Friday, April 30, 2010

This week was certainly one that fit this humble blog's tagline - there was some serious struggle against a busy schedule. It could have ended up worse, but I certainly wouldn't call this a successful food week. I didn't get to the grocery store last weekend so falling into the eating out/ordering in trap was all too simple. Maybe it was just that I decided I was going to specifically avoid doing exactly that that the universe conspired against me. Really, I think it's just hard to be a good cook on a crazy schedule if you don't plan for it.

All of my out-of-house meals this week were purchased from locally-owned businesses, and at least that makes me feel a little less guilty. Part of it is definitely a desire to support local joints; but really, at the time of purchase when I was tired and hungry, I just wanted easy and tasty. Thankfully there is no shortage of folks who can foot the bill in that respect.

Still, I am a little frustrated that we slipped so quickly and easily into a pattern of eating out and avoiding our kitchen yet again. It does, however, illuminate some issues for me. If two people who actually enjoy cooking and are reasonably proficient in the kitchen can face some nasty combination of sloth and apathy when time gets tight, I can see how easy it is to slip into bad eating habits. It seems counterintuitive, especially when I know I can pull together a good, healthy meal in no time when I'm appropriately focused, but eating well takes effort.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On Monday morning, I decided to try an experiment - I was going to try to go all week (workweek) without spending money on food. No forgetting lunch, no buying coffee and cinnamon buns, and NO lazy nights of ordering in or going out. Western one was totally in as well. Lots of people accomplish this every week, it really shouldn't be a problem.


I did really good on Monday. And most of Tuesday. But then an old friend from college was in town so some of us revived an old tradition and met at the Ruck for wingburgers. Totally justified girlfriend bonding - worth breaking a resolution for. Then today, I stumbled upon a blueberry turnover. I love turnovers, especially when they aren't apple. And then a late night of work has resulted in my sitting here, at 8pm, settling in for a few episodes of Californication and Pasquale's pizza. Ah well, there's always next week to get on track. At least the food is good.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

It's Mexican-inspired food night in the GP household, and I've been kicked out of the kitchen. While Western One was prepping the steak, black beans, jalapenos etc, I decided to try a new kind of poppper. Instead of deep frying, you stuff the pepper with goat cheese and toss it under the broiler. I need to play around with it a bit more - it sounds and looks better than it turned out to be. Going to season up the cheese a bit more next time.
Still, it's better than the fake-cheese laden, fried variety. I'll figure it out. But mediocre goat cheese poppers (is anything with goat cheese ever really mediocre??) aren't what got me kicked out of the kitchen. Like a total neophyte (which I absolutely am when it comes to spicy food) I touched my face after seeding the jalapenos. Twenty minutes later my nose is still burning. Better never let me near a habanero.

So I am out at the dining room table writing this and munching on chips and salsa while the meal is being prepared. I know my limits and clearly Mexican is too dangerous for me tonight. Salsa of choice in a household with a Mexican food snob, you may ask? Herdez and almost nothing else, ever. Incidentally, the ingredient list for our favorite salsa: tomato, onion, serrano pepper, idodized salt, cilantro. That's it. Not one ounce of crap. Try it, you'll love it!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Rooftop farming in NYC

Ah, the joys of social networking....only heard of this because a good friend's cousin is involved and she posted it on facebook. Thought it was a really interesting project and totally in the green peccadilloes spirit (and probably way more successful than my efforts!!) so clearly worth sharing. Plus, I have a soft spot for Brooklyn...

Check out the Brooklyn Grange

my first ramp experience

or at least as far as I know....yum. This was the special at the Gingerman tonight and it was great. Wild ramps with spring peas and pancetta. I am totally inspired. Pardon the fuzzy pic, we had dinner after happy hour and, being that it is spring, gin was in order.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dirty Cheater

I'm feeling a little guilty today. Last night, Western One asked if we had any fresh basil. The answer, of course, was no. My basil seedlings, despite being planted weeks ago in my first round of little peat pots, are woefully tiny and I hate buying basil at the store. It's always so expensive and I end up wasting half of it. I'm not feeling guilty that I didn't have fresh basil, but rather that now I do. I grabbed a potted basil plant at the farmers' market today because I am simply too impatient to wait for my plants to grow. I mean seriously, look at my poor little munchkin next to the big farm plant.

I'm so pysched to encourage my little seedlings into something productive. Especially those like my basil which I got from the Hudson Valley Seed Library. This is such a cool endeavor, specializing in local seeds. But, I just can't wait...

Monday, April 19, 2010

A good team

We decided to have fish (with soba noodles and the remainder of my bok choy) last night, but our fatal mistake was allowing me to pick up the fish while out running errands. I am the first to admit I'm less than comfortable with sea-dwellers in my kitchen. I mean I can broil a decent salmon and I do make some mean scallops, but other than that, I'm typically at a loss. Which is why I leave the fish to Western One. Most often, our fish meal is his fantastic sesame-encrusted tuna, medium rare with some appropriate side dishes (typically bok choy and soba noodles, surprise, surprise).

My errands took me to BJs (no tuna), the asian market (also no tuna and although I thought about venturing into red snapper, or something else, I decided I just wasn't up to dealing with a whole fish.) Ok, I have no idea what to do with a whole fish. I haven't handled such a thing since the six inch brook trout my dad and I grilled when I was 9. Anyway, by the time I got to the Westgate Price Chopper I was overwhelmed and fish fati
gued. I didn't like the tuna there so I ended up with haddock that we panko breaded. Underwhelming.

But, all is not lost. Tonight we tried the panko again, this time better seasoned and on pork. A little time under the broiler after a quick sear and a slow bake and it was perfect. I take no credit for this - 'twas all my guy. I was responsible for the veg, and I have to say I did a damn good job. Zucchini, chayote (one of my favorite latin staples, purchased at the asian's that for diverse?) and jalapenos roasted, with salt, pepper and chili power - then added tomato and cilantro about 10 min before dinner time. I have to say, with all modesty, it was one of the best meals we've had in a month - including our too many meals out. So, not necessarily the greatest for local and self-grown, but pretty good for fresh, reasonably healthy, cheap and good. I'll take that for now.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Rant

I'm probably going to get myself sued for this (or, I would if anyone actually read this blog) but I just need to bitch about something. It's been one of those weeks. I've been scoping around other blogs trying to figure out how this is done, read interesting stuff, learn new tricks, etc and I of course gravitate toward the healthy, foodie types. Anyway, some random "healthy eating" blog which shall remain nameless went on and on about how yummy and healthy a particular processed insta-dessert is. Granted the author was paid to do so, but I would have been ok with "yummy" and "chocolately" but "healthy" based only on the fat and calorie count nearly put me over the edge. To illustrate my point:

Let me be clear, to each his own. Just because I choose to avoid processed food full of 27 different iterations of corn most of the time doesn't mean I begrudge those who choose a different path. And don't get me wrong - I indulge in fake food from time to time, but I don't pretend it's healthy just because it only has 150 calories.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Still in love

I had my second "date" with the local asian supermarket tonight. I wandered up to the door with a little apprehension - would this visit be as filled with wonder as the first? Was my first experience just a mirage? Nope. I didn't really go in with a plan, and didn't check out the operating hours on my way in, so I just focused on a produce drive-by when I realized the store was nearly empty. I grabbed this eclectic bunch of stuff - a big bag of baby bok choy, 9 mandarin oranges, 2 grapefruit and a bunch of fresh cilantro - for, wait for it.... $5.07. I made myself a quick evening snack of sauteed bok choy (with plenty left over for a side dish later in the week). At least two breakfasts, a snack or two, and of course, cilantro cubes (for $0.75!). Not a bad deal.

I'm excited to go back with a better plan, especially to play around with some of the other greens - there must be over a dozen varieties. I keep grabbing bok choy because that's my comfort zone. When I think about it, that's pretty cool in and of itself...I don't think I'd even touched the stuff five years ago. And then there's the fish counter...
If you haven't figured this out already, I'm a little nuts about my dog. I can't help it - he makes me laugh every day and recently served as a much-needed companion on many trips up and down the Northway to visit my ill grandmother. I didn't really realize what a comfort he was until just the other day when she passed away and all I wanted to do was go home and hug my dog. (Don't tell Western One, he'd be offended)

This is the first time I've had a dog as an adult, and I'm constantly amazed by how much I don't know about making sure he's safe and happy. I've learned my rawhide lesson, but with spring plants peeking through the ground, it has become apparent there's more I need to watch out for. The past few days he's been chowing down on plants and promptly depositing them on my floor in a semi-regurgitated state. My type-a/OCD/over-protectiveness led me on a minor research obsession. Did you know all sorts of common plants are toxic to dogs? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised but I just never really stopped to think about it. The ASPCA has a great list, with pictures and all. Of course a solid handful of the GI-distress-inducing buggers are in my yard, along with a few of the more hazardous varieties.

Great. Maybe I can only utilize my black thumb skills to protect my pup and spare my fledgling garden its wrath. No such luck...I was a tad overzealous with putting my peas outside. Thankfully I anticipated I'd murder at least a few plants and kept a few seedlings under the growlight.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A drinking garden?

Now why didn't I think of this? Appears it's time to revise the herb garden layout...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cilantro cubes

One of the coolest little tips I've learned is that some herbs freeze really well - especially cilantro. It's one of my favorite flavors and my boyfriend is a big southwestern food snob so I'm working on playing with that genre a bit more. On a random note, it's time to stop referring to him as "my boyfriend" over and over, but since he's not even allowed to read this yet, I suppose I should provide him with a pseudonym. The mind reels with all the passive aggressive approaches I could take to this "naming" process, but since I'm thinking about southwestern food at the moment and enjoyed a particularly good Pandora station today, I'm going to take a cue from Mr. Lyle Lovett. It's a long story, but essentially my darling significant other was vocal about his Wyoming roots when we went to see Lyle at the Egg and an exchange between the two of them erupted, leading Lyle to refer to my guy as "oh Western one." I like it.

So anyway, the Western one likes real southwestern food, and he makes some mean dishes. I can't touch him in this respect, but I can ensure we have reasonably fresh cilantro flavor whenever we so desire. Chop it up, fill ice cube trays with it and add just a touch of water. The herby cubes will keep in a ziploc for quite a while and drop nicely into green chili stew, soups, or, like tonight, a quick side dish of black beans and roasted corn.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Thank you KFC

I heard about KFC's new sandwich, aka heart attack wrapped in paper, on Marketplace the other night and I couldn't bring myself to picture what a bacon sandwich with fried chicken where the bun should be would even look like. Thanks to one of my favorite local food bloggers, Steve Barnes at the Times Union, I didn't have to imagine anymore. I was also reminded that the item is not called heart attack wrapped in paper, but rather the "double down."

I've had a hard time cooking lately. Just not feeling it - partially because my boyfriend was out of town and I suddenly lived like a college student again and considered chips and salsa a perfectly appropriate meal (twice) and it's be
en busy and it's just easier to go to my local haunt for fried risotto balls and beer. But just the sight of the "double down" sent me running to my kitchen, nearly screaming for vegetables. In the midst of picking up for company, I was able to
grab whatever veggies I had lying around (broccoli, carrots and squash), some onion, garlic
and fresh ginger and give it all a quick saute. A bit of soy and orange zest mixed for a nice sauce. I tossed it all with udon, finished with black sesame seed and in no time eased the KFC-induced panic attack. I have to say, I think this was my most successful endeavor into asian flavors yet.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A productive day

I'm not sure how I'm even typing at this point. My hands are sore and blistered and my body is aching for bed but I'm enjoying the sense of accomplishment and anticipating my productive garden more than ever. I managed to construct my raised bed without incident, although I'll admit it took me longer than it should have to think to grab the drill in the basement. I also got a nice spot set up with a trellace for peas or beans, cleaned out and prepped the space for my herb garden and planted the beginnings of a strawberry patch. I did manage to get some general landscaping done as well, planted pansies and such, but that's really so I stop feeling guilty for having the crappy yard in the neighborhood, I'm mostly just excited about my veggies and berries. I'm re-inspired to cook. I'm nearly giddy about the buds on my blueberry bushes (we didn't notice them when we put an offer in on our house, but we also didn't notice two boarded up windows - long story- so I suppose it's a reasonable oversight. After closing in July I stumbled on three incredibly productive bushes and literally jumped up and down while clapping. I think my neighbors think I'm a bit nuts)

I even built a more organized spot for my compost pile, after flatly refusing to pay fifty bucks for a big, ugly, flimsy piece of plastic at one box store or another. I'll spare you the picture of my rotting vegetables. It was all hard work, I swear...


Friday, April 2, 2010

Bitter Puppy?

An update on my attempts to break Bozeman from his bad habit of chewing his leash - the hot sauce (despite my guilt pangs) was a failure as it appears my dog handles spice better than I do. This week I tried bitter apple. He made a face like "seriously lady, you've gotta do better than that," grimaced through the taste and continued to chew on his leash. I wanted to be frustrated but I suddenly flashed back to trying that awful-tasting Sally Hansen stuff you use to quit nailbiting...I was about 13 and instead of giving up the pathological chewing I would suck on my finger until the bad taste was gone and go to town. I'm mildly mortified that my dog and I handle our bad habits in a similar way. He doesn't know better, but it's not saying much for me.

Taking initiative

A big step in growing one's own food is having a place to put the plants in the ground. Easier said than done in our yard, which is shady thanks to our giant Linden tree (I only just learned what it was this week when my neighbors asked if we minded their giving it a trim) and full of good ole Albany clay. Shade and clay work nicely for our hectic schedules - we have lots of moss and clover, which really doesn't need all that mowing - but is not ideal for my urban agricultural ambitions. Enter the raised garden bed.

I've been nagging my boyfriend to build me a bed since the fall, so I could "work on the soil." I have no idea what that really means, but I thought I should do it anyway. We have a friend who is an expert gardener and suggested growing legumes and then setting it on fire. Somehow I feel I'm a bit accident-prone for that. Anyway, my backyard is still sans raised garden bed and my seedlings are actually still alive. So tomorrow, I take things into my own hands - the lumber is in the back of my car as we speak. It's been a long time since woodshop but I'm pretty sure I can handle a simple square frame. If not, I've got bigger problems...