Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bundles of Joy

Babies need all sorts of vitamins and what not. One of the many things they suggest while they're still in gestation is fish oil. It's supposed to stimulate the brains. Since the arrival of our baby on the eleventh we haven't had much time between the hospital and home to sit down and make a good celebratory meal. Tonight, however, we had some time to ourselves, while the rest of the family watched baby, to put together something good, something fish oily.

(Feed me, Dad!)

I found some tilapia fillets in the freezer (sort of the worst-case-scenario fish) and it all just came together. The end result we called Bacon Crusted Fish with Creamy Orange Sauce. Just imagine fish breaded with a mixture of bacon bits, crumbs, and parmesan cheese, fried in olive oil to a perfect crispiness. Then, using the pan leftovers, build a creamy sauce with brown sugar, worcestershire, and orange zest to serve on top of the fish. Finally, a baby spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette on the side. Oh, the mouth waters at the thought. I'm sorry we don't have an image for you to drool over, but just know that it was superb, especially for a throw-together meal.

So, we celebrate our new baby with our own fish oils, and some other yummies on the side. We're so happy to have her join the family and look forward to many more meals inspired by her.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ketching Up

Yes, I know that it's been some time since I last blogged about it, but life goes on still. Let me bring you up to speed.

About a week ago we thought we'd be having a baby join our family and I was making Iron Chef-inspired pork chops with corn on the cob. I can't tell you much more about the baby, since she still hasn't come (despite today's due date), so I will tell you about the meal.

We were watching one of the more interesting episodes of Iron Chef that I've seen. Typically the show brings in some obscure, often-ignored ingredient to challenge the chefs, but this time it was berries (although some were not actually berries, botanically speaking). Of course, Mr. Bobby Flay created a spicy/fruity BBQ sauce for one of his meals and I thought, how simple... and delicious. It just so happened that we had a bunch of berries nearing their end in the fridge as well as some pork chops that Jackie's family decided not to eat that night. It was a match made in heaven.

I breaded the pork chops with crumbs and parmesan cheese, then pan fried them in olive oil to a perfect crisp. They were still juicy and tender, just the way they should be. While that was going I cooked up a sauce involving garlic, molasses, ketchup (yes, that's the only tie to the title), raspberries, and I don't know what else. After letting it simmer, we strained it through a screen to dispose of the bulky junk like seeds and finally poured it over the chops. Wow! So good. It was an excellent combination of flavors. Not to mention the cobs that Jackie boiled up were perfectly ripe and juicy. It was a great twist on a hearty family classic.

Maybe next week I can tell you all about the baby... let's hope.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Roasted red pepper soup and a movie

We were lucky enough (mostly because I still don't have a real job) to run up to Salt Lake City for the entire week and spend a little time with my sister and brother in law. Originally, we came just for a Pearl Jam concert, but decided while we're still baby free we should have ourselves a little vacation. It's been a jolly good time, hanging out, goofing off, etc.

An added bonus for me is that I get to try out my cooking on new mouths, maybe mouths that are a little less biased than my wife's. So tonight I put together a recipe I found in "Sunset" magazine. I charred, peeled, and chopped some red bell peppers, then added onion, potatoes and broth. It all boiled down and then we threw it in the blender so it was smooth. I had to add some extra spices as the recipe did not call for any, and although it was still a little drab for my personal taste, it seemed to be a super hit with everyone else. I also grilled some french bread cheese sandwiches, which were also great.

We ate it all up, watched a movie, and even had some pumpkin pie (which I am not in the least embarrassed to say was purchased at Denny's, worth every penny.) I'm aware that they're all family, and probably still just as biased, but hey, we're together and it not only tastes good but it is good.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A little messy, but still good

Is it any wonder that my cooking is as hit and miss as my life? I started looking for a new job as soon as I knew we were almost done with our last job at the prison. I check multiple websites practically every day for at least three different cities, and not one has taken me anywhere. At the same time I'm not sure I was ever sure about what it is I want to do with my life. I feel like I just graduated high school and am figuring life out all over again, only this time I have to actually come up with something, and fast, or two other people are in the hole with me. Ugh.

Likewise, I've been in a maze with my cooking lately. I've skipped for up to a week at some points. When I do cook, it's usually alright, nothing too terribly awful, but the wild delicious ideas have most often slipped my mind. Breakfast is never more than just a couple pieces of soggy bacon and two slimy eggs. It's good, but far from great.

Tonight, I hope, has broken the death spin. I applied for yet another job, this one in Salt Lake City, where I would be taking some level of charge over catering in the area. It sounds pretty fun and promising (of course, so have others.) After I applied, we were hungry for a good snack. I didn't have anything great in mind, I just started pulling things out of the refrigerator.

First, some turkey ham, sliced thin and fried in olive oil. A good start, but I thought it needed something with it, not too heavy or intense. Back to the ice box, I found a red bell pepper, just waiting to be eaten. I cut it into little slivers and tossed it with the ham, letting it roast, more or less. I was about to start serving it onto some plates, when Jackie suggested "toast, with feta cheese or something." She was right on the money. I toasted some bread on the leftover oil, piled on the meat and pepper, and sprinkled feta all over it. I plated it, drizzled some olive oil on top, and we enjoyed. The only flaw was the bread, which should have been sourdough, or maybe a better olive oil, but for what it was... spectacular! Maybe my life is finally back on track.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Catching up with breakfast

So, some of you might be thinking, here he goes again. He's forgotten all about this blog thing and we'll never hear from him. Not true, though. I've actually started a rough schedule period at work. Sometimes we work all night, sometimes all day, and it's been tough trying to keep up with my cooking and blogging. But I'm here to tell you that I have been on the ball. Let me tell you what we've accomplished thus far.

We made some more crumb muffins, this time with buttermilk. I still don't have the nutmeg in it, but good just the same, and easier with practice. I also put together some breakfast burritos the other day. I bought some nopales, heated them up and added some leftover chicken from another day. I added some sour cream/mexican cheese and turned it into a sauce. We shredded some raddish on top and it was great. Super good. The other delicious breakfast was inspired by all those fast food breakfast menus. I made some sausage patties, grillled some smokey bacon, and fried eggs in their oil. I had some sourdough enlgish muffins that I fried on one side and built some breakfast sandwiches. It's amazing how much better tasting and healthier they are when you make them at home.

Breakfast is quick and easy. It's good, of course, too. Even when we ate it at noon or later, it was yummy in my tummy. Plus, Dr. Oz told Oprah just yesterday that breakfast is the first step toward losing weight. You gotta get those satisfying, lasting proteins and fats if you want to get out on the right foot. Hooray for the big breakfast!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Breakfast is served.

Yesterday, my regular working shift was switched around. Now working nights, I don't exactly have time to dabble in exciting dinner meals. Instead of abandoning my cooking goals and taking a tummycation, I have decided to work on my breakfast menu. On a normal day, I'm up and out so early I don't have much time for more than a dull bowl of sugary cereal and maybe a piece of frut, if I'm lucky. Now I can try some new things and even work on my baking skills a little.
I decided, after seeing a re-run of Baking with Julia, to try a simple muffing recipe one of her guests shared. It was a crumbly muffing, made with brown sugar and rich butter. It was really quick and easy, and surprisingly delicious, although it lost some of its flair once they had completely cooled. (The best muffin is a warm muffin.) I made a full dozen. They must have been wonderful, because within an hour they were all gone. Even the dog couldn't resist stealing one from the counter when nobody was looking. I'm looking forward to trying out more recipes like this one. I'll have to get to the store and do some special shopping for the next couple weeks. (By the way, the picture is actually a banana crumb muffin. I suppose just about any fruit would be an exciting addition to this recipe.)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Roasted chicken, veggies, and rice

Tonight we had Justin and Megan over for dinner. They fed us some really good pork chops a couple of weeks ago and we wanted to repay the favor. It was kind of a hectic night to have company, however. At the last minute we realized the whole family was going to be home, which meant instead of feeding just the four of us we could be feeding up to ten people. So, at the last minute we ran out to get some Rice-A-Roni and the bacon we had forgotten. On the way back Justin called to say they were there already, and then when we got home we were also supposed to help unload a bunch of junk Jackie's dad brought down from their rental up in Reno, including beds and a fridge. Luckily I had the smarts to tell them that the unloading could wait until I was able to prepare the chicken and get it in the oven. Go figure, when I was done they had it all done anyway.

Our meal consisted of some recipes I saw on the Food Network last year some time. I had tried them both out and loved them, so I knew they would be a hit with everyone else. The main piece came from Guy Fieri, called Bud's Beer Can Chicken. I had to switch it up, however, because I really didn't feel like buying a case of non-alcoholic beer when I only needed one can. Instead, we shoved a lemon and an orange inside the whole chicken and set her on some onions and juice. I also stuffed freshly chopped sage and zest under the breast skin and seasoned the whole thing with salt and pepper. Then, we covered it all up with bacon slices. On the side we roasted zucchini, squash, and mushrooms and cooked up some chicken and garlic rice. It was really filling and everything went together pretty well.

The only problem with the food was timing. The chicken took much longer than we had expected, so the other things got cold while we waited. Then, when I started cutting pieces off to serve, I found that the inside parts hadn't quite finished cooking, so I had to put the dumb thing back in the oven. Luckily, there was just enough that had cooked for everyone there. We ate and then did some relaxing while racing Mario Kart Wii and killing each other on the new 007 game.

At some point in the middle of all that, I took the time to make the other TV favorite. I made Tyler Florence's Amaretto Brownies. I used almond extract in place of the liquor and sliced almonds instead of walnuts. I've made these things at least ten times, and I swear they are practically fool-proof. They come out beautiful every time and have to be one of the best brownies I've ever eaten. Give 'em a try, you'll never buy a brownie mix again.

After all the hustle and work and gluttony, the highlight of the night came from Jackie, my wife. We had cleaned all the dishes and were sitting around just talking with her mom. I came upstairs to do this post and some other things and she stayed downstairs. I guess they were feeling the baby move and actually got to see her pushing on her stomach and moving to the other side. Looks like our little girl has already inherited her daddy's taste for good food; she's so excited about it she's running circles in there. I can't wait to meet her.

And so it begins...

In the past few years, my interest in cooking has sprouted and grown into a serious obsession. Not too many men get excited about registering for heavy, stainless pots and pans when they get married, but that's just the kind of guy I've become. I see Bobby Flay challenging some local to a cook-off and I'm planning out a similar scene in my own kitchen. I'm no one of special importance or extreme talent, but I love food and I'm pretty good at making it.

My goal here is to share with you my cooking experiments and ideas, along with quirky stories from my life. I'll try out recipes, build hearty meals, and serve it to you with a little how-was-your-day talk. I don't expect it to be all that interesting or entertaining, but who knows, maybe it will catch on like all those reality shows did a few years ago... or maybe it'll slip into the abyss of meaningless, ridiculous blogs at the bottom of the internet ocean. Either way, we are going to have a culinary adventure.