Upbeat Movies to Watch While Social-Distancing

Over here at The Chick Inn, it’s movie night every night. Our Aussie enjoyed last night’s feature, Togo, a movie about a dog who saved the day. For my sons, if you are reading this, Dad wept.

First, a public service announcement:

The Meaning of FLATTEN THE CURVE and How YOU Can Help Flatten It

Here is what “flattening the curve” means: the dark blue hump on the graphic is what happens if we do nothing: everyone gets COVID-19 at once, and there are not enough hospital beds, able-bodied health professionals, and ventilators to care for the critically ill. This leads to lots of deaths.
Individuals can help flatten the curve by practicing social distancing, extreme hand-washing, and by canceling activities where large groups of people meet. When you flatten the curve, the same number of people get the disease (perhaps), but the number of infected people is spread out over time, thus fewer people end up in the hospital at the same time, allowing the health care system to meet the demand.

The Movies (I’ll be updating as new suggestions come in.)

Each movie was suggested by Facebook friends after I asked for recommendations for upbeat movies with a low body count that wouldn’t raise your BP. Most involve a good old hero’s journey story.

The Peanut Butter Falcon: (Beautiful; my favorite feel-good movie) A good Huck Finn journey story about a young man with Down Syndrome who escapes from an assisted living facility and meets a troubled fisherman who helps him reach his dream of becoming a wrestler. Stars Shia LaBeouf, Zack Gottsagen, and Dakota Johnson.

Togo: Based on a true story about a dogsled team led by a Siberian Husky named Togo and musher, Leonhard Seppala, played by Willem Dafoe, who race across Alaska during a storm to transport an antitoxin serum for a Diptheria epidemic to the frontier town of Nome. (Found it on the Disney Channel.) If it sounds familiar it’s because Balto got all the credit!

Troop Zero: A sweet and empowering story about a young girl and her misfit friends who come together to win a talent show — stars Viola Davis and Alisson Janney.

Instant Family: A sweet comedy-drama about two parents, played by Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne, who foster three siblings. I wouldn’t be mentioning it if didn’t have a happy ending.

The Upside: Based on a true story, this comedy-drama about a paralyzed billionaire, played by Bryan Cranston, hires a paroled convict, played by funny-man Kevin Hart, to be his caretaker. Both the billionaire and the caretaker are on a journey. Also stars Nicole Kidman and Julianna Margulies. Growth all around.

Ford v Ferrari: A surprisingly fun movie about American automobile engineers, played by Matt Damon and Christian Bale, charged by Ford execs, Henry Ford II and Lee Iaccoca, with building a racing car that will beat Ferrari at the Le Mans race of 1966.

The Good Liar: An enjoyable movie about a male con-artist who tries to swindle a wealthy widow, played by Helen Mirren. I don’t want to give anything away, so that is all I will write.

Brittany Runs a Marathon: A good movie about a hard-partying, overweight woman on a journey to fix her life by training for a marathon.

Harriet: A fantastic biographical story about Harriet Tubman, a slave in Maryland, who escapes with the help of the Underground Railroad, and then returns to the South to free her family and other slaves.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: A beautiful biographical story about a journalist who is charged with writing a story about heroes for Esquire magazine. He interviews Mr. Rogers, played by Tom Hanks, and is changed by the experience. If you like this, be sure to watch the documentary about Fred Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

The Two Popes: A good biographical story about the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, played by Anthony Hopkins, and the election of his successor, Pope Francis.

Dark Waters: Based on a true story about a lawyer, played by Mark Ruffalo,  who is asked by a client to investigate Dupont, who at the time is knee-deep in making profits from the sale of Teflon-coated products. Eye-Opening. It makes you wonder what other gadgets we use today will turn out to be carcinogenetic tomorrow.

Recommended Oldies But Goodies:
White Nights
Babette’s Feast
The Hundred-Foot Journey
The Big Chill
The Bridges of Madison County (A little slow)
Same Time Next Year
The Dressmaker
It Happened One Night (with Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable)
Enchanted April
Shawshank Redemption
Up (Pixar)
Field of Dreams
A Room with a View
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
The Russians Are Coming
The Japanese Story
Where the Red Fern Grows (kind of slow old movie about a boy & his dogs)

Recommended Series:
About Time
The Morning Show
Good Omens

Tell me what movies I am missing??
Spenser Confidential: We loved this even though it is a shoot-em-up. Mark Wahlberg stars.
Molly’s Game: A biographical crime drama written by Aaron Sorkin starring Jessica Chastain and Kevin Costner. (It was good)
Knives Out: A modern whodunnit with Christopher Plummer, Jammie Lee Curtis, and Don Johnson. (It was good)
Rocket Man: Elton during his days of creativity & addiction.(Interesting & sad)
JoJo Rabbit: (It was good)
Yesterday: (It was good)
The Durrells in Corfu
The Adams Family
Vanity Fair (mini-series)
Galaxy Quest, Chicken Run
Blinded by the Light
Emma
Call of the Wild: (Harrison Ford version)
The Nice Guys
Justine

Nashville’s beloved Isle of Printing has come up with this clever and hip print as they work with the Nashville Metro Health Department and Nashville Metro Arts to get the coronavirus word out. Follow them @isleofprinting.

Whether you have allergies, the flu, or just need a recipe for dinner, check out this link for soup recipes. Note: you will need to start saving rotisserie chicken carcasses.

Last Ditch before You Pitch Chicken Soup

  

Today, 3/14, is Pi day. Here are my favorite PIE recipes.

Thanks to my friends who shared a  list of their faves: Hosanna, Nan, Ouizzi, Bee, Kay, Marion, Lesley, Corabel, Helen, Mary Lou, Alyce, Irwin, Sarah, Deborah, Marguerite, Heather, Anne, Shawn, Gary, Jamie, Rees, Cathy, Melinda, Paula, Anna, Carolyn x 2, Vicki, Mary Jo, and Cathy.

Take care, xoJudy

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

Always check my blog for the latest version of a recipe.

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© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Last Ditch before You Pitch Rotisserie Chicken Soup

Over the last two weeks, I have had my annual late winter/early spring allergies and dramatic cough that happen when trees start to bud in Nashville. I have socially distanced myself this time around because, you know, coronavirus. This self-imposed quarantine has been hard to maintain because of an F4 tornado that came through Middle Tennessee. I am someone who looks to be helpful. I have been a disaster nurse for the Nashville Chapter of the Red Cross since 2005 in the aftermath of Katrina. I have worked in shelters all over Middle-Tennessee with other tornadoes. But last week, with a persistent cough, I could not be a nurse or a cook (at The Nashville Food Project ).

I find soup to be infinitely satisfying when I get to feeling like this.

I have been known to eat a bowl of homemade soup over brown rice or pasta for breakfast, lunch, and dinner when I don’t feel well. As such, every morning, I dug through our garage freezer chest, past all the cookies and quart containers of marinara, to get to my beloved stash of frozen pasta e fagioli, Aunt Bridget’s soup, Portuguese kale soupturkey gumbo (too spicey to qualify for sick soup), roasted butternut squash, and duck stew. Eventually, my husband and I finished all of them. We were plum out of soup.

Looking in the refrigerator, I spied this lone, half-eaten rotisserie chicken.

Five years ago, I would have pitched it after four days. A few days ago, it became a colorful bowl of flavorful, healthy soup.

I’m going to show you how I made the soup, in pictures, with links at the end that describe in detail how you can do it. There will be answers to questions like, Why do you put vinegar in it? And, Where’s the salt? One thing I do want to say is if you make this soup, please double-strain the stock to get rid of small bones.

[So many people have called about how to make this soup. Refer to this post for details: Chicken Stock from Rotisserie Chicken Bones. Tip 1: add 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar to the water for one carcass. The vinegar helps draw the collagen out of the bones. Use more vinegar if making a large pot. Tip 2: do not bring the stock to a rolling boil. Hard boiling makes the broth cloudy. Tip 3: for a golden-colored broth, use yellow onions, not red onions.]

A Pot of Last Ditch before You Pitch Chicken Soup — in Pictures

Yield: about 6 servings

   

Making Large Quantities of Chicken Stock
I am very into the concept of zero food waste; I typically throw finished rotisserie chickens into a storage bag I keep in the freezer. When I get 4 or 5 carcasses, I cook the stew out of them for twelve hours and freeze the strained stock in quart containers.

Here are the recipes that describe how to do that:
Chicken Stock from Rotisserie Chicken Bones
Sick Soup, Sometimes Known as Snow Day Soup
Rotisserie Chicken Soup, Revisited

If you enjoyed this post, please comment, share, or become a follower! Be sure to press “confirm” on the follow-up letter that will be sent to your email if you subscribe.

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Always check my blog for the latest version of a recipe.

© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Sheet Pan Supper: Chicken, Artichoke, and Lemon

I sometimes daydream about foods that will taste and look good together on a sheet pan. This one hits all the buttons: it’s tasty, pretty, and healthy. It is loaded to the brim with chicken thighs covered in lemon slices, artichoke hearts, wedges of sweet red onion, bite-sized chunks of Yukon Gold potatoes, thick slices of zucchini, and sprigs of fresh thyme. It sparks joy.

You can change up the Yukon Golds to Trader Joe’s Potato Medley, and get a whole new color palette using the same recipe.

Sheet pan recipes are all about getting dinner on the table quickly, so theoretically, there is no time to devote to long periods of marinating meat. To get around that, I started my meal prep by mixing the olive oil, seasonings, artichokes, and chicken in a bowl, and setting them aside to briefly marinate while I washed and chopped the vegetables. It worked. The chicken marinated long enough to become flavorful.

I use either bone-in or boneless, skinless thighs depending on what I have on hand. To keep the meat moist while it cooks, place a slice of lemon over each thigh.

As I developed this recipe, I used frozen artichokes. They left a preservative aftertaste in my mouth so I switched to the canned and jarred varieties. They were much better. If using frozen, Trader Joe’s was the best tasting of the four brands I tried.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, McCormick’s California Style Garlic Pepper is one of the ways I push the easy button when it comes to quickly and tastefully seasoning food for roasting. I especially love it in my make-ahead recipe for Everyday Salad Dressing that doubles as a marinade for most varieties of meat and fish.

I used dried thyme in the marinade and fresh for the garnish. When substituting fresh herbs for dried in a recipe, the rule of thumb is to use three times as much of the fresh as called for of the dried.

Roasted Lemon Chicken, Potatoes, Zucchini, and Artichokes

Yield: Serves 4
Prep time: 15 minutes   Roasting time: 45 minutes

Ingredients 

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons McCormick’s California Style Garlic Pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, more for garnish
1 large lemon
1 pound boneless chicken thighs, or 4 bone-in thighs
1 (8½ ounce) can whole artichoke hearts packed in water, cut in half
½ pound red onion, cut into wedges
1 pound zucchini squash, unpeeled, cut into thick 1-inch slices
1½ pounds Yukon Gold, or colorful waxy potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1½-inch chunks

Instructions
Preheat oven to 400º. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.

Prepare marinade: Pour olive oil, salt, garlic pepper, thyme, lemon zest, and sliced lemons into a large mixing bowl. I use a Microplane grater to zest the lemon. Remove pithy ends and cut lemon into four slices, one to cover each piece of chicken.

Prepare chicken: Trim fat and remove skin (if using bone-in thighs) so lemon slices can impart their citrusy flavor directly onto the meat.

Add chicken to marinade and toss until well-coated.

Prepare artichokes: Cut artichokes in half. Add to chicken. Set chicken and artichokes aside to marinate while you prep the other vegetables.

Prepare onions, zucchini, and potatoes as noted. Cut zucchini thickly so it won’t cook quickly and turn to mush.

Add vegetables to the bowl of marinating chicken and mix until everything is well-coated.

Spread ingredients onto sheet pan. The pan will be crowded, but everything will become tender as it cooks.

Roast for 45- 60 minutes. There is no need to stir. I have cooked this at 425º with good results, too — the vegetables brown a little more and the lemon slices cook enough to become edible.

This sheet pan supper recipe was originally published on Mason-Dixon Knitting, a beautiful and fun knitting website chock-full of well-written posts on knitting and life along with gorgeous yarns, patterns and notions for purchase.

Other Sheet Pan Marvels:

Italian Sausage, Peppers, Onion, and Potato Sheet Pan Supper

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Always check my blog for the latest version of a recipe.

© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Cheese Ball Pops!

There are recipes that get passed down from generation to generation and others that get passed around from friend to friend. The latter was the case with this cheese ball recipe. My friend Rosie brought a delicious blue cheese ball encrusted in toasted pecans to a dinner party. I loved it and called her the next day for the recipe. She promptly emailed a recipe that had been forwarded to her by her friend Trudy, whose friend Paula had forwarded it to her. Trudy’s request to Paula went like this, “My husband cannot stop talking about your cheese ball…” It was that good.

At the dinner party, Rosie shared with us a story about how a cheesemonger at the grocery store scoffed at her when she mentioned she was looking for blue cheese to make a cheese ball. A cheese ball? Without her even asking for his permission or advice, he went on to recommend other, more high brow cheeses. He cheese-shamed her!

Perhaps you have your doubts, too?

The Original Recipe

Paula’s recipe was perfect and easy: “Combine eight ounces each of blue cheese, mozzarella, and cream cheese. Add a tablespoon of flavorful port or sherry. Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, chill until firm. Toast and chop about ¾ cup of pecans and roll the cheese in the nuts to cover.”

Playing with Add-Ins

Ever since I wrote last week’s post, A Cake for All Seasons, I’ve been thinking about ways to use flavor-building add-ins like herbs, spices, and fruits to see how they would change the way foods taste. It’s a personal journey. Last year’s journey was about self-actualization. This year, it is about pushing my limits creatively.

With that in mind, I considered what fruits and herbs I could add to an already delicious cheese ball to change it up. I love dates stuffed with blue cheese and nuts, so I started there. I tried various nuts and herbs in the empty cavity of the dates, thinking one would be especially good. They were all good! For this recipe, I stuck with the pecans and added dill.

About dates, the food, that is.

Cooks often use dates as a natural way to sweeten foods, especially desserts. Many recipes tend to call for Medjool or Deglet Noor dates. Medjools are sold fresh and can be found in the produce section, while Deglets can be found in the aisle with dried fruits. Both varieties are very sweet, low in fat, and high in potassium, iron, and fiber. Medjools are larger, softer, and moister than dried dates. Deglets have a more delicate flavor, are firmer, and are a little less sweet.

Dates grow on date palm trees in warm climates. They are labor-intensive to grow, and their priciness reflects that.

Reasons to Make a Cheese Ball at Your Next Party:
-The cheeses can be blended 2-3 days ahead if needed. The flavor improves overnight. However, don’t add the toasted nuts and herbs until ready to serve. We want the nuts to remain crunchy and for the herbs to stay bright green.
-The recipe can be cut in half. Or, you could make two small cheese balls and freeze one (but don’t add nuts until ready to serve).
-It can be shaped into a ball, a log, or single-serving cheese pops.
-It may be a good way to use up stray cheeses in the refrigerator. I would make a small bite-sized sample of whatever cheeses you plan to put together to make sure their flavor profile works.

Ingredients:

1 cup pecans, chop and then toast
10 pitted dates, chopped (only 7 if using the large, unpitted Medjools)
2 heaping tablespoons, minced dill leaves, from 8 sprigs or 1 package
8 ounces blue cheese (I tried Gorgonzola and would not recommend it)
8 ounces mozzarella
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks for easier mixing
1 tablespoon port or flavorful sherry. I used a tawny port
Serve over crackers, pretzel sticks, or ginger snaps (sweet, but delish!)

Mise en Place:

Instructions:

Chop pecans into small crumbles and toast in a 300º oven for about ten minutes. Watch closely, so they don’t burn. Set pan of toasted nuts aside.

Chop dates into small pieces. Set aside.

Mince dill leaves. Set aside.

Place cheeses and port in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well mixed. Add the chopped dates and pulse 2 or 3 times more until cheese, port, and dates are just combined. Do not purée!

Use a spatula to scrape the cheese mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper. Wrap the paper around the clump of cheese and shape it into a ball. Refrigerate for an hour.

Remove cheese from the fridge and decide how you want to serve it: one ball, two balls, a log, or as cheese pops. I made about a dozen cheese pops and a traditional cheese ball.

I used a small cookie scoop to shape the balls and then rolled them in the pecan and dill mixture. I used thin pretzels for the sticks.

I formed the remaining cheese into a  ball and rolled it in the nuts and dill. I love the colors and texture!

You haven’t lived until you have spread this cheese on a ginger snap. Oh, my goodness! It could be a dessert.

The pops would be a great appetizer to pass around at a party on a tray, while the large cheese ball would be perfect set out on a table for a Super Bowl Party. Check out other party snacks here.

Thank you, Rosie, Trudy, and Paula for sharing the original recipe! xo

If you enjoyed this post, please share and become a follower. When signing up to become a subscriber, be sure to confirm on the follow-up letter that will be sent to your email.

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

Always check my blog for the latest version of a recipe.

© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.