T(hanksgiving)-minus one day

I haven't posted in a while; I've been busy and, for most of the last couple of days, on the wagon. I've also gotten a crash-course in Harry Potter for the last week or so, as D. wanted me to come with him to the newest movie. There isn't much food in the house, other than what I'm going to make tomorrow when I'm hosting Thanksgiving for the first time, so lately I've been throwing together whatever I have... it usually ends up being something with meat and pasta in it.

Friday, D. and I went to Longhorn in Indianapolis (there isn't one in our town) and then to see the new Harry Potter movie. Does anyone have a good recipe for Longhorn's Firecracker Chicken wrap-thingies from their appetizer menu? If it's easy or fast enough, I'd love to serve those during a football game or something.

I made a pasta that was loosely-based on an AR recipe that I think I saved to my recipe box, but I can't remember, and I can't remember the name of it. Penne, turkey sausage, a can of diced tomatoes, 1/4 chopped onion, fresh green beans... and I might've served it with something, but I don't know. Then on Sunday, I threw together the remainder of our box of spaghetti, the last of the turkey sausage, a chicken breast that I found in the freezer, and the asparagus from my Longhorn take-home carton. I tossed that in olive oil and served. Was my cousin's first time having asparagus, and his infamously vegetable-loathing self noted, "I don't hate it." His tune may have changed after I told him how asparagus makes urine smell funny, but then again, he's a guy and might think that's cool.

So on Sunday, I went shopping with my mom for the Thanksgiving menu (well... not the whole menu... damn blue laws), and I discovered why people buy turkey -- it was $0.55 a pound. The rib roast that I had my heart set on was $7.99/lb., and that's on sale. It came to about $81. And the prosciutto-wrapped asaparagus I had in mind? Ha! What, is prosciutto made of gold? Did Paris Hilton wear an outfit made of it? If you pulverize it into a liquid and inject it, do you develop the ability to fly or become invisible?

I'm just going to salt some bacon and tell them it's prosciutto.

And then there's the bread. I forgot that my town has maybe two Jewish people in it, tops. I was silly to think that I'd find a row of challah next to the enriched French loaves and packages of Wonder Bread.

So today after work (I wish I could take a half day, but this afternoon is our first big meeting after an audit), I'm going to run to the grocery store and grab some beer that my brother likes, fresh flowers for the house, firewood, maybe some candles, liquor for the cider, etc. Then I've gotta clean the house and put up the decorations my mom gave me. I'll probably make the deviled eggs, spinach dip, salad dressing and stuffing tonight if I can. It'll make things more relaxed tomorrow and hopefully ensure that I'll have enough room in my oven and atop the stove, because sometimes I run out of room even when making a normal dinner. I imagine I can just put in the pumpkin pie after I take out the roast tomorrow... I made two pumpkin pies Monday night for D.'s office Thanksgiving, and it took twice as long with two of them (plus roasted potatoes for dinner that night). So this time, I'll let the stubborn pie have the whole oven to itself.

D. might leave for Nashville tonight, but if he stays till tomorrow morning, he says he'll help me clean. It sucks that he's going to miss my first Thanksgiving, but he's been super nice to me this week to make up for it. I think he senses that I'm stressed (my cat does the same thing). He even watched a couple episodes of "The Office" with me -- something I've been trying to get him to do for over a year. He was half-asleep, but he asked questions about it and made a couple comments, etc... just enough to let me know he was paying attention. Sometimes, it's the little things that your friends do for you that are awesome.

I knew he was being a good sport, so for dinner Monday night, I made burgers for the first time in a regular skillet. My ex-fiancé and I used to have a tiny George Foreman grill, and we made burgers on it all the time. It dripped grease everywhere and was hard to clean, but we used it a lot and liked having burgers at home. I don't know what happened to it; I haven't seen it since the house we rented like three years ago. Anyway, because of Monday night, I've decided I need a grill before making burgers again. Cooking them in the skillet just makes gray slabs of meat. I need the charred grill lines and the texture of something that hasn't just been flipped like a chopsteak.

So I found my new favorite Christmas present (HAI CUZN):

(btw, I will be getting him a totally rockin' computer monitor to support his World of Warcrack habit.)
Anyone have one of these griddlers? Wanna tell me how awesome it is?


To my favorite person

Happy Veteran's Day to my cousin D.!  You're a badass!


Those sophisticated Eagles fans, and feeding all of Chicago

So on Sunday, we stayed home to watch football (we have cable now, and it's cheaper to drink at home) and I managed to completely mess up Debdoozie's simple chili recipe. I knew what I was doing. I was deviating, and it didn't work.

"Grandmother's Buttermilk Cornbread," however, was perfect. I followed the recipe exactly, and my Southerner cousin said it was a keeper. I was proud of myself there, because I'm not much of a baker, and I've never made cornbread from scratch before.

Messing up the chili ruined my Sunday almost as much as the Philly fans did in the Colts v. Eagles game. You stay classy, Philadelphia. And then, the Chiefs lost, against the Raiders no less, in OT. D. was not a happy camper, even though he was resting comfortably in his Man Chair with a bowl of hot chili, some gin, and a full pack of smokes. The Chiefs obviously mean a lot to him.

Anyway, so a few friends of mine are coming down from Chicago this weekend and will be staying at my house. I think I'm expected to cook. The way I've been screwing up recipes lately, I'm a little nervous, so I think I'll make something I'm really familiar with. This isn't the time to try something new.

(a) Baked salmon, with a baked potato and some kind of green bean casserole
(b) Meatloaf (made with ground turkey... we use turkey instead of beef anyway, but one of my friends visiting me doesn't eat red meat), with mashed potatoes and steamed carrots
(c) Braised balsamic chicken, with corn on the cob and broccoli marinara

Those are my go-to meals that look and taste like they take a lot more time to make than they actually do. Which should I do? I don't care which sides go with which protein, it's just an example of what sides I'm semi-familiar with. I also do some pretty good roasted potatoes and Italian peas (but my cousin hates peas).

For breakfast, I imagine I'll try to find a recipe similar to the egg and sausage casserole that my former-future-mother-in-law used to make for houseguests. I've made that before and got a lot of compliments. On the food, I mean. It'll be good timing, though, because I just bought some farm fresh, cage-less chicken eggs from one of my co-workers, and I'm anxious to try them out. Some people can't taste the difference if the eggs they're eating come from chickens that are treated nicely, but I can. Ah, shoot. My friend won't eat the casserole it if there's sausage in it. Will use turkey instead -- do they have sausage that's turkey-only?

I will now start my daily ritual of slipping into unconsciousness in front of my work computer.

...oh man, it's only 1:24 p.m. I still have 36 minutes before I can start my ritual.


A week of not wanting to eat

I'm now starting my second re-heated chicken enchilada. Here was my recipe:

2 chicken breasts, boneless
1 (I don't know how many ounces) Campbell's condensed cream of chicken soup
A half a jar (I don't know how many ounces) Chi Chi's... I don't know the temperature... salsa. It was probably as mild as I could buy it, because of my cousin's stomach.
About 1/8 jar Ortega Medium sauce
1/2 onion, chopped
Take the Betty Crocker Cookbook's recipe for fajita seasoning. Then halve it.
Tortillas. I don't care which size. This time, I used soft taco size. I made six.

Compose the ingredients in whichever way makes sense to you.

I made them last night. They were too spicy for my cousin, so he only ate one. I ate two, and put the rest in the fridge. I'm up at 1:15 in the morning, watching an idiotic movie with Jennifer Lopez in it, and, as I said, just reheated my second enchilada.

It's the first time I've been actually hungry in almost a week.

I've been debating... with myself, and with my cousin -- who follows my blog -- about whether to share the following information. He thought I shouldn't. I think I should, because it explains the only reason why I've never been hungry (thus, wanting to cook) in my entire life: grief.

The first time I lost my appetite, I was 11 years old. I had just experienced losing someone to death. A classmate of mine had been thrown off the top floor of a parking garage by his mother. She threw off his brother too. Then she jumped. A week later, my maternal grandmother passed. My parents thought I was having a growth spurt... in actuality, I'd lost almost 15 pounds.

In recent memory, it was when my ex started ignoring me over a year ago. I thought that, by losing weight, I'd impress him. He didn't notice, even after I lost 25 pounds. I had developed a bit of a neurotic eating habit: not eating until I made dinner... and I'd give him heaping portions, plus whatever I "couldn't finish."

Of course, I couldn't eat after he left, either. Fortunately, the presence of my cousin has helped inspire me to at least cook. The smell of what I was cooking and the positive reinforcement of my cousin's compliments helped me eat, even in the midst of my grief.

This week, something else happened.

I won't go into too much detail about the event itself, but in regard to my meals, I've messed up at least two side dishes and two main dishes in the meantime. I completely forgot to season a steak, I overseasoned the chicken enchiladas, I overseasoned garlic mashed potatoes, and my roasted potatoes tonight were really soft. I tried to wing potato skins tonight, because D. loves them and dinner was running late (not compared to dinner last night, which was executed at about 11:30 p.m.), but I didn't bake the potatoes beforehand. I ended up with burnt potatoes with cheese and bacon on them.

D. praised everything. I figured that, because he had a slab of red meat and two starches (roasted potatoes [that were soft... maybe he didn't notice] and the lifetime-supply-because-I'm-from-Indiana corn on the cob), his saying of "I can't critique perfect" was easily founded.

In my opinion, grief makes me a bad eater and a bad cook. It makes me care less about food.


As a unit, we will not be gross.

Tonight marked the first time in my kitchen-related journey where my cousin didn't have any comments about a new recipe. This is big. The guy talks a lot.

We're sitting in a bar, and the Colts are about to play. Being a Hoosier, I'm surprised there aren't more people here. I'm a pretty good sport (pun intended, because I'm clever like that) about watching football with D., SO I MADE HIM EAT BROCCOLI TONIGHT, BWAHAHAHA.

Anyway, before we got here, I cooked something from AR called "Quick and Easy Chicken." It wasn't quick or particularly easy, but the sauce that the recipe delineated introduced a new concept to me: ingredients that, separately, seem like they would be disgusting together... but they aren't. Ketchup, soy sauce, lemon juice, sugar, black pepper. To me, that mix sounds like something you'd dare someone to eat at a teenage slumber party. Instead, it came out pretty decently.

So I made the sauce and poured it onto chicken breasts that had browned in chopped onion. I served that atop fettucini that I'd prepared in chicken broth (god, I love bouillon cubes... using them takes anything you make that could be "eh" and instead makes you look like a better cook than you actually are) and had some broccoli marinara (can of diced tomatoes, couple shakes of balsamic vinegar, some basil, bag of frozen broccoli... simmer it all in a skillet for 10-15 minutes). The sauce was... sweet? A little tangy? Mostly sweet, I think. My cousin's only comment was that I should quadruple the sauce recipe so that I can use more of it on the pasta. The original AR recipe's comments indicated that the amounts to make the sauce weren't large enough, so I nearly doubled it as it was, and it barely covered the chicken. So, next time, I'll know what to do.

But really. They shouldn't call it "Quick And Easy Chicken" when I have to chop half an onion (insert dislike button here), concoct a sauce, cook chicken (which makes me nerrrrrrvous), and then simmer it for 25 minutes. I should have just made Zatarain's jambalaya. Twenty-five minutes, three dirty dishes. Boom.

Over the weekend, once again, I didn't exactly cook. I made my own recipe of steak quesadillas (cook up really cheap steak; layer cheddar, lettuce, onion, hot sauce, green pepper, whatever you want... it's kind of like an omelette in this capacity... on half of a large tortilla; bake at 350 for 7 minutes) on Friday night. On Saturday, for lunch I cooked up some chicken breasts in chicken broth and made sandwiches (or, in our household, "sammiches") out of them. That night, I went to a hayride/bonfire thing in Noblesville that my brother and his family hosted, so I had a hearty meal of hot dogs and s'mores over flames. Sunday was a Titans game, so I had a quesadilla at The End Zone. I then later ordered some bosco sticks (breadsticks filled with cheese... quintessential bar food) and promptly threw them up. Twice.

Fortunately, the chicken with the misleading I-thought-I'd-be-in-the-bathroom-moments-later sauce seems to be sitting well. My cousin's stomach, which is far more volatile, is also calm. That calls for a good night in my household, as far as the water bill goes.