Honey Mustard Chicken Thighs

I was feeling like eating some chicken and rice, mainly because it was -10 outside. Gross, I know. I stumbled across this recipe that was exceptionally simple and yummy. As always, I took the idea that I saw online and made it my own.

Ingredients: 8 chicken thighs, dijon mustard with seeds, dijon mustard, honey, lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper

Description:

1. Clean all chicken thighs and take off most of the skin. Place in a large bag with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Let it marinate in the fridge until you are ready to cook.

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2. In a small bowl mix the two dijon mustards together with honey. Keep tasting the mixture until you are happy with the taste.

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3. Place the chicken thighs in a pyrex dish (greased so the chicken doesn’t stick). Cover the dish with foil.

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4. Cook at 350 for 45 min. Then uncover the chicken and cover with the mustard sauce you made and cook an additional 15 min.

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I ate these chicken pieces with some roasted winter vegetables (little baby potatoes, brussel sprouts, carrots). So delish!!!

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Sausage Rigatoni Bake

I made a delicious meal the other day. It had carbs, spinach, and Italian sausage. I was in my glory! Oh wait, the best part: the top was covered in melted mozzarella cheese! Oh delish!! While this meal was yummy, it was not the most healthiest I cooked, yet it was on the lighter side.

Ingredients: fat free ricotta cheese, marinara sauce, 2 cups fresh spinach, package of mushrooms, 1/2 onion, half a box of rigatoni pasta, 3 italian sausages, reduced fat mozzarella cheese

Description:

1. Fill a pot of water and place the sausages in the water. Bring water to a boil and boil sausages until they are cooked all the way through or close enough. When they are cooked, take them out and cut into slices. Set aside for incorporation into the pasta.

2. In a large pot place a bit of olive oil and chop the 1/2 onion. Cook onion until it is soft.

3. Place mushrooms into the onion pot and cook. When the mushrooms look browned, add the spinach to cook down.

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4. In a separate bowl add a cup of ricotta cheese and a cup of marinara sauce. Whisk together. If you want a thicker sauce add less marinara, or runnier, add more marinara. Depends on your tastes!

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5. Cook the rigatonis in a pot until they are al dante.

6. Combine the pasta, sausage slices, and spinach mix together in a pyrex dish. Add the pasta sauce and mix thoroughly.

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7. Bake at 350 with the dish covered with foil for 30 minutes. Then uncover until the cheese is browned on top.

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Hope you enjoy this amazing dish!

Madame Tussaud: Michelle Moran

Continuing on my theme of reading historical fiction novels, I picked up one of the “new” novels by Michelle Moran. A while ago I read her fictional biography of Cleopatra’s daughter and The Heretic Queen and those both were excellent reads. I was intrigued when I found that she had also written pieces about French culture and the French Revolution, specifically from the perspective of the wax sculptress Madame Tussaud. I always believed that Madame Tussaud was a real, historical person, but never did I know that she led a life with so much intrigue and danger, especially during the French Revolution (arguably one of the most dangerous times in France’s history).

Moran describes the life of Madame Tussaud prior to her being known as Tussaud, but rather as her birth name: Marie. She came from a German family and lived her mother and uncle. Marie’s uncle was the artist in the family and taught Marie everything she knew of wax sculpting and such. She had three brothers who all served in the Swiss Guard protecting the King. Marie and her uncle were known for their exact replicas of living people in French culture, from the King and Queen, to Thomas Jefferson (US Ambassador at the time), and other pivotal cultural characters. Not only did she recreate the facial features of the individuals, but also their costumes and settings that they could be found in. For example, Marie depicted exactly what the royal family looked like, their traditional wear, and the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles.

The story was a bit slow in the beginning but took a great turn about 1/4 into the book, when the royal family visits Marie’s shop. There, the Princess, King Louis’ sister, asks for Marie to join her in her house on the palace property to instruct her on how to make wax sculptures of people. From this point, Marie becomes quite close with the Princess and to some extent the royal family. She is thrown into the middle of the fray of the French Revolution for she understands the issues that plague the average French citizens, but also she knows the Royal Family and how much they have struggled to aid the French people. In fact, Marie and the Princess have many conversations discussing how Marie Antoinette can do nothing correct in the eyes of the French citizens. If she wears her jewels as is the right of a queen, she is labeled as snobby and arrogant. If she were to dress in simple gowns without jewels, the French citizens would think she is mocking them. It’s fairly funny how little has changed in politics.

Probably the most fascinating aspect of this novel was the line that Marie and her family had to not cross to be considered a traitor to the French Revolution cause, but also still be a royalist. Marie’s family was almost caught in the middle between the two factions. Specifically, this came clear when a mob came to Marie’s door carrying two dead corpses. The mob wanted Marie to take a cast of the individuals’ heads so their likeness could be remembered throughout history. Moreover, months later, Robespierre made an arrangement with Marie once the guillotine began chopping off an immense amount of people’s heads that she would go in the middle of the night to the cemetery and take casts of the traitors heads.  Marie knew that moment she said no to Robespierre that he would lock her up and wait for execution as a traitor; that’s exactly what ended up happening. Marie however was never killed for her actions, but released when the revolution came to an end. The rest of the story, and how she became Madame Tussaud will have to be figured out when you read the book!

The part of the novel that I liked the least was some of the characters. Yet, I can’t fully blame Moran for if she did her homework these people really did live and were the disgusting individuals that they were. Moreover, no surprise that the Revolution would take place when bread was sparse as were candles, but the palace got new candles every day. The characters, at least the ones I could stand, were extremely strong individuals and this highly influenced Marie. Alternatively, the others all met a ghastly end.

I guess the joy in reading this book is that Madame Tussaud really did live a life filled with adventure and knew many of the individuals that she sculpted. She was a strong female character and I thoroughly enjoy reading books considering strong females. For how much I loved Marie, I hated many of her male colleagues, but in the end, they all got theirs. haha.

 

Rival to the Queen by Carolly Erickson

You can see by my fairly recent post on the TV series “Reign” that I am a huge fan of Elizabethan historical fiction. So to continue this surge in theme, I read the novel Rival to the Queen written by the magnificent historian Carolly Erickson. One of my favorite, if not my favorite, historical author, Erickson weaves intrigue, whit, and history into every tale. She also stays exceptionally true to the times and never contributes to titulating affairs between her characters. I pretty much have read most of her novels, which include biographies of famous female monarchs, and her style stays true from fiction to non-fiction.

Rival to the Queen describes Lettie Knollys’ rise to being a favored lady of Queen Elizabeth to the wife of Robert Dudley. As you may know, and if not, shame on you, Dudley is the Queen’s favorite nobleman and when he marries Lettie, that is the end of her presence at Court and she is forever known as “She-Wolf.” The novel does not just concern Lettie’s duties at Court, but also her children, how the English defeated the Spanish Armada, and how Queen Elizabeth grew to be ugly both inside and out towards the end of her life.

The one aspect of this novel that I really enjoyed was that Erickson painted a different picture of Queen Elizabeth then I have read previously. The woman was crazy, selfish, and materialistic. She loved Robert Dudley, but only loved him since her provided her with a ton of attention. She also had no problems with taking a person’s life, even if their attack was an accident. This is very reminiscent of Henry VIII, Elizabeth’s father, who didn’t care a lick for a human soul. From the biographies I have read I always knew she was a tough woman, but this portrayal really was heartless. I really wonder how she was. How was her personality? Was she as cold and crazy as people assumed? Obviously, I won’t be able to ask these questions, but they would be fascinating to find out.

If you are a fan of historical fiction, especially concerning this era of British history, I think you would find Erickson’s novel a wonderful escape from reality. It’s historic so you learn a bit of trivia, catching from the fictional story-telling Erickson describes, and easily readable. I finished in less than a week and could have done more if I wasn’t so busy at work. Either way, it’s always a welcome escape from reality to dive into a novel, and this one definitely is a winner!

The Interview; the film

Thank you Netflix for not taking the North Korean government seriously and allowing “The Interview” to streaming! I will have to say, it made my Saturday afternoon a truly enjoyable one of relaxing and laughing. The film is about a producer, Seth Rogen, and a news “star” Dave Skylark, James Franco. Kim Jong Un is a huge fan of Skylark and he invites him to North Korea to give him an hour interview.

This film was the exact lighthearted film that allowed me to laugh for its entirety. The jokes are hilarious, they cuss a ton, the plot was just perfect. I mean, lets get real, it was directed by Rogen so it’s not a Scorsese, but it’s still a funny piece of cinema. I’m glad I didn’t pay money to go see it (a subscription fee to Netflix was just enough) and viewing it in my home was even better.

An exceptional shout out to the man who played Kim John Un is definitely necessary: Randall Park. He is great! He plays his character to utter perfection. Moreover, he doesn’t play the North Korean leader as an idiot as I thought from all of the media hype, but of a true human being. The scenes in which he and Franco mess around on the basketball court, to the babes in the bar, to singing Katy Perry were all so funny! Park and Franco seemed to have such a great time messing around.

I really have no major complaints about the film. If you have low expectations, they will supersede them. If you have potty humor, it will be a great watch. I honestly enjoyed it greatly and would reccommend it to any one. It didn’t paint America in the wrong way or North Korea in such a negative way as the North Koreans said it did. Just a great comedy to watch that was truly original.