Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fat kid food

So my girlfriend K and I went to opening night of the Kern County Fair this week. The fair, if something you've never had the privilege of experiencing, is definitely something...basically, we go to people watch. Cause it's pretty much just a sea of Bakersfield's finest-I don't even know where these people come from. And it's like the arrival of the fair is announced by some sort of underground call to the degenerates of society...oh, it's bad. But it makes for incredible entertainment. Especially if you're as snobby about that sort of thing as I am.

Don't get me wrong, there are awesome things about the fair. Where else, for example, can I see a giant pig or alligator for only a dollar? Ride an elephant or camel? (If I weren't super, SUPER anti that sort of animal treatment, anyway. Are we caravaning through the desert? No? Then get off the wild animal. I don't go to circuses, either. Depresses me.)
Annnd stepping down from soapbox...

Anyway, at the fair you get to see free concerts (hello, Hanson is playing this weekend!), watch people compete in the most awesome contests—sheep shearing, anyone?—and see fantastic things like cow birthings. I mean, really. It does not get any more ridiculous than an entire stall devoted to giant prego cows ready to pop. It's totally the best part of the fair, which is why I was monstrously disappointed that the stall was empty. I have no idea why, I always assumed the cows were there the whole ten-day's not like they're any less ready to give birth on the first day than the fourth.

I'll throw it out there that I know absolutely nothing about cow gestation.

But really, when you get down to reasons you'd actually WANT to go, the fair is just an awesome excuse to be a total fat kid. There are all the Kern County faves—corn dogs, cinnamon rolls, tongue sandwiches, deep fried burritos, curly fry mountains, turkey legs, and giant potatoes topped with melted butter. But since my options are, as usual, a bit limited, I was stoked to find nachos.

I LOVE ghetto nachos. They're the best—fake cheese, chips, jalapenos...omg, I'll go to a sporting event just so I have an excuse to eat them.

And THESE nachos were ridiculous. When the woman handed me this gigantic pile of chips, beans, cheese, guac and sour cream, it made the 20 minutes in line worthwhile. And after we squeezed into a table already inhabited by a couple and their 6 kids (Oh, Bakersfield), we embarrassingly destroyed the plate.

And that was enough fair for me for the year. Unless K convinces me to go back next week so she can get the cinnamon roll and baked sweet potato she was too full for this trip. I'll only go if the cows are out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ode to heatlamp warmed food.

You know those days you don't want to go out and you don't feel like cooking? I'm not usually too anti to throw something together, but I'm not gonna fake the funk and pretend I don't cheat.

If I could eat more fast or frozen food, it would probably be bad news...but since I can't eat pizza, most anything from a drive thru, sandwiches, or pretty much anything that requires peeling a wrapper off and heating it, I have to put some sort of thought and effort into dinner no matter how much I don't want to.

Which is why I have to give a big shout out to Vons' homestyle baked chicken. It's still hot, it's still juicy (chicken can get dry when it sits out. Bypass chicken at a buffet), and it's like six bucks. Good work, Vons.

If you're into what the husband calls "fancy salad," this is awesomely quick to throw together on nights like this and goes well with something plain like roast chicken. And if you ditch the green onion(or use kitchen shears), you don't even have to cut anything. Makes two big servings. Use the whole bag of lettuce for 4 side servings.

Raspberry Gorgonzola Salad
Pre cut Romaine lettuce (about 2/3 of a bag)
2 green onions, sliced
Handful glazed walnuts (I found them in the nut aisle)
1/4 cup reduced fat gorgonzola or blue cheese
Fresh raspberries (about two thirds a carton)

Layer in a big bowl. Toss only a little so it stays pretty when you serve it into salad bowls. Drizzle with blush wine vinaigrette (I love Brianna''s sooo good. All the varieties are super yum) and just a little fresh black pepper.
About 315 calories, 18g fat, 7g fiber(which makes the fat ok, as far as I'm concerned.), 30g carbs, 8g protein.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Scrounging around...

I'm pretty sure I was a prep cook in another life. Or should be in this one. It's my favorite part of cooking, other than eating. And sometimes they tie.

I get to be totally neurotic and use every small bowl I own (and I own a LOT) for a different ingredient, which both feeds my ocd and looks cool on my counter. Plus it makes me feel like Giada, which is always a good thing.

Seriously, chopping makes me happy. I'm not 'good' at it, but I don't cut myself (usually) and I manage to get most pieces the size I want them, so I guess I'm not bad at it. Anyway, it makes even those ho-hum meals feel like I made them with love...

This was one of those lets-see-what's-in-the-pantry meals. Not always the most interesting, but it does the job. I always have chicken, I always have wine, I always have garlic, and I usually have pasta (usually Trader Joe's brown rice pasta-a little chewy, but good. And the husband will eat it, so I don't have to make two batches) and that tends to be a good starting point.

Chicken Mushroom Pantry Pasta
3 cups cooked pasta (I like penne)
2 Chicken Breasts, sliced
5 garlic cloves, minced
Small onion, sliced or chopped
1 package sliced mushrooms
3/4 cup white wine
1 tbsp cornstarch
Salt and fresh ground pepper
3/4 cup grated parmesan or romano
handful fresh herbs, chopped (I used basil and oregano. Use dried if that's all you have)

Season chicken with salt and pepper and a bit of garlic powder, if you have it. Brown chicken in a little olive oil, remove from pan and keep warm. Saute garlic for a few seconds, then add onion. Cook until mostly soft, then add mushrooms and wine. Cook about 2 minutes, add chicken back in. Simmer til chicken is done. Mix cornstarch with a bit of water til smooth, then mix into sauce. When mixed, add drained cooked pasta, herbs, and half the cheese. Heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Should serve three or four. Add rest of cheese on top.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

It's especially good on Sundays.

Lots and lots of people are football fans. I'm...not. My dad never watched it (which partially may have to do with him being the only male in the house...he likes to say the house was composed of three chiefs and one Indian. My dad's a saint.) and most of the old boyfriends weren't big fans, so I wasn't ever really exposed to it.

The husband, however, is another story. So I'm trying. After five years of watching football all Sunday, and three years of working six hours every Saturday as the clock operator for a youth football league, I'm starting to understand some of the rules. The point, however, still escapes me.

The husband isn't Mr. Football with the Guys, fortunately, but he still wants to watch. All. Day. Long. So we made a deal long ago that since Sunday is the only full day we get to hang out together, I'd suck it up and watch football with him as long as we could do it somewhere I was also entertained. I'm easy in that regard...I need food, and I need drinks. So whether we go to brunch at El Portal (cheapest, best Mexican champagne brunch this side of town) or hang at home, I get to do my three favorite things—eat, drink, and hang with the hubby.

Here's what I like about watching football at home: I don't have to wear shoes, I never have to wait for the bathroom, I can drink free Bloody Marys*, and I can entertain myself by making appetizers, Campechana being the choice for today.

After discovering Campechana (seafood cocktail) at our favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican place, I'm obsessed with it, and I was determined to figure out the recipe. I finally got it right—the only thing that makes it different, as far as we can tell, is that they use octopus, and I use crab. Yes, I take the easy route. I'm just not that dedicated, I guess. It still tastes fantastic.

It's awesome with a spoon, a beer, and side of blue corn tortilla chips. Makes about 6 servings.

BTW, I'm an eyeball cook...please don't expect exact measurements from me...

1/2 package artificial crab, chopped roughly and separated
3/4 pound cooked shrimp, chopped roughly (whole bay shrimp work, too)
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 of a cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/4 of a red onion, chopped fairly fine
2 large stalks of celery, chopped
One avocado, chopped (squeeze some lime over it if you can)
Big handful of cilantro, chopped
Spicy Clamato juice (or add a tablespoon of hotsauce-Tapatio is great-to regular Clamato.)
Slices of lime or lemon

Combine everything through cilantro in a big bowl. Add enough Clamato to cover plus a bit, so it's just a bit soupy. Add citrus to taste. Can be served at room temp or chilled.
About 135 calories a serving, 8g fat, 1.5g fiber, 14g carbs, 13g protein

*I can't take credit for this one, but it serves as my Bloody Mary muse. I sipped on this one at The Rooftop bar in Laguna Beach, CA.

I wish my parents were Italian.

We know I'm not exactly a football fan, but I married one. Which means for approximately four months a year, my life is a little in upheaval—the husband is an official, so he's gone at least two evenings a week working high school games, as well as all day Saturdays, when he refs youth football for 12 hours.

This is bittersweet...I don't like having him gone that much (I kinda like the guy) but at the same time, I get to take advantage of Netflix's expansive collection of the TV shows I'm way behind on and he doesn't care about. For the record, I just finished Season 2 of Dexter, am about to start Grey's Anatomy from last season, and Gossip Girl's Season 1, disc 2 is on the way—I'm stoked.

But football season also means I get to play in the kitchen. On my home-alone nights, I'm a big fan of my old stand by recipes—Tuna Casserole, Cabbage Pancakes, Baked Chicken Parm, or Chicken & cabbage soup—which are easy, yummy, and with the exception of Parm, are weird enough to not necessarily be the husband's favorites...though I honestly never make them for him, so I can't actually back that up.

Tonight, however, is Wedding Soup night. I had an acquaintance's Italian mother make it when I was in New York a few years ago, and I've made my wanna-be version ever since. But all summer I hear, "It's hotttt. Why do you want soup? I don't want soup." And all summer, even in 102 degrees, I want Wedding Soup. And tonight's the first time I've gotten a chance to make it.

Wanna-be Italian Wedding Soup
12 cups chicken broth
16-20oz extra lean ground turkey
One egg
One egg white
Handful of fresh basil, chopped
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
red pepper to taste
garlic powder, at least a teaspoon
fresh or dried oregano, a healthy shake.
1 oz shredded romano or parmesan
2 cups spinach, chopped
Big handful julienned,shredded, or diced carrots
1/4c bread crumbs (I skip this now...but the meatballs stick together better when you use them)
2 cups small-shaped pasta
salt and pepper

In a big bowl, combine turkey, egg, basil, red pepper, garlic, oregano, cheese, and salt and pepper(and breadcrumbs, if using). Use your hands to mix it all together well. Shape into small meatballs (about an inch or so), place in fridge to chill. (Or, if you have extra time, throw them in the oven at 400 for 8 minutes or so)

Bring chicken broth to boil in a big soup pot, add meatballs one at a time, slowly, in different places in the pot so they don't stick together as they cook. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook 15 minutes. Add carrot, spinach, and pasta, and let cook about 10 minutes, or until pasta is cooked.

Serve topped with a healthy pinch/handful of cheese. Makes 6 servings.
About 250 cals, 10g fat, 1g fiber, 22g protein, 17g carbs (without topping cheese or breadcrumbs)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My shining star

I'll be honest here...I don't like where I live. There are several reasons, really, but one big one is the food. Coming from San Diego, where I could get any type of food I could imagine, in any part of the city, pretty much anytime, I struggle with my, shall we say...lack of in Bakersfield. Especially when you're not a big meat eater. Or fan of pickled tongue.

Other than las Salsas in Rosedale, the husband's and my favorite once-a-week-joint (which introduced us to my new all-time favorite appetizer, campechana), and a handful of good Mexican places, I'm not super impressed with the food here. It's all chain restaurants and fast food, with the occasional—and often great, but ridiculously overcrowded—original venture.

And then, one magical day, I found Saigon. In a little strip mall on Oak St., I found the perfect lunch spot. On half(or slow) days, I can order a beer and spend a while happily destroying the bowl of fried won ton strips and plum sauce they stick in front of me.

When I'm in a hurry, I call in for my #2, the special chicken noodle...or pho ga(Fuh, if you want to say it right). Which is, if I may, the best thing ever. If I'm having a bad day, it's soup for the soul. If I'm craving asian food, like pretty much always, it's healthy and filling. And if I'm hungover, it's pretty much the shining star in my dark little cloud of pity and nauseousness. It's a winner, no matter how you look at it.

I don't know the exact recipe, but it's a sweetened chicken broth, to which you add sliced chicken and bean thread-ish noodles, sliced onion, cilantro, basil, bean sprouts, jalapeno and lime...Mmmmm. It makes everything better.

I'm stuffed. Let's eat.

So, we've all been there. Eaten something you're either impressed that you made, or grateful you discovered (and ultimately paid for).

My choice? Something I made. The immeasurable thanks of the "mmmm, babe" noise is indescribable. Luckily, I have a husband who thinks I can cook...and yet is truthful when I've completely screwed up, which may be even more valuable.

I'm pickier about my own cooking than about anyone or anywhere else's. I love to cook, and I love when it turns out to what I consider perfect. So when I'm impressed, I'm slightly ridiculous. I love to share the recipes that work with my friends, too, hence this blog. So if you're also fan of cooking and taking pics of your food(I KNOW many of you are), send 'em my way and I'll post anything that I would want to eat.

But my roundabout point is that I'm not making anything anyone else cannot. And if my husband, my stomach, and waistline—which is 60 pounds lighter these days, thanks to the impending threat of wedding photos, cardio, yoga, and a mix of recipes I've created and—are happy, you will be too.

More importantly for me, however, is that I'm sensitive to gluten, so the vast majority of what I eat—and feed my man—is gluten free. Yet still delicious. I love bread, don't get me wrong, but I love not scratching myself to death more.

As I write this, the husband is scraping the caramelized remains of our grilled apples and eating them rather than/before washing the grill. "Super Bomb," as he says. I take this as a compliment. I hope you enjoy this blog as much.