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It's been a genuinely crappy weekend, and it doesn't look like things will get better anytime soon. But in the midst of all this blah, let's take time to wish a very happy birthday to my own [livejournal.com profile] smirkingone. Anything that's good in my life is because of him.

One thing that did go well was dinner! Since we were staying in, I made steak and potatoes and broccoli and chocolate cake (well, I didn't make the cake). You may recall that it was almost a year ago that I committed crimes against steak, but this time everything went as it should and it turned out exactly how I hoped! So we have a good dinner inside us, no matter what else happens.

WHEN does Mercury go out of retrograde again???
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It has been a weekend filled with food (and, in the interests of full disclosure, drink).

Tea with the Queen! )

Life in the Mecca of fine dining known as Kent. )

Only 200 calories per serving! )

I have a lot of ruminations on the concepts of home, and hometown, and change, and blah de blah de blah and so forth, but that must wait for another time.
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You may remember that a short while back, we had a frank exchange of views on the subject of cookware (specifically Dutch ovens) in a cage match between Old Skool cast iron and Le Creuset. I really appreciated all of your input so very much, and I researched and thought long and hard about what to do. Finally I concluded that I am just not cut out to take proper care of true cast iron (plus it is a bit heavier). So last night we went shopping and I am now the happy owner of this feisty little bitch. Except we got ours at City Kitchens, not Williams-Sonoma, because CK was having a 40% off sale and we could get the size we wanted in a color I could live with (as opposed to the *yellow* colorway that W-S is discontinuing and selling at a discount). It was hard to decide on a color because I like a lot of them, but we went with an homage to our own Monkeygirl.

Now I am under a lot of pressure to cook something in it.

I haven't forgotten about the other postiness I owe you! Right now we're running heavily in favor of ferretage, and I have much to say on the topic of Fiona the Blob and The Ubiquitous Kaylee. Later, peeps!
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Quick question for the brain trust: Many of the recipes I'm looking at specify a "Dutch oven." If I go out looking to buy one, what's the minimum level of quality I should look for, and what brands might you recommend? Alexia's gorgeous collection of Le Creuset made me whimper with lust, but that is way out of my league (unless I could find some on sale because it was an unattractive color or the store was going out of business). Also, what size should I consider? Really I'd just be cooking for two (although many recipes serve four, and sometimes I don't want to worry about halving a recipe, because math is hard and I'd forget to carry the three).

What do you guys think?

I haven't been cooking much lately, although I did make Ogre's bratwurst and sauerkraut bake for the third time, and the other night I did something ill-advised with pork tenderloin. Heck, I haven't been doing much of *anything* lately. But I think of youse guys a lot and still love reading about *your* adventures.
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I'm pretty far behind in updating. The last few weeks at work have been just wretched, and as usual the thought of doing one more thing that felt like an obligation, such as updating, made me want to burst into tears. Unfortunately, things aren't going to calm down for at least another week or so, and even then it will probably be some completely other irritating thing. I guess that's why they call it "work." But it hasn't been all bad. Not last week but the week before I cooked some more stuff, specifically sweet 'n' sour glazed chicken breasts and mandarin orange pork medallions (not at the same time, doy). And broccoli, because there's always time for broccoli. The chicken was pretty good, with the usual issue of the glaze (thick and sticky, I swear to you!) droobling off the chicken during cooking. The pork medallions were good too; the recipe called for 1 teaspoon of prepared horseradish, but I don't know why, because you couldn't taste it at all! Shawn said maybe it didn't matter if you could taste it or not, that it may have added a certain oh, I don't know, je ne sais quoi. Kij has promised me that we'll have a salmon-cooking date at some point, and I'm really looking forward to that.

In which I blither at some length about rhododendrons... )

Charmed, I'm sure! )

Geocaching Kirkland! )

So, yeah, five days of hell at work next week, then helping K move, then our friend Bryan's wedding Sunday, then five more days of hell at work, then Memorial Day weekend, then four more days of hell at work, and then vacation (to be spent with S's family in San Diego). Are we having fun yet?
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Last night I made Apple-Spinach Chicken, and in the face of overwhelming odds, just when everything seemed to be going horribly wrong, it turned out really good! I bought some Lexus chicken at Yuppie Mart, and I think it makes a difference if you start with really good ingredients. The general recipe says to whomp your salted-and-peppered chicken breasts into some oil in a large nonstick pan and cook them until they're mostly dead (5-6 minutes per side, but a lot more if your breasts are as big as mine). Then haul them off to solitary confinement for a bit while you pour 1/2 C apple cider, a whole Granny Smith apple sliced up, a squidge of minced garlic and a bloop of spicy brown mustard into your hot pan and let it burble away for about 5 minutes. Put your chicken back into the pan so it can finish cooking for about three minutes - but here's where the recipe falls apart a bit. It says to put SIX CUPS of baby spinach in your pan along with everything else, toss for a minute while the spinach wilts, and serve. You can't. I don't care how big your pan is - you are not going to get a bunch of chicken and apple and spinach in there, let alone have room to toss. So I had to yank the chicken back out and just smush the spinach around (for a LOT longer than a minute, let me tell you) until it was properly wilty. Then I served up the chicken with apple and spinach on the side and some fresh crusty bread. But for a while there, the chicken was totally undercooked, then I was afraid it would be *over*cooked, then my pan was too full, then my spinach wasn't wilting. But it all came together in the end, and I liked it very much! S was gaming and he just sort of snarfed it down between space battles.

We have a busy weekend ahead, and unfortunately it looks like the weather may go sideways on us. Rats. Right now I'm looking forward to just getting out of here. I spent a half hour out in the plaza by the fountain with a seedy grain roll feeding the birds. The landscaping has lots of trees and shrubs that shelter a lot of sparrows, or spibs as I was brought up to call them, and I love to feed them. Of course this also brings the ubiquitous pigeons. Some people hate them with a passion, but I think their plumage is very pretty, and their feet amuse me. Anyway, it was so late in the day that there weren't a lot of spibs about; I fed about half a dozen. But there was one pigeon that was braver than all the rest, and rather quickly he would come take pieces of bread from my fingers. Then he came up on the bench and took pieces that I laid for him there, and finally he took them from my palm. Sometimes I will get a really brave spib who will take crumbs from my fingers, which is all the more impressive because spibs are *such* tiny birdlings. It was a nice way to spend the end of the day - until I got back in and read the latest atrocity, a hostage killing/suicide at a NASA office.

People are fucked in the head. Give me sparrows any day.
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S had a tough Friday and didn't want to go out that evening, so I decided to get a couple of steaks and cook them at home. I had a recipe for Beef Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Sauce from the same health-conscious folks that brought us Beef Stroganoff. We went to Yuppie Mart and invested in a couple of slabs of meat for about $10 a piece. The recipe said to broil them for 13-16 minutes for medium-rare to medium, but this was assuming they were both about 1" thick. They weren't - mine was thick but a smallish piece, and Shawn's was not as thick but spread out over more acreage. (The way I figure it, tenderloin at Yuppie Mart runs $40/lb.) Shawn likes his medium-rare, so I cooked them for only 13 minutes, hauled them out, put the sauce on, and let them rest. We cut into them and his was okay but mine was way WAY underdone. We put it back under the broiler for another 6 minutes or so, but then it came out well done (and I can hear you screaming all over the Internets) and was dry and incredibly unappealing. There are a number of lessons in here: If you're going to screw up an innocent piece of meat, get a cheaper one at Safeway rather than take out a mortgage on steak at Yuppie Mart. Make sure they are the same size. Aim for the mid-range of cooking time, neither too short nor too long. A really good piece of steak doesn't need a bunch of blue cheese sauce on top. My broccoli came out perfectly, though.

My scrambled eggs lack charm. )

Our department gets to take off early this afternoon to go to the season opener game for the Mariners. It seems like a pretty good day to catch a baseball game (although we had snow in Snohomish County last night/this morning - how weird is that?). I should go do some work in the meantime. Have a good one out there!
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Hmm. In retrospect, that sounds like a particularly obnoxious pr0n spam email. What I really mean is, I'm looking for a tasty, sweetish marinade for boneless pork tenderloin. Last night I broke out of the chicken rut and made Apricot Pork Medallions. Mostly it consisted of pork tenderloin medallions, 1/2 cup of diced dried apricot, 2 t brown sugar, 1/4 t red wine vinegar, and some butter. I did not include a dash of hot pepper sauce or green onions because I don't like those things, but in retrospect they might have added some needed flavor. The recipe says to "brown" the medallions first in a hot skillet in butter, but pork doesn't really get brown, does it? It's a sort of flabby white/gray. Herm. I found the whole dish a little dull, but Shawn thought it was better than I give it credit for. He suggests that we try marinating the pork first in something. You would be surprised at the lack of pork marinades in my various cookbooks. Anybody got anything you especially like? I served it on a bed of Goth Spinach with a side of steamed broccoli and whole-wheat dinner rolls. Then I blew it by having a Rocky Road chocolate egg. Dammit. The important thing here is that I made something different and it turned out okay, and I'm comforted and reassured by this. I still want to make fish. What's stopping me?

Sorry I stopped posting about the cooking stuff for a while there... )

Whoops - incoming. Gotta go. Hope you are all having a good Thursday!

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Cooking continues apace here at the Weaselden. Monday night I made Chicken With Fresh Tomato Sauce, which was optimistically described as a "simple, yet delicious dish." This simple dish took me TWO FREAKING HOURS to get on the table. Why? Because I still have no earthly idea what I'm doing, and I can't remember the recipe or the ingredients or the steps and have to keep going "what? what?" and looking at it every 10 seconds. Chicken breasts, fresh rosemary, a shallot, garlic, plum tomatoes, fresh basil (which smells like armpits!), chicken broth, and balsamic vinegar (which smells like one of the Circles of Hell when cooking). My kitchen implements mock me. )
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I do not know what in the name of all that's holy possessed me to cook 8 bratwursts for 2 people. Tonight I decided to try Ogre's* recipe for Baked Sausages and Sauerkraut, which actually calls for 10 bratwursts. I should have bought a single package of 4 wursts instead of 2 packages. It turned out very well (I guess, but I really have nothing to compare it with and have to take S's word for it) and filled my caloric needs for the next 3 days. And now I'm the proud owner of a package of bay leaves, so that's a plus. I don't even like sauerkraut, but as Ogre says, people who don't like it still like this particular dish. Important lessons learned: Oh! So *that's* a shallot! I do not know how to peel off its papery skin, nor do I know how to slice it - with the grain? Against the grain? Does it even *have* a grain? Also, shallots are probably wonderful for adding flavors while cooking, but I don't think (apologizes to Jilli) that I like to actually eat them. Now I taste all shallotty.

The rest of the weekend... )

*You have to love a man who gives you a recipe that calls for 3 bottles of beer and says, "One quarter bottle goes in the dish and the other two and three quarter bottles go in me."
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Last night I made Lemon Pepper Chicken, which continued the general theme I've got going - boneless, skinless chicken breasts slightly adulterated and then baked. This time they were liberally sprinkled with lemon pepper and then nestled between two layers of lemon slices and baked at 350 until done. These were regular lower-middle-class Safeway chickens, and I didn't think they were quite as deluxe as the Yuppie Mart ones, but S claims to tell no difference. I took one of my precious yamtaters and cubed it, steamed it, and put just a bit of butter and brown sugar on it. It was delicious and perfect, and S is *crazy* for not liking this stuff, I swear. Cut for wibbling and ranting. )

Hey, I'm getting kind of wound up here! What else can I rant about? Maybe if I get riled enough, they will let me leave early and I can go home and cuddle a weasel. It's impossible to stay ranty when you're holding fat, fluffy Fiona while she sleeps.
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We actually achieved bacon this morning! AND eggs! It was a bit of an uphill battle during which we again proved the old adage that partners should never try to teach each other how to do something. We usually end up having a frank exchange of opinions in which Things Are Said and Later Retracted. Actually, S ended up cooking the bacon because I was fully occupied with the whole scrambled eggs and diced red peppers thing. I did try to watch what he did for next time, but it seems to me that cooking bacon falls under that heading of "men grill the meat." Everything turned out just fine, but good grief, what a mess! Will somebody please remind me why I'm purchasing ingredients and dirtying half the dishes in the house and squabbling with S when I could just throw on some clothes and drive to Shari's or Denny's?

Tonight, in which we revisit Two Mustard Chicken and make an alarming discovery about asparagus. )

Still geocaching. )

What have you all been up to?
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I must be the only person in the world who takes more than an hour to make pasta. And I'm not talking "make it" from scratch, like raise the chickens and collect the eggs and roll out the noodles. I figured pasta would be relatively easy but wanted something a bit different. I have a couple of recipes for pasta (rotelli, because that's what we had) in an olive oil/butter sauce, which sounded nice and light. Let me see if I can remember this: 2T olive oil, 1T butter, 1/4C chopped fresh basil or Italian parsley (which I couldn't find and ended up with curly parsley instead, which turns out not to be the same thing at all), 1/4C shredded Parmesan cheese (which I shredded with my own paws off a big block using my new microplane grater), pepper to taste, and 1/8t grated nutmeg (don't ask me why). I also added a small amount of sliced black olives because S likes them.

Cut for ranting )

Thank goodness Dan is feeding us tonight, is all I have to say.
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I don't have a lot of time for a proper update right now, so here's the abbreviated version. (Not *literally* abbreviated, of course, or it would look something like, "O.F.w.w.t.H.D.f.d.w.f.t.c.o.A.b." While this would be a great time-saver for me, it might give you pause.) I committed another bout of cooking Thursday night, making Two Mustard Chicken, which is quite good if you like a lot of mustard - Two Mustards (Dijon and Stone Ground) to be precise. A few friends, and you know who you are, came to the rescue with a quick cooking lesson: When trimming your chicken breast, you don't have to cut away every single thing that doesn't look like smooth chicken breastitude. You really just have to get that little epiglottis-like thingy at the narrow end of the chicken breast. This will help get dinner on the table a lot quicker in the future, plus making my chicken not quite so dry, because a little bit of fat makes things pleasant and moist. Um. We also had Honey Glazed Carrots which didn't seem glazed so much as sauced to the eyeballs in honey and butter. Slathering everything in honey and butter is not exactly healthful cooking, so I'm going to have to go back to broccoli and green beans steamed naked the way the good Lord intended. (Naked vegetables, not me naked.) We're entering another busy time, and I'm not sure when next I will be able to cook or what it should be. German Sausages in Beery Sauerkraut sounds good, but not good for you.

What else? )

It seems like there should be other things to say, but my train of thought has derailed with no survivors. The ferrets are doing well, although Fiona continues to get more and more blobulous. If she were male, I'd rename her Orson. How are you all doing?
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Brace yourselves, my little haricots verts: I cooked for reals tonight, yo. Seriously. I took raw chicken breasts, squishy raw meat that was positively bristling with, I don't know, botulism and salmonella and trichinosis and alien spores, and I applied heat and other ingredients in such a way that it became safe to eat and almost palatable. I will give you all a moment to, as it were, digest this. )
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Shawn had an interesting insight about the whole Soylent Purple thing. He thinks part of the problem is that I lose my focus and forget what I'm supposed to be doing. I get caught up in the "ooh! shiny!" which is so very true. Instead of coming back with a humble, homespun yam, a veritable Amish yam, I come back with some sort of "Priscilla Queen of the Desert" yam. The glitter eyeshadow and feather boas get me every time. God, she's on about yams again... )

What you can't tell is that some 4 hours passed from when I started cooking until now when I finished this post. I spent the whole evening doing this, and if we've ever had a weirder dinner, I don't remember it. I did spend a fair amount of time cleaning up between each "course," washing all the dishes and pots and whatnot. If I will ever have anything going for me in the kitchen, it's that I clean up after myself. This weekend I bought a little more gear: a separate little timer thingy, some seasoning (red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, and minced garlic), a couple of towels, and some potholders. I was going to buy just one potholder until Shawn pointed out, somewhat acerbically I felt, that a big heavy pot of boiling water has *two* handles and perhaps I'd like to think this through. One of his least endearing qualities is that he's almost always right.

I still have one sweet potato, one russet potato and an orange bell pepper to cook. Don't know when I'll have time, as tomorrow is gym night. Right now, though, glancing at the clock, I see the big hand is pointing to "vodka" and the little hand is pointing to "mixer." Look me in the eye and tell me I haven't earned it.
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I am no longer allowed to purchase exotic tubers at Uwajimaya, and in fact it may be prudent for somebody to accompany me on all tuber-buying expeditions. Remember a few days ago I bought some tuberage at Uwa? Well, that entry is a bit misleading, because I should have said I bought an Okinawan yam, not a purple yam and an Okinawan yam. The Okinawan yam is itself purple. However, the one thing it isn't is a yam. It is a sweet potato. Apparently people all over the world make this mistake, so I am in good company. Why does it matter? Well, it's a long, irritating anecdote that ends in a horrible discovery: Soylent Purple is Okinawans! )
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Just got back from Uwajimaya, and I'm pleased to report that I didn't adopt any more residents for the Weaselmom Home for Wayward Tubers. However, I did get about 1/2 pound of green beans and a unit of broccoli and a couple of lemons to squooze over same. Add this to the orange bell pepper at home and the sweet potato, yam and russet, and I had better do nothing but eat vegetables for the next 36 hours. Oh, and I did pay $1.59 for a so-prosh little donut nectarine. ::cuts into nectarine:: ::throws remainder of tiny, overpriced, woody, mealy nectarine in trash:: Honestly, I should just not be allowed out by myself.

Haven't done much new over the past week. I baked another yam and have decided that the next one will be steamed just for variety. I'm reading Alton Brown's book I'm Just Here for the Food. It's very entertaining and funny. Although I personally am not learning very much, *guys* (and here I'm looking at you, [livejournal.com profile] mckitterick, because I know [livejournal.com profile] woadwarrior already has it) would probably love this book with a deep and unholy love because of the sheer geekery. Maybe the problem is that so far he's talked mostly about manly prep techniques such as roasting and grilling and searing and frying. I'm waiting for the girly stuff like steaming and sauteing. Unfortunately, the recipes have editing problems, and so far I wouldn't cook any of the recipes in here - blech. Still an amusing read, however!

Eaten any good food lately?
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Last night I had a cooking lesson at [livejournal.com profile] uppityfaggot's joynt. That simple sentence cannot accurately sum up the laughter, the tears, the hilarity, the bathos, the pathos, but I am freaking exhausted and can't do justice to the whole experience. Plus my notebook is at home and I can't write down the recipes for you here. But here's a sneak preview: )

Other lessons learned, including three interesting ways in which kittens differ from ferrets: )

Wish I could write more, which would include weeping virtual text tears of gratitude for D&C's time and hospitality, but I have to carefully ration my lone remaining brain cell to get through the rest of the day. Hope you are all doing well out there!
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Last night I roasted (baked? ovened?) my remaining garnet yam just as before. It was a bit easier this time, having done it once before already. I blooped a few molecules of butter and some fancy-schmancy freshly ground Mediterranean salt and black pepper into it, which honestly didn't make that much of a difference in overall enjoyment. You'll be disappointed to hear that yesterday I went back to Uwajimaya and got some more tubers - another old-school sweet potato, a purple yam (purple on the inside, anyway) and an Okinawan yam. This one ended up costing me $3.50, but when she rang it up, I was too embarrassed to tell her that I had no intention of paying that much for a yam unless it had the keys to an Alfa Romeo hidden inside, so I pungled up and slunk, red-faced, out the door. I also ate the Bumblebee pink salmon wad-in-a-pouch, and the kindest thing I can say about it is that maybe, someday, if it works really hard, it might aspire to be low-end cat food. Never again.

I don't know what I will have tonight. Something microwaveable, probably, because it's gym night.

I want to learn how to make a quick, easy, tasty, nutritious tomato-based pasta sauce. It's much easier to pour it out of a jar, but I want to be able to add some fresh veggies and feel that I know exactly what is in it. I have a book called Eating Well Serves Two: Healthy Suppers in a Hurry on order from the library and will see what I can glean from it.

Note to Dan: Last night I picked up a small jar of minced garlic, so you don't have to! I'll bring it along on Monday. Should I bring wine? I still have a bottle of my favorite Cotes du Rhone. Shawn won't drink it, but more for us!
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