So yeah, I saw it in the supermarket and figured "hey, for when I have a craving, having something in the freezer won't be too bad, right?"
Last night was the trial. There are two packets - the chicken, and the sauce. You are supposed to defrost the sauce ina bowl of war mwater, whcih I did. The chicken bits were of various sizes, some barely a bite, others like smallish chicken fingers. I threw away the directions that suggested baking it, and microwaved the chicken for 2 minutes to defrost, then cooked it in a skillet, adding shredded carrots and yellow pepper. I only used half the sauce they supplied, adding just enough to coat the chicken in the final minutes of cooking.
It was spicy, which surprised me, in a good way, and the breading was actually lightly done, for frozen packaged chicken. I'll give them kudos for that. And it reheated well for lunch, too - not heavy or stucky. Without the added vegetables, though, it would have been a lot more, eh - sauced protein.
Overall, I'll rate it Acceptable, but not to be preferred over a halfway competent take-out joint. (sadly, currently, I have no halfway decent takeout joint. This should change soon, huzzah)
Make apple-butternut soup.
(basically, a butternut squash and a few apples, cubed and simmered in herbed broth until soft, then pureed to the preferred consistency. It really is that easy.)
Have some of it for dinner, store the rest in the fridge.
The next night, make a curried veggie stir-up.
(cube yellow squash, celery, and carrots, and season them with sweet curry powder, salt, and pepper, pan-fry them in oil with garlic and onions).
Eat the stir-up for dinner (or as a side with meat), store the rest in the fridge.
On the third night, put the remaining soup in the blender, add the leftover fry-up and a cup more broth, and blend until smooth. Optional: adding more curry powder to taste.
Easiest Ever Red Lentil Soup
In a medium (2- to 3-quart) saucepan or Dutch oven, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add a couple ribs of celery, a carrot or two, and a quarter of an onion, chopped coarse, sprinkle with a bit of salt, then cover and let the vegetables sweat until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add a cup of (washed & strained) red lentils, four cups of broth, a sprinkling of sweet curry powder, a dash of ground cumin, and a bay leaf. Bring up to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and let simmer, covered, until the lentils begin to fall apart, about 20-25 minutes. Add a dollop of ground grana padano (or parmesan) to the top. Serve.
They're easy, they're healthy, they're tasty as fuck, they reheat well in a microwave, and because most of the ingredients aren’t expensive, it’s budget-friendly. Unfortunately, the winter veggie soup doesn’t freeze all that well. No meal’s perfect.....
But I didn't want to do anything too complicated, because I had Stuff that needed my attention. So...something easy to prep, one-pot, tasty satisfaction at the end...
Arroz con pollo!
I used brown rice and chicken thighs, setting the dutch oven to a slow steady cook, for about 40 minutes. Kept most of the skins on, so the rice would absorb some of that tasty rendered fat...
Why do I not make this more often?
(oh, right. Because the cats get sulky when I don't give them any)
Drinking the last Rhone rose of the season, waiting for the moon to rise so we can maybe see some of the eclipse.
And although there could be more freebie samples, IMO (only 3-4 places were actually giving food out), the prices were quite reasonable, and the quality of all the vendors seemed high. Plus, there were opportunities to "win" vouchers for food, as well as the usual giveaways.
So yeah, I say it's a fun way to social-nosh for an afternoon or evening. Recommended for any local foodies.
What I Ate:
- Key lime greek yogurt (ok, not great)
- a "beyond beef" plantburger bite (didn't taste like meat but wasn't bad)
- spiced pork belly tacos (nom nom nom)
- two different kinds of lo-cal sports drinks
- sugar crepe bite (tiny but nom)
- total cost: $7
I was very tempted to try the Alley ($10 for a sampling of fancier food, plus access to the wine tasting area), but figured that could wait until Sunday... (I may have to go back and try a corndog, too. Never having had one - probably for good reason, but hey, you only live once, right?)
I also picked up a lot of freebies, including two insulated lunch bags, a reusable grocery bag (right-sized for greenmarket shopping), and a suction cup phone holder for a car, that seems to be working really well as a raised phone display for my desk, yay. I declined to take home any gimmie caps or commemorative cups, though.
Not going to impress anyone for authenticity, since I had to improvise some of the herbs, but it's a) tasty and b) will kill all cold germs nearby. I'm calling that a win.
Next time, I can make sure I have the right garnishes (although sorrel in place of Thai basil worked surprisingly well). I'm still going to let someone else simmer the bones, though.
2. Add sweet curry powder, onion powder, and garlic powder to the rice as it cooks.
Eat half for breakfast (shut up it’s a perfectly good breakfast) and set aside a cup (or more) in the fridge.
3. Within a day or two, season halibut (or another firm white fish) filet with the same spices, then cook in frying pan over low heat. When fish is no longer translucent, add the rice to the pan, add some minced red bell pepper, break up the fillet, and cover until the pepper starts to sweat and soften and the rice is warm.
Serve. Works surprisingly well with a soft red wine (take that, white-with-fish purists!)
the original recipe came, from all places, from the 1991 WFC cookbook, via writer Anne Logston. So I guess this is the Logston-Gilman Chili recipe... (not our first collaboration, since I was her editor at the time). I default to Anne's original measurements where possible, since a lot of mine is measured more by eye and taste.
- 3 pounds ground beef (20% is fine, but be sure to skim the fat)
- 1 onion, minced (I use a handful or two of dried chopped onion, since I'm allergic to raw, and it works perfectly well)
- 3-5 cloves garlic, depending on preferences, minced
- 3 cups beer (after much trial and error, I use Negra Modelo. Don't skimp on the beer: cheap shit will result in cheap shit chili)
- 1.5 pounds tomatoes, peeled, chopped, and drained. Tinned is acceptable if the thought of peeling tomatoes makes you crazy. Chunk them as per your preference.
- 5 minced hot peppers (this is where it gets tricky. I use a mix of different peppers to get that one-two punch of heat, but preferences will vary. You need to figure this out on your own)
- 1/4 teasooon fresh-ground black pepper
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup chili powder (another place where it gets tricky, since your choice of powder influences everything. No, I'm not telling you mine. A girl needs SOME secrets...)
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon cumin (Anne called for seed, I used crushed simply because I always have that on- hand, and i like the way it blends rather than remining an individual bite of flavor)
- 1.5 teaspoon hot paprika
- 1 Tablesoon cocoa powder (I use Dutch process, just because that's what I like. The better quality you use, the better the chili will taste; don't go overboard ([ooking at you, Sharffen Berger], but shelling out a little more for Droste just makes everything better, IMO. And it makes awesome hot cocoa, too.).
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch made into a slurry (you do that at the very end)
Brown the meat and drain, then add the onion, garlic, and beer, and stir. Simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, at which point the kitchen should start to smell quite nice. Add all the remaining ingredients except the cornstarch. Cover and simmer for 3 (three) hours. Or longer, but absolutely no less. The chili needs to simmer for at least an hour after you make the last adjustment to the seasoning, so allow for at least 4 (four) hours of cook time. Leave the lid slightly ajar for the last hour of cooking.
When it's done, slowly mix the cornstarch slurry you just made into the chili, and simmer again until it hits your desired consistency. Thin with beer, never water!
This batch should serve six people as a main, depending on how hungry they are. I double the batch when making it for a multiple-main party, and near-always run out.
Note: for those worried: the beer pretty much cooks itself out. This is non-alcholic, however, those with beer allergies are thus warned.
But then I heard a possibly magical word: Eltana. Eltana's, they said, had real bagels.
Having now had Eltana bagels both at their cafe, and toasted at home, I feel I'm in a position to judge.
Size and shape: About the size of my palm, mostly but not perfectly round, with a hole that is not squeezed-together in any way. Clearly hand-rolled by someone who knew that they were doing. 10/10, well-made, Eltana. Some current NY bagel places should take notes.
Toppings: seeded, unseeded, salted, garlic... nothing that triggered my twitch-factor (blueberry and/or chocolate chips, I'm looking at YOU). Okay, they have cinnamon raisin but I'm willing to give that a pass. They also have za'atar (only on Fridays), which intrigues me. 9/10.
Density: They get this mostly right. A good, boiled bagel should be dense enough that there's proper resistance to the bite, even untoasted, and a single bagel fills you up, without sitting heavily in the gut. 8/10, which still puts them head and shoulders above every "roll with a hole" I've seen masquerading as a proper bagel.
Exterior texture: This is a tough one: the texture of a proper bagel should be hard enough to echo when you tap it, shiny from being boiled, crunchy when toasted, and yet soft enough at the join to allow a serrated knife to cut it easily, and NOT turn into a brick overnight, or get soggy simply from sitting on the counter. I've never had a roll-with-a-hole score better than a 5 here, so Eltana's 8/10 is pretty amazing. I have a strong suspicion that the extremely soft water of Seattle doesn't quite do the job (NYC water is soft, but not like this).
Taste: This one's subjective, I admit, but it's a combination of texture and seeding and density and how it holds a schmeer. Having tested it with both cream cheese, and Jarlsberg I'd say that they possibly OVERseed the bagels, resulting in that being the predominant taste rather than the bagel itself, or the topping. But I'll have to do more testing to be sure. For now, I'll give it an 8.5/10.
So, in an admittedly limited test by an experienced taster, I'd give Eltana bagels an 8.7/10. Which makes it a decent NY-substitute bagel, all options considered.
I'm sure they're quite relieved.
And since I have walkable access to a source, so am I.
But two things happened last night.
I was feeling a little down about my body, so I made one of my favorite healthy meals - brown rice with sauteed vegetables. And, because I learned how to make this dish when I was house-sitting in the French countryside (cue tiniest violin, I know), the recipe includes lardon (pork fat).
Wait, you say. I thought you said this was a healthy dish?
And that leads me to the second thing.
Browsing a new friend's facebook page, I found a link to "15 Habits of People Who Have Effectively Lost Over 20 – 30lbs and Kept it Off." And I figured hey, couldn't hurt to check that out.
1. Do not eliminate foods or deem certain foods as bad or “off limits”
There are certain foods that I've drastically reduced from my diet. Sodas. Maple syrup. Pastries and other high-fat baked sweets. Chocolate. Most nuts. Bacon. But I haven't eliminated any of them. Because I enjoy eating them, and not being able to eat them would feel like a punishment. I haven't done anything I should be punished for.
Yes, I cook with bacon. Often. In this case, two slices of bacon, minced raw and mixed with the garlic, will flavor an entire pan of sauteed vegetables, and leave you with nicely crunchy bits to savor. Limited guilt, maximum flavor, and no feeling of deprivation because dinner was a plate of vegetables and brown rice (and garlic. Never forget the garlic). I could even have doubled the amount of bacon, and that would have been fine.
I don't say "I can't eat that thing." I say "if I want that thing, I can integrate it into my meal, because there's nothing wrong with something in moderation."*
If you're going to approach...well, anything to be endured rather than enjoyed, then it's going to backfire on you, possibly quite spectacularly. Eat healthy, but also eat what makes you satisfied.
A lot of it really is that simple.
The rest of the article is solid, even if it did make me want to whip out the red pen a little, and if you're feeling even slightly iffy about your relationship with your weight, your body, and your food, I'd recommend at least skimming through it.
*assuming no allergies, actual addictions, or religious objections among your dining partners.
During which I will probably be checking out the local-to-the-vet cafe that seems to have Real Proper NY Bagels. Report to come.
Okay, it wasn't particularly honorable, but the job got done and people got their turkey, no blood was shed and the relative parts were recognizable. I call that a win.
And next Thanksgiving, I'm going to deny any/all knowledge of same.
6 apples (I use granny smith, but adjust for the level of sweet/tart you prefer)
2 pears (Bosc are my preferences but any will work)
1 c. water
juice of 1 lemon
2 t. cinnamon
1/3 c brown sugar
Wash, core, and slice the fruit (don't bother peeling them). Toss them into a stockpot or large pan, cover with the 1 cup of water. Add the brown sugar, the lemon juice, and 1 t. of cinnamon, toss until all the slices are covered, and then simmer over medium heat for 20-25 minutes.
When the fruit's sufficiently softened, run it through a food processor or mill (or use a potato masher) to your desired consistency, then set it aside in a bowl.
In the stockpot there should be liquid remaining. Add the other 1 t. of cinnamon to it, stir, and let simmer until it thickens, then add the applesauce back and stir over a simmer. Serve warm, or store in the fridge.
Makes enough to serve 6 as sides, with seconds. Or to replace the butter in a LOT of baking.
I have no idea how this freezes - it's never lasted long enough to find out!
That said, I think I need to make proper scones tomorrow. I have all the ingredients for scones, including dried currants and whole milk...
I wonder how they'd work with almond flour. Hrmmmmm.
(Painkillers, I've got. Digestive cures, I've got. Cold/flu meds? Nada.)
Nonetheless, managed to haul back into Manhattan for another brunch that could't be beat, this time at Atlantic Grill. Scrambled egg and applewood bacon quesadilla, followed by an apple crumble with cinnamon ice cream and salted caramel sauce, followed by a stop at the Duane Reade to pick up Mucinex DM Sinus meds. Ahhhhh relief.
Said medication worked well and fast enough that I could finish the furniture rearrangement I'd started on Friday. The bedroom and lounge are now in their new configurations, and a lot of things I'd been holding onto either from inertia or the hope that I'd find a use for them are now gone either to the trash or better homes (including the newest aloe sproutings, because 3 healthy aloe plants is enough for one apartment). My brain and body both feel better when the clean lines and open space of the apartment are, well, clean and open.
I intend to indulge in a carb-heavy dinner, take more meds, and go to bed early tonight. Tomorrow is soon enough for all the work I didn't get done this weekend... (which is the second yay! because I thought a LOT about what needs to be done on the books, and have Direction now).
What are you looking forward to diving into, this week?
For NYCers and folk who might be in NYC: a restaurant review: Today we checked out AG Kitchen for brunch. They have a lovely space on the UWS (Columbus Avenue off W 72nd) and the menu -American and Latin comfort foods - is limited but highly-praised.
I opted for what is touted as "NYC's Best Cubano Sandwich." Really? I asked the waiter. Really, he assured me.
Recommended, although I advise scouting the menu first if you have anyone who is food-cautious, since the offerings are limited (but very tasty)
Thus reminding me of two things:
1. Suburban-style supermarkets are kind of awesome, but hauling things in from the car is a PitA (even though I managed to find a parking spot right outside my building).
2. I seriously pay for the convenience of being able to order my groceries at any time of day (or, more often, 3am) and have them delivered, without the cost of owning/operating a car. Okay, maybe that last bit more than evens things out. But still: a car full of foodstuff (fruit, veggies, meats, dairy) for under $100. Yahsssssss.
(but also 3. the quality of meats at my on-line grocery is better than even at the high-end supermarket. And a larger selection of local small producers/farmers, which is more expensive but I can afford to indulge my preferences there. So there's that.)
(even $5 can make a difference, if you can)
"We are Our School at Blair Grocery, an urban farm and food justice academy in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana. We operate a fully functioning farm in the heart of our neighborhood and employ youth in our community to help us grow food for our community. Eight years after the levee breach that destroyed our community, we've worked to change the narrative of the Lower Ninth Ward from one of desolation to one of revitalization and justice."
Check out the story of Our School at Blair Grocery' http://igg.me/p/our-school-at-blair-
So we went to Craft.
There was an amuse bouche of artichoke soup, starters of trotter with farm egg, pumpkin agnolotti and a wild arugula with lemon salad.
Father-of-the-Graduate and I may have split an assortment of roasted and braised suckling pig bits.
And then, to finish, there was gingerbread with quince, moscato, and creme fraiche, chocolate souffle with mint chocolate Anglaise, and cranberry-apple crisp, shared around with 8 forks.
Have you ever seen a more sated group of foodies ever?
The wine list, by the way, reduced me to incoherent whimpers and had to be removed from my trembling hands. Will someone with an unlimited budget please take me there some day? We ended up with a nice Piedmont Ruché 2011 that worked surprisingly well with all the options (the guys having fish stuck with beer).
Oh, and I highly approve of the Persia - vodka, pomegranate, fresh lemon and mint. I need to learn the proportions for that sucker.
This is all to explain why I didn't have the slightest urge to eat anything until around 7pm tonight.