A Week In Food: April 30th

April 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

This week is hella busy, so there’s really not much to report on for our meal plan.

Tonight, I’m speaking to a creative writing class at a local college, then leaving from there to go directly to Muncie for a book release celebration for my chapbook The Fullness of Everything, a collection of 3 chapbooks by Brian Oliu, Tyler Gobble, and myself.

Thursday, I have another meeting with local author Andrew Scott and his wife and editor of Engine Books Victoria Barrett at La Escollera, an amazing little Mexican joint in Irvington on the east side of Indianapolis.

Lastly on Friday, I have to whip up a quick dinner before rushing downtown to set up my Vouched Books table for this week’s First Friday Art Walk at the Murphy Building.

Basically, it leaves Tuesday to do anything at all besides eat on the go. Busy’ness abounds.

Monday: Dinner in Muncie with pals
Tuesday: White Chicken Chili (we were going to do this last Friday, but plans changed due to my leaving for a camping trip earlier than expected)
Wednesday: Margherita Pizza
Thursday: Dinner meeting at La Escollera
Friday: Tomato Soup & Sandwich


Did Deez Call Last Night: Candied Walnuts

April 26, 2012 § 8 Comments

It’s going to be so hard not to giggle like a middle schooler throughout this entire post. I’m going to do my best to refrain from the obvious jokes, but I make no promises. Sometimes I can’t help myself.

Do you remember the salmonella peanut butter outbreak a few years ago? I remember, I was driving home from work one day during that whole news cycle. NPR was doing a piece on it, and the reporter used the phrase, “tainted nuts” at least a dozen times. I think I peed a little. I was laughing so hard. It was stupid and immature and completely wonderful.

That summer/fall of the tainted nuts I was moonlighting as a wedding bartender at a resort just outside Indy. The chef at the resort, Lois, made batches of these candied walnuts and kept them on hand in the kitchen, and I swear I ate at least 2 gallons of them over the course of that summer.

Here we go.

What You’ll Need How Much
shelled walnuts 1 lb.
egg whites 2-3
brown sugar 2 c
cinnamon (optional) 1 t

What You’ll Do

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9″x13″ aluminum baking pans.

2) In a large bowl, whisk egg whites until white and frothy, like so.

3) Stir the brown sugar and cinnamon into the frothy egg whites until well incorporated.

4) Fold the nuts into the candy mix. (I recognize as a man the phrase “fold the nuts” is inherently painful.)

5) Pour the nuts into the two baking pans, and spread evenly.

6) Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until the nut mixture is a light golden brown.

Golden brown nuts.

7) Remove to cooling racks, and allow to cool completely. The candied mixture will become brittle enough to crumble into clumps of nutty goodness.

8) And, the moment we’ve all be waiting for: put deez nuts in your face!

Makes a little over 1 lb. of nuts.

Store them in canisters, or go to Whole Foods and ask where they keep their nut sacks, usually in the bulk section. This is a type of sack specifically made to keep nuts at the perfect temperature and humidity for optimal shelf life and taste.

Scullery Skills: Homemade Brown Sugar

April 24, 2012 § 19 Comments

I’m never buying brown sugar again. Period. There’s no need. It’s sugar and molasses. That’s it. Well, it’s also a kick ass song by The Rolling Stones, but that’s neither here nor there.

You can save that other canister where you were keeping the brown sugar (which, let’s face it, unless you do more baking than the average person, your brown sugar has probably just dried out into a mass of crusty junk), and use it instead for coffee beans or tea bags (giggle) or candied walnuts.

I’ll concede that it would be good having a half cup or so around for general use sprinkling on oatmeal or grits or whatever. But I’ve come to realize there’s no use keeping around entire 1lb bags of the stuff except around the holidays when you’re doing a lot of baking. Otherwise, make that goodness fresh. Fresh goodness is always better than crusty goodness.

So, today’s Skullery Skills is also kind of a recipe post that I’ll link back to whenever I post anything that requires brown sugar. Let’s get to it.

What You’ll Need How Much
granulated white sugar 1 c
molasses 1 T (light brown)
2 T (dark brown)

1) In a medium sized bowl, use a fork or hand mixer* to stir together the sugar and molasses until completely mixed. There shouldn’t be any lumps or streaks of molasses left.

*Update: my friend Mel recommends a pastry cutter.

2) Done.

Put it, not in your face, but in whatever your recipe calls for. Or, scrub your body with it? People baffle me, man.

Makes the equivalent of 1 cup fully packed brown sugar.

Pro Tip: If your recipe calls for more than a cup, I’d suggest using a hand mixer, unless you got the arms for it.

A Week In Food: April 22nd

April 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

First week of meal planning down, and I’ll okay, okay: it’s awesome.

Don’t get me wrong, I tend to like flying by the seat of my pants in most cases in life, but weekly dinner it turns out is not one of those cases. When I was living by myself, I gave no shits about planning. All I had to please was myself, and hell, I could subsist on the same meal for days at a time if it was a good meal.

Britt, though, likes a bit more variety. So, coming home from work everyday, I’m thinking, “Shitshitshit, what do we have to make for dinner? Salmon. Cool. Wait, no, we had that a few days ago. Stir fry? No. That was Monday.” You get the picture.

So, this is relieving some stress, which is unexpected. I thought it’d add stress: every weekend having to plan what we’re going to have, having to take stock and go grocery shopping for what we’ll need. Too much structure.

But nope. It’s actually the opposite. Who’d’ve thought? (The answer is, “Probably everyone but me.”)

Anyway, here’s the coming week in food. Nothing too snazzy. You might recognize the Cheater’s Gumbo from its February debut here at PIIYF.

Monday: Red peppers stuffed w/ couscous, veggies, and goat cheese
Tuesday: Taco bowls w/ ground turkey (using rice as the base, not tortillas)
Wednesday: Possible pitch-in w/ friends, if not defaulting to a healthy frozen pizza
Thursday: Cheater’s Gumbo using leftover rice from Tuesday
Friday: White Chicken Chili


Awesome Life Update

Yesterday, I made the unexpected purchase of a new (to me) bike: a Raleigh Port Townsend. I’ve been riding my Swobo Sanchez for the past 4 years now, and while it’s a fast, slick, trusty bike, I’m not racing alleycats and zipping around downtown anymore. I’ve grown out of that, it seems, and of late, I’ve been wanting something more adapted to simple, everyday commuting. Enter this beauty:

I found her on consignment at Bicycle Exchange, a rad new’ish bike shop here in south Broad Ripple. I’ve been saving up to buy a Port Townsend new, so when I saw this, I jumped on it. The previous owner is evidently the lead wrench at Performance Bike, and it’s obvious. It’s in great shape, and even has some upgraded parts like some slick Nitto touring bars, a Forte cutaway saddle, upgraded wheels, etc.

I’ve already installed a rear rack on it, and snagged some panniers to haul all my crap around. I can’t wait to go grocery shopping on this baby.

Boof Chow Wong, Peanut Chicken Chow Mein

April 19, 2012 § 2 Comments

My wife still has friends from elementary school, friends she keeps in regular touch with. Like, we just had dinner with a few of them last week so one of them could spring on us a grainy photo of what looked like a peanut growing in her belly. I don’t even understand it (how she’s maintained these friendships for so long, not pregnancy, though I often fail to understand pregnancy, too.).

These friends of hers, they were a trifecta, and they had names for each other: Boof, Chow, and Wong, respectively. My wife was Boof.

This is a huge digression. I wanted to talk about peanuts. Not the kind that grows in bellies, because there are laws against cooking those. At least, I think there are. I hope there are.

Peanut sauce was one of the greatest inventions of Thai-kind. You can put the stuff on next-to-anything and it’ll be immediately better than it was before. It’s like ketchup, but better, which is weird. In this recipe, I cheat. I’ll admit it. I use a pre-made sauce, all Sandra Lee style, and I hate that bish as much as you do (except my friend L who for some reason loves her Halloween specials), but when I’m just trying to get down with the get down and put something in my face, a sauce in a bottle works just fine. But if you insist on being bougie about it, fine. This peanut sauce recipe looks pretty legit.

So let’s get it on.

What You’ll Need How Much
Udon noodles 8 oz
Asian stir fry oil 2 T
boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped into thin strips 1 breast
red bell pepper, chopped 1 c
Crimini mushrooms 1 c
carrot, julienned 1/2 c
broccoli, chopped 1 c
onion, chopped or diced (optional) 1/2 onion
peanut sauce (bottled is fine, haters gonna hate) 1/4-1/2c

What You’ll Do

1) Mise en place. Seriously. Do it. This is a stir fry. Get your shit together. This includes boiling the udon noodles according to the instructions on the package.

2) Heat a wok over medium-high. Add the Asian stir fry oil. Take a second to nurse the aroma boner you get when that infused gingery smell hits your nose.

3) Add the chicken. Stir like a mad (wo)man until the very surface of the chicken has begun to looked cooked.

4) Add the red pepper, broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, and onion.

5) Stir, stir, stir. Seriously, if you let those things sit on that heat for longer than a few seconds without stirring, I will smack your mouth. Stir fry for 3-5 minutes, or until chicken is just done. You’ll probably be 2nd-guessing whether you’ll get salmonella, but you won’t (I’m legally obligated here to say that you assume all risk of eating undercooked meat, and don’t ride a bike without a helmet).

6) Turn the heat down to medium, and add the cooked udon noodles and the peanut sauce. Stir to coat all that goodness with peanut sauce.

7) Serve it piping hot into your favorite noodle bowl, and put it in your face.

Should feed 2-3 faces.

(Please forgive these photos; they’re actually pretty old, from before I really started trying to learn food photography.)

A Week In Food: Failing to Plan and All that Crap

April 17, 2012 § 4 Comments

Last night, I stood in front of the mirror and pinched at myself. I said, “Dammit.”

On the road with the dudes in the South a couple weeks ago, I had no shame. I lived large. I ate large. I got large. In the span of a week, I put on 5 pounds. Legit pounds, too, pounds that stayed on past the couple days after I got back and started eating better again, and shed the water bloat and colon guilt of vacation eating.

I’m running again, building my base mileage to start training for the Monumental Half-Marathon in November, which I wussed out on last year. (I actually just registered for it, like, I took a break while writing this post to go register for it.) I’m riding to work again more consistently.

This is all fine and good.

But last night, Britt and I sat down, and she was like, “You talk about being fat a lot.” And, I was like, “Yeah. It sucks.” (For the record, I know I’m not “fat,” but I’m 30 pounds heavier than where I was 3 years ago, and not nearly as healthy, and that sucks.) And she said, “We should start planning meals. At least our dinners through the week.” And I said, “Okay,” and I probably sighed a lot, because I’m a pain in the ass and don’t like things that make me feel like a grown up. But, she’s a real believer in that, “If you fail to plan, then you should plan to fail,” thing that I think Abe Lincoln said.

So, we sat down and made a list of all the things we normally have for dinner that we consider “healthy” or at least “not pizza.” And dug through some cookbooks to find new things we want to try. And I found a pretty rad Weekly Meal Planner template that I imported into Google Docs and shared with Britt so we could both have it handy.

And I feel like maybe it’d be a cool feature to try to remember to post these weekly meal plans here so you guys can see what I’m eating and stuff, even if I’m not taking pictures of it. Plus, if you see something that looks interesting, you can say, “Hey, can you do a recipe post about that?”

So, here’s the first of A Week In Food, our weekly dinner plans. Weekends we are going to leave free form. I’ll likely use those to have “cheat days” or whatever, especially because my long runs training for the half-marathon will be on weekends, giving me plenty of room to suck the meat off a rack of ribs or something without remorse.

  • Monday: Turkey burgers, leftover roasted red potatoes, asparagus.
  • Tuesday: Pot-luck pasta (basically a mix of whatever vegetables we have on hand: onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach: all sauteed and tossed with some sort of pasta and olive oil)
  • Wednesday: Britt’s having a turkey pot pie; I’m having a garlic sausage from Smoking Goose that I bought at last week’s farmers market (not the healthiest, but I’ll be riding to work), and probably some grilled asparagus. Thank god it’s in season right now. I love me some fresh asparagus.
  • Thursday: Basil Parmesan Chicken w/ spinach and apple salad.
  • Friday: Maybe going out to eat with my dad after we finish some work in the backyard that he’s helping me with, so it’s up in the air.

So there you have it. Nothing too extravagant, though the basil Parmesan chicken salad we are having Thursday is something new we found in one of our cookbooks.

The Fight Against Bacon Bastardization

April 13, 2012 § 3 Comments

Okay. This is getting out of hand. I like bacon as much as the next guy, but what is happening right now is not bacon. It’s bastardization.

Burger King is currently testing a bacon sundae. They’re doing this, because already on the market is the bacon maple sundae at Denny’s, and the bacon milkshake at Jack In the Box.

I know these places aren’t the epitome of fine dining. I know when the Double Down hit the market at KFC, I went to there. I doubled-down. Despite having a food blog, I have a fully capable and willing palette for low-brow tastes. But there needs to be some limits. There needs to be some quality control.

I have a co-worker who makes the best dark chocolate covered bacon I’ve ever had. The bacon was crisp and salty, the chocolate rich. The contrast of salty vs. sweet was perfect. When chocolate covered bacon came to the Indiana State Fair a couple years ago, I thought, “Okay. Cool. I’ll get some.” But what I got was nothing like my co-worker’s. The bacon was thin, under cooked, and refrigerated to keep the chocolate cold, so when you bit into it, it was like biting into a limp handshake covered in cheap chocolate.

This is not the kind of bacon we should be welcoming into our restaurants, into our hearts. There are true champions of bacon out there like The Smoking Goose and that dude who makes the bacon marmalade.

When bacon at chains like Denny’s and Burger King starts being used for anything other than their burgers and maybe crumbles on their salads, we should be outraged. We should say, “No.” We should say, “What you are doing is wrong. What you are doing is the Devil’s work.”

Please, everyone. I beg you. Don’t fall prey to the ails of ironic, bacon-laden marketing ploys. Please practice responsible bacon.

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