Something to chew on

Monday, February 26, 2007

Mustard-Roasted Potatoes

I cooked dinner tonight. I mean, I didn't just boil water for pasta or grill pre-marinated chicken breasts. I actually cooked dinner.

We had butterflied pork chops baked in a raspberry-chipotle sauce and sprinkled with fresh breadcrumbs, and roasted new potatoes. I don't know if you're looking for a recipe for great roasted new potatoes, but this one is simple and fabulous. It came from Ina Garten's "Barefoot Contessa at Home" cookbook. Cole got it for me for Christmas last year. I've always been intimidated by her recipes, but this one is easy and very good.

Mustard-Roasted Potatoes
2.5 pounds small red potatoes
2 yellow onions (I only use half of one)
3 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut potatoes into halves or quarters, depending on their size, and place them on a sheet pan. Cut onions into half-rounds and toss with potatoes on sheet pan. Add olive oil, mustard, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and pepper, and toss everything together. Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until potatoes are lightly browned. Toss from time to time during baking so they brown evenly. Sprinkle hot potatoes with parsley and more salt to taste, and serve.

One thing about the kosher salt: Because of this book I only cook with it now, no more table salt. Cole probably thinks I'm crazy, that salt is salt, but I can really taste the difference. Plus, it's cool to touch while I'm using it. Table salt isn't fun in the palm of my hand.



Friday, February 23, 2007

It's Time

I'll spare you the details, but I stepped on the scale this morning. And it's time to get it together again. My plan for this weekend is to clean out the pantry and fridge and stock it fresh again. Poor Cole will think there's not a thing in the house to eat. There will be food, but it will be healthier than what's in there now. I make this promise to him though: No tofu or broccoli. HA!!!

And I think I've figured out my problem (isn't that the first step?). I'm not an emotional eater per se. I don't eat to celebrate or drown pain or cure anxiety. I'm a mindless eater between 3 and 5 p.m. It's that point of the afternoon where I need a little more fuel to get through the rest of the day, and I need to stand up and take a break from work. And that, for me, has turned in to hanging out in the kitchen and grazing. I need to do something else. I need to do anything else...

I've also come to the realization that I've lost the ability to feel full or listen to my body's cues about being satisfied. So while digging around this morning on Bob Greene's new Web site, I found this hunger scale that made total sense to me. I hope I can tune back in to my real hunger, and maybe at 3 this afternoon I'll start a load of laundry and take the dogs for a spin. I can't do that in the kitchen!!!

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fat Tuesday

Maybe just the name of a day like this will be the push I need to start watching my calories again, but I can't be sure quite yet.

I did have a salad for dinner this evening, but it was along side helpings of King Ranch Chicken and King Cake.

We ate like royalty this evening...


Yummy Gooey Pancakes

Why not? They're free tonight at your local IHOP.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Our Saturday

We spent more time running around yesterday that we had originally planned. Cole's folks came into town, so we grabbed some lunch at the Galaxy Cafe, visited at the house for a bit, then decided to head up north to More Space Place. (I've decided we should add a Murphy bed and built-in desk/crafting area to our space bedroom. I'm still trying to talk Cole into it.) We ended the day with a fabulous dinner at Fleming's Steakhouse. Our waiter, Trent, was the same we had last year for our anniversary dinner there, and he is wonderful all the way around. But, back to the shopping part...

After we left More Space Place up on Anderson at the intersection of Burnet, we decided to run into this cute little hardware/housewares/gift store in the same shopping center. Zinger's. They have nails and pet supplies and dishes and wine racks -- one of those kind of places. Please. Don't shop there. Don't give them your money. Go to one of the two Breed and Co. locations in town instead.

I've never been so uncomfortable in a store in my whole life. They followed us around. Two of the folks who work there followed our every move. And they weren't sly about it at all. The one tall guy with the beard and mustache stayed within about 10 feet of us from the time he spotted us. We were talking about how cute some of the things for the dogs were; noticed a brand of cleaning supplies we've been wanting to try. But this guy could probably tell the time on MY watch he was so on top of us.

Cole and I finally got tired of it and headed to the front of the store, just to have an older lady do the same thing in the front half of the store. We waited for Dee Dee to catch up with us and headed out to wait for Randy. As we were getting in the truck, one of the employees came out the door to look at us. I couldn't believe it...

I love supporting small local businesses. I work for a small business, and I'd rather do all of my business with little shops like this one when I can. But Zinger's is off of my list. I have no idea what we did. Or maybe, this is just they way they like to make their customers feel all fuzzy inside.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

I'm So Proud

I made my first-ever reduction at dinner tonight!!! It's probably not a big deal to those of you who really cook on a regular basis, but I feel like I've graduated to the next level of culinary greatness. Let me remind four hours...

I went to the 101 session at the new Super Suppers in southwest Austin this afternoon. The 101 session includes a good look at the facility, snacks cooked there in the Super Suppers kitchen, a demonstration of how the process works by the owner/chef (Amy was great), a free make-it-yourself dinner, and a discount on any other menu items from the month. Amy made it look so easy as she whipped up half a dozen Crispy Asian Rolls. Everything she needed was prepped and ready, right on the table in front of her. No chopping, no washing. She just mixed up the filling, wrapped them up and was good to go. At this point, the 12 or so of us that were there were all handed two sheets of paper: one explaining the discounts we could get if we decided to make any meals beyond our free meal for the day, and one was a check-off list of the February menu items that we could choose from.

We each handed our menu check-off list to the folks working there, and within minutes all of the prep stations and kitchen areas were stocked with chopped onions, alfredo sauce, chicken breasts, Dr Pepper, cumin, sugar, cheese etc.

I don't think a single person there made just the free meal and then bolted.

I chose to try the King Ranch Chicken first. For some reason I was a nervous wreck putting together a meal in a kitchen that wasn't mine. I didn't know where the mixing bowls were, or the foil, or the nonstick spray. But it only took me a minute to realize that that didn't matter. Everything was there, right in front of me, ready to be mixed together. I think my King Ranch Chicken was ready to go into the freezer within about 10 minutes.

Next, Dr Pepper Flank Steak. The steak started marinating in Dr Pepper while I created a dry rub with sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin (I've never used cumin in my life) and a few other ingredients. A sauce was then created from part of the dry rub and more Dr Pepper.

Finally, I rounded out my afternoon there with a Cheesy Alfredo Poppy Seed Chicken dish. It's a very pretty dish just sitting in the freezer, topped with crushed crackers and poppy seeds.

So, I left there with two dinners of each of those meals, and I purchased a "grab 'n go" Pecan Praline Chicken from their freezer: seven meals, six handmade, ready to walk out the door in an hour. An hour.

Back to my reduction... tonight we decided to try the Dr Pepper flank steak. Simple enough. The steak which had been marinating in the nectar of the gods went into a skillet on the stove top. I tossed some rosemary and garlic new potatoes in the oven to bake up, and the Dr Pepper with a little bit of the rub sprinkled in went into a small saute' pan to boil and reduce.

And now I have six more meals in the freezer, ready to be partnered up with a side salad or some steamed veggies, or maybe even some fresh garlic bread. Tomorrow night's menu is the poppy seed chicken and some fresh green beans. So far, I'm very pleased and will probably spend the next three weeks trying to figure out what to make from the March menu.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

My First Restaurant Review

Well, I don't guess it's an official review, but while it's fresh on my mind (and belly), I thought I'd jot a few words down...

We met Mom and Dannie this evening for dinner at the new Nuevo Leon restaurant in Escarpment Village. It's just a hop and a skip from our house, add a jump and it's close for Mom and Dannie too. This was actually the second time we had dined there in as many weeks. Just some quick thoughts...

The decor: Very cute. Minimal and modern. Lots of wood with splashes of pretty turquoise and black. I love the peacock feathers in the bathroom.

The seating: A little cramped for my taste, but adequate. Imagine one single bench that would hold about 20 people, sit about 10 tables there for those 20 people, then put chairs on the other sides of the tables for their dining companions. Last week when we were there, I was sitting seriously just inches to the left of a man I had never seen before. There are also your standard four-top, square tables scattered throughout the place; that's what we were seated at tonight.

The service: Our waitress last week was good. Friendly and attentive without our wanting to shoo her away when she talked too much and lingered too long (you know the type I'm talking about). Tonight our waitress was very young and had too many tables for a Friday night. We ran out of chips for our hot queso dip at one point, a long point, and a manager immediately spotted the problem while making the rounds. I sat with an empty glass that at one time was filled with iced tea for about five minutes.

The food: Good. Not the best Mexican or TexMex I've ever had in town, but it was nice and fresh. They even got it right when I requested the sour cream be removed from my Nuevo Leon Burrito. Some places throw your food on a plate and heat it all up at once. You've seen it: The edges of the rice and beans and entree are all kinda cooked together. Not here. I feel like my plate was put together one piece at a time. Mom had the chili relleno. Dannie and Cole both had the Nuevo Leon plate -- some sorta carne guisada that they both enjoyed.

One note on dessert: Don't get it there. We had dessert there last week just to give it a try. Our waitress made the tres leches cake and Oreo-type cheesecake sound very good. Dannie and Mom ruled the tres leches as boring and didn't finish it between the two of them. The cheesecake was fairly bland and not cold enough. The consistency just wasn't quite right. Cole and I didn't finish that one between the two of us either. Burn a few calories by walking over to Austin Scoops instead.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Super Bowl Snackin'

There are no real meals on Super Bowl Sunday, right??? It's all about drinks and snacks and just kinda eating a little bit all day long...

Cole provided a link to our first snack of the game, "Chocolate Caramel Crispy Cakes," so here's a picture of how they turned out. Note: I went to two different stores trying to find mini FOIL baking cups. With no luck on the foil, I just used paper. They worked, but the yummy little bites are sticking to the paper just a little. But we could all use a little extra fiber...

With a minute to go in the first quarter, the commercials have been yawns so far. But I did love Oprah calling David Letterman "honey."

Update: Snack #2: Pizza twists and a little ranch and marinara for dipping. This recipe actually came from Rachael Ray's TV show the other day. I'm not a huge fan of her show, it's OK, but I had it on for background noise the other day when she made these. If I ever make them again, they'll have more pepperoni and be thinner.

Snack #3: Chocolate and cream cheese swirl brownies. I could sit down with the whole pan and a tall glass of milk and eat them until I puke. I'm trying to refrain from doing so...

Still no commercials that have blown me away. The Budweiser/hitchhiker one was pretty cute though. And if you live anywhere in Central Texas, you probably saw an HEB spot starring Emmitt Smith. He's such a cutie, and seems like a genuinely nice guy... Makes me wanna go to HEB and dance in the aisles.

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