Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hi everyone!

I have not posted in rather a long time – I have, ironically enough, been cooking at home almost exclusively this spring, and really don’t eat out much at all.

I began following the Atkin’s Low Carb way of eating on January 4th, and have so far lost 42.4 pounds. Also, I have discovered that I react very badly to wheat products, as well as some sugar alcohols. I decided to experiment with sugar free cookies this last weekend, and, while one or two are very tasty, I have found that the indigestion caused is really not worth it, and I will be passing the cookies on to my parents. Due to two Sunday dinners in a row being Chinese buffet (high sodium) and the subsequent indigestion, my weight has been fluctuating over a 7 lb range (up one day, down another, up again, down again, etc..) for the last several weeks, so I have been unable to record an official weight. I know that I have lost more inches – I have uncrated most of the size 20 clothes, and the jeans, while a bit tight for comfort just yet, can be buttoned and zipped. So, soon I will reach my current goal of 250 lbs – the weight limit of most commercial ladders and amusement park rides – then my next goal will be to wear the size 20 clothes. Little steps, bit by bit, pound by pound, is what will lead me to my weight loss goal.

One of my more recent experiments has been in the homemade ice-pop realm. It’s been a very warm summer here in Alabama, and so I have been sampling various kinds of low carb frozen treats, and have found that they are far to easy to eat too many – my willpower is sadly non-existent when it comes to ice cream. So, in the interests of saving myself, I purchased an ice-pop frame at Walmart for $3. My first experiment, frozen yogurt pops, came out very tart. Not at all what I had in mind. Next experiment will be lemon popsicles, made with lemon sugar free jello – there are several interesting recipes on the internet for this type of ice pop, so I will be experimenting this afternoon after work.

I have finally had success with stopping the drain pan leak on my refrigerator – I finally resorted to elevating it with 2 2x2 wood rails, and was thus able to easily place a catch tray for the water under the fridge. The kitchen floor has been dry for two days now, and this is a great improvement! I fear that the sporadic nature of the leak has probably water damaged the base of the cabinet near the fridge – the paint is bubbled. I will evaluate the possible damage once it has dried completely.

I purchased an Aerogarden 7 two weeks ago. I planted it last Thursday, May 10th, with a mesclun lettuce mix, and I now have some very attractive seedlings – a few are on the verge of producing a second set of leaves already. I am looking into purchasing a second Aerogarden off of ebay with the idea of growing herbs – we shall see if I manage to win one within my price range.

I have also done research into the necessary materials for constructing a raised-bed garden plot in the back yard – it is currently wasted space which I mow – I can’t just dig up a plot due to the neighbor’s lawn service people who were nice enough to utterly destroy the fig tree I planted last year – so I am looking at a raised cinder-block vegetable plot. Cinder blocks are $1.38 at Lowe’s, and with 16 of them, I can create a 4x4 garden plot with an additional 32 individual holes for herbs or strawberry plants. It will cost me about $40 for the cinder blocks and topsoil fill dirt, with another $20 for soil enrichment and plants. So, for around $60, I can build a cute little garden plot. I am planning to pick up some of the cinder blocks today – I only have an Altima, so I need to figure out how many can be safely transported without damaging my car. I have the next 5 days off, so I should be able to have it constructed and planted by next week. Since I have much better water pressure than my parents, keeping the plot watered should not be difficult – I just need to decide if I want to try seeping hoses or a sprinkler system. Choices choices choices.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Plan Derailment

So, I left work yesterday with big plans to render down all of the cheap bacon clogging up my freezer, use part of the bacon for pasta, part of it for sandwiches, and to use the bacon fat to confit some lovely pork shoulder I picked up on Tuesday.

Then I got home. Begin plan derailment.

I live in a duplex with a small front lawn. Mowing the lawn is a challenge, as there is no storage space for a lawnmower. I have attempted various solutions to this over the last several years, from hiring a neighbor to mow it, to buying a manual push mower. For the last two years, I have had an agreement with the neighbors in the other half to mow my side when they mow theirs - it takes about 5 min or less to mow the front of my side.

So, when the grass started to get a bit long a week and a half ago, I asked them if they wanted me to mow it. they said no, don't worry about it, we'll mow it before we move.

So, they finished moving out at about 2am on Monday night. They didn't mow the grass before they left.

Ok, no problem. I would go borrow Dad's lawnmower on Saturday, and mow the grass.

Except for the fact that one of my neighbors, who runs a forum that my dad is a member of, was kind enough to post up pictures of all the houses in his little area of the world with overgrown lawns on Tuesday. With commentary and complaints. He claims to have mowed my lawn twice, and complained about it.

I was completely unaware he had ever cut my grass. He did not have my permission to do so, and was certainly never asked to mow the grass. If he mowed my grass, it was of his own free will. He has also never bothered to mention to me that he had issue with my grass being long, and he didn't contact my landlady about it either, to my knowledge.

Well, his post completely PO'ed my father.

So, I get home yesterday to find the grass cut. Ok, I guess that my landlady mowed the grass, or my neighbors weren't completely gone. *shrugs* Then I get to the porch, to find that someone had chained a small lawnmower and a gas can to the porch.


So, I called my landlady to find out what was up with the lawnmower. No answer. Then I called my parents to let them know the thing I ordered was here, and I would bring it over in a bit.

And my mom was surprised that I wasn't calling about the lawnmower. ...... Mystery solved! So I asked her why there was a lawnmower chained to my front porch. Well, as previously mentioned, my dad was majorly PO'ed about the posting on the forum, so he went out Wednesday morning, found a small lawnmower, some chain, and a gas can, came over to my house while I was at work, mowed my half of all the grass, then chained my new lawnmower to the porch, and told my mom to tell me to come get the key from their place.



Ok. This whole situation was news to me, and I still don't get why dad even got involved other than potentially calling me to tell me to cut my grass. Whatever.

This did completely derail my plans of rendering down bacon though. I ended up at my parents house for the evening, and got nothing I had planned done. Joy. so, tonight I get to try to deal with the bacon and the marinade for the pork as well as class and everything else I have to do this evening.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cleaning up!

Well, after house sitting for two weeks, then being home for two weeks, I ended up just a bit behind on the important stuff when you have your own space - cleaning.
I finally bowed to the inevitability over the weekend, when I realized that the cat-confetti that Annabelle had so graciously made (out of some sales flyers, a paystub, and various other pieces of probably-important paper that she had scattered all around my living and dining room two days before I relocated to my parent's house for two weeks) had gotten thick enough that I coudn't tell what was confetti and what was carpet. Yeah - not good. That, and I was out of silverware, as it was all in the sink, with most of my bowls and a large number of plates and coffee mugs. *cringes*

So - I started to clean the mess up. Bits of Saturday and Sunday were spend sweeping up the confetti, sorting through the class papers and junk mail, and getting the living and dining rooms back in reasonable shape. Monday night was dish night.

Dish washing is tricky in my apartment, and I tend to put it off due to the challenges involved - my sink has two spigots, like a laundry sink, with a draining area on the left side instead of a second sink. Washing dishes is a little challenging. My methodology to this point has been the "soap on a sponge and try not to scorch my hands in the hot water" method.
This method sucks. Seriously. Major suckage.

So, I did a little research on dishwashing methods. Amazing how many ways there are to do something that should be simple. The method I decided to try involved using a second container to wash and soak the dishes, piling the cleaned dishes in the sink, then rinsing the cleaned dishes and placing them into the dish rack. I happen to have a large Rubbermaid dishwashing container that I picked up several years ago for soaking my feet when necessary. It doesn't get used much, and in fact, I had to chase out a spider that had set up living quarters.
So, I filled the plastic container with hot, soapy water and dirty dishes, let them soak for a little while, then commenced scrubbing.

It worked like magic. The good kind of magic that turns everything that pisses you off into chocolate.

so, all but the most stubborn dishes are happily cleaned and put away. The really stubborn ones I left to soak overnight in the plastic dishpan set inside the sink. I had planned to finish them up this morning, but the timing didn't work out, so I will finish them up after work before rushing off to class. So nice to have all the dishes clean!

Needless to say, since I was busy with dishes most of the evening, I didn't want to cook anything elaborate. So, I made a hybrid Arroz con Pollo meal, using the methodology from Fabulous One Pot Meals (Scarborough Faire Chicken, if I remember correctly..)

In a casserole dish, layer the following:

1 cup white rice
1 cup water
1 chicken bouillon cube
1-2 frozen chicken breasts (or whatever you have that is chicken)
4 tomatoes cut in wedges
2 bell peppers, cut into pieces
season with salt, pepper, parsley, oregano and a pinch of cumin, or other spices. A few capers would have been good in this.

Bake at 400 for 1-1.5 hours, until the smell makes you salivate.

pull out of the oven, check that the rice is done, then devour.

This came out good, and the leftovers made a nice lunch for today.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Lazy lately

Well, despite my best intentions, I am just a bit behind on this blog, but today is a good day to start posting again, even though today is not a day I will actually cook anything.
Tuesday and Thursday nights are class nights, which means that dinner is usually some sort of snack while driving from work to class. I am currently working out plans for using my Mr. Bento (he's a bit dusty!!) for lunches again, and working up a sufficient backlog of small frozen packaged leftovers to serve as quick lunches.
I haven't actually cooked much lately, unless toast counts as cooking, but I currently have a ham thawing in my fridge, some roma tomatoes begging to become tasty pasta sauce, and some lovely ripe fresh fruit that I plan to make into fruit salad.
In the summer, my focus is on preparing lunches, so that I don't waste $$$ every month eating out, as well as the gas to actually get to anywhere that sells food. Lately I have been eating a lot of peanut butter and jelly, as well as quick cereals for breakfast, and need to get back on track with a larger variety of food so that I don't get bored. My own cooking is delicious, but it has been a few weeks now since my last quiche, and I really need to learn how to plan out menus for at least two weeks ahead.
So, today I am going out for lunch. Tomorrow, I plan to have steamed vegetables and baked ham, as I can do both of those after class tonight - the ham is precooked, just that it was frozen solid as a whole ham, and so I am thawing it out in order to glaze it, then apportion it into single servings for various purposes, and the vegetables just need to be steamed. I really want to acquire a microwave mini-steamer, so I can flash-steam just a few vegetables for lunch.

Well, one of my new co-workers just completely jammed the photocopier. I'll post again tomorrow.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Red Lentils with Mixed Whole Grains

Well, as evidenced by today's post, my good intentions in regards to cooking and blogging were gleefully devoured by work and exhaustion. And for the last month, I have been working on my car instead of working on my cooking habits. Having noticed the scale creeping slowly upward, I am once again working on changing my eating habits.
I have done better this year, in that the scale has not crept upward as far as in previous summers - but it still crept upwards about 10 lbs. So, with work starting to tame down a little, I am thinking more toward food and winter eating, which leads to thoughts of preserving and cooking preserved things.
My mom is the queen of the canning kitchen, and makes some of the most delicious things! Not having the necessary equipment at home to can, I have had more interest in dehydrating, as you can store many different types of foods once most of the water is removed, and dehydrated foods are portable with a long shelf life. This was halted by the equipment I had - a Mr. Coffee dehydrator. No temperature setting, and every time we tried to dehydrate something in it, we ended up crisping it.
Last Saturday, I had the fortune of finding a L'Equip 328 Dehydrator for the relative bargain of $71.95, brand new in the box. Monday, we visited Crow Mountain Orchard in Fackler, AL, and I picked up a peck of #2 Gala apples to test the dehydrator with. Tuesday after work was taken up with car work (pinched injector o-ring), and Wednesday was take a co-worker to Boaz after work day. I got the dehydrator unpacked and washed last night, and so tonight will be the first attempt at dehydrating apple slices.
One significant acquisition from last night was a Fagor pressure cooker - 9,5L (10 Quart) size. For $37.99. Yeah, I couldn't say no, not for $97.01 off retail ( And - this is the size you can also use for pressure canning, although I will have to order the canning kit and the steamer basket, as it didn't come with. So, now I get to experiment with both my dehydrator and my pressure cooker. :)
Last night's dinner was an experiment in rice cooker one dish meals. I cooked together 1 cup red lentils and 1 cup mixed whole grains with 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 3 beef bullion cubes, 2 bay leaves and salt and pepper. I added water to the 2 cup porridge line, and cooked on the porridge setting. End result - delicious!! Minimal effort for a tasty healthy meal. I think next time I will try brown rice on the GABA brown setting, and add the lentils later in the cooking time for less mushiness. Good flavor though.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tuesday and Wednesday

Tuesday was a fun day for cooking. We were having a pot-luck lunch for the director's birthday on Wednesday, so, after a yummy lunch of leftover ratatouille, I hit the packing house for vegetables on my way home. I picked up 6 lovely eggplant, as I was planning to make Eggplant Caviar for the potluck.

Eggplant caviar calls for:

3 large eggplant, washed
3 tbsp minced garlic
6 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

You bake the eggplant at 350 for 45 minutes, then let cool and peel them. You puree the eggplants, then add in the other ingredients. I refrigerated mine overnight, which blended the flavors quite well, and the final product tasted like garlic hummus, with a slightly different texture. Some of my co workers liked it - of the ones brave enough to try it! The final product is gray, which is not the most appealing color for food. But to quote Lumiere: "Try the gray stuff, it's delicious!"

Dinner was leftovers from the 4th of July. I also made some gluten-free cupcakes for the boss, but I forgot the frosting. :(

I tend to skimp on breakfast - it tends to be something like Special K bars unless I am not working that day, so I am going to skip writing about breakfasts unless they are worth it.

Dinner last night was nachos, with cheese, salsa, leftover roast pork and greek yogurt. Yummy! Lunch today was the leftover Eggplant Parmigana from Saturday. And dinner - I am not sure yet. Something easy, as my back hurts and my cat is angry after the shampoo misadventure of this morning.....

I will also post the recipes for Monday's creations soon.

So, Later Tonight Turned Into Thursday

But I brought the pictures with me!

Here is Dad's oil-less turkey fryer:

Mom's Stunning Parfait

The side dishes

My tasty scones

And my tasty Parmesan French Toast