Friday, July 22, 2011

Bon Voyage!

It would appear that I've been a little fixated on Mexican food this week. 3 nights in one week. What can I say? I love it. Mexican food is one of the things that make living in Southern California tolerable. Those poor people on the East Coast...most of them wouldn't know a jalapeno if it smacked them in the face. And they probably all think Del Taco or Taco Bell constitutes "mexican" food. So sad!!!! Literally one of the great failures of East Coast cuisine. Although I'll give them their props for crab cakes. Mmm. Crab cakes. Ok, I'm drifting. Back to the topic at hand. Mexican food.


Tacos. Or anything Mexican-food-ish really.

However, tacos were earlier this week. Last night I spent time with their cousin, the enchilada. Man oh man. Good stuff.

Chicken Enchiladas

Serves 2 (with leftovers....holla!)
2 small chicken breasts
10 corn tortillas
1 10oz can La Victoria Enchilada sauce (go with anything Spanish-sounding)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
**1 small can diced green chiles
**1/2 onion, chopped

Bring 4 cups of water up to a boil and throw the chicken in. If you want to season the water with bouillon, go right ahead. Cook the chicken all the way through, should take 10-15 minutes.
When the chicken is done, take it out of the pot, and shred with 2 forks. You don't have to go nuts, just make sure you get nice bite-size pieces.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Put the tortillas on a microwave safe plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Heat them for about 30 seconds, to soften them. This makes them easier to work with, and less likely to break on you.
In a 9x13 inch Pyrex, place 1 tortilla at a time, fill with about 1-2 tablespoons of the chicken. Then roll the tortilla, and rest it on the seam. Continue this process with all the tortillas.
Cover the enchiladas with the sauce. The 10oz can is just about the perfect amount.
Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top and bake for about 15-20 minutes. The cheese should be nice and melty and starting to brown.

Notes on this recipe...I call for chiles and onion, but I didn't have any, so mine were a little plain last night. C'est la vie. I do recommend using them if you have them though, they really bump up the flavor.

I've spent the better part of today being exhausted due to a little too much fun last night. Captain America was a very good movie. It was very well made. And the acting didn't make me want to die inside, so kudos to the team who put it together. However, didn't get to sleep until about 5:00 this morning. Marga Cat has been a wee-bit scatterbrained today. And the day isn't nearly over. Tonight Mike and I are babysitting my cutie-pie nephew. Caffeine is a very good thing today. And very much needed. Tomorrow I'm getting the last of my bag packed, and then tomorrow night I'm off to Miami. Meeting family there and taking off on a 7-day Western Caribbean cruise. I. Am. So. Spoiled. But seriously, how lucky am I? Not only does my family just rock to begin with, they want to do extremely fun, awesome things with me. I'm blessed people. So if any of yous out there ever hear me complain, you have my absolute permission to tell me to STFU!

With the babysitting tonight, there is no cooking afoot. So this will likely be my last post until I get home on July 31 and get back in the kitchen where I belong....(Did I get that right Mike?? Haha!)

Have a good week. Do fun things. And above all else, cook!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

Alright...I did it again.Used the box of death to help with dinner. But whatever. It's hot in this damn house either way, might as well get a good meal out of it. Dreaming of the day when I have my own air-conditioned kitchen. Sigh. One day.

For now, I'll just sweat I guess. Oh, and a note on this recipe. This is NOT health food. It could be worse, true; but I like my mashed taters creamy. So sue me.

Shepherd's Pie

Serves 2
1/2lb. ground beef (already cooked from the night before!!)
1 package of Steam Fresh mixed veggies
2lbs. potatoes (whatever kind you like)
4 Tablespoons margarine/butter
1/2 to 1 cup reduced fat milk
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
Salt & Pepp to taste
1 Tablespoon parmesan cheese

Start a big pot of water boiling for the potatoes. While it comes up to temp, cut the potatoes into inch cubes, so they'll cook quickly.
When the water is rapidly boiling, toss the tates in. They'll need somewhere between 10-15 minutes to be fork tender, which is plenty of time to prep everything else for this meal.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Since your beef is all ready to go, Pam an 8x8 pan and toss it in. Take the package of veggies and microwave for the directed 4 minutes. When they're done, throw them in with the meat and mix. Season with salt & pepper.
Once the potatoes are fork tender, drain them and return them to the pot.
Dump in the margarine, and milk and mash them to a consistency that makes you happy. I find that the creamier they are, the better they spread on top of the meat/veggies.
Add the garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
With a spatula, place a big mound of the mashed tates on top of the meat mixture and spread outwards to make sure all the meat is covered. Sprinkle the parmesan on top. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top is slightly browned and crisp.

This is a really hearty meal. Mike and I eat it straight out of the pan with 2 forks, usually because we're too lazy to wait for it to cool off, so we carefully avoid the edges of the pan, which will burn the crap out of your fingers. Not that I'd know about that or anything...
Again with the classiness. But hey, it means less dishes to wash, and I'm all about that. Also, there was a nice amount leftover for Mike to take to work today, so that's good.

Big plans for tonight....enchiladas, a nap, and then seeing the premiere of Captain America with some friends at midnight. Woot!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Taco Tuesday

So it's been a couple days since I've sat down to write anything, just....didn't have much to say yesterday I guess. We went out for dinner Monday to Paco's here in San Bernardino. That place is killer. MMMMM. So good. Had a shredded beef and rice burrito. As far as dinky, hole-in-the-wall places go, tist one deserves 5 Spatulas. Never had a disappointing meal. And it's cheap too. My burrito, which was huge, was only $3.75. That's definitely a win.

Last night however, was Taco Tuesday. Homemade this time. Mike and I hadn't made them at home in a couple weeks, so it was time. And they turned out delish, like always.

Beef Tacos

Serves 2 (with leftover meat..which is enough for another meal)

1lb. lean ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon granulated garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste
6 corn tortillas
1 cup vegetable oil
1 can fat-free refried beans

Start by throwing the onions in a saute pan. Cook until the onions begin to sweat, about 4-5 minutes. Then add the ground beef. Break it up while it cooks into bits. When you have it spread across the pan, sprinkle the cumin, garlic and salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. When the meat has completely browned, drain off any fat and return the meat to the pan to keep warm.
Empty the can of beans into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. I usually throw a little garlic into the beans just to bump up the flavor a bit.
Heat the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan. We have one that is reserved for frying projects. When the oil is hot, gently place the 1st tortilla in the pan. With tongs, flip the tortilla once the edges are brown and cook a minute longer. Take the tortilla out of the pan, and pat with clean paper towels to remove as much oil as possible, fold in half and try not to break it, then keep warm in the oven until all of them are done. Serve with whatever taco fixings you like. We usually have grated cheese, lettuce, sour cream for Mike and if we have salsa in the house, we'll throw that on top.

This is one of my favorite meals. It's easy, and easily variable. If you're being health-conscious, use ground turkey. I actually really like the flavor of ground turkey, but it's very expensive, so the beef works just fine, and isn't all that terrible for you, especially after draining whatever fat drippings there are. Also, if you don't have fat-free refried beans, don't sweat it. We used a can of black beans last night that we drained and warmed with garlic, and it was just as fabulous. Mix it up. Tacos are a hard thing to ruin.

That's it for today kids. Happy Hump Day!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sweaty Sunday

It's official. The cool weather is gone. For how long? I have no freaking clue. But it dawned on me yesterday, as I stepped out of the shower and didn't feel all that refreshed. The heat of July is back. Had to stand in front of a fan as I got dressed actually. No bueno. But I guess that's what us Southern Californians get. Maybe when Mike and I are loaded (ha ha) we'll move somewhere with more temperate weather. Or have that "summer house" in Lake Tahoe.....Oooooooh. That sounds so nice. I'm not exactly going to hold my breath on that, but I'll keep dreaming.

This morning I found myself reading my Christmas/Hanukah present from my Mom last year, Nigella Lawson's cookbook, "How to be a domestic goddess: Baking and the art of comfort cooking." Firstly, all the recipes look divine, and the photography...Jeez. It's like porn for foodies. But I think her writing takes the cake. It's so sensual. Even in print, the woman just oozes sexuality and confidence in the kitchen. I love it. Her bravado is so lovely, telling us readers to take no prisoners in the kitchen, and never apologize for our mistakes. I find it slightly Julia Child-esque. Don't apologize! Never cry foul! Wield that spatula like a well-trained Ninja warrior wields a katana!

Ok...Maybe I went a bit far with the metaphor. But I hope you all get my point. Get in that kitchen and cook baby!

Last night I again used the box of death. And sweated like an oinker. But that's cool, dinner was yummy. Mike gave me 2 thumbs up.

Chicken Piccata & Baked Zucchini Chips

Serves 2
1 large or 2 small chicken breasts
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1/2 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 pinch each, salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter/margarine
2 tablespoons white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 egg
1/2 cup flour
2 medium zucchini
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat your oven to 450degrees. This meal contains 2 breaded items, so I make 1 big bowl of the breading and use it for both items. And for sanitary reasons, bread the zucchini first and chicken last.
Mix the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, garlic, and salt & pepper in a shallow bowl (big enough to fit the breasts).
Slice the zucchini to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. If you have a fancy mandoline, use it. Otherwise, like me, use a serrated knife and try not to slice your fingers along with the zucc's.
Coat the zucchini slices with the olive oil, and then pat them with the bread crumb mixture to cover. Place the breaded slices on a baking sheet that you have covered in foil and sprayed with Pam. Stick those in the oven for 25-30 minutes, but keep an eye on them. Brown is good, black is bad.
Once the zucchini is in the oven, pound out the chicken between 2 pieces of plastic wrap or in a closed Ziploc. You want them to be about 1/2 inch thick. Once they're pounded, coat them with the flour and shake off the excess. Then dip them into the egg, and then dregde in the bread crumb mixture. Make sure they're evenly coated.
Heat the butter in a skillet, and place the chicken in. Cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes per side. You want the chicken to brown and be slightly crispy on the outside. By the time the chicken is done, the zucchini should be ready to come out of the oven.
Remove the chicken from the skillet, and pour the white wine and lemon juice in with the drippings from the chicken for about a minute to cook off the alcohol. Pour the sauce over the chicken.

Very yummy. Minimal clean-up. Also had salad to go with and a glass of the wine that I used for the sauce. Wouldn't want my vino to go to waste now would I?? Ha! Sat in front of 3 fans as we ate. Yes, 3.

Today is errand day, including taking Papa shoe shopping. Wild and crazy times man! Hope the week is kicking off with a bang for all my lovely readers out there!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sha-Blog Shalom!

Mmm...Sunday. You know how it is, you sleep in a little bit, don't jump up and shower immediately, and if you're a lucky one, you got to spend Saturday at your friends' house, eating delicious food and having a kick-ass time. Yesterday, Evelyn (the goddess of curry) and I, tag-teamed a BBQ and had friends over to enjoy the spoils. It was quite worth the effort, I have to say. Everyone enjoyed, and the food was nom-tastic. And guess what?? I have pictures to prove it! Oh snap.
Everyone about to dig in to all the love.
So Miss Evelyn and I decided to have a yummy BBQ. Together, we did about 8 dishes, including dessert. Everything turned out fab. To start we had fresh veggies with Evelyn's family dip, which was really good, and Caprese Salad with balsamic on the side and crostini, so it was a classy take on Bruschetta. Classy, and so fresh and delish. We also had homemade puff-pastry feta bites. So. Damn. Good.
This makes me so happy. Sigh.

Tony approves of Caprese on Crostini.

These are easy to make, and so yummy!
Once all of that had pretty much been devoured, we started up the grill and had Marinated Skirt Steak, Marinated Chicken Kabobs and Marinated Veggie Kabobs. Everything turned out great. The steak was marinated in red wine vinegar and the chicken in lime juice and cumin. 
The chicken and veggies cookin'!

All done and ready to eat!
We even went at it caveman-style. Hardly any plates. The only utensils used were the kabob-skewers. Pretty epic I have to say. Overall a winning success. In the words of my friend Derrick, "I would give this 5 Shabbatulas!!" And that is high praise indeed. After we finished gorging ourselves on the giant pile of meat and veggies, we relaxed, frisbee was played, beer was drunk, music was sang along to and fun was had by all. Oh, and we played Creationary and Quelf. Both of which are good, fun games. When our stomachs had settled, we decided it was time for dessert....
The GIANT, puff-pastry Strawberry Shortcake.
Dessert was amazing. It was a layer of puff-pastry, topped with almond meringue, and strawberry-mascarpone love, then another puff pastry, more meringue, more strawberry-almond-amazingness and whipped cream. We tore at this like a pack of hungry wolves. Seriously. We all devolved in lower versions of humans. Total ape-status. It was SENSATIONAL. It was like blacking out, and then waking up from a fluffy, strawberry flavored dream. And the strawberry dream got everywhere. Literally. On beer bottles. On the game boxes. All over the tablecloth. In hair. On the ground. On faces and hands. was like, true food porn. 
This is all that remained. Notice the smudges all on the tablecloth. Classy!

So...after that, we went back to being (mostly) civilized human beings. Had some more beer, listened to more music. And, oh yea, played Taboo. Another very fun party game. After that, it was around 10pm, and Mike and I were exhausted. Came home. Went to bed. Slept like the dead. It was great. Looking forward to a productive week. Have 7 days before I leave for a cruise. Have to feed my man, and leave him with the tools to feed himself in my absence. 

Would anyone like the recipes for the food in this post?? Comment, and it shall be done.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Quakes, Tremors and Shakes

Short post today kids. Last night went to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes game. They are the Dodger's farm team. It was a lot of fun. The food was super-generic BBQ fare. But it was free, so hey, the free food was great. Really, anything I don't have to pay for is wonderful.

And the Quakes won to boot. And no one in our group got pelted by a foul ball, so it was a win across the board.

Today I met up with the previously mentioned Curry Goddess, Evelyn. We are combining our culinary gifts to make a yum yum BBQ tomorrow for some friends. We hit Costco and I have more shopping to do, right about now actually. So Sunday I'll have details on that for you! Planning some delicious goodies.

Alright people, Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Judgement a troix

Oh man, I am loving this cool down we're having here in Southern California. The whole, getting out of the shower and not immediately being covered in sweat?? Two thumbs up!! It's the same this morning...there's actually a slight chill in the air. God bless it.

Anywho, last night Mike and I had Date Night. First of all, let me just say, YAY!!! We are one of those lucky couples who get to spend a lot of time together, and we actually enjoy each other's company. What a crazy idea! But yea, he and I had dinner at TGI Fridays in San Bernardino (Hospitality Lane location). Some of you may be saying, "That's not a romantic date Marga!!" And for you it might not be, but for us it is. TGI's was one of the places we could afford to eat at when we first started dating, so it kind of holds sentimental value. Cheesy, I know. But that's us. And now for the critique:

  • Atmosphere: 2 Spatulas. I'm sure most of you out there have been to one of these places. It looks like the decorator vomited various kitschy, random crap all over the walls. Bells, whistles, wheels, traffic signs and about 10 million other things super glued to the walls. Yea. You get my point. Not exactly a classy joint, but like I said, that's not why we go. Can be a fun place with a group, especially during Happy Hour.
  • Service: 1 1/2 Spatulas. TGI is not famous for it's service. And it's no shocker as to why. The waiting times, both to get a table, and then to actually be waited on, can get annoyingly long. When you do finally have your servers' attention, it's the bare minimum. I can relate to their situation. I worked in restaurants for years, but you know what, if I wanted to go somewhere and practically be ignored, I'd spend my days at the DMV. And let me tell you another thing...ladies, if you are working in a restaurant, serving food to people, put your boobs away. All the women working at this particular location were pretty much dressed like freaking street-walkers. I'm serious, the hostess had on a skirt-up-to-there and lacy fish-netty tights. Unprofessional. 
  • Food: 2 1/2 Spatulas: Mike and I happen to enjoy the food there. And last night we went to "2 for $20" route. Which, is actually a good deal. For $20, you get a full-sized appetizer, 2 full entrees and a dessert to share. We had the Sesame Jack Chicken Strips, which are tasty. Little pieces of chicken breaded, fried and then topped with their Jack Daniel's glaze. We both had the same entree, the Petite Sirloin. It's a 6 oz. steak topped with an herb butter. You get your choice of 2 sides with the steak, and we chose veggies and fries. We ordered our steaks to a temperature of medium, and were both served well-done hockey pucks. The serrated edges on the steak knife worked hard last night. For our dessert, we had the Strawberry Shortcake, which is yummy. 3 generous scoops of vanilla ice-cream with a slice of poundcake, strawberry puree and whipped cream. Simple, but yummy.
  • Overall Value: 2 Spatulas. Considering we only spend $30 for the meal, drinks, and tip for a 3-course meal (underwhelming as it was) this is a good value. Having been to TGI many times before, we knew there were even odds of it being a lackluster experience, but we took our chances. Call us sentimental fools. We still had a good time, and I didn't leave hungry, so there you go. Fun on a date, a casual lunch, or with a group. And pretty good value for your money.
So there you have it. We went to a decently priced place for dinner, had pretty much crap service, and passable food. But it was Date Night. Nothing could have smeared the good time we had. And that's because the company is more important than any of it. I'm sure if any of you think back to some of your fondest memories, the details that stick out won't be the food, or the impeccable service, it'll be the person(s) you were with. Am I saying that there is something more important out there than food??? Yup. That's what I'm saying. If you have someone you can have fun with regardless of the circumstances (pushing a car out of the snow, anyone??) then you can count yourself as blessed. It's a rare thing to find. 

Alright. I'm going to jump down off my love soapbox. It's just past 10:30 this Thursday morning, and I've already driven 40 miles, worked out, folded laundry, started more laundry, eaten a yummy bowl of oatmeal, and written a post. Go me! And go all of you too. Go out there and kick some Thursday ass people!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Judgement Zone (Take 2)

Hey kids, welcome to Wednesday. It's actually still kind of cool outside, meaning not butt-ass-hot yet. That's a GOOD morning!

Last night Mike and I met some friends (who we had a great time with, computer woe's and all, hehe) near their store because their business neighbor is a restaurant that practices the almighty religion of Taco Tuesdays. With the promise of cheap good food and alcohol, we embarked to Omaha Jack's in Rancho Cucamonga on this journey. Here are my thoughts:

  • Atmosphere: Having not actually sat inside the restaurant (and never having even been there before) I can't accurately rate this. We free-styled this taco night. And that, was worth 4 Spatula's just by itself, but I won't count that in my overall opinion!
  • Service: 3 Spatulas. Considering we were just hanging out, the service was pretty good. And our server also happened to be the bartender and she was pretty busy but managed not to forget us, so kudos on that.
  • Food: 3 Spatulas. The tacos were plentiful and tasty, but small. That's all I have to base this opinion on, it being Taco Tuesday and all. Mike and I had (I think) 12 tacos between the 2 of us, so that's $12, he had 3 glasses out of a couple pitchers of beer (approx. $12) and I had 2 strawberry margaritas ($12). 
  • Overall Value: 3 1/2 Spatulas. This is not the cheapest way to pray to the Taco Tuesday Gods, obviously. We ended up spending just under $40. But for the quality of the food and the good times that were had, it's worth it. Might even become a tradition. We'll see.
Last night was a lot of fun. Mike and I both really enjoyed ourselves. That is, until on the way home from Rancho to San BerPOOP, the 210 was shut down at State St. and what should have taken us 15 minutes, ended up taking 45. Fun times. This was at 10:30pm by the way. When we finally got home, just sank into bed, and here we are. Mike at work, I'm home, blogging and trying to motivate myself to go get my gym on. Keep your fingers crossed on that one. But tonight I have a very exciting event to look forward to...DATE NIGHT! Details on the food tomorrow people. 

Oh, and I just have to say, for those of you reading these posts, thank you. Blogger shows me numbers of daily traffic and whatnot, and I'm really enjoying writing this stuff, I hope you are enjoying reading it. If there's anything you want to see on here, hit up the comments. I'll be happy to oblige. Thanks again!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Judgement Zone

Morning everyone.
This week Mike and I have plans with lots of friends, most of whom we haven't seen it far too long. It's going to be a lot of fun to catch up. This means I won't be doing too much cooking. However, I've decided to sort of critique all the places we eat, so you know my opinion on them and can then, judge if you'd like to try it.
I'll rate things on my not-so-patented-but-I-thought-it-was-a-cute-idea Spicy Spatula scale. 1 Spatula being the lowest score, and 5 Spatulas being the highest. Easy enough, no? Here we go!

Last night we had dinner at Bostons Restaurant & Sports Bar in Rancho Cucamonga. I've been here a couple times before, so I tried things I hadn't had before and here are my ratings:

  • Atmosphere: 2 Spatulas, it's noisy, but fun with a group of friends
  • Service: 4 Spatulas, the servers (especially in the bar) are attentive and friendly
  • Food: 3 Spatulas, pretty standard bar-grill fare. Mike had the BBQ Bleu Burger ($9.79) and I had the Spicy Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo ($12.79). My only complaint with my meal is what I call the "too much roasted red pepper syndrome" that so many restaurants suffer from with that ingredient. It's a strong flavor people, and it should be used to accent a meal, not as a focal point. We also started with the Cactus Cuts ($5.49), which are really yummy homemade spicy potato chips, served with a sour cream based dip.
  • Overall Value: 3 Spatulas. For the 2 of us, we ended up spending about $40 including tip. Which, considering we both took home leftovers because the portions are HUGE, is pretty good. Notes, don't go expecting the best meal of your life. The food is good, but not amazingly so. And gents, this is not a romantic date spot, so don't even think of it for a first date!!! However, it's a great place for a group and they have a full bar. Definitely check it out if you want a place to watch the upcoming All Star game. 
Yesterday and today are errand days. Which is fine by me. After being cooped up all last week, I'm just happy to be out and about. I'll see my Pops (grandfather) today and chauffeur him to his latest doctor's appointment. Tonight, dinner with more amazing people. This week is already flying by. Hope yours' is too!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I must be crazy.

I think I may be a glutton for punishment. Here I am complaining about how it's so hot, and we don't have AC and bla bla freaking bla. And what do I go ahead and do for dinner? I turn the OVEN on. You know, that big box of HOT DEATH in your kitchen?? Yea. Did I mention its still 93degrees out here???Anyways. 

Cream of Mushroom Chicken & Roasted Asparagus

Serves 2
1 giant boneless/skinless chicken breast or 2 normal sized 
1 can reduced fat Cream of Mushroom soup
1/4 cup reduced fat milk
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon crushed rosemary
3 good cranks of freshly cracked black pepper

1lb of fresh asparagus
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat up your box of death (AKA oven) to 350degrees. 
In a saucepan, place the soup, milk, garlic, rosemary and pepper and heat until lightly simmering.
In a baking dish, place the chicken and then smother it with the sauce.
Bake the chicken for 25-30 minutes or until juices run clear.
Rinse the asparagus and snap off the ends of the stalks.
Place them on a baking sheet that you have oh so smartly covered in foil and sprayed for easy cleanup.
Drizzle the olive oil, garlic and salt/pepper on the asparagus.
Bake for about 20 minutes.

When all is said and done, it's a pretty simple dinner.  And tasty too. I serve it with a green salad. know. Wish I had planned something not involving said box of death. 
But you can't win them all. 

At least Mike is home, and this type of meal suits him just fine. Actually, thanks to me, now he loves asparagus. I'll go ahead and call that a win.

Curry from the Gods

Last night I decided I had been a very good girl and would not cook. Well, that and my friend Evelyn had given me a big container of homemade yellow curry. So yay! All I did was throw some rice in a pot, and heated up from garlic naan from Trader Joe's (which is delicious all by itself) and there you go...dinner.

Let me tell ya, this curry was amazing. Flavorful, light, and spicy. YUM!
So thank you Evelyn! 

In other news, it is now Sunday morning. The house is quiet. And I am menu planning far into..if you can believe it...August. I'll be gone for a week at the end of July, so have to get some meal fixins (read: EASY) in the fridge/freezer for Mike. You know, so he doesn't starve to death. Or even worse, eat fast food for 7 straight days... EEEEEK! The things we do for those we love. 

Also, am going to start working on making this blog a little more colorful...different background, including pictures in posts, etc. Any helpful ideas are most welcome. I am new to this, but excited to learn. And if you are someone in my life, your tidbits may be rewarded with cookies! Hey-O!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend kids!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Wild Friday Night

So it's Friday night...and it's inching closer to Mike coming home from work, so I start on dinner. I had these grandiose ideas of actually setting the table and sitting down for a civilized meal. Did this actually happen? Keep reading.

Warm Pasta Salad

Serves 2 (with leftovers, yay!)
1/2 fettuccini 
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup italian dressing
1 teaspoon dried basil

Start a pot of water boiling for the fettuccini. 
While the water gets going, get all your veggies prepped and throw them in a bowl, along with the feta and basil. If you want to use fresh basil, I'd actually recommend it. However, the heat is pretty much ruining my fresh basil, so dried will have to suffice.
I also realized half-way through that I did not in fact have red onion, so I used white. And it still worked out just fine.
Boil the fettuccini to al dente, then drain and toss in the bowl with the veggies.
Pour the dressing on top of the pasta and mix everything together. 

This is a very simple dinner. But man it hits the spot. I also steamed some broccoli to go with. Yum.

So.....did we end up at a table like grown-ups?
Nope. We ate on the couch. Out of the bowl. With two forks. And it was kind of great.

Two wild and crazy kids on a Friday night.
We're a class act I tell ya. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Little Bit of Money Saving Strategy for You

Happy Friday kids! I know the long holiday weekend is now behind us, but every Friday is a reason to be happy in my opinion.

I thought it might be a good idea to let you know how I'm doing what I'm doing, and a little of the why. First off, speaking as someone with limited monetary means, eating well is fun challenge I take on every day. So how am I managing this task??

1) Costco. Yes, I buy in bulk. Mostly canned items and frozen meats. These items will last a good long time and save you a lot of money in the process. For instance, Mike and I will do a Costco run every couple weeks, and just get NECESSITIES. Meaning, we don't get the monster pack of beef jerky or 40 Snicker's bars. I have had a bag of frozen chicken breasts from Costco for over a month. You just have to make it stretch.

2) Check weekly sales. I'm a huge fan of Stater Bro's grocery store. Their prices are almost always lower then most big chain stores. Their weekly mailers tell you what's on sale, and if it's something that won't go bad immediately, STOCK UP! Like that 2/$3 on bread? Get it, and freeze the extra loaf. Saving money is always in style.

3) Look at local markets for produce. I no longer buy any produce at the major grocers. I completely refuse. There is a local market here, and the prices are insanely cheap. Last time I went, I bought 4 big cucumbers for $1. Yes, you read that right. At the major stores, you might get 1 cuke for that price. It's worth spending the extra time looking at both the mailers and online to find the deals. I'm lucky, Staters and my cheap-o produce place are less than a mile from each other. But I'm sure most people can find similar places without going far out of their way. 

4) Menu-planning. I cannot stress this enough. Planning in advance will save you time and money in the long run. This topic is worthy of a post all on it's own. I'll get to that later.

All it takes to eat well is a little effort and some creativity. I'd say, conservatively, I cook about 5 nights a week. And I'm not talking about Top Ramen here people. Normal kitchen and pantry staples can be turned into delicious, and nutritious meals. 

Got a bag of potatoes? Sounds like Gnocchi to me! Get cooking!

Cooking in the Summertime

Has anyone out there tried to cook a meal in a house without air conditioning? 
In July? 
In San Bernardino??
I am dying out here!!!
But the “show” must go on. I will take my 3rd shower of the day later.

Mini Beef and Bean Chimis

Serves 3
6-9inch flour tortillas
1lb of lean ground beef
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 cup shredded medium cheddar cheese (We’re Tillamook people here)
1 stick of butter/margarine (don’t worry, you won’t use it all!)
Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Take the ground beef and sauté over medium high heat with the cumin and half the garlic. Cook until no pink remains. Drain off the fat and return to the pan.
Put the drained beans in a saucepan and cook for a couple minutes with a tablespoon of water and the remainder of the garlic.
Put a couple tablespoons of meat, beans and cheese in the bottom third of each tortilla.
Roll the tortillas so they are closed. Generally, I will roll the entire thing once, then tuck the ends in and roll once more. Rest them on the the folded part so they don't pop open on you.
Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, and place the chimis on the sheet.
Rub the stick of butter on the outsides of the chimis. This will cause them to crisp up and brown slightly in the oven, which is what you’re going for. Traditionally chimis (chimichangas) are deep-fried, but the baking saves you a lot of the fat, and a lot of the cleanup as well.
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown and crisp.

After they are done, open the freezer door and stick your head in to cool down. Or drink a margarita. That helps too.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Soy & Ginger Chicken and Fried Rice

Serves 2 (with rice leftover…perfect for lunch the next day!)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large or 2 small boneless/skinless chicken breasts
¼ cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 cups of water
1 cup of white or brown rice
1 package Steam Fresh mixed veggies
2 eggs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
Salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients for the chicken in a baggie and marinate at least 2 hours, up to 24 hours.
Bring the water up to a boil for the rice, then add it in and reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes.
As the rice is cooking, heat the vegetable oil for the chicken in a sauté pan or wok. The wok is simple to use and you can fry the rice in it so it’s 1 less pan to clean.
Put the marinated chicken into the wok and brown on both sides, then reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Continue cooking about 10 minutes, or until juices run clear and all pink is gone.
When rice is done, remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
As chicken finishes, transfer it to a plate and keep covered.
Put the veggies into the wok and sauté until warmed through, then move them to the outer edge of the wok.
Crack both eggs into a bowl and then pour directly into the wok.
Using your spatula, move the eggs around until the are lightly scrambled. Keep as much of the veggies out of the way as possible. When the eggs are cooked to your liking, mix in all the veggies.
Add the rice to the wok, along with the soy sauce, granulated garlic and salt.
Mix all the ingredients and fry about 5 minutes, mixing every 30 seconds or so.

This is a yummy, simple meal. You won’t need to add much salt because of the soy sauce. Doesn’t need much to go with it besides a green salad and a smile.

Welcome...and now for some food!

Amatriciana-My Way

Serves 4
3 slices bacon, diced
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 ¼ cups linguine pasta, uncooked
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, around 5 minutes. Remove the bacon, and drain most of the fat out of the pan, leaving a tablespoon or so.
Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water and get the linguine cooking as directed. When done, drain.
Add onions to the pan and sauté until starting to soften, then stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for about 30 seconds.
Add the tomatoes and their juices. Break up the tomatoes with your spatula. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Stir the basil into the sauce and then add the linguine. Toss.
Serve with Parmesan sprinkled on top.

This is what home cooking is all about. I don’t think comfort food gets any better then a big bowl of noodles, with an easy, slightly spicy sauce. If you do not eat bacon, feel free to leave it out. You can also use turkey, also it doesn’t render down nearly as well as normal bacon.  Also, if you prefer granulated garlic, go ahead and make the proper substitution. And if you love garlic like me, add as much as you want! I am all for making recipes your own.