Friday, March 30, 2012

It's Friday!

Happy Friday kiddos!

I don't know about all of you out there, but this week kind of freaking dragged, didn't it? I for one, am really happy it's over. With all the running around I've had to do with school, I'm definitely ready for some down time.

But am I actually going to get any? Who knows.

This weekend, Mike and I are going to look for a new car for me. My Explorer has been a good man in the storm, but it's days are seriously numbered. I can't imagine it lasting much longer without a substantial financial injection. It's actually pretty exciting, I'm just super nervous about making such a big financial commitment.

But I suppose that is the good thing about having steady work. We can do things like this now. What a different a couple of years makes. Two years ago, Mike and I were eating Top Ramen. Not that there is anything wrong with that, (in fact I think we have a couple emergency noodle cups in our pantry still!) but I'm glad to have stepped up the culinary ladder a bit.

In my morning news recap today, I stumbled upon a pretty cool article on the Food Network website. I actually took the time to read through the whole thing, and while most of the tips on this list are common practices for me, I really enjoyed some of the more abstract advice.

100 Great Cooking Tips

Definitely take a couple minutes and read through. I think number 76 is my favorite on the list. What's yours? Post it in the comments!!

I will try and cook SOMETHING this week and take pictures. Unless I'm asleep. Or out buying a car. Regardless, have a good weekend people!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My March Madness

My my. I find myself having not posted for WELL over a month again. My apologies dear readers. Life has definitely gotten the best of me these past weeks.

Let's see. Right after my last entry, we had Valentines day. Wonderful occasion this year. Mike and I perfected the pan-seared and finished in the oven steak I'd been longing for. I mean, really, it was good. Slight char/crunch on the outside and done to our choice of medium on the inside. Usually I dry steak out like beef jerky. It's really sad. So this was definitely an accomplishment. In fact, really need to schedule a repeat performance. I'm sure Mike will gladly oblige.

Speaking of my charming fiance, he is finally DONE with college. The week following V-Day, he presented his senior project, and that was that. Finito! That was also the week we decided we were moving. Good glory Hallelujah! Busy times. No wonder I didn't write. I had no time. So we found a cute little (actually not so little, 1100sp. ft, woo!) in Upland and got ready to move at the end of February.

Additionally, I threw Mike a graduation party the day before we moved. So you see, hectic. Making 6 trays of homemade lasagna the night before the party was fun. My eternal gratitude goes out to Katie, absolutely nothing would have gotten done without you girl, thanks!! The party and the move both came off without a hitch. All went smoothly.

So we ended February in a new home. Our first home.


Very big thing.

And we are absolutely loving it. So nice to have space to ourselves. And privacy. And quiet. Amazing times.

After the move, the weeks passed in a blur of home-decor shopping, my studying for finals (and I passed Calculus by the way, eff yes!) and enjoying my morning drive being cut down from 35 miles to 11. And now, here we are, at the end of March. I can hardly believe it. We've been in our new place for a month now. And I've just started new classes, so I'm perpetually busy. But life is sweet. So sweet in fact, I have a little love to share with you all.

With March being National Peanut Month, I tried my hand at PB brownies.

I made these brownies last weekend when we had some friends over for a small housewarming thing. They come together in a snap and are seriously, dangerously, delicious. You will not be able to only eat 1. It's impossible.

Try not to burn yourself eating them straight out of the pan, but if you do, I won't judge. Promise.

Chewy PB & Chocolate Chip Brownies

They are amazing. Enjoy folks. I'll be back!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

National Bagel & Lox Day!

This morning, I was checking my email. I was reading one that comes from a Jewish life/news/food site and it mentioned that today, February 9 is National Lox & Bagels day. I immediately had to call my Dad and inform him of this event. I just knew he'd appreciate it. Of course he is out of the country on business, but still, he had a laugh over the news. So, good times.

There is hardly any other breakfast treat that is so undeniably Jewish than lox and bagels. Go to any Jewish style deli, pretty much anywhere, and there will be lox and bagels on the menu. I believe this really became prevalent in America in the 40's and 50's as Eastern European Jews started immigrating in droves to New York City. There's a tasteless joke about thanking Hitler for our common day bagel and shmear somewhere, but I'm going to leave that tackiness alone.

 I myself have never been a cold lox fan. Some Jew I am, right?? But, I'm going to share with you readers the way I DO enjoy lox. I need it heated up and with some more flavors. And this recipe is FABULOUS on top of a toasted bagel. I would also highly recommend this recipe for a Sunday Brunch. It's a snap to prepare, but looks like some decent effort went into it. That's perfect when you're entertaining and need time to step away from the stove and sip your second or third (or fourth) Mimosa. Hey-O!

Here it is folks, from my Jew-ish kitchen to yours, with lox of love.

LEO Scramble
(lox, eggs, and onions)
Serves 8

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
8oz smoked salmon, chopped (AKA lox)
10 eggs, whisked
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat up the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Mince the onion and add it to the skillet as you go.
Saute the onion for 4-5 minutes. You want it to soften and sweat. This is the time to chop the lox up.
Add the lox pieces to the skillet. Saute another 3 to 4 minutes. This is just enough time to warm the lox through and give it a bit of texture.
Pour the eggs into the skillet and give them a nice gentle scramble. The medium heat is key here. Too high, and you can burn the eggs.
Stir the mixture every couple of seconds. You're going for a scramble, not an omelet. Cook the eggs to your desired doneness, season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

Like I said before, this is delish on top of a toasted bagel, but it's perfectly wonderful by itself too. Enjoy!

Mission Inn Restaurant

January 21 was a great day this year. Firstly, Mike graduated college with his Bachelor's degree. Talk about an achievement...oh and he kept a 4.0 for his college big deal. LOL.
Actually...Huge deal. Impressive and amazing  are 2 choice words for the occasion. I got myself a keeper here =)

That day was also our second anniversary of being a couple. Obviously we were preoccupied with the commencement festivities to celebrate that milestone on its own, so the next day we went out for a nice dinner. was a great dinner. We had the prixe fixe menu at the Mission Inn Restaurant. Overall I was very pleased with both the service and quality of food. Towards the end of the meal, the chef came out and spoke to us, which was pretty cool. He seemed so in love with his job, it was nice to be served food by someone with so much passion for cooking.

I took several pictures of our meal with my cell phone, but they turned out a little fuzzy. I can tell you though, the food is superb. Really high quality. In fact, Mike and I have this place (the Mission) on a list of potential wedding sites to check out. So that should say a lot right there.

Sunday evenings the restaurant runs a prixe fixe special. $35 gets you a fab meal with a starter, entree and dessert. We both had iceberg wedge salads with bleu cheese, which had ENORMOUS chunks of bleu cheese in it, NOM. So good.

We both had filet mignon with a delicious mushroom-red wine demi glace on top and seasonal veggies. And they cooked the meat right! Hooray! Dessert was equally fantastic....creme brulee topped with a handful of raspberries. So simple and perfect.

In short kids, GO EAT THERE. Well, save a little cash, then GO EAT THERE. I give this place all the Spicy Spatulas I can, which I think is 5, but yea. Lots and lots of spatulas.

Here is the link for this place, please take a second to check it out! Dining at the Mission Inn

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA Azteca

Today, several websites are "dark." What this means, is that they are protesting the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) legislation that will be voted on next week by Congress. And while I am not necessarily in support of pirated/copyright infringed goods, I think in the very least, this bill was poorly written. And the threat of less internet-related liberty is going to piss a lot of people off. Including myself. I spend a great portion of my day connected to the internet. 95% of my work communication is through the web, it's a vital link for people. And don't get me started on my personal internet use, hello I write a BLOG, and I'm an avid Redditor (when my schedule allows).

But let's focus on something much more pleasant for the time being. As the previous post mentioned, January is National Soup Month. SOPA...Soup.....see what I did there?

I did a little research on traditional sopa recipes...and below is a link to my favorite from what I found. Keep in mind, I have not made or tasted this recipe. Just thought it looked yummy.

Sopa Azteca via Rick Bayless

I really like the idea of pureeing the tomatoes and chilis together. I can imagine this would give the soup a nice smoky spice.

For any of you wondering what the hell "epazote" is from this recipe, you're in the same boat as I am. I had never heard of this. So again, I took to the internet for knowledge. Turns out, epazote is an herb native to Central America, South America and southern Mexican. It has a pungent flavor and is believed to help prevent flatulence. Sounds like a sexy herb to me....(Insert awkward laugh here).

Regardless....tomorrow when Wikipedia is back to full functioning status (even though you could still use it today if you pressed the ESC key as soon as you type in the link) dig up some research on SOPA and sopa...or whatever you want. Isn't that the point of the internet?

Monday, January 16, 2012

National Soup Month

Back to work today after a wonderful weekend of doing, well, not much. I'm happy to report Mike and I  were in our PJ's for the majority of the weekend, and pizza was involved. Also, we finally finished season one of The Walking Dead. Holy crap that's a good show; can't wait to dig into the next season. Anyone have ideas for scamming season twos' episodes?? Let me know!

So, as I was back into the office today, I was skimming the news and came across something I find relevant. Aside from today being MLK Jr. Day; (please don't think I'm down playing the importance of one of the foremost leaders in equality of the past 100 years)...January is National Soup Month. What perfect timing, the weather is chilly, and I'm a big fan of a steaming bowl of soup.

Soup is like a universal language. Everyone remembers the Soup Nazi on Seinfield. Every culture has their own distinct version of this comfort food. Think about it, across the world there are hundreds of regional soups, New England clam chowder, Spanish gazpacho, Russian borscht, French onion, Chinese wor won ton  and one of my all-time favorites, Jewish matzo-ball (or as I refer to it, Jewish penicillin). Soup, is probably as old as cooking itself. The act of combining ingredients in a pot to create a filling, nutritious meal that is easy to make and serve is one that spans history.

Since the beginning of this blog, I've posted several of my favorite soup recipes:

Egg Drop Soup
Refried Bean Soup
Cream of Broccoli
Matzo BOMB Soup
Chicken Tortilla Soup

Since this month is dedicated to all things soupy, I highly recommend you all getting some soup on the stove!! Aside from my posts, here are a few more sites to inspire you:

Smitten Kitchen this is a fabulous site with beautiful, delicious recipes. Their soup section is pretty great looking.
All Recipes is a fallback for me. Any time I need help coming up with an idea, I go here and find great recipes to work off of, including soup recipes.

Remember, soups are easy. They're the liquid equivalent of the kitchen-sink burrito. You can throw just about anything in and it'll turn out great. Leftover veggies, meat or grains? Throw them in a pot, walk away for awhile, and there you have it. Comfort in a bowl. Little else is so economical in the kitchen, along with being generally healthful and delicious.

Soup's on folks!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Menu Planning

The new year has dawned. Ok, 6 days ago, but still. I am back in school this week after a lovely 3 weeks off. It's time for my crock pot to be my most used kitchen tool once again. Or is it??

This time around I only have to be on campus 2 nights a week, unlike last quarter which was a dreadful 4 nights away from my home. So actually, I'm hoping to get some decent cooking in. And, god bless him, Mike has agreed to pick up some of my culinary slack. He'll be doing some light cooking of his own to provide sustenance on the nights I won't be home until 10:30 or later.

In the spirit of eating healthfully and bypassing Fast Food Street and Fat Thighs Avenue, I have menu planned until the end of the month. Actually, this is a normal routine for me. I always have at least 2 weeks planned ahead of time. Is this a quick or even easy process? Not really. It takes some time and some serious thought, so we don't end up eating Top Ramen or Jack in the Box all the time.

Below, I have listed my basic guidelines for menu planning. I would remind you all out there interested in trying this, to be flexible. Life happens...if your loving fiance says he wants to take you out to dinner when you had a casserole planned, for the love of god go with it!! Moments like that are rare for busy people, enjoy it. Casseroles can wait.

Menu Planning Basics:
1) Be creative: There is no point to planning a week or months' worth of meals if all you're eating is pasta or rice and beans. This gives you a chance to plan AHEAD and try NEW things!
2) Variety is the spice of life: If you plan a pasta dish one week, try not to repeat it for a week or more. At most, I do 1 pasta dish a week, because its cheap, easy, and always delicious.
3) Don't forget your proteins: Costco exists for cheap frozen meat. I'm convinced of it. Oh, and the glorious samples. At any given time, there are at least 3 different proteins in my fridge/freezer. Usually, frozen chicken breasts, ground beef, some cut of cheap meat for stir fry...oh and tuna!
4) Pantry basics are a lifesaver: Stocking up on canned items while they are on sale will cut down your expenses, and increase your recipe repertoire. Unless you live in a golden pagoda, canned corn, beans and rice are vital meal components.
5) Stay organized: I plan a month ahead and then write my grocery list. Non-perishables are bought on sale and kept, and perishables are purchased week of the meal planned. But having the list written out ahead of time cuts down time spent running around the supermarket and worrying about forgetting something. Shop with purpose!

Here is a sample of what my menu looks like for the next 2 weeks:

1/6/2012-Friday-Costco Trip/Hot Dogs or cook Beef Stir Fry
1/7/2012-Saturday-Spaghetti and Meatballs
1/8/2012-Sunday-Cobb Salads
1/10/2012-Tuesday-Taco Night
1/11/2012-Wednesday-Sausage & Peppers w/ rice
1/12/2012-Thursday-Chicken Florentine Casserole
1/13/2012-Friday-Egg Drop Soup and Fried Rice
1/14/2012-Saturday-Chicken and Biscuits
1/15/2012-Sunday-Chilaquiles Casserole
1/16/2012-Monday-Grilled Cheese & Salad
1/17/2012-Tuesday-Refried Bean Soup
1/18/2012-Wednesday-Turkey Burgers w/Rice

Lots of variety, no? We've got asian food, Italian, creole, get my point. There's even classics thrown in. See that grilled cheese on the 16th? Mike's doing!

Remember...this isn't a concrete list. Things may be moved around. But the general principle remains the same. Planning and shopping ahead will save you time, money and worries in the long run. And if you're busy like us, time and money are precious commodities not to be wasted. Happy planning!