Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Best new food blog

Naked Mohawk-Baby Carrot Jockeys

And also:

I'll Take My Chances

I can't stop laughing...

A summer cold

Last week Mr Wonderful came down with a nasty summer cold. I thought I'd escaped it, but apparently I wasn't so lucky...I started feeling it while I was driving home on Sunday, after dropping Rugrat off at summer camp. I just hope that he doesn't come down with it - what a disappointment it would be (not to mention a waste of money) if he had to come home early from camp!

As much as I hate being sick, at least I'm getting this cold thing out of the way while the kids are both gone (Tomboy's at her mom's this week) and before we head down for our vacation in Palm Springs next week. And I'm feeling much better today; yesterday was miserable but I got 10 hours of sleep the last two nights (thank you, NyQuil!) and have been drinking lots of liquids, so I'm feeling a bit better today. We'll see...it does tend to get worse as the day goes on, so I may be prematurely optimistic here, but I'm not as "out of it" today.

I know I've been lagging on posting here. That happens when I feel like I need to do a recap of something, and then I keep putting it off, and thinking that I can't blog about anything else until that is done. I'm talking about the camping trip we went on at the end of June, of course.

It was really very nice, and would have been ideal if it weren't for the damn mosquitoes. Rugrat got bitten so many times on his face that he looked like a boxer who'd just done ten rounds; his eye was swollen almost shut on the ride home. But other than the bugs, it was great. We spent a lot of time at the river nearby; I'd brought a huge inner tube (meant for pulling along behind a boat, so it was very sturdy) and we spent some lovely hours just floating in the water. Niece, of course, was absolutely ecstatic to be in the water - she's always been drawn to water, and would live her entire life in the water if she could. Mr Wonderful took Rugrat fishing for a little while, and I sat on the beach chatting with Sister and Brother-In-Law, knitting my cushy green v-neck sweater. You may think that wool and knitting needles are not appropriate for the beach, but hey, it's my vacation. I get to relax however I want. :)

And the food was glorious. I'd pre-made some Ribollita and some Mexican Chicken Chili before we left, and we also had hot dogs, eggs and bacon, biscuits, tacos, sandwich fixin's and snacks, plus lots of beer and soft drinks and water. Sister brought deviled eggs...mmmm....and they made us chicken-pineapple kabobs one night that were fantastic! Sister & BIL had gotten a really cool new camp stove; one side is a grill, the other is a regular burner, and it was very handy.

The best of the pictures of the camping trip are up on Flickr, if you're interested.

Oh, and let me leave you with this little snippet of conversation, overheard about 10 minutes after Sister & her family showed up:

Cousin: You suck!
Rugrat: No, you suck!
Cousin: We both suck!
Rugrat: Yeah, we both suck!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lemony Chicken & Peas

This was a quick dinner I pulled together that had a light, lemony sauce and healthy brown rice. How did I manage a quick dinner with brown rice, you ask? Trader Joe's frozen organic brown rice -- it cooks in three minutes in the microwave!

Lemony Chicken & Peas
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
zest and juice of one lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp flour
1 - 1 1/2 c chicken stock (I used turkey because that's what I had on hand)
2 roasted chicken breasts, shredded into bite-size pieces (I roast several chicken breasts at once and use them for the next few days for quick & easy dinners)
1 1/2 c frozen peas
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
3-4 c cooked brown rice (I used two packages of Trader Joe's frozen organic brown rice)
salt & pepper

Melt the butter over medium heat in a saute pan. When the butter is totally melted, add the olive oil, rosemary, lemon zest and minced garlic. Season well with salt & pepper. After a minute or so, add the flour and stir. Cook the flour for a minute, and then add the stock, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Add the lemon juice and then throw in the chicken, frozen peas and parsley. Once everything is heated through, it's ready to go. Serve over the brown rice.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Whole wheat goodness

Over the past few days I've made a couple of loaves of bread from scratch. The first loaf I tried was a white bread, no-knead recipe that I followed to the letter. The second time I decided to get a little creative. The bread turned out fairly dense, with a fine crumb and a fantastic crispy, crunchy crust. With the antioxidants in the flaxseed, this will be my submission to Sweetnicks' ARF/5-a-day roundup this week.

Wheat & Flaxseed No-Knead Bread
1 1/2 c unbleached all purpose flour, plus a little more for working the dough later
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
1 heaping Tbsp honey (I used a nice local wildflower honey)
1 3/4 c water

Mix all the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Add the honey and the water, and mix just until the dough comes together in a big ball. Cover the bowl with a clean dishtowel and leave alone for 12 hours. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and sprinkle with a little flour to keep it from sticking to your hands. Pull the blob of dough from one end into the center, turn and repeat. Do this until all four edges have been folded into the center. Turn it over so that the "seam" is on the bottom and pat the dough into a circle shape. Cover it again with the dishtowel and let it rise for another hour.

Preheat oven to 500 with a 5 1/2 qt round covered dutch oven inside the oven while it heats. When the oven is preheated and the dough disk has risen for another hour, put the dough in the dutch oven and cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for another 10 minutes. Immediately remove the bread from the dutch oven and put it on a rack to cool. Leave it alone until it is completely cooled or you just can't stand it anymore and have to try it (it will cut much better when it's cooled).

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sorta off-topic

So I'm sitting here browsing my Tivo "suggestions" and decide to watch an episode of 30 Minute Meals. And OMG, I love love love Rachael Ray's new haircut! I am so distracted by the retro gorgeousness of her hair that I don't even care what she's cooking.

Must. Get. Haircut.

Spicy Spaghetti

I popped in to Kinder's (a local butcher) the other day for some chicken breasts and peppered bacon, and the sausages caught my eye. I asked for two mild links, thinking I'd make some spaghetti for an easy weeknight dinner. Turns out, the butcher gave me the wrong ones and our spaghetti turned out much spicier than I planned. It was way too much kick for Tomboy, but Mr Wonderful loved it and said it reminded him of when he lived in New Orleans.

Spicy Spaghetti
1/2 lb angel hair pasta (I used the Barilla Plus kind, which is a healthier multigrain pasta)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 hot Italian links (any spicy sausage would be good here), cut in half lengthwise and then into thin half-rounds
1 large can (28 oz) petite diced tomatoes
1/4 c fresh basil, torn or sliced into thin strips
salt & pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Saute the onions until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds or so. Throw in the sausage and cook for another few minutes. Add the tomatoes. Wait for the sauce to start bubbling a little, and then turn down the heat to low. You can simmer this for a loooong time; I did for about half an hour, waiting for Mr Wonderful to come home. The flavors just all mix together and get better and better. Just before serving, add the basil and adjust the seasoning (the sausage probably added plenty of heat and salt, but check just in case).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Best news ever!

I know I owe y'all a recap of the camping trip and I am slacking on it. In the meantime, you can enjoy the photos on Flickr.

But! Mr Wonderful and I got the Best! News! Ever! yesterday. He was offered a position at the local hospital and accepted it, and will be transferring out here next month. While a job offer may not sound like the best news in the whole wide world, in this case it is. It means 3+ hours per day not spent commuting anymore. It means about $400 in gas not being purchased. It means Mr Wonderful won't be so freakin' exhausted all the time anymore. It's a swing shift position (afternoon to late night) so we'll miss our evenings together, but it also means that he can start taking classes at the local community college in the mornings to fulfill the prerequisites he needs in order to take the Kaiser course to become an ultrasound tech.

And he'll be working only five minutes away!!!

Wait, let me say that again: Five. Minute. Commute.

Best news ever, folks!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pork Chops and Roasted Fingerlings

I was watching Rachael Ray the other day and saw her make a meal with huge veal chops topped with a "raw sauce" (which was essentially just a salad). I wasn't impressed with the pompous name, but it sounded tasty (hot meat, cool salad) and I had all this organic produce from Trader Joe's, so dinner was born.

Pork Chops & Salad
2 thin cut boneless pork chops
2 tsp salt-free seasoning blend
2 c baby salad greens
1 c chopped heirloom tomatoes (cherry tomatoes will work fine instead)
1/2 small red onion, diced
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper

In a large-ish bowl, combine the greens, tomatoes and onion. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and then about 1 Tbsp olive oil. Season well with salt & pepper. Toss to combine, then let this sit off to the side while you make your pork chops.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Put 2 Tbsp olive oil in the skillet. Prepare the chops by sprinkling liberally with the seasoning blend, and salt & pepper. When the oil is shimmering in the pan, you'll know it's hot enough - add your pork chops. Remember that these chops are really thin though, so don't overcook them! I cooked mine for about three minutes, TOTAL - about 1 1/2 minutes per side.

Serve the salad with a chop on top and the roasted fingerling potatoes on the side (see below).

Roasted Fingerlings
1 small bag fingerling potatoes from Trader Joe's, cut in half
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp salt-free seasoning blend
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400.

On a rimmed sheet pan, toss the potatoes with the olive oil so that all sides are coated. Sprinkle with the seasoning blend and salt and pepper. Turn all the potatoes so the cut side is facing down, then roast 'em for about 25-30 minutes, until they are shriveled a bit and beautifully browned on the bottom.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Review: Cocina Medina

This is one of my favorite restaurants, and I’m lucky enough to live within walking distance. That’s a very good thing, because their margaritas are excellent. In fact, sometimes the boyfriend and I walk down there, get a pitcher of margaritas to share, and then stumble home afterwards, very satisfied and happily buzzed.

I’ve had their taquitos, camarones (both with the spicy “diablo” sauce and the milder garlic sauce), chimichangas, enchiladas, tamales and chile rellenos. Everything I’ve tried has been fantastic, with the possible exception of the tamale, which was a bit dry. Nothing beats their chile rellenos though…swimming in a smoky mole sauce and filled with molten jack cheese, it’s nothing short of incredible. The chiles always have lots of flavor and retain some “bite” rather than turning to a flavorless mush, like so many others I’ve tried.

If you’re in the area and hankering for a taste of authentic Mexican food served with a smile, give Cocina Medina a try.