Monday, July 27, 2009

Cooking Ahead

So... I'm a big fan of "Sara's Weeknight Meals"... PBS show with former Food Network person Sara Moulton. Always liked her - she's great at demo-ing a recipe and the recipes are usually solid.

Was watching a re-run of one the episodes a couple weelks back... "Cooking Ahead". I've always wanted an excuse to try beef short ribs, and is there ever anything wrong with duck confit????

I followed the short rib recipe pretty much as instructed. Browned the beef...

And I actually followed the recipe instructions pretty much spot-on. Ok, I did forget to boil down the wine before I dumped in everything else, and I did also use some veal stock since I had it in the fridge. After cooking, I drained off the solids, took the meat off the bone, and then stuck the liquid in the fridge so the fat could rise to the top.

My.... that's a lot of fat.... (and my.... that's a dirty counter top.....)

Muuuuuch better with the fat scraped off....

Combine liquid and meat together, reheat and dinner is served......

Looks better than it tasted. I guess I'm not as big of a fan of beef short ribs as other braised cuts. It wasn't a lot of work, but the hubby and I agreed it wasn't much better than a pot roast that was plunked in the crock pot.

On to duck confit!!!

The recipe called for doing it in an oven bag.... why not a crock pot??

Bottom of the crock pot has the neck and the backbone of the duck, then the breasts, then the legs. Figured the breasts would only benefit from being in whatever liquid ended up on the bottom.

On Saturday night, it was just taking out the already cooked duck and flopping the pieces into the cast iron skillet with some duck fat and getting them nice a crispy browned.....

Yeah, the breasts were on the well-done side, but the skin was TO DIE FOR. Rare praise from the hubby came in the guise of happy eatting noises with every bite. He NEVER does that.

So.... 50/50. Won't try the beef short ribs again, but the duck confit is a new favorite.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mmmm... Mexican food....

I'm pretty used to actually getting groans when I serve Mexican food for dinner. I love Mexican food and can eat it everyday. The hubby, not so much. And up until recently, he used to eat Taco Bell (even though that is a stretch for actual "Mexican" food) for lunch a lot. And somehow always on days where I was doing Mexican food for dinner. Even when I'd tell him not to.

I recently ran across this recipe for Pork Carnitas, and wanted to give it a whirl. I mean, OJ plus milk?? How odd is that??

I opted to throw the beef cubes in the crockpot.....

Yeah. That is a lot of pork in there. This time of year, it's hard to find a small pork roast.

Cooked that off, drained off the liquid, and stuck the pork into the fridge to be cooked the next day.

Pork, OJ and Milk...

I thought it was going to cook down the liquid and leave some mildly sweet liquid that would help brown the pork. Um, the cubes all fell apart, it took FOREVER for the liquid to cook down, and it really didn't add much flavor.

But with some pickled onions and fixings, it made for some tasty tacos.

Sometimes, even non-fantastic Mexican food is pretty darned good.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Technical difficulties....

Technology is not my friend these past two weeks.

First, it was the Tivo. We did end up juts buying another Tivo (not the HD one) and I plan to rip open the old Tivo box to see if I can salvage the hard drive. We'll see.

And then last week, the CPU fan in my laptop died. Figured I'd take the easy/expensive route and called Geek Squad to make sure that they could do the repair. I was assured, over the phone, that I just needed to go in, then they could order the part and I could bring the laptop back when it was in, and they could replace it. When I stopped at the Geek Squad desk at the local Best Buy, I was told that no, they couldn't do it that way. It was going to cost twice what they told me over the phone and they had to send it out for service because my laptop is an older model (seriously??? You only stock parts to repair new things???) and that it might take a week or longer. A week or longer with my laptop out of my hands? No thank you.

And I found out how pitiful my dekstop PC is... it takes like 10 minutes for the Yahoo news page to load. Yeah... as soon as the job situation improves, I need to address that.

Been trying to use the hubby's desktop PC for some stuff.... and then he (NOT ME - IT WAS NOT MY WEB SURFING THAT DID IT) went and got his PC infected with something. And that usually takes a day to fix. Yay.

But hopefully happier times are on the horizon... got a replacement fan and I should be taking the laptop to get it fixed hopefully today or tomorrow. Then I can can rejoin the digital world again. Ahhhhh.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Last to arrive.... first to leave.

'Tis a sad day.

Out newest Tivo started acting up last week. Lots of reboots, just not working right.

Yesterday, it froze up totally while I was watching TV.

Since then, I've been attempting to reboot to run diagnostics on it every 15-30 minutes with very little luck. I did get one diagnostic to run twice and it didn't solve anything, and I was going to move to another diagnostic, but I haven't been able to get the bleepin' thing to work since this morning to the point I can even run the diagnostic.

Windows has the dreaded "Blue Screen of Death". Apparently, for the Tivo, it's the "Gray Screen of Death".

Summary... the hard drive is hosed. I've seen enough hard drive failures to know what the problem is.

Why does this shit always happen when someone is out of work? Stuff never breaks when you're ripe with cash. It's just not fair.

But we can't live without Tivo. Like, to the point we'll happily eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a month to justify the expense of a new Tivo. It is seriously a drug... once you get used to it, you cannot live without.

Oh, and Tivo's "warranty" service sucks. This one does still happen to be under some warranty, but it'll cost $100 to have this fixed/replaced.

And for half that price, I can buy a new hard drive, void their crappy warranty on the unit, and stick a new hard drive in myself. Wanna guess which option we're choosing??

Seriously bad warranty service. When it's totally worth voiding the warranty for what is a very simple computer repair (I've built up my own PC from scratch.... twice....) and there are also many geeks out there like me that have always wanted to have a good reason to crack open the sacred Tivo (I tried to get the hubby to let me do it with our original, he said NO!!!), you can count on people doing repairs themselves.

Guess I have a new project on the horizon.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The first beauties of summer......

Happy, happy day.

The first cherry tomatoes of the year have been picked and will be appearing in a salad with dinner tonight.

It's also nice to have the reminder that I planted yellow cherry tomatoes, and not red ones. I didn't know that until these stopped at yellow and didn't go to red. Go me.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!!

I'm rather proud of myself.

We went to the usual parade party at my brother-in-law's house this morning (their yard is prime viewing space for one of the bigger/better parades in the NW 'burbs) and some fun was had.

  1. I'm surprised I showed enough self-control to not take a run thru the yard to go into the street to whack our current governer in the head, since he's apparently just as useless as good ole Blaggo. But the thought did cross my mind.
  2. I'm also surprised that no violence came to the "jazz clowns" by my hands. Clowns that play jazz. It's the stuff that nightmares are made of. I took the time they were passing the house to go make myself another bloody mary.
  3. My sister in law's father can apparently be spotted by a politician at 50 yards. It was hilarious - EVERY politician walking the parade went over to shake his hand.
  4. Since when do churches have floats in parades? And have people trying to convert you on the spot? Apparently the hubby tripped someone's "heathen radar" and some chick came beelining off the float and made a path right to the hubby (I was in the chair next to him) to hand him some literature. He just replied "Sorry, but you have picked the WRONG person" and we all went into hysterical laughter. Seriously - the woman had eyes ONLY for the hubby in the crowd. It was just odd.
  5. Funniest kid moment - when the parade was just starting up and the first round of bagpipers started up, my oldest nephew saying with MUCH excitement "I *LOVE* bagpipes!"

Good times.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Proof that I actually cooked today....

I know it's July because I had to break out the Absorbine Jr. for the first mosquito bite of the year, but I'm more than happy with the 60-ish degree temps of the past few days because it's a nice chance to open all the windows and spend the day running the oven.

During the course of the day, I did also make some pizza dough for Grilled Pepper, Onion and Sausage Calzones for dinnertime. I also made some tomato confit and prepped the filling for the calzones (I actually just threw everything under the broiler rather than grilled the filling stuff). And while I was doing that, I managed to always have my hands burried in something before remembering "well crap, I should probably be taking a picture". I must be out of practice.

But the final calzones did look good...

Ok, there were some ery brown spots where the dough was kinda thin. Oopsie. But the dough was good, the filling was really good. Oh, and I used regular pork sausage. I know the hubby, he'd have sniffed out turkey sausage in a second and not eaten them. With the pork sausage, the hubby ate two calzones for dinner.

One thing I like about this recipe... deals with making the dough ahead of time, so you could make it in the morning and then just stash it in the fridge until you get home after work.

One thing I did NOT like about this recipe.... when you look, it makes 4 calzones, but they say that makes 8 servings. Now, I do understand that our country has some serious issues when it comes to portion sizes, but half a calzone was NOT enough.

In the afternoon today, I went out to grab some thyme for the tomato confit I wasa doing, and I ran into this nice little creature on my tomato plants....

If that looks a little like a Where's Waldo... dead center, a big ol' bug, black body and half clear/black wings.

The odd thing was, I went out to water my plants after dinner, and the bug was still there. And this time I didn't see it until I had my face inches from it while I admired all the lovely green tomatoes on my plants. Thankfully, I spared the neighborhood the "eeeeeeek!" that went through my head and just slowly backed away.

I sure hope it's moved by tomorrow.