This one is for Brad

Today was a quasi experiment. I had made the basic dish before, but tried it with a few changes. Bob L-O-V-E-S the sauce with this one and wanted me to send the recipe to Brad. Brad and Emmie, I’m not sure if you have the sriracha chili sauce from when we saw you last, but if you do you might want to try this …

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Ok, maybe not the entire dish, but the sauce that tops this dish … The original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons sriracha chili sauce, 4 teaspoons honey, 1 tablespoon sesame oil and 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds. My version is pretty much equal parts sriracha chili sauce and honey, about half as much peanut or walnut oil (although I would use sesame if I had it in the house) and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Mix well. That pretty much does it. So Brad, if you have some of the sriracha left, try it. Bob says you should.

For the rest of this dish, I did a basic marinade of soy sauce, peanut oil, garlic, ginger and honey. I pan fried the pork then added the carrots, red peppers and rice noodles. When cooked I finished it off with the mizuna from the CSA basket and topped everything with the sauce above. Bob really liked this dish even though it does contain a grain. I’m not sure where rice noodles fall on the can’t have list (really, really can’t have to limit but not so bad) but since I do the cooking, we were going for the, today. I think he just liked that it was really spicy – I added extra sauce to his plate.

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As fall has arrived I have also gotten into the hard cider thing agin. This is an every fall thing for me – cooler weather, football … they just go with cider. This week’s try is …

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Oliver Hard Cider – or as the ingredient list says “apple wine.” This was pretty good. Not the best as that still goes to the Stella cider that was on tap at the pub in England. I still dream about that one. But I digress. This cider had a nice tart bite to it, but not much apple flavor. I do love the bottle, however. Have to see if one of the others that I picked l are any better. I figure if Bob can have his fancy beer, I can try for fancy cider.

Fall Chicken Salad

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Say “chicken salad” to almost anyone (ok, any American) and the picture that comes to mind includes diced or processed chicken and lots of mayo. Not an appealing picture at all. So here is my experiment and I’m taking back “chicken salad” so it can once again be a flavorful, delightful meal.

This was a guided experiment. I took a marinade from my Bobby Flay grilling cookbook and paired it with a variation of an Ina Garten warm salad. So … marinade of olive oil, sage, garlic, orange zest, salt, and white balsamic vinegar. Really, this is not exactly the same as the recipe in the book, but it is close enough that I’ll give full credit to the cook book on this one.

The salad required a little more improvising. I got some stunning greens in my veggie basket today (Mizula they said it was but it looked nothing like last week’s Mizula so I’m not exactly sure) that looked like arugula, and had a nice taste like arugula, so I wanted to use them like arugula. I roasted some butternut squash with olive oil and salt (nothing else) the prepped a salad of the greens, crasions, and pecans. The dressing had the purée and strained juice of two apples. Let me stop there. I am not sure what possessed me to think I could juice an apple like I do lemons, limes and oranges, but for the record, it does not work the same. So after getting frustrated with that, I used cranberry pear white balsamic for the remaining acid, added chopped sage, salt, pepper, shallot, olive oil and a dash of mustard. Mix well.

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Now may also be a good time to mention that I started with only the apple juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, sage and olive oil and then tasted and added one thing at a time until it finally tasted like I wanted.

So the chicken – out of the marinade and into a large frying pan. Nothing else done to it, just let it cook.

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The end result – layer the roasted squash over the salad, top with the chicken breast and generously drizzle the dressing over everything. Bob claimed it was one of my best experiments and one of the best meals I’ve made in a while. I think this is his way of telling me I am working too much, or that I should work from home more often. Either way he is right.

Happy weekend!

Pork tacos

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I try to be creative and still stay in the parameters of Bob’s diet, my very picky pallet and general time constraints. Sometimes I hit a winner (yesterday’s beef stewish meal) and sometimes it’s just good.

Tonight was a just good. A different wrap, maybe a spinach or sun dried tomato instead of whole wheat, and a tweak to the sauce and this could be great. I took leftover pulled pork (because when do you ever not have leftover pulled pork?) and tried a vinaigrette from a Bobby Flay grilling cookbook and experimented. So … This was. A lemon sage vinaigrette – lemon, lemon zest, honey, olive oil, sage, shallots, salt and pepper. Heated up the pulled pork with a little of the vinaigrette then used the mizuna (a leafy green of a kind) as a base, then layer the pork, more vinaigrette and some tomatoes. Good, but not great.

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The sauce needs a little more honey, a little more pepper and maybe a touch more salt. Change the wrap and add a little pickled onion -maybe red onion- and this has potential to be a fantastic quick meal.

Oh – the pork! I didn’t have my usual mead to braise the pork in last week so I used hard cider and chopped apples. It came out REALLY well. Moist, tender, not salty at all and totally full of flavor. Not bad for improvising.

Tomorrow’s experiment includes an orange sage chicken with rice noodles … or a butternut squash tart. If I don’t come home totally exhausted from a full day of IEP meetings and trying to get progress notes done. Hopefully the computers work all day or I may just sit down and cry.

Beef Stew (of a sort)

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Last Sunday I was finally feeling better and had a craving for the Pork Marco Polo at the French restaurant down the street. We had not been there in a while because we didn’t like the most recent waiter. He took rude and dismissive to a new level, so we tended to go elsewhere. But I had a craving and Bob indulged me. Much to our surprise and delight, that waiter was no longer there and the manager was A) serving and B) hiring a new waitress while we were there. Happy day, I can go back to the French place (realize, when we first moved here we went once a month to every six weeks we liked it so much. But then the waiter we adored left and the new guy came in and we just stopped going).

That is a long intro to what I made today – a combination between Beef Stew and Beef bourguignon. I wanted the deep beef stew taste with the wonderful sauce of the French version. And since I read a bunch of recipes and then made it up as I went along, here is what I think I did …

Chop a few slices of bacon and fry it in the pan. Add a chopped onion and a chopped shallot. Cook it all down, remove from pan and add the beef (strip steaks I happen to have on hand) cut into cubes and most of the fat removed. Brown the beef, then add back in the bacon, onions and shallot. Add garlic – a large clove, chopped. Add some flour and coat everything, turning frequently so it doesn’t burn. Add red wine. I used a nice Zinfandel to deglaze the pan, scraping up all the good bits that stuck to the pan. Add beef broth/stock, some tomato paste and a dash of kitchen bouquet. Add thyme (cause I still have massive amounts) and two bay leaves. Stir and let cook for about an hour to an hour and a half. Add in three chopped (large cut) carrots and cook for another half hour. … I think that was it. I put it over a little barley just to add something to it. Put it over some great roasted Jersey white sweet potatoes it would be fabulous.

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Not much else is going on this week. I have a weird stomach thing going on where if I move, I get nauseous. Sit still, no problem; walk, not so good. So we haven’t had a lot of other cooking experiments this week. But … As we were eating dinner one night, Bob assigned elements to each of the cats. We have Tigger who is the fire kitty. He has the flame color, is skittish and can pounce on something/someone with little notice, or sit on your lap and be warm comfort.

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Leia is the water cat. (this whole thing came about because she was sitting outside in a drizzle and just did not care.). She is very laid back and go-with-the-flow in nature. She is relaxing and soft.

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Gracie is air – swift, so fleet of foot you hardly notice she is there, but she is also very destructive when she wants to be (just think of the poor birds, mice and rabbits she has brought home).

That does leave Jessie as earth – the mother of all in a way. She hates having her picture taken or I’d have a new one to show off. Maybe next week.

Hope everyone is doing well…

Double Dose of the Cute Gene

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I realized the the girls had each gotten a post recently, so I decided that Tigger needed one of his own. The cute little orange kitty that isn’t so little anymore, but he is still a sweet, cuddly-double-dose-of-cuteness kitty all the same.

For those that don’t know the story, I did not intended to adopt Tigger. He was an “I can’t leave him behind/separate him from his sister” addition when I adopted Leia and Gracie. I actually saw Tigger first, but was just enamored by Gracie. Every time I went to see them (they were 3.5 weeks when I first saw Gracie and Tigger) they were together. Each picture of her has him in it and I just decided that I had to take both. The poor boy didn’t have a name for two weeks – he was just “the little orange kitty.” But he has grown into the sweetest, cuddliest (if the most skittish) and cutest of kitties.

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As a  kitten he would quite literally bounce around the house (hence the name); now spends more time curled in my lap than bouncing.

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Or hiding in Jessie’s toy box.

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Mostly, he excels at being super cute.

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The vet called him “the perfect specimen of a cat.” I like to think so.

Einstein Kitty

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I know everyone claims their pets are smart. Everyone thinks their cat is brilliant and way above average. But Gracie really is Einstein Kitty. Leia and Tigger are average with a touch of worry thrown in at times. Gracie is so not average.

It isn’t that she opens doors – the bathroom door included – or that she opens the cabinet where her treats are kept. It isn’t that she cuddles with Jessie to ensure “mommy” loves her. It is only partly that she paws the snooze button on my alarm and reaches for the lock when she wants outside and we aren’t letting her out. That she goes for a walk with Jessie and knows to stay on the sidewalk is also only part of the reason. Gracie has learned to use the dog door as a doorbell to make Jessie bark which wakes us up in the middle of the night when she wants in; she responds to “that is an outside toy” by taking the mouse or lizard or whatnot out into the back yard – seemingly a pretty good indication that she is smart. Any of this seems to indicate some intelligence. All of this in one cat is pretty scary at times.

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Yesterday I was working at home in the afternoon, trying to get caught up on some paperwork. Gracie was meowing and pawing at my leg, clearly wanting dinner. When I finally went to the kitchen for a drink, she went to the pantry, opened the door (yes, on her own), sat, looked at me and waited for eye contact then meowed in a rather insistent tone. She wanted her dinner and wanted to make sure I knew what she wanted. The eye contact was the clincher; she did not make a sound after opening the door until I looked at her and she made the eye contact.

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She also likes shoes. A clear indication of intelligence.

Pampered Indoor Kitty

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I’ve neglected the posting lately, in large part because things just got really, really busy. Busy as in so much work to do that I don’t know where to start and the more I do, the more there is to do. Almost makes one a little despondent. But then I come home, completely exhausted and see the babies and that makes it all better.

Especially Leia. When I adopted her I was warned that she is a special needs kitty who would probably need surgery to make it past two. The vet report even said she needs. “pampered indoor lifestyle.” I laugh at the indoor part now because Leia is the first one at the back door in the morning waiting to go outside. She loves hanging out in the yard and if I tried to keep her indoors, she would be upset and miserable. This little special needs kitty has done so well, she has not had a single sinus infection in five years, has not needed surgery and even has a bit of a belly from all the treats she enjoys.

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She will hang out inside too, but mostly you will find her outside. And happy. And healthy. Which really, is all I want for my kitties.

I will try to be better about the posts. Hopefully I’ll have some good food, travel or pet pictures to share soon. Although the travel is really on the back burner until who knows when.