Saturday, September 14, 2013

When Life Gets Away from You (or With You)

I have been extremely errant in my blogging. So much so that I'm not even going to bother looking to see when my last post was. It's enough to know that it was quite some time ago.

Since that time, I have been at my 'new' full-time job for almost six months, Lovie has gained a 'promotion' at work that involves a lot of new training, and we've moved into our 1st apartment! And of course, still going to the gym on a regular (semi-regular for me) basis.

It's been a lot. I realize that this is just what 'being an adult' entails, but that doesn't mean there is no adjusting involved. There are a lot of nights where we only get an hour or so to 'chill' after dinner, before it's time to go to bed and start all over again. And as much as I love cooking, dinner often consists of chicken (I've recently started baking it as it is a lot less work, and Lovie likes it), some sort of steamed vegetable (usually broccoli), and rice. Full disclosure: I often cheat with the steamed veggies and rice, buying the microwavable packets from the store for both. Don't judge me.
If we're feeling fancy I'll break out the chicken fettucini alfredo that has become a staple in our house.

Ah! 'Our House'! And it's just us!

I digress.

In any case, it has not been a gastric adventure in any sense of the imagination. Just us getting by, and doing our best to not eat too much pizza. Even though it's awfully tempting a lot of nights.

Hopefully I'll be doing some fun stuff this weekend, although not anything necessarily new. I'm planning on surprising Lovie with his favorite enchiladas tonight. I call them his favorite, but in all truthfulness, they're the only ones I've ever made for him. But he seems to like them. And I didn't hear 3 months later that he was just trying to be nice about it, like my Thai Peanut Sauce... Brat.

I'm also going to try and get the ingredients for Pumpkin Cookies with Caramel Frosting. Maybe, maybe not. Depends on how quickly I get my hiney off the couch.

The cookies also really depend on much I get done around the apartment, too. Since we moved a few weeks ago, all unpacking momentum has been lost, and there is still a pile of boxes and random crap in the space that would have a dining table if we could afford it... So while cookies would be nice, my main goal is going to be to find as much of that random stuff a home as possible.

In any case, I hope you all have a splendid weekend. Let's keep our fingers crossed for a cool front to move in. I want to be wearing sweaters by October.

Until next time,
Enchiladas and 'Where'd-this-come-from?'

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Shrimps and Jobs

I'm a bad, bad blogger...

In my defense, I simply haven't had the funds to make anything out of the norm recently, and I wasn't going to bore you with my nightly routine (I'm pretty sure you'd get tired of hearing about spaghetti, fettucini and basic chicken dishes post after post.)

This last Monday, I started a new job. It's a pretty nice office job, with the county. I even get my own cubicle!
It's probably more a good thing than bad, but there aren't really any places around my office to eat. There are a few fast food places a couple blocks away, and a cafeteria. Neither are good options for different reasons; I'm trying to stay away from fast food as much as possible (and my lunch is only 30 minutes, so I'd rather not drive somewhere), and I've heard the cafeteria is pricey (so I've simply stayed away from it thus far.) What to do, what to do??

This sounds like a job for Brown Bag!!!
(Yes, that was dorky.)

I've done the whole 'packed lunch' thing before, but it was usually frozen meals I could pop in the microwave for a few minutes, and didn't really have to think about. And if I did think about it, I had a grand total of 4 options in my repertoire: PB&J sandwich, meat and cheese sandwich, tuna/chicken salad sandwich, or Pasta-roni with chicken (this one requiring more effort than I'd usually want to put in).
To me, that was enough to convince me that I didn't wanted to bring my own lunches to work. Seriously, who wants to eat sandwiches 3 days of the week?

Clearly, this was all going to be a problem.

So, I spent some time on the internet, compiling recipes that are specifically for making ahead, or that I thought would work for packing...

This recipe is by far my favorite so far! It's incredibly easy, delicious, and even fairly healthy.
It's technically two recipes, because the first calls for a peanut sauce but doesn't provide directions, so I had to go looking for my own. The best part is, I don't even have to heat it up when I pack it for lunch, because it's meant to be served cold!

It's basically shrimp, veggies, noodles, and Thai peanut sauce.

You can find the first recipe here.
And the second recipe here.

For the main part of the dish, I really didn't change much. The only thing was my grocer didn't have snow peas, so I used sugar peas instead. And you can always mess with portions to tailor to the things you like best. And I love shrimp, so I used extra. One other thing is when you're cutting the bell pepper, I find the dish is easier to eat if you cut lengthwise, and then cut those strips in half. Especially if, like me, the bell pepper you buy is closer to a large than a medium.

For the sauce, I cheated and used the JIF Creamy Peanut Butter that was already in my pantry, rather than buy more. It worked... But I think the sauce would have been even more amazing if I had used the recommended unsweetened, natural stuff. Because the sweetness of the JIF (and really any non-natural/organic peanut butter) almost overwhelms the curry flavor, there is so much sugar in it. It's not a bad taste at all, but after my 3rd bowl, I was wishing for a little more spice and a little less sweet.
And don't be chintzy with the curry paste! It would be really hard to overdo it, unless you use the whole jar.

Despite all this, I looooooooooooooooooooooooove this dish! I had it for dinner on Tuesday, lunch on Wednesday, and lunch again today. It's perfect for packing, because if you make a lot, and store in separate containers (noodles in a bag, shrimp/veggies in another, and peanut sauce in a bowl), it keeps really well. At least for a few days. And if you don't use a ton of noodles in the dish, there aren't too many carbs (they give me the post-lunch sleepies.)

I've got many more lunch ideas/recipes up my sleeve, so hopefully I'll have more posts very soon!

Until then,
Packed lunches and papercuts.

Monday, February 4, 2013

SuperBowl Fooooooooood!

So I was really hoping to be able to post about awesome pizza rolls the day after SuperBowl, but since my plan was usurped by the roommates deciding to get 7 pizzas (I figured having both would be unnecessarily redundant), all you get is cream cheese footballs.

Yup, you read that right, creeeeam cheeeeeeeeese footballs. I didn't really make anything, it was cheating, but it was still delicious.

All I did was take some cream cheese (about a pound) and put it in a square glass casserole dish, shaped it like a football, and surrounded it with peach salsa. I used a little bit of salsa to give the football stitches, too. Then served with a bowl of wheat crackers. Pretty dang good, and no work (which I'm actually not really happy about. I like work).
This would have been a better post if I had done my friend's deviled eggs, or jalepeno popper dip, but alas, you will have to live with my shortest post ever.


Until next time,
Peaches and Go Niners!

Friday, January 25, 2013

It's the Little Things.

Do you ever have one of those days? Where you just feel like you've been super productive (even if that is a gross exaggeration), and you just become filled with a sense of content?

I haven't had a lot of those days recently. If I'm not stressed about one thing, I'm stressed about another. What's for dinner? How am I gonna pay for this? When will I get enough hours at my job? When will I get a new job? Do I meet the requirements? What about the exam?
These are all thoughts that plague me on an almost daily basis. I know I'm not alone. I'm painfully aware that everyone struggles with questions like these all too often.
Unfortunately, having those questions usually keeps me in a slightly sour mood the majority of the time. I don't appreciate Lovie's jokes and sense of humor as much as I normally would, and even if I enjoy a moment of levity, it is easily ruined by something that I could usually brush off. I don't like this person. This isn't who I want to be. I want to find enjoyment in the little things, and be happy.

So while I haven't had a lot of content days recently, I had one today. I can't tell you exactly what about it made me happy. I still got cut off while driving, almost run over walking across the parking lot. Even had to pay $5 for a day-pass parking permit at the University that I ended up only using for about ten minutes because the person I was supposed to have an appointment with called in sick, and I didn't get a call to let me know.
But for some reason none of this fazed me today. I was pleasant to the person who should have called me to reschedule my appointment. To the semi-creepy guy at Bed Bath & Beyond who chatted me up a little too long over car fresheners. Every one just seemed friendly today (excepting the people who cut me off/tried to run me over), offering smiles. I was a little disconcerted. But then I realized I was smiling back at every single one of them. It was incredible. I even went to Panera by myself and just sat, drinking hot chocolate and reading the newspaper, for about 45 minutes. And I was happy. Perfectly content and happy.

I want to be that person more often. Offering a smile to strangers, being nice even when they walk where I was walking (seriously though, when did we develop a sense of entitlement over where we 'intended to walk, if only that other person hadn't gotten in our way,' to the point where people feel the need to apologize if they walk in your path?).
All too often, I get so angry about customers at my work who are rude to me, not understanding why they can't see that the things they are upset about are not my fault. But then I turn around and do it myself. Going off at a clerk who has no more power over whatever I'm upset about, than I do over what my customers get upset about.

It's not a New Year's Resolution (I don't do those), but it is something I want to commit myself to working on. To just be content, and be kind, even if your circumstances are not conducive to it.
It truly is about appreciating the little things; a new friend, some hot cocoa, hearing 'I Love You' from someone dear to your heart.

Until next time,
Enjoy the little things, and hot cocoa.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Baby Steps

Eating healthy can be a major challenge in this day and age. What to eat, what not to eat, this makes you fat, this is actually good for you... It can all be VERY overwhelming and confusing. There is so much different information out there, it is often hard to know which pieces to take into consideration and which to discard.

I'm not going to tell you I have answers. On the contrary, Lovie and I are making our own baby steps to finding a healthier kitchen, and each step is a process to finding what works for us. By no means do we cut anything out of our diet entirely. Maybe we should, but that's not a step we've reached yet. I personally do not drink soda on a regular basis, only as a treat every once in a while. I drink a LOT of water on a daily basis. It's not even something I think about anymore, except when I have not been drinking enough water and am feeling dehydrated.

Recently, we've been really good about not eating premade, frozen or boxed meals. The only frozen items we purchase for our pantry are meats, and ice cream (one of our truly guilty pleasures). We try to not even get frozen vegetables. It has gotten to the point where I even feel bad about occasionally using a rice side 'mix' (did you know that the 'rice' is more often small pieces of pasta???), and I want to start making my own pasta, or at least switching to whole wheat, because the amount we use is crazy. This is another thing we are trying to move away from.
When we first started trying to make all of our dinners (as opposed to frozen or boxed meals), pasta was an easy go-to dish. There are so many different ways to make it that we probably could have gone for years without getting bored. But we realized that we were eating waaay too many carbs, and not enough vegetables.

These are our baby steps.

We will fix one part of our diet, only to realize there is another part, or something we picked up in the process that needs changing. But as long as we do not become complacent, we will continue to re-learn how to eat, and how to be healthy. We also work out multiple times a week. Lovie is much better about consistency than I am, but I'm trying to keep up with him.

With all of that in mind, I am trying to progressively feel better and better about the things I am putting on the table for Lovie and I.

Last night, I made chicken and broccoli with rice. The rice was one of those 'mixes' I told you about, so I was not super thrilled with putting that on our plates. But while I'm all for changing the way we eat, there are things already in our pantry that need to be used. And my momma did not raise me to be wasteful.
The chicken I cut into strips and seasoned with kosher salt and lemon pepper. I tried to keep my hand light with the salt and let most of the flavor come from the ingredients in the lemon pepper, and then cooked it in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil (instead of butter).
For the broccoli, I brought about a 1/2-3/4 inch of lightly salted water to a boil in a pot, before putting the chopped broccoli florets directly into the water, covered it, and let it simmer for 3-4 minutes. Normally you would want to use a steamer, but I don't have one, and this works nearly as well. You want to be careful not to cook it too long, or you will end up with green mush. After I drained it, I stirred about 1 tbsp of butter in, and served it.

This was not the richest, or most delicious meal I've put together, but it was tasty, and Lovie and I felt good about eating it. With a glass of wine on the side.

The moral of the story is; find the baby steps that work for you. Sometimes baby steps are better, and easier, than an all-at-once-cold-turkey method of changing your diet. Because you don't want a fad, you want a lifestyle change, one that will last for years. And Lovie and I's goal is to establish a lifestyle now that will keep us healthy and happy for the next 40 years, so that when we reach retirement we are healthy enough to enjoy it.

Until next time,
Broccoli and (a little) less butter.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Fruity Pigs

I started this post a few days ago, but I haven't been feeling great (and was experiencing a little writer's block), so I saved it for later. But, we're back in business!

This past week I made my first foray into the world of Masterchef. Well, the Masterchef cookbook I got for Christmas.

There are sooo many recipes in my new cookbooks that I want to try, but many of them require tools I don't have, are more complex than I want to try for a work night dinner, or require a lot of ingredients I don't have and/or wouldn't even know where to buy. Since my budget is pretty limited (grocery shopping usually consists of a trip to the local super Wal-Mart), this is a problem.

Luckily, there is one fancy looking pork recipe that only required a handful of ingredients not already members of my pantry, and pork chops is just what Lovie wanted for dinner.

My poor baby.
I started this recipe around 8:30pm, thinking it would only take me an hour, tops. The reason I was starting so late was because he got off work at 5, and we went to the gym and then grocery shopping before we finally made it home for dinner. I offered to make one of our usual dinners that are faster, but he said he would be okay waiting.
Dinner wasn't ready to eat until around 10:30pm. I felt so bad. And even though I was checking the clock to time my cooking, it didn't occur to me how late it was getting until I sat down with my plate.

I suppose the food was worth the wait though. These chops were delicious.
The prep always takes me forever. I'm too meticulous, and too afraid of chopping my fingers off to speed it up. Plus, (as I warned Lovie before I started) the first time I use a new recipe always takes me longer than it usually would.

K does not like mushrooms. He loved the chops, but refused to eat any of the mushrooms. Something about the smell and texture just puts him off, and he says he would rather I experiment with making him eat fish/seafood (something else he's not exactly a fan of) than mushrooms. Good to know. I told him he needs to be more open-minded about what he is willing to eat, or I'm never going to get to try half the recipes in my cookbooks. Anyway, I suppose that's kind of beside the point.

The end result was pretty awesome, although I think I was supposed to let the pomegranate gastrique cool completely, as the color was better cool, and it tasted just as good.
Oh, and I got to use my fancy new thermometer too!

Yes, I know. Not exactly Masterchef quality plates, but I'm working with what I have. And it doesn't matter, because it tasted amazing! The recipe will be posted in the comments below. The only advice I have other than the bit about letting the gastrique cool completely is to give yourself plenty of time. At least the first time.

Until next time,
Pomegranates and pork.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Presents under the Tree!

Okay, so I know this could be considered bragging (Level=Internet Blog), but the way I look at it, it's a foreshadowing of awesome things for Friends, Food, and Love!

My most exciting, food related, Christmas gifts since A) Santa gave me an electric mixer, B) my 2nd momma gave me a rolling pin, or C) my other 2nd momma gave me spring-form pans and an incredibly extensive cheesecake cookbook! (All of which have been used A LOT, whether you know it or not!) They were all from my parents (or Santa, whichever), and they are awesome!

First up, NEW RECIPES!!!

Yes, the picture is backwards. I couldn't find a way to fix it on my Mac. Sometimes you love 'em, but other times... Anyway.
Gordan Ramsay! I pretty much love this guy. Yeah, he can be an @$%^*!&, but he's an amazing chef, and when he's not being churlish, he seems like quite a nice fellow. 
For our purposes, I suppose the chef part is the most important.

I haven't even had a chance to look through these guys, but I am SUPER excited.

And anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE me some Masterchef. It's the only show I follow religiously (just ask my excoworker, there were bets), and am constantly wanting to jump through the screen to eat the food.

My favorite contestant thus far (and WINNER! Boom!) has not published her cookbook yet, but you can rest assured, one way or another, I will be getting it come May.

Next up, something to prop Gordan Ramsay up with (or the cookbooks, whatever)!

I'm actually quite excited about this one. It makes me feel fancy.

Alright, so this one isn't suuuuper exciting (I'm pretty stoked though), more something every cook should have in her kitchen (I only said her because, obviously, I am female. Guys can cook too.)

I think it's a pretty nifty doo-dad. And now I can stop guessing when things are 'done,' and risking poisoning my boyfriend.

Now, for the pièce de résistance...

This is my 'ERMAGERD!' face. 
You are looking at a pasta machine. Yup. A pasta machine. I can't even use exclamations marks, I'm so excited.

And it came with a fancy bottle of olive oil, and a kitchen towel illustrating different kinds of pasta (not pictured). Pretty excited about that too.

I'm sure this has been terribly exciting for you (it was for me!), and I'm sure you are just dying to know what else I got, but none of it is cooking related, so I can't really go into here. I know, disappointing. I can say, Lovie is amazing as well. He got me a few things, but the best of which was spending the day smashing down the mountain, in the snow with him. 

I hope you all had an equally wonderful (or even more wonderful, who am I to put a cap on your happiness?) Christmas!

Until next time,
Snow angels and Gordan Ramsay.

*UPDATE* I'm paging through the cookbooks, and I LOVE that when I read a sentence, I hear it in Gordan Ramsay's voice in my head! Just thought I'd share.