Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It happens to me when I call (well really when I don't call) my mom.  I will realize that I haven't called in a week or so and think "oh, I need to give my mom a call"  then a few days later I start thinking, "gee it has been too long since you called your mom.  What if she is mad that you don't call enough?"  So I put off calling for a few more days... then I am downright scared... "I can't call now" (the next part makes no sense) "I haven't called in too long."

Sanity may not be my strong suit but that is sort of what I have been doing with my blog the past several weeks.  Sort of thinking "what if all of my blogger friends think I am a blog slacker?" Or "I am sure that everyone forgot about me anyway."  Add to that I have had a ton of things going on and haven't been able to focus very well,  I will cover some of those...

A lot of people that I know have notebooks or neatly filed index card boxes that they keep their recipes in... me I have this blog and well junk like this...

These were actually recipes that I had clipped to my refrigerator door, it is pretty normal for me to scribble ingredients on one side of a note card and instructions and notes on the back things like "rise, punch, rise" or "add veg" come up often, they make sense at the time.  I know that my notes are peculiar, not only do I look at them a few weeks later and have no idea what I was saying I can't always read my own writing.  A few days ago I was looking for my bbq sauce recipe and started poking around my blog to find it when my adult attention deficit disorder started acting up and I started reading my favorite entries and realized a couple of things
1. I am kind of a dork
2. I like my blog
So I am going to catch you all up a little...

In the past few weeks...

One day I was leaving work early (you know after only working for 9 1/2 hours).  My boss said that he would walk out with me.  When we got out to the parking garage he told me that his boss has always wanted to fire me but he never really got around to it and some of my coworkers were out to get me.  The next day he called in sick then disappeared... seriously he never contacted any of us, none of us are sure what happened to him.

We got a new dog...  Ginger (GiGi for short)

We got a new fish for Mr. Man, his name is Mr. Blue

A few days later Kris called me to say that her contract was up in a week, so she was a few days from unemployed.

Mr. Blue died... Mr. Man CRIED at the fish funeral, when we buried him in the garden under the mint.

After not working for a week and a half Kris got a good job offer.

I lost a library book (I know bad) the worst part the cost of this particular book $120.00!  I BEGGED for some dispensation but no luck there.

I finally got around to getting the cat (the one that hates me) fixed... this is what Miss Lu's room looked like once I finally got her into the carrier

I had two interim GMs at work each of them a little...  Maybe it is best that I don't finish that thought.

When he was emotionally ready Mr. Man and I went shopping for a new fish... enter Mr. Dark Blue.

I have still been playing in the kitchen and taking pictures so I have some stuff ready to go.  I have just been... well spent.  Some days I can't even bring myself to hit the "like" button on facebook let alone write an entire post on my blog.

At work my new boss started,  She seems OK.

Mr. Dark Blue died... I stopped off at the fish store without telling anyone, enter Mr. Dark Blue Two still known as Mr. Dark Blue to avoid tears, we haven't told anyone about the switch so only Kris, I (and I suppose everyone with internet access) knows.
 What I am saying is, if you are reading this thanks for letting me sort out my bizarre and annoying life and sticking with me through a sabbatical.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Baked Cheese and Monster Trucks

This is a story told from two points of view, the first is mine that way you can get an idea of what I was thinking. The second is told from the point of view of... well I guess we can call it reality...

It was a pretty typical weekday evening, we were watching television, playing and talking, you know the regular hub-bub of a normal house. Somewhere in the course of the evening I started to doze off on the couch (I mean it was almost 9:00 what do you expect from me I'm old). Kris gave me a little poke and told me to go to bed, so I started to shuffle off through the kitchen on my way to the bedroom. As I was going Kris said, "oh, sweetie we spilled some Nesquick on the floor don't sweep it up, and if it is there in the morning just leave it."

So, I go to bed thinking about how sweet my wife is with her, "don't worry about the mess honey, I know you have a lot going on," sort of comment. When I get up in the morning my normal routine is to do the dishes then get ready for work but there is a big mess of powdered chocolate on the floor so I sweep it up and Swiffer the kitchen floor before I load up the dishwasher, then I go about the rest of my morning routine.

About 6:10 Kris sends me a text "you weren't supposed to sweep the kitchen!"

I put my phone away and think, "yeah but you have the husband of the year, I sweep and do the dishes."

Nothing seems odd until I pick Mr. Man up from day care. His classroom reminds me of any episode of Cheers, when I walk in there is a chorus of 5 and 6 year old voices calling, "Mr. Man, your dad is here" (yes, I really call him that). After the obligatory round of high fives, I help my little guy with his coat and we start to head out. As soon as we step outside he stops me and says, "DO NOT sweep the kitchen floor." I didn't think anything about the comment at the time, peculiar but Mr. Man has said some strange things before. When we get home our usual routine is to set him up at the computer to play a game and get him a juice while I run next door to get Miss Lu from the neighbor that watches her after school. So I start our normal routine with the question, "hey bud, do you want to play on the computer."

"No, I want to play with this!" I follow him into the kitchen and he points to a big pile of Nesquick powder on the floor. Now is a good time to start the theme music to the "twilight zone" I admit I am lost here, I shake my head to rattle out any hallucinations and walk next door to get Miss Lu. When we get home I find this...

It turns out that I didn't pick up on all of the details... here is what I missed in my fog.

Mr. Man tried to get everything together to make chocolate milk and dropped the can of Nesquick on the floor, then came into the living room crying because he was so upset. Kris told him that it was fine, we all drop stuff (heck once in college I broke 800 juice glasses in one day) we don't make a big deal out of it. He was still upset until Miss Lu got down on the floor and showed him how to play monster trucks in the spill.

Apparently Kris told me all of this as I was shuffling off to bed; I just didn't process any of it. Mr. Man was so upset when he saw the clean kitchen floor in the morning that he cried again and Kris dumped the rest of the Nesquick on the floor for him. She ran out to Target at lunch to get one of those under the bed boxes so Mr. Man's chocolate monster truck rally can be contained.

This is going to be one of those clumsy segues to a recipe we will call this my "apology for ruining your monster truck pit lunch"

Melty baked cheese sticks...

Take an assortment of individually wrapped cheese stick snacks and freeze them for several hours or overnight.

After they are frozen preheat your oven to 400 degrees, then put together your breading set up, there isn't really a recipe here but you need three dishes:

The first bowl with flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder.
The second bowl with two eggs and a splash of milk.
The third with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.

I don't measure these things, you really shouldn't either. When it is time to go take your cheese sticks out of the freezer and unwrap them, cut them in half them put them through the breading process. One at a time fully coat them in your flour mixture, then the eggs shake them off pretty well and roll in your bread crumbs and put on a baking sheet. When they are all ready pop them into the oven for about 8 minutes. Take out and serve warm with marinara sauce. I have to note that it is important to work with frozen cheese; you want the crust to bake before the cheese starts to melt then it is all contained in the breading!

These are great! Mr. Man and I gobbled them up while we watched the Transfomers. I liked the Mozzarella/Cheddar swirl best, it had a nice flavor and the textures were great together Mr. Man preferred the plain Mozzarella.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Eggdrop Soup

And then I got sick...

I didn't feel that great when I got up in the morning, eventually I realized that I was completely useless so I came home from work early and laid on the couch for the rest of the day, got up a little bit later and went to bed. The next morning I did the unthinkable... I called in to sick. I know it doesn't sound like much but in the past 6 years I have called in sick... well when my appendix burst and one other time but it was kind of a graphic situation and doesn't belong on a food blog.

So I spent most of a day lying on the couch again... I just realized... I am just a butt load of fun lately. I hadn't eaten since the morning before so I knew that I had to eat something. I made a batch of "feelin like crap soup", now there are some rules to any "feelin like crap food"

  • It has to be easy to make
  • It has to taste good (not too spicy but I can't do bland)
  • It has to be relatively healthy (not a good day for bacon wrapped anything)
  • Most important it has to be made from stuff that is already in the house... I am not going out.

Today's choice for "feel like crap lunch" was my take on egg drop soup, face it chicken based soup feels good when you don't. Plus I had a good bunch of the things I need in order to make it, here is how it went today.

Some (about 1/4 cup) cut up or shredded chicken
2 1/2 cups chicken broth divided
3/4 cup sliced mushroom (I used baby Bella's)
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp grated ginger*
1 egg
2 tsp corn starch
A little bit of chopped parsley to garnish

Sauté the chicken in a 2 quart saucepan until it is done (or reheated) to your liking, add your mushrooms and continue to cook for a few minutes. Add 2 cups of chicken broth then soy sauce and *ginger. Bring all of this to a boil then turn heat to a simmer. Beat your egg in a separate dish, then stir your soup and add the egg a teaspoon full at a time to your moving broth. It should cook in ribbons as you go. Mix your cornstarch with the last of the chicken broth to make a slurry and slowly add to your soup to thicken just a little. Garnish with chopped parsley.

*I keep a frozen hunk of frozen ginger in the freezer so I can grate off a little.bit at a time and still have the "fresh" ginger flavor.

Ok folks this one rocked it out! The chicken soup had that comforting flavor with the addition of the soy sauce and ginger that just warmed me up in time for my nap.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Beer and Coffee Steak

OK after this one I promise to stop the complaining about my work week but I have to get it behind my in order to move on...

My God! I had no idea what a fight my body would give me as the week went on. On Thursday morning when I rolled out of bed I had pains in places that I didn't know could hurt, sure all of the usual suspects were complaining (you know them: feet, knees, head, neck) I also had calves, fingers and I swear to God my hair hurt when I put my hat on. The next week was a little easier and I had a couple of days off on Thursday and Friday.

That is where this recipe comes in, I am going to admit that I took a moment to partake in as many indulgences as I could in this one meal. So on Friday I got Miss Lu off to school and Mr. Man off to daycare then came home and made this..

Beer and Coffee Steak and Eggs

Ok let’s talk about indulgence, you got:
Spicy stuff

Yes, if you look closely at the picture at the bottom of this post, that is "Monty Pyhton's Holy GrAle, it is tempered over real witches, says so on the bottle. This recipe is for two, I only made the one though nobody else was going to try this one, Kris HATES coffee and she was the only adult human that I could stand to be around by this time. Please other adult humans I know don't be offended, I was getting a little crabby and the voices in my head were getting a little loud.  My wife, though annoyed with me, can put up with this and even enjoys teasing me about it a little when my senses return.

12 ounces beer, one that makes you laugh helps
2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Tabasco
2 boneless skirt steaks
1 1/2 TBS finely ground coffee
1 tsp chipotle chile powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Anyway this one you have to start the day before by marinating the meat (I like the flavor of skirt but it is a pain in the butt to trim so you decide) in a zipper bag put half your bottle of beer (drink the other half, and then maybe another) the Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco add your steaks and put in the fridge overnight. The next morning mix the rest of your ingredients together for a rub. Rub the steaks on both sides and set aside until it gets to about room temperature. While the steaks are tempering get the rest of your breakfast together. Throw some polenta on (I was out of grits) when that was done put the steak on the grill for a couple of minutes on each side when it is all done fry up an egg the way you like in and there you have it. Grab a cup of coffee, open a beer and turn on a Star Wars movie... and there you have the most self indulgent breakfast ever.

The rest of the day was the kind of day that helps me put things in perspective I took Miss Lu to Dance, she is so tickled with the penguin tap song (We get to dance with CANES!) here is her song. No that isn’t her dancing, it was the only recording I could find without paying, but it is such a happy song I had to share.


That night Mr. Man and I went to the Monster Truck Show! Ok I never thought I would say it but a monster truck show is a lot of fun... and look at that face!  We had a great time, and maybe I can remember to keep things in balance, sometimes it is nice to have a litter reminder.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cinnamon Apple Vodka

This entry is going to be two fold, to start with I have found a way to lose that weight that my Doctor has been bugging me about I will call it the new Subway diet.  This week we opened the Subway restaurant at work.  It has been an adventure to say the least, my days went like this:  Get up at 3:00 am throw dishes in the dishwasher, shower, shave etc... then head to work about 4:00 at 5:00 arrive at work and start the bread baking process, most days I had help but it takes about four hours in total. Around 10:00 throw some cookies into the oven then double check to make sure that everything is ready for lunch to begin at 11:00, work the line for lunch and train new staff as I can.  After lunch scurry around and get everything ready for evening, do some prep work for the next day and train staff, pull bread for the morning and leave work at about 7:30 pm for my hour commute home.


 I did this basic routine Sunday through Thursday then on Friday I had a day off, and didn't really do too much.  I got out of bed, took Mr. Man to daycare then started to watch a TV show and promptly fell asleep.  I woke up a little later, ate some chips and salsa and fell asleep again.  The good news, when I stepped on the scale this morning I was 9 pounds lighter than the previous Sunday, I suppose whatever gets me there.

 All that being said I'll start part two of this post, my friend that I have never met traveled from the other side of the earth to land almost literally in my back yard recently.  I had been making plans to meet Camilla and her family since the middle of last summer.  I went through about 200 menus in my head as the date approached plus I mixed up a batch of special vodka to go with the dinner that I hadn't quite planned.  While Camilla was in the area I sent her an email that said something along the lines of...

"I work this weekend and am really busy on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday but after Mr. Man's Doctor's appointment and before Miss Lu's vision therapy I think that we should get together on Thursday."  Somehow that didn't work out!?!  I am sorry that I was so busy while you were here...  Oh well maybe the next visit... 

The original plan was a nice family dinner then, getting to know my friend and her family and maybe a little booze.

I made an apple cinnamon infused vodka a week or so before, it was as simple as can be.  Into a wide mouthed one liter jar I cut up three gala apples that were nearing the end of their usable life and put  in three cinnamon sticks and and two teaspoons of brown sugar.  Dump a bottle of vodka in and close, set that on the counter for about five days, shake it up a couple of times a day.  After that time pour it through a sieve and into a bottle.

I like this ice cold, it has a warm quality to it and a nice texture and goes down really well, and as a warning it does have the kick of strait vodka so be careful or if you have had a week like mine just cut loose.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mashed Potato Bread

Ok my friends I have been on a self-imposed hiatus for a bit longer than I meant to be.  I am just going to say that some parts of my life have been just a little more stressful than I was ready for.  Here is a video clip from a recent morning. 

By the way I am the guy in the chair...

Work has been just a wee bit stressful the past few weeks; do you remember several months ago I went to sunny Milford Connecticut for two weeks to learn to make sandwiches?  Well that restaurant is only days from opening now, it is the last step in a renovation has been a several months in the making.  Floors have been ripped up, walls torn down, the whole nine yards.  I have been getting in a little before five most mornings and working looong days. By the time I get home I am tired and maybe a little crabby.  I have been doing what I can to relax as time permits.

I have mentioned before that I used to hate baking especially anything that involved yeast, I didn't understand it, add to that I had heard all of the things that can go wrong when you use yeast.

"Make sure that you stuff a towel under the kitchen door while you let your bread rise, the slightest draft will kill the yeast."
"Don't mix bread in a metal dish it will ruin it."
"You absolutely can't make bread while it is raining."
"Measure all of you ingredients very precisely, even the slightest change will ruin your bread."

Read your mom's old church cookbook for more, they are out there.

Anyway several years ago I was suffering from insomnia and found that baking bread was an excellent sleep aid.  I mean think about it:

Realize that you can’t sleep and get out of bed at about ten o’clock
Open a bottle of wine while you put a packet of yeast in warm water to open up
Mix, kneed, rise, punch, pan, rise, bake
Enjoy the smell of fresh bread baking, when the bottle of wine was empty and fresh bread came out of the oven… what do you know, I was ready to sleep.

Insomnia hasn’t been a problem for me lately since I come home every day exhausted but I still find baking to be relaxing, like doing yoga only I don’t wake up so sore the next morning.  There have been quite a few experiments going on in my house lately.  This one is great though, just as light as air and soft, the recipe based on one I found on Food Network.  It actually makes a loaf with some dough left to make rolls… nice.

Potato Bread  
1 russet potato, peeled and cut into large chunks, or 1 cup leftover mashed potatoes 1 cup milk
3 TPS butter melted
2 tsp salt
1 TBS Sugar
1 TBS yeast
1/3 cup warm water
5 cups bread flour

Boil potato until soft. Drain and reserve cooking liquid mash until smooth.

Scald milk then combine with 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid. Combine liquids and potato with butter, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile combine yeast and warm water, and set aside until foamy. When potato mixture has cooled, add yeast mixture. Then add flour a cup at a time and knead with a dough hook, or an electric mixer, until smooth and glossy, about 7 minutes.  This is that part where you have to ignore the “precisely measure your ingredients” myth.  Potatoes differ in size and moisture, you have add that last cup of flour slowly (or maybe a little more) to get the right feel.

Put dough in an oiled bowl and cover then set aside in warm place to rise about 1/2 hour. Punch dough down and knead a few times. Coat a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan. Place dough in pan, cover with plastic, and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 30 minutes, until bread sounds hollow when tapped.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche

Say that you like cooking and catering and enjoy that as a side job with the bonus of added income.  The question that comes up is how do you get that word out?  Advertising opportunities don't just pop up, mostly with catering it is word of mouth which takes time to build.  Kris and I have been working on business cards.  We have some ideas but really haven't settled yet but more important than that is getting people that may buy your food to taste it.  Sure my friends like it when I put a dinner together and I love doing that but lets face it my friends are like me, none of us are rich and most can throw together a meal, which leaves the question still of you to reach that other audience.

Kris works at the corporate office for a large corporation, for their holiday gathering she asked if I would make something a little different to set out with business cards.  Here it is Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche!  For this buffet is is served on fresh mesculin with some flatbread. 

You will need
3/4 of a pound of bay scallops (those are the small ones)
3/4 of a pound of shrimp peeled and devained
Juice from 1 lemon, 1 lime and 1 orange
2 TBS Olive oil
1 green pepper julienned
1 red bell pepper julienned
1 red onion julienned
1 tsp Chipotle chile powder
1 tsp Red pepper flakes
chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
and, kind of a strange one here, some ketchup

Clean shrimp removing shell and tail, I cut mine in half lengthwise.  Bring a pot of water to a boil then put in your shrimp and scallops to blanch for about 10-15 SECONDS.  I keep mine in a strainer so I can pull them out quickly drop them in ice water then lay them on a sheet pan and put them into the fridge.

Juice the citrus fruit into a large bowl then add the shrimp, scallops and olive oil and toss then add the peppers, onions chili powder and pepper flakes.  Toss it all together again and refrigerate for an hour or so then taste, add your cilantro, salt and pepper and the ketchup somewhere between a couple of tablespoons and 1/4 cup.  Toss one more time and serve.

This one has a couple of oddities in it, first is the blanch for 10 seconds, It really works well on the shrimp when the dish is ready to serve it has the wonderful pop of texture but since it is only the 10 to 15 seconds almost all of the "cooking" comes from the acid in the juices.  The ketchup, you want to add enough to turn the liquid into something like a citrus barbeque sauce.  It coats everything with a sweet tangy flavor that plays well with the chipotle and red pepper.

This one is served on spring greens with a flatbread, it really worked best for the venue it was in.  If at home I like to add some avocados when I am done.