Sunday, September 14, 2014

3hours is a Resonable Trade-off

Well Greetings Everyone,

I hope this update finds you well and having fun in your kitchen.  This past while has been off its rocker with fun and good times.  There is minimal BS to report, and even though I have not been posting, we have eaten well at the 825.

This is that time of year when we return from Burning Man and life gets odd.  Not odd like things are falling apart, but odd like we have little energy for the mundane part of life.  This year was especially difficult as I was in Pennsylvania 4 days before departure for a seminar.  I learned a ton and it was worth every moment, however compliments of US Airways, my 4 days became 3.  Safe to say it was a fast pack, but a wonderful burn that we did, on our own, and on our own terms.  We learned some time ago that often the best way for us to have a great time is to do it on our own terms.  This time around was no exception.

The past couple of weeks have been filled with clean-up and a bit of preparation for the winter ahead.  My peach tree did produce this year and I was able to put up 3 small jars of peach preserves.  I'm sure they'll be enjoyed in the dead of winter.

We enjoyed some great take-out, order in, and eat out over the past couple of weeks.  Among them have been  The Pie Hole, The Med, Copper Bowl, and a few other local favorites.  I love the Pie Hole for their unique and tasty pies and The Med really does the trick when I need a Mediterranean fix.  I can't say enough good things about the Copper Bowl.  There are some round about connections with them via a co-worker.  Their drink menu is inventive and tasty, dishes are exactly what I expect for Indian cuisine, and who doesn't love Gulab Jamun?

Since eating out has been a bit on the spendy end and I've been missing my kitchen, it was time to make a time investment and have easy to prepare meals for the week ahead.  It started with keeping an eye out on social media for all those recipes that sound good and I should try.  I also keep a list of meal ideas on the fridge in case I hit a mental block.  I also found a recipe for Wild Rice Soup that I love.  Having two recipes in mind, it was time to hit the markets.

Shopping is always a challenge for me.  I HATE spending money, but love to find a good deal.  The NPS Gods were not as kind as usual this week, but I did find what I needed at a price that didn't make me cry.

With the shopping done, and work to be done, I started about 3 hours ago to get it all together for the week ahead.

First up, Stuffed Green Peppers.  Everyone has their favorite way of doing these.  Lots of trial and error and I've finally got a "recipe" I can live with.  To do these for the week ahead, I clean the peppers and make the filling.  I like my filling to have a bit more of an Italian flair than the Mexican type I grew up with.  I do still add a bit of cumin to keep the flavor interesting, but its mostly ground beef, onion, oregano, thyme, and since I have been pleasantly surprised with the nice late season weather, a large tomato cut up.  I fried that all together with some salt added a bit of rice, stuffed the peppers and put them in the fridge for an easy, pull it out and bake it meal.  I also go light on the rice.  I'm not a huge fan of mushy filling and have learned that going lighter on the rice keeps for a less mushy filling.

Avacados were also on sale and shrimp was reasonably priced, so tomorrow night will be Anaheim Shrimp Scampi.  I love this recipe, but usually do it with traditional spaghetti and always add a bit of tomato.  This will likely be the hardest meal of the week to prepare.

Social media is a great place to find meal ideas and "Hawaiian Chicken" caught my eye.  This looks like a really straightforward recipe that I'll have vaccuum sealed up and ready to pour into a crock pot when it is time.

Hawaiian Chicken
   2lb chicken (I used boneless skinless thighs), cut into cubes
   1 cup pineapple juice
   1/2 cup brown sugar
   1/3 cup soy sauce
   Mix together and cook in a low crock pot for 6-8 hours.  It is recommended to be served with rice.  I'm thinking I'll do a vegetable pilaf, just to add a bit more texture and variety than sticky meat with plain rice.

I love sandwich thins and they were also on sale and grapes were reasonable, since chicken salad is always a favorite of mine, it went on this week's menu.  I'm willing to eat chicken salad ranging from chicken and mayo to more extravagant things.  The bounty of the fall garden has made this one extra enjoyable.

While I'm cooking boneless skinless chicken breasts on the grill, I gather all the other things I need.  I like breasts for this because they tend to be a bit drier and soak up all the great flavors if I'm making it ahead.  This version has almonds, tarragon (yum, anise type flavor), savory, chives, quartered cherry tomatoes, halved grapes, salt, and sour cream as the binder.  I'm not fond of mayo only salads, so I tend to use sour cream and/or yogurt.  If it needs the bit of fatty flavor from the mayo, I'll go half and half, but this is very rare.

I also learned the secret to good German style cole slaw at Burning Man this year, and cabbage was at a nice price again.  Onion, salt, and celery seed.  No other seasonings are needed.  The recipe that was shared to me calls for apple cider vinegar, but I didn't have any in the pantry so I used half white rice vinegar and half distilled vinegar and a matching amount of olive oil.  I also added a bit of sugar as I like my slaws to be sweet.  I'm hoping the person who shared the recipe with me isn't offended that I have done odd things to it, but the preliminary taste tells me it will be delicious in a couple of days.  This will be served with the chicken salad sandwiches.  It should be a tasty European meal :)

Thursday will be the Wild Rice Soup.  The story behind this one is another one of those, "Its a great deal, I think I'll try it and see what comes..." sort of things.  The first time I made this, I had scored a box of wild rice for $0.25.  Having no idea what to do with it, I made the soup recipe on the label and have never looked back.  Its supposed to rain on Thursday, so this with slices of mild sourdough should be wonderful.

Wild Rice Soup
   1/3 cup wild rice
   1 cup water
   1/2 tsp salt
   1/2 cup butter
   3/4 cup chopped onion
   1 cup finely chopped celery
   2 tsp salt
   1/4 tsp white pepper (who uses this stuff?  I always use black, the flecks aren't that important to me)
   1/4 cup flour
   5 cups milk

In a saucepan, bring water, rice, and salt to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes or until the rice is tender.  It will rupture in the middle when it is done.

To make the soup:  In a large pot melt butter and add onions and celery.  Cover and cook 5 minutes until the vegetables are tender.  The recipe says to avoid browning the vegetables, but I always do, I think it adds more flavor.  Stir in salt, pepper, and flour.  I make sure it forms a roux.  Remove from heat and slowly stir in milk until the flour is well blended.  Return to low heat and cook until the soup thickens.  Add the cooked rice and simmer until the flavors are blended.  Serve immediately or chill and reheat.  Serve with chopped chives.

So in 3 hours, I've made my week ahead super easy and my fridge very full :P

I also started the morning craving a real breakfast, preferably with  leftovers for the week ahead.  Apricots were plentiful this spring so I had plenty of dried ones.  A quick scour of the internet and I found this:  Dried Apricot and Sage Scones. I should mention, I'm not a huge fan of Martha Stewart, but I have noticed she's toned down the "you must do it this way" since her time in prison and has become, at least in my eyes, empowering with a bit more of a "you can do this" to the home cook.  I took lots of liberties with this recipe and didn't do the sugar crust thing, but they were still delicious with peach yogurt.  Better yet, I've got leftovers for the work week ahead.

I hope you are all well.  Since I am likely to pick up huge writing projects in the off season, don't be alarmed if you see more of me practicing!

3 Day

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A night out....recapping great foods

Hey All,

Its been a while.  I've also been terribly busy again.  Busy as in I've been traveling and have racked up enough frequent flyer credit to cover most of my travels this autumn.  SFO is go for 4 days, and Seattle is certainly not out of reach for an anniversary celebration.  Oh, yeah, we got married on Nov. 2, 2013.

This weekend was the first weekend in about a month that I haven't had work responsibilities.  Of course, that didn't stop me from observing the critical points in the firing cycle.....I'm a junkie like that.  When one has the ultimate responsibility for roughly a quarter million bucks worth of material, and are persistently reminded of that responsibility, they aren't likely to trust anyone, ANYONE, to make appropriate judgement calls.

OK, so enough of that bullshit.  Tonight was the monthly PrissCo beatdown.  The name is kind of intimidating, right?  It should be.  PrissCo is a collective of talented female DJs in the Salt Lake Area.  Their founder, a personal favorite and friend, is a nationally recognized breaks DJ that I have known for some time.  I first watched her open for DJ Icey a long time ago.  I seem to recall about 2005ish.....  She made that dance floor come alive, and had a certain penchant for making everyone feel welcomed.  It was the 2nd time in my life that I watched/danced to the opener and left shortly after things hit a certain testosterone filled dumb-assery shortly after the headliner took the stage, the other was Darude, and well, I'll say no more; please don't judge my youthful poor taste in music.

That aside, I really want to invite her and her beloved to have dinner before a show one night.  Her beloved was looking for a "platonic date" tonight;  we all know how it goes when your honey is working on a big  or especially difficult show.  Her beloved, also mentioned that its often very hard to find healthy new and exciting meal ideas.  That being said, I'm back, because I know that folks who read this also love my no nonsense methods and little tweaks that make for great food.  Now I just need to figure out how to work away from things like butter, pasta, and the like and incorporate more fruits, veggies, and lean proteins. I'm hoping folks will have the good sense to ask and/or use their own good cooking abilities when it comes to making tweaks that are right for them.

So here are a few ideas that have been proven in my own kitchen:

Prepared food is typically laden with crap you don't need!  I have recently rediscovered the joy of pre-packaged (err Costco) food and it is often alarming to learn just how awful it is for you.

Chicken Salad
leftover grilled or other chicken, diced
onion or chives
dried cranberries
nuts (I like walnuts, but pistachios or almonds should work)
garden herbs (my last one had tarragon, oh and it was such a tiny bit to harvest, and dried lavender)
yogurt, just enough to wet it
let it sit for 24 hours, adjust herbs/salt as necessary
Serve on good bread of your choosing.

1 lb ground beef (or minced steak if you happen to have one in the fridge), browned, drained.  Add herbs and onions or chives and return to heat.  I like to use sage, thyme, and oregano....and use plenty of them. Season the daylights out of it.  Keep it warm or you will get funky old beef taste.
24 hours a head of time, 1 cucumber; seeded and diced, dried dill and salt to taste, yogurt
a healthy bit of salt, unless you are on a salt restricted diet.  I will occasionally add a bit of dried oregano as well.
Diced tomato
Quarter onion shreds....cut the onion into quarters and then slice each quarter.  If you have especially tough or sour onions, mix with 1 Tblsp sugar and 1/2 tsp salt and let set for 3 hours.  The onions will soften and become sweet.
Shredded lettuce
Serve like a Gyro

Steak marinade:
1 part balsamic vinegar, 2 parts Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to taste....marinate steaks at least 4 hours.  This is my personal favorite on the grill.

Pasta substitutes:
spaghetti squash
Quinoa will substitute well for rice and other small pastas.  Just remember to rinse it well before you cook it to prevent bitterness.

You can do amazing things with a frozen hamburger patty!  Bread it, you'll be amazed.   Slide a fried egg on it and throw it on a slice of toast. for breakfast :)

Avocados (make sure they are ripe) go great on cold sandwiches and increase protein content, also blend well with seafood (ala Anaheim shrimp scampi, go check out that psycho yutz Rachel Ray, who made another man's recipe famous through her show, yes, I hate her, bdf 5 ut she does have a few good recipes, also check out her linguini and clams).  Conventional wisdom says don't heat avacoados.....its a bunch of crap, avacados can be an amazing adjunct in many dishes.

Eggs are a cheap source of protein and it has been demonstrated that if you are active, the cholesterol isn't that bad....think natural balance, but don't let that keep you from watching fat content.   I personally prefer the eggs from my own might be surprised, if you find a nearby urban chicken farmer;   try their eggs.  I assure you, well fed and cared for hens produce amazing eggs.  My personal opinion is that a rooster is necessary, but hens to lay without him.  I have no information on their nutritional value, but I suspect, by taste alone, they are pretty awesome.

Eggs fu yung, often maligned, can be a delicious thing.  Pick your supplemental protein wisely (a leftover uncooked pork chop, a leftover steak, Chinese sausage rendered down, etc) and use good onions (or at least peel them well) and you can make an amazing dish.  I like to add 1 tsp of cornstarch per egg to get an extra crispy edge on them.  A good brown sauce recipe is can help, but if it doesn't have fish or oyster sauce in it, it is crap!  If you like this dish, also look at Thai or Vietnamese omelets, you'd be amazed at how fantastic these things are.

Sushi is not that hard to make yourself.....find an approachable sushi rice recipe, get a mat and go...Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato makes an amazing roll and well rendered bacon is not that bad in calories. The first couple of times you might want to have a friend with know-how handy;  after that it should be simple.

 Cheese is not necessarily bad....and making your own mozzarella is fun.  Think pesto pizza (even better with salt and thyme seasoned chicken, in-season red grapes, caramelized onions, and mushrooms).

Fresh lemon will elevate all kinds of dishes...of course its not going to go well on a steak, use your good sense.

Peppers are your friend, get to know them.....many are not crazy hot and will add amazing depth to your food.

Substitute quinoa for rice.  It pumps up the protein content and is surprisingly similar with a beneficial nutty undertone.

Make your own stock or use bullion....unless you are on a salt restricted diet. The fat content is lower and the sodium content won't wreck your day.  Example:  seafood pot pie with store bought stock has about 4x the sodium of a properly prepared chicken  or pork bullion.  You can also get away with much less bullion than the label says.....I usually use about half.

Wow, that's a lot of information.  Let's keep in touch, and keep on me to post recipes (and with healthy recommendations).

Much Love,


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Thug Kitchen Roasted Tomato Soup

Hey All,

So its been a productive afternoon.  Got the fridge and pantry ready to go for the week ahead, mixed up the yogurt/dill sauce for the kebobs and prepared this roasted tomato soup from Thug Kitchen.

OK, so Thug Kitchen is this foul mouthed no-nonsense blog I also found via facebook.  The language is completely NSFW, but their recipes and ideas are founded in reality and make good food.

Here's the gist of the recipe.  I should note, this is way fresher and tastes more like summer than canned soup.  I really wish I would have made this one when the weather was colder.  Served with a salad and some grilled cheese sandwiches, this should be a winner.

1 28 ounce can of plain, peeled whole tomatoes (get one that is low on sodium, if it matters to you, check that label)
3 teaspoons of olive oil
4-5 cloves of garlic (still in their skin)
1 medium russet potato
1/2 a small head of cauliflower (about 1/3 pounds)
1/2 a medium yellow onion
1 tablespoon of diced fresh rosemary (if you need to use dried, use only 1 teaspoon)
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 1/2-3 cups vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

Drain and roast to tomatoes for 30 minutes at 325F.  I used pan spray instead of messing around with the mess of oil.  I've recently rediscovered the joy of pan spray.  Gosh it sure is handy.

Roasting the garlic and getting it out of its skin is a pain, so I'd say smack the clove with the side of a knife (thanks Anne Burrell for that fun technique), chop it up and roast it when you add the potato and cauliflower and roast for another 40 minutes.  I ended up bumping the temperature to 375F for the last 10 minutes to get some color on them.

I also just warmed the herbs with the leftover tomato juice with a bullion cube topped up to 3 cups total liquid.

Also, pay attention to what your blender is doing.  If it does like mine, it will cavitate, blending the daylights out of the stuff on the bottom and not touching the stuff on top.  Go slow and get that stuff smooth.

Now its sitting in the pot in the fridge, patiently waiting to be warmed through for dinner later this week :)

Pancakes and baked pasta

Hey All,

So a little while ago, I discovered a great place for breakfast called Penny Ann's Cafe.  The write up in the Salt Lake Tribune had me curious to try their sour cream pancakes.  Needless to say they were delicious.  Unfortunately, as all good dining establishments do, they have since experienced out of control growth in their client base and getting in for breakfast requires 45+ minutes of wait time.  There is one thing that makes me crazy when I'm hungry:  waiting to be seated and get food.  So I ventured out into the intrawebs to see if I could find a recipe for their delicious pancakes.

Lo and behold, I found this delicious recipe from Land O' Lakes.  Its a close enough facsimile that I am no longer willing to wait 45+ minutes for a meal.

Its a striaght forward pancake batter, with all ingredients just mixed together in a bowl and then fried by 1/4 cupfuls:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1 Land O Lakes® All-Natural Egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons sugar (I use 1.5, as 2 makes them brown quicker than I'd like)
2 tablespoons Land O Lakes® Butter, melted  (I use 2T vegetable oil instead, because well, melting butter is a hassle, even with a microwave)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
The texture on these is very unique, light, fluffy, but having a perfect chew to them.  Here's a picture, I think you'll see what I mean:

The next recipe is another one of those that came up on facebook.  I think it was a recipegirl post.  It is so good, that it actually prompted a bit of recipe sharing at the office, so here's the excerpt from the email I circulated:

Here's the pasta recipe, notes included.  If you are lazy, like me, any old precooked pasta should work.

Sausage & Spinach Bake

1/2 Cup Grated Pecorino Romano (I used a good parmesan)
8 oz Ricotta
8oz Mozarella, shredded
14 oz mild Italian Sausage (I just used 1lb. breakfast sausage in the tube)
12 oz Rigatoni (undercooked by 4 min, so 7 min works well around here)
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
10 oz frozen spinach (thawed and wrung to remove excess moisture, I suspect the wringing isn't necessary if you like a saucier pasta)
4 cups Marinara (I had some leftovers in a jar from Costco and a bit of not-sure-what brand in the freezer)

Mix together the Pecorino Romano, Ricotta, and mozarella, reserving some mozarella for sprinkling on the top.  Set aside.

Bring oil to med-high heat and brown sausage and garlic, taking care not to get too hot so you don't burn the garlic (I have a tendency to cook hot and scorch my garlic which tastes rather awful, except in Asian cooking).  Reduce heat.  Drain if necessary, add marinara and noodles, coat and warm.

Layer 1/2 of pasta mixture into a large baking dish, then 1/2 cheese mixture, spinach, 1/2 cheese mixture, and last 1/2 pasta mixture.  I thought of it as a lazy lasagne.

Top with reserved mozarella.

At this point it will refrigerate or freeze well, uncooked.

Bake in 375F oven covered for 20 min, then uncovered until bubbly and browned on top (about 20 more min).

I hope you enjoy!  The first time we made this it, we had it with a full bodied carmenere and it was amazing.

Hey, since you know pasta, do you know any easy gnocchi recipes?  Its one of my faves, but I have yet to try making my own.
Speaking of gnocchi, anyone got a good recipe?  I love it, but I've been striking out.  I really should just call my Father-In-Law, I suspect he has a good recipe.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Back to cooking, Salsa Chicken, Huevos con pollo

Hey All,

Wow, it looks like I didn't make a single entry in 2013.  That's a dirty shame, as I've had lots of great recipes come my way.  I'm going to try and start recapping all of these, so I can find them easily and ya'll can enjoy them.

So first up is a Salsa Chicken that my friend Lou posted on facebook.  As I was making it, I was skeptical, but this is one of the best slow-cooker meals I've had in a long while.

Salsa Chicken

I put this one together the night before, it will keep well for a few days in the fridge if you want to plan well ahead.  I'm going to just list these ingredients in the order they layer into the slow cooker.....except for the sour cream, it all goes in, cooks on low for ~8 hours, then turned to warm.  Just before serving, shred the chicken and stir in the sour cream.

2 lb boneless skinless chicken, I used thighs since they cost considerably less.
2 T taco seasoning
1 C Salsa
1 C diced onion
1/2 C diced celery
1/2 C shredded carrot
1 C diced tomato
1/2 C water
3 T sour cream

We served this for dinner with rice last night.  It was tasty!

Since we had a good sized freezer container full, we decided to make Huevos this morning.  You can do this with just about any chili that has good flavor....its a personal favorite the morning after a good chili type dish.

Pour the chili into a skillet and heat over medium heat until it starts to bubble.  Reduce the heat to low.
 Next, create a well in the chili, liquid will seep back in, just have the meat pushed out of the way.
 Next drop an egg in the well.  We did 4 to feed 2 of us.  If you are using fresh eggs, crack them into a dish first, that way if an egg is bad, you don't ruin the whole dish.  This is an unfortunate thing we've learned a couple of times over.
 Cover and let warm for about 4 minutes and the eggs will be perfectly poached.  Remove it from the heat until ready to plate.
 In this case, I had a leftover crepe, tortilla, and potato roll....YUMMY!

I'll likely write more over the weekend, I've been collecting lots of great recipes and have 4 in the works to get out for us all to enjoy!

Friday, January 17, 2014

I'm Not Dead Yet....Often I wish I were....

Hey All,

As I've implied, I'm not dead, yet.....I suspect my overseer's will take care of that.  That's not to say I haven't had some amazing food lately, I just wish I didn't have to do the damn dishes....LOL!


A)  Not dead, yet....

B)  I do have some really good recipes, just not many pictures after getting chastized about my photographs.....

Saturday, November 24, 2012

For Wynn, the upside down sunset....

Hey Again All,

This recipe is one I promised quite some time ago to a cute lil' bear of a man I met via Burning Man.  I don't know a ton about him, but occasionally we get a chance to interact and he was keen on learning about my Upside Down Sunset drink.....its really freaking easy, and is lots of fun, and if you mix it right will get you fall-down drunk :)

First make a good strong syrup, my basic recipe is 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 tsp flavoring, bring it all to a boil, then let it cool. 

I've been getting my flavors from Gygi's.  They are a glycol rather than ethanol base and tend to carry way more flavor and evaporate less than extracts from the store, making them perfect for this.  Most of the Lorann oils are colored, so that takes even more guess work out of it.  In this example, I'm using grape.

So first, pour ~1/2 oz. of flavor into a clear glass.  Tee hee, this one is an omage to good ol' Wyoming.
Next add the ice.
Next add your vodka and orange juice.  Considering the nearly lethal amounts of vodka I put in mine, I did do a broken out example.

Gently stir, so just a bit of the flavor mixes in.  The syrup will sit on the bottom, adding additional flavor as you drink down, but will also be there for the next round, so you just need to top with ice and vodka and orange.  The syrup is usually good for about 3 drinks.

Other fun flavors, cherry makes for a more traditional sunset appearance, and lime/green makes for a "Packer Backer" if you happen to like them.

Got crazy drink recipes you like?  I'd love to try them, especially if they have lots of booze in them :)