Friday, October 17, 2014

Weekly recap....we survived!

Hey All,

Greetings from the backside of Decompression travels.  Its been a wild ride.  I made it to one of the planned decompressions and given the events surrounding missing one, and ill health on the part of Husbear, we may be done for the year.  I also dropped a ladder on my right foot on Tuesday, and it bruised like a sonufagun.  Needless to say, we're both a bit gimpy right now, but that hasn't stopped us from good food!

So I'll start with the recap of the past week.  I haven't done shopping yet this week, instead, I went out for beers with my beloved crew from work.

The prep didn't get done on Friday, as planned, but we managed to pull it out and eat well with minimal fuss this week.

Monday was the return from the travels, so we just ordered in a pizza.  Meats on thin crust was very nice.

Tuesday:  Flatbread Margherita

I found a package of sandwich thins in the freezer, so rather than go through the pain of making the flatbread, we used those instead.

The hardest part of this prep was the chicken.  We thawed out some chicken thighs, sliced thin, fried it up with onions, oregano, thyme, and salt.

After that, it was literally layering the basil, tomatoes, chicken, and halved mozzarella balls onto them.  I gave them each a squirt of balsamic vinegar on top, bringing a bit more of a buschetta type flavor to them.

I broiled that on lo broil, to get a good crisp on the bread until the cheese was bubbly and the exposed edges of the bread.

Here's what it turned out like.  It ended up making quite a few, and they have been a great lunch treat this week.

 While those were cooking we prepared the meat and tatzeki for the BeefTeki on Wednesday.  Unfortunately my camera ate the picture.  I did something different with the tatzeki and added the salted and sugared onions (about 50/50, let it set til the onions wilt) to it.  It made for a great sauce that has also been a delicious dip on corn chips.

I also cheated on the BeefTeki (see This Entry), I found a package of pita bread in the freezer, so we did that instead of the flatbread.  I should note, I don't feel too guilty about either, I typically get the bread on sale for $0.89/package and keep it in the freezer for weeks like these.

Thursday was a rough one.  I was informed about 30 minutes before quitting time that two of our biggest performance measures for 2014 have been modified for the 4th quarter.  I'm proud as hell of what myself and our team have been able to accomplish this year.  We came into the year struggling to meet acceptance and turn-around rates.  It took a ton of hard work and way-outside-the-box thinking by every single member of the team, but by March we were kicking the snot out of what we thought was an unattainable goal.  In a nutshell, acceptance rates have been increased an additional 33%, and turn around times have been decreased 37.5%.  Fair to say, my unethical douchebaggery radar was going crazy and I really wanted to cry.  I'm proud of myself for challenging it politely during the staff meeting and having a very angry conversation with my boss without losing my mind.  Admittedly, he was unimpressed when I told him, "You want to know where my motivation is right now?  FUCK YOU! That's where!" and flipped him the bird.  So yes, yesterday was a late dinner after much processing.  Dinner was worth the wait, though.  Yes, this is also a favorite dish that I save for special occasions....or when I'm stressed out.

Walnut Shrimp

Shredded Cabbage
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup Walnuts
A pot of rice (I like Jasmine for this, as it soaks up the sauce and makes it milky)
1 lb. Raw Shrimp, peeled, deviened
1/2 cup flour
3 Tblsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup Mayonnaise
2 Tblsp. Honey

I start a pot of rice at this point, unless you have some ready made in the fridge, then just reheat it.

Heat the oven to 180°F, or the lowest setting if your's won't go that low.

Heat a deep fryer to the chicken setting (typically 375°F).

I didn't have walnuts handy, so we didn't do this and had a honey glazed shrimp, but it was still delicious.  If you have the walnuts, bring the sugar and water to a boil, add the walnuts and boil together for 3-5 minutes.  Drain and set the walnuts aside.

Place the bed of cabbage on a baking sheet.  Place it in the oven while you prepare the rest.

Mix the flour and cornstarch in a large bowl with a lid.  Pat the shrimp dry with a kitchen or paper towel.  Add the shrimp to the bowl, shake to coat.  You will have leftover flour mixture, this is normal.  Toss the shrimp in the deep fryer and fry until done.....5-8 minutes.

While the shrimp are frying, mix together the mayo and honey.  If you have it, juice of half a lemon adds a nice kick.

Pull the shrimp from the fryer and let drain.  Remove the cabbage from the oven and pour the shrimp over.  The cabbage will have wilted perfectly to that earthy sweet that makes this dish stellar!

Pour the mayo/honey mixture over the top.

Here's what last nights looked like.  Oh and don't worry that there isn't much salt.  The natural salt in the shrimp is perfect.

I usually have a couple of minutes left while the rice finishes, so I just pop it back in the oven so the cabbage gets sweeter and the mayo/honey glaze runs all over and coats everything.

Serve with rice for a delightful meal!

I skip the trouble of whipping egg whites for the batter.  Its a pain and I prefer the crispier shrimp that don't require hand dipping.  If you like the big puffy battered shrimp, whip two egg whites to stiff peaks, fold in the flour and cornstarch and hand dip the shrimp.  Personally, I find it a time suck and painful process.

Tonight we're supposed to do steak and corn on the cob, and tomorrow will be the chorizo and peppers.

Some thoughts on the week ahead:

The days are cooling down and I found some recipes for Salisbury loaded with mushrooms, which Husbear loves, so I'm pretty sure it will happen.

Cauliflower is on sale.  I think I'll make cauliflower salad.  Creamy cauliflower soup was also recommended.  I'll give the weather forecast a look and see if it will be a good idea.

Also, lettuce is on sale, so I may look into the curry chicken salad.

I'll likely write more as plans develop.

Lotsa Love,


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

GrownUp SpaghettiOs after The Anniversary at SeaCompression

Hey All,

I've been slightly MIA, but well.  More than anything, I've been traveling.  I often forget how busy a jam packed week before a trip really screws with household planning.  There have also been some recent tragedies, but, out of respect for many of my readers, I won't rehash that.  Those of you who are in the know, THANK YOU for being there!  Without your love and support, this would have been A LOT more difficult!

Last week ended up being lots of dining out.....and my budge reflects it.  But, I keep reminding myself, its that time of year and its OK to let my hair down.

There is little to report from last week that isn't holy depressing.  The happy stuff started on Friday when we departed Salt Lake City for Seattle, first class to celebrate our Anniversary at SeaCompression.  Being our first anniversary and all, we decided to do it in style.  Up first was my first-ever first-class flight on Alaska Airlines.  I have loved Alaska for years, their regional carrier used to be my preferred path out of Montana.  In the past year, they have opened up tons of markets in Salt Lake City;  every chance I got I thanked them and congratulated them on their success in Salt Lake City.  I am thrilled to say I am now a card carrying member of their mileage program and will likely continue to fly them when a first-class ticket is in order.

The flight up was pleasant, no alcohol service until 10K feet, but that was soon rectified.  The meal outbound was OK.  It was a toasted turkey and cheese on ciabatta and a broccoli slaw.  The broccoli slaw was a reminder that I really should do that more often when I have broccoli stems instead of feeding them to the dogs.  It was perfectly dressed with a more Mediterranean twist than I am used to with slaw, but it was quite tasty.

Seattle greeted us with the usual fun and frivolity and a very charming accommodation.  If you ever need a place to stay in Seattle and last minute prices have you gagging, try A Bed & Breakfast Inn Seattle.  The rate was well within budget, and despite a smallish sleeping area, everything else was perfect.  The meals were tasty and the staff friendly;  I couldn't have asked for more!

Also in Seattle, I got better acquainted (oh who am I kidding, I feel like they are best friends for life), with Ranger Torchwood, and company, shout to Ranger Flourless Cake too.  We met at the Berlin social at Burning Man and instantly rubbed off on one another.  Here's a picture of us before we created a spectacle of ourselves on one of the dance stages.

I'd love to share more pictures from SeaCompression, but let's be honest, you just have to be there.  Just ask my Mom who was heartbroken that SeaCompression was early this year and she couldn't get away from her job to come.

Seattle brought its usual culinary delights.  One of me favorites, not to be missed, is Odd Fellow's.  The mussels there are not to be missed.  Not quite as good as the canal mussels I had in Vancouver, WA, but a very close 3rd, with Bambara's being #2.  Another amazing find was the hole in the wall, Pike St. Fish Fry.  Traditional cod fish 'n chips with malt vinegar and curry ketchup made this bear very happy!  Oh and I have to say, I actually had good seafood on this trip to Seattle.  Its ironic that I've never had that spectacular of seafood in Seattle in all the times I've visited.

Then, in a flash, it was time to come home.  We were able to enjoy the hospitality of Alaska's Board Room....lunch was a salad and curry red lentil soup.  This is a soup I must make in the upcoming winter months.  It was a nice bite, soon to be followed by Alaska's award winning in-flight service.  Granted, I sent a rather poor review of my check-in experience as I couldn't find the first class check in until well after I'd done the check-in of the unwashed masses, but their in-flight service made up for that minor inconvienence.

The meal was a "snack" of chicken salad.....  I must say, I'd never thought to make a curried chicken salad.  This meal has inspired me to give it my own attempt, I even bought turmeric at the market today:

I must add, they are doing something right.  The solitary cherry tomato was a highlight of the dish.  I often find tomatoes that don't come from my garden to be tasteless, this one was sweet and popped in my mouth.....the glass of chardonnay (and the two before and the three after) was icing on the cake.

Now that I'm home and we've had the obligatory crap pizza meal, I got my poop in a group and made a meal.  Granted, this one is not quite as nice on the pocketbook, or as visually pleasing, but it turned out great.  I call it Grownup SpaghettiOs....and it only dirtied 3 dishes plus plates for 3.

Some time ago, I scored a heck of a deal on premade pesto and tampanade.  I think I paid $0.50 for the containers and threw them in the freezer.  A bit ago, whole wheat cheese tortellini was on sale, I can't remember, but I think it was $2.99 a container.  It takes 2 containers to feed us, so we're into it $6.50 now.  I also scored on frozen green beans at $0.38/lb today....I think I prepared a pound.

At any rate, here's the result:

The little packet of cheese and herbs was saved from the pizza the other night.  Yeah, I'm cheap like that, but damn those things come in handy sometimes!  Yes, that's also a glass of wine.  I've found that when I'm feeling like I do after a day like today, a couple glasses of wine help me lose the day, sleep well, and not have stomach upset in the morning.....not to mention I'll likely drink 32oz of water before bed.

Today's shopping also brought great ideas for next week.  Husbear is off on Friday and has promised to help with the prep for next week.  I'm happy about this, I think we're catching on that a little bit of preparation makes for a lot less hectic week.  Without further ado, here's the menu for next week along with prep:

Meal 1:  Chorizo and peppers.  Usually I do an Italian sausage and peppers, but I was pretty sure we were out of Italian sausage and chorizo was cheap on sale ($1.58 for 18 oz).  We'll slice the onions, tomatoes, and peppers and have them in the fridge so all we have to do is fry the mess.

Meal 2:  Beefteki.  I've written about this one before and its a favorite (see April 6, 2014 entry).  I have leftover greek yogurt in the fridge and cucumbers were $0.10 ea, so why not!  I had to hunt to find a cucumber that hadn't been frozen and was wilty, but the hunt was worth it.  We'll mix the beef, herbs, and onion and have that ready to go.  The tatzeki will be made ahead as well as the flatbread (see May 30th entry).

Meal 3:  Steak and Corn on the Cob.  OK, this one doesn't have much prep, except maybe dry rubbing and sealing the steaks.  I paid a bit more than I like to for corn, $0.39, but the ears were nice and I know they are local.

Meal 4:  Walnut Shrimp.  Cabbage wasn't super cheap, but I've been craving this and at $0.59/lb I couldn't say no and mean it.  This is a personal favorite of mine and really easy to make if you cheat on the breading....I'll have to write this one up when I make it.  I always serve the shrimp on a bed of shredded cabbage....the cabbage barely wilts when you throw the hot shrimp and sauce on top and is a just perfect sweet and savory.  Granted, this is purple cabbage so the whole mess will turn out a weird green/purple color, but whatever.

Meal 5:  Flatbread Chicken Margherittha.  An easy take on the classic Margherittha pizza.  Since I've only enjoyed a few of the tomatoes, and most have gone in the freezer, we'll be doing this.  Also mozzarella, while fun to make, was on sale for $1.49 for 8oz in water.  Make the flabread ahead.  Soak the chicken in garlic, salt, and oregano and grill it.  Put together and throw it under the broiler for a bit and viola!

I hope you all are doing well and enjoying the Autumn.  And let me reiterate, no more freaking tragedies....I'm getting kind of tire of it.

Lotsa Love,


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Apples, Lavender, and Oak Jam

Hey All,

So today was supposed to be lazy.  Obviously that didn't happen.  Husbear had a friend and colleague over to work on the Whorse and I took the time to do something with the apples that have been copious again this year.

I scoured the web for recipes.  I found one for an apple and green tomato chutney, but the ingredients would have cost me an arm and a leg.  Continued digging and I found a recipe for a simple apple jam that I decided to doctor up and rebrand as Lavender, Appples, and Oak.

The base recipe:

3.5 lbs of apples, cored, cleaned of bug damage, and diced
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (the original called for 1 vanilla bean sliced and scoured, but I don't have such things)

I added a healthy handful of lavender buds and a bit of leftover red wine rich in oak to get the oak thing going.

I boiled all that together, macerated a bit, and sampled.  Husbear, company, and I all agreed, let's add something more.  Basil or bay leaf was the initial recommendation.  I ran out to the garden, cut a bit off my basil trees, yes they are that big right now, and mixed it in.  I hmmm'd for a minute and added a sprinkle of cinnamon, a sprinkle of cumin, and some salt.

The end product is amazing.  It's processing now.  Most recipes call for a 10 minute process, but I have found my jars seal better if I go for 20 min.

So into the pantries (company, neighbors, my own) to enjoy in the upcoming winter!

Lotsa Love,


Explaining the work basket - a fun idea if work is a drag!

Hey All,

So I made reference to the work basket of goodies.  This started as a contribution to everyone's well being at my office.  As you all know, my employment in the period 2010-2013 was especially rough.  I fought and I struggled, but I did make some awesome allies along the way.

One of them, on the north side of our cube farm, always had a full candy dish and a secret stash of amazing chocolate, if you knew where to look and/or asked nicely.  Safe to say we bonded over diva moments that required good chocolate.

A little light went off in my head.....  Sweet stuff to the north, savory to the south!  My cubicle is the furthest south in the building, and honestly, if I'm busy, I can be a bit of a bear to deal with.  Food and/or snacks somehow seem to make those interactions a bit less of a struggle.

I was a bit apprehensive about the cost of maintaining such a thing, but one day the co-worker with the chocolate and I went shopping.  I found a basket for $2 and was able to fill it with goodies for <$10.  I decided right then and there, the basket has a weekly maximum of $10 and would be filled with at least 3 different goodies.

As time has evolved, the basket has a few staples, and a few random things.  Staples include cracker packs, microwaveable popcorn, and granola bars.  This week, I scored on pretzel M&Ms, a personal favorite, and spicy pork rinds (another favorite).  Other random things have been Goldfish crackers, Sun Chips, those weird crackers with cheese and a plastic stick, sweet and spicy snack mix, etc.  Some weeks I can barely jam everything in there, other weeks it looks a bit sparse, but the treats are awesome.  Some weeks, if I've been especially productive in the kitchen, home baked goods make an appearance....I got swarmed the week that I brought in 2 dozen muffins.

Its always a fun little game to see what I can pack in there for $10 and it does great things for the morale of our cube farm and other staffers in the know.

If you do decide to do such a thing, I have 2 recommendations.  Have a set restock day, mine is always Monday or the first workday if I'm off, and have a set budget.  Unfortunately, the candy and chocolate basket has gone away due to the personal expense of keeping it stocked.  I've found that setting these boundaries does 2 things for me:  1) I don't fret when its empty mid-week, and 2) I never resent any potential overuse.

This particular exercise has brought both praise and derision from superiors.  Despite any nay-saying, supporting my team and colleagues feels pretty awesome.

As things in 2014 have turned to a much more enjoyable atmosphere, I'd like to say thanks to the co-workers who have enjoyed this.  Sometimes, that "Hey, this thing is a lifesaver", makes a pretty cruddy day feel not so bad.


Getting Ready for another week

Hey All,

So last week's planning paid off in big ways.  I found myself with plenty of evening time and my stress level, despite my employment's best efforts, were kept low while at home.

Here's a couple of photos to recap some of the highlights:

 This is the chicken salad sandwiches with the German Coleslaw and sweet patato tots.  Notice the big cup of fry sauce.  Fry sauce is a Utah favorite and also a favorite of mine.  Its really simple, 2 parts mayo, 1 part ketchup, and I always add a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce.  Fries without it is just wrong in my opinion.
This is the Hawaiian chicken with more coleslaw and a rice pilaf.  I buy dried soup veggies in bulk and add them in when cooking the rice.  The pilaf is really simple, cook rice like you normally would, adding enough bullion for the amount of water, and veggies to taste.  When I make Pilaf, I also add a good dose of oil, it makes it a bit slicker which I find more appealing.

The week ahead looks like it will be all about those recipes held close to the heart that have absolutely no measurement.  A bit of this, a dab of that, and viola, a meal.  Unfortunately, I am on call until midnight, working a bit from home, etc, so I didn't get to go play at a local festival.  I figure its a fair trade off since I'll be traveling all over the west coast in the next few weeks.  I may even have been coerced into making a trip to Sacramento in late October.  I never thought of Sacto as a destination, but why the heck not.....

So this week, I'm going to talk a bit more about the meals in general and how I'm going to preprep them.  Measurements are mostly by heart/taste, so use your imagination as best you can.

Meal 1:  Fajitas.  This is pretty straightforward.  For seasoning, I get the large jar of taco seasoning.  It will have well marinated top round cut into strips, bell peppers, mushrooms, onion, and tomatoes.  I don't think we have any sour cream on hand, so I'll substitute greek yogurt.  We are also blessed to live in "panaderias" according to judgmental maps.  It gives us access to amazing tortillas that you just can't get at the supermarket.  They are soft, flaky, and nearly translucent and don't overpower your food.

To prep this one.  I'll slice the steak and mix it with the tomatoes and taco seasoning and bag that up.  The veggies will be prepped and bagged separately.  When its time to cook, I just pull out the bags and cook them up.  Pretty no fuss!

Meal 2:  Chili.  Husbear makes this one.  He's perfected his chili over the years.  Things I do know about it:  Use good meat, like the top round used for the fajitas, don't make it too saucy, and cook it for a long time.  I got a good score on a corn muffin mix ($0.25 for a mix that makes 6-8 muffins).  Also reasonable price on locally made corn chips ($1.19 for a big bag, and I just found out I overpaid by $0.20, but I also didn't have to drive across town, so I'll call it even), so I'd say we're set to have a delicious meal.

To prep this one.  I learned from Melissa D'Arabian of Food Network fame that when making beans, make a huge pot and freeze what you don't use so you don't have to go through the headache of prepping beans all the time.  We'll put everything together in a crockpot and keep the crock in the fridge until the morning we are ready to start it.  Simmered on low all day, it is ready when we get home from the work day.  Easy peesy!

Meal 3:  Chipotle Chicken.  This is a recipe taught to us by my Father In-Law.  Its really tasty and easy to make ahead.  Combine 2 cups chicken stock (or 2 cups bullion reconstituted) and a small can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in a blender.  Blend that together for a bit.  Strain out the seeds  and big matter.  I can't stress enough to strain that stuff out.  You will get a meal that is far to spicy for human consumption if you don't.  In a baking dish, slice a large onion.  White onions are recommended, but because I'm cheap, I use whatever costs the least.  If I'm making it for company, I definitely get a white onion as they tend to be a bit sweeter and break down during cooking.  Layer chicken (boneless skinless breasts or thighs recommended) on top of the onions.  Pour the stock and pepper sauce over the top, grate cheese over the top.  Bake covered at 350°F for 30 min, uncover and cook 10 or more minutes until the cheese browns.  We like this one with yellow rice.

To prep:  The chicken will be put together and kept covered in the fridge until ready to cook.

Meal 4:  Sausages with coleslaw and mustard.  So last week my tiny head of cabbage made a lot more coleslaw than I expected. What doesn't go better the coleslaw than sausages?  I always buy sausages when they are on sale and freeze them for easy meals.  The sausage gods had been especially kind over the last little bit, so we have 3 kinds to choose from.  A local hot smoke sausage, Aidell's chicken and apple, and Brats.  Keeping with German tradition, these will be lightly grilled and served with good mustard and coleslaw....never on a bun.  If I've got leftover bread, I'll serve it along side, but never put good sausage in the bun!

Meal 5:  Tuna and Noodles.  Ok, I'm not even going to take a stab at this one.  This is another one that Husbear makes.  It sounds like traditional casserole yuck, but he does it well.  We'll put this one together and also have it in the fridge, ready to cook.

A couple more weird musings from this week:

I want to try a tropical fruit salad.  I recently had a Hawaiian flavored e-liquid that has just a hint, its so subtle its hardly there, of dill.  It makes the tropical flavors totally pop.  I'm thinking pineapple, guava, a bit of mango, maybe some dragonfruit, maybe some starfruit, all mixed together in its own juices with a sprinkle of dill.  I'll likely go check out the produce at Global Supermarket.  They always seem to have intriguing tropical fruits.  I didn't know what a dragonfruit was until I saw one in person.  Also, if they have the yellow mangoes, get a bunch, they are over the top ripe and delicious by themselves or in anything using mango.  If you ask nice, they will often cut you one heck of a deal on the ones that are so ripe they are falling apart.  Oh and my brain just said, "Hey, see if they have those delicious giant coconut flakes, that'd be really good on top."

I need to revisit the thai peanut salad.  It was good and I've been having a hankering for it again.  I've also got a lot of peanuts leftover from Burning Man.

So there ya go, another week's worth of meals.  Oh and I must say, I'm proud as heck of the grocery bill this week.  $45, this includes $5 worth of snack goodies for the basket at work and a few dollars of breakfast add ons.  I'm not sure why I've been watching the budget, more than anything I get a kick out of making my home pretty awesome for cheaps.  So far for the month, excluding the week following Burning Man, which had a lot of dining out/order-in, we are at $100.

Have a great week!


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,