Posts from the ‘Food’ Category

Successful by surprise

I didn’t wake up Wednesday morning, jet lagged and tired from a quick trip to the east coast, expecting to cross another significant item off the 101-in-1001 list, but as a matter of fact I did.

One of the more interesting items on the list was to make a meal completely from items either grown or hunted by us. This could be a little tricky depending on one’s interpretation of “completely”–does that include all the herbs and spices? What about flour or salt? Cooking oil? I decided to take a somewhat generous interpretation yet still successfully accomplished the task very close to literally.

It’s that time of year when many of the plants in our vegetable garden come to fruition at the same time. Therefore, I had a bit of okra, yellow squash, hot peppers, and tomatoes sitting on my counter and needing to be eaten in some way. I decided to cook them up for DH’s lunch along with some tenderloins from his deer which were in the freezer (which coincidentally also put another feather in my “pantry/freezer stash challenge” cap). I sliced the squash into thin medallions, seasoned them with some Italian herbs and olive oil, and baked them in the oven. I cut up the okra, coated them with just enough cornmeal to stick to them, and pan fried them in a touch of canola oil. Finally, I marinated the deer steaks in the last bit of some marinade in the pantry (see? another feather!). DH had the great idea of adding a few of our peppers in the pan as I cooked them up. Therefore, when the meal was plated and presented, it was, exclusive of a few seasonings, entirely ours. I think that’s a really neat thing to accomplish.

Furthermore, I was even more productive today when I checked off another item: find artwork for the big, bare wall over our stairwell. It’s been begging for something special for the last five years since we’ve lived here, but nothing has been quite right. We finally decided that we wanted to have three canvases printed with our own photographs of Colorado to give it a truly unique and personalized touch; however, it took us a few trips around the state to snap those pictures that were special enough to us to fill in what we had in mind. It also took us some time to find a place to print them, because printing large canvases are not cheap. However, a couple of weeks ago I snagged a very good Amazon Local deal for three canvases at 75% off regular price. I snapped up those vouchers and finally got around to ordering them today. When we get them in and hung on the wall, I will hopefully be able to share these special pictures with you, too. I’m pretty sure I’ve featured some of them in previous posts about our trips around the state, so maybe you can look back for a sneak peek and try to guess any of them made the cut. 😉

There have been even more close brushes with list items and will be some definite huge items crossed off in the near future, so stay tuned for some exciting developments!

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August Challenge–Use up your pantry stash, revisited

It’s the beginning of a new month as well as a new era in my life. There will be many challenges going forward, but to start things off I’ll begin with a new Monthly Challenge.

Now that I’ve got some time on my hands, I’ve decided it’s time to address the burgeoning state of my pantry and freezer. My first pantry stash monthly challenge about a year ago was a great success, but I have been a bit busy since then and entropy has a way of taking over, especially when you’re not looking. This is a great time for this challenge for a few reasons. First, as I said, I have plenty of time now to focus my attentions on the problem and to be creative in my meal planning (I have to spend more time on Pinterest? Well, if you insist…). Second, I am, after all, not working at the moment, and while we are financially prepared for a short-term reduced income, saving money is always a great thing to do. Plus, if I do happen to take a job out of town and have to move, I’ve at least reduced the amount of food sitting around so we won’t have to toss it or awkwardly try to pack it.

I spent an hour or so yesterday afternoon going through the pantry and freezer and writing down what I had and making note of things I would like to use up. I’ve already got some ideas, and I’m going to get started by making a stash-busting dinner tonight and probably tomorrow, too. At least I’m off to a great start!

A successful finale

Given the mixed results for my first three attempts, for my final July Challenge recipe I decided to try something yummy that I knew would be a hit, assuming the preparation went well. Of course, I did choose a recipe notorious for a very technical preparation. However, while risotto is usually labor intensive and tempermental, requiring constant stirring, I found a recipe for “almost-hands-free” risotto a few weeks ago and decided it would be a delicious way to cap off the month.

It was definitely a success, with both DH and I going back for seconds. It did require a fair amount of prep but came together simply, so the recipe lives up to its claim of being “almost hands free” as far as risotto goes. I have enough arborio rice left for another half batch, so I’ll probably do that in the not-too-distant future. But since it did take some time to cook up, it’s probably not going to be a weekly staple or anything.

I will make a confession–and I might get reamed by a foodie for it–but I substituted more broth for the dry white wine. I assume some would consider that a sacrilege, but quite honestly I just do not have the palate to enjoy wine. Sorry. I just don’t. We’ve had risotto with wine before and it was not a joy for us to eat. Therefore, I had no qualms making my own substitution and did not regret it one bit!

So that’s a wrap on July. I’ll have to come up with a good August challenge, which might be interesting since I will be officially unemployed. Maybe my challenge will be getting a job? :p

One week and an update

One week from today…that’s all I have left at my current job. It’s amazing how fast and yet how slow the last couple of months have gone. I finally have gotten most of my measurements done; I plan on going over my results with my colleagues tomorrow, and I really, really hope they don’t have any other major things I need to measure to wrap things up. Though, even if they do I guess it’s okay since everything is up and running at the moment. I want to be done, but I also want it to be complete before I move on.

I’m still waiting to hear back from the two jobs I’ve been interviewing for, though at this point dragging out the process and delaying actually having to make life-changing decisions is just fine with me! I also just submitted another job application today. The job announcement was forwarded to me as a group email yesterday, and I thought about it overnight. When I came to work today, I found that my boss had independently printed it out and put it on my desk for my consideration. I took that as a sign to just go ahead, so I filled out all that stuff today. We’ll see how that goes, especially as those other two opportunities simmer on the back burner until time to deal with them.

I’ve also been working on the July challenge of trying four new recipes this month to spice up my inspiration in the kitchen. Challenge aside, I’ve been more motivated about cooking in general, which is a relief, though I am still struggling to stay as organized as I used to be. I imagine that once next week rolls around and I’m unemployed, I’ll actually have more time to be creative, too.

The challenge so far has been interesting in that, of the three recipes I have tried so far, all three of them I have approached with a significant amount of skepticism. For all of them, I have experienced the exact same sensation when sitting down to eat it–an odd expression comes over my face as I wonder how on earth this is gong to turn out, and I do not look forward to trying it at all. It’s very strange how I have managed to pick recipes that all elicit this sort of response.

If you recall, I recounted my experience with Recipe #1, chicken tikka masala, in the original post. It was okay at first and I wasn’t really sure how I would rate the dish, but I have to say it was one of those dishes that did improve as leftovers; I guess the spices really had time to mingle and incorporate. So it ultimately turned out to be a success and there was no hesitant facial expression when eating it again!

I also said that I intended to try sweet potato and black bean tacos for Recipe #2. Same facial expression, similar response upon first taste. It’s okay…nothing wrong with it, but I was just inherently skeptical about sweet potato and black beans together inside of a tortilla. DH said it was good, and it certainly was fine, but for leftovers I just ate the potatoes and beans alone instead of done up taco style. I can’t say the combination was one I will repeat in the future.

I decided that for Recipe #3 I would take advantage of the abundance of Swiss chard I have in my garden. I’ve heard so many people say they love sauteed greens, so I thought I should give it a try. Now, despite the irony that I have a green smoothie and a salad for breakfast and lunch every single day, I really don’t like greens that much, especially not on their own. But since sauteed chard comes so highly recommended, I decided I needed to give it a try. Same facial expression when I sat down yesterday, and this time I seriously for real didn’t like it. For one, I had used too much garlic and onion to season it and it was overwhelming to me. Moreover, I just didn’t care for the flavor of the greens (what little I could taste through the seasoning!). DH said it was fine, but in the end I was glad I didn’t make more than two servings of it.

I’ve decided that for my final recipe, I need to try something that I’m actually looking forward to trying. This might require being slightly less healthy than these other three dishes. Maybe more carbs and fat and less veggies? 😉 I did see a risotto recipe a few weeks ago that looked so creamy and delectable…

July Challenge–Mixing It Up In The kitchen

I am sad to report that, as of this writing, I was not the winner of any exciting sweepstakes that I entered during my June monthly challenge. I quickly discovered why I don’t do more of the “take a survey to win” opportunities at the bottom of my receipts. First, I evidently make too many trips to the grocery store, creating a back-log of possible entries; second, the surveys get really long and repetitive, especially when there is the aforementioned large backlog of them. So I confess that I kind of stopped those after a couple of weeks. However, I did enter some other contests on Facebook and on company websites, though I have not reaped any rewards of those efforts yet. Who knows; maybe my lucky day is still in the works. 🙂

Time to move on to July already (egads). This month’s challenge takes me into the kitchen, a place I have oft enjoyed being, but of late has been a little uninspired. Maybe it’s the summer heat, maybe it’s working a bit later these days. Either way, I’ve been in a bit of a cooking (or possibly even lack-of-cooking) rut lately. I think it’s time to spice things up a bit. Therefore, I propose that in the next month I will try four new recipes. Not only that, I hope that all four will be something quite different than my usual repertoire, not just one more way to marinate chicken before I grill it. The good thing is that I’ve already got a few ideas, and I’ve even already accomplished one!

Sunday, I ventured into a brave new world of Indian cuisine. I attempted this recipe for chicken tikka masala by Pastor Ryan from The Pioneer Woman. I made a few modifications based on what I had on hand, but I largely followed the whole thing. It turned out just fine, but it lacked a little somethin’-somethin’ that other tomatoey-chicken dishes I’ve had at Indian restaurants have. Unfortunately, I’m a little new to the blends of spices used in this cuisine, so it was hard to tell exactly what was missing. Maybe the garam masala blend lacked a few spices, or maybe I had too many onions (not a huge fan of onions to begin with), or maybe the tomatoes were a little too chunky or acidic. Anyway, it was still just fine, and DH and I liked it. I suppose it’s worth trying this dish, or the similar butter chicken (chicken makhani), again from a slightly different recipe, but I think once is enough to count toward the July challenge.

One other recipe I have on my list for sure is sweet potato and black bean tacos from the Simply Sugar and Gluten Free cookbook (something I did actually win by entering a contest on a blog! ;)). I’ve only just gotten into sweet potatoes, since I learned that it is indeed possible to eat them in ways other than smothered in marshmallows and brown sugar and caramel sauce at Thanksgiving (not my favorite :p), and I’ve seen similar recipes get rave reviews, though it’s a flavor combo I never would have imagined. I’ve got my tubers ready to go for sometime, maybe later this week.

I still need two more ideas! If you have any suggestions or unique recipes of your own, let me know! (I know some of my readers are also food bloggers, and be sure I am prowling your sites for ideas, too) ;).

Ridiculous

It’s Monday again, and I’m hoping for a more optimistic week than I had last week.

I wasn’t as successful as I imagined I’d be with my goal-of-the-week last week, as I felt kind of sick, tired, and blah and didn’t feel like doing a lot for a few days. I know, excuses excuses, but you can’t help it sometimes. I’ll keep on this goal, though, to gradually increase the quality of my down time. For this coming week, I have a few things in mind to attempt.

My 10K race is a week from today. I’m not so nervous about the running as I am the crowds of people! There were over 55,000 people who ran this race last year, and sure to be more this year. I hope that it won’t be super crazy insane, and at least I’ll be running with a friend. Of course, “running” might be an optimistic term; we signed up for a walking/jogging wave so if anything besets us, like aches or pains or elevation changes, we can take it easy and still feel good about finishing. One goal for this week is to finally get up to 10 km/6.2 miles on a training run. I’m just under a mile away from the mark. I’m hoping to make it happen today, but we’ll see how it goes.

My other goal is to prepare my lunch the night before I go to work so I’m not throwing it together in the mornings. I eat quite simply, actually, but it still requires some assembly. Occasionally I do manage to do this, and I like the result, so I decided to be intentional about it this week, just because it’s the perfect scope for a GotW.

As we approach June, I should also consider another monthly challenge to pursue. That has been interesting and successful in the past, so I should come up with a good idea and a plan by next week. Did you realize that May is almost gone already? Ridiculous.

 

Brain stew

In a way, “brain stew” about sums up how I’m feeling at the moment. I was blowing through revisions relatively fast earlier this week, but I have slowed way down this afternoon. It is Wednesday, after all.

My brain is very tired and overwhelmed, and while I can go home and sleep or take a short break while working, it’s not enough to fix what really ails it–pure mental overload. I can’t have that for another few weeks yet. All I can do is bear down and bulldoze through all this work  at whatever pace I’m able to sustain at any given moment. It just doesn’t happen to be very fast today, as my brain feels like mush.

It’s a little early (still before 5:00), but I decided to go ahead and warm up the soup I brought for dinner. Yes, I’m staying until way after dinner time these days, of course, so I either bring my own or take a break to go get something in the evenings. I could have waited until actually dinner time to eat it, but I was hungry and figured I could use a few calories of yummy home-made soup goodness to kick start my brain again and hopefully get a few more productive hours of work out of it today.

I hope this is just the usual mid-week slump and I can recover some momentum going into the end of the week. These revisions are just kicking my bum, but I won’t let them get me down for the count. In fact, you might say that I may get knocked down, but I get up again.

That probably exceeds my quote for inappropriate 90’s nostalgia for today. I guess it’s back to it before anybody gets hurt.