Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Promised

So, here it is. What I decided to do with the leftover turkey was make a potpie. This potpie was a little different from the way I normally make it. Usually, I use biscuits, crescent rolls, or puff pastry on top as well as frozen veggies. I decided I didn't want that. I wanted something that said that this are some tasty Thanksgiving leftovers. What to do, what to do, what to do?

Here's my basic recipe:

2-3 cups of diced/chopped/shredded chicken or turkey

2 cans cream of (chicken, mushroom, celery, whichever one you like)

1 pkg. frozen mixed veggies (again, I'm not pick about which one I'm getting)

1 potato diced into half inch pieces (parcook the potato, I learned that the hard way)

1 half med. onion diced similarly to the potato

1 can chicken broth (using the cream of soup can), milk or white wine

salt, pepper and whatever spices you like (sage, thyme and dill are my faves)

1 can of biscuits, crescent rolls or one sheet of puff pastry

Mix first seven ingredients together in a stockpot on medium. Bring to a boil (I'm using the term loosely here). You want everything in the pot to get to know each other. Takes about fifteen minutes or long enough to finish cooking the potato. Once done, spread everything in a 9x13" baking dish and top with crust of your choice. You'll bake until biscuits etc. are golden, brown and delicious.

I happened to top my last pot pie with prepared stuffing. It was so good. There are lots of things you can do with that leftover turkey. This is one of my faves. Share yours. You can never have too many turkey recipes.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What to Do With the Leftovers

I guess it really depends on what you have leftover. Also, you should take into consideration whether or not you really like what's been left for the bottom feeders. No offense meant to any bottom feeders reading this post. Let's say you had a 20 pound ham and you've got fifteen pounds of it left. What are you going to do? I mean really, how many ham sandwiches can you eat without putting your blood pressure at risk or your sweet swelling to Fred Flinstone proportions?

Cooked ham freezes really well. I'd cube some to make a nice potato and cheddar soup. Diced ham is a great addition to macaroni and cheese. Turns a wonderful side dish into a hearty one pan meal. If you have a sturdy KitchenAid mixer with the grinder attachment, send some ham through for a fine textured ham salad.

I chose option two for my ham leftovers. I added some diced ham to this mac&cheese recipe from I needed to add a little milk to it as it was really stiff after the addition of the ham. I also topped mine with buttered breadcrumbs and bacon bits. It got rave reviews and every bit of it was gone in two days.

Tell me what you do with your holiday leftovers. Stay tuned and I'll tell you what I'm going to do with the rest of the turkey.

Monday, November 24, 2008


I'll try not to be as flip as I normally am. In these economic times, one thing that this home cook/baker is thankful for is a kitchen to cook in and food to prepare. So many will barely have those things. I am thankful that my loved ones are in good health and that we will spend time around the table and a shared meal. Take a moment this week to look at your life and see what you are thankful for.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Addictions: Crate & Barrel

Are there stores that you purposely avoid? Do you resist the magnetic pull of the window display only to be hooked on the siren song of the cash register ringing sale, sale, sale? Well, I was at Montgomery Mall on Sunday. I went for a meeting and should have left after it, but I'd never been in this place before. I was curious.

I walk cautiously out of Nordstrom. Not knowing what to expect. There's no Lane Bryant or Avenue so I feel reasonably safe. You can tell when the holidays are approaching when the See's candy booths start arriving. I bought a few butterscotch lollipops. Okay, 2 bucks. I'm fine. Then I see it.

That's right, Crate and Barrel. I start talking to myself. I should just turn around and high tail it out of the mall. Wait, it can't hurt to look. I could do a post on what's available for the holidays. I step closer. They have a great lighting system. It's sort of like a spotlight in certain area, dimmer in others. I am in and I get a buzz. That should have been my warning to leave. I ignore it. I can handle this. It's just a store. There's no gun to my head. I'm filled with shame as I practically start sallivating at the sight of all the shiny rows and bins filled with cookie cutters so tiny and cute as well as gadgets of all kinds. I do a circuit avoiding the things I know for certain I cannot afford. I'm almost out the door when I see them. Glasses for 95 cents each. I am almost out the front door when they start calling me. Damn, I could feel the hook dragging me back into its recesses. It felt like an out of body experience as I heard myself ask for a potato ricer (needed one, was on sale) and the glasses. With my purchases promptly paid for, I beat a hasty retreat from the mall. I didn't want to repeat that same madness in another store.

Have you ever had an out of body shopping experience? Are there stores that you absolutely love that cause you to lose all control? BTW, my little trip only cost $28 and the items will be used regularly. Tell me about your additions. You know what they say, "Confession is good for the soul".

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Free Event

Tomorrow evening from 6-8 PM, many Whole Foods in the area will be setting up tasting stations in their stores. People will be able to sample their Thanksgiving menu. The offerings include free range turkey and pumpking pie.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Favorite Days

My favorite day of the year happens to be my birthday. What's not to love? Generally, there's cake and a meal at somewhere I love. This year, we celebrated early and out of town. Had dinner at a nice Japanese steakhouse in Richmond. And birthday cake with family in my hometown.

Halloween is also a big day for me. I love seeing little kids (some adults) dressed in their costumes parading around for everyone to see. Okay, the real reason I like it is because there's a lot more candy available at a great price esp. Nov. 1st. There's a sense of nostalgia around the day as well. I'm able to find childhood treats that stores don't regularly sell. And if they do sell them, they make them difficult to find. I love Peanut Butter Kisses, Mary Janes and Chick-O-Sticks. This is funny b/c I hate Butter Fingers. I really don't like those or Baby Ruths. Then there's the Kraft Caramels. You can find them all year round, but you'll pay a premium. Then there's my favorite, candy corn. You either love it or hate it. I LOVE IT!!

What are you putting out for the little ghouls this Halloween? I'm making little bags of candy filled with the bounty I bought yesterday at CVS: Twizzlers, Starburst, Hershey bars, Milky Ways, Reese's cups, etc. What are your favorite candies? And your favorite days?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Did A Bad Thing

I had McDonald's for lunch. MJ calls it the Evil Clown. He's right. There's no nutritional value in one of those value meals. Yes, I had a #1, no lettuce, extra sauce, please w/a Dr. Pepper. I have no idea what I was thinking. But how was I going to follow up yesterday's feast at Aroma? Or the steak dinner I'd prepared. Okay, so maybe I do have an idea. I was caught up in the Monopoly hype. DAMN THEM!!! I fell into the online trap, too. It was fun.

Okay, I can see you're not buying it. Yes, I went to McDonald's because I wanted to. Are you happy now? I mean maybe it's that catchy little song. You know the one. Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. First, who are they fooling? That can't possibly be real beef. Maybe they use real beef flavoring., but I'm not sure if it's real meat. I don't want to know what's in the special sauce. And if you know, please don't tell me. I'm no fan of the lettuce. Shredded lettuce is for tacos. It doesn't belong on a hamburger. I know what you're thinking. If there's all of that wrong with it, why does she eat it? It must be nostalgia.

We'll just leave that there for a second. What's an oldie, but not so goodie for you these days? Could it be a Frosty from Wendy's? What food would you like to see come back? Maybe Burger Chef or Shakey's Pizza? Let me know and we'll talk about it.

It's Official!

I now work as a blogger for the I am the Dining Examiner. What that means is I get to check out restaurants and other food/dining related businesses. I've reviewed three places and reported on a fire closing another. This is really exciting. So far, I've had some really good meals. I am sure there will be some disappointments along the way.

In addition to food, I am going to do a mini-series called The Art of Dining. It will focus on both sides of the restaurant experience. I'll talk to seasoned diners as well as current and former waitstaff about what separates the good from the bad. If you have any ideas you'd like to share, please feel free to leave a comment or email me.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Okay, So It's Been Living Up to Its Name

I really have been slacking around here. Trust me it wasn't intentional. We've been doing some pantry eating as well as checking out some spots for my new job. Once I get on a schedule, I'll be back in my kitchen in no time. Of course, I'll be in there in a few weeks preparing meals for a couple of friends who are expecting their first child. When little Neil comes into the world, his mom and dad will have their hands full. My gift to them will be food that they can put into the oven and heat. There will be no chopping, peeling, boiling, steaming, etc. It's also a fun gift for me to give. I'll work with them to find out what some of their favorite things are. I'll also prep some cookie dough for them. They'll have goodies in no time for family and friends who pop over to see the little one.

Have you ever given a gift of food? Or received a gift of food? If so, what are some of your favorites? I'm looking for ideas beyond lasagna and other pasta casseroles. Any suggestions would be greatly appreicated.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

It's a Dinner Emergency

Of course, it was another clueless night for dinner. What do we have that wouldn't take more than 15 minutes? Well, we were going to split two chicken wings and have some ramen noodles. Then I remembered how ramen bowls worked. I had a beef tenderloin that I'd left at my MIL's last month. Don't worry, it was in the freezer. I cooked three packs of ramen, added one seasoning pack, a couple of tbsps. of soy sauce and sesame oil, added some thinly sliced beef, and topped with dried chives. The hot broth cooked the thin sliced beef in no time. It was one of the most satisfying meals we had in a while.

Have you ever doctored your ramen? What do you add? What would you add? I can't wait to add this to my planned meal repertoire. BTW, I got that tenderloin on sale. Gotta love the clearance bin.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fried Dough

It's that time of year. Places are having fairs and festivals everywhere. And the sell that wonderful creation called a funnel cake. I was at a festival over the weekend. The had the usual suspects hot dogs, cold drinks, cotton candy and yes, the funnel cake. I don't know what it is about the treat that just starts my mouth watering. Honestly, it is just pancake dough friend in 350 or so degree oil until golden, brown and delicious. It's such a simple treat, but I only want it at a carnival or some sort of outdoor event. And wouldn't you know, I didn't get a single taste of a funnel cake all day. MJ frowns upon that kind of thing and wouldn't get me one. What's really sad about that is they were free.

Are you a funnel cake fan? Or are doughnuts more your style? Perhaps a beignet pleases your palate? Maybe a bag full of zeppolis are more to your liking. How do you like your dough fried? And do you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share?

I'm a Cheater. Are you a Cheater?

Okay, I know what you're thinking. That's a horrible thing to do to MJ. It's not that kind of cheating. Think shortcuts. I'm a busy woman on the go, but I love a hot meal at the end of the day w/my fam. We relax over food and our guilty pleasure, reruns of Two and a Half Men. Well, Wed. night I was fresh out of ideas and energy. Lucky for me, bloggers abound. I saw a recipe for a garlic-sage brown butter sauce. I already knew that the frozen ravioli in the freezer would be the base. The recipes for the sauce called for fresh. I had dried. So, I cheated. I took a shortcut. Guess what, it was great! MJ enjoyed and that made it alright in my book.

So, are you a cheater? What are the shortcut ingredients you use? Do you use frozen pasta meals? What brands? Let me know. I'm always on the lookout for something new.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Momma's Gonna Have a Brand New Gig

*hummed to the tune of Papa's Got a Brand New Bag*

Seriously, I have a new part time gig. I will be a blogger for the I'll be writing about DC's dining scene. More specifically, I will focus on out of the way places, hidden gems, ethnic food and various food stores. I won't just talk about food I've eaten. I'll also provide party ideas and quick meal tips. I just need to send in my photo, a short bio and the form for a background check. That should be no problem.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Crispity, Crunchitty...

I bet you thought I was going to say Chocolatey as in the Cocoa Puffs ad. Sorry to disappoint you, but this post is about pizza. We'll talk about Sonny later. I like pizza. There was a time when I loved pizza and couldn't get enough of it. I didn't discriminate either. As I entered my 20s, I became a little more discerning (not to the point of snobbery). I just happened to attain a certain awareness of what constituted a good slice for me. While I used to love the buttery (I know greasy) richness of Pizza Hut's pan pizza, it took away from the sauce which had a good tomato flavor and wasn't too sweet. Domino's had a great crust for their hand tossed pizzas. Their toppings were fresh. The sauce was just so-so. Back in the day in Richmond, we loved the 2 fer deals at Little Caesars. Yeah, I said it. LC had great toppings. If we could have melded the three chains together, we'd have had perfect pizza.

Fifteen years later, my tastes have changed considerably. I don't want a dough so thick that I should have ordered a pretzel. And that's what you get at a lot of places. I think good pizza is about balance. The crust shouldn't be so thick that I need an extra set of dentures to chew threw it nor so thin that is drowns beneath the sauce. My preference is a cracker thin crust that shatters upon that first bite with a spicy, garlicky tomato sauce and a thin layer of cheese. Other toppings are fine, but those three elements are are the benchmark of a good pizza. So far Papa John's has the crust down. They just need to tweak the sauce a little.

What's your pizza prefrence? Have your tastes changed over the years? Or are you surprise of suprises one of those people who doesn't care for pizza at all? Inquiring minds want to know.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

No Dinner Makes AJ An Unhappy Girl!

Yes, it's true. Tonight, there will be no dinner for me. I have a meeting to go to that will destroy any hope of enjoying the gastronomic delights that TY and I might prepare for dinner. Those Asian inspired wings would have been good alongside some green beans sauteed in garlic butter. I can smell it now. No, my pleasures will be put on hold until tomorrow. In the meantime, what is a girl to do? I mean I can't willfully skip a meal. That would make me cranky. That's not a good idea as I am hot enough as it is over this meeting. Should I head over to 7-11 where the hot dogs and other items look like they've been petrifying since 1976? Should I much on saltines and swig Pepsi like I was waiting on the dock for a fish to bite? I think my best plan of action is to eat one of the frozen dinners that's in the freezer at work. That won't make less angry, but it will somewhat fill my tummy. And that's what it's all about.

Does lack of nourishment affect your mood? How? Share, we'll compare notes.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Long Time Coming

A few months ago, I tried a project from Bakerella's website. It was red velvet cake balls. Well, they looked so cute. How could I resist? Every place I looked, people were raving about them. Well, I have pictures of my foray into the world of cake balls. At the top is the before photo, one naked cake ball. At the bottom, is one fudgy cakeball enrobed in white chocolate. Visit Bakerella's site and try it for yourself.

Pay It Forward

I'll be sending a package to Greg, Lan, and Rene. I will be making up my packages this weekend as I have some shopping to do. I hope to do this again so keep checking in. In the meantime, perform your own random act of kindness. You never know who you might bring a smile to.

Prior Planning Prevents Poor Projects

I am not much of a planner. I freely admit that. I am a 'fly by the seat of my pants' kind of girl. I can't help. Something in my DNA prevents me from sticking to the rules. On the other hand, I hate wasting food. And that has happened more times than I'd like to count. In our current economic state I can't afford to throw out meat or vegetables that have gone bad. Okay, I also think it is morally wrong to waste food when there are so many out there starving or barely getting by on fast food and other junk. What does this have to do with planning? I'm getting to that.

TY and I went to Safeway on Sunday where I spent way more than I should have. This led me to think that I really needed to make a menu for the week. We had lots of fruits and veggies that we needed to use. More often than I'd like to admit, they usually rot. So, we came up with the following menu is no particular order.

Beefy Nacho Casserole-slow cooked beef, cheese, tortilla chips (leftover beef for tacos or sandwiches)

Cheese Tortellini w/Italian sausage sauce & steamed veggies

NY Strip Steak w/Mashed Potatoes & Cauliflower Bake

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Asian Style Chicken Wings w/Sauteed Green Beans

I know you usually make a menu then you go to the grocery store. I like this way better. I got to see what they had that looked good or was on sale (steaks were 50% off in the clearance bin). I'm glad we did the menu. We've got a variety. There is something for every taste and we'll have leftovers at least once this week.

Are you a planner? Or do you wait for the last minute? Will you make something special or do you not care as long as it's edible? Take a look at what you have and think about making a menu. You don't have to strictly stick to it. Look at is a preparedness plan. Let me know what you're doing. I may be able to incorporate a thing or two into my life.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tag-I'm It! Thanks A Lot, Greg!!!

The rule is to answer the questions with the FIRST word or phrase that comes to mind.

1. Cell phone? Whose
2. Your significant other? Yes
3. Your hair? Brown
4. Your mother? Loved
6. Your favorite thing? Sugar (haven't you been reading)
7. Your dream last night? Technicolor
8. Your favorite drink? Macallan
9. Your dream/goal? Comedian
10. The room your in? Office
11. Your hobby? Cooking
12. Your fear? Being buried alive
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? North Carolina
14. What you're not? Patient
15. Muffins? Hot
16. One of your wish list items? Debt-free
17. Where you grew up? VA
18. The last thing you did? Blog Post
19. What are you wearing? Clothes
20. Favorite gadget? Hyundai
21. Your pets? None
22. Your computer? No
23. Your mood? Restless
24. Missing someone? Parents
25. Your car? Sonata
26. Something you're not wearing? Perfume
27. Favorite store? Whole Foods
28. Like someone? Maybe
29. Your favorite color? Blue
30. When is the last time you laughed? This morning.

My Mailbox Runneth Over

I know what you're wondering what a mailbox has to do with cooking. It's simple. I received two great food related packages in the mail this weekend. One was from Lan over at Angry Asian Creations and the other came from Greg, The Oatmeal Cookie Man. From Lan, I received the cutest package containing a beautiful card w/a handwritten message, handmade soap, a crocheted bookmark, and three types of ramen. I can't wait to try them. The card is going into my scrapbook. I think the bookmark will go in there as well as it is very pretty. I picked up Greg's box this morning. I made myself late for work. Was it worth it? You bet. Inside the package was a container filled to the brim with his Coffee Cake Cookies. These tasty gems are worth making and sharing with your friends. Be careful though these are really good you might find yourself hording them and locking them away for yourself. I will post pictures of these edible and non-edible delights soon.

I received my gift from Lan as she was paying forward someone else's kindness. She asked that I do the same in return. If you're reading this post, I will send out care packages to the first three people who make a comment to this post. I just ask that you pay it forward.

Have you performed any random acts of kindness recently? It could be something as simple as opening a door for someone with a heavy load. What acts of food kindness do you perform? Do you prepare meals for a grieving family or new parents? Are you the neighbor who heads over with fresh muffins or cookies when a new neighbor moves in? If not, give it a try and see if it doesn't brighten someone's day.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Most Important Meal of the Day

From a few of my posts, you'd think that would be lunch. While lunch is an important meal, I like to begin each day with breakfast. It started in childhood and just seems to be one of those habits that I will not break. My mom used to fix TY and I a hot breakfast everyday before taking us to meet the school bus. And with two kids with two different tastes, she made what each of us wanted. I didn't know how good I had it. I always appreciated it, but the significance of it eluded me until recently. She wanted to send us off properly fed and if that meant making oatmeal for her baby girl and scrambled eggs for her big girl then that's what she did. She didn't have time for any tantrums or not feeding us. I'm not going to lie. I like cold cereal and the more sugar the better, but there's something about a hot breakfast made with love to reallly get your day going.

So, now that I'm a working woman, how do I start my day you ask? Is it a drive through getting whatever hockey and grease bomb that's served cheaply? Or a cup of overpriced liquid fruit iced up and full of sugar? Okay, on occasion I do indulge in a greasy biscuit from the Evil Clown or down a power smoothie from one of the many purveyors near campus. For my money and my health though, I go with a breakfast classic, OATMEAL. You can't beat it for cost or nutrition. It is amenable to a variety of add-ins and flavorings. My favorite is to make a banana walnut cookie. I use sliced banana, walnut pieces, brown sugar, and cinnamon. It's simple and delicious.

What kickstarts your day? Or do you function on black coffee? Do you prefer a lumberjack breakfast or something small like yogurt and a piece of fruit? Well, however you start your day, don't forget to share it with me. It might be something new for me to try.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I think that we have already established that I have a sweet tooth. I'm thinking that I might need a support group for my problem. Hi! My name is AJ and I'm addicted to sugar. And I'm a little picky about my sugar delivery system. I know that sodas, juice drinks, lemonade and limeade are generally sugar laden substances, but this just doesn't cut it. I need something I can sink my teeth into. I like cookies, cakes, candy-bars, drops, pieces as long as it's sweet, brownies and pie. And yes, there's a pecking order. I prefer cake with lots of rich buttercream frosting followed by brownies, cookies then candy bars, pieces, well you get the picture. What's wrong with pie you say? Nothing is wrong with pie. I will definitely eat pie. But I'm even pickier about pie. I like cream pies, meringue pies, chess pies, nut pies, custard pies, but not fruit pies. I generally see fruit as a sweet treat unto itself. Of course, there's that whole texture thing. I like my apples to be crunchy and my pears, too. No cherries or berries should ever go into my pie or be used for cake filling. It's overwhelming. And you make a mess.

There is one fruit that I don't mind having baked in a crust. As I hang my head in shame, this is a simple indulgence that I know you'll tease me about. I Love Fig Newtons! If you get a fresh box, they are irresistible with their double whammy of an ever so moist filling and a not too sweet cookie. Those things are like Lays, you can't eat just one or two or twelve. I mean you open a box and the next thing you know it's empty. I try not to buy them, but that damn CVS had the snack boxes on sale for a buck a piece this week. I had no willpower. I bought two. The first box lasted 18 hours before I couldn't take it anymore and tore into it. Do you think I can make it til the end of the week before box two is only a distant memory?

Do you have a sweet tooth? Is there a dessert or treat that calls your name like a siren luring sailors to crash on the shore? Or are you one of those people who doesn't care for sweets at all? Would love to hear from you!

Monday, September 15, 2008

An Orphan No Longer!

I've been adopted. Yes, I know how old I am. Yes, yes, I had parents. It's not that kind of adoption. Kristen over at Dine and Dish hosted an Adopt-a-Blogger event. Since my blog is less than six months old, I thought it would be great to have a mentor. I know that my blog is basically for me, but on the off chance that my friends or a few strangers slide in here why not make it the best it can be? It can't hurt to have a second or forty-second opinion. Can it?

Anywhoo, I heard from Mrs L. at Pages, Pucks, and Pantry. I look forward to corresponding with her and learning more about the food blogging community. I am sure that she'll be able to teach me a few things. I hope that I can do the same in return.

Will she be Lewis to my Clark? Abbott to Costello? A serious yin to my comical yang? It remains to be seen. Please stay tuned to find out what happens when a woman with a West Coast vibe meets up with a girl loaded with East Coast charm.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's All Greek to Me

Or at least I wish it was. I have been hankering for a taste of the Greek life. I love the flavors of the Mediterranean. Lemon, mint, oregano are some of the stars. I love a really fresh olive oil. I've only had a few dishes in my life and I want to try more. However, there don't seem to be many offerings in the DC area. Or none that my acquaintances care to share info on. Help! If you know of any good places, please let a girl know. Also, let me know what I should try. Any offerings of squid, well, let's just say I'm not gonna eat it. Most other things are fair game.

What ethnic food do you have a taste for? What flavors do you like? I mean if I can't travel the world for real at least I can take a spin via food. I'm gonna find me an Armenian pizza one of these days. What's your world cuisine pleasure?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

And Don't It Feel Good!

Okay, so I'm not walking on sunshine. Anyone that grew up in the 80s will get the reference. You might be asking what has me in such a good mood though. I didn't have to cook last night. One of our friends works for Famous Dave's. He sent ribs and chicken w/TJ for our supper. TJ fixed roasted potato wedges to go with. She followed that with fresh baked chocolate chip cookes. Some days it just doesn't get any better than this. Some of my favorite things for dinner and I didn't have to prepare it. Woo-hoo!!!! The fuzzy little monster inside was doing one helluva happy dance.

How do you feel when someone else takes over the kitchen? Are you happy? Sad? Annoyed? Grateful? And what do you like to eat when someone else is cooking? Do you find yourself comparing their style to yours?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

But I'm Hungry Now!

Have you ever had that feeling?? There's nothing done and you're hungry. There's a little dude inside that looks like that Honeycomb monster in the commercials. Well, that's how I feel when I get home most nights. The main problem is I'm the cook. Dinner can't done any faster than I make it. Having said that, you'd think that I'd have a fridge or freezer full of quick meals. I'd have something fast to appease the beastie within. Nope, much to my dismay, I have things that need to be prepared fresh. There's rarely a frozen hot dog or pizza in sight. Generally, there are no chips or anything like that in the house either. MJ and TY are the obvious snack fiends. I am too lazy to go to the trouble of getting the snacks down. What does a hungry girl in my position do then? I eat fruit and/or cheese. Generally, we have one or the other on hand. I also like pepperoni or pickles. One of these days I am just going to prepare an antipasti platter so that I can enjoy a little something when I get home. Who knows, it might wind up as dinner.

What do you do when hunger strikes and you have nothing prepared? Do you have a snack stash? Would you walk to a local eatery? Are you a chip person or will fruit or veggies satisfy your urges? Let me know. I might add it to my aresenal.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Let the Flames Begin!!

Okay, I should have written this on Monday. But I was too busy basking in the glow of a warm fire. Wait, I wasn't basking in the glow. I was standing over a hot grill. And boy, did it feel good! I have been cooking on the grill for about 20 years. My dad made his own grill out of a 55 gallon oil drum in a welding class he took in community college. You should have seen my mom's face when he brought that thing home. We'd never seen anything like it. We were used to those little teeny things that might have held 8 burgers and 4 hot dogs. This thing could easily handle 40 burgers at least. My fondest memory was the weekend he smoked a whole pork shoulder. It took hours. The smell of the meat roasting was intoxicating. The taste was even better. I got to use the grill when my parents moved to this area and I lived back home in southern VA. My friends and I used to plan our own cookouts. Those were some good times.

Living in a condo sure puts a damper on that. So, Monday, DH and I took our food on the road. His mother has a good size back yard and not one, but two grills. Okay, the charcoal one is hers and the gas one belongs to my SIL. I grilled hot dogs (Dietz & Watson) and hamburgers (frozen Bubba burgers), bone-in ribeyes, Italian sausage, asparagus and mushrooms. The food was was awesome. I only wish I would put some chicken on there. Oh well, maybe next time. Since I wasn't in my own kitchen, I wanted to keep things simple. I brought my own seasoning and take home containers (she said I could). I like McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning. It's a good all in one blend that is really tasty on beef and veggies. They also have a chicken blend. That's pretty good, too. I'm glad that I got to use my MIL's grill. We had enough leftovers to last the week and there was no arguing over what to have for dinner or anything. Everyone had choices.

Do you like to cook out? Are you a charcoal person or a gas person? What kind of seasoning do you use? Are you a fan of beef or pork? And is chicken just for wimps? What non-meat items find their way onto the grill? Let me know what you like. Maybe I'll try it next time. Yes, there'll be a next time. MJ and I left some charcoal and some beef behind.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Beef! It's What's for Dinner!

My three favorite things in the food world are sugar, bacon, and beef. When I am not trying to calm my sweet tooth or satisfying a porky craving, nothing beats a really good cut of beef prepared just so. Well, MJ and I were in our local Harris Teeter when I saw two things out of the corner of my eye. One was a small beef rib roast (a real winner in my book). It had been marked down from nearly $40 to $18. Yes, it was from the clearance bin. My plan was to take it home to Tiny, my 1951 freezer, so don't screw your face up thinking I got bad meat. The second item was an Angus beef boneless round roast all tied up nice and pretty. It had been marked down from $25 to $9. How could I say no? MJ didn't say no either. So, off I went.

I knew was I'd do with the rib roast. Stuff it with garlic, rub it with peppe, kosher salt and other spices and roast it gently. But the Angus beef was a tougher call. I never cook beef round. So, I did what any intred 21st century cook would do. I hit the internet. I googled the meat and what I had on hand. Things started to take shape when I found recipes for Italian beef. The easiest one was three ingredients. Unfortunately, MJ discovered the main ingredient was expired in our cupboard. Back the drawing board!

Now, I was like a dog with a bone. I'd decided what I wanted and knew I must have it. So, this intrepid cook tapped into her inner chef. What flavors did I need? I wanted it to be a little spicy (green chiles-don't knock 'em-it's what I had), tangy (red wine & balsamic vinegar), well seasoned (Italian spice blend & beef broth) and to round it out a touch of sweetness (brown sugar). TY, my sous chef, combined all of these items in our crockpot along with some dried onions and set the timer for 7.5 hours.

MJ and I walked into the house to an amazing aroma. The beef smelled fabulous. I needed to taste it. So, I snuck in the kitchen, lifted the lid and stole one. It was good. It wasn't like the Italian Beef I knew from La Prima, but it would do to kill the craving. We served ourselves on crusty sub rolls w/cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. TY added BBQ sauce in lieu of mayo.

What do you do when you find your culinary spoils have spoiled esp. when inspiration has struck? Do you give in to defeat? Or do you channel your inner chef? What challenges does your pantry provide? I've got a box of couscous calling my name. Maybe that will be the inspiration for my next adventure.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chocolate Sea Salt Cookies-Sorta

I told you that I'd have a recipe for Greg's Chocolate Sea Salt Cookies. Follow that link. Greg's got all of the ingredients and instructions. Why should I duplicate it? :) To make my variation (we've named Viennese Coffee Cookies), substitute 1/4 cup of espresso powder for one of the 1/4 cups of cocoa powder and add 1 and a 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon to the dry ingredients. What you get is an intensely flavored but not too sweet cookie that will wow your friends. Also, just sprinkle on the turbinado sugar and don't roll it like I did. The results will be better.

Every Life Should Be Valued and Honored

I'm taking a break from the cooking adventures for this post. One of the online communities that I belong to is MSN's Women in Red. We are women (and some men) who have come together to help each other eradicate our debt. Over the past few months a couple of ladies have shared stories of personal grief that has affected their financial stability. In response, the WIR community has set up a blog and a fund to help these two women. Please follow visit the link to read their stories. And if you are so moved, please make a donation to the fund.

Thank you!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Back in the Saddle!

I'm having an open house this weekend. That means I need to prepare snacks for my guests. The problem is what to serve. I like to bake my own sweets as opposed to purchasing. I don't like cookie dough that comes in rolls or O R E Os. They are just not my thing. So, what is a girl to do when she doesn't feel like doing anything. She seeks the counsel of friends.

To the left of this post, you'll see a line up of all stars. Each offers something unique and different. My favorite (yes, I'm biased) is the Oatmeal Cookie Guy. Here's someone who is passionate about what he does. His blog is insightful, imaginative and funny. And the pics look absolutely delicious. Well, Greg has been encouraging me to try a recipe. Deciding to try a recipe was easy. Choosing which recipe to try was hard. They all sound so good. I went for the Chocolate Sea Salt. The only problem was I didn't have any sea salt. It's okay. Improvisation is the number one spice in my kitchen.

I baked a test batch last night and froze the rest to bake off on Saturday. To borrow a phrase from Greg, these were totally bring-inable. My co-workers loved them.

Tonight, I will post Greg's recipe and my recipe and a picture if I can find my camera.

What else would you like to see on my table at the open house? I'm thinking of offering up my own baked or fried tortillas w/salsa (maybe homemade) and some sort of crab dip. Anyone got any good recipes. Let me know please!

Monday, August 11, 2008

No, It Wasn't a Vacation!

It's been two weeks since I last posted. I know, I know. Shame on me. Well, I have a very good reason. I had a wisdom tooth extracted. And it didn't want to come out. I will spare everyone the gory details. It still pains me or should I say the phantom tooth still hurts. Enjoying meals has been a trial. That has affected my desire to cook. If I can't eat it or enjoy it, why bother. I've been getting in a lot of soup. A new personal favorite happens to be the mushroom bisque at Au Bon Pain.

What do you eat when you're having dental problems? Do you prefer the savory or the sweet? I managed to get in a trip or two to Rita's Italian Ice for some cool treats.

Monday, July 28, 2008

When She' Hot, She's Hot!

And boy have I been hot! Went to the grocery store over the weekend where I scored some goodies at some great prices. MJ and I also checked out a few of the local shops like Let's Meat, a new butcher shop in Del Ray. We picked up some Kobe beef for hamburgers and a beautiful piece of flank steak. Next door, we stopped into the Caboose bakery for a ciabatta. All of the sandwiches that people were eating looked fabulous. We'll have to sit down for lunch one Saturday afternoon. Our next stop was Giant, they had a great sale on frozen veggies, beverages, and chicken. We then hit Best Buns Bakery in Shirlington. I wanted some good rolls to showcase the Kobe beef. We also tried the Chocolate Espresso cookie and the Chewy Ginger cookie. They were awesome! There were samples of their lemon bars. Even they were fabulous. Well, by then it was off to Harris Teeter to fulfill the rest of my list. We needed breads, sandwich fixings, wine and a few other items. It felt good to have the kitchen almost fully stocked again. Okay, you know what usually happens when I have a full fridge, freezer, etc.? I get a block. I don't know what to cook first. I stress over there's nothing to cook.

Well, I decided to plan ahead. Go figure! TY and I used to work at one of those meal prep places. Why could we apply the same concept at home? So we did. The first meal up for grabs was a pack of chicken thighs we just poured a bottle of bbq sauce in. I know two steps. How hard is that? The next pack of thighs got a special treatment courtesy of a TY suggestion. She said why not jerk thighs? I took out the seasoning, some olive oil, and a lime. It smelled great. The third and final prep I did was a Chinese 5 spice chicken. Trader Joes carries some tasty sauces. I had half a bottle of the 5 spice sauce, added some sauce, minced garlic, orange juice and olive oil. Into the bag went a whole chicken. All of these entrees are now safely tucked into our freezer. While in the kitchen, I decided to whip up a little dessert for MJ. He is going to have a mango peach sorbet courtesy of a 99 cent box of mango nectar and two cans of drained peaches. I pureed the peaches, mango nector, lime juice and honey in my blender. Twenty minutes in my ice cream freezer and we had homemade sorbet that is absolutely fabu!

My mojo is coming back. Has yours? What can you do to make some quick meals for later? How do you save time in the kitchen? And what would you make for that special someone in your life?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pizza Pasta Casserole

1 lb. celentani pasta (bowties, penne rigate, shells, ziti would work as well)
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2-3/4 cup red wine
2-3 tbsp. dried minced onion
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. garlic garlic powder
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fennel and rosemary
1/2 tsp. sugar
4 slices provolone cheese
20-30 slices pepperoni

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare pasta according to directions. Drain pasta and pour into baking dish and toss with a little olive oil. In pasta pot, add tomatoes, wine, herbs and spices. Bring to a rolling boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Then add half the sauce to the pasta and mix well, pour the remaining sauce over the noodles, top with cheese and pepperoni. Place casserole in oven and bake for ten minutes or until cheese browns.

Serves 4-6 as a hearty entree or 6-8 as a side dish.

Old Mother Hubbard Went to the Cupboard

If you're in your 30s, you should know the rest. I was thinking about today's post as I stared at my lunch. You see it was a pantry (cupboard) meal. Last night after a late meeting, MJ and I were hungry. He was going to have leftovers and I'd have none. There wasn't enough for the both of us. So, I started thinking what am I going to do. It was before 11 PM so I could have called Dominos, Papa Johns, Pizza Hut or any number of joints specializing in quick Asian cuisine. Well, lack of funds prevented that.

I glanced at the counter and saw my mise en place for dinner which I didn't get to cook b/c of said meeting. Hmmm, I can boil some pasta to eat tonight and have for lunch tomorrow. My mise en place consisted of a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, dried onions, garlic, salt, pepper, fennel seed, rosemary, Italian seasoning, sugar and red wine. A plan was forming. We had some cheese and pepperoni in the fridge. While the pasta boiled, I sliced the pepperoni. It was the last of a stick we'd bought for flatbread pizza. My colander was in the sink waiting to be washed so I transferred my cooked noodles to a baking dish. I then drained the water from my pot and added my tomatoes, wine, herbs and spices. Ten minutes later, my house smelled as if I had been slaving over a hot pot all day. I poured the sauce over the noodles stirred them together and topped it all with the cheese and pepperoni. I baked it for 10 minutes to melt the cheese. Voila, a tasty pizza casserole for about $4.'

Yeah, it only cost about $4 to make. I have been looking for ways to decrease my grocery bill yet maintain the taste level that my family has grown accustomed to. I was pleased when I had lunch today. How about you? Have you come up with inexpensive and tasty meals? What are some of your faves? Please share!

Monday, July 21, 2008

You Know I'm Sick When

I tell you I don't want anything to eat. Or I'm not hungry. Those are indicators that something isn't right in my world. For the last three or so days, the mere thought of eating has made me sick to my stomach. And that just ain't natural. I couldn't even watch the Food Network that's the kind of shape I was in. For someone who has three squares a day and routinely plans meals days in advance, this was so not good. I mean I even missed work. Some would say, 'You missed work for a stomachache?'. To which I would reply, 'No, not for a stomachache. It was the nausea, headache and the roiling in my belly that kept me at home'. What's a girl to do?

Well, my strategy was to eat something so that I wasn't completely depriving my body. You know it's bad when a comfort food like oatmeal treats you like a redheaded stepchild. Today, some caring friends suggested soup. I had a lovely beef barley from Au Bon Pain. I wanted the loaded baked potato, but I thought it best not to risk it. The chicken noodle soup was totally unappealing. There's something offputting about those noodles. SC agreed. I'm thinking that once I'm feeling normal I'm going back to get some of that baked potato soup.

What is your 'go to' food? Is it a nice bowl of soup? Or a hot cup of tea? I know tea is a drink, but we're going with it for now. How about plain toast or crackers?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Have You Hugged Your Crockpot Today?

I know I thank the good Lord every time I use my crockpot. It has never failed me. While looking out over the sea of food blogs out there, I noticed Stephanie's. She is the force behind A Year of Crockpotting . She's devoted 2008 to testing and tasting recipes using her crockpot. She's had some winners and some that weren't quite as good. She's even made her own cheesecake and her own crayons in her crockpot. In two words, SHE ROCKS! Let me tell you about one of the winners.

A few weeks ago, she prepared Vietnamese Roast Chicken. It was a fairly simple recipe with only a few ingredients. The odd one for me was fish sauce. Worcesthire sauce was the closest thing I had on hand. As I've mentioned before I like to make my crockpot meals at night, this was no exception. I woke up in the middle of the night wanting to open the lid and just inhale deeply. The scent was intoxicating. MJ and I were going to take this for lunch. It was sooooo good. We even had it for dinner. I used chicken thighs as I had those on hand and there were plenty. You would have thought we were a pack of wolves the way we attacked dinner last night.

Once I get Stephanie's permission, I'll post a copy of the recipe. BTW, she's famous. She was on the Rachel Ray show. Check out her site for a link to the show. Also, make sure you check out some of the fabulous recipes. And if you do it before the end of the week, you have a chance to win a new crockpot. Just leave a comment on the appropriate post to enter.

What are some of your favorite blogs? Do they revolve around organic foods? Vegan recipes? Gluten free lifestyle? Desserts? Or maybe the obscure? Let me know. I've shared some of mine. I'm also discovering new ones. As I do, I'll let you know.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Rice Is Nice!

Cooking rice is one of those jobs either you do it well or you burn it. Rice was never one of those things that I did very often. And when I did cook it, I wound up frustrated. Either it was wet and sticky or a little on the chewy side. Yes, yes, I know that I can buy those cook in ten minute bags of rice, but where's the challenge in that. If I can boil water, I should be able to make a decent pot of rice. Yes, yes, I know there's a gadget called a rice cooker, that seems a little like cheating. I know they are prized by many. However, I don't eat enough rice to really warrant one. That's not to say I don't have one. I have a cute little red one that CH and JG gave me for Christmas. It's so adorable I can't bring myself to use it. Okay, the real reason is we just don't eat enough rice. It's not something I cook everyday.

Last night, I decided to get over my rice phobia. I started by carefully reading the instructions. Then, I measured my water and left it to boil. Next, I measured the rice. I used a wide pan and realized that would change the cooking time as I'd have more cooking surface to work with. After adding the rice, I set the time on the stove to go off a few minutes before the directed times. My instincts were pretty good. While not quite perfect, the rice was well received, being a Southern girl I added a little butter and some seasoning. To borrow a phrase from Alton Brown, the rice was Good Eats.

People will tell you using the best ingredients will enhance a dish. However, I'm here to tell you that knowing the techniques of preparing even the simplest dish will elevate your results. Now, what are some of your food fears? Are you like me, terrible at cooking rice? Or does the thought of frying potatoes send you running to the frozen food section? What have you done to get over your fears?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Well, I did absolutely nothing. I had high hopes that I would whip up delicious dishes to put in my freezer. I would make batches of cookies and other treats to bring to my friends at work. I just never happened. The slacker in me took over. I took two or three naps a day while watching who's the baby daddy on Maury Povich. I saw hour after hour of the NFL Networks Top Ten. As a matter of fact, I rarely left my home. The longest trip we took was a four hour excursion to the emergency room. MJ contracted a really bad case of swimmer's ear. This from a guy who can't swim. Go figure.

I was talking to CD this morning. And we were discussing marinades and spices. He gave me a recipe for adobo sauce that I will try. That led us to my true dilemma. My spice rack is sorely lacking. There was a time when I had a wealth of dried herbs and spices to choose from. Now, we only have the bare minimum. Could this be the source of my discontent? Would a trip to Penzeys or World of Spice (Philly) be in order? Or at least a trip down the international food aisle for a little multicultural inspiration. I'll let you know what it will be.

In the meantime, my vacation is over. What meals shall I prepare as I ponder my spicy dilemma? The freezer is full of steak, chicken and shrimp. I know tonight I'll be prepping a whole chicken for a crockpot meal. I'm really looking forward to that. I'm thinking that a ceasar (sp) salad with steak might be a welcome change for us.

What are you spices of choice? What can't you live without? What spice were you introduced to that surprised you? What flavors inspire you?

Monday, June 30, 2008

OOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! PEACHES!!!!!

I went out of town this weekend. I had a job to do. No, I wasn't going to whack somebody. Although I must say that as I passed through a certain part of town, I sure felt like it. I digress. The job I was going to do wasn't incredibly hard. All I had to do was cut and slice peaches. My friend, MD, has a mini-orchard. He has spent the past few weeks canning apricots as whole fruit, jam and preserves. Well, this week it was time for the peaches. For my time, I would be rewarded with jars filled with sweet, sticky, and delicious fruit. I set to work. For any of you who have spent time in a kitchen set up for canning, you know it was hot as Hades in there.

As I sat there with my friends, I thought how this is how life must have been 100 years ago. Canning was not a solitary event. It involved family and neighbors coming together to stock up and preserve for the winter months and any hard times that were to come. What I once thought was a dying art has seen a revival this year. Mason jars/Ball jars are becoming hard to find as people are preparing for lean times due to what might be an impending recession. I was happy that MD allowed me to share in his bounty.

My peaches are destined to become the basis for smoothies. My plan is to use the sweet flavored syrup as a base for homemade liquers. Some of the peaches may even find their way into turnovers made from puff pastry or a glaze for pork chops. I was delighted when MD said that I could also have some plum jam and apricot preserves and jam as well. Sweating profusely in the summer heat can be deeply rewarding when shared with friends and food.

How do you like your peaches? Do you have any ideas for what to do with my luscious fruity booty?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Manila Cafe-Springfield, VA

MJ and I were out and about on Saturday. You know the usual running errands, hitting the grocery store, etc. We were to meet up with CH and JG. CH and I were making a book run. After the run, she suggested we go to Manila Cafe. They had eaten there the week before and liked the food. Manila Cafe is a filipino restaurant. It is run by a husband a wife team who prepare the dishes themselves. They offer buffet dining as well as a regular menu. JG and CH sampled the buffet while MJ and I shared a platter of lumpianitas. This little mom and pop shop provided a clean if extremely cozy atmosphere. The food was fresh and plentiful. The servers were very friendly and attentive. I hope that we get to go back soon.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tag-I'm It! Thanks A Lot OCG

Greg over at Oatmeal CookieBlog tagged me. I'll try to do the right thing and play nice.

The Rules:The player answers the questions about himself. At the end of the post, the player tags 5 blogs and then leaves comments on those blogs letting the bloggers know they’ve been tagged and asking them to continue the game. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answers. (Nonbloggers are welcome to participate as well.)

What I was doing ten years ago:
1. Slogging through college
2. Working at the library
3. Trying to figure out what to do with my life

Five (nonwork) things on my to-do list for today:
1. Cook dinner
2. Exercise w/MJ
3. Organize ingredients for tomorrow's smoothies
4. Read
5. Consider organizing my half of the closet

Five snacks I enjoy:
1. Cookies
2. Ice Cream
3. Bananas
4. Cake/Brownies
5. Cheeseburgers

Five things I would do if I were a billionaire:
1. Buy a brownstone in Brooklyn
2. Buy a G5
3. Set up trusts for my son and my sister
4. Start a cooking business.
5. Quit my current job

Places I've lived:
1. Blackstone, VA
2. Dahlgren, VA
3. Richmond, VA
4. Alexandria, VA
5. Woodbridge, VA

Jobs I've had:
1. Acquisitions Specialist
2. Bibliographic Searcher
3. Reference Assistant
4. Library Technician
5. Sales Associate
6. Periodicals Assistant
7. Burger Flipper

Tag! Let's learn a little more about these fab bloggers whose blogs I enjoy:
1. A Year of Crockpotting
2. Baking Bites
3. Feasting in Phoenix
4. Monster Munching
5. The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


MJ and I decided that we wanted to start living a healthier lifestyle. What does that mean for a girl who lists butter and sugar as two of her favorite ingredients? Does it mean she has to banish them forever or can she learn to use them judiciously? Does low calorie mean low taste. Not if I can help it.

Have I seen the last of my fast food favorites? Probably. Let's face it. McDonald's and like places may offer low fat and healthier options, but is that really what we go in there for? No. I'll learn to make healthy versions of hamburgers and pizza. I'm thinking that a 50/50 burger of lean ground turkey and ground sirloin on a whole wheat pita with lettuce and vine ripe tomatoes from a trusted sourc will be better than my beloved Big Mac. I have to look at this as a good challenge rather than deprivation.

What have I got to lose beside the love handles and extra chin? Nothing. What have I got to gain? Better health, increased flexibility, a smaller dress size. So, what is my motivation? A trip to Puerto Rico.

Have you embarked on a lifestyle change? If so, what were the changes you made? What was your motivation? How did you adapt your food favorites to fit your new life or did you give them altogether?

Monday, June 9, 2008

You Would Think

That a slacker like me eats out or would want to do that a lot. Maybe it's a form of sado-masochism or something, but I just can't bring myself to do that unless it's a last resort. Think about it. I've taken time to make a list, go to the store, put the food away, etc. So, why would I then order take out or go out? I'll admit there are days that I just don't want to cook or I've eaten the same thing one too many times. And that's okay. Everyone is entitled to down time. Well, I got my down time on Friday and Saturday.

Friday evening, MJ and I went with friends to a Korean restaurant. I'd tell you the name, but it wasn't listed on the door in English. I have never had Korean food before. Let me tell you what we had was very good. I had #39 with were vermicelli noodles (cellophane noodles) with beef and vegetables. It was so good. MJ ordered #2 which was like a spicy sweet and sour chicken. The chicken pieces were so crunchy and tasty. JG ordered deep fried pork dish with a sticky sweet sauce that looked like maple syrup. This too was an incredibly tasty dish. Finally, CH ordered the bulgogi. You have to love a place that just sits a plate of meat in front of you with no apologies. For $68, we had enough food to feed an army and have leftovers. #39 and the bulgogi came with rice and a bowl of hot, spicy soup. We left that to JG as I wasn't about to anger the heartburn gods. I can't wait to go back. I want to try #12 and #47.

Saturday evening found MJ and I ate at Carrabas. I don't know about you, but Italian food is good eats. And Carrabas didn't disappoint. What did disappoint was $2.50 for lemonade that didn't taste like lemon or ade. And the replacement ginger ale tasted more like the carbonation line than the sparkling beverage with a bite. What came with our drinks though was a basket of piping hot homemade bread and a plate of olive oil and pesto (closest way to describe it). That was worth the lousy beverages. It had a lovely crust with a soft chewy center. MJ and I munched on this while trying to decide the best way to maximizes a gift card. Finally, we decided on the spaghetti with grilled sausage and the chicken gratella with broccoli and cavatappi amatriciana. Well, that was the best damned grilled chicken we had ever eaten. It melted in your mouth literally. The cavatappi was cooked al dente with a spicy red sauce. the broccoli was nothing special. The spaghetti sauce was too sweet for me. Reminded me of Chef Boyardee, but I know some people like it that way. This was served with two fat and juicy Italian sausage. Those sausages are why I love Carrabas. For about $32 ($27 if we'd have skipped the drinks), we had a really good meal. Our only real complaint was the location of our table. It was on a main drag with poor lighting. Next time, I'm telling them I want to be seated in front of the kitchen.

Hey, this is a sharing place. Tell me where you like to dine. Give me a heads up on where you like to go for Korean, Italian, Vietnames, Indian, Thai, Pinoy (Phillipino), or burgers. Is there a neighborhood diner that you like? Let me know.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Crockpot Cooking

Have I mentioned how much I love my crockpot? It is an amazing tool. With a little prep and minimal planning, you can put an absolutely fantastic meal on the table in no time. Well, I suppose 4-10 hours isn't exactly no time, but that's relative. A crockpot takes some of the hassle out of cooking dinner. I like to put my ingredients in the CP around 9:30 or 10:00 PM. By 6 AM, there's a fresh meal either for a lunch or dinner. Generally, there's only one pot to clean. If you don't know by now let me just tell you that I hate washing dishes. I don't find it therapeutic, calming, etc. It's necessary so I do it.

Well, I've got at new theory to test with my crockpot. If you've been reading this blog with any frequency, you know I threw a tantrum about my lack of a grill. Well, I love ribs. And there's nothing like have a plate of nice smoky BBQ'd ribs. And I don't take sides over what is better. I believe there's a time for beef ribs and a time for pork ribs. Generally, the times depend on what is on sale. What I happen to have is a nice rack of beef ribs. I want to see if I can effectively smoke them using my crockpot.

For my experiment, I'll be heading to my local grocery store for a few key items: wood chips, aluminum foil and aluminum pie plates. I'll leave you now to ponder what I plan to do with these items. For more crockpot ideas, check my blogroll. Someone out there is doing a crockpot dish a day for 2008. It looks like fun and I'll be over there stealing er checking out the recipes.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Time to Tighten Our Belts

Housing prices are sinking. Gas prices are rising. Food packaging is shrinking. Everyone is saying I can't wait for things to change/go back to normal. Well, this is normal. It is normal to experience peaks and valleys in life. We just happen to be headed into the valley. Yes, I am concerned as I like to spend my money on food. As I said before, the packaging is shrinking. Consider how much we as Americans overconsume, this wouldn't be a bad thing if the prices hadn't gone up at the same time. We grouse about a gallon of gas being $4. Imagine this for a minute. A gallon of nonpremium ice cream is over $7.

I've decided that a lifestyle change is in order. I want to eat healthier. I also want to be more financially responsible. I guess that means gallons of nonpremium ice creams are out. I think that I can still put a nutritious meal on the table without gouging my piggy bank. One of my biggest helpers will be the ginormous upright freezer I own.

1. Scour the ads for grand opening events. You will find special bottom basement prices on high ticket items.

2. Stock up on non-perishable pantry items like flour, sugar, canned veggies and pasta.

3. Hang out with my family and friends from home with large vegetable gardens and fruit trees. I will barter baked goods and other services (cleaning, babysitting) for fresh fruit and veggies that I can freeze for later.

4. Know when a deal isn't a deal. If I purchase a healthy sounding product that no one will eat, that's a waste of money.

5. Learn to make healthy treats such as granola bars, sorbets, etc.

Just because I want to be frugal and healthy doesn't mean I have to sacrifice good taste or nutrition. Tell me ways that you can your budget, but still add flavor to your diet.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Chicken Rides Again!

I never told you how that crockpot chicken and potatoes came out. Well, it was better than those rotisserie birds they sell in Giant. And those potatoes were positively addicting. I love crispy potoates as much as I love mashed potatoes. However, these were flavorful and smooth with a little give to them. It was cool not to have to prep a side dish. I would like to take moment on the subject of onions in the crockpot. They come out some tender, so delicious that I'm afraid one of these days that it will be a single piece of chicken and six or seven onions in the crockpot. It's just sad. I try to pick all of them out for myself.

Seriously, I recommend that everyon try a crockpot 'roasted' chicken. It's easy, delicious and most importantly versatile. I wish that I had another chicken to experiment with.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Slump Update

I did it. I cooked AND baked this weekend. I made a pot of spaghetti and meatballs. Yes, I kept it simple and comforting to ease myself back into the kitchen. Speaking of the kitchen, MJ, my wonderful husband, made going in there worthwhile. You see, while I was cleaning the bathroom, he cleaned the kitchen. That little act of kindness inspired me. I had to cook something special just for him. And yes, spaghetti and meatballs are special because it's one of his favorite things to eat. The sauce was semi-homemade and the meatballs were a Harris-Teeter BOGO special. Hey, I'm a slacker what can I say.

Yesterday, after I finished breakfast, I popped some asian marinated chicken in the oven. I bought a bottle of sauce again from Harris-Teeter. MJ picked it out. After that particular shopping trip, I decided to make pre-emptive strike and toss the marinade and chicken and into a freezer bag for a later meal. I rarely want to sacrifice taste for time. The chicken was absolutely fabulous. I wish now that I could remember which sauce we used. Should have labelled the bag, too. Oh well, maybe next time.

Ah, yes, the baking. Well, a friend asked me to bake three kinds of cookies for her. And I told you that I was going to try the cake balls from Bakerella's site. I'm going to call them cake bites from here on out. It just sounds more appetizing to me. I made oatmeal raisin and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I love it, one recipe, two kinds of cookies. I'm making the third kind tonight. CH loves my molasses cookies. Will whip those up tonight after I prep my crockpot short ribs.

Now, the cake bites were easy to prepare up to the last step. Draping or enrobing them in the white chocolate. I'm like a cat that hates to have its paws wet when it comes to dealing with stick, gooey foods. The easiest way to do these is by hand. And yours truly didn't have any food safe gloves. The directions said to use a spoon for this part. That was taking much too long. I have four dozen frozen naked cake bites in my freezer. I'm looking for an assistant or assistants that don't mind getting melted chocolate all over them. If you're interested, please leave a post.

The slump isn't over yet, but I did have a good time in the kitchen. It helped that I had a clean slate to work with. What makes you feel good about working in your kitchen?

Friday, May 30, 2008

I've Hit a Slump

It's one thing to be a slacker in the kitchen. I mean looking for shortcuts is an artform for someone who likes to cook and/or eat. But, I don't even feel like looking for a shortcut or a cheat these days. I just don't feel like doing it. One of my friends says, "Maybe you're just tired." Tired?? I get about ten hours of sleep a night. I don't have a physically demanding job. Yes, I do make variations on themes of some pretty basic things. Really, how many ways can you make mashed potatoes.Come on, they're still mashed potatoes even if you add truffle oil, raspberry seeds or miracle fruit. I've jazzed up meatloaf with cheese, bacon, spinach, refried beans. Not all at the same time, mind you.

Maybe, I've watched too much Food Network or America's Test Kitchen. Read one too many magazine. Could be I'm just on food overload. Most of the blogs I read are food related. (Okay, so I don't so much read them as drool over the pictures). Could this be what is causing my block? There are too many recipes that would require too much of my time. Is that it? I've been frozen in my tracks by the sheer volume of food literature, etc. out there. I can see that.

Now, that we've kinda diagnosed my problem. What are we going to do to fix that? Hmmmm, why don't I try a new recipe or two? Maybe that will help ease this food funk that I've been in. I think that my first ones will involve chicken. I want to try the steaming then baking to achieve a crispy crust ala buffalo wings. Then, I'm going to try a Japanese ginger chicken. That will require some frying (which I hate), but I'm up to the challenge. And just because I like dessert, I'll give red velvet sandwich cookies a try.

Stay tuned. I'll post my triumphs and tragedies here. Let me know what you do when you don't feel like cooking. What's the latest 'new' thing that you've tried? Was it good or just so-so? Join me in trying a new recipe each week. We can discuss the good, the bad and the inedible.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Warning! Tantrum Ahead

I want a Weber Grill and a Green Egg! I want! I want! I want! *blogger stamps her feet and shakes her head* ARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHH!!!!

It's my own fault that I can't have them. I live in a condo. And a backyard was a tradeoff for no utility bills (incl. in fee), no mowing, etc. It slipped my mind that I like to grill and smoke (meat that is). And electric just isn't the same. Nothing signals summer like the smell of beef (my meat of choice) sizzling on the grill. The pasta salad with chicken breast just tastes a little better with that perfect balance of seasoning and char. And fajitas. What can I say? Yes, I can fry or broil the steak, but it lacks the punch of flavor that a few soaked mesquite chips offers. Beef brisket, boston butt, and whole chickens smoked with cherry, mesquite, cedar or oak are just worlds away from their baked or roasted counterparts.

And pineapple grilled with a little brown sugar, cinnamon and rum makes a wonderful counterpart to a dish of vanilla ice cream. You'll never see a banana the same way again after it's been given a nice glaze on the grill. I could go on about the merits of fruit and grilling to say nothing of what open flames do to vegetables such as squash, eggplant or potatoes.

For now, at least for me, the art of the grill is just a distant memory or a future flash. Tell me your tales of the grill. I promise I won't get jealous or show up at your house in the middle of the night to cook my ribeye or baby back ribs.

Friday, May 23, 2008


That doggone chicken wouldn't fit in my steamer. I guess I'll have to try some parts.

I imagine you're wondering what I did do with the chicken. Well, I sliced up some potatoes, layered them in the bottom of my crockpot (I love mine), slathered the chicken w/a tbsp of butter and seasoned him liberally with my secret 12 herbs and spices. Take that Colonel! Set the crockpot on low for 6 hours and went to bed. There's going to be chicken and potatoes for dinner when I get home.

Do you own a crockpot? What do you make in it? Do you stick to the ordinary or go for something more exotic? Don't be shy, share!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

There's A Chicken in My Fridge

And there's no way that I can turn it into one of those crispy, juicy, tasty birds from Edy's in Baily's Crossroads. I can still smell them. They looked so tasty in their deep golden brown deliciousness. Each tantalizing turn bringing them closer to my plate.

That's my dilemma folks. I make a pretty good roast chicken, but it will never be on the level of Edy's. I don't have a spit and no open flame. Second, I don't think I could fit their giant roaster in our condo. That and the fact that I'd probably have everyone except the vegetarians lined up at my door.

You might ask what I like about the chicken outside of the aesthetics. Well, it tastes good. It's not too salty and it is spiced really well, not heavy. I'm thinking a little salt, a little pepper and some garlic. That part I think I can cover. More than likely I'll give it a little olive oventan lotion (olive oil, if you must know). Here comes the tricky part. I want nice crispy skin, but I don't want a smoky oven. What to do, what to do?! Do you suppose I can employ Alton Brown's wing trick? He put the wings in a rigged up steamer and steamed them. Then put them in the oven to finish cooking and brown. I've got a steam I believe will hold my four pound chicken. Stay tuned and I'll let you know what happens.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I Cheated

I like mac and cheese with my barbecued ribs. I think they go together like PB&J or meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I knew that I was going to have spare ribs for dinner one night, but didn't want to make mac and cheese from scratch. It's a time consuming process. And I didn't want to use the box. The box is expensive and my picky eaters don't really care for it. What's a girl to do? CHEAT!

MJ and I went to Harris-Teeter on Sunday. They had Bertolli pasta sauce on sale BOGO. They great thing about Harris-Teeter is you only have to buy one. You'll get it at 50% off. I purchased a jar of alfredo pasta sauce. MJ looked at me funny as I had just put back two jars of red sauce. I explained that I have pureed tomatoes at home and can make a quick sauce, but I am not making alfredo from scratch. Bare with me I'll explain how this relates to the cheat.

I looked at the jar of sauce as I gave my ribs a good rub with my spice blend and prepped them for the freezer. Hmmm, what is alfredo sauce but a bechamel based sauce which is the base for mac and cheese. I felt a little like Hannibal from the A-Team, a plan was coming together. I took the pasta sauce thinned it with a little milk, put in a little butter and added my cheeses. WARNING: This is not low fat! I didn't have any elbows, but I did have ditalini which is cute short cut pasta tube. I had some doubts when I first tasted the sauce, but I had invested my cheese, my milk and butter not to mention the $2 for the jar of sauce. The sauce had a strong garlic/parmesan taste so I added a little more garlic, some paprika, black pepper and ground mustard. Had I thought about it I would have added a pinch of allspice. I baked the mixture for about 20 min.

Let me tell you. Cheating never tasted so good. This was the stuff you talk about at the family reunion. I love Aunt So & So's macaroni and cheese. It was creamy and good. Yeah Cousin What's Her Names was like that, too. I am loathe to admit that is was better than any that I'd ever made. Okay, I've only been making it for six months, but this was as good as my nameless aunt. I ain't telling b/c ya'll ain't getting me in trouble.

What are your cheats or shortcuts? Can your family and friends tell the difference? I'll post the full recipe later.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Now, that's something you may not hear everyday. Many people I know don't like leftovers. I couldn't tell you what it is. I certainly don't understand it as I prefer leftovers. The flavors in a dish have had a chance to really get to know one another. Think about it. Mom's spaghetti was really good the first day, but pull it out of the fridge and warm it the next day and the flavors are truly amazing. It's the same dish yet a little different. Meatloaf is my favorite entree. I almost prefer this dish as a leftover. Warm meatloaf falls apart (nothing wrong with that). Cold meatloaf you can cut into slices easily to make a sandwich. Served on Texas toast with some extra sharp cheddar, bacon slices, and ketchup or bbq sauce. Now, that's good eating.

Here's the bigger question with leftovers. Who says you have to have it the same way the next night? Leftover roast beef can become French dip sandwiches. I like make pulled/chopped chicken bbq with a roasted hen. Fried chicken can become the main ingredient in a salad. I know that I in these uncertain economic times I will have to get more bang for my culinary buck. Heaven knows my mother, my grandmother and my aunts have been doing it for years. Leftover rice and bread became puddings. Ham bones became the basis for a pot of beans or greens.

I'm looking forward to tonight's dinner. Leftover spareribs and mac and cheese. I'll have to tell you about my cheater's mac and cheese some other time. What are your meal makeover options? Do leftover chickpeas become falafel or creamy hummus?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What's for Lunch?

Yesterday's dilemma was the lunch hour. Like that really matters. What's really important is what you have for lunch and who's buying. Come on I don't care what they say about there's no such thing as a free lunch. Sure there is. Haven't you ever won a bet with a friend. Or your spouse, parent or other loved one taken you out for a meal just because. Okay, I digress. One of my favorite things to have for lunch is pizza. And the only thing better than pizza for lunch is free pizza for lunch. Today is my lucky day! We are having a pizza party at work. The only thing it will cost is a drink. Hey, I keep Lipton tea bags in my desk so that I can have iced tea any time I want.

Let me tell you it sure beats having the whole grain chicken nuggets that I had planned to have today. I'll save those for later in the week. They are not my favorite, but they are convenient. I hope to get better at preparing my favorites so that I have better options than chicken nuggets. I love cheeseburgers. And I discovered a great slow cooker sloppy joe recipe a few weeks ago. Chicken parmagiana is a good choice. Okay, I like almost anything with pasta. You know and I know that I'm a slacker so we can see more chicken nuggets in my future.

What would lunch time meal would most surprise the foodies in your life?

Monday, May 12, 2008

What Time Is Lunch?

It's 10:30 AM and my stomach is growling. I can't believe it. I had breakfast this morning. Okay, it was a bowl of Apple Jacks and 1% milk. And it was before 7 AM. Should I really be hungry? I had a bottle of water to go with it. This knowledge does nothing to appease the little monster in my tummy. I have a strawberry yogurt in my bag, but wouldn't you know that I left that damn spoon at home. Curses!!!! Oh well, I am sure someone will have mercy on me and give me one. I think there may be some crackers in my desk drawer. I wonder if they are still good. I'll try one and let you know. Hmmm, a little stale, but better than nothing. They should be enough to shut up the little monster for a couple of hours. It better be b/c that's all it's going to get.

Really, what time is lunch? Now seems a little early as I'll be here until 5:30. Hopefully, the stale crackers will tide me over. LOL! It's not like lunch is that big of a deal. It's some pizza rolls, cucumber slices, strawberries and a chocolate pudding. Geez, I eat like a teenager. It's nothing sophisticated today b/c I didn't feel like cooking after returning from my MIL's and the grocery store yesterday.

What do you fix for lunch when you don't have leftovers? Or do you prepare things specifically for lunches? What is your favorite lunch (homemade)?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I've Got a Taste

Sitting here at my desk smacking my lips, I've got a taste for something. For the life of me, I could not tell you what it is. I do know it isn't something sweet. It might be seafood with an Asian twist. I know it isn't beef for a change. Steak is my go to food. Could it be pasta plain with a little butter, parm, and seasoning? Okay, if it has those things on it is it really plain? I digress. I want something slightly spicy, slightly smoky (maybe grilled or fire-roasted), and juicy. I can smell what I want, can almost taste it. Unfortunately, what it is has me stumped. Has this ever happened to you? Normally, what would happen is I would eat and eat and eat until my soul had been satisfied or my stomach started to hurt. So not an option these days.

Let me close my eyes for a second. See if I can do a sensory recall. One deep breath. I'm getting a whiff of smoke. Sniff, sniff. Hmmm, that smells like charcoal. Oooo, mesquite chips, more smoke. I can almost taste that spice. MMMMM, fennel, pepper, oregano. Wait, I've got it! I'd love to have a hot, spicy grilled Italian sausage. Even better, it would be loaded with grilled peppers, onions and mushrooms. You see I love to cook on the grill. The only problem with that is I live in a condo. No grills. There is hope. We may be able to have hibachis. That would be so awesome. In the meantime, does anyone know where I can get a killer Italian sausage?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I'm Bored

There I said it! It's true. I am bored with cooking. It's just that I don't have the time or inclination to cook much anymore. I sometimes feel as if my efforts are un- or underappreciated. While I love to cook b/c I love to eat, it's just not the same as if you are cooking for someone else. Would I feel better if I had a fancy kitchen to cook in? Probably not. Would it make a difference if I had expensive ingredients? I hardly think so. I used to have a library of 50+ cookbooks. It was probably closer to 100, but I am not going to claim that many. I weeded my collection down as I realized I only used a few. I have a couple that belonged to my parents that I rely on for reference, but most of my recipes I print off the internet. Generally, I tweak them to suit my tastes, what I have on hand, or how much some fancy ingredient costs.

It sounds like I need some positive reinforcement, validation. I'd like a little help in the meal planning, some input, more chicken, less beef. I want to up our veggie intake. I'm planning to use our crockpot more just to save me some time and headache if no one has their say. I could go to one of those meal prep places, but I am not sure if that is the best use of my grocery dollar.

Well, that's my whine for today. I should have served some cheese or chocolate with it. What would you do? Have you ever been to one of those meal prep places? What kinds of things do you fill your freezer with?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Fast Food Fiend!

I like Big Macs and I cannot lie (hummed to the tune of Baby Got Back). My head is hanging in shame as I type this. My anthem used to go something like this, two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. Okay, I could do without the shredded lettuce and could you put more sauce on that. I need something to dip my fries in. It was almost a daily pilgrimage to pray at the altar of the Golden Arches. It was always a medium #1 no lettuce extra sauce w/a Mr. Pibb. MJ is trying to help me correct the error of my ways. He calls it the Evil Clown and he's right b/c that friendly Ronald McDonald is now making me sick. And it's like a bad relationship. You know you should break up, but it just feels so good so right when you're with him. Sorry, got a little distracted as I thought about that cheese, that sauce. Of course, QZ is helping MJ in his quest to save me. I'll let you know how it goes.

Now, the Golden Arches isn't the only joint to have their hooks in me. The King used to be my late night, post work honey. It was always a #1, a Whopper with cheese no onion (heartburn after 10 if I ate them) with Dr. Pepper. After a while I switched up and had the whopper jr. with cheese etc., it was a number three. I still love The King, but a little bit less everyday.

Yo Quiero Taco Bell! When I worked pt in college, Taco Bell was across the street and on the way home. They used to have something called a bacon cheeseburger burrito. It had my most favorite food on so how could I say no. It was quite tasty. Thank goodness I don't work there anymore and that TB doesn't sell those darn bacon cheeseburger burritos anymore either.

Don't let that innocent smile fool you on the Wendy's. Something sinister lurks behind those laughing eyes. It's the knowledge that hot and fresh and greasy, the fries are addictive. Add in a cold, sweet Frosty. If I was really hungry, It would be a #1 (I'm sensing a theme here), a classic single w/cheese no onion.

Again, I hang my head in shame recalling how easily seduced I am by the bright lights and neon signs of the denizens of America's expanding waistlines. Some nights it was a menage a trois as I stopped at McD's for a Big Mac, BK for a Dr. Pepper and Wendy's for fries or a frosty. We won't talk about the Roy Rogers incidents. I am not over my old friends, but we are no longer the bosom buddies we used to be. I see them in passing from time to time. However, they don't hold the same appeal for me anymore.

What are your favorite fast food spots? Are you stuck on #1 like myself? Or does it depend on your mood? Do you try to recreate your favorites at home?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Return of the French Toast

Finally, I made the french toast dinner. It was everything that breakfast for dinner should be. We had bacon and 'home fries' to go with it. The bacon was thick cut Oscar Mayer. I don't remember ever having it quite like this. It was meaty, chewy, salty and delicious. The 'home fries' were made in the oven. I told you I was a slacker in the beginning. I didn't feel like stirring and constantly watching anything. As for the french toast, my sister had the nerve to ask, 'was it better than what we had the other day?". How about I stop feeding her. I was offended. Of course it was better than the poor excuse for french toast they served at Harris Teeter. Not knocking Harris Teeter as they do have some tasty items on their buffet. It's just french toast isn't one of them.

I told QZ about the french toast. He asked how did I make it. Here's what I told him, milk, eggs, sugar and cinnamon. Here's what I didn't tell him, vanilla. Of course had I had some good bourbon that would have gone in there this time as well.

AJ's French Toast

1 loaf of day old (or more) challah, sliced 1/2" thick
2 eggs
2-3 c. of milk (whole, 1%, 2%, fat free)
3/4 c. sugar
2-3 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp vanilla

Mix the eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. I like to soak the bread a little so the batter goes through the entire piece of bread. Drop the slices onto a buttered or oiled griddle or skillet (heated of course). Cook until golden brown. If it still feels a little soft in the middle when browned on both sides, put slices on a baking sheet and put into a 300 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Serve with your favorite syrup, powdered sugar or what you like.

How do you like your french toast? Are you a pancake person as opposed to french toast? What about waffles instead? Ah, but that's another show for another time.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Comfort Food

I'm feeling a little down today. And eating and cooking are the farthest things from my mind. Okay, so that's not exactly true. I don't feel like doing either today. That is unusual. If I've got the blues or am upset, there's nothing like a bowl of ice cream or a plate of meatloaf and mashed potaoes to make me feel like the world isn't such a bad place. Cotton candy makes me happy. It is sweet, sticky and you get to eat it with your hands. The same goes for funnel cake. If the idea of so much sugar seems off-putting, I also like eating grapes and melon in the summertime. They bring back the warm feelings of sitting on our aunt's front porch watching the sun go down over her garden. Hot fried chicken brings memories of watching my uncle cook Sunday dinner. Hey, it was his turn. I cooked the other six days of the week and I was still in high school. The smell of fresh baked rolls can send me hurtling back in time to Christmas 1981. It was cold outside and so warm in my aunt's kitchen. The horde would gather around the hot pan barely waiting for her to plate them as we fought over the butter or margarine. I always had to have a center one. No edges please. Ahh, the smell of cabbage cooking with a ham hock in for flavoring evokes memories of my mom having a hot meal on the table for us after school. Sadly, my mom and her sister have passed and I'll never again taste the delicious meals they cooked. My uncle refuses to fry chicken for me. He says I'm big enough to do it myself.

Hey, I'm beginning to feel a little better. Who says you have to eat the comfort food? And was it really the food that was comforting? Was it the people who prepared it for me? Or the knowledge that they gave me the tools that I need to make my own comfort food and the wisdom to know when my soul needs to be fed as opposed to my stomach?

What is your favorite comfort food? Can you make it yourself? Who is or was your go to person for old-fashioned favorites?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ah, The Best Laid Plans

Last night I was supposed to make french toast for dinner. After stopping to pick up the milk (free!), I just didn't have the wherewithal to go through with dinner. Maybe tomorrow for a late breakfast. I'm sure you're wondering what MJ and I had for dinner. Well, MJ loves tortilla chips. And I've begun frying my own at home. So, that's what I did. Fried white corn tortillas with our favorite spice blend. We weren't terribly hungry so this was a quick and easy snack to munch on while watching "My Name Is Earl". Don't judge me! It can't be all Food Network all the time. Besides, the best cooking shows are on PBS.

Is it dinner if the table isn't set with linens and silverware? Or have you seen the table recently? Is it like mine covered with jewelry boxes (I'm a Silpada Designs rep) or mail? When I find my camera, I'll let you take a peek.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What's for Dinner?

Or breakfast or lunch? This is a tough question in my household. For the most part, I make all the food decisions for my family. That means they are at the mercy of my tastebuds and my stomach. I'm not a meal planner. I may have a general idea. Or I know what is in the freezer or fridge. Inevitably, I don't want that. I want something that I don't have to defrost, cut, chop, slice, dice, mince, boil, broil, bake, roast, etc. Okay, that sounds like I don't want to cook. Well, sometimes I don't have the time or energy.

Take last night for instance. I wanted the leftover mini burgers. Only someone raided the fridge before I got home. It's not like I called dibs or anything. There were sandwich fixins, but I just didn't want those. So, last night's 'dinner' were two ice cream sandwiches, the full fat ones. Can I just tell you it might have been the best dinner I've had all week.

I promised MJ and TY that we would have french toast for dinner one night. See, breakfast for dinner is a no brainer. Most of the time, the meal is easy to prepare. I always have eggs, sugar, and butter on hand. I have to ration bacon. If we open a pound, a pound we'll eat. I try to only have it at home once a month. The french toast for dinner this week came about b/c we had a bad breakfast experience on Sunday. I don't know about you, but I like a pillowy soft french toast with a little structural integrity provide by the crust. This stuff looked like it had barely touched the batter. You cut into it and the inside was pure white not creamy yellow. WTF!!! Did I mention it was hard. So, I promised I'd make breakfast for dinner. Twenty minutes is all I really need to make a decent french toast. This fits into my slacker way of life.

What do you do for dinner when you're pressed for time? Have an unhealthy ice cream dinner life myself? While the french toast might not be the healthiest, breakfast for dinner is a quick alternative. BTW, I'll have MJ slice some oranges and pineapple and TY blend up some strawberry/cranberry fruit slushes to add a little nutrition and some color.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hello Cupcake!

One of the local TV stations did a taste test of cupcakes a few weeks ago. While I didn't see the segment when it aired, I read about it online. They tested four or five cupcakes from local grocers, a couple of bakeshops, and homemade from a mix. The judges spoke of the flavor, the moistness, density, etc. The winner was from a bakery in Georgetown. It had all the right stuff that cake dreams are made of and a price tag to match. I'm not saying that I haven't paid $2 or more for a cupcake b/c I have. And was disappointed that my $2 went to something that didn't taste as good as something I or some of my friends could make and make better.

The loser in this event shall go nameless. I am not a fan of the baked goods from the place. My friends know the name and the location. I like the owner. He's very personable, charming and sincere. I just find his product lacking. Of course, I find the bakeshop lacking as well. When I walk past a bakery, restaurant or bistro, I should be able to smell that something is going on behind the brick or concrete walls. When passing a bakery, the air should be redolent with the smell of vanilla and sugar (yes-sugar has a smell when it cooks). There should be some sort of aroma that taps you on the shoulder or caresses your nostrils. It should entice you to open the door and step inside the warm embrace of freshly baked cookies or cakes. Walking past this place was like walking past the dentist office or a hospital, it felt like a sterile environment. What do I know though, there are at least three locations and business is booming.

How do you like your cupcakes? Swathed in oodles of frosting or bald, no embellishment whatsoever? What draws you in to a bakery? Is it the beautiful display that seduces your eye or does your nose know?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Want to Be Left Alone

Not really, but there are some days where I want my kitchen all to myself. I'm a temperamental cook. Many would say that I'm a PITA. It's just that I consider the kitchen my haven. It's where I go to create, to destress/relax, to fume or vent. What I cook will depend on my mood. I bake when I am happy. I love to pound chicken breasts or steak if I am angry. I've learned never to bake bread when I'm angry or sad. It won't turn out right. Something about the dough absorbing my feelings. Yes, I am a firm believer in love makes the food taste better. If you don't love what you do or the people you do it for, the it just won't be as good.

I've got two scenarios for you. A friend asked me to make cookies for her networking party. I was reluctant, but I saw it as an opportunity to meet new people for my own ventures. I need enough cookies, etc. for roughly 60 people. What to do? I could have done something fancy, but instincts told me to prepare things that I loved and was good at. They were a hit. Sure my time was limited, but I genuinely liked the person I was baking for and I had fun doing it. I had help from MJ and TY (my sister).

A few nights ago, I got a phone call to make cookies for a similar event. I said yes against MJs better judgment. I had too much on my plate to do the same caliber job. I called the requestor back and thanked him for thinking of me, but I'd rather not do a half-assed job. I didn't have the same time as the first. He understood so I do hope there'll be a next time. The smart thing for me to do as a lesson is to be like the boy scouts and always be prepared. I will freeze some cookie doough so that I can get the job done w/o sacrificing the quality.

What kind of cook are you? Are you a solo artist or part of a duo or group? Do you put a little love in what you do? If not, you should. Life will be so much sweeter that way. Are you a slacker like me or are you a boy scout? Are you ever ready for whatever life brings?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hi, My name is AJ

and I'm addicted to shopping. Okay, not just any shopping. I'm addicted to grocery shopping. I try to avoid the circulars. It's not easy. I'm limiting those quick "we need a carton of milk' runs. Those are hazardous to a girl's bank account and willpower. Inevitably, the carton of milk turns into a package of meat that has been marked down, loss leaders such as pasta (88 cents a box), package of BOGO hot dogs. For the uninitiated, BOGO means buy one get one as in buy one get one 50% off or free. Preferably free. Now, the stores are doing something diabolical to get me in the doors. The are offering Buy two, get three free. How am I not supposed to cave under such pressure. So, how do I combat this? Well, the first question is can I afford to go to the grocery store? What do I really need? Do we have th space? There's nothing worse than getting everything home and then you can't put it all away.

I have tried Peapod grocery delivery. I liked it but they kept screwing up my delivery. It kept me out of the store and I was able to monitor my budget a little better. There were no distractions like pudding for 80 cents.

What are your vices? What are your methods for maintaining your sanity in the grocery store? What happens if the list fails?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Who Do You Cook For?

When I was younger, I cooked for me. I loved dessert and having something ready from the store was not always an option. My mother suggested I learn to make my own. It was a really basic sugar cookie recipe. It had to be b/c our pantry was limited to staples. She taught me that fancy was nice, but not always practical.

In my late teens, I cooked for myself and my uncle. From him I learned the secret to great fried chicken and steamed cabbage. An older cousin gave me the recipe for rice pudding over the telephone. The simple instructions I receieved from these individual provided a solid foundation for soul food, down home, country cooking.

In my twenties, I cooked for my friends. I was the only college student I knew that always (& I do mean always) had a fully stocked fridge and pantry. My door was always open if you needed a meal, so sugar or even bacon grease (one of the secrets to that fried chicken). I had a hot dinner every night. That was home.

In my late twenties/earlythirties, I found myself cooking for my family. DOD (dear old dad) was a cook for the Navy in the 60s & 70s as well as other places throughout the years. He was my biggest critic. If he ate something I cooked and he complained, that was a good thing. If he didn't like it, he would not have bothered to comment. My mother on the other hand, she ate everything I cooked and let me know if the meal pleased her. I no longer cook for them as they have been seated at the Lord's table.

Now, I cook for myself, MJ and my sister. The great thing about MJ is that he loves whatever I cook. My sister likes most things. It's funny she and I have yet to catch how MJ eats around vegetables. It's comical. You see a bowl or plate filled with pot roast or pot pie and the next minute there's nothing left but the veggie bits. Still, there's something warm about cooking for people you love.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Some Nights I Just Don't Feel Like Cooking

Okay, most nights for the past month or two, I have not felt like cooking. And that's just awful considering I love food and cooking. My intent when I arrived home was to prepare saucy turkey meatballs. Unfortunately, life had other plans. MJ and I ate some more of the sliders I had prepared and were prepping to drop off some glass to a friend's brother. There wasn't enough time to start cooking as we waited for said friend to call with the logistics. That threw off my evening. Eight at night is no time to really cook. I will say that it did give me time to relax. By nine, my cooking mojo was back. I stepped in the kitchen and prepared the red velvet cupcakes I've been wanting for two weeks. While the cupcakes are Duncan Hines, the Kahlua cream cheese frosting I will make tonight is from scratch.

Hey, I was on a roll so I decided to boil a dozen eggs for a quick snack in the evenings and to take to work for breakfast. Not content to stop there, I had one more chicken breast that I decided to pair w/smooth peanut butter, a can of chicken broth, a can of coconut milk and red curry powder. Soup! The soup lacked meat so I steamed some frozen shrimp and tossed it in. I have a tasty lunch to look forward to today.

What do you do when you don't feel like cooking and the thought of calling Papa, Valentino's, Ralph's, etc.? What inspires you to cook? What is your guilty pleasure? Do you need a recipe for all of your meals or are you as off the cuff as I am?