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Entries in cooking (6)

Sunday
Jan242010

Weekly fish fix

I'm very close to my mom. 

She is the only person I can talk to on the phone for hours and still feel like I have more to say at the end of the conversation.  I call her when I'm getting my oil changed, or need advice, or a recipe for something I want to recreate for the blog or a dinner party (like the broccoli rice and cheese casserole). 

 

Now recently, I think Mom feels I haven't been giving credit where credit is due on this here food blog.  I'm often referring to my dad's cooking habits when we were kids, which usually had to do with the fact that my Dad when my mom was at work.  And honestly as a kid, my brothers and I often couldn't stand my Dad's cooking, especially "Dad's Special Pancakes" (I don't want to ruin the surprise, I'll probably blog about them eventually. 

 

What my mom did for my cooking habits is equally as priceless as my dad's renegade, recipe ignoring style. She taught me the basics.  Things I cook ALL the time when eating is necessary and frozen food won't cut it.  I remember my mom making me stir the risotto, and the first time we made pasta from scratch, and how scary it was cutting up my first chicken (chickens do still feel a little creepy when being prepared whole, but not so creepy I won't touch them)

 

But my favorite staple Mom taught me to make, aside from Shake'n'bake pork chops (which are really fucking good, for the record) is tuna salad.  Tuna salad represents a day when men aren't around.  God only knows why that is, but Mom and I would make tuna salad and mix it with pasta and eat it until we rolled out of the kitchen, only to come back for more hours later.  And for some reason there were never any men around when we made it.  My dad would be on a business trip or my brothers at soccer games and this would be an easy, quick meal we would both always be in the mood for.  On top of that, you rarely need to make a trip to the store to make tuna salad since celery and mayo are always in the fridge, and onions always in the cupboards. 

 

Sunday mornings are all about Kate.  Kyle is at work until 3 or 4, and I can do whatever I want without male distraction.  This usually involves client meetings, editing and more recently going to the gym.  Today it meant fending for myself for lunch, and just you guess what was in the fridge and cupboards.  Tuna, celery, onions and mayo.  I was also in the good graces of having purchased a bag of avocados last week, with one perfectly ripe alligator pear just asking to be fanned across the top of my open faced sandwich. 

Don't forget mom, you also made me eat whole wheat bread growing up and even though I would have died for a wonderbread sandwich at the age of 8, nothing with enriched all purpose flour crosses the threshold into my kitchen these days... unless I'm baking cookies.  I even eat the crusts ;)

Friday
Nov132009

Pressing the reset button

Everyone once in a while it's really good to sit back and take a good look at the way your life works. Reflection (as some cheesier than me might call it) is really important when major life changes happen. Like you get a new job and your husband starts school full time. WHAT A GREAT TIME TO REFLECT. Clearly things have been different in my life since I started my new job.

Like the fact that I have a social life. I honestly can't remember the last time this was really true. Fall of 2005? That sounds about right. Since then I was inundated with overcommitment (not that I'm not overly committed now, because trust me, I am!) a brief stint at returning to school, working 2 jobs, starting a business, planning a wedding, getting married, buying a really old house and preventing the fixer-upper work that surrounds me everyday. But now I actually work normal hours (for the most part) and have more time to do things like edit during the week so that I can see people on the weekend.

Additionally, I have a normal sleeping and eating schedule. This has actually been the most difficult transition I've had to make. I have to plan my meals, and I actually have time to cook. When I was working at Trader Joe's, sometimes I would just eat one meal during the day, and stuff my face with sliced mango and candy cane Joe-joe's during my work hours. I would sometimes go to sleep hungry because I was just too tired to eat. I often had things people would consider dinner foods for breakfast because I had my lunch break at 9am.

Ultimately I think this has made my cooking extravaganzas less interesting, which is probably why this blog is suffering. I also work for a prepackaged food company so for product knowledge sake (and the 25% discount helps too) I was eating a lot of frozen foods.

Then something just switched in me and realized I felt like crap. My clothes didn't fit the right way anymore. I didn't like ANYTHING I owned. I KNEW I had gained weight, and even though training for a 10 mile run this fall, I really wasn't in very good shape. At Trader Joe's I was on my feel 10 hours a day and lifting 40 pound boxes fairly frequently. Now, the heaviest thing I lift is my messenger bag. Pathetic.

So I re-upped at the gym (I took off the summer months because I don't like to lie to myself and pretend I would go) and I'm purging my body of my sugar cravings. I know that I am very sensitive to sugar and it's nearly impossible to control unless I start from scratch. One of my least favorite words in the English language is "carbs" but yes, I am for all intents and purposes denying myself of SIMPLE carbohydrates for two weeks. That doesn't sound so bad, but then when you realize wine, all forms of bread, pasta and cookies fall into that category, well shit.

It's actually been remarkably easy this time around. I did have a bit of a "holiday" from my cleanse (as I like to call it) last Saturday. I also cheated last night because I attended the March of Dimes Signature Chef Auction last night thanks to the lovely Crystal of Café Cyan, and you just can't attend those things without a glass of wine and a bite of potato. But otherwise it's been great. I have more energy, I'm happier and I'm way more productive. Weird how eating healthy has more than just physical side affects. Now, to get back to my pre-married weight... hmm

For lunch today I thought I'd share. I pretty much ate entire bunch of rainbow chard. No, not JUST chard, but chard with butter and leeks, salt and pepper. Unlike spinach which can sometimes get chalky when sauteed, chard retains its crunch and is SO good for you not to mention delicious and gorgeous. According to the iPhone locavore app we have two more MONTHS of chard season in Minnesota (I'm pretty sure mine came from California... what's the deal Wedge? Where is my local chard supply when I want it?). I'm not sure where these leafy greens are going to be coming from in the middle of January, but I do know the Kale hanging out in my garden has survived quite a few frosts up until this point.

rainbowchard

That's about all I have for today. I'll keep you posted on my healthy goals and think I just poured about a months worth of words into this post, so I'll conclude it by saying "Hi" to my newest connection, Summer from Summer Harsh Botanical Artistry. Check out the centerpieces she donated to the March of Dimes Dinner last night

whisk

I just love the whisk!

And make sure you check out Crystal's blog over at Café Cyan. She's always coming up with great ideas in her kitchen. And she's also very awesome... even if she lives in the suburbs.

Friday
Jul032009

And the winner is...



We have a winner! 23 people left comments or links to their re-post about the Les Petites Images first give away! Using random.org's random number generator the 15th comment is the lucky winner.


And that lucky person just happens to be Suzanne:

And now I've been challenged to lavender foam and inside out omelets.

Thank you so much to everyone who entered! I have now have a huge list of places in NYC to sort through, and lots of great cooking ideas. While I can't promise to visit all places or cook all dishes, consider your suggestions on the shortlist of finalists in my future. Suzanne, please DM me on twitter with your contact info... or maybe we can schedule a tweetup with you and other twin cities entrants!

Saturday
Mar282009

5 people + 1 bottle of B&B = Fun Dinner Party

I totally stole that title from Chris's google status.

I got the idea of making the sweetbreads for more than just Kyle and myself on Monday night. If you're cooking weird shit, it's way more fun making other people eat it too, so I invited some culinarily minded friends.

Surprisingly, sweetbreads are not hard to come by aside from the fact that my hours aren't very conducive to me visiting the butcher. I sent Kyle on a mission to swing by Clancy's on his way home from work on Tuesday to pick up 2 pounds of sweetbreads... for $12. Talk about economic downturn, why isn't everyone making sweetbreads for their dinner guests. This stuff is cheap!

I started soaking them Wednesday night and changed the water in the morning on Thursday, and again when I got home on Thursday night. The water was pretty clear even after the 1st soak, so I figured they had to have less "ick" in them at that point. Though all of the recipes I read called for several changes of water, 3 would have to suffice as I was short on time.

Taking off the membranes was definitely the hardest part. There were a lot of membranes, and not a lot of patience on my part, especially since they were SO COLD. My hands are cold by nature, so I was just mad at those damn glands the entire time I was peeling them. Put that on top of the fact that I didn't really know what was supposed to be there and what wasn't, it was an interesting experience to say the least.

After peeling off membranes and cutting off valves (yes, valves) I covered the sweetbreads in salted water and brought them to a boil. I quickly rinsed them off and put them between two plates with 2 pieces of le creuset on top to press. This apparently gets more "ick" out, and renders them more tender.

Right after being pressed
Sweetbreads and B&B

I kept them pressed until it was time to dredge and fry the guys. Nothing fancy, just some flower and whatever spices I had handy.

Sweetbreads and B&B

I melted 1/2 stick of butter and went to town

I totally forgot to take pictures of the finished project, but Chris allowed me to snap some of the remaining glands from his plate.
Sweetbreads and B&B

I was kinda bummed because I didn't have a very good gauge on what I was doing and couldn't find a reliable recipe online to save my life. I essentially made up my own recipe, picking some tips up from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking (which is really a pain in the ass to cook from) and and a little from Gastronomique. While they were tasty enough, Chris told me the flavor and texture could have been improve by both soaking and poaching in milk rather than water.

Sweetbreads and B&B

I also think they could have used a sauce of some sort, but it was kind of a thrown together dinner party and we had loads of meats and cheeses along with homemade bread to nibble on so sauce was an afterthought. Peter was the only one to clean his plate
A01_4499

I think of the five of us, four had never had B&B before. I recall serving it to people back in my table waiting days, but never thought to try it. It was sweet and spicy and overall pleasant as a general consensus... and then the five of us finished the bottle (which was full when dinner began). Whoops.
Sweetbreads and B&B

Overall I'd say its fair to call the dinner a success, if not for the sweetbreads then definitely for the company. In six months maybe I'll try my sweetbreads again (or when my mom is in town, as she's a sucker for such things).

Next week: Undecided and not inspired (this isn't a good sign if it's only my 2nd week into this goal) Suggestions, anyone?

Monday
Mar232009

Weekend goal

I am really bad at meeting goals unless they are very well defined (or SMART goals... enter "gag me" face here). In a recent turn of 1/4 life crisis events I realized that I don't cook anymore. Not like I used to anyway. This is the saddest thing I think I've ever realized, and have been trying to improve my quality of life by making weekly goals. Marxfoods has helped because I would feel guilty if I didn't use the great stuff they've sent me. But I also need inspiration and adventure.

What is cooking, if not an adventure?

{Wow, that was cheesy. My employer would be so proud}

I think good cooking is the perfect balance of both practical (left side of the brain) and creative (right side). I need to stimulate my right side. I am far to practical 95% of the time (just ask Kyle).

Goal #1 Make dinner at home one night during my work week.
Wow, doesn't this sound depressing. I used to do this all the time and this seriously kills me.

Lets take a look at last weeks work schedule: Sunday 12-10pm, Monday 12am-10pm, Tuesday 12am-10pm, Wednesday 8am-6pm, Thursday 6am-4pm.

Maybe I would have made something on Wednesday, but I was so tired when I got home I practically collapsed. I passed up free pie from Chris, and I certainly did not go for a run. I think I ate pizza. I don't even remember. We cooked the Szechuan Chicken on Thursday, but I don't think my Friday counts as a weeknight.

Goal #2 Cook something I've never cooked before one night during the weekend. This could be as easy as poaching salmon, or as involved as homemade gnocchi (I crossed both of these endeavors off my list years ago).

This weekend is sweetbreads. I had sweetbreads for the 1st time on my 23rd birthday at El Gaucho (which is long gone) and they were good (though Kyle and I did eat pancreas in an frittata while living once which was pretty good and somewhat similar I think) I hadn't encountered them again (to my recollection) until we ate out with my parents at one of my favorite Houston restaurants Cafe Rabelais. I was being conventional and went with Red Snapper, while my mom ordered the sweetbreads which she hesitantly let me try. Damn it they were delicious.

I'm doing it this weekend, no questions asked, pictures to prove it.