Monday Musings: 05.06.2013 Edition May 6, 2013Posted by Toy Lady in Food, meal plan monday, Musings, random stuff.
Ah, a glorious weekend, with a wonderful trip to the Public Market!
Although I’d planned to wait a week or two to start filling the garden, I did pick up the seed potatoes I’d ordered a couple of months ago – and then I could not resist a couple of plants for the herb garden – but the bulk of my garden plant buying will take place next weekend.
One thing I was THRILLED to find was fresh, local asparagus! I’ve been seeing it for several weeks, but it’s all been shipped in. I prefer to wait for the local stuff that was picked the day before I bought it – and who can blame me?
Yay – roasted asparagus this weekend!
Well, I had a bit of a lull at work, so I took a couple of days of vacation time – goodness knows I’ve needed it!
I mostly puttered around, got my hair cut, had a doctor’s appointment, that sort of thing.
But, with the absolutely stellar weather we’ve been enjoying, I did make time each day to pour myself a frosty beverage (usually icewater) and sit out on the deck for a while and just knit. Although those Christmas socks aren’t going to knit themselves, I’ve got half a year for that. For now, I’m working on a pair for myself.
Judy, aren’t you proud of me?
The kale and lettuce that I planted last week? Yup, it’s up.
I started some celery seeds, too, in the house, but I’m not so sure about them. They’re up, but I think I was a bit late starting them – like a couple of months. And I think celery takes a little more fussing than I realized. I don’t know what they’re going to do.
Anyone out there ever (successfully) grow celery? Or should I just put peppers in instead?
Several years ago, a friend gave me a few ferns that she’d dug out of her back yard.
All I really know about ferns is that they like shady, damp spots, so I planted them along the edge of under the deck, the idea being that, eventually they’d spread and fill in that area, and we’d remove the skirting. (The operative word being “eventually.”)
Well, they spread all right – right into the herb garden! I have no idea how they got there, or WHY they thought they wanted to live with the tarragon, but we dug two baby ferns up and transplanted them back to their under-the-deck home.
They survived the night, anyway. I do think they’ll be much happier there, too.
Minerva Kitty had herself quite the adventure this weekend!
Peeps had the back door open, and she scooted out and made a run for it! She does that about once a year – I think she goes out, plays Jungle Kitty for an hour or so, then has enough and hangs around until someone lets her in, though we do worry about her while she’s gone – she’s not as young as she once was, you know!
So anyway, she ran outside, hung around underneath the neighbors’ camper playing Jungle Kitty for a bit, and came back in.
I spent a bit of time imposing order on the herb garden this weekend, too. I finally dug up about half of the oregano and moved it over to the other side of the yard. Basically, I don’t care what it does over there – if it survives (as if anything will kill it!) it’ll make a perfectly fine (and fragrant) ground cover around the holly bush. And meanwhile, the remaining oregano now has room to grow again.
I thinned out the thyme, too, and trimmed the sage. I also gave the mint a good warning.
And I put four (FOUR!) dill plants in (they came in a 4-pack, so why not) and a couple of rosemary plants. Still to go – 4 more parsley plants, a few basils, and a couple of marjoram plants. That should do it for this year..
A couple of years ago, I picked up this cute little chest at a fundraiser. I think it was supposed to be a toy chest, but, well, I really don’t need a place for toys, and I’d planned to use it to store hats and gloves and such in the front entry.
Well, I never got around to finishing it, and with the new bathroom and closet out there, there’s just not a good spot for it.
So I’ve decided that Jar needs a new elevated feeder. His current one, well, I hate it. It’s ugly, it’s not sturdy, and have I mentioned that I don’t like it? So I cut a couple of dish-sized holes in the lid, and over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sanding (a LOT), priming, painting, then polyurethaning this little chest.
I can’t wait to get it done!
And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan. After the chilly, lame spring we’ve had, we are LOVING this gorgeous stretch! I mean, will you LOOK at this? Truly, does it get any better?
Monday - We watched a recent episode of America’s Test Kitchen, where they grilled a turkey. On the actual grill! When we saw that, we had to ask – how easy would it be to grill a chicken the same way? (Answer: I’ll let you know!) A little steamed broccoli, and some sweet potatoes that we have hanging around in the freezer, and we should be set!
Tuesday - Jar’s got a vet’s appointment so we want dinner to be reasonably quick. I picked up some nice whole wheat rolls at the public market, so we put together a small batch of Italian sausage – and I think there’s some provolone in the fridge, which will be perfect. We also made some coleslaw with some cabbage that was knocking around and the last of the mayo.
And because I can’t get the Tuesday Afternoon appointment out of my mind:
Wednesday - Since we were making sausage, we took the rest of the pork shoulder and hacked it up, some of which will go to make souvlaki. I’m going to try pan-braising some potatoes with lemon and herbs – I’ll let you know on that, too. We are also going try making some pitas with Peeps’s baguette dough. Fingers crossed.
Thursday - Have I mentioned that one of the things I do on our morning walks is listen to podcasts? Yeah, and one of them is The Splendid Table. One of the guests discussed Indian food, specifically dal, which is, apparently, not just lentils! This particular recipe sounded really good (and easy!) and call for split peas, which we happen have a surplus of from last fall. I also hope to get ambitious enough to make some naan.
Friday - As always, Friday night is pizza night - if there’s something leftover that will go nicely on pizza, it’ll be on mine, otherwise I think I’ll go with roasted artichokes and provolone. Peeps and his mom usually opt for the basic pepperoni and cheese.
Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.
Monday Musings: 04.29.2013 Edition April 29, 2013Posted by Toy Lady in Eating Down the Fridge, Food, meal plan monday, Musings.
Let me just start out the week by saying – where the heck did April go? I mean, the last thing I remember, we were looking at rainy forecasts, chilly mornings, and braised stews. And now just LOOK out there – it’s SPRING!
I’ve had a slightly-more-social-than-usual week this past week. Besides the regular work stuff (I have GOT to schedule a vacation!) there was that wine-tasting thing with the Women’s Forum, hosted by (the women of) a local law firm. It was, of course, quite nice, if rather crowded.
Then Saturday evening, Peeps and I attended a meet-up with a group of people from one of the discussion forums I frequent- including the three husbands, there were 15 people, some who had traveled from various parts of upstate New York, Canada, and even North Carolina. What a fun group!
Speaking of stew, last week’s Belgian Beef, Onion & Beer stew was fantastic with the polenta. However, we set aside half of the stew to enjoy another night, but there’s really not a good stew night coming up any time soon, so . . . into the freezer it went. We’ll make it a point, though, to finish it sooner, rather than later, fear not!
We’ve been trying, between our oh-so-many social engagements, to keep up with stuff around the house and yard.
Gosh, spring is a busy time, isn’t it? The garden is mostly tilled, I’ve gotten lettuce and kale in, and we finally replaced those old chair cushions on the deck furniture!
Although the old cushions were awfully worn, a couple of them still had some life left in them, so . . . guess who’s got himself a nice, weather-resistant deck bed to enjoy when he’s being solar puppy?
So, I don’t know if it’s the camera, or the software, or just me (most likely), but when I transferred the photos from the camera to the computer this afternoon, all but one looked mighty familiar – it turns out that for some reason, when I uploaded photos last week, they didn’t get deleted from the camera, so they uploaded again.
I have no idea.
Have I mentioned that I should really schedule a vacation? Yeah, now you see what I mean, don’t you?
And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan. It’s looking like we’re looking forward to all nice, all the time! We may have a couple of drops of rain Monday (morning), then it’s all 70 and sunny for the rest of the week.
Does it get much better than that?
Monday - In the spirit of getting stuff out of the freezer, we’re finishing the rest of the turkey we roasted a couple of weeks ago – along with the gravy. And if you’ve been here any amount of time, you’d have guessed by now that leftover turkey + gravy = hot turkey sandwiches around here!
Tuesday - Okay, so enough with that winter food! We’re firing up the grill and, again in the spirit of pulling stuff OUT of the freezer, we’ll enjoy some lovely Korean beef – we used short ribs from the freezer (though the bones went right back, either for future stock, or for quick dog-distractions), the marinade was also in the freezer, AND we’ll have some green beans, also from the freezer. Go team freezer!
Wednesday - We decided to do some very simple, very basic grilled chicken tenders, which we’ll finish with some sauce we had left from last week’s salmon. The sauce was an old recipe from The Archives, with something of an Asian flavor, and I think it’ll go nicely with some sort of roasted sweet potatoes (the clock is ticking there!) and some Brussels sprouts that I picked up on quick sale at the supermarket.
Thursday - Although it’s neither grilled nor coming out of the freezer, Peeps and I stopped at Sam’s Club and picked up a pork shoulder for no other reason than we want to do taco night, darnit. However, we will be working on a stash of flour tortillas that I’d like to use up before they get stale, so there’s that!
Friday - As always, Peeps’s mom is coming over for pizza and Kong night. (We have the pizza, and Jar has the Kong.) I scored a bunch of only-slightly the-worse-for-wear artichoke hearts the other day, so I cleaned and roasted the little buggers, and I’ll be enjoying THOSE on my pie – I don’t know about anyone else (though I would probably share)!
Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.
Pork under pressure March 14, 2013Posted by Peeps in Cook's Illustrated, Cooking, Food, random stuff.
Everyone who reads our blog knows all too well how much we use and love our pressure cooker. It’s a very rare week that goes by when we don’t use it for something.
Not too long ago, we found out that the good people at Cook’s Illustrated were coming out with yet another cookbook. But not one we could ignore, not this time. It’s their new book of pressure cooker recipes.
Needless to say, we were pretty excited about the idea. They always have solid, reliable recipes that taste really good. The sad part was that it wasn’t going to be coming out until the middle of March. And we didn’t want to wait that long to try it out.
Fortunately, my wife reads a great many food blogs. Apparently one of them, Macheesmo, was contacted by Cook’s Illustrated not long ago and given a free copy of the new book. Along with a brand new pressure cooker. He apparently has a lot more readers than we do.
After we got finished seething with jealousy, we realized that this was our chance to try the recipe that Macheesmo blogged about, Pork Vindaloo. We love Indian food. Particularly when it doesn’t involve going somewhere or taking a long time.
We followed the recipe exactly. While Toys cut the meat into bite sized cubes, I measured and cut up everything else.
The browning of the pork took a while. And a few more batches than two. More like five. But hey, I’m not a professional. Once everything was ready to go, the lid when on and the pressure was on. Thirty minutes under pressure and a natural release, about another fifteen minutes.
We served it over brown basmati rice and with a nice India Pale Ale. It was fantastic! Since it make so much, we had it for lunches for a couple days afterwards, and I think we even had enough left over for one more dinner.
If you own a pressure cooker, at the very least try this recipe. If you regularly use a pressure cooker, you may want to consider getting the book. They have never once let us down.
And thank you to Macheesmo for letting us try something out of a book that we’ll be getting soon.
A new take on cheesesteak February 28, 2013Posted by Peeps in Cooking, Food, random stuff.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I had “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” on the television. Now, neither of us likes the host in the slightest, but the show is pretty cool.
This episode featured a place owned by a Korean guy who did a thing he called a Korean cheesesteak egg roll. He marinated the shaved ribeye in various Asian seasonings overnight, grilled it, wrapped it in an egg roll wrapper, fried it, cut it in half and poured melted cheese on it. It looked mighty good, actually.
The thing is, the marinade looked pretty familiar. It looked very similar to what we use to make kalbi with. So, we looked at each other, and said “Why not? Let’s make a sandwich.”
We also had another reason we decided to try this. So we could try out the latest kitchen toy we acquired.
That’s right, a meat slicer. The in-laws seemed to think that since I’m forever making bacon and pastrami and such that we needed a slicer. Well, we probably could have lived without one. But since it was a gift and all, hey, let’s play with it!
First, we needed some ribeye. Fortunately, we just got a great deal on a whole one that we had cut into steaks. We pulled one steak out of the freezer and didn’t let it thaw much. We figured that it would be easier to slice really thin if it was still mostly frozen.
As a quick aside, the slicer is a pretty cool toy. It’s not as good as a commercial one, but at the same time, it doesn’t take up as much space, either. Nor is it as heavy. But I will admit that cleaning it isn’t a lot of fun.
The sliced steak went into a bowl. On top of that went about half a batch of our kalbi marinade. Yes, that was in the freezer, too. Short ribs and Asian pears aren’t around much at the same time, and almost never on sale. So, we plan ahead.
That went into the fridge until the next day. Good flavor takes time, you know.
The next evening, we drained the seasoned meat in a colander for a while, then pulled out our griddle and got to work.
We knew shortly after the meat started to sizzle that we might have a winner on our hands. How, you may ask?
Yeah, a giant dog right at my feet while I’m trying to cook. Oh well.
Now, we didn’t completely think this through. Places that make cheesesteaks grill the meat on a flat-top. Lots of room, nice even heat, durable. I would love to have one. Particularly when I want to use a spatula to chop the meat I’m cooking while I’m actually cooking it. Our griddle, nice as it is, won’t tolerate that. So, I had to make do.
Back on the griddle to finish cooking. And to melt cheese. Toys decided that she didn’t want any, she wanted to try the flavors out unadulterated. I will put cheese on just about anything. And often have.
The meat goes onto rolls and we served them with fries. Because, what else would you serve with it? The verdict? All in all, a very tasty sandwich. The rolls we served them weren’t quite right, so these were very messy to eat. But the flavor was very good. Cleaning up afterwards wasn’t a lot of fun, either. But if we do it again, we might be able to fix some of that. If you have the time and equipment, I would say it’s worth trying.
A Few of Our Favorite Things January 31, 2013Posted by Toy Lady in Cook's Illustrated, Cooking, Food.
I love a nice, hearty stew, don’t you?
And our old stand-by, thrown-together beef stew is definitely that, that’s for sure!
But sometimes, a gal just wants something – different. Richer. And so, just like we do for chocolate, we look to our friends the Belgians.
In fact, I’m sure if you asked him, Peeps would tell you, in great detail, how, not only do Belgians excel at chocolate, they’re ace beer-makers, as well.
Boy, those Belgians sure do know their way around a menu, don’t they?
Somewhere between the beer and the chocolate, they took some of that beer, a bunch of beef, and some onions – a whole mess of onions – and came up with one of the most delightful stews we have ever enjoyed!
Of course, credit where it’s due – we wouldn’t enjoyed this stew without the good people at America’s Test Kitchen – I first printed the recipe, after we’d see it on an episode of ATK, back in 2007. And we’ve been enjoying it (when we think of it) since.
We start with:
- about 3 pounds of beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes, patted dry, and seasoned well
- several onions – a LOT of them! – sliced about 1/4 inch thick and cut in half. If you’re doing it by hand, you’ll want to halve them first, and if you’re using a V-slicer or a mandolin, you’ll want to slice them first, then halve the slices. Trust me. Ultimately you want 8 cups of sliced onions, which, for me, was 4 large-ish onions. Your mileage may vary.
Let’s start there.
Adjust your oven rack to the lower middle position and preheat the oven to 300.
Take your heavy-duty Dutch oven and heat some oil over medium-high heat, maybe a tablespoon or two, and, when it’s nicely hot, start browning your dried, seasoned meat in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan, browning each side well.
You’re going to be here a while.
Remove the beef to a separate bowl as it browns, and add more oil as necessary with each batch of beef browning.
You’re going to have a bit of a mess in your pot, but that’s okay.
You know what comes next, right?
Right, we deglaze the pan.
With onions! Gosh, I love doing that!
There’s just so much liquid in the onion slices that as soon as they hit the heat, they just start leaking like crazy! And before you know it, that pot full of onions cooks down to, well, less full.
On low heat, along with the onions, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a little black pepper if you’d like, and a tablespoon of tomato paste, and stir and scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any bits of fond.
Once the fondy bits are scraped, and the onions have started to soften and cook down a bit, you can raise the heat to medium and let it cook until the onions are starting to brown, about 12-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, gather together what I like to think of as “the rest of the stuff:”
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 Tbsp. flour
- 3/4 cup EACH chicken and beef broth – or a combination thereof. I think I had close to a cup of chicken broth and just supplemented that with a little beef broth.
- Beer! Since it’s a Belgian stew, the obvious answer is to use a Belgian ale – and we do make it a point. Usually we’ll grab a bottle of Chimay, but this we decided to have some fun. You’ll only need 12 ounces of Belgian ale for this, but if you end up getting a bigger bottle, well, I’m sure you can find something to do with the rest of it. We did.
- Some fresh thyme, a couple of bay leaves, and 1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
Back to the stew pot.
Your onions are cooked ever-so-slightly browned at this point, so you’ll stir in the minced garlic, cooking just until it’s fragrant – about 30-45 seconds. Then stir in the flour, continuing to stir a couple more minutes, until the onions are fairly evenly coated and the flour is starting to brown.
Add the broth (all of it), scraping again as necessary, then dump EVERYTHING else in – the meat, any accumulated juices, the beer, the herbs, and the vinegar, plus a healthy pinch of salt & pepper for good measure.
Bring everything just up to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally, then partially cover the pot and stick it in the pre-heated oven and walk away for a couple of hours.
After two hours, check the stew by inserting a fork into a hunk of beef – if there’s little to no resistance, it’s done. If it resists, back in the oven it goes for another half hour. Then it’ll be done!
Of course you’re going to want to pull the thyme springs and the bay leaves out of the stew, and, personally, I prefer to let it rest at least overnight before reheating and serving.
You will notice that there were NO vegetables (other than onions) (and really, I think onions are technically an herb, aren’t they?) and there was NO starch.
Maybe think about a salad.
Noodles or mashed potatoes are evidently traditional with this stew, but we opted to serve it with barley.
It was a good choice.