Thursday, April 25, 2013

Restaurant Style Grilled Chicken

Hello, Birdies! Do you smell that?? Ah, yes. The scent of gas and charcoal grills alike are being lit up for another season of burgers, hot dogs, and {my personal favorite} chicken with those famous grill marks. Mmmmm! Nothing like this time of year. Because I was sick of the wicked winter we had, I embraced the warm temps by firing up our Weber. My wonderful in-laws gave us our Weber grill as a wedding present so it has been a staple in my spring and summer cooking from day one and without fail, every year, my husband will ask for my grilled chicken.
This marinade is easy, healthy, and saves me from cooking over a hot stove in an already humid environment. Bleh! Who wants to do that? Not this girl. Why does he request my chicken you might ask? You all know how great restaurant grilled chicken can be, right? Like just the perfect amounts of tang and spices and grilly goodness? Well one day I needed a quick dinner so I kind of just threw a whole bunch of stuff into a plastic bag, tossed in some chicken, and hoped for the best. To my surprise and to my husband's delight it was like we were eating that fabulous "restaurant" chicken we adore. It had just the right amount of everything and ever since then I have made it as soon as grill season rolls around. You can too! Here is what you need:

Lemon, Sea Salt, Balsamic Vinegar, Extra Light olive oil, Bay Leaves, chives, chili powder, pepper, garlic salt, and red pepper flakes.

2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (I prefer it thinly sliced; if you can't find it thinly sliced, pound it out with a meat mallott)
3/4 cup of Light Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Tbsp - 1 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
1/2 of a lemon, just the juice
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/2 -1 Tbsp. chives, chopped
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 or more Bay leaves

1. Heat up your grill to at least 400 F.
2. Pour all of the ingredients, except the chicken and the lemon, into a gallon sized plastic bag.
3. Squeeze the juice of the lemon in the bag.
4. Place chicken in the bag and seal it while removing as much air as possible. Next, massage the chicken with the marinade {through the bag.}
5. Allow to marinade for at least 30 minutes but preferably for several hours or overnight.
6. Once the grill is at the appropriate temperature, with tongs lay your chicken breasts on the grill. I try to make sure I get at least one bay leaf on each chicken. (Be sure to remove those suckers before eating!) Close the lid and allow each side to cook till there is no more pink in the middle. The chicken should reach an internal temperature of at least 165 F..
7. With a clean set of tongs, remove the fully cooked chicken onto a plate and allow to rest. Do not cut into the chicken right away or else it will dry out. While it "rests" it absorbs the juices and flavors making for a more moist piece of meat.

We like to eat this chicken with our favorite fruits and veggies! Our top choice is usually grilled corn. For that, I lightly butter up some corn on the cob, place it in a foil pouch, fill it with the same seasonings as my chicken, seal up the pouches and grill for about 10 minutes. Delish!

I actually measured this out for you all because normally I just wing it, sprinkling as much as I think I will need. Feel free to do the same. These measurements are just to give you an idea. Be careful placing the chicken on the grill because it might flame up at least it does for me. Fire + Anna = not always a good combo. I will actually make a few pieces at a time even though Eric and I will only eat one piece each. I reserve the other pieces for salads, sandwiches or soups. This marinade provides so much flavor that it can add pizzazz to any meal like these wraps!

Mmmm! Now I'm getting hungry. Time to fire up the grill! What is your favorite thing to grill out? I am thinking about grilling some peaches and using them as a garnish for vanilla ice cream....has any one ever tried that before? I hope you enjoy this marinade as much as we do. Let me know what you think! 

Thanks for stopping by! HAVE A GREAT DAY!!!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cash Envelopes: A Budget's Best Friend

Hello, Birdies! Sorry for the several weeks absence. I have been fighting off tonsillitis since Easter which has been a real treat......nope, that's a lie. It has been AWFUL. So between working and the regular grind, I haven't done much of anything. Anything clearly including blogging. My apologies but rest assured I am ready to dive back in! Are you? :-)

So previously we looked at how to make and use a budget. You can find that link here and download the free budget form here. I also teased about using cash envelopes. Some of you may be wondering what exactly cash envelopes are. The money you plan to spend for the month (which is decided based off of your budget) is divided into the appropriate categories and then placed in envelopes. I got real deep there, I know. Using this type of system isn't anything new. People have done it for generations, until the past few decades that is. Apparently financial guru, Dave Ramsey, saw that decline in the concept and brought it back to the mainstream. Through taking his course, Financial Peace University, I first learned about using cash for my monthly expenses. Now Dave is big on not using credit cards and I agree but I thought, "Surely I can just use my debit card for everything." Eh, not quite. Maybe some people have more self discipline than me but I have found that I am likely to spend quite a bit more with the swipe of my card as opposed to pulling cash out and handing it to the cashier. My husband and I pay the ol' bills online but for our everyday purchases we use cash. We have practiced using cash envelopes pretty much since we've been married and I think it has made all the difference to our finances. Here is why:

1. Using cash envelopes keeps you organized! 
They coincide perfectly with a budget by keeping the money where it needs to stay. Instead of considering your money being thrown into one big pot where you just grab it when you need, you see that your money has a specific place to go. The grocery money isn't the same as the gas money and the hair cut money certainly isn't the same as the entertainment money. If you go with the money pot mentality, every time you look at the "pot" you may think that you are fine because it is still full until you finally reach your hand in there and realize there are no more bills to grab. Seeing your money in specific envelopes and seeing those funds shrink through the month keep things in perspective.

2. It empowers you to use your money wisely! 
Before getting married, I used my debit card for EVERYTHING. I rarely carried cash. Am I the only one?? Because of this I was constantly running through my funds in no time flat! It's like I wasn't thinking when I used my card. Every purchase kind of became an impulse buy. Now when I want something I really evaluate the choice, "Do I need this? Could I get a better deal?" Sometimes I tell myself to wait then, many times, I find that I have completely forgotten about the thing I "had to have." Other times I realize that whatever item is something important to me so I will save up and/or find the best deal possible. I owe that to the cash system. If I were still addicted to my debit card I don't think I would be as happy with my finances or purchases.

3. It gets you closer to your goals!
Because this system keeps you organized and helps you keep things in perspective, it gets you closer and closer to your BIG PICTURE goals. Personally, it is so easy for me to say "I want this" or "I need this" or "why don't we have this yet?" but then I take a step back and look at the big picture. If we had always used our debit cards or started using credit cards, never made a budget, or never used cash envelopes, my husband and I would never even be close to where we are now. If we had stayed on the old path we would be even further from our big picture goals.

If you feel disheartened with your financial future, I encourage you to take the plunge towards financial freedom. First step, make a budget. A REALISTIC budget. Second step? You got it. Using cash envelopes. I have a challenge for all of you. Try those two things for 3 months, along with couponing, and see where this path takes you. You may be pleasantly surprised!

Do you use cash envelopes now? What do you think about the idea of using cash for the everyday expenses instead of using a card? ARE YOU READY FOR THE CHALLENGE? 

Thanks for sticking with me! I appreciate you stopping by my itty-bitty area of the blogosphere! HAVE A GREAT NIGHT! :-)