Thursday, February 23, 2023

Don't Tell Me What it's All About

Sheet Pan Dinner with Spicy Hamburger Balls 
Sharing a thought I've cultivated all week:  People generally don't want to hear the storyline of books that you're reading or the characters in the series you find fascinating, or sadly, what happened to you at work that day.  I'm sorry to be the one to say it, but I've come to realize it's the hard, cold truth.  Even if it feels like you'll burst if you don't tell someone, you might want to stop and consider what this really is before you blurt out all your deets on some poor schlep.  Thankfully, this is what people who love you are for.  Don't get me wrong, they don't want to hear it either, but they love you, so they'll stop what they're doing and pause, just for you.  They listen to you for different reasons and sometimes even find your stories endearing.  They'll sit while secretly hoping it's not going to be yet another long drawn out drama that goes into detail about people and things they care nothing about.  I know because I do this for my husband and he does it for me and has for years.  As the years go on, I try not to sigh or get too visibly stressed out at the start of a work rant.  Or I try to catch myself mid stream, when I'm carrying on too long about some silly happening and in the midst of getting all worked up, I notice that look on his face.  The one I'm familiar with.  The one I get when my coworker begins telling me about some TV Series that I'm sure I'll never watch, as they describe in excruciating detail the plot and twists and inside I'm slapping myself awake or hearing Morrissey sing I don't care, I don't care, I don't care!.   But we all do it, that's the thing.  In exchange, I'm surprised why they aren't ecstatic to hear my play by play encounter with a rude customer. 

We love to talk.  I'm talking right now, at you. Going on and trusting that you are on the edge of your seat but it is frightening to think just how untrue that really is most of the time.   
Maybe we throw it all out there, hoping that we'll catch a fish.  They are merely starters for what we hope can build a great conversation with someone who will give feedback, and help us work out these details of life, these petty problems that aren't that interesting but have necessary lessons or real information within them.  

Monday, February 20, 2023

It's Not Right, But it's Okay

Foil-Wrapped Dinners
Why share failed dinner ideas you ask?  We learn by our mistakes, I keep hearing.  I made these incredible herbed chicken breasts baked in parchment paper some time ago and they tasted pure and clean. It tasted as if the food was wearing all white cotton clothes.  
I didn't have parchment paper, so I used foil and included vegetables, herbs and formed little herbed-up burger patties.  Not awful by any means, but also not great.  I baked the potato wedges and this was to be a healthier take on burger and fries.  I even stuffed the burgers with a little cheese bomb inside.   The tomatoes burst in your mouth with sweetness. Perhaps presented better, this could be considered a winner. 

Roasted chicken with Potatoes and Carrots later.  Better but also not winning any awards in creativity.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

We'll Kill the Fatted Calf Tonight So Stick Around

Okay, the pork shoulder doesn't come from a cow, it's from our piggy friend but it is cause for a celebration.
Served with Red Cabbage Apple Slaw & Cilantro Lime Rice

This time instead of the rice wine vinegar, I added the brine from a jar of Cherry Peppers 

For the Red Cabbage Green Apple slaw I used plenty of fresh cilantro,lime, red and green onions and of course jalapeno for heat. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

I'm Gonna Say it Again, Baby You're No Good

Brunch with Debulicous
Someone is celebrating their 1st year of sobriety and it's a definite occasion for brunch.  Waffles.  All she really wanted was waffles and for whatever reason, the closest we could find were pancakes and French Toast.  One would think with the plethora of breakfast joints in the surrounding neighborhoods, it would be easy to find a waffle but turns out, in order to partake in these crisped cakes, we would need to head to Prospect Heights.  Why we didn't is unclear as it's about a 10 minute walk.  I'm not sure her pancakes were as spectacular as the description advertised (something about Warm Black Bear Maple Syrup) but I can tell you my French Toast was everything and more!  In fact I'm going on record to say I've not had better.  They were delectable soft pillows and the caramelized apple with the fresh fruit and syrup became the perfect bite.  There was no desire for extra butter that I realized was missing from the table midstream. 
Brioche French Toast with Apple Compote, two sunny side eggs and sausage
  • This is the smile of a person who is happy to be alive but inside is thinking, where the fuck are my waffles!!?!  I know this woman enough to see in her face that what she really wanted was the over the top, diner or chain restaurant waffles stacked with the tower of fake whipped cream and maybe maraschino cherries on top.  The quaint French brunch vibe of Cafe Luluc was not the perfect choice. I go on record to also say I am not great at picking the right spots.  There is a real art to this and I hope to get better because it's an important part of any outing. 

Monday, February 13, 2023

Child of Nature, Friend of Man

When faced with buckets of fresh basil, a normal person would share it but fearing the supply wouldn't last, and subsequently, I was right, it didn't, I looked for new ways to feature it in whatever I was eating.  For this mock Shake n' Bake chicken, I created a yogurt, basil dressing.  The cool freshness of the sauce went well with the hot spicy chicken.   
For the sauce: I whizzed up yogurt, garlic, lemon, jalapeno and basil, s&p and olive oil.  I also added a teaspoon of a Ranch Dressing packet.  That added the perfect umami. 

As taste buds evolve and palettes become more sophisticated, we tolerate and demand more garlic, more herbs, more spice.  Also growing up recipes were like scientific facts, you didn't mess with the equations. You followed instructions to the T.  Today, somehow, we became free to experiment and mix and match assorted elements with less rules and it's opened up tons of possibilities.   

Thursday, February 9, 2023

I May Be Used But Baby I Ain't Used Up

My 61st birthday. After the big six-oh, birthdays are a bit odd. Who are you at this age?  As a woman, it's certainly not clear what your role is in society, especially if you are not a mother, a grandmother, or career woman.  I will say there is a bit of freedom in realizing, there are less and less people living who really care about you.  It's becomes more apparent that we walk out of this world alone, eventually.  And that's not sad because at this point, you're less scared to leave.  But what do you do with the todays, the right nows?  
Thai delivery because some of us have birthdays in the bowels of winter when without sounding like the biggest bore, the best thing I can come up with is great take out.  Another thing about aging is you are boring without being bored, which again, sounds so sad but you care less and less about what things sound like at 61.  
Fried Shrimp Rolls

Kang Nuur and Kang Panang Gai
The decade of 60 is an unknown chapter, just like all of them have been.  The more life goes on, the less comfortable it becomes.  You've seen a lot but you haven't seen it all.  I guess you just have to keep showing up and see what happens. 

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Ageless and Ever, Evergreen

Shrimp and Basil Pesto Noodles
I added shrimp to my Basil Pesto noodles for dinner as a side to my leftover chicken scarpiello.
For breakfast, quick toasted scramble tacos with herby eggs using my giant sack of organic pesto from P's job.  Getting fresh herbs regularly is awesome but you must use them fairly quickly, so there is a bit of pressure to do something grand or original.  However, I was told by the urban farmers not to store in the refrigerator but dry on the counter, in the bag.  But the truth is, you should use them in almost everything because fragrant herbs perk up almost any vegetable or meat.  

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Crimson and Clover, Over and Over

Herby-Turkey Taco Salad Bowl
If you have extra cilantro and herbs and a green apple, then a jalapeno herby salad is the perfect bed for ground turkey and pinto beans seasoned with cumin and chili powder.  Add chips and you have a satisfying bowl of hot and cold, crunchy and soft bits, with a little heat and the sweet bite of the apple.  
A Taco Salad - nothing new but surely worth making nonetheless.

Organic Basil Pesto with Peanuts
P brought home a giant bag of basil from his Urban Farming job. Even though I put a ton in the salad, I realized I had to make a pesto.  I only had peanuts instead of pine nuts but it turned out great, and to lighten the oil intake, I replaced half with chicken stock.  I had to do a taste test with some linguini and although it's best with all the extra fats, this was light and refreshing.  Prepared this way, it could be eaten at room temperature or chilled, like Chinese Peanut Noodles. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Leave Me Alone, I'm a Family Man

Chicken Scarpiello
Potatoes, sausage and chicken in a briny, pickled pepper sauce.  This was so up my alley that I now place it in my imaginary list of dishes that I cook without fail.  The Sip and Feast site has changed up my chicken game a few times this year.  An Italian home cook without all the overdone heavy accented stereotype hype about the Italian ways. I'm talking to you, every Italian YouTube chef over 50!  

If you're someone who likes a jar of something pickled at the table, along with your dinner, like stuffed olives or Gardenia Mix, you will love this dish.  My only issue is the amount of pans it takes to make it. You brown the chicken on the stovetop and then a pan for the garlic and peppers, wine and stock. Then you have the roasting pans.  But sometimes, here and there we have it in us to throw caution to the wind and dirty a bunch of pots in order to achieve a dinner that's a step above.  
Sometimes you get the potatoes just right and they become crispy pillows
Jim, the Sip and Feast chef is a breath of fresh air in that he wears his heart on his sleeve.  You see all the love, frustration, fear, hurt and angst in his face as his young son rates his dinners at the end of the clips from 1 to 10.  His son and his whole family are adorable and it is rare to see anything real, that's also interesting these days. His wife makes appearances and is also refreshingly honest, not over doing it on her ratings.  She says what she thinks and I'm positive he drives her nuts but she's a good person and tolerates all of this madness, I imagine.  This new 'career' of being a YouTube star.  In my opinion video cooks make the mistake of trying to impersonate professionals but what we really want to see and hear is people cooking their own way.  There is an art to filming cooking segments in order for them to entertain as well as teach. It's good to see how it's done but we don't need to see onions chopped for 5 minutes with computer generated music behind it as if we're all dancing to it in our living rooms.  So, I give props to this Long Island family man.  I've learned a bunch from him this year and have enjoyed all of his slightly anal nerdiness.  He shares is family but does not exploit them.