Crispy Chicken Thighs with Sautéed Vegetables

One of the advantages of coming home earlier is I have more time to make a healthy and tasty dinner while having the time to write about it for this blog. I’m a big fan of chicken thighs, they are so much tastier than chicken breasts and cook so much better. I had bought a value pack of thighs on Sunday and figured since I was home at 4pm yesterday I’d have time to do something with them, but what? I started going through my bookmarks looking for a recipe. I usually use recipes as the framework of cooking, using similar meats and/or methods but modifying it to make it my own. As an aside, how many people read the comments on recipes? I do, not only to get tips on making the dish better, but for the comedy value as well. The ones that I love are those that write they love the recipe, but I made a few changes. Then they proceed to write at length about what they changed. For instance, I saw this one that I may try tomorrow, you have some comments where people have gone through and replaced just about all the ingredients with something else and/or added things or changed the cooking method even and then say how they will make this recipe for their family weekly. While you may make that dish for your family, you aren’t making the recipe that is on the site.

So, back to my search for something to do with the thighs. I saw this one on Ree Drummond’s site that looked good, but I wasn’t in the mood for BBQ, and if I was I’d use the Weber and do them up right. I have a couple of ones that use a pressure cooker, but I was thinking something crispier since they were bone-in, skin-on thighs. Then I remembered one that I had seen in Bon Appetite magazine, basically a method for cooking chicken thighs that was easy and made nice and crispy skin. After some creative googling, I found it and set about replicating it.

This was nice and easy, since all it required was seasoning the chicken with salt and pepper and cooking it, simple enough, right?

The key is to render the fat of the skin down to get it nice and crispy. So once the oil is hot you put the thighs skin side down in the pan for 2 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for another 12 minutes.

One thing I have learned over the years of cooking was to season generously. For meats you really need to salt with a heavy hand. When I cook a whole chicken I really cover the meat, both sides, with salt. It really makes a difference. Once the chicken cooks skin side down for 12 minutes, you move it to a 475 oven for another 13 minutes, keeping them skin side down.

After the 13 minutes is up you flip them over and cook skin side up for another 5 minutes to get them really crispy.

While this was cooking I thought about a side. Someone had given my wife a squash and tomatoes from their garden recently so I figured I’d cut those down and sauté them for a nice light side.

Onion, thinly sliced squash and quartered cherry tomatoes. Started off with the onions in olive oil to get a nice caramel color on them.

Then added the squash (think it is actually yellow zucchini).

I seasoned it with just salt at first. I added some vegetable broth, about 2 TBPS, and covered the squash for about 5 minutes to steam them so they got soft.

I threw in the tomatoes at the end along with some herbs de province.


Here is chicken out of the oven, look at how yummy those are.

Here is the plating, excuse the choice of plate, I normally would use one of the ones you see the chicken on, but I grabbed one of the Tupperware ones first and just went with it.

I ended up eating two of the thighs and still have a couple left to take for lunch today.

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Forced Rest

Having a wife, kids and a mountain of debt means you have to be flexible and always ready to change your plans. A few weeks back my wife applied for a retail management position, while is isn’t great money, it is better than the $0.00/hour she is making right now. It is a full time position, but being that it is retail it isn’t the greatest hours. Last week she found out that they are not hiring any team leads and assistant managers yet. It is a new store opening in our area and they hire temporary people initially to help set up and stock the store, then when they get closer to the opening date they make determinations on who will stay on and who, of those that are interested, will be offered management/lead positions. She has a good shot at the position, which is good as it will give us a an extra $500-600 per week that we can use to fully catch up on our bills and, more importantly, get ahead.

Because the job started this week, and was sort of a last minute thing, my entire schedule has been thrown for a loop. Some days this week, I have to come into work by 6:30 so I can leave by 2:30 and get home before my wife is scheduled to work. Other days, like yesterday, I have to bring kids to in-laws to be watched and I don’t want to make two trips by going to the gym, back home, then back down to drop them off. As my schedule goes this week it doesn’t look like I will get to the gym.

For the past 15 months I’ve averaged 3.5 days at the gym per week (my gym e-mailed me a print out last month showing all the days I checked in with my keychain tag). Because of that I’ve gotten into the habit of being somewhere to workout. I have always had a very hard time getting up and doing something at the house. I’ve tried running, and was able to do that on occasion, but I’m a creature of routine if not habit. My body adjusted to the routine of 45-50 minutes from awake to the gym floor. I get pumped up as I drive the 15 minutes from the house to the gym. I know that I need to keep up with my routine or else I’ll start quickly losing the gains I’ve made in what I can lift, it happens quicker when you are mid 40s With my schedule now I’m getting up at the same time as I have been (5:45), but have to leave for work by 6:15-6:20 to get there to enable me to get my 8 hours since I have to leave before 3pm every day this week. I may have to just suck it up and get up earlier. I have a friend at work that gets up at 4:30 every day, works out and is here in the office by 6am and leaves at 2pm to go home and take care of his kids since his wife works 2nd shift. However, he’s in bed by 8-8:30pm every night. I can’t do that, I have too much to do with kids and family stuff to go to bed that early, heck I can’t even make it to bed by 11pm some nights. I think I may be able to get up by 5am, or at least try to, and see if I can get to the gym by 5:30 when they open. Or at least try and get some road work in at home, figure I can run from 5:30-6:15 and then home, shower and be at the office by 7am.

It is going to be a difficult four weeks, but I’m going to make the best of it. Once school starts in September I’ll be able to get back to my routine since I won’t need to leave work before 4pm. I think I’m going to get a couple of used kettle bells (can get them for .75/#, or less, at a local used sporting goods store) and some other gear and make a go at working out at home. Maybe before dinner I can get a couple of sets in, to at least keep up the gains I made. I know it is something I have to do.

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Quickening the Pace of the Past Time

Baseball is a unique sport. Just about every other sport has a clock that denotes when the game is over. A baseball game ending is determined by two things, 1), a team has more runs than the other, and 2), records at least 27 outs against the team with fewer runs. It doesn’t matter if it take 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, or in the case of a Red Sox-Yankees playoff game potentially 5+ hours. Extra innings are no indication of the length of the game either. One of the best Red Sox games I saw in person was a 10 inning affair that lasted 2 ½ hours. Tim Wakefield pitched 10 innings and the Sox won on a Troy O’Leary Walk-Off in the 10th.

This morning, during my Saturday ritual of drinking coffee and surfing the net, I came across this article. The Deadspin article was based on a Buster Olney ESPN (Insider required so no link) about changes to the Atlantic League, a small independent league, where they are going to institute rules to attempt to speed up the game. The article lists the some of the changes, including:

  • The defensive team will be limited to three “timeouts” per game, in which mound visits or on-field conferences take place with the current pitcher. Pitching changes will not be counted as timeouts, and in the case of extra innings, one additional timeout will be permitted at the start of the 10th inning and every three innings thereafter. Umpires will enforce a strict 45-second time limit on said timeouts. If the umpire’s warning is disregarded by the defensive team and play continues to be delayed, the umpire shall declare a “ball” for the batter at the plate. This will limit the number of times play is interrupted by on-field conferences.
  • Pinch runners will be used for catchers as soon as the catchers reach base. This ensures that catchers are suited up quickly to start the next half-inning.
  • When a manager or catcher on the defensive team indicates to the home plate umpire they wish to issue an intentional base on balls, the batter is to be automatically awarded first base without the need for the pitcher to deliver four balls.
  • Umpires will be directed to enforce Rule 6.02 and Rule 8.04, related to hitters stepping out of the box and pitchers delivering the ball within 12 seconds when the bases are unoccupied.

The Deadspin article suggested that MLB use this as a test to determine if any will work for them. I don’t think that pinch running will go over in the Majors. They also have the same 12-second rule for pitches to throw when there isn’t anyone on base. I like the first one about the defensive team calling timeout during games. One of the things about other sports is they have limited timeouts they can use during the game. Football has three per half, basketball has 6 full per game and 1 20-second timeout per each half. Granted those sports use timeout to stop the play clock from expiring when they are attempting to score. In baseball that isn’t the case, but the number of visits from the catcher to talk to the pitcher or from infielders to the pitcher takes time away from the game. Coaches can visit the mound twice per inning, however if they visit a second time they have to change the pitcher.

I’d like to see this rule tried at the minor league level or in Spring Training next year, but with some modifications. I’d give each team 2 30-second timeouts to the catcher and 3 60-second timeouts to the coaching staff. Obviously injury timeouts or timeouts called by the umps wouldn’t count since those are official timeouts. On the coaches timeouts I wouldn’t put the restriction of removing the pitcher on the second timeout/visit of an inning. If coaches/managers want to visit a pitcher three times in an inning that would be their call. After the three timeouts the only time a coach can talk to their pitcher is when they are on the field is to remove them. This would add additional strategy to the game. Catchers/Pitcher conversations would have to occur only at certain times when it would do the most good, not 4-5 meetings during a single at bat when a guy is on second just to get the signs right. Those 2 timeouts would be for the entire game, they don’t get additional ones for each new pitcher.

One of the dings against baseball is the pace of the game is turning away new fans. While I don’t totally agree with that, it is difficult to get young fans to watch when games start at 7pm and take 3-4 hours. I don’t remember the last time my 10 year old son watched a full game at night. By reducing the length of the game time, you stand a chance to get new viewers to watch 6-7 innings instead of 4-5 innings they can do now before having to go to bed.

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I’m not a morning person. Not really a night owl either. More of a middle of the day person, my sweet spot is from 10-2. Growing up if I didn’t have to be up in the morning for anything (school, work, going somewhere) I would regularly sleep in till late morning (ok, on occasion early afternoon). I fondly recall the summer of between my sophomore and junior year of high school when I didn’t have a job sleeping in until 11 pretty much every day, even when I went to bed the night before by 11. When adulthood hit I obviously had to get up early, but before I had kids, I would sleep in until 10 or 11am if I didn’t have a reason to get up.

When I finally got serious about getting healthy and joined a gym I made the decision to go in the morning before work, even though it was VERY difficult at first waking up early to train. When I first started I there was always one or two days a week when I hit snooze on the alarm one too many times and missed my window to hit the gym before having to be in the office by 7:30-8:00am. I figured I was doing this for me and didn’t want to impact my family time in the evenings. These days I am much better at getting up early, even on the weekends, but I still struggle which is the reason for using two alarms, my regular alarm clock and the Sleep Cycle app on my phone.

My habit of going to the gym in the morning was validated yesterday. Because I had to take my kids to my in-laws for the day I was forced to go to the gym in the evening. I started at a new gym just over a year ago and I had never been there past noon. Normally when I go in the morning there are very few people and little competition for equipment. I knew it was going to be bad pulling in to the parking lot at 5pm, it was PACKED! Heading in I could tell it was going to be bad, walking up stairs to the gym floor confirmed what I was thinking. Wall to wall bros, young 20-somethings doing dumb bell curls in front of the mirror, teens sitting on equipment texting or on their phone, and groups of college aged kids spotting each other on 185# bench presses as far as the eye could see. Fortunately I was able to get my workout in and then some.

Yesterday was bench, there was one bench nobody was around, but it was loaded up with 185#. I wasn’t sure if anyone was using it, but I didn’t really care. You walk away from line-of-sight of a piece of equipment in a busy gym and it’s fair game for someone else to jump on. I quickly jumped on it, someone walked by and looked at me, maybe it was the previous user, he paused near the bench but didn’t say anything and kept moving on. I quickly did a few warm up sets using the 185# and some stretching right there at the bench. With Rage Against the Machine’s Bulls on Parade (Live Version) blasting in the headphones I got my sets in, 5×225, 1×245, 1×255, 15×175. Then I went over and did bent over rows using 185 as my 1RM. When I finished those a couple of young bros walked over to the rack thinking I was done. I decided to go right into a 5×5 set of squats at 225, they weren’t happy. They kept eyeing me even after I finished and moved on to some pull ups. Oh well, tough for them, when you are at a piece of equipment in the gym you own it until you are done your set. If they wanted to work in, maybe I would have let them, as long as they didn’t change the weight.

I’ll take my morning over evening workout any day of the week.


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One-hit Wonders

I’m so glad that I didn’t have today off and have a regular job. If I was home I’d would have been forced to watch that abysmal Red Sox matinee in Toronto. 1 hit? 1 HIT?!?! After Tuesday’s 14 run output I figured they would have struggled scoring runs, but I didn’t think it would carry over to today. Victorino got the lone hit. They faced the 2nd coming of Pedro in Marcus Stroman. I can’t believe I actually thought they had a chance this year to maybe come back and at least make it interesting.

My routine was disrupted this morning; I didn’t get up and hit the gym because I had to take my kids to my in-laws this morning since my wife was working. It didn’t make sense driving the 30 mile roundtrip journey then another 44 miles roundtrip for work. I have a meeting tonight near where I work so I brought my gear and will attempt to hit the gym at 5PM, workout, shower then to the meeting, grocery store to pick up a few items then home, hopefully in time to get the kids to bed. I’ve never been to the gym at night, should be interesting to see what type of characters are there at that time, I hope it isn’t too crowded, thought should make for a good post tomorrow.


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Humping it Day

Another good day throwing around heavy metal plates. I’m in my last week of doing the 1 Rep Max workout, my plan is to start a 5 day split of upper and lower body on Monday. I’m hoping the work I’ve put in pays off in that workout. My plan is to do 3 days of upper with 2 days of lower one week and switch it to 2 days upper and 3 lower the following week, rotating for probably 8 weeks. I’ll be doing big compound lifts that work large muscle groups, I’m not really big on isolation, though I may throw some arm work in, but keep it to barbell curls and close grip bench press/dips that also work other muscle groups.

I was able to hit 355# on my deadlift using the trap bar. I felt like I could have gotten at least one more. I did 300×5, 335×1, 355×1, 225×15. I had to switch my military press because all of the racks were in use. I ended up using the Hammer Strength ISO lateral shoulder press machine. I loaded up 60 on each side and was able to do 10. I used that to determine my 1RM, which I tabbed at 100#. I did 80×5, 90×1, 95×1, 60×15 (those weights were per side of the machine). I followed that up with 6 sets of 110# hanging cleans that I took deep into a front squat. Did some core, weighted crunches using 20, 25, and 35 lbs plates with V-ups in between each weighted crunch set.

I watched the Red Sox last night, if only because that will probably be Jake Peavy’s last or 2nd to last start in a Red Sox uniform. I like Peavy, love his competitiveness and his drive. Yelling “COME ON, PEAVE!!!” to himself when a pitch or play doesn’t go his way hasn’t gotten old in my book. If you’ve been following the Red Sox this year you know Peavy was 1-9 coming into that game. He has the worse run support in the league, it’s under 3 runs per game. He has 11 games this season that are considered quality starts (6+ innings of work giving up 3 or fewer runs). He should have at least 5-7 wins. Not a great pitcher, but a solid #4 guy in the rotation.

Of course he has to pitch after that 14 run onslaught from Monday night. In all my time watching the Red Sox it is almost a given when they score double digit runs their offensive output will suffer in their next game. Knowing Peavy was pitching the next game I started pleading to my TV to hold up on the runs when they got to 8, begging them to save some for Tuesday. Of course my fears came to fruition last night, and it was a typical Jake Peavy start:

  • No Red Sox runs for several innings – Check. They scored their 1st run in the 7th off a David “Jamaica-Mon” Ortiz solo shot
  • A screwy play – Check. The Jay’s first run was on a play in front of the plate that he tried to field and couldn’t get his glove on allowing the runner at 3rd to score on a 30 foot ground ball.
  • The obligatory Peavy home run – Check. In 6th and Jose Reyes leads off with a home run. A check on the bullpen and no Sox reliever is up or even stretching. The Jays followed that up by a Cabrera ground rule double, then Peavy go Jose Bausista to fly out. The next batter, Navarro, hit a HR to deep right and just like that the score was 4-0. Peavy was able to get out of the inning without further damage.
  • Leaving him in just a bit too long – Check. He came out for the 7th (which I think was a mistake, but I think they were trying to showcase that he can pitch beyond the 6th) and he put a runner on and was pulled for Badenhop. Badenhop ended up giving up an RBI single.

From there it was pretty much done, Toronto scored two more runs, Drew hit a 2-run shot in the 9th, but it wasn’t enough.

Peavy will probably be traded before the end of the month, even if they manage to take the next two against Toronto and go into Tampa and take 2 of 3 from the Rays. De La Rosa and/or Workman can take his turns in the rotation. They may be able to include him in a package for a right-handed bat, preferably one that can play Left Field every day. Hopefully they can get back on their winning ways tonight. If they do they will have to it against R.A Dickey and his knuckleball. I hope that doesn’t screw up some of the hitter that have been heating up, especially the young ones like Holt, Bradley and Bogaerts.

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Plans of the Bearded Ones.

Are the Red Sox pulling the greatest baseball ruse of all time? Last year Boston won it all, this year they are on the verge of losing it all. From worst (2012) to first (2013) to worst(2014?). They had a fantastic season in 2013 pretty much winning wire-to-wire and were the World Series favorites from about August through the playoffs. They did it with a combination of skill and luck. The skill came from guys like Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes while getting great pitching performances from Lester, Lackey and Buchholz and a whole bunch of timely hitting. The luck came from the general lack of injuries to any of their starting players.

Coming into this season they were favored to make the playoffs again. They really only lost two players, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarod Saltalamacchia, while Ellsbury was considered hard to replace, they felt by adding AJ Pierzynski on a one year deal would give them better offense from the catcher position for the season and rookie Jackie Bradley Jr to replace Ellsbury’s defense and speed on the bases. When the season started, they got off to their normal slow start. Boston has never really been a strong spring team, like the Boston weather, it takes them a few weeks to warm up. By the end of April they were 13-14, not great, but considering the AL East was projected to be the weakest of the three AL Divisions, there wasn’t too much concern. They were pitching well and playing great defense. Bradley Jr was better in center than Ellsbury was. They had young guys in Boegarts, Bradley and Brock Holt. Holt, who debuted April 18th, promptly went on a 6 game hitting streak. The thought was once these guys got more comfortable in the Majors they would start hitting better.

April turned to May and the only thing heating up was the weather. They went 13-15 in May, while their pitching stayed strong for the most part their offense floundered. They scored 112 runs in March/April and 115 runs in May. Boston led the league in runs last year, but a HUGE margin. Last year they had a great April, going 18-8, but a .500 May. But they scored 275 runs over those two months. Their offense fell off in June, they only scored 83 runs in 28 games! The low point was a west coast road trip where they went 2-5. They started July poorly too, losing 6 of their first 7 games of the month. The scored all of 26 runs in those 7 games.

On the 9th they were coming off of back-to-back loses to the White Sox where they scored 3 runs total. They were losing that game at home going into the 9th. They has designated AJ Pierzynski for assignment earlier in the day and were starting a rookie catcher, Christian Vazquez, behind the plate. Nava pinch hit and doubled to center scoring Mookie Betts, another rookie shortstop/2nd baseman they had called up, to tie the game at 4. Then Brock Holt singled on a line drive plating Nava for the walk off win. The next night the game was tied going into the bottom of the 10th. This time Nava walked, Betts his a nice sacrifice bunt to move Nava up then Mike Carp hits a pinch hit single to score Nava for their 2nd walk off in as many games.

After those wins they have only lost one game. Their offense is startling to click, they have scored 82 runs (one fewer than in 28 games in June) in 16 games. Last night they went off for 14 runs, 18 hits, and 4 home runs, the most in any game this season.

Before the season started Jonny Gomes was asked about what will motivate/unify the team this year. He said it wouldn’t be the Boston Strong or the beards like last year. He said the team talked about it during the off season in e-mails and texts to each other, but he didn’t reveal what “it” was to the media. Maybe the “it” was tanking the 1st half of the season and then come roaring back in the second to make the playoffs. It’s a huge risk and I can’t imagine they would take it. I think it would tick off a lot of fans, but maybe it is a way to weed out the “pink hat” fair weather fans and do something to reward the fans that stick by the team through good and bad. Stranger things have happened.

Right now they need to win another 43 games to hit 90 wins. That means they need to go 43-20 the rest of the way, that’s winning at a .682 clip. They only bested that rate in April of last year. I don’t think they can do it, but if they come close at least the rest of the season will be as entertaining as the first half wasn’t.

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