Food Porn: Carrot Layer Cake

Today's food porn brought to you by the letter "C".  For Carrot Layer Cake.  

More On Meals: Making Changes

If you're open to new ideas, new ways of thinking and new behaviors, imagine the possibilities, the endless possibilities. Kind of like this pie. I would never have thought of this on my own. But once you see something done, a whole new light shines and you get inspired to think!  

So it goes also with making adjustments to shopping, cooking and eating habits. Things have a nasty way of changing. Families grow or shrink, waistlines do the same and so does income. And though I would prefer to have my figure shrink while my figureS grow...sometimes, it just doesn't go that way. But it can. You just have to MAKE it happen.  
  • Swap a fat. Using vegetable oil? Switch to extra virgin olive oil. 
  • Swap a sugar.  Processed foods have a ton of sugars all with different names. If you don't want to eliminate all sugars, at least swap out your white, refined sugar for some stevia
  • Swap a brand name.  Pasta by ANY name is basically pasta...even the whole wheat or whole grain varieties. Don't be afraid of store brands when it comes to basics, like pasta, dairy items, baking supplies, spices, etc. Seriously, why pay $5 for a bottle of cinnamon when you can get a perfectly exceptional bottle for $2. I know, a lot of it is psychological, but once you try it, you'll understand. 
And here I am, after having fully come to terms with the fact that the kids are not coming back...and we are now just two instead of four....here, now, I have to adjust what we consume. We do not require a freezer full of meat or a 10-lb. bag of potatoes, which will cause a rather nasty gnat infestation if one little spud decides to go bad and you don't realize it! Hell, we don't even need a gallon of milk, because it will NOT get used and instead will go bad. Three bucks, flushed. Not to mention the fact that if you eliminate milk and ice cream, and you try to go back, you will discover that you have greatly decreased both your need and your tolerance for the stuff. That and, if you think about it and research it...milk is disgusting. Yet again and probably as mentioned before, cheese makes the world go round. That's the one thing I just cannot cut out at this time in my life.  Maybe someday. Now is not that day.  

It's also good to get acquainted with cooking and then freezing large batches of stuff, like soup, lasagna, etc. Hence, a hefty supply of aluminum foil (also store brand) and freezer bags or containers in individual-sized sizes will greatly aid you in creating a wealth of foods without creating a ton of waste. One thing I've had great issue with over the years. Makes me cringe to think about the food that has been wasted here and makes me just feel horrible. Live, learn, know better, do better. 

When it comes to waste, I know whereof I speak. I left my 'real world' job on June 1. I took complete stock of exactly where our money was going. The results were nauseating. And, here, some four months later, the grocery bill alone has been CUT by $400.  CUT. $400. Two people. When you work in a big box retail grocery facility, you can find some very idiotic ways to blow wads of cash. When you stop working there and come home to work...you can find some very INTELLIGENT ways to STOP blowing wads of cash and you can take complete stock of what you really need versus what is just impulse. 

I guess it's about getting completely, unabashedly REALISTIC about your living situation, your eating habits and just how much you want to spend or save. Once you realize that you CAN save a metric fuqueton of money and yet still eat, breathe and sleep in relative comfort, you can create meal plans that will reduce your food budget even more and still keep your tummy from rumbling.  More on that later.  Next time, I think we should delve into the joys and ways of saving money on foodstuffs.  I'm not one of those "Couponista" types....I hate any word with the suffix 'ista' on it. I really do.  But yeah, perhaps tomorrow we'll discuss how us normal people can take advantage of money-saving techniques. 


More On Meals

Or....meals for morons, if you read it that way....

Oh, Dear GOD, pull me away...
I just totally got pulled into and distracted by Pinterest! 
NEVER go there if you have anything else that NEEDS to be done!!  

Either way, apparently I have been busy this week. I could've sworn I posted about one of my favorite soups, however, it is to be found NOWHERE.  Well, it will be found this week, as I got all the necessary components at the store last night, and it is now officially AUTUMN.  That is NOT what I will be discussing today.

Today is about planning ahead.  There are certain and very specific benefits in doing such a thing:
  • Saves time
  • Saves money
  • Saves frustration
  • Makes control freaks (not like me at ALL) happy
After several months of adjusting to a new way of life (working at home, being alone 98% of the time), one thing has definitely come to light. There's not a huge need for profuse amounts of food to be purchased and consumed here in our home.  The man of the house eats approximately the same thing five days a week, and when I'm home alone, I'm lucky if I have the compunction to eat one, let alone two meals during the course of the day. 

Don't get me wrong, I adore food.  Food loves to live ON me.....in the form of fat cells....but the fat storage is based more on lack of proper eating (both occurrences and content) and lack of movement than on eating profuse amounts of food.  Essentially, I have sucked my metabolism's will to function dry. So, in an effort to STOP sabotaging my lovelier self, the one that's currently hiding, I'm devising an eating plan that will change all this.  

All it takes is baby steps.  
  • Small breakfast-maybe grapes or a banana and a yogurt (Yoplait Whips...can't really stand regular yogurt. Makes me gag. 
  • Lunch-typically a sandwich or a salad 
  • Dinner-probably should be something more substantial, but usually it is also a sandwich or salad, about 6-7 hours after lunch.  
  • Iced tea and coffee for beveraging. Coffeemate creamer and Stevia in the Raw for sweetening. 
  • Vitamins. Daily. I'm bad about this. Need to NOT be bad about it.  
Regardless of THAT diversion, back to planning we go.  I am slowly getting away from all forms of processed foods, eliminating high sugar and sodium content. It really does require thought and preparation though.  That and cooking and also spending more time shopping the produce department than the frozen food aisles. 

A typical week of shopping for two consists of: 
  • assorted toiletries....which you can pare down if you don't buy buy buy in bulk and go crazy.  
  • pet foods and supplies (litter, treats and foods)
  • household items...again, can be pared down if you stick to what you NEED as opposed to stocking up. Though it really is cheaper, especially if you have a coupon, to buy a 12-pack of tp than a 6 pack or even a 4 pack..WHO BUYS THOSE?  
  • Basic food supplies (spices, baking stuff, butter, milk, etc.) Here, a small tub of butter can last up to 2 months when you only cook on weekends and use more extra-virgin olive oil as your fat source
  • Meat  (ground turkey, ground chicken, chicken in parts or in boob form and the occasional red meat)
  • Frozen veggies, frozen pizza.  I run screaming from the ice cream...as I adore it way too much.  
  • Bread (buns, breads) 
  • Peanut butter (and Polaner All-Fruit, because other jellies are either entirely too sweet or too chemically sweetened) 
  • Chips (tortilla, Popcorners and sometimes actual tater chips for his lunches)
  • Produce (typically lettuce, grape tomatoes, bananas, clementines....then specific items such as onions, kale, etc...for recipes)
  • Pop, water, coffee
It sounds like alot..because some of it IS alot...and some of it we could definitely do without....like the processed cookies and the chips....and I so very badly want to find a way to stop buying bottled water. I am horrified by what it does to consume so many bottles. Have to work on convincing the beloved that we would be better off with a filtration system.  

So, you see the first step in making a killer, take-no-prisoners, effective menu plan is to assess what you actually use and buy.  THEN you make adjustments. Which I will address in the next installment. For now, tell me what YOU buy. Where are your weak spots? What can you NOT live without?  


Scoring Football Fajitas

A while back I mentioned this delightful dish:  

Also known as: 

Haven't had it in a while and felt the urge earlier in the week to get it made again.  Today was the day.  I have made this several times in the past few months and therefore, kind of just throw stuff together here and there and thusly did not take the time to neatly arrange all the ingredients beforehand.  Sorry! (See also: Hungry, who's got time for presentation?)  

Made some adjustments this time around, to add a little bit less pepper heat and to accommodate for the lack of heavy cream required in the original recipe. Actually, it may have been the best version yet...with comments from the Beloved ranging from "This is really fucking good" to "I could eat eight of these things...".  All in all, this has now moved to the top of his list of all-time favorite dishes, I think. 

Check out the recipe (above) then look back here to see what made this such a "Winning" chicken entree.

The only thing I changed (since the first time) about the marinade was to use this seasoning, instead of the cayenne pepper. Why? Because I have had this jar for years and it has held its flavor and heat and yet I still feel the need to use it up.  Note: It also works well, when you want to add heat to salsa but forgot to get jalapenos or other spicy pepper varietals!! Ooops, I lied, one other thing I added was two tablespoons of that Jalapeno vinegar from the Thai recipe.  I hate to waste things, and I figured, it couldn't HURT since it's going in a marinade that's supposed to have a little kick anyway.  I don't think it ADDED any flavor, but it most certainly didn't hurt the recipe, by any means.  

I wasn't planning on making a whole bunch of these today, so I only got two poblanos, and also two organic green peppers which were on the clearance cart for a whopping $0.25 each....for tiny blemishes, so YAY me.  All in all, I think I spent $1.50 on all four peppers.  I added the green pepper to try to bring the heat ratio down a bit without sacrificing pepper flavor. It worked wonders.  

Nothing new under the sun here...except for my need of another way better skillet. This is my favorite skillet, smaller than the beast I used to make the Thai dish the other night, but it cooks the hell out of pretty much anything I throw in it.  Get some serious "char" on those onions....get that skillet HOT, med-high to high, before you put the onions in. Not only do they brown up quickly, the kitchen will also smell divine at this point. Sadly, I must report that I am almost out of onions and only had 1.5 small-medium onions to add. It's a sad day when you run out of onions.  

When peeling the poblanos, MAKE SURE YOU WEAR GLOVES!!!!!!! I know I have mentioned that before, but it always, ALWAYS bears repeating.  Failing the possession of gloves, stick your hands in some sandwich baggies. Same concept-protection of your delicate, pepper-sensitive, skin cells!  

Since I had very few peppers, I went a step further and chopped them into finer chunks instead of strips.  Thankfully, we had enough of the Rajas con Crema por Me for four fajitas. 

Here's where I had to make substitutions. I didn't have any heavy cream. So, I had some half and half that I got for another recipe....and I had fat free sour cream. Therefore, I had the Crema part. Just poured probably 1/2 cup of each in a bowl and whisked it up....then whisked in the lime juice.  However, you may want to lower the heat just a touch, like down to medium before you add it, unless you intend to stand RIGHT THERE and tend to it...otherwise, it will get away from you and evaporate rather rapidly. OOPS.  So, to fix that....I just poured in a few more splashes of half and half and all was good.  You really don't want a lot of liquid here because instead of getting to eat your creation, you'll be bathing in the sauce. Not fun, even with a bib on!!!

Chicken. I had thin sliced chicken boobs. I am assuming they just cut a normal boob right in half....thusly, they did not need pounding.  If you use regular boobs, however, you MUST pound the thickest part to get an even piece of meat or you will end up with raw chicken when you take it out of the oven. That would be disgusting. Raw chicken is disgusting, especially when it's supposed to be COOKED.  

Get that skillet HOT...again, like HOT for the onions....HIGH temp.  Instead of adding plain oil, I just tossed in a few tablespoons of the marinade oil....and I did not pat the boobs dry before frying...because that just seems like a waste of flavor to me.  It took 3 minutes to sear the first side, using the thin-sliced boobs. Regular boobs, you will need a good 4-5 minutes on that first side. Then I flipped them, let them cook for about 30 minutes and then stuck them in the 200-degree oven. 

Finally, and I think the most important part, browing the tortillas.  We have a glass-top stove...which makes for very easy browning.  Clean the burners off first, because searing that chicken makes one holy hell of a mess...but do NOT use any chemical cleaner..just wipe it down with hot water and dry the entire top thoroughly before you do the tortillas.  Any kind of moisture will make them stick to the burner.  Set the burner on medium, add one tortilla....let it set for 30-45 seconds...if it bubbles up just push on it with tongs and pop the bubbles. Flip it...and continue until....

It looks like this:

It is divine. It's crunchy and yet not hard like a hard taco shell.  

From here on out, we will have no pictorial proof of the wonderfulness of this meal. I was hungry, he was hungry and hovering around the kitchen, making impatient sighing noises, so I had to rush it up... 

Once the chicken is thoroughly cooked, around 15 minutes or so, the Test Kitchen says to let it rest, but there was no time for that here today, so I just flopped it on the cutting board and sliced it into chunks..some of which fell apart. Then toss it back in the skillet to absorb the left over stuffs...this helps it to not be dry, I am certain.  Regardless, it's pretty damned tasty!  

Lay your tortilla on the plate, add the Rajas con Crema first or the chicken first...then top with whatever you didn't add first...then sprinkle on a bit of shredded cheese...(we didn't have any Queso Fresco today, so I added a few pinches of mozzarella, mainly because I am a cheese freak and there's very little difference in flavor. Or leave cheese off altogether. You really don't need it. ....then, if you are so inclined, top with a little bit of regular salsa, or you can go out on a limb and make their radish salsa...which did NOT look good to me, so I did NOT make it. 

There it is.....an amazing, AMAZING twist on the standard fajita.  

Suggestions for YOU:  Make TRIPLE or QUADRUPLE the amount of Rajas con Crema.  This stuff keeps well in the fridge and probably would even survive freezing.  Also make triple or quadruple the amount of chicken. You probably only need to double the marinade recipe....I made the full amount required in the Test Kitchen version....added 6 pieces of the thin-cut chicken....and still had enough left over after adding marinade to the skillet, to add in another 4 pieces of chicken.  Now, we will have marinated chicken to use for grilling, or baking....for the rest of the week.  I can live with that.  

This is a definite, definitive, absolute MUST TRY.  If you love fajitas, you will adore this! I promise. Really!!!  


The Thai That Binds

So, I saw this recipe on America's Test Kitchen a while back and decided that I need to be adventurous and try something Thai.  This looked good to me:

I am not going to go step by perfect step through the recipe....as there's no need to reinvent the wheel. The recipe and the video from the show are available at the link above. What I will do is tell you where I tweaked...TWEAKed, not TWERKed..(I HATE THAT WORD) it to accommodate for, well.....for me. 

I got all the necessary components over the past two weeks, mainly because I forgot ALL of them the first week. Not much of an investment as I'm sure I'll have the Oyster and Fish sauces for the next decade or so, and with all that vinegar, I'm sure I can wrestle up some sort of homemade, semi-organic cleaning solution if nothing else. 

I opted for a much milder Jalapeno, rather than the required Serrano. I like spicy, but THAT much spicy would probably send my last remaining brain cell into the skillet with the rest of the ingredients, and since we're venturing into unknown territory here, I thought it best to proceed with just a modicum of caution. 

For demonstration purposes, I timed myself making this, from start (after getting all the ingredients from their assorted locations) to plate. It took approximately 1.25 hours. This includes prepping, cutting, chopping. Hence, if you want to cut back on time, I would recommend making the chile pepper vinegar and the sauce ahead of time....I also am not quite sure what to do with the remainder of my chile pepper vinegar, so for now, it's in the fridge, resting comfortably. I used the required amount in the sauce, and then tossed in an extra tablespoon whilst frying the noodles because I had so much there.  It MIGHT kick up the heat factor if you use TWO tablespoons in the sauce and then add one one or two tablespoons to the noodle water when they are soaking?  It might. That and I don't know if it would affect the noodles, so live and learn, right?  

I suppose the best way to make sure the construction process works smoothly is to do ALL of your prep first. Don't even THINK about cooking it until you have everything ready, as your direct and immediate attention is required DURING cooking. 

Warning:  If your hands are in any way, shape or form, dry, damaged, cut, or otherwise in rough shape, do NOT touch hot peppers directly.  Use gloves or something to keep some distance between you and them.  Trust me, I learned from experience. Having worked with a very rough yarn and then going to cook and peeling and chopping roasted poblanos with my bare hands, it was a less than favorable occasion. One that I shall never repeat again. No amount of aloe vera gel or handwashing alleviated that irritation and burning for HOURS afterward!!!  

So, after prepping the vinegar, which has to set for at least 15 minutes, this is how I proceeded: 

Chop the chicken up. The method shown on the Test Kitchen's site is pretty spot on. Do it. First, trim off any fat or gross bits, however.  

Add the required amounts of water and baking soda, stir it up and set it aside. The recipe requires it to sit for 15 minutes. I exceeded that time by about 7 minutes.  I will not show you what it looked like after stirring. It's rather vulgar to look at, especially if you have a juvenillesque mind like me! 

Actually before you start chopping the chicken, put the water for the noodles on to boil. This picture clearly demonstrates my need for new pans/pots/whatnot.  I do like how the wispies appeared in the picture though. This also demonstrates my need to demonstrate that REAL people also cook and use less-than-picturesque cooking apparati in the process.  This picture ALSO demonstrates that if I can boil water, so can you!  

Now that you've got the chicken and the vinegar resting quietly, you can work on the noodles next.....

Here are the rice noodles.  I don't think I had the right size. Mine were very skinny and not the same brand as theirs. I also had a 14-ounce package, so I eyeballed it and used a bit over half of the pack. In the future, I will just throw in the whole thing. 

Add the boiling water, as directed and let these soak.  I set the timer for 4 minutes, because if I didn't I would forget to stir them halfway through.  Stir, then let soak another 4 minutes. After they soak for the 8 moments, rinse them off with cold water then toss them back in the bowl and add the veggie oil and stir them gently to keep them from getting sticky.  

Whilst the noodles are bathing, start prepping the garlic.  Peel the cloves and then slice them, thinly.  Reminds me of Goodfellas...the men were in prison, making marinara and the guy talked about using a razor blade to slice the garlic so thin that it melted in the pan.  THIS is not that thin. For THAT, I would need an actual razor blade or an acceptably sharp knife. Had neither. Carried on. 

I did substitute regular, everyday broccoli for the broccolini, which I could not find. I wasn't sure if broccolini was the same thing as broccoli rabe, or rapini, and I know that rapini is a bit bitter, which I did not want, so yeah, here we are at broccoli.  I only used the heads, as I was being lazy and didn't feel like peeling and chopping up the stems. You CAN do that, however, if you so wish.  

Make the sauce...quickest part of the entire recipe.....I don't think I ever knowingly had Oyster OR Fish sauce before and certainly have never cooked with it. It's not too shabby. 

After the chicken has finished its baking soda bath, put it under the tap and rinse it really well to remove any residue. Set it over with the vinegar and the noodles. 

See? This is KEY to making things at least FLOW smoothly once you start to cook everything.  Get it all ready and THEN cook....there is just no free time betwixt cooking steps to do other stuff...unless you want burnt items in your stir-fry. Bonus hint: It really IS easier to put some veggie oil in a dish or a cup first....a lot quicker than stopping, grabbing the measuring spoon and trying to hit said spoon with the oil from the bottle each and every time, which is quite a few with this recipe!!! Do it, trust me.  

THIS picture, while not clearly demonstrating how to toast your garlic, DOES demonstrate my need for a better skillet. A skillet like the Test Kitchen uses...a good skillet. This is NOT a good skillet. Wow, this thing sucks.  But, you work with whatever you have and this is it...so here we go....

As for the garlic, I have this overwhelming tendency to burn garlic, no matter what. Therefore, I only fricaseed it for about one minute....but way less than two....so as to NOT burn it this time. Whatever you do, NEVER walk away from sauteeing garlic. It will burn the second you turn around.  It's evil like that.  

Add the chicken and sauce, as directed, and stir it all together to combine and lift most of the garlic from the bottom of the pan. This was the odd part......the chicken WAS thoroughly rinsed and drained, and yet when I added it, the baking soda residuals combined with the remaining moisture made it kind of foam and bubble up....and this was the ONLY time I smelled any type of fishiness from the sauce.  Weird, right?  Make sure you spread the chicken bits out so all the pieces have a chance to get warm and, thusly, cooked. Again, because I am lazy, I cheated and let them cook for about 3 minutes on the first go around and then I stirred them, instead of flipping each little bit over individually. 

The most disgusting part, for me....adding egg.  Eggs gross me out, but I can do scrambled varietals, so I opted to add two, instead of three.....again, my skillet sucks, so there were not long, lovely pieces of scrambled eggs, just little bits. Seriously, you could probably omit eggs completely, as I couldn't taste them at all.

I forgot to photograph the cooking broccoli, but I must admit that I would probably flash boil it, for about 2 or 3 minutes beforehand, the next time...as I like my broccoli COOKED, not chewy.  It would also probably help to have tightly sealing skillet lid that still has its handle so that 60% of the steam did not escape. Who knows.  But, if you like your broccoli on the chewy side, just stick with the recipe method....and....a better skillet than I have!  

This skillet, while sucky, is very large, therefore, I dumped all the noodles in at once. I did add two cubes of frozen chicken broth (from another cooking adventure) in the skillet before adding the noodles, to loosen up all the charred detritus on the bottom of the skillet. Totally optional and does not make it watery...because the high heat pretty much evaporates the broth as soon as it melts. I added the required amount of sauce, plus another tablespoon of the vinegar and then let it be. I like crunchy noodly stuff.  It proceeded to stick to the entire bottom of the pan. Yay. I scraped it off with the lovely spatula. 

Add the other stuff back in and toss in the rest of the sauce if you have any left and stir it all to warm it all through...about another 2-3 mintues, tops. 


Results? Flavor, overall, was good.  Chicken texture? Weird. I don't know if it was the chicken itself or the baking soda bath, but something was funky about how it felt to chew it.  I had that happen when making General Tso's, with one of those flavoring packs, once.  I think, for next time, I may just skip the baking soda bath, make double the sauce and use half of it to marinate the chicken first, for a good hour or so. If I do, I'll let you know if there's any difference!  Best part, when served hot, was the noodles. It's ok warmish, but it tasted the best right out of the pan. 

So, as Mr. Kimball likes to say....There you have it. My take on their probably very perfect recipe. I know I don't have the most beautiful, magazine-worthy, upscale food blog in the universe. I just try to show you how things REALLY look when this very real, very imperfect person makes them.  I won't lie to you about how things taste or look or feel or anything else.  So, if you're up for a culinary adventure and you have a really good skillet, try this.  


It Really Is All Greek To Me....

Greek yogurt, that is....I tried some Chobani once....and found it to be horrifically displeasing to my palette. That ended my need to jump on the Greek bandwagon. That and reading this article about how the manufacturing process for Greek yogurt causes tremendous strain on portions of our environment. 

(On a side note, when did it become acceptable to stop using capitalization in titles of articles, etc.? That peeves me to no end!) 

However, a few weeks back I discovered a recipe for healthy (Gasp!!), low-fat veggie dressing/dip using plain Greek yogurt as the base. In order to reconcile my differences with the environmentally unfriendly manufacturing process, I kind of convinced myself that the manufacturers ARE taking steps to avoid pollution. Whatever gets you through the day, right?  And me, buying ONE container of the stuff is NOT going to be the camel's back-breaking straw. It's just not. 

So, finally, this past weekend I picked up that ONE container of plain Greek yogurt for the recipe. But then, my dearly beloved found this, part of the store's 10 for 10 sale....

Mind you, I'm not a huge fan of the texture, especially when the first bite is nothing short of some powdery/grainy/blech consistency coating your tongue.  Apart from that, however, the flavor was pretty impressive.  Considering the fact that my absolute favorite Bath and Body Scented Oil is this: 

...eating this yogurt was like being able to eat the smell that comes out of that bottle. As you can see by the first pic, nary a piece of fruit can be found in this container. Sure, there are some orange-colored fiber specks, but fruit?  No. There is, a plethora of the tangerine oil, however, which really bumps up that tangerine flavor.  

So, if you're in the market for a fairly decent fruit-flavored Greek yogurt, you might give this one a try. Especially if you are in love, love, LOVE with tangerines!  

If not...maybe you'll like this Tangerine tune instead...

 Please note that I'm not getting one pink, purple, blue or red cent for mentioning any of these products....(feel free to contribute, advertisers...I do take checks....!)  


Foiling Chuck

So, I think I mentioned the making of this particular recipe, Chuck Roast in Foil yesterday. And make it, I did. (This is the recipe pic from Cook's Country, not MY finished product!!!)  

The most tedious and time-consuming part (all of about 3 minutes, tops) was making the rub.  Cook's Country devised their own rub to replace mass-produced onion soup mix that's typically used in roasts around the country, in more normal kitchens.  This cuts WAY back on sodium levels and doesn't contain a plethora of unpronounceable additives and preservatives. Go them!!!  

Then there's the meat. Sorry for the pic, I cannot get the color of this pic to accurately portray the actual color of the meat, but that IS the color of my cutting board, so something is at least moderately correct. It was a healthy, not-rotting, piece taken out of the freezer Saturday to thaw. This hunk was about half the amount used in the recipe.  We had no need for a 4-lb roast. However, I did split it apart there in the middle and trim out some excess material.  I should have broken away all the chunks and eliminated all that hard stuff, but it stayed behind to help keep everything from drying out, then I trimmed it off later.

The veggies and bay leaves and soy sauce sprinklings (I did not measure and I used Tamari instead of regular soy sauce. It just tastes a bit better, to me.

The entire thing-before entering the stove. I must admit, I failed at this part. You are SUPPOSED to have an air-tight, foil-sealed package. First, I did not have wide enough foil. Second, I did not wrap it correctly. Third, I should have added another one to two layers of foil.  It leaked, thus eliminating the Au Jus portion of the recipe. More on that in a moment.....

Fin. And fine!!! 

As you can see, there's not a lot of Au Jus to be found in this pan.  THAT is because your dearly beloved cooking non-expert decided it wasn't necessary to reread the part that said "Heat oven to 300 F".  Instead, apparently, she thought 400 F was close enough.  WHILE the results (in flavor and probably texture) were SUPERB, I'm going to go out on a very wobbly, very tiny limb here and surmise that following the directions EXACTLY would've resulted in a roast that more closely resembled that shown in the first picture and a roast that was more swimming in Au Jus rather than just lightly coated with it.  

Oh, and since this cut of meat was much smaller than the recipe and the temp was considerably higher....

Cooking time was reduced to around 3 hours. I did lower the temp to 350 once I realized my faux pas, however, that just prolonged the inevitable, since the damage was already done at the 2-hour mark. 

Furthermore, I don't know what people have got against onions, but I leave them in, for eating purposes, because I LOVE ONIONS. I did remove the bay leaves. I did not take a picture of this all plated up....presentation was not a factor yesterday. By the time this was finished, we probably would've just sat at the table and ate it right out of the pan, we were that hungry and totally tantalized by the smell of it all!   

So, there you have it, one way to foil chuck. 

Admittedly, since we don't consume a wealth of red meat, this meal was not conducive to feeling energetic and ready to take on the world after eating it. I'm just glad I didn't make mashed taters and rolls or biscuits to go along with it or I would probably still be in bed. 


What IS on the Menu?

Having been somewhat more silent in the past week, I've had time to think about quite a few things, such as
  • Changing the way we eat
  • Changing up the daily lunches my beloved so faithfully consumes
  • Changing how I do things with this here corner of the Internets
  • Changing me.  
Change. A lot of it.  

Some things will take quite a while to accomplish, like improving on this blog or changing me. Other things, like changing the lunch menu and changing how we eat.....those things start changing today.  

I love Fall. Yes FALL, rather than "Autumn" which just sounds way too politically and socially correct for the likes of me. Fall, to me, means MAKING stuff....Spring means DOING stuff, but Fall means, there's nothing else to DO (like, outdoors), so now it's time to MAKE.  Winter gets here, it's time for dreaming and PLANNING all those things we'll do when Spring makes its appearance again in 2014. 

One thing I need and want to start focusing on is making meal plans.  Not a very arduous task when it involves only two people but still, planning is required.  Planning not only saves you money, it also saves a tremendous amount of time and stress over what to eat.  Planning helps you know exactly what you need to buy for the week, right down to how many and which color bananas (gently) throw in the cart.  

For well over a year, this has been my beloved's lunch: 

  • 1 Coke
  • 2 Waters (1 frozen, 1 cold)
  • 1 bowl of oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon
  • 3 Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches (with natural peanut butter and typically, Polaner All Fruit jellies)
  • 1 banana
  • 1 salad with a few grape tomatoes, maybe some cukes, croutons and his fave 1000 Island dressing
  • 3-4 cookies
  • Chips (Popcorners, Stacy's Pita Chips, plain Cantina-style tortilla chips) 
  • 2 deli turkey or chicken sandwiches with a bit of mayo on buns.
  • Occasional addition of some leftovers or 2-3 clementines, when we have them
He works ALL day and by all day, I do mean ALL DAY.  He leaves here in the morning and gets back some 13-14 hours later, so this is his food supply for the entire day. He is way more well behaved than I am...limits himself to 1 pop a day and eats his vegetables (salad) and fruits.  However, with the passage of almost 1.5 years of eating the same thing every day, he really is getting bored with the selection. and also noted that we need to get back to eliminating more of the unhealthy stuff and adding more vegetarian things.  (See here for why we would be mentioning anything vegetarian-related)

Which brings us back to PLANNING.  For the near, near future, anyway, we are still eating meat-stuffs.  Turkey, chicken and very little pork...and TRYING to cut out the red meat consumption.  After today.  After this:  

What we came up with is replacing the deli meats with leftovers and turkey burgers, which he adores. He's grilling up a bunch of those today, so I can just throw them together throughout the week. And, with the creation of the afore-pictured chuck roast, there will either be a few potroast sandwiches or just left-over roast  and veggies. 

In addition to all that, I've got my mind set towards making that spinach lasagna today, and if he likes it, he can eat that too....if not, more for me...to freeze.  Also, I stocked up on chicken boobs, so we'll be having some variation of this: 

and this (because I remembered to get the broccoli and the fish sauce yesterday!) 

Therefore, there will be NO shortage of different foods for him to consume during the workday.  Nor will I have any excuse for not eating anything during the day (out of sheer and unadulterated laziness). This, to me, seems like a tremendous amount of food, as in too MUCH food, but I often forget that he likes to have a little something at night when he gets home as well, and having healthier things like the chicken dishes will be better for him than junk. 

What's on your menu for the week?