The Verdict:  The corn, cumin, and avocado were the most prominent flavors. Even with using the masa flour rather than cornmeal, I think this leaned more toward a cornbread than a banana bread. I would not hesitate to make this again, probably as a side in place of cornbread some night. I will increase the lime, cilantro, and jalapeno next time and may even add another heat element ... a little cayenne, or maybe some New Mexico Chiles.

Looking back on how sturdy the batter was, I'm thinking it might not be such a bad idea to just scoop it onto a tray like biscuits and try it that way next time.   

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter 2012

Hello. Just checking in to see how everyone's Easter was this year. Ours was kind of a bust ... at least in the dessert department. Dinner was great, but non-traditional, as we usually have Braciole. My sister makes an awesome Braciole and usually makes a few with a mushroom filling and a few with an artichoke filling (mostly since I don't like mushrooms). Because it can be labor intensive, and she wasn't really in the mood for making it this week, we punted back to Shish Kebab. Well, really it was beef-kebabs, but close enough when the top dog in the family doesn't eat lamb. She offered to throw in some lamb for us, but I said nah (What was I thinking?) since she was trying to make things easier.

Braciole - YUM!

We were even good about not going crazy with appetizers. She already had a few things planned, so I left that course alone altogether.

Rice Crackers in Back - Jajig in front
Jajig on Cucumber Chips

Mini Grit Cakes
We also decided to grill some prosciutto wrapped asparagus since we were already gearing the grill up for the kebabs. LOVE Love love prosciutto/asparagus! I was too busy eating them to take a picture of them.  :)

As for desserts, I was told the guys wanted something more on the healthy side (What were they thinking?!) My sister was planning on some sort of fruit tart, and I know the guys always ask for cheesecake, so I looked around for some pseudo-healthy cheesecake recipes. I found a Quick Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes recipe on EatingWell.com and thought they were cute, but I didn't want them to be chocolate. Then I saw a few other recipes that used cottage cheese and/or yogurt with cream cheese, so I thought I could combine that with the chocolate concept and make some sort of orange version to go on top of those Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers. My plan was to use Neufch√Ętel (couldn't find any!), cottage cheese, and sugar free orange gelatin for a no-bake base. 

I whipped my cream cheese, added a bunch of fresh orange zest and a little honey, strained the liquid out of the cottage cheese and added that while blooming the gelatin in the fresh juice from the orange. Sounds good, huh? The problem ... the cottage cheese wouldn't break down enough when I added it, so it was on the lumpy side, and it didn't set firm enough. Sigh ... that's what I get for experimenting on a holiday! I topped them with more orange zest and/or orange segments and some shaved dark chocolate. Cute, but just ehhh.

Turns out my sister's fruit tart had some sort of a yogurt filling that wasn't setting properly (I never did see it completed to snap a shot of it), and my "cheesecake" wasn't setting properly, so I decided we needed a back-up plan. A healthy back-up plan. Argh! I remembered having made a Quinoa "Rice" Pudding at some point, and although I don't really know how healthy that was, the Quinoa part of it spoke to me, so I checked the pantry to see if I had what I needed. When I originally made it, it was just a small amount, so I needed to double it. I only had one can of Lite Coconut Milk, but I did also have a can of Cream of Coconut. Surely I could omit what sugar would have been in my original recipe in favor of the Cream of Coconut. Right??? Even the pudding turned out a tad on the soupy side, and for some reason, the Quinoa flavor was very strong, but it's the same brand I always use, so I guess it just wasn't my day. Again, cute but ehhh ...

So, instead of having some fun new recipes to share with you all, I pretty much just made a chopped Greek Salad, cooked some Pilaf, decorated some cucumbers, and made a mess out of dessert this year. Oh, and I forgot to take a picture of the Easter Eggs! For some reason, even that wasn't working for us. No matter what we tried, we couldn't get the colors we wanted.

Healthy shmealthy! There wasn't so much as a chocolate bunny or a jelly bean to be found. That's no fun! I had much more fun with dessert last year - this was just one ...

I was in excellent company though, both friends and family, and nobody but me seemed at all concerned about the food, so it's all good.  ;)

How about you guys, any standouts - good or bad??  Any new and/or interesting traditions you'd like to share?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

There's Chicken in my Oatmeal ... and I love it!

I have never been a morning person, so getting me to eat breakfast at all (other than my drive-thru cup of Dunkin coffee and the occasional bagel) is a nearly impossible task. I love breakfast foods - just not in the morning. I'm all in when it comes to waffles for dinner, omelets for brunch, etc. Don't even get me started on bacon - yumm! I realize that oatmeal is a much loved breakfast staple, but I have never been able to choke it down. I just can't get past the texture. I love anything made with oatmeal, but have never been able to manage it in it's simplest form ... at least until recently. 

I did actually used to like the Quaker Weight Control Banana Bread Instant Oatmeal for some reason. I'd bring a packet or two with me to the office and make it with the water from the big coffee maker. The problems is that it's a "now you see it, now you don't" item. It was on the market, then off the market, then I started seeing it again, now it's gone. Not sure what's up with that, but it's not on the Quaker website.  

I was left with looking online for other possible options when I came across a trainer talking about athletes making oatmeal with chicken for the additional protein. Chicken, in oatmeal? Gross! Wait a minute, I already make chicken with barley (see Harissa), why not oats?? The Harissa is not a breakfast dish, but as my grandfather would say (the Irish one, not the Armenian one) ... It all goes in the same place! He was a big proponent of starting dinner with dessert ... just in case he didn't have room for it later. Sadly, he passed away when I was very young, so I never knew him, but he sounds like my kinda guy!  ;)

The first time I made it, I just cooked the oats (steel cut) and chicken together in chicken broth. I was surprised how much I liked it, but I decided to play with it more, so next time, I added a can of Great Northern Beans (love their velvety texture and buttery taste). The time after that, I threw in a can of Delmonte Zesty Jalapeno Petite Diced Tomatoes. As much as I love those tomatoes in pretty much anything, not everyone in the house does, so I usually leave them out in favor of a splash of Sriracha hot sauce in mine. Whichever way you make it, this is a very healthy and satisfying breakfast option.

3-4 chicken breasts cut in half or thirds
32 oz carton chicken broth (may use more)
2 c steel cut oats
1/2 t salt
1 can Great Northern Beans (optional)
1 can Del Monte Petite Diced Tomato with Zesty Jalapenos  (optional)
Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce (optional)

Although a lot of people apparently cook steel cut oats in their crockpot overnight, never knowing whether I'll be up until 1 or 4 am or what time I'll wake up and drag myself out of bed, it's really not feasible for me to plan overnight. I make it on a day when I'll be around the house, at least after the first hour or two.

Put the chicken in the crockpot on high, covered with the 32 oz of chicken broth. When it starts to approach a boiling point, turn it down to low and add the salt and oats. At that point, I ran errands for a few hours. When I got back, I noticed that as the liquid was cooking down, it started to get a little crusty around the edges. That's why I like to do it when I'm home - I'll give it a stir every now and again so that doesn't happen.

When the chicken is cooked through and tender, use two forks to shred it. Depending on what texture you like your oatmeal to be, you can either add a little more broth to loosen it up, or let it cook longer to be drier. If you are going to be including the beans and/or tomatoes, just add them in and let it cook long enough to heat through. 

So, am I a breakfast eater now? Nope! I try, but I just can't get the habit to stick. That's another reason I like making a big batch of this. Once it's made and in the fridge, I feel compelled to eat it so it doesn't go to waste, so I'll force myself to nuke a bowl when I get up. At least it gets me to start my day right for a week at a time.  ;)

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Green Giant is Shrinking???

The next time you're in the canned goods aisle of your grocery store, you might be thinking what I'd be thinking ... Here they go again, these companies must think we're idiots, charging us the same (or more) for a smaller size.  Blah, blah, blah ... If that's what you'd be thinking, much like me, you'd be wrong.  At least in this particular case.  Apparently, Green Giant has gone and changed their corn canning method, so not only are they packing their corn with less liquid, but also with less packaging.  

That sounds like a win/win to me.  Less liquid means less weight.  If you buy in bulk, that means one less trip from the car schlepping bags.  I'm one of those people who is foolishly determined to bring everything in at the same time, so it might save me a trip to the chiropractor.  ;)  They are also more environmentally friendly and take up less space in the pantry.  Can't complain about that!

The new packaging is said to hold the same amount as the original, so there's no need to get your dander up thinking they're trying to pull a fast one when you notice the can has shrunk.  ;)

Green Giant SteamCrisp canned corn is 100% natural and picked at its peak, then perfectly steam-cooked so you can deliver great tasting corn to your table any day of the year.
Plus, the SteamCrisp vacuum-technology offers the same amount of corn as Green Giant's standard can, with less water and less packaging-which means less waste for the environment and more space for your pantry.
SteamCrisp canned corn is available in 11 ounce cans and nine varieties, including:
  • Niblets®
  • Extra Sweet Niblets®
  • Niblets® No Salt Added
  • White Shoepeg Corn
  • Super Sweet Yellow & White Corn
  • White Super Sweet
  • Mexicorn®
  • Southwestern Style Corn
  • Chipotle White Corn

And now, most of Green Giant's canned vegetables feature Box Tops for Education® so you can enjoy the delicious flavor of corn year-round while earning cash for your local schools!

Visit www.GreenGiant.com for SteamCrisp canned corn recipe ideas, such as Quick Southwestern Corn Salsa, Creamy Corn & Garlic Risotto, Southwest Chicken Ranch Pasta Salad and Chicken Burritos.

Oh, and by the way, the Chipotle White Corn is a new one on me.  I'll have to keep an eye out for that.  Have you tried it yet?  If so, what did you think of it??  Inquiring minds want to know ...

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