Monday, July 30, 2012

Birds Gotta Fly (and eat)!

I need to take just a moment to acknowledge an important fact: where you work is often as important as what you do for work. I'm sure many of us know that an environment that welcomes and encourages is one where productivity are at a maximum, which is why people strive to create work (and living) spaces that make us happy.

Meet J's work space:

Up, up... oh, you know the rest.

I'll spare you the trite "better view than a corner office" comparisons, but suffice it to say he enjoys his daily toil more than most. And now, he enjoys it from the Captain's chair! 

We're all very proud of his accomplishment, as it's the culmination of a lot of hard work and effort on his part (I'm hoping some of this excellent career karma will rub off on me). Clearly a celebration is in order!

As for my work space (the part that's relevant to this blog, anyway), well... I don't have any cozy kitchen adventures to share, mainly because I just haven't cooked up anything notable of late: pastas and frozen chicken don't exactly qualify as new and interesting. But we have finally returned to our farmer's market these past few weeks, picking up some lovely fruits, veggies, and even some fresh bread to round out the boring-old-standby meals. There's also some camp-stove cooking coming up in our future, as well as some kind of fantastic dessert, TBD, as a special treat. A hard-working Captain (and his co-pilot wife) must eat, after all!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Quick & Tasty: An Oxymoron?

Fast food: two little words that make chefs, dieticians, and doctors cringe, and pressed-for-time home cooks glance away in shame. But what about the "other" fast food -- the meals we can whip up at home, with little or no thought and not much in the way of preparation, yet are still delicious and filling? I call these meals "quick and tasty" in an effort to avoid the FF stigma.

Last night, J and I returned home from an enjoyable family party a little tired and not much inclined to do more than relax on the sofa. I knew I'd be averse to putting much effort into dinner, so I planned in advance a purchase of steak tips and sweet corn. In order to change things up even the tiniest bit, I brought out a kitchen tool I'd yet to fully utilize: the reversible grill/griddle.

Grill today... griddle tomorrow!

I'm pleased to say that the grill side has lived up to its hype. A light coating of canola oil was all it took to keep my meat from sticking, and overall I think the surface heated fairly evenly. The meat certainly came out juicy and perfectly cooked (which I also partially attribute both to good meat and my trusty thermometer), with just a little teriyaki glaze for flavor. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Sips & Bites Part II

Now that I've teased your palate with the edible from last weekend, I think it's time to show off the drinkable. My mother certainly has provided me with invaluable recipes and kitchen tips over the years, but it's time to honor my father with a post dedicated to his own version of sangria.

As a general rule, sangrias should be sweet (but not overly so), fruity (but not overpowering), and entirely refreshing. They should also be relatively simple to make, contain as few ingredients as possible, and not cost a fortune. To me, this drink represents summer in a glass. I can't tell you what kind of wine we use -- part of the secret -- or the quantities of the other "special" ingredients, but I can tell you this: made in advance, with enough time for the wine base to acquire as much citrus juice as possible, sangria can taste so smooth that you'll hardly remember you're drinking anything alcoholic.

Allow me a moment to introduce my newest (and current favorite) kitchen toy: the mandoline. Purchased with the remnants of a wedding giftcard that I'd saved for delayed gratification, this little gem made the sangria-making experience a whole new kind of pleasure. Normally, slicing citrus fruit is everyone's least favorite chore: slippery and tough, the oranges, lemons, and limes have caused me some rather painful moments in the past.

But no longer! After cutting each fruit in half, I simply set the height of the slicer, wet the slide, and got to cutting perfect little slices.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Summer Sips & Bites Part I

I'm back, and with some great seasonal edibles as promised!

A relaxing vacation with family is never complete without homemade goodies, and I very much enjoyed sharing the duties with my mother this year. It should come as no surprise that blueberries were the ingredient of choice this time, and we book-ended our daily meals with blueberry muffins at breakfast (hers) and blueberry bars for dessert (mine).

Mom used a tried-and-true muffin recipe from a book we both love, The Art and Soul of Baking. I think her special touch in the kitchen makes them come out just perfectly, and the very, very few left over certainly prove it.

Mmmm muffins!

Next time I just might put her to work and ask her to document her kitchen experiences for me to share!

As for me, I spent a few days before the trip packing, cleaning, and whipping up my own contributions. I put together a green salad -- sorry, no pictures of that one -- and two featured treats: Dad's Famous Sangria and a new recipe for blueberry bars. In order to pay due attention to each, I'm splitting up my food recaps so you'll have to wait for the next post to salivate over the sangria. 

The bars were relatively simple to make, using only the food processor to create the crumble mixture for the top and bottom. I intend to substitute other seasonal fruit for the blueberries in the future, as I think this recipe is versatile enough for just about anything.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The "Summer Lazies"

In spite of the incredible bounty of fresh, delicious food available in the summer months, I'm a self-professed cold weather woman. I don't adapt to high temps and sticky humidity very well, and much prefer getting cozy with a roaring fire than sweating it out on the beach with the roar of the ocean (at the very least, I'd rather be sailing on that ocean). Right now, the very last place I want to be is my kitchen with the oven on.

One of the ways I'm most affected by the weather is my energy level -- it absolutely plummets in the summer, and it feels like it takes double the usual amount of effort to get anything done. So perhaps you'll forgive me for my dearth of kitchen work lately, as I just haven't been able to muster the motivation to make anything new and interesting. Of course, we've also been away from home a lot these past few weeks making the rounds to our families, kitten in tow, and I haven't even been inside my own kitchen enough to cook.

I can promise to make it up to you this week, however, as I'll be busy preparing all kinds of yummy things for a nearing family mini-vacation. My mother and I have decided to split the burden, so to speak, and prepare or bring enough food for everyone between us. I volunteered immediately to make my father's sangria, a green salad of some kind (she gets the fruit one this time), and some other goodies that I'll be working on as the week progresses.

So, keep an eye out for more posts this week that focus on summer-perfect dishes, including some old favorites and perhaps a new surprise or two. I also plan to document the meals of that trip, assuming I can get a few shots before all that delicious food is devoured!