Brussel Sprouts and Bacon

I’ve never liked brussel sprouts. I can recall once that I’ve eaten more than two in one sitting. It was at a local restaurant and the roasted brussel sprouts were covered in marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese and came as an accidental side to the dish I’d ordered. Then one day Miss A’s best friend’s mom introduced me to these magical, delectable, drool-worthy brussel sprouts. I’ve eaten them four times in the last two weeks. The leftovers are even good microwaved the next day!

Ingredients:
1 package brussel sprouts
4-6 slices of your favorite bacon
olive oil*
white wine or chicken stock (can also use vegetable stock)
maple syrup
salt and pepper

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 425. Cook the bacon until crisp in an oven proof pan. While the bacon is cooking, rinse the brussel sprouts under cool water. Chop off the ends and peel off the outer leaves. (I have no idea why you do this, you just do.) when the bacon is cooked, remove it from the pan leaving the drippings. Then crumble the bacon. If you don’t think you have enough drippings *add a bit of the olive oil. Over medium to medium-high heat, sautee the brussel sprouts until they start to caramelize, stirring occasionally. Use white wine or chicken stock to deglaze the pan. Add the brussle sprouts to the oven. Cook for about 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally. If you think the brussel sprouts are getting too done, add some more of the white wine or stock. Remove the brussel sprouts and while the pan is still hot drizzle maple syrup over the cooked brussel sprouts. Stir again. Salt and pepper the brussel sprouts. Stir. Add the crumbled bacon. Stir. Serve warm.

My opinion:
I really, really, really like this dish. It’s very hard not to eat the whole pan in one sitting.

Advertisements

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

We’ve been using our crockpot quite a bit lately. We’ve also discovered the wonderful boneless skinless chicken thighs from one of our favorite grocery stores (or go-see store as our toddler calls them). The benefit of cooking the thighs in the crockpot is they dry out less and are more flavorful than the traditional chicken breasts. Cooking Light’s crockpot recipes have become a go-to source. I did not expect this recipe to be as good as it was. Even the toddler ate some of it!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1/2 cup white wine (or chicken stock)
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano (we ended up using dried)
1/4 cup drained capers
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (we left this out because the toddler was eating with us)
8 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (28-oz.) container diced tomatoes (such as Pomì) (I accidentally used only the 14.5 ounce can)
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cremini mushrooms, quartered (the grocery store was out of these, so we just left them out)
8 (6-oz.) bone-in chicken thighs, skinned (about 3 lb.) (we only had three boneless ones left, it worked fine)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces uncooked spaghetti, broken in half
5 ounces baby spinach
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)

Directions:
Combine 1/2 cup water and flour in your favorite crockpot, stirring with a whisk. (Note: You can also use corn starch, which we will do next time.) Stir in stock and next 8 ingredients (through mushrooms). Add chicken thighs to the stock mixture; submerge in liquid. Cover and cook on LOW 7 1/2 hours (ours cooked about 9). Remove chicken. Leave whole or chop if using boneless skinless. If using bone-in, wait for them to cool, then remove bones.
Add oil and pasta to slow cooker sauce; cover and cook on HIGH 15 minutes or until pasta is done to your liking. (It took a little longer than 15 minutes for us.) Stir in spinach until wilted. Divide pasta mixture and top evenly with chicken. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

My opinion:
I didn’t expect the capers to add so much to the dish. It was the right amount of salt and sweet from the tomatoes. The pasta cooked perfectly. Next time, I will use the corn starch and reduce the amount of liquid a little for the initial cooking phase. If we need more to cook the pasta, I’ll add more at that time. All in all a good, flavorful dish that is perfect for a weeknight.

Reasons not to start a business

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.

There are a number of would-be entrepreneurs who were bursting with potential but never made the leap and actually started a business. Many wanted to do it, dreamt about doing it and knew it was possibly, yet there was a mental obstacle that kept them from following through. Below is a list of the most common reasons people used to keep them from launching a business.

“I’m Not Ready”
If you’re waiting for the “perfect moment” to start your business, then you’re going to be waiting forever. Whether it’s investing your life savings in a start-up, trying bungee jumping, or anything else in life that’s scary, you’re never going to feel 100 percent ready. Yes, all businesses have a chance of failing, and yes that’s a terrifying prospect but the true winners in life are those that grit their teeth, and just do something in spite of their fear.

“I Don’t Have the Money”
This is one of the most widespread misconceptions that holds promising people back from realizing their dreams. In today’s world of free and highly affordable social media marketing, along with accessible ecommerce platforms like this, you really don’t need that much money to get a modern business off the ground. There have been countless successes that started with little or no money, and in the state of the modern business arena, these are only becoming more and more common. If this is the excuse that’s holding you back, you probably don’t even need a half of the capital you think you need.

“I Don’t Have Enough Experience”
While it’s certainly helpful to have a keen understanding of the industry you’re planning to go into, you’re never going to get experience in running a business if you don’t do it! If you want to learn how to swim, you’re going to have to jump in the water at some point, and if you want to be a great entrepreneur, you’re going to have to make a similar leap of faith, and learn by doing. Even the greatest CEOs in the world wish they had more experience and expertise, so don’t let this particular excuse lead to you putting off your dreams any longer!

“I’m Not Qualified Enough”
Unless you’re dead-set on entering a field with extremely high liability, then you’re already qualified to start and develop a business. If you want to give people something they need, and have an insatiable appetite for seeing high profit margins, you don’t need a framed certificate to tell you that you’re ready to be a business owner. Sure, a masters in business or economics can come in handy when you’re a CEO, but all you really need is creativity, ambition, and the self-discipline to see your plans through.

There’s never been a better time to get a business off the ground, so make sure you’re not letting any of these excuses get in the way of your dreams.

Common Blogging Problems

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.

Creating and maintaining a blog are two very different things. It’s easy to create a blog and add the first few entries, share it with friends and family and add the posts to your social channels. Over time, the novelty and your enthusiasm wear off and you might find it takes more effort to maintain. There are few common problems that most bloggers encounter. 

Not Enough Traffic
Starting out in the blogging world can be very frustrating when you see only a handful of readers every day. Directing traffic to your site is something that takes time, often a year or more. You can help speed things along by sharing new posts on your social channels, use relevant hashtags and focus on your website’s SEO so that people find you through Google searches.

You Have A High Bounce Rate
If your bounce rate is high, it means that people aren’t sticking around for long enough. Likely it means the reader is coming to your site and reading just one post rather than clicking around. A high bounce rate impacts your site’s SEO.  One way to combat this is to use royalty free images to improve the overall user experience. You should also make sure your blog is mobile responsive. That means that it can be viewed on smartphone and tablet devices. Sites that aren’t mobile responsive can appear distorted on smaller screens, which prompts readers to leave.

No One Comments On Your Blog
Some people want lots of comments on their posts, others don’t because monitoring for spam and abusive content can be time-consuming. If you do want more comments, you can try asking for them. Ideally, you should leave a call to action at the end of your blog posts. These will prompt people to leave you comments. For instance, end a post with something like “do you have any more great ideas? Leave a comment below to let me know!” Another tactic is to leave comments on other blogs, which may entice that blogger to visit your site and leave a comment as well.

No Time To Write Regular Posts
Feeling pushed for time? There is one solution – just ask people to submit guest posts. You can invite your readers to send in posts of their own, or you might want to ask fellow bloggers to write something for your site. Either way, this seriously cuts down on the time you need to spend writing and thinking of new posts!

7 tasks to complete before launching a business

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.

When you start  a new business there do not seem to be enough hours in the day. Your to-do list gets longer and longer. Starting a business is exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure and burn-out is a real danger. Tear up the to-do list and replace it with short, medium and long-term goals. These seven tasks are where you must start.

  1. Do your market research: Confirm that there is mileage in your idea! Is your business proposition viable? Look at what others in your niche are doing. This can be a tough process but it is vital. The truth is that if you don’t start doing brand competitive analysis now, you’ll regret it later so make it one of your first jobs
  2. Decide on the right business structure for youThere are many different legal structures for businesses and they all have their own administrative and financial advantages and disadvantages. It is important to read up on your options and decide which is best for you. Talk with a business lawyer and an accountant now so you have an established relationship down the road.
  3. Build up a team to help youThis does not have to be a team of your employees but if you are starting big then it could be. You need to recruit the right people who share your drive, enthusiasm and vision. You can build a team of support from freelancers that you know and trust. You also need financial and legal experts to advise you (see above).
  4. Choose a business nameThis is the fun part! But before your imagination runs riot you need to remember some golden rules of choosing the right business name. It needs to be memorable and must not create confusion with competitors. Make sure that no-one has used the name already.
  5. Choose a stunning logoA logo says so much about your business and is the first thing prospective customers see. (J & A Creative Group specializes in logo design!) There are so many options that it can be overwhelming so you may need to read up on what works best in your sector and look at what you can afford. The simpler the better. You can always have a go at designing one yourself using a free graphic design package such as Canva but you should consider enlisting an expert, logos are hard to change down the road. 
  6. Choose a domain name: Before you can launch your website online you will need to choose a domain name. This requires a lot of thought. It is better if it is short and snappy and easy to type into search engines.
  7. Build a websiteNo business can survive without an online presence and there are two aspects to this. There are easy options for you to build a simple site yourself or you could use a web design service for a more professional look. They will also offer you a support package for when things go wrong (and they will go wrong at some stage).