Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tech Writing Fun

As a tech writer... you often get to see some funny stuff. Like, at the old job, Russian text that when ran thru a web translator gave back text about submitting to the "interactive regime". That had me laughing for a week.

Saw two gems today.....

One document that is normally not run by tech writers for approval, that mentioned the "forward slash" and the "other slash". What... like the one from Guns'n'Roses???

In some source material I was editing today, I found a lot of appearances of "Therefore for example". It's not uncommon for people who are intelligent but uncomfortable with writing to get ten kindsa bad-uber-formal when they put stuff on paper. Very preachy and talking down to the reader. It's expected, but it can still be amusing.

Duck Soup


Made duck soup tonight... perfect for the freezing day we had.

My duck stock, some sliced red pepper, mushrooms, a little "egg drop soup" action, some ramen noodles, some tofu & bean sprouts for me, sliced duck breast.... all very very good.

Nice to have a success after last night... I was trying the scallops with citrus braised endive outta the Bouchon cookbook, and it was one problem after another. Scallops that each still had their "foot" attached so I had about 25% less servable protien than I figured. Scallops that smelled kinda fishy. And I don't mind endive usually, but the sauce was just totally not my taste. I am not a fan of most forms of fennel. And the sauce seemed to focus on the exact particular licorice/citrus balance that I hate about fennel.

I have had fennel that I loved before. At Emeril's New Orleans Fish House in Vegas, I got a fried oyster salad that had some roasted fennel in it. I originally carefully pushed it all to the side but when I got a taste, I couldn't get enough. I've tried to get a similar flavor out of fennel in my own kitchen, but have never had luck.

I was also having massive issues with potatoes and broccoli as the side dishes. If it wasn't total white-out conditions outside, I'd have run out for burgers.

I ended up eating a tuna sandwich, and the hubby had Spagetti-Os.

Still a busy week ahead. Before the night is over, I need to prep the stuff for pot roast ala crock pot tomorrow. No biggie. But I gotta stop at Sam's Club tomorrow to pick up vital supplies that we are dangerously low on like shaving cream and toilet paper. Glamourous, huh?? I could always pick up burritos on my way home, but I figure a pot roast is at least more figure friendly.

And on the diet front... it's been going damned well still. Tried on a pair of pants I haven't worn in several months because I was feeling a bit too much like an overstuffed sausage, and I was happy to find they fit much better. Yay!!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Feral cats

I usually not a cat person. Much more of a dog person.

But, in our semi-suburban neighborhood right next to a huge forest preserve, we have quite a few feral cats.

I don't see them as too much of a problem... sometimes they get in to garbage on garbage day, but they're not really a problem. Local feral cat resources do come around a couple times a year to spay the cats that are new.

When we first looked at this place, the cats had apparently taken a big liking to some of the features like the deck and the window wells, since they were checking us out as we checked the townhome out. The place was empty for about six months, so I'm not surprised they took a liking to a place that used to have a really big dog.

Partly to keep them from tearing apart the garbage and partly because I am just a huge animal softie at heart, I'll often throw out leftovers from dinner to the cats. Recently, the skunks have caught on to this. I can deal with cats. Not with skunks.

Usually the skunks are more agressive than the cats. But oh, not tonight!

We had roasted chicken breasts for dinner, plenty of scraps left over. I was prepping to throw it out on the lawn like I usually do (they actually don't tear up the lawn, the lawn has indeed gotten better since I started throwing food out). Opened the front door, turned on the light, and Orange Cat came a runnin'. But I saw two skunks lurking, so I closed the door.

About fifteen minutes later, opened the door again and Orange Cat was right on the stoop. And right behind Orange Cat were the two skunks, tails raised. I quickly shut the door, waiting for the leaking stink of skunk spray.

Went over to the kitchen window in hopes I was not about to bring stinkiness on Orange Cat, and watched in awe as Orange Cat stood down and chased off the skunks. Hell yeah!!! You go, Orange Cat!

Threw out the scraps, Orange Cat had his/her fill and his/her cat buddies ate in peace, with the skunks looking on from several feet away.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Back to life....

Trying to get back to the regular, old, hum-drum Hausfrau life today. And happy about that.

Had the Peapod dude scheduled to come for two reasons. 1 - pick up the boxes left last week when I wasn't here for the delivery, and 2 - wanted some duck breasts to use in a duck soup I want to make this week.

Peapod dude was not supposed to come until the afternoon, so I headed out in the late morning to the produce market to pick up veggies and other various things for the week. I only spent about two minutes lovingly staring at the lake trout in the fish case, cursing the husband for not liking fish or green beans so I can't make the trout with haricot verts from the Bouchon cookbook. Yeah... fish, almonds, green beans, brown butter.... all things he hates. Sigh.

It's going to be a big week in the kitchen.... have a party on Saturday (WHY my mother decided to have everyone in my dad's side of the family over on the day before Superbowl Sunday is beyond me....) and of course the Superbowl on Sunday.

To my mom's, I'm bringing an artichoke dip, and I'm also going to try the lemon tart from the French Laundry cookbook. Actually, since the dough recipe makes enough for three tarts, I'm going to do a lemon one, and attempt a key lime one. The hubby is also supposed to make cupcakes. I have a funny feeling that is not going to happen, but we'll see.

Sunday's cooking isn't too bad... the usual spread.... some jalapeno poppers as an appetizer, and ribs, slaw and cornbread. Too bad I still need to buy jalapenos, ribs, and cabbage for the slaw.

Tonight is a recipe for what I usually call "SpagBacParm" for short. It's an easy one, and since I've been a stranger to my kitchen for awhile, it's one I know I can do. And I also know even when it's flubbed/overcooked, it's still pretty darned good. Since the hubsy is not a fan of peas, I usually use some asparagus in the recipe. I do believe I have mentioned it here before, since it is a big "go to" recipe for me. Especially when I've got leftover bacon from last week.

Doing some roasted cherry tomatoes as a side, since the acidity in the tomatoes goes particularly well with SpagBacParm.

Other than that, duck soup and a pot roast, don't know what else is in store for the week. Maybe the scallops from the Bouchon cookbook... I buy some endive at the produce mart, and I could start with salting those tonight and doing the sauce tomorrow, then scallops on Thursday. I also have chicken breasts... might just simply roast those and serve with a baked potato one night.

Thankfully I have some spice rub leftover from the last time I made ribs, so I don't have to worry about that. I can just slap it on them on Saturday morning and worry about cooking them, ala the Alton Brown oven recipe, on Sunday.

And, on Sunday, the poppers are easy enough, and I usually even just halve the poppers to makes them much easier to stuff. I'll probably do the artichoke dip and the bread sticks (and maybe some pita chips) on Thursday night along with the pine nut crust for the tarts. I'm just going to do the artichoke dip in my slow cooker (they're not entirely evil, I swear!!), but I can at least get it mixed and ready.

But enough talk... time for me to get in to the kitchen and make a tasty dinner. After that, a nice long shower, and then some girly time curled up in front of the TV (possibly with a nice glass or three of wine) watching the complete Jane Austin on Masterpiece Theater.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


The family drama from last weekend took an unexpectedly bad turn. A family member that we thought was just fed up and had run off ended up killing himself on Monday. His wife, his kids, and his grandkids are expectedly a mess.

It hasn't been easy for the rest of the family either, since they're all pretty close. And my father in law, as of this Saturday, he'll have burried his parents and three younger brothers.

Needless to say, cooking efforts have been less than stellar (we had Hamburger Helper last night and take out tonight) and I'll take any excuse to slack on my cleaning duties. Although I did do about four loads of laundry last night. I had hoped to try the scallops with citrus-braised endive out of the Bouchon cookbook this week, but I've given up hope. I did already do the salt step with the endive (to remove bitterness) but I fear they're going to die a slow death in the fridge before I get around to the actual braise. Because I just do not feel like getting two cups of fresh OJ out of the oranges in my fridge right now. Hell, I'm in such a low funk that I might even throw all my lovely Calphalon non-stick in to the dishwasher just to get it out of the sink right now.

So kids, it might be awhile before I'm back here. Hopefully some time mid-next week. And I am still rockin' the diet as best I can, sans excercise. I've lost 10 pounds already, and hopefully I won't put too much damage in that since I want to be down 15-20 by the time we got to Vegas.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Can I just forget this past weekend??

Ugh. It's been an eventful weekend, and not in a good way.

Immediate family is all fine, but there has been some very unexpected drama in the extended family. I'm not going to go in to it here, but here in Casa de Hausfrau we're trying to get back to normal.

Cooking has been on the backburner, although I did pull some greenshell mussles outta the freezer for dinner tonight in an attempt to throw something together for dinner. Mussels in a garlic and wine sauce (with a little shrimp stock), some pasta for the hubby, and loads of garlic bread for me. Always tasty.

I wanted to do a pork tenderloin tonight, but due to the fact I had too many adult beverages last night and didn't feel like joining the world of the living until very late morning, I didn't pull the tenderloin out of the freezer until late and it didn't defrost. But, I did also prep a dish of mac & cheese (Alton Brown's recipe) to throw in the oven tomorrow as a side. I had a bunch of hunks of cheese (cheddar, dubliner, and some gouda) leftover from Christmas still, and I knew it wouldn't be long until they started to get moldy. It probably could be more cheddar-y, but I'm sure it will still be plenty good.

We've had bone chilling temps in Chicago this weekend, so it was my plan to not head out for the usual grocery store errands anyway, and after the family drama sucked up all of Friday night and Saturday, I know I won't feel like hitting the stores tomorrow, so... Peapod to the rescue!!! We've had the Peapod service in Chicago for quite a few years, and I have been a fan of it for a long time. Loved it when I was in college living in the city and it was actually cheaper to have stuff delivered then shop at the little local (overpriced) store, and I've always loved it for busy weekends or times I just don't feel like braving the masses at the store.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Owie ow ow

I was 24 when I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel and moderate arthritis.

It's something you expect to hear some time in your life, but usually not in your 20s.

They both do run in the family, but I still got it younger than most. It's a lovely combo of the symptoms from my dad's side of the family, and contributing factors from my mom's side. I got all the bad, and apparently my brother got none of it since he's still fine.

I can deal with the carpal tunnel enough, it's the arthritis that gets me. On a day like today, when a storm front comes through and the air pressure goes tens kinds of whacky, I'm about ready to chop my hands off.

When the carpal tunnel is the main problem, it's easy enough to fix. Wear my wrist braces and do all the things I should be doing all the time. When it's the arthritis, I'm just screwed. The braces only squeeze my hands and make it worse, and it's getting to the point where even Alieve won't do much good.

And I'm always amazed on nights where my hands are this bad when I don't slice off a finger getting dinner ready.

Tonight was the Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza With Mushrooms, Peppers, and Onions, which I've made before and I love. I am pizza-crust challenged and I usually just use a pizza crust from Trader Joes. This time, I pulled my crusts outta the freezer, and even after six months they were still decent. I usually do one pizza for me, and one for the hubby (he likes the whole "sausage patty" on his).

I should have checked my cabinets before I started. I forgot I threw out my cake pans about a year ago. I ended up using two pie plates, which worked well. I might do that from now on, in fact. I *know* I have a hunk of mozz cheese in my fridge that went invisible while I was looking for it (I'm sure it will turn up now that I don't need it anymore). The pizzas did get done, mostly because I was NOT running out in this cold, crappy weather to get take out. And they were good, as usual.

The week of "veggie" meals has gone well. I've actually been pleasantly surprised at how tasty some of the veggie stuff has been, even with most veggies out of season and not in their prime right now.

I'm already excited for spring... placed an order for gardening stuff and already got my Wall-o-Waters in the mail. Yay!!! Is it 6-8 weeks until planting season yet???

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Who doesn't love nachos??
That is what we had for dinner tonight. The hubby was very happy.

Nachos for dinner or a late-night snack started when I was a kid and I'd thwap slices of Velveeta on chips and melt it in the microwave. As my tastes grew, and the access to Mexican products in the grocery store was increased, it was always common to have cheese, chips, refried beans, salsa, pickled jalepenos and other tasty morsels around when the urge hit.

The first time I had the hubby over when we started dating and he mentioned he was hungry, I asked if he wanted some nachos. He expected melty cheese poured out of a jar on top of chips. Ten minutes later I came out of the kitchen with tortilla chips piled high with beans, meat, salsa, cheese and sour cream. It might have been one of the first moments he fell in love with me.

So, tonight it was nachos for dinner.

But hey, aren't you supposed to be dieting???

Nachos aren't hard to make "friendlier" when you're doing them in your own home.

Start with a single layer of chips.

See? Not too bad. It's not that many chips. And I usually only eat about 1/4 of that plate, leaving the other 3/4 for the hubby. Have I mentioned yet that I'm often baffled that I'm the one with the weight problem, and not him???

And that is my "nacho baker"... a must if you're going to do them in the oven (even though I don't). But also nice if you nuke them since it keeps them warm longer.

On top of that, some ground lean meat (and I will admit, I use a taco seasoning packet and have no shame about it, I only like the Lawreys one) and beans. Tonight was beef, but I often do chicken or turkey and it's all good. I also had a glut of green onions in the fridge, so I chopped up some and threw them on.

Hungry yet??

About 4 ounces of cheese, some salsa, and some chopped pickled jalepenos. YUM.

Who wouldn't love that??

I did go with full-fat cheese, mostly because I've got tons of it in the fridge. I have done reduced fat cheese, not that bad. But any time I'm trying to have reduced fat cheese as the "melty" top layer in anything, I find it works much better in the microwave where the moisture helps keep the cheese from getting all rubbery and dried out.

Three minutes in the microwave, and it's melty goodness.

If I've thought ahead to have an avocado, I'll dot guac on the top. I'll usually mix a little sour cream with some milk (to thin it out) and go all Jackson Pollock with it over the top (less calories than blops, and better coverage).

The tummy is happy tonight. I did miss my excercise window because the hubby wanted to watch Life on Mars and tape something else, but no bigger. I might recover and get it my excercise on Thursday.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

(insert title here)

One of the nicest things about not doing the "official" Weight Watchers program and doing it totally on my own, is not getting yelled at for loosing weight.

Yes, ladies and gents, Weight Watchers occassionally yells at you for loosing weight. Well, at least the online program does.

If you have a loss of more than a couple pounds, you get a little slap from them saying you're loosing weight at too quick a pace. It's REALLY annoying. I know they do it since they're trying to promote healty weight loss, but big losses happen sometimes. And so do small losses or no loss. Can't they plug in some code to only yell at you when you're continuously loosing 4 to 5 pounds a week? That was one thing that really turned me off the "formal" Weight Watchers. Can't you let me have my great loss in peace and happiness??

This would have been a "yelling" week for me. I couldn't trust last week's number after my scale snafu, but this week, I was down five pounds. Nice.

Not usually for a "first" weigh in, and I do know better than to expect it to continue like this.

Last week's "No Fries" went well, obviously. Other than a run in with a very disappointing beef sandwich. For the upcoming week, it'll be focusing on vegetarian options, which are usually good options. This week might even get me to veture out to the one Thai place I've seen around work.

I did end up kinda blowing it on Saturday. I was out shopping with my mom and we did a sit-down Mexican place (I had a chicken toastada and a beef flauta, sent the cheese enchilada home with Mom) and after I got home and passed out cold on the couch, hubby "surprised" me with Culvers for dinner. Oh well. 'Tis the way life goes sometimes.

Tonight for dinner it was veal parmesan ala the "Lighter Chicken Parmesan" from America's Test Kitchen. Yum. Worked out very, very well. And actually easier without all the frying. But I still have to run the dishwasher twice tonight, especially since watching too much of "How Clean Is Your House" on BBC America today had me instantly toss my grungy sponge in the garbage, not knowing I didn't have any backup sponges.

For the week, I've got the following lined up:

  • Nachoes (yes, I do manage to fit nachoes as an entree in to my diet, and I'll go in to more detail later in the week)
  • Proscuitto-wrapped shrimp (made this before as an appetizer, very tasty)
  • Chicken something-or-other
  • Pork tenderloin something-or-other

Not sure about the "something-or-others". The hubby always groans about anything pork, but I love it, so I'll make him suffer. I'll probably hit the Everyday Food magazine back issues for some chicken ideas. Or I might mix up a garlic chicken marinade I got out of one of their mags and do it under the broiler, since I have yet to get a new gas tank for the grill.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Would you like fries with that?


It's kinda disturbing, what the average American thinks is a "balanced meal" these days. The standard takeout lunch of a burger, fries and a soda really isn't. It might have been at one time, when the fry size is small and the burger is the size of a small cheeseburger.

There is a reason your mother didn't serve french fries with every meal. It ain't healthy!

One reason I actually like Lean Cuisines is that they kinda give you an easy lesson on what a portion size is supposed to be. No pounds of pasta, no Godzilla-sized chicken breasts. A Baconator is not a "single serving." It's several servings. Don't kid yourself.

I'm not saying that fast food doesn't have its place. I love fast food. But I also go in knowing darned well what is not so bad and what is very bad. I do think most fast food places are doing all they can to make us forget what a healthy portion size really is, but we're also not trying to fight it. They may ask if you want fries with that... but it's your right to say "No."

I had to run to the bank at lunch today, and the options near there are a hotdog stand, Wendy's or Mexican place I have yet to check out. I figured my best option was the hotdog stand. Grilled chicken sandwich, no may. Loaded with lettuce & tomato and a little ketchup. For salty "bites" on the side, I ate some pickle slices.

Will I still have burgers and fries occassionally? Heck yeah, as long as the fries also involve chili and cheese. But, I'll let those be rare occassions, and not the norm.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

If you still think you shouldn't buy shell on shrimp....

Ok, maybe not everyone wants to make shrimp stock in huge batches. I get that.

But even if you only have the shells from a pound of shrimp, you can use them with a lot less fuss than shrimp stock.

Shrimp butter.

Tonight was Shrimp Scampi for dinner. In an effort to NOT load up my freezer again with shrimp shells, I used the shells to make a shrimp butter, which was used to cook the shrimp and become the sauce for the pasta.

Just melt some butter in a small pot, throw in the shells and cook them until they're pink. Then put the shells and butter in a blender or small food processor, and then strain it. You'll be the proud owner of a lovely, rosey, flavorful shrimp butter. Good luck not spreading it all on crackers and eating it before you need it.

Cook the shrimp in the shrimp butter, remove them when they're done. Throw a fist full of garlic confit (it's milder than raw garlic) in the pan for a couple seconds, then add shrimp stock. Let that cook down a little, then toss with cooked pasta and the shrimp. Yum.

I still have to deal with the duck stock, which I'd like to clarify. I might do that tomorrow, since my big pot is dirty (must remember to ask husband AGAIN for a big Le Cruset for my birthday). I'll do that during the week, no biggie.

Now, if you will excuse me, I picked up a copy of Volume 2 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking for five bucks at Half Price books, and I think it's time to do some reading.....

Saturday, January 5, 2008

I can't think of a creative title. Bleeh.

Don't know it it was the "come down" from the holidays or what, but by yesterday, I was so ready for the week to be done.

Cooking not going how I wanted, constant technical problems coming at me from all sides, bleech. Cold, cold weather.

Thankfully, the weather has warmed, it's a new weekend, and time for me to get things back in order. It might even be the general dissary of the house that kicked my booty this past week.

NYD food report..... the pickled cherries are to DIE for with duck. Yum. Fourty thousand kinds of awesome. And I did end up doing more of what every young chef seems to call "melted leeks", aka the leek mixture from the lobster dish, and just mixed it with some buttered spaetzle for a very yummy pairing with the duck.

Diet: With it cold this week, eating lunches out was easy. Go for the food that sounds best in cold weather: soup. Or chili. A cup of chili is usually a pretty good food choice. High in protien and fiber, usually made with a tomato base - both good things. Soups are usually good if you look for ones listed as "low fat", vegetarian, broth-based, or just avoiding ones that have "cream", "cheese" or "bisque" in the name.

Wednesday was a cup of turkey chili at Einstein Bros. bagels, Thursday was a cup of chili and a side salad from Wendy's. Friday I went out to Roly Poly and got a chicken popper (yum!) and had planned on a nice bowl of soup for a side. I figured either the veggie soup, or the mushroom bisque if they had that again. I was well aware of the nutritionals of both. Which meant all they had on the menu was chicken soup, potato soup, and a tomato & roasted garlic soup. I went for the tomato & roasted garlic, thinking it couldn't be *that* bad. Um, yeah. It's one of their higher calorie soups, and I learned when I got back to work and looked it up on my Palm. Ooops. Lesson learned.

Next week's focus is getting back on the excercise track. Still unsure if I'm going to start dragging myself to bed at a reasonable hour so I can get up earlier to work out in the morning, or if I'm going to make myself get my workout in during the evening, no matter what else is happening. In any case, I know I've got to do a better job of planning meals for the week. When I don't do that, it kicks my ass, every time.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy 2008, everybody!!

Easy day here in the casa de Hausfrau.

Further reflection on yesterday's eats.... I think the parm custard technique would be a lot better, for me at least, with a cheese where I love the creamy texture, like blue cheese. Hmmm. Might have to find a reason to try that......

Woke up, had some coffee, threw some Pillsbury cinnamon rolls in the oven.

Watched some TV, played around on the 'net. Downloaded some additional stuff to add to my Palm when it arrives tomorrow (yay!!).

Duck is currently in the oven. Recipe I'm using (a low & slow roasting technique to melt off some of the duck fat) calls for a 5 pound bird, and mine was closer to six. I might leave it in on the low temp for an additional half hour, especially since I just looked at it and it's not progressing like it should. I might blanch some more leeks ala the lobster recipe I did yesterday to have with the duck tonight, just sounds like a really nice combo to me. And I still have about two cups of brunoise in the fridge.

Might also throw together some black eyed peas and tomato to throw on the leftover crostini from yesterday.

Diet lesson for the day: On special, once-a-year occasions, don't sweat it. No one can be expected to not eat cake on their birthday or to change tradition and remain successful on their diet. So today, I will happily eat my duck, but I will keep track of it and compensate later in the week. It drives me nuts when I hear people complaining that they can't eat their own birthday cake, or go to their favorite restaurant for some special occasion because they're on a diet. You can. Learning how to balance the moments of insensibility with sensible eating is what makes something a true change in how you look at the food you put in to your body, overall.

Today's food: Coffee, 1 Pillsbury Grands Cinnamon Roll, Mutter Paneer & Naan, Black Eyed Pea & Tomato costini, duck, buttered noodles, pickled cherries. And might crack open the chocolate stout I got in a Xmas gift exchange.