Not What I Meant To Cook

15 Aug cooking

I am not a gifted cook.  I am lucky.

I “caramelize” (burn) things sometimes most of the time.  I don’t cook with recipes unless I’m in the mood for a Fun Project.  It is not unusual for me to go to the store and buy a bunch of things that happen to make me hungry, bring them home, line them up, and start musing (or googling) how I might put them all together.  It’s kind of a miracle I don’t end up with more Oreo-Dorito casseroles.

This week, I got an organic bone-in chuck roast from the farmers market (fancy, right?), some onions, a frozen veggie mix that was sort of stir-fry-esque, and some organic tamari (like soy sauce, but not).  I almost got ginger, but I was too lazy to turn around in the store and find it.  And I knew I had garlic at home.

I got home, noticed that I also had red curry paste and coconut milk, and changed gears.
The tamari is still unopened on my counter, and once I’d had my roast browned and simmering for about THREE DAYS in coconut curry, I discovered that my delicious veggies were teriyaki flavored.  Huh?  Gross.  I guess those will have to wait.  For a day when I am REALLY hungry.  I found some frozen broccoli and threw that in instead.

So my beef stir fry turned into coconut curry pot roast with broccoli.  It’s delicious (as judged by a jury of myself), but totally not what I thought I was cooking.  As usual.

Movin On Up

19 Sep

In an attempt to keep up with the Joneses, I’ve moved!

Please visit…. You will need to resubscribe but it will be worth it!

So bad… but so good!

13 Sep

I’m a great wife because I cook for my husband.  I’m not so great because dinner hits the table around 10:30pm.  Points for effort?

I know this isn’t when I normally talk about my attempts at frugality, but it coincides so nicely this weekend with my attempts in the kitchen that I really can’t avoid the subject.  I saw a commercial on Sunday morning that Pahl’s Market has a fresh vegetable stand inside their garden center.  We decided to check it out on the way home from church, and scored all of this…

…for $3.87!  I used a poblano and the tomato in a breakfast scramble thing with the leftover chorizo from last week’s bake and one of the limes in a couple of gin & tonics.  The tomato was juicy and red.  The poblano was actually spicy.  That never happens!  The limes were sweet, which was strange but amazing.  The big beige blob you see is a spaghetti squash.  It’s something I’ve been meaning to try for a couple years, but either I never notice them or they aren’t available at all stores.  A good friend of mine grew up on the stuff and has good childhood memories of it.  Plus, we figured this meal cost us five or six bucks, and could have really been 3 or 4 servings, not just 2.

I thought I’d keep it simple for my first rodeo and just make a tomato sauce to go with it.  The husband was SO impressed with the low low prices that he was willing to race back to Pahl’s before closing time last night so that I could get some more tomatoes, a head of garlic, and an onion for said sauce.  I got home with my killing and got to work.

A trick: score the bottom of the tomatoes with an “X” and place them in a collander in the sink.  Heat water in a kettle to boiling and pour it over the tomatoes.  Cool them with cold water from the tap, and then peel them.  The skins come right off!  No bad words necessary!
I chopped half of the onion and smashed a couple cloves of garlic, and set them to saute them in my best olive oil.  Then I got to work on the squash… easier said than done.  Several knives were discarded in the process, but this little guy was the winner.  I could make a nimble fist, jam him into the skin, and work it slowly around the diameter.  I’ve read a few recipes that say you can bake the squash whole, and THEN cut it open.  Next time.  I scooped the seeds out, oiled it up, and baked it cut-side down on some foil.  I think about 375F for 30-40 minutes should do it.

While the squash was baking, I got to work on my sauce.  I hacked the skinned tomatoes into chunks with my awesome kitchen shears, threw in a couple of bay leaves, and let it go for about half an hour.  After it was nice and simmery, I just used my wooden spoon to smush the tomatoes into a nice pomodoro.  A little salt and pepper and some dried basil, and I was done.  The squash came out of the oven and in went some ripped up hunks of sourdough also left over from last week’s breakfast bake, coated with olive oil and Penzey’s life-altering Shallot Salt.

I “fluffed” the squash with a fork, kind of like you do with rice, to separate the strands.  Each half more than filled a pasta bowl, and I topped it with the sauce.  The sauce turned out to taste exactly like the sauce my mom always made when I was a kid.  I always hated it.  I wanted Spaghetti-Os.  I wanted Stouffer’s Lasagna.  I did NOT want FRESH VEGETABLES.  Times have changed.  I want fresh vegetables, and I want to live on this squash and sauce and shallot hunk combo forever.

Plan Schman

8 Sep

I think I’ve mentioned before that my husband is a planner.  I, on the other hand, am not.  I think it stems from my inability to make a decision.

These are at once strengths and weaknesses.  Take this weekend… we have options!
There’s a BBQ shindig at an old college friend’s place.  We’d know a few people, but it’s definitely a drop-in party.
There’s a loose plan to do somethingorother with a couple we wish we spent more time with.  We need to refinish our deck (more on THAT later).
I’d like to get a little shopping in… yes, I know this is my “Thrifty Thursday” post, but it’s definitely autumn around here, and I neeeeeed some scarves.
I’d also like to have a little time to just sit and read, as the next book club meeting is in ten days and I’m pretty far from my goal of finishing two books between meetings.  I aim high, don’t I…

To him, this means that we’ll do all of these things.

To me, this means we might stop by that party, or we might be too tired.  Or we might decide that it’d be better to get a start on refinishing the deck, and have ourselves a good powerwash.
We’ll probably hang out with that couple we like so much, but it’s hard to say when or where, because it’s only Thursday!
I’m sure we’ll end up at the mall, but if it’s nice weather, then maybe not.  Who wants to waste a sunny day inside?
And, as usual, my quiet reading time will probably take the back seat on the weekend bus.

For the most part, we’ve settled into managing our time my way.  Just the other day, he even changed The Plan in the middle of the afternoon.  I was completely thrown!  And more than a little bit proud.

But the money, we do that his way.  This is where his “The Plan” thing pays off.  We’ve made some good progress on our financial goals so far this year.  So motivating!  As we round out 2011 (did I mention it’s scarf-and-boot season?), we want to stay on that track, plus we’ve set a little savings goal.  With a goal, it’s so much easier to make those in-the-moment decisions.  Buy what’s on sale!  Skip the appetizer and dessert!  Drink at home!

Nothing!  That’s what!

I find it easier to set goals if I can attach them to a gizmo.  Someone told me recently that people who shop for a project but never FINISH the project are really in love with the creative process.  Fine.  I looked at Smarty Pig and loved their pink and green site, but didn’t necessarily love that it allowed me to solicit for “donations” through social media.  But if you’re into that, I guess it’s a neat feature.  They are literally a piggy bank, and allow you to dump out in the form of gift cards, debit cards, or ACH transfer.  There are some free-money bonuses for redeeming gift cards through their partners, so that’s neat.  But it involves opening a new bank account, and that’s more hassle than I’m willing to endure. is a little more my style.  Not visually, their site design does nothing for me – that whole pig thing is too cute.  But they’re more of a chalkboard of what’s happening in all your accounts.  They just pull the information from your various financial institutions so that you can see your debts, savings, investments, and spending patterns laid out all pretty.  They call this a “read-only” service, which is also a security measure.  If you can’t move your money around through, neither can anyone else.

The winner!  Check it out and see what you think!



Breakfast is served! And served… and served…

6 Sep

Okay, my life is back to normal for a few weeks.  Nobody is traveling anywhere this month, there are no major work functions on days that I’m not supposed to work, and I might actually get more than half a load of laundry done per week.  What does that mean for you?  Well, that I had TIME to make my weekly batch of breakfast, and that I also remembered to document it for you so that you can make it, too!  Are you ready?  Let’s go to the store!

You’ll need a dozen eggs and a quart of milk for your base.  I use organic 1% milk – I think a little fat content helps the texture, and conventional milk freaks me out since all my friends read Skinny Bitch.  Something about blood and pus, but I’m too afraid to actually read it myself.  I just shell out for organic dairy.  Yeah.  Now that we’re all hungry… get some cheese, some veggies, and some protein.  You can use whatever combinations you like.  Sauteed onions, green peppers, and ham are great with sharp cheddar.  Turkey sausage and monterey jack are a good combination.  Bacon and spinach.  Leftover chicken from fajitas is really good with black olives and green chiles.  Get the idea?  Good.  Grab a baguette or other rustic bread from the bakery and you’re set.

Pull out a 9×13 baking dish… for some reason, I’ve had better luck with my pan that has straighter sides.  It seems to cook better.  No need to grease, but I bet a little butter wouldn’t hurt if you wanted to use it!  Tear up the bread, using mostly the inside parts, and cover the bottom of the pan with little chunks of it, like this:

Put a couple tablespoons of mustard powder into a mixing bowl and start cracking your eggs.  I try to scramble the first egg or two with the powder so that it blends well.  Scramble all 12 eggs together, and add some pepper or any other seasonings you want in there.  Whisk in two cups of milk and set aside.
I used chorizo this week, and ended up using 3 sausages.  I cut each dog into quarters lengthwise and then chopped them up small.  Those pieces got sprinkled evenly over the bread, then I layered on a can of sliced olives and covered it with Tillamook sharp cheddar.  It’s my all-time favorite.  Pour the egg mixture over that and put it in the fridge overnight.

Set your alarm a little early, put your unbaked bake in the oven at 350 for about an hour.  If you want it a little less crispy on top, you can cover it with foil for the first half hour or so.  It works just like any other bake – when a knife comes out clean, it’s done!  I can usually get 8-10 breakfasts out of it.

Voila!  Viola!  Wallah!
To reheat the slices each morning, microwave them for 3 or 4 minutes at medium-high and then another 30 seconds on high.  This is definitely my most efficient 30 minutes of the week.  Even when I don’t feel like doing it, it’s so worth the time and money it saves me in the mornings.  Let me know what ingredient combos you guys come up with, I need some new ideas!

First Dates and Consequences

4 Sep

First, let me say that renewing your tabs is hard.  I admire all of you who get it done.  Sometimes I get my tabs renewed, but then putting them on the car is hard.  This was not my first tab-related run-in with the law.  I believe it was my fourth.

When the nice man pulled me over, he said, “Ma’am [cringe], I pulled you over because your tabs are expired.”  I almost said: “I know!  Did you notice how I was trying to stay BEHIND you?”  The clever fella had pulled off the road, let me pass him, then pulled back on and pulled me over.  Sneaky…  What I actually said, though, was, “I know, I just noticed that,” which was a total lie, and “I changed my name and moved last year, so never received a notice in the mail.  I didn’t know they wouldn’t find me like all my bills did.”  That part was true.  And I didn’t notice for a few months, but it should’ve been done by now.

Because we were on the highway, he was talking to me through my passenger window.  When he went back to his car to make sure I’m not a felon or whatever, I noticed that we’d been chatting over an open container of gin on the floor.  In my defense, I don’t have a trunk and the seats are down in my SUV, so that was the least chaotic place to stash it on my drive home.  While he was away, I quickly covered it with my bag and fluffed my hair up a little for good measure.  He came back with a warning for the tabs and a “ticket” for my expired proof of insurance (another thing that is hard), and sent me on my way.  He was pretty nice, but not very observant.

I bet you’re wondering what a nice girl like me is doing driving around with an open container of gin.  Well, it was left over from a first date I had last night.  My lovely friend over at Riot and Frolic was nice enough to have me for dinner, drinks, and blog-strategy.  We’ve been FBBFFs (that’s facebook-best-friends-forever…s) for a while now, but decided it was time to take things to the next level.  It was lovely and charming and full of fresh produce and fancy tonic water in small bottles.  I had brought the drink ingredients, and was just on my way home with my little open container.  No big.

I feel lucky to have so many great friends, but new ones are so great and it’s definitely harder to make them once you’re out of dorm life.  Even turning a coworker into a friend isn’t as easy as you get older.  At least it’s not as hard for me as it is for the menfolk, but I couldn’t help my amusement at how we were both nervous that it might not “work out.”  But it did, and I’ll probably wait 3 days and then call her.  Look out, this could be the beginning of some great writing material…

Very Busy and Important

24 Aug

Me.  I am very busy and important.  Okay, maybe just busy…  This week goes down in history (I’m probably forgetting some weeks in history) as the Busiest Week Ever.  It’s kind of a funny story…

Normally, I work Tuesday-Saturday, as I mentioned in my last post.  This week, however, we were going to be closed on Saturday due to a work function in Chicago that did not involve me.  So I opted to work Monday-Friday for a free three-day weekend!  Plus, I’d have been home alone, so I was going to have a party in my basement.  At least one person said they’d come.  Then, however, I was asked to join on this Chicago thing.  Oh, and I need you to still work Monday.  Fiiiine.  Plans: canceled.  Fun: over.  It turns out that having a one-day weekend makes me a little, shall we say, testy.  So in my testy state, I did some quick math and figured I’m working 99 hours this week.  Including commute time… it sounds more pitiful.

Once I finished feeling sorry for myself, I started to panic.  First, I do need to sleep.  So, working around that and my 14-hour days, I need to get the basic things accomplished, and get my business-suited self off to Chicago for a long day and a black-tie evening.  *deep breaths start… NOW*

I’ve got some systems in place to get me through my busy weeks, but this week my systems are failing me.  Part of my week-prep involves making an egg bake for breakfast all week.  It’s the greatest thing, because you can change the ingredients around to suit your mood.  The base is a loaf of crusty bread, like a baguette, an egg mixture, and cheese.  But you can use goat cheese, or cheddar cheese, or swiss cheese, and so on.  You get the idea, right?  Sometimes a little goat cheese with spinach and bacon is nice.  Sometimes I like to use the Mexican cheddar and throw in some olives and chorizo and have myself some huevos for the week.  Life on the edge.  One of these days I’ll teach you all how to make it.  For now, though, I’ll just wish I had some.  One-day weekend system fail.

Another system failure: I set up the coffee pot each night… okay, I’m lying.  He sets the coffee up.  He also puts a mug of it on my bedside table in the morning, and that has become my alarm clock.  I know, spoiled.

Okay, he doesn’t put a picked flower with it, but I am NOT complaining.  (Even if the occasional flower would be nice…)
This coffee thing is a double time-saver, though.  First, I get coffee in my system ASAP so that I can function to get out the door ever.  I won’t say it happens quickly, because it doesn’t.  I am my mother.  I also take a mug of it with me, saving me a stop on the way to work.  I didn’t say these were innovations, just systems.  And this one won’t happen all week because I simply can’t drink a whole pot (i.e., I like to go to Caribou).
And did I say I was my mother?  Not quite.  I’ve got my own spin on it… She has to leave the house 6 times before she leaves the house, each door slam louder than the last.  I just cover all those trips in and out before I walk out the door.  Same amount of time, less obvious malfunction.  Always improving on the previous generation.

I’m working on a system to get the dishes and laundry done so that I don’t come home to a disaster zone, but I’m not sure where exactly that fits in.  I’m starting to wonder how other people get things done.