Wednesday, August 31, 2011

RECIPE: Cilantro Soy-Bomb

At the farmers' market last week, I bought a bunch of fresh cilantro and promptly realized that I don't know what you're supposed to do with cilantro.

Then I came across a super-complicated recipe for cilantro soy chicken or something like that, and realized that a lot of the ingredients (soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger) were in my trusty bottle of Mikee teriyaki sauce. Coincidentally, I keep the Mikee sauce around because I don't know what you're supposed do with tofu, either, so I usually just dump some teriyaki sauce on it and call it a day.

It made sense to combine the two because, like cilantro, tofu is something I feel like I should be eating because it's Good For Me. But I don't have a fun way to prepare it. So, inspired by the recipe (but not inspired enough to go digging around for 14 separate ingredients), I chopped up the cilantro using the Pampered Chef Chopper (which everyone in the whole world should own) and dumped it into a half cup of Mikee teriyaki sauce.

I cooked the tofu by handing it to my husband and saying, "Cook this?"

Then I poured the cilantro-teriyaki mix over the tofu, and TELL ME THIS DOESN'T LOOK PROFESSIONAL!

To recap:

  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce (the thicker the better) (that's what she said)
  • one package of extra-firm tofu

Cook the tofu until most of the water is out, then heat up the sauce however you want (microwave? I won't judge) and pour it on. Done.

LIST: Proof I Haven’t Really Grown Up Since College

Watching my nieces and nephews packing up for college, I can’t help feeling a little bit nostalgic for my own college days. Let’s be real, college was probably the last time my modus operandi seemed completely valid and appropriate -- it’s not like I was the only one skipping work to watch The Wedding Singer, eating cold pasta for breakfast, or ignoring the piles of laundry that were slowly turning into a makeshift area rug.

I think my mom took this photo to shame me into cleaning. Didn't work.

Yeah, that’s my comfort zone.

Of course, I’d never trade my life now for anything -- not even for the chance to relive my Golden Era of Laziness. But lately, I’m starting to realize that I don’t have to. The more I think about it, the more my two boys are a lot like my old college roommates. And in many ways (sleep deprivation, bad eating habits, copious amounts of procrastination) my life hasn’t changed all that much. I just don’t have to write thesis papers anymore!

Here are a few ways my boys help me relive my glory days.

1. I live with two people who like to drink until they pass out. Naptime really isn’t much different from 2 a.m. at the Knight Club.

2. I’ve found myself debating whether my jeans have enough puke on them to warrant a change of clothes.

3. I buy myself a sleeve of chocolate chip cookies, and before I even get to eat one, they’ve mysteriously disappeared.

4. My housemates generate 90% of the dirty dishes but do 0% of the cleaning.

5. I’ve discovered creative uses for orange-flavored vodka -- like cleaning permanent marker off of my computer monitor. (Works in a pinch when you don’t have rubbing alcohol in stock.)

6. There are empty bottles under the couch, raisins trampled into the carpet, and I recently found a half-eaten slice of pizza in my desk drawer.

7. I wake up with every intention of doing something productive, but usually end up on the couch watching Nickelodeon all day.

8. Several times a week, I’m woken in the middle of the night by someone in the hallway yelling gibberish.

9. I go to the bathroom and find that someone has peed next to the toilet and unrolled the TP into the trash can.

10. When anyone asks about my day, I pretty much highlight the educational stuff we did (flash cards, puzzles) and skim over the other details.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

RECIPE: Hurricane Chicken Kabobs

Let me start by saying: The recipe is under the photo, so if you don't want to read the whole post, just skip to the picture like you're reading a dirty magazine.

Now. Like most of the eastern seaboard, I've spent the past few days being pretty preoccupied with hurricane talk. I live in one of the states that doesn't get eleventy billion hurricanes a year, and I get panicky during a mild thunderstorm, so I basically spent the weekend debating whether it would be better to set up a basement bunker, or flee to Pittsburgh.

My husband was decidedly unsupportive of the Pittsburgh idea, so I opted for the basement bunker. Our basement is "under renovation" at the moment, which is a nice way of saying it's a giant dirty craphole that I won't even walk in barefoot, let alone sleep in. So I packed up the boys and set up camp in my sister's basement, which has wall-to-wall carpet and two TV's. She was delighted to have our company. I'm sure of it.

Once I had set up camp in what I deemed the safest corner of her basement (namely, the corner that was farthest from her treadmill, which I was sure would become a 200-pound projectile), I put my hurricane safety plan into action:

1) Watch Adam Joseph for 14 hours straight.
2) Shit my pants every time he says "tornado warning."
3) Text friends in North Carolina for expert survival tips.
4) Eat donuts at a possible-last-meal pace.

My plan worked, and by sheer luck, our county was hit by the nicest, gentlest part of the hurricane. The tornado warnings didn't pan out, and my sister's makeshift shelter didn't even lose power. We lost power at home, but only for 15 hours. Our only "damage" was some freezer-burned ice cream.

Suffice to say we were lucky.

Anyway. Inspired by a spray-painted plywood sign at a local bar that said "We'd rather drink hurricanes," I came up with a chicken dish based on the rum drink. I was worried it would be too sugary-sweet, but it was so fantastic that I kept asking my hubby, "ISN'T THIS FANTASTIC?!" I probably asked him 17 times. I'm not ashamed to fish for compliments. And he declared it the best thing I've made in months.

So. Here's the recipe.

  • 1-2 lb. chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup cherry preserves
  • 1/4 cup pineapple syrup (this is not a fancy ingredient...just buy pineapple slices that say they're packed in heavy syrup)
  • 4 pineapple rings, cut up
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. Malibu rum
  • 1/2 cup almonds, chopped up

Cut the chicken into cubes. Mix everything but the almonds in a ziploc bag and add the chicken. Marinate it for however long you want -- I did about three hours. Then skewer the chicken cubes, roll them in the almonds, and bake them at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. (I rest the ends of the skewers across a casserole dish, so the chicken juice can drip into the dish.)

It takes about five minutes to prepare, you can ignore it while it's cooking, and it makes you look like you know how to cook Caribbean cuisine.

DISCLAIMER: On a serious note, there were a lot of towns around us that weren't nearly as lucky in this storm. And that's an understatement. I'm NOT making light of that -- this dish is based on the beverage, not the weather event. If you want to help those affected by the weather event, go here and give the Red Cross some love.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

LIST: Reasons I have trouble relating to Katy Perry

What Katy Perry did last Friday night:
  • danced on tabletops
  • took too many shots
  • maxed her credit cards
  • got kicked out of the bar
  • went streaking in the park
  • skinny dipping in the dark
  • had a menage a trois

What I did last Friday night:
  • ate expired mac and cheese for dinner
  • skipped "free hayride night" because it looked rainy
  • did some laundry
  • refreshed my Facebook newsfeed every three minutes
  • was in bed by 11:00

Not me.

    Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    RECIPE: Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup

    Holy mackerel, ham is expensive! Apparently, if it's not Easter, you're screwed -- it's like $11 for a teeny little pig tush. Kinda defeats the purpose of being a slow-cooking cheapskate. So, I put together a split pea soup recipe that doesn't require cooking a giant ham hock in the soup, but still tastes like porky deliciousness. I would drink this out of a straw if I could.
    • 1 lb. bag of split peas, rinsed
    • 2 c. diced ham (I just used a $2.99 pre-packaged diced ham in water)
    • 1 can of whole potatoes (dice 'em)
    • 10 baby carrots, sliced
    • 1-1/2 T. minced garlic
    • 2 T. parsley flakes
    • 1 T. Lawry's seasoned salt
    • 1 t. black pepper
    • 5 c. hot water
    Throw everything in the pot and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours. That's really all there is to it.

    ROOST: I don't have a future in extreme couponing.

    I'm obsessed with finding ridiculous bargains -- my most recent scores were a pair of Born sandals for $7 at DSW and a pair of Rock and Republic jeans for $35 at Lord and Taylor. So, in theory, extreme couponing should be right up my alley.

    But for some reason, the show doesn't click with me, which is a polite way of saying I think those people are batshit crazy. Who needs 48 bottles of Maalox? I don't care if it only cost you $2. I would pay two dollars not to have a Maalox avalanche every time I open the medicine cabinet.

    And don't get me started on the stockpiles. No effing way I'm going to convert a spare bedroom into storage for toilet paper and Diet Dr. Pepper. My house cost me about $100 per square foot -- even if it's a small bedroom, that's still $10,000 worth of real estate being occupied by toilet paper.

    But even if there's no way I'll ever become a coupon queen, it did inspire me to look through my junk mail instead of moving it directly to the garbage can. Maybe I couldn't become a coupon queen, but I could at least shave a few bucks off my bill at Target. Because let's face it, I could use some financial help when it comes to Target -- I don't know what kind of voodoo magic they do, but I go in for shampoo and end up spending $72. So when my junk mail came, I dutifully scoured the coupon pages and....

    It's like a sad wasteland of crappy products, pizza rolls, and hand sanitizer. There was one coupon for toilet paper, but it was the eco-friendly variety, which costs about $6 per individual square. Finally I came across a lone coupon for a product I actually use -- $1 off Tazo's tea concentrate. Woohoo! Money in my pocket! So I clipped it and headed to Target, where I marched directly to the tea aisle, picked up a box of tea, and brought it to the register.

    Hahaha, I'm kidding. First I bought a bunch of random crap I didn't need, then I grabbed the tea on my last lap and brought my bounty to the register, ready to spend a mere $71 instead of my usual $72. When the cashier asked if I had any coupons, I triumphantly reached out and...

    Where the hell was my coupon?! I'd been clutching it in my talons the whole time we were shopping. How did I lose it?

    "Forget it," hubby said. "It's a dollar."

    Hmmph. I wasn't about to have my epic couponing mission downplayed like that, so I went all Ben Franklin on his ass -- a dollar saved is a dollar earned! -- and took off on a mad sprint to find the missing coupon. As I was rounding the corner into women's apparel, I had a sudden moment of clarity, a brief flash of myself laying the coupon down to, um, play with the kettlebells. (Did I mention that Target can trick me into buying just about anything?) Anyway, I ran to the fitness aisle and there it was! I snatched it up, sprinted back, and handed it over to the cashier who, along with my hubby, was clearly impressed by my coupon recovery skills.

    She scanned it and -- bwommppp. The register beeped angrily as if to say, "WTF was that?" The cashier peered at my coupon, peered at her screen, coupon, screen, coupon, screen, and then --

    "Oh, this is for Tazo. You purchased Oregon Chai."


    "Would you like to run back and see if we have the Tazo Chai?"

    "Forget it," I said. "It's only a dollar."

    And that was the beginning and end of my extreme couponing days.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    RECIPE: Slow Cooker Pulled Porkgasm

    There aren't many sandwiches as tasty as pulled pork, and I think I've officially perfected my pulled pork recipe. I could seriously eat this every meal for the next year. Remind me of that resolution when I weight 300 pounds.

    • a big hunk o' boneless pork loin
    • 1/2 cup ketchup (I like Hunt's all-natural)
    • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar (don't pack it)
    • 3 T. McCormick mesquite seasoning
    • 2 T. Tabasco Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 t. ground mustard
    Throw everything in the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 8 hours. Flip the pork loin halfway through, if you happen to be near the slow cooker. If not, no worries -- I'm not sure this actually does anything except make me feel like I'm Doing Important Things like tending to dinner. About 20 minutes before you're ready to eat, turn off the heat and shred the pork so it can soak up the tasty sauce better. I served it on Grands flaky biscuits -- maybe not the healthiest choice, but delicious and totes recommended.

    ROOST: I'm having a steamy affair...with my slow cooker.

    Since I inundate you with my crockpot recipes, I should explain how my crockpot and I got together.

    Because I don't have the patience for anything that requires more than two pots or three ingredients, I had exactly four dishes in my repertoire, and I'd estimate that my husband had eaten each one of them approximately 400 times.

    (He cooks too. Don't get any June Cleaver notions. It's just that I work at home, and by the time 4:30 rolls around, I'm usually too hungry to wait for him to get home, get inspired, and get dinner started. So I'm just like, "Welcome home! I made crab quesadillas...again!")

    Then we got the slow cooker for Christmas. Technically he got got the slow cooker, but I've commandeered it. Here's why I love slow cooking: Do you remember spin-art?

    Put a piece of paper in the spinner, squirt some paint, and hope for the best. You never knew what the finished product would be until it stopped spinning, but it was always AWESOME! At least by my standards. I had spin-art all over my bedroom in 1988.

    That's kind of how I feel about the slow cooker. I dump some ingredients in, stir, and 6-8 hours later, I find out what sort of tasty masterpiece I've created. (Or it tastes like total ass, and we wind up eating Spaghetti'O's instead. Usually that happens when I try to incorporate lentils.)

    Anyway, thanks to the slow cooker, I'm happy, my husband's happy, and I'm eating REAL food for a change. I actually bought celery last week. And my potato peeler is finally getting some action!

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    LIST: 2 Possible Reasons Why You're Reading This Post

    1) You're friends with me, related to me, married to me, or otherwise contractually obligated to act interested in my blog before I've even loaded any content onto it.

    2) You're bored enough to have read through every post in at least one category to get back to the beginning. You might be feeling a sense of accomplishment mixed with shame, kind of like when you eat an entire pizza by yourself. (I speak from experience as someone who's read the complete oeuvre of Hyberbole and a Half and considers any pizza under 16" a single-serving pie.)

    Which category you fall into is basically a function of how long ago I wrote this post:

    This graph doesn't help you in any way. I mostly just drew it in lieu of folding the two loads of laundry on the living room floor.