Sunday, April 19, 2009

Food Exchange - April 19th

What I sent
Chicken Tetrazzini
It is still not warm enough to send homemade potato salad with burgers, so the vote was made for chicken tetrazzini instead. I used the recipe from the Joy of Cooking, which starts with a creamed chicken base that can be used for a number of dishes including one of my favorites, chicken pot-pie.

For the creamed chicken
3 1/2 lbs. chicken parts or 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 stick unsalted butter (I use less than this)
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
2-3 tablespoons sherry
salt and ground white pepper

Place the chicken in a Dutch oven. Add the chicken stock. Add water to cover. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce until liquid barely bubbles. Partially cover and cook until the meat releases clear juices when pierced with a fork, 8-12 minutes for boneless, skinless chicken breast, 25-30 minutes for chicken parts. Remove the meat from the stock, allow to cool until it can be handled and shred. Skim the fat from the stock.

Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly for 1 minute. Add 2 cups of the chicken stock and whisk until smooth. Add half-and-half and again whisk until smooth. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking constantly. Remove the pan from the heat, scrape the insides of the pan with a rubber spatula and whisk vigorously to remove lumps. Stir in the cooked poultry along with the sherry. Season with salt and white pepper.

To turn in to Tetrazzini
1 1/2 tablespoons of butter
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
8 ounces spaghetti or fettuccini (I used slightly more since I had a lot of sauce and extra chicken)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

The original recipe also calls for 1/2 cup of slivered, toasted almonds, which my sister swears are great, but I did not add this time.

Saute the mushrooms in the butter, cook pasta according to package instructions, stir chicken mixture, pasta and mushrooms together. (Add almonds now, if desired.) Pour the mixture into a shallow, buttered baking dish, top with Parmesan cheese and bake at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes.

What I Received
Tomato and Broccoli Quiche with Spicy Sausage and Potato Soup
Pork Chops Yum-Yum

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Food Exchange - April 5 - Easter=easy

What I Sent
Rachael Ray's My Mama's Baked Fish from the Racheal Ray's 30-Minute Meals Comfort Foods cookbook
1 1/2 pounds cod fillets
cooking spray or a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
A few grinds fresh black pepper
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs (Panko is best)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
A palmful chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat over to 425 degrees F.
Spray a baking dish with cooking spray or wipe with a little olive oil. Rinse and dry fish and sprinkle with a little coarse salt. Combine lemon juice, mayonnaise, Old Bay seasoning and black pepper. Spread a very thin layer of mayonnaise over fish fillets. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and drizzle with butter (if you are feeling healthful, you can spray with a little Pam instead). Bake 20 minutes, until fish is opaque and flaky. Sprinkle with parsley.

I bought a big box of frozen cod, which ended up being cut in to long, thin pieces in the fashion of fish and chip shops. It worked out OK. The cod itself was really good. I have two-thirds of the box left and am trying to determine what to do with the rest. Have any good cod recipes that will support some strangely shaped fish?

Potatoes with Lemon and Parsley
I totally made this up, so don't really have any measurements. Chop some parsley and chives. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper and capers. Melt some butter and add some olive oil. Boil some whole baby red potatoes and smash each once with a fork. While hot, toss potatoes with butter, olive oil and lemon/parsley mixture. Serve warm.

Lesson learned - do not add lemon juice to parsley before it is sent. It totally cooks the parsley and turns it into yucky brown limpness.

What I Received
Macaroni Grill Creamy Basil Parmesan Chicken and Pasta - Hey, don't judge, it was Easter weekend. It was pretty good. The kids ate it up.
Chicken Divan

Monday, March 30, 2009

Survivor's Guilt

Layoffs. They happened. All around me.

At the company I am consulting at, they let a ton of people go. For some reason, I am still there, even as a consultant. I am boggled. I feel a weird mix of relief, guilt and giddiness.

I was feeling pretty good for a while. I was not listening to the radio or watching the news, content to bury myself in an audio book during my commute, rather than listen to NPR. I was even thinking of springing for the $100 to get my minivan detailed. Now, not so much. I will keep my $100 in the bank, thank you very much.

My husband works for General Motors. His boss told him he didn't have anything to worry about a few weeks ago. After Sunday's forced removal of the CEO, there seems to be a lot more uncertainty about the future of GM, and in turn my husband's job.

Even while I made it through today's cut at the company I am currently consulting at, I feel like the ax can come down at any moment. My employer has a bench and my boss has tried to convince me that I don't have anything to worry about, but I can't help myself. If my current consulting gig ends and they don't have another position for me, that might be the end for me. Even if they do keep me, working on contracts and the like, they have been asking consultants to take pay cuts.

We don't have enough in the bank. I have to get serious about spending less and saving more. More about that later.

At what point do we decide that it is no longer enough to be thankful that we have a job?

Food Exchange - March 30 - Away for the Weekend

I was away for the weekend, so am running a day behind on the food exchange. Also, I needed to send something seriously easy again, so here goes.

What I Sent
Italian Sausage
The best way, I think, to make Italian sausage is the way my grandmother does it. Brown sausage links in a skillet. Add water to come about half way up the sausage. Simmer and turn occasionally. When water evaporates, turn cooked links around in the sludgy bottom a few times until a sticky crust is formed.

Rachael Ray's Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes
There are no local basil this time of year, so I sent some jarred pesto along instead.

What I Received
Heavenly Pork Roast and Veggie Couscous
Tilapia and Veg in Parchment

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Food Exchange - March 22 - Just Getting it Done

We need to eat. I am sick and can't taste anything anyway. So, I made something easy.

What I Sent
Maple-Mustard Chicken Thighs
I used leg quarters which I deskinned. I am definitely of the camp that on the bone is better, tastier, juicier, but am not a big fan of skin, unless it is really crispy. I had a huge pack of chicken quarters in the freezer that I needed to use up, so away they go to others' homes. I feel guilty that I didn't provide local, organic, but as I said, they were in my freezer and not to use them would have been wasteful. I promise to be better.

Pasta with Blue Cheese Sauce
There are several recipes for blue cheese sauce on Recipezaar, but I didn't really follow one. Here is what I did.

  • Sauted shallots in olive oil, salted to allow them to sweat.
  • Added flour and made a white sauce of half-and-half and milk
  • Crumbled blue cheese in it and allowed it to melt.
  • Seasoned with white pepper, black pepper and marjoram (I would have liked to have had some fresh chives or parsley, but didn't so added some marjoram instead. Later I noticed that the chicken recipe had marjoram in it, so it was a happy coincidence). No additional salt was really needed. The salt from the cheese and that added to the green onions was enough.
  • I sent along some penne to toss with the sauce. Would also be excellent with gnocchi.
  • When I was in college, I ate at a restaurant that had a blue cheese pasta with grilled chicken and walnuts, so I toasted some walnuts in the microwave and sent them along.

What I Received
Kielbasa Stew
Burgundy Beef and Egg Noodles

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pity Lay Shredding - Starting Over with Level 2

I suck. Level 2 has thus far been a rocky road and it isn't just because of the plank position. I was moving along swimmingly. Well, as best as could be expected when starting such an endeavor. Level 2 kicked my butt. I dreaded starting each day. I would often finish feeling slightly dizzy, sitting on the floor, folded in half and panting. But, I was still doing it, and felt stronger, which felt great.

Then, I went away for the weekend. I dutifully brought along my weights, yoga mat and DVD, only to find out later that the DVD sleeve was empty. Wasted weekend. So, I figured, I would tack a few days on to the end of the 10 day cycle. I continued on. I was finally getting the hang of the dreaded squat-thrusts and was no longer sticking my butt up in the air during plank-jacks. Then, 4 days later, I came down with what seems to be a most resilient cold. It didn't matter that I have tried 3 over-the-counter cold medications. None of them have taken away the constant nose blowing and general malaise. Since I was dizzy just with the toll that level 2 placed on my body and was now dizzy whenever I got up off the couch, I deigned to not partake in level 2 for a few days. I am still sick, but am bound and determined that tomorrow will be the day. I am shredding, snot box or no.

I fear since I have not had continuous exposure to level 2 that re-engaging in this activity will be tough. It might very well be. I don't think that cumulative days really count. I feel like I need consistency also. So, I am starting over with level 2. I will be behind my shredding counterparts by a cycle, but feel I need to restart in order to reap the full benefits. I haven't seen the results of our fearless Shredding leader, Kristen, but I do have more energy. I run up the stairs and actually seem to need less sleep. So, I am keeping it up. I am determined to look as good as my husband this summer.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Kindergarten Conundrum

I thought it was tough when I had two kids in full-time day care and worked full time, pumping breast milk in the morning, at lunch, in the afternoon, driving home (you read that right!). I thought it was tough when I took a job with a longer commute, adding an hour on to my already hectic day. As it turns out, that was nothing compared to the confusion that ensued when my oldest started Kindergarten.

The miscellany of Kindergarten is getting me down, seriously.

My oldest is in Kindergarten and the youngest is still in pre-school, each with their own schedules, events and other crap I have to remember. Hat day, pajama day, bring in money for this, sign that, bring in a box to make a Leprechaun trap with.... it never ends! A constant flow of reminders, taped up signs, papers, the madness! THE MADNESS! They can't organize themselves enough to send a succinct list of items once a month, even once a week. Items dribble in from both ends every day of the week. The school has assemblies and tells the students things, trusting that they will tell us. My son is in Kindergarten! He can't even keep track of his gloves! So, when things come out that were discussed at an assembly, I then have to write notes or e-mail his teacher to discover the details. To top it off, I just discovered that the school posts items on their web site that aren't communicated any other way. WTF?!

I think it would be even daunting for a stay at home mother to navigate the piles of paper that enter my home. Oooorrrr, maybe that is my own wishful thinking. Perhaps she would keep a chart, perhap labeled in and out boxes by the door to the garage.

I want this to be a growing, experience-filled time for my son. It is partially that, but it often seems that kids are bogged down with all of the nit-picky items that plague us as adults, the miscellany. I am working hard to simplify life, but with the chaos of school on top of everything else we have going on, I feel like I am fighting a losing battle. I understand now why parents so look forward to summer.