Monday, April 18, 2011

Ch-ch-ch-ch---- you get the idea...

As the above title suggests, things have been changing in househon land.

My househon status may now be in question, somewhat.  I have applied for and received a new job, working in the HoCo public school system.  I start next Tuesday, and along with my elation for a full time job, I am also a bit nervous.  Full time work, plus cleaning, plus cooking and meal planning, plus my dance job - all I can say, is, welcome to being a grownup.

All this aside, I am enjoying the lovely weather in typical me fashion, with an iced mocha (espresso from my Nespresso Pixie and chocolate soy milk, ultimate indulgence), Glen Miller, and cooking.  My current projects are meatballs and a roasted chicken - a little later I will be roasting corn on the cob in the oven.

A lot of people do the "engagement chicken" recipe - a concept which I find hilarious.  I, myself, tend to call that the "stick a lemon up its butt" method!  While this is tasty, if not matrimony-inducing, I tend to favor garlic and butter in my chicken.  Here's the tried and true roaster recipe:

Large roasting chicken
As much minced garlic as you like
3/4 stick butter, divided
1/2-1 teaspoon salt
Pepper, to taste
Bay leaves
Assorted stuffing (like onion or shallots - can also be the aforementioned lemon)

1.  Rinse chicken and remove innards.  These can be used for broth - just let them simmer away with carrot and celery and herbs.  Place chicken in large roasting pan.

2.  Take divided butter and place under the skin of the chicken, as well as in the creases of the legs and wings.  Next, rub salt, pepper, and garlic over the chicken.

3.  Stuff the chicken with your favorite stuffin's.  I really like shallots for this (tender and subtle).

4.  Roast the chicken at 375 for 20 minutes per pound.  Aaaaaand you're done.

The corn can be done at the same temperature for 20-25 minutes.  Just peel back the husk, remove silk, pre-season the corn, then peel the husks back over.  Before roasting, dunk the corn in cold water so that the husks don't burn.  Simply done!

Meatballs, too, are fool-proof.  A little garlic, oregano, salt, and one egg per pound of raw meat - cook them up in some olive oil and pureed tomato and you've got something you can stash in the fridge for pasta and marinara, meatball subs, or even a high-protein and portion controlled snack.  (In fact, I just nabbed one - not bad!)

So, cooking and facing the future - that's what I'm up to on this beautiful spring day.  Also, I cannot tell a lie, reading a romance novel.

But here's my question - one that, I am sure, has been asked by many: how can I be a househon, and a workinghon, too?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hump Day

Well, tonight's the big Hocoblogs party at the Stained Glass Pub.  I have attended a few of these parties in the past as a reader, but it will be fun to go as a writer.  My wonderful mother, a blog follower and online socialite, will be joining me.  Always good to have a night out on the town with Mom!

Other tasks of import today include cleaning and doing laundry.  I ask you, why can't I just do those things once and have them finished forever?  Gee.

Last night I made Cajun shrimp and rice.  Good news: a very inexpensive dish comprised of frozen peppers ($1 a bag), an onion ($2.99 for a large bag), shrimp (on sale), and rice (from my gigantic bag of Basmati that I bought for $5).  Bad news: I followed a recipe and it was fairly flavorless.  Spicy, yes.  But lacking that certain something - probably bacon!  Everything is better with bacon...

I feel like I've been trying to follow recipes lately, which is almost always a mistake.  I made curried chicken last week from a recipe, and while it was delicious and smelled like House of India it just didn't do it for me.  No improvisation means no adventure!  No risk-taking!  I'm making chicken kabobs this weekend - a chance to experiment and reclaim my creative oomph.

Well, I'm off to see the wizard (otherwise known as the magical mystery washing machine).  See you tonight?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dinner: Update

Beef stew turned out OK, but 8 cups of liquid is too much!  However, the liquid did produce a strong and tasty beef stock, something that I can freeze and re-use for next week.

G and are taking advantage of the porch - playing Irish music on Pandora and reading.  The sky looks so blue and wide - hard to believe that we're supposed to get thunder storms tonight.  I'm hoping that the weather continues to be as beautiful as it has been today.

I wrote 600-ish words this afternoon of an original short story.  I haven't written that much, that well since college.  Perhaps this writer thing will work out after all!  I have a college degree in creative fiction, after all.

This is the kind of weather that makes me think that anything is possible.  That my brain can take off and burn fuel like a rocket.  That I can feed on the little pieces of myself and explode.

Dinner: Beef Stew

I have a lot of memories of beef stew, which might sound kind of odd - after all, who gets excited about beef stew? - but it's actually one of my favorite dishes, made for me by some of my favorite people.

The last night I spent at my father's house before I went to college, Dad made a big pot of stew.  I loved it when he cooked - the whole house would smell unbelievably good, and he'd have opera or jazz or choral music ringing through the house, and I'd snuggle up under my covers and nap with the whole house pulled around me like a safety blanket.  At any rate, when Dad made beef stew, I felt perfect, at peace.

When I turned 17, by Grandma Joan taught me how to make Irish stew.  Just meat, flour, salt and pepper, and maybe carrots and onions - the simplest dish ever, and the most filling.  That side of the family is direct from Ireland, and cooking a real Irish meal also made me feel perfect, at peace, beautiful.

I've tried to re-create the beefy magic myself, but I haven't quite gotten the knack of it.  However, today I am going for it again - I've got stew meat, homemade beef broth, potatoes, onions, carrots...  I think I can pull it off. I just have to remember to play great music at maximum volume!  

Here's the recipe:

Stew meat (like cubed chuck, or you can use lamb or mutton)
Salt and Pepper
2 bay leaves
1 can Spicy Hot V8
8 cups beef broth OR 6 cups plus 1 Guinness
Onion, chopped
Carrots, chopped
Potatoes, chopped

1.  Place stew meat in a ziplock bag with the flour, salt, and pepper.  Shake until all of the meat is finely coated.  

2.  Heat butter in large pot.  Add garlic and thyme and let cook until aromatic.  Brown beef on all sides.

3.  Add V8, beef broth, and bay leaves.  Stir, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for one hour.

4.  In a large skillet, melt butter and saute veggies until golden, 20 minutes on medium heat.  Add veggies to stew and simmer, uncovered, for additional 40 minutes.  

5.  Eat it.  Can be served over mashed potatoes.

So that's tonight's dinner!  Wish me well.  I'm going to open all the windows, play some sliding, aching jazz, and make magic.

Weekend Roundup

First of all, thanks to everyone who commented on my posts, and to HoCoMoJo for linking to me. I appreciate all of the tips about the natural cleaning solutions/products.  I'll be purchasing a few things this weekend to experiment.

Next up, the Weekend Roundup.  G and I started the weekend by heading over to The Perfect Pour and taking advantage of their free tastings.  We tasted a few wines, most notably the Spanish Heredad Soliterra Priorat, which (we were informed) is composed of hand-picked grapes grown in volcanic soil.  The overall taste reminded me of some of the sweet, raisin flavors of Port, but with a fairly even finish.  Not a wine I would normally pick up, but interesting nonetheless.

The beer tasting featured beers from Old Dominion Brewing Company.  I really appreciated that they brought along a jar of crystal hops (for smelling) to showcase the hops in their Hop Mountain.  We also got to taste their limited release Oak Aged Millennium Ale - which, like a lot of up-and-coming beers, is aged in bourbon barrels. The brewers also introduced a wild yeast strain into the beer and let it go nuts.  Definitely a unique beer, and a winner - but unfortunately, not available anywhere outside of their brew pub in Delaware.

Saturday was a work day - Williams-Sonoma for a few hours in the afternoon.  It was fun, as always, and I learned that I won an award (basically "Employee of the Month").  Very exciting!  I am glad that I am doing so well there, and I'm excited to keep doing the work.  My next Sous Chef class is on April 30th, and I'll be making chicken croquettes.  Another recipe I've never made before...  Always good to be challenged!

Saturday night was family time - doing taxes, eating pizza, and doing girly stuff with my sister (who is 14 years my junior).  It's always good to spend time with my family.  G and I followed that up with a movie from Blockbuster and snuggles on the couch.

Groceries, dance class, and errands followed on Sunday.  A busy day, but pleasantly so.

So, we're back to Monday, which finds me sitting on the porch with iced coffee (Trader Joe's French Roast made in my shiny new French press), relaxing after a vigorous workout.  Next up: making dinner.