Operation Meat Drop

September 27, 2011

Dishing it out.

I’m very happy to report that I found a home for a great big portion of the meats. The deal went down a little something like this…

me: i could provide the tupperware
i would buy some grocery store gladware
to give this beef a good home
Ris: hahahaha
me: it’s like i’m trying to get it adopted
Well my stomach would like to cut through all the red tape with your agency as quickly as possible and get this adoption rolling

By the time I got back from dropping the beef at her apartment, she’d already emailed me to say– WHAT this is a lot of meat! The pictures aren’t doing this situation justice– you can’t really understand how much meat this is until you see it in person. (When you talk about meat as much as I have been talking about meat today, you kind of forget about double entendres. So… forgive me.)

That left me with a much more manageable portion for myself. (And– as my friend Austen pointed out– I could totally freeze some. This didn’t even OCCUR to me. I’m such a crocking newb.)

As long as I was picking up some new food storage containers, I grabbed some stuff to make a nice little BBQ brisket-style sandwich for dinner. I used beef, coleslaw, and spicy mustard. (I would have used red horseradish for the spice, but I couldn’t find it.)

Hey, you look pretty tasty.

One really crazy note– the coleslaw from the Albertsons deli has pineapple in it. At first I thought it was some sort of pineapple-fell-in-the-coleslaw mistake, but then I realized that there were MANY pieces. Since when has that been a thing?

Hello? What is going on?

Meanwhile, Sam is still working on his beef stew. Here’s a live update from the front. (He has been eating this steadily since Friday night… paging Dr. Gulag.) (Let’s be real, it’s probably much better than anything ever served at a gulag.)

Stew of the Sam.

So yeah… whatever… don’t cry for me, Argentina. I handled my beefs. I got so much beef, I ain’t got time for a beef with you.


Do It Yourself: The Dangers of Night-Crocking (“Always Yummy Beef”)

September 27, 2011

A surprisingly enticing photo, under the office fluorescents.

I never learn. I obviously never learn, right? I get all overeager and suddenly I’m in the middle of another crock-pocalypse.

Last year I went to 25 Degrees, the burger place at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. I took pictures and intended to blog it, but was so overwhelmed by the portions (particularly the burger size) that looking at the pictures made me sick. So I never blogged it. Six months ago, a Philly cheesesteak put me into a ridiculous food coma. I pretty much know for a fact that I can’t handle my meats. (Haha, very funny.)

Friday night, Sam made a beef stew on the stove. I showed up at his place and found him wiping away tears– onions, man!

From the Mark Bittman school of stewing. Sorry, bad lighting.

After experiencing a stove-cooked beef stew, I wondered how it would turn out in the crock pot. And I was bored last night, and didn’t have a mound of leftovers for lunches… one thing led to another, and soon I was buying the ingredients for “Always Yummy Beef.” (Recipe here.) (Doesn’t it sound so innocent?)

Here I go again...

It was a seriously easy recipe, made all the more delightful by the use of dry onion soup mix (no onion cutting whatsoever!). What I didn’t realize was that the recipe was written with a 5.5 quart crock pot in mind. Mine is 4 quarts. Luckily I bought the minimum of each ingredient, but still… whoops. I’m lucky the beef could even fit in the pot. (That’s what she said, etc. Deal with it.)

Three pounds of raw meat. Just another Monday night.

That was the only crock pot-approved piece of meat I could find. So… I guess I lucked out? (I’m seriously having a case of the 25 Degrees not-sure-I-can-blog-this feeling right about now…)

You smother the meat all around with the cream of mushroom soup (I didn’t do anything to dilute it… crocking draws water from the veggies) and the dry onion soup mix…

Where's the beef?

… and the next instruction is, “Stab with a fork to get rid of frustrations.” I wasn’t sure if that was a joke, but I stabbed the meat with a fork just in case. No exploding beefs on my watch!

In theory you then put the veggies in AROUND the beef, but obviously I was out of room. So they went on top.

The recipe called for 3 to 7 potatoes. I bought 4, and only 2 fit in the pot. So… yeah. I guess I’ll be making something else with potatoes in the near future.

Once again, filled to capacity.

The recipe said to cook on LOW for 6 hours or more. I started the pot at 8pm, thinking that I would wake up to a wonderful aroma. By the time I went to sleep at around midnight… honestly, not much had happened. Not even a discernible smell. I mean, setting a SLOW cooker on LOW, one should expect this sort of progress.

I slept rather fitfully, and at around 3:50am I awoke to a really… humid feeling. The smell was… not delicious. It was just more like a heavy feeling in the air. So I went to the kitchen and turned the pot to WARM, so I could just deal with mucking out and cleaning up in the morning.

I went back to my room. I had my door closed, and plenty of windows open, but I couldn’t shake the smell. I turned on my fan, to help with that humid feeling. The thing is– I am a rather quirky sleeper, and all summer I’ve been sleeping ON TOP of my covers, under one thin blanket. Well, the unnecessary addition of cold air gave me a SNEEZE ATTACK. If you know me, you know that I can sneeze on an ENDLESS LOOP.

Much like a character in an action movie, I had to fight my way toward the fan while sneezing violently. After I turned it off, I couldn’t get warm again. So I got under my REAL covers, but after a summer of light blanketing, I felt constricted. I was definitely zonked when my alarm went off at 6:30am-ish.

Good morning, my new nemesis.

All that is just my way of saying– I do not recommend that you run your crock pot overnight. Use it while you are off at work or… wherever you go during the day. The roller skating rink. The hair salon.

And then I fished out all the beef. And fished. And fished. SO MUCH MEAT. What was I thinking, seriously?

What have I done?!

It’s hard to tell from the perspective in the picture, but the amount in the small container is about 1/20th of what’s in the big container. That’s 20 lunches. About 17 more than I could ever want.

And Sam is still working on his stew, so I can’t even turn to him to relieve me of this unholy amount of meat.

I had that small container for lunch, and it was very delicious and tender, but I am seriously in over my head. I need some people to come over to my place with big Tupperwares and relieve me of this bounty. Please. Pretty please.

Because I feel bad about wasting food… but not bad enough to eat this on my own.



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The (Not-Too-Terrible) Curse of the Crock Pot

September 23, 2011

The long national nightmare is over!

You may recall that I did some crock pot cooking last weekend. Chicken cacciatore. It made a very delicious dinner on Saturday night.

I ate it again for lunch on Sunday. On Monday I brought it to work with the last of the linguine. On Tuesday I forgot to make more linguine, so I just ate chicken. And I kept eating the chicken on Wednesday, Thursday, and today (Friday). (If Sam hadn’t joined me for dinner last Saturday, I might have had to eat it for lunch all weekend.)

Maybe as a sweet goodbye, today the chicken juice leaked out of my plastic container and got all over my reusable snack bags. Thanks, buddy. I’ll remember you always. (Luckily the bags are highly washable.)

So… when you cook crock pot dinner for one, make sure you like that meal enough to want to eat it for many, many subsequent meals. (It’s very cost-effective, if you’re okay with the monotony.) (Crock pots are the Costco of cooking.)

OR– give some of it away. I have an idea– say you crock it up over the weekend, and give half to a friend. Then THEY crock and roll on Tuesday or Wednesday and give half to YOU, and it finishes out the week. You still have to eat the same thing for multiple meals, but maybe 3 or 4 meals rather than 6+.

Or… just half the recipe.

Happy Impending Weekend!


Do It Yourself: Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore

September 18, 2011

The fruits of the crock pot.

I recently acquired a crock pot, and I have been very excited about cooking in it! First of all– you can throw a bunch of food in the crock pot before work, and when you get home it’s a delightful, fragrant meal. Second– there are always leftovers! Does it get any better than that?

Yesterday I broke in my crock pot by making Chicken Cacciatore (here’s the recipe). With one painful exception, it’s super easy! (I’ll get to that exception in a minute.)

One thing I’ve noticed about cooking– it begets more cooking. From past projects, I already had a few items I needed for this recipe– garlic cloves, flour and basil (I used flakes instead of fresh). And now I have several more ingredients for future recipes– kosher salt, tomato paste and chicken broth. So… now I have to cook some more!

Basically just dump it all in the pot. My kind of cooking.

The recipe called for TWO chopped onions. Two. I’m not a major onion girl. I never get them at In ‘N Out. (Not even grilled– I find them overpowering.) Cooking-wise, I get their value– onions are totally necessary in stuffing, latkes, etc. At home I always leave the kitchen while my dad or youngest sister does the chopping. (She eats onions like apples. WHAT?!) And at Sam’s we buy pre-chopped onions (because he is the smartest).

I like to follow a new recipe as closely as I can, so I put my worries aside and went for it with the onions. (And didn’t even look for pre-chopped… whoops.) Which was dumb, because I forgot that onions BURN my eyes like a MOFO. Seriously within seconds of the first slice, it seemed as though the onion had released an evil tear-gas bomb. (And I know my eye pain… this was bad.) I was moaning in such a way that my neighbors probably thought I was having painful sex.

I ran from the kitchen, dabbing at my eyes with a paper towel. I seriously debated scrapping the whole project. But then I sucked it up, went back in, and chopped the onions under running water. BOTH of them. Like a boss.

We're not friends.

After that, everything else was a breeze. You don’t even have to stir the ingredients, because as they cook they’ll all soup up and merge. (My mom always had a strict don’t-open-the-lid rule, and I stand by that.)

I think my favorite new ingredient was tomato paste. It looked like toothpaste and smelled like ketchup! Let’s be real– I would probably brush my teeth with tomato paste. Maybe.

How have we never met before?

In the background, that’s mushrooms with 1/4 cup of flour sprinkled over them. This recipe was relatively healthy– no butter, no oil. I think that’s a crock pot advantage? I don’t know– what do I know? I haven’t crock-potted since college. (Sexy.)

Luckily my pot was JUST big enough to hold all of the ingredients. Whew!

To the top!

I always thought that peppers were a mandatory ingredient in Chicken Cacciatore, but this recipe didn’t call for them. Maybe they’re not crock pot friendly? Maybe there just wasn’t enough room? I wonder what would happen if you replaced one onion with one pepper… less crying, that’s for sure.

Four and a half hours on “high” later, the meal had shrunk down a bit– and smelled amazing.

I'll eat you, my pretty.

I cooked up a pot of linguine to serve with the chicken. After a sprinkling of basil, it was ready to eat! (I was also supposed to serve with grated cheese, but I completely forgot about it. Whoops. Next time.)

The best thing about cooking chicken in a crock pot is that it comes out falling-apart tender. It’s pretty much impossible to cook chicken that way on the stove or the grill– and a lot of pan-cooked chicken ends up dry, because people overcook it out of fear of E. Coli, etc.


You don’t even need a knife. Just a nudge and it’s all yummy-shreddy.

And you know what? Even the onions were good. All the acid gets cooked out, so they just taste nice and veggie-ish. I kinda wish it was a little more tomato-y– like, I might even add a little sauce when I eat the leftovers. (I guess you could dump in two cans, if it would all fit.) But I’m a tomato fiend, so that might just be me.

Mmmm…. it might be time for leftovers right now! I love crock-potting. (Yes, it’s a verb now.)

You can have this for dinner tonight, if you run to the store now! (I recommend you stock up either way… the grocery strike looms. While I was buying these ingredients, they were training strike-time replacement workers at my local Albertson’s… sigh.)


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Snack Trek: FORAGE (Silver Lake)

September 18, 2011

More than I can eat.

This week my friends and I finally tried out Silver Lake hot spot Forage, at Sunset Junction. It’s sort of an upscale cafeteria– you order the food at the counter and they scoop up a plate for you. Since the food is locally sourced, I expected it to be fresh and healthy. It was fresh, but more decadent than healthy.

I opted for the protein-and-two-sides plate. For my protein, I chose the Crispy Mushroom Ragout sandwich. It was on some sort of flaky, crusty bread that was probably 200% butter, and also had cream on it. Rich city!

What is this, France or something?

Next time I’ll try the Jidori chicken. Actually, I’m dying to try the Coca Cola and soy marinated steak, but there’s a rotating menu and it wasn’t available on the night we went to Forage. So– I’ll try the chicken, if the Coke steak isn’t around.

I’m not a huge mac ‘n cheese person, but it seemed to be one of their specialties. It was good, but definitely a WAY bigger portion than I would have served myself. Luckily Cole was willing to help me do the heavy lifting (eating).

Same food, different view.

My second side was mercifully veggie-based– a Fattoush salad with a zaatar dressing. Or something like that. (Basically– a bunch of veggies in a light dressing.) It cut all the fats of the rest of the meal nicely.

But then… we ordered dessert.

Why? WHY???

The first slice was some sort of chocolate-hazelnut cake. And the second was a maple pear upside cake? Something like that. Bad life choices!

Never trust a pretty cake.

In conclusion, Forage is definitely a sometimes-restaurant. I think if I went there weekly, my heart/stomach/cholesterol would explode. Very unbecoming. But I’ll be back… because sometimes you just can’t stay away from those bad boy… foods.


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Snack Track: Mr. Tea’s Wild Ride

September 18, 2011

The flower is edible. We tried it.

As tea-loving as Mr. Tea is, he’d never been to a real afternoon tea. So I surprised him with a trip to the Tea House on Los Rios in San Juan Capistrano (a little over an hour south of LA). Even though he drove, he didn’t know where we were going– I set his GPS and told him to follow its instructions. Bwahahaha.

I was worried that the tea house might be sort of a girly place to take a man, but I figured Mr. Tea could handle seeing a few ladies in funny hats. And when he finally figured out where we were going, he seemed more than happy to sit in a floral-wallpapered room. It’s like going to your proper-but-wacky grandmother’s house.

We ordered the Los Rios Tea spread– “Assorted Fingers Sandwiches, freshly baked currant scone with our own Famous Early California Cream & preserves, fresh fruit accompanied by cream and brown sugar. Your selection of tea.”

My teacup reminded me of the scene from “The Birdcage” where they use the soup bowls with the naked Greeks on them.

Are they... playing leapfrog?

The tea we selected was the “House Special Reserve,” a black tea with vanilla and grenadine. It sounds weird, but with some milk and sugar it was quite delightful. It was loose leaf, so we had to pour it through a strainer. Faaancy.

And then came the scones!

Eat your heart out.

I don’t know if you can tell, but that’s definitely a heart-shaped scone. These are my people! I’m not really a scone aficionado, but it seemed to be fluffy and crusty in the right places. And it was HUGE. (That’s what she said.) (I mean, look at it compared to the average-sized knife.)

Even though I’m not typically a fan of things with mayo or cream, for some reason I love tea sandwiches. I think it’s the neatness, or the bite-size-ness. Or maybe I secretly like egg- and chicken-salad sandwiches, but only in tiny portions once a decade. (Hehe.)

Love the presentation.

They gave us half & half and brown sugar to pour over the fruit… to “glaze” it. That must be a British thing. It tasted good, but I think fruit is sweet enough on its own.  The edible flower tasted like… a flower smells. I spit my petal out, once I got the jist of it. (And in case you’re wondering, the sandwiches were egg salad, chicken salad, ham salad, and cucumber. Mr. Tea traded me because I don’t eat ham, so there are two egg in my picture.)

We were too full for dessert, so we walked around San Juan Capistrano trying to digest enough to get an ice cream. (Never happened. We were too full.) It was sunny AND we got rained on. Luckily the rain passed just as we entered the Mission. I haven’t been there since I was a kid, and I forgot how gorgeous it is! (I probably didn’t appreciate the gardens when I was little.)

Haha, that’s another name I could have given to this secret trek– Mission: San Juan Capistrano.

Lily pond!

There were two ponds– this one was koi-free. The second was very koi-ful.

Cue "Jaws" music.

I loved the reflections of the sky and trees in the water.

And look at these souvenirs. I guess all aspiring home cooks could use a grocery shopping angel?

What the WHAT?

There are plenty of places in LA to get tea, but it was nice to get out of the city for an afternoon and have an adventure. And if you don’t want to venture outside the comfort of your own home, this post was a cheat sheet– now you know what to make if you want to have a proper tea of your own.

Happy Sunday!


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(More) Snack Sacks!

September 18, 2011

Adding a bit of cheer to the gray cubicle.

The first two reusable snack bags were successful, but I realized that I often use more than just two bags when I pack my lunch. So I turned back to the internet for more bags. MORE! MORE! (Actually just two.)

I decided to branch out and try another brand. This time I chose snackTAXI, because their designs are so cute! My PB Green Bags have Velcro all the way across the top, whereas the snackTaxi ones have a little Velcro tab. Since each brand seems to be based out of a different family’s home, there are lots of interesting variations– but they all seem to work well.

I urge you to buy a bag or two and check them out! Is there anything cuter than those rainbow apples & pears, or the adorable tea time pattern? It makes me look forward to packing my lunch! (Sometimes I feel like I’m taking care of a young child– packing snacks in her lunch so she won’t get cranky, cooking her a nice healthy dinner rather than letting her eat fast food, not letting her eat too much dessert because it will make her tummy hurt. I’m a high maintenance toddler!)

But seriously, my inner child and my outer adult feel good about my one-woman attempt to not fill landfills with my Ziploc usage.


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