Thursday, March 31, 2022

I Think I'm in Love!

Sheet pan Baked Chicken with Potatoes and Tomatoes
My love of roasted everything on sheet pans pairs smoothly with the Lunch Box meals idea.  Meal prepping with sheet pans gets the job done with less effort and you can spice, herb, marinate, or bread the chicken and use any vegetable combination in order to create various dishes.  Not to mention, there is always cheese, vinegar, hot sauces, etc to make it sexy.   A spicy kale was served alongside with lemon and garlic. 

Leftover enchilada for lunch
Again, I'm acting as if frozen meals are something from the distant future.  It's really just new to me but in this 2022 fascinating way. Freezing an individual portion of enchiladas feels like a miracle,for example.  I've eaten frozen dinners earlier in life, but those are now considered forbidden processed food so the idea had died in my foodie brain.  I use my freezer to store large portions of hams or turkeys I can't finish but no time had I ever put individual meals in said freezer to reheat and eat later in these cute little boxes.  I think I'm in love!   

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Looks Like We Made It

Lunchbox meal of turkey sausage, barley and mixed vegetables.  I quick dash of chicken stock to the hot pan at the end and a pat of butter created a drizzle, enough to hydrate the grain and add moisture when reheating in microwave.  
It seems so unimpressive after the leaves and flowering take place, but the first signs of buds on trees, after months of gray and bareness, always takes my breath away and this was that moment.  It was hyper-induced by a Polar Vortex upswing but you take what you get these days.  I was speaking with my mate and looked up to see these bright flowering newbies stretching out as if to greet me.  As if seeing an old friend, whom I love, I gasped, You're back!.  Signs of spring tell me we've all made it out of a darkness. No matter how much I cherish my hibernation, its great to take in color again, fresh air, feel that light breeze on your skin.  And there is and will be much more suffering, but for now, these buds represent hope. 

Definitely, Definitely, No Logic

As a testament to these prepared Lunch Boxes, I present yet another added value.  By adding these delicious colorful, sauteed vegetables to my chicken and noodles, I was able to create a healthier, more satisfying meal for a late night shift.  Sauteing or roasting a pan full of assorted vegetables to pair with previously made rice, noodles, grains, beans, or potatoes, provide variety and ability to switch it up and in this case, combine.  

It's also a confirmation of how small life has become when anyone could become this excited about plastic food storage.  That being said, storing individual meals in small containers to pull out and eat any time of day or night, changed my life.  Like everything in life, I only love to do things when I love to do them but cannot rely on any consistency.  Prepping meals ahead of time works with this type of crazy. 

Monday, March 28, 2022

And You May Not Think That I Care for You

Lunch Box Meals of sauteed Asparagus, red bell pepper, purple onion, mushrooms over rice.  To add protein, I added boiled eggs.  For the most perfect boiled eggs, drop eggs into cold water and bring to a boil.  When rolling, turn off heat and wait 10 minutes before rinsing in cold water.  The yellow will be bright and no green ring!  

But on this day, I chose the baked enchiladas box with a side of cold iceberg, lime, avocado and onions to top after microwaving for lunch. 

I'm learning for these, what most are calling 'meal prep' boxes, you may need to have a second container to separate cold from the hot, like in this case.  For home I save all jars, small and large to reuse and to store.  For work lunches, small collapsible companion pouches are needed but for now, I used the dreaded plastic baggie.  

Knowing I had enchiladas in my backpack for lunch, I sped to work slightly less foreboding than normal.  As I was riding through the Cobble Hill area, I saw a man screaming as if his head was on fire.  He was double parked in the bike lane and his partner, stayed in the passenger's seat calmly.  I was going to just ride past but felt an empathetic pull to help with whatever was going on.  As I matter of fact, I believe he screamed, 'Stop him!'.  I quickly deduced his cat had fled the apartment whilst they were packing the car for a trip. I jumped off my bike and began to search underneath parked cars.  Another man walking his dog was also prompted to aide the search and soon the dog was corralling the spotted feline into garden apartment stairwells and fenced in front stoops.  The cat was very agile and whipped across the street and back a few times.  Now, a Mexican Grub Hub delivery biker joined the posse. In that moment, I was stunned and delighted that busy as he probably was, this man would stop and help, for a cat.  Brooklyn can be like this but it's always surprising when it is, because normally and more and more so, no one even acknowledges one another.  Finally, after a few attempts and strategic maneuvering by the delivery guy, the owner was able to grab the cat and get him safely inside.  

But the craziest part is that afterwards, instead of what you might think, we all would high five and have a laugh, share a moment, instead, nothing happened.  The man, only held his kitty tight and kissed and talked to him under his breathe as he went inside and closed the door.  If he thanked anyone, I didn't hear him.  His partner remained in the car, unbothered.  This was a presumably gay couple, the cat lover, a white nervous type, the passenger a black 30-something that looked to be a non-cat lover, which made me laugh inside and even harder afterwards realizing he never got out to help.  We, the helpers, just got back on our bikes, the guy with the dog started back on his path.  The other's who gathered, quickly dispersed. I tried to engage anyone but realized when the show was over, everyone went back inside their own heads, the place where most people seem to live these days. Later I thought how a little acknowledgement from all of us, to each other, could have made that so much more special.  It was a head shaking moment on a beautiful sunny, just after the rain morning.  

Sunday, March 27, 2022

I Smoked My Brains the Night Before

P's Birthday Beef Enchiladas

P had a festive outing with friends the night before and was feeling less rambunctious on his birthday, so we chose a mellow afternoon with a matinee of The Outfit, in a dark, quiet theater.  We had Fried Chicken sandwiches, chips with queso, and this time a few more patrons were in the local venue but not many.  I should get paid for how much I promote the value of the Alamo Drafthouse theaters.  For folks without a ton of money, it's an incredibly satisfying way to spend a little extra and get the pampering movie experience of my dreams.  P wants a cup of hot coffee or I want an ice cream sundae, the silent ninjas are there for it, quickly and quietly.  The funny reels they play before the main feature feels old timey and gets you revved up like you're going up a roller coaster.  It's super clean and people are well behaved or they'll get 'removed' as the pre-feature ad warns.  This allows you to get completely immersed in the surround sound without any unpleasant noises or cellphone lights.  I love everything about it and most of all, we can walk to one of the locations. 
Later I made homemade beef enchiladas with my mom's famous secret sauce and a spicy shrimp cocktail as an appetizer.  
Coctel de Camarones - Mexican Shrimp Cocktail
We walked home from the theater noticing more small changes to downtown Brooklyn and had a nice chat about how strange life has become when we came across a sign on a shop window that coined the moment brilliantly.  Whatever, Forever.

A gorgeous new mural of Greg Tate, the music journalist who recently passed, and a fellow Ohio born compadre.
Delicious Carrot Cake Slice from Mr Mango Market
The birthday boy in his new sweater.  It's good to be alive, to quote lyrics from his upcoming album. 

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Fry to See it My Way

Baked Bean and Turkey Smash Burgers
And Crispy Baked Fries
You're right if you're thinking this could use some greens.  A nice big lettuce wrapper or at least a cold bed of shredded iceberg.  Even though it was nice outside, my body was still requesting hot, filling foods. So instead of lettuce, I doubled-down on the burger and topped it with cheese and a poached egg.  

Regarding the necessary potato accompaniment, you are either a mealy, soft fries or a crispy, crunchy lover.  People that order home fries at diners and are happy to see a big steaming pile of soft potatoes will understand this distinction.  It would be an interesting study to see the differences in traits of these two types of humans.  Me, and thank God, my husband, are of the crunchy lover variety.  To get your spud needs met, if you fry them in oil, it's no problem but baked, that's another story.  You must get the oven temperature correct, cut the potato thick enough, but not too thin, and use a good heat conducting roasting pan, in order to attain perfection.  Even then, it can go horribly wrong. I often screw this up.  The great thing is that potatoes are still cheap and there are many days in which to practice.  God willing.

Friday, March 25, 2022

You Doin' the Funky Chicken

Lunchbox Chicken and Noodles
When eating lunch at work, that was made at home, the familiar flavors are enhanced a hundred fold.  But it's not only that it tastes better, it's so comforting to ingest food you made yourself, knowing exactly what is in it, is not only good for the mind, it benefits the mood.  I feel so differently after eating food from the cafeteria and sometimes it's good but it leaves me with a foreign funk in my chi. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Baby You and Me Got a Groovy Kind of Love

Mash Up of Chicken and Noodles and Homemade Soup.  This was reminiscent of this incredible homemade Chicken and Noodles from my Catholic youth at Holy Spirit School in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  There were these nuns that undoubtedly loved to cook real food and we were served in individual dining rooms complete with built in hutches and real plates and silverware.  All comfort food made with love.  
Sometimes you don't know what to make so you just start making something.  I bought the fresh vegetables for a nice homemade chicken soup, so I began by the hearty stock. 

After cutting up and adding all the vegetables, I thought to make Chicken and Noodles instead, featuring more vegetables, which turned out to be fantastic.  This allowed me to simmer the chicken pieces until they fell off the bone and for everything to marry and combine and impart flavors into the rich broth before deboning.  

Every bite pulled me back into those sunlit dining rooms from the past.  Standing in line, sliding my tray down the line, and the large friendly nun with the masculine hands asking me if I want 'more' and that look in her smiling eyes.  She knew by my excited reaction that I was one who truly appreciated all of her culinary offerings.  I thought they were surely made from heaven.  My mother never made these American dishes at home, even though she was the best cook I knew but they were similar in they were filled with loving notes.  The cook and I shared something and in my tween mind, she was a perfectly happy chubby, red cheeked lover of God who served Him by making the best food for school children.  But I couldn't help but wonder at points if that smile carried another kind of affection for my youthful beauty and spirit.  The real story is that I had a mutual love for her that was unique to me at that tender age.  I admired this older woman, who I considered sacred, yet her kind gentle smile sparked an appreciation for her in a way I was unfamiliar with at the time.  It was a discovery that you could have loving affection for strangers that didn't involve wanting to stick your tongue down their throat.  Either way, it remains a beautiful memory of innocent love.  

Friday, March 18, 2022

Help Me Get My Feet Back on the Ground

I wonder if some bears want to stay in their dens after spring starts.  Its so cozy and warm in that den. I would be that bear.  I love spring, its my favorite season for sure, hands down.  But spring also means, deep cleaning, big projects, more exercise, and getting back out there into that big natural world.  I love my warm wool socks and fuzzy pants, thermals, protective gear.  I love being at rest, the still, darkness of winter.  Being inside, wrapped in more layers between me and that outside world.  Like eyes adapting to the light after sleep, my whole being needs to adjust to the idea of blooming yet again.
Like the bear, the one thing that will get me up and moving is food.  And of course, the amazing vibrant salads will come in time, the zesting of lemons and all things fruity will fill the air.  I'll zip around admiring the trees and explore.  But today that type of fun, nor cooking is on my agenda, so local Green Grape Market offerings will need to suffice.  The sun, blue skies and beginnings of spring flowers, for just these first weeks instill slight dread, instead of delight.  I compare this to my reluctance to exit my mother's womb.  I have a deep rooted memory of that prenatal moment of forcibly being pulled out of my home feet first and the overwhelming feeling of baby soul doubt.
Free range rotisserie chicken with potato salad and mac and cheese made by the most docile group of college-educated millennials and surprisingly awesome but inexplicably leaves us feeling soulless every time.  Could it make a difference in your digestive enjoyment of a food,  if the meal prepared void of passion?

Monday, March 14, 2022

When You Hear the Call, Word Up!

I'm no wordsmith but I do love when particular words appear, especially when they are repeated in a day.  I'm writing this a month later, and after the shooting in the Brooklyn subway.  My sister texted me to remain extra vigilant.  I went to the DMV this morning and another shooting was just announced in Prospect Park by the coworker next to my clerk and when she handed back my documents, she said, 'be careful out there, stay vigilant'.  I replied, Yes! as if I'd picked up a shiny new penny.  Her reiteration of the word, made it official, that yes, extra precautions should be made and the universe pinpointed the correct action.  I don't think this means we need to be paranoid or anticipate bad behavior in any way because I also believe you can conjure evil that way.  But remaining extra aware of your surroundings, those around you, is more important right now.  I'm a tiny woman in a big town.  If you wanted to kill me, it would be super easy but doing small things like crossing the street, or taking a safer bike route even if it's a few more minutes out of the way, is smart thinking right now.  As I'm also concentrating on staying in the moment, it's an excellent time to practice vigilance.
A while back I obsessed on two-ingredient recipes and one that stood out was banana pancakes using an egg and banana.  Simply mash the overly ripe banana and add a beaten egg - put them on the griddle.  You can add cinnamon and vanilla extract if you want.  I grated an apple into mine to use up the aging fruit.  This was all just an excuse to drizzle maple syrup and slather butter on something.  I hate succumbing to sweet urges as it often leaves me feeling lumpy and dumpy.  This is a good way to bypass that weighted down feel but still get your fix.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Trouble Man Don't Get in My Way

Lunch Box prep for duo meals consisting of sheet pan roasted vegetables with Balsamic Vinegar, Toasted Brown Rice and a Spicy Soy Chicken with red peppers and mushrooms.  For some time I've watched videos of women making these big meal preparation spreads and thought, Honey, who has that kind of time?  But now, I'm a convert, understanding that while you're in the kitchen chopping away anyway, it's fairly easy to juggle larger portions and add an additional dish.  Especially when one is just thrown in the oven.  That one night of work pays off because you may get 6 or 8 meals out of it.   
There is an adventurous spark you get from microwaving a perfectly prepared portion at work as well as a sense of accomplishment that you made it yourself.  We need small encouragements these days.  I was relieved to hear others were finding it hard to achieve even the simplest of tasks lately.  There is an invisible mental weight that many of us struggle to shed. Everything feels exhausting, even the thought of having fun.  However,  we must lap up and feed off these tiniest morsels of contentment because obviously negative forces are trying to latch onto as many of us as possible.  At least that's how it feels lately. 

Sometimes rice is best completely naked in order not to compete with the main course, but it's even better toasted and then mixed with herbs, spices and aromatics.  This makes it a true separate component worthy to stand on it's own. 

And like I did here, you can sample some for dinner that night!