Pig Out Night

Mr. Man and I have been on the Whole Life Challenge diet for four weeks now. We’ve been sticking with it and eating only good for you food, but we have some bonus points saved up and we’re going to shoot the whole wad tonight on some fried chicken strips, GRAVY (be still my heart), mashed potatoes, green beans with bacon, cole slaw, and Rice Krispie treats for dessert. Can we eat now????

The point of the “diet” isn’t to lose weight, it’s to eat healthy, leaving out all the most common foods that cause inflammation. Since I’m getting old and arthritic, I’ll have to admit that I really do feel better leaving out dairy, wheat, sugar, soy, chemicals….. but it’s not always easy. Why are all the best things in life bad for you?

You’d think that at least to ease the pain, one might really lose a lot of weight. Mr. Man has lost 16 pounds in four weeks. Me? Not even close. Is that fair? No! So I’m going to drown my sorrows in a glorious feast before getting back on the wagon tomorrow, and I’m not even going to feel bad about it.

It fact, I’m going to feel pretty darn good because Mr. Man’s specialty is fried chicken and gravy. The bonus of having parents raised in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri! So, I only have to make the sides dishes tonight!

I tried to buy a cole slaw kit in a bag. Yes I did. I’m that lazy! But sadly, I have to resort to making coleslaw from scratch. So since I actually have to make something, I’ll give you my recipe for coleslaw. In case you can’t find a kit in a bag either. Life is hard sometimes.

 

Asian Night

I don’t know about you, but when I go out for Asian food, I want VARIETY! I want the noodles, rice, a few different dishes, the whole megillah. Oh man, if my daughter-in-law is reading this, she just said, “HUH?”. She thinks I speak in some strange foreign language half the time.

OK Angela, “the whole megillah” means having it all, “the whole nine yards”, “the whole ball of wax”, “the whole shootin’ match”, “the whole shebang”. It has nothing to do with the cartoon character Magilla Gorilla, although he was pretty big. And you probably have no idea who Magilla Gorilla is anyway do you? Ah, that darn Generation Gap.

Anyway “megillah” is the Hebrew word for scroll. Reading from those scrolls on holy days was long and tedious. The “whole megilla”started out meaning a long, tedious, or complicated story. Then it also started being used to just mean the whole darn thing.

Now where was I? Oh yeah, Asian dinners. Anyway, last night the kids were coming for dinner so I thought I’d give it a shot. I managed three dishes, Broccoli Beef in Oyster Sauce, Chicken Lettuce Wraps, and Sumi Salad, with a side of steamed rice courtesy of the rice cooker.

Actual cooking is easy, it’s the prep work that sucks. But I got all my ducks in a row earlier in the day, and with Angela’s help we got dinner cooked in short order.

The rice cooker took care of the rice, so I didn’t have to think about that. Angela manned one skillet, fixing the chicken dish. I had broccoli beef going in another skillet. Or, I could have made the chicken and kept it warm in a crock pot, just stirring in the green onion before serving. That works too. You could even hold the broccoli beef warm for a while if you want to get real crazy and make another dish, like some pot stickers. But I wasn’t that ambitious. Maybe another day.

Sweet Potatoes

Holiday time has rolled around again. Time to prep for my standing assignment, sweet potatoes. No, I don’t mean yams. Grocery stores sometimes label them as yams, but they’re really sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes sound delicious. Yams sound like something you just yacked up. But whatever you call them, we’re cooking the taters that are purple outside and orange inside. The ones that are about 2″ in diameter work best in this dish, and try to get them fairly uniform in size so they cook at the same time. So, pick through that potato bin like it’s your job.

My sweet potato recipe comes from my Aunt Violet, who was my Dad’s older sister and my stand-in grandmother, since his mother died before I was born. She owned a little restaurant in Fowler, California for a while, and she was a really awesome cook. She taught me all about healthy eating. Fruit pies & her homemade jams & jellies contained fruit. Fruit is good for you. Hence her pies and jelly were health foods and must be eaten at every opportunity. Same goes for these sweet potatoes. Remember that under all the butter and sugar are sweet potatoes, which are very good for you, so you can feel good about shoveling them in.

Her sweet potatoes have spread to my Mom’s family, and to my husband’s family, who now require them at all holiday meals. Fortunately these are a dish best made ahead of time, so the sweet potatoes get to soak in all the tasty goodness of the syrup we cook them in. You can make them a day or two ahead of time, or even a month ahead and stick them in the freezer. Freezing doesn’t hurt a thing, in fact it might even make them better.

I bake them at home and transport them to family dinners in an electric roaster, to keep them warm until serving time. Two 9 X 13 pans full is enough for our big family dinners of about 35 people.

So, check out Aunt Violet’s sweet potato recipe. Somebody else better learn to make them because I can’t do it forever!

sweet-potatoes-done

 

All I Know About Asparagus

All I’ve been doing for weeks is working. No time to cook anything really fun, let alone post any recipes. But, I have a little time today so let’s talk about asparagus.

First, what do you look for when you’re trying to get the best asparagus?  Well, it depends on who you ask. Some say it doesn’t matter what size the stalks are, it’s all good. Just pick whatever size works best for what you’re going to use it for.

On the other hand, I’ve heard that asparagus spears have X number of fibrous strands running through them, no matter how thin or how thick. So the thin spears are mostly fiber, while the thick spears have more “meat” and actually cook up more tender. Personally, that’s been my experience. The last time I cooked skinny little asparagus it was like trying to eat twigs, so I’ve sworn off skinny asparagus for good.

On the other hand, when the bottoms of the spears get really thick and old, and turn white, does that mean they’re tough? That’s been my experience too but again, to each his own. I figure it’s like men. You don’t want the scrawny wiry little dude, you want the nice beefy guy, until he turns old and grey, then he’s not so good anymore. And you want spears that are firm, and not limp or wrinkled, with a tight and purplish tip. Yes, we’re still talking about asparagus.

To store asparagus, you can cut an inch off of the bottom of the spears, drop them into a jar with about an inch of water in the bottom, and put a plastic bag over the top. Or you can wrap them in a damp paper towel and put them in a plastic bag.

When it’s cooking time, most people line their asparagus up and cut off a little bit of the bottoms, so the spears are all the same size. I just snap off the tough part & don’t worry about uniformity. I hold the spear in the middle with one hand, hold the fat end in the other, and bend the spear until it snaps. In theory it will snap off where the stem is starting to get tough. That’s my plan anyway, and I’m sticking with it. It does waste more asparagus, which is expensive, so do whatever you want.

Types of asparagus? Well, there’s green, white, and purple. White asparagus is the geek version of green asparagus. It’s the same thing, tastes the same, it just never sees the light of day so it’s all white and pasty. Purple asparagus is a different variety, supposedly sweeter and more tender, but never having eaten any myself, I can’t confirm that.

Anyway, that’s all I know on the subject of asparagus. I make roasted/broiled asparagus pretty often, so you can check out my recipe if you have nothing better to do.

The Big Birthday Dinner

I did it. Bit the bullet and cooked “The Big Birthday Dinner” for Merl’s big day. Well, birthdays really aren’t all that exciting when you get past a certain point. I don’t remember where that point is, because we passed it soooo long ago. But, we try and drum up a little enthusiasm anyway because having another birthday is better than the alternative, and if nothing else it’s an excuse to pig out.

You always have to consider your audience, so I made this dinner heavy on the meat and starch. The only thing that would have made him happier would have been gravy, but I couldn’t figure out how to work it in there. There’s always next year.

Merl loves him some pork ribs, so I we had some of those. Future daughter-in-law doesn’t like pork, so I cooked a couple game hens in the old Showtime Rotisserie oven. That way Merl didn’t have to spend much time at the grill, and both my ovens were otherwise occupied, and I was already at my multi-tasking limit.

He loves baked beans, so we had those. Others would rather have potatoes, so we also had some hasselback potatoes too. Thought I had green beans but didn’t, so we had corn on the cob and some broccoli, just so there would be an actual veggie in there somewhere. We did have salad with creamy cilantro dressing, which is kind of like a Pollo Loco salad. AND, I made some Parmesan rolls from scratch. Then we topped that all off with some chocolate waffles for dessert. Whew! I don’t think I should have to cook for at least a week after all that. I may never get the kitchen clean again.

I’ve already posted my rib recipe and the recipe for my favorite dry rub, which I used on the game hens. Corn I just boil for ten minutes, then brush the ears with butter and sprinkle with seasoned salt. Broccoli gets steamed, then topped with butter and seasoned salt. No magic there. But I’ll give you recipes for baked beans, hasselback potatoes, parmesan loaves, creamy cilantro dressing, and chocolate waffles.

Enjoy! I’m taking a nap!!!

Where’d Mom Go?

Well, it’s been a week, that’s about all I can say. Definitely not a week for cooking. We did manage to eat, but not much to brag about and nothing you’d give someone a recipe for and no time to post anything anyway.

But it’s the weekend! Yay! Time to take a breath!!! The kids will be here all day, so there will be some cooking going on. I’ll be posting the recipe for some awesome beef kebobs, but we get to eat them first. Sorry! How else can I post a picture?

I did make some yummy fried rice the other night. Fried rice is the reason we love teppanyaki, right? Especially when it involves BACON! I had some leftover grilled pork tenderloin so I just threw that in and called it a meal. You could put some teriyaki chicken in there, or just add more bacon:)

fried rice

Reality Check

Mr. Man wanted to go to the grocery store with me the other day. Silly me, I thought he just wanted an outing with the wife, a little togetherness, a little bonding over the mundane chores of daily life.

So I was happily cruising through the store thinking, “Well, isn’t this nice?”, when I looked down, and a slab of baby back ribs had somehow magically jumped into the shopping cart. Ah, now the veil was lifted and all became clear. So much for true love.

So I fixed awesome, man pleasing, bbq pork ribs for dinner last night. You can use regular ribs, but I like the baby backs because they have a higher sauce to meat ratio and the sauce is yummy, a little Texas meets Asia flavor.

These are great for parties. You can get them prepped ahead of time, then finish them up on the grill at the last minute. They’re falling-off-the-bone tender, and sticky good. I’ve tried lots of ways to fix pork ribs, but these are the best by far.

Made some roasted cauliflower too. Merl prefers his dripping with cheese sauce, but he said it was pretty good and ate it all, so I’ll call that a win. Besides, he got his ribs so veggies were my choice. Mashed potatoes weren’t a very colorful addition, but today begins the eight week Whole Life Challenge, and white potatoes are forbidden, so it was my last chance!

pork rib dinner

Here’s To Eating Out!

I haven’t had to cook for two whole days!!! That’s just the best ever. Dinner out with friends, an invite to Aunt Faye’s for dinner with the cousins…I was on a real roll there for a while!

Sadly, I had to cook last night, but we just grilled some salmon with sides of zucchini and pilaf. Nothing exciting, except pilaf is our son’s kryptonite. He swears, no matter how hard he tries, he can’t make it. He’s a really good cook, so this makes no sense. It’s pretty a much no-brainer, foolproof side dish in my book. But maybe not. So I’m posting how I make pilaf just for Jace. One more time, with feeling. If this doesn’t do it, I guess he’ll just have to come to Mom’s house for his pilaf fix.

Roast Your Veggies!

Mr. Man is not a member of the “Clean Plate Club” when it comes to veggies, unless I roast them. Then its true love. The veggies, not me. Although I’m sure he has visions of me slowly roasting over an open fire from time to time.

Pretty much every veggie just seems to get better if you roast it to sweet carmelized goodness. Last night I made a Roasted Veggie Medley of what I had in the fridge: carrots, zucchini, onions & added some potatoes. There are no rules. You can leave out the potatoes, or use sweet potatoes, or add some bell pepper, or cauliflower, whatever floats your boat.

With some Baked Breaded Chicken, it was mighty tasty. Some prep time, but then nothing to do but wait while it cooks. Yummmmm.

baked chicken and veggies