Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What scares me most....

... lately, is fast food companies.

I enjoy fast food, I really do. In fact, I do too much, hence my own personal battles with the scale. There is something to be said about the wonderful familiarity of a Big Mac no matter where or when you order one.

I know our "on the go" country has a huge problem with fast food. And yes, we are responsible for our own decisions, but these companies ain't helping.

Two new commercials for new fast food products... Domino's "Double Crust" pizza and KFC's chicken strips that come in a package including three - count 'em THREE! - dipping sauces (out of a larger range of choices) that is marketed for those who need to eat in their car.

Seriously, companies?? Did the world need this??

As a general rule, I am not a fan of national chain pizza places. I grew up in a highly Italian neighborhood, and good, Neopolitan style pizza (I didn't know what "deep dish Chicago" pizza was until I was about 14) was very easy to find. Some better than others, but all of them worlds better than Pizza Smut or the others.

My mom could do a decent fried chicken, but with all the prep, cooking and cleaning time involved, we usually just picked up a bucket when it was on the evening menu.

I don't recall, any time in my childhood, ever munching on some fried chicken and thinking "Hmm. You know what this needs? Barbaque sauce. Or honey mustard. Or some ranch dressing.

I don't recall ever eating pizza and getting to the crust and wondering "Boy... I really need some garlic parmesan sauce to help this go down easier" or "This pizza is good... but it needs more crust. And should have a cheese stick involved in it somehow, because the cheese on top of the pizza isn't quite enough for my taste."

What the hell are these companies thinking? And how in the hell do these products make it past testing and out in to the market place??

I understand that a lot of these things are probably guilty food pleasures of some people. Hell, I eat chili on top of buttered crackers. But that is my weird deal. Everyone has one. But since when did those start becoming new marketing ideas? It's supposed to be things you do in the privacy of your own home, knowing it's kinda evil, while watching movies that your friends would mercilessly pick on you if they knew about. It's something that you KNOW is not good for you. Something you don't do every day, because it's not in your face.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Husband for sale... Husband for sale.....

No matter how much you love someone, there are moments where you look at that person and your mind wanders to the dark place where you wonder if you've watched enough episodes of CSI to hide the body and never get caught.

Today is one of those days.

Since Thursday night he's been on my case about something totally not under my control, and I'm about ready to go looking for a blunt object.

He came home from a crappy day at work... and let his bad attitude follow him right in to the house.

When I have a bad day? I get home, I clean up a little, I cook dinner, I eat, I clean again, and I just try to leave the day behind me and not make my bad day also end up ruining his day. I'm not that lucky.

I'm also highly unhappy after the cleaning and organizing of the basement this weekend, my excercise bike down there somehow got busted. I'm not namin' names, but when I was on it last week it was working fine. And with as stressful as today was and the week looks to be, I was really looking forward to getting on there and workin' out some stress. Instead, I'm chain smoking. That's a healthy swap out???

Did make some awesome (well, I thought so, hubby again let his bad mood try to ruin my dinner) crispy shrimp largely based off this recipe. I cut the oil to one tablespoon that I used to brown the panko in a skillet before the breading, and used one egg and one egg white. I thought they were pretty awesome.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Have I mentioned I hate cleaning???

So... back in my first year of college, our floor had two girls per room, and each two rooms shared a bathroom.

(I promise this will all start to make sense in a minute here)

And yes... if there are any males out there... four girls sharing a bathroom did make for some "oops" walk in moments. Like when one of the gals from the room next to us decided she didn't want to wake up her roomate to have some fun with a male friend, and my yelp when I walked in there (they forgot to lock the doors - smooth!) and woke up the two sleepers.

And one of these days I need to talk about how I got the nickname "Squeaky" my freshman year in college.....


One thing I hate most among all household tasks is cleaning the bathroom. That whole freshman year I lucked out, since the mom of one of the gals in the adjacent room had her mom come down, from Wisconsin, at least every other weekend to clean the bathroom.

It was soooo sweet.

Today, in addition to the grocery shopping and other more general cleanind and straightening up, was the upstairs bath. I could clean the downstairs bath until the cows come home... it's just a sink we never use and a toilet. Easy. But upstairs is the sink we use every morning, the toilet that the hubby uses the most, and the dreaded shower. Which, thanks to the horrid caulking skills of the people who lived here before, has some terrible mildew problems. And, oh yeah, it might also be worse since I don't clean it until it gets pretty bad. I'm willing to admit that.

After attacking it with a Clorox bleach pen, Tilex, and regular bath cleaner, it's done. Hurrah.

Also scrubbed off the nasty sink. Which isn't nearly as bad of a task now that I know to use a magic eraser thing on it.

The hubby spent the day in the basement, actually going thru some boxes and doing general organization. Got a couple boxes of junk thrown out, and found a few things I've been looking for since we moved in. Yay!!!

Dinner ended up being pizza. Hey, I'm not SuperGirl. A gal needs to have a half hour on a Saturday to sit around and do nuttin.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Food, glorius food!!!

I made a great breaded pork tenderloin last week (ala the pork cutlet you can find in a fried pork tenderloin sandwich that's popular in parts o' the midwest) and I thought I'd share with ya'll. It actually uses a technique I saw them use on America's Test Kitchen a couple weeks back for a lightened chicken parm recipe (that is equally awesome).

Lighter Breaded Pork Tenderloin
Serving Size : 6

1 1/ cups panko
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/ pounds pork tenderloin
1 1/ teaspoons garlic powder
salt and pepper -- to taste
3 large egg whites
1 tablespoon water
1/ cup all-purpose flour
vegetable cooking spray

Preparing the Pork tenderloin - Cut pork tenderloin in to 6 even sized pieces. Place on plastic wrap. Top with a second sheet of plastic wrap and pound gently to an even 1/4-inch thickness. Repeat with remaining cutlets, adding additional oil as needed.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees. Combine the bread crumbs and oil in a 12-inch skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until golden, about 10 minutes. Spread the bread crumbs in a shallow dish and cool slightly.

In a second shallow dish, combine the flour, garlic powder, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together. In a third shallow dish, whisk the egg whites and water together.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, place a wire rack on top, and spray the rack with vegetable oil spray. Pat the cutlets dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper.

Lightly dredge the cutlets in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip into the egg whites, and finally coat with the bread crumbs, Press on the bread crumbs to make sure they adhere. Lay the cutlets on the wire rack.

Spray the tops of the chicken with vegetable oil spray. Bake until the meat is no longer pink in the center and feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 15-20 minutes.

Funny how you just don't think of a simple thing like browning panko before you coat something... and wow, what a difference it makes. Both the chicken parm and the pork chops were beyond awesome for "light" food.

Also made an awesome Szechuan Shrimp recipe tonight... I've been trying to find a good one for awhile, and although I did a little switching of ingredients for what I had/didn't have easily on hand tonight. And I did use less soy sauce. Damn close to good versions I've gotten when we've eaten out (or take out) from our fave places.

Tomorrow I'm slummin' it food wise... well, lunch is going to be some lobster bisque that I am hoping is really really really close (or is) Hope & Tim's lobster bisque. They had their soups in one of the chain grocery stores around here for awhile, but those bastards then cut me off cold turkey! Not a container or drop of them to be found in any of the stores anymore. And trust me, I did my fare share of cleaning out the shelves of their stuff. It was all awesom. But I did notice on their site that they are also carried at Costco, and on a trip today, I saw a Kirkland brand lobster bisque that looks surprisingly like my lost love. We'll see.

What was I talking about before I had to write a paragraph on lobster bisque??

Oh yeah, slummy food.

Tomorrow is a Smothered Buttermilk Chicken recipe, I have heard good things about it from people who are equal food snobs, so we'll see. Even leaving out the peas, I'm thinking the hubby might not be such a fan of it, although he's getting over his buttermilk phobia, I've heard it's a lot like an inside of a chicken pot pie, and the hubby is not a fan of pot pies. We'll see. If the hubby doesn't want any, there is lunchmeat in the fridge and he's a big boy who can make a sammich for himself.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Another weekend gone...

Busy weekend for this Hausfrau.

I made Saturday a cleaning day. The hubby had to go in to work (and boy was he unhappy about that) so he had to get up early, so I just got up too. Glad I did, since the landscaping dudes for our townhome development were out early and damn, were they being loud.

Cleaning. Woo. Good times, good times. Did get a lot done, though. Put all the random shit laying around in it's proper place. Got on the floor and scrubbed at the neglected spots with a magic eraser (store brand, but man oh man I love those things). Then did proper cleaning of the tile floors with broom/Swiffer/wet Swiffer. Then hit the carpet with the vacuum. Then dusted. Then wiped the inside & outside of the front door glass (full glass screen door, oddly, pervious homeowners seem to have lost the screen to change it out) and the back sliding doors. You know you're bad at housework when the doors are dirtier on the inside than the outside. Sigh. Then it was wiping off the basement stairs, then scrubbing down the downstairs bath. Whew.

Then I decided to replant the lilac bush I've had in a pot since spring.... I bought two lilac bushes from Spring Hill Nursery in the spring, which arrived as pretty much single twigs in pots. Planted one out in the front planting bed, where it has pretty much died from not enough sun. I planted the other in a pot in the back to hope it would grow enough that I could replant it when we finally got rid of the damned tree that got bent when we had a really big snowfall over last winter....

And it was still pretty messed up after all the snow melted......

Since the tree dudes came this week and took the tree down, I could finally do something with the space left behind. So I put in the lilac bush. And pretty much right away figured the thing will probably die, since it is right next to our deck and the deck blocks a lot of the sun. At least, it's probably putting off the eventual death of it... if I left it in the pot, it'd die for sure over winter.

Damnit. I want my damned Sensation Lilac bush just like I had when I was growing up!!

Next, it was off to the grocery store. Which was oddly uncrowded.

Funny grocery store tales... a few weeks back, when I was having problems with icky nasty things residing in my wedding ring, I came home from the weekly grocery shopping and ranted to the hubby about how I hate going to the chain grocery store without my wedding rings, because the place is crawling with guys trying to pick up women. And I am so. done. with. that. I don't even find it flattering in that setting... I'm just trying to buy food and get out of there, leave me alone, please??

Since then, every time I tell the hubby I'm going to the grocery store, he asks to make sure I have my rings on. Not sure if it's just because he's sick of hearing me go off about it, or worried I'm eventually going to deck some dude and he'll get the call for bail money.

I did end up making the Superfast Salisbury Steaks for dinner on Saturday. Always good. Usually, if I'm doing the recipe as written (with the canned soup) I'll also sautee some mushroons and sliced onions to help boost the flavor. This time, I was using my own homemade french onion soup, so I didn't bother. That stuff is so loaded with onions it ain't needed.

I remember when my sis in law was pregnant with him. I remember being afraid she was going to go in to labor when I was taking a trip out to L.A. with friends to be crazy fangirls going to a band play. I remember when we all celebrated my hubby's b-day at this great little Italian place and my sis in law was just HUGE and nervous and read to pop at any moment. I remember after he was born, going to the hospital and as grandpa was holding his first grandson, my hubby & his brother started to talk about cars with him (they are a family obsessed with cars) and I snapped a picture, and my hubby wondered why I did, and my response was "That was Ethan's first car talk!!!"

And now he's 5. And in the stage of telling reeeeeaaaallly bad jokes.

They party was at a gymnastics place that he actually goes to for classes. I declined participation in the running and jumping. I'm highly uncoordinated, and very aware of that fact, thank you verymuch!

After all the kids running around and the opening of presents and cake, we headed over to the bro in law's house to chill for a little while.

And my nephew is totally a budding foodie. When his mom put out some chips and dip, he turned to me and said "You REALLY have to try this one. It's really good. And it's got onions, tomatoes and HOT PEPPERS in it." Turns out that he knew it from the container... which had tomatoes, onions and peppers on it. But still, what kid recites off food ingredient lists??

Picked up some Taco Bell on the way home (the hubby and I do appreciate all the good, authentic Mexican food to be found around Chicagoland, but we have a totally unnatural obsession with Taco Bell) and now he's got laundry going. Exciting, huh???

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Arthritis sux

I know there are people who deal with far bigger, far more horrible things that arthritis and carpal tunnel.

But arthritis SUX when you're diagnosed with it when your 25. Which is how old I was when the docs told me I had it.

Both conditions are kinda passed down in my family... grandpa, the chef, got them early in life. My dad, the roofer, got them early in life. Me, who spends at least 8 hours a day at work constantly typing or using the mouse to create/manipulate graphics, got it early in life.

Usually it's not too bad. And if I am only dealing with a flare up of one at time, it's not too bad. Mild discomfort that goes away when I do what I'm supposed to do like wear my wrist braces and not sleep with my hands curled up under my pillow. But days when they both hit, I really just want to chop my hands off to deal with the pain.

Today we had some crazy-ass weather heading thru, so the hands were acting up something awful. And I just happened to be out of Alieve (my drug of choice for hand pain, I've even taken perscriptions that didn't work as well) at my desk, so a lunchtime trip to Target was made to stock up. That only helped a little. On the way home from work, a trip to another store yielded the new Thermacare heat wraps for your hands. Those things are pretty neat, they do offer some help. Rather than chopping my hands off, I find the gentle heat combined with holding a cold beer to be a good remedy for the situation.

My hands are still shit, though, and I hate that. I have a very hard time opening any twist top. Without warning, I'll have a hand spasm and drop something, or poke myself with something, or just have something totally fly outta my hand. And I know, this is one of those things that only gets worse with time, not better.

Meant to cook tonight... that didn't happen. And planned to check out Roly Poly sandwiches for dinner... which also did not happen. I've been so out of it, didn't realize the franchise down the street closed. Ooops. Ended up eating Jimmy Johns for dinner.

The plan for tonight was to make Superfast Salisbury Steaks for dinner, I think that might be pushed to Saturday. Or Sunday, since we have the oldest nephew's birthday party on Sunday during the day. I have a long standing rule that I have one night a week off from cooking... Friday. I think I do it just because I like that feeling that the work week is OVER and I can enjoy one night where I don't have to worry about anything but parking my ass on the couch and zoning out.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Thai food.....

Thai food was not something my family ever had as a child. No Thai food to be had in our little 'burb. Some very fine Chinese, but no Thai.

When I went to college, my roomies (one from the city, one from Michigan) swore by Thai food, said it was fantastic, and there was one place, P.S. Bangkok, that they loved and used to order from all the time.

I never liked anything I got from there. Always too much cilantro, and I'm not a fan of cilantro.

Hubby hates Thai food (or at least thinks he does), so it's never anything he had a craving for.

When I started at the current job, I found one of the guys at work also owned a Thai food place. Eventually, for some work function, we had food from his place. I went in, a bit cautious, but was determined to try the stuff anyway to see what I thought.

I didn't hate it. The second time, I kinda liked it. By the third time, I was hooked.

I don't know what it is about perfect balance of sweet/hot/spicy/salty/acid about the Thai stuff I love.... today was an indulgence in one of my faves, Tom Kha soup. Yum. Just perfect.

(No, it wasn't from the same place that my now ex-coworker owns... his place to too far away to pick it up & bring it back for lunch)

Panang Curry is another fave. Both Tom Kha Gai and Panang Curry..... the first time I tried them, I wasn't too sure. But the more I ate, the more addicted I became.

So many times, I've had various Thai cookbooks in my hands, but never brought them home. I have made Panang Curry for myself, and use curry paste in a bunch of things. I'm thinking I might need to try making some Tom Kha Gai in the casa de Hausfrau. SOON.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

On top of p'skehhhhhti.... all covered with cheese....

(.... I lost my poor meatball..... when somebody sneeeeeeezed.....)

Ha. Now it's stuck in your head too.

Easy weekend in the casa de la Hausfrau. Friday night they mentioned temps were going to fall in to the 30s during the night. I went outside and picked tomatoes from my plants, and then looked at my herb plants and sighed. Fresh tarragon. Sigh. I'll miss you.

I made it until about 10pm before I decided to pull in my herb pots and see what the heck I could do about just bringing them indoors and seeing how much more I could get out of them. I lovingly thwapped them in the sink and gave them some water. I'm just way too used to fresh herbs. I NEED THEM. Last year I did fairly well when I divided some of them in to smaller pots and brought them indoors. Well, I did good until I just forgot about watering them and they died on me. But they last until Thanksgiving... I remember having fresh sage on hand for Turkey day.

Saturday fun was a trip to Menards - hubby needed stones to throw in the now dug out window well, and I needed some trays for my herb pots. I was going to take pictures of them, but I can't find my phone to PC cable, and I'm too damned tired to walk upstairs right now and search for it.

Saturday dinner was meatballs & sauce pulled outta the freezer over spaghetti. And while feeling kinda bad for half-assing a weekend dinner, I had a moment of vindication. As I went to add the half-box left of this spaghetti to the boiling water, I missed. Spaghetti all over the floor. None of it made it in to the pot. SIGH. I consider a ten second rule to be valid for dried pasta, so I quickly picked it off the floor, dusted it off, gave it a quick rinse and put it in the boiling water, more carefully this time.

Sunday was grocery shopping... and a steak for the hubby for dinner, and horseradish crusted piece of salmon (ala the Horseradish Crusted Filet Mignon) for me. Yummmmm. Hey, hubby doesn't like salmon, and doesn't care for the horseradish crust. He's happy to use ketchup to dress his filet mignon. And I'm happy to let him do it.

Sunday night I also whipped up some tuna salad to take for lunch today. Yum.

Work was busy today.... some more editing of the world's worst command reference, and finding out that a project I am totally not up to speed on currently is back on the radar and will pick up in the next couple weeks. Oh hurrah.

I had an appointment after work, so dinner tonight was pot roast ala crockpot. Always tasty. And I really, really enjoy making some rosemary couscous to go along with it for me (I'm not a fan of potatoes cooked in beef stock, I'll leave those for the hubby).

I think lunch tomorrow is going to be leftovers from tonight... and it's looking like tomorrow's dinner will be fried pork tenderloin chops (yeah, great meal choice on the week I decide to really commit myself back to this whole Weight Watchers thing). Which means I better get in the kitchen and pound out the tenderloin and get it marinating in the dressing......

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Worst. Command reference, EVER.

For those that do not know, I am a technical writer. What does that mean? The manual that came when you bought your modem that you just threw in the garbage? Yeah. I write those things. 'Splaining to people how to use hardware and software is what I do.

This week at work has been updating and old old old old old document. For an analog modem. A very expensive, still well-selling modem. And the main information in the guide hasn't been updated in several years. And it's bad.

There are a lot of types of tech writers in the world. There are far too many that just slap the company logo on a document someone else gave them and call it a day. There are those that will argue and set up meaning after meeting arguing over fonts and text colors. Various ways you can easily "pretty up" a document without adding any value.

I like to think I'm one of the writers who likes to add value to things. Like the recent incident of our mind-blowingly bad troubleshooting. Yeah, it identifies a lot of problems and tells you to do a lot of things, but for years it all went without someone looking at it and realizing it never brought you to "if that didn't work, do this" type statements. Left far too many assumptions (a bad thing... since if they knew it that well, would they be looking at troubleshooting anyway???)

In the case of command reference-type information, a lot of tech writers don't really look at the information, it is a case of making it pretty and at least use formats consistiently. The doc I'm working on now doesn't even go that far. And it's hurting my brain.

Not to mention, I've not only got to update it in English... I've got to then do it in six other languages. Oh the fun.

Dinner tonight was a sleezy favorite.... chili omelete. The second trip to Vegas that the hubby and I made, we got in early, left our bags at the Monte Carlo and went walking. We ended up in the Miracle Mile shops at the (then) Aladdin, and ended up at Cheeseburgers to grab a bite since we were both famished. I was all over the macadamia nut waffels (or was it pancakes?) until I saw the omelete. We're both HUGE suckers for anything chili cheese, and we both ordered the chili cheese omelete. And oh my lord.... I am so glad we did. It was fantastic. If there was a place around here that served those at 2am as drunk food, I'd weigh 300 pounds.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cheater jambalaya

1. Ya start with a box of Zatarain's jambalaya mix.

Real 1. Strike that. You actually start with some sliced polish sausage. GOOD polish sausage.

2. Brown that in a big ole pot. When it's brown, add the water stated by the box directions, and scrape the bottom to get all the browned bits. Bring to a boil.

3. Add some chopped okra - either fresh or frozen. If frozen, you need to bring the water back to a boil.

4. Add the rice mixture.

5. 10 minutes before the rice is supposed to be done, add some chopped frozen shrimp (or whole, if they're small) and some already cooked & shredded chicken.

6. Serve with lotsa hot sauce.

It made for a good meal tonight.... finally got some seasonable temps after all the warmth. When my dad was alive, jambalaya making was a day-long event that would happen in the winter time. It would start in the early morning with cooking the chicken (or whatever game birds my dad's friend had recently given him) for shredding and to use the bones to make stock, and it went on all day from there and was 100% from scratch.

The first time my mom semi-half-assed the jambalaya from a box, we were all floored. It was damned close to the all day version. Good outcome with little effort.

And good for tonight... I'm pooped. Today was "moving day" at work... moving all the crap I've aquired over the past two years - and all the crap the other writers left in their cubes and going thru about 8 years backlog of files to see what we needed to keep - in to a new cube. Excuse me... a new DOUBLE cube that is all mine (for as long as I'm.... uh... without a firm layoff date, I guess). It's nice... I pretty much need a cube for me and my three PCs and laptop, and a cube for all the product samples I have (which we - I still have a mouse in my pocket - need to keep in case any testing or updates need to happen) and the backlog of doc samples, doc software, CD backups, various style manuals and other junk. Stuff is moved, about half unpacked. We'll see how big of a dent I can make in it by the end of the week.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hello my name is stoopid....

Why did I think there was tomato confit in the mussels from the Bouchon cookbook??

I do this a lot. Think I know a recipe and do special prep/shopping for it, only to find out I don't need something. Or I've forgotten something.

In any case, I liked it better with the tomato confit. :)

I used previously frozen greenshell mussels, frankly I'm just too damned lazy to worry about cleaning mussels on a weeknight. I also went lighter on the wine and used some of the chicken stock that I did in the crockpot overnight, and used less dijon than last time. But still oh so very good. And I made the hericots verts with the lemon/brown butter sauce that is from the trout recipe. Ommawgawd. Next time the hubby has his own dinner plans, I am *so* making that trout recipe for myself for dinner. The hubby had his mussels over pasta, I just ate outta mussels I had in one bowl, and the beans in another bowl. Very chic and refinded, I tells ya.

Have more tomato confit in the oven right now, but I think tomorrow's lunch will just be the leftovers of the mussels, the sauce and the leftover bread. I'm an easy girl to please.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The many uses of chili......

Use # 406. Chili Dogs.

We're still in unseasonable warm weather in Chicago.... as I hear much of the country is... so dinner tonight was the good ole, "won't heat up the house" standby of chili dogs. Grab some chili from the chili stash in the freezer, plop some hotdogs in "just came to a boil and turned off the heat" water ('tis the Chicago way) for five minutes, heat up the chili, chop a little onion, and an easy meal. Not the most nutritionally sound meal, but it works.

Random thought warning... watching the Daily Show, and they just mentioned the government's use of loud rock music to deprive prisioners of sleep as a torture tactic. Um, yeah. That wouldn't work too good on me. For some reason, when I can't sleep, if I turn on some Slayer tunes, I'm out in about two minutes. Yep, I'm twisted.

Anyway.... had hoped to be a more productive hausfrau after work today, but it didn't happen. I did get all the makings of chicken stock in the crockpot, but I did hope to make some more tomato confit tonight, since I wanted to use up what I had in my bastardized recipe of the Bouchon tuna sammiches, but the tomato confit did not happen out of my laziness, and I need some of it for the mussels from the Bouchon cookbook for dinner tomorrow. Ah well. I can do the confit tomorrow night, and have tuna sammiches later in the week. Pulled out a Southwestern Turkey Burger from the freezer for lunch tomorrow, and mixed up some of the ketchup to go along with it. That'll do!

But maybe I'm not soo bad.... got laundry load numero tres in the washer right now.

Sometime at work this week will be moving all the crap from my cubicle to another one a couple rows down. I have to wait until someone else has cleaned out the cube (it's one of the many, many overflow junk cubes around the office) before I can do it. I'd like to do it right now, because the person in closest proximity to me (one row over) moved today, so I now have 2 empty rows on each side of me. Yeah, I feel isolated. But at least no one was close enough to be offended by the mutter paneer I had for lunch today.

Darn crock pot. The stock is not progressing as I wanted... might have to switch it to low and let it go overnight. Grumble. Now I gotta deal with that in the morning.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Weddings and other tedious tasks.....

Had a wedding to go to yesterday. Hopefully, the last one for awhile. Or at least the last one we can't get out of by just sending a card and a check to the new couple.

It was actually a nice wedding and a good time, despite my hubby driving us to the wrong church first (he swears his brother told him it was that church "just down the block" from his bro's house.... not the *correct* church just down the block from his brother's house....). Ceremony was brief, which was nice, and then it was heading home, outta the 80 degree temps (ten kindsa wrong for October in Chicago) for a couple hours until the reception.

Reception was nice, booze was flowing, all the food was good, no major incident to be reported.

Food-wise, it was one of the better weddings I've been to. Nice munchies during cocktail hour - shrimp, chicken on a stick, beef on a stick, mushrooms in phyllo, lamb chops. The dinner was a roasted red pepper and tomato bisque, salad involved baby spinach, candied pecans, dried cranberries and goat cheese. I'm just not a goat cheese person. To me, it tastes like a goat smells. And it's just not appealing. But I was able to eat around the goat cheese and enjoyed it. The main food was a chicken breast in a tomato/artichoke sauce, a filet, mashed potatoes and veg. Very tasty. Desert was the wedding cake and caramel gelato.

Funny moments.... we all had a glass of champagne at the table, garnished with a strawberry. None of us were really interested in the strawberry. Those all made it over to my nephew's plate... who devoured 10 strawberries before dinner even began (he's 5). And then, when they gave him fruit instead of the soup, told the waitress he wanted the soup instead. Too cute. He is a bit of a mini-foodie in his own way.... last Christmas his number one gift was an E-Z bake oven, just because the kid has *always* been a big eater and after some cooking classes he took with mom, he's figured out that food tends to get in his tummy faster when he's involved in making it.

Today was playing hooky from a birthday party (the kid of my cousin and the hubby's college roommate... in one of the oddest relationships in history, they managed to meet each other with no help from me or the hubby). Since temps reached an unseasonal 90 degrees, I was kinda glad we skipped it.

Instead, I had the fun of hitting the grocery stores and then doing general household cleanup. Did manage to get a couple of much-needed tasks done, including some closet organization and magazine sorting (which to keep, which to bring to work to see if others want).

Dinner was just hamburgers. Planned to do them on the grill, but forgot I was out of propane, so they went under the broiler. Good as always.

And please... people.... step away from the lean ground beef when making burgers. Please. I know the higher fat ground beef has been branded as evil, but there is a time and a place to use it. And burgers is it. Especially a cooking method that lets the fat cook off and drip away. That's how you get a nice, juicy burger that isn't dried out and tasteless. I think it was an Alton Brown speech... with lower fat meats, the fat all drops away while the burger is still cooking, and after that point, water is the next thing that evaporates from the burger and you get left with hockey pucks. It is true. Ask my friend Kim (wink). I've turned her to the dark side.

Also finished up reading The Reach of a Chef this weekend. I've enjoyed all of Ruhlman's "... of a Chef" books, but I donno, this one still leaves me a little unsettled.

The idea of "outposts" of a famous place is not new to me, and not a concept I object to. In Chicago, we're very familiar with them. There are the original locations of spots like Pizzaria Uno, Lou Malnati's, Portillos, hell, even the Billy Goat Tavern (Cheezbouger! Cheezbouger! No fries! Chips!) has multiple locations. One of my Chicago favorites (reminder - I'm cheap!) is Heaven on Seven, which has several locations. I don't have a problem with it, and I'm very used to eating at a place that has the recipes and standards or the original.

My problem is with the Vegas Bouchon. For those that do not follow the mundane details of my life on every message board I've ever posted on (good God... um... I hope no one does... I had to deal with 'net stalkers in the early 90s and it was not fun. Like, 3am phone calls of how someone was plotting my brutal death not good) where was I???? Oh yeah. Vegas Bouchon.

I'd read so many great things about it, heard such rave reviews, I had to go. Absolutely had to go.

Early March this year, we were headed to Vegas and on the morning of arrival (we usually catch an early early flight out), the hubby was renting the Shelby Mustang and planning to go visit a vendor he works with. I was fine with that, it gave me time to go enjoy a nice breakfast by myself at Bouchon.

Service was fantastic. The staff had no problem with "travelin' clothes" me and I got top-notch service. But my meal... the pomme frites were fantastic, my cheese danish was outstanding and near orgasmic..... but the eggs. Scrambled eggs. I love some nice, soft, slightly wet (start the "baw-chicka-baw-baw" music....) scrambled eggs (aw damn. Kill the "baw-chicka-baw-baw" music. Sorry folks). Lovely, fluffy, wonderful scrambled eggs. And I know... they're not hard to do. It takes maybe two minutes more than crappy scrambled eggs. And properly cooked eggs is the sign of any good cook, IMHO.

And my eggs were bad. Horrible. Bad. Like a buffet. Or a Dennys. Totally overcooked and disappointing. I should have sent them back, but I was surprised that at a place of this pedigree and caliber, that they'd even let them go out. And my half-cooked half-uncooked bacon. It was sad. And I really had to wonder about a place that was supposed to have such high standards would send it out even on a weekday breakfast service.

I donno. Maybe the new era of cross-country chef-branded places is different than the cross-county places I knew growing up. It's a bigger map... and I do believe some things get lost. Things get sloppy. Even if it's a disrespect or misunderstanding of the patrons of your place. On a smaller scale, in a single metro area.... if one location is doing a crappy job, people will stop going there, and go to one that does a good job. On a bigger scale.... a place like Vegas... unless there is constant control, it can be easy to start to let things slide... "oh heck... it's a breakfast service in Vegas, these people think crepes are something hard and inventive".

I donno. It's a lot of my inner debate on if I'd ever want to try Bouchon in Vegas again. Or if I just wanna do a quiche outta the cookbook and declare myself better than the staff there on my experience, and call it a day.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Marge, your cooking only has two moves. Shake and Bake.

(and Marge replies to Homer, "You love Shake n Bake. You used to put it in your coffee!")

God help me... I love Shake n Bake.

And it must be served with Kraft Mac & Cheese. MUST.

Yep, that was dinner tonight (with some steamed broccoli for something green). Two "off the shelf" products that have stood the test of time by being time savers, realiable, and a little bit tasty (you know you want to admit it.....).

Was a busy day at work. Busy in a good way, but too much thinking. I had to do math today, which always makes my brain tired. And it turns out, I really didn't need to do it, because although the doc team has been in "cost-save" mode for a year, we're only tracking "new" efforts that have kicked off in the past month, not the stuff that really went untracked over the past year. GREAT. But, it did fill me with pride to see that my former fellow writer and I, over the past year, managed to put out the same number of products at 1/3 the cost as when we had 3 people on our team. Oh yeah, we rock! Or, um, rocked. Crap. Now I'm sad.

And my father in law was stopping by at a random time tonight to pick up my wedding rings to run them thru his sonic cleaner tomorrow (he runs a dental lab... they've got a better sonic cleaner than I could get if I bought a sonic jewelry cleaner at Target).

And why the heck can't I follow a recipe? Last night I made chicken fried steaks for dinner, attempting to use a recipe from this month's Everyday Food. Before I started my prep/cooking, I quickly scanned the ingredient list. High on the list was 1 chopped onion. So I did that first, then went back to the recipe and found that the onion was only used if you were making the green beans for the "full meal" version of the recipe. The hubby will not touch green beans. I was not going to make the green beans. And I really prefer chicken fried steaks that involve onion in the milk gravy. So the onions did not go unused.... I spent time chopping an onion, I don't care if I'm making oatmeal, it goes in there.... I used them for the gravy. But still wasn't super impressed with it. And it would have been worse, for my tastes at least, without the onion. Sorry Martha!!

Ok... 10:30pm, the kicthen is still a mess and I have to throw on another layer of nail polish before I head to bed.......

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Damnit, Dale!!!!!

Soooooo unhappy with the ending for Top Chef. If they weren't filming the next season in Chicago, I would be totally done with this show. I'm more interested in just seeing the Chicago locations than anything.

Molten Chocolate Cake??? Seriously????