Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Spirits in My Head

Lychee martini, rum soaked dates, craft beer, wine from Provence, just some of the spirits I have been enjoying lately.

At Aldi's clearance section, I found cans and cans of lychees (score!) and they weren't expired (double score!). I refrigerate them and once chilled, I pore one can of lychees (syrup and all) with the same amount of vodka. Now I keep my vodka in the freezer so you can serve it right away if you do as well. If not, chill it again for maybe an hour. With a martini glass in hand, place two or three lychees held together by toothpick in the glass and pour the liquid. It's wonderful. Helps to relax any guests in the house quickly.

I bought a bottle of Plantation Rum for the dates. Here in Chicago, we have access to some amazing dates. Using a small glass bowl, place the dates inside and pour the rum over it. The next day they will be plump and ready for you. I like to drizzle it over my ice cream but you can eat it straight too.

Easy Items for Easy Cooking

Occasionally I come across some items at the grocery store especially the ethnic sections that I use in my cooking. I look for ingredients that I can read and understand easily and not something from a scientific experiment. They tend to be in glass jars which I love. Sometimes, I am fortunate enough to come across jarred eggplant (not pictured). This is great to make Baba ghanoush or saute it with tomatoes and a lemon squeeze. The grated beets I use to add on my salads or sandwiches. Finally, Bulgaria has a selection of ratatouille jarred mixtures such as zucchini with tomato, egg plant with tomato, or a combination of all three. I use it as a sauce to go over stuffed vegetables, spaghetti squash, as a Crostini, or as a dip.

In addition, some of the grocery stores here have a section of packaged, discounted, overripe fruits and vegetables. You have to look at them carefully (no odd growth on them or squishy...ewww) but they are meant to be cooked right away. You just have to cut off some bruised areas, but they are great for stews, pies, baked, broiled, etc.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Vino anyone?

I like wine. A LOT.  I also like beer, bourbon, vodka....but I always go back to wine. White, red, champagne, iced, it doesn't matter.

Back in the day, I didn't know anything about wine. We didn't have a Coopers Hawk restaurant where they teach you about different types of wines and you get to sample them. On top of that, my parents didn't drink. My dad started drinking Bordeaux when he was in his seventies because Consumer Reports said (yes my dad was one of those) said it was the best red wine at the time and he was drinking a small glass a day to lower his cholesterol. But before then, my experience with wine was a sip of some blush wine at the local Red Lobster.

Then I met this French guy, who became my boyfriend and I spent a summer in France meeting his relatives. From Paris to Normandy to Provence then Lyon, I drank wine and wine and wine. Bordeaux, Cote de Rhone, Chateauneuf de Pape, Macon Rouge, I don't know what I was drinking because sometimes, for example in Provence, we would just fill up the empty bottles of wine from the local town wine. I was also introduced to my first beer, Kronenberg 1664 and Pelforth. It was all so yummy and I don't know how I was not drunk most of the time. Maybe all the walking and eating? No clue. Needless to say, I am grateful for my experience because I was spoiled. I learned what good wine is and how to cook French food.

Since my experience in Europe, I have learned to appreciate wines from California (of course), Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, and Portugal. The latter two have struggled but lately they are outshining the wine market.

Presently, places like Coopers Hawk just doesn't cut it for me. It's great if you are a beginner in oenology and a lot of fun to do with friends. What do I do? Binny's . I love Binny's. Costco is great too but a bit of a limited selection. Binny's will let me know the points, who critiqued it, and price for many of their selections. They send me emails about the latest wines, and if you don't act, they sell out. When I visit the store, my filter is as follows: 90 points or higher; $15 and lower. I have found some great wines that are easy on my pocket. Here are a couple:

Now, I do love champagne, prosecco, cava, anything that sparkles with grapes. My friends will tell you, I find any reason to open one up. There's no waiting for an occasion. PLEASE. Here's a prosecco I found at ALDI (yes there!!) that is a delight to drink but it is seasonal so you have to stock up.
Post Red Lobster days, in Lyon, France....I don't look like this anymore!

All Hail the Instant Pot!

I had a slow cooker. You had to remember to get everything ready to go so it would cook all.day.long.
I had a pressure cooker where you could not blink or the entire thing would blow up.
One day, reading some RV blog (no I don't own one), the family kept talking as well as other commentators about a sale on Amazon for an Instant Pot. I was intrigued. They talked about how they can't live without one.
Clicked the link to Amazon and read about this appliance that is both a slow cooker AND a pressure cooker, while also letting you saute, make yogurt, rice, and more. Of course, I scrolled down and skimmed over the more than 4,000 reviews!  Click. Bought it.

God help me but this is the best kitchen appliance ever! Gone were two appliances and this baby sits permanently on my counter. (Well, I kept the slow cooker in storage in case I needed it to warm food at parties).
I grabbed a whole chicken from ALDI and put it in there with some Goya Adobo Marinade and pressed Poultry. That was it. It was done in 35 minutes falling off the bone! In turn, I have made chicken soup by clicking Soup and voila! There's no point in buying chicken stock when you can make it so easily.

On to pork. Cris suggested a recipe that includes pork, and two jars of yellow peppers. Yep. That's it. I went ahead and tirelessly bought all the ingredients (3) and tried it out. I clicked Meat/Stew and what emerged was the most flavorful pulled pork ever with no effort at all. We had it as sandwiches with some spicy mustard and we couldn't stop.

I have made curry dishes, different types of chili, Cuban stews and I am never disappointed. I'm telling you, forget the slow cooker; it's wasting your time! Hail to the Instant Pot!

Pic of my one of my Cuban stews:

(Smoked ham hocks are falling apart.)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sssshhhh...I'm cooking!

I love cooking. Since I was about 8 or 9, I started cooking and I found my peace. Om.
Vegetable gardening has the same affect on me, but I don't do that as much as I cook. It's like I am teleported to a happy place. Now, this is only when I WANT to cook. Not this, make something or we will die sort of moment. Doesn't work like that for me. I have to be in the zone. Which, fortunately for those that live with me, it's often.

For example, I made vegetarian chili, sauteed zucchini and mushrooms, and made some quinoa. Additionally, I made some jasmine rice to have on hand.

Oh, I'm not vegetarian, or vegan or anything but a foodie. It varies on my mood and I do try to eat healthy.

Vegetarian Chili. One of my Polish BFF introduced me to this recipe. It's so easy! Of course, like any recipe I get, I start altering it. Can't control myself. Just do.

I use an Instant Pot (OMG it's on sale on Amazon) for most of my cooking. It is heaven sent. Throw out that slow cooker and pressure cooker and welcome this tough guy in your kitchen. I LOVE it! I came across it from one of those RV traveler FB pages. You can cook just about anything in minutes. AND it's easy to clean. I love you Instant Pot.

Same girlfriend gave me some brothy Asian style soup and that led me to use it on my vegetable dish as well as the liquid for the quinoa.

I try to cook enough food for a week. That way, I can enjoy the rest of the week with my family. In addition, it helps if you have some type of libation while cooking. I had an IPA today. Lovely. 

I'll be posting some of my recipes soon. My intention with this blog is to share ways to make home cooked meals that are easy. There is so much crap out there. We need to try and eat better and not fall for that $1 menu. Once in a while, it's OK, but it should not be often.

Disclaimer- I may use organic, I may not. I may use ingredients from scratch, or something with MSG. The point is that we need to step toward eating something generally good for us and not some questionable chicken nugget. I know a lot of people who don't even know where to start with healthy eating, their parents didn't know, and they tend to fail because they go from eating hot dogs to trying to eat grass fed meat and a salad. It's important to just start trying to eat right, one step at a time, and later, once you get the hang of it, you can go all Whole Foods Hippy eating! Ha! BTW, did you hear about Aldi? They are going to kick WF's butt with their organic stuff. Go Aldi! 

Food Namaste. Om.