Friday, September 30, 2011

I'm So Happy Right Now

This post was written on Monday, September 26, 2011, but I waited to publish it. I am still happy, though. Makes me smile to just think about it.

I think I just had the most successful, delicious, creative, satisfying solo meal of my life. I know that's a hefty statement, but I'm so happy right now. And I'm in between courses. I haven't even finished my meal yet. Dessert is waiting for me. And did I mention, I made it myself? I think my cooking ego reached a new high.

Hubby left today for work travel. I'm on my own. More often than not, I forget to eat when I'm home alone. I don't feel like cooking, so I snack all day and never eat a meal or I work through lunch, break, and dinner. Then I get a headache and I remember that I'm hungry about 5 hours too late. 

Not today. Today I'm having a multiple-course meal. By myself.

I've been staring at this almost-empty jar in my fridge for days. I only had enough enchilada sauce to make one portion of enchiladas. Perfect. There's only one of me! Add corn tortillas, shredded cheddar and Monterey jack cheese, rotisserie chicken cut up in chunks, and a mini loaf pan, pop it in the oven, and I had dinner.

I even had an appetizer while it baked. A slice each of prosciutto and capocolla, and 2 slices of salami. The Costco pack. Fancy.

So... I have two of these blue mini loaf pans. And I used both tonight. The other baked up a mean bread pudding made from two leftover, stale, wheat dinner rolls, egg subsitute, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon topped with leftover oatmeal toppings (sliced almonds, dried cranberries), and a little raw sugar.

I'm telling you, sometimes I surprise myself. 

I stuck both loaf pans in a 375 degree oven at the same time. I took the enchiladas out after 15 minutes, and doubled the time for the bread pudding. By the time I finished eating dinner, dessert was ready.

Hot enchiladas topped with a healthy dollop of sour cream. :)
After it rose quite a bit and was yummy.
It was perfection in the form of comfort food. I'm so happy right now. I am so happy. Right. Now.

Oh..uh...well, I was happy besides the fact that my husband wasn't there to share it with me, of course. Love you, Babe!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Seattle Food Tour, Part 1

A couple of weeks ago, we got to travel to Seattle for a 5-day weekend (did I hear an, 'Amen'?!).  A few of my dearest friends live in the area, and it was SO good to make the trip out to see them. My heart was full when I returned home.

Gorgeous dahlias at Pike Place. Only $5 a bunch!

If you know me at all, or if you've read the title of this blog, you'll know that my heart was not the only thing that was full when I left on that flight back to L.A. Yeah, my tummy left full too.

Shout out to Yakima! That's where we drove to see some of our friends.
What a great food town! And beverage town, while I'm at it. Good for coffee, wine, and beer lovers.

Here are the first 5 places we visited. Yes, I said, "first five."

Note: Calories were not counted in the making of this post.
Pike Place Fish Market. Young, burly guys throwing fish and yelling at each other. It is strangely entertaining. And world famous. And the products they sell are good too. We bought 2 lbs of smoked salmon on our way home (but it wasn't cheap).

Piroshky, Piroshky. Russian pastry pockets filled with combos like potato, cheese, and onion or beef and onion. There are sweet ones too, like the Coffee Cinnamon Roll, that actually has ground coffee bits in it. Genius. The dough on these things is awesome. Don't miss this hole-in-the-wall.

It's worth every penny of the $3-5 you'll spend on a little snack for the road. Anthony Bourdain thought so too.

Gourmet Dog Japon. Japanese hot dogs?!? Oh yes. Think sushi flavors combined with a juicy sausage on a soft bun. It's a-maz-ing. We had the Matsuri, a kielbasa sausage topped with seaweed, mayo, shredded carrots and green onions. I was skeptical...

 ...but then I saw the trusty photo of a celebrity chef guy, Andrew Zimmern, of Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel. If he visited, it's probably pretty good. And it was. Really, surprisingly good.

Starbucks. The first one. The one you're supposed to take your picture in front of. Is this one of the 1,001 places to visit before you die? Maybe. Well, I can check that one off my list. Though super crowded, it does, however, get kudos for having one of the quirkiest, nicest baristas I've met. It was a pleasant experience for a tourist trap.

Uli's Famous Sausage. This stand in the middle of the Pike Place Market could easily be passed by. I mean, seriously, I didn't even take a picture. What was I thinking? However, it should not be missed. If you like meat, you'll find something you like here. We bought 5 varieties and had them packed with ice to take home on the plane with us. So far we've tried two. They are excellent, especially the Bacon Sausage. Tastes just like bacon, but it's in sausage form. So when you wake up on Sunday morning and can't decide whether you want a side of bacon or sausage, you can just reach for the bacon sausage. Easy peasy.

This is only the start. More to come on this food tour. Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

BBQ Ranch Dressing

Inspired by a smoked tri-tip that my hubby made, I started pulling ingredients out of the refrigerator and spice cabinet and whipped up this salad dressing in 5 minutes...I was making the leftover steak into the star of a salad...again. Sorry for the lack of a pretty salad picture. I missed my Kodak moment.

Ingredient list, minus salt and juice...oops.
Well, even if you end up having repeats for dinner, you can try to spice it up a little each time. Here's how I did it:

BBQ Ranch Dressing (makes about 1.5-2 cups)
1/2 c. sour cream
1/3 c. mayonnaise
1/3 c. ketchup
1/3 c. pineapple (or orange or apple) juice
2T. yellow mustard
2T. Worcestershire sauce
2T. agave nectar or honey
1T. dried chives (optional)
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Put all the ingredients in a food processor, blender, or Magic Bullet and blend away. Or in a jar and shake, shake, shake!

I wouldn't have known the first thing to put into this two weeks ago, but I happened to make a BBQ sauce from scratch earlier this month. So I went off of that recipe and started spooning out this and that, until it looked and tasted like a creamy BBQ-Ranchy-like-sauce. It goes great with salad topped with BBQ chicken or sausage or steak or even grilled veggies...or dip some chicken nuggets in it. Yu-um. It's a winner.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's Nice to Be Home

I've been away from Blogland. Over the past two weeks you would have found me running around town like a headless chicken, working the biggest event of my career to date, then jet-setting to Washington state for a looooooong and needed weekend break with hubby, tossing my friends' kids in the air just hear them giggle, wine-tasting in the middle of nowhere, and eating a lot more calories than I was expending. Life gets busy sometimes.

But, oh, it's nice to be home. 

One stop I made in the middle of the madness was at a place that's one of the reasons I fell for Los Angeles. I wasn't always a fan of this place I've called home for almost 6 years since I left Paris. When I arrived, everything in me wanted to hate it. The traffic, lack of lush green parks, (little to) no public transportation, crowded parking lots...but then I started visiting lovely little holes in the wall, like Amandine: a French bakery run by Japanese in the middle of Wilshire Boulevard. Love.

Quiche du Jour, the simplest side salad of mixed baby greens, 2 slices of tomato, 2 cornichons (little pickles), and a decaf non-fat latte, please.

A little peace in the midst of busyness. A little comfort in the midst of a crazy schedule. A little escape to Paris in the middle of Southern California. Home away from (my French) home. Love, love, love.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Freezing Fresh Produce

It's been about a year that we've been CSA members. For those that don't know (I didn't know until I looked it up one day!), CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Here in the States, local organic produce can be delivered to your door (home or office) and it's always fresh and always what's in season. I've learned so much about seasons just from opening up my box each time. That may seem funny to some of you, but here in Southern California, we barely know winter from summer.

I love every other Tuesday morning because I know I'll open my front door and there will be a big box full of fun ingredients to eat and play with all week. We use a company called {Farm Fresh To You}. Lately we've had lots of green beans, plums, green lettuce, pears, onions, and peppers.

Sometimes there's more of one thing that I can use for just two of us. In the beginning it would go bad and then be wasted. I learned that I needed to be really proactive and come up with a plan to use each item over the week. If I don't think I can use it in a few days, I try to freeze it before it's on its death bed.

Such was the case with the 1.5 lbs of green beans. I washed and snapped off the ends of the whole bunch, blanched them in simmering water with a handful of salt...

...used half of them for my steak dinner, and saved the rest for another day. With green beans, you should blanch them first, dry them really well with a tea towel, then store them in a freezer bag.

They were ready to heat up and stir fry for a quick lunch the next week - all prepped and ready to go. If I didn't take 5 extra minutes to prep them to freeze, all of it would have gone to waste. 

Fruits and some vegetables (like butternut squash, onions, peppers) can be frozen without cooking them first. But, with beans, asparagus, zucchini, cauliflower, and broccoli, I would blanch, or even roast, them first so that the cooking is already (at least) half done.

Freezers are really an amazing gift that we often take for granted living in our time, aren't they? Use it to the fullest and save your produce. Just a few minutes of prep work at the start can save money and time later!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Leafy Salads to Go

I've been needing to get really creative with salad lately. Eating salad as a main dish has proven to help reduce our belly-size. So even if there are days when the thought of another salad seems (at first) boring and bland, I think to myself, "We can't give up now!!!"

There are, of course, lots of different kinds, but I'm focusing on leafy salads here. Lettuce can become the canvas for painting a hearty lunchtime or dinnertime meal. You just need lots of veggies and/or fruits, and a protein or two to bring flavor. And, don't forget texture. A little crunch or a little chew can go a long way in making salad a more satisfying eating experience.

This one has tomatoes, green leaf lettuce, leftover steak, and garbanzo beans, served with a balsamic vinaigrette

Here are some tips on building a yummy salad on the go:
  • Use a large reusable container, at least a 1-quart sized one with a good tight lid.
  • Dressing can be placed at the bottom of your container or in a separate one for the road. That way, the lettuce won't get soggy. If you put at the bottom, just shake the closed container when you're ready to eat!
  • No one says you have to put the lettuce/greens in first. Placing some chunky veggies like tomatoes or broccoli at the bottom is 1) a great surprise at the end and 2) if dressing is at the very bottom, the greens really won't get soggy.
  • Add 1-2 proteins to keep your tummy full: grilled meat, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, beans, tofu, etc.
  • Add different vegetables and/or fruit: avocado, carrots, onions, cucumber, oranges, apples, pears - whatever you have on hand that might taste good together!
  • Add texture: toasted nuts, dried fruit (raisins or cranberries), sunflower seeds, crispy apples, creamy cheese all add variety to your palate.
  • Don't forget your canned goods! Beans, corn, peas, mushrooms, olives, mandarin oranges...lots of salad goodies can be found right in your pantry.
Get creative and get healthy!