Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Taking a break

Sorry I haven't been doing my regular posts, but it has been so crazy at work and at home that I haven't had any time! I will come back and touch base with everyone when I have a little breathing time. I may periodically post a food quote but that will be it for a little while. Can't wait until everything slows down!

Quote of the Day:

One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.
- Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, Pavarotti, My Own Story

Friday, January 13, 2006

WCB #32

Check out my sister's cat, Russell. As you might guess, he's a bit of a hunter. And if you put him on a diet, that simply means he has to hunt more often.

Thanks to Clare for hosting...go check out more kitties at her page here.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Restaurant Prank

I found this website quite a while ago (a couple of years, maybe?). It is a personal website for Rob Cockerham. He has quite a sense of humor and kept me entertained during many a slow day at work.

This prank is one of my favorite items on his website. Truly a masterpiece.

TGIFridays Menu Prank

If you have time, you should check out his other stuff. The sections Pranks, How Much is Inside, and Incredible Creations are my favorite.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Yoga Toys and Awesome Dinner

Check out my cool new yoga stuff. I went out and purchased this kit at lunch so I'd be prepared for Thursday's class. I got this for a steal - a measly $12.92 from the Ross near my office.

The kit comes with a 1/4 inch yoga mat (it's grippy so you don't slip when you're stretching in awkward positions), a block (you can use this to decrease the difficulty of your stretches), a strap (which somehow is used to exercise with - not quite sure), a videotape, a CD and a booklet.

It's a new toy and I can't wait to try them out! (Practically anything new gets me excited - you should've seen me last week after I bought a purse. Although, in my defense, I had been looking for a purse that I didn't hate for probably two years.)

Amazing Burgers and a Blue Cheese Wedge
I admit it, I love to go to restaurants. I love being able to eat foods that I'm not likely to make at home; sometimes, I just feel like I don't make the same dishes as well at home.

I'm not ashamed to say it (well, okay, sometimes I'm a little ashamed): I cook because I like to eat. Sweet and simple. Oh, I also like to feed other people and hope that they are in awe just like me when something tastes incredible.

I don't cook because it's therapy, or because it calms me down. Sometimes I even get stressed out when I am cooking. It's knowing what the end of the rainbow holds...that is what keeps me cooking.

And sometimes, it is a simple desire that brings me back to the kitchen.

Do you ever wonder why it is so difficult to get a good hamburger? I do. I love hamburgers, but besides In-N-Out, I haven't found another place that can make me happy.

Until I started making my own burgers at home in my cast iron skillet.

Way better than anything off of a grill, these burgers are infused with the flavor of the foods cooked before them in my pan. Can you say *bacon*?

Last night I indulged. I bought 22% fat (don't gasp like that!) ground beef and made a couple of the most amazing burgers I've eaten. Bacon, 2 slices of american cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion made me moan with delight. And my son moaned right along next to me (sans the tomato and onion for him, of course).

To make my meal complete, I made a blue cheese wedge salad. I am disappointed that I didn't take photos - but that meal was NOT going to wait!

Blue Cheese Wedge
Cut a head of iceberg lettuce into thirds, or if it is small, in halves. Place the cut head in a zip lock back and seal. Then place that bag into another bag with iced water in it. This will chill the lettuce without getting it wet.

Once chilled, place on plate, cut side up. Drizzle with blue cheese dressing and then top with crumbled blue cheese, chopped red onion, crumbled bacon and black pepper. Serves 1.

Blue Cheese Dressing
2 1/2 ounces crumbled blue cheese
3 tablespoons buttermilk
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, mash blue cheese and buttermilk together with a fork until mixture resembles large-curd cottage cheese. Stir in sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, and garlic powder until well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Beginner's Sewing Class

Last night I went to the first session for my beginner's machine sewing class.

Ten other ladies and I crammed into the small corner nook set aside for us at the neighborhood community center. I listened patiently as our instructor, Debbie, went over all of the parts of a sewing machine.

Being more familiar with sewing machines than the other ladies in our class, I didn't feel as lost as many of them looked. We managed to start a small (very small) project, mostly just to get the feel of the machines.

Next class we will be starting our first real project: a bag. I would call it a purse except that it is so simple, it is more appropriately called a bag. I think that I'll use mine for grocery shopping. Now comes the fun part: going to pick out the materials!

I took a hand quilting class several years ago from our Piecemaker's store and produced a beautiful, asian influenced wall hanging. It was entirely hand pieced and hand quilted. I haven't done much with my skills since then, but that's because I realized how much work it took! I hope to start quilting again, this time machine-piecing the top.

I start my yoga class later this week, and I hope it goes as well as my sewing class did! Here is one New Year's Resolution that I can check off my list!

Friday, January 06, 2006

WCB #31

My beautiful Earl. He'll gaze right at you with huge, intense eyes; he's the biggest "lap cat" you're likely to meet; and he talks all of the time.

Thanks to Clare for hosting. Check out more kitties at her site, Eat Stuff.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

It's Chili By George

When I read the title of this recipe, "It's Chili By George," I wondered if they meant that it was chili that George made, or if they meant something more like "it's chili, by jove!"

Regardless, this recipe had all of the earmarks of success. Namely, it had many, many five-star reviews. I found this recipe where I find most of them nowadays: Allrecipes.

Why is this my favorite website when it comes to recipes? There are several reasons.

First, there are a lot of recipes from all over the country. In my mind, quantity = variety. That's not always true, but in this case, I'd say it is.

Second, the people who run the website review each recipe that is submitted prior to putting it on the website. They make sure that it is reasonably written, not missing any steps or ingredients and that there isn't another identical submission of the same recipe.

Third, while they don't post the same exact recipe, they will publish many variations, giving you more choices and ability to find a version you'd like. I mean, I can take one look at a mac n' cheese recipe and tell you right off the bat whether or not I'd like it. I like to have options.

Fourth, the recipes can be rated and reviewed by its members. This is probably my favorite feature of this website. Everyone has an opinion, and many people are speaking from another orifice on their body other than their mouth, but if there are enough reviews, you can get an overall sense of the recipe's good and bad points.

Fifth, they let you select a print size to make it easy to print recipe cards that fit your box.

There are other features that I could name, but the above points are really the make it or break it items for me.

From their many chili recipes, It's Chili By George was a hit at my son's birthday party. Everyone loved it, even my son, who is only six years old.

Serve the chili with chopped green onions, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, crumbled bacon and chopped yellow onion.

It's Chili by George!!
Submitted by: George Couch
Rated: 5 out of 5 by 183 members
Yields: 10 servings

"This is a good, standard chili, with lots of ground beef, tomatoes, kidney and pinto beans, and onions. It needs to simmer for 90 minutes on the stove, or can be made in a slow cooker and left to simmer all day."

2 pounds lean ground beef
1 (46 fluid ounce) can tomato juice
1 (29 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 cup chili powder

1. Place ground beef in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Drain, and crumble.

2. In a large pot over high heat combine the ground beef, tomato juice, tomato sauce, kidney beans, pinto beans, onions, bell pepper, cayenne pepper, sugar, oregano, ground black pepper, salt, cumin and chili powder. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

(Note: If using a slow cooker, set on low, add ingredients and cook for 8 to 10 hours.)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Simple Roast Chicken

Roasted chicken seems like the ultimate in easy, yet elegant, home cooking. I've oohed and ahhed over a roast chicken at the Henry's and somehow it's always seemed like it would be difficult.

Can I really roast a chicken that tastes that good at home? Even without a countertop rotisserie?

Quite simply: Yes.

I found several different recipes and found that there didn't seem to be many differences, so I made some simple alterations to suit our tastes and stormed forward.

When I finished cooking, I was amazed. I even ate the skin off of my chicken (which is usually NOT my favorite part). And I bought my Foster's Farms chicken for about $3.05. What a deal!

Simple Roast Chicken

Make any alterations you'd like, but here are the basics:

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.

I started with a 3-4 lb. chicken, but recipes also call for 4-5 lb. birds, too. Femove the giblets and other organs from the cavity. Rinse the bird and pat dry using a paper towel. Cut any excess fat off the bird (mine had a couple of huge, thick pads of fat hanging by the cavity opening).

Starting at the neck, loosen the skin from the breast and tops of drumsticks by slipping your fingers gently between the skin and the meat. Move gently, it will come loose. Combine about 7-8 cloves of garlic, finely minced, and one generous tablespoon of chopped thyme, along with about 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil. Spread the garlic mix under the skin, all the way towards the legs.

Use a small amount of olive oil and rub on the skin of the bird. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the bird. Lift the wings up and behind the neck, they will stay tucked there. Insert a meat thermometer in the meaty part of the thigh, making sure not to touch the bone.

Bake the chicken at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Then, turn down heat to 350 degrees until the thermometer reads 180 degrees (about an hour and fifteen minutes). Remove the chicken from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes prior to cutting.

I served mine with fresh mashed potatoes, turkey gravy and glazed carrots.

If you haven't tried this yet, I really think you should give it a go. Next time, I want to try mine with rosemary.

Monday, January 02, 2006

New Year's Roast

Melissa at Cooking Diva invited me to (any everyone else is welcome to join in) post about our New Year's dinner.

This year there was a real stand-out dish, worthy of a post!

My sister Stephanie was the gracious host of our New Year's party and food was as much the star of the party as the drinks. Now, there were many wonderful things, such as a smoked salmon dip and a fabulous down-home onion casserole, but my favorite thing by far was the standing rib roast.

This is really so simple, you almost wouldn't believe it. Here is the recipe, and it's one of those awesome things that uses so few ingredients, that really all you'll need to buy is the roast itself.

I would say that it is on par with a very good slice of roast beef from one of those chain restaurants that specialize in that type of thing.

From Ina Garten's show, Barefoot Contessa

Sunday Rib Roast

1 (3-rib) standing rib roast (7 to 8 pounds)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Mustard Horseradish Sauce, recipe follows

Two hours before roasting, remove the meat from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F (see note).

Place the oven rack on the second lowest position.

Place the roast in a pan large enough to hold it comfortably, bone-side down, and spread the top thickly with the salt and pepper. Roast the meat for 45 minutes. Without removing the meat from the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and roast for another 30 minutes. Finally, increase the temperature to 450 degrees F and roast for another 15 to 30 minutes, until the internal temperature of the meat is 125 degrees F. (Be sure the thermometer is exactly in the center of the roast.) The total cooking time will be between 1 1/2 and 1 3/4 hours. Meanwhile, make the sauce.

Remove the roast from the oven and transfer it to a cutting board. Cover it tightly with aluminum foil and allow the meat to rest for 20 minutes. Carve and serve with the sauce.

Note: Be sure your oven is very clean before setting it at 500 degrees F.

Mustard Horseradish Sauce:
1 1/2 cups good mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Whisk together the mayonnaise, mustards, horseradish, sour cream, and salt in a small bowl.