Friday, July 27, 2012

Pig Candy!

I know that all the snotty hipster-foodies (I might be one, so I think it's ok to say that..) will snub their noses at a "bacon" recipe, chiding that bacon is "so 2010."

It's true, Bacon is to 2010 what black truffles were to 2007 or avocados were in 1999 (sun-dried tomato of 1996?? Pesto anyone?? I digress).  Food has trends like anything else I suppose, but unlike neons, baby-doll dresses or corduroy jumpers I feel like a delicious thing is a delicious thing, and it's less likely to be "dated" in it's deliciousness just because all the cool chefs have moved onto smoked sturgeon roe as the ingredient du jour.

Anywhoo, I've seen variations on candied bacon, so after a brief moment of research googling. I combined a few suggestions and set out for my own candied deliciousness as a bit of a bar snack.

Pig Candy:

Bacon (thick, delicious bacon)
Brown sugar (still soft)
Cayenne Pepper (caliente!)
Deep cookie dish
Cooling Rack

First off, I covered my deep cookie dish in foil, since I planned on baking the bacon and hate cleaning up grease splatters.  It's not Green, but it's easy.

Preheat the oven to 370 and get your pig ready to be candied.

I mixed about 1 cup brown sugar with an 1/8th of a teaspoon of the Cayenne so that it was a spicy-sweet.  (the pepper will bloom and get hotter as it cooks... so start milder than you want to end with).

Then, place the cooling rack in the cookie sheet and lay your bacon slabs out on it in a manner that will minimize them slipping through the bars as it cooks.  Finally, using a spoon, or your fingers, or a small spatula (my favorite) pile on the sugar/pepper mix and compressed it down on each piece of bacon.  you want the bacon totally covered with a solid crust of sugar.  (yummo)

Slip the whole shebang in the oven for about 10 min, or until the bacon is clearly cooking "well."  I left it in there until the edges started to curl and all of the sugar melted into a nice liquid.  If you still see granulated sugar... leave it in.

After those first 10(ish) minutes, pull the tray out and let the bacon cool enough that the sugar hardened into a crust before carefully flipping your bacon over.  pile more sugar/pepper on the back side (same thickness as the first round) before returning it all to the over for another 10ish minutes.  The bacon can burn (so can the sugar), but I prefer my bacon to be closer to crispy than fatty and chewy - so I just watched it like a hawk until I thought everything was nicely cooked through.

flipping and covering (again) with sugar
When you remove the bacon from the oven be patient and let it cool for a while.  The more the sugar can firm up and harden, then better.  Finally, serve the deliciousness however you want - but my preferred method is snipped up into little bite sized pieces so that you can serve them as life-changingly delicious bar snacks. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer Spaghetti in Suburbia

Pasta is a mainstay in our house.  The Boy loves it (any of it) and it's one thing that I find I have a hard time ruining while I cook. 

Also, if it doesn't taste good - I can always add more wine, garlic and salt (in that order).


However my instinct with pasta is to just keep adding things (wine, garlic, salt) until I end up with a rich, heavy, delicious wintery dish.  It takes a bit more self control (and a bit less wine-garlic-salt) for me to plate up something that is seasonally appropriate for summer weather.

With The Boy away with friends for the weekend in LA, I was left to my own devices for far too long and decided to welcome him home in truly suburban fashion - namely a home cooked pasta meal complete with a wife in a pink summer dress. 

Welcome home dear.
At first I felt slightly absurd for not just microwaving a hot-pocket in my sweats, but as it turns out it was really fun to cook up something delicious and actually take the time to put a stitch of makeup on before The Boy's return.... Not that this will be happening on a daily basis anytime soon.

But onto the important issue - PASTA.

I usually only cook pasta when my fridge is running low of inventory and the pantry is getting bare.  consequently, the "recipe" is based off of whatever produce hasn't rotted and whatever basics I still have.

For this instance we started with 20 oz of lean ground turkey (always stashed in the freezer!) browned with 1/2 an onion (all that I had left) and some red pepper flakes.

Then we added a jar of Prego (mmmm, cheating), two shakes of Worcestershire sauce, a healthy pour of a lighter red wine and turned the whole thing to simmer. 

Then, sensing my immediate desire to douse the whole thing  in some heavy cream and to swap the dress our for sweats and a Grey's Anatomy marathon... I dove into the remnants of my produce drawer and emerged with Carrots (lots) and a big red pepper (only squishy on one small spot).  Everything was rough chopped and tossed in.  The heat was turned up and I splashed a bit more wine in as I topped off my own glass (one for me... one for sauce..).

Adding a fresh pepper really brightens up a marinara sauce and gives it that "veggie" flavor that I usually manage to snuff out in garlic and cream.  I successfully resisted the urge to add cream, but I did sprinkle in a heavy dose of William Sonoma's "toasted onion powder" that gave the whole thing a bit of a fresh-cookout-flavor.  Some fresh Thyme and Basil was chopped and tossed in, then the whole pot was covered and set to simmer while I dashed off to the airport to get The Boy.

Upon our return I did one more round of red wine (some for me, some for the sauce), before boiling up some fettuccine and spooning the chunky, glumpy sauce over the top.  Simple, easy, and surprisingly appropriate for a summer evening out of the deck. 
Plenty 'o veggies
Plus I got credit for a fully home cooked meal when really I just kept tossing things in the pot with my Prego. 


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Maintaining Momentum

Whoops! I'm totally the worst.  If my blogging is any indication of how well I've been executing other life responsibilities... well, then you have a pretty good idea as to how much is getting done..


The truth of the matter is that I'm having way to much fun with everything going on to pay any measly attention to housewifery.  The upside of that is lots of fun, bougie activities... like.... wine tasting! showing horses! traveling to vacation homes and... working (kinda).
The horse.  doing what she does.

The Husband, looking like he might actually enjoy wine...
The group.  DEFINITELY enjoying wine
I wouldn't deign to complain about my situation, but... uh... well. It's not exactly working any wonders for my cooking/cleaning skills (or my waistline quite frankly). 

I have discovered one brilliant new recipe that's worth sharing -

Brad's Sausage Balls  (I tried to think of a better name, but Brad makes them.  And, well - they're balls of sausage). (Brad is the one in the stripey shirt, this is his invention)

One loaf delicious breakfast sausage (if you're in the northwest I recommend Isernio's )
A shake (or two) of Bisquick
A shake (or two) of grated cheddar cheese

Mash ingredients together with hands (like mixing beef with delicious things for hamburger patties)
Then drop quarter sized rounds onto an ungreased (sausage needs no grease!) cookie sheet and pop it into a hot (350ish) oven till golden and cooked through.

What I love about these little buggers (aside from their close relation to popcorn shrimp, popcorn chicken and any other "popcorn" sized fried thing) is that they are easy to eat, quick to make and make your house smell amazing while you then make some coffee or perhaps cut up some fruit for a salad (if you like that sort of thing). 

Me? I just stare obsessively at the oven waiting to get the little things out and dunked into a pot of maple syrup (the real stuff!) before downing all of them. 

(if you are a compulsive gobbler like yours truly I recommend chicken or turkey breakfast sausage so that you hate yourself a little less after eating an entire pound of these things).

Yup, Sausage Balls.  You'll thank me later.  But that's about all I've got.

Like Barbie says "Math Housekeeping is hard!"

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Life of Leisure?

The prep for the wedding saw my absolute peak of working out combined with not eating like a starved golden retriever.. (that is to say, stuffing anything, including shoe leather into my face).

I'm capable of eating healthy, balanced meals regularly- and I'm also capable of working out more than the average bear, but rarely do those habits coincide and result in losing those hateful 5 lbs which I'm pretty sure are the only thing between me and paid red carpet appearances...

The wedding however managed to inspire some serious effort (without total obsession) with regard to not eating crap and working out regularly at the same time.  When I say "not eating crap" I should clarify.  I still had pasta, and wine, and cheese.  But I typically managed less pasta, less wine and less cheese... or at least I managed not to cook with those three items as my primary ingredients for each snack and meal. 

Also, when I say "working out regularly" I mean 30 minutes with Ann Curry and Matt Lauer in the morning, stopping to sip on my latte and stretch ever 12-14 minutes.  I did couple this with seeing a personal trainer 3-4 times a week, but I have him sufficiently terrified of my lower back and left knee issues that I have probably sabotaged all but the most basic benefit from those sessions...

Those powers combined, I managed to loose probably 2 of the 5 hateful pounds ruining my life of leisure, which is admittedly closer than I've ever been before.

That is until The Boy and I went on our incredibly extended perfectly planned honeymoon.  Typically when I vacation I find myself departing in an adorably appropriate outfit for the locale but returning in something decidedly more tragic such as sweatpants and loose fitting tube top.  This is usually due in part to the extreme bloat and weight gain I am capable of in 5 short days, but also sometimes because of crippling sunburn which will end up preventing me from comfortably wearing anything from shoes with laces to a bra. 

Charming, I know.

Anyway,  imagine my surprise when after 3 weeks of 6 course meals and essentially brushing my teeth with wine instead of Tanzanian tap water, I returned home to my exact wedding weight.

(note.  I do not condone weighing oneself as a consistent measure of fitness.  Scales lie.  I know this. I have been both skinny and muscled at the same exact same weight that will other times prevent zipping of even my most forgiving jeans.  It's cruel)

What was I doing on a scale then you ask? well... in my absolute panic surrounding my limitation of 30lbs of luggage for safari I had rigged a rather elaborate scale system that allowed me to balance my bag on the bathroom scale while still being able to view the measurement.

Bigger minds might inquire as to why I didn't simply stand on the scale, weight myself, then pick up my bag and do the simple subtraction to learn the weight of my bag.   If I were clever, I'd say that I was avoiding having to learn - and then obsess about my own weight - but in point of fact this option just occurred to me as I'm typing this, so now I just feel silly.

Regardless of how I got there, I cannot overemphasize my complete and utter confusion at the thought that three weeks of total indulgence and gluttony somehow resulted in not ruining my wedding weight.  A stomach flu or two would have been an acceptable explaination, but I had nothing.

A friend finally hit the nail on the head (I think) when she deduced that my body just must really enjoy vacation.  In fact, I believe she said it must be "made for a life of leisure." 

Those women's mags always talk about how once you figure out your sleep cycle and drink enough water and take your vitamins and stretch and do yoga... the weight just magically falls off and stays off.

Apparently the "permanent life change" that my body craves is a five star resort on a tropical African Isle. 


Monday, March 26, 2012

Shamelessly.... lazy? (and a new casserole!)

So among the things that I am (apparently) horrible at doing regularly - I assure you that a long list of household chores is included in that statement - blogging appears to be one of them.

I will use the gold standard of excuses (which is anything WEDDING RELATED for those of you who haven't figured that out yet) and absolve myself of any real responsibility or accountability for much of anything else.

Sadly for me, I think the anything-wedding-related excuse window is running out - since... well, the Honeymoon was really the last box to check in that category.  sad for me. 

But since we were on our (totally fabulous wonderfully magical and completely exhausing) honeymoon, I don't feel bad about ignoring my cute little domestic blog.

I am choosing not to address the fact that the blog remained ignored for a few weeks upon our return.  I suggest you ignore that fact as well.

Thank you.

So! for my triumphant return, I bring to you a tried and tested recipe - and a casserole at that! cooked in my Le Creuset! If that doesn't sound domestic to you I don't know what would.  Maybe attaching mop heads to my feet so that I simultaneously scrub the floor while I chase the cat... who knows.

Chicken Tamale Casserole (courtesy of Cooking Light)


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1 cup (4 ounces) preshredded 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese, divided (I'm pretty sure I used more)
1/3 cup fat-free milk (I used Lactaid)
1/4 cup egg substitute (I used an egg)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (tablespoon!)
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (more!)
1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn (ew. normal corn, RINSED)
1 (8.5-ounce) box corn muffin mix (Jiffy!)
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
Cooking spray
1 (10-ounce) can red enchilada sauce (spicy!)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (I shredded a roasted chicken from the deli and used all of it)
 Preheat the oven to 400. and combine 1/4 cup of the cheese (I probably used more.. if you're noticing a pattern, good for you Gumshoe!) with the next 7 ingredients (through the chiles).  This should make a pretty lumpy, not too wet cornbread mixtrue.  Spray your 9x13 le creuset and dump it all in.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes - but error on the side of over cooking the bread/crust.  If the base is mushy, it's only going to get mushier and that's not delicious.
Then, the recipe calls for poking holes in the bread, pouring the enchilada sauce over it and covering the whole thing in chicken, then cheese and popping it back in the oven for another 15 minutes to warm, melt and get burbbly (technical term patented by my mom).

I decided that I wanted a bit more flavor so I chopped up some onion shallots that have been in my fridge for 2 months and a can of (rinsed) black beans to the chicken.  I think I also salted the chicken and gave it a healthy sprinkle of more chili powder.  I definitely did NOT use all of the enchilada sauce since the only negative reviews I saw were that this came out soupy and mushy.  (also, I cheaped out and bought some weird enchilada sauce that was on sale and I thought it tasted weird).

15 minutes for the second baking seemed perfect and the result was beyond delicious.  I used a few minutes of convection baking to really brown up the cheese and then let the thing sit for 5 minutes before dissecting it.  I garnished with sour cream (Cooking Light says "fat free" sour cream, but that tastes like crap) and some chopped avocado. 
I definitely used more cheese than called for...
 If I were to make it again, I think I'd consider more fresh peppers or onion in the cornbread and maybe playing more with the chicken spices before adding that layer.  All in all, totally delicious, minimal prep time and lots of leftovers so I won't have to cook again for a few days.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sterling Sterling...

Chock this one up to First-World-Problems, but The Boy and I are DROWNING in flatware.  Literally drowning. 

We have our old stainless flatware.  Simple, sturdy, totally well balanced.. Settings for 10.  Then, we registered for new Stainless (at the urging of my mother).  We now have 12 full place settings of the Charlotte pattern from Crate & Barrel.  I nearly returned them, but upon putting the dinner fork in my hand, I just couldn't bear it.  The Charlotte collection is so heavy eating almost counts as working out, and I just loved the tapered tines, and depth of the spoons.  I can hear how desperately nerdy that sounds even as I type it, but really.... it's true.
Simple... just so, so lovely...

Anyway, a new set of flatware isn't obscene.. but it starts to feel absurd when piled on top of the family silver that we were also bestowed as a wedding gift. 

12 gleaming place settings of Royal Danish silver. 

and 12 gleaming settings of King Richard.

And all their serving pieces... 

That means we now have 46 full place settings to somehow organize and store in our kitchen.  Anyone up for a dinner party?  See? First-World-Problems.

If your appalled by this decadence, then I suggest you skip the rest of this post, as it will be spent discussing the relative merits of the two sets and their possible future uses.  Boring to some, but FASCINATING to me. 

Silver is a tradition that I'm somewhat sad to see disappearing.  I can understand why we don't register for china (this bitch doesn't hand wash dishes).  But almost all your silver does fine in a dishwasher, and is such a lovely touch to a casual dinner at home.  My dad grew up using his mom's silver every day.  He remembers slurping his cereal up with the Royal Danish - which in my mind, is how it should be. I suppose that's at $500-$800 a setting it's hideously expensive to purchase (I wouldn't never personally make the investment), and with all the new stainless alloys, it's possible to get the heft and the shine of silver without.... well, silver.

So, without further ado.. the Silver:

The first set comes from my paternal grandmother.  It's her wedding silver from when she and my grandfather were married.  They also came to inherit his father's Silver, which is going to my brother as he will have the appropriate family name to match the engraving :)

She bought us a beautiful new silver-cloth box, complete with plaque that has our wedding date, and theirs...  Which makes it feel even more special to me..
And the full collection -
The full place setting -
Royal Danish is a really nice, fairly modern pattern that I could see us using in a casual setting.  It doesn't feel too stuffy (for silver, lol) and the lack of crazy scrolling means less tarnish (yay!).

I had an inkling that we would be getting the Royal Danish, but the King Richard silver from my Mom's side of the family was a total surprise.  Frankly I think it surprised my mom too, as she sort of expected the silver to pass to her first (sucker! just kidding, she can't totally borrow it anytime she wants.. I swear).

It's as gaudy as gaudy gets and I Totally Love It
All of it. The Boy is less enamored with all of it's scrolling and whatnot, but I think it's pretty, and girly, and wonderful.

It needs a new box, as this one is literally coming apart at the seams, and lacks space for the serving pieces, but look at all that loveliness.
The thing that I love most about this set? Those spindly Iced Tea Spoons.  Makes me want to move to Georgia and build a wrap around porch... swoon.
Totally different look and feel than the Royal Danish.  Definitely more suited for formal dining, but I also totally enjoy the juxtaposition of the formal pattern on our modern, clean dining table.  Also, with the stark simplicity of our stoneware, I think it will look pretty striking.

Which brings us to our current problem.  How to store all this stuff.
We have the drawer space (assuming I relocate my stationary), but it's shockingly difficult to find silver-cloth inserts for drawers. 

In fact, it appears that the only real option is to have them custom made.  Something I'm not exactly giddy to spend money on, but I also know that if I have to go to the pantry, then get out a box, then open it to find a fork for my hot pocket... I'm never ever going to use the damn silver.

If my new massive closet has taught me anything, it's that things must be visible and easy to grab if you are ever going to utilize them.  Out of sight, Out of mind. 

I understand why some people choose not to use their silver on a daily basis.  But it feels like a hop, skip and a jump to putting plastic on your couch or a vinyl runner on your stairs. 

Nice things should be appreciated. 

and used.

And then polished...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Kitchen Koosh?

Among the fantastic wedding gifts we've been lucky to receive have been some spectacular Shun Cutlery pieces. 

Even though I keep my cooking to a minimum - I find myself fascinated and somewhat obsessed with really good knives and other random gadgets.  I suppose that makes sense since my shoe rack is taller than me, and my horses have more blankets, boots and bits than they could ever want or need...

So I like to shop.  And I have an appreciation for things that are well designed for their job. 

That's why I nearly peed when we received are bad-ass new knife block.  Skeptical that a plain 'ol knife block could be worthy of a bad-ass title?

Well stand aside - this little gem has solved my age old problem of managing my knife collection to fit the available slots on traditional knife blocks.  Instead, this thing is basically a giant hairbursh framed in a box, so you can just stab knives (and shears, and whatever else) into it for safe keeping however you see fit. 

one renegade Cutco remains...
It's sort of hard to see, but those are little plastic rods that bend out of place as you slide a blade in.  Totally solves the problem of not having enough "big" slots for my random choppers, tomato knives and slicers... It's  like a giant Koosh ball in a box!

Sneaky, huh?

In other news, it was a really gorgeously sunny day in Seattle yesterday and little dog scampered out onto her dock to see if anyone was sipping margaritas yet.  I think she's ready for Summer and afternoons lazing on the water... I can't say I blame her, but I'm pretty sure we've got...ohhhhhh.... another six months of rainy crap until that's a viable option.