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.