Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Haloween!


Happy Halloween!

I'm not much of a Halloween person, but these are some pretty great pumpkins. (Thanks for the link Michael!)

Have a great Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Balsamic Chicken

This was the second recipe from Giada I've tried. The first was orecchiette with toasted breadcrumbs. I screwed it up, though, and added WAY too much salt and it was practically inedible. I would like to give it a try again, though, because it looks really good. Has anyone else tried this recipe with better results than myself?



The second was the balsamic chicken we had last night. It turned out great. Yes, I followed the recipe. Since Tim works from home, he mixed up the marinade and soaked the chicken. We used boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of drumettes, because that's what we had in the house. I also forgot to top them with sesame seeds, even though we have some in the pantry. As I was getting home from work last night, Tim was leaving for the gym, so I put them in the oven while he was gone. The recipe calls for 450 degrees for 30-35 minutes, but I pulled them out after 29 minutes and they were slightly overcooked. I did not factor in the consideration of the bones vs. boneless. Although overcooked, they were great. Slightly dry, but not awful, given that they had been marinading for a couple of hours. The flavor was excellent and when we finished dinner, we were both commenting that we wanted more. Definitely a keeper, and it was great with the rice. Next time I make it, I'll pay better attention to the cook time.

By the way, when Tim got home from the gym, the reserved marinade/sauce had been bubbling on the stovetop for a while, and he said the balsamic smell hit you like a ton of bricks when you walked into the house.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dinner Tonight & Meal Plan

I've been in a bit of a funk lately. I've been blue for a couple of weeks now. I blame hormones. Girls, you understand. Today I also had to deal with the "Sunday blues", which happen every now and then, when I realize I have to go to work tomorrow. I really do love my job, but it wears me out and it wears on me. Poor Tim has been walking on eggshells lately because he never knows if I'm going to be my "normal" self (whatever that is), raging bitch or weepy Wendy.

We worked on our meal plan this afternoon and then did our weekly grocery shopping. When we got home, I wanted to try a new recipe, Tyler Florence's smothered pork chops. I made mashed potatoes and scalloped corn for the sides. This was another time when I followed a recipe. Tim has been nagging me about it lately and rather than argue, I have started to try harder to follow recipes rather than just throw things in a pan and see what happens. Well, they didn't turn out all that great. I think our stovetop is hot, because I had it on medium the way the recipe read, but they still had a burnt taste. I could tell they were a good piece of meat (which we expect from Von Hanson's), and I could tell that if the sauce hadn't had the burnt flavor, it would have been really good too. I am definitely going to try the recipe again, but I'll cook them on medium low instead of medium. This has happened to me before, so I'm wondering if our stove is just hotter than I expect. Tonight was the third time since we've lived here I've set off the smoke alarms. Oops. :) The potatoes were mashed with my Plugra and the scalloped corn was great. I was bummed about the chops, though, and I always feel really bad when dinner doesn't turn out great like I hope it will. I feel like I have to apologize to poor Tim, even though he's always really nice about it.

As for the coming week, here's what we've decided:

Monday: Balsamic chicken & rice
Tuesday: Garlic Cheddar Chicken & roasted truffled potatoes
Wednesday: Turkey & mashed potatoes
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Going Out

I've decided that on Fridays, we can go out to eat. We've been working very hard at eating at home lately, and we've done well, but on Fridays, we can splurge a little. We're not talking $150 meals or anything, but maybe some Thai food or something would be okay.

Well, my horribly messy kitchen is calling out to me and I'm going to have to drag Tim away from the Red Sox game to help me with dishes.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Updates

My menu plan didn't work out so well at the end of last week. I worked late both Wednesday and Thursday nights so I was really tired. Thursday turned into "leftovers" and Friday was dinner at Osha Thai. We're pinching pennies lately, but we hadn't been out to eat in over a week, which is unusual for us, so after crunching the numbers in about 15 different ways, I decided we deserved a treat.

We also went to Welcome Diner for lunch today. It's a great little hot dog/hamburger joint that is crazy good and VERY affordable. It's in an old mobile home-type building with a counter and 9 stools and some seating outside. Despite some unseasonably warm temperatures (today's high was in the upper 90s), we sat outside and enjoyed our meal.

The chicken stock is in jars and freezing. I haven't had a chance to use any yet, but I will tomorrow night when I make smothered pork chops. We went to Von Hanson's and Phoenix Ranch Market to stock up on some meat for the freezer today, and the pork chops at Von Hanson's looked great, so we picked up a couple. We also got our usual two pounds of the best bacon in the city, some bratwurst for Tim, and some maple sausage. We got some ground beef and a ribeye at Phoenix Ranch Market.

Tomorrow's breakfast is a fritatta. I've never made one, but it's basically eggs with some stuff put in. In checking out our refrigerator, I'm thinking ours will have some maple sausage, red bell pepper, onion, chives, mushrooms, and maybe some other stuff. It's known as a "refrigerator cleaner" breakfast. I'll also make some bacon and maybe some hashbrowns to go along with it. I wish we had some good fruit in the house, but it's so difficult to find good, fresh fruit in Phoenix right now.

I'm still working on next week's menu plan, so I'll post more later. I need to take into account the fact that I'm completely exhausted from work toward the end of the week and to make concessions for that.

We have a client right now who is buying his first home. He also owns a very cool little coffee shop off Glendale Ave & 7th St., Unlimited Coffee. We stopped there today to check it out because he had also told me that his business partner makes their gelato on-site. So we each had a small bowl of gelato, and it was great. Very, very rich. It also has some dairy in it, and since I am lactose-intolerant, it has made me feel a little queasy the rest of the day. I had planned to make pork chops for dinner tonight, but instead, I'm sipping some soda and laying in bed waiting for my stomach to stop churning. It was worth it, but I'm reminded why I rarely eat ice cream and gelato and why I NEVER drink milk.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

If Only I Carried a Tape Recorder For Times Like These

Let me preface this by admitting this: I have said a lot of stupid things in my life. I've said more stupid things than I'd like to admit. That doesn't keep me from making fun of other people. I've had two instances in the past month or so that have made me wish I carry a tape recorder with me at all times or that someone else could be around to hear them.

The first - I went to lunch with one of my bosses and one of his real estate agents. We got there and I told the hostess we had reservations for noon. She asked if we wanted to sit inside or outside. Since it's cooling down significantly here in Phoenix, I asked, "are there any free tables outside?", to which she responded "no, you still have to pay."

The second - I went to the grocery store Monday night to pick up some stuff for dinner. I also wanted to check to see if they had any canning jars. I walked up to someone who works there and this is our conversation:
Me: Do you carry canning supplies?
Her: Tanning supplies?
Me: No, canning, with a C
Her: Yeah, we probably have some stuff in the cosmetic aisle
Me: No. Canning. Do you have jars?
Her: No, I think it only comes in tubes

I am reminded of a news program Tim and I were watching over a year ago. I think some paparazzi were lined up waiting for the stars to arrive at the Academy Awards (or some such awards show), and the reporter stopped to talk to one of them. She asked him a question and he responded that he doesn't speak English very well and that he was from Switzerland. She turned to her camera and said "well, I don't speak Swiss, so we'll move on to someone else." Um, yeah. Swiss isn't a language. It's a cheese.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Making Stock

Something I've always wanted to do is make chicken stock. I've always imagined it to be difficult or time-consuming, and knowing my lack of patience, I assumed it was something that was beyond me. However, today I have given it a try. I took both of the carcasses out of the fridge, pulled off all of the meat, and put the bones into a big pot with onion, carrots, celery, rosemary, thyme, sage, bay leaves and peppercorns. I really had no idea what to put in there, so I just put a bunch of stuff from the fridge in the pot, covered it with water, and have been simmering it for about two hours now, and it smells heavenly. I figure I'll let it go another couple of hours and strain and store it.

I used my pasta pot for it - that way I can lift out the colander part of it and take care of most of the "chunks". I figure I'll use the mesh strainer and cheesecloth for the rest of it.

I'll let you know how it turns out!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Weekly Meal Plan

Monday - Ribeye from Midwestern Meats for Tara and something else for Tim.

Tuesday - Pizza (Tim found a recipe for pizza dough he wants to try)

Wednesday - Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli

Thursday - Chicken pot pie (gotta use up that bird!)

Friday - Chicken Marsala, mashed potatoes, whatever vegetable I can find

Two for Two, Baby!

Roast chicken, night #2

Last night was the night to try the little chicken - the 3 pounder we got from Hobe Meats. We had brined it with the other one, but taken it out of the brine and stored it overnight. We did everything else exactly the same and put it in the oven. A couple of hours later, the thermometer beeped indicating it was at 161 degrees. We pulled it out and let it rest for 15 minutes. Tim went to carve it and guess what?! It was not cooked all the way! Now, we did cook it breast-side up, so that wasn't the problem, but we may not have had the probe thermometer in the right spot. Not sure what happened there. So once again, back into the oven. It turned out a lot juicier than the chicken the night before, though. It was still pretty tasty, but kind of disappointing that we had thermomether issues again. The rest of dinner was the leftover mashed potatoes and roasted garlic butternut squash. Tim loves butternut, but I hate it. He cubed it up last night and mixed it with some olive oil, chopped garlic, and parsley and baked it. It was delicious. I am obsessed with garlic, so I'm sure that had something to do with it. The butternut was merely a vehicle to get garlic into my mouth. We forgot to top it with parmesan cheese, though, which the recipe called for. I have no idea where he got the recipe, otherwise I'd link you to it. It turned out to be a pretty good dinner, even though it didn't happen in exactly the way it was supposed to.

We just got home from grocery shopping and I need to start dinner for tonight. After that, though, I'll work on this week's meal plan. Why do I have a feeling it will involve a LOT of chicken since we have about a chicken & a half left over? :)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Dinner

Tonight was the night of roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and corn. Here are pictures of the corn and potatoes:





The corn was started by melting Plugra with some roasted garlic oil. When the oil was hot, I added some diced onion. Once they were translucent, I added some frozen corn, along with some salt and pepper.

The potatoes were mashed with some chopped garlic that had been heated in some heavy cream and Plugra. Delicious.

Where's the chicken, you ask? Well, there was a small mishap. Tim is in charge of all poultry around here because every time I've been near the turkey, it hasn't turned out as well. There are a million things I can cook, but for some reason, turkeys and chickens are hard for me. Well, it wasn't his night tonight. He cooked the bird upside down first, and because he put the probe thermometer in the thigh instead of the breast, we took it out of the oven way too soon. So after letting it rest for 15 minutes, we cut into it, somewhat surprised to see dark meat. Then we flipped it over and cut into the breast. Still partially raw. We put the thermometer into the white meat and it showed 140. Not 163 like we were hoping for. Oops.

By the way, you've probably noticed I haven't figured out the whole taking-pictures-of-food thing. I really need to learn how to use my camera.

Update: About 45 minutes after I finished posting this, the chicken was done cooking for the second time. It turned out pretty tasty, although a bit dry because we had already cut into it. Good thing we can eat the little chicken tonight and give it another try. I'll let you know how it goes! Luckily we have about 2 pounds of mashed potatoes left!

I am also going to try and make stock with the chicken carcasses. I've never done it before. I'll let you know how it goes.

Updates

Well, we had our long-awaited dinner at Pizzeria Bianco Wednesday night. Was it the best pizza in America? Probably not. Was is very good pizza? Probably. Would I go and wait in line for two hours for this pizza? No. I don't think I'm the right person to ask these questions, though - I'm not really a fan of pizza. Generally, I can tolerate pizza about once every other month. Just not my favorite. Most of my friends think I should be dragged out in the street and tarred and feathered for not liking pizza, but I am who I am. :) That said, I will let you skip on over to Tim's blog to read about the rest of the experience. It was great to meet everyone and a good time was had by all.

Last night was a night at home. We grilled up some hot dogs from VonHanson's and had some potato salad. We also started brining our chicken. Wednesday before we left for the pizza place, Tim prepared Alton Brown's brine recipe and we allowed it to cool over night. Last night, we rinsed the chickens (more than one chicken? More on that later) and put them in the brine for the night. Tonight Tim will be roasting them and I'll be making the rest. I know I'm doing mashed potatoes for sure, and possibly the scalloped corn I made a couple weeks ago. I'm excited to try the mashed potatoes with my Plugra, which I first read on The Home Cook's Blog. Tim and I had some on bread with our dinner a couple of nights ago and Tim said he could taste a difference, but couldn't really define the difference. I did too, but it was just different. It smells a little strange to me - not bad, it's just that I can tell it doesn't smell like the butter we usually get.

I'm going to try my hand at taking pictures again tonight and see if I can't get something good on the chickens. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention?

Tim went to Hobe Meats yesterday to pick up a fresh chicken (we never use frozen bird). They gave him a 3-lb. bird. Um, hello? If you know me, you know I can eat that all by myself! So he went to Albertson's last night and bought a second chicken. This way we can also compare the two - grocery store vs. butcher. I'll post later with an update of dinner and how things turned out!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chicken Mushroom Cashew Risotto for Dinner

It was great. The risotto was rich and wonderful. I only changed a couple of things in the recipe: I put a rind from the Reggiano into the chicken stock as it was heating up so infuse the flavor into it, and I put a few tiny cubes of the Parmesan into the risotto itself as it was cooking. Otherwise, I actually followed a recipe. The mushrooms added a great earthiness to the dish and the Parmesan and cashews added some saltiness. The risotto was rich and creamy, just as it should be. I've tried a few recipes for risotto, but I really think this is the best one I've tried.

You probably want to know where the picture is. I take terrible pictures of food. If you look on almost anyone else's blog, you can see they take great pictures. I take terrible ones. So you'll have to take my word for it - it looked great and smelled great.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Menu Plan

I am going to try something I've been seeing on other blogs. A few people put up their plan for the week. This is something Tim and I try to do every Sunday before we do our weekly grocery shopping. Last night, we talked it over and here's what we came up with:

Monday: Hamburgers and oven fries (We picked up some "bacon burgers" from Midwestern Meats a couple weeks ago and defrosted them last night. Beef and bacon ground together and formed into a patty - what could possibly be wrong with that?!) I also may try my new truffle oil on the oven fries. Yum!
Tuesday: Chicken Mushroom & Cashew Risotto (from Taste & Tell)
Wednesday: Dinner at Pizzeria Bianco! (Woohoo! Best pizza in America, baby!)
Thursday: Hot dogs from VonHanson's and potato salad
Friday: Roasted chicken using Alton Brown's brine recipe

I'm hoping that by posting this, you'll all help me keep on track with our plan instead of going home, flopping on the couch and telling Tim, "I'm too tired, eat Ramen Noodles - I'm going to bed." I work about 14 hours a day, so that happens more often than I would like to admit. My poor man starves during the week! If you'd like to send donations to the "Feed Tim" fund, let me know. :)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Lots of Stuff....

My good friend L and her boyfriend M came into town this weekend. M works at Google out in Mountain View, so they moved out there a little over a year ago. I was talking to L a couple weeks ago and she mentioned they were coming home to see their families and walk for Susan G. Komen. I was going to walk, too, but it was just so darn early in the morning for a Sunday! Instead, I donated money and let everyone else do the walking. They arrived in town Friday afternoon and we met them for dinner Friday night. Well, them, us, a few of her friends and their husbands/significant others & kids, and her parents and his parents. We went to Macayo's. This is a place I don't really enjoy, but as her family doesn't exactly have the most adventurous palates, and it was a central location, that's where they wanted to meet. I don't like Mexican food. Our friend from Chowhound, winedubar, had sent us an email earlier in the day saying "in the name of all that is good, do NOT go to Macayo's! Going to Macayo's becuase you like Mexican food is like going to Denny's becuase you like dinner!" Well, we weren't really there for the food, but rather, to see friends. Good thing we had low expectations to begin with, because it just wasn't very good.

Friday night L and M stayed at our house. After dinner, we came back to our house and sat and talked for quite a while. L and M are young, but Tim and Tara are WAAAAYYYY too told to be staying up until 1:00 am! Saturday we slept in and headed to breakfast at Harlow's in Tempe, which is one of our favorites. After breakfast, L and M left and I took a nap. Tim went car shopping, though, but after our last disasters, I opted to stay home. Tim didn't end up getting a new car, but he's still talking about it, and we'll see what happens. He's really upside down on his car right now, so that's going to make it difficult. I needed to go into work, but decided to nap instead. Tough decision. :)

Saturday night we decided to try Yupha's Thai in Tempe. Seth had been there recently, and there was an appetizer that sounded great to me. We arrived around 7:30 pm and the place was hopping. All but one table was full so we got that one. We studied the huge menu for a while and made our decisions. The first thing we ordered was the Little Mermaids. This is a shrimp wrapped in bacon, wrapped in an egg roll wrapper and deep fried. These are served with some sweet and sour sauce. They were great. Really, my only complaint was that the bacon didn't seem cooked enough to me. I would have like to have seen the bacon cooked less than halfway before being wrapped around the shrimp and fried. They tasted great, though. The bacon was definitely the star of the show (to me, this is always true), and the sweet and sour sauce just kind of brought it all together. Tim also ordered some Tom Kha Kai soup. After the disaster at Thai Hut, he deserved a good bowl of soup. When it came out, we were both excited to see it's wasn't pure white. Tim seemed to enjoy it and I had a sip, too. It wasn't as good as Osha Thai's Tom Kha Kai, but still good. Tom Kha Kai has a very complex mix of flavors - sour, sweet, tangy, salty. The soup at Osha is very, very smooth, and you taste all of the flavors at the same time. The soup at Yupha's was also very good, but had a bit more heat, which seemed to overpower the rest of the flavors at times. I felt like it wasn't as smooth and that I tasted all of the flavors in stages. For my entree, I ordered Pra Ram and Tim had Drunken Noodles. My Pra Ram was sauteed chicken on a bed of steamed spinach with peanut sauce. It was great. The peanut sauce was tangy and sweet, and tasted great. Tim loved his Drunken Noodles, too. They were quite spicy, so I only had a little taste. For dessert, we had sticky rice for me and Thai custard for me. They were both okay. Osha's versions were better, though.

When we got home from dinner, we were supposed to watch Knocked Up together, but Tim wanted to finish watching the Red Sox game, which ended up going into extra innings, so I went to bed and he stayed up.

Tim is on call this week, so he's been sleeping in the spare bedroom. He needs to have his pager and computer with him all the time, and if I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of the pager, I would be quite unhappy. This morning, I woke up around 9:45 (shocking early for me) and lounged in bed for a while. Around noon, I started to get hungry so I went to the kitchen and started making breakfast. We had defrosted a pound of bacon, so I made a few slices of that, along with some home fries with onion and scrambled eggs. Tim woke up when I was about halfway done cooking. We had just barely finished eating when his pager went off, so he headed off to the bedroom to take care of it. About a half hour later, I could hear snores coming from the room, so I wanted to let him sleep. He never sleeps very well when he's on call and he tends to stress about it, so I knew he needed his sleep. I decided to head to work for a few hours today while he napped, so I went in for about 3 hours and got some stuff done.

In all, a great weekend. Even though I know L doesn't read my blog, it was great to see her. M reads it all the time, so give her a big hug for me and I hope you guys can come and have Thanksgiving with us so we don't end up with enough food for 8 days of leftovers! Love you and miss you guys!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Not a Bad Weekend at All....

Friday night we tried a Thai restaurant we hadn't been to yet. We kept meaning to try it, but we couldn't tear ourselves away from our favorite in Scottsdale. Seth reviewed it, though, and really seemed to like it, though, so we figured we couldn't go wrong. It's on McDowell and 1st Street and we forgot that it was First Friday downtown. However, we were able to find a parking place and the restaurant wasn't terribly packed. I'll let you read about the rest of the experience on Tim's site. It wasn't a good one, though. Saturday night we had dinner at Capital Grille. One of my bosses needed some help a few weeks ago - ride to the car dealership, ride to the airport, etc. and to thank me, we got a $100 gift certificate from Capital Grille. Wow. What an experience! I know it's a chain and as "foodies", we're supposed to hate all chains, but this was great. There are chains that know how to do it and this was one of them. It was a very classy place and we'd go back again. Tim posted a review of it, as well. (I love that he does all the typing and all I have to do it cut and paste the link!)

Sunday we chilled at home like we usually do. Tim made us pancakes and bacon and we were so full after breakfast, we crawled back into bed and took a nice, long nap.

In all, a good weekend. Yesterday, though, was back to reality. The mortgage business is hard right now. Everyone in my office is pretty down and it's beginning to wear on everyone. Morale is practically non-existent. I've heard a lot of guesses on when things will start to get better, but no one knows for sure, obviously. It's tough to keep a positive attitude in times like these in this industry.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Special Treats

We were out and about this morning/afternoon and I picked up a couple of treats for myself. One is white truffle oil. I can't wait to give it a try. From what I can tell from a few other people, you don't cook with it - it's more like something you sprinkle on a salad, potatoes, or other things once they're done. The other treat I bought myself was Plugra. I read about it on another blog, Taste of Home and have been wanting to try some. I don't know much about it, other than that it's butter with a higher fat content.

Anyone have any suggestions for using my two new treats?