Demented Ramblings life is too short to refrain from eating jam out of the jar

7Aug/080

Don’t cry for me, intarwebz!

One of my absolute worst habits is the wasting of food. It's obscene, the amount of food that rots in my fridge while I eat microwave popcorn.

I think part of it is that I have good intentions. One of the things that I wind up throwing away the most of is bagged salads. I buy a bag, eat one salad out of it, then don't want salad again for two weeks.

Another bad influence on my waste is the farmer's market. Saturday is the only day to really hit the farmer's market, there's not nearly as many vendors there on tuesdays and thursdays. So, I see all of these great veggies that look amazing and I buy more than I can eat that day. Then I forget about my purchases until the next weekend, when they are way yuck.

Tonight, though, I rescued a whole bunch of things that might have been forgotten if not for the fact that I skipped lunch and spent my last hour of work thinking about what I wanted for dinner. Sparks says, "Spaghetti? You can't do better than that after the great dinner you made last night?"

Don't mourn for poor Ysha, babies and darlings. This was no sauce from a jar with greyish hamburger.

I started with a package of cherry tomatoes (they were on sale at Kroger last week for a dollar!) and half a bulb of garlic. I cleaned the tomatoes and separated the garlic cloves, tossing them all with olive oil and kosher salt and tossed them in the oven for 30 minutes at 400F. The garlic was soft and yummy, but the tomatoes weren't done yet, so I put them back for about another 20 minutes while I got started on the rest of my sauce.

I cleaned a quarter pound of chanterelle mushrooms (farmer's market last saturday) and sauteed them in a tablespoon of butter. Oh yes, Paula Dean fans, we cook with butter around here! I tossed in a little salt and then hit them with a half cup or so of leftover shiraz that I was keeping around to cook with. I mashed the garlic out of the skins and turned it into a paste, which was tossed in with the mushrooms. I also dumped in the tomatoes at the point and squished them with the spatula. I decided the sauce looked a bit dry, so I dumped in a bit of chicken stock (for that simmered all day taste, says Rachel Ray. whatevs, says I.) I boiled up a big handful of angel hair pasta while this was going on and chopped up a big handful of basil leaves (farmer's market last saturday). I mixed probably 2/3 of the basil in with the sauce to simmer.

When the pasta was done I drained it and tossed it with a tablespoon of butter. Then topped it with the sauce, a handful of parmesan cheese and the rest of the basil.

And hey look! A picture! GET OUT!

I took 8 pictures of a bowl of pasta, just to get one that wasn't horrid.

Just for reference, that bowl would feed two adults, probably 3 if you threw in a salad and bit of bread. I ate almost half of it before I was stuffed to the gills.

21Jul/080

Exhausted and hungry pays off for Ysha

You know I love to chronicle my food adventures when I am out of town. For one thing, it makes Mimi drool and call me bad names. *giggle* Plus, I'm all alone and therefore must turn to LJ for company.

Today didn't seem that it was going to be a good day. I had a mild headache start in at about midnight saturday. As of this morning, it was still hanging with me. That didn't bode well for the first day of a PeopleSoft class. I crammed a couple of Aleve down my throat and went on. Oracle University is pretty much catty-corner across the river from here, so it was a nice short walk.

There's a big drawback to aleve, it makes me sleepy. However, it's the only thing that seems to work on my headaches, so I still take it. Or maybe the headaches just make me sleepy? Doesn't matter, it all goes together. By lunchtime, I thought I was going to have to come back to the hotel and forget the afternoon class. However, I'd missed breakfast and was super hungry, so I thought I'd better go get lunch.

I have the same silly flighty instructor for this class that I had for my last class in Atlanta. She's fun. She listed off several places nearby where we could get lunch and I headed off to find some. I decided to just solo it and not try to find anyone from class to have lunch with, I didn't feel very social. Amy had mentioned a Dim Sum place nearby, but she'd also mentioned 42 other places right after that, so I was a bit confused. I set off to sort of looking for the dim sum and ... oh, hey, sushi! That would be lovely. A little sushi/grill right down on the river walk - Diosa. I had the veggie spring rolls and a spicy ebi roll(shrimp). The spring rolls were absolutely terrific and were served on some pile of green stuff. It was about the consistency of slightly al dente glass noodles, yet was vibrant green. I asked my server what it was - seaweed salad. TERRIFIC!

I headed back to class, figuring I could tough it out and if I couldn't then "home" was a block away. As soon as class was over, I hightailed it back here and FELL RIGHT OUT! I slept for the next four hours and when I awoke, I seriously considered just going back to sleep. However, I figured that if I didn't get some dinner, I'd wake up at midnight and absolutely ravage the minibar. I've done enough damage to that thing without going all insane! Honestly though, I'm better off with $5 peanuts than when I stay in a residence inn and try to stock enough snacks to suit my constantly changing desires.

I'm hungry, I'm lazy and there's a restaurant downstairs. So, guess what's for dinner? I popped down to check out the South Water Kitchen. Regardless of what the booking agent on the phone said when I reserved my room, there was no need for a reservation there. At least not at 8:30 on a monday night. I was seated immediately.

I opted for the halibut and a glass of Edward Sellers Cognito. I had no idea what to expect with the wine, it was one of their featured summer selections, but I liked it quite a bit. This is something that I love about Chicago - I walk everywhere so I can always have a glass of wine with dinner! The halibut was splendid, seared with an herbed butter on top. It was served with teeny thin green beans and twice baked fingerlings. The fingerlings amused me, as they were split open like a normal sized baked potato and filled with chive creme fraiche. For dessert I had their carrot raisin walnut bourbon bundt cake with homemade caramel sauce. YUMMO!

And now, my darlings - I goes back to bed. Tomorrow night - Wicked, and maybe I'll check out that Garrett's caramel corn place that had people queued all that way down the block on sunday. Assuming the line isn't so long this time.

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21Jul/080

Dinner at Morton’s, in which Ysha is a backward goob

Son, I tell you whut. Being in Chicago turns me into a wide eyed little girl. I walk around gawking at everything in the world and loving this city.

It's been a very long week, and what I really wanted for dinner was a nice glass of pinot noir and a big juicy steak. When I came back from my neighborhood exploration earlier, I inquired of the concierge(Ryan) where to get the best steak closeby - he sent me to Morton's, even made a reservation for me. I could do with a concierge in my life all the time, someone to recommend restaurants and take care of the details.

I popped around the corner and into the restaurant at the appointed time and was immediately seated. But the man seating me didn't provide me with either a menu or a wine list. What the hey? So, I just figured the server would bring it over in a few minutes, but I was still a bit confused.

The lovely Miss Jenn brought me the wine list and asked my preference for the "water service". *snicker* Source Municipal (as Waiter would say) is just fine for me thanks. Jenn told me that her co-server Angela would be over in just a moment for the "menu presentation".

The what?

My wine comes and a nice busser drops me a fresh baked loaf of onion bread. Still, no menu. Angela passes by and tells me that she will return momentarily for the "menu presentation".

At this point, I am expecting a musical number to accompany this presentation. Is a huge dancing bear going to come out of the kitchen and hand me my menu? Are streamers going to float from the ceiling as it touches my dainty hand? This is some serious buildup for a menu, no doubt.

I didn't have to wonder for much longer. Angela comes over wheeling a cart of food. I say to her, "honey, that's not a menu! That's the whole kitchen!"

She laughed and began her presentation. On this cart were several trays of food covered in cling film. She listed off each menu item (they weren't ALL on the cart) and displayed the various cuts of beef for me. All of the steaks she showed me were huge and promised to be delivered in that size. Then she starts talking about the seafood selections and brandishes a plastic lobster at me.

WAIT ONE DAMNED MINUTE HERE!! THAT'S NOT A PLASTIC LOBSTER!!

Yes, babies and darlings, it was a live lobster. She picked him up and he wiggled at me. I expressed my mild disdain (with a "oh my god! That's a live lobster!") and then she finished the presentation. Luckily for those of us with a rather short attention span, she then left me with a hard copy of the menu so that I could consider my choices.

I had already eyeballed them online and knew that I wanted to try their "legendary" chocolate lava cake, so I didn't go wild on dinner. I ordered the single cut filet (smaller portion) and the garlic green beans. Dinner was scrumptious.

Dessert was damn near perfect, BUT for their signature dessert I expected more. Oh, it was large enough and it was fresh from the oven (I'd had to order it before my meal came since it takes 30 minutes to make). It was nicely oozy in the middle and served with a very good quality vanilla ice cream. But, I dunno, the chocolatey flavor was a wee bit ..... flat. Like maybe it could have used a teeny smidge of salt in the batter.

WHAT? I never denied being a food snob.

Anyway, dinner was terrific and I managed to only act like I just fell off the turnip truck a few times. We won't talk about the price though - just know that I stopped at the 7-11 across the street and bought a BOTTLE of pinot noir for the same amount I paid for a GLASS at the restaurant.

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12Jul/080

3 days of yummy dinners

Let's talk bellyfiller. You know, one of my favorite subjects - food.

On Thursday night, I stopped to pick up some hamburger so that we could grill out. Kroger had some lovely avacados and I thought I'd be sweet to my adorable boyfriend. So, I came home and mixed up some guacamole that he could then slather on his burger (pressing some bacon bits and jalapeno slices into the pile of guacamole. Ysha says yuk, but Sparks loves it.) With the burgers we had fried potatoes (I don't recommend trying to fry new potatoes, they don't brown. But it's what I had on hand.) and sauteed zucchini.

Last night, the boyfriend was working and I was craving Indian food. Big mistake, allowing myself into Tandoor all alone and hungry. I spent $40 on take out and came home for a feast of paneer pakora, papdums, onion chutney, vegetable korma, chicken mahkani, and garlic naan. I barely made a dent in the Vegetable Korma (my favorite) or Chicken Makhani (it looked rather like the "butter chicken" that I'd just watched the recipe for) but they were so yummy. Sparks had some for dinner when he got home around midnight. We've got a ton of leftovers, so I could probably eat it for lunches/dinners for several days. But I'd better not get burned out on it, I'm supposed to go back over there with some friends late in the week.

Tonight, I marinated a couple of tuna steaks in a combination of old bay and lime juice, then Sparks grilled them. I also threw together a corn and bean salad and a small bit of couscous. We topped the tuna steaks with the leftover guacamole. This was the best idea I've had for a while. It adds a bit of moisture to an otherwise dry fish but tastes better with tuna than tartar sauce. Sparks sat around rubbing his tummy and telling me what a wonderful dinner that was for a full hour after we'd finished eating it.

26Jun/080

The death of baking

Since I've moved, I really don't bake anymore.

I love my gas stove. Did you know that it is possible to make cook n serve pudding in the span of a commercial break? It always took something like 20 minutes at dad's house. Needless to say, I'm trying not to keep so much pudding in the house or I eat too much pudding. But I love it so.

But my oven? I HATES it! First, it doesn't tell me when it's up to temperature. I've had to buy an oven thermometer. Secondly, there's no light in there, so I have to pull out a flashlight to read the thermometer. The temperature seems to vary by 50 degrees in either direction depending on the moment. It takes almost twice as long to cook things as in Dad's electric oven. AND my cookie sheets didn't even fit in there, I had to swap dad for the smaller ones.

Did I mention that I hate that oven? I try to avoid using it when I can, using the toaster oven whenever possible.

Maybe I'll experiment more with custards and other stovetop desserts. Once I can get myself to lay off the pudding.

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28May/082

Project Privacy

I’m still a terrible food blogger. What can I say? This blog isn’t my first love. My first love is the LiveJournal. Since the poached pear evening, I haven’t done anything amazing in the kitchen. My AC is busted and I’m eating a lot of sandwiches or cooking simple things. I did make a kickass chocolate cake for Sparks and myself this past weekend, but it was just a chocolate cake. Not blog-worthy.

I’ve been doing more crafting though. Mostly decorative things for the cute house. While I have plenty of plans, few things are finished yet. I’ve finished one thing though – Project Privacy.

17May/080

Experiments with pears

Well, well, now. That was one damned tasty dinner. My camera is still packed away someplace. I shoved all clutter into the spare room and closed the door. Much easier than actually cleaning the house enough to have company.

3Apr/080

Fridge cleaning

Whenever I have a party, there are leftovers out the wazoo. I was raised by a bunch of women who think that they must feed the entire Marine Corps whenever they have company. My friends were obviously raised by folks with the same viewpoint. Therefore, we can put out a serious spread. This is why I've been eating crackers and dips all week for breakfast and lunch.

There was a veggie tray brought to my party and as always the carrots and cauliflower get hit pretty hard, but not much else. Tonight I have decided to make use of the big pile of grape tomatoes left over.

I tossed them into a pan with olive oil and salt and an entire head of garlic broken into its separate cloves. Stuck them in the oven at 400ish degrees (I set the oven to 400, the thermometer said that it was more like 360) and left them in there for a half hour. I came along 2 or 3 times to give them a shake during the cooking.

I mashed the garlic out of it's skin and squished it up. Yes, squished is a culinary term! *snicker* Then put it into a bowl with the roasty tomatoes and squished them up with a fork. Added some salt and a few dried herbs. Yummo as that blasted Rachel Ray would say (she's currently on my tv).

I've got water on the stove to boil up some pasta. I plan to throw this together and hey - free dinner!

Ok, not quite, but it all came from the pantry/leftovers and did not require me to go to the store. Besides, if I weren't using the tomatoes in this fashion, they'd probably be thrown out in another day or two as I do not like raw tomatoes.

I'd considered adding a bit of wine and cream and making a schmancier sauce but I was afraid I'd mess it up. It's damn near perfect right now.

I haven't found my camera yet since moving, so no pictures. But it's not all that pretty anyway.

17Feb/080

RIP meat thermometer!

*sniff* I accidentally killed it dead. And it was such a handy gadget!

How, praytell, did I manage this? Broiling pork tenderloin and touched the thermometer to the element. OOPSIE!

It was a horrid sacrifice, but dinner was yummy enough to make up for it. Broiled pork tenderloin crusted with curried mustard, served with peas, couscous and curried fruit. *droools*

Thanks to my darling Mark Bittmann for the idea! I didn't exactly follow his recipe, but close.

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17Feb/080

A surprise to the palate

Sparks and I went away to one of the state park lodges for a couple of days. We were celebrating both Valentine's day and our second anniversary. Being that we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere, the lodge restaurant was the only game in town for acquiring dinner.

Their Valentine's special dinner was a special salad (which we never saw), prime rib, twice baked potatoes, parmesan tomato, and a special dessert. The prime rib was quite overcooked, per both our tastes, but was still tender. It was served with some sauce named for the Louisville chef who created it. It might have been wonderful on ribs, but prime rib needs horseradish. Luckily they accommodated us there. The twice baked potatoes were ok, but tasted like they'd just split the potato and then piled on instant mashed potatoes.

The big surprise of the meal, especially to a non-tomato liking girl, was the parmesan tomato. It was halved and topped with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese then toasted under the broiler. It brought out the sweetness in the tomato and was very tasty. Of course, the two of us being slight food snobs, we discussed how we thought that we could do it better, but it was very tasty.

Dessert was dry cake with way too much royal icing and a quite yummy strawberry.

I wouldn't drive up there just for the dinner, but for being the only option it was quite good.