Sunday, January 25, 2009
Can you believe I made those fish pajama pants all by myself?? I can't even believe it. Of course, if you look closely at them, it looks like a drunk person sewed all the seams. And I promise I wasn't drunk. I just can't sew!
Here's a close up of the fish flannel...
And how about that manly pose? I'm sure GQ will be contacting me shortly, wanting to sign Dev for a modeling gig.
Up next? Dev's been bugging me to make him a digital cammo apron....
Looks good, huh?
I read this recipe in an issue of "Cooks Illustrated" magazine. The original recipe called for gruyere cheese, but I had gouda in the ice box...and it worked just fine.
The recipe is amazingly simple and the results were spectacular.
All I did was take a chunk of gouda (about 8 ounces), grated half of it and cut the other half into small chunks. I mixed the cheese with 3 cups of AP flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, about a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of black pepper, 2 teaspoons of baking powder. Then I dumped a 12 ounce beer in it. I used Harvest Wheat, but even cheap beer would work. The beer needs to be lighter, because the fuller flavored beers might make the bread bitter. After mixing everything together, I dumped it in a loaf pan and poured 1/2 a stick of melted butter over the top. It baked in a 375 degree oven for about 50 minutes. After about 5 minutes out of the oven I took it out of the pan and let it cool on a rack. I only made it about 10 minutes before I had to slice it, because the aroma in the kitchen was insane.
Here's a close up of the craggly top.
If you like cheese and beer, YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS. RIGHT NOW.
For dinner tonight, I roasted a pork loin.
I couldn't believe how well it turned out!
The process could not have been any easier. I took it out about half an hour before I wanted to start cooking it, and rubbed it all over with Penzey's Chicago Seasoning. After it sat for 30 minutes, I seared it on all sides in an oven proof skillet in some olive oil and put it in a 375 degree oven until the internal temp reached 145 degrees. I took it out and tented it for 10 minutes while I prepared the rest of the meal.
It was juicy and perfectly seasoned...and will make killer sandwiches for school this week!
Claudinia's is located on Highway 285, right down from the Family Dollar store.
The restaurant has only been open about a week, so bear in mind that there may be a few kinks to work out.
Here is the sign for the restaurant...
They really need to clean up around the outside of the restaurant. The location is good- right off Highway 285...but right now it looks like a dump. There is trash all over the place, and the parking lot is almost completely taken up by a used RV. I would imagine some people will be put off by the way it looks.
The inside is nice and clean, and doesn't reek of grease anymore. Dev and I had been in one other time before (when it was one of the other seventy restaurants that have been there since we moved here) and the whole place reeked of old grease. So, kudos for eliminating that.
The owner and her two daughters were working out front. We were seated right away and I ordered some chips and salsa...
I was impressed. The salsa had a really fresh flavor, and the chips....how to say it...they were still sizzling. They actually fry their own chips. A health hazard I know, but oh my gosh they were delicious. I would go back just for the chips and salsa.
I ordered the Hilly J. Burger (or something like that- I don't remember the exact title. It was a cheeseburger with bbq sauce and onion rings on it. I also ordered the seasoned fries...
The burger really wasn't anything to write home about. It was VERY WELL DONE...which really isn't my thing...but when you're eating ground beef in an unfamiliar environment, I guess it's better to err on the side of caution. The seasoned fries were really good, though. They know what they are doing in the frying department. They were piping hot, crispy and seasoned just right.
Dev ordered the pepperjack burger, which to his surprise had actual jalapenos on it. But he said it wasn't too spicy. He ordered onion rings with his burger...
And since I was there to review the place, I decided it would be good to get a real cross section of the menu, so I ordered the home made blueberry pie for desert (the things I do for the happiness of my readers.....sigh)- in spite of the fact my stomach was about to explode from eating too much grease...
The pie probably was home made. I couldn't tell from the texture of the crust for sure, but it didn't taste prepackaged. The filling might not have been homemade, though. If it was, it needed a little pinch of salt or perhaps some lemon zest...it was a bit sweet and cloying.
Overall, it was a pretty good lunch. Next time we go, I will try the Mexican selections on the menu. And I will also ask what is available but not on the menu. Some people came in while we were there and asked for chili rellenos (which aren't on the menu) and they got them.
The only annoying thing about the visit was one of the daughters. The older one was working and doing her best to do a good job. The younger one was basically sitting around and complaining about things. If she was going to just hang out, perhaps she should have been told to hang out in back. Most of the time I was sitting there, stifling the urge to strangle her. I heard the owner/mother telling another customer the girls came in and helped her on the weekends. I will try to plan my next visit on a weeknight...
Sunday, January 18, 2009
So you can imagine my joy about the 2 new restaurants that have opened here in the last month or two.
I already wrote my piece about the Thai House. Now I'll bend your ears about the Fresh Tortilla Company.
I'm assuming this is a chain outfit. I'm not sure why I assume this- other than the way the menu looks. The only way we knew it was there was because Dev was over having copies made at the office supply store down the street, and he was accosted in the parking lot by some young chics waving menus in his face. I guess in a college town, this is effective advertising...well I know it was because we ate there that night... :) I got sucked in by the promise of a free churro with the purchase of any meal. Damn those churros!
The Fresh Tortilla Company is located on Main Street, across from the TSJC campus.
Anyhoo, we ordered a "Big Ass Burito" combo (their signature item) and made sure we got our free churro.
I am going to try to be as diplomatic about this as possible. The meal had high points and low points. Let's start with the high points.
The mild pico de gallo was nice and fresh. It was a bit spicy, but pico de gallo is supposed to be that way. The chips were made from fresh flour tortillas and baked. I liked that because they were super crispy and I didn't feel as guilty eating them.
The rest of the meal was a low point. The "Big Ass Burrito" did taste fresh, but it was bland. The cilantro rice had no flavor at all...neither did the pinto beans. I ordered it with grilled chicken, but I don't remember anything about it. It didn't even really taste like chicken.
And please, don't get me started on that churro! It was a disgrace to the art of churro making. It was unbelievably tough and had no flavor at all. I bet it was sitting under a heat lamp at least half an hour.
Now here's my biggest dig...
If you can't make a decent burrito in Alamosa, please go home. There are at least 20 other places I can go and get a really good burrito and really good salsa and a mean churro. To be fair, they also serve tacos, but I didn't try them. I suppose I should try them before I completely pan the place. I'll get around to it eventually, I'm sure.
I'm not sure the Fresh Tortilla Company will last long. They either need to up the flavor quotient or switch to selling burgers.
The Thai House is located on Main Street, in the same block and on the same side of the street as Milagros.
One of the owners greated us when we walked in. He took us up to the front, but then reconsidered because they were working on their sign out front and the door would be opening and closing frequently (and it was cold outside). I thought that was very nice.
Because I am a curious person, and because I had to get the scoop on this place, I asked the man who seated us who the owner was. He told us he was one of the owners, along with his business partner. Apparently the guy I talked to is a local. He and his business partner own (or owned) several other Thai restaurants in Kansas. He speaks Thai. The cooks and the waitstaff are all Thai. Sounds good to me...sometimes it pays to snoop around a little and ask questions.
Dev ordered Jasmine Tea with his meal. I just had water. After perusing the extensive menu (and they have a separate, equally huge vegetarian menu), I narrowed the appetizers down to a combo plate of spring rolls and calamari. We decided on the calamari. Dev ordered duck with a garlic sauce, and I ordered the Pad Thai with shrimp. I figured if this place can't do a decent Pad Thai, they need to take the shingle down and go home.
The calamari was perfectly fried and served with a VERY SPICY red dipping sauce. When a Thai place says something is hot- BELIEVE THEM...they know what they are talking about.
Our entrees arrived soon after. Dev's duck was served with stir fried veggies (I believe I saw some baby bok choy, but I could be wrong) and steamed rice. I tasted the duck and it was perfectly cooked.
My Pad Thai was really, really good, although the shrimp were a tad overcooked for my taste. It had all the appropriate garnishes (lots of fresh cilantro, crushed peanuts, etc.) and tasted very fresh. I had ordered mine mild, because although I like spicy food, I wasn't sure what the heat levels were like here, and I didn't want a painful dinner. Next time I'll order it medium spicy. Everything on the menu can be prepared to your desired level of heat.
I guess if I had to point out a weakness, it would be the prices. But, having said that, fresh ingredients are expensive, as are decent cooks. And the portions were huge (we both took doggie bags and got additional meals out of the deal). My point is, I doubt we can afford to be weekly regulars, but at the very least we can be monthly and special occasion regulars.
Everyone should drop what they're doing and run on over there right now. They also serve lunch, I believe, which might be a more economical option.
The Winter 2008 edition of the newsletter had a list on the back cover showing the "USDA Pesticide Ranking List." It looks like a list of fruits and veggies and their "pesticide load." I'm not sure exactly what that means, but it seems to me the things highest on the list (or with the highest loads) would be better purchased organic, because somehow more pesticides are transmitted through them. Perhaps it is because of thin skin (avocados are pretty near the bottom and they have tough skins). The highest thing on the list is peaches, with a pesticide load of 100. The rest of the top ten includes apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach and lettuce.
I suppose I should do a bit more sleuthing around to find out exactly what this means. If anyone out there can enlighten me, please do!
Saturday, January 17, 2009
My first attempt at socks. It is not going well. It has taken forever to get this far. I ripped it out about 8 times, just trying to get the round joined on the double pointed needles. My rib pattern is also messed up, but I swear it would kill me to rip it out again!
Part of the problem is the double points. I am used to knitting on huge needles, so using size 3 needles is like knitting with toothpicks. And using so many needles at once is difficult, because I'm a spaz.
I will finish the socks, because it is a matter of principle. But I'm not sure I will become a sock person. Perhaps I will stick to rectangular nad square things... :)
Here is more yarn from my buying frenzy this morning.
This is called Sari Silk, because it is made from recycled Sari fabric. The resulting yarn is irregular and varies greatly in thickness. I am using size 15 needles to knit it into a thin scarf (as you see in the pic). I may have to go pick up another hank, as the work you see constitutes half of the first hank.
This is such fun to work with...I may be hooked on non-traditional fibers!
I have become quite the yarn hound. I suppose that is a logical by product of knitting.
My friend Kim owns a yarn shop here in town, The Yarn Gallery, and I went over to help her move into her new digs this morning. She is now located in the Memory Lane scrapbooking store.
We spent the morning putting yummie yarn in bins at her new shop. It was inevitable that I'd start making a pile of orphan yarn balls to take home with me.
These 3 really spoke to me. The pink one because it is so impossibly soft and fuzzy. The two blue-green ones because I thought it would be neat to knit them together into a scarf or a hat. Who knows? Sometimes you just buy yarn because it calls to you.
I love broccoli and I love quiche. I love them even more together. I have made this quiche at least a thousand times (with several variations). I use frozen broccoli, whatever cheese I have left in the fridge (this time it was a bit of cheddar, pepper jack and romano), and my basic quiche base (2 cups cream, 4 eggs, hot sauce, nutmeg, salt and pepper).
I like this because it is so versatile. We ate it for dinner Thursday night, lunch on Friday and breakfast this morning.
I should just keep a quiche in the fridge all the time. :)
This was my first attempt at home made onion rings. I got the idea watching Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics on Foodtv.
Basically, I just cut a yellow onion into thin slices, soaked them in buttermilk and hot sauce for about 15 minutes, then dredged them in a mixture of flour, corn meal, salt and pepper. They fried for about 1 minute per batch.
I was very satisfied with the result, and they were delicious on my turkey burger. But my gosh, what a mess they make in the kitchen. I think I will have to experiment with a baking method. Maybe then I can justify having them more often!
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Tonight's dinner. Dev and I had gone to exercise at the Rec Center, and when we got home, this was about all I could manage...
Bowtie pasta tossed with sundried tomato and regular pesto, toasted pine nuts, romano cheese and fresh ground black pepper, served with a piece of Dev's home made bread run under the broiler with a kiss of organic olive oil. This was my bowl, so I added some goat cheese as well.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Sunday, January 4, 2009
I made potato pancakes with the leftovers from last night's dinner (see this post for the recipe). Then we sat at the table, talking and drinking our beverages (Dev had his coffee and I had my new yerba mate tea) for quite a long time.
I went to the library yesterday and scored several really good books to read. I checked out "Like Water For Chocolate," "Small Wonder," and "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim." I am especially anxious to read the Kingsolver and the Sedaris. I love both of these authors.
I will try to remember to post some thoughts about the books as I finish them. I got about a quarter of the way through "Small Wonders" last night.
My Daddy sent me some Christmas money, so instead of being responsible and paying bills with it, I decided to buy books. Actually, that's not really accurate. I used Daddy's money to join the Rec Center so I could get some exersize and get back to my yoga class. But that freed up some money in my budget to blow on books.
I have discovered half.com. My wish list on that site is about a mile long. Everytime I read a food or knitting blog that mentions a book I might want, I go over and find it and slap it on the wish list. With my new found money, I ordered 4 books off my wishlist, and I bought one for Dev. He has been wanting "The Physics of Superheroes" for quite a while, and I found it for pretty cheap.
Anyhoo, the first of my books arrived yesterday. I ordered the "Rancho de Chimayo Cookbook."
The restaurant (Rancho de Chimayo) is not far from where I live. I've never been but I've heard wonderful things about it. I checked this book out from the college library a while back and loved everything about it. It is really more a history book than a cook book, although it does give all the recipes for the salsas they use, as well as meat preparations. I'll be sure to make something out of it and post it here soon.
I'll add that to the list of the other 50 posts I want to write. But for now, I have a cup of hot tea calling and a pile of good books (not to mention 3 knitting projects)...
Saturday, January 3, 2009
So this is what tonight's dinner looked like...very basic...very satisfying...very fly by the seat of my pants.
Dinner was the byproduct of a strange state of affairs in my kitchen.
Under normal circumstances, I'll sit down at some point during the weekend and map out what I want to have for dinners over the next week. I go to the store and get what I need, then go with the flow. In spite of all my planning, at some point during the day on Monday, I will be sitting in the library (probably reading the same story for the 4th or 5th time) and think to myself, "Dammit- I forgot to take out the chicken/pork/beef I needed for dinner tonight." Thus derailing my carefully strategized meal.
Friday I decided this was no longer going to happen to me. I took out one pound of ground turkey (to be used for dinner that night), one pound of ground pork (to be used for breakfast sausage making activities) and 2 packages of bone-in chicken thighs.
Later in the day, I take out one of the defrosted packages of meat and begin my preparations for a Mexican style pizza. After the contents of my supposed turkey based sauce were simmering away on the stove (basically I just chopped up an onion and threw it in with the ground meat while it cooked through, then added a can of kidney beans (rinsed and drained) and a can of enchilada sauce), I realized I had grabbed the ground pork instead of the ground turkey.
In one fell swoop, I had not only substantially changed the nature of my "lite" pizza topping, but I had also completely derailed my sausage making adventure. Rats.
Fast forward to Saturday mid afternoon, when it dawned on me there were 4 chicken thighs in the ice box that needed to be used soon. This was a totally new experience for me....too much meat defrosted. I now have a pound of ground turkey and the chicken thighs to use before they rotted.
I decided to use the chicken thighs first (I'm not sure why). But I hadn't planned anything for them really, so I had to think fast. I knew I had potatoes in the bin that needed to be used before they grew into potato plants, so smashed potatoes seemed a logical side dish. I also had a head of cauliflower in the ice box, so I cut them into bite sized pieces, tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper and put them on a baking sheet, waiting to be roasted.
I sliced an onion and 2 carrots layed them on the bottom of a pyrex baking dish and topped them with the four chicken thighs, seasoned with my trusty BBQ 3000 rub from Penzey's. I doused the tops of the thighs with olive oil, then poured about 1/2 a cup of Vermouth over the whole mess, put in a meat thermometer and covered the pan with tin foil. I roasted the chicken at 400 degrees until it reached 180 degrees (putting the cauliflower in with the chicken for the last 20 minutes or so).
I plated the chicken on a bed of smashed potatoes (done my usual way- bay leaves, garlic, a bit of butter and cream cheese), layed the cauliflower by its side and ladled a bit of the vermouth/chicken juiciness over the whole lot.
Overall- not bad at all. The carrots were a bit underdone for my taste, and next time I'll roast them with the cauliflower instead, but other than that- this was spot on.
I think the ground turkey will end up as turkey burgers tomorrow night, but you never really know.... :)
Thursday, January 1, 2009
What do you do with leftover turkey???
I'm figuring that out as I try to use up the gallon zip lock bag of turkey Dev's Mom sent us home with after Christmas.
I don't really like turkey. But so far I've found ways to use it that have turned out really well. Take this soup, for example.
It's actually based on a Paula Deen recipe for Chicken Poblano Chowder. I just subbed turkey for the chicken and added a few other ingredients. The soup is easy to make and it tastes even better the next day.
Here's what I did...
I chopped up a small onion, 2 stalks of celery, 2 onions, 2 carrots and one medium sized poblano pepper. I sauteed them in olive oil in my dutch oven for about 10 minutes. I added a tablespoon or so of chicken gravy mix (the recipe called for chicken boullion, but I hate that stuff), then deglazed the pan with a little bit of white wine. Then came half a bunch of chopped fresh cilantro. I added 4 cups of chicken stock, 1 cup of white wine and 1 cup of water and let it cook for another ten minutes or so, for the veggies to get nice and tender. After that, I added about 2 cups of chopped leftover turkey and half a bag of frozen corn. I let the turkey and corn warm through, then in a skillet I melted a quarter stick of butter, then added 1/2 a cup of flour and made a roux. I cooked it for about 3 minutes, then added a ladle full of the cooking liquid. After it was incorporated, I dumped the contents of the skillet into the pot of soup. I let it come up to a bubble to thicken, then took it off the heat and added 1/2 cup of heavy cream.
When I served it, I garnished with chopped avocado, chopped cilantro and shredded pepper jack cheese.
This was really good. A lot of chopping, but the taste was outstanding.
We love mashed potatoes at our house. We love leftover mashed potatoes even better...because you can do all sorts of things with them.
My all time favorite way to use leftover mashed potatoes is to make potato pancakes.
There are millions of recipes for potato pancakes. I make them the way my parents used to.
Here's the way I do it:
I use about a cup and a half of mashed potatoes- although you can use as much or as little as you like. I warm them a bit to loosen them up, then mix in 1 large egg, about 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of Penzey's Greek Seasoning (optional- but oh so good), about a quarter of a cup of half and half or cream, then add enough buttermilk to give the batter the consistency you want. Taste the batter and add salt and pepper.
I cook them on an electric griddle that's been sprayed with cooking spray, but doing them in a cast iron skillet with butter is the ultimate.
Dev would eat these every morning if he got the chance.
I decided to copy my friend Diane's blog for my first post of 2009. She posted a list of 50 questions to answer for 2009. I have my answers here, but go on over to her new blog, Diane's Brain, to see hers. I actually skipped the one about the song lyric to sum up 2008. It's gonna take a me a little while to come up with that.
50 questions for the New Year
1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?
I tried yoga and knitting.
2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don’t think I made any last year (so I guess that means I didn’t follow them…). This year I am making a simple one….treat myself better
3. Did anyone you know give birth?
Yes- my friend Lisanne had a beautiful baby boy.
4. Did anyone you know die?
Yes- a lady who attends my knitting circle lost her husband in a tragic farming accident.
5. What countries did you visit?
I didn’t visit any foreign countries, but I continued my exploration of Colorado. We went camping for a week on Grand Mesa, and took long drives through Pagosa Springs, Ouray and Silverton.
6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
Better health and less worrying.
7. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Becoming a librarian with very little experience, and developing a love for knitting.
8. What was your biggest failure?
I hate that I quit going to yoga. It’s on my list of things to start back.
9. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I am still suffering from some sort of mysterious chest pain, but hopefully I’ll get that sorted out soon. I also battled reflux disease and a possible stomach ulcer. What a fun year!!
10. What was the best thing you bought?
I got a brand spankin’ new food processor…and a beautiful cast iron smoker.
11. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I got excited about knitting. I also got excited about politics again.
12. What song will always remind you of 2008?
I have no idea. I don’t listen to new stuff very often. My friend Diane made a mix tape for me a while back and I listen to that when we are driving around in the mountains.
13. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Getting happier
b) thinner or fatter? Thinner, but that should end soon when my chest stuff gets fixed
c) richer or poorer? Definitely poorer. Hopefully this will end soon as well.
14. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Yoga and spending time with friends.
15. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying about having a heart attack.
16. How will you be spending Christmas?
I spent Christmas with Devin’s family in Montrose.
Um, where is question 17?
18. Did you fall in love in 2008?
I was already in love, but found thousands of new reasons to stay in love.
19. What was your favorite TV program?
Naked Archaeologist, Living with Ed
20. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Nope. I can’t really think of anyone I hate.
21. What was the best book you read?
Middlesex, Time Travelers Wife- I agree with Di on both of those.
22. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I didn’t really make one.
23. What was the best meal you ate?
There is no way I could narrow this down. Even when things are looking bad, I usually eat pretty well. I will say it was nice when I went home to Savannah over the summer and got to eat lots of good seafood with Di.
24. What was your favorite film of this year?
I really liked the new Bond movie. And I really hated the new Indiana Jones movie.
25. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I got flowers and balloons from my friend at school, and Dev took me to dinner at the Golf Club. I turned 40, and must admit, I was pretty depressed.
26. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
27. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
Wash and wear librarian…nuff said.
28. What kept you sane?
Nothing. I gave up on that years ago. I’m with Di on that one.
29. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Ed Begley, Jr. (horrible spelling), Alton Brown, Simka Jacobovich… (thank God for cable…)
30. What political issue stirred you the most?
I am really concerned about public education in America…and better access to health care.
31. Who did you miss?
My family, Diane, Lizard and all my friends back home.
32. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008:
It takes longer than you might think for a first grader to trace his feet.
33. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
34. What is the most useless thing you learned this year?
Don’t put dirt down the garbage disposal. Actually, that’s pretty useful. And I didn’t really learn it- Dev did.
35. If you were to title this year like a book, what would it be?
The Year of Living Dangerously (or at least worrying about it).
36. Where were you when 2008 began?
On my couch playing Uno with Dev, trying to stay awake until midnight.
37. Who were you with?
38. Where will you be when 2008 ends?
I was on my couch, watching Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve after eating mediocre Mexican food and watching a Hellboy marathon.
39. Who will you be with when 2008 ends?
40. What was your favourite month of 2008?
I have to say my extended visit home over the summer made my year. It was nice to participate in the Cavalcade of Fun again.
41. Did you drink a lot of alcohol in 2008?
Nope- I hardly drank any at all- thank you acid reflux….
42. Did you do a lot of drugs in 2008?
43. Did you do anything you are ashamed of this year?
I hid Sonic tater tot bags under the trash so Dev wouldn’t see them.
44. What was the worst lie someone told you in 2008?
Hmmmm…I think my doctor gets this honor for telling me I would be feeling better soon.
45. Did you treat somebody badly in 2008?
I didn’t stay in touch with my family and friends the way I should. That’s another thing on my list to improve upon this year.
47. How much money did you spend in 2008?
Slightly more than I made…
48. If you could go back in time to any moment of 2008 and change something what would it be?
I would hug my Mom more. I would tell Dev I love him more often.
49. Will 2009 be harder or easier than 2008?
I’m hoping it will be easier.
50. What are your plans for 2009?
I plan to get my Colorado teaching certification (or at least start). I will go back to yoga. I will become much better at knitting. I will continue to be the best primary school librarian I know how to be. I will love Dev more. I will call my friends and family more often. I will remember to take my camera along more often. I will be a better blogger….