Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: food (Page 3 of 4)

Cocktail Time

I hosted a little get-together a couple weeks ago, and it not only inspired me to clean the house, but I also got a little Martha-Stewart-ey in the planning and preparation process. It was a great excuse to pull out all my antique pink milk glass, and also try out a tasty cocktail recipe from the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living.  This cocktail was written to be served as a punch, but I mixed all of the non-carbonated ingredients together in a pitcher, and then splashed club soda in each glass as I served it. Martha’s recipe calls for separate juices (Pomegranate and cranberry), but I found it easier to just buy a blended bottle. Same with the recommended Cointreau – we’re on a budget here, and frankly, I don’t think spending $30 for a liqueur that’s going into a juice blend is necessary. The $10 bottle of Orange Curacao worked just fine!

The cocktail was pleasantly tart with a sweet aftertaste, and it had a spicy, holiday flavor. Experiment with the juices, and if you make individual servings, you can also try out gin, my personal preference!

The essentials: 3 cups of pomegranate-cranberry juice, 1 cup of vodka, 1 cup of orange curacao, 1/2 cup lemon juice (lime would also be tasty!), 1/2 cup simple syrup*, club soda for splashing and adding fizz.

Mix everything but the club soda, and pour over cranberry-studded ice cubes. Feliz HannyZaa! You could celebrate all three notable holidays with this drink.

*simple syrup: 1 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar – heat on the stove, stirring constantly until mixture is boiling. Turn off the burner & allow to cool. This will make about 1.5 cups of syrup, so enough for three batches of drinks.

Cranberry-studded Ice Cubes:

Wash some fresh cranberries, then place in empty ice-cube trays. If you’re like me, your ice cubes don’t come out clear like all those foodie photos have. One trick is to boil your filtered water (distilled apparently works even better), let it cool, return to a boil, cool again, and then pour into trays. Mine still weren’t crystal-clear, but they were prettier than solid white cubes. These are a nice touch for your holiday get-togethers – whether in a cocktail, or with 7-up, or even water.

Making Cranberry Ice Cubes

The finished product:

Cranberry Pomegranate Cocktail



Despite the less-than-bumper crop of tomatoes this year, and despite the fact it wasn’t blazing hot, we sure got a lot of jalapenos harvested. James made pepper jelly, and then we didn’t pick for a while – so the next harvest was filled with large, thick-walled jalapenos, and I decided to make them into jalapeno poppers, one of my favorite appetizers ever.

Man, that was an undertaking. Probably because I made over 100 of them, and I spread the steps out over a few days.

First, I thought I didn’t need gloves, because I was only coring them out. WRONG-O. I cored them and then stuffed them with cream cheese, and then put them back in the fridge. The next day, I followed a recipe that had me dunk them in milk, then in flour, then back in milk, then in bread crumbs, and I was supposed to do each type of dredging a couple of times. Perhaps if one were making, say, 12, that wouldn’t seem like a giant pain in the ass. I did get them all coated, and then I layered them on a cookie sheet, with wax paper dividers, and froze them. Eventually they got bagged in food saver bags of 12, and I must say, they’re really good. Worth all the effort. Here’s a pic of them all ready to be bagged up:


The other appetizer you can make (courtesy of my pal Bekah) is cut a slit & remove the seeds, or cut them in half (still remove the seeds), stuff with cream cheese, and wrap with bacon. I used about a third of a bacon slice per jalapeno, and the second time I made them, I didn’t even mess with toothpicks. Place them on a cookie sheet (I put down tin foil, since I prefer lazy-easy clean-up), bake in a 375′ oven until the bacon is crisp, and yuuuummmmeh time awaits. I mean, bacon and cream cheese make everything better in general, why not combine them? And you’re still getting some vegetable… lol.

Last, but not least, a really awesome addition to a crudite platter is to halve jalapenos, and stuff them with crunchy peanut butter (or you could use cream cheese) – a fantastic upgrade to celery. And there’s always the fun Russian Roulette of if you’re going to get that jalapeno that’s blazing hot! But the peanut butter helps minimize the burn fairly quickly, and most everyone I know loves ’em. So, if you’re still harvesting peppers, these are some good ways to use them now, and save some for later, when it’s actually cold outside and you want a little summer heat flavor.


…is brought to you by the letter “J”, the number “3” and the color “Orange”
Afternoon Snack

Since my unemployment has coincided with the school year, we’ve opted for after-school snacks instead of packing James a lunch in the morning. It’s been rather fun, and I intentionally made this one orange-themed. (Those mandarin oranges are from Aldi’s!)

Also, let’s talk about carrots. I’ve given up on the pre-fab, uber-convenient so-called ‘baby’ carrots. It seems that the manufacturer has taken to including more water in the bag – because the absence of water made the carrots, in my words, ‘dusty’. But now the water? Makes them slimy. I hit the wall when I had to return a huge tub to CostCo, and then the next week, saw the same sort of slimy water on a regular 2# bag of the carrots. Irritated, I decided it was time to get back to my proverbial roots. Back in the day, carrots required a modicum of work. It’s not that much, really, and I’ve always enjoyed the ol’ peeler. And you know what? Way more flavor. Way more moisture. Carrots the way they always have been, and we’d forgotten that, in the ease of bagged, shaped, finger-sized convenience. The first carrot I peeled reminded me of how my dad would whittle a screwdriver-shaped carrot for me, the strips left behind destined for salad. A contented crunch.

Bonus? The dogs love carrots, too, so they get the ends, which they excitedly chomp on while watching to see if more are going to be tossed their way.

Squash for Breakfast?

Yes, it’s possible. And, actually, delicious!

We’re in high harvesting mode with the garden, and while we can always freeze or can the tomatoes, coming up with a new way to eat zucchini or yellow squash can get a bit challenging. A few weeks ago, I remembered one of my favorite breakfast joints in Minneapolis, and how they specialized in egg scrambles loaded with non-traditional breakfast things – namely, vegetables. So I gave it a whirl, and darned if it isn’t just as tasty as I remembered it to be – and now I’ve created my own version, with summer squash!

I’ll admit up front, measurements and precision aren’t my thing when making dishes like this, especially because I think you can be flexible and include what you want. This isn’t a chemistry-based dish, where you need the right amount of leavening agent or a proper ratio with your flour. Experiment yourself! And you can get your veggies in before noon….

Very Veggie Scramble

1 onion, diced

1T vegetable oil

About 3 cups sliced vegetables (I used one small yellow squash and one small zucchini, a few jalapenos and a bag of frozen broccoli. Fresh broccoli is even better. Cauliflower would be delicious, too. Mushrooms. Peppers. You get my drift!)

1 fresh tomato, diced

4-5 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup cheese

salt, pepper to taste

Saute the onion until it’s softened, then add your veggies to the skillet. You want to cook the veggies to a stir-fry consistency, so there’s still some structure and bite in them, not mushy. Right as the veggies are nearing that stage, pour your beaten eggs over the whole thing, and gently stir and turn in the pan, cooking the eggs. Once the eggs are done, I added the tomato and then the cheese. I basically wanted the tomato to get to the same temperature as the dish, but without any further cooking, since it was the softest veggie in the mix. Season to taste – and devour! It reheats well in the microwave, so save your leftovers. You could extend this even further (and add a starch) if you folded in prepared hash browns right before the cheese-melting stage.

Veggie Scramble - finished

If your tomato crop is running over, hubs has a great bruschetta recipe on his tomato blog.  It’s a wonderfully tasty summer appetizer – we made this into dinner one night, it was so good. We used fresh mozzarella, which is definitely more traditional, but if you like goat cheese, I can’t recommend going that route enough. The tangy goat cheese definitely takes it to a whole new level!

Did you know you can’t buy the green sauce in a 12 oz bottle, like the one  you might use at Chipotle? This made me irritated. I do not like things that I love available only to the food service industry.  So, like much of my life, I found what we call a “work-around”:

Say hello to my not-so-little friend!

Mmmm. That’s a whole gallon of green Tabasco.  Screw you, tiny-5-ounce-bottle-available-at-Price-Chopper.

Also, for those who like to do cost analysis? It would require purchasing 25 5-oz bottles to come close in volume…. let me illustrate, starting with a gallon=128 ozs,  god why do we not use the metric system?

$3.99 (small bottle cost on website) divided by 5 = Cost per ounce = $0.798

128 times $0.798 = $102.14

My cost to ship a gallon was just under $50.

You can get yours straight from the source, too.  It’s all I can do not to drink it by the shot.

Meet The New Year….

….Same As The Old Year….to paraphrase The Who, singing about something we ALL wish for ourselves, not to be fooled (again).

I rang in the new year by calming down three extremely pissed-off, barking black labs, who were certain we were under siege from The Enemy, as fireworks and god-knows-what-else exploded near and far from our house. I also was tending to the largest batch of crack Chex Mix I’ve ever made. Actually, the only batch I’ve ever made, but since the Wo was eating it for breakfast this morning when I stumbled out, and immediately asked me what in the hell I put in it to make it so full of WIN, I can only say, hey, I rocked in the New Year’s Chex Mix, baby. (The “secret”? Uh, half-again as much Worcestershire sauce as the traditional recipe calls for. We love us the nummeh brown winegar sauce.)

I followed up that winning first act with a breakfast of homemade Prune Cake from the Pioneer Woman, and do not let the name fool you. You will get on your knees and pray you’ll get another piece after you try the first one.  I served it with a tall glass o’ milk, and a shot of Reddi-whip on the side. Startin’ the New Year off RIGHT!

Then I threw together a batch of slow-cooker black-eyed peas, and that recipe lied to me about using dried beans. I thought I was in good shape, but 13 hours later, those suckers still have some crunch to ’em, so that’s going to be dinner tomorrow. Fortunately, we weren’t particularly hungry, because we got together with the Wo’s immediate family & ate at Ted’s Montana Grill. Deeeelish.  My brother-in-law got the Kitchen Sink Bison Burger, and good lord, that was the craziest damn sammich I’ve ever seen. It had ..well, yeah, everything on it, including a slice of ham and a fried egg! He loved it.

Before the Wo crashed last night, we spent some time playing our newest Wii game, Lego Indiana Jones and the something or other. Oh mah god, it’s pretty damned fun for a two-person game. We have to work co-operatively, though initial observations showed we were utterly incapable of it, as he would whip me into pieces, and I, once rebuilt, would attack him with my shovel. I noticed, playing the role of sidekick, that I got stuck with a lot more grunt work. Mostly because I had the shovel. Which is quite effective on enormous spiders, too. Anyway, we laughed our heads off, which was the goal.

End the year laughing, begin the next one with Chex Mix and Prune Cake.

We rock.

Happy New Year. Actually, I’m pretty sure this one will be a lot better than the last one.

It’s Actually Possible to Go on a BBQ Bender….

….because right now, I feel hungover. A meat, smoke, rub, sauce hangover.

It is an unbelievable weekend, and this year, we took our learnings from last year, and had our act together. Apart from one small hiccup, which could have been disastrous – the weekend was an unmitigated success. We saw some folks we’d met last year, and made new friends this year. It’s really a lot of fun, and has been the Christmas gift that keeps on giving!

The hiccup was at the very start of the judging, when we arrived at 11:05 for the Invitational Meats judging. One woman working the entry to the judges’ tables barked at us, “You’re LATE!” I was all, “Surely she is speaking to someone else!” Because our paperwork said we were to check in between 11 & 11:30. So we got our aprons & pins, and stood in line. They called out if there were any husbands & wives together (we raised our hands), and I got accelerated to the front of the line. Again, nothing alarming or unusual; we’re not allowed to sit together. I get seated, greet my tablemates, and get out my book for signing. Then I see James come in with his group of 6, and I found out shortly thereafter that his table was the last table in the door.

Whoa. There was some screw-up with turn-in times and they seated the judges way earlier than announced. He would have been crushed if he’d missed the cut-off. (And mad at me, who was all, “WE DON’T NEED TO ARRIVE SO FLIPPIN’ EARLY”) As it was, we met numerous people who arrived after us who were turned away and were PISSED. So, I know two things – next year, we’ll be crazy early, and two, the KCBS folks are prolly gonna get some angry letters.

We judged chicken, ribs, pork shoulder & brisket. Wisely, we’d brought insulated coolers, ice, baggies and a wet washcloth in a separate baggie. (Which drew envious admiration both days…. a little trick we learned last year.)  The chicken in general was outstanding; most of the meat was above average or better. Then we judged sides, and our table got three different potato dishes that were basically inedible. The first was beautifully presented, but sweet potatoes are more of a gamble in the ‘tater category, and if you overspice them and whip them to the consistency of baby food – eesh. The second was underdone. As in, raw. Ah, no. The third, another sweet potato, was sauced with pure cayenne pepper that left my mouth on fire for quite some time afterward. My seat mates and I were all in agreement, at least.

The big drama comes with desserts, and after the bad sides, we were getting a little pessimistic, joking that we were gonna end up with pudding, tapioca, jello and vanilla ice cream.   And as we watched massive dessert after dessert come in, I think a little part of us inside hoped beyond hope that we, too, would get an elaborate three-tiered cheesecake, or a large torte. Our table captain didn’t even get in line until, well, she was last. (grumble, grumble.) So what did we get? Banana pudding. Strange slivers of fruit tart. Flavorless vanilla ice cream mixed with unripe peaches. And six measly grilled peach quarters.  James, on the other hand, got large-scale productions (including one that had a solid chocolate cow from Annedores as GARNISH. FOR EACH PERSON.) My hope is that next year will be a different story, but I was definitely disappointed.

Today’s Open competition included sausage, which I was dreading. I don’t normally enjoy this category, on the heels of last year’s submissions (two were so spicy I thought my head might explode, and all of them made me burp unpleasantly.) Sorry for the overshare, but there it is. Again, the chicken was fantastic, we had one awful, almost inedible rib, I almost got a hand cramp trying to pull one piece of brisket (lawzy was it tough), and then…. along came the sausage. And the one entry I gave a “9” to for appearance? Was without a doubt the best sausage I have ever tasted in my life. It was the only thing I gave all 9’s to, and I am still rather blown away by how good it was. We swung by Culver’s for a palate-cooling cone, I put away our extra baggies of meat, and we promptly fell asleep.

The other crazy thing that parallels over-imbibing alcohol is how much water you ultimately consume. During judging, and then once you get home. I feel like I’ve been on some Atkins-cleansing diet for three days. The only thing that sounded remotely appealing tonight was some fruit, and I expect tomorrow will be a meatless day.

And, much like being drunk, I could only do one thing when we hit the radio to hear the Chiefs-Panthers score: laugh hysterically. (34-0. Oy.)

The First Step Was Taken….

Tonight was the party night at the American Royal. We went to several tents – we always have a great time at the KCTV5/KSMO tent, and then, because we knew both an attender, and the cop working the “door”, we sorta crashed the Worth Harley-Davidson tent, which was pretty awesome. After a while, we went back to the KCTV5 tent, to make sure we thanked everyone & said our goodbyes, and on the way out, I saw my chance.

There was a young police officer working security there, as well, nice nice guy, and was doing an inordinate amount of texting. It’s not really major case squad down there at the Royal, though I’m sure as the night goes on, the drunk & disorderly rises.  So I decide, now’s my chance. I started to tell him, then I stopped, imagining the worst, he told me to go ahead, just tell him, and I did it.

“Has anyone ever told you they’re afraid they’re going to lose their minds, lose utter control, and try and take your gun away from you?”

The answer? It’s a helluva lot more common than I ever imagined. (Yay! I am not alone in wanting to hurtle myself right into unmitigated stupidity!) And he continued to tell me just how aware he is, at all times, of where he is in proximity to other people, how he doesn’t want people behind him, and he’s always aware of where other people are in relationship to his weapon.  As sorely tempted as I was to fake an attempt, HA HA, wouldn’t that be hilarious, I wisely chose not to. And I walked away, shouting to my husband and mother-in-law that I’d made the first step in ridding myself of this phobia.

Oddly enough, it didn’t even cross my mind when we met up with James’ former D.A.R.E. officer, someone I adored the minute I met her, and she gave us both hugs (talk about your perfect opportunity). She told me she’s got some great stories for me (I practically jumped with glee, except I was so tired by that point, I couldn’t have left the earth for a second). Can’t wait to plan that dinner, I love me some first-hand COPS. We then admired the drug-seizure vehicle her partner was driving – a souped-up Denali with spinner wheels and a DVD player system (in the front!), and then our jaws dropped when the trunk doors were opened. The entire cargo area was filled with the biggest speakers I have ever (EVER) seen in a car. I made a joke about how this kinda makes drug money look good, and she said she spins it the other way. I’m not sure exactly what that is, apart from the fact I think those speakers can actually sterilize you at 50 yards. Oh, well, yeah, JAIL. Duh.

The evening was great fun, and the big event is tomorrow – I’ll take pictures, and give you a full report on the day of judging. I know by the time Sunday rolls around, I’m going to have sauce & smoke coming out of my pores. …

Whoah Nelly.

Today has begun at a full-on gallop, and I don’t expect it to subside any time soon.

I would be remiss if I didn’t start at the beginning, though – JWo’s birthday was on Saturday. We made plans to go down to Truman Lake, and do some fishing. We planned to find a motel or cabin, spend the night, fish Sunday morning, and then get home mid-afternoon. Didn’t quite work out that way, but we still had an enjoyable day. It was more…boating. And trolling, and attempting to catch fish, and bait, but really, all we ended up catching was a drum and two channel catfish. Over 8 hours. Lemme tell you, my butt was SORE. We did go ashore around lunch, and just anchored the boat while we fixed sandwiches & ate Twizzlers – in the water, mind you. Swimming was lovely, the day was bright & there was a breeze. I have the faintest of pink on me, because I slathered myself in 50 SPF sunscreen and wore a hat (hey! Check out the big brain on Jen!). But we just could not succeed in the fishing department. (Many fisherman blame the full moon, fwiw.)

We did, however, see some really awesome wildlife, since there’s a state park on the water; we saw oodles of deer, and lots of wild turkeys, and loads of buzzards. (I was not enamored with the buzzards, as I associate buzzards with death, they’re hideous, and in general, they just kinda freak me out.) At one point, I looked at the bank and squinted, asking James, “What IS that over there?” He looked (in a different direction) and said “Buzzards.” I said, “With a WHITE HEAD?” Nope! Turned out to be a bald eagle with an immature bald eagle, most likely a momma guiding her baby around the coves and teaching the finer points of fishing. So that was really nifty, and I must say, bald eagles walking are about the same height as small children. They’re huge!  I definitely would not want one diving in at me every day & ripping out my liver.

I like to work in my highly under-utilized knowledge of Greek Mythology whenever I can. It’s really a service we provide here at PlazaJen Enterprises.

In other news, I’m jetting back to NYC to meet with the folks at CR, and I am finally, really, truly, bona-fide excited about it. I realized last week that I was caught in the undertow of grief, all of which can be intellectually understood, but, unfortunately, not reasoned out of by logic. Because winning the Consumer Reports account is a huge, huge personal and professional accomplishment – and the one person whose approval I worked for all my life, the one person who would have been really impressed, would finally have something awesome to tell people about his kid who works in advertising – well, that person is gone. Broke my fucking heart. Brings tears to my eyes now just to acknowledge it so openly. But hey. I imagine parents who have kids and watch the milestones pass after their parents are gone have a similar row to hoe.  I’m not special or alone in this quagmire, and the mantra of time always comes back around to haunt. At least enough time has passed already.

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Popeye Better Stay Off Our Street for A While….

…James pulled all the spinach last week & cleaned it, giving us about 4 gallon bags of fresh, home-grown spinach. So delish. We were having MommaLinda over for dinner on Saturday night, and he asked if I’d make homemade pasta.

I didn’t get any pics of the fettucine drying, but man, it’s pretty stuff. The spinach adds so much – flavor, color, and homemade pasta is -to borrow from original Iron Chef- like butterflies on your tongue. So light!
Steaming  Homemade Spinach Noodles
I made a very simple sauce – not even that saucy, per se, but it contained sauteed onions, rough-chopped garlic, italian sausage, baby portobella mushrooms and more spinach. I added some of the pasta water to the pan to give it a little more sauciness; other than that, it stood on its own.
Sausage, Spinach, Mushroom, Onion, Garlic saute
Topped with fresh parmesan, it made for a lovely, rustic dish, replete with fresh garden goodness.
Giant Dish of Pasta

Then, last night, I tried another recipe, involving spinach and ricotta and sauteed onions & garlic – and it completely sucked! Ah well. Can’t win ’em all, I guess. I’m able to salvage the mixture to repurpose into lasagne at some point, so at least it wasn’t a complete bomb. In any event, we are Vitamin-K,-A, and iron-rich after this past weekend!

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