Friday, March 6, 2015

No one likes burnt coffee. No one.

Holy crap, it's March. It's been an insane 2015. Since the new year, Hubs accepted a new job and therefore agreed to move closer to LA. We moved February 1st. Which means and we're now OUT of my Central Valley political hell—hooray!—yet smack dab into my own personal hell. The Inland Empire. The IE. The place I grew up. The place I swore I'd never return.

I now live quite literally a stone's throw from the house I grew up in. My parents still live there. We take a "hike" (aka a third of a mile walk up a steep hill) to their house. The dude likes the walk. (Even though his legs "hurt" halfway up and it's always "sunny.")

Is this bad? Totally not. My parents are amazing. They've cooked for us and watched E for us and given far too many financial handouts in the midst of all of this. (I should note that we've firmly reached the horrible threes. E is his sweet self about 6 hours a day. At least one of those is between 2-3am. My parents have handled this about as well as we have, which is impressive.)

But. Shit. I basically moved back home. It's still my parents. You know how it goes.

So we're finding the plus sides. We live at the base of a little mountain. (It's literally called Little Mountain.) So we hike the three miles to the top 3 days a week or so.

It's beautiful. I hate every second of starting the hike, but love every second after about a 1/2 mile up. Plus Hubs and I are sharing an office these days, so it gives us a little chance to take advantage of this working from home bullshit. And the dog actually sleeps afterwards.

I've even been cooking a lot in my fucking tiny smaller than average kitchen. I've made Chicken Saltimbocca. Stuffed tomatoes. Swordfish. Caramelized onion and blue cheese pasta. I also made spinach pesto this week. And it was delicious. I've had it with pasta, on salad, and in orzo. And it also gave me Pine Mouth.


Pine Mouth, as it is so aptly and unfortunately named, is a rare yet real condition where eating certain pine nuts affects certain people by basically shitting on their taste buds for a week or so. Basically, eating any other food causes your taste buds to puke (not actual scientific terminology), causing your entire mouth to taste like you just drank the bottom of a burned coffee pot after not brushing your teeth for a few days. After. Every. Bite. You. Take.

Let that sink in.

It's been an interesting month at my new house. I'm fully intending on giving recipes for a few great things I've made...but after this taste goes away. I'm utterly unable to give any sort of accurate review currently, and the thought of the good stuff I've made recently just makes me sad. And a little hungry.

Til then, lay off the pine nuts, y'all. It's not worth it.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

I officially need a bigger kitchen.

Well, my family officially thinks I live in the kitchen. Christmas gifts included:
A set of 4 meat thermometers 
A new cutting board
A cookbook holder
A Bobby Deen cookbook
An Ina Garten cookbook 
A new kitchen timer 
A bottle of vodka 
A new potholder 
A skillet

I'm not complaining. Almost all of the above were desperately needed and/or much appreciated. 

First thing I tackled (after the vodka, natch) was the Bobby Deen cookbook. 30 minute meals under 350 calories? Good work, Ma. So far everything we've tried has been easy and delicious, so I'm sold. 

Well, not the zucchini and corn fritters. I don't want to talk about those. (Hubs thinks I "saved them" by making them a hash and putting them under some chipotle pork chops. But that was not the intent. I have long standing deficiencies in the fritter/fried cake department.)

Last night we tried the Lemony Greek Chicken Soup with Spinach. Adjusted it just a tad to make a bigger pot by adding more low sodium broth (half regular and half low), two small chicken breasts and more spinach, but otherwise followed his recipe. I was afraid it wouldn't be enough as a main course, but it worked for me. Hubs had two bowls. Some French bread would have been a nice addition. Or a spinach salad, actually! 

Trying to update to a better photo btw. Low light and yellow soup are a bad combo...

Lemony Greek Chicken Soup with Spinach 
9 cups chicken broth 
1/2 cup orzo pasta
8oz chicken breast, cooked and cubed
Half a bag baby spinach, rough chopped
Juice from one lemon (1/4 cup)
3 eggs, room temp 
Fresh pepper 

Bring chicken broth to a boil. Add orzo and cook 7 minutes (or 2 less than the box tells you to). Stir in chicken and spinach, cook two more minutes. Turn off heat. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and lemon until it gets nice and frothy. Keep whisking as you take a ladle full of broth and very slowly add it to the eggs. Repeat with another ladle or two. Then stir the soup as you pour the egg mixture slowly back into the soup. (This makes sure you don't end up with scrambled eggs. This isn't egg drop soup.) 

Season with fresh pepper and serve immediately. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Need a party app?

It's early December, which means it's prime holiday party time.

Need a dish? Here you go. My sister likes to call this sort of thing "naughty." I call it delicious, and no one says you need to eat the whole damn thing. If you did, however, I wouldn't call you naughty (not to your face, anyway.) I would say you have excellent taste, however.

Served with triscuits and wheat thins (both the low-fat variety), and I couldn't decide which was better. Maybe try with both? There's plenty to go around. Please don't eat this by yourself. I don't care what I implied before.

You need to cook it on whatever you're going to serve it on. I didn't have anything spectacular, just a small baking dish, so I used that. (RE: CHRISTMAS HINT????) 



Baked Feta with Pine Nuts and Honey
(From a popsugar recipe)

One 8 oz block feta
Olive oil
Honey (I used organic alfalfa honey, but any kind would work)
1/4-1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
A handful cleaned mint leaves, minced (A tbsp or so)
Zest from one orange (about a tsp or so?)

Preheat oven to 400.

Place feta block on an oven-safe serving tray (or whatever you have that's reasonably pretty). 

Drizzle with olive oil. Maybe a tbsp? Enough to cover lightly. Throw it in the oven and cook about 10 minutes or until soft. 

Remove, and change oven to broil. Make sure there's a grill close to the top (broil area). 

Pour or spoon about 2 tbsp of honey (again, enough to cover) over the feta. Stick back in oven under the broiler for 3 minutes (keep an eye on it. Less if it looks like it's going to burn). 

Sprinkle the pine nuts, orange peel, and mint. Serve with crackers. Don't eat it all. (Or do. I'm at capacity on disclaimers.) 

I'm hoping you don't still have turkey in your tupperware, but...

I've been trying to write down my recipes ( I swear). BUT, my laptop has decided to make itself my personal nemesis, and only decides to charge when it's in the mood (I swear!).

Today, it's in the mood. And E asked to nap at 11:30 (I feel like I'm having to swear a LOT today) and Hubs is out of town for another few hours, and I have mimosas, soooo let's talk turkey!

Are we sick of it? I'm totally over it. We didn't even have it on Thanksgiving (prime rib this year!) but we did take pity on my poor baby sister who spent her Thanksgiving sick at home alone (her story, anyway) and had her over on Sunday and made a smallish turkey breast with all the  leftovers fixings.

Even still, we've been stuck with leftovers all week. I'm going to attempt a brie, asparagus and turkey breast (with sun dried tomatoes for me) pasta with the last of it tonight. I'm hoping it turns out at well as the Chef's Salad I made the other night. Cause that? Was. Delicious.

Chef's Salad is soooo easy. And I never, ever make it. I never think of it—partially because it always seems so fattening. Though I love wedge salad, and that's totally not better. It's actually rather a dumb salad, really. At least a Chef has a wide range of delicious, albeit fattening, toppings.

ANYWAY,  I used low-fat blue cheese dressing, only a sprinkle of gorgonzola, and organic bacon bits rather than fresh bacon. Egg is protein. Avocado is healthy fat? So I figure it's totally acceptable once in awhile. Maybe this can be a post-Thanksgiving tradition? And hello, we all have leftover chicken ALL YEAR LONG. Oh, god. We're going to get so fat.

Turkey Chef Salad (serves 2 dinner portions)
One bag mixed greens/romaine
Light blue cheese dressing
Chopped or cubed cooked and cooled turkey (or chicken)
1 half avocado, cubed
Bagged bacon bits/pieces
2 hard boiled eggs, shelled and sliced
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Gorgonzola or blue cheese
Pepper to taste

Arrange salad greens on a plate. Drizzle with dressing. Line up all the other ingredients all pretty-like. Sprinkle with pepper, if desired.

And, done. Seriously. So easy. Go eat it and get Thanksgiving out of your fridge and minds for awhile.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

If you can make this easier, I would love to hear it.

This is not the first chicken tortilla soup recipe I've posted. It's not even the first one using a crock pot. Sorry. BUT. If I promise that it's easier (AND tastier), am I forgiven? Yes? Fabulous.

Hubs is fighting the World's Longest Cold™ and I've worn a sweater two days in a row, so soup is officially in order. I'm feeling particularly lazy, however, so I figured I'd do it with as little work as possible. And I totally lazied the crap out of this one. If you have raw chicken, throw it in. Still frozen? Throw it in. Mine was straight out of the freezer and worked. just. fine.

The only thing that could have made it easier would have been pre-chopped onions so I wouldn't have a chopping board/knife to clean. (Hint: buy pre-chopped onions.) Well, to clean twice, anyway. You'll still need to chop up some cilantro at the end. Or not. Be as lazy as you want, my little slugs. That's all you.

Chicken Tortilla Soup 
Throw all of this into a crock pot*:
Half an onion, sliced or chopped (1/2-1 cup's worth)
1 heaping spoonful minced garlic (out of a jar)
1 tsp chili powder
1.5 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp thyme (or oregano)
1 bay leaf
16 oz jar fire-roasted salsa verde
1 can diced tomatoes
1 32oz box chicken broth (don't use low sodium. If you do, you'll need to add some salt. See? Pointless.)
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts

Set it on the 8 hour setting. Go do something else. I'm not bossy. Do what you want. After about 6-7 hours, pull the chicken out and shred it with a couple of forks. It should break apart easily. It won't be hard. I promise. Throw it back in and let it cook til your little light/timer goes off.

Top with any or all of the following:
Tortilla chips (hence the name...)
Shredded Mexican cheese (out of a bag, natch)
Chopped cilantro
Plain Greek yogurt

* It doesn't have to be in a slow cooker. Cook the chicken separately, shred and then throw it all together and simmer a half hour or so, and I'm sure it'll all still be just fine and dandy**.

** American Horror Story has now ruined the word Dandy for me. Amirite? Gahhhh.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Your kitchen willl totally reek of veggies after this.

I've posted a version of Divan before, but I wanted to change it up and get some extra veggies in here. Because the adults in this house like some greens. The child? Um, no. So rather than try and trick him into eating something he'll probably refuse to taste anyway, I just made this for us.

The last time I made Divan, I used a mixed veggie mix from Trader Joe's rather than straight broccoli and it was pretty awesome. This time, the steam in the bag fresh Brussel Sprouts were on sale, so I went that route. Next time I may try something else...everything I've tried so far tends to work. (But when does veggies and cheese NOT work? I mean, really.)

Speaking of, I added more cheese than I normally do, but with all the extra veggies, I went with it. A good call, I think.

Chicken Brussels Divan

About 16 oz. chicken breast
About 16oz halved Brussel sprouts, steamed
One small head broccoli, cut in small pieces and steamed
1 can condensed cream of broccoli soup (Campbell's is best)*
About 1/4 1% cup milk
1 cup finely shredded cheddar jack cheese
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
Curry powder
Salt & Pepper

*Cream of Chicken or Cream of Mushroom work well, too. Regular or low-sodium.

Season the chicken well with salt, pepper, and curry powder. Cook at 375 about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly and cut into bite sized pieces.

Mix chicken pieces with brussels, broccoli, soup and milk. Season with a pinch each of S&P. Spread into baking dish, sprinkle evenly with cheese and then breadcrumbs.

Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes until cheese is melted and everything is bubbly.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lemony Quinoa Risotto

Well, hello!

I thought we were in need of something a little more upbeat after that last post. No?

How about Fall? That seems to cheer everyone up. I'm wearing a sweater today; I wore a Giants sweatshirt while walking the dog this morning (Yes, the ones going to the World Series TONIGHT. Oh, you didn't hear that? You must be a Dodger fan. Sorry about that.) I loooove me some cozy clothes. And cold weather food...the kind that often leads to the need for cozy clothes, unfortunately.

Know what else makes me happy? Risotto. And playing with new recipe ideas. Lemony Quinoa Risotto, this time. I started with a mushroom risotto recipe on the back of my quinoa package and jumped off from there, ditching the mushrooms and creme fraiche and instead bumping up the garlic, adding lemon, and tying in the cream cheese I used for my Spinach & Feta Stuffed Chicken (Which I totally made up, recipe also below). And it was Delicious. Capital D.

I used 2 tbsp cream cheese, but you'd be fine with 1 tbsp, depending on how creamy you like this sort of thing! Also, I totally forget how annoying stirring risotto can be. Pro*-tip: Grab a chair and hang out with some wine while you do it.

*I am not actually a pro. I just like to sit. And drink.

Lemony Quinoa Risotto
Half an onion, chopped
About 1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 cup rinsed quinoa
1/3 cup vermouth (or white wine)
3 cups chicken stock/broth
zest of half a lemon
1 tsp lemon juice
1-2 tbsp light cream cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion and garlic in OO for a couple minutes, then add quinoa. Move all of that around for a few minutes, til the quinoa starts smelling a little toasty. Over medium high heat, add the vermouth and stir until it’s almost all evaporated. Then add half cup broth, stirring often, until mostly gone. Repeat, half a cup at a time, until the quinoa pops open (each grain will have a halo-type look to it). It’ll take 20-25 minutes or so. It may take more than 3 cups. It depends on how high your heat is, how much you stir, etc. It usually works for me right around there.

Once the last of the liquid is evaporated, stir in the lemon zest and juice, then turn heat to low and stir in the cream cheese. Season to taste. Serve hot.

For the chicken, I stuffed the breasts with a mix of:
1 package frozen chopped spinach, steamed, then squeezed as dry as possible
A bit of minced garlic
a couple oz of light feta
2 tbsp light cream cheese
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Zest from half a lemon
Salt and pepper

Seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper, and rolled it in some bread crumbs. Cooked at 375 for 25 minutes. If you don't have/want breadcrumbs, all good. Hubs just made some last week and I'm trying to use them up.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Plans change.

Last Monday, I was officially 10 weeks pregnant. On Tuesday, we were set to take ultrasound pics, which we'd send out as fun "surprise!" texts to close friends on Wednesday.

That was the plan. It was a good one.

Instead, on Tuesday afternoon, mid vaginal ultrasound, my doc very matter of factly asked me how far along I was supposed to be. "10 weeks? This-see this? Remember from him? (points to E, who was suddenly being held very closely by my tight-faced husband) This should be full. This is where the heartbeat should be. This sac should be full…see how it's crumpled here at the edge? I'm very sorry." She kept talking. Something about how in this situation she's required to perform the ultrasound again for a colleague, who would confirm that what I thought was a 10 week old fetus was instead a roughly 6 week old non-viable embryo.

Instead, on Wednesday, I wasn't texting photos. I was sitting in a hospital gown, poked full of needles and IVs, in a pre-op room with my husband for 5 and a half hours while they waited for an opening in the OB/GYN surgical suite. Instead of texts of giggles and joy, there were texts to make sure E could be picked up from day care and watched, that the dog could be let out, assurances that I wasn't having a total freakout session.

But I wasn't freaking out. I went into that appointment on Tuesday completely expecting the doctor to tell me there was no heartbeat. I'd had a knot in my stomach all day. I'd had a bad feeling for weeks. It's not something I can explain. Half of me knew I was doing the pessimistic preparation I do before any big announcement-to better prepare me IF. But the other half. just. knew. A week before, I'd silently cried in the shower. I knew this baby was damaged. I struggle every day to be a good mother to a perfectly healthy, wonderful child. Having a second was terrifying enough. Having a baby with special needs? I just didn't think I could do it. Would I be able to do it? Would I consider not having it? I didn't know. But the guilt of even having those thoughts was paralyzing.

It didn't matter. There had been something wrong. My body had done its job. There was no baby.  I'd miscarried.

I've been struggling with how to mourn. I'm not religious. My idea of the soul is very real, but it is something that grows with a person, and dies when they are gone. There are no angels in my world. It was still an embryo. There wasn't even a sex yet. I didn't lose a baby. I lost the very real beginnings—the idea, really—of a baby. And that, I'm realizing, is still a very real loss.

A very, very wise friend put it more beautifully than I ever could. She's been through this twice, which is twice more than I'd wish on anyone. She also has three wonderful, healthy children. And will have another, if her body is kind to her.

And yet through (because of?) her own pain, she held my hand last week. And through our conversations, she made me something beautiful. Here is an excerpt of the most thoughtful gift anyone has ever given me.

Those roots, they may have died, but they are not gone. Just as a plant in the earth, they linger, still reaching into parts of us we didn't even know of. Eventually, like any part of the earth, they break down, begin to decompose. A day finally comes when your lost baby is no longer the first thing on your mind. And still, no matter how many years, how many other babies, the memory of this baby, these roots, is forever in you. A tiny piece in the soil of your life.

In memory of a life too short, but no less real. A tiny quilt for a tiny baby, who leaves a big bundle of roots in your life.
A photo of the now-framed quilt.

I didn't realize today was National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day when I started writing this. (No, I also did not know that was a thing). Kind of amazing how that sort of thing works out, though. Thank you to all of you who have and will share your stories with me. Miscarriage and lost pregnancies are more common than they should be. They're painful—debilitating—sometimes. But they're something—with the help of our loved ones—we get through. My heart is with you all today.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Kobe's back!

And so is Kobe soup!

You may remember that when Kobe scored 81 points in 2006, Hubs and I were eating Tom Ka soup, which we thereafter dubbed Kobe soup. It's one of those that I don't use a recipe for, so it's a little different every time...I realized, however, that the way I did it tonight was enough different (and enough better) than when I posted it last time to warrant a Take Two post.

Comeback Kobe Soup 
(Tom Ka Gai)
Peanut oil
8oz chicken breast, thinly sliced
1 package extra firm tofu, drained well and cubed in 1 inch pieces
2 cans light coconut milk (I like the Thai Kitchen brand)
14oz chicken broth (fill one of the empty coconut cans)
About an inch of fresh ginger, minced
1 tbsp or so chopped lemon grass (I use the kind in a tube from the produce section)
3 tbsp fish sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tsp palm sugar
about a tsp turmeric
1-2 tsp chili paste
2 dried chiles, chopped fine
One can peeled, broken (or chopped) straw mushrooms, drained
one can baby corn, drained (cut them in 3rds or 4ths if they're whole)
Thinly sliced green onion and chopped cilantro, to serve

Heat a large soup or stock pot over medium high, add a little peanut oil (1 tbspish). Add tofu and let cook, tossing or stirring occasionally, until they start to brown (takes like 10 minutes). Remove tofu, and add chicken, and cook a minute or two. Add turmeric, lemongrass and ginger and stir to coat. Cook another minute.

Add broth and coconut milk, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, stir tofu back in and remaining ingredients (besides the cilantro and green onion), and let simmer about 15 minutes.

Top with the green stuff, and that's it!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I know y'all are sick of turkey by now. Have a shrimp taco instead.

It's a lazy Sunday afternoon and it seems our parade of Thanksgiving weekend guests has finally come to a close. My girl Ness ("You can just call me Doctor") just left to finish the second leg of her drive home (one nice thing about being in the armpit of California is that the majority of my friends either live south but have family north or vice versa, and it's a long ass drive. Our pull out isn't mighty comfy, but it's always free. Cost wise, anyway. There's almost always a cat on it), and asked for my shrimp taco recipe from last night as she left. I told her I'd email it, but I figured as long as I was typing, I might as well share with all y'all.

They are some awesome tacos, it's true. And I think she was impressed by how fast (and easily) they come together. 

I didn't write anything down as I was making them, so this is rough, per usual. Adjust as you see fit. They're spicy but not unreasonably so. Adding more sauce and/or cabbage on top helps. There's no photo, but that's ok. You can take your own after you make them.

Chipotle Shrimp Soft Tacos
1 chipotle pepper (from the can), chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
About 1.5-2 lbs medium sized raw shrimp, deveined and tails removed
Peanut oil (or canola or olive)
About a cup greek yogurt (0% works better but regular is fine)
About a 1/2 tsp cumin
A little less than 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Salt and fresh pepper
2 limes (One halved, one in 1/8ths)
Water as needed  
Corn or flour tortillas, warmed (We did some of each, both are equally good)
Shredded cabbage 
Chopped cilantro to top
Salsa or hot sauce to top

Combine the chipotle, about 2/3 of the garlic, shrimp, a good sprinkle each of salt and pepper and maybe a tsp of oil. Combine well so everything is coated, and let marinate in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. 

In the meantime, combine the yogurt, the rest of the garlic (about a cloves worth) cumin, cilantro, a pinch each of salt and pepper, and the juice of one lime. Mix well and stick in the fridge until needed. 

Heat a swirl of oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Depending on how large your skillet is and how much shrimp you're using, you may need to cook the shrimp-as follows-in two batches. Add shrimp, and cook for about 3 minutes. Turn over each piece and let cook another 2-3 minutes or until opaque and cooked through. Remove to a clean bowl. 

Take the sauce out of the fridge and taste. Add more lime or more cumin (or a bit of cold water if too thick) as needed. 

Throw some shrimp, a handful of cabbage, and a glob of sauce on a warm tortilla. Add salsa and cilantro if you want. Squeeze one of those lime wedges over everything. Eat. Say "Mmmmmmm...I'm SO effing glad this isn't turkey." Repeat.  

This served 3 hungry people, 2-3 tacos each.