Wednesday, September 17, 2014

guacamole all the things

Sometimes the rest of your dinner has nothing to do with guacamole, but you just have to say fuck it, and make the guacamole, because it's delicious.

This was that dinner.

Look at that guacamole, hiding in the background. Sneaky.

Pretty simple - seared chuck steak, sweet potato mash, sauteed baby kale with mushrooms, and the aforementioned random guacamole.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How Bad Can It Go? Emergen-C

I've decided I'm going to try doing a series of food / drink experiments. I'm calling it "How Bad Can It Go" because I like to tempt fate, and because it's kind of my default mode of operation. Because I decided to do this while I was at work, and being of a very impatient constitution, I had to find something immediately accessible to use as my first experiment. That something ended up being a packet of Emergen-C that came into my possession as part of a "care package" that one of our vendors sent us all in preparation for our busy season. Yes, they send us some random stuff. I don't ask, I just squirrel the random stuff away for occasions like this.


So, if you're not familiar with the Emergen-C product, you can Google it, but the basic gist is that it's a powder loaded with vitamins and other good shit. It comes in a cute little .3 oz packet that you're meant to rip open, dump into 4-6oz of water, let fizz for a minute or so (the fizzing is a big selling point to me, not gonna lie), then imbibe and thus refresh your body with wonderful goodness. Or something. The packet does say that it's a dietary supplement, and it does point out that it contains "24 Nutrients with 7 B Vitamins, Antioxidants and Electrolytes", but it does not actually claim anything else, like "gives you energy", or "makes your hair curl", or "cures the common cold". Because it doesn't actually claim to DO...anything...(well, aside from fizz!), it doesn't really open itself up to a whole lot of criticism on the "does this shit really work" side of things...which is by design, I'm sure.

Since there's no way to judge the product on efficacy (because who really knows if that rush of 1000mg of vitamin C actually did anything for me or not. My vitamin C meter feels..fuller, maybe?), that leaves me with only taste to judge.

Funnily enough this, I feel, is where Emergen-C has some issues.

My packet was the "Super Orange" flavor. The ingredients include "natural orange flavor" and "orange juice powder", so I was certainly expecting something orange-y. Pouring the powder out into my cup, I got a weak waft of a Tang-like fragrance. I added about 6oz of water, and to my delight, the mixture started to fizz immediately! I love fizz. Unfortunately, the fizzing stopped after about two seconds. Bummer. I also noticed that while the powder was dissolving, the color of the drink changed from palest orange to, again, a very Tang-like bright unnatural orange. The color seemed to be encapsulated in bigger particles in the otherwise super-fine powder, because they kept floating to the top and kind of popping / disbursing. It was all marginally interesting to watch (more interesting than the accounting I should have been doing, anyway).

Once the powder had dissolved, I gave the drink a sniff. It still smelled like weak Tang. Which...if you drank Tang as a child, you understand the utter depressing nature of weak-assed Tang. It's just...ugh. So much promise, and so little delivery.

Anyway - so finally I screwed up the tits to taste the drink. It tasted like an unholy mixture of heavily watered down orange Gatorade and citric acid (which, surprise, was the second ingredient on the list - and if you've never tasted straight citric acid, it tastes like the coating on Sour Patch Kids or other super-sour candies. It's like, punch-you-in-the-jaw sour), with a strong background chalkiness akin to Alka Selzter (so possibly the fizzing agent is to blame?). It was unpleasant, certainly...but not unbearable. I could envision knocking a cup of it back if I for some reason felt desperately deficient of vitamin C or B vitamins, or more likely if I was the type who really got a lot out of the placebo effect.

As an aside, there was far less fizziness to the drink than I was hoping there would be, which was a disappointment. Somehow, despite the lack of fizziness, the drink has been causing me to have intermittent Tang-scented burps for the last 20 minutes. Go figure.

So, there you go. Thus concludes my first "How Bad Can It Go" experiment. If there's anything you'd like to see me try out and rant about, feel free to leave a comment here or on the OneGirlCooks Facebook page. I will consider all suggestions (within reason. I am not eating poop. Or brains. Or bugs, OMG).

Sunday, September 7, 2014

pumpkin spice smoothie

It's that time of year again - PUMPKIN SPICE ALL THE THINGS!

I, for one, welcome our new pumpkin spice overlords not only because their arrival is a harbinger of my favorite season, but because pumpkin stuff is just plain GOOD. Plus, it can be good for you, too - pumpkin is packed with vitamin A, potassium and fiber, hooray!

There was a can of pumpkin on my shelf left over from something else I'd been making back before the weather got insane this summer, and it was right in my line of sight every morning as I was making my coffee and my normal berry-banana smoothie. Because I am incapable of actual full-blown coherent thoughts before coffee, my thought process always went something like, "Mmmm...pumpkin. Piiiiie. Pie good. Pie too cook, very hot, much sugar. Mmmm...pumpkin."

Eventually, the idea of doing something besides making a pie with the can of pumpkin trickled down into my brain meats and started showing up AFTER coffee, which is when things become actionable in my world. I had been turning the idea over in my head for a few days when, this morning, dun dun DUNNNNNN...I realized I was out of bananas for my normal smoothie. This could not stand, and I wasn't about to put pants on to go buy more bananas, so an alternative smoothie had to be created. Enter pumpkin, stage left.

I didn't take a picture of the smoothie for you looky-loos, but just imagine liquid pumpkin pie filling in a Barking Squirrel pint glass, and you're there.

This recipe makes a BIG smoothie (see: pint glass reference above), but I like big smoothies since that's usually the entirety of my breakfast. If you want less smoothie, half the recipe - or put half in the freezer, maybe?

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup milk
1 scoop protein powder (mine is non-sugar sweetened. If you're using totally unsweetened powder, you might want to add a little maple syrup to the mix to sweeten it up)
spices to taste - I used a combination of ginger, clove, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Blend everything together in a blender or food processor, dump into a glass and enjoy!

Because of the dairy, this is obviously not strict Paleo- or Whole30-compliant. I personally have done dairy-exclusion periods in the past and found that I have no problems with digesting it when I reintroduce it, so I no longer exclude it from my diet. If you can't have / aren't eating dairy, you could easily use almond milk or coconut milk in this recipe instead. Coconut milk tends to run sweeter though, so you may want to start with about half a cup and taste to make sure you're not ending up with something really cloying. Unless cloying is your thing of course...then have at it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

lazy broccoli salad

I really like broccoli salad. You know, the kind with bacon and cranberries or raisins and nuts and bacon. Mmm, bacon.


Oh, yeah. Salad.

So, broccoli salad is kind of a pain in the ass to make. There's a lot of chopping involved - more chopping than I want to do on most nights after work, frankly. I decided to try using a bag of shredded broccoli slaw instead, and it worked very well. Plus it took about a tenth as long to prepare.

The rest of the plate is pretty self-explanatory - leftover chicken thighs and sliced tomato. Ta-da! Quick, lazy Whole30 compliant dinner (if you use olive oil mayo and make sure your dried cranberries don't have any added sugar, anyway).

Monday, September 1, 2014

fancy fish bags

Hehehehe. Fish bags. It's fun to say, try it! Fish bags, fish bags, fish bags. I'm not high, I swear to you.


Whilst grocery shopping yesterday, I spied with my little green eye some parchment bags made for steaming shit in the oven. Well, not shit, but you know. I was immediately entranced with the pretty picture of perfectly cooked fish and veg on the box, and I had to have them. HAD TO. I am weak. It is known, khaleesi.

I've done "en papillote" fish preparations before and enjoyed them - all except the part where you have to fight with the parchment paper to stay crimped, while evil Alton Brown's voice keeps ringing in the back of your head, maniacally laughing and saying, "IT'S SOOOO SIMMMPLE!"  Maybe he's right - maybe it IS really simple and I just fucking fail at parchment origami, I don't know. What I DO know is that what's even easier than farting around with parchment for 20 fucking minutes while your stomach rumbles and you see stars from hunger? PRE-MADE PARCHMENT BAGS, bitches.

Mystery baaaag...are you ready for your mystery baaaag? It's not full of dog poop. OR IS IT? (it's probably not)

Told you.
You guys. I can't even. These bags? Are my new favorite thing. All I did was lay a couple pieces of cod over some asparagus, green beans and sliced red pepper, add a little poorly-cut basil on top, seal the bag with a couple folds over, and it was ready to roll. I did two bags (because the Ginger Beast needs to eat, too) on a cookie sheet, stashed them in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, and lo, the fish, eet was done!

The asparagus is being a tease in this one.
Now...I will be completely honest with you here. First of all, I really like the taste of cod, so I don't usually fuck around with it much. You could easily gussy this up with all kinds of fancy herbs and citrus and whatever, but...I really like cod. Second of all, the next time I do this, I will NOT lay the fish directly on the veg unless I have significantly thinner pieces of fish. These were some big, manly cod pieces (see what I did there? Manly? Cod pieces? OMG, somebody stop me. No, really...), and the veg underneath didn't cook as much as it could have. We like our veg pretty al dente here at Chez OGC and that asparagus was borderline even for us. So, yes - next time, I'll spread the veg out around the fish for more even cook-en-ings...or maybe even just steam it separately...although honestly, that would take like half the fun out of the whole dinner-from-a-bag thing.

If you care, or even if you don't, this meal is Paleo and Whole-30 compliant, and as gluten-free as the day is long. Tra-la-la, healthy food.

pan-fried chicken thigh amazingness

Have you fully accepted the amazingness of chicken thighs into your life? If not, you should. Yes friends, I am here today to preach the gospel of chicken thighs. They are cheaper and more forgiving than your mom, and they taste better too.

Seriously, though. Chicken thighs are hardly ever more than $1.89 a pound at my local Hannaford. That's for the bone-in ones, mind you. The boneless ones are more pricey, and they also have the skin removed. In my opinion, there's no point in eating chicken if you can't have the crispy, delicious skin as well, so just buy the bone-in ones and be done with it. Unless you like sad chicken. You don't like sad chicken though, right? I didn't think so.

De-boning chicken thighs is actually really easy. I would have done a little picture tutorial for you, but I don't have a tripod for the camera and I don't want to get it all smegged up with chicken juice, so...yeah. Anyway - it's really easy. You just take a good sharp knife and zip down one side of the bone, then the other, pull the flesh away to the end and then give it a twist to remove. Tra-la-la, de-boned chicken thigh...with bonus skin! Well, not BONUS skin, because that would be weird..but you know. Sorry, I'm tired.

So, yes - what I did with these lovely chicken thighs after I de-boned them was as follows:

- pat dry with paper towel
- sprinkle with kosher salt
- put them in a hot pan SKIN SIDE DOWN for about ten minutes, then flipped and cooked on the other side until cooked through (took about another seven minutes for mine).

So simple. So delicious. Thank you madam, may I have another!

They look small because they're far away, but trust me, they were not.
 The majesty that is pan-fried chicken thighs was complemented on this plate by slices of the best damn tomato I've had in YEARS, which came from just down the road at Long Wind Farm, and a variation on this salad - I say variation because her recipe calls for snap peas but I used green beans, and it calls for lemon juice but I used white wine vinegar. And I didn't measure anything. So it probably tasted totally different, but whatever, it was delicious and I never would have thought to put that combination of things together had I not read her recipe first.

"But the bones," you say..."what about the bones you took out of the chicken thighs?" You may not actually be saying that but I'm putting words in your mouth so that I can make a point. You could chuck the bones if you wanted. You could throw them out for the wild animals. You could string them onto a necklace and wear them as a fashion statement, but they'd probably get kind of rank after a couple days. What I do is put the bones in a freezer bag, scrawl the date on it, seal it up and stash it in the freezer. Later on, when it's not 2073 degrees outside and I feel like making soup, I use the bones to make stock. It's just a suggestion.

Also, for anyone playing along at home, this meal is Paleo compliant, Whole-30 compliant, gluten-free, and all kinds of tasty.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

a post about brain-meat. Not the eating there-of, don't worry.

Have you ever wondered why I seem to post for a few months pretty regularly, then disappear for months, then kind of pop back in here and start posting again? No? Well, tough tits - I'm about to explain it anyway.

I suffer from an anxiety disorder and depression. I've struggled with them for as long as I can remember, but "officially", as in, known by my doctor, since about 2004. I have been on medications, off medications, I've done therapy, I've read self-help books, I've tried vitamins, meditation, name it, I've probably dabbled in it at some point in the hopes that it would help. And honestly, all that stuff HAS helped a little, on and off...but the one thing I've learned above all others in this process so far has been that there are no magic cure-alls, at least not for me. That sounds like such a fatalistic statement, but really it's the opposite, honestly. It's not that I don't believe there's anything out there that will help me, it's that I know myself and my condition well enough now to understand that it's never going to go away. It's like my green eyes or my brown hair. Try as I might to disguise them, they are a part of me and there's no real way to permanently change them.

My depression is cyclical. I'm not bi-polar - I don't have phases of extreme high and low. What I have are periods of feeling basically ok interspersed with periods where I have a really hard time dealing with just about everything. During those "down-swings", I tend to also get very anxious and I also have a hard time doing all the tiny normal things that healthy people do every day: stuff like cleaning my teeth and brushing my hair, for example. It's not that those things start to feel optional to me when I'm depressed, it's that they just kind of get removed from my automatic to-do list. Bigger things, like washing the dishes or doing the laundry, go from being odious little tasks that take up a little of my knitting time to gigantic tasks that I literally need to plan ahead and prepare myself for hours ahead of time..and then I'm mentally exhausted afterward. Even cooking or knitting, things I truly love to do, turn into tasks that take monumental force of personal will to accomplish, and so I pretty much just stop doing them when I'm depressed.

Depression is also a teller of lies. It convinces me that even if I COULD muster up the energy and enthusiasm to cook a really good meal, nobody wants to fucking see it or hear about it. Hell, half the time it tells me that the food isn't even good, that I've just deluded myself into thinking it is because I want it to be. All of my friends' and family's assurances to the contrary don't amount to a piss-hole in the snow (there's a classic Vermont-ism for you, by jeezum) when compared to depression's overwhelming declaration that I am, in fact, not good at anything at all, ever, to infinity and beyond. Depression weighs in with these lies about everything, not just about whether or not I should bother to blog a particularly nice roast or salad. It tells me I am stupid, that I am ugly, that I am a failure, that I am worthless and unworthy of love. Through my normal, every-day lenses, I can see that those statements all amount to a steaming hot pile of bullshit...but through the fogged-up, iced-over lenses of my depression glasses, everything looks a whole lot different and it becomes very difficult to know what to believe anymore.

My down-swings can last anywhere from a couple days to a few months. Sometimes they come on gradually, insidiously changing my brain in little ways here and there until weeks later I realize what's going on. Other times they hit me like a freight train and leave me sitting in the dark sobbing over a bag of clean laundry while my husband tries to comfort me without knowing what the hell is going on, and with me unable to articulate (thanks, baby. And sorry if I scared you). I also spend a lot of time in the kind of in-between limbo of not-full-on-depressed-but-not-really-ok. I can function pretty convincingly at this level - it's where I am today, in fact - but I still have kind of a hard time with some things, and one of those things is writing. So even if I'm over here making amazing food and taking decent pictures of it, I'm still having a hard time actually getting down into words anything about it other than, "I are am roast pork thing. Potato r gud. Blueberry pie forevar".

So that, dear readers, is why I am sometimes gone for months at a time...because sometimes I just literally do not have the spoons to even cook for myself and my husband, let alone make it pretty and then write about it. You don't have to pretend to understand or even care, I mostly just had to get this out of my brain today for me. Like I said in the beginning, I've finally accepted that there are no quick fixes for my brain-meats. Learning how to deal with this fuckery is part of my life's work, and as we all know, work isn't generally meant to be fun...otherwise it would be called fun and everyone would do it.

If you made it this far, then by god you deserve a cookie. Gluten-free, of course. ;)