Category Archives: Food

Hello, it’s me

Since I deleted the Facebook app from my phone as part of my goals for 2016, I’ve become so out of touch with popular culture. We don’t have cable (nor do we miss it), so I’m pretty oblivious as far as celebrities are concerned. But every once in a while, my husband, who is much cooler than I am, shows me an internet video that makes me smile.

I’m no Adele superfan, but I do enjoy her music and think she has an amazing voice. On top of that, she seems to actually be a nice person. (How rare.) If you haven’t seen her Carpool Karaoke with The Late Late Show host James Corden, I seriously recommend you take 15 minutes out of your day to watch. It. is. HILARIOUS. If you do nothing else, skip to minute 10:15. You won’t regret it.

Yesterday, (Saturday) I received 7 work emails from my boss. After working long hours every day last week, I needed one day to recharge, so I ignored his emails, and Adam and I, rather than being responsible adults and doing things like laundry or dishes, went downtown and accidentally got drunk at 5pm. I can take down a bottle of wine with the best of them, but give me a whiskey cocktail (ok, two), and I’m done for. The advantage of afternoon drinking is that I was in bed by 9 and awake by 6, without any traces of a hangover. That’s a victory in my book.

Saturday was my “play day” and today will be strictly business. I have a mountain of laundry to tackle, a suitcase to unpack, and a house to clean. I’d also like to get a jump-start on food prep for the upcoming week.

Lately, I’ve been really trying to convert some of our favorite dishes to vegan. I’m not a strict vegetarian, but I do feel better when I eat a mostly plant-based diet, and truly don’t miss the meat all that often. When I feel like having a steak or some chicken wings, I go for it, but I also actually like vegetarian protein staples like tofu, beans, lentils, etc.. Although Adam protests whenever I use the term, if I don’t tell him something is vegan, he dives right in. Basically, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

A few weeks ago, I made a huge pot of Red Lentil Soup with Lemon and froze it in batches for easy reheat meals when there’s nothing in the fridge or I don’t feel like cooking. I tweaked it slightly (adding smoked paprika and cayenne for some spice, decreasing the amount of lemon, and throwing in kale that needed to be used up), and Adam hasn’t stopped raving about it since.

Other vegan successes have included cashew cream sauce (which freezes well) served over regular (vegan) pasta noodles for Adam and sweet potato noodles (à la this recipe) for me, and vegan parmesan cheese (which I told Adam was a “cashew topping” and he devoured).

Up on the vegan menu this week is more soup (can’t stop, won’t stop) and Coconut Curried Kale and Sweet Potato. This will be my last week at home before I start traveling for work again, and I want to take advantage of being able to cook my own meals as much as possible. If you have any favorite soup recipes, please send them my way! I can’t seem to get enough.

 

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Favorite Healthy Recipes

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been on a Weight Watchers kick recently, in an effort to lose the 5 pounds I’ve gained since marrying the love of my life (who also happens to have the metabolism of a body builder and can eat whatever he wants without gaining an ounce) along with an additional 5 just because. I had a rocky July, with 2 weddings, a vacation, a few beer festivals, sporting events, and moving into our new house, but somehow (seriously, how?) I still lost weight and am now only 1.5 pounds away from my goal.

I’ve always loved to cook, but have never been a big recipe follower. My style of cooking is much more haphazard than that, and I prefer to simply throw stuff in a pan and see what happens. With Weight Watchers, though, I’ve been forced to measure and weigh everything in order to track what I’m actually consuming. These recipes are not only healthy, they’re easy to follow and made out of (mostly) pantry staples and items I usually have around, which makes meal prep so much easier.

Happy eating!

Coconut Lime Cauliflower Rice (with Sweet Chili Coconut Lime Grilled Chicken) from Iowa Girl Eats.

Coconut Lime Cauliflower Rice from Iowa Girl Eats (she serves it with Sweet Chili Coconut Lime Grilled Chicken, which I have made for hubby and is also delicious). I omit the coconut oil and mist the pan with olive oil instead (I have this mister and love it) in order to cut down on the calories/points. No, it’s not actually rice, and if you don’t like cauliflower, this probably isn’t the recipe for you. I love cauliflower, though, and cauli-rice is a diet-saver, giving me a “base” for sauce and toppings without using tons of points. With 3 Tbsp of light coconut milk, 1 serving is worth 1 point (the recipe makes 4 servings total).

Egg Drop Soup from Paleo Takeout by Russ Crandall (recipe via Veggie Staples). Adam and I don’t follow the Paleo diet, but I’ve been reading Russ’s blog for a while now, and I was lucky enough to be selected to taste-test and provide feedback on a few recipes earlier this year when he was developing the cookbook. Every recipe of his that I’ve tried has been delicious, and his egg-drop soup was no exception. One serving of egg drop soup is 2 points; I bulk it up with 3 oz of tofu (2 points) to make a full meal.

Mango with Turmeric Smoothie from the Food Network.

Mango with Turmeric Smoothie from the Food Network. I have a small container of turmeric in my spice pantry from an Indian recipe I cooked last month, and I’ve been trying to figure out additional ways to use it up, since I hate having spices waste away, unused and unloved. I’m not sure I quite buy into all the hype over turmeric’s miraculous healing powers, but adding a pinch to my morning smoothie gives it a delightfully sunny color and doesn’t impart any sort of savory taste. I tweak the FN recipe based on what I have on hand at the time – usually omitting the OJ and using almond milk rather than coconut water.

Vegan Pesto (also known as food crack) from Minimalist Baker.

Vegan Pesto (as part of the recipe for Vegan Pesto Parmesan Breadsticks) from Minimalist Baker. Holy bejezus this stuff is good. Good, as in – I hesitate to include it on this healthy recipes roundup because I tend to eat it by the spoonful and before you know it, I’ve consumed an entire meal’s worth of points in pesto. I’m going to admit, I love regular pesto so much that I didn’t have high hopes for the vegan variety, but now that I’ve made this recipe, I don’t think I’ll ever go back. Vegan pesto is cheaper, better for you, and every bit as good (if not better) than the original. To reduce the calorie/point count, I halve the olive oil and walnuts (because I’m too cheap for pine nuts). With those adjustments, 1 Tbsp comes out to about 1 point and goes a long way.

Black Bean Patties from Annie’s Eats. Whenever I turn to Annie’s blog for inspiration, I am never disappointed. I only made 1/2 the recipe, because I only had 1 red pepper and 1.5 cups of beans, and they were delicious! 1/2 the recipe made 8 patties and 1 patty equals 1 point. 2 patties was the perfect serving size for a healthy, but filling lunch. I found they cooked better from frozen, which is perfect because I can never have too many quick and easy things to pull out of the freezer when I don’t feel like cooking.

Photograph by Love and Lemons.

Healthy Loaded Sweet Potatoes from Love and Lemons. Traditional baked potatoes are one of my comfort foods and were on my short list of go-to cheap, filling meals in college. These days, I swap out the white potato for a sweet potato, and omit the butter, cheese, and sour cream in favor of filling proteins and deliciously spiced veggies. I love baked potatoes because they are a “clean out the fridge” meal that can be stuffed with almost anything, and this combination of black beans, spices, and lime juice is hard to beat.

Road trip to Denver

This blog post is coming to you from a not particularly fancy but pretty adequate Extended Stay America hotel room in the lovely city of Denver, Colorado.

Over the past 5 days, we’ve slowly made our way north – driving from Central Florida (think Disney World), where we spent Christmas with my family, through Georgia, Tennessee, and Indiana, then west – from St. Louis, through Kansas City, Topeka, and finally, at last, to Denver. We went relatively slowly, dividing a 27 hour drive into more manageable chucks. We stopped in some really cool towns, ate good food, listened Serial podcasts, and managed not to kill each other or wreck our new car.

I always feel like long road trips sound way more exciting than they actually are, especially when you’re driving through the Midwest; there isn’t a lot to see except fields and silos and the occasional water tower. However, this was a road trip borne out of necessity (the only practical way to get a car from one side of the country to the other is to drive it there), and now that we’re no longer spending 4+ hours in a car every day, I can look back over the trip and say that it’s been relatively enjoyable. Here are a few iPhone photos of our journey.

Fog

The morning of our departure from Florida, the fog was unreal. You can’t really tell, but that’s a lake behind that tree.

From FL, our first stop was Fayetteville, GA, to stay with my aunt and uncle. Not only did they graciously host us, they took us to the nearby town of Senoia for dinner at Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Social Club. Turns out, Senoia is where much of Seasons 3 & 4 of The Walking Dead is filmed. I don’t watch the show, but my husband is obsessed, so of course we had to return the next morning during daylight hours to walk around.

Railroad tracks TWD

Burned building TWD

Wall TWD

Fake Church TWD

Behind the fake church and the ugly zombie-barrier wall are million dollar homes. Each homeowner gets paid $7,000 for the inconvenience of having to look at the wall and deal with all the filming hoopla. I have no idea how they keep these beautiful houses from showing up in the tv episodes, but that’s the magic of the green screen, I suppose.

After poking around the filming area (there are NO TRESPASSING signs every 2 feet or so – not even exaggerating – but we were able to take pictures from a distance without getting yelled at), we drove the 4-ish hours north to Nashville in search of some hot chicken. One of my friends recommended Hattie B’s, so there we went.

Hattie B's Hot Chicken

Hattie’s has 4 different heat levels, from Southern “no heat” to Shut the Cluck Up “burn notice”. I am a sissy, so I went with Medium (“touch of burn”). Husband has a death wish, so he chose Shut the Cluck Up. You order either white or dark meat, pick your sides, grab a table, and wait for delicious to be delivered to your table.

Hattie B's chicken

The chicken was ahhhmazing – totally worth the wait in line. It was hot and crispy with great flavor. My Medium wasn’t quite spicy enough, but I don’t think I could have handled the Hot, so no complaints from me. Adam, however, said his chicken was “the hottest thing I’ve ever put in my mouth”. This is a picture of him dying from the spice:

Death by hot chicken

After Nashville was St. Louis and a trip to the famous Gateway Arch. Adam bought tickets for us to ride to the top, and I’m glad he didn’t tell me what that involved – specifically, getting in a teeny tiny claustrophobic egg shaped vehicle (seriously, this thing was 4×4 and they jammed 5 full grown adults in there) and slowwwwllllly making our way up 630 feet. It was a really cool experience to be at the top of the Arch, but I don’t expect I’ll ever volunteer to do it again!

St. Louis arch

Top of the Arch

The view down made me woozy.

The view down made me woozy.

After that traumatizing experience, I needed sustenance. I needed BBQ. I needed Vernon’s.

We arrived just after they opened and ordered smoked tofu (for me) and lots of meat (some of which was also for me). Ribs, corned beef, brisket, and pulled pork. Y’all, it was incredible. They smoke their ribs in a sweet/savory glaze which caramelizes into something heavenly over 5 – 6 hours. I don’t always eat meat, but when I do, I want it to be this delicious. Vernon’s hit the spot for sure – if you’re in St. Louis, definitely stop by!

Vernon's

Our next stop was Junction City, Kansas, where we celebrated my birthday dinner (cue I’m so old waahhhhh whine here). In the thriving metropolis of Jnc City, as it is known on highway signs, dining options are limited to fast food, Cracker Barrel, and a Mexican restaurant called La Fiesta. We chose La Fiesta, because it was a celebration, after all. And let me tell you, whoever decorated this place must have recently gone to a great party, because the interior of La Fiesta was wild.

Me with booth

This is me, at our table. As in, this picture was on the seat. And all the booths were decorated like this, with crazy 3D wood carvings of scenes from what I can only assume is a cra-azzzy Mexican party.

Chair and walls IMG_2474

Surprisingly, our food was pretty good. Or as Adam said, “It’s hard to screw up fajitas and queso dip.” Fair enough.

From Junction City, it was a long, boring, bleak, monotonous drive to the Mile High City. Nothing but corn fields for miles and miles and a disturbing number of adult only stores and “spas” with half-naked girls advertising “special services” on the billboards. I can’t imagine who frequents these kind of establishments, but after driving for 2 hours without seeing another car, I kind of understand. Sometimes you just need some human company, no matter how depraved.

While Adam drove, I took a nap with my stuffed dog, known as “Fluffy Puppy”.

Napping

Yesterday, we arrived in Denver in the middle of a snowstorm. Visibility was pretty miserable, driving was stressful, I was tired and cold and hungry. In short, I was ready to head back to Florida where I was complaining about 80 degree temperatures in December.

But then this morning dawned – cold, but sunny. And I woke up to this view from our hotel room.

Downtown Denver Denver MountainsI think I like it here. Denver, will you keep me?

Europe 2014 – London Part I

From Reykjavik, we hopped a plane to London, only a few hours away. Due to weather-related delays (of course it snowed the morning we left Iceland), we didn’t arrive into Gatwick until noon, and by the time we took the train into the city and checked in at our hotel near Victoria Station, it was nearly 2pm and we were ravenous. Using Yelp (love it when restaurant reviews are in my language), we found a nearby pub supposedly famous for – what else – fish and chips. The meal was far from healthy, but the portions were huge, the fish was perfectly cooked, and the prices (for London) were reasonable. Feeling fueled and appropriately “Londonized”, we headed off to see the city.

Standing outside at the Reykjavik bus terminal in the middle of the snow.

Standing outside at the Reykjavik bus terminal in the middle of the snow.

I’d been to London before, about 5 years ago, on a girls trip with my mom, aunts, cousin, and grandmother. We’d spent 4 days in the city and had covered most of the museums and major sites. My husband, while an avid traveler, is not nearly the museum geek that I am, so on this trip, we focused on seeing more of the city itself and spending less time indoors (although we did make an exception for pubs).

It's not exactly the best photo, but you get the idea. Mmmmm fried food.

It’s not the best photo, but you get the idea. Mmmmm fried food. (You can tell this is my husband’s plate because everything is doused in pepper.)

One site that I refused to pass up, even though I’d already been, was the Treasurers of the British Library. For the price of free (!!), you can see an incredible collection of historical manuscripts and other treasured pieces of writing. Along with historical heavy-hitters such as a Gutenberg Bible, the Lindisfarne Gospels, and a notebook of Leonardo da Vinci, there is an impressive collection of maps, plus writing from other famous, more contemporary authors. Think drafts of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, scraps of paper that start to tell the story of The Boy Who Lived (that would be Harry Potter), music scores of Beatles lyrics edited by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and so many others that I’m forgetting. Let’s just say the British Library is my happy place, and I would have stayed for hours if not for my patient and good-natured, but clearly ready to leave, husband. He’s a good sport, but history isn’t really his first love.

Beer, though, that’s something we both love. I’m especially enthusiastic when I can get my beer in a beautiful, Victorian setting, such as the Princess Louise, which is located not far from the British Library. The interior decorations of the Princess Louise date from the late 1800s, and pictures, even professional ones such as the one below, do not do it justice. The entrance leads you into a long hallway, off of which several partitioned “drinking spaces” give access to the bar. There is stunning detail everywhere you look – stained or etched glass, intricate mosaics, carefully carved wooden panels. I’ll tell ya, drinking in places like these can put all your other favorite bars in a rather harsh perspective!

Interior of Princess Louise. Photo taken by Michael Slaughter for heritagepubs.org.uk.

After our beers, it was time to head to dinner. It was drizzly outside, so we decided to take a bus over to Soho, one of the most famous and vibrant London neighborhoods, known for its conglomeration of delicious ethnic restaurants. Traffic in London is pretty awful, so buses aren’t exactly the most efficient form of transportation, but sometimes it’s nice to watch the city creep by from the top of a double-decker bus, rather than have it zoom by underground.

My husband is a fanatic for Chinese food, so we decided on Y Ming Chinese Restaurant, known for authentic Northern Chinese cooking. I can’t remember what we ordered, and I have a fairly strict “no pictures at the table” restaurant policy. I do remember really enjoying mine (some sort of slurpy noodle soup, I think), while my husband wasn’t as thrilled about his. Overall, it was a good meal, but certainly not the best we had in London.

Our first afternoon in London was pretty rainy and nasty, so we didn’t take any pictures with our nice camera. Next post will cover our walking tour of London, for which we had amazing weather, and will be full of photos!

For more information on our Europe 2014 trip, check out these other blog posts:

  • 2 nights in Reykjavik  Hallgrimskirkja church, yummy food, and gorgeous scenery
  • London Part II – walking tour of London highlights, Westminster Abbey, and an Irish pub
  • London Part III – St. Paul’s, Borough Market, and an incredible WWI memorial at the Tower of London
  • Paris Part Ia walk through Luxembourg gardens and sunset at the Eiffel Tower
  • Paris Part IIthree blockbuster sites: Notre Dame, Versailles, and Sainte Chapelle
  • Paris Part III – the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and Auguste Rodin museum
  • Bayeux – small town France
  • D-Day Beaches – paying tribute to the Greatest Generation
  • Mont Saint-Michel – an abbey on an island

Europe 2014 – 2 nights in Reykjavik

Thanks to a few Icelandair advertisements strategically placed in DC metro stations, I learned about their free stopover policy several months ago. It’s only a 5 hour flight from DC (Dulles) to Reykjavik, and then just under 3 hours from Reykjavik to London, so it seemed like a great way to break up a long trans-Atlantic trip. I’ve wanted to visit Iceland ever since I read Jar City by Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason, and fitting it in on our way to London turned out to be perfect.

Iceland

Our flight left Dulles at 8:30pm on Saturday and touched down in Reykjavik at 6:30am local time. Because we were visiting in late October, the sun wasn’t yet up, and wouldn’t be for another few hours. We never check bags, unless the flight attendants are particularly nasty (they weren’t), so we were able to go straight through customs with our carry-ons and were on a bus into town within 30 minutes. Reykjavik airport is small and efficient. The drive took about 45 minutes total; I can’t say I was awake for any or all of it. After a quick switch at the bus terminal (tour buses and narrow Reykjavik streets aren’t exactly compatible), the mini bus dropped us right around the corner from our incredible airbnb house, which I found for loads cheaper than any of the other hotels in Reykjavik.

Despite all the warnings about napping and jet lag, we were going on a few hours of sleep at best, and the down comforters on the king size bed were too much to resist. We decided that if the sun wasn’t up yet, we didn’t need to be either.

A few hours later, with sunlight streaming through our window, we found the energy to get out of bed, shower, and bundle up to explore the city. Temperatures were in the low 30s – not exactly warm, but certainly bearable. First up, the church of Hallgrimskirkja, which looks unlike any other church I’ve ever seen.

Hallgrimskirkja

The church was right up the street from our airbnb house and is said to have been designed to resemble the basalt lava flows in Iceland’s landscape. The statue in front is of Leif Eriksson, famous Icelandic explorer. The church is free to enter, but is very spartan inside, keeping with the Lutheran tradition.

Inside Hallgrimskirkja

Inside Hallgrimskirkja is bright and airy and worlds away from the embellished and adorned Catholic cathedrals I’m used to visiting in Europe. At the back of the church is a large and beautiful pipe organ, the only adornment. The organ weighs 25 tons.

Hallgrimskirkja pipe organ

Although the organ is impressive, the real attraction, in my opinion, is the bell tower, which is open to visitors for a small fee (I believe it was Ikr 900 per person – just over $7). You buy tickets in the small gift shop, then take a very small elevator all the way to the top.

Hallgrimskirkja square

Reykjavik view

Reykjavik view

After our tour of Hallgrimskirkja, it was time for lunch. We quickly found out that food in Iceland is expensive, so we turned to a local hole-in-the-wall noodle place for a hearty, warming meal on the cheap. I can’t remember the name of it, but it was popular and amazing. Hubby got chicken, I got veggies, both extra spicy. It was deeeeelicious.

Noodle lunch After lunch, the plan was to walk down to the harbor area and do some sightseeing, but the weather had other ideas. Just as we were heading out, it started pouring. Already cold and tired, we were not ready to add soaking wet to the mix, so we opted for a low-key afternoon in a coffee shop with our books and bowls of steaming lattes. Eventually, the rain stopped and we ventured out to do some browsing in the shops along Laugavegur, where I picked up a souvenir from the Handknitting Association of Iceland (see photo below).

This hat my look silly, but it was warm!

This hat may look silly, but it is warm!

After an early dinner (we ate at Fish, which was ok but not great), it was time for bed. None of the legendary Reykjavik pub crawl action for us! I’m not as young as I used to be, folks.

Day Two in Reykjavik was sunny, but cold with a biting wind. We spent the day wandering around town, window shopping, and trying to stay warm.

Colorful houses

Beatles bar

I let my husband steal my hat to keep warm

I let my husband steal my hat to keep warm

Lunch at Snaps

Lunch at Snaps

For lunch, we decided to splurge on the lunch special at Snaps restaurant (located in the Hotel Odensve). We were not disappointed! The menu descriptions were victim of a little mistranslation (the description on my husband’s meal – the far plate in the photo said “open faced sandwich”), but both dishes were incredible. We couldn’t believe how much food we received for the price (Ikr 1800 per plate) – especially when prices for similar restaurants were at least Ikr 2200.

After lunch, we caught a bus out to Laugardalslaug, one of the local swimming pools on the outskirt of town. While not nearly as resort-like as the famous Blue Lagoon, it was incredibly nice for loads cheaper. One thing you must do in Iceland, either at Blue Lagoon or at a local pool, is take a dip in a “hot pot” – a small pool naturally heated by geothermal springs. Basking in clear blue water, naturally heated to 104 degrees, while the snow falls was easily our favorite experience in Iceland. I didn’t visit Blue Lagoon, so I can’t compare, but I highly recommend Laugardalslaug – it’s easy to get to, incredibly clean, and we were the only non-Icelandic people there. I wish I had taken a picture, but I find that hot tubs and iPhones aren’t the best of friends.

After a few hours lounging in the hot pots, it was time to catch the bus back into town, find something for dinner, and go to bed early before our 4am wakeup call. Next stop – London!

Check out these other posts to read about the rest of our Europe 2014 trip! 

  • London Part I – arrival in London, fish & chips, a snazzy pub, and the British Library
  • London Part II – walking tour of London highlights, Westminster Abbey, and an Irish pub
  • London Part III – St. Paul’s, Borough Market, and an incredible WWI memorial at the Tower of London
  • Paris Part Ia walk through Luxembourg gardens and sunset at the Eiffel Tower
  • Paris Part IIthree blockbuster sites: Notre Dame, Versailles, and Sainte Chapelle
  • Paris Part III – the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and Auguste Rodin museum
  • Bayeux – small town France
  • D-Day Beaches – paying tribute to the Greatest Generation
  • Mont Saint-Michel – an abbey on an island

Mini frittatas – an easy, make-ahead breakfast

Are you a breakfast person?  I certainly am.  Most mornings, I’m hungry the second I open my eyes (seriously), so skipping breakfast has never been an option.  Cereal, however, just doesn’t cut it.  Especially on days when I drag myself to Crossfit at 6AM, I come back from class absolutely ravenous and looking for something substantive, yet healthy enough to not totally reverse all the calories I’ve burned.

Mini Frittatas

These mini frittatas are so simple to make and so easy to customize that I hesitate to even call it a recipe.  It’s more like an idea, one that I first saw on an episode of this season’s Biggest Loser, when trainer Bob Harper shared his recipe with the contestants.  That version used turkey bacon, but I kept mine vegetarian and used a mix of spinach, mushrooms, feta cheese, and sundried tomatoes.  Rather than mixing the eggs with milk, I mixed them with plain nonfat Greek yogurt, a trick I also use when making scrambled eggs to boost the protein content and keep the eggs nice and creamy.  I sauteed spinach, chopped mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and garlic, let everything cool, then added the veggies to the egg/Greek yogurt mixture with salt and a healthy dollop of Sriracha.  I poured the mixture into greased muffin tins and baked the frittatas at 350 degrees for 15ish minutes until the eggs were just set.

Veggie frittatas

There are so many different flavor combinations and variations to try, you really can’t go wrong.  Mexican with onions, peppers, and black beans.  French with asparagus and brie.  Italian with mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes.  Southern with collards and country ham.  Yankee with cream cheese, chives, and smoked salmon.  Or you can eschew conventional boundaries and put black beans with bacon.  The world is your oyster.

Let me know if you try it out; I’d love to hear what you you come up with!

 

What I’ve been cooking – beef broth, tikka masala, and skillet pizza

Good morning, blogging world!  After a week-long absence, we have a lot of catching up to do.

It was not my intention to be a once-a-week poster; my goal is for 2 – 3 semi-substantive posts a week.  But with my wedding only 20 days away (commence freakout) and my job in full “busy-season” swing, I’ve had to put blogging on the back burner.  (For those of you blissfully unaware of the term “busy season”, it’s an accounting thing.  You see, the time between now and April 15 – tax day – is when accounting firms make all of their money, so that’s when their employees are supposed to work the most.  Last week, I worked about 55 hours, which is a joke compared to the 80-hour weeks I used to pull at my last accounting firm.  So while I’m absolutely counting my blessings,  55 is still more than 40, and the switch is slightly un-fun, to use a very technical, grammatically correct term.)

Anyway, I’ll make it up to you with a nice long post, and no pictures of me butchering geese.

A few weekends ago, I made homemade beef broth.  It’s essentially the same process as making chicken stock, but the beef bones are first roasted with aromatics to bring out a richer flavor.  Making the broth required time, but only 30 minutes or so were hands-on, and there was nothing complicated about it.  I threw a few pounds of beef bones into a roasting pan with red onions, garlic, bay leaves, and a few rosemary sprigs, then popped the pan into a 300 degree oven for an hour.

Beef bones, red onions, and garlic, getting ready to go into the oven

Beef bones, red onions, and garlic, ready to go into the oven

Then I transferred roasted mixture to a stockpot, poured in water to cover, and simmered it for a few hours. Once the stock was ready, I left it in the pan and stored in the refrigerator over night.  The next morning, all the fat had hardened at the top and was easy to separate from the broth.

This is an important step, unless you like your broth with a side of cardiac arrest

This is an important step, unless you like your broth with a side of cardiac arrest.

Once I skimmed off all the fat, I strained the broth and transferred to storage containers.  Easy-peasy. Homemade, low-sodium broth for cheaper than you get in the store.  I purchased 5 pounds of beef bones for $1.50/pound and made 3 quarts of fairly concentrated broth.  The Pacific Natural broth I usually buy is anywhere between $3.50 and $4.50 for a quart, so by making 3 quarts homemade, I saved at least $3!  Plus, I was able to control the source of the beef (sustainably raised) and the salt content of the broth.  It freezes beautifully (as long as your Ziploc bag doesn’t have a hole in the corner that allows defrosting beef broth to slowly leak to the bottom of your refrigerator – thanks, Ziploc) and it’s easy to make a huge batch a few times a year.  Like I said, I made mine pretty concentrated so it would take up less room in the freezer and last me a while.

With the geese the Boo brought home from his hunting trip, I made goose tikka masala using the recipe for duck tikka masala in my Afield cookbook.

Served with lime and a dollop of plain yogurt

Served with lime and a dollop of plain yogurt

Instead of the traditional basmati rice, we opted for a brown rice blend (because, wedding in 20 days, people!).  This turned out okay; the sauce was really flavorful (although next time I think I’ll cut down on the cream) and super easy to make.  The goose meat came out a little tough, though.  Next time I cook with goose (we have 2 more) I’ll brine the breasts first or cook everything in a slow cooker.

Last night’s dinner was really good and exactly what I needed to end the work week (yep, Saturdays during busy season are spent at the office; at least they give us free  food)  – homemade skillet pizza.

Easy, fun, almost nutritious weekend dinner

Easy, fun, almost nutritious weekend dinner

I know it’s kind of hard to see because my cooktop is black, the skillet is black, and the lighting in my kitchen is horrendous, but that’s my pizza, cooked in a cast iron skillet.  I started making homemade pizza back in college, because like most college students, I was poor, slightly lazy, and would rather drink my calories than eat them in the form of greasy pizza.  We had a few “artisan” pizza places in the area, but none of them would deliver, and driving wasn’t really an option when you’d spent the afternoon watching your football team lose (again) and counting down the days until basketball season.  My homemade pizza was good, it would suffice; the crust wasn’t awesome, but it was way better that what Dominos could offer, for a fraction of the price.

My version - basic tomato sauce, mozzarella, and bunches of crispy kale.

My version – basic tomato sauce, mozzarella, and bunches of crispy kale.

 

Then, last year, a friend exposed me to the amazing food blog Annie’s Eats and I found her Perfect Homemade Pizza Crust tutorial.  That changed  the way I do pizza.  My dough recipe is the same (from Baking Illustrated), but instead of a pizza stone (which I never got around to purchasing), I make mine in a cast iron skillet.  I also reduce the oven temperature to 400, so I can coat the skillet in a healthy dose of olive oil; that gives the pizza crust a delicious, almost fried crispiness that I love.

Basic tomato sauce, mozzarella, sharp cheddar, and lots of crispy kale

The Boo’s version – basic tomato sauce, sharp cheddar, horseradish cheddar, venison BBQ, kale, and lots of red pepper flakes.

Last night, the Boo and I settled in, with our pizza and water (I can’t wait to drink on my honeymoon), to watch the Duke/Syracuse basketball game, a DVR’d episode of Shark Tank (my crush on Mark Cuban is growing), and about 5 episodes of the Big Bang Theory before I fell asleep on the couch.

Today, we’re supposed to have sunny skies and highs in the 50s which means only one thing – I must get outside!  It’s been forever since the Boo and I played tourist and walked around the National Mall, so that’s what we have planned for today.

Is it finally sunny where you are?  Is anyone else going stir-crazy like I am with all this cold weather?  I hope wherever you are that you have a great weekend and can get your sun fix soon!