Friday, July 29, 2011

It may be no big deal to you...

...but it's a very big deal to me....  Ah Lyle.  Anyway, an exciting, if trivial milestone.  It's Friday, I worked every day this week and I did not once purchase breakfast or lunch.  No trips to Starbuck's for coffee cake. No walks to the Capitol carts.  Nada.  I did grab a bros tacos burrito on the way home for dinner once, but otherwise, I was really good about the evening meal too.

I'm trying to be better about both money and quality food consumption and as regular visitors know, the workday is my downfall.  Sometimes I'm tired and forget lunch.  Or I really just don't feel like what I brought.  Or, most likely, I just have to get up and take a walk.  Whatever the reason, despite mountains of good intentions, I very easily fall off the "I'm not buying lunch" wagon.  Then breakfast kicked in - I'm an up and out kind of person in the morning and don't eat first thing, so I'd often find myself at my desk an hour into the day STARVING and without morning-appropriate munchies.  The combo of stocking up and actually slowing down in the morning and easing into the day a bit, leading to breakfast at home, has helped tremendously.

It's silly, I know.  There are much bigger problems in the world than my effort to save some money and not eat garbage, but it's still a nice little step toward some changes I'm trying to make.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Weeknight ribs

The other night I offered to make dinner without thinking.  As you're all aware, I am just reclaiming my kitchen from the moth disaster and I have barely prepared a meal for myself let alone anyone else in weeks.  But I opened my big mouth on a week night and offered dinner.  Worse, I specifically mentioned I had country style ribs in the fridge.  After said mention, it dawned on me that in the past I had either A) cooked them FOREVER or B) not been pleased with the result.  Yikes.

So here I am, preparing a meal for someone for the very first time, in my cobweb-ridden kitchen, facing a meal that I'm sure is doomed to failure.  But, I'm a tough chick and I was determined to persevere.  I have to say, if you'll pardon the bravado, that persevere I did.

I tossed the ribs in my trusty le crueset with almost a bottle of beer, a few garlic cloves, peppercorns and a healthy dose of "road kill grill" seasonings and let them braise for about an hour at around 300.  A beer or two and good conversation and the time flew by.  I honestly can't say if it really was an hour - check temps if you're trying this at home!  Then I finished them off on my cast iron stovetop grill to give a nice char.   Despite my anxiety, they came out perfect - the braise kept the pork from drying out but the grill added a critical touch.  I'd highly recommend the combo to anyone.

I didn't snap a picture of the ribs.  I have yet to share my blogging alter ego with my dinner guest, so random photos of the food would have been confusing to him.  I did, however, snag a shot of his contribution to dinner...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I've been told it is a bad year for berries, but I'm sad to announce that it was downright devastating for my always productive blueberry bushes.  I got next to nothing and I'm so bummed about it.  I can blame it on the rain or the heat, but I think to some degree I just have to look in the mirror.  I've done nothing to maintain the bushes, just took for granted that they would take care of me.  That's a good reminder - just because something  provides you happiness for some period of time doesn't mean you can take for granted that it will always do so without some work.  Lessons for the garden and life, I suppose.

I clearly had gotten a little cocky about my abundance of berries with no effort, but I've learned my lesson.  Dust off, learn what you can, and try harder next time.  Looks like I'll be doing some reading about how to care for blueberry bushes!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Happy Sunday!

I'm sitting on my back patio in my new outdoor chair (it's only taken me three summers in this house to break down and buy something that allows me to sit comfortably out here) with a stack of magazines (Imbibe, Food & Wine, Wine Spectator...) and my pup patrolling the yard.  Ok, he's eating sticks.  The heat has finally broken and there is a gentle breeze and a blue sky.  Happy, happy Sunday!

I decided today was the day I was going to take back my kitchen.  I'm still spraying a moth or two a day with my eco-friendly spray but I just can't stay out of the kitchen any longer.  I ventured off to the Schenectady Greenmarket and then did some other grocery shopping.  All afternoon I've rotated between enjoying the back yard, cleaning and cooking.

Although I was loathe to turn on the stove in any fashion, I got over it to make a big pot of black beans.  This approach deviated a little from my normal black beans, but they came out good.  I'd grabbed a huge bunch of cilantro at the market and wanted to use it right away.  So, garlic, onion, 3 cans of beans, one can of diced tomatoes, a can of New Mexico green chiles from Trader Joe's, salt and some other powdered chiles and I was good to go.  Oh, and a healthy dose of lime juice.

I let the beans cook for a bit to let the flavors work their magic.  Then for a late lunch I toasted up a couple of tortillas, dumped some beans on top and finished with more cilantro and some queso blanco.  It was tasty, inexpensive and pretty good for me.  A nice Dos Equis, or better yet a margarita would have finished the late lunch off perfectly, but alas I fear my summer full of dining out and grabbing beers after work may be catching up with me and today's a good a day as any for a little detox/calorie-saving.

 I've got some other goodies in the works, but they'll have to wait for a future post.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My very first eggplant

Isn't it pretty?? I was out tending to the tomatoes yesterday and there, tucked under great big leaves, was this little bugger.  It's just about ready to be picked and I didn't even know it existed.  What a fantastic surprise.  I've never grown eggplant before and the mind reels with all the stuff I could do with my first.  Other than some lettuce, this was the first real product from my garden this year and it's exciting.  But...the tomatoes are coming!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Happy Birthday Wonderpup!!

A special happy birthday to Wonderpup! He's always a great companion in the kitchen, the garden and in general.  He's the best friend a girl could ask for and - not to minimize the critical role of my fantastic friends and family - I'm not sure I would have faced recent challenges nearly as well without him.  Loyal, faithful, a great snuggler and always the life of the party, this guy makes me laugh every, single day.  And really, isn't that what it's all about?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Thanks H!

Recently I had my dear friends come visit camp for a little fun in the sun and beach time.  As it was only my second trip up and my first in a few weeks, my culinary stock wasn't quite as robust as I like it to be for camp cooking, but we made do.  Beach munchies, cold beer, caprese salad and chicken over the fire - not bad.

But, by far the best part was the dessert.  H, who is the best big sister anyone could ask for, biology or just a week between aside, knew from her devoted reading of Green Peccadilloes that I was craving strawberry shortcake.  And she made it for me!!  I never have the patience to make the biscuits myself so this was an extra special treat.  What was even better is there was enough left over for breakfast.

It was Wimbledon weekend so strawberries and cream were especially fitting, but really nothing quite says summer like fresh, homemade strawberry shortcake.  Ok, well maybe that and fun times on the beach with old friends and new with a little waterfight thrown in.  Good thing for me I got it all.  Due to my work schedule, my summer really doesn't start until the 4th and what a fantastic way to start what  already has been a happy, exciting summer.  Lucky girl, I am.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I first had gnocchi on a trip to Italy well over ten years ago. (how on earth is that possible...feels like yesterday)  Instantly I knew I was in love.  When done right, there is really nothing better that those little pillows of potatoey goodness.  Back in the States, it's not something I have often - when I'm out I'm picky and always think "Oh, I can make this myself" and when I'm home I almost never make it and when I do it's often not quite what I was hoping for.

I picked up a package at my recent trip to Ragonese Imports and gave it a whirl the other night.  I had a friend in school who swore it was easy to make from scratch, but who has time for that?  I haven't been cooking a lot lately between my kitchen drama, the heat and the fact that I'm just busy enjoying all that is wonderful about Summer, but the other night I did whip up this quick dish and it reminded me how easy it is to prepare good food quickly.  I feel like I say that a lot here, but it's true and it's sadly something I often forget.

I just made a very quick sauce with olive oil, my leftover garlic scapes, a can of tomatoes, salt and pepper.  And basil from the garden - can't forget the piles of fresh basil.  Makes all the difference.  Start to finish I think this took me ten, maybe fifteen minutes and I had two meals for, oh, $6 total.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wonderpup and I joined some girlfriends last weekend for good old fashioned car camping.  It was an easy and fun way to spend a few nights.  I contributed a bit to the cooking.  The night before we left I was up late making marinades from scratch instead of packing, a choice which led to yummy chicken but a very disorganized departure.  Ah well, we all have our priorities, right?  I did one batch of chicken in a pretty basic lemon, oil, pepper, onion, garlic and rosemary mix and another with beer and smoked paprika, with a few peppercorns thrown in.

I also chopped up some potatoes I had in the house and tossed them in canola oil and a healthy dose of cayenne and chipotle pepper.  Maybe a tad too healthy a dose for the sensitive palates in the group (mine included) but even overly spicy nothing beats taters cooked to a nice crisp in cast iron over an open fire.  Regular readers may recall my potato troubles at camp last summer, but no issue this go around!

Wonderpup wasn't so sure about sleeping in a tent, but he sure loved having a blanket by the fire and the piece or two of hot dog he managed to score.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Herby help?

I've been a very neglectful person lately.  I've neglected my garden.  I've neglected my yard.  I've neglected Green Peccadilloes.  I do have some holiday weekend fun to share, but said sharing involves uploading pictures, something I've neglected to do this week.  I have not, however, neglected outdoor drinking and dining.  I have my priorities.

I have also been a vigilant moth-killer.  I think my devastation is under control (knocking on wood as we speak...) although I'm scared to put my kitchen back together and as a result still haven't really cooked since the "incident".  That also contributes to a slow blog week.

So, I figured this is a good opportunity to seek insight from my knowledgable readers.  Who out there is a successful cilantro grower?  I know I pop up in the RSS feed of at least a few garden gurus, so give it up!! I've never been especially lucky with growing cilantro, but this year is just rediculous.  Each plant has about three leaves and then went straight to seed.  I tried to keep it trimmed back, to no avail.  How on earth am I supposed to make fresh salsa with my homegrown tomatoes and peppers if my cilantro won't grow??

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Red, White and a can.

Well, as I didn't have the time or wherewithal to make an apple pie, this will have to suffice for my All-American post ... Happy 4th All!!

The delicious dish...

... of cheese and duck fat was at the Gingerman.  I neglected to add the link in the original post and for some reason my ability to respond to multiple requests for the info in the comments section isn't working lately.  I do hope it makes another appearance.  My arteries disagree but I don't care.