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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Cooking at Night

So, I had this brilliant idea that I was going to try a new lasagna recipe.  I mean, it looks delicious, right?  Of course, I didn’t really note the complexity of it – or the length of time it would take – until it was too late.  So.  I’m making lasagna at night, and I probably won’t be done until like 11 pm.  I’m a ridiculous person.

And no, I don’t know why I didn’t just do lasagna the way that I always do, with jar sauce and with the recipe I’ve been making for 20 years.  Well, except I do.  It all began when I learned that one of the people who will eat this lasagna is A Picky Eater.  And the whole reason I said I’d make lasagna in the first place was because this person suggested it.  So I felt a) a challenge to make something that would push this person out of his comfort zone a bit while at the same time, I was Being Accommodating to Pickiness (which I sort of hate, but whatever).  And I agreed to make the lasagna, too, because I knew I have Writing Group coming up on Thursday, so I figured that this would be a two birds with one stone sort of endeavor – I mean, really, once you’re making one lasagna, you might as well make a couple more. See?  I’m not going to all this effort for a Picky Eater!  I’m actually saving time and being smart.  Except, of course, I’m making a lasagna that takes like 75 hours to cook and has tons of steps and whatever, and let’s be real: I wouldn’t be doing all that if I didn’t want to dazzle the Picky Eater.

And can I just say that I feel that liking a picky eater enough to actually cook for one is really a horrible tragedy in my life.  I am a person who will eat anything and who is an inventive cook.  And I internalized a belief somewhere around the age of five that people who are picky are ungrateful and selfish, and also that they lack imagination.  (Yes, I realize that this is a mean way to be, and that I am prejudiced and awful.)

So yes, I am cooking a lasagna that takes 235 hours to prepare.  Because it’s the “smart” thing to do.

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Dr. Crazy’s Fabulous Chicken

Ok, as you all know, when I post a recipe that is invented, I’m shit with the amounts of things.  What you may not know, however, is that I never have a problem replicating my own recipes, so I think the issue is that I go by “feel” rather than by measurement, and my “feel” is consistent, even if I don’t communicate the measurements perfectly.  So.  Here are the ingredients I used, with asterisks for ones that I’m not certain about.

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 medium onion, diced

5 carrots, peeled and diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 to 1 tbsp crushed red pepper*

2 cups* chicken stock  (I used homemade; I believe it probably made a major flavor difference)

1/2 to 1 cup pinot noir (the same one you’ll drink with the meal)*

2 chicken thighs (but I bet you could do 4 with the above measurements of other ingredients – ish – and it would be fine, as I ended up with probably what for most people would be way too much sauce and veg; if you wanted to do more chicken, then you’d just add more of the other stuff, I suppose), bone in, skin on

1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp flour (I used whole wheat but I’m sure all-purpose would be fine, too)

1 tbsp light butter (though obviously full fat butter would likely be fine, too – it’s just about what I had on hand)

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat oil in a pot that can go from stove-top to oven.
  3. While the oil heats, season chicken thighs with salt and pepper, and then coat in flour.
  4. When the pot is hot (ha!  that rhymes) brown the chicken in batches (as is necessary… this is more an issue if you use more chicken) until the skin is crispy and browned, a few minutes each side.
  5. While the chicken is cooking, dice your onion.
  6. Once the chicken is browned, take it out of the pot and put on a plate or platter or whatever.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook the onion in the fat that remains in the pot, scraping off any delicious brown bits from the bottom of the pot.  You want to cook the onion until it just begins to brown, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
  8. Once the onion is in the pot, peel and chop the carrots, throwing the carrots in with the onion, stir them around, and then raise the heat to medium-high.  Season with salt and pepper, and also the crushed red pepper.
  9. While all of that is happening, peel and mince your garlic (I suppose you could use a garlic press, but I sort of don’t believe in them – basically, I feel like the fewer gadgets the better, and this is especially true since I bought my Knives of Tenure, which are AWESOME.  If you have crappy knives, though, you might want to do the garlic press.)
  10. When things are about a minute from being done, throw in the garlic.  (Basically, you don’t want the garlic to burn)
  11. Once all of that is done, then you want to add the wine, and bring it to a boil.
  12. Once the wine is at a boil, then add the chicken stock, and bring it back up to a boil, and boil for five minutes.
  13. Return the chicken to the pot, and make sure the liquid/veg is covering the chicken.  Cover the pot tightly with foil and stick it in the oven.  Set the timer for one hour.  Go about your business.

[But actually, if you're me, you set the timer for 30 mins.  And when it goes off, you head back to the kitchen and you dice three slices of bacon and throw them in a pan and make them crispy.  While the bacon is becoming crispy, you mince maybe a half-cup of onion* (I did half of a medium-sized onion) and you destem a bunch kale that you washed earlier and chop it to like 1 inch pieces.  When the bacon is crispy, you use a slotted spoon to take it out of the pan, and, with only two tablespoons of the bacon fat in the pan, you throw in the onion.  When the onion is soft, you throw in the kale, and you dump like a cup of chicken stock on top of it, and with the heat on medium-high to high, you stick a lid on it and cook it for 13 minutes.  Once that's done, you begin to make some creamy polenta.  (That's the recipe I use, but I like to finish with some parm and a bit of butter - makes it even more delightful - and I usually use skim milk 'cause it's what I've got on hand.)  And once the 13 minutes are up on the kale, you remove the lid and cook it until the chicken stock has evaporated.]

And then – like magic! – it’s time to take the chicken out of the oven!  And you do, and then you put all the veg and the chicken on a plate or platter or something, and then you bring the liquid back up to a boil.  Once it’s boiling, you add a tablespoon of butter and two tablespoons of flour (like, scattering it as you add it) and you whisk like your life depends on it until the cooking liquid (a delicious melange of stock, wine, and chickeny vegetably goodness) reduces and thickens to a nice saucy, gravy-ish consistency.  (This only takes maybe 5 minutes)

And then, you stick your delicious meal on a plate – chicken that is falling off the bone and yet the skin is not mushy, carrots that are divine and firm and yet supple, if that makes sense, creamy polenta, and the greens which have some tooth to them, with the crisp of the bacon.  And the SAUCE.  I could drink it.

And no, there’s no picture, because other than my problems with measurements, my other problem as a food blogger is that I always forget to make a pretty plate and take a picture because I’m so stoked to eat what I cooked.

Now, since I don’t know if the measurements are totally right, you might not be able to actually make this for yourself.  But take it from me: it’s AWESOME.  (I forced myself not to eat all of it – rather, I was responsible and put away all the leftovers immediately upon finishing my one serving.  And I was entirely satisfied…. and yet?  If I had not been doing weight watchers for over a year?  I’d totally have eaten every stinking drop and drunk the extra gravy.  It was that good.

And yes, I did all of that just for myself.  Not for a dinner party, not for guests from out of town, not for a boyfriend or for my parents.  Because you know why?  Sometimes it’s nice to do that sort of thing for yourself.

 

 

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Yes, I Do Still Cook Things

But I won’t lie: since the start of the semester “cooking” has often been “make a sad sandwich for dinner.”  And it was so hot this summer that I basically rotated a few salads and didn’t do much.  But the weather has been cool this week, and I feel like I need to make something delightful (and healthy!) as a treat for surviving the past three weeks.  So, tonight’s menu is….

A greatly modified version of this recipe (quantity reduced; no bacon; no “boiling onions” – ew; many ingredients exchanged… basically, I just like the technique for cooking the chicken and it will be a totally different recipe.) served with kale over creamy polenta.  And no, I’m not having people over.  But just because I’m not doesn’t mean I don’t deserve a kick-ass dinner to end the week.)

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Food

I have a lot more to write about my trip than this, but my dinner at Craigie on Main was absolutely the highlight.  I mean, seriously, it was…. just, I can’t even talk about it.  So rather than try, I’m just going to tell you what I ate :)

Amuse Bouche: squid “noodles” that i can only describe as heavenly.

Appetizer: six winter-point oysters on the half shell with a candied lemon mignonette.  At this point I was barely articulate and grinning like a fool.

Entree:  Vermont Pork Three-Ways: Crispy Suckling Confit, Grilled Belly, Spice-Crusted Rib with red beets, crispy red quinoa, pomegranate coulis, and foie gras jus.  I took a horrible picture of it with my phone and put it up on facebook because I was in love with it so much.  Tragically, because of the poor quality of the photo and shrunk down to thumbnail size, it looked like a penis on the plate.  Whatever, it was magnificent.  And I must find a way to replicate that crispy quinoa because it really was more than I’d ever imagined quinoa could be, and I love quinoa.

And then, in the perfect conclusion to the meal….

Dessert: Apricote Frangipane Torte with pistachio crust, grains of paradise, and amaretto ice cream.

The food was superb, the service fantastic, the wine with our meal (recommended by our server) and wine with dessert (a pairing chosen by the chef) perfect, and the company (I went with BFF and FBA) divine.

It was, as a dining experience, my fantasy made real, which I know sounds like hyperbole, but seriously, I can’t say it any other way.  It was perfection.  (Also: we all ordered different things, and I can attest to the fact that FBA had the most perfectly cooked halibut I’ve ever tasted and the hangar steak that BFF ordered was the Platonic ideal of steak.)

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Writing Group Menu

It’s the final writing group meeting of the semester this week…. and I’ve decided on the menu.

City chicken (if you don’t know what this is, it’s cubed pork/veal on a skewer that is then breaded, fried, and baked).  It was quite possibly my absolute favorite thing as a child.  I mean, what’s not to love? Fried pork and veal on a STICK!  I’ve done some research and apparently this dish is a geographic invention of the rust belt from the Great Depression when chicken was expensive.

Cabbage and beet salad with a lemon vinaigrette, which is actually a Lebanese recipe, but is cole-slaw-like and yet I like it better than regular cole slaw.

Home-made cornbread (because I’ve been jonesing for cornbread).

I wish that I could make and consume all of this food right this minute.  However, I must go for a walk (in order to try to compensate for the fried meat on a stick I’ll be eating this week) and then get to campus where I have an afternoon of meetings waiting for me.

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So Roxie posted an update on the “weight loss journey” of her incredible shrinking typist, and this has inspired me to provide an update about my own progress (which is sloooowwww, to be honest) on that score.

I don’t have a lot of deep reflection to offer, really.  I’ve never really had issues with my weight – not in the sense that I’ve ever been “thin” exactly…. I’m just not built for thin-ness.  As a kid, I was always big for my age – not fat, just “big.”  Tall and heavy, as in me at a size x weighs more than another person at the same size.  As my mom was inclined to describe me, I was a “big girl.”  Now, I did not love that description, particularly in high school, and I was inclined to take it as an insult.  But, really, as descriptions go, it is sort of true.  I’m not “slim” and I’m not “slender” – even when I am at my smallest.  My smallest is, at the end of the day, a big, solid size.  I haven’t worn clothing smaller than a size 10 since I was like, I don’t know, 12 years old?  I have broad shoulders, broad hips – even if I weighed less and less, it would be a baggy size 10 for me.  And, seriously, me at a size 10 means my clavicle juts out and I can look kind of sickly.

But so if anything, the way that I got to the Biggest Crazy Ever has something to do with the fact that I actually have long accepted that I would never be “small.”  When you know that “small” is an impossibility, it can actually be pretty easy to expand beyond the limits of “healthy.”  It’s sort of like a high self esteem version of thinking that you’re “too fat” no matter what your size: instead, you always think you look great, and you somehow live in denial that your size keeps increasing.

So anyway, that’s what happened to me.  I just didn’t really realize that I’d crossed the line from “big girl” to “too big girl.” Until I finally did realize it.

But so anyway, in some respects that’s good, as I’m not terribly concerned about impossible standards of beauty in American culture, or whatever.  It also means that I’ve never really been a dieter, and what attempts I’ve made historically to “diet” generally weren’t really “diets” at all, or not ones that I ever followed with any sort of true commitment.  In contrast to Moose, I am not a “good” dieter.  I refuse to be regimented.  When in doubt, I will always have that glass of wine; I will always have that pasta with cream sauce.  I am of the carpe diem school of food consumption, and I was very clear about the fact that if I really intended to take off the extra weight that I’d need to work with that tendency as opposed to pretending that I was a different person from the one that I am.

[Aside: This is not unlike the fact that I think I've finally come to terms with the fact that I will never be a different scholar from the one that I am.  I look longingly at those people who "write first" every single day; I admire those people who grade five papers a day and finish with the stack by Friday.  That said, I'm just not that person.  And I've found that accepting how I work ends with me accomplishing a heck of a lot more than trying to fit myself into a mold that isn't "me".]

The return from sabbatical, combined with the winter doldrums, combined with getting strep throat in February, well, it has meant that my weight loss has slowed considerably.  In this three months that Moose has lost 27 pounds, and my friend J. who also started the WW in January has lost like 35 pounds, I’ve lost…. wait for it…. in the neighborhood of 8 to 10 pounds.  It’s not exactly a plateau, because I do continue to lose VERY VERY small amounts per week, but to call it a plateau would mean that I was really working the program to the best of my ability.  And I’m not.  I’m just doing my best to maintain, to remain conscious of what I’m eating, even if it means that I’m conscious of not remaining totally on track.

That said, I wore two skirts this week that I haven’t been able to wear since 2006, and I fit into one of my suits that I haven’t been able to wear since 2006 (and, actually, the pants of that suit I couldn’t even wear in 2006 without spanks, so I’m actually smaller than I was the last time I wore that suit).  Which means that even though I don’t feel like I’m making progress because the progress is so slow, I’m actually making progress.

Now, do I hope to speed things up again when the semester comes to an end?  Yes.  Do I plan to be more focused on the plan once classes are through?  Totally.  Do I still hope to go down a size or two?  Sure.  But I don’t feel like there’s a time-line on getting to a smaller size.  I think it’s ok if it takes a little longer as long as I’m moving in the right direction.  I think it’s ok if it takes a little longer as long as once I get where I’m headed I can maintain it, and I don’t think, given my personality, I would be able to maintain a more regimented approach.

So I’m not an incredible shrinking Crazy.  Instead, I’m more like a slowly but surely contracting Crazy, a Crazy whom people don’t really encounter as having lost weight, but whom people are encountering as looking nice, whom people are complimenting on her clothes or hair or skin.  And I’m feeling good about how I look, and I haven’t consciously felt that in a long time.  I feel like I’m taking care of myself.

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I decided this week that I was going to attempt cooking fried rice, which I’ve never cooked before, mostly motivated by my desire for Chinese food and my desire not to eat a gajillion points in order to have Chinese food.  And it’s Chinese New Year starting today, and well, yeah.  Anyway.  So I’d cooked boneless pork chops a couple of days ago, and the idea was that I would transform them into pork fried rice yesterday.  But then I looked at a bunch of recipes, and the one caution in all of them is that you must use COLD rice, OR THE WORLD WILL COME TO A STICKY STICKY END, and so I cooked the rice yesterday but couldn’t make the dish.  And then I’m not sure when I’ll get home tonight, and tomorrow night I’m going out to dinner, and so that meant that I needed to chef up the fried rice this morning.

My question is this: Why doesn’t everybody make their own fried rice? Because 1) it’s easy, 2) it’s delicious, and 3) it’s the perfect way to transform leftovers.  And did I mention that it’s delicious?  And when you make it yourself you can make it spicier and more delicious?  And it’s not gross, as fried rice can sometimes be?

Yes, I ate fried rice for breakfast.  What?  It’s Chinese New Year, dammit, and I can do what I want to! And it was delicious and only 6 points per cup! (Of course, I had two cups, so there’s that, but I have a long teaching day ahead of me!  And then knitting!  I won’t have another meal for like 12 hours!)

Ok, I must go and get on with my day.  As it is I think I’m going to be running late and unprepared for all the things I need to do today.  Sigh.

Oh.  But one last thing.  You know what’s nice?  To look at your phone as you’re drinking your first sip of coffee and to find a text message declaring your awesomeness.  Compliments + Fried Rice = Excellent Start to the Day.

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