Wednesday, September 30, 2015

balsamic boneless chicken thighs

Last night for dinner I made Balsamic Chicken Thighs.  I found the recipe on a website called Budget Bytes, a website dedicated to cooking good food on a budget.  I found out about the site while browsing another blog.  There's lots of good recipes and they're relatively simple.  And each recipe lists the price for the measurement of each ingredient.

It was very easy to make this.  The recipe calls for boneless thighs, and that's what I used, but you could easily use regular thighs or even boneless breasts.  I mixed up the marinade, trimmed the fat from the thighs, put them in the pan I would cook them in. and popped the dish into the fridge.  Next day, I took them out of the fridge and baked them for 45 minutes.

They tasted great and were very tender.  I expected an overwhelming balsamic flavor, but I found I tasted the soy sauce more. 

I served the thighs with corn and rice.

Here's the recipe if you want to check it out:  Balsamic Chicken Thighs

Sunday, September 27, 2015

larousse gastronomique: i'm just not that into you

I've heard lots of chefs on TV say that their go-to cookbook and reference is Larousse Gastronomique, a huge monster of a book.  They use it took reference cooking terms, ingredients, etc. Being that I love reading and perusing cookbooks, and it has to added perk of being THE reference of choice for chefs, I had this book on my list as the next one to obtain, whether it be new or used.

Bob and I went to the library a couple weeks ago so he could get some books on old houses (ours is old--it was built in 1735).  I naturally ran right over to the cookbook section to see what I could find.  It suddenly dawned on me (see what I did there?) that I should look for Larousse Gastronomique, that way I could browse before I buy.  

I started browsing the shelves, thinking that the books are arranged in the same manner as in the book store.  I totally forgot I was in a library and the books are arranged according to the Dewey decimal system.  I didn't feel like trekking back down to the library's computer so I just looked it up on my phone.  I got the number and then found the appropriate section of the shelf.  Turned out I was way off in the location; I was in the last aisle and I had to be at the end of the third to last aisle.

At last I found the book!  Here it is: it's huge and the cover is colorful.

The book isn't all that pretty inside, though.  As the cover says, it's basically an encyclopedia for the culinary arts. And that's how it's set up:  entries are in two columns per page, there are very limited photos, and the print is small. Pretty much any ingredient you can think of is listed in the book, although I was surprised that crab apples weren't listed, as they are used in jams and jellies. (I have crab apple trees, so it was potentially pertinent information I could have found, but didn't).  As you can see, it even tells you what "dinner" is.  If you don't know what dinner is, you probably need more than this book....

The book also contains recipes for most ingredients listed, which are listed at the end of the entry for the ingredient.  I really didn't care for the way the recipes are laid out, though.  As you can hopefully see here, each recipe is in paragraph form; there's no list of ingredients or steps.  It says to cut x ingredient into pieces and then saute in a pan with x amount of butter.  Then add x amount of another ingredient, which is to be peeled and sliced. I found it difficult to follow this format and I also don't like that there aren't pictures of the finished product (yes, I know this is for real chefs and they don't need pictures, but I do!).  I also found that the recipes are somewhat involved and fussy, but, again, they're geared towards serious chefs.

My overall verdict for this book is that it's a great resource for chefs, but it likely won't be of much use to the typical home cook, unless they're a serious foodie or really want to increase their knowledge.  And the retail price of this book is $75.00 (!), so I'm really glad I decided to borrow it from the library!


Friday, September 25, 2015

sun and sand

Yesterday we stopped at a beach in Laguna Beach. Isn't this beautiful? We cruised around in a red 2015 Camero convertible; we rented it for the day.

We ended the day by watching the sunset at the pier in Peninsula Park, which is in Newport Beach.

Today we're off to Hollywood.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

greetings from Huntington Beach!

I'm away this week for a business trip, but thought I'd share a picture.  Sunset at the beach last night, which is directly across the street from the hotel.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

goat cheese, pumpkin butter, and pecans

This weekend I checked out the Whole Foods store a couple towns over from me. A coworker said it's a big store and beautiful.  The one near work is good, but it's extremely busy. To be fair, all Whole Foods stores are busy, but the one near work seems exceptionally so. There's a second store down the road from that one, but it's smaller and the hot food bar isn't great.

I don't typically go to Whole Foods unless I'm looking for something in particular; they're prices are higher, especially for meat.  I also go when I'm looking to stroll around and soak in some food porn. And food porn is something they have plenty of.

Bob was camping this weekend so I decided to go.  I had breakfast from their hot bar:  scrambled eggs with cheese, sausage, home fries, eggs Benedict with pesto, and eggs Florentine flat bread, which is basically spinach, tons of garlic, cheese, and a fried egg--delicious! Obviously I couldn't eat all this in one shot.  It broke down to about four meals.

I bought a couple beers for Bob--he loves trying different beers.  I bought a few cookies, two items from the cold bar--spaghetti squash with feta and basil, and heirloom tomato Caprese salad--and this goat cheese spread.  Capricho de Cabra with Pumpkin Butter and Caramelized Pecans.  (I'm a sucker for anything goat cheese.)

You can't see it, but there's a nice layer of goat cheese underneath.  The top has a thin layer of pumpkin butter and is topped with caramelized pecans.  I put it on some Ritz crackers.  Not glamorous, but it got the job done. I wanted to by some wine crackers, but I thought the bold flavor of the crackers wouldn't mix well with the pumpkin butter. 

I thought this was a good product, but the combo of pumpkin butter and pecans just isn't for me. I think I would have been happier with a layer of fruit jam.  The cost was OK, but I wouldn't spend it again on this product. It was about $5.00 for 1/3 of a pound, which translates to $15.99 a pound.

I think next time I go there I'm going to try a cheese from their cheese counter.  There are lots of different kinds.  Some look a bit scary, and even fuzzy, but I'm game. I like to try different things.  I remember the best cheese dish I ever had was in Lake Placid, NY. My sister and I went there to visit with my brother. We then went to dinner and I ordered the baked brie.  A wheel of brie was wrapped in a flaky pastry and baked, then drizzled with honey and melted butter, and topped with apples and sliced almonds.  So delicious!

So, what's your favorite cheese or cheese dish?  Are you a plain Jane that likes the old stand-bys, or do you like to try the really funky cheeses?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

a new, catchy tune

I was in bed the other night, scrolling through Facebook while Bob was fast asleep next to me.  Usually when I'm scrolling through I'm keeping an eye out for the important stuff:  non-dramatic posts by friends, Def Leppard updates, and cute cat pictures and videos (which I have to admit is usually Priority #1). 

I think anyone who knows me, and even those that just know me on Facebook, know that Def Leppard is my all-time favorite band:  I travel all over to see their shows--including Canada and Vegas, I listen to them all the time (sorry, dear!), and my license plate references them.  They recently announced their new album (or is it MP3 now?) would be released the end of October; I was happy for something to look forward to since they take a long time to release material.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I saw an update from a fellow Def Leppard fan...and it was a link to their new song, Let's Go! I had no idea they would release a song early.  As I laid there in bed, in the dark, with my husband sleeping, all I could think about was hearing the song.  I didn't want to wake up Bob, so I went into the bathroom and played it on my phone.

My first thought was how much it sounds like songs from the Hysteria album, which isn't a bad thing; it was my favorite album.  The song reminds me a bit of Pour Some Sugar on Me.  I like that it sounds more "produced" than some other songs from their more recent albums and I also like that it sounds a bit heavier.

I liked it on the first listen, but it took several listens to really like it and get excited about it.  Listening to the lyrics, the beat, and all the guys singing along, this song makes me feel the same joy and anticipation I feel when I see them live.  When I listen to this song, it's as if I'm in the arena, hearing AC/DC blasting on the speakers right before they take the stage.  I haven't felt that way about one of their songs in a very long time.  And it feels good!

I'm more excited than ever to hear the new album. October 30 better arrive soon!

If anyone wants to listen, go here:  Let's Go by Def Leppard

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

rice cake du jour : crunchy peanut butter and apples

I harvested some of my apples last night. I had to buy an apple picker in order to reach the branches.  I ended up with a big bucket of apples, most of which I brought to a coworker so she can make a pie. I saved a few for myself, but there are tons more where they came from!
I decided to have a rice cake with apples and peanut butter today. I had one rice cake and a jar of peanut butter in my desk at work, so that was pretty convenient. Delicious combination, but I should have sliced the apple slices a little bigger.

Monday, September 14, 2015

today's breakfast and lunch

Over the weekend I bought some hummus from Whole Foods. It's lemon flavored.  It's so good! Very garlicky and lemony, but not overpowering. And what's nice is that there are very few ingredients.  Nothing I couldn't pronounce.  It was only $2.99 for an 8 ounce container. 

Breakfast was slightly more than half a cup of cottage cheese, which I mixed with some Equal, dry roasted peanuts and raw coconut. 

Lunch was caprese salad. I bought the marinated mozzarella from the Stop & Shop olive bar and a container of grape tomatoes and just mixed the two. I also had a hard boiled egg.

Snack was celery and the lemon hummus.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

on my own, but not all on my own

Apparently I'm not losing weight "on my own." According to the receptionist at my dentist's office, anyway.

We were chatting about weight loss and she commented that her son just lost 100 pounds, and "he did it all on his own!"  (That means "the old fashioned way."  Translation:  diet and exercise, no pills, surgery, or gimmicks.)  I told her "that's great."  Then I thought about what she said and felt a bit offended by her comment.  Not one person has ever said anything negative to me about my weight loss surgery, at least not to my face (I know for a fact a few people have commented that I "took the easy way out."), until then.  But I know it wasn't intentional. I don't think she even realized what she said was offensive to someone who's had weight loss surgery; most people wouldn't.

So, why is commenting that someone else lost weight "on their own" offensive to me?  Because it implies that I had no part in my success at all.  That I just laid down on an operating table for a couple hours and then shed 100 pounds in six months with no effort.  Yes, I had a surgery that helped me shed 140 pounds overall, and the six months afterwards the weight just melted off, but there was six months of pre-op preparation.  And then months of post-op appointments, learning what I can and can't eat (I can eat pretty much anything now), measuring food and reading nutrition labels, conquering the urge to overeat, being very careful to chew my food well so as not to get it stuck in my stomach, taking my vitamins and calcium, drinking water until I want to puke, exercising (yes, we do have to exercise at some point), and dealing with all the extra skin leftover. Maybe I didn't do it completely, 100% on my own, but I definitely had a role in my success.

Next time you encounter someone who has had weight loss surgery, don't tell them about someone you know who lost 100 pounds "all on their own," or that the person "took the easy way out."  Though you might not mean anything by it, or you THINK you don't mean anything by it, it's insulting to us.  And while we're at it, don't go on about the six different people you know who were "very sick," "gained all the weight back," "had surgical complications," "can't digest food," etc.  You feel you're being realistic, but really you're just being negative and probably hoping to change that person's mind.  Or maybe you're even a bit jealous and don't want that person to have success.  

End rant....

Friday, September 11, 2015

something different: black bean hummus

I recently was made aware that they now make different types of hummus without chick peas.  While in the store I noticed several different types:  blacks bean, white bean, red lentil, and edamame.  I'm always up for trying a different flavor from what I usually buy, especially when it has less calories.

I decided to by Sweet & Spicy Black Bean Hummus.  It has only 40 calories per servings, versus 80-90 calories in the chick pea hummus I usually buy. 

I liked the hummus; it was sweet, spicy (very!), and tasted like black beans.  But I think it would be better served with pretzels or carrots, or another mild cracker or vegetable--something that doesn't clash with the strong flavor of the hummus.  I found that the celery and hummus flavors were competing and it didn't balance well; it was a bit overpowering.

I would buy it again, but I wouldn't use it on celery.

It's not too appetizing to look at, but it tastes good.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

rice cake du jour: cream cheese, ham, and apple

I made this rice cake while I was visiting my cousin last week.  As you know I have two big apple trees in my backyard and the apples are starting to ripen.  I brought some apples with me on my trip and decided an apple-topped rice cake might be good.  Especially with ham, since sweet and salty tend to bring out the best in each other.
I was right:  it tasted great!
Any other apple combinations you can think of that might taste good on a rice cake?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

family time and gorgeous weather

This past week was packed with family time:  I visited my cousin in PA, met my sister in PA for a concert, and visited my other sisters, brother, sister-in-law, and dad in NH.  And today I visited with my husband and the "kids"--after I went grocery shopping, tried to get an oil change  (they were closed), picked up some office supplies, joined the gym down the road, paid the bills, prepped my food for the week, did a little cleaning up, and made breakfast and lunch for Bob and I for tomorrow. Oh, and cleaned the toilet. Can't forget that. I had planned on relaxing more than I did, but I had a lot to catch up on since I was away most of the week. Oh well,  guess I'll do that next weekend. 

The weather was great all week, especially Saturday.  No humidity and not hot. Today, on the other hand, was sunny and 91 degrees.  Can't wait for Fall to get here!

While I was away this weekend, Bob put a screen in the side door. What a huge difference it made! We had such a fantastic cross breeze. As you can tell, we're not the only ones who are happy with the new screen--it's a total cat magnet!

How cute is this?!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

another concert road trip--so sad it's over

I found this on the Internet today and thought it was funny.  Pretty indicative of my life with cats, also.

Last Friday I took off from work early and headed to Lancaster, PA, to visit my favorite cousin for a few days.  We watched lots of movies, had a "jammie day" (spent all day in our pajamas and watched movies), and went to a few used book stores--I'm always on the lookout for cookbooks.  We also visited the big candy store so I could get the cocoa powder I like, along with some sugar-free candy and some treats for my team members at work. I had a great time as usual and was sad to see it come to an end.

Here are my new used cookbooks. German Cooking, because Bob and I are both part German.  The New Best Recipe, because it's put out by Cooks Illustrated, my most favorite cooking magazine. Gastronomique, because I thought I was buying the other book called Gastronomique. And The Cheese Bible, because...well...cheese.

But the trip wasn't over yet...

On Tuesday I headed out to Allentown, PA, to meet my sister for the Def Leppard concert.  I stopped at Wegman's, a regional grocery store.  I'd heard a lot about it.  Everyone told me that it's like Whole Foods, but huge and not quite as expensive.  They were right.  The bakery section was huge, as was the meat department.  I bought a few bakery items, a couple prepared dinners, some tea, and a few protein bars. I then promptly left before I could pack any more items into my basket.

We got to the show late due to traffic around the fairgrounds; I have to say I was a little surprised that the fairgrounds were in the middle of the city.  We got there halfway through Tesla's set, which is fine since I'm not big on Tesla; I like them live, but I don't usually listen to them in general.  They were good and played songs I recognized, such as Signs and Love Song.

Next up was Styx.  I had heard some of Styx's songs, but was never a fan...until I saw them with Def Leppard in 2006.  They are fantastic in concert!  So much energy and they all seem happy to be on stage.  Entertaining, too.  Tommy Shaw sang most of the songs, but Lawrence Gowan sang a few, too.  Most notably Come Sail Away, which always blows the roof off the place.  The crowd goes nuts and it's a giant sing-along.  He has a great voice.

Finally, it was time for my favorite band:  Def Leppard.  They put up a big curtain in front of the stage and then it was pulled down when they came on; they kept that from the Viva! Hysteria residency a couple years ago.  They started the show off with Rock! Rock!, which was a refreshing change.  They played Let it Go, much to my enjoyment; I love hearing the older stuff.  Surprisingly, they played Paper Sun.  They put on a great show.  They didn't seem quite as lively as usual--they're usually running around the stage a lot--but maybe that's because of Viv's cancer treatments or something else.  

Our seats were great:  middle section on the floor, 19 rows back, dead center.  It wasn't front row (it's so hard to go back once you've been front row!!), but I really liked the perspective of seeing the whole stage dead-on.  Of course, I missed seeing the guys up close, and being able to see the sweat on their faces and the stitches in their clothing, but the seats really were great.  Inevitably I got stuck behind a tall guy so had to bob and weave a little. But then I looked behind me and saw a really short guy doing the same thing. I always feel bad when there's a short person behind me--I'm almost six feet tall.

As usual, the show--and the whole trip--seemed way too short and was over way too soon.  But as Joe always says, "There will be a next time!"

Thursday, September 3, 2015

rice cake du jour: tomato, ham, and goat cheese

Another rice cake experiment this week:  grape tomatoes and a slice of deli ham on a base of goat cheese.  I topped it with some Borsari seasoned salt (I LOVE this stuff!) and fresh ground pepper. i then popped it into the toaster oven to warm up the tomatoes and cheese.

It was pretty good.  The cheese was warm and the tomatoes were really sweet and juicy.

So, what should I make next?