Saturday, December 18, 2010

21-Day Challenge

I'm sorry I've been such a bad blogger, but the wedding is now less than one month away, and for the next 20ish, I'll be eating a lot of pre-prepared foods.

Mike and I just started the My Fit Foods 21-Day Challenge yesterday, inspired by a few people who are seeing great success. One of my childhood friends lost 22 pounds in 21 days. I'm not expecting such results, but I'll take 8 pounds. I'm willing to go to bed hungry every night for 8 pounds. (Have I mentioned my dress is snug?)

I'll post some pictures over the next few days of a few of our meals. Tonight, I get three small pieces - about three ounces - of beef tenderloin and about a cup of cooked mushrooms and red peppers and onions. They meals are all small, but healthy and surprisingly tasty. It's amazing to me after just two days (well, almost two days!), how much perspective I'm getting on the crazy-large portions of food I was eating over the last few months.

For example, the night before we started, we had a couple of friends over for dinner. We had a simple and fairly healthy dinner -- oven roasted kale chips, a kitchen-sink type of salad and flounder with a lemon and butter sauce. (And then we decided because we'd be hungry for the next three weeks straight to treat ourselves to some crepes with dulce de leche.) It was a delicious meal, and I don't recall going to bed "stuffed" or feeling that we'd overeaten. But really, we had. Entirely overeaten. We'd had about one and a half pieces of flounder apiece (cooked in lemon, butter and olive oil), a rich salad with some cheese, avocados and nuts swimming in a fatty dressing, kale chips slathered in olive oil and sea salt ... and (ahem!) two crepes each. Right now a meal like that sounds like so much food! (Right now, I'd kill for a meal like that! And I'd promise to shave off one crepe and that extra half-piece of flounder.)

I'm hoping three weeks from now to be 8-10 pounds lighter with a more realistic view of portion control. I will always be a food junkie, but I'm going to see if I can learn how to permanently alter the amount I'm taking in. I want to finally learn moderation. I want to stop eating before I'm full. I don't want to be this big for the rest of my life.

And I don't plan to be. So I'll keep you posted, while I continue to find that skinny bitch inside me!

(I woke up very hungry this morning, only on Day 2. I could not wait for my steel cut oatmeal breakfast. I weighed in 2.4 pounds lighter. It might just be water weight, but I'll take it!)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sonoran hot dog

In Tucson, Arizona, there are at least two spots known 'round the land for producing a high-quality Sonoran hot dog.

Last year, we tried BK's. The hot dog was good, loaded with things I'd never had on a hot dog until then. But the taco I ordered to complement my dog was even better.

This time, we tried BK's competitor, El Guero Canelo.*

Since we popped in between lunch and dinner, we each got only one hot dog -- mine was once again fully loaded, wrapped in bacon and topped with beans, tomatoes, chopped white onion, cheese, mustard, sour cream and limes and salsa. Mike scaled his down a little, opting out of the onions and mustard. (I know, I don't get it, either!)

I didn't think there was a big distinction between BK's or Guero Canelo; they both make a mean Sonoran dog.

*Long before I met Mike or knew the restaurant existed, I was familiar with the Calexico song bearing the Guero Canelo name. If you've never heard it -- or if you're unfortunate enough to be unfamiliar with Calexico in general - give it a listen. It's not about hot dogs, but it's just as good.

Friday, November 26, 2010

They're going to have to roll me out of here

We didn't leave the house yesterday until nearly 7:00PM, when we finally packed up some leftovers and made three stops to visit various friends in the neighborhood. (I love the fact that we now live in a neighborhood where our friends happen to reside, too. It feels like I wanted my grown-up life to feel.)

We made a ridiculous amount of food for our first (and likely last) Thanksgiving alone, just the two of us in our new home with our dog, our three cats and an 8.5-lb Butterball turkey.

I'll get to our Thanksgiving dinner in another post. For now, I had to share our post-Thanksgiving breakfast: my first-ever batch of homemade cinnamon rolls!

I used the Pioneer Woman's Parker House Rolls recipe for last night's dinner, taking her advice and setting aside half the batch for cinnamon rolls this morning. I was a little worried about what a whole night in the fridge would do to the dough (which turned out some rather fabulous rolls), but I was worried for nothing.

They were really good for a first attempt, though next time I'll be a bit more generous with all of the filling ingredients and the icing.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cranegranate sauce

This morning, rummaging through the fruit bowl for a healthy work snack, I spotted the two pomegranates purchased over the weekend and resolved to incorporate them into our Thanksgiving meal.

After some Googling, I found this recipe and decided I could knock this out tonight - two days before T-time - and give myself a little jump start.

The recipe calls for cinnamon sticks and ground cloves. Unfortunately, I had ground cinnamon and whole cloves. So I used what I had, and it looks pretty good. Still a bit too bubbly to taste, and since the recipe calls for refrigerating 'at least 8 hours', I figure I'll wait.

Though I don't know how it tastes, I'm delighted it has the house smelling like the holidays!

Here's my run-down. It took less than 20 minutes start to finish.

#1 Throw cranberries, orange juice, orange zest, sugar, cloves and cinnamon into sauce pan and get it bubbling like so.

#2 While sauce is bubbling, de-seed a pomegranate.

#3 Add pomegranate seeds to bubbling cranberry-orange juice sauce.

The stork left it on our doorstep

Our baby arrived today, courtesy of my wonderful brother and his wonderful wife. And the folks at Williams-Sonoma and KitchenAid.

We are now accepting name suggestions.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A feast fit for ... two?

We're spending Thanksgiving alone, Mike and I -- our first holiday on our own, in our new home, just the two of us, the dog, the cats and a few friends popping in and out over the weekend.

Initially, I wasn't sure about this whole holiday-on-our-own thing, but as Thursday approaches, I'm increasingly excited about the prospect of a little staycation with my fiance on a holiday weekend as food-centric as Thanksgiving.

We discussed various aspects of the menu (and I learned valuable tidbits, including his feelings about cornbread stuffing), and we're pretty much settled on the day's meal. Even the shopping's done. All we have to do now is cook the following:

A small(ish) turkey - I insisted on a whole bird; I want stock and lots of leftovers.
Brioche-sausage-sage stuffing - thank you, Five Ingredient Fix! I'm adding ingredients six and seven - sauteed onions and carrots.
Jalapeno creamed acorn squash - Mike found a recipe and this one's all him.
Cranberry-orange-jalapeno salsa - I'm going to wing it.
Roasted brussel sprouts - Already a bi-monthly staple around here.
Glazed carrots - Because they're awesome and we need something bright on our plate.
Gravy - Essential.
Pillsbury Crescent rolls - Equally essential. (Don't judge me,)
Pecan pie - Mike's childhood recipe. He refuses to throw in a few chocolate chips.

I'm so looking forward to this meal -- to preparing it, eating it, and feasting on leftovers for the rest of the weekend. But my favorite Thanskgiving indulgence will come on Friday afternoon when I reach for turkey, cranberry salsa, white bread (think "Wonder") and real, high-fat mayo on both slices. That sandwich, along with my grandmother's birthday, might be the best part of late November.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ina's mushroom lasagna

Ina Garten is a genius. So is Deb. They unknowingly joined forces recently and implored me to make a wild mushroom lasagna with a bechamel sauce.

It's still a little too warm to feel like fall has arrived in Austin, Texas. But this recipe brought me one step closer to fuzzy socks and dutch ovens filled with meaty stews.

When I make this again for my family's visit later this month, I will take Deb's advice (add garlic to the milk) and Mike's advice (mix the roux a bit longer before adding the milk). But there isn't much else I'd change.

The best thing about this meal might be the leftovers; I'll find out tonight!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I hate to love you, Martha Stewart

Remember how I said I was never leaving our new kitchen in the post I just published?

Tonight is yet another reason why I think that might be true. It's clear to me that, quite possibly, some of my best cooking is yet to come.

I made a vegan meal for a couple of friends tonight (all right, so it was a vegetarian meal for those of us who sprinkled parmesan on top), and it was good. I mean good enough to make again good.

I got the recipe from the November issue of Everyday Food by Martha Stewart. I love the cooking show, and I just treated myself to the magazine subscription a couple of months ago. I'm going to sound like a lame ad for Martha Stewart but the thing about these recipes is that you can actually make them at home. Without a ton of effort. And they taste good when they're done. What can I say, it doesn't take a lot to make me happy.

I can't find it online but tonight's vegan meal was basically this recipe here, minus the stirring that comes with risotto, plus one dutch oven and a huge bunch of raw chopped kale added to it before it goes into the oven.

Again, the pictures aren't doing justice to this butternut squash kale risotto, served with a side of orange glaze snow peas with slivered toasted almonds. Until we find the camera, please feel free to use your imagination and a sprinkling of some benefit of the doubt.

I'm Never Leaving The Kitchen Again

Unless it's to go outside on the deck. Or into our new double-sink master bathroom.

I've been an absentee blogger of late, because we just moved into a new home. My last home for a long, long time. It's beautiful, and it's ours, and I woke up again this morning -- our 9th morning in this place - thinking surely it'll be time to check out soon and get back to reality.

It will come as no surprise to those who know me that the kitchen was a huge selling point. This doesn't make me special; anyone who likes to cook, or eat, really, is probably looking for a nice kitchen when they're home-hunting. I just never thought I'd end up with one. Certainly not now.

I'll post some 'after' photos soon - the countertops are still much too cluttered and we're awaiting a few key pieces that will surely sparkle in their new home.

This 'before' photo from my iPhone captures only half of the kitchen -- and not even the better half. The other side had a huge hole in it now filled with our newly acquired bottom-freezer platinum fridge.

This kitchen doesn't feel like mine yet. It's so pretty, so thoughtfully designed, and it makes me feel so ridiculously fortunate.

On our third night, we threw together a salad in this kitchen to accompany the Moontower and a Big-Medium with Spinach (now delivering to our new 'hood!) that we ordered for our first dinner guests. It was a memorable meal spent mostly on the deck. Lovely, but I longed to be in the kitchen some more.

I got my wish the next night.

It was a Friday, and we were standing around (the kitchen, of course), trying not to think about the weekend ahead, the still-full boxes we'd need to tackle and the considerable amount of homestuffs we still had to go back and get at the old house.

We did a damn fine job in denial and focused on the task at hand: what we were going to have for dinner. Going out was quickly ruled out. I wanted to be home; I wanted to be in our new kitchen.

Mike suggested we make some chicken wings, and ten minutes later we were headed to the grocery store with our list.

Our first real meal in this very real kitchen that really belongs to us was better than we could've imagined. (And imagination you'll need to go with these photos, also taken on the iPhone because we couldn't find the camera.)

Mike and I are huge fans of the Liberty Bar on Austin's east side. We're particularly fond of the East Side Kings food trailer parked in the back, so hip and popular even Anthony Bourdain had to hit it up while he was in town earlier this year. And it's within that trailer that one of our favorite foods - one of the best foods known to man, really - is cooked fresh and hot and brought to you on the back deck: Thai Chicken Karaage.

Chicken Karaage is Japan's version of fried chicken, and it blows KFC right out of the water, er, oil.

Jodi shared a recipe with us a few months ago for karaage, and I remember that evening having the following conversation: "Did you get Jodi's email?" "Yeah. I looked at the recipe, and there's something wrong. It can't be that easy." "Seriously. It can't be that easy."

People, this stuff was easy. Step 1: Toss chicken pieces (in our case, chicken wings) in cornstarch. Step 2: Fry it.

Ta-da! You've got chicken karaage.

Now, you can dress it up with a sprinkle of fish sauces, some fresh cilantro, pickled onions, jalapenos ... the possibilities are endless. Mike found a wing sauce receipe somewhere on the interwebz, akin to the East Side Kings flavors, and it was lovely. A bit of canola oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, lime juice, sugar and fresh cilantro. We threw in a splash of fish sauce for good measure. Because this wasn't the kind of sauce that would be harmed in any way by the addition of some fish sauce.

What we got from this easy fried chicken and this easy sauce was a taste explosion that rivaled East Side Kings. We hardly talked between the 'ooohing' and 'aaahing,' but most of the conversation went something like this: "I can't believe this shit." "Seriously. This is some great shit." "We never have to leave the house again." "Seriously."

So try this at home. Seriously.

We're not big fryers. In fact, that was my first time to ever fry a meal in my own home; I think it was Mike's second. You won't want to eat this every day, but when you do, pair it with something light. We ate this with a spinach salad drizzled with a bit of canola, sesame oil and soy sauce and a squeeze of lime to complement the chicken.

I can't say enough about this stuff. When you're in the mood for crispy, tangy, sweet, crunchy, spicy, hot, and otherworldly -- this will do in a pinch. Literally.

Monday, October 11, 2010

We caved.

At brunch last Saturday, there was quite a bit of talk about our new house (!) and our January wedding (!!).

Amid the chatter was a good bit of discussion about wedding registries. We are morally opposed to the idea and swore from Day One that they are tacky and, well, we aren't.

This weekend, though, we came to the reluctant realization (i.e., insistence by the four married people at brunch) that we're going to get gifts we don't want if we don't hit up a highfalutin store and register for those we do.

Enter Williams-Sonoma.

I'll admit, I rather enjoyed that little scanning item, dreaming about all the gifts we might now receive just because we're going to say those two little words. We were going to get married anyway. But now I might get those Wustof knives I've always wanted? A double-burner griddle for the many pancake brunches I'm dreaming about hosting?

And this awesome bit of machinery that's already been promised by my brother and his wife, something I've come *so* close to owning but never did plunk down the $300 to treat myself.

I don't have the courage to go with racy red or even a safe, pristine white. But this one will match our fancy new bottom-freezer fridge.

Friday, October 1, 2010

To Die For Wedding Menu

Our wedding caterer owns not just 2Dine4 Catering but the venue where we're getting hitched in January -- a renovated Craftsman-era home in east Austin that they use for supper clubs and corporate dinners.

He decided to turn our wedding menu into a supper club, so that we could tweak our Argentinean meal - a big nod to my heritage and, most especially, my father. We invited some of our best friends to join us for the four-course feast, which included complimentary sangrias, watermelon martinis and beer along with three fabulous appetizers for a pretty reasonable $50.

Here are some of the photos from last night's tasting, with the menu pasted below.

Hors D’Oeuvres
Petit Choripan on Homemade Bolillo Roll with Roasted Peppers, Onions and Chimichurri Aioli
Argentine Carne Empandas with Hard Boiled Egg & Fresh Herbs
Argentine Style Spinach & Asadero Cheese Empanadas with Olive Tapenade & Fresh Herbs (V)

First Course
Potato Gnocchi poached in Chicken (or Veggie) Stock with Cream, Wilted Spinach and Argentine Reggianito (C or V)

Second Course
Boston, Romaine & Wild Greens Salad with Red Peppers, Grilled Asparagus, Local Farm Vegetables and Lemon-Oregano Vinaigrette (V)

Third Course
Beef Milanesa a Caballo with Boggy Creek Eggs, Aged Provolone & Spanish Jamon Serrano served with Celeriac Whipped Potatoes and Wild Mushroom Sauce
Eggplant Milanesa a Caballo with Boggy Creek Egg, Aged Provolone & Smoked Tomato served with Celeriac Whipped Potatoes and Wild Mushroom Sauce (V)

Fourth Course
Dulce de Leche Custard Tart with Frozen Citrus Whipped Cream and Cinnamon Cookies (V)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

COTF (Clean Out The Fridge) Dinner

We have been eating out quite a bit, and tonight I offered to scrounge something up with what we've got in the fridge. There were bound to be a few unspoiled gems among the ruins. (Casualties included a half-full bag of pre-sliced baby bellas. That hurts!)

A handful of new potatoes, some eggs, a yellow onion yielded skillet home fries with eggs on top. Nothing green here, and a bit more stove time than I'd like -- but I can handle it thanks to our lovely temps of late.

If I'd been tested on Good Faith Effort, I'd have failed. I was sloppy and impatient. So we got half-burnt bits of onion and runny eggs to go with our potatoes.

Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss. At least we didn't spend money eating out and the fridge is a little lighter.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Chicken with salad and potatoes was a staple growing up in my household. Of course, we used iceberg lettuce and white potatoes. The dish, like me, has grown up a bit. But it's still home.

Spruced up - er, fattened up - our chicken breasts with herb butter for beneath and on the skin:

Roasted sweet potatoes with carrots and yellow onions, smothered in olive oil, fresh rosemary and lemon:

Rounded out with a salad of grape tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, spring mix and homemade sherry vinaigrette:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuna salad

If you haven't caught on, I'm a big fan of low-carb dinners that consist of a lean protein and some sort of green. Of course, every time I succeed in putting together a lean-protein-and-greens kind of meal, I'm craving kettle corn within the hour. Indulging in pasta or anything with a crust after 3pm makes me feel a teensy bit guilty.

A dinner like this one makes me proud. Proud and happy, because I only dirtied a bowl for the salad, a frying pan for the tuna, and a few utensils. Easy. Breezy. Beautiful.

Tea with Jam and Bread

Smitten Kitchen's dreamy cream scones recipe calls for currants, but I was craving scones and all we had were frozen blueberries.

Turns out, baking can be a flexible sport. These were scrumptuous. And I'm going to be sad when our jar of rhubarb-raspberry jam from Timboon Farmhouse in Australia is nothing but a salad dressing container.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Not your mom's pesto

All right, so my mom never made pesto. My dad, on the other hand ... he would've made this if my mom weren't the kind of eater who thinks ketchup is on the spicy side. (That is not hyperbole.)

So I came home last week with a small tub of hatch green chile pesto from Whole Foods, optimistic I'd get Mike to make a batch of pasta.

He has officially mastered the art of handmade pasta. We stick with wide, thick strands - a cross between tagliatelle and pappardelle - and he likes to mix things into the dough, much like his employment of rosemary bits or red pepper flakes with raw pizza dough. Tonight, he pulled a bag of mustard greens out of the freezer with only about 1/3 of the greens remaining in the bag - and begging for freezer burn. He minced the hell out of them and mixed them in with the pasta.

I love those green specks from the mustard greens; it looked beautiful tossed with the hatch chile pesto, a splosh of cream and some freshly grated grana padano. It was almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

(We had a simple salad, too, to make me feel less guilty about my third serving of carbs for the day.)

(Okay, four servings.)