Saturday, January 28, 2023

She's Like a Rainbow

Speaking of doing the same dinners over and over, this was a repeat of last week's jazzed up frozen pizzas and a quick salad.  But why not mushroom and pesto it up!? Tons of pepperoni and green olives with extra mozzarella cheese on the other. In the end, these two sad sack frozen gals became sexy little hot tarts.  Baby spinach, red onions and strawberries with a light vinaigrette was the perfect green accompaniment. 

Thursday, January 26, 2023

And I Do Appreciate You Being 'Round

If you cook most of the days, you can begin to feel like there is nothing more to make, like you've done everything you could with ground meat and common vegetables.  But like little miracles, new ideas pop up when you need then.  I like to keep dinner simple and the less pots on the stove the better.  I start my recipe searches with the word, easy.  This, from the Taste of Home website, was an excellent find.  An Egg Roll Bowl served over white rice.  Why didn't I think of that!?
Do you remember Brini Maxwell, the iconic 50's housewife creation of Ben Sander?  She is such an inspiration.  Not only is she an amazing personality with the perfect set design and matching retro attire but she has tips that are unique and surprisingly helpful.
Next time I will fry up some wonton strips for the top.  But crushed peanuts would be a nice topper as well with less effort.  A little extra crunch for the top is always a great idea. 

Baby Bok Choy, cabbage, red bell peppers, carrots and onions went in, sliced thinly for this medley of vibrant vegetables.  Other than the necessary cabbage, you could add whatever vegetables you like or have.
The ground pork was seasoned with ginger, garlic, soy and and sesame oil.  
This made excellent lunch box meals and I was able to use up all of the rice, wasting nothing. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

My Thoughts are With You, Holding Hands with Your Heart

Chimichurri Roasted Chicken

I mentioned a bunch of years ago, my Argentinian coworker came in with a jar of this magical, vinegary, herby sauce-like concoction, teaming with garlic and I fell instantly in love.  She was so cool to ask people to taste it, straight out of the jar around the staff cafeteria as she taught a quick Chimichurri 101 pop-up class of sorts.  Some were taken aback because it was so bold tasting but I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  She told me you should never use a cuisinart, and always gently chop the herbs, being careful not to bruise and smash the garlic for the finest mince.  There are about 4-5 cups of parsley in the recipe so this is a labor of love.  But I must admit, hers was and still is the best I've ever tasted.  I've made it a few times and maybe this time was able to finally get the balance right of vinegar, oil, garlic,pepper to herb ratio. But my confession is that I did use a blender. My rationing was that since I would bake the chicken, the delicacy of the sauce was not as important as if I drizzled it on top.  

That same night and since the oven was already going, I baked two chicken breasts with pesto and Parmesan, high heat 450, quick and hot.  Those were also delicious.  I also soaked the breasts in a salt brine beforehand for 15 minutes.

I think about that Argentinian family, as the mother, daughter and son all worked in the same store at one point.  The mother was my age and suffered no fools.  She was vibrant and emotional but never apologetic about her free spirit.  A hippie Spaniard, a new one on me.  She would dance and sing, never hesitant to be who she was.  Her daughter cut my hair and went on to work as a top stylist in Manhattan.  She was also a breath of fresh air.  She always announced when she had to poop. While working with me in my department, she got a giant colored tattoo of the Little Mermaid with vampire teeth and blood dripping from the mouth on her full front leg.  It was one of the ugliest tattoos and I cried thinking how she ruined her body.  She was so young and I often wonder how she feels about it now.  Such a smart girl, such a dumb decision.  Her brother had my name and had the best laugh and smile, was big and tall, always in a positive state.  It felt like an honor watching them interact and come together at lunch, joking around, sharing food.  The brother's soon to be wife also worked there.  Now they're all gone.  People come and go in retail and the environment changes, the past often feeling like the better times. 

Saturday, January 21, 2023

This Feels So Good and So Free and So Right

Do you ever 'frozen pizza' your dinner?  I'm in Brooklyn with currently 4 pizza restaurants within 1 block of my apartment, but yeah, sometimes I frozen pizza it.  The value is that you can add your own toppings, use up leftover bits.  You control the calories a bit more.  I added a big salad that I was able to toss together quickly.  And frankly, it's sort of fun.  On the cheese, I topped with a little leftover pesto and on the other I went hog-wild and added ground beef, pepperoni, tomatoes, bell peppers and black olives.  This was Paul Newman's brand and the crust was thin and better than expected.  
Amped up Paul Newman's Frozen Pizza 

Thursday, January 19, 2023

When The World is Cold

Crock Pot Black Eyed Peas with Smoked Turkey Necks
When it's awfully cold outside and there is nothing to be done about it, a slow-cooked pot of beans act as slow-simmering love in the house.  The best part is the ease of concocting these magical creations.  Sprigs of parsley, green onions, celery, carrots, jalapeno, stock, soaked beans and a turkey neck added to the vessel and 6 hours later a delicious hearty soup appears.  I took out the bones and shredded any meat, then mashed up the beans a bit in the pot to create the desired consistency.  
One bowl of this keeps you warm for hours.  This is great for lunch box meals and for freezing half for a lazy day. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Never Been Afraid of Any Deviation

Ranch Style Turkey Chili

What are you feelings on Rachael Ray?  She's been around forever and her approach to cooking has gone from brilliant to slightly shocking through the years.  When she came on the scene, she taught us many small tips that became daily saves.  I've watched top chefs tear her apart, breaking down her credibility.  I guess I'll forever be grateful that she came along and took some mystery out of complicated recipes, and in general made cooking more approachable.  She came up with the garbage bowl, and showed me how to fold in the tabs on my foil boxes.  She became so successful that they allowed her crappy husband's band to play on national television.  That humanized her for me.  Yes, she became a huge brand and cranked out countless recipes for years.  I drew the line when she added canned kidney beans to her Mexican pozole but overall, she influenced the masses and invited us into our own kitchens, leaving us less afraid to do our thing.  People can be snobs about food but I see us as just one level up from the wild ape, so pretences have no place in my kitchen.  If something tastes great at that moment, then I'm up for it.  Sometimes the best thing ever is a crispy bit on the bottom of a baking pan. 

For a few years I've been looking for a dynamic ground turkey chili recipe.  I've made several quick versions, that do the job just fine but sought a more refined, legitimate recipe.  I was browsing today and found Rachel's Ranch-Style Turkey Chili.  I dug where she was going, I would just make a few turns in the road.  Again, there she is opening doors, giving helpful ideas, inspiring the home cook. 

I added half a packet of Ranch dip, smokey Cumin along with a heaping tablespoon of flour to my turkey and onions while they were browning and allowed it to form a roux before adding stock.  I roasted Poblanos too but also added charred tomatillos and serranos, along with lots of Cilantro.  I didn't stir in the sour cream but allowed the individual to top with their own amount and combine how they like.  No dill or parsley or hot sauce added.

My Recipe:

4 Poblanos (charred, peeled and chopped)

2lbs of ground turkey

5 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 of a large onion chopped

1/2 packet of Ranch Dip

1 heaping tablespoon of flour

2 palms of Smokey Cumin

1/4 teaspoon of Cayenne

2 serrano

5-8 tomatillos charred and chopped

1 cup of fresh corn 

1 bunch of cilantro (stems first, then leaves at end)

5 cups of water or stock

3 cans beans, drained.  I used Cannelloni, small white and black.

You know how to make Chili.  The one detail that I learned from America's Test Kitchen is to allow the turkey to cook longer than usual.  Where it begins to really brown, but doesn't burn.  Add the spices and flour to toast.  This will build up that fond on the bottom but also ground turkey will develop a better meaty flavor.   Once everything is in the pot, let it simmer long enough, covered but stir occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick to bottom.  I couldn't wait past an hour. 

Garnish with what you like - I used:

Sour Cream

Green onion


White Sharp Cheddar

pickled jalapenos

Monday, January 16, 2023

Breaking Us Down, When They All Should Let Us Be

Chicken Soupy Stew
I find my love of soups is growing, maturing.  Like they say love grows, spiritually.  Normally I might make fun of a statement like that, but it's true with love.  Soup might be stretching the theory but when you think about it, we, (some of us) eat these chickens en mass but when you treat them very special, make a broth with their bones, add fresh vegetables and herbs, garlic, bay leaves, freshly cracked pepper, then this magic bird transforms into a sacred broth, bordering medicinal. I add the cob to add a deeper corn flavor in the broth while simmering. I made a roux base to thicken the broth so it eats more like a stew. Yukon potatoes hold their shape with the cabbage, tomatoes, corn, carrots and celery.  Of course a homemade hot sauce and roasted jalapenos to kick it into gear was added, cilantro to finish.  If I have a signature soup, this would be it. 
Ya think?!  Sort of like a Smart virus seeking vulnerable organs in the body.  Almost as if it was made in a cocka doodey laboratory by scientists. 

These are times when it doesn't feel great to be right.  I don't feel smug that I never believed the boosters were necessary if you already had COVID.  I'm shaking my head but not in any satisfying way.  I feel the scientific community and our own party sold us to the pharmaceutical companies and that is not okay.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

And the Sky is a Hazy Shade of Winter

Chef John's One Pan Beef Stroganoff
This stroganoff would have been on point, had I the correct curly egg noodles.  The only downside of having fancy corner markets is that may only carry the healthier, less tasty version of common staples.  This can be an upside as well because we tend to make better choices. In this case,the noodle shouldn't overtake the meat sauce.  They should be able to absorb flavors (but not all of of the sauce, as these did) and provide a balance of textures.  So, although this was great tasting, and God knows I love me a noodle, this type was too thick and wide.  Isn't it funny when you take the time to do something correctly and with your best efforts, it still fails.  That's about how life has been going lately.

Ryan Hall Y'all's Nader Beans!  With weather being big news, you've most likely latched on to a favorite channel or meteorologist.  Ryan Hall is my choice.  A baby-faced Southerner with a positive outlook on crappy weather. Actually, the coffee beans are really good too that he sells on his site.  I bought them to support the rescue efforts done by this man and his compadres out of Kentucky and was quite surprised how good the coffee tasted.  Money has never been too appealing, and I'm hard pressed to find a long list of things I want but really good coffee in the morning, one cup, would be a nice little luxury to enjoy each day.
A puffy omelet made with American Cheese.  
As with any omelet, you could go many ways in regards to toppings or fillings with the puffy variety.  But since the egg taste is mellowed by all the whipping, the sharp tang of the American Cheese is a nice partner.  Its reminiscent of a diner omelet. 

Monday, January 9, 2023

Little Red Riding Hood, You Sure Are Looking Good

Riding the bike in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.

Halloween Christmas decorations in January need not lose their value

Red Hook and Brooklyn in general during the winter can be bleak or beautiful depending on the block you're on.  Sometimes the beauty can lie within the bleakness.  For example, above, there lives a presence in the abandoned car deteriorating behind that fence.  A story is told just by it's mere existence and state of disrepair.  It's almost stately if you stand there and stare at it.  Like an old elephant at the zoo.  This is possibly all nonsense decided in the mind and in the moment you're in but it sure does feel real. 
Dinner was a thing of simplistic beauty.  Baked chicken, herby mashed potatoes, vegetable greens and for extra carb overload, boxed mac and cheese.