She Was Bored


This picture, from a NYC trip in 2005, is one of my favorites of my sister.  


Thoughts from the Sick Bed

You know, I've been moving around a lot the past year or so, and I've kinda learned about what I do or don't mind having in my house.  Like, not having a dishwasher isn't as bad as I thought it would be.  Same for not having cable tv.  Life is definitely better, however, with an in-home washer and dryer.  And the two little but necessary kitchen requirements: toaster and microwave.  I really like both of those appliances.  I also don't miss parking in a garage as much as I would've thought.  I might feel differently if I had a nicer car, though.  

These are the things I think about as I wonder around this new house, sneezing.

Other People's Kitchens Revisited

It looks like a lot of the cooking I'll be doing in the next few months will be in someone else's kitchen.  So, here's more of that. 

After Saturday's full day of seeing the sites and crowds of the big city, Crystal and I went back to her place to see what she had in her kitchen that we could make into a great dinner.  Using a couple of Joy of Cooking recipes as starting points, we made a yummy spaghetti alla carbonara and cute little salmon croquettes with a caper-dill sauce.  

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
1/2 lb. bacon
1 lb. spaghetti
1/3 c. grated cheese (goat or parm are good choices)
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 c. pasta water
half a bag frozen peas

Boil and drain pasta. Fry bacon, remove bacon when done.  Keep 3 T bacon grease in skillet, add pasta and toss.  Add peas.  Mix eggs, cheese, and pasta water together, then add to pasta.  Stir around over medium until eggs are cooked through.  Stir in crumbled bacon.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with additional grated cheese.

It's a bit more difficult to write out how we did the croquettes, because we didn't measure much of what we used.  It pretty much went like this:
We took a large can of salmon and picked out the bones, then added a small can of tuna to make up for the several ounces we lost due to bone tossage.  We added a diced half onion and celery stalk that had been sauteed with a few garlic cloves.  Oh, at the end of the sauteing, I stirred in about 1/2 t. garam masala. Crystal diced a tomato and threw that in, we mixed in a couple of eggs, then added bread crumbs until the mixture was the right consistency to make little patties.  Poured a bit of olive oil in a skillet and browned the patties on each side.  Crystal made the dipping sauce, but I think she took plain yogurt and added capers and dried dill until it tasted great.  This croquette picture is from a google search, but this is pretty much what ours looked like.  But, you know, photographed much more prettily.  
Also, I'm still sick.


Market Day

I did indeed make it to the Indy Winter Farmer's Market today. There were a lot of neat local vendors with all sorts of goods... honey, soaps, lotions, baked goods, tea, eggs, coffee, pasta, soup, herbs, meats, sandwiches, cheeses, beets. The beet guy was pretty cool, actually-- I got a jar of pickled beets from him. There was a bunch of really neat stuff there, but the crowds made it difficult to spend too much time looking around.

After that market, Crystal and I went to Goose the Market, an upscale grocery/deli type place with a good beer selection. We had yummy sandwiches there for lunch (mine was smoked pork loin with carrots, fennel, pesto and chimichurri sauce). Their cases look really cool:

After lunch we drove out to Mallow Run winery to meet Dad and Mollie. We drank some shiraz and listened to the guitar player they had entertaining the masses. The winery was also very crowded... I guess Crystal and I knew where the people were today. This is what it looked like at the winery. The sky and the ground are pretty much the same color.

Also, I'm sick this weekend.


Another Town, Another Farmer's Market

The coolest thing about moving too much is exploring. I like going to new places and trying new things, so that's what I'm going to try to do in my new town. I think I'm going here this weekend:


and if it's cool I'll blog it.


What Do I Do When I Don't Cook?

I work, I guess. I've been working (!) this week, so I haven't been cooking, and therefore haven't been blogging. Last night I had a fun time at a Pacers game and then the Old Point Tavern with Crystal. You know how much Crystal and I are into the NBA, right? A few days before the Pacers game I was in the crowd at my cousin's basketball game. That's what it's like here in Indiana-- basketball basketball basketball!

(pictures courtesy my camera phone, which doesn't seem to take good pictures. But my readers demand photos, and I oblige!)


Ever Wonder What Old People Think?

Well, I've never really wondered either, but this blog is kinda neat. But is it really old ladies, as some of their commenters ask? I guess there's no way to know.


Thanks to my Aunt for this link.



Wow, look how different the blog looks! Also, there is this little thing at the bottom of each posting, have you noticed it? There are three little check boxes next to three words. If you find the blog entry you just read to be funny, interesting, or cool, you should put a check in one of those boxes. I don't know who is reading this besides Mom, Aunt Deb, and Matty, so if you just check a box it'll let me know that someone is reading these words. That's not to say that my three best commenters cannot check a box if they feel like it-- go ahead, guys.


Other People's Kitchens

Had a great Valentine's weekend in Fort Wayne. I spent Friday night at Mom's, where she and I had a good time making my current favorite meal... cardamom chicken, saag paneer, and cuke-mint yogurt with pitas. Yum! I forgot to add the salt to the saag paneer, though, so it was not as tasty as it should have been. :(

Saturday morning I had coffee and donuts at Laura's house real quick before she had to go to work; that was a fun way to start a day that ended in a different kitchen-- Aunt Deb's. I went over and made a pasta bake dinner, and she made a salad and a Rachel Ray recipe for garlic bread. And of course we had Uncle Nick's birthday cake, which was sugar cream pie. Although I had my camera in my purse all weekend, I took no pictures. I guess you'll just have to take my word that this following recipe will produce a meal.

Pasta Bake
a box of penne or ziti or whatever pasta you like
one large or two regular jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce
a stick of pepperoni
an onion, chopped
a green pepper, chopped
a hunk of mozzarella cheese

Heat oven to 350. Boil and drain pasta. Saute veggies in a bit of oil on medium for about 5 minutes, until they begin to soften. Cut up the pepperoni into small, bite-sized chunks. Combine pasta, veggies, and pepperoni in a 9x13 pan, then pour some sauce over and mix the sauce in. Pour in as much sauce as you like, and you can freeze the rest of the sauce, if you have leftover. Cut mozz cheese into slices, and lay on top of the pasta (you can use shredded if you want, but I just like to use the block of mozzarella). Bake for 20 minutes or so, until the cheese is melted. Keep it in 10-15 minutes longer if needed to get it nice and browned, or if you're hungry and don't want to wait anymore, finish it off under the broiler for a minute or two.
(This is a picture I found online when I did a google search for 'pasta bake.' This is pretty much what it looks like when I make it, but this one looks to have ground beef in it instead of pepperoni. Also, the cheese is really piled on in this pic. Tastes good, but I usually don't use quite that much cheese.)


A Brunch of Fun

This is another variation on a recipe from the Noble Pig website. It's a very easy and fun way to bring something completely new to breakfast.

There's no real recipe per se, it's just a bunch of stuff thrown together and put in the oven until done. Well, I guess that's what a recipe is. Anyway, the basic ingredients are: dinner rolls (about the size of your fist, maybe a bit bigger), eggs, cream or half and half, cheese, herbs, salmon, and anything else you want to use. I first cut across the top of the roll to make the top straight, to make a little bread-lid. Then I cut a circle in the top of the roll and dug out the bread that filled the circle. Leave a thin layer of bread in the bottom of the roll... I guess you could say this has become a bread bowl. In one case we put the salmon on the bottom of the bread bowl then put the egg on top, and in the other case we put the egg in first then topped with shredded cheese and herbs. In both cases I put about a teaspoon of half and half or cream in with the egg, which added a wonderful, well, creaminess to the egg. Also in both cases I put salt and pepper on the egg. The egg took longer to cook when it was on top of the salmon-- it took about 30 minutes in a 350 oven. I put foil over the roll after about 20 minutes so the bread wouldn't burn. In the one with the egg, cheese, and herbs I took it out at about the 20 minute mark-- had I taken it out at about 17 minutes the yolk probably would've been a bit runny (I don't like that, but if you do, take it out at 15-17 minutes).


No Pudge!

If you haven't tried this fat-free brownie mix, you probably should (unless you hate brownies, but really, no one hates brownies). I've previously seen this mix at Trader Joe's, and was quite happy to see it at Kroger today. So, check your local stores, if you don't have a local Trader Joe's. You just add a bit of fat-free vanilla yogurt to this mix and you've got great brownies. I'd like to try it with coffee-flavored yogurt, but I chickened out today. Now I've got a stupid thing of coffee-flavored yogurt in the fridge. If you want this yogurt and will be seeing me in the next week or so let me know and I'll bring the yogurt to you.

My Fav-o-rite Things

My favorite tv show is Project Runway (especially now that the Office and 30 Rock are hit and miss). I love to make fun of Heidi, her weird phrasing, and her love of the short, tight and shiny. I love love to watch Tim scrunch up his face when a designer does something stupid, and I love love love to hear Nina and Michael's merciless critiques of the garments that come down the runway. Also I love wine, cheese, and smoked salmon.
Part of why Phil is so great is his appreciation of all that stuff, too. We have a semi-ritual of drinking wine and eating cheese and smoked salmon while we watch Project Runway (sorry if you're embarrassed I'm writing about this, Phil). This week was the best ever, because we got this smoked salmon that was seasoned with black pepper and dill. We made a spread of capers, red onion, and cream cheese, smoothed that over slices of baguette then topped it with salmon. Deelicious. Also, Phil put together the daddy of all cheese plates. We had brie, dill havarti, this honey-habanero cheese we just got from the co-op, jarlsburg (my current fave), and a horseradish cheese accompanied by some salami. Phil was artistically inspired by a plate of cheese and snapped this:
And did you know that you can watch full episodes of Project Runway on mylifetimetv.com? I did-- that's how we watch it every week.

Are You Still There? 'Cause I'm Still Here!

Hola. My blogging career is undergoing some changes. The main change is that I am blogging less frequently, but I'm not saying this change is permanent. I've got a little change in mind that I will probably implement in the next week or two. Anyway, we actually had a fun culinary adventure last weekend, and I'll probably write about that in the next day or two. I'm currently watching a show on the Food Network in which Bobby Flay is challenging some California hippie cook to a paella cook-off. Man, that paella looks good. I can see trying to tackle this dish in the near future. The hippie chef used little octopuses in his paella, which I would love to do. I know they carried octopus at Central Market in Texas, but will I be able to find it in the midwest? If I can, you know I'll blog about it here.


Big Ol' Butt

Man do I love pork when it's done right. But that's the trick, innit? Doing it right. I was quite intent on finding an exemplary pork roast recipe, so when I saw this recipe by food scientist Shirley Corriher, I knew I was in for a good dinner. Of course living in the sticks as I do makes it difficult to find specific things sometimes. Like, I went to Walmart, no pork butt, and no butcher counter at which to inquire. Went to Kroger, no pork butt, also no meat counter, but a guy in a white coat who told me the only pork butts they had were these gigantic 15 pound monstrosities. Finally broke down and went to the expensive store, and they not only had a meat counter, but pork butts in normal-sized packages. If you talked to me that day, you know all I did was complain about the unavailability of pork butt. Anyway, I bought at 6 lb. butt and cut off a couple of pounds before cooking. Sorry if this is too talky... I'm home alone tonight and on my second glass of wine!

Piece o' Heaven Pork Butt

4 lb. pork butt (trim as much fat as possible)
1/3 c. Worcestershire sauce
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 c. apple juice
1/2 t. salt
a bit of pepper

Put an oven rack just below center and preheat oven to 400. Place roast in a roasting pan that is just a smidge bigger than the meat. Spoon Worchestershire sauce over all sides of the roast, then use a spoon to press brown sugar into all sides of the roast. Pour apple juice into bottom of roasting pan, making sure not to pour the juice on the meat. Cover pan, and put into oven, immediately reduce heat to 200 degrees and don't open the oven for 5 hours. At 5 hours, take roast out and if it easily pulls apart it's done. If not, put it in another 30 minutes. Check again. Repeat this until it easily pulls apart (my roast was ready at he 5 hour mark). Remove the meat to a large bowl, toss bone, then add salt and pepper to pan juices. Mix up and pour over meat. Yummy!!

Garlic Spinach
2 10 oz. bags of spinach (or 20 oz. loose leaf spinach)
a bit of cooking oil
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 t. salt
3/4 t. pepper
1 T. butter

Clean and dry Spinach (it's ok if there's a bit of water still on spinach). In a large, deep pot, coat bottom with extra virgin olive oil (it has a high smoke point) and saute garlic for a couple of minutes on medium. Add all the spinach as well as the salt and pepper, mix around, then cover for a couple of minutes so the spinach can steam. Uncover, stir around, turn heat to high and stir for about a minute, until it's all wilted. Lift the spinach and garlic out with a slotted spoon into a bowl and pour any accumulated water out of the bowl. Add the butter and stir around until it's melted, then squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the spinach. Serve immediately.

Also prepared polenta that night, about which I'm not blogging. It was ok, but I think the next time I make it I'll do better. It was a bit over-cooked, I think... not creamy enough. It was pretty good, though, and quite pretty, especially next to that vibrant spinach. It's basically cornmeal mixed with water and/or milk with a bit of cheese or herbs or whatever you want.

That pork was so tender and flavorful and had a crispy crust-- yum! And it made the best hash ever, for real. The next time I make that pork roast maybe I'll use it all for hash, that's how good the hash was. Hash recipe is in the blog entry "Christmas Take One." I cannot stress enough how good this is in hash.


Very Bad, But So Good

Well. These are freaking great, I think. They are chock-full of sugar and not light on the butter, but man are they good. I found this on a website called the Noble Pig, and made a few changes (she used all regular, white flour and a bit more sugar). We had them for breakfast this morning with coffee, which seems to be the perfect way to enjoy these delicious treats.

1 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. cinnamon
2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. veg oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 c. milk
12 t. jelly/jam

for topping
2-3 T. melted butter
1/3 c. sugar mixed with 1 t. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350, spray PAM in muffin tins. In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, stir together. In a smaller bowl, combine sugar, oil, egg, and milk. Stir wet stuff into dry stuff until just mixed. Fill greased muffin tin cups each half full. Put 1 t. jam on top, then cover the jam with remaining batter-- each muffin cup should be about 3/4 full. Make sure to cover the jam well, or it will leak out during baking. Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes. When done baking, remove muffins from tin and (as soon as you can hold them without burning your fingers) dip the top of each in melted butter then into the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Do the dipping while they are hot, though, so the sugar gets all melty.


Reference Website

I've been looking around through websites and books the past day or two in search of a good slow-roasted pork recipe. I somehow got to this website which is not so great visually but has a lot a lot of neat information and recipes.


Also, Guy Fieri, is that his name? He really bugs me. He might make good food, but I will never use one of his recipes. A blogger I like to read calls him 'the personification of cheese fries.' I love that.

Salsa, Guac, and Leftovers

During Mexican Fiesta week a few weeks ago I made a yummy Pork-Black Bean Stew which made a ton of food. We ate it for several days, and I put a good amount in the freezer. Last night's dinner was made from that left over, thawed out stew. Took some soft taco sized flour tortillas, stuffed them with the stew, folded them up, sprinkled shredded cheese on top, then baked at 350 for 20 minutes. Threw a little chopped cilantro on top. Good stuff!
The more, well, fun part of dinner was making the pico and guacamole for the side. I know everyone thinks they do everything the right way, but I really think my way of doing guac is pretty good. First off I make pico...

Pico de Gallo
6 roma tomatoes, diced (I don't like seeds, so I also de-seed)
1/2 onion, diced
juice from 1/4 to 1/2 lime, depending on how much you like lime
1 jalapeno pepper, diced, seeds removed
2-3 T cilantro, chopped
salt to taste

Mix it all up and let sit an hour or two before serving. When you first make it don't put in the jalapeno seeds (where the heat is), but mix some in a bit at a time until your desired heat level is attained. Also, a bunch of tomatoes like this will need salt, so don't be shy with the shaker.

Once you have your pico, take a ripe avocado or two, scoop the flesh out and mash it up, then add a few spoonfuls of pico and maybe a little extra lime juice and cilantro, if you like those things. I was watching Rick Bayliss right before I made my guac, and he too was making guac. He said make it a couple of hours before serving, so the flavors and blend well. Of course, when you put it in the fridge, press some plastic wrap right down on the guac so no air can reach it and turn it brown. Of course, if it does turn brown, it's ok to just mix the brown in with the rest and eat it.


Carry-in Query

I got an email from a loyal reader today (doesn't that sound better than saying 'my aunt emailed?') asking if I had any ideas for a side dish to take to a dinner at her kid's middle school. It is kinda a good question... normal side dishes we eat at home are straight from the oven or microwave, but in a situation like this, where lots of people are bringing lots of food to set on a long table, of course your green bean casserole or whatever will be cold and gross by the time it is eaten. So, here are some ideas for food that does not require cooking or warmth to be delicious.

Quick-n-Easy Salad
one head lettuce, chopped or torn in bite-sized pieces
1 bunch green onions, chopped
8 oz. shredded mozzerella cheese
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
Combine all in a large bowl, right before serving toss with favorite Italian dressing.... currently I really really like this Kraft dressing called Tuscan House Italian or something like that... it has Tuscan in the name.

That salad is so simple and basic, but is really delicious. I took it for Christmas to Phil's dad's and it got a lot of compliments.

Another side dish I like to make is an Antipasto Pasta Salad. Corkscrew pasta mixed with chunked pepperoni (at the Walmart deli counter if they cut it at thickness 4, it will be good for cutting into chunks), chunked muenster cheese, sliced olives, and I think adding a bunch of chives, cut in about 1" lengths, really makes this salad. Again, toss in favorite Italian dressing.

A quick but different dip tray: hummus, pita chips, and sliced or baby carrots.


Non-organic Food

Everyone's always talking about organic foods, and which foods are best to buy organic, but here's a list of foods that don't need to be organic. I think I will start shopping these fruits and veggies more frequently-- with the small amount of pesticides involved in growing these foods, it will almost be like they are organic, but they're cheaper than their pesticide-free cousins.


I'm on the list of daily(ish) emails from The Daily Green, and sometimes there's some kinda interesting stuff. They have alot of slide show lists... like this one, or '10 quick healthy breakfasts.' I like their slide shows because the photography is great. The information is not always as exciting.