Monday, May 24, 2010

Recipe #47: HALFWAY THROUGH THE BOOK!!

(47 recipes down, 47 more to go!)
Life is one big juggling act, isn't it? I've gained quite an understanding (and appreciation) for the BALANCING that must have been done in the Julie & Julia Project. Its no easy task to fit intricate recipes among everyday routines! And if you've ever read snippets of Julie's blog, you know some days are truly disastrous! My saving grace is that I haven't put a deadline on finishing the book, like she did. (An insane thought!) Between work, finances, activities, & a mending husband, its quite a challenge to tackle so many recipes. -Oh and housework, let's not forget the never-ending housework! Looking around me right now; dishes need to be done, yard needs mowed. And this overcast weather is causing such a "blah" attitude. Ya know how some days are "sing out loud good?" Well, this ain't one of 'em. But, the silver-lining to this Moody Monday is the excitement of being halfway through the Chico Cookbook! It feels like quite a feat! And that realization has slightly improved today's disposition.
This halfway milestone has come at the end of my asparagus week... (Mmm, love that tasty green giant.) Yesterday's recipe was the cookbook's Beef Broth added to an Asparagus Stir-Fry I got from the Swanson's Creative Cooking Newsletter (Delish!). And let me just say, I know Chico's recipes are definitely meant as eleborate celebrations, not quick school-night dishes. But. It didn't occur to me that something easy-sounding like beef broth would require so much time! I should have paid closer attention to the recipe. SIX HOURS that broth is supposed to simmer! Well, I didn't plan for that. So my broth was on the stove for only about an hour. To my surprise, it actually turned out pretty good. Honestly though, as much as I enjoyed my homemade broth; pretty sure the convenience of a can is in my future.
Tonight we kicked off the workweek (well just my workweek I guess, since hubby remains on medical leave #2) with the Asparagus French Bread Pizza I mentioned in Recipe #45. (It was good, filling, & worth re-mentioning!) And speaking of past recipes, do you recall the dye project I did in Recipe #31? Well, I've been wearing another creation; a sunny yellow top. Especially with today's buzz-kill rain, I figured posting these pics could help channel in some glorious SUNSHINE!!!
Here's the non-Chico asparagus recipes I highly recommend when you're looking for a quick, easy, weekday meal. I opted to cook them in my jammies; it went well with my mood since I'm alternating between food preparations & cleaning duties. -Most women can relate to that! ENJOY!
Beef Asparagus Stir-Fry
Stir 2 c beef stock, 2 tbsp cornstarch, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp brown sugar, & 1 tsp garlic powder in a bowl. Cook 1 lb sliced beef in a skillet over medium-high heat until it's browned. Add 1 lb cut-up asparagus, 2 large sliced portobello mushrooms, and 1/2 c sliced red pepper to the skillet. Stir the broth mixture in the skillet. Cook and stir until the mixture boils and thickens. Serve over rice.
Asparagus French Bread Pizza
Line baking sheet with foil, spray with canola oil spray and lay down thickly sliced french bread. Spread on pizza sauce. In a bowl mix 1 c diced asparagus, 1 c diced roma tomatoes, 1 c diced red pepper, & 1 tbsp minced garlic- toss. Put heaping amounts on the bread and sprinkle with cheese. Bake in 400 degrees till brown (8-10 min).
~Rating of Beef Broth: 7.5 stars (out of 10)
~Quote of the day: Women are angels, And when someone breaks our wing, we simply continue to fly... on a broomstick! We are flexible." -Author Unknown.
~Music while cooking: Kid Rocks' Rebel Without A Cause, Brad Paisley's Who Needs Pictures, & Putumayo's Music From the Wine Lands.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Recipe #46: asparagus week continues...

(48 more recipes to go.)
A rainy spring day today, got my creative juices flowing! After a bike ride in the gentle sprinkles, some pampering at the tranquil Sage Spa, and dilegently working on a wedding scrapbook page... I did a little grocery shopping for another Chico meal. An ASPARAGUS Chico meal! Couldn't really decide what bit of flair should accompany the Vegetable Tower, until coming across a squid ink pasta and tomato sauce with tuna at City Vineyards. Sound interesting?? It was! But pretty darn tasty too. And okay, I agree, a little eccentric. Travis' comment, "Hmm, I would have never predicted tonight's unusual dinner." Yep, gotta keep him guessing!
~Rating of Vegetable Tower: 6 stars (out of 10)
~Quote of the day: "There is no sight on earth more appealing than the sight of a woman making dinner for someone she loves." -Thomas Wolfe.
~Music while cooking: Mangia! Italian Dinner Night.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Recipe #45: perennial plants

(49 recipes to go.)
Its asparagus week, friends. That's right, ya know spring is in full swing when those green spears shoot up outa the ground! Each year my coworker brings in bushels of this veggie that she cuts near her house. So last night we celebrated this delightful little treat with the cookbook's Summer Vegetable Medley. Well, minus the scallions since this was an unplanned meal and that was the only ingredient I didn't have on-hand (used shallots instead). And it isn't quite summer yet in semi-rainy Montana, but it sure tasted like it with this fresh dish of corn, asparagus, MORE BUTTER, thyme, shallots, & lemon. Mmm, mmm. Light. Tasty. Easy.
Stay tuned; there's more delicious asparagus recipes coming up in the next few days. (I found an Asparagus French Bread Pizza I'm anxious to try. If its any good, I'll post the recipe!)
~Rating of Summer Vegetable Medley: 7.5 stars (out of 10)
~Quote of the day: "Three words that best describe me: curious, courteous, and um, green." -Junior Asparagus in Veggie Tales.
~Music while cooking: None. But we did watch one of my all-time favorite movies afterwards, La Vita è Bella, about a father who uses his imagination to convince his son the Concentration Camp they are in is merely an elaborate game. Such a beautiful, beautiful story.

Recipe #44: BBQ

(50 recipes to go.)
Lovely BBQ among friends this past weekend! But before I get into that... Remember the Sour Cream Coffee Cake I was gonna make for my mom? (from recipe #40) Well, that simple task turned into quite an event! Loooong story short. It didn't get baked the night I planned, on account of working late, playing bunco, & sitting in the ER with Travis' broken bones! But I did manage to make the batter ahead of time & place it in the fridge. Evidently though, leaving it in a cool space overnight causes it to really thicken. Cause when I baked it at my parents' house the next day, the cup had runneth over!! Batter sizzled on the bottom of Ma's oven, causing CLOUDS of smoke! We really got to laughing, because the air was SO THICK with our "baking experience." The cakes ended up tasting okay.... Just looked less pretty than the one I made last week. Hence, we changed the name to "Blueberry Cowpie."
Also, another noteworthy Chico tidbit; My parents liked the Maple Cornbread & Honey Butter (from Recipe #39) so much, they had me write it down for their friend Bud. Glad they enjoyed it enough to share it!
So... back to the BBQ at hand. It was the first warm weekend of the year! Perfect weather to have friends over for chatting & chowing down. Some of the food had a Fear Factor vibe, which brought out some daring souls! The tripe (cow intestines) was sautéed by Pepe and wrapped in tortillas with salsa. (Don't knock it 'til ya try it!) Zach brought his former pet goat Jerry that tasted like regular steak. (Once we got past the "pet" part, it was really really good.) And we made the cookbook's escargot recipe. (Snails yes, but pop 'em in your mouth with the mushrooms & ham, and you barely even noticed!) Oh we did have less adventurous stuff too (kabobs, burgers, hotdogs, corn, deer sausage, & Chico's rosemary rack of lamb) for those unwilling to slurp up a slimy snail. And of course everyone brought lots of yummy treats, so we had a HUGE smorgasbord of delicious food that was snacked on all night! Whew, SOOOOO full!! We also had a bit of a luau theme going since we mixed up some kava (that we brought back from Fiji last year) for a Fijian Kava Ceremony, and propped our injured Travis in a chair like on the beach of the movie Weekend At Bernie's. Good times, good times.
~Rating of Sour Cream Coffee Cake (repeat from recipe #40): 7 stars (out of 10) from Pa, 8 stars from Ma.
~Rating of Escargot: 7 stars (out of 10)
~Rating of Rosemary Rack of Lamb (repeat from recipes #12 & #27): 9.5 stars (out of 10). This continues to be our favorite Chico recipe, and our dinner guests also raved about it!
~Quote of the day: "Savor the moments that are warm & special & giggly." -Sammy Davis Jr.
~Music while cooking: Funk Volume 2, Don Ho's Tiny Bubbles, & Fiji Rewasese Entertainment Group.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Recipes #41, #42, & #43: somethin' smells fishy

(51 recipes to go.)
Oh wow. Love, love, love the Pine Nut Crusted Halibut. I mean, this was sooooo ridiculously good. The combination of nuts & batter, plus a Port Wine Butter Sauce & Mango Salsa poured over the top, made it pretty RICH. Which is probably why I fell in love with this fish. My tastebuds like anything that resembles sugar! Travis on the other hand, doesn't have much of a sweet-tooth and was only semi-excited about this flavor. Another perk for me though, was how it was a fairly easy meal to make... Well, up until the whirlwind ending, that is. Everything was going smooth; dipping fillets in the batter, simmering wine. But then. Trying to time the fish & sauce's cooking times with the finished salsa, left me juggling pots & pans and chopping veggies at a frantic speed! As I ripped open the bag of pine nuts, they exploded from the package, leaving little nuts scattered in all directions! Then my sauce began making a thick gurgling sound and literally regurgitated splatters of buttery wine all over the stove & WALL in one big belch! Travis chuckled at the after-math; bowls lined the counter, dishes piled in the sink, cilantro was all over the floor, & the knife (still in my hand) had remnants of red pepper dangling from it. "Lunch is ready," I proclaimed as I blew a loose strand of hair from my face & poured a glass of Perrier. Whew! "Let's eat." And Bren, yes I think you'd like this mango salsa. I've been snacking on the leftovers with chips, its tasty. I'll getchya the recipe. Don't let this little kitchen fiasco fool ya, its really not complicated to make!
~Rating of Pine Nut Crusted Halibut: 8 stars (out of 10)
~Rating of Port Wine Butter Sauce: 6.5 stars (out of 10)
~Rating of Mango Salsa: 7.5 stars (out of 10)
~Quote of the day: "Fish, to taste right, must swim three times- in water, in butter, & in wine." -Polish Proverb
~Music while cooking: Cher's If I Could Turn Back Time, & Kid Rock's Devil Without a Cause

Recipe #40: Montana Women's Run

(54 recipes to go.)
Just 15 weeks after my mom's heart attack, I am ecstatic, impressed, & proud she joined my friends & I for the 2010 MT Women's Run. (And we were also blessed with BEAUTIFUL blue skies too, after a week of horrendous wind, rain, & SNOW!) To provide us with a special treat on this monumental day, I baked a Sour Cream Coffee Cake the night before as Travis & I were making our very own Yellow Fin Tuna Sushi. (That was good too!) On the morning of race day, my mom & I gobbled up a sliver of the cake with blueberries & strawberries. Mmm, so moist, light, & scrumptious! And apparently Ma liked it better than I thought! She joked about it on the phone last night, "I've been waiting all day for you to bring me another piece of that cake." As if I'm a mind reader! HA! Of course the cake is long gone by now. But since it is so easy to make, I'm gonna bake her another & bring it over for Survivor this Thursday. She'll be pleased, I'm sure.
~Rating of Sour Cream Coffee Cake: 8 stars (out of 10)
~Rating of Moose Drool, a local brew recommended by the cookbook, that I had before the Rob Zombie & Alice Cooper concert earlier in the week: 7 stars (out of 10)
~Quote of the day: "Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back & realize they were the big things." -Robert Brault
~Music while cooking: Nine soundtrack.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Recipe #38 & #39: my happy place

(55 recipes to go.)
Don'tchya just love waking up without an alarm clock, to a day of NOTHING on your agenda?! Hello Saturday! It sure didn't take long to plan a "me day," as I glanced through the Chico cookbook & did some brainstorming. Influenced by the Italian CD I was listening to, I said ARRIVEDERCI to my darling Travis as he went turkey hunting & fishing with his buddies Clayton & Andy, and I hit the SPA! Fantastico idea! Thanks to Sanctuary Spa offering discounts when filling last-minute cancelled slots, I started my weekend off with "becoming the peace you seek," as their brochure proclaims. Aaah yes, quite rejuvenating... Then, continuing with my elevated mood, a turkey sandwich & I headed off to another one of my favorite ways to spend a day; a road trip into the mountains of Red Lodge, MT, while sipping some refreshing lemonade as recommended by the cookbook. (Lemonade = sunny thoughts!) I often find myself in this rustic area. Its only an hour drive, but it really feels like I end up somewhere spectacular. An escape, haven, retreat. Whatever you wanna call it, I always enjoy it! Lots of marvelous memories here, my mind has definately linked it as a "happy place." Also, there's just something therapeutic about driving outa town, isn't there? So I cranked up some tunes (Pink's Funhouse, Rob Zombie's Live, & the Nine soundrack) and let my mind wander as the road eased up, down, all around. I've driven this stretch of highway so many times, I could probably do it with my eyes closed. (Don't worry, I obviously didn't!) I took along my journal & a mandala to color, while continuing to replenish myself with that lemonade. The further south I drove (ending up in Custer National Forest), the better the weather got. -I actually had to shed my jacket!- Travis & I texted each other pictures to compare the climates we were in, as he went north to the Little Snowies. He encountered rain & snow, while I had SUNSHINE! Back at the house before sunset, we traded stories of our day and were about to make Chico's Montana Chicken, when my husband's obsession for steak resurfaced. Therefore, we went out to eat instead and saved the chicken for today. Which turned out to be a better plan anyways because of our impromptu lunch celebrating my mom's early birthday. Accompanied with Maple Cornbread, Honey Butter, veggies, salad, & chocolate pie, this was a meal even my anti-chicken father enjoyed! We did expand on the chicken recipe, as the cookbook pretty much just said rub barbeque seasoning on & bake. We set the chicken on a can filled with brown ale, worchestershire sauce, & liquid smoke, rubbed the bird with Johnny's Seasoning Salt & Tastefully Simple's Grilling Seasoning, stuffed an onion in the top to seal in the vapors, and let it swelter in the oven for a couple hours. If you've never had fowl like this before, I highly recommend it. Its been our favorite way to bake chicken for years.... Mmmm......
~Rating of Montana Chicken: 7.5 stars (ouf of 10)
~Rating of Maple Cornbread & Honey Butter: 7 stars (out of 10)
~Rating of recommended lemonade beverage: 6 stars (out of 10)
~Quote of the day: "Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot." -Truman Capote in Breakfast At Tiffanys.
~Music while cooking: Gary Allan's Tough All Over