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Slow cooked Saturday

There is nothing I love more than honest, earthy cooking. A pot on the stove that makes the whole house smell rosier, and straight forward flavors that taste of just what they are. This afternoon I started a pot roast that simmered until eight in the evening, and it just tasted so incredibly… well, beefy! I don’t really think anything more could be said. Shredded and coated in dark, voluptuously umami braising liquids (collagen FTW), embellished with a dollop of sour cream and spooned lovingly over buttered egg noodles, it was such a satisfying meal. I gilded the lily with a still-warm slice of pumpkin pie, which pushed me right over the edge of the happiness-meter.

Beef and nudes

Lip Smackingly Simple Pot Roast
Serves 6-8

One 3-4 lb chuck roast
AP Flour
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1/2 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
1/2 bottle dry red wine (I used some Merlot I had hanging around)
32 oz beef stock

Season the roast very generously with salt and pepper, the dust with flour and brown on all sides in the olive oil and butter in a heavy dutch oven. Towards the end of the browning, toss in the onion to sweat. Deglaze with the wine and add the stock. Simmer, partially covered for 4-5 hours, until it falls apart. Serve in a variety of ways: you can reduce the braising liquids to an intense sauce, toss with egg noodles, serve over mashed potatoes…the possibilities are endless! You can even add paprika to the braising liquids for a stroganoff-style sauce.

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Just a thought…

…loosely associated with the Puerto Rican boy band, Menudo. First of all, did you know that menudo is tripe soup? Seriously, guys. I get that it’s a catchy Spanish word, but tripe soup?

So it got me thinking, what if every nation had a boy band named after tripe soup? In Italy I loved bollito and tripa from Mercato Centrale. Bollito is boiled meats, but it’s always the mystery bits, especially at the central market. So obviously there needs to be an Italian boy band named Bollito.

Imagine… a coliseum full of people and the em cee booms over the hushed crowd, “Ladies and Gentlemen….BOLLITO!” and out comes a guy dressed as tripe, one as a bun and the third as a bowl of salsa verde. And they sing and dance around.

I never said my thoughts made sense, just that I have them.

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Smoke

One of my favorite memories from my time in Italy was the distilled veil of incense that wraps around you when you enter a basilica. The sweet smoke a curtain that envelops you, beckoning you to breathe in the sweet perfume and linger. I would imagine that every wisp was a prayer, the curl of the flame from the candles the memory of a votum uttered in urgency.

New people enter your life every day. Most of them are forgettable; a wisp of smoke drifting in a cavernous room. Every once in a while you meet someone who makes you stand still. You find yourself looking forward, not back. Before long you forget they were ever a stranger. They install themselves quietly in your life. You relax and breathe deeply, you linger and get to know them. With a jolt you realize they’ve become a fixture in your day and you would have a pain in your side if they were removed.

I recently told someone I loved them. I admitted what I felt because I had that jolt of realization that my life would be less rich without them in it. That I am happy to stand still and breathe deeply. While I feel the urge to clasp them to my side I know that’s not right. You don’t love people to keep them in your life, you love them because they’ve made your life better, for whatever reason. This person makes me laugh. I’m funny and wild and ridiculous, I experience the profound and the profane when I’m with him.

Love is a fluid thing, it ebbs and flows and one day this person may drift away, leaving only a memory of their perfume behind. I’m okay with that. I accept that right now, they make me feel this way. I have no expectations or demands.

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After a long weekend of back-to-back 14 hour shifts, my mom looks forward to dinner on Sunday night. I try to make something comforting, which for our family usually means chicken in a creamy sauce (such as Chicken Marsala or Paprikash). Since I’m trying to cook lighter, I’ve been avoiding my old standby of heavy cream and sour cream and tried Skillet Chicken and Rice with Peas from America’s Test Kitchen:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Salt and pepper

AP Flour

Vegetable oil

Unsalted butter

1 med. onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/8 tsp. Red pepper flake

1 1/2 cups long grain rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

4 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 cup frozen peas

2 tbls lemon juice

5 scallions, sliced thin (optional)

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown the chicken well on one side, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the butter to the skillet. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and return to medium-high heat until softened, 2 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the rice thoroughly and let toast for about 30 seconds. Stir in the wine and let the rice absorb it completely, about 1 minute. Stir in the broth, scraping up any browned bits. Nestle the chicken into the rice, browned side facing up, including any accumulated juices. Cover and cook over medium heat until chicken is cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a clean plate. Gently brush off and discard any rice clinging to the chicken, then tent the chicken with foil and set aside. Return the skillet of rice to medium-low heat, cover, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, 8 to 12 minutes longer. Add the peas and lemon juice to the rice and let heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with the chicken and lemon wedges.

My notes:

Last week I had no onions but I had three shallots, so I used those. I browned the chicken as ordered on just one side. I deeply carmelized the shallots, which I thought at the time was a mistake. I used Tilda basmati rice in favor of long-grain domestic rice (Tilda is my rice of choice). Finally, cartons of chicken broth comes in 32 oz. (4 cups) so I used more wine than the recipe called for to come up to an even 5 cups of liquids.  I actually used half white wine and half vermouth, since I didn’t have very much white wine left.

The resulting dish was deeply fragrant and brown. You could smell the carmelized shallots through the whole house. It was so tasty we both gobbled up double portions, fairly licking our plates. We both remarked that we wished for more browned chicken, so I noted that I would brown both sides of the chicken next time.

Tonight I used onions and half vermouth/half maderia. I didn’t carmelize the onions much, since I watched the episode of America’s Test Kitchen that this dish is featured in and it was very blonde. I browned the chicken on both sides and used World Market brand basmati rice, because I had used all my Tilda last week.

The dish was blonde and frankly, insipid. Without the deep carmelization of the aromatics the dish fell flat. The addition of extra lemon juice couldn’t even lift the flavors. The rice was also not as firm and individual as Tilda, which I feel caused the dish to suffer. Finally, the maderia was too sweet for this application.

All in all, I would use my modifications from week one, using Tilda rice, extra dry vermouth and shallots. I would brown the chicken on both sides, and deeply brown the aromatics. I would also use plenty of salt, because the chicken and rice suck up seasoning like crazy. I would make this dish again, because it is comforting, simple and sooo tasty.

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I r serious post

I’ve been having these crippling migraines for about six weeks now. Along with the pain is visual disturbance and referred pain in my leg hip and leg. I am in pain every single day. I’ve tried every natural remedy that I am comfortable with using, namely salt (I use a Neti pot), water, and mega-doses of potassium and vit. C. I go outside for 15-30 minutes daily to get my vit. D. I use aspirin for it’s anti-inflammatory and blood-thinning properties. And yet here I am, still in pain.

This has been happening to me since I was a child (aged 8), I go through “cycles” where I am in a lot of pain and cycles of relatively no pain. Along with the headaches I experience insomnia, depression and a burst of creativity. Is this the artist in me, who can only work when I’m absolutely miserable? I haven’t made art in two years, which is the last time I had several months of migraines. I’d find that more interesting if I wasn’t so gutted. Has this happened to anyone else?? I’ll post some pics of the watercolors and drawings I’ve been making.

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Comme Ci Comme Ça

A few new things have popped up lately. Last week I went into a peer interview at the hospital I wanted to work at. It went great; I was interviewed by two nurses who I immediately hit it off with. The next morning my recruiter called me and offered me the job. THANK YOU, LORD. Not only does that mean I can leave the hell hole that is K****, but I will be doing something of value. My new position is Nursing Assistant and I start August 4th. I hate to sound hokey, but I really feel like God listened to my prayers. It’s so crazy that this is finally happening. I applied for this position TWO MONTHS AGO. I thought I would have the summer to work, but I’ll just have two or three weeks until I return to school, so basically my training will be done and I’ll have to change my schedule.

My weight loss is going pretty good. I had a bit of a stall last week, but I can see my body changing. I’m starting to wear some of the clothes I haven’t fit into since 2004. I’m wearing a 22 now. At my largest I was a 28. Would you like a picture?

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Please, don’t be too jealous. You want another one? Oh, okay…

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I would love to lose 20 lbs. before I return to school. I have five weeks. Today I started back on Slim-Fast, which is how I lost the 20 lbs. for New Orleans. It’s simple, and with the addition of vegetable juice and fruit, it has all the nutrition I need. Wish me luck.

Finally, after several months of trying to get a date online, I think I am calling it quits for now. I went out on a couple dates which were fun, but didn’t lead me anywhere serious. There are a couple of guys long-distance I was/am talking to, but without a serious leap of faith, those avenues are futile. Talking to men online has both boosted my self-esteem and butchered it. I think I know who I am as a woman more than I did six months ago, and I have a better idea of what I want in a prospective mate. But on the flip side, realizing my faults and weaknesses as a person has been brutal. I have a lot of growing to do still before I am the best possible woman I can be for a man. And I say that because where I am right now isn’t good enough for the man I want. I want a certain kind of man- deliriously intelligent, wickedly funny, eccentric, kind, and sexy as hell- and I assume that man would have discerning tastes, too.

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Lazy Sunday

It’s about 90* F right now. I’m barely dressed in a camisole and cotton skirt. Perfect time for paperback books in the central air conditioning.

What I had for lunch today:

Sunday Lunch

Red Sails lettuce, baby carrots, celery from my local Amish farmer’s market, Persian (hothouse) cucumber, cheddar, granny smith apple, dried cranberries, pecans, all in a lemon-dill vinagriette. Would you like the receipt?

Basic vinagriette

1 tsp. dijon mustard or spicy mustard (I like Grey Poupon or Gulden’s)

Juice of one lemon, no pips, please, but the pulp is tasty; about 2-3 TBSP.

Depending on how sour you like your dressing, vinegar to taste (I use citrus champagne or Spanish sherry)

Salt and pepper

(optional) Herbs of your choice

Lovely olive oil,  about 3-4 TBSP. This is to your taste; I prefer a lean vinagriette.

In your salad bowl, place your mustard and acid(s), whisk to combine. Add your S&P and herbs. Slowly introduce the olive oil to get a solid emulsion. Taste for seasoning. Add your greens and toss gently. I do this by hand because it doesn’t bruise the lettuces.

Lunch closeup

And of course, I had a little friend to help me eat it all:

A lunch companion

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