The Mess Hall

Rants and ramblings on all things edible, wearable, doable, or usable with a focus on Home and Health. Home is fun, easy on the wallet, and “gool” for the greatest game of tag ever (Life). Welcome to my home, the Mess Hall. Get in the Mess!

13 Mar

Crockpot Curried Chicken (also, curdled curry: learn from me people)

Posted in Makin' Food on 13.03.11 by Octopi

I love my crockpot. LOVE it.  I respect the multi-tasking opportunities crockpots present.  Thing is, it becomes this seasonal thing where I don’t really use it except wintertime b/c I make typically make soup or stew or soup stew (is that a thing?).  So I’m on a mission to find some things I can probably enjoy when it’s not 30 below zero with two feet of snow on the ground.  First up… Crockpot Curried Chicken (with ginger and yogurt).  Be sure to look below the recipe for an important after-school message about cooking with yogurt (and potential curdling).


  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbl curry powder
  • 1 tbl fresh ginger, grated (OK, I may have put in more like 2 tbl)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs chicken
  • 1 1/2 cups rice
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (mix in a teaspoon of flour to it before adding in to the mix)
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (I chopped up the whole bunch cuz otherwise I’d probably waste the rest)
  • a couple bell peppers (gotta got those veggies in there!)

Makin It Happen

  • Dump all the veggies and onion in the crockpot.  In a separate bowl, whisk tomato paste, garlic, curry powder, Ginger, cumin, and 1 cup water (maybe less water if you don’t put a lot of veggies in with the chicken).  Place chicken on top and pour the tomato paste mix over the sop.  Season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook on low 7-8 hours or high 3-4 hours. (I had it on high for 4 hours)
  • Cook rice before serving
  • Just before serving add yogurt and more salt to taste to chicken and stir to combine. 


Curries with Yogurt: Warning

  •  The yogurt curdled when I added it, which I was greatly annoyed by, but the curry was probably annoyed at me for being stupid and putting the yogurt in when the concoction was still piping hot. 
  • The interwebs offer several suggestions to avoid this.  1) Add a teaspoon of flour or cornstarch to the yogurt before putting it in and that should help avoid the curdling from occurring.  2) Use a higher fat yogurt (I was using Greek yogurt, but it was a low-fat kind). 3) Let the curry cool off a bit before you put the yogurt in.  I was impatient and put it in right away. 
  • If it does curdle, it’s still OK to eat (all the curds are is small bits of yogurt cheese) so just suck it up and eat it rather than let it go to waste and remember to try one of the above suggestions next time!

tags: ,

No Comments »

20 Feb

Rosemary Turkey Meatloaf

Posted in Makin' Food on 20.02.11 by Octopi

Got this one from a work colleague.  Yum!  Thanks T!


  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 2 cups dry bread crumbs
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (or dried, whatever)
  • fresh parsley, about 1/4 cup
  • 1 cup canned tomato sauce (or ketchup)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Makin it Happen

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix together the ground turkey, bread crumbs, onion, egg and milk.
  • Season with balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and rosemary.
  • Press into the prepared pan.
  • Blend together the tomato sauce, brown sugar and mustard; pour evenly over the top of the loaf.
  • Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until juices run clear when pricked with a knife.


Tips and Tricks

  • I baked some of the meatloaf in individual-sized pyrex containers for easy freezing for lunches. 
  • The sauce was pretty sweet.  Next time I’ll probably cut down on the brown sugar a bit and up the mustard for a bit more of a kick.

tags: ,

No Comments »

02 Oct

SOS on SFS: Part Deux

Posted in Healthy Body, Healthy Living on 02.10.10 by Octopi

OK, so I’ve posted previously on the book I had started reading called The End of Overeating. Well, I’ve renewed it once and now the book’s overdue, but I’ve finally gotten through the last of it and wanted to present some final interesting factoids to ponder from the book.

The author (Dr. David Kessler) summarized some facts on consumption that I thought were particularly breathtaking and supports some of the USDA data I’ve summarized in the past.

  1. There has been a 63% jump in consumption of fats and oils over a 33-year period.  This is per capita consumption going from 53 lbs to 86 lbs!
  2. Interestingly, sugar and sweetener consumption has increased, by 19% compared to 63%.

     Author’s Source of Data here and here

Here’s another thing.  You know how we always talk about food that melts in your mouth and how great it is?  Well,  it’s fat that’s making it easier to chew.  On top of the whole consuming fat thing, the easier to chew reality, in my mind, leads to eating faster and eating more.  The author cites research that in the past Americans would chew a mouthful of food an average of 25 times before swallowing; now it’s only 10 times. 

I am totally guilty of what I’ll call Shovel Syndrome: I eat too fast and don’t chew my food well.  I’m sure some of this is attributed to not only the type of food we eat, but also our go-go-go culture that includes eating on the run.  I’ve been told several times recently that I “eat so fast!”  I need to stop and smell…the food (and savor it!).  Plus, if I slow down I’ll probably eat less because my body will have more time to tell me that I’m full.  So I’m going to chalk that up as a small goal for sustainable changes that help me live a healthier lifestyle!

I WILL Stop, Smell, and Savor the food!! In other words, Slow down.

In the meantime though, I’ve gotta hurry up and get this book back over to the library.


No Comments »

21 Aug

Grazin’ on Green Beans

Posted in Grazers, Healthy Body, Healthy Living on 21.08.10 by Octopi

I’m a grazer. I’ve always been one. When I’m busy I don’t get the urge, but if I’m sitting around an office or cooped up at home, it’s really easy for me to want to make a move for something to nibble on. I’ve been trying to find some good, light snacks lately and have discovered the wonderful world of raw veggies. Specifically green beans. Sound weird? Let me make my case. With a haiku.

Spring Green Beans: lanky

Crunchy, sweet, sinewy, strong

munch like a bunny

Well, it’s almost a haiku. Don’t think the American Haiku Society would approve, but you get the point.

So have I sold you on grazin’ on green beans?  They’re cheaper veggies than other tasty snacks like snow peas.  They’re more socially acceptable at work than sippin’ on gin and juice.  They’re healthier than things like The Bane of My Existence Because Chicago Kids Think They’re a 7th Food Group: Cheetos Flamin Hots.  What’s a favorite snack or grazer of yours? Let the Mess Hallers know! You could write a haiku about it too!

tags: ,


18 Aug

How Green Is Your Clean? Drain Unclogging Products

Posted in Green Your Clean, Healthy Living on 18.08.10 by Octopi

A couple years ago I started to ask myself, “How green is my clean?”  Every time I picked a household cleaner up I started to look at its contents and started to get scared at the “ingredient” list.  I’m putting THIS down the DRAIN?! I have THIS in my HOME?!

So I decided to do something about it.  No, I didn’t collect my arsenal of cleaning products and light them all up out in the alley or bury them in my neighbor’s yard.  But when it came time to go buy some more, I took some time to ask these questions:

  1. What is this for?
  2. Does this product seem bad to be around my household or put out into the environment?
  3. Is there something greener I already have that can do the same job?
  4. If not, what can I get to do the job?
  5. Will the new product be able to take care of other things?


I’m going to have a series focusing on particular products and alternatives.  First up: clog removers for drains.  The Dranos and Liquid-Plumrs of the world. 

  • What is this for?
    • Unclogging drains
  • Does this product seem bad to be around my household or put out into the environment?
    • Plenty of nasty chemicals in these types of products.  Warning labels like “Keep out of reach of children.” “Can cause burns on contact.” “Harmful if swallowed”
    • Verdict: Nasty for people and nasty for the environment
  • Is there something greener I already have that can do the same job?
    • Yes!! For preventative maintenance, use baking soda and white vinegar.  Dump some baking soda down the drain followed by just enough white vinegar to make all the baking soda fizz out.  Let it sit for 5-10 minutes while you’re boiling up some hot water in a tea kettle (or use the extra hot water from the kettle after you’ve made some coffee/tea in the morning).  Dump the boiling water down and good to go.  I try to do this every couple weeks.
    • Also, in the bathroom, you can use hair catchers to prevent stuff from going down the drain in the first place.  And a bent-out old metal hangar still does the trick when you have to go digging to unclog.
  • Will the new product be able to take care of other things?
    • Both baking soda and vinegar can be used to get rid of unpleasant odors
    • Vinegar can be used with water (equal parts) as a general cleaner.  It serves as a disinfectant.  Use the same “equal parts” vinegar/water combo to clean windows (wiping down with newspapers for streak-free clean).
    • Use vinegar and baking soda on lemon wedges to use as a scrubber for surfaces.


    No Comments »

    12 Aug

    Whole Wheat Honey Pancakes

    Posted in Garbage Recipes, Makin' Food on 12.08.10 by Octopi

    Pancakes...a Garbage Recipe

    I love pancakes.  They’re so easy to make and you can make so many different kinds.  We’re big fans of base recipes like this; we call them Garbage Recipes because you can open your fridge or cupboard and just dump random ingredients into the base recipe.  We’ll be presenting more Garbage Recipes down the road. 

    First Focus: Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (WWPF) I’ve been experimenting with WWPF lately. It can be kind of a pain in the arse to track down, so if you’re on the health kick like we are, you can do the traditional “substitute half the regular flour with regular whole wheat flour” thing.  The nice thing about the WWPF is that it’s ground finer than regular whole wheat flour so you can pretty much use it as a 100% substitute for regular flour in baking.  Obviously, it tastes like whole wheat flour though.  So if you make cookies with all wheat flour, they’re going to taste a little different.

    Second Focus: The Glorious Pancake  Pancakes are great. Make a huge batch on the weekend, split them out into single servings in bags/containers, and grab them as an on-the-go breakfast during the week.  They freeze well too.  I bring them to work and eat them like finger food.  I think they taste good cold, but you may wish to heat ’em up.  To each her own.

    The Recipe:

    Base Ingredients

    1 cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
    1/2 tsp Salt 
    2 tsp Baking Powder
    1 tbsp Honey
    2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
    2 eggs
    1 cup Light Vanilla Soy Milk

    Garbage Ingredients

    1/4 cup Mini Chocolate Chips (opt.)
    1/4 cup Ground Walnuts (opt.)

    Making it Happen:

    • Mix all ingredients together / Heat non-stick pan to medium high
    • Drop batter into heated pan (batter should spread to about 4 inches in diameter). You shouldn’t need additional oil if it’s a non-stick pan.
    • Cook on one side ’til the top of the pancakes are bubbling and edges are getting firm. Flip. Cook a bit more. Check underside and if it’s brown, then take them off heat.
    • Serve with syrup or just eat ’em barefoot!
    • Tasty Goodness!



    • Right now the recipe is using 2 tbsp of vegetable oil.  I’d like to get it down to one (without having to put additional oil in the pan so the pancakes don’t stick to the pan.  If the next iteration works, I’ll update. If YOU try, let me know the results!
    • I’m trying to cut down on extraneous calories, so no butter for this girl on these. Personally, I don’t think they need it. Or syrup, and I LURV Wisconsin syrup. 


    Print Recipes here…

    Whole Wheat Honey Pancakes

    Whole Wheat Honey Pancakes Index Card

    View nutritional content here.

    tags: , , , ,