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?