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!