Chicken Tikka Masala – My Take on a Classic

Y’all! I LOVE me some Indian food, but since moving to Kentucky, there are not as many places to find it as there were in Tampa, Fla. So, I went on a mission to recreate one of my favorite dishes, and modified it to my tastes.

In other words, this may not be the 100% authentic recipe you will find on other sites, but it hit the exact spot I had a craving for.

Though I confess it does take a while to make this recipe, I was so happy with how it turned out. And, my husband and I have added it to our meal plan rotation! Best part is you could easily double it to have plenty of leftovers!

Active time: About an hour

Total time: About 90 mins

Servings: 4-6 depending on portion sizes

Ingredients Chicken Tikka Masala (Modified)

For the Chicken Coating:

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (I totally used a bottle of concentrate, but you could juice 1 lime and get about 1 tablespoon)
  • Generous 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (Note: the more you add, the spicier this dish will be!)
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika (I used smoked paprika, but many Indian recipes call for sweet paprika)
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala (spice blend)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt or full-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (I used the minced garlic stir-in paste, but you could use about 3 cloves and mince it yourself)
  • 1 tablespoon of stir-in ginger paste or you could use one 2-inch piece peeled fresh ginger root, minced

For the Tikka Masala Sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 8-ounce cans of plain tomato sauce (Make sure you don’t make the mistake of grabbing the one with oregano and basil like I’ve accidentally done in the past!)
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (Again, if you add more it WILL kick up the heat level!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (spice blend)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

Additional Ingredients Needed:

  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • 1 tsp approximately of garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala (Modified)

Step 1

In a 2 qt saucepan, start melting your butter on medium heat, but don’t brown it! Then, add your tomato sauce, and give it a stir. Then, add your other sauce ingredients, stir, and when it begins bubbling, add a lid and turn your stove down to simmer so it can cook while your chicken is velveting and then baking.

You’ll need to stir it roughly every 15 minutes just to make sure the sauce isn’t burning.

Step 2

For the chicken: Using thawed chicken breasts, velvet the chicken with your baking soda

To velvet the chicken you will sprinkle the baking soda all over it and rub it in. Then, let it sit a full 20 minutes.

Pro tip: Set a timer because you don’t want this to sit longer than 20 minutes as the chicken will become mush!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees while you are velveting the chicken.

Step 3

Wash the chicken and then pat dry with paper towels. Then place the breasts in a greased 9X13 pyrex or equivalent glass baking dish.

Step 4

Sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika onto both sides of the chicken. I eyeballed this, but it ended up being about 1 tsp of each spice across the chicken.

Step 5

Place the chicken in the oven for 12 mins, and get to work on your sauce. In a bowl, combine the lime juice, cayenne pepper, paprika, garam masala, salt, yogurt/sour cream, garlic and ginger in a mixing bowl until evenly mixed.

Step 6

Pull out the chicken, spoon on half of the chicken coating to the top of your chicken, then flip it over, and spoon the other half on and rub it all over the top

Step 7 

Place it back in the over for another 10-15 mins or until the internal temp reaches 165 degrees

Step 8

When your chicken is cooked through, cut it into 1 inch cubes and place the cubes back in the pan.

Step 9

Pour your Tikka Masala sauce onto the chicken and give everything a good stir to ensure all those yummy bits of your chicken coating are fully incorporated throughout.

Step 10

Serve with Basmati rice and Naan. I like to pour some of the sauce into the rice and chicken so I can dip the Naan into it. Damn tasty!

To give the sauce a little heat, you can add more cayenne pepper, red chili powder, or Kashmiri chili sauce. We felt the flavor was just fine without extra heat, but we did add salt and pepper to taste.

Romantic Encounters of the Cruise Kind

If you will be cruising with someone you love sometime soon you may be looking for ways to amp up the romance. You’re in luck because I’ve created a list of ideas to help you wow your honey and have her thinking you are the king/queen of the lovey dovey!

  • Ask for a couple’s table at dinner. Instead of sitting with six to eight strangers you can request a private table on most cruise lines at dinner to really have some one on one time with your sweetie. If this isn’t possible then make sure to spend at least one evening at a private table in one of the restaurants on board.
  • Tell the cruise it’s your honeymoon. If you don’t want to lie then say it’s a second honeymoon, but either way make sure the word honeymoon is on the staff’s radar. Many cruise lines will place rose petals on the bed or fun tokens in the room to help set the mood.
  • Request champagne/wine and strawberries from room service. You can have this delivered upon arrival to your cabin or you could set it up for one evening after dinner.
  • Bring some non-flammable candles. Just because you’re on a cruise ship doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a night by candlelight even if it has no flame.
  • Skip an excursion at one of the ports of call and just spend the time with each other. You could walk the beach or just have lunch alone together.
  • Enjoy sunrise or sunset together. Grab a drink and possible even a snack and go to some area on the ship that isn’t overrun with people. This is much easier to do for sunrise, but if you can’t bring yourself to get out of bed early do this for sunset. Just sit and watch the sun go up or down and hold one another.
  • Get a couple’s massage. This may or may not be possible on the cruise you choose, but if your cruise line has couple’s massages make sure to try this. Then, afterwards just soak in the hot tub for a while to continue the good feelings.

Best Times for a Caribbean Cruise

For most of the year the weather in the Caribbean islands features average lows in the mid-70s to average highs in the mid-80s. With that in mind pretty much any time is a good time for a Caribbean Cruise, but when are the best times to go? The answer to this question depends on a few factors ranging from your budget to your travel needs and wishes.

According to several travel websites, the most expensive time to cruise to the Caribbean is in the summer months between June and August, spring break and during winter break from schools. The temperatures are generally higher in these months making for excellent swimming conditions. School is also out during these months and most families want to take vacations while their kids are off.

It’s important to note that because so many people are taking cruises the Caribbean during the summer these cruises are generally a very full. There will be a lot of people so if you prefer less people (especially less kids) around you then you should consider going in the slower season. June is also the beginning of hurricane season but the weather usually doesn’t get too bad until September and October.

The low/slow season and the cheaper time to cruise is April, May and September through January with the exception of spring and winter break from schools. December through April is also the driest time in the Caribbean with low humidity and less chance of rain. The catch with cruising during this season is the water is often a lot colder but for some people the smaller crowds, fleeing the cold weather of the north and cheaper cruise prices makes the colder water worth it.

Have you been to the Caribbean more than once? When is your favorite time to visit?

How To Have A Stress Free Family Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s that time of the year again. Time to be grateful and give thanks for all the blessings God has bestowed upon you. It’s Thanksgiving! And we all want to celebrate it with the least amount of stress possible.

First stop and think about of the preparations you would like to do yourself, or should I say, feel up to doing yourself. Don’t plan to over exert yourself, by having to cook for a huge crowd.

By anticipating how you will feel, will help you determine how many people to invite. We know that we are expected to invite family, so do so. But also know that not all of your family will show up. Some of them, who might be married, or engaged or whatever, may be having Thanksgiving with their inlaws or friends.

Be understanding, and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving, and besides it makes less work for you. The less work, the less stress. Now make a list of those who are coming, and let’s move on.

Now you want to decide on the menu. Do you want to do a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, or something totally different? I suggest doing a traditional dinner. It would be a lot less stressful. Now don’t plan on doing the entire meal yourself, by all means get some help.

By that I mean, do a pot luck. Let the family know that you will be taking care of the turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce and the mac and cheese. Ask them to bring something, and you should give them suggestions, so they don’t all bring the same thing.

This will eliminate some of the pressure off you. They can bring a salad, some desert, beverages, even some paper plates and utensils. That’s right, I said paper plates, it’s family, they won’t mind. And it will make clean up so much easier for you. Now that’s a stress buster in itself.

Don’t leave out your husband and kids, they should help too. Since you are doing the preparations of food, have one of them, set the table for you. Maybe your husband should do that, if the kids are small.

Let kids help you with clean up. If you used paper plates, they can gather the trash together and take it out for you. They can clean the table off for you, husband can mop floor if needed and the work is done quick and easy. And if family volunteers to help, by all means say yes.

Now that dinner has gone well, and everyone is happy, before family leaves, say a prayer together. Thank God for allowing you all to assemble together once again, and pray that everyone makes it home safely. After they leave, put your feet up and enjoy the rest of your holiday relaxing, no stress.

More Than Photographs

For several years, I was a photographer. Though those days are all but behind me, I still like to dabble in creative content.

While studying for my degree, I interned at Style Magazine. This was where I started learning about photography. In fact, many of my images were used in the magazine. After that first photo assignment for Style I was hooked. I started doing lots of journalistic photography as well as weddings, parties, charity events, portraits and more.

These days, I really only take pictures on my smart phone…I’ll update this page soon with my recommended photographers if you landed here looking for photography services.

Workout and Have Better Sex – Wait, What?

Working out is one of those necessary evils in life and I’d like to share with you a few simple reasons you should make it something you strive to add to your life.

Working out improves your sex life. If nothing else revs you up about working out, hopefully this will. It’s actually been scientifically proven that regular exercise can increase sexual drive, activity, and satisfaction. Physical endurance and muscle toning improve sexual prowess, and exercise jump-starts the sympathetic nervous system, which increases blood flow to the genital area.

Even low levels of exercise help keep you functioning properly. In fact, men can significantly lower their risk of erectile dysfunction by burning only 200 calories a day.

Lose weight and feel great! It’s no secret that excess weight wreaks havoc on the body. From minor aches and pains to heart disease and high cholesterol- working out will help you lose weight and potentially decrease and possibly remove many health woes. Working out also boosts immunity making you less likely to get sick. In fact, it is estimated that physically active people can save up to $1,000 a year in regular healthcare costs.

Gain confidence. Working out improves your confidence levels. As you get started on a workout routine your body will lose fat and get toned. Just knowing that you are working towards a new and improved body makes you feel better about yourself mentally and emotionally. Working out will inevitably give your self-image and self-confidence a boost, which is often one of the best motivators to stick to a workout program.

Improve brain function. Exercise causes a drop in stress hormones and acts as an antidepressant. If you have ever experienced a “runners-high” then you know exactly what I am referring to. In general, anything that is good for your heart is great for your brain and exercise is definitely good for your heart.

Sugar and Your Body

It seems like sugar is in everything. A personal trainer I met said his clients often ask him  why sugar is so bad and how they can keep from consuming it. Here’s his take on a substance is as addictive as other white powders out there – yes, it’s that serious!

Sugar is sweet and releases a massive amount of dopamine in the reward center of the brain. The more you consume, the more your body wants of it. Junk food, sodas, even many energy drinks have a lot of sugar- much more than any foods found in nature. Because of this dopamine release people who have a susceptibility to addiction can become strongly addicted to it.

What can sugar do to your body? For one, it can cause insulin resistance which causes obesity, cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. Second, it can cause you to get cancer- many scientists that people who consume a lot of sugar are more at risk for cancer because of their consistently higher than normal insulin levels.

Insulin is a key hormone in stopping uncontrolled growth and multiplication of cells- when your levels are high your body can’t control these growths as well. Lastly, it can mess up your metabolism causing weight gain which leads to a whole slew of other problems. There are several other things that sugar does to your body, but these alone should make you want to quash your sugar addiction.

Okay, so you know its bad- but how can you stop consuming so much of it? The first thing you need to do is make the decision to stop the consumption. Just like addicts can’t quit drinking, smoking and gambling unless they decide to get help, you must be the one to make the decision to cut back and then stick to the decision.

Consider alternative sweeteners like stevia or honey. Avoid processed foods and beverages made with fructose, aspartame, sucralose and other sugar aliases. Once you find the culprits with the most sugar in your diet it will be easier to cut back.

What Does it Take to Get Famous Online?

Getting famous online requires a lot more planning than using the “post and pray” method. However, searching online will bring you countless methods for how to gain more followers, increase your visibility, and manage your presence successfully. 

Below you’ll find 4 of the most important tips for increasing your chances of making it big. 

While we can’t guarantee that you will get famous online with these steps, they will certainly help! 

1. Decide on your “niche”.

Your “niche” is basically your little corner of the internet. The first step to creating a successful online profile is to really decide what your passion is. What do you have expertise with? What information or knowledge do you possess that other people NEED? Now – go find community there! 

When you think of your niche, think SMALL. It probably feels counterintuitive to narrow down the people you are trying to reach, but my specializing you are competing against a smaller number of posts for visibility. This method also benefits you because the people that you ARE reaching actually need what you are providing.

Pro Tip: Don’t just pick “busy people”. Narrow down to “athletic busy people” or “tea loving busy people”. 

2. Post valuable content.

You have to bring value to your niche. People want to gain something from following you! This could be products they need, tips and tricks, or even solidarity. Either way, they have to connect with you and feel that you are solving a problem they have. 

Finding community is incredibly important for this. For example: If you are focusing on the DIY niche – Post an Instagram Reel showing your niche how to stain an end table in under an hour. Bring the funny and relatable content! 

Pro Tip: Look at your video and ask yourself, “Would I share or save this?”

3. Select 1-2 platforms to really dig into. 

You need to learn about the algorithms (technical “formula” created for deciding which posts show up to many people and which don’t) involved on your favorite platforms. For example: Facebook likes to show posts that involve pictures of a face and that involve conversations. The more back and forth conversation, the more people that post is going to be shown to. 

Once you have found your niche and decided on platforms – get involved in groups (on Facebook) or hashtags (Instagram) and interact with them! Build relationships with them! Providing value and answering questions will build credibility for you within the community. 

Pro Tip: Utilize the search feature on groups or instagram to search for people’s questions in your niche. What questions do you have answer for? What problems do people have that you can solve? 

4. Consistency, consistency, consistency. 

This is probably the most important way to bring maximum visibility and engagement to your own posts. It is incredibly important to put content out on a frequent, predictable basis. People will come back to your account for your daily content! The more you post, the more people will be able to interact, and the more visibility you will have.

Have confidence! Yes, the internet can feel big and scary. But just take these steps one at a time and go for it. Find your people, dig in, and bring that value consistently. May your page views be high, and your bounce rate be low!

Don’t Overindulge at Thanksgiving

Want to hear a frightening but true statistic? The average American will consume more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day alone. That number is more than double the amount of calories that a man hoping to maintain his weight should consume in a day and more than three times the amount of calories a woman looking to lose weight should consume!

How then, when Thanksgiving is filled with some of the most tempting dishes we eat all year can we keep from overindulging?

Portion Control – I hate to say it, but one of the biggest factors that contributes to this over-consumption issue is overloading your plate. You don’t need all those potatoes and gravy and you certainly don’t need to go back for leftovers of mom’s stuffing just because it’s there.

Load the plate with veggies – If you really feel the need to pack your plate as much as everyone else’s, load your plate with vegetables. If you are heading out this holiday and worry there won’t be any veggies you like bring a vegetable dish of your own.

Drink up – No, I don’t mean alcohol! By the way though, you shouldn’t drink your calories at dinner, but we’ll save that for another post. When I say drink up, what I really mean is drink a lot of water. Drink a full glass before you sit down to eat and this will help you feel a little full preventing you from over eating.

Take a walk before dinner – Studies have shown that a brisk walk before a meal can help you suppress your appetite.

Only eat half of dessert – Nobody said you can’t have a slice of pumpkin pie, but if all you really need is the taste you can probably live with just half a slice and save those excess calories.

All of the above tips can be used at any big meal. Don’t restrict yourself too much because that does lead to binging, but there is no reason you need to stuff your face when you’re trying to maintain or whittle your waist!

When is the Best Time to Plan Your Travel?

Ready, set, go! Wouldn’t it be great if traveling for vacations really worked that way? You pick a spot on the map and you just pack and go! Sadly, that privilege seems to only remain with the rich. So, the question is how can the average traveler decide on the best times to plan their trips?

First, you will need to decide on the details of the trip, i.e. the destination, whether you want cold temps or warm temps, when you can get time off from work and your budget. Once you have these ideas in mind the real research begins. The good news is that if you are working with a reputable travel agent you can bring your travel wishes to them and they can give you ideas for your vacation, but ultimately the final decisions will lie with you.

Once you have the logistics figured out of destination, budget, timing etc… it’s time to book the trip. Still, a question of when to book remains. In most cases your best bet is to book as soon as you nail down your trip goals. The sooner the better because you will have the best options on rooms, flights and transportation to name a few.

In the event you are choosing to visit a destination during its busy or peak season booking quickly becomes even more imperative as the cheaper accommodations can sometimes get snapped up so fast you will be left with either the priciest options or none at all. The same thing often goes for holiday traveling- the sooner you book the more options you will have!

With all of that said if you can book six months in advance great, but up to a year is even better! Besides, the sooner you book the sooner you can start making additional arrangements if needed such as canceling your mail, booking a pet sitter, putting in for the vacation time at work- you get the idea.