Busy Nights Real Food
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
  Whoa, Deja Vu
So I had the day off, so I got to do the gas price run. Found it the same price everywhere, but decided to get my whopping 3 cents off by showing my grocery receipt. So I head to the grocery store. On my list, only one thing...snow peas. So in I go. After about 20 minutes and running into a woman who shops at the store I work at, I go to check out. What do I buy? A DVD, a pound of ground turkey, a Luna bar, a box of cheese crackers (like cheeze-its but organic brand), a Diet Coke and my snow peas. $20 later I finally got out of that store. Someday I am going to go to a grocery store and really just buy what is on my list.

So tonight I made Chinese-style roasted pork from the Sept issue of Cooking Light. And wow, I am having a major case of deja vu. It tastes remarkably like the Pacific Rim Pork Sandwiches, also from Cooking Light. Actually the only difference between the 2 recipes is like 2 or 3 ingredients. Both are wonderful, and I have the same complaint about both of them...Where's the sauce? At times I think maybe I should have named this blog "All things Saucy". I love sauces of all sorts, but since I can't make a respectable sauce it probably would have been a misnomer. Anyways, if I ever have the foresight to make extra sauce that isn't all yucked up by the raw meat. Ahhh, maybe someday.

I also wanted to send my thoughts and prayers to those who have been affected by the Hurricane on the Gulf Coast. And though I know she will never see this blog (since she doesn't have a computer) I want to send my love to my Great Aunt Corrie in MS. I hope you are okay and that I can get ahold of you soon.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
  It's gettin' hot in here...
...but I will be keeping my clothes on since this is a blog about food, and I think I'm supposed to charge you to view the other kind.

Well I have told you all that I am trying to overcome my kitchen fears so I thought I would show you the apron I bought on my trip to DC to keep me motivated. This is my first real apron and I love it. This is one of my favorite vintage type posters so what better place to display it than on me while I am cooking.

So as one of my many adventures I am working towards, I am going to roast peppers. These are the peppers. I got 10 of them for only 1.30. Pretty good. They are from Hatch, NM and I can't wait to fire up the grill and cook them up. I believe they are Anaheims. The samples they had were great (mixed with Mexican cheese, so really there was no way I wasn't going to end up liking them) and these will hopefully be worth the bit of work that they will take to make.

This week has been pretty busy so nothing exciting to report so far, but tomorrow should be good. I am making a chinese pork from the Sept issue of Cooking Light. Should be good, now if I could just figure out how to make an acceptable fried rice, I might be able to quench the never ending craving I have for it. Damn you PF Changs for adding addictive drugs to your fried rice.

Thursday, August 25, 2005
  2 new recipes
Well today was definitely a better day (at least up to this point). I got up early this morning to get some cooking done since I work till 10:30pm both today and tomorrow. I started with Melt-In-Your-Mouth Sausages that were mentioned on Sweetnicks blog earlier in the week. They smell wonderful cooking away in my crock pot. I might saute them briefly next time so they don't get that creepy white look from simmering. I am going to boil up a little pasta to take with me too and dinner is served.

I also made Sports Bars with Dried Fruit and Peanut Butter from Epicurious. I used some dried bananas, raisins and "Tropical Trio" (pineapple and 2 other tropical fruits of some sort, don't remember). I searched for what seemed like 30 minutes (knowing me it was probably about 5) before deciding that I had apparently been robbed and all that was taken were single socks and my 9x9" pan. So I improvised with my loaf pan. Here arises one of my greatest weaknesses. Must read everything before making a recipe (especially any reviews that might be offered). Not until after the bars were in the oven did I find the reviews saying to make sure to press the cereal mixture firmly into the pan or they fall apart. So when all is said and done, they are the best sports chunks I have ever tasted. I will make these again and work on hunting down that dang sock/pan thief and pack in that cereal like I have never packed before.

Well that is all for the next few days so I guess I will wish you all a wonderful weekend. And if you happen to know the thief who took my pan, give them the heads up that my vicious attack dog here will not put up with it again. Doesn't she look vicious?
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
  Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Have you ever had one of those days? You know the ones where you wake up with such high hopes and then everything just goes downhill? Well I had one of those days.

Long story short, I hate basements, I hate flooding, I hate the people who want to charge you an arm and a leg to fix stuff that isn’t broken and I now hate my grocery store.

We decided we would try the Spicy Fish Tacos with Chipotle Sauce. So I head to the store to pick up the ingredients. Well, of course they were our of pretty much all the white fish you could think of that would be mild enough. So I went with tilapia (they actually had 1 package of individually frozen cod filets that had been cut open, so I though I might pass on that). They didn’t have ancho chili powder, so I used regular.

We made the fish and sauce and got ready to eat. It looked pretty good, see…

Well all was great till about ½ way through the taco. We realized that something didn’t taste quite right. Here is our final evaluation…
*Less lime on the fish and sauce: It kind of killed the spicy for us (and we like things spicy)
*Different fish: The tilapia was not the right texture. I also think I did not get fresh enough fish b/c it tasted REALLY fishy at times. Hopefully we don’t die in our sleep.
*My fiancé would like me to play with the sauce ingredients next time I try this, though he wasn’t sure what we should do.

So this recipe will stay in the queue and I will try some little changes (#1 being where I buy my fish). Oh well, I am going to go eat some ice cream and pretend that this day was all a dream, that is until I wake up tomorrow and spend more time on the phone trying to get my basement to stop flooding. Well, planning to make the Sports Bars from Epicurious and Melt-in-your-mouth sausages tomorrow morning (obviously to eat later in the day). Hopefully a better day awaits.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
  The East Coast Tour Part 2
So after 2.5 days and about 5000 miles walked, we left the monuments of DC and headed North. We were going to see my fiance's grandma, aunt, uncle and cousins. They live in a pretty small town about 30 minutes from Penn State, and tucked away in the mountains (I only took about a dozen pics of the mountains, they are really cool when you live here in Kansas where a mountain is a pretty foreign concept, we've got hills here). Anywho, we ate out some more at your typical small town restaurant which are good, but not necessarily memorable.

That is with one exeption. If you find yourself in Lewistown, PA and happen to see Laskaris Restaurant, give it a try. They have been around since 1921 so they must be doing something right. It is a flat out cheap meal. And surprisingly good. My fiance has been going there for years (as has his 85 year old grandma).

So this loaded up hot dog is their specialty. And get this it is only 99 cnets. It has some meaty mixture (as if the hot dog isn't enough meat), mustard, onions and relish. It wasn't so big that you felt overly full. I ordered fries with gravy and was greatly distressed when they came out with brown liquid covering them, until I remembered I wasn't in the south, but in "yankee" country and they think this is the gravy that belongs on fries (I am sorry those of you in PA, but you are sadly mistaken). Any who we had a great bowl of rice pudding for desert with cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top. Really was a great place and really good if you don't mind a place that has their menu on the wall, and more smoking tables than non.

So over all it was a great trip and I am still recovering today. And I have only one take home message for you all...

To all the ladies of DC wearing business attire with panty hose, slouchy socks and walking shoes, 1985 called and doesn't want its bad fashion trend back, but really thinks you should rethink that look, it is not good at all.
  The East Coast Tour Part 1
We just got back from our whirlwind tour of DC and rural Pennslyvania. Though we ate out every meal of our trip, I only had 2 restaurants that I felt were worthy of reviewing. But 1st, here is a pic of me bein' smart. This is for my presentation at the confrence.

Ok, so we ate at a few places at Union Station that were less than note-worthy. We also ate at the Dubliner on Capitor Hill. It was an Irish pub at our hotel and it was pretty good. Just basic Irish fare.
But this little place called Legal seafood was by far the best place we ate all trip. We started with an appetizer of steamed mussels that were good, but not great. Then we both got the Crab cake platter. It had scallops, shripm and a Maryland lump crab cake.

The crab cake was delish with just enough fillerto make it stay together and a great fresh crab taste. The shrimp had a good flavor, but was slightly overcooked, but the star of the show were the scallops. They were cooked to perfection! Though this place is a chain, I think it was fabulous.

These deserts were also great. The 1st were Ice Cream Bon Bons, soooooo good. The second was Boston Cream Pie (with extra cream as you can proably see).

Overall, a great dining experience. If I was in a town with a Legal, I would defintly eat there again. More to come on our trip to PA.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
  I'm leavin' on a jet plane
But I will be back. I am going to a confrence in DC and then on up to Pennsylvania to visit my fiance's family. We are excited for the short vacation and can't wait to get some time away from the daily grind. I will be back Tuesday (with some good restaraunt reviews, I hope). Next week I should have some time to actually cook, so we may have to whip up some new recipes.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
  Frozen tomato pops...not as tasty as you'd think.
Ok, just for the record I did not make some weirdo church cookbook recipe for tomato popsicles. Since I am leaving town early Thursday morning, this week is all easy foods that leave no leftovers. So last night I had to go to my all time favorite, the mac and cheese (powdered cheese and all).

The "processed" guilt kicked in this morning so I had to make something a little more real tonight. So BLT's were on the menu. We cook the bacon, clean the lettuce, cut up the avocado (so I guess it was a BLTA). My fiance starts to cut the tomato and comments how hard it is. I think nothing of it till he gives me a taste and it was awful. It literally tasted as though it had been frozen and was in the process of defrosting. Since I knew I hadn't frozen it, and nothing else in the fridge was frozen, pretty sure it was just a bad tomato.

So our BLT's became bacon and lettuce sandwiches. I added avocado and Major Grey's Mango Chutney to mine. So dinner was great, but those frozen tomato summer treats on my to-try list are getting the boot.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
  Noah, is that you?
Well, here in the Midwest we have been getting a little bit of rain the last few days. Thought I would give you a peak at what I see out my front door anytime we get some heavy rain.

The back yard

The water kind of fans out here and covers the entire street in front of my house (including the bottom of my driveway)

This is after it has receeded quite a bit. At its highest point it is about 4+ feet wide. Just to clarify, there is no creek, river or other body of water there when its not raining.

So Noah, if you have a spare corner, can I hop on your cruiser?

Friday, August 12, 2005
  Chicken Enchiladas (Punky style)
So one reason I wanted to roast a chicken is so I could use the leftovers for chicken enchiladas. But of course a three pound chicken doesn't leave as many leftovers as one might think. So I had to cook a couple chicken breasts tonight so I could make my enchiladas. This is another recipe that I figured out to replace some processed food. The is my version of SmartOnes(tm) Chicken Enchilada Suiza. I have to tell you there are not a lot of recipes for suiza out there (which is a white cheese sauce basically). Once again I combined several recipes and came up with this. I will post the recipe that I came up when I made it the 1st time, made a few changes this time, but nothing too significant. I am well aware that it is not at all light, but my selection of tolerable lowfat cheeses is sorry.

Chicken Enchilada Suiza
1 whole Chicken -- Rotisserie (mine was about 2 lbs)
1/2 cup frozen corn -- thawed
1/2 cup frozen spinach -- thawed and squeezed dry
3/4 pound monterey jack cheese -- shredded
4 ounces green chiles -- diced (the can of them); divided

Suiza sauce
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 pound pepper jack cheese -- shredded
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon garlic salt
14 corn tortillas -- 6" size

1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2.Remove chicken from bones. Remove skin and shred.
3.In a bowl, combine chicken, corn, spinach 1/2 of the can of green chilis (2 oz), and 1/2 pound of montery jack cheese
4.In a sauce pan, melt butter at medium heat. Add flour and let cook for 1-2 minutes (to cook out raw flour taste). Slowly stir in milk (the sauce will be somewhat thin. If it slows in thickening too much, stop adding the milk). Stir in chicken stock, spices, and remaining chilis. Reduce heat to low and stir in pepper jack cheese until completely melted.
5.Add 1/4 c to 1/2 c of the cheese sauce to the chicken mixture (until just moistened).
6.Heat tortillas according to package directions
7.Spread a little cheese sauce on botton of 9x13 baking dish.
8.Begin rolling enchiladas with chicken mixture and laying in pan seam side down. Pour cheese sauce over enchiladas and sprinkle with remaining montery jack cheese.
9.Cover pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes (this last 5 minutes is optional, it browns the tortillas and dries everything a little bit).

Thursday, August 11, 2005
  It tastes like chicken
So I did it and I would have posted sooner, but I really didn't have the energy. This whole roasting thing wore me out. But the chicken turned out great and I am still alive. So here are a few pictures to show you my journey.

Here's our girl. I realize it is a bit of a candid photo, but I checked her ID and she is definetly legal. 1st lesson I learned? There are a lot of gross looking parts of a raw chicken (like the fat glob that used to be her tush)

Good God it's got feathers. I seriously almost turned back at this point. I called my best friend to get support and then tried to pretend they weren't there. You think for such an important occasion she could have plucked or something.

So she's tied and all seasoned up. I combined about 3 recipes that some kind souls offered up. She is stuffed with lemons, garlic, and fresh rosemary sprigs. Under her skin is a little bit of butter and some Herbs de Provence. As her skin cover-up we threw on some olive oil, salt and pepper. Does anyone get the sense by looking at this picture that she could have been the henmate of the month?

Well, here she is, all cooked up. By the time we got her cooked I had filled up on beer and leftover bakery bread, but by God I was going to eat some of this bird if it killed me. She was super juicy, I would have liked it a little drier. The taste was great and the dark meat (which I normally avoid) was to die for.

All in all, I may never make it again, but at least I know how to do it now. The rest of the meal was great. We had B.O.B.'s Mashed Potatoes; CL's Sour Cream, Cheddar and Green Onion Drop Bisuits; steamed broccoli. And for dessert Chunky PB Cookies and Mint Chocolate Wafer Cookies. Yummy.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005
  We got porked
We had Cooking Light's Five Spice Pork Lo Mein tonight and it was really tasty. Next time we will make more sauce and use thinner noodles. Since we had to make up for our butter with a little shrimp last night I felt like the 2 Tbsps of oil were a bit much so I decreased it to 2 tsps and it was great. I also don't know who actually has toasted peanut oil (though I found out one of my coworkers does). So it was really good. Will be a repeater.

Well tomorrow is D-Day (or rather C-Day). I have the chicken and some cocktails to get me through it (or rather some cheap mass marketed light beer, but what else do you expect from a lover of Kraft mac and cheese?). Anyways, check in tomorrow for the play by play of my chicken adventure.
Monday, August 08, 2005
  7 minutes to full
Well tonight was menu planning and grocery night. We went to the new grocery store down the street. It is huge, super clean, great deals (we saved almost $13). They put a tortillaria in that makes fresh tortillas everyday. I am excited to try the corn tortillas (36 of them for only $1.39).

Anyways, by the time we got home we were starving and decided to make the Garlic Shrimp with Chili. This was really easy and fast. Next time I will add more garlic, more red pepper flakes, and maybe some cayenne (a combo of this recipe and Dirty Shrimp in Butter-Beer Sauce). My fiance insists that we use more butter next time so he gets more sauce to sop up with his bread. I say, you can't go too wrong with more butter (my butt disagrees). Just served with a simple salad. Nothing too gourmet, but still tasty and was on the table in less than 10 minutes (always a bonus when someone else peels the fresh shrimp for you).

Tomorrow will be some pork lo mein (a light recipe to make up for the 1/2 stick of butter that we each had on our shrimp tonight, oops). And the countdown starts for the chicken. 2 days to roasting. Bought the bird tonight and am just trying to finalize the recipe (and figure out what the hell trussing is). Oh well, pics of the bird will be a plenty. Hey did you know that the twine for tying together chicken legs is sold by the lightbulbs? After going up and down every aisle at the new grocery store I learned this important fact (of course I had to call my mom in Chicago to find out if this was the kind I was supposed to use). 1st challenge down, can only imagine how many more I will have.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
  A new week, maybe some new adventures
Well, since I ate leftovers for 2 days and worked a lot, I didn't have too much to say so why waste the internet space you know? Anyways, I went out to dinner at my favorite restaurant last night only to be slightly disappointed. This restaurant (La Bodega) serves tapas and some of the best sangria I have ever had. We hadn't been in a while because we have been pinching pennies ever since the engagement. Anyways, I think they have a new chef and some of our favorites tasted different, not bad, just different. I managed to force down my half of all our courses, and a dessert of wonderful flan and waddle out the door.

So I am trying to get my menu together for the week. I have to make one thing off my list of scary foods so I think this week will be Roasted Chicken. We will hope for the best on this one. I think I will also make Five Spice Pork Lo Mein from Cooking Light. Only other recipe I have thought of this week is Garlic Shrimp with Chili that Sweetnicks shared this past week. I may let the B.O.B, my fiance, pick the other 2 or 3 meals. Wish me luck with the chicken. I will be sure to document the enitre process for you all to enjoy. Have a great week.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
  I think I can, I think I can, I think I can
Well this week so far has been pretty good for me. I have made 2 different dishes without having to follow 1 specific recipe. I am finally starting to become more comfortable with cooking and can guess how flavors will go together. Don't get me wrong, I have a really long way to go, but it is at least the 1st step right? So it got me thinking, where to go from here. There are a few things that I am terrified to make (even though they are very basic recipes). So that is where I will head next. I am going to conquer my fears.

So stand back cooking world and exprienced cooks, I am on a war path. I am whisking and taking names. So next week, one of these will be made and stay tuned for whatever trauma I may face (I am sure there will have to be at least 1).
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
  Holy cow I made 2 recipes from scratch...
and didn't use a single recipe. Wanted to make a tomato sauce for some pasta the other night with my fresh tomatoes and basil. By george, it tasted almost as good as the Ragu I usually use. It was simple and smelled great. It looked a bit like salsa, but I am working on it still (sorry no pic of this, ate it too fast)

Tomato sauce
(made about 2 servings)
1/4 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp olive oil
2 medium to large tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 C chicken stock
fresh basil leaves finely chopped (I just threw these in, didn't really pay attention to amounts)

Heat oil in skillet over med heat. Add onion and garlic and saute till tender. Stir in tomatoes, salt, pepper and oregano. Cook until tomatoes soften. Pour tomato mixture and basil in food processor and blend to desired consistency. Return to skillet and keep warm. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Then tonight was Spicy Ranch Chicken Wraps which is a Cooking Light recipe that we love. I ususally just buy the Lipton Rice Sides (see previous posts), but thought I would attempt my own stab at Spanish Rice. It turned out great. Thanks to all the tips I got from those of you at the Cooking Light Bulletin Boards. So it was great and I have tons and tons of it left. Pardon the fancy container, but here is a pic of it. And of course the recipe.

Spanish Rice
(this made about 6-8 good sized servings)
1/2 onion chopped finely
1/2 red bell pepper finely chopped
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 C white rice (not instant)
1 can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and crushed into measuring cup
3 C chicken stock
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic salt

Heat oil in deep skillet over med heat. Add onion and red bell pepper. Saute until just softened. Add rice and toast till just turning golden (a couple of minutes). Be careful not to burn the rice. In liquid measuring cup, crush tomatoes and add chicken broth to total 4 cups. Stir into rice and add seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with fork.

Both of my recipes had a great flavor and were a smashing hit. Can't wait for the leftovers of this rice on Thursday with steak burritos.

Monday, August 01, 2005
  Blah, blah, blah

The bare fridge is just a symbol of the blah type day I am having. Nothing there to get excited about. I made Creme-filled chocolate cookies last night and would have taken a pic to post here, but alas, there weren't any left to take pictures of. They were pretty tasty in my opinion, but I am not a real strong baker so I will have to practice them a few more times.

Hopefully I will get some good recipes in this week, but we will have to go to the store before that is an option. I am working on the editing of my master's thesis today in order to shorten it for a professional confrence presentation. You know what goes good with these types of tedious tasks, Nacho Cheese Doritos, but since I am not eating those anymore I guess my carrot sticks will have to do. Well "blah" has infected this blog and I am off to find the perfect cure in my to-try recipe list.


Just a mom, sharing our life on this little blog.

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