Sunday, May 31, 2009

Boring Sunday

Ok, I've hit the point (already) of unemployment where weekends are boring. Mainly because television viewing options this weekend have sucked. When I can't even find one single mindless movie to waste a few hours as background noise, I'm not happy.

I did spend some time in the kitchen yesterday making some garlic confit, tomato confit, and boiling down some cream for a sauce for pasta (with crawfish).

Today, it was an easy meal that was all about the grill.

Started off with some Grilled Pepper Poppers.

Oh my. Were they tasty.

We're not goat-cheese people, so I left out the goat cheese, and added some shredded cheddar. Also used romano cheese, because it's cheaper and I'm currently in "cheap" mode (and my wedge of parm is nearing the rind, I ain't gonna waste what little I have).

Get them on the grill....

And while those cook, how about a look at the garden?

Happy tomato plants!

Wow, plants continuing to actually grow in the back! Yay!

I really, really hope these day lilies decide to bloom this year. They didn't last year, for reasons unknown.

And a closer inspection of the tomato plants....

Yay!! Two little itty bitty tomatoes. Don't worry my little friends, you will hopefully get many more little friends to join you.

The flash totally washed out the picture of the grilled peppers....

I also made some bratwurst. I usually buy cooked brats, because they're easier. Just have to slap them on the grill (also reheated some leftover onions and peppers from an omelete night last week) and get them browned.

Peppers were SERIOUSLY good. We're lovers of the popper arts, and these were a pretty nice way to do them. Peppers get all charred and cooker, cheese gets all melty and good.

Actually looking forward to tomorrow and the week ahead... need to hit the job boards, do some organizing in the fridge, get in my workouts and I might even do some major cleaning (cleaning seems somewhat pointless with the hubby around on weekends... at least if I do it while he's at work, I can get a good couple of hours to enjoy the cleanliness before his slobby ways undo my efforts - this weekend I actually WATCHED him take something out of the trash so he could dump something else in there, and then replace the thing he took out, rather than just change the bleepin' bag. I swear, he didn't turn into this big of a slob until we got married. You'd think he'd have started to slip up in the seven years we shacked up before that, but no. And now I can't trade him back).

Friday, May 29, 2009

Pizza Friday!

I think I like the idea of Pizza Friday.

A LOT. Now that I can actually make a successful pizza dough. Still can't get it quite as thin as I would like, but I'm working on it. I might actually need to halve the dough I've been making and go for two smaller crusts so I can get some stretch out of them.

Also, I need to figure out if I've just been resting my dough too long (usually make the dough, then let it do its thing while I work out and then run errands, since in the past my problems have been not letting the dough do it's thing long enough). Today when I picked it up out of the bowl, it immediately tore. Oops.

But Pizza Was Had Anyway!! (All Hail the Pizza Lord, Harry Dresden! Um, yeah, unemployment has meant I've blown through the entire Harry Dresden series in about two weeks. Good books.)

The original thought was to go with a simple tomato and mozz pizza, but the Gods of Fresh Produce were aligned against me. I had a big, beautiful, ripe tomato leftover. Maybe a little too ripe. When I picked it up to cut it, there was a dark spot on the bottom. And when I cut unto it, half of it was black.


I knew I had pizza sauce in the pantry, and I also had some low-fat salami that was left over. Might as well use up the leftovers. And some fresh oregano and basil from the garden. (Yay! Herbs from the garden! I think I need to figure out how to work tarragon into a pizza)

Lovelyness.... ready for the oven....

And twelve minutes later, a wonderful, tasty pizza....

Yes. It was good. I do need to try and figure out how to get the crust thinner, but I was very happy with what I threw together.

And another wonderful thing about Pizza Friday... I'm trying to get the major grocery shopping done on Friday, and after some slices of pizza for lunch, it is quite nice to walk though a grocery store with a very full tummy and only by what I need. I guess there is something to that "don't shop hungry" thing.

And maybe, just maybe, it helps to brighten my mood for the day. It was 7:20 PM before I was in my car and mumbled "I hate people." That usually happens by about 7:20 AM.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gourmet Night at Chez Hausfrau

I'm ready for my close-up, Food Network! I think after this, you'll want me to host my own show.

Today was a long day... started with waking up earlier than I usually get up when we're leaving on the earliest flight to Vegas so I could drive over to my mom's place and take her for some outpatient stuff. LONG day.

I did get home this afternoon and I wanted to get in a nap, but it wasn't happening. Even my usual "always works" method of slamming down a soda as I have a smoke (hey... it works for me) didn't get me into the sleepy mood.

But despite all that, I was still able to whip up a wonderful meal that would impress my friends and guests.

Start with some pre-frozen, pre-stuffed, pre-breaded pre-prepped chicken breasts....

Add some pre-double-stuffed potatoes (I wasn't sure which one the hubby would prefer, and he was not home yet, so I made both packages).....

Arrange artfully on a platter and cook according to cooking instructions. Or use almond paste. Whatever you have on hand. (For my fellow Shrikes)

I even rounded out the meal with some asparagus. (Warning, actual useful information ahead!) Easiest way to cut asparagus... wrestle out one spear from the bottom rubber band, then snap that one to figure out where to cut the rest of the bundle. This means no more rouge asparagus spears trying to frantically escape the horror that will be the final plating.

To subscribe to my "hey, I did something so this wasn't a TOTAL half-ass meal and this extra touch will make very little sense" patented (pending) food-preparation equation, top each chicken breast with one abnormally large parsley leaf (or almond paste, whatever you have on hand) and spend four bucks on fresh chives (which, incidentally, is only about two bucks less than the cost of everything else in this fine meal) to sprinkle a teaspoon of chopped chives on the poatoes.

Oh, and cocktail time? This one makes ALLLLLL your guests happy.

A Miller Chill (the pre-limed beer) with Lime.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009


And "ugh" too.

The past couple have days have been spent being down in the dumps over the current jobless situation. I try to go with the theory that "why would you want to work for a company that doesn't want to hire you?" for the most part, but the let down last week has kinda kicked me in the metaphorical balls. Dude... it was perfect. I know I was perfect for it. And I fear anything else that comes along is just not going to be as perfect and great as that was. If anything comes along.

A week of a silent phone and no email prospects is not a good week.

But on to happier subjects... hash browns!!!

I love hash browns. But have never been able to make really good ones until tonight.

I won't show you the omelet carnage. T'was not my finest night making omeletes. But thankfully, even when they're over-browned and not perfectly formed, they usually still taste pretty good.

While searching the interwebs for a no-fail hash brown recipe, I ran across this.

Another use for my potato ricer? I'm all in!

Note... best way to shred your potatoes (not a fan of doing those in the food processor... I like the smaller shred that hand-done provides) is to do it directly into a bowl of water. I also usually drop the peeled potatoes in the water so nothing turns icky brown while I'm doing it.

Meant to get more pictures of the process and such, but I got distracted by a call that did NOT lift my mood at all. So, sorry. Deal.

However... squished-drained potatoes plus a cast iron skillet and I was at least pleased with my mad skillz as a home cook tonight...

And they looked as good as they tasted. Always a happy thing.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

So good. So easy.

It's always going to be a good Sunday when you're done with the majority of the dinner cooking tasks by 9am.

Today was some oldies but goodies... Sunday Gravy and No-Knead Bread.

I was such a slacker, I've got nothing but "finished" photos.

My no-knead bread came out a little lumpy.... ooops....

This week, my mom gave me a bottle of wine from a case she bought from the winery that is in her town.

I've been too the Lynfred Winery before, and tasted some of their product. They do make some tasty wines of out the few grapes you can grow in Illinois, but they also make wines from grapes from more grape-friendly places now. Since I was about to consider trading my car to any neighbor who could give me a bottle of Chianti and this was the only red wine I had in the house, I figured I'd break it open. And I was very surprised. Very good stuff... nice and spicy. Went well with the meal.

The Sunday Gravy in it's yummy goodness.....

And how I love Trader Joe's parpadelle pasta....

Yumminess of the bread, sliced and ready to be dipped in olive oil and parmesan cheese...

Yeah. I might be able to get away with the trick of some flower on my face and trying to make it seem like it was a lot of work... but yeah... the hubby was far too aware of how lazy I was today. But, luckily, that doesn't taint the enjoyment.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pizza, a Success Story (FINALLY!!!!)

I love pizza.

It hasn't always loved me back.

And I'm not just talking about the extra pounds around my mid-section... I've tried, many, many times over the years, to make a homemade pizza. I've mastered deep-dish using pre-made dough, but any other pizza has just been a huge fail.

Until yesterday.

Friday is typically the day I force myself out of the office at lunch time, and get something to eat.

Now that I'm home, I'm going to try to make Friday a day that I make something very nice for myself for lunch.

For some reason, I got it into my head that I wanted a Thai-ish pizza. My mom gave me some pre-cooked Asian chicken breasts that she bought ages ago and couldn't eat due to sesame seeds (Trader Joe's frozen product) and I thought they'd work nicely on a pizza.

Hit the web, did some searching, and ran across a Thai pizza recipe that looked pretty do-able. For the crust, I turned to Sara Moulton's Quick Pizza Dough.

Got in my morning workout, and decided to make the dough.

Dry goods, in the food processor...

Add the first addition of water....

Added olive oil and salt...

Um, my... that's awfully crumbly.....

Added some more water, and it started to behave more dough-like...

Have a good rest, little ball of dough!

And much to my amazement, it actually did what pizza dough is supposed to do!

So, I started on the sauce. Melted some peanut butter in thr microwave....

Added coconut milk, curry paste, and a little honey...

Totally forgot about the lime juice. Ooops.

Mixed it all together for a nice little sauce....

Punched down the dough....

And then started to work it into something pizza-shaped.

Aaaaand promptly punched a huge hole right in the middle. D'oh dough!

Luckily, I was able to knead it together a little and then started working it from something very rectangle shaped to something more pizza-like...

Chopped up the chicken, some scallion and carrot...

Topped dough with some sauce... I was worried about over-saucing, but in the end I probably could have used a little more....

Added some reduced fat cheese...

Added chicken, onions, and carrots...

More cheese and some bean sprouts....

And threw that into a 500 degree oven for ten minutes, fully expecting a failure in the end.

Boy was I surprised when I pulled this out...

Not only did it look like pizza, it actually tasted like pizza. Perfect dough... not too thick and cakey, nice and crispy, just perfect.

By far, the most successful attempt at pizza I have ever had.

Which I should have figured, since no one was around to enjoy the moment of tasty triumph with me, and there is no way I can even get the hubby to try the leftovers so he'll believe me.

But it was tasty... so tasty, I might try again next Friday with a nice, simple margarita-style pizza.

I can't wait.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Is that your sausage or are you just happy to see me??

We'll get to that. I promise. ;)

So.... my day started off with Meeting 1, of 8 proposed weekly meetings, with outplacement dude.

The main reason for this meeting was to get my "final" resume. I imagine with people who are also not as far along in the job-hunting process as I am (meaning, I've already been sending out my resume and had some interviews) it might be kind of useful.

It wasn't.

Among the "networking" techniques discussed was networking and "researching" to get "in" with someone. Not just looking at the website and news blurbs... but... well.... what was to me outright stalking (and as my friend Carly knows, I'm good at pointing out the line between stalker and "just interested"...) people. The "just try to get five minutes of their time so you can sell yourself" is soooooooooooooo not my style. I believe in the approved channels. Also... tech writing is not exactly one of those jobs where someone can "make" a position for you just because you've got spunk.... they have a need for you, or they don't. And most often, they have a need for you, but can't justify the expense until they get into some legal trouble. It is, what it is.

I was also pretty unhappy to see that their "professionally done" resume was just the same resume I have, reformatted into their style (even though I gave them a digital version of my own resume and expressly checked the "I WANT IT IN THIS FORMAT" box).

So, um, yeah. Not too sure they can offer me anything I don't know at this point.

So... on to the cooking!

Bagel dogs are a favorite, but they're one of those things that I would have to start the minute I got home from work. So, obviously, they don't happen much on work nights. So, today was just the perfect chance to make them. And the 80+ degree temps mean some great workin' the yeast (even if you have to start a very hot oven to finish).

I like egg bagels, and I started with this recipe since, on first glance, it seemed to involve more egg and might give me a more eggy result. Yeah, we'll get to that too.

Hello.... happy yeast!!!

And eggs!

Yes, I said eggS. Maybe it's just too much face time with instructions, but recipes like this one that involve ingredients that are really supposed to be split up ALWAYS mess me up. I *HATE* recipes like this. I read this recipe over three times, and thought two eggs went into the dough... not one for the dough, and one for the egg wash. Dude... tell me in the ingredient list that I need ONE egg for the dough, and then tell me I need an egg wash. Then I'll get it right.


Flour, salt, and um... uh... yeah... in mixer. Add liquids.

This particular recipe does call for "additional liquid", so I first added it to the yeast mixture cup, and then the egg mixture cup, so I wouldn't waste any goodness.

Action shot!!!

And in the end, a lovely bagel dough....

For bagel dogs, the method is pretty much just getting ropes of dough, and wrapping them around the hot dogs.

So... segment your dough...

Make some ropes...

Wrap around hot dogs...

And let them rise....

I also got it into my head to make some chipotle ketchup.

Bring on the world's cutest can of chipotles!!

I love these little cans. So cute. Like, four peppers in a can, perfect for one or two recipes.

Chopped and somewhat-seeded peppers, ketchup, cumin, and a squeez of honey to balance the heat, and mix...

Mmm... tasty.

And, the bagel dogs have finished their rise...

Hot bath time!!

Those dogs went on to plates, and then into the fridge to wait for cooking time.

I also decided to make some baked zucchini sticks for dinner. Enjoy this one, because I forgot to take pictures of the finished product. Which was very "meh" anyway. Good heavens, they needed salt.

Threw the bagel dogs into the oven, and took them out 25 minutes later when the timer went off....

Um.... hello???

Yes, apparently it's Phallic Sausage Week here. Ahem.

I was half-tempted to see if I could pop out the rest and see if we could go for a Puka Dog-like experience (because the idea is neat... but I'm not a Hawaii-kinda-person) but I was lazy. And not willing to mangle a bunch of good food.

I did manage to work it back into the bagel coating.

Verdict... the accidental extra egg got them a little more brown than I like, and maybe a little more crunchy that I think a bagel should be.... but still good. I'm happy for the leftovers, because even the hubby can't polish off 7 bagel dogs in a single sitting. Three, maybe.