Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sorry I'm a Lazy Butt

Lunch: Bacon Mac and Cheese and Canned Pineapple
Dinner: Russian Chicken, Buttered Noodles and Green Beans

Ok, so I’ve been very bad of late and haven‘t posted for a while… But in my defense it was spring break. Can you forgive me?

No? Oh well, can’t please everybody.

The weather is lovely again and everything is in bloom which means that I’m getting no sleep at night because both my hubby and my dog have allergies which cause them to snore. Yes, that’s right. My dog has seasonal allergies; we give him benedryl. We give him lots of benedryl. He gets 4 wrapped up in a piece of cheese every night (so he won’t spit them out). I feel bad drugging him like that, afterall, 2 knock me out for the night and I’m groggy the next day. I guess it’s just further proof that my dog is, in reality, a horse. Too bad you can’t put breath-right strips on a dog…

The warm weather is bringing more than just sneezing fits… it brings out the exhibitionist frat boys. On the way to the bus yesterday I saw a shirtless frat boy. Ok, I saw lots of shirtless frat boys, but this one caught my eye because he was swinging a large sledge hammer. (In case you’re wondering, no he was not a part of the frat I cook for, thank goodness). Swinging a large sledge hammer, shirtless, in your front yard is strange enough, but even stranger… he was using it to beat the poo out of a large tire. He would swing the hammer, the tire would bounce and then he’d hit it again with the hammer. Over and over. I’m not entirely sure what his motivation was. Perhaps the tire angered him? I mean, despite the fact that he was clearly swinging that hammer with all his might, it didn’t do anything to the tire. The tire just bounced a little and remained intact and unharmed. There were also several of his brothers sitting out in the yard watching him. Maybe he lost a bet… The strangeness of frat boys will never cease to amaze me.

I’m not making any new recipes this week for the guys, just a bunch of tried and true ones that you already have the recipes for. I decided that I couldn’t be bothered last week to research new recipes and come up with a whole new meal plan and grocery list. So I went with the easy stuff, what I knew worked. Call me lazy, but hey, it was spring break. So this week I’ll be giving you some of the recipes I tried out last week for Tyler and I. These will be more family-friendly sizes. The one I’m giving you today is a modification on a recipe I found in one of my cookbooks. The recipe was for lemon-thyme chicken, but I didn’t have any boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I had some boneless pork chops. I was originally going to make braised pork chops… but those took too long. The recipe definitely needed modification anyway. It called for too much lemon. You wouldn’t want a really lemony sauce for pork chops. so this sauce is lovely with just a hint of lemon. The best part… it’s low fat and it takes next to no time to make. Pair it with some brown rice or barley and a salad and voila a delicious, healthy dinner on your table in under 30 minutes. Just call me Rachel Ray (without the weird voice… and I never say yum-o or EVOO)

Skillet Pork Chops with Lemon Thyme Pan Sauce
serves 4

4 Boneless Loin Chops, ½ inch thick
3 tbs Flour
½ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Pepper
½ tsp Garlic Powder
A pinch of Cayenne Pepper (just a little kick)
2 tsp Olive Oil (EVOO… just kidding, you should cook with regular olive oil and save the “EVOO” for salads and dressings)
1 tbs Butter
½ tsp dried Thyme
1 cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 tbs Lemon Juice

Combine flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder in a small dish. Remove 5 tsp of mixture and set aside. Coat both sides of the pork chops with the flour mixture. In a non-stick skillet, heat olive oil. Cook the pork chops in oil for 6-8 minutes on each side, turning once. Remove pork chops and cover.

In the same pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add thyme and the flour mixture that was set-aside. Stir it with a whisk to get rid of any lumps. Allow the flour mixture to cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add chicken broth and lemon juice, stirring constantly and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve over pork chops.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tyler is soo Totally Lame

Proof that my hubby is totally lame: He apparently has a debilitating fear of landlords. He claims that talking to landlords on the phone gives him mini panic attacks and I’m better at it any way. At least those were his excuses as to why I should try to haggle with our new potential landlord to bring down the price of the rent he’s charging. This from a guy who works in journalism. I thought journalists were supposed to be good at talking to people and getting information and all that? Well, I argued that he’s “much better at cleaning our really messy bedroom” than I am and going into our really messy bedroom gives me mini panic attacks. So, he said he’d clean the bedroom if I talked to the landlord. Well I talked to him; I even got him to lower the rent by $50, and yet our bedroom remains dirty. I think I totally got gypped. Sorry, that might not be totally P.C., I think I got totally screwed. He didn’t even clean the bathroom this weekend and I helped him clean the living (both of which are his responsibilities). Hmm… perhaps the Playstation should have remained broken… Maybe I should pull a page out of my dad’s book and put it up until all his chores are done.

The first official day of spring was this past Saturday, and it was beautiful. It was sunny and blue skies all day long with a balmy 75 degrees. Today it was a not exactly balmy 48 degrees and gray and rainy. Bleh. It’s supposed to be beautiful again tomorrow though. With all this week off, I was really looking forward to taking the dog on long walk everyday. Instead I hid inside and flipped back and forth between Star Trek, The Next Generation and Anthony Bourdain. Woot. At least it was a perfect day to try out my new recipe. I have several recipes I’m looking to try this week and one of them was potato soup. I love rich creamy potato soup, but it’s so calorie laden… Well, I came up with this lighter version which is perfect for a damp rainy night. To make it real loaded baked potato soup (and a little healthier) I added some cooked, cut-up broccoli florets to mine as well as the cheese and bacon. But, it definitely stands well on it’s own and would be good paired with a salad. (No, Tyler didn’t eat any broccoli with his).

Loaded Baked Potato Soup
serves 4

3 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cubed
½ a large Onion, chopped
3 cloves Garlic, minced
3 cups Chicken Broth (approximate)
½ cup Fat Free Sour Cream
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste
½ lb Turkey Bacon, cooked and crumbled
Shredded Cheddar Cheese, Chopped Chives, Cooked Broccoli Florets as Toppings

Heat a little olive oil over medium heat in the bottom of a large soup pot. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently until onions are soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook for another minute or 2. Turn the heat up to medium high and add in cubed potatoes. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in just enough chicken broth to barely cover the potatoes and bring to a boil. Cover and lower the heat and allow to simmer until potatoes are fork tender, approximately 15-20 minutes.

Remove the pot from heat. Mash the cooked potatoes lightly with a potato masher. Remove approximately half of the potato chunks and set aside. Using a blender or an immersion blender, blend the remaining potato mixture until smooth, add back in the chunks. Stir in the sour cream. Serve hot with shredded cheese, crumbled bacon and your favorite toppings.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Busy Week

Sooo… I’m sorry it’s been a couple days since I’ve posted. It’s been a very busy couple days.

To start, the concert was excellent. Our seats were so-so but I can’t complain too much because they were free. Michael Franti was very entertaining and very energetic. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a grown man bounce for an hour straight. John Mayer is an excellent guitar player, but I don’t really understand why people find him all that attractive. He makes the strangest faces when singing; he looked like he was in pain. We wouldn’t have been able to tell what kind of faces he made from our seats, but they had an enormous screen behind him that would do close-ups on his face. All I can say is eeefft. There was also a teenage boy in front of us who was there with his mom. You’d think the kid was at a heavy metal concert instead of John Mayer. He was standing up and head-banging… to Heartbreak Warfare. Yeah… not normal. But all in all it was a very good night.

Tyler almost lost a very dear friend this week. It was touch and go for a while, but it appears his dearest friend has made a recovery and will pull through. This friend, of course, is his PS3. While in the middle of killing Nazi zombies, it just stopped. It gave a feeble hum and then blinked the yellow light of death. Tyler was frantic. He spent the better part of last week researching possible problems and solutions on the internet. The PS3 apparently has problems with overheating. When it overheats, it can cause the solder on the hard drive to melt and the hard drive to pull away from whatever it was connected to. Sony will fix the problem… for $150 plus shipping and handling. Oh and they will get it back to you within only 90 days. The thought of being without his friend for 90 days caused Tyler to do something drastic, he decided to try and fix it himself. There are, apparently, detailed videos on just how to do this on you tube. But, Tyler isn’t exactly handy… When something breaks he asks me to come and take a look at it (because I know anything about riding lawn mowers…). When I told my dad about Tyler’s plans, he offered to help. So Tyler and I headed up to mom and dad’s this weekend and they attempted to fix it. There was much sweating and stressing and talk of needing to imbibe to help with the nerves. I guess it was a very precise and delicate procedure requiring the removal of many screws. In the end, they fixed it and all seems to be back to normal. Tyler celebrated by having his friend come over with his PS3 and they set two TVs up in the living room so they could kill zombies together.

This coming week is spring break, and I am off for a week. While the thought of sleeping in and not having to deal with traffic is nice, I really hate not having anything constructive to do. Sure there are things I can do around the house, but it isn’t quite the same. I think it stems from all the time I spent unemployed after Tyler and I got married. It also doesn’t help that I’m waiting to hear about an application I put in. Keep your fingers crossed for me. As if waiting on an application weren’t enough, we’re also waiting to hear about this house we want to rent. As much as I hate packing and moving, I love changing stuff around and redecorating. I’m having daydreams about how I would position furniture and decorate. (I never said I was normal).

I do have a recipe for you. I’m going to do my best to keep recipes coming this week, mostly because there’s a whole bunch that I want to try while I’m at home and have time. I came up with this recipe because enchiladas are tasty and delicious but take waaay to much time to roll (esp. when you’re making them in bulk) and they just end up falling apart when you pull them out of the pan anyway. So I thought… why not make it in layers like a Mexican lasagna, and why not add frozen corn and black beans because you have some stray frozen corn and black beans. The result was a cheesy delicious and filing concoction that I will most definitely be making again, not just for the guys but at home as well. I would like to try it with chicken or perhaps some ground turkey.

Mexican Lasagna
Serves 25

7 lbs Ground Beef
3 cans Black Beans, drained and rinsed
3 ½ cups Frozen Corn
8-10 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
4 ½ cups Water
3 tbs Chili Powder
1 1/2 tbs Dried Oregano Leaves
1 tbs Ground Cumin
5 cans Diced Chilies
8 cloves Garlic, minced
120 oz Tomato Sauce
24-30 Corn Tortillas, 6 inches in diameter
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Brown ground beef and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat and season with salt and pepper; drain. Add frozen corn and black beans. Meanwhile in a large sauce pan, combine the tomato sauce, water, chili powder, cumin, diced chilies salt and pepper. Cover and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Spoon a small amount of sauce in the bottom of 2 baking pans. Top with a layer of corn tortillas, overlapping slightly. Top tortillas with a layer of ground beef, another layer of sauce and a layer of cheese. Repeat. Top with a final layer of tortillas, sauce and the remaining cheese. Heat, uncovered for 20 minutes or until sauce is hot and bubbly and the cheese is melty and beginning to brown. Serve with sour cream.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Luck o' the Irish

Lunch: Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
Dinner: Beef and Beef Irish Stew and Bread

After yesterday’s bread debacle, today has seemed like a breeze. Perhaps I have the luck of the Irish with me. (I did wear green, the fear of being pinched at the frat house was too great) I got here, made sandwiches and soup, threw together some stew and cut up the bread I got from Wal-mart this morning. So far there have been no major mishaps, snafus or concerns. Right now I’m just sitting around waiting for the stew to be done enough for me to leave it on warm for the next several hours. In fact I should be done and on the road by around 2:30. That’s a record for me. Of course, I don’t usually start dinner until 2 most days because I don’t want it to end up soggy or gross from sitting in a warming oven for 3 hours. But tonight’s dinner is stew and bread. I’m fairly sure it won’t hurt the stew (or the bread) to sit around for awhile.

I was planning on making cookies today if there was going to be time. While I do happen to have plenty of time, I find I’m rather short on eggs. Apparently the guys have gotten into the milk, the eggs and the mozzarella cheese. I guess they were hungry for omelets last night? I don’t really mind not having to make cookies (it gives me time to write this), but I know there are going to be some very disappointed guys this week. They get very up in arms over desserts. I have a feeling someone will be tarred, feathered and run out of town tonight when it’s discovered that there will be no cookies this week. I hope they take pictures.

Beef and Beer Irish Stew
Serves 25

12 lbs Stew Meat
15 Carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
8-10 lbs Potatoes, roughly chopped
2 med Onions, roughly chopped
24 oz Tomato Paste
8 cloves Garlic, Crushed
2 quarts Beef Stock
4 ½ cups Dark Beer (Guinness or Amber Bock)
1 tbs Thyme
1 cup Flour
Vegetable Oil

Preheat oven to 300. On the stove, heat oil in a large dutch oven. Mix salt and pepper with flour and dust the stew meat. Brown the stew meat on all sides in the hot oil. You may need to do this in 2 batches. Remove meat and add onion, garlic and tomato paste. Sauté onions until tender, about 5 minutes. Add beer and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Return the meat to the dutch oven and stir in the beef stock, potatoes and carrots. Cover tightly and bake for 2 to 3 hours or until meat is tender. Serve with rye bread (or soda bread, if you dare).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Irish Soda Bread Fail

Lunch: Beef Nachos
Dinner: Brats, Baked Beans and Salad

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m excited. I don’t know why, I just love St. Patrick’s Day. I even spent one in Boston once, of course I was under age and it was cold so we just stayed in my friend’s dorm room and played drinking games (with legally obtained orange juice ;-) wink wink), but hey, I was in Boston on St. Patrick‘s Day. Tomorrow, I’ll be going to a John Mayer Concert. It’s been a while since I attended a “real” concert or at least one where I know who the band is and am familiar with most of their songs. I’d like to go to more concerts, but they’re so darned expensive. The only reason we’re even going to this one is because I humiliated myself on the radio to win free tickets (although, I do believe I had a hilarious Oprah impersonation if I do say so myself). Because the concert is so late (it doesn’t start until 8pm) I’ll be taking Thursday morning off. I’m a little nervous about how that is going to go down. I approved it through the steward and the VP, and told them I would have something they could just throw out and help themselves. But that’s the problem… the guys are, by nature, greedy little piggies sometimes. If you put something out where they have to help themselves the first few will load up on all the good stuff and by the time 12:30-1 comes around, there’s nothing left but the rejects. Because of this I have to be careful to set out either an enormous amount so much so that they can’t possibly eat it all (and then they do anyway) or I have to give them a very defined serving size. Well, I can’t exactly tell them they can have 2 slices of cheese and 4 slices of meat; I won’t be there and I’m not going to count meat slices. I can just see the first guy coming up to the counter and plopping an inch high stack of ham on his sandwich and walking off. Then later some poor hungry guy just getting out of classes goes to make a sandwich and finds that all that’s left is lettuce and tomato slices. I wonder if I portion out the meat in serving sizes between waxed paper like they do at Subway if that will work… hmmm…

Today I will be attempting to make Irish soda bread. I’m making it for tomorrow, but because I’m hoping to skip out early I’m going to attempt the bread today. Making bread is rather terrifying, and yeast just gives me the heebee jeebies (it looks like germs plus it’s alive and smells weird). Of course, Irish soda bread doesn’t require yeast, but I’m still afraid I’ll end up with hard flat disks full of raisins. I’ve never had Irish soda bread before, but it has raisins and caraway in it which seems like a very odd combination. However, I think the raisins will go nicely with the beef and Guinness stew I’m making. No, I’m not making corned beef and cabbage because a. corned beef is not actually Irish and I’m going for a little more authenticity b. corned beef is expensive and c. while I happen to love it, corned beef and cabbage is an acquired taste and I’m not sure the frat boys will appreciate it. Ok, so it’s really more reasons b and c, but corned beef isn’t an authentic Irish dish; it became popular with Irish immigrants in America because it was cheap (back then). Besides, the guys will probably be roaring drunk tomorrow and it’s all too easy to throw around pieces of potato corned beef. It’s much harder to throw stew, not that they won’t try.

*** Hours Later***

So… I won’t be serving Irish soda bread to the guys tomorrow. I made the mistake of following the recipe. I should have gone with my instinct. I made 4 loaves of bread that was both bland and way to caraway-ie at the same time. The recipe didn’t even call for salt. I knew that was a mistake. I’ve forgotten to put salt in bread before to rather nasty results, but I thought perhaps they left the salt out because of some it would have some negative effect on the bread… I should have known better. I also thought that 3 tablespoons of caraway for small loaves of bread seemed a little overkill. Sigh, all that work for nothing. Now I’m going to have to get something to replace the icky bread which means a grocery store stop in the morning. Meh, getting up early is totally lame, especially when I know I’m going to be up way past my bedtime tomorrow night. Woe is me! (ok… that may have been a little melodramatic). So, I was planning on giving you the recipe for Irish Soda Bread, but I really don’t think you want it. Perhaps you know a better one or can find a better one out there and can share it with me. Eh, every chef has those little fail moments, even me.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Cheese Incident, Part Deux

Lunch: Corn Dogs, Tater Tots and Fresh Veggies
Dinner: Chicken Stir Fry and Rice

So, did you all survive the time change? I did, but just barely. I remembered to set my alarm clock forward an hour and then promptly forgot to set the alarm. So I woke up this morning to the cat licking me (weird in and of itself because the cat never licks) only to find that if I hurried, I would still miss the bus and had just enough time to drive to work. Bah humbug! Oh well, I suppose it isn’t all bad as now I can go check out the new Goodwill by my sister’s. I’m a Goodwill junkie. I love shopping there especially when it’s in the swanky part of town because then I’m more likely to find good books. George (the cat) deserves a treat though, he’s saved me from many a morning disaster by waking me up. Good Mr. Kitty! Although, he frequently is guilty of aiding and abetting my lateness by being cute and cuddly in the mornings. Bad Mr. Kitty! (I honestly think he does it on purpose. He snuggles up close and purrs just at the moment when I know I can’t hit the snooze anymore and have to get up. How does he know?)

So… the cheese incident has come (hopefully) to a close. I received a letter of apology from each of the two perpetrators. I honestly wasn’t expecting such a courtesy. It ticked me off a bit when I found it mostly because I don’t like to be accused of mishandling the funds when I’m working so hard to be frugal and still create an appealing and diverse menu. After blowing off a little steam, I realized it was actually really funny. Who, other than a crunchy granola vegan, honestly complains about too much cheese? If I ever decide to do stand up comedy, you can bet this will be a part of my act. Perhaps I should thank them for being such a wonderful target of interest and ridicule for my blog (and imaginary future comedy career). I do like that the steward actually did something. It seems kind of novel to have someone effectual who is on your side (and not talking smack behind your back). Good Mr. Steward! It certainly does make my job here a little brighter.

Speaking of a little brighter, do you think I’m too dark? My dad (who has already let me know I will be receiving no letter of apology for this) thinks this blog is too dark. I’m not entirely sure what he means by this. I tried to get him to explain what he means by “dark” but he really couldn’t. Ok, sure I do have a rather sarcastic sense of humor, I’ll admit to that. (But, where could I have gotten that from DAD? Cough cough mumble mumble mumble) I’m not advocating the clubbing of baby seals nor am I (at least I think I’m not) woe-is-me-everything-is-horrible emo. I don’t do bright and bubbly. But, just a week ago he was posting on Facebook how funny he thought this blog is. Perhaps he’s just getting senile in his old age… (How’s that for dark?)

Here’s my latest whiteboard creation…

Thought you might like to know.

The following recipe is one I whipped up for an impromptu St. Patrick’s Day family get-together this past Saturday. I wanted to make something sugar free that was still tasty and St. Patrick’s Day themed as well as being relatively quick and easy to whip up. Not a small order. So, this is what I came up with. Sure, there are more sophisticated desserts out there, but this fit the what I was going for, and turned out tasty. (Although I did have to make a minor change from the one I actually made. Apparently, sugar-free cool whip doesn’t like to be mixed with Bailey’s).

Irish Cream Chocolate Trifle
serves 8

Sugar Free Angel Food Cake
1 small packet Sugar Free Instant Chocolate Pudding
4 cups Sugar Free Cool Whip, thawed
1/3 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream
1 ½ cup Skim Milk
Dark Chocolate Shavings or curls

Mix the pudding and the milk together and whip with a whisk for 2 minutes or until the pudding thickens. Fold in 1 cup of cool whip. Cut cake into thin slices. Dip half the slices into the Bailey’s so that the cake soaks up some of the liquid but doesn’t become too soggy. Arrange the slices on the bottom of a trifle bowl. Layer half of the chocolate pudding and half of the remaining whip cream over the cake. Repeat with remaining cake slices, pudding and whip cream. Top with dark chocolate shavings or curls. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Idleness of March

Lunch: Pepperoni and Cheese Calzones and Pineapple
Dinner: Pulled Pork Tacos, Salad and Rice
Dessert: Rice Crispy Treats

Soooo….. nothing much happening today. It is gray and drizzly and rather typically March in Georgia. I took advantage of a dry spell in the middle of the day to take a very long walk (mostly because the internet at work kept going out and I had nothing better to do). Sadly, I missed the bus this morning because of bad traffic and had to drive to work. I hate driving to work. I like leaning back in the comfy bus seats and getting work done. I’ll admit that I usually do my blog writing and compile my grocery lists on the bus. It’s the only time that I’m free from distractions (ie the internet) enough to concentrate on what I’m writing. Yes, grocery lists require a lot of concentration. I need to make sure I get every ingredient and side dish on the list otherwise I will forget that I need it. Woe to the chef that forgets to purchase sour cream for taco night. Frat boys love their sour cream (apparently they can do without the cheese… hint hint, nudge nudge, know what I mean?). There is some talk about getting internet on the bus… I’m not sure I support this, my grocery lists will suffer horribly. I certainly can’t do anything work related when I get home at night, I have TV to watch. Not that I always want to watch TV, there are mandatory TV nights in our house; it changes with the “seasons”. My hubby is a huge TV and movie buff. Honestly, I could do without TV (I never had cable when I lived alone), but if I plan on spending any time with him at night, I have to just suck it up and watch some shows. I’ve been thinking, that as retaliation, I should make him come to a bead show with me (I like to make jewelry). But, then there was the dance class incident, so maybe that’s not such a great idea. Besides, going to a bead show would just want to make me spend money. Eh, at least I draw the line at watching baseball with him (unless I need help falling asleep).

One exciting and sort of strange thing did happen today… Sunchips posted on my blog. Yeah, the company that makes those crackery chips. How did they know about my blog? Why did they bother to post? Can I get free Sunchips? I prefer the cheddar flavor.

I made pulled pork tacos for the guys tonight, and they turned out awesome. Of course, I haven’t gotten feed back from the boys yet so I’m not going to go so far as to say they are a hit with the 12 and under (mentally) crowd. But, I tried the pork and it was killer. It is sweet and spicy and soo easy. I thought about taking the pork home with me. Of course, I’m not sure what the guys would have thought about having cheese and lettuce tacos. I think the Mexican blend cheese might be “highly processed”. But if you’re looking for a different twist on taco night, this is definitely something to try.

Spicy Shredded Pork
Serves 26

12 lbs Pork Shoulder
1 tbs Ground Cumin
1 1/2 tbs Chili Powder
2 Onions, quartered
3 cans Diced Green Peppers
½ cups White Vinegar
½ cup Brown Sugar
1 pinch Cayenne Pepper
1 scant tbs Salt
2 tsp Black Pepper
7 cloves Garlic

Put all ingredients except the pork shoulder in a food processor and blend until it is smooth and there are no chunks; reserve ½ cup of mixture. With a fork, pork several holes all over the pork shoulder. Rub the mixture all over the pork. Place the pork in a deep pan, roaster or crock pot; fill the bottom with 1-2 inches of water. Cover the roast tightly and bake at 300 degrees until fork tender, approximately 5 hours. If cooking in an oven or roaster oven, you will need to monitor the amount of water in the bottom of the pan to be sure it doesn’t get too low. You will also need to turn the roast once every hour. If you’re using a crock pot, cook on high for 5-6 hours. When the roast is fork tender, remove it and shred it with 2 forks. Take 2-2 cups of the liquid from the bottom of the pan and skim off the fat; add in the reserved sauce and mix with the shredded pork. Serve warm on tortillas with your favorite taco toppings.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cheese Platitudes

Lunch: Chicken Nuggets, French Fries, Carrot and Celery and Ranch Dip
Dinner: Spaghetti Burgers, Pasta Salad and Salad

Word to the wise, don’t piss off the chef. If you’re drunk and feel the need to write a treatise on how there’s too much cheese in the fridge on the whiteboard outside the kitchen, don’t. Just don’t. Unless you really want to piss off the chef and she then decides to no longer serve cheese. You might find yourself being chased down by your fraternity brothers with pitchforks when they find out there will be no more bacon (or chicken) mac and cheese. Yes, that’s right, on coming into work today I found a drunken message on the whiteboard outlining why one brother thought there was an excessive amount of cheese in the fridge. Really? Of all the possible culprits… you choose cheese? Of course, I was just a little miffed about the whole thing. I especially liked the notes after each platitude saying “CHEF DO NOT ERASE”. They put little boxes around them to make sure they were noticed. The best part, though, was that in each bulleted point they made sure to point out the expiration date of the cheese and whether or not it was processed. They even underlined the fact that the mozzarella I buy is “highly processed”. Ok… at least none of the cheese was expired. They might have room to complain if there was a fridge full of expired cheese that didn’t get used. But complaining that there were several pounds of cheese in the fridge and that some of it was “highly processed”? I thought I was cooking for a fraternity, not some sorority with recovering processed cheese addicts. Why is there so much cheese (and cheese product) in the fridge? Because that’s how much the guys eat. I didn’t erase the sign; I brought the steward down to see the board. He seemed a little flabbergasted. Seriously? Cheese? He apologized and promised to thoroughly shame the culprit. I kind of wish I knew who it was so I could throw Cheez Whiz at him. I bet he would cry.

I had another surprise today on coming into work. All of the chicken noodle soup I made yesterday was gone. Food being gone is not necessarily news around here, but you have to understand, I made a substantial amount of chicken noodle soup. And, it wasn’t just any kind of chicken noodle soup, homemade chicken noodle soup with homemade broth. I spent all day boiling chicken and vegetables, then picking the chicken thighs and cutting up new vegetables etc etc and ended up with around 28 quarts worth of chicken soup. In case you’re wondering, that’s around 7 gallons of soup. It wasn’t even very soupy as it was chock full of chicken and noodles (and corn and carrots). When I talked to the steward he said that everyone loved the chicken soup, and that they thought it was magic because they kept going back for more and… finding more. It was like magic soup. I tried the soup, and it was pretty magical. Homemade chicken soup takes some time to make, but it blows that mushy canned stuff right out of the water. In fact, my homemade chicken noodle soup is the reason my husband eats soup today (not to brag or anything…). Of course, there are always some dissenters in the group. Apparently the guy who wrote the cheese platitudes didn’t like the soup. How much more natural and unprocessed can you get than homemade chicken noodle soup?

Kristen’s Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves a whole lot of people, a small army or 23 really hungry frat boys

1 ½ gallon water
1 ½ gallon chicken broth
18 lbs chicken thighs
1 tbs Lawry’s Seasoning Salt
3 tbs Old Bay Seasoning
6 Bay Leaves
1 tbs black pepper
1 tbs ground sage
1 tbs celery seed
16 medium carrots
1 bunch of celery
3 large onions
3 lbs of corn
3 lbs egg noodles

Put the chicken in a large stock pot and cover with chicken broth and water. Stir in Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, Old Bay Seasoning, bay leaves, ground sage, black pepper and celery seed. Cut 5 carrots, celery (celery leaves and all) and 1 onion into large chunks and put in the pot. Bring the broth to a boil and then cover and simmer for 1 hour. Using tongs, remove chicken from the broth and set aside to cool. Strain the vegetables out of the broth, and then skim the grease off the top of the broth. (Note: You can make the broth a day ahead and put it in the fridge at this point. The grease will harden over night and you can skim the hardened grease off the top easily). While the chicken is still warm, remove the skin. If you’re having trouble getting the skin off the chicken, warm it up in the microwave for a minute. Pick all of the chicken off the bones and shred it. Chop the remaining carrots and onions into bite-sized pieces.

After you have skimmed the grease from the broth, put it back on the stove. Bring the broth to a boil and add the noodles, carrots and onions. Cook the noodles for the time indicated in the directions. Add in the shredded chicken and frozen corn. You may need to add a few extra quarts of water at this point and adjust the seasonings. Simmer for 10-15. Serve with warm bread.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Bus Battle

Lunch: Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches
Dinner: Meatloaf, Baked Potatoes and Green Beans

Today may very well be one of the most beautiful days of the year. It was a balmy 68 and sunny today. Days like this are rare in good ol’ Georgia. Generally it goes from being relatively cold to being really hot in a matter of days. Therefore, you can’t take days like today for granted. Back in my college days, on beautiful days like today, I would cut class and find a grassy spot to stretch out on and revel in the beautiful weather. It seems the students at Tech decided to follow my lead. While out for my daily walk, 5 of the 8 frat houses I passed had moved their living rooms out onto the front lawn. I’m not kidding either; they dragged chairs and couches and coffee tables out onto their lawns and were lounging (many of them, rather unfortunately, shirtless… Not a thing you want to see on a bunch of pale Tech boys). There were countless games of Frisbee and random lounging in the sun on every available grassy spot. There was also the usual contingent of boys in hats playing guitar. You can’t walk across a college campus on a sunny day and not find a boy in a hat playing guitar for the ladies. I’m fairly sure it’s written in some international college guideline that you can’t be an accredited college without at least one guitar-playing-hat-wearing guy.

While the day was beautiful, it didn’t start off so pretty for me. Usually my morning bus ride is uneventful. People either sleep, read or fiddle with some electronic device for an hour. Rarely is there any talking or noise of any kind aside from the occasional clack of keys. In the afternoons, a few people might chat or talk on the phone, but in general people respect each other’s right to not be bothered. This morning however a man and a woman broke the silence. The man was texting and had his ringer on (quite possibly the world’s most annoying ringer too, it was some stupid rap song) so every minute or so, it went off. The woman sitting next to him asked him to turn the sound off. Rather than acquiesce to this simple request, he shouted at the top of his lungs “I can text if I want b*tch!”. Now, the woman could have changed seats and moved away from him or she could have kept her trap shut and left him alone. Of course, she didn’t do either. No, she started shouting back at him at the top of her lungs. They yelled at each other like a couple of crude children letting each other know where they could stick what and what they thought of the other’s mother. I plugged in my headphones and turned them up, but, unfortunately, they were right behind me and there was no escaping it. The rest of the bus patrons were looking back and shaking there heads; it being rather obvious that there was no shutting the two of them up. Finally, the woman moved to the front of the bus, but the guy didn’t shut up for the entire bus ride. I would have given anything for a tranquilizer gun. I will never understand some people and how they can behave so poorly. My 2 year old nephew has better manners and he still poops in his pants.

After such an eventful and stressful bus ride (I kept waiting for someone to throw a punch) I was really glad I’d planned an easy meal to start the week off. I like to plan something simple for Monday mornings to ease me into the work week. Today’s lunch was barbecue chicken sandwiches, and there are few things simpler. Although you could make it really easy on yourself and just used canned chicken, but I think canned chicken tastes a little like canned tuna which does not strike me as something I want to put barbeque sauce on… But, that’s just me. You can go ahead and do whatever floats your boat (how well would a boat float in canned chicken?)

Barbeque Chicken Sandwiches
serves 12

6 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
Your Favorite BBQ Rub (See mine below*)
2-4 cups Barbeque Sauce

Preheat the oven to 375. Spray a large baking pan with cooking spray. Rub with plenty of BBQ rub . Place in baking dish, cover and bake for 20-25 minutes cooked throughout. Allow the breasts to cool enough so you can handle them. When they are cool, shred them. You can shred them with 2 forks, but I find that it works best just to pull them apart with your fingers. Place shredded chicken into a saucepan and cover with just enough ;barbeque sauce to coat chicken pieces. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until hot, stirring occasionally. Serve on hamburger buns with pickle slices.

*My Favorite BBQ Rub
Note: I don’t have measurements for this because I tend to just dump stuff together until it tastes right to me that day. I promise sometime in the future I’ll figure out the right measurements.

Chili Powder
A Pinch of Cumin
A Dash of Cayenne Pepper
Brown Sugar
Garlic Powder
A Dash of Onion Powder
Black Pepper or a medley of different peppers (I have a grinder with pink, black, green and white pepper corns)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Things I've Posted on the White Board

Lunch: Cheesy Pigs in a Blanket, Chips, Veggies and Dip
Dinner: Chili and Garlic Cheddar Biscuits

So, today I was feeling creative and chose to grace the the white board with some illustrations. Here is the one I put up along with the serving size of today's lunch.
(Please note this is a reproduction, they guys don't splurge on colored markers)

Bet you didn't know I was such a talented artist huh? As good as that reproduction is, the real drawing was really magnificent. It is unfortunate you weren't there to see it.

The next one requires a little explanation. I spent the better part of this afternoon making dough for cinnamon rolls. While the dough isn't difficult to make, it takes a lot of steps and requires a lot of sitting around waiting for it to rise. Well, after all that I put it in the fridge and got ready to go home. The problem is, the dough will continue to rise in the fridge unless you poke it down a couple times. My mom discovered this over Christmas when I left some dough in their fridge that I was planning to bake the next day. Yeah, it grew over it's bowl and was threatening to take over. Since I'm making 3 times as much dough for the guys, I envisioned mass chaos unless I let the guys know how to wrangle the dough. So, I left detailed instructions as to what to do in case the dough looks like it's going to take over. I left them with dire warnings that the dough must be checked. To further illustrate my point, I left this little cautionary illustration on the white board:

Wonderful, non? I know the guys appreciated it because I got a text as soon as I got home praising my note worthy artistic skills.

Thought you might like to know...

Who Do You Call? Ghostbusters!

Lunch: Chicken Quesadillas, Tortilla Chips and Salsa
Dinner: Sausage and Pepper Baked Ziti and Salad
Dessert: Funfetti Cupcakes

While I cannot say there is never a dull moment at the frat (there are, lots of them), the dull moments are soon left behind and superseded by much hullabaloo. This morning when I got to the lodge (did I ever explained that they call the frat house the lodge?) there was a large pile of equipment on one of the dining room tables. I ignored it and went about my work. Soon, however, a troupe of rather nerdy looking guys carrying strange ghostbuster-esque equipment invaded my kitchen. They pointed lasers and took pictures and held weird looking instruments in the air. They looked like they might have been from the Ghost Hunters tv show except they weren’t being followed around by camera men and I highly doubt the frat house is haunted. Or is it? Perhaps that’s why my stuff keeps going missing and things keep getting moved around and misplaced… or that could just be because I work at a fraternity. Come to find out they were testing the lodge for drafts. The VP told me that, apparently, their power bill had been astronomical this past month, and in an attempt to cut back on power usage, they were checking for air leaks that they could stop. Personally I think they could save thousands if they cut back on pulling all-nighters studying. It seems not a day goes by without one of the brothers complaining about not getting any sleep because they stayed up all night cramming. Think of how much electricity that uses… not to mention that all night cramming is useless.

Apparently, the guys also came up with another way to save money last night. They let me know about their brilliant plan this morning at lunch. Are you ready for it? Ok, here it is… They proposed that I cut vegetables out of the budget and spend the money saved on extra meat and potatoes (or noodles). Yup, that was their brilliant plan, to cut vegetables out of the menu as a way of saving money. Yeah… too bad I already had a good answer for that. A food service size can of green beans, which is enough one meal, only costs $2.50-$3. In fact, at any given meal, I only spend between $2 and $5 on vegetables. Furthermore, I pointed out, if only 5 guys eat the vegetables, that would save about 1 serving of meat/ potatoes (because those 5 people would take less of the other stuff). That serving of meat and potatoes would most likely cost more than $2.50. Ah the wonders of irrefutable logic! I have to give them credit though; that is a rather creative way to attempt to get rid of vegetables.

In other news, I was very surprised by my husband the other night. Tyler likes to cook on occasion, and he does help out a lot by starting or even making dinner on weeknights. Of course, when he makes dinner, it’s usually either something he really likes or something relatively easy (like box dinners or spaghetti). He surprised me last night by not only making dinner, but researching and making a new recipe. He usually leaves all that to me, and rarely makes anything that requires a recipe. But when I came home last night, he had his computer in the kitchen and was following along with a recipe to make lemon rosemary broiled chicken breasts. So not only was it something new, it was healthy. Along with the chicken, we had spinach salad and barley cooked in chicken broth (Tyler’s new favorite). It was all very delicious. Who knows, maybe he’ll start his own cooking blog…

I made baked ziti (ok… I used penne, they didn’t have ziti at Sam’s). This dish is very simple, cheap and super quick to make (which was probably good because they kicked me out for 45 minutes so they could do one of their air leak tests in the kitchen). Add a salad, and voila, dinner is ready in no time.

Sausage and Pepper Baked Ziti
Serves 25

3 lbs Ziti (or Penne)
7 lbs Italian Sausage (I used both spicy and mild)
6 Green Bell Peppers, cut into thing strips
2 bulk-sized can, approx 106oz, Spaghetti Sauce
8 cups Shredded Mozzarella

In a large skillet, cook sausages until done. Set sausages aside to cool. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to directions on package or until al dente. When sausage is cooled enough to handle, cut into bite-sized pieces. When the pasta is done, mix it in a large baking dish with the sausage, spaghetti sauce and green bell peppers; top with mozzarella cheese. Bake in an oven preheated to 375 for 20 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted and browned.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Lunch: Bacon Mac and Cheese and Fruit Salad
Dinner: Herb and Garlic Roast Pork Loin, Gravy, Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

Apparently, I didn’t do too bad in the meal planning so far this week. I was a bit worried because the budget cut caused me to really pare down my menus. Sure, it was only twenty dollars, but we’re looking at a three hundred dollar difference between this semester and last semester while we’re only looking at the difference of around 10 guys per meal. So I have the guys on a poor man’s menu plan. It’s a menu plan I’m rather familiar with because Tyler and I were have been on it since we got married. Hamburger is cut with ground turkey because the turkey is cheaper and doesn’t shrink as much but since it‘s mixed with hamburger you still get a beef taste. Meals have more “filler” such as rice or beans which allows me to stretch out the servings. I make less sides. Sure there is a meat, a veggie and a starch with every meal, there just isn’t anything beyond that. I might have served a salad along side chili and cornbread; now I just serve chili and cornbread. I might have served rolls or biscuits with tonight’s dinner last semester, but they aren’t in the budget for this semester. I also make things that have fewer ingredients or less expensive ingredients. Let’s just say there will be no barbeque ribs this semester where I made them once a month last semester. But, a poor man’s menu plan doesn’t mean you have to suffer. In fact, most of what we call “comfort food” is relatively inexpensive to prepare. Take the cinnamon rolls I’ll be making for Friday… butter, flour, yeast, milk, sugar and cinnamon… these are things I generally keep on hand (ok, maybe not the yeast… I don’t like yeast, it gives me the heebie-jeebies). Even if I didn’t already have most of this on hand, none of it is really bank breaking. The most expensive thing on that list was probably the cinnamon, and I got a huge jar of it for $5. After years of budget menu planning, I think I could probably teach a class. You know, in these times they really should have degree on frugal living. Perhaps it would involve a yurt. Maybe the class could be taught in a yurt. I want to go yurt camping. Did you know several state and national parks rent yurts? If Tyler and I ever get around to going on our honeymoon, maybe we can rent a yurt. I doubt we’ll ever be able to afford anything swankier (unless we win the lottery… I have my ticket. I’ll let you know). I like the word yurt. I mean, it is kind hard to say yurt without the !. Sort of like “nee!”. You know, like the knights who say nee… from Monty Python… No? You have no sense of humor. Well, yurt makes me smile at least. Yurt yurt yurt yurt puma yurt! Hee hee… puma.

Sorry about that… I get easily distracted sometimes. I promise it won’t happen again. (Yurt!) Anyway, the herb and garlic roast pork loin is an excellent example of how you can make something tasty and delicious without breaking the bank. Hey, it’s even something that looks and tastes fancy enough to serve to guests… but at $1.77/lb (Sam’s Club) it’s cheaper than just about anything out there (except maybe chicken leg quarters, which were 97¢/lb).

As an aside… my favorite words are so far pamplemousse, parapluie, puma and yurt (Yurt!). Am I the only one who is dorky enough to have favorite words? Do any of you guys have favorite words?

Herb and Garlic Roasted Pork Loin
serves 8-10

3 ½ - 4 lbs Pork Loin Roast**
6 cloves Garlic, peeled
1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
1 tbs Dried Rosemary
2 tps Thyme
Seasoning Salt
Black Pepper

Pre heat oven to 400. Do not trim the fat from the roast, leaving it on will help keep the roast moist and tender. With fat side up, make 6 deep cuts in the meat just big enough to stuff in a clove of garlic. If the garlic cloves are really large, you can cut them in half. Stuff a clove of garlic down each hole. Drizzle the oil over the roast, be sure to coat it on all sides. Rub all sides of the roast with rosemary and thyme and sprinkle with seasoning salt and black pepper. Put roast fat side up in a roasting pan on the roasting rack. Bake at 400 hundred for 10 minutes then turn the temperature down to 250. Roast for 1 -1 ½ hours, until the roast’s internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. (Should take approx 20 minutes per pound, but be sure to check your roast with a meat thermometer as it can take more or less time, depending on the size and shape of the meat.) Remove roast to a platter and allow to set for 10-15 minutes before slices. While you wait for the roast to rest, you can make a pan sauce or a gravy with the drippings in the bottom of the pan. (Yurt!)

** This is a pork loin roast, not a tenderloin. The tender loin is the smaller, skinnier cut. It’s usually only about 1 pound. The pork loin is much larger, usually found between 2-5 pounds and is usually around 4 inches in diameter.


Monday, March 1, 2010

And the Gold Medal for Extreme Grocery Shopping Goes to...

Lunch: Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwiches and Chips
Dinner: Dirty Rice and Green Beans

I am soo tired and soo bored! I am also soo tired of being bored. Between Friday afternoon and Sunday, I probably spent 12-13 hours in the car. It all started Friday afternoon on the way home from work. Traffic is always bad on Friday afternoon, but it doesn’t generally start getting really bad until after 3:30. I got done with groceries early that day (extreme grocery shopping should totally be an Olympic sport) and got out of work around 2:30. I was excited because I thought I was totally going to get home early and bypass the worst of the traffic. Boy was I wrong! It took me nearly an extra hour to get home because of a baby bison on the interstate. No, I’m not kidding. Apparently the bison fell off of a truck and was hit by a car and caused a big pileup. All lanes of traffic were stopped until they could get the cars and the bison off the road. Then Saturday morning we got up early to head down to my hubby’s hometown. The 3 ½ hour drive to this tiny town in the middle of nowhere is quite possibly the longest and most boring drive in the world (unless, that is, you’re driving across Kansas, Wyoming or eastern Colorado). Then we had to turn around and make the trip back again the next day. When we got home Sunday, we had to get back in the car to take the dog up to Conyers to get him bathed. We normally just bathe him outside with the hose, but it was too cold and he desperately needed a bath after my mother-in-law’s drooly mongrel slobbered on him so much that his fur actually stood on end and was crunchy. Come to think of it, this has been a rather traumatic weekend for me and the dog.

So in other news, I think that extreme grocery shopping should totally be an Olympic sport. The event would consist of being given a very long list of groceries which you would then have to go and purchase (using the minimum of at least 2 stores), load and unload the groceries and get them put up. The event would be judged on time it took, how cheaply you were able to get the groceries and style points for how well the groceries were loaded on the carts. Points would be deducted for groceries that fell off the cart or out of the car and forgetting items. The event would require intense training, athleticism and concentration. I’m sure I would medal… possibly even get the platinum. (If you’ve been following the Olympics, you’d get that). Yesterday, I managed to get everything in record time and even came in 50 cents under budget. No mean feat considering the fact that they just docked $20 off my already stretched weekly budget. The question is. is it a summer or a winter sport?

Last tidbit of the day before I get to the recipe:
Here is today’s frat house news. One of the brother’s is sick. He came down hoping for sympathy. In a very sympathetic way, I crossed my fingers, hissed and told him to go away (hey, I don’t get sick days!). In other news, Sun Chips has a new biodegradable bag. The boys especially love cheddar Sun Chips, but they apparently hate the new biodegradable bag. One complained very loudly and persistently that the chip bag was too loud (yeah… I’ll get right on to fixing that). Lastly, hot ham and cheese sandwiches are apparently universally loved at the frat house. They are nothing more than slices of ham and American cheese stacked on toasted French bread, but the guys were gushing about them like it was a feat of sheer culinary genius.

Today’s Recipe:
Dirty Rice

Dirty Rice is great because it’s super cheap to make, easy to make in large quantities and generally very appealing to boys as it is little more than ham, hamburger, rice and Cajun spices. Add a quick salad and you’ve got a meal that children and grown children (guys) will love.

Dirty Rice
Serves 25

3 quarts Long Grain White Rice
1 ½ gallons Chicken Broth
20 cloves Garlic, minced
2 med Onions, diced
3 cups Green Bell Pepper, diced
3 cups Ham, diced
¼ cup Butter
1/8 cup Cajun Seasoning Mix (like Tony Chachere’s or Zatarains)
1/8 cup Tabasco Sauce
2 tbs Dried Thyme
4 Bay Leaves
6 pounds Ground Beef

Melt butter in a large sauté pan. Add onions, garlic, green pepper and ham. Sauté until onions are tender; add Cajun seasoning, tabasco sauce, dried thyme and bay leaves and remove from heat. In a large stock pot, add rice, stock and veggie mix. Stir together and bring to a boil. When rice mixture comes to a rapid boil, lower heat and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes.
In sauté pan, brown hamburger. Season hamburger lightly with salt and pepper. Drain cooked hamburger and add in to rice and veggies.