Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Tomato Three Way

Pardon my grammar and typing... it's been "one of those weeks" at work. I'm a little surprised at how "out of practice" I seem to be at having, ya know, a lot of actual WORK to fill up my day. But, I guess the problem has been that it doesn't just fill the day, I've been bringing it home to get a couple more non-office hours in.


Tonight's dinner featured three forms of tomato. I love summer!! At the grocery store last weekend I saw green tomatoes, so I bought those. I have been craving fried green tomatoes, but I've been unwilling to sacrifice any of my tomatoes on my plants. I'll happily overpay for grocery store green tomatoes!

I was also excited because yesterday I picked my first purple cherokee tomato. Yay! Although eating it today, it probably could have used another day or two on the vine.

So.... dinner was fried green tomatoes, and the purple cherokee and some cherry tomatoes on a salad, and Reuben sandwiches for the main. The local deli/produce mart is apparently adding homemade corned beef to their "homemade " deli selections. Wow. Was it ever good. They already do Italian roast beef and turkey and both those rock (and are half the price of the brand name stuff) and they've also recently added chicken breast. I plan to keep buying!

Not too much else happening. In for hot weather over the weekend, and I had planned on prepping/browning some meatballs this week to dump in the crockpot at some point, but when I looked at my ground beef (I usually do half ground beef, half sweet sausage) on Tuesday it was already kinda grey and scary, so I tossed it. At least it was only cheapo "ground beef" - no particular cut associated with it - so it was only a loss of a couple bucks. But, I might pull the sausage outta the freezer tomorrow and make an early trip to the store on Saturday to still do it this weekend.

Other than that.... just looking forward to the weekend and not having to deal with formatting a 280 page file or 20000 lines of HTML code. Like I said, it's been a fun week.... NOT.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A big pan full of summer.......

Isn't it pretty??

Made a recipe that has been makin' the rounds with my peeps. Adapted by Deb, posted lovingly by Carrie (who is such a good person, she is my friend despite my potty mouth). Cheese Ravioli with Bacon and Zucchini. Cheese ravioli + bacon + summer's bounty. That is actually a "double" batch since the hubby prefers meat ravioli, so I just started with a pound of each. Store-bought zucchini (I don't bother to grow it, even though I know you pretty much have to put a zucchini plant in a dark room and never water it to get it to not grow gangbusters for you... it's just so cheap to buy it in the summer that it ain't worth it to me), and some of the little bumper crop of cherry tomatoes I'm dealing with right now. I actually used romano in the recipe - partly because I am cheap, and partly because we're both not huge fans of massive amounts of parm.

I loved it. Add some more parm on top and a load of shredded basil and it was heaven - just tasted like summer. The hubby ate it but later admitted he'd have liked regular sauce (dude.... why didn't you just ask? I've still got half a dozen jars of Prego hiding downstairs). But, no matter... this will likely be made again when the rest of my 'maters start creeping up on me. He can have the Prego, I'll have this.

Sigh. Are those tomatoes here yet?????

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bye-bye, weekend......

I hate this moment, when you know the weekend is over and you have to go to work the next day.


Dinner tonight was a steak for the hubby, some fish for me. Fish was looking/tasting good until I added capers to the sauce. I bought these capers a couple weeks back at the farmer's market. Waaaay too salty for my tastes. I had them soaking in water earlier today, trying to get some of the salt out, but bleh. They just ruined it. Live and learn. And must stop at Trader Joe's to get some of their capers. I have much love for their capers.

Did some steamed potatoes as a side... chopped yukon golds, rinse them, thwap into a steamer bag and nuke. I love those steamer bags... although "carbon footprint guilt" has got me using a proper plastic microwave steamer for my veggies most nights. When they came out of the microwave, tossed them with some butter and parsley. Yum.

Got my meals planned for the week... a new dish for me tomorrow - ravioli with chopped cherry tomatoes, zucchini and bacon (which comes highly recommended, but I already suspect the hubby with not like it). Also going to do a pork stir-fry this week, possible "chicken something or other" and some reubens (they had homemade corned beef on sale at the produce/deli mart today, I couldn't resist).

Been dabbling with playing around at learning some basic blackjack lately. I'd like to get brave enough to pony up to a table next time we're in Vegas. I'm usually a "machine only" person.... I just have very litter tolerance for other people's stupidity. Me + on vacation + idiot at table.... I just see that turning into a scene where I end up going off on someone and casino security becoming involved. On our first two trips to Vegas (Luxor and the Monte Carlo) I was able to walk up to the video blackjack machines they had and use them as my own personal cash machines. That was nice. But I have a couple of games loaded on to my Palm that I usually play at lunch... and is my luck just BAD. Even on the one that prompts me when I make a "bad" play.... it's not even a "breaking even" thing, I'd be happy with that.... I just suck. I started out with $500 and I'm already $500 in the hole. This cannot bode well.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Random musings.....

While doing dishes tonight - my least favorite household task, by the way - I started to think about Americans and food, and this whole attitude that "cooking is hard". My hands are better today, I could pick up a knife without the fear of a bloodbath, so it was biscuits and gravy. Slice the sausage, chop an onion. It wasn't even hard with my crappy hands. Why are people so scared of it? My mind wandered to Rachel Ray. I like the idea of Rachel Ray and 30-minute meals. Make something that is approachable and people will be more likely to take it on (her personality is a whole other issue, that is what I just cannot stand). It's one of the things that drives me nuts about the Semi-Ho, Sandra Lee. Rather than simple cooking, she over-complicates things trying to make it fit her philosophy. There is nothing wrong with store bought stuff, when purchased and used as intended by the maker - those bags of shredded cheese are one of the greatest modern wonders, IMHO.

Typo of the day that I spent two hours correcting in 3 documents and two help systems.... "overlayed". Seriously???? Even Micro$oft's spell checkers catch this one. Sigh. And some of those misspellings have been in the docs for at least two years (that was as far as I could go back without bursting into tears). I think it's not just the fact it was misspelled, it was that it was done so many times.

I need to get a better camera. My stinkin' cell phone camera sucks in the first place, and I've started to get the blue screen of death when I connect it to my laptop. FUN.

I am way too happy to have the plan to actually head out and eat lunch outside the office tomorrow. It's been a few weeks. I can almost taste my Roly Poly Chicken Popper now....

The townhome association is actually doing a block party this year. Mind you, I'm in NO mood to socialize with the people who live on either side of us. I guess it's lucky that they are having it on the same day & time as a birthday party we have to go to. But the part of me that loves to cook is still thinking of making some guac or something and just dropping it off. I don't want people to know I'm not a joiner-type.

We really, really need to book our trip to Vegas soon. I think the Man was just waiting until our tax rebate check cleared (which it didn't, the bank is mailing it back to us so we can both sign it and have to go to a teller to deposit the darned thing... methings the gob'ment is doing their best to make sure these things are cashed in as staggered of an order as they can be, but I can be a bit suspicious....). The parents-in-law are going the first week in August, I think. We wanted to book mid/late August, but one of the hubby's close friends is getting married in August and we just got the invite... we'd been putting off booking until we knew when it was, and it's kinda late now. I did put the idea of the NFL opening weekend in the hubby's head. We actually did that for our "honeymoon" trip (hey, we got married in Vegas but it WAS a business trip, lol) and I know he loved it. And Da Bears are playing on Sunday night, which would be fun. I may even get to drag him to Bouchon for breakfast. He's also expressed an interest to go back and hit the Bubble Bar at Guy Savoy again, he loved it so much the last time. I could most certainly do that......

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Great Pizza Hunt of 2007

Both my hands are totally shot right now. I figured it wasn't worth cooking dinner tonight. If I got my hands on a knife, I'd probably either seriously hurt myself or intentionally chop off my hands just to stop the pain. Arthritis in your 30s sucks (as it also did in my 20s - but I think being a smidge younger, it didn't seem as bad).

So, the Great Pizza Hunt of 2007 started tonight. And it might be over already.

Some backstory that I learned recently... our old pizza place was next door to a bar that was, um, a dump. A dump where a lot of illegal things happened. It was bad enough that several years back, the one time I picked up a pizza, I decided I was never going to pick up a pizza there again. One of those places that even a pretty tough gal like me doesn't feel 100% safe in the daylight.

Turns out, Dumpy Bar's liquor license depended on the pizza place next door to serve food to the customers. When the pizza place moved from that location, the bar had to close. This made law enforcement and town officials very happy.

This made me hopefully that although the first pizza we got from the "new" location was terrible, they might just be going thru old supplies (frozen crusts, frozen sauce, crappy cheese, etc.) of the Italian place before going for new supplies.

Got the monthly mailers of coupons and such of places in the area, and there was an ad for the pizza/Italian place that mentioned the pizza place was there now. Good sign.

So, tonight, we got another pizza from there. Toppings, cheese and sauce were much improved, if not spot on. The crust still stinks. I can tell it's frozen dough... there is just no life to it.

We might still try the other very nearby pizza place, but I can live with this for awhile, as long as it gets better along the way.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mad Men... a pack of cigarettes should pop out of your television whenever you turn this show on....

Yeesh. Been watching the marathon on TV today since I missed the first season (hubby watched, I don't know why I only caught some of the episodes in the middle). Good lordy lord... all the smoking. And being a smoker, it's had me wanting a cigarette or searching for food all day.

Last night's dinner was... um.. what was it again? Or yeah, veal parmesan. I asked the hubby if he had any dinner suggestions before I headed out to the stores, and he literally said "Something Parmesan?" Usually he at least gives me a meat suggestion. I thought a little about actually serving him Shoe Parmesan, since he once said he thinks he'd even eat a shoe if it was parmesan-ed.

The one local produce place always has nice veal for some decent prices, so veal it was.

While I was cleaning the kitchen, a stick-o-butter and a mess of onions that were about to turn south on me went in to the crockpot to cook overnight. Woke up to the lovely smells of caramelized onions. Took some out in case I want to use them later in the week, and turned the rest in to french onion soup. Yum. Had a bowl of that today.

Dinner was not as successful. Tried some grilled cornish game hens using an America's Test Kitchen recipe and it was a disaster. The whole grilling experience was a disaster. My sliced zucchini went down in a flaming mess, the chickens were on the grill for 45 minutes and burned on the outside and raw on the inside. Dinner actually ended up being a frozen pizza (so there goes one meal I had planned for this week... sigh).

I do not know what the BLEEP is up with my left hand. It started hurting last week, like typical carpal tunnel pain, and by the end of the week I was having a lot of trouble holding things (which lead to some interesting flinging of things around my cubicle as my hands lost control of things or just spasmed. I can't believe I didn't ever hit anyone walking by with anything). Usually when it's like this it will get better after a couple days, but it hasn't lessened so far. My middle finger and ring finger are totally messed up and are naturally kinda curling in to my palm (it's like I'm throwing the "metal horns" permanently). I have to hope it's more the arthritis and all the whacky storm fronts that have been passing thru the area. Ugh.

Garden is doing good. Actually had a salad today that was all my own tomatoes.... a patio one and a bunch of cherry tomatoes. Got another patio tomato that is turning red. Nothing yet but a bunch of green beauties on my other two plants, but I can be patient.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


So... a few weeks back, I picked up Gordon Ramsay's "Fast Food" at Costco. Taken a couple ideas from it but I haven't done a full-on recipe.

The hubby was atcually looking thru the book the other day, and saw the "Scrambled Eggs with Crabmeat & Chives" and said something along the lines of "woah, that looks good."

I already had some lump crab in the fridge, and it did look like a great, easy meal to make in the hot weather we currently have.

It's pretty easy... start some eggs in a pan on medium to low heat, and when they are about halfway scrambled, dump in your crabmeat, some chives, and a couple of tablespoons of creme fraiche, and don't overcook it. I served it on top of toasted English muffins. The hubby took one bite and said "This is the best thing I have EVER eaten. Or at least in the last six months." I'll take that praise!

It really was good... and no harder than making scrambled eggs. I used a $15 can of lump crabmeat, but it would work nicely with a mix of lump and backfin meat. Or really any crab that is a step above the canned Chicken of the Sea crap they have next to the canned tuna.

Getting busy at work. We've got a major software release in about a week and a half, so we've (ok, ME, other co-worker has been working on other projects) been working to get stuff prepped for that..... so of course this week we've had a new, not as major software release that came out. While not a big deal for the engineers to make a fix, build the software and release it, it means we have to re-do CD artwork, CD sleves, and a bunch of content to simply update a damned version number. Not so fun. And my day ended with someone turning over about 40 pages of doc that needs MAJOR rework by the big software release. Tomorrow is gonna be a looooong week.

Was thinking of actually running out for lunch tomorrow to pick up some Roly Poly - I am addicted to that place and have not been there in too long - but tonight also included a spinach salad for me, and I have enough leftovers that I could take that for lunch tomorrow. Decisions, decisions. And my lazy self would just rather not have to run out in the middle of the day and deal with a hot car and the hot temps and the people acting stupid because it's hot. And maybe, with the workload I already have on my plate, it might be best to stick close to the office. Because if the last ten years of the "hard work and lots of unpaid overtime = PINK SLIP" have taught me, it is that my ass it OUT the door at 5pm each night. Sigh.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The grocery store you hate....

There is a grocery store two blocks away from me.... actually more of a produce mart. I do like a lot of things about the store, but it will never overcome the hate.

Is it way cheaper than the chain store two blocks in the other direction? Yes. Do I usually find everything I need? Mostly (how the heck can you not have fresh mint around here??). Do I hate the people who shop there with a passion? Oh hell yes.

It's not really the store. It's laid out well, I could easily find most non-drugstore-ish things I need there any week. But the people... the people. The people.

I made a trip there on Sunday. Before I left, I walked up to the hubby and told him that if I did not return, he should feel free to remarry. The sad thing is we both know there is a molecule of truth to that.

It starts with the parking lot. People who think they have more rights to EVERYTHING than anyone else, and the fire lanes are full of people sitting in cars, waiting for someone to come out of the store. And it's not someone running in for one or two items... these cars in the fire lane are loaded up with the contents of full grocery carts. Excuse me??

You walk in, and there is the fight and rudeness of the produce section. The other produce-ish place I shop at, there is at least human decency. When your cart is obviously in someone else's way, you move it and everyone is happy. Not at this place. At least 50% of the people there are oblivious that anyone other than themselves exists in the world. And when you decide to fight back with a little rudeness (after a proper "trying to be kind" waiting period) they look at you like you have two heads..... like you just asked to buy their women... like you just took a shit on their shoes. Hello... I am just a hausfrau trying to get the weekly shopping done. Work with me, people.

The deli counter is a demilitarized zone. And a stupid zone. On my most recent trip, there was a lady who was arguing with the OWNER of the store about something, saying she was going to get home and call the office to talk to someone higher. Um... smoke crack, much??

While standing in line to check out, a woman of at least 50 tried to cut in front of me, after I'd been waiting there for 10 minutes and she rolled up. Seriously. I had to chew her out to get her to give it up. Can't ya just play nice in the sandbox???

But... there is love.

When the dude behind the deli counter sees my Sox hat and throws me some love? Great. Actually finding turbot at the seafood counter? I love it. Every ethnic ingredient I could hope for? I loves ya.

The last trip.... some lovely serrano ham and some artichoke focaccia that has provided lunch for five days under ten bucks? Damnit. I'll be back.

Even though this is the place... when they opened a few years back...... they were offering a "free" case of bananas the first time I went there. No thanks... I have no need for a case of bananas. I told them I did not want it. Several times. But, while they were packing groceries and loading my cart.... they slipped one in. I ended up bringing it to work, proving that in most workplaces, people will love anything that is free. They were gone by the end of the day.

Other news... tomato number 2 was picked from my patio plant today. That was the bestest $4 impluse purchase I have made in a LONG time.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

It's blurry but I don't care.... first ripe tomato of the season! Woooo! Yay! (And the crowd went wild... yay. Anyone else out there remember Tom Slick? Ok, just me).

It was hiding from me on the other side of my patio plant.

I wish I would have checked the plants yesterday, because we had BLTs and although the hothouse tomatoes I picked up at a local farmstand were OK, it was not the same as a summer tomato. I didn't even know it was turning red until I happened upon it today. Guess it's time to start giving the plants daily love so these things don't sneak up on me. I might also have two ripe cherry tomatoes in a day or two. Yay!!!!

But, it was a small 'mater anyway, so I divided it evenly among some salads for us with dinner. It was perfect.

My tomato plants have kinda gotten a mind of their own right now... they're all veering off to the right, kinda hanging off the deck right now. I tried to fight with them a little today to get them more in line, but I think I picked that fight too late. They were having none of it. So be it. See guys... women don't win every fight.

Oh yeah... and anyone know what the hell this is that is happening to the stalks of the plants?

I know I've seen it before, but I will admit I do not know if it is something that is a part of tomato plants or if it's some kind of pest. I've been spraying my plants with dipple dust every few days to try and keep the pests away (I'm really hoping for a better tomato crop than the past couple years, which downright sucked).

Dinner tonight (in addition to the salads) was a steak, potato and some roasted cherry tomatoes for the hubby, and I had some sea bass, a potato, and green beans with balsamic browned butter. I love that stuff. I planned it because I bought some beans at the farm stand last week, but they'd already gone south on me, so I pulled some frozen ones outta the freezer (thank you, Trader Joes).

Not much exciting cooking this past week. Tried a Gordon Ramsay recipe and ended up overcooking the pork chops. Made some jambalaya from a boxed mix with polish sausage, chicken, shrimp and okra. And other stuff I cannot remember now.

This week we're in for hot weather, so meals will follow that trend. Plan to try a new sloppy joe recipe one night, a recipe for scrambled eggs with crab, and more other stuff I can't remember right now.

Never did go for that pedicure... while I was at the grocery store and the burn was still fresh, I bumped my foot against the grocery cart and holy moly, did it ever hurt. The way the gals usually go at your feet and legs to exfoliate, I figured it wasn't a good idea. But, today I did dye my hair. Sometime in my very late teens, I went from being a total blonde toe-head to having this awful dishwater blonde colored hair. I hate it. I only dye my hair to make it go back to the same color I had for the first 18-19 years of my life. But I hate it right after I dye it... I like a little bit of roots. It'll look good in a couple weeks, right in time for August Party Season. So far, we've got two birthdays and a wedding to go to, and I'm sure that list will grow.....

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Web Stuff that makes me happy right now... - The power jack on my laptop has been fickle since.... well... probably about a year. It's gotten particularly bad lately. I finally had to buck it up and bring my laptop somewhere to get it fixed. But, I still use my laptop for work for Old Company (although there really hasn't been much lately) so I was really looking for a way to get it repaired during the day so I wouldn't be out of commission for long. Lo and behold, I found this place that could repair it in as little as three hours, and it's not far from work. I dropped off my laptop at lunch today, and picked it up after work. It hasn't worked so well in MONTHS. And I was impressed with the place - all the electrostatic stuff needed right there to be sure they didn't fry my laptop. They also do repairs by mail.... a thing to bookmark if you have a laptop. A big bonus... they switched the power plug on my power supply to a 90-degree angled jack rather than the straight male plug. That causes less stress on the jack, which causes less problems with the power port disconnecting from the motherboard. Guy couldn't have been nicer, they had my laptop ready to boot up right when I walked in so I could make sure that everything (laptop itself, hard drive, CD player, etc.) was up and working correctly before I handed over payment. - With the recent neighbor problems, I wanted to get some blinds so we can cover the window in our front door if we just want to hide in here. They were fast in sending samples so I could color match to the stained wood door, and I got my blinds today. They're not up yet, but call me a satisfied customer. Great if you're looking for a non-standard size.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July, Everyone!!

Note to self... next year, don't forget to put sunscreen on the feet. Remembered everywhere else, but not the tootsies.

We were up early this morning to head over to the brother in law's place to watch the parade. Their town does one of the best parades in the northwest 'burbs - Chicago cop bagpipers, tons of awesome cars, good local bands, etc. Usually, the Jessie White Tumblers are also a part, but apparently they must have gotten a late state and they joined the parade mid-route, so we missed them doing anything cool, since they joined the parade right in front of the brother in law's house.

And, any party at their house always means that they supply the good booze (for today, it was a couple of Bloody Marys for me) and I bring over food. I did some Easy Cheese Danish, and also used some apricot pie filling for some fruit ones. So good. I love that cookbook, and that is one of the first recipes I tried out of it. And they are easy. In the case of the experimental fruit danish, it was just plopping the fruit on the puff pastry and getting it in the oven. I did them as "mini" danishes, cutting each puff pastry sheet in to 9 sections (they fold them in thirds, so it's just easier to deal with numbers in 3's). Turned out very well. But I did figure out between the first batch and the second batch, the time in the fridge makes ALL the difference in getting the puff pastry to stay nice and folded-like after it goes in the oven. But they all tasted great.

I also decided to do some mini quiches. I planned to do some with a crust that were just egg and cheese, and some egg and cheese ones with a "ham" crust. The ham crust was basically just slices of ham, gently pushed in as a "crust" base in the mini muffin pan, then add your cheese and eggs. Those turned out pretty good. Not that pretty, but good.

I was originally eying an Everyday Food recipe for the crusted quiches that used sliced bread as the crust, but as I thought about it, it seemed like a lot of work to punch out 2 inch rounds of bread for each crust and then work hard to get that placed in there correctly blah blah blah.... I figured my usual basic tart crust would just be much easier in the long run...

Butter and flour in bowl, egg yolks mixed with some water waiting to be added, and a beer for the cook since this crust is almost impossible to mess up.

Made the dough, measured it out into what I figured was a good size, 3/4 ounces each, and stuck them in the fridge to make the quiches the next day.

Also, usually, I'd have checked the 'net to find out if there was a suggested amount of dough to use, but my laptop has been having major issues with the power supply (hoping to get that fixed this week) so I didn't bother. I should have.

This particular dough can be formed, ala Play-Doh, into your pan, but it makes it kinda hard to tell exactly how thick it is. For me, at least. I pre-baked the crusts, and when they came out they were thicker than I would have liked. And it bugged me.

It bugged me so much, that last night I stopped on the way home from work (from a workplace that doesn't believe in "just let everyone go at about 3pm before the holiday weekend - how come I never get to work for a place like that and the hubby ALWAYS does?) at the store to get some white bread to try the Everyday Food recipe. I shouldn't have bothered.

It was, indeed, a lot of hard and rather stupid work to get all those little bread rounds, especially with all the wasted bread that was a result. And then I put them in the oven to pre-bake, as the recipe said, and they cooked terribly fast - to the point a couple were almost burnt black. Then I tried to fill them and it just went downhill... they started leaking everywhere and it was just not good.

I ended up bringing the first ones I made and dumping effort number 2. They were awful.

In other news... garden is doing well. My tomato plants are trying to take over the neighborhood. Hopefully they'll continue doing well, we've had bad tomato growing years for the last couple years.

Other plants are all happy as well. Finally getting to the point I can use all the herbs I want without fear of killing any of my plants. Yay!!!

Hopefully, the rest of the weekend should be quiet. Need to run errands tomorrow, but on Sunday I have nothing to do, and I will have the house all to myself since the hubby is going to a Sox game with the rest of the males in his family. But, I may just have to leave the house anyway, and treat myself to a pedicure. As you can tell by the first pic in this post, I obviously need one....