Pinterest – nailed it!

I’m heading to my super adorable friend Becky’s annual S’mores party this evening.  Never wanting to show up empty handed, I thought I’d make some interesting cookies to bring as graham cracker substitutions for warm and gooey toasted marshmallows.

My first thought was to make a sweet potato cookie.  Hear me out… My favorite Thanksgiving dish is the mashed sweet potatoes with the broiled marshmallows on top.  Almost every other Thanksgiving side dish from my youth I’ve created a more upscale version of as I’ve gotten older, but I still kind of love the old school sweet potatoes.  So, I thought a sweet potato cookie with a warm and toasty marshmallow would be kind of amazing.  Except…the cookies are not delicious.  They kind of just taste like bland white flour.  I cooked the second sheet tray of them until they were a little crispier, so I’ll bring those along with me as kind of an experiment, but my sister reminded me my cookie reputation would be on the line so I should maybe do a take two.

Now, I pride myself on making a pretty amazing classic chocolate chip cookie.  I’ve made all kinds and they are always delicious.

For this event, I thought I could do it with a trip of chocolate chip varieties (milk, semi-sweet and dark chips) and I thought I’d look through all the recipes I’ve pinned on Pinterest and find a thinner cookie recipe.  Which I did

The Canal House cookie recipe

The Canal House cookie recipe

It seemed perfect!  The blog author described it as thin and chewy, crisp edges and a little salty – I thought that would be great for the marshmallow goodness.

Now, a few things could have happened here.

1. This is the first time I’ve tried really baking in my Columbus kitchen…with it’s electric oven.  It’s just different.

2. It could have been a butter issue.  I didn’t use super high quality butter (it was butter though, not margarine, not something generic…)

3. I felt it was light on flour in the recipe, but I’m used to thicker cookies.

Here’s what I just pulled out of the oven…

Cookie tragedy

Cookie tragedy

 

NAILED IT!

NAILED IT!

 

So…. I think I’m going to pick up a six pack of my new favorite beer, Kentucky Bourbon Ale, and let that be the thing I bring tonight.  There will surely be enough junk food there already.

 

The Bad, the Good and the Ridiculous

 

 

The Bad:  Starting the day with news that the speaker presenting four hours of my class this afternoon wasn’t feeling well and not coming in.

The Good: Being awesome and just taking over the four hour section impressing my boss even though it was really no big deal.

The Ridiculous: Getting more news at work that our company was….not sold.  Kind of.  An anticipated sale came – of almost every banner except ours and some small regional chains.  This could be an indicator that the company is focusing on being a wholesale distributor again and focusing less on operating their own retail ops.  Which could be fine.  But still, not at all the expected news.

The Bad: My Christmas tree is still up.  I feel some shame over this.

The Good: Forgetting that you put a pork roast in the crock pot this morning until about 5 minutes before you got home so I was pleasantly surprised dinner was ready!

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The Even Better: Deciding NOT to go to that movie after work because that pork roast would have been in there a really long time then.

The Bad: Trying to take pictures of meat with a camera phone because my real camera battery is dead.

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The Good:  This Pioneer Woman recipe for pork roast.  Mine has yet to come out like her pictures, but she turns her occasionally while it’s cooking and uses a LOT more chipotle pepper and adobo sauce than I do.  Still, it comes out delicious and today, I made it even more so!

The Ridiculous: Making a 6 lb pork roast for a single gal.  Seriously.  A 6 lb pork roast yields 3 lbs of delicious shredded pork.  I weighed it.

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The Bad: Nearly ruining my appetite with hummus and pretzels while I was shredding delicious pork roast.

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The Good: Making sauce!  I pulled some of the liquid out of the the crockpot after I pulled all the meat out of the crock pot to shred.  There were onions and chipotle peppers and adobo sauce and goodness that I ladled into a small sauce pot and started boiling so it would reduce and thicken.  (And – in true happiness project style I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher while the sauce cooked.  Don’t waste small amounts of time!  Also, a watched sauce never reduces.)  I threw in a tablespoon or so of brown sugar and 1/4 cup of pomegranate juice to sweeten it up.

The Ridiculous: Not needing a plate at all really because I just kept dipping shredded pork into the sauce and eating it over the stove.

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The Good: Combining delicious shredded pork, perfectly smoky and sweet sauce and a sweet potato!

 

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The Ridiculous.

Photo on 1-10-13 at 8.22 PM #3

 

 

 

 

 

The End.

Put some cumin on it

(Disclaimer: I am supposed to be writing a research proposal right now.  If you enjoy this post, know that somehow that makes you an accomplice to my procrastination.)

I love Mexican food.  What’s not to love?  You get chips and salsa to snack on immediately while making food decisions.  No matter what food decision you make, chances are it will include things like melted cheese and sour cream.  And there are margaritas.  There is only upside to Mexican food.

Except that it can get unhealthy really fast (see the part about melted cheese and sour cream).  I have learned that almost anything I throw together can become enchilada filling if you just put some cumin in it.  Case in point, last night’s dinner.  Sweet potatoes and black beans are delicious together and I had a sweet potato that needed to be used.  I started by dicing it up and tossing it into a pan with a bit of olive oil.  While that started cooking I diced up a zucchini and threw it into the pot with some crushed garlic.

imageOnce the zucchini had started to soften I added a can of rinsed and drained black beans and a lot of spice.  Some chili powder, a dash of cayenne and cumin – the magical spice that makes everything Mexican food.  (Try it in scrambled eggs sometime – Mmmm – eggs, black beans, tomatoes, spinach and cumin make an excellent omelet.)

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Once all my spices were in I added about 3/4 cup of water and brought it up to a boil, then covered it and brought it down to simmer for several minutes.  Once the water was mostly absorbed I removed the lid and let it simmer a little longer to thicken up.  Then spoon some into tortillas (I almost always have whole wheat tortillas on hand) and put them in a small baking dish.  I was only making three, I put the rest of the filling in the fridge to use later.  I poured on about 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce and popped them into the oven for 10 minutes.  I pulled them out, added some crumbled goat cheese and popped them back in the oven until the cheese got melty.  Oh goat cheese – you make everything better.

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I am a grouchy vegan

I don’t think one is causing the other.  I don’t think I’m grouchy because of Vegan month.  That would be an error of the post hoc, ergo propter hoc variety.  Post hoc is a logical fallacy that states because an event followed another event, that first event caused the second one to happen.  It’s often false.

I’m pretty sure I’m grouchy because I’m exhausted.  I am no good tired.  And there’s little relief in sight.  Usually, my job is not that hard.  It’s still not that hard this week, but it got busy.  Like, at work until 7pm two nights in a row busy.  And back early tomorrow morning.  And I’ve brought work home with me two nights in a row.  Not homework, actual work.  The work that pays me so I can go to school.  And I need sleep because I’m running a half marathon this weekend that this morning I felt really calm and prepared for and now I’m starting to wig out.  But there’s not a lot of time to focus on calming down about the race because then there’s the homework.  Blerg.

Speaking of post hoc, did you know The West Wing is streaming on Amazon Instant?  I have a Kindle, and I love to buy books, therefore I have Amazon Prime (name that fallacy!) which has all kinds of free streaming movies and tv shows.  The West Wing is one of them!  I feel I should have known this.  I own TWO copies of Sports Night on DVD, I’m one of 17 people who watched Studio 60 to the very end and own that DVD series.  Granted, I’m boycotting The Newsroom, so maybe the Sorkin mojo didn’t find me to tell me about The West Wing streaming on Amazon Prime!!  The worst part is I have to forget that I know this because if you’ll see the above paragraph, I’m too busy to enjoy Sam Seaborn and the gang.

Back to tonight.  The more I drove home in the dark the crankier I got.  I was home too late to run outside.  I missed Zumba.  I was out of leftovers in the fridge which means my options were stop by Chipotle or go home and make dinner.  I had a mushroom bourguignon on the menu.  I had all the ingredients on hand.  I know this dish takes at least 40 minutes to make.  I seriously contemplate the idea of eating a banana, almond butter and granola for dinner…again.  I decide to do it.  To make the yummy dinner food.  Because cooking relaxes me.  Because taking pictures of food makes me happy.  And because I needed a minute to get uncranky before I started on homework lest I snap at unsuspecting cohorts.

I got all Julia Child in the kitchen.  I chopped onions, garlic and carrots into a mirepoix, the smell of which immediately started lowering my blood pressure.  I added a bay leaf, because I’m fancy and started chopping mushrooms, one of my most favorite ingredients.  I even averted disaster when the one ingredient it turns out I didn’t have could be easily substituted.  (FYI – I didn’t have tomato paste, only tomato sauce – easy fix, simmer tomato sauce until it’s reduced by half and voila! Tomato Paste!)  I glugged some red wine into the Dutch oven and let that reduce.  I glugged some into a glass as well.  Sorry No Booze October – you lose.  Everything was delicious and simmering away and I started to forget that I had been all rage-y just an hour ago.

This adventure will probably cause me to be up even later, but at least calm has returned.  I did remember, for a split second, why people stay in not so good relationships.  Because sometimes that person has dinner waiting for you when you come home, and all you have to do is change your clothes, grab some food and settle into bed with text books.  I remember now.  Nights like that were easy and I could have used one of those tonight.  Nights like this can wreck you – if you don’t have mushroom bourguignon.

How dinner began…

Add onion, carrots, garlic, dried thyme, salt & pepper to some olive oil. Cook until onions are soft.

Move the softened onion, carrot, garlic to the side and throw in chopped mushrooms. Cook until they start to release liquid. Pull them out.

Wine for the pan, wine for Sarah. About a glass for each.

Add a few tablespoons of my newly reduced tomato paste, some vegetable stock and simmer away…Hard to be in a bad mood with the smell coming from this pot surrounding you.

How dinner was done…

 

 

 

 

 

If it’s good enough for Bayless…

It’s good enough for me!

Two summers ago I went to a book signing/food tasting with Rick Bayless.  His new book Fiesta at Rick’s had just been released.  I love me some Rick Bayless.  I tried to get a reservation at Topolobampo in Chicago for my 30th birthday.  Six weeks out I tried and it was already booked.  Bayless had just won Top Chef All Star, and Topolobampo was noted as one of the Obama’s favorite restaurants when they lived in Chicago, so it was a hot ticket, even so, I thought six weeks out I may have a chance!

Back to the tasting two summers ago – Rick made a guacamole inspired by a BLT.  Which was pretty  much his standard guacamole with some crumbled bacon.  I had one piece left from the cheese stuffed date adventure, so I crisped that up and added it to my guacamole.

Sadly, it was not delicious.  This is not Rick’s fault.  It’s the fault of over ripe avocados.  They were probably about 2 days past their prime.  I also added lemon juice instead of lime juice.  Rick told me that could be an option in guacamole.  I favor lime juice.  I am having fun experimenting with guacamole.  The corn-crab guacamole of a couple of weeks ago and the bacon addition this time.  I also had some mango-pineapple salsa that I put on the fish tacos I made, and smooshed some of that into the guacamole also for a few bites.  Excellent!  For sure the next time I’ll try that with a bigger batch.  Yum!

Also, fish tacos are fantastic!  I maintain that I don’t cook fish well, but this was okay.  I just squirted some lime juice and jerk seasoning on the cod before throwing it on my grill pan.  Then I put something from every color of the rainbow on the tacos.

bacon guacamole! ::photo from seriouseats.com::

Colorful tacos!

Summer of 2010, mugging with my new cookbook about to be signed

A little private photo op with Rick Bayless. No big deal.

This was such an exciting moment for me that it made my 2010 Christmas card. Ahh, summer of 2010 – you were a good one.

Random food comes together

I follow some blogs that make “throwing” dinner together seem like an art form.  I’m trying to embrace more spontaneity in my meal prep and using the so much food I have in my pantry.  I also am trying to use ingredients in more dishes than I may have originally intended them for.  I buy more than my fair share of specialty ingredients for a particular dish and the remains of that ingredient hang out in my fridge until it’s gone bad.

So, here are some random dishes from the last couple of weeks.  Most pictures were taken with my phone, so it’s not great photography, but it has been pretty good food.

Corn Crab Guacamole
I was in Cleveland last December and found a restaurant recommendation through Yelp.  The restaurant was Momocho and it was known for it’s guacamole variations and taquitos.  Sounds good to me!  I ordered a Blue Corn Crab guacamole and it was fantastic.  So, on a recent trip to Whole Foods, I splurged on some claw crab meat.  My plan was to add the crab and some corn to my standard guacamole recipe.

This may have been one of my greatest ideas ever.  I used frozen corn and just microwave the 1/4 cup that I needed.  I’m sure it could have been better with roasted corn, but I still have no complaints.  I made this for dinner 3 nights last week.  Only one of those nights did I make actual food to go with it. And that night it was tuna with a pineapple mango salsa.  I do not cook fish well.  I overcook it or undercook it.  And I love it so much, I wish I did this better.

But seriously, make this guacamole.  Next time I think I’m going to add the pineapple mango salsa to the guacamole…

 

 

Overnight oats is all the rage among the fit chick blog circles.  It’s taking oats, some kind of milk, nut butters, etc and letting them sit in the fridge overnight so it’s all ready in the morning.  I have not tried this yet.  I think it sounds like it could be a great idea, but I don’t know.  I like oatmeal – do I really want cold, mushy oatmeal?

Not this morning, I don’t.  I topped my hot, steel cut oatmeal with a sliced banana, walnuts and a drizzle of Nutella.

Another genius idea on my part.  How good is oatmeal topped with a bunch of stuff?!

 

 

 

 

 

And then there is this.  For the 2nd day in a row, this is what I made for lunch.  And it’s awesome.  Saute some spinach in a skillet so it wilts down.  Add two beaten eggs, 1 chopped tomato and 1/3 cup black beans.  Cook, stirring often, and you have a very delicious scramble.  But we’re not stopping there.  I heated up two whole wheat tortillas and sliced up an avocado.  Divide the scramble in half and place on each tortilla.  Top with avocado.  I added a tablespoon of plain fat free greek yogurt to each one as well.  Greek yogurt is my new go to for everything – with cereal, on eggs, in a smoothie – it’s perfect!  I tried to roll them into a burrito, but they were too full, or my tortillas were too small.  Whatever, I ate them as tacos and they were still the greatest.  I love Mexican food and this Mexican inspired dish hit the spot big time after my two workouts this morning.

 

 

 

 

So there you have it.  Random food yields delicious results.  I didn’t take a picture of my snack just now, but same concept.  Chopped up apple, tablespoon of almond butter, 1/2 cup greek yogurt, granola and another drizzle of Nutella.  (I have a lot left over from the day I made crepes at work AND it’s in a convenient squeeze bottle.  I see a drizzle of Nutella making an appearance at weekend breakfast Sunday as well.)

Copy cat burgers and strange conversations

I follow Iowa Girl Eats and her recipes have started making it into my rotations pretty frequently.  I don’t cook all that much these days, so when I say I made two of her recipes in the last month, that’s heavy rotation.  Around 5pm or so I saw her post on some chili lime burgers she made based on a Trader Joe’s burger and I thought I had enough ingredients on hand to riff something like that and dinner was decided!

::photo from Iowa Girl Eats blog::

 

I had ground turkey instead of ground chicken.  I didn’t have cilantro and it would have been cooler if it did.  Otherwise, I followed her recipe pretty close and it was delicious!

photo by me!

I even made the asparagus-tomato side dish.  Yummy!  Thanks Iowa Girl Eats!  Click on this link for her complete recipe.

Meanwhile, I was working in one of our grocery stores today when one of the assistant managers asked if she could ask me a personal question.  I said sure, braced myself, and then all she asked is if I was married.  That was an easy one.  I replied no, that I had been at one time, but not any longer.  Then she and another store manager spent a solid 10 minutes telling me all the reasons they wish they weren’t married and that if they had to do it all over they would do it completely different.  How all they want in the world is to come home and have some alone time.  That they are so tired of taking care of other people.  That they resent the people who ask them for help.  Granted, one of them had some tough stories, a disabled husband and son that needed a lot of care.  And she did it.  And she was miserable doing it.

Yikes.  Just a classic case of the grass is always greener, I suppose.  I miss taking care of someone.  I want there to be someone at the end of the day.  Someone to spend 42 years with, or 12 years with.  Do I think a lifetime with someone works?  I sure don’t know.  I find that coming home to two cats wonderful sometimes.  And sometimes it leads to patterns of enabled laziness.  I was obsessed with the movie Shall We Dance for a while and there’s a scene where Richard Jenkins and Susan Sarandon are talking about why people get married.  They say, “we need a witness to our life.”  I agree.  If there’s no one to see it – does it happen?

There are moments that are so great alone.  But I believe they are better with a witness.  I’ll never forget this one night where I was still married, but ex husband was traveling all the time.  I was working through all the seasons of Grey’s Anatomy like a fiend.  The farmer’s market had started and it must have been early because asparagus was in season.  I found out how to “borrow” television shows from the internet and had downloaded the rest of Season 4 because I couldn’t wait for it to come out on dvd.  Which means I had to watch the shows from the computer room because we didn’t have all the internet on tv stuff that I do today.  I also had the MOST uncomfortable office chair.  Picture it…I had a few drinks, decided to make an asparagus/rosemary/goat cheese tart for dinner and then a strawberry vanilla custard tart for dessert.  I do this and then decide, in a mostly intoxicated state, to drag a living room arm chair into the office so I can settle in and be more comfortable while I eat and watch my show.  If you could have seen me drag this chair around the corners of the hallway and office door.  This is one of my most ridiculous nights.  I laugh and laugh and laugh at myself when I think about it.  And there wasn’t anyone to witness it.  Is it as funny as I think if there’s no one there to witness it?  Those are the nights I think I’m so innovative and funny and easy to love.  And there was no one there to see it.  Even writing this story – it isn’t funny!  You really had to be there.

When I told my grandparents I was going to get married, my grandmother told me to proceed with caution.  She thought I was too young.  Grandpa, on the other hand, told me I could still do things that I would have done single – but now I’d have a partner.  And things were better with a partner.  I’m with Grandpa on this.  Love should give you wings, like they say Red Bull does.  I don’t know, I’ve never had any.

Red Bull, that is.  Not love.

 

 

Big lunch Tuesday

Late workouts = big lunch!

Many, many years ago I used to eat at Rainforest Cafe.  When I lived in Orlando and worked for Disney my friends and I seemed to end up there a lot.  They had a chicken dish there called Typhoon Chicken that was pasta with grilled chicken and a corn/black bean/tomato relish on top of it.  That may have been my first experience with black beans ever.  I loved it.  Of course, as if often the case with my favorite item at a restaurant, it did not make a menu revision a couple of years later.

Today, while thinking about what to make for my big lunch, that combination came back to me.  It came back to me for the following reasons:

  1. I made black bean burgers and pico de gallo last night for dinner and have some leftover and I like to repurpose food.
  2. Meg left me a bag of salmon fillets in the freezer.
  3. I had exactly one portion of whole wheat linguini left in my pantry.

Done.  I took the salmon fillet, sprinkled it with salt and pepper and then spooned pico de gallo on it.  I put this in a foil package and popped it in a 375 oven for 20 minutes.

Before cooking - salmon with pico de gallo salsa in foil pack

Meanwhile I boiled my linguini.  When fish and pasta had just a couple minutes left I popped a black bean burger patty in the microwave to heat up.  These had black beans, corn, garlic, chipotle pepper, oats and bread crumbs in them.  After everything was finished I assembled.

Pasta with crumbled black bean burger

Salsa'd up fish on top

So good!  I maintain that I’m not a great cook, but I am an excellent copy cat.  So, thanks to Rainforest Cafe for inspring today’s lunch.  My run and Zumba workout thank you.

(Okay, and as I was typing I just got a phone call offering me an ACTUAL final interview for this position that has been courting me since September.  I’ve had 4 other interviews.  I thought the last one was the final one.  I was mistaken.)

(Also, I’m watching Enchanted as I put up my Christmas decorations.  It’s such a cute movie.)

 

 

…and calm returns

There are things that always work for me when I start spinning as fast as I was a couple of days ago.

  1. Go for a long walk with good conversation.
  2. Write it out so I can put it behind me.
  3. Take pictures of food.
I’m not always rooted in rational and linear thoughts.  You know how if you thrust a stick into a spinning bike wheel everything comes to a halt?  Sometimes I need somebody to be a stick.  Take a 4.5 mile walk with a good friend (who also told me to leave figure skating with Scott Hamilton on The List 2.0 – why not?) who thinks you have valuable opinions and perspective on items outside of your own head and I’ll show you how to feel better immediately.  I appreciate all the kind comments after my spazzing out two nights ago.  All of you offered perspective and helped to calm me down as well.
As for taking pictures of food – let me show you what I made for lunch.  Tuesday nights are my longest work out nights.  I do a 30 minute run/walk on the treadmill and then a 60 minute Zumba class.  I try to time it so I can do some arm strength training in the middle of the two workouts.  by the time I get home it’s after 9:30pm and I don’t like to eat dinner that late.  Typically I’ll make a smoothie and just drink a lot of water.  When I can, I make a bigger lunch on Tuesday afternoons.  This gets me through the evening without feeling starved at 9pm.  Todays lunch was salmon and tomato orzo.

Risotto-like Orzo

I make this orzo all the time.  It’s really versatile and flavorful and is a quick and tasty substitution for time consuming risottos.  I start by sauteing a shallot in a tablespoon of olive oil.  Once the shallot has softened I add 2 cups of vegetable broth.  You can supplement some of the stock with water or white wine if you’d like.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Today I added some grape tomatoes I had in the fridge.  I wanted them to burst while everything cooked.  Here’s the super easy part- bring to a boil, put the lid on it, turn to a simmer and let cook about 10 – 12 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.  No need to drain anything and all the flavor of the stock or wine is in the pasta.  I like to add fresh spinach in the last couple of minutes of cooking and put the lid back on.  The spinach wilts really nicely into the dish.  After it’s done you can add some grated parmesan to increase the creaminess of the dish.

I splurged by starting with butter.

My salmon is super easy too.  Pat dry the fish filet and sprinkle with salt, pepper and dill.  I add two very thin lemon slices to the non skin side of the fish also.

Fresh lemon is so good with salmon.

After the flip.

I put my salmon into the melted butter with the skin side down first.  After about 6 minutes I flipped the fish with the lemon slices still in place over.  The lemon cooks and lemon juice steams it’s way into the fish filet.  I just love salmon like this!

After the cooking.

Lunch is served!

There you have it.  How I come back down after a minor meltdown.  Walk it out.  Write it out.  Take pictures of food.  A fairly fool-proof 3 part plan.  Add my favorite work out night to the mix and today is going to be okay.

*insert chicken noise here*

I cannot make great chicken dishes.  I attribute this in part to being married to a gentleman who doesn’t eat chicken (for no good reason- he ate all other meat, just not chicken) and then dating a vegetarian for over a year.  I’ve never needed to make chicken dishes in my adult life.  I have two dishes I do that are consistently successful – both involve taking a chicken breast and pounding it really flat so it cooks quickly and evenly.

Tonight I set out to make chicken drumsticks with biscuits and tomato jam, courtesy of Food Network.

Photo from FoodNetwork.com

Doesn’t it look good? Everything was going well.  The tomato jam smelled delicious and had a great texture.  I pulled the chicken out of the oven.  I made a plate.  I went into my living room to eat while I watched Modern Family.  I use my fork to pull apart some chicken and it’s still mostly raw.  Oh dang it.  I put it back on the stove.  I eat two biscuits with tomato jam while I wait.  It’s phenomenal!  This is going to be my new condiment of choice for dinner parties.  After 6 minutes or so I check on my chicken.  It looks better.  I bite into it.  I’m still not sure it’s done.  It goes back on the stove.  I eat another biscuit with more tomato jam.  Finally, I have fully cooked chicken.  And while it was tasty, I’m not sure it was worth the wait.

Also learned: don’t try to eat chicken drumsticks from your lap while on the couch.  This is more of a table meal.  Messy.

But make the tomato jam.  Excellent and so easy!  I may go have some more.