Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Do we like okra?

If you're like me, your parents grew up with Midwestern parents...who, in turn, never introduced okra into your life.(If not, pretend with me. The point is coming soon.)

Now, I know this is a southern food...cornmeal battered fried okra is kind of amazing, I've found...but I'm not from the south. I'm a Kansas/Oklahoma/ Southern Cali breed. And there's no okra in Southern Cali.

So. When I wanted to try and make this for the first time a couple years ago, I had to rely on the infinite wisdom of my husband to teach me. And let's be honest...that's a whole new realm in itself. But it's true, he knows better than me in some areas. Marinara and lasagna (thanks to his Italian side), curry (thanks to the Indian/Burmese/Texas in-law side) and, well, a whole lot else. Okra included, thankfully. Cause this ish is delicious.

Okra Tomato Stew
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red onion, chopped
12oz boneless/skinless chicken breast, sliced or chopped
Chicken bouillon cube
1 can stewed or diced tomatoes
1 package frozen okra
Salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes
chili pepper, minced (optional)
Cilantro, to top
Sriracha, to serve

1 tbsp(or less) olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups chicken broth

Saute garlic and onion about 5 minutes or until soft. Add chicken, saute a few minutes a side until white on outside. Add bouillon cube and about one cup water, canned tomatoes, and okra. Bring to a boil. Add about a 1/2 tsp salt and as much pepper as you like (at least 1/8-1/4 tsp), 1 tsp or so turmeric, and chili flakes to taste (I do a good shake).

Reduce to low. Cover. Cook about 20 min. Season to taste. (I use a bit of salt and some Sriracha)

In the meantime, cook the rice: In rice pan, heat olive oil, saute garlic a couple minutes. Add rice. Saute about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth, bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to low, cook 15 min. Let sit a few minutes, fluff with fork before serving.

Serve chicken mix over rice.

Seriously Literate Book Club, August Pt. 2

I got a little overambitious again...I have eight books currently checked out, so I've been jamming trying to get them read in time...thanks again to everyone who has been recommending titles either here or on facebook. It's so nice to know other people besides me like to read...

Normal People Don't Live Like This, Dylan Landis
Hmmm...a good way to describe this book...
Apparently I missed something. Like the point. Seriously, if this had been on my SATs, I never would have gotten into UCSD. I would have completely failed the comprehension portion.

Has anyone read this? What the hell was that ending?? I mean, I get that it was a collection of short stories, but they all had the same characters, and some were completely left field. Weirdest book I've read in a long time. Not badly written at all; I just didn't follow. Some chapters/installments or whatever you want to call them were great, it's true, but I just wasn't able to...be there. If that makes sense. This book has super mixed reviews on Amazon, so maybe you should just read it for yourself.

Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen
Ok, thank you Kate B, for recommending this. (and for sending me her next novel! Xo!) I loved it. It reminded me so much of when I took creative writing classes and was encouraged to write stuff like this. So. Sweet. One of the reviews on the back says "my only regret is that Garden Spells wasn't a thousand pages longer." I completely agree. Absolutely charming, captivating, easy to read...all of those phrases reviewers use-they hold true. I was totally hesitant based on the name and kind of frou-frou cover that it might be lame...but no. Mystic ways and love and emotions and sisterly bonding (in a non lame way)...wow, any dude reading this just tuned out completely. I don't care. Read this book. It's adorable.

Monsters of Templeton, Sarah Groff
Well, hmm. I liked it. It had a favorable, if not predictable ending. And I do like a happy ending. (I also like horrible ones, it's the in between I'm not crazy about) But I feel like there were so, SO many characters that danced through the story it was impossible to keep straight. And to be honest, I somehow skipped over the explanation at the beginning that made the main character's search make sense. Kate B? Also your recommendation. Did it make sense to you? Or did you just like the way the stories weaved together? I thought that was the best part. Well written. Just hard to follow, I think. But I do have the attention span of a hamster...

Daughter of Fortune, Isabel Allende
If you like well written, romantic, cultural/historical fiction, you may want to read this. It's a story of unrequited love, chasing ghosts, and realizing you can't put a description on what love looks like.

Romantic enough for you? It was a great, great story, very rich and descriptive and warm, even when the happenings were not. I will be reading more of Ms. Allende's work. Thanks to the boss lady for her recommendation. I'll read Zorro next!

My Horizontal Life, Chelsea Handler
I feel like all I've read about lately are miscarriages, history, and heartbreak, and this quick read (I read it in a day) was a great break. It had me giggling out loud.

I'm pretty sure you have to either adore or despise Chelsea Handler. She doesn't take herself seriously in the least, is bitingly sarcastic-and shockingly blunt, and is crude without seeming like she means a bit of it. I happen to adore her. If you do, as well, you'll probably like this collection of 'true' short stories about her sexual escapades. If not, well, don't read it. Or stop being a prude and take a chance...either way.

Next up:
Girl with a Dragon Tattoo
The Liar's Club
Strangers at the Feast

Friday, August 27, 2010


Well, I embraced the kitchen last night, triple digit temps and all. I've heard figs go bad rather quickly, and I wanted to use them before they got smooshy or whatever it is that happens to them.

Gotta say, I'm a fan. When they're fresh they have a super weird texture—soft but with tiny crunchy seeds...just like a fig newton, obviously, but when you braise them the contrast between skin, flesh and seeds is even more pronounced. In a good way, or at least I think so. Hubby wasn't around last night, so I don't have any more feedback. His only comment when viewing the leftovers was a slightly accusatory, "how much wine is in here?"

Harrumph. Not that much...the figs helped turn the whole thing a lovely shade of purple, too. Anyway, if, like me, you've never cooked with fresh figs, this is an easy one to start out with. Serve with some sort of starch...rice, quinoa, pasta, whatever you've got. Adapted from a Cooking Light recipe.

Braised Chicken and Figs
4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
4 bay leaves
olive oil
water (about a 1/4 cup)
large shallot, chopped
1/3 cup red wine
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
squirt of honey
About 8 fresh figs, cut in half lengthwise (remove stems)

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place 1 bay leaf on each piece of chicken. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Place chicken, bay leaf sides down, in pan. Cook 3 minutes or until browned. Turn chicken over; cook 3 minutes.

Add water; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove chicken from pan.

Add shallots to pan, saute about 2 minutes. Add chicken, wine, vinegar, and honey to pan and bring to a boil. Cook about 1 minute, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until chicken is done. Add figs, then cover and simmer 5 more minutes or until figs are tender.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A friend asked me today if I've been cooking...

The answer this week is no.

It's so hot my cooler doesn't work, so the idea of having my stove on pretty much makes me cry. Especially when I want to cook. I saw that Trader Joe's was selling figs this week, and after having an extended convo about the pros and cons of figs with a fellow shopper, was feeling ambitious enough to go for it.

Unfortunately, braising chicken and figs (my recipe of choice) wasn't so much an option today, so we'll try again tomorrow. In the meantime, I bravely cut into my very first fig (not of all time, just at my house) and made myself an appetizer plate.

And that, my friends, was dinner (plus a glass/bottle of wine..natch.) I'm not complaining. Gorgonzola and figs with anything is always good. Even on gluten free crackers. Aren't they fancy? I love it.

-posted out of near heatstroke from my iPhone.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Survey says...

I've been thinking a lot lately about the fact that I have been using this forum to talk about more than food. Books, my house, my obsession with my cat (but she's so cuuute)...does anyone mind? I'm more than happy to start a secondary blog (cause I really need to be that girl with multiple blogs...but I so love designing headers, so it's ok), but I honestly don't know if it's necessary. Thoughts? Complaints? I just like to write, so I don't care where/how it happens. I just don't want to bore anyone away...I do want you to be entertained. Let me know, will you?


Thursday, August 19, 2010

I love that he loves his veggies.

So this is pretty much a daily convo at our house:

Pammy: Hey, babe, does anything sound good for dinner?
Hubby: Uhhhh, nah. Whatever you want!

And while I appreciate the agreeableness, it gets awfully old to have to brainstorm every day. So imagine my surprise this weekend when he, seemingly from nowhere, asked his mom what was in her broccoli salad. Why? "I've been craving it."

Uhhh, you have?? Ok...I can totally make that happen. And did, even though my recipe given to me was as follows: Broc, tomato, red onion, mushrooms, Bernstein's dressing, cheese. Hmmm. Cryptic even for me. So I guessed. And judging by his reaction (and speed in which the leftovers disappeared), I guessed well. So for my future reference, as well a little summer delight for you...voila.

Broccoli Salad
Medium head broccoli, washed and broken into bite sized piece
About 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced and then roughly chopped
Half a package sliced mushrooms*
4oz of cherry tomatoes, halved, or 4-5 campari tomatoes, halved then quartered
A afcouple oz feta (or any cheese, really). I used about half the package
Hefty pour Bernstein's Italian dressing to coat

Let marinate a bit. Even better the next day, so no need to be in a hurry to eat this one.

*For the rest of the meal, I marinated some chicken in the same dressing, and then sauteed some garlic and the rest of the mushrooms. Then sauteed the chicken with the mushrooms until done.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I know I can be overambitious...

But this...damn near ridiculous.

I have three weeks. Wish me luck.

-posted out of laziness from my iPhone.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Thank you!

Dear friends and family in Sacramento,
You treated us well this weekend. Thanks for the food, the booze, the pool, the conversation. And in one case, quite a parade...*

*parade not shown.
Your children are/will be gorgeous. Thanks again for feeding us/putting us up!
Love, P and J.

-posted out of gratefulness from my iPhone.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Daring Time—Pierogi

Has anyone on the west coast ever actually made pierogi before? (And is pierogi the singular/plural? Pierogies?) I mean, I definitely have not—I've never even eaten one. Which meant that for this month's Daring Kitchen challenge, we had to judge solely based on if we liked them, since we had nothing to compare them to.

The required stuff: The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

I'm going to preface this by saying I believe that anytime you roll out dough, you are baking, not cooking. And say it with me here...I don't bake. At least this was a basic flour/egg/water recipe, which is ok because it's not exact...it's totally acceptable to add a bit more water or a bit more flour. That, I can handle. In fact, I used to make pumpkin ravioli from scratch the same way (but with tomato paste in the dough)...which, really, in my opinion, these are just ravioli. Or potstickers, actually, since there's no sauce. Anyhoo...

Shall I walk you through it?

First, I made a dough from 2 cups flour, an egg, salt, and about 2/3c water. Mixed with my hands, kneaded a million times, and let sit, covered with a damp towel, for about 20 min.

Chopped some mushrooms and shallots, sauteed them, and added 2 cups of sauerkraut and a shredded carrot. Cooked that all down for 15 min or so, added salt, pepper, and cumin, and let cool.
Rolled out the dough really thin. Used a glass to cut out 2ish inch circles. Combined the scratch pieces and kneaded back together. Had I made more, I would have repeated til gone.

Put a small scoop of mixture on a dough round, folded edges together, and pressed them with a fork to seal.

Once I got down the method, it went fairly quickly, but man...I was a busy girl.

Even KittyH helped by watching while keeping my placemat warm...Bad cat! I swear, we give her free reign of the house, and she wants to be the one place we don't want her. I kick her off the table all evening long. And every time I turn around...

In a large deep sauté pan, I boiled some salted water, then dropped them in one at a time. Cooked about 7 minutes.

In another sauté pan, I heated a bit of oil and tossed in the drained pierogies. Browned a couple minutes a side.

Kinda boring, so we concocted a dipping sauce from spicy mustard, rice vinegar and a bit of light mayo.

And...drumroll...the review:

Pammy: So? I think it's like a Russian Potsticker.
Hubby: yeah, the only difference is the dipping sauce.
Pammy: Well, yeah, but that was spur of the moment, it wasn't part of the recipe.
Hubby: It works, it's what goes...they're tasty. If you made these for a football fantasy draft party, the plate would be empty.
Pammy:....is that your way of telling me the draft is at our house this year?
Hubby: nooo...it's my way of asking you. Look at your thumbs go...are you writing all this?
Pammy: Oh, I have to get this.
Hubby: Ok...well...all the dough rolling, I mean, you could have used wonton wrappers.
Pammy: I knooow, I wasn't allowed to.
Hubby: ....who wants to do that?
Pammy: Not me. Back to the original question. I thought they were good, but not worth the time to make them. Not that good.
Hubby: At least we've expanded culturally...I always think of them more like a calzone, so I'm surprised they're so small...you should have made some big ones...one meat, one cheese, one sweet, and one wildcard. Dominate that challenge, damnit!!

Yeah, I'll get right on that. So final verdict: Good experience, but I never need to make them again. And if I do...I'm doing meat and cheese, not sauerkraut. Or a sweet one. With wonton wrappers.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Polenta for one.

Ah, football season. It's so close I can taste it...quite literally, cause it means I'm back to cooking for one at least one night a week while Hubby has football class. And we know what that means—PammyFood he doesn't like! Yay!

This week I went with quick and easy—pan fried polenta slices with veggie marinara. I'm still not entirely sure why he's anti polenta. I think it's the texture, but he's never really expressed an actual reason, so I can't be sure. And really, whatever. The boy doesn't like it. On to the next.

I used leftover oyster mushroom because I had no idea what else to do with it, but I'd prefer a package of sliced button or white mushrooms for this. Do with that what you want. Garlic would be good, too, had I had any...And I'm sure any number of veggies would be great in this, I just happened to have a small zucchini in the fridge that needed a home.

Sliced Polenta with Veggie Marinara
One package pre-cooked, formed polenta
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper
olive oil
Mushrooms, sliced (8oz or so)
Small bottle marinara (I used organic from Trader Joes)
Balsamic vinegar
Red pepper flakes
Handful shredded (or chopped) carrot
One zucchini, thickly sliced
Romano or parm cheese, grated

Sauté the mushroom in large saute dish for a bit til soft. Stir in sauce, red chili, some salt and pepper, and a short pour of balsamic. Bring to simmer.
Stir in veggies. Cover, cook over low for 10-15 minutes or til veggies are cooked.

In the meantime, slice polenta fairly thin. Sprinkle well with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Heat a bit of oil in sauté pan, add polenta. Cook about 5 min a side over medium heat.

Serve on plate, scoop on pasta sauce. Top with cheese.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Seriously Literate Book Club: August

I just made my own Book Club. You like it? I do. Now the fun part...

Skinny Bitch:Freedman, Barnouin
Meh. If I weren't such a foodie*, I may have found it more persuasive...And while some of the points about additives and growth hormones were really interesting, I just can't commit to a strictly organic, herbivore lifestyle. Plus I don't like fruit all that much, and they're like, obsessed with it. Not for me. You vegans, however, may get some great food tips. Note: Not that you'd be offended by crass language if you're reading a book with the word Bitch in the title, but just a heads up...they like the four letter words. As do I, so that was the best part, in my opinion.
*Is it pretentious to use the word foodie? Feel free to exchange that statement with 'if I didn't enjoy being such a fatkid' if it helps my image.

Water for Elephants: Sara Gruen
I Loved this book. Capital L. My only complaint is that there are a bajillion supporting characters, and I couldn't keep any of them straight. But it didn't detract from anything, and seeing that it took place on a traveling circus, having a bunch of extraneous people around was unavoidable. The characters I needed to know and follow I did.
The relationships blossomed throughout the book, whether they were romantic, platonic, boss/employee or even animal/human...I never felt like anything jumped out of nowhere or was forced. And even more importantly, the ending was perfect. I would so read this again. I'll even see the movie when it comes out next year. I'm not sure I see Robert Pattinson as the main character, but it's not as if I've ever seen the kid act, so I'll keep those reservations to myself.

Girl With a Pearl Earring: Tracy Chevalier
I watched this movie a couple weeks ago not actually knowing it was based on a fictional book (yeah, I'm slow sometimes)...I thought it was a bit confusing, honestly, but it was really pretty to look at...so after the bosslady told me it was like, her favorite book ever, I figured I'd take a chance on it.
And it was lovely. It put together all the pieces the movie glazed over, not surprisingly, and was so descriptive I almost stopped picturing Scarlett Johansson as the main character, Griet, about half way through. (The bad news is that I catch myself calling KittyH Griet all the damn time now. Greta...Griet...you follow.)
I was a bit surprised by Griet's underlying sadness throughout the story...the movie portrays quite a few bits of happiness to offset her grief, but her true feelings show through much more clearly in the book. It's understandable, given her situation, but I still wasn't expecting to feel for her as much as I did.

What's next? I'm taking any and all suggestions. The library has all six of the books I've requested on backorder, so I'm in limbo. Guess it's back to Netflix for me...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Taco salad. It's salad. With meat.

Omg this was easy. Excuse the super blasé recipe, but seriously. It's mostly toppings, chop what you need.

Taco salad
1 lb lean ground meat (beef or turkey)
1 chili, minced (ours was mild)
Garlic powder (1tsp-ish)
Salt (pinch)
Cumin seed or powder(1/2 tsp)
About 1/4 cup fresh salsa
Chopped cilantro (2 tbsp-ish)
Head of romaine, chopped
Handful tortilla chips, crushed
Diced tomato
Chopped green onion
Shredded cheddar/mont jack cheese
More salsa
Lime wedges

In sauté pan, heat meat, mixing/stirring as it cooks. When almost not pink, add chili, garlic, salt, cumin, cilantro and salsa. Mix well, cook til done, keep warm (not hot!)

Pick up plate. Make salad. I did lettuce, chips, meat, tomato, etc...but who cares. I gave you the base. Do with it as you please. Add sour cream or avocado! Do it!

-posted out of laziness from my iPhone.

Crazy cat lady, party of one.

This collection has two names
(hubby and I each had good arguments, so it's a draw):
look how cute my cat is and look how lame my wife is. Whatever. I was bored.

She really doesn't do much other than this save for about a half hour of playing a day. Well, and she eats. Which means she gets along just fine around here.

-posted out of laziness from my iPhone.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I want my garden.

And I want it now. But in the meantime...a big Thank You to Aunt Donna and Uncle Phil. I cannot wait to use these!!

(extraneous avocado excluded. Everything else is from their garden.)