Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

As I'm sure is true for everyone, my life at home and at work have been one big blur of busyness! I'll be back when it all settles down. But for now, Happy Holidays to everyone. Be safe and enjoy all your blessings.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Just want to type "pee" again....

Ravings: Being sick sucks. I spent all day, and I literally mean all day, in bed. Shadow is such a trooper on these days. He will just lie there, staring at me (I know he’s hoping I’ll close my eyes so he can pee on me!), eventually give up and go back under the covers for as long as he can, and then crawl back out to start all over with the staring. He will occasionally whine, and that’s when I know it’s an emergency, but he still tries to soldier through, and will venture back under the blanket for another 20 minutes or so. Then the under the covers whining signals the “I really have to pee, but I am trying so hard not to make you get up, but maybe my whining will make you feel guilty enough to just tell me to pee on the carpet.” Don’t laugh! I did this once. I totally lifted up the covers and said to him “I’m sorry. I will die if I stand up, so pee wherever you want.” And I meant it at the moment, although I am eternally grateful that he didn’t take me up on it. I have no idea how he did it, but I think he went like 48 hours without relieving himself.

Now don’t be getting all proud of him and jealous that he’s such an awesome dog because he’s also peed on the couch because I left him in the house for 20 minutes while I was in the yard. He has gotten better as he’s gotten older, but Italian Greyhounds are notoriously difficult to potty train, especially once it gets cold. He would sell his soul, and mine, to be able to pee inside once the temperature falls below 65. I can’t say I blame him!

On Sunday, I took my nieces to see a movie. The 5 year old would tell you that we saw The Muffets. She’s too stinkin cute! In my sickened delirious state, I forgot that EVERYONE IN THE WORLD would be at the mall, which is where the movie theater is. So we are driving around the parking lot, praying to any god who will listen to let us find a spot. I know there is one who’s got to understand the enormous undertaking it is to take a 5 year old and 7 year old to a movie. But there are absolutely no spaces. We just keep driving as I’m secretly getting desperate, but am trying to make it an adventure, when the 7 year old says “We need Uncle Jason with us.” “Why’s that?” I say. “He has parking mojo.” she states matter of factly. Now, I need to tell you that he really does. We can go anywhere and he will find a spot. Up front. It’s kinda weird. But I sort of laugh and say “Yes we do.” Then she says “What’s mojo?” I love her!

Cravings: I’ve been sick, so get off my back! I can’t remember the last time I turned my oven on. I can’t remember that last time I had real food. I ate cottage cheese with beets for lunch!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sleep is calling my name!

Ravings: I am sick! There I said it. Despite the fact that it never works, my first line of defense for winter cold and flu season is pure denial! But I feel like crap and it takes every ounce of energy I have to make it through my work day. Last night, I walked in the door, let Shadow out, changed into my pj’s and went straight to bed. I did get up a couple hours later to make the Salted Caramel Butter Bars (see Cravings) for our yearly graze at work, have a cup of tea with lemon and honey (my other go to remedy), and crawl back in bed. I have no idea why I am even at work today, other than these treats are way too good not to share.

Cravings: I was first introduced to these sinfully delicious bites of goodness by my sister. I had made the Eggnog Cheesecake bars for the WAR party that I discussed in the My Voice blog post, but she had to show up with these heavenly bars, I am convinced just to outshine me! Words cannot describe how yummy these things are. But be warned, they are not in the least bit healthy. They are, however, worth every single calorie! I did alter the recipe slightly by making my homemade caramel.

Salted Caramel Butter Bars
(from Shelley at Cookies & Cups, but slightly altered)

1 lb. salted butter room temp
1 cup sugar
1½ cups powdered sugar (I only had 1/2 cup in my pantry, so I substituted 1 cup of brown sugar)
2 Tbs vanilla
4 cups all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars. Using mixer on medium speed, beat together until creamy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Sift the flour into the butter mixture and stir until incorporated. Spray a 9×13 inch baking pan lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Press one-half of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust, and place the remainder of the dough in the fridge to chill. Bake until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown approx 15-20 minutes. While that's cooking, make the caramel.

For the Caramel
(From Katie at Good Life Eats, also slightly altered)

1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

Bring cream and butter to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside. Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a golden caramel. Carefully stir in vanilla extract and cream mixture (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently until thickened, but pourable. Allow to cool for a bit.

When caramel has stopped bubbling, pour it evenly over the prebaked crust, and crumble the rest of the dough on top of that. Put back in the oven for another 20 minutes.

This gotten eaten before I was able to finish cutting it, so I didn't get a picture, but you can see the original on the Cookies and Cups site.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ying and Yang

Ravings: I am not typically at a loss for something to say, especially when I have free range to express myself however and about whatever I want. There is no shortage of opinions floating around in my brain. But these past few days I have struggled with what to write about. And I haven’t really been able to figure out why. But I think I know the culprit.

I went to bed a little early last night. I was just feeling “not quite right.” You know that feeling. When you wonder if you are trying to do too much (I worked, went grocery shopping, did P90, made dinner, and cleaned up the kitchen), aren’t getting enough sleep, or if you are getting sick. As I was lying in bed praying I wasn’t getting sick, it dawned on me that I am sad. It’s that deep, mellow sad that you aren’t even really aware of until you stop to think about it. I was dreading the Christmas sorrow that I knew was inevitable, so I think I just buried it. But in order to do that I had to turn off all emotions. I knew that something was off. I usually like Christmas time and enjoy all the planning, but I have been feeling like I’m just going through the motions. I have to let the wave of loss come over me so that I can feel something. I’m just not willing to go through the holidays in a state of numbness in order to avoid the pain. I’m not willing to sacrifice the joy that I know will there waiting. But I'm also afraid of the pain that will envelope me. It threatens to creep in even as I write this. It's a scary place, but there I know that I will be ok. I've waded through that sorrow before and come out on the other end, and I know that I will do it again. There is comfort in the knowing.

Cravings: Jason and I love appetizer dinner. It just feels like you are cheating, even if you really aren’t. And you can mix food regions and still seem super cool. Our usual appetizer dinner is purchased, pre-made bite size goodies from Trader Joes, but it can get expensive so I tried to recreate it. I can’t say that it was a huge success, but it did taste good and I got to control the ingredients a bit more. The big downside is that it’s time consuming. One of the big draws of appetizer dinner is the little to no prep work. That is not true when you make them yourself. So I have not yet perfected the home made appetizer dinner, but someday I will! On our menu last night: mozzarella sticks with tomato dipping sauce, black bean quesadillas with creamy guacamole, and arugula, apple and radish salad with cheddar cheese.

Mozzarella sticks

1 package of mozzarella cheese sticks
½ cup flour
1 egg beaten
1 cup panko
½ -1 cup oil
½ can fire roasted tomatoes

Unwrap all the cheese sticks (this is the worst part!). Heat oil (I used safflower because that’s what I had) while coating cheese. Roll cheese to coat in flour, then dip in egg, and coat with panko. Fry in shallow pan just until browned. I warmed the tomatoes in the microwave for about 1 minute.

Black Bean Quesadillas

1 package corn tortillas
1 can black beans, drained
½ can fire roasted tomatoes
1 T taco seasoning mix (I make my own. I’ll add the recipe on another post)
1 bag shredded taco cheese

Mix all ingredients, except cheese. Lay half the tortillas on foil lined sheet pan(s). Top each with a bit of cheese, then top with the bean mixture, and then top with more cheese. Lay the rest of the tortillas on top and press down a bit so they stick. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.

Creamy Guacamole

1 large avocado
2 -3 T plain Greek yogurt
Juice of 1 lime
2 T fresh parsley, chopped (you can also use cilantro)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mash avocado in a bowl and then stir in rest of ingredients. Serve with the quesadillas.

Arugula, Apple, and Radish salad

2 cups arugula
1 apple (I used pink lady)
4 large radishes
2 T chocolate balsamic vinegar (you can use regular)
½ cup cheddar cheese

Put 1 cup of the arugula in each of 2 bowls. Top with thinly sliced apple and thinly sliced radish. Drizzle each salad with 1 T of the vinegar, then top with cheese. (I made CJ another one when he came home!)

Jason’s brother was over last night helping him with some car stuff so we didn’t eat until after 8pm when they finally came in the house. They did even make it past the kitchen and I think I was the only one who used a plate! I think they were starving. But in their haste to consume, they prevented me from taking a picture!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Smile. Snap. Got it!

Ravings: We officially made it through the family pictures alive. Jason did of course ask me at least twice why we were having pictures taken again, but he was a pretty good sport considering we were outside in the cold for several hours on Sunday. And I did reward them with dinner at Red Robin. Jason loves there Bleu Ribbon Burger. I introduced him to the concept of putting blue cheese on burgers and/or steaks and he is now obsessed with it. Add the endless fries and he’s in heaven. I’ll post a couple of the pictures when we get them back. It was a fun day!

Besides the weekend being entirely too short and having a to do list that could last me through the first part of 2012 but has to be done by Christmas, I really have very little to rave about today. The holidays are a rough time of year, and I’m sure I will experience some depression and bitterness, but today I am good. I would even say happy! I know....Why did I put that it print? I've just doomed myself.

Cravings: Despite feeling like I didn’t stop moving this weekend, I didn’t actually do a ton of cooking. Thursday night we had Chicken Noodle Soup, which was homemade, but I took it out of the freezer and since I had made it before I re-started my blog, I didn’t write down the recipe. I'll work on coming up with one.

I went out to a late work lunch on Friday, so I didn’t make anything for dinner. I made the boys fend for themselves. I think they ended up eating cereal. See what happens when I don't cook.

Saturday I spent the day with my sister and her daughters. We took them to see Arthur Christmas, so dinner consisted of the largest tub of popcorn I’ve ever seen, a bag of twizzlers, and a diet coke. We did split the popcorn with three little girls, but we were both sick by the time we got home! Movie theater popcorn is the devil.

I did, however, leave the boys dinner, already made and ready to be popped in the oven. They both reported that it was “really good.” Not sure what to call it. Baked Squash or Noodleless lasagna. Either way, incredibly easy and reportedly boy approved. They forgot to take a picture though!

Baked Squash/Noodleless lasagna

2 cups zucchini, chopped
2 cups yellow squash, chopped
½ sweet onion, chopped
1 can great northern beans, drained
1 small can V-8 juice (or the equivalent of tomato juice/sauce)
1 T dried basil
1 T dried oregano
1 T garlic salt
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

Mix all the ingredients together in a oven proof dish. I covered it with aluminum foil and left it in the fridge for the boys to heat up that night. They cooked it for about 20 minutes at 350.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Has anyone seen my sanity?

Ravings: It’s official. I’ve lost my mind. Not only did I finish the baby blankets last night, but I made dinner, did laundry, and started doing P90 again. Where did I find all that energy? I need to figure out the source and bottle it. Seriously, there are days I can’t even manage to walk upstairs to pee. I just sit on the couch in misery praying for a first floor bathroom to magically appear. If I had the bottled energy, think of all the crap I could get done. The possibilities are truly mind boggling.

So here are my super cute, and really cheap, baby blanket Christmas presents for my nieces. I am totally pinning myself for these! (What? You don’t know what I’m talking about. Follow this link, but only if you are looking for a completely obsessive time sucker. Seriously. Do not come back here and say I didn't warn you!)

Dinner will be described in painful detail below!

Do you seriously want a picture of my laundry??? Ok, in all fairness, I didn’t do ALL the laundry, but we did wash, dry and put away the towels, as well as re-dry 2 loads of clothes, fold it and put it all away. Why did we re-dry two loads you ask? That’s what I should have taken a picture of. CJ’s idea of folding clothes equates to wadding everything in an individual ball and jamming it in the laundry basket. In all fairness, I did tell him I would finish ours so he could do his and I forgot. I guess I should be grateful it didn’t get thrown on the basement floor!

And then the P90….First, ouch. To everything. It’s day one and I feel like I’ve worked just about every muscle in my body. Even some I didn’t remember having. Second, what was I thinking? We’ve done this before and lasted approximately a week and a half. It’s 90 days. 90! Do your realize that's 3 straight months? I recall that after the first week of doing this the first time, neither of us could really move anything. It hurt just to lie in bed. And yet, I’m trying it again. So clearly I have lost my sanity. I think it might be easier, and more enjoyable, to just stop eating. And we all know how much I love eating. This workout kicks my ass. And it’s not even P90X. I think that would literally kill me.

My goal is to make it at least 2 weeks before throwing in the towel, but I really would like to finish it. I am woefully out of shape, and I am terrified that I will someday be that lady on The People of Walmart. Seriously. Terrified. And it was either this or give up sugar. Check back in a couple weeks if you are looking for some free baking supplies!

Cravings: I was really afraid that after forcing Jason to suffer through the P90 workout, he would not be happy with last night’s dinner offering of Stuffed Acorn Squash with Creamy Polenta, but he actually liked it. He had seconds. (He also ate some peanut butter right out of the jar, but that was after he ate more squash!) I also made Quick Chocolate Pudding for dessert. I think I found this recipe on Pinterest (I warned you that it will take over your life!), but now I can’t find the link, so I can’t give credit to the rightful owner. I hate when I do that. I’ll give you the recipe because it is so simple, but know that I didn’t create this and I will try to find the original source.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

½ cup chopped red onion
¼ cup matchstick carrots
1 red pepper, chopped
½ cup shredded cabbage
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 T cherry balsamic vinegar (use can use regular)
½ T dried sage
½ T dried oregano
Salt to taste

Saute onion and carrot until softened a bit. Add red pepper, cabbage, tomato and rest of ingredients. Turn to low while preparing the squash. Cut ends off squash just so they sit level. Cut in half and clean out seeds. Put stuffing in/on squash in a baking pan. Put a bit of water in bottom of pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 until squash is soft. Top with creamy polenta to serve.

Creamy Polenta

2 cups water
1 cup polenta
2-3 T heavy cream
½ cup gorgonzola cheese
½ T dried sage
Salt to taste

Boil water. Stir in polenta. Lower heat and cook for several minutes until soft and thickened. Turn off heat and add other ingredients, stirring to incorporate. Serve immediately.

Quick chocolate pudding (I forgot to take a picture. Sorry! I could barely move after that workout.)

½ cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa
3 T cornstarch
1/8 t salt
2 cups milk
1 t vanilla

Combine first 4 ingredients. Wisk in milk until smooth. Microwave uncovered one minute at a time, stirring/wisking after each minute until thick. Let it cool. Refridgerate. And enjoy! Jason put whipped cream on it, of course. This was after the peanut butter, fyi. I don’t think he gets the concept of doing P90!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Am I on Candid Camera?

Ravings: This weekend my sister’s family and my family are having pictures taken. By a professional photographer! And we are paying him! A lot! Here are the conversations Jason and I have had about this upcoming event.

First I approach him with the concept. We can get some candid shots. Put something together for your mom. I’m sure she doesn’t have too many pictures of CJ. Etc, etc. You get the idea, right? His response: Sure, whatever you want.

A week or so later I approach him with “We are scheduling the pictures.” Him: “What pictures?” Me: “You know, the pictures we talked about doing with my sister” Him: “Huh?” Me: (with the look. you know the one.) “Really? We talked about this a few days ago.” Him: “Oh ok” Me: knowing he has no earthly idea what I’m talking about and has essentially stopped listening 3 seconds into this exchange “Do you have a preference on days?” Him: “No, whenever is fine.”
And another few days later. Me: “We scheduled the pictures for Sunday the 11th.” Him: “What pictures?” (Are you sensing a theme?) Me: “The pictures we are doing with my sister.” Him: “Do you really want to do this?” Me: “That is why I asked you about it weeks ago. I already agreed to it.” Him: “Ok, whatever.”

And then just a few days ago. Me: “I bought you a couple sweaters to try on for the pictures on Sunday.” Him: “What pictures? I’m working Saturday.” Me: “We are having pictures done with my sister, and I know you have to work Saturday. That’s why I scheduled it for Sunday.” Him: “Why do we have to have pictures taken? Can’t you just take them?” Me: “Yes, but then I’m not in any of them, and he’ll be doing candids.” Him: “Oh. I don’t wear sweaters.” Me: “I know you don’t love sweaters, but we are planning to go to the park for a while and I would prefer you not have a coat on in all those pictures.” Him: “I’ll just wear a polo.” Me: “Have you been outside? It’s winter!” Him: “Oh. Ok, whatever.”

None of the sweaters fit him, of course! So we agree to go shopping on Tuesday (last night) after work. That was also an interesting conversation that went in about 14 circles, until we landed on me saying, “You can go shopping with me or live with whatever I pick out!” He’s super picky and he knows I have a wicked sense of humor, so he agreed to go. Yesterday morning, I say to him, “We’re going shopping tonight right?” His response: “For what?” I was not so kind at that point. It was morning and you can see how many times we have had the same conversation. I had a right to be mean! After his apologetic phone call that afternoon, he agreed to go shopping until we found what we needed. (Jusy FYI: I also apologized for being mean!)

Believe it or not, the shopping experience was the worst part! First, he’s a guy, so his idea of shopping is grab the first sweater you see and head out. He’s worse than shopping with a toddler! Then, the selection is horrendous. What do they even make men’s sweaters with the tight band at the waistband? Is that flattering on anyone?? Especially men who don’t look photo shopped! Jason is not Will Smith or Mark Wahlberg or even Sean Connery, and those men would not wear those sweaters! Jason looks like a caricature of himself wearing a tight waisted sweater. If left to his own devices, he would dress like a 75 year old man from the 80”s. He doesn’t need help by having this clothing disguised as fashion. When I met him, he was still wearing pleated and cuffed pants. The man needs all the fashion assistance he can get.

We did finally find him a sweater that looks half way decent. At least he won’t look like a clown. Maybe the coat’s not such a bad idea…..

Cravings: Given the painful shopping excursion we experienced, I couldn’t force myself to come home and make dinner, so we stopped and got Mexican. Thank God for salsa and margaritas!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Food wars

Ravings: I’m not sure I’ve raved too much on here about my stance on food production and laws. I am a huge supporter of locally sourced, organic food. Production farming, not only makes me sick (literally and figuratively), it also makes me outraged. The toxic chemicals that are allowed into our food are reprehensible. And what we, and our government, feed to our children is criminal. Just recently Congress ruled that pizza with two tablespoons of tomato paste counts as a serving of vegetables in school lunches. So now a slice of pizza with a side of French fries counts as two servings of vegetables. I don’t know about you but when I was a kid, that would have not cut it in my house as eating your vegetables. Here’s the worst part, and I couldn’t find the exact ingredients as I’m sure that’s a closely guarded secret, but school pizza is full of unpronounceable ingredients and tons of sugar. There is sugar is regular ole store bought pizza sauce. I can’t even imagine what’s in it when it’s mass produced with the goal of being as cheap as possible for school lunches. Regular homemade pizza is so easy and inexpensive, and can be made pretty healthy. So why is the happening? My simple answer is lobbyists. I don’t believe for one second that congress considered the health and well being of school kids when it made this ruling.

So I’m already fired up about this ruling, and all the other things that are slowly killing us in our food. Toxic chemicals, BPA, unnecessary sugar, growth hormone, and antibiotics to name just a few. And then I hear about the proposed Farm Youth Labor Rule being proposed by the Department of Labor. In very basic terms it will prohibit “young hired farm workers” (under age 16) from operating or tending any power-driving equipment, from being a passenger on that equipment being driven on a public road, from working in areas occupied by intact (not castrated) male animals older than six months, herding animals in confined spaces such as feed lots and corrals, and from using electronic communication devices while operating or assisting to operate power-driven equipment. (According to a spokesperson from Penn State University) Exceptions would be made for working on the parents farm, but not for working on another relatives farm.

At first read this doesn’t seem so bad, right? Unless you’ve grown up in farm country and know that working on a farm is the best job you can get in high school. And unless you think about whom this will effect. Corporate Ag business won’t be affected by this. They don’t hire young kids. Family farms will, however, be crippled by this legislation. Which I’m sure is the aim of the lobbyists for the big Ag corporations. People are beginning to realize the danger in buying animals from production farms and are turning to local farms. What better way to run them out of business than to make it even more cost prohibitive to hire help, especially, nieces, nephews, and neighbor kids willing to work hard. This legislation is, of course, being presented under the guise of safety. But the irony is that our government is protecting the big corporations that are killing us slowly, while running the small family farm out of business in the interest of safety.

Don’t even get me started about chocolate milk at school!!!

Cravings: After all that talk about the toxicity of our food, I will assure you that our meals are as organic as I can make them, and we have noticed a huge difference. A couple years ago Jason and I made the decision to stop eating fast food, and gradually we began eating more and more organic. We both feel so much better. We have more energy, get sick less, and I used to get frequent, debilitating headaches, which don’t happen anymore. I am currently working up the courage to give up processed sugar. Convincing the boys of this one is going to be a lot more difficult that convincing myself!

Last night’s dinner was Mediterranean Chicken with sautéed greens.

Mediterranean Chicken

4 Chicken thighs
½ red onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
Handful of Kalamata olive, chopped
1 T tomato paste
1 T anchovy paste
½ T oregano
2 T fresh basil

Preheat oven to 350. Heat a large oven proof sauté pan with olive oil. Brown both sides of the chicken. Then add the rest of the ingredients, except the basil. If you don’t have anchovy paste, I would highly suggest getting it. It doesn’t make the sauce taste fishy at all. It adds this amazing salty nuttiness to dishes. You can get it in a tube and it keeps in the refrigerator forever. It’s totally worth it! Cover and put it oven for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the greens. Serve over the greens and sprinkle with fresh basil.

Sautéed greens

1 +2 T butter
1 T olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic
Several leaves of kale, spinach, whatever you have.

Heat the pan with 1 T of butter and 1 T of olive oil. Mince your garlic. I use the Pampered Chef garlic press because it’s awesome, but you can use whatever method you prefer. Chop your greens. Add the garlic to the pan and stir for a minute then add the greens and some salt. Once they start to wilt, add 2 more tablespoons of butter and possibly a bit more salt to your taste. Serve.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I'm a grinch!

Ravings: I’m back! Friday was a “sick” day. (Events of the day will be kept confidential to protect the not so innocent. Namely me!)

Saturday was a sit on the couch and be completely unmotivated to do anything day. To be completely honest, I did some craft projects, but I didn’t actually get dressed. I did consult my sister, who knows all things, and she said since I changed my shirt, that technically counts as getting dressed, so I guess I wasn’t completely unmotivated. I made 2 baby doll blankets for my nieces form Christmas and a cool twirly scarf out of one of Jason’s old t-shirts. I am not quite finished with the second blanket, so I will post pics when I’m all done!

Sunday was a marathon Christmas shopping extravaganza. I’m under the delusion that if I use big, exciting words to describe it, then the whole process won’t suck rotten eggs. But, really, who am I kidding? Everything about shopping at the holidays blows chunks. Well, except for hanging with my sis all day, but I would have rather been playing video games and drinking wine with her!

Cravings: Jason was out of town, deer hunting, this weekend so I did little to no cooking, unless you count popcorn. That is totally a dinner entrée and you will never be able to convince me otherwise!

But did you know you can make your own microwave popcorn? And it doesn’t have anything bad in it, unless you add it of course. And it’s super easy. Put about ¼ cup of popcorn kernels into a paper lunch bag. Fold the top down twice. Lay the bag on its side in the microwave and use the popcorn setting. If you want more make it again. You can use the same bag a couple times, but don’t add more popcorn to the bag. I’ve found that it just creates more unpopped kernels. Then you can add any toppings you want. My fave is parmesan cheese and garlic salt. If the cheese is just falling to the bottom of the bowl, just pop it back in the microwave for another few seconds to warm the cheese up. Yum!!!

Now I did cook dinner on Thursday night and wow. It’s up on the favorites list for us. Ranch pork chops over braised white beans. Served with a little side salad. Before I go over the recipes, I have to tell you that I am a food snob, meaning Jason and I try to consume primarily organic, whole foods, local as much as possible. In our avoidance of processed food, I have developed some homemade fixes for previously store bought (read: processed) foods. One of them is ranch dressing. It’s so easy to mix up the dry ingredients and then just add the wet as you need to go. The other benefit is that they work great as dry rubs, like for our pork chops.

Dry ranch mix

4 T dried minced onion
4 T dried parsley flakes
2 t garlic powder

Most recipes you find will call for salt. I rarely add it to my mixes because we tend to add salt as we cook to taste. Just mix it up and store it with your spices. To make dressing add buttermilk and plain greek yogurt (or sour cream). For dip, just add the yogurt (or sour cream). You can make as much or as little as you need.

Ranch pork chops

3-4 T Dry ranch mix
2 T mayo (use the real thing please!)
2 pork chops

Mix the ranch mix and mayo. Spread onto both sides chops. Cook for 20+ mins, depending on thickness of your chops at 350. Seriously, it doesn't get easier than that!

Braised white beans

½ sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 carrot, chopped small
2 cans white beans (or dried equivalent. That is my next pledge. To give up canned beans because of the BPA in the cans)
½ cup water
1 T ranch mix
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onion and garlic until translucent. Add carrot and sauté for a few more minutes, just to get them softening. Add the drained can of white beans. I then use the cans to add the water, getting out the mushy bean stuff at the bottom of the can. Helps thicken the sauce. Add the ranch mix and salt and pepper to taste. Turn burner to low and let it simmer a bit until all the flavors have blended and the beans are soft.

As a follow up to my canned bean protest: My mother informed me recently, which is what's prompting me) that you can soak dried beans and then freeze them. I am so going to try this soon. I’ll let you know.

She is also the one who informed me that you can flash freeze banana chunks, which we use in smoothies all the time. Or any kind of fruit really. Just lay them out on a sheet pan and put it in the freezer. Once it’s all frozen throw it in a Ziploc bag. Then you can use whatever amount you need. This also works with mushrooms, and Jason says he likes the frozen mushrooms better than the fresh ones. My mom is my cooking muse. I have already designed her Food Network show. She can pull together a gourmet meal using the ingredients in just about any pantry. And most of them include a reduction sauce. It's kind of her specialty!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Can you hear the ice forming?

Ravings: Today has been an impossibly hectic day at work, and since the day is almost over, and let’s be honest, I won’t do this at home tonight because I’ll be creating wonderfully tasty kitchen creations, I’m going to say that I officially have nothing to rave about today!

Did anyone else just hear hell start to freeze over?

Cravings: Last night was vegetarian night, and it was so good that I don’t think Jason even missed the meat. He did make a comment that the only thing that would make the mushroom strudel better was some ground beef, but I think he just needs to make irrelevant comments. He’s just secretly jealous of my culinary talents.

Mushroom Strudel

Olive oil
¼ sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 package chopped mushrooms
1 T fresh rosemary
1 T fresh thyme
1-2 T brandy
1-2 T heavy cream
1 roll phyllo dough
½ cup melted butter

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil on medium heat until translucent. Add mushrooms, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper and cook until everything is soft. Add brandy and cream. Use just enough to make it wet, you don’t really want sauce or it will make the dough soggy.

Melt butter and lay out 1/3 of the phyllo layers. Brush with melted butter and put ½ the mushroom mixture on the phyllo about 1 inch from the edges. Cover with another layer of dough and repeat. Cover with last layer of dough and brush with butter. Carefully tuck the ends and the sides under. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until dough is browned and flaky. I served it with a little side salad of spinach, sliced cabbage, red peppers, and matchstick carrots.

I had some leftover dough because one of my layers ripped, so I made 3 little tartlets for dessert. I cut the strip of dough in thirds and separated the layers in half, so I had 6 layered sheets of dough. I put each one in a ramekin and topped it with more leftover cranberry sauce (I may have to freeze the rest) and a few chocolate chips. I then topped it with the other layers of dough, put a little pat of butter on each ramekin and baked it on 350 for about 15 minutes. We served it with a scoop of the eggnog ice cream and some chocolate sauce. It was store bought. I wasn’t that ambitious!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My aisle sign

Ravings: Just for continuity, I did go to bed last night at about 8:30, did some crying, and watched Biggest Loser. And Shadow was right there next to me. Normally Biggest Loser makes me want to eat, so crying during the weigh-ins was a bit foreign, but it was the makeover episode, so I just told myself that I was just so darn happy for them!

I follow several blogs, some related to food, some not. And since I can’t think of anything to write about today, I’m going to use one of the blogs as a jumping off point. The writer has the life I think I want. Probably in reality I would get tired of it, but I would love it for a while. Basically, she follows her husband (who travels for work) around the world and blogs about her experiences. That ranks right up there with the people who used to host that “Great Castles of the World” show. When I was a teenager, I desperately wanted someone to tell me how to get that job. I’ve clearly missed my calling because my job has nothing to do with food. How do I become a restaurant critic?

Anyway…. her post this morning was about how she loves to read grocery store aisle signs because it offers some insight into the culture of the locals. Then she makes her own sign, about what’s important to her. She has her husband and cake. The cake is repeated 4 times. She’s awesome. But it made me think about what my grocery store aisle sign would say. Obviously, I have to say Jason or it makes me look like a b*ch. It would also have wine, dark chocolate, pistachios, and Shadow! I think I could live happily with just those things.

Cravings: Last night was get Jason to eat fish night again. I’m tired of breaded and/or drowned in butter fish, so it was time to think outside the box, but not so far out that he wouldn’t eat it. I am calling this Fish Stew. I will admit it looks more like a soup, but Fish Soup doesn’t even sound appealing to me, so there was no way I coming out with “We’re having Fish Soup for dinner.”I served it with some prosciutto wrapped cantaloupe because that is one of his favorites. And I was totally trying to bribe him. Whatever works.

Fish Stew

3 medium tomatoes, roasted
Olive oil
2 T fresh lemon thyme (or regular thyme)
3-4 cloves garlic
½ sweet onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
4-5 leaves of kale, de-stemmed and chopped
1 can chick peas
2 cups of chicken stock
2-3 filets of haddock (or other firm white fish)
Parmesan cheese

First roast the tomatoes. Chop them up and put them on a sheet pan covered with tin foil. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with ½ of the chopped thyme and salt. Cook at 350 for about 20-30 minutes depending on how roasted you want them. Then sauté the onion and garlic in a good amount of olive oil on low heat in a large stock pot. Add the sliced carrots and the kale and sauté until starting to wilt. Add the chick peas and the chicken stock, just until everything is covered. Cut the fish in chunks and lay it on top. Then cover with the tomatoes and let it cook, covered with a lid for about 10 mins. Stir. Fish will flake a bit. Add salt and/or pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese when serving.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ravings: I am feeling melancholy today. These days pop up every now and again. I’m sure there is some sort of hormonal shift involved, but I can’t seem to find the pattern in the bad days. I woke up tired. I don’t think I slept well and Shadow was restless most of the night, which keeps me awake. But I’ve had those nights and not felt this way so I can’t say that is the cause. The brain is so mysterious and powerful. I think it just knows its own limits, and it knows that I just need to cry out some of the buried sorrow. I’ll do that tonight, even though it still freaks Jason out that I can cry for no apparent reason and then feel better. Just part of the differences between men and women. I like the female way better! My way doesn’t require breaking things apart. Now I just need to make it through my work day without shedding tears. On days like this everything, and I mean everything, makes me cry. This is how I know it’s one of the bad days.

As embarrassing as it is to admit, I’m going to just put myself out there. I know, I know. Everyone has read about the details of picking a donor and carting sperm around a clinic, so we can’t get much more intimate, but this just makes me sound a little crazy. So I’m driving to work, being generally annoyed that people in Cleveland still haven’t figured out how to drive in the rain. Snow is on its way people, let’s figure this out! I’m listening to NPR, which I do every morning on my way to work, and they do this cutesy story about The Office and how some website (can’t recall which one) is now selling actual Dunder Mifflin copy paper. Cute, fluff story that lasts about 3 ½ minutes and ends with the theme music from the office. And I well up with tears. The tears that come from the bottom of your diaphragm and fill your throat until they spill over and run down your cheeks as you try to choke them back down. It’s that kind of sad and pathetic day. And I can’t wait for it to be over so I can go home and crawl into my big comfy bed. With Shadow, who is the best snuggler in the universe!

Cravings: With all the holiday eating, I decided to go a bit light on dinner last night. And Jason is in one of his “I’m going to eat less” phases. Those usually only last a few days, so it’s important to take advantage of it. To that end, we had spinach salad with goat cheese “croutons” and eggnog ice cream with left over cranberry sauce.

Goat Cheese “croutons"

1 egg
1 T whole wheat flour
2 T panko
1 t dried thyme
1 t garlic powder
1 log of goat cheese
1 T butter
Olive oil

Beat egg in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix flour, panko, thyme and garlic. Cut cheese into discs. This sounds easier than it is. The cheese is really crumbly, so just mash it back together. Dip it in the egg and then in the panko mixture. Coat it well with the panko. I did all the discs and put them on a plate, then melted the butter and added the olive oil to completely coat the bottom of the pan. Fry the discs for a couple minutes on each side, just until they get brown and crispy. Carefully remove them from the pan to a plate. The cheese doesn’t really melt, but it does get really soft.

Spinach Salad

Spinach leaves
½ cup red onion, diced
2 oranges, peeled and sectioned
Seeds of ½ a pomegranate
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup cherry balsamic vinegar (regular will work also)
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped

When I make salad, I put each ingredient in a separate dish because the boys are sometimes picky about stuff. That way that can put in whatever they like and however much they want. I chopped the red onion and soaked it in cold water while I prepped everything else. (Supposed to take the bitter out of raw onion.) I peeled and sectioned the oranges, squeezing the juice into a separate bowl for the dressing. I seeded half a pomegranate in with the oranges. It’s all fruit, right? Chopped the walnuts. For the dressing, I added the vinegar and oil to the orange juice, then added the basil, salt and pepper and whisked it together. Serve the salad with the goat cheese croutons on top. I also served some frozen garlic rolls and the ice cream. Oh, and of course, a glass of wine.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Ravings: The problem with long weekends, or any kind of vacation, is that it tends to suck the motivation completely out of me. The motivation to do my actual job that is. I’m totally motivated to go home and cook something or even do something crafty. I’ve secretly been plotting a total rearrangement of my kitchen, although I’m pretty sure this will send Jason and CJ over the edge since I’m constantly yelling at them about putting stuff away in the wrong place. But ideas about where to put the vanilla extract are swirling around in my head, so that every time my phones rings I’m irritated that someone is going to expect me to focus on something before I even reach toward the receiver. It’s only 11:38. AM! And like three people have called me for help so far. I am totally over this. I think it is completely unfair to expect people to return to work on Monday morning, knowing that they have to work a full 40 hour week after having had 5 days off. It’s entirely too much to ask of someone.

Cravings: I am really trying to get organized with the cooking blog. Trying, but currently failing, because I took pictures of our Thanksgiving meal, but forgot to email them to myself. I will get them posted, but I just want everyone to be aware of how completely unorganized about this I am. It’s sad, really. And I can’t even blame my post-holiday slump because I have been at home for 5 days. No excuses at all, other than I suck at life.

Having said that I purchased an app yesterday to help me keep my recipes organized. Because I mostly cook by pulling crap out of the cupboards, it is nearly impossible to recreate a meal once we’ve consumed it. I can figure out the basics, but the subtle nuances are lost forever…..Until now. At least that’s my plan, but we all know how successful I am at that so far. So keep your fingers crossed, but don’t hold your breath. I refuse to be responsible for anyone passing out while waiting for me to get organized.

Remember Jason’s weird aversion to all things fish? It’s weird because he loves to fish. When we visit Florida, he will spend all day, and night, on the pier if I let him.

He even cleans and filets the fish.

But he won’t eat it. My mom, step-dad, grandma, and I all enjoyed the fish that I made for dinner the evening after he caught them. Jason had chicken. However, he loves oysters! He’s obsessed with them really. He talks about them almost daily, and would probably eat them at every meal if we could afford it. Get this: He thinks most fish is disgusting because it tastes “fishy” but his favorite way to eat oysters is straight out of the ocean. Catch it, pop it open and eat it. Why you ask? He likes the warm salty taste. I know. He’s a walking contradiction!

He also loves them steamed, so I got a dozen for Thanksgiving. It ended up being just the two of us, so I thought it would be nice. He loved them! And he prepared them, so bonus for me! Basically, he just steamed them in a shallow pan for about 5-6 minutes, popped them open, and served them with cocktail sauce, clarified butter, and malt vinegar. He did add a bit more horseradish to the cocktail sauce. He instructed me that you have to dip in the proper order or they won’t taste as good. I know, I know, but I married him anyway! So you put the oyster on your fork, did in the vinegar, then the butter, then the cocktail sauce. Surprisingly, they were incredibly delicious!

And then I was responsible for the rest of the meal… This doesn’t surprise you, right? Me either. Here’s our menu:

Braised Short Ribs over parmesan risotto
Roasted brussel sprouts
Cranberry Sauce

Braised Short Ribs

1 lb short ribs, cut into sections
½ onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 packaged sliced mushrooms
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup red wine
½ cup beef broth
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 pods star anise

Brown the beef in a stock pot, then add the onion until it becomes soft and translucent. Add the garlic and the mushrooms and cook for another minute or so, then add the rest of the ingredients. Cover and let it cook at a very low heat, just below a simmer, for 2-3 hours. You can also do this in the crock pot and cook it at medium heat for several hours. The meat will be super tender when it’s done.

Parmesan Risotto

2 T butter
1 cup Arborio rice
½ cup white wine
2+ cups chicken stock
Large handful of grated parmesan cheese

Sauté on medium heat the rice in 1 T butter until the rice becomes translucent. This will take several minutes, but keep stirring because you don’t want it to burn. Then add ½ cup white wine and let it cook until absorbed, stirring frequently. In the meantime, warm up the stock in the microwave for a minute or two. It just needs to be warm. Continue to add the stock ½ cup at a time, stirring until absorbed before adding more until the rice is thoroughly cooked. Then add 1 T butter and the parmesan cheese, stir until the cheese is melted and the rice is creamy. Serve immediately.

Roasted brussel sprouts

4 slices bacon
1 lb fresh brussel sprouts
½ sweet onion
1 T olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 350. Cover sheet pan with aluminum foil and lay 3 pieces of bacon out, not touching. Cook in oven until crispy. Take them out and sent on a paper towel to drain. Preheat broiler. Cut stems off brussel sprouts and cut them in half. Add them to a broiler safe pan. Then chop the onion and add it to the pan. Add olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Toss to coat. Cook the under the broiler, stirring a few times for about 15 minutes until the brussel sprouts are cooked and the edges crispy. Crumble the bacon and add it to the pan to re-warm right before serving.

Cranberry sauce

Juice and zest of one orange
1 shot spiced rum
¼ cup water
½ cup sugar
1 bag fresh cranberries

Combine first 4 ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a simmer melting sugar. Add cranberries and cook over low heat about 30 minutes until the cranberries are soft. Stir occasionally. Take off heat and let cool. Jason likes it cool, so we let it completely cool off but you can serve it warm.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A little advice

Ravings: Things not to say to a woman without children!
  1. Why do you want kids? I was actually asked this so many times when I was trying to get pregnant. Even by people with children. Why does anyone want children? And why do I have to justify this desire? I want kids because I want kids.
  2. Why don’t you just adopt? Seriously, do you think I hadn’t considered adoption? And do you really think it’s as easy as picking up some eggs from the market?
  3. You would understand if you had kids. Do you understand what it’s like to be interrogated about your desire and ability to have kids, then select and purchase, at enormous cost, a strangers sperm, go to a nurse carrying your costly vial of sperm, have it inserted in a brightly lit, cold dr’s office alone, and then spend the next 2 weeks worrying about your every move and hoping that the money you spent doing all this won’t have to be repeated in a month? And then second guessing every move that you made wondering if it was that yard work that stopped the egg from implanting, after you find out for the umpteenth time that you aren’t pregnant.
  4. You are so lucky you can…./you don’t have to… Seriously? It’s not luck that stopped me from having children. It was infertility. Having children isn’t something forced upon you. When you decided to have them, you took on the responsibility of taking care of them. And I wouldn’t really call my year of dashed hopes and deep disappointment lucky.
  5. Why don’t you have children? Why are you even asking this? Do you really want to hear about my struggle with infertility? And even if I’d decided not to have kids, what answer are you really looking for here? Anything that is said is just uncomfortable for everyone involved. Think before you speak!
I’m sure the list could go on and on. And I’ve really only focused on the things that irritate me. It still amazes me how insensitive people can be, especially the people who know what I’ve been through with the artificial insemination. This attitude that being a parent makes you somehow a superior human being makes me want to scream.

Cravings: The boys took me out to dinner last night for my birthday, so I had the night off from cooking. I did, however, remember to bring the recipe from last week that I promised to provide. It was Asian shrimp in cabbage cups.

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup soy sauce
1 T five-spice powder
1 T hot chili sauce (like sirracha)
½ T agave or honey
1 cup brown rice
1-2 T sesame oil
½ sweet onion
½ cup matchstick carrots
Several cabbage leaves

Combine the shrimp, soy sauce, five-spice, chili sauce, and honey in a bowl and let it marinate while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Boil the rice with water or stock. I used water so CJ could eat it, but I think it tastes better when done with stock. Dice up the onion and the carrot (or just buy matchstick carrots, it’s much easier!). Sauté the onion until it becomes translucent, then add the carrot and sauté for another minute or two. You want the carrots to still be a bit crunchy. Then add the shrimp and the marinade and sauté until the shrimp is cooked. To serve, fill a lettuce cup with rice and the shrimp sauté. Jason liked his with a little bit of extra soy sauce on the side.

I think we had glazed bananas for dessert, but I can’t really remember. I did just turn 42 yesterday. The memory is gone. But it’s an easy dessert so I’ll tell you how to make it.

2 bananas, sliced
1-2 T brown sugar
2 T butter

Saute it all together, just until the sugar and butter form a thick coating. We typically eat it over yogurt. My favorite is greek yogurt, but you could also serve it over ice cream, pound cake, angel food cake, or anything really. You could also add some nuts and/or drizzle it with chocolate. Now I’m getting hungry!

Monday, November 21, 2011

My voice

Ravings: This weekend I attended/co-hosted one of those home parties. You know the ones. You go and feel obligated to buy something you don’t need because the hostess gets a discount for selling stuff. But this one is different. W.A.R. International is such a great cause. From their website:

  • 800,00 women and children a year are trafficked illegally; 50% of them children.
  • The US State Department estimates that 17,500 of these people are transported to America to be sold, while the CIA estimates the number between 40-50,000.
  • The FBI states that there are 100,000 teens trafficked in the USA between the ages of nine and nineteen.
And there are countless other atrocities happening to women and children every second around the world, including honor killings, female genital mutilation, selling of organs on the black market, and sexual slavery to name but a few.

It is truly heartbreaking to think of the enormity of the suffering. It humbles me and makes me beyond grateful for the basic safety and comfort that I have every day. I have what they call “a circle of protection.” But so many women and children do not have this. They are alone and afraid. We have to use our collective voices to stop this evil. All humans have intrinsic value, and we need to stand up for that value in all of us.

While I believe in the W.A.R. International organization, I’m not saying it’s the only way to use your voice. I think it’s as simple as living your life with integrity and standing up for the value of all humans.

Cravings: I am not much of a baker, but I made 2 baked goods this weekend. Both from a recipe because baking scares me. The first was for the WAR party (see above). I made eggnog cheesecake bars from the Martha Stewart website. So yummy, although my sister had to show me up with her salted caramel butter bars. They were sinfully delicious!

Because Jason loves eggnog and cheesecake, in fact I think those are his 2 favorite things, and I wasn’t leaving them at home for him, I also made spicy caramel brownies from the Nov ’11 Cooking Light. Also very yummy. And since my sister brought the caramel butter sin on a plate to the party, I had plenty of eggnog cheesecake squares leftover for the boys.

I know I missed posting on Friday so there was no recipe for Thursday night’s dinner. And I do have one, which I was smart enough to write down! Impressive right? Except that I forgot to bring it with me to work, and given the fact that I turned 42 today, I am making my brain bleed trying to even remember what we ate. I'm actually impressed that I even remember writing it down. So I owe you a recipe!

I do recall what I made last night, however, and not only was it easy, it was really good! I made a version of Cooking Light’s beef stew. First I cooked some bacon. I think it was about 5 strips. I chopped it up first, but you can cook it and crumble it after. Then I sautéed the onion and mushrooms in the bacon grease, and put them in the crock-pot with the bacon. Then brown the meat in the same pan and add that to the crock-pot. I then deglazed the pan with about ¼ cup brandy and ¼ cup beef stock. Stir in 2-3 tablespoons of brown mustard, and then add that to the crock-pot. Chop up the carrots and add those, along with some pepper and thyme. Turn the crock-pot on high and let it cook for 4-5 hours, then turn it down to low and cook for another 2 hours. It would probably be fine on high for the whole time, but I was home and my crock-pot runs very high. I stirred in a couple tablespoons of flour right before serving to thicken it up.

4-5 strips bacon
1 sweet onion
1 package mushrooms
2 large carrots
1 lb stew meat
¼ cup brandy
¼ cup + 1 cup beef stock
2 T spicy brown mustard
1 t black pepper
½ T thyme
2 T flour

I served that with some mashed potatoes and cauliflower. Basically, I just boiled several potatoes, cut up, with a head of cauliflower, cut up, until they were both soft. Reserve about ½ cup of the liquid before draining and then add the liquid back to the pan with the potatoes and cauliflower to mash. I added about a ¼ cup of milk and 1 tablespoon of butter once it was mashed. I served the stew over the potatoes. I also supplemented with some frozen veggies that you steam in the microwave. I forgot to take a picture! I need to get back on track with my food styling.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Ravings: That whirlwind is still blowing and I feel like I am completely dizzy and disoriented because of it. I still haven’t really been home. I did finally sleep in my own bed last night, but I literally fell into bed half asleep. After work, I went home to be greeted by the oblivious dog, who acted as though I had just left and was now interrupting his nap. I had secretly hoped he would come running into my arms, clinging to me as if I had been lost and had unexpectedly returned. But no. I had to force him to snuggle me. I did sneak in a quick nap, hoping to stave off the headache that was fast approaching. And then we were off to my sister-in-laws birthday dinner. After a super yummy dinner and some laughing with great friends and family, we drove home and I collapsed into bed.

I am forcing myself to do some grocery shopping tonight.

Cravings: I believe I am home for good now, so hopefully the creativity can begin again. I am working on my menu and grocery list at work. This just puts me further behind at work, but I really have no other time to do it this week! It’s looking rather yummy. So instead of some recipes, I’ll talk about my process. It’s pretty simple really. I read Cooking Light magazine every month and will mark recipes that look good or will get inspired by something I see and develop a dish on my own. I have to write it down when inspiration hits or I will forget it. I try to keep a list of recipes I want to try and reference that when I go to make my menu list for the week. I basically just write down 5-6 menus without attaching days to them because whenever I’ve tried to match it to a day, something ends up making me change it anyway. So now it’s just a list that I can choose from as I go through the week. I include sides that go with each dish and I have been trying to throw a dessert or two on the list as well.

From that menu, I develop my grocery list. I do try to keep seasonality in mind when I’m developing the menu and am constantly getting up to look at see what we have already that I can use. I’ve also really been focusing on using the same base ingredients for the week so I don’t end up throwing produce away. Most of the time I try to get my produce from the Basketeria at the West Side Market because it’s local and organic, so I also like to reference their weekly mailing when I’m developing the menu. I didn’t make it this week, so it will be grocery store produce for us. Jason and I buy grass fed beef by the half cow so I never buy beef at the grocery store. I get most of my chicken from my boss’s kids who raise chickens for the fair. My family has been discussing splitting a hog, but we haven’t found one available at a price we’d like to pay yet, so I will have to buy that at the store when we want it. And as you know from the last post, I try to purchase only sustainable seafood. So the grocery store, other than on weeks like this, is for those other items like dairy (we go through so much milk and cheese!), beans, grains, snacks, etc.

So that’s pretty much it. Feel free to ask any questions. I’m happy to share. I love cooking and I manage to do it most nights. I think anyone can do it, they just need to be willing to try things.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The best laid plans

Ravings: Sometimes the current of life is just way to strong to fight. Or at least that’s my excuse for being behind in blogging! But seriously, it’s been a whirlwind of busyness the past few days. Fri was an after work poker tournament, then game night at a friend’s house. Saturday was house cleaning day and then we took a nap, which extended itself into the evening and foiled our date night plans. We had Chipotle and watched a movie. We’ve already established that this technically counts as a date, but we had planned to go to Bistro on Lincoln Park in Tremont, so it was a step down.

Sunday, my wonderful husband bought 2 tickets to the Food Show, which included tickets to the wine tasting and to see Michael Symon, for my birthday. He had no desire to go and told me the second ticket was for my sister! Told you he is wonderful. We had a great time. Better than I expected, actually. I mean, seriously, what’s better than free grazing, free wine, and watching the real king of Cleveland cook?

For the next couple nights, I am staying at my sisters, so evening activities and cooking will be all about children. Last night we played Wii bowling and went to be at 9pm. Kinda nice actually!

Cravings: Since I haven’t done any cooking in the last several days, I decided to be like Oprah and share some of my favorite things. All cooking and food related of course!
  • Jeni's Ice Cream. Any flavor! I haven't tried them all, but everything I've sampled so far is sublime. I was first introduced through her signature flavor, Salty Caramel, but have since tried several others. You really can't go wrong!
  • Annie's Green Goddess dressing. I could drink this stuff. I have figured out how to make my own because my grocery store stopped carrying it, but it's always nice to have on hand for that quick, easy meal. And it's organic.
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch lists. You can print a pocket guide for your region or for all of them, which I had for a while. But when I got my iphone, I downloaded the app, so now I can just look stuff up when I'm at the store. We try to eat sustainably.
  • Pampered Chef garlic press. I have had mine for years and I still love it. The link is to a friend's Pampered Chef site.
  • Cooking Light magazine. I have been a subscriber for probably close to 10 years. It's where I get my inspiration and have learned many techniques.

I want to come up with a new layout. This is getting kinda boring. Any and all suggestions are welcome!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Too innocent?

Ravings: Either Shadow is on to me or he isn’t the culprit. I'm thinking he might be on to me. He’s smarter than we think. I swear he has a whole life of crime when we’re not home. He just looks way too innocent when you walk in the door. Most dogs are either at the door waiting to pounce or come running to knock everything out of your hands and cover you with slobbery kisses. Not Shadow. He doesn’t even acknowledge me! It’s almost a deliberate snub. Like’s he is still so incredulous that I even left him in the first place. Although I like to believe that the whining and looking pathetically out from his crate translates into “Please don’t go. My heart will break without you!” Jason is probably more correct in his interpretation that he’s saying “Hey, don’t forget to lay out my blanket and give me a treat.” Which leads me to believe that if his utter lack of acknowledgment isn’t a punishment for leaving him, it has to be a ploy to make me think he’s innocent.

But of what?

Where can I buy nanny cam?

This is Shadow after I’d come in the door, put all my stuff down, taken a picture with my phone, gone upstairs to get the ipad because the picture on my phone was too dark, taken a picture with my ipad, moved the lamp closer to the couch for more light, and taken another picture! He moved his head when I sat down on the couch, but still didn’t get up. When I took the blanket off of him, he gave me the “Oh, I didn’t realize you were home” look. He’s definitely up to something!!!

How much is a nanny cam?

Cravings: Last night was “Force Jason to eat fish night!” For these evenings my sole (get the pun!!!) objective is to disguise the taste of the fish. So I did an Asian honey mustard glazed salmon with Chinese 5-spice roasted potatoes and sautéed greens. He tolerated it, although he did ask me if we had tartar sauce after 2 bites! So much for my fish disguise! Although I guess that’s better than refusing to eat it, right?

Glazed Salmon

1-2 pieces of salmon per person (I had 4 steaks)
½ cup brown mustard
¼ cup agave syrup (I didn’t have any honey)
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce ( I had planned to use soy sauce but we were out of that too!)

Mix the mustard, agave/honey, and hoisin in a bowl. When you are ready to cook the salmon, coat it with the mustard mix and put it skin side down in a super hot pan. I still have not perfected crispy skin, which is part of Jason’s issue with fish. He doesn’t like the skin. Let it cook for several minutes (hopefully the skin gets crispy) and then flip it with a spatula. Cook for several more minutes until it’s flaky on the inside.

5-spice roasted potatoes

Potatoes ( I think I used 8-10 medium fingerlings, but I have the vegetarian to feed also)
Chinese 5-spice powder
Sesame oil

Chop the potatoes into bite sized pieces and put them in a roasting pan. Coat with sesame oil and 5-spice (I used about ½ Tbsp). Stir to coat. Broil for about 30-45 minutes, until they are done and some are crispy on the edges.

Sauteed Greens

2 bunches broccoli rabe (If you aren’t familiar, here’s the Wikipedia explanation.)
Several leaves of kale (I had kale on hand, but any dark green will work)
2 Tbsp Olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed

Rough chop the broccoli rabe and the kale. Get a pan hot with the olive oil and half the butter. Saute on medium high the Broccoli rabe first for about 5 mins, then add the kale (it cooks faster). Saute that for another 5 mins or so and add the garlic and the rest of the butter. You can also salt it here if you want. Saute for another couple minutes just to get the raw garlic taste out and melt the butter. Jason likes to salt everything after so I don’t cook with much salt, but this does need some so you can do it while you are cooking or after. Viola!

I'm getting better at the food styling. At least I think I am. Jason said he could do better!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Is my mail mating?

Ravings: What is it about the dining room table? I think anything that gets near its surface multiplies in the middle of the night. I swear the paper doubles while I’m sleeping. It also seems to occur while I’m at work. I think there is some sort of magical spell that happens when I am not watching. I could blame Shadow for the massing of papers while I’m at work because he is capable of jumping from the floor onto the dining room table. Or at least he used to be. I’m not sure he could manage it now without hurting himself! But he sleeps in the bed with us…..under the covers…..with the door closed. Unless he has figured out how to open the bedroom door, I think he’s innocent of this one. And, yes Shadow sleeps in the bed! He is a 13 lb dog during the day, but turns into a 6 foot tall, 200 lb mass once he hits the bed. I am certain he has magical powers and is able to do unimaginable things when I’m not looking. But I don’t think stacking crap on the dining room table is one of these powers.

When I left for work this morning I took a mental snapshot of the contents of my table. If there is more there when I get home, I am so getting a nanny cam to spy on Shadow!

Cravings: I have actually been looking forward to making last night’s menu! I told you I love the aromas of fall and this is one that just radiates through the house and makes your mouth water! The roasted onion recipe was from Cooking Light. It’s so simple, I’m not sure you could do much adaptation, other than cooking style, which I’ve already decided to do next time. I served the cheesy onion over rice with mushrooms and beet greens. Seriously what could be a better sell than roasting onion and sautéing mushroom! They should make that into a candle!

Slow Roasted Onion (Cooking Light, Nov. 2011)

3 sweet onions (or however many you need for one whole onion per person)
3 Tbsp Olive oil
Cheese (any yummy, melty cheese. I used Jarslberg)

Cut the top and bottom of the onion and peel the out layer. Then cut a cross-hatch into the onion just toward the bottom. You don’t want to go all the way through. Here’s where I will alter the cooking technique. Set each onion on a piece of aluminum foil big enough to wrap it up completely in. Drizzle each onion with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Use really good olive oil. Wrap the onions up, put them on a sheet pan and cook at 350 for about 45 minutes to an hour, just until the onion is soft. Then open the top of the foil and sprinkle the onion with cheese. I used about 1/4 -1/2 cup per onion. You can spread the “petals” of the onion out a bit to get the cheese down in but be careful, since the onion is soft at this point. Then put it back in the oven until the cheese melts.

Rice with mushrooms and beet greens

1 cup rice
2 cups water (you can also use beef, chicken, or veggie stock here)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 container portabella mushrooms, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
Tops of 3-4 beets, chopped (you could also substitute any green here)
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp smoked hot paprika
½ cup veggie stock (or use what you used for the rice)

Boil rice in water or stock. In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil and butter, and add the mushrooms. Cook until they start to turn darker brown and smell heavenly. Then add the greens and garlic, sautéing for a couple minutes, until the greens get soft. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir, cover and turn the heat down to let it cook down a bit more. When everything is all soft and coated in brown, and the rice is done. Add the veggie mixture to the rice and stir. Serve the onion on top of the rice mixture and sprinkle a bit more cheese over the top. That is a plate of awesome!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Be careful what you wish for.

Ravings: You know the saying. It’s so true. My lovely husband has some serious obsessive compulsive tendencies. And it’s a double-edged sword. You know those men people who have grand ideas and never follow through, or start that remodel project and never really finish? There are whole shows on HGTV about them! My husband is the antithesis of that. He cannot stop! No matter what! You think I’m kidding? He has worked on the roof in the dark. He has worked in the basement through dinner and late into the night. On a work night! I have seen him ignore hockey (his one true love in life. I’m a realist. Hockey comes before marriage!) to finish some project that had to be done the minute it entered his mind.

Now, I know what you all are thinking. I wish…. But you don’t really. Trust me. Dinner plans? Doesn’t matter, the painting has to get done. Party invite? I’ll meet you there when I’m done rearranging the basement. I’m serious. He is physically unable to stop himself! Like I said, in some ways it’s awesome. There are no half-finished projects in our house. But it’s also difficult to go to a friend’s house and say that Jason will be there when/if he gets off the roof in time!

Cravings: I’m going to try actually writing out the recipes like a grown up. Let’s see how this goes. A few notes. I never measure anything, so I’m guesstimating after the fact. Sometimes I add stuff as I go and forget to write it down. I’m going to make an effort to report it as true to what we actually ate, but you have to season to your own tastes.

This week I’ve been inspired by Rocco DiSpirito’s book Now Eat This. Jason won it at work in a biggest loser contest and I found it the other day and looked through it for inspiration. This is a take on his modified falafel with a tahini dressing. I served it with pork loin medallions.

For the “falafel:”

2 bunches broccoli
½ can black beans (I was planning to use garbanzos here, but discovered I didn’t have any, so I used the
          leftover can of black beans)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2-3 Tbsp whole wheat flour
Panko bread crumbs

Rough chop the broccoli and put it a blender. (I don’t have a food processor because my kitchen is the size of a walk-in closet, but I really wished I had one here!) Add the beans and blend. I had to add a bit of water to get it blending, but I’m guessing this wouldn’t be the case in a food processor. Pour the mixture into a bowl and add the cumin, salt and pepper. Mix in flour until the mixture is thick enough to form a ball. The original recipe calls for dipping the flattened ball (like a disc) in egg and then the panko, but my dough was really wet so I skipped the egg and just coated it with panko and put the disc on a olive oil coated sheet pan. They cooked for about 20 minutes in the oven at 325. I did flip them once so that the got brown and crispy on both sides.

For the dressing:

½ cup Greek Yogurt
2 Tbsp tahini
1 lemon, juiced
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp fresh parsley
2+ Tbsp olive oil (next time I think I’ll try sesame oil)

I tried making this in a glass jar, but it’s really thick so I think next time I’ll make it in a bowl or maybe I’ll try the blender. Just add all the ingredients and mix. This would also make a great dip!

I served the “falafel” on a bed of arugula, with cherry tomatoes cut in half and chopped avocado. I then put a few dollops of the dressing on each disc. Jason loved the dressing, but only ate ½ of a falafel. CJ ate his and Jason’s. I just never know!

For the pork medallions:

1 pork loin, sliced medium
½ onion, chopped
1 apple chopped
2 Tbsp hot pepper mustard (my sister made this so I don’t have the recipe. I’ll see if I can get it from her.)
1 Tbsp fresh sage (you could use dried, but use less, at least ½)
1 Tbsp fresh thyme (you can also use dried of this, but use less)

This is super easy. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and stir so the pork and onion gets coated with the mustard and herbs. Heat up a large skillet, coat with a bit of olive oil and dump the ingredients in. Cook on medium-high heat until pork is cooked and onions and apples are soft. Jason did not leave leftovers of this and I used an entire pork loin!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Missing Pieces

Ravings: I’ve recently discovered a piece of my heritage that has been a mystery since I was a child. I think it’s interesting that the missing pieces of one’s life are so much more a focus than the constants. When something is hidden from us, it becomes a desired object, but when it’s handed to us we give it little thought. At least that’s how it was for me. I’ve never really thought much about my maternal heritage. I am aware of it and will sometimes use it as a punch line in my often used self-deprecating humor. But I’ve never really identified with it in that internal way in which it defines who I am. But that missing piece has at times, consumed me. Hmmm…..I just realized I could be talking about having a baby here just as easily. There is a lesson in all of this. But I digress.

Here’s the back story. My sister and I have never met our paternal grandfather. My father hasn’t seen him since he was a pretty young child. The story that we all were told is that he was a prisoner of war and when he returned home was easily angered and violent, and that he took off, never to be seen again. At least that’s the childhood recollection. I’m sure my sister’s memory of the story differs slightly. We were kids after all and filled in the gaps and/or misunderstood parts with our own young imaginations. My father has been pretty angry about this “abandonment” for most of his life. My sister and I have always been curious, but have not wanted to upset my dad, so we’ve just gone on wondering for most of our lives. As we got older, we realized that the timelines don’t make sense and the details seem a bit off, but we were still afraid to pursue it. We toyed with the idea of finding out, but always stopped short. My sister even wrote a letter to our grandfather, and received a return letter from his daughter. We chickened out and never responded.

Recently, my father was in the hospital and began musing about finding out his heritage. He was heavily influenced by pain medication, but we ran with it! He still doesn’t want to reunite with his father, but he does want to know where he comes from. My sister got on and stayed up all night researching. She found some really interesting things about both sides of our family. What a cool site! Anyway, she ran into a roadblock and was unable to get any further that our grandfather’s birth in PA. We were told he was born in Spain, so already we knew some new variation of the truth! She then searched Facebook for the descendants that she knew. She remember the daughter’s name and I believe the letter had some other names as well. She found the woman who had sent her the letter so long ago and sent her an email on Facebook. Do you think Mark Zucherberg ever envisioned this kind of use for his little college experiment? After a long wait, she sent a quick email telling us that her grandparents, our great-grandparents were born in Brazil! I see a trip in my future:

She seems open to meeting with us or at least giving us some more information. It’s a strange feeling to know after all this time. But now I want more. I want the whole story. And I think, secretly, my dad wants to know!

Cravings: Since I didn’t get a chance to blog all weekend or yesterday, I have 2 recipes to report today.

The first was Sunday night. Super easy. Jason marinated 2 steaks (I think they were rib steaks, but any cut will work) in soy sauce and Worcester sauce. I made the salad, which was super simple. Earlier in the day, I had roasted two beets. We were going out for the afternoon, but you just need to do it with enough time for it to cool off. Wrap each one in aluminum foil and put it in the oven at 350 for an hour. I then just let them sit there all day on top the stove in the foil until we got home. Then I peeled the skins off and sliced them. I added that to a bowl of lettuce. I used arugula, but you can use whatever lettuce you like. I them sprinkled in some crumbled gorgonzola cheese (you could also use a good crumbled blue cheese), and some rough chopped walnuts. Then add the dressing: 2 Tablespoons good olive oil, 2 Tablespoons vinegar (we used a combination of apple cider and champagne vinegars), 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, juice of one lemon, salt and pepper. I also made a baked sweet potato for CJ, in case anyone is keeping track!

Last night I made Mexican. And I think I made it a little too spicy, so if you are trying this cut down on the chipotle in adobo because that’s what gives it the heat. I made soup with one can of fire roasted tomatoes, the same can filled with vegetable stock, about ½ can (or less if you don’t want it spicy) of chopped chipotle in adobo sauce, and 1 bag of frozen corn. It didn’t look like enough at this point, so I added about a cup of chopped cherry tomatoes and another can of vegetable stock. I served it with my avocado cream, which is just chopped, ripe avocado, greek yogurt, fresh lime juice, fresh chopped parsley (Jason doesn’t like cilantro, but that would work also), and a bit of salt. You could add shredded chicken to the soup also if you wanted a meat meal. I served the soup with a side of homemade nachos. I used organic corn tortillas (don’t remember the brand) spread on cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. They stuck so I need to try spraying the foil first! I then added about ¾ can of black beans, chopped cherry tomatoes, some store bought green salsa, (I wanted tomatillo salsa, but couldn’t find it, so I used this.) a few jarred jalapenos, and a generous amount of shredded white cheddar cheese. Bake it in the oven on 325 for about 10 minutes. Serve with beer!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Can't be silent

Ravings: I have really tried to avoid online debates about politics, but I think I have to go there. Rather than a biased impassioned diatribe, I will just present some facts.

 As you can see, when comparing teachers to social workers base salaries, teacher fare far better. It’s also important to note that the Ohio social worker base salary is based on all types of social workers, including those working in the state system who make more on average than those working for non-profits. I couldn’t find state data on mental health social workers, but nationally they make $37,210; significantly less than the field in general. This difference increases even more when you look at overall compensation, and then becomes a vast divide when you compare number of hours worked. I have long been calling foul on the whole poor teachers cry because as a social worker, I can assure you they don’t have it that bad. We work more hours for less pay and in much worse working conditions!

Cravings: Since it’s been 2 days since I’ve posted and I only have one dinner to share, which includes some left over shredded chicken, I’ve decided to share the original chicken recipe to make up for last night’s dinner of take out sub sandwiches. This is what happens when I come home exhausted and ask Jason to be in charge of dinner! I know he can cook. I saw it once. He made this amazing Valentine’s Day dinner when we were still dating. I even have a picture to prove it!

I have no idea how to re-create this culinary motivation in him!

Back in Oct, I made a roasted chicken for Jason’s birthday. I get these chickens from my boss’s kids who raise chickens for 4-H. They are huge! Like Thanksgiving turkey huge. I think they run between 10-12 lbs, so there has to be an occasion to cook one because it takes a small village to eat the whole thing. We had his family over, so this gave me a good reason to pull one out of the freezer. First I had to clean it, much like you do the Thanksgiving turkey, including pulling the organs out of the animal’s cavity. (I threw them away, before you ask. I’m just not to the point of using the organ meat!) Then I put the chicken into an oven bag, which is sitting in a roasting pan. To that, I added a half a stick of butter, cut into a few pieces, 2 oranges, 2 limes, and 2 lemons, all cut into a few pieces. Then add some salt and pepper and a few sprigs of rosemary, lemon thyme (I have this growing in my garden, but you can use regular thyme), and sage. I then added about ¾ cup of chicken stock and tied up the bag. I cooked it on about 350 for 4-5 hours. (Time is based on size of bird!)It literally fell apart when I tried to take it out of the pan. I can’t recall what I served it with. Sorry. But there was plenty left over, which I picked off the bone and put into a freezer bag.

Tuesday night, I used the leftover chicken by just throwing it in a pot with a jar of BBQ sauce and some sweated onions. I added a bit of water by cleaning out the sauce jar with water and adding it to the chicken, just so it was a little thinner. I let it warm up on low while I prepared everything else. I then cut up some cauliflower, put it in a broiler proof pan (I have some Pampered Chef stoneware I use), and added a handful of sun dried tomatoes, a bit of olive oil, and a tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and put that in the broiler for about 20 minutes. I then rough chopped, taking out the stems, the rest of the kale and warmed some olive oil on the stove. Right before we were ready to eat, I fried the kale in the olive oil until it was crispy. Top with salt when it’s removed from the oil and still warm. I also added in a steam in bag of green beans because I didn’t feel like there was enough food. For desert (which I don’t often make, but have been trying to do more to add fruit into our dinners), I cut up some strawberries, added about a tablespoon each of brown sugar and spiced rum (This isn’t cooked so don’t serve this to children!) and let it sit while we ate dinner. I simply served the strawberries on some vanilla yogurt, but it was delicious!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Oh Captain

Ravings: I don’t have much to rave about since yesterday was a blur of work, sticky children dressed in unrecognizable costumes, and traffic. Oh and I think there was some Captain Morgan and apple cider mixed in there. That might better account for the blur. My stomach is feeling the effects of alcohol and sugar. Did I even eat dinner yesterday? I vaguely recall some chocolate and skittles. \

Cravings: Given the above admission on my dinner fare for the evening, I don’t really have much to report on unless you count the mix of spiced rum and warmed apple cider. Totally yum, by the way!

Shoot me some ideas for foods to cook or things you’d like to see!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bad Day con't....

Ravings: The thing about bad moods, especially when you indulge them, is they are difficult to stop! Mine continued on through Sat, and if I’m being truly honest with myself, probably through most of Sunday also. I think there are still some remnants as I type these words this morning. Allowing that bitterness to creep out creates an emotional gap that allows the other stuff to surface. There are times I can be around children and I am totally fine. I can enjoy the moment and my aunt joy runs pure, but there are other times, like Saturday, when the grief comes bubbling up and overtakes my entire being. It feels like being punched in the throat, or what I imagine being punched in the throat feels like because I’ve never actually been punched in the throat. Thank God!

Came across this today and just wanted to say that I am so happy I’m not a boy!!! Man Gets Stuck in Baby Swing Overnight. Girls would just not do this!

Cravings: So, turns out there is a For Dummies book about Food Styling and Photography! There really is a For Dummies book about everything!

With the dark cloud following me around this weekend, I didn’t end up doing a lot of cooking. I did put something in the crock pot yesterday, but I ended up going on to dinner with my girlfriends so I have no idea how it tasted. It was similar to the one from the end of last week. Added one chopped onion, 3 chopped yellow beets, 2 chopped carrots, several leaves of chopped kale, small handful of chopped dried apricots, ½ cup of lentils (I had to use the French ones again because it’s what I had.), ½ cup of wild rice, about a teaspoon or so each of turmeric, cinnamon, allspice, basil, thyme, and ground chipotle pepper. Covered with water and left it on high for the day. I’m not sure what time they ate it because I wasn’t home.