Monday, August 30, 2010

I've returned!

Finally, things are starting to fall in place and I can get back to doing things I enjoy.

Because of scheduling issues, we didn't have our usual Thursday night dinner with Megan and Caleb last week, or this week until yesterday afternoon. Instead of dinner, we had Saturday lunch and swam in the pool. It was a great time.

I made steak tacos with sweet and spicy pickled onions and it was so very, very good.

Steak Tacos with Sweet and Spicy Pickled Onions
as seen in The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2010

Pickled Onions
1 red onion, halved and sliced thin
1 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
2 jalepeno chiles, seeds and ribs removed, cut into thin rings
1/4 tsp salt

Herb Paste
1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped 
3 scallions, roughly chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 jalepeno chile, seeds and ribs removed, roughly chopped (leave ribs and seeds for more heat)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 lb) flank steak, trimed and cut lengthwise (with the grain) into 4 equal pieces
1 Tbsp kosher salt or 1 1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1. For the pickled onions: Put onions in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, put red wine vinegar, sugar, jalepeno, and salt over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Pour the vinegar mixture over the onions, cover loosely, and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.Once cooled, discard the liquid.
2. For the herb paste: Place all ingredients in a food processor and combine until it resembles pesto. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the paste to a medium bowl; whisk in the lime juice and set aside.
3. For the steak: With a dinner fork, poke each piece of the steak 10 to 12 times on each side. Place in a dish. Rub all sides of the steak pieces evenly with the salt and then coat with the remaining herb paste. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, and up to an hour.
Scrape herb paste off of the steak. Sprinkle all sides evenly with the sugar and pepper. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown the steak in the skillet about 3 minutes. Flip and cook another 2-3 minutes. Use tongs to stand the meat on its side and cook every side, turning as necessary. (Alternatively, as we did, grill the steak for about 4 minutes per side.) Transfer steak to a cutting board and let side 5 minutes. Slice the steak 1/4 inch thick across the grain.

To assemble: Put some of the set aside herb paste on the tortilla and spread it around. Then pile steak and pickled onions. Enjoy.

Looking back, we skipped a few steps on accident. But it still tasted really good. I think this is one of those recipes that you can screw up pretty well and it will still turn out tasty.

Sorry about the lack of pictures, I'm still not sure where I put everything during the move, and that includes my camera. But at least I posted something :)

Next time I'll post the recipe for the side dish we had with this. Yummy.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Short update

I finally have a functional bed. I actually get to sleep in my own bed tonight. I so look forward to that. I haven't slept through the night since we moved to the new house because of a) being uncomfortable on a rapidly deflating bed, and b) being displaced. I'm pretty tired.

I have Open House at school tonight until 9. No one is really looking forward to it, but it's a necessary evil. When I get home, I'm showering and going to bed. The end.

My closet is still not functional. Leak has now (hopefully) been fixed for good, but I still have a hole in the wall of my closet that needs patching and painting before it's completely usable.

Otherwise, I'm pretty much moved. I have a few things in the garage still that I'll get to, but not today.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Let me explain

Normally I do my posts for the week on weekends and set them up to post throughout the week, usually Monday and Thursday. I wouldn't count on anything but this for this week. Let me explain why:

1. I've started my new job teaching special education. That means stress and exhaustion on a level I've never felt before.Did I mention that I'm a floating teacher, meaning every class I have is in a different room and I have to run everywhere with my cart of stuff? Yeah.
2. I just moved into a new house. And by moved, I mean about half my stuff is here, my bedroom furniture is being delivered Thursday (minus one piece which is back-ordered, which I just found out about today - awesome). Also, my queen bed, the one that I've been waiting and waiting to move into this house so I can use it, has a leak in BOTH sides (it's a sleep number, so it has air chambers. Except now they don't work). So, as of right now, I'm sleeping in a guest room, about 1/4 of my clothes are in my closet, which is another story, I work at the desk in my room, most of my stuff is still in crates waiting for my furniture to arrive, while the rest of my clothes are at the old house or in my old dresser, which is upstairs in a guest room. In short, my stuff is everywhere, and so am I. I don't have a usable room at the new house, I don't have a usable room at the old house, I don't even have a classroom. I'm very displaced.
3. On top of all of the other issues above, my closet (you know, the only usable thing in my room besides my desk) has the carpet pulled up and a fan blowing on it. Turns out the leak that lets water into my closet that's been an issue a few times in the past, still hasn't been fixed despite numerous different attempts to fix it.
4. On top of everything else, I've hardly seen Garrick. He's been working more than ever - like 70 hour weeks. Not only do I not see him, but when I do he's usually grumpy because he's tired of working. Can't blame him for that. But it sucks because I have so much going on and he's my biggest support, and he can't be here for me when I need him more than ever.

There's more, but I'm tired of complaining. I told my mom today that no one is allowed to talk to me unless they have good news. I don't think I've gotten good news in some 3 weeks, but a whole flood of bad news. I'm just over it.

So anyway, my stuff is everywhere so I have no recipes to offer and I have no clue where the sewing machine is, and quite frankly I don't have the time to use it right now. Hopefully next week things will be slower and I can resume regular posting.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Oriental Apricot Chicken

Yummm. I love love love this recipe. It's one of Garrick's and my standby recipes. It's really easy to make and tastes so good. All you need to go with it is a bit of rice (we like Botan brand). I guess if you really want a vegetable you could cook up some bok choy with some soy sauce and rice vinegar. But I just stick with rice.

Since we didn't have our usual Thursday night dinner with Megan and Caleb last Thursday, Garrick and I made this recipe. And then right as we were about to plate up, my parents called and asked if we wanted to join them at our favorite Chinese restaurant. Hmmm, homemade Chinese food or authentic Chinese food? What a dilemma. We went for authentic, and packed up our original dinner when we got home. Garrick got stir-fry noodles, and I got lemon chicken, which is weird because I almost always get Sha Cha Chicken. It's sooo good. I've never seen it anywhere else. It's pieces of chicken with carrots, celery, and green peppers (I get it without the peppers) with a spicy, flavorful, kind of garlicy sauce. It's amazing.

Anyway, back to the recipe. The pictures don't make it look that appetizing, but we were in a hurry to get to our dinner, so we didn't do any "staging."

Oriental Apricot Chicken
 • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
• 1 lb. canned apricot halves in syrup, drained, halved, liquid reserved
• 1 Tbsp soy sauce
• 1/8 tsp Oriental sesame oil
• 1/4 cup sherry
• 3/4 cup all purpose flour
• 1 tsp. paprika
• 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
• 6 scallions, including some green, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
• 1 tsp. sesame seeds (optional)
• 3 Tbs. fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Place chicken between two sheets of wax paper and pound lightly with a mallet or other heavy flat object to flatten to 1/2 inch thickness. Combine reserved apricot liquid with soy sauce, 1/8 tsp. oil and sherry in a bowl. Set aside. Combine flour with paprika, cayenne and salt and pepper to taste in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour mixture to coat, shaking off excess. Heat 2 Tbs. oil (peanut or vegetable) in a heavy nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Sauté scallions 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Add chicken and cook 3 minutes, until browned. Turn chicken, reduce heat to medium low, and add cooked scallions and apricots. Drizzle with sherry mixture. Cover skillet and simmer 5 minutes, turning chicken once. Serve with sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds and cilantro.

It's such a simple recipe but it's so tasty. 

Seriously, the next time you don't know what to make but you want something quick, you really should give this a try.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I Have Conquered

The world of dressmaking. And bound buttonholes. Yes, last week I made, for the first time, a dress. I've made skirts and pants and vests, but never a dress. Oh, and I've made bound pockets before except I didn't understand the directions so they ended up looking nothing like a bound pocket, but more like a mess of thread surrounding what should be a pocket. Poor Garrick still thinks the world of his pants.

But back to the dress. I was inspired to make a dress when I found this etsy seller. I love love love vintage clothes, so when I found vintage patterns at prices below what I would pay for a contemporary pattern, I got excited. I bought 3. I wanted to buy 5, but thought maybe I should have a little self control. Just a little.

So my dress for today was made using this 1966 pattern:
Thus I made my first attempt at dressmaking and princess seams (don't you love their hair? I'm getting my hair cut on Wednesday and I'm tempted to cut it like the girl on the right). I made the one in the middle, with one modification. Rather than the bow underneath, I changed it and moved it up (more explanation on that later), and made a detached matching belt, just to break up the bright blue. Here is the finished product:

It certainly isn't perfect, but I quite like the way it turned out. It's comfortable and form-fitting and, I think, flattering.

The bow is also removable. That way you can tie it different ways, use different colors, or have something else there.

I got the idea for the bow from a dress in the movie Down With Love. If you've ever seen that movie, it's the yellow dress Catcher Block's secretary is wearing in the very beginning. I tried to find a picture, but it's not an important scene, so no picture. Anyway, I've always liked it. So, since I had a 1960s pattern I figured it would be a good time to try and make my own version of it.

I made the slits for the bow like I was doing a bound pocket or button (correctly this time). Then I just sewed up a strip of fabric, tied it, and slipped it in. The belt is just a sewn strip of fabric with two 1/2 in strips of elastic at the back so it can slip on and off easily. It's not perfect, but it'll do.

I'm excited to make my next 2 dresses. I already have the fabric cut out for them, but I'm getting into crunch time with school. Freshmen start on Friday, and I feel totally unprepared. Like I said before, I'm going to try and keep up with blogging as much as possible, but I just don't know what the demands of my job will be.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Nice Ego Boost

As mentioned previously, it was Garrick's and my turn to host Thursday night dinner with Megan and Caleb, and I planned on making a chilled cucumber watermelon soup, pan-broiled steak with bearnaise sauce, potato balls sauteed in butter, and green beans. And that's what I did. It was SO GOOD. They particularly enjoyed the potatoes and steak. I think I remember hearing something like "This is the best steak I've ever had." You know, something like that. I get such a good ego boost when I cook for them.

By the way, this is Megan and Caleb:
Aren't they the cutest newlyweds ever? And they're the nicest people I know. And that's not an exaggeration. I love being around them.

Okay, back to the food.

Cucumber Watermelon Soup
1 cucumber, peeled, de-seeded, and chopped
5 cups seedless watermelon, cut into chunks
1 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
pinch of salt

1. Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Correct seasoning. Optional: strain soup through a fine sieve. I did this because I wanted to make sure there weren't any seeds. Chill for several hours.

Now on to the main course!


For the steak, I created my own marinade with oil, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, dry white wine, soy sauce, worchestershire sauce, Mrs. Dash, minced garlic, minced dried onion, and seasoned pepper. Then I marinated the steak (I used sirloin) for about 4 hours.

To cook the steak, put 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp oil in a skillet, and cook the steaks for 4-5 minutes per side.

Bearnaise Sauce
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking
1/4 cup wine vinegar
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp minced shallots
1/2 Tbsp dried tarragon (I used thyme)
pinch of salt and pepper
3 egg yolks
2 Tbsp cold butter
1/2 to 2/3 cup melted butter

1. Boil the vinegar, wine, shallots, herbs, and seasonings over moderate heat until the liquid has reduced to 2 tablespoons. Let it cool.
2. Beat the egg yolks until thick. Strain in the vinegar mixture and beat. Add 1 tablespoon of cold butter and thicken the egg yolks in a double boiler (a heat-proof boil set over a pan of 1/2 inch of barely simmering water). Beat in the other tablespoon of cold butter, then the melted butter by droplets. Correct seasoning. Serve in a warmed gravy boat.

For the potatoes:
Peel 2 russet potatoes per person, and use a melon baller to cut balls out from it. Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter in 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Put potatoes in skillet, and leave them for 2 minutes. Shake the pan to turn the potatoes, and leave another 2 minutes. Continue doing this for the next 4-5 minutes. Add salt and pepper, and shake the pan to cover the potatoes. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

For the green beans, I just steamed them, shocked them in cold water to stop the cooking, then threw some butter in the still warm pan, and sauteed 1 tablespoon of shallots until opaque, then threw the beans back in and stir to coat in butter and shallots.

Dinner was delicious, if I do say so myself. And so was dessert!

Megan and Caleb brought a delicious peach and strawberry crisp.

Which was a lot more tasty than the picture shows. Garrick also put his new toy, his espresso machine, to good use making all of us personalized drinks.

While we ate dessert, we watched Cinderella Man. It was a great night. We have to skip next Thursday because Megan and Caleb will be at a family reunion, but I'm looking forward to the next one, when we will be bringing dessert.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Garrick's Birthday Dinner

Every year for Garrick's birthday I make him a special dinner on his actual birthday. For the last 3 years he has wanted fried chicken and mac n cheese. This year he said he wanted something different. He wanted pork. Of course. He loves pork; I don't really care for it. So we went to Borders to check out the cookbooks and see if there was anything he wanted, and I would get the cookbook. Well, he did find something he wanted but the book was some $30 and I wouldn't be able to make hardly anything from it simply because the ingredients were either too expensive or not available here in Kansas. So what did I do? I pulled a receipt out of my purse and wrote it down. That's right, I stole it. It was pork medallions with goat cheese and an apple raisin compote. He wanted that and sweet potato fries (another food I don't particularly care for), and I decided that we needed something green so I put together a spinach salad.

Here are the recipes:

Pork Medallions with Goat Cheese and Apple Raisin Compote
 For the pork:
3 lb pork loin, cut in 1/4" slices and pounded to 1/8"
1 1/2 cup flour with seasoned salt, pepper, and paprika
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 oz goat cheese, crumbled

For the compote:
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup vegetable stock
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp unsalted butter

1. Melt butter in grape seed oil in a skillet over medium heat. Dredge the pork in the flour mixture, and cook in the skillet for 2 minutes on each side, undisturbed. Place pork on a plate and cover with tin foil. Leave juices and oil in the skillet.
2. Cook the apples and raisins in the same skillet for 3-4 minutes. Add the wine, and simmer to cook off most of the alcohol. Add the vegetable stock and cinnamon and cook 5 more minutes. Add butter.
3. To plate, place pork medallions down, and cover with the compote, then top with the goat cheese.

I had kind of a hard time with the prep for this recipe. It's a pretty straight-forward recipe but I forgot to peel 4 of my 6 apples so after I sliced them I had to go back and cut off the peel. I do stuff like that all the time because I tend to skim through the recipe then realize too late that I missed something. That and like half of my apples ended up being rotten on the inside.

The sweet potato fries I cheated and bought frozen and just baked them :)

Spinach Salad
1 bag of spinach
1 fuji apple
1/3 cup scallions, sliced
3/4 cup balsamic glazed walnuts (recipe below)
red wine vinaigrette (recipe below)

Balsamic Glazed Walnuts
This recipe is adapted from How Sweet 
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup walnuts

Combine vinegar and brown sugar in a small saucepan, and cook over medium low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add walnuts and stir to coat. With a slotted spoon, transfer the nuts  to wax paper and leave out until they dry, an hour or two.

Red Wine Vinaigrette
I got this recipe from Garrick's sister.
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp dry mustard
2-3 tsp sugar
salt and pepper

Now I'm not a huge fan of salads. I think they tend to be monotonous, uninteresting, and not nearly filling enough. But I could eat this salad as a meal every day. It's so good. The sweetness from the apples help to cut through the vinegar, while the mustard adds a little zing, and a nice crunch from the nuts...I could go on. I love it.

If you're a fan of pork you should give the recipe a try. And I don't care what you're into - try the salad.