Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dinner help...

So, I'm into braising stuff these days. What's braising, you say? Allow me to give you my interpretation (meaning this may not actually be the truth, but it's how I braise things, therefore it works for me!)

Braising a cut of meat (for me) involves first browning it (this gives the meat a great flavor, and creates some depth in the final product) then removing it, then adding aromatics into the pot/pan (aromatics = things like onions, shallots, garlic, peppers, etc...) and then adding liquid (wine, broth, water, etc..) and then putting the meat back in and a lid on. The meat cooks in the liquid, either on the stove or in the oven.

Why braise? For me, it satisfies two of my main goals in cooking - simple (Monday - Friday for me is all about simple, quick and easy) and often much cheaper. You can take cheaper cuts of meat, or tougher cuts of meat (often, the tougher the meat the cheaper, because these cuts are much less popular in general). Even better, when meat is braised, it can become so tender that even the toughest cuts can be cut with a spatula...

The only problem with braising meat is that most recipes take hours and hours of cooking, which I don't have after work. So, I've been searching for recipes that are QUICK.

This week I tried a Mediterranean Chicken recipe and cooked the chicken in broth and wine with prunes, carrots and onions and tonight I'm trying Chile-Garlic Chicken Legs.
Bottom line - does anyone have any great, quick braising recipes? Please share!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The times, they are a changin'

Yesterday was a big day for our family.

First - and most exciting - after waking up and enjoying breakfast in bed (thanks to wonderful Petesie!!) I went online, as usual, and checked out The Pioneer Woman's website. P-dub had written a new post (click HERE) about her trip to Seattle. How nice, I thought, as I scrolled down as she gushed about her time in our lovely city. Towards the bottom, she linked to several blogs which had posts about her visit to Seattle and..... MY BLOG WAS LISTED!!!! SESSIONS WITH SWEETIE is on P-DUBS WEBSITE!!! I freaked and lost it. Like, called my sister, called my mom, hollered for my husband, completely went crazy over this development. Petesie said it was the most excited he's even seen me. Unbelievable.

The second exciting thing that happened yesterday was my wee lil' sister, brand new driver's permit in hand, got behind the wheel for the first time with her new driving tutor, aka - ME.

I've always been nuts over my lil sissy.
She was one of my favorites from when she was teeny tiny (and I do mean teeny - born at 3lbs 0 oz....)
She went from a cute lil' munchkin to a not so much munchkin, quite gorgeous and quite grown up in NO time.
I'm still nuts about her. :)

And now she's driving!! Like, a real car!!
So, after finding an empty parking lot (or two... we had to mix up the scenery, we get bored easily), and explaining the difference between the gas and brake peddles, drive and reverse and the difference between the engine being on or off, I handed her the keys.
She did a dorky lil' dance and scrambled into the drivers seat.

Commence freak out.
All in all though, she wasn't so bad. Quite timid actually, I had to keep telling her to give the gas peddle more pressure.
We survived day one of driving. Here's to many more days of driving training before she actually gets her license. Kids - they sure do grow up fast, eh? :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tell me what you eat...

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are. " — Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
My fabulous mother in law sends us newspaper clippings with articles that might interest us and a couple weeks ago I received a clipping that featured people (like me!) who photograph their food. This quote was paramount to the article, and piqued my interest.

First of all, I have a difficult time figuring out who or what I am, and have an even tougher time putting it into words. When asked to fill out something that says "about me:" like on the blog, facebook, etc... I am always lost for words. About me? I don't know if anyone could adequately boil down a description about themselves that fits into a couple of sentences. It's almost my pet peeve - to think that I could say something along the lines of "I am a food obsessed, home renovating newlywed trying to become a domestic diva extraordinaire" and that this one boilerplate would give someone an insight into who I am. Even I can't quite figure out who I am.

But - the idea of showing who I am through my food is interesting to me.

Here's what we ate this week:

Sunday night: P-dub's Best Ever Lasagna. I think she wasn't lying when she described it as the best ever. Really, quite delicious. Paired it with french bread and because I had put all my energy into making the main course, I think we had frozen veggies (you know, to balance it out)...

Monday: Lasagna lefties. French bread lefties. More frozen veggies. (this says I'm frugal - into stretching a meal, and lazy... probably pretty accurate)...

Tuesday: Cooks Illustrated Brined and tenderized pork cutlets in a cider-mustard reduction sauce with P-Dub's Crash Hot Potatoes and...more frozen veggies. I think I was again quite lazy in the veggie department, but I think that the fact I am even slightly worried about a balanced meal shows progress over the last couple years. :)

Wednesday: Petesie had class, so day off cooking for me. He wolfed down a frozen microwave lunch for dinner and I ate a cheesy quesadilla and called it good. It was good.

Thursday: Dinner at my parents. Menu was for crappy comfort food, and it was anything but crappy. Ritz Cracker Pie (think enchilada pie topped with Ritz crackers and cheese), great bread, sauteed fresh from the garden kale and a gorgeous garden salad. And wine. And limoncello martini. We don't drink much Monday-Friday at our house so I take advantage of going out. :)

Friday: Took THREE trips to grocery/drug stores, but finally had everything I needed for crappy comfort food round two - chicken/broccoli/curry casserole. Yes, three trips were needed. Petesie got everything we needed at the grocery store, but I forgot Cream O' Chicken soup. So after our routine Friday night nap I headed down to Walgreens and grabbed the soup, along with some munchies for Petesie and cookies for dessert. The only problem was that I forgot the bag of soup at the counter, so after I got home and realized it, turned right around and went back. I was NOT going to forfeit and admit defeat.

Saturday night: Simple Carrot and Coconut Soup, fresh bread and salad... soup is simmering right now and smells delicious.

So... who does this mean I am? Um... both lazy and driven at the same time. Forgetful yet determined. Meticulous. Sort of thrifty. Into crappy comfort food big time. Tries to be balanced but often falls short. Gluttonous perhaps? Has a wide range of acceptance.

Okay. Must go blend my soup and finish the salad. Smells amazing. Can't wait any longer!

**Edited to add**

The soup was quite good and very easy. So good, I wanted to share the recipe with ya'll:

One onion (I used Walla Walla sweet)
6ish carrots
can of coconut milk
couple cups of chicken broth
salt/pepper to taste

Roughly chop the onion and carrots. Soften the onion in a bit of olive oil over medium heat (add pinch of salt to help the process). Add the carrots. Cook down for 10 minutes, stirring infrequently, so both carrots and onions start to carmelize.

Add coconut milk and broth. Simmer for 30-40 minutes. Just before serving, puree in batches in the blender. I returned it to the oven for a couple of minutes and thinned it out with a bit more broth. Season with salt/pepper to taste, and serve! Voila, it was so easy! I served it with croutons and cilantro.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Best Post EVER

Overall, we have had a fantastic weekend. There is much to blog about, but this post is going to be limited to all things Pioneer Woman.

Yep, P-Dub herself came to Seattle this weekend, and who better to greet her than big sissy Jordan and myself.

Please - if you haven't yet go to ThePioneerWoman.com and then make her Fancy Mac & Cheese. Or, her warm spinach salad (but if you do that, please substitute blue cheese for mushrooms and omit the hard boiled eggs all together). Or, one of her many other recipes. Trust me, you'll be glad you did (as I write this, her Best Lasagna Ever is cooking in my oven)....

So, Big Sissy trekked up to Seattle and we went crazy over Ree. Like, nervous, re-applying lip gloss several times, first-date, can't stop talking kind of crazy. After maximizing our cuteness I kissed Petesie goodbye and off we went to Third Place Books.
Where we found hundreds of women just like us.

We hoped we'd somehow stand out so she'd want to be our friend. We even brought her a present - from Starbucks - to maximize our chance that she'd want to be our best friend. And then we got a ticket (ours was in the "G" group) and realized that we were going to be waiting for a LONG long time. So, we did what any Talley/Lucas/Myre/Paris/Lacy girl would do, and went to the bar across the street and drank our nerves away and nibbled on Coconut Shrimp.
The good thing was that the book store was calling up the groups alphabetically, and only that letter was allowed in line. So all other letters could mingle at the book store, shop around, or hang out at the food court. After wasting some time at the bar, we decided to go back to the book store, where there were even more crazy women just like us and what was looking like a very long wait.

We waited and waited. Jordan showed me what she thinks of today's children's books as well as baby naming books.
Several times P-Dubs oldest daughter walked by us (we'd camped out in the teenage book section) and we'd smile at her. Poor girl looked bored out of her mind, and I commented that she really needed a sister to pass the time with. Like how big sissy and I have each other. :)
We waited and waited.

Finally, we couldn't wait any longer so we walked around and went down an escalator - into a lobby which led us directly into Rite Aid. So we went makeup shopping and even picked out Ree's favorite lipstick color (Totally Toffee by Maybelline). And bronzer, and eyeliner and... mentos.
Then we went back upstairs. And FINALLY they called letter "G." We scurried up to the line and started waiting some more. Only this time, we were in a line, and it was inching along up to The Pioneer Woman herself, who was at the front of the line, behind a desk, graciously smiling at everybody and talking to each person who came up to her. Then it was our turn. We grasped hands and walked up to Ree. She signed our books. We squeaked out "hi!" and then I said, "I got you a present!" and she kindly thanked me and I encouraged her to visit the first Starbucks in Pike Place Market. We had lots of plans about what clever things we'd say to her, but all plans fell through and after she signed our books, we skipped off like giddy little girls and called our mom, squealing with delight.
I was so happy.
We both felt victorious.
Then we went to another bar and had a glass of wine, and sighed deep breaths and realized how we'd just had so much fun for a total of thirty seconds with our culinary hero. Totally worth it.

Thanks for coming up Jordan!!! I love you!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

I hate post titles.

There, I said it. I hate finding up with witty, clever post titles in which I slightly amuse the reader, while simultaneously capturing their attention. Can I quit post titles all together?

It is Friday night and I could not be happier and welcome this evening with arms wide open. We just got home from visiting Jani at the hospital (boo to surgery, but YAY for Jani feeling better!) and are now faced with the vast, empty Friday night that is just begging to be filled with... absolutely nothing at all. So great. Baseball game is on (Felix is pitching!) and frozen turkey burger patties are thawing (much to Petesie's dismay... he's not a huge fan of turkey burgers but they are what I do when I don't want to do much at all)....

On a side note: I went online and spent $17 on "fat jeans" at Old Navy. I am SO tired of my jeans feeling tight (which is what happens when you gain weight, I know...) so I got cheap jeans in a size up. I thought I could hang around in them for the summer, garden in them, stretch them out, wear them with a belt, etc... comfy, cozy "boyfriend" jeans. Only a size up, it turns out, I can barely button up. Yep. The jeans I got to be "fat jeans" are actually super tight (but surprisingly cute!). Oh well. I guess I won't be gardening in them now. :)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spring has sprung!

Oh, I am so happy. And sore. Yes, I worked in the garden for many hours on Sunday and today (Tuesday) I can hardly walk - hobbling all over the place. It's either a sign of me working my bum off in the yard, OR me being completely out of shape... (hint: it's the latter). :)

But, I was proud of my work and Petesie was proud of me too.

When I get into a project, I like to see it from completion, start to finish, right away. I think that's why I like to cook - at most a project will last one or two days, and then you immediately reap the fruits of your labor. I'm finding out that gardening isn't like that - a constant work in progress. So, while I have "before" pics to share, I don't really have "after" pics quite yet. But I do have six new plants in pots, the beginning of a bed on the side of the house with a landscape built in my head (but only one plant planted in the ground) and a little rock bed that I converted to a flower and herb bed... but no pics quite yet. I can tell I'll be tinkering with this project all summer. :)

Here are the before pics though. Can you believe I let the deck get this bad?! Terrible Feng Shui!

And on a side note - I've written about this before, but please allow me to write a little bit more. I have the greatest guy in the world and I hope I never take him for granted for one minute. He's got such a great heart, and my whole heart. Yesterday his baseball team opened a brand new outdoor stadium and he was seriously SO happy - like, pure, boyish joy, just from watching his team play in a brand, spanking-new shiny stadium. Something else that makes him happy is his doggie. A boy and his dog - there must be a reason why this relationship is written about throughout history. He just loves that big, hairy, smelly and scruffy boy.

Here he is lecturing Monty on how to be a better dog:
And here is a picture of him loving on his doggie:
Aww... melts my little stone heart. :)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Pollen Problems"

Ah, Sunday morning. We're wide awake, finished with breakfast and coffee and it's only 9:20. My plan is to dive into my garden this afternoon and I couldn't be more excited. With the exception of my fear/queasiness about anything wormy or squirmy that lives in dirt, and my aversion to physical activity, I do really like to garden. I knew that someday I would - gardening is practically as much in my genes as cooking is - but I'm surprised that the bug bit me as hard as it did. I mean, I honestly am one of the laziest people I know, and I really do run screaming when I see a worm, so this is kind of a shocker.

So, "Pollen Problems" you say? Literally, on Sunday morning when we usually watch Meet The Press or Football In America (that's my name, not theirs), today we have on in the background The Weather Channel. Yikes. That's bringing dorky to a whole new level! TWC is highlighting pollen problems across the country as their headlining story of the hour. They certainly don't need to tell me about pollen problems!

On a side note... (perhaps I should have labeled this post "Stream of Consciousness")....

Here is why I love cooking. You can turn THESE gorgeous ingredients (and I wish you could smell them - amazing!):

Into this:

Or, make pizza that looks like this:
That, my friends was our potato, gorgonzola, bacon and rosemary pizza. Here's a close-up:
I love food, I love taking ingredients and turning them into something else. I getting the opportunity to be creative and imagine new concepts and then make it happen. It just makes me so excited. I am not a good painter, or good at drawing or making music or other forms of art like that. Food is my art. And, even better, it's a chance for me to incorporate what I love to study (science) into something very applicable and concrete. What better and more basic way to understand chemisty (baking), biology (gardening - which in my mind is a very small step away from cooking) or even physics (tossing pizza dough in the air - a perfect demonstration of applied centrifugal force in action)? And, throughout all of this, it's a chance to be creative and to put all my love into something that will feed people I love. What's not to love? :)

Okay - following my stream of consciousness and speaking of love. I will leave you with some pics of my loves:

Pretty self explanatory why I'm nuts about this guy, huh? And could this little girl BE any cuter?
Yes, I think she could be:
This is how we frequently find her - showing off her cuteness to the world: Miss Jane is rather elusive and doesn't like the camera, but she does like to snuggle while watching movies:
And then there is our boy Mont-Dog. So sweet, and his love for little gingy-boy is quite charming:
Okay - we're off to McLendon's hardware to build me a garden!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Madness

Easter is much fun around the Lacy/Myre/Lucas/Eagle household. Our good friends John and Cathy host our whole fam for a bit of mayhem on the farm - a huge Easter brunch, mimosas, an easter egg hunt and a gift exchange. This year was no different, although the mimosas were Orange Mango, so that was slightly different (amazing by the way. Highly recommend Orange Mango Mimosa).

Monty LOVES going out to the farm, even though he's usually tethered up so he doesn't go ballistic on anyone or knock Grandma Jean down. The egg hunt is usually just grown ups participating, of course, we act like crazed children, pushing people out of the way in our quest for a brightly colored plastic egg filled with monopoly money. The person with the most money gets the first gift...

Some more pics of the chaos - Mikk at brunch, cracking us up:

Mom and Piret weren't sure which camera to look at:
Me, Petesie and Gabe:
Monty found an egg... and ate it:

Saturday, April 3, 2010

...in like a lion

Last night we had "Wind Storm 2010" pass through the region. Lots of wind howling and rain crashing down, and after a great goodbye dinner with a friend who is leaving Starbucks to go back to India, we snuggled up to our old friends in The West Wing and fell asleep with the wind shaking the house.

Our company tests new products on their employees and on Thursday morning we got wind of a new product testing. We got in line early (first ones there!) with some of our friends to make sure we got some. Needless to say (perhaps this was because it was April Fools??), the food never came, and we waited, and waited... not so fun. :( Petesie refers to it as The Great Fiasco, so to make up for it, I made an amazing breakfast - buttermilk waffles this morning with strawberries and freshly whipped cream. It did take the sting out of TGF, but only slightly.

We've spent the day thus far working on projects - Petesie is working on reupholstering our dining room booth, and I detailed two cars. One of which hadn't been cleaned since before the wedding, so it was pretty in need. Midway through the process I realized a Target run was needed to finish the project, so off I went. Needless to say, it's rare to leave Target without spend some serious money, so I picked up a much needed flash drive reader to upload pics from my camera. Yay!

Without further ado... here are some everyday pics of the last couple of months:

Behold - Dinner at the Lacy House... Shrimp N' Grits...
An up close shot. Seriously delicious!
Baking rolls for a Christmas Party:
The couple that bakes together, stays together:
He's kind of my superman:
A casual Sunday morning breakfast:
Self explanatory. Note my pretty mantle my handyman husband built for me:

Happy Easter weekend!