Main Dishes

My Secret to Moist Chicken Parmesan

December 7, 2018

When I recently discovered that Chicken Parmesan is one of a friend’s very favorite dishes, I was dismayed. Traditionally, this is a chicken breast dish and when it comes to chicken, I am not a breast girl!  I find the breast cut dry and lacking in flavor. Then, I thought up a way to prepare it so it comes out of the oven moist,  tender and flavorful.

My trick? Instead of the breast, I used pounded, boneless chicken thighs.  I swear by this method!  The chicken comes out nearly fork-tender and juicy. Not only that, when you pound it just enough, you won’t need to divulge to any picky “white meat only” eaters that they are dining on the thigh. Trust me: they won’t even ask.

Here is what I did.

TENDER CHICKEN PARMESAN

Chicken Preparation:  Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

  • Place 4 – 6 boneless chicken thighs in a plastic grocery bag or between plastic sheets.  Be sure they are unfolded.
  • Using a good tool (I use a flat, river rock. But a mallet or the side of your rolling pin will do. If you have to resort to using a wine bottle, be careful not to break it!), gently pound and flatten each piece to about 1/3 of an inch. Do not over flatten!  You want to pound them just enough to make each piece tender and even in thickness.
  • Salt and pepper all sides of your chicken pieces before proceeding to the breading stage, below.

Breading:

  • Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil or butter in a large skillet on medium heat.
  • Immerse each piece of chicken into
    1. Flour (shake off extra)
    2. Egg wash (1 beaten egg per every 2 pieces of chicken, so 2 eggs for 4 pieces of chicken and so forth).
    3.  Panko. Be sure to press the Panko bread crumbs into the chicken, fullycovering it.
  • Sauté chicken a few minutes on each side, until the Panko crust is beginning to brown.

Baking:

  • Place chicken in a buttered baking dish, either side up.
  • Spoon on 2 – 3 tablespoons of bottled or home-made tomato sauce to cover chicken top.
  • Optional: Dab on pesto sauce if you have some handy, or add a few leaves of fresh basil.
  • Cover chicken with Mozzarella (whatever type you have, fresh, bagged, either way).
  • Cover chicken once again with grated Parmesan.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes and serve.

TIPS:
If you don’t have Panko crumbs, use any bread crumb. If you can add some crushed corn flakes to your bread crumbs, it will be extra crispy.

My Daily Kitchen

Asian Inspired Orange Ginger Salad Dressing

August 27, 2018

What is it about that salad dressing they serve at our local Hibachi restaurants that makes my mouth water? It’s just delicious; it’s tangy, a little sweet, a little salty and I always want more.
My guess is it has a combination of sesame and ginger but I can never quite put my finger on it.

On a whim, I whipped up my own version, deciding to add orange for a little brightness.
I think it came out rather well.
Here  is what I did:

The Salad

  • 4 cups of washed lettuces of your liking. I had on on hand arugula and Chinese cabbage, but I would have added ice berg for that satisfying crunch.

Now on top of our lovely lettuces, arrange the following:

  • 1/2 Shredded or finely sliced carrot
  • 1/4 cup sliced mushroom (I used a small Portobella).
  • 2 inch piece of  cucumber, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, sprinkled over the salad
  • 1 spring onion, chopped
  • I did not add a tomato, but you might want to! It’s pretty and most people expect tomato.

The Dressing:  Add the following ingredients into a blender or smoothie mixer:

  • 1/4 medium sweet onion
  • 1 large (or 2 small) tooth fresh garlic
  • 1 small, chopped carrot or 1/2 a larger one. Cube this so it will blend easily and not get stuck in the blades.)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (I use low sodium but I prefer the saltier!)
  • 1 tablesppon sesame oil  (sesame oil is powerful so … careful!)
  • 1/4 cup light olive oil
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 dash lemon juice (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 3 full springs fresh cilantro (stems and all)
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons Tahini / sesame paste  (start with 1 and add if you like more)
  • 1 tablespoon minced or chopped ginger.

Whir it all around until well-blended.
Taste!


What do you think? Do you want to add a little of this or a dash of that?
Simply adjust to taste until you feel satisfied! It’s subjective. We have no rules.

Tips!  

  • Try adding toasted Sesame or Flax seeds if you like. (Flax is most beneficial if ground.)
  • Ginger root keeps well in the freezer. You can cut off a knob as needed. Peal and mince. I do like th convenience of the already minced ginger I can purchase at our supermarket.
  • To make a full meal: Arrange cooked shrimp  (blackend or steamed, as you wish) or chicken breast on top to make it a meal.  Try it with a portion of seared Salmon!
  • Save your left-over dressing in a jar in the fridge.
    Try marinating some shrimp of chicken breast in the left over for a jazzed up flavor!.
Candidly Yours

Heavenly No Crust “Cheese Dreams”

August 12, 2018

My good friend, Helen, is on a Ketogenic diet, so no gluten flour for her!
She is also a wonderful hostess and the last time I popped over, she set out the most delicious, gooey, cheesy “non-pizza”  snack!  It was a bit like a pizza, a bit like a quiche, but no crust at all,… i.e., gluten- and mostly carb-free!.  What it reminded me of most was an extra yummy mozerella stick.

I wanted to make something like it as soon as I got home, but alas… I didn’t have all her ingredients.  I did however have sausage and some different cheeses. What emerged from my oven was equally tasty and I’m calling it Sausage Cheese Dreams. Below is my recipe

This dish is  ideal as an h’ordeuvres, a snack,  or even in a larger piece for breakfast. It’s also Keto- and Paleo- diet friendly.

You can certainly  make a vegetarian version by simply omitting the meat!

SAUSAGE CHEESE DREAMS
(Vegetarian Option Included!)

1.   Heat oven to 3752.
2.  Line a cake pan or similar shallow pan with butter, parchment paper, then more butterIn a medium bowl, beat 2 pasture raised eggs and to this, add:

  • 1 cup of riced cauliflower (you can purchase this already riced in the frozen section of your super market, or you can process it yourself.
  • 3/4 cup of grated gooey cheese. I used a 4-cheese Mexican mix but Monterrey Jack, Colby, or Mozerella will all do.
  • Add 3/4 cup grated or shaved parmesan cheese
  • Add 3/4 cup crumbled breakfast sausage meat, sautéd until just cooked, (Be sure it is cooled eoght before adding it to the egg mixture.)NOTE to Vegetarians: Omit the meat and replace with sautéd mushrooms.
    If your mix is too liquid, add 2 – 3 tbsp of gluten-free flour.
  • 15 freshly chopped basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • TIP! If your batter seems too liquid, add two tbsp. of gluten-free flour, or just enough to bind and absorb the liquid. 

3.  Once all your ingredients are incorporated, pour all of the mixture into the prepared pan. You do     not want the uncooked batter to cover more than 1/4 of an inch. It will expand as it cooks, but you are not making a quiche!

4  Sprinkle more cheese and a bit of basil on top and bake about 20 minutes, or until you see the top bubbling and the edges turning brown.

Batter, before the oven

Top is bubbling, edges are brown.

5.  Cool about 5 minutes. Then turn it out by pulling up the parchment paper and cut into desired bites or slices

.

 

TIP! : Try using different cheeses & experiment with different herbs. Add mushrooms & sautéd onions.
If you’re daring, toss in a pinch of cayenne pepper for a kick, or use Pepper Jack cheese.

Main Dishes

Delicious & Versatile Creamed Spinach!

June 5, 2018

Creamed spinach is a great way to add vegetables while keeping carbs and calories to a healthy minimum.  Plus… this recipe fits into almost any diet:  Not only is it grain- and gluten-free, but also Vegetarian, Paleo and Keto friendly!  It works as a side-dish, but I love it topped with a poached egg, a la “Eggs Florentine.”  When I’m really hungry, I top the egg with a slice of cheese and broil for a minute.

The recipe below yields about 6 cups, or …12, half-cup servings at 160 calories and very few carbs.

In addition to the ingredients featured in the photo, I also used about 1-1/2 tablespoons of Quinoa flour to thicken, which adds a negligible amount of carbs.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 9-oz packages of baby spinach, chopped
  • 1 large Vidalia or sweet onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (feel free to substitute Half ‘n Half)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp good butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (not shown)
  • 1-1/2 tbsp flour (I prefer gluten-free flour)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste (I ground about 20 times)

Preparing

  1. Melt butter and olive oil in a large skillet
  2. Add chopped onion and salt, then sauté until onions are soft and clear
  3. Toss in all the chopped spinach and sauté, turning and stirring until soft
  4. Add the cream, stir, then add the parmesan and incorporate well
  5. Simmer about 3 minutes, then sprinkle in flour to thicken, pepper to taste and simmer until the mix reaches the desired consistency.

TIP: Portion out the large batch into individual half- or one-cup servings for freezing!
They thaw quickly,  so you’ll always have a handy, healthy side vegetable!.

Candidly Yours

DID YOU KNOW? REFLUX MEDS CAN CAUSE DANGEROUS DEFICIENCY

March 31, 2018

Secretly, I thought I might be crawling toward death and I wasn’t at all sure why. I had been so depleted, for months, and I was quietly frightened enough that I began writing the names of my loved ones on the backs of treasured  heirlooms in case I kicked the bucket in the night.

Looking back, so much was going on but I never strung the issues together. It just felt like my body and my mind were going down like a slowly but inevitably sinking ship.

I’ve always had insomnia, even as a small child, but for months, I had been almost unable to sleep at all and, if sleep came in spurts, it was never for more than 90 minutes, a couple of times in one night.  Yes, I had been living and working on about 3 hours of sleep for over a year.

Even sexier,  I had developed creepy, wrestlers legs. And to add to the fun, my muscles started going into painful spasms, my  eyes felt like they had grains of sand in them but a trip to the eye doctor and liquid tears did nothing.  The heart was palpitating, I was dizzy, my hair was falling out and my joints hurt so much that I could hardly walk in the mornings. Beyond dragging my sad self to work, I couldn’t get out of bed or get enthusiastic to do anything at all. Not even dance, my favorite activity, ever. Ugh. This is not the stuff for an alluring dating profile page!

Those who know me, know I generally a happy chick,  high-strung for sure, even hyper, but still a happy lady and this helped me be able to  ignore for too long, or hide all the above from anyone around me. Then, on Christmas Day, my stress level and my ability to cope with the regular bustle of guests was so overwhelming I felt embarrassed. I was a freak!

Blessedly, a few weeks into the New Year, a shocking blood pressure attack forced a reluctant visit to the doctor where it was suggested I have my vitamin B12 level checked.

B12 is an essential vitamin. Without it, one can develop pernicious anemia, neurological issues, even Alzheimers. It is detrimental to go without B12 yet oddly, it is not part of a routine blood panel. Still, it is easily fixed if caught in time.

In countries that follow a mostly vegetarian diet, such as India, B12 deficiency and it’s consequences, is common. Vegetarians and vegans are told they must  take a B12 supplement or consume foods fortified with the vitamin if they are to maintain  healthy levels. A close friend of mine became vegan when in her 20s. After a time, she began passing out. It was discovered she was B12 deficient and today, decades later, has a permanent loss of feeling on one of her little toes!

Since today, B12 is easily obtained in supplements and  fortified foods such as cereals, vegetarians can make a good case for giving up meat altogether.  Still, doctors tell me that it is best to obtain essential vitamins through diet over supplements, if possible, and B12 is naturally provided only in meats, eggs and dairy.  Okay … well … Ahem! I eat meat, eggs and dairy. So why, then  did I become dangerously deficient? And could this be happening to you? Well, if you suffer from acid reflux, it just might!

What many don’t know, and what no doctor told me 12 years ago when I began taking acid reducing meds daily,  is that people who suffer from acid reflux and related issues, and who are on a prolonged regimen of proton pump inhibitors such as Nexus or Prylosec, can develop a B12 deficiency because the stomach is not producing enough acid for absorbtion. This is likely how I became deficient. If you are taking reflux meds, think about having your B12 checked with your next blood panel.

I am happy always to cater to my vegan and vegetarian friends. But whenever I have tried to go without meat, it just does not feel right for me. I don’t eat a lot of meat, and I am conscious about where my meat is produced, how it is fed and slaughtered. Ditto for eggs. But I just don’t feel well when I remove it from my diet completely. And it begs, for me, the question that follows…

If Vitamin B12 is not readily available in plants, were we ever intended to be 100% vegetarian, as some claim?  If our creator had wanted us to abstain from meat altogether, would he not have provided B12 in plant foods?”  

I started taking high doses of B12 daily, without fail. You can get your B12 in a regular vitamin but for me, a sublingual or liquid delivery is more efficient because of  malabsorption in the stomach.  After just a few days, I began to sleep! Within 2 weeks, or even sooner, every one of the symptoms described above had begun markedly to disappear. Within 4 weeks, I was out dancing again! And my stress level is noticeably down and manageable.

Today, I take a medium dose of B12 daily. About once a month, I add liver to my mostly Paleo diet.To make liver taste almost like a good filet mignon, I soak it for about an hour in milk which helps remove that metallic after-taste.  I lightly dredge the meat in Quinoa flour, then I simply sauté in butter with a little salt and pepper. I top it off with caramelized onions. Delicious.

 

 

Comfort Food

20 Minute Lentil Heaven

January 26, 2018

These days, it’s a challenge to find a dish you can serve to everyone, from your manliest meat-eater to your weight-watcher, the animal-conscious vegan or even a diabetic. Here’s a fast and tasty way to provide bowl full of heavily health in only 20 minutes that’s good enough and healthy enough for almost any diet!

Red Lentils are low in fat, loaded with protein and fiber, and chock full of heart-healthy folate and manganese. They are also pretty to look at, which makes them festive enough for company. The best part? They are extremely easy to prepare because, unlike green or brown lentils, red lentils are very quick cooking, i.e., no soaking,  no waiting.

With it’s fresh splash of lemon and bright mint, this recipe will bring a bit of the Mediterranean to your soup bowl and it will keep you feeling full for hours.

EASY RED LENTIL SOUP

In a small soup pot, boil 2 cups of salted water and add to it:

  • 1 Cup red lentils
  • 1 large, or 2 small, minced garlic teeth
  • 1 Tsp. dried, flaked onion

Simmer about 15 minutes, until lentils are soft. Now add:

  • 1 Can “no salt” diced tomatoes. Your choice, but I prefer to add & control my own salt.
  • 1 Tsp. fresh Italian flat parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 Tsp. fresh or jarred lemon juice. Use more or less, to taste.

Simmer soup about 5 more minutes. Add salt to taste and serve.

Notes:  Garnish with fresh Mint or Parsley. Use fresh tomatoes, if you like. Add carrots if that appeals to you.  I did not need to use any type of flavor “cute” or powder as the lentils, garlic, salt I used and fresh herbs created a lot of flavor!

Comfort Food

Caldo Verde, Gringa Style!

January 13, 2018

On a cold day, this soup will bring happy tears to your eyes and warm you to your socks.

I had read that Caldo Verde, a traditional Portuguese soup, was the considered by some to be the comfort soup of all comfort soups and, on this unusually chilly Florida day, it did not disappoint.

Traditionally, Caldo Verde is prepared with true Portuguese sausage called chouriço or linguiça and kale. Since I have never followed a recipe, (or for that matter any agenda one hundred percent), and as I don’t live near a Portuguese butcher, I decided to use the sausages available to me in my local store. I also went for  spinach over kale, because I thought it would appeal to my peeps.

I used both a smoked Polish sausage and a house-made Italian from Publix. I think the smoke factor matters here, but if you have liquid smoke, you could add a few drops of this.

When you create your version of Caldo Verde, try it with the traditional kale (removing the stems) or collard greens (again, sans stems), or a combination of these and/or spinach.

This soup turned out to be dreamy warm, hearty, filling and delicious!
It was a meal in itself.

PORTUGUESE CALDO VERDE, My Way

Into a pot full of salted, boiling water (about 4 cups), add:

  • 3 large, russet potatoes, chopped into big chunks
  • 1 large, white sweet potato, chopped into big chunks (this is non traditional)
  • 1 cube of chicken stock flavor
  • Pinch of salt & pepper to taste

Boil for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are fork-tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, into a heavy pot or Dutch oven, sauté together:

  • 3 slices of smoked bacon
  • 6 sliced or quartered large links of Portuguese or hot Italian sausage (or you can use Andouille, or any smokey, spicy sausage)
  • 3 Large teeth of garlic, minced
  • 1 Medium onion

Sauté until the fat is rendered from the bacon and sausage and the onions and garlic are clear.  You’ll notice the sausages are beginning to brown or caramelize. Now just set all this aside.
Do not toss the fat/oils!

Return to your pot of potatoes and with your favorite hand tool, smash them roughly, enough so that they are both creamy and chunky. Do not change the water! Just take your potato smasher and mash it all up until you see both creamy and chunky.

Place your pot of potato mixture on medium low and add all the sausage, bacon, onion and garlic mix to this,

Now, slice up 3 cups of baby spinach OR kale OR collard greens and add to the pot.

Cook another 10 to 15 minutes and serve with grilled, buttered bread.

 

Candidly Yours

How to cook (Yuck!) Liver

January 12, 2018

“Mom, is this filet? It’s delicious!” my son asked as he bit into a tender, juicy piece of … wait for it…liver.

I do realize this is not going to be my most popular post but I encourage you to read on…

When I was growing up, if one friend asked another for dinner, the usual reply — or rather the hesitant reply before the reply — was “What are you having?” and if the answer was “Liver,” the RSVP was a speedy and resounding “No!”

The liver my son had that day was during our years in Panama. It was fresh and grass fed, and it was indeed tender and resembled a filet mignon.

People don’t generally like liver because it has a strong, distinctive metallic taste that so many find off-putting. So…why eat liver? Because liver is chock full of nutrients like iron, vitamins A and B12 and so much more!

Like many people, I discovered that I have a serious B12 deficiency due to long-term, over-use of proton pump inhibitors from a reflux disorder. The overuse of PPIs had the eventual  effect of hindering absorption of B12 and make no mistake;  a B12 deficiency is serious business. So,  in addition to supplements, I am eating liver once a week.

HOW TO PREPARE DELICIOUS LIVER

  1. Purchase good quality beef liver, sliced very thinly, about 1/4 inch thick.
  2. Before cooking it, soak it in some milk. This seems to remove the metallic taste that is so off-putting to so many.
  3. Dredge it in a little flour seasoned with your favorite salt and some pepper.
  4. Melt some good quality butter in a skillet and sauté your sliced onions until soft, translucent and beginning to caramelize.
  5. Put the onions to the side (or on a separate plate), add butter, and sauté your liver, turning only once.  The liver will cook in just  few minutes. Some people like it a little pink in the middle. I’m good with pinkish or done through and through.
  6. If you like, deglaze the pan with a little water, add flour and make a quick gravy to drizzle over your dish.

 

Breakfast

Delicious, Easy Rice Fritters w/Basil & Parmesan

December 22, 2017

Don’t toss that old, cold rice!

Instead, turn it into tasty rice fritters good enough to serve as a starchy side dish or to pack as a  yummy snack that can be eaten warm or even at room temperature.

I whipped these up –f rom start to finish – in 20 minutes. Then I  packed up what I didn’t eat to take to my teen son who never lets a good munchie snack go to waste.

Here is all you will need to do.

In a bowl, mix together:

  • 2 Cups of cold, or room temperature, left-over rice.
    I always use Basmati but any white rice will do. Also, my rice was actually days old!
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Medium sweet, white onion (Spanish or Vidalia), minced well.
    I ground up mine in a simple, $12 mini electric chopper. I don’t even own a food processor!

Now, into the mix, add the following:

  • 1/2 Tsp good salt (Kosher,  Himalayan, Celtic or Sea Salt)
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp Corn Starch (Grain- and Gluten-Free folk, use Tapioca Starch)
  • 2 Tbsp Flour (I used Quinoa Flour and Gluten-Free people will want to do this, but regular white works fine)
  • 1/2 Cup Italian Bread Crumbs (Gluten-Free eaters, substitute Quinoa Flour).
  • 1/2 – 3/4 Cup of Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 10 – 12 Fresh Basil Leaves,  finely chopped.
  • 1 Large tooth of garlic, or 2 smaller teeth, minced well

Mix everything above very until all your ingredients are fully incorporated.

 

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS

In a large skillet or frying pan, heat 1 tbsp light olive oil with 1 tbsp butter until very hot.

  1. Using a medium-size serving spoon, scoop and shape rice balls to the size of a ping pong ball.
  2. Place the rice ball in the hot skillet, pressing down with a fork or spatula until they flatten out a bit.
  3. Cook until one side is golden brown and crispy, about  1 minute or a bit longer.
  4. Then turn and cook again until crispy, about 1 minute or a bit more.

TIPS: Feel free to add more Parmesan if you like. Switch up your spices or used a seasoned salt. You might want to try dill, then serve with a dipping roulade sauce. This recipe is open to versatility and creative experimentation!

Comfort Food

You Won’t Believe it’s Vegan!

October 12, 2017

Okay people. I’m not gonna lie.
I can’t believe I made this and I also I can not believe it is vegan, gluten-free, low-cal, spicy and deliciously filling!

This soup was inspired by my beautiful friend, Sanchia, who, as a “Taoist Vegan,” abstains from eating the five pungent vegetables; green onion; garlic; onion; chives; and leeks.

I am not nearly as evolved as my friend so as I said, this is a “Sanchia Inspired” dish.
I did use quite a bit of garlic and even some cheap,  dried onion flakes.
I’m just not ready to give up the pungent…

Also, for meat-eaters who have a hard time getting excited about diving into a pile of vegetables, this is a truly delicious way to fill up on healthy squash that tastes smokey, spicy, and dare I say it? more than a tad Manly!

NOTE:  If you’re a vegetarian who consumes dairy, go ahead and use regular sour cream and even add some Monterrey cheese at the end, melted on top!

HERE IS WHAT TO DO:

  1. Turn your oven on to 400.
  2. Into any oven-friendly dish or tray of your choice, place:
    1 Spaghetti Squash (or any type of Squash of your liking), crudely cut into about 3 or 4 pieces, skin on. That’s right. No fussing with peeling.
    1 Large, Red Pepper, cut into about 3 chunks, pith and seeds removed.
    3 Large garlic teeth, skin on (you will easily remove the skin once roasted).
  3. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of White Truffle Oil OR Extra Virgin Olive Oil over the vegetables, and some Sea Salt.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, or until fork-tender.
  5. Now, using a cloth to hold the hot squash, scrape out your softened squash meat with a large, sharp-edged spoon into a large soup pot.  This is going to go onto the stove.
  6. Pop the softened, roasted garlic teeth right out of their skin and toss them into the soup pot.
  7. Place the roasted peppers into the pot as well.
  8. Add 2 cups of water and two teaspoons of vegetable broth base or cubes.
  9. Now, into the pot with the Squash, Peppers, Garlic & Water, ADD:
    1/2 teaspoon of Chipotle Powder (or a teaspoon of Chipotle Chilis from a jar or can)
    1/4 teaspoon of Chili Powder
    1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger root
    1/4 teaspoon onion flakes (mine, no kidding, are from a Dollar Store)
  10. Take out your hand blender (or toss the concoction into a good blender) and blend until very smooth.
  11. Simmer on low until you are happy with the flavor, about 20-30 minutes.
  12. Ladle your soup into a bowl.
  13. Swirl of Dollop a tablespoon of Vegan Sour Cream.
  14. Shed a few fresh Thyme Leaves onto the top. If you don’t have fresh thyme, that’s ok. Just sprinkle fresh parsley or oregano for decoration and a bit of flavor.
    I have a sense that a bit of Fresh Mint could be very interesting!

TIP: To create my “swirl” design, all I did was spoon some of my sour cream mixture into a small plastic baggie. Then I snipped a corner and piped! Easy, breazy!

This would be lovely served with some warm, grilled herb bread.

SUBSTITUTIONS:

If you are not vegan, just use regular sour cream!
If you don’t have fresh ginger, use powder ginger! Ditto for the thyme, but try to grind it up before adding if it’s dry. This will bring out the flavor.