I know this sounds absolutely ridiculous, but anytime is a good time for homemade Chicken Noodle Soup.
Even in the dog days of summer. Trust me….
It’s no big secret – I love Magic Meat. So much so that we have some kind of variation of it about every 10 days, if not weekly. I’ll use ground beef, chicken, turkey, sausage, pork, veal, elk, bison, duck, venison, or lamb as at the protein with an innumerable combination of vegetables. Normally I make two pounds of meat, combining a slightly fattier animal with a leaner one. Recently I found the ground elk / Italian sausage duo to be ridiculously delicious, and Mr. Musky concurred. Lucky for him, there’s just two of us for the summer, so I can stretch the meat into two distinctly different meals, which is how I came up with these little gems.
Quinoa Muffins house everything you need in a meal: healthy carbohydrates, plenty of nutrient dense vegetables, protein and healthy fat from both the meat and the quinoa, and rich, satisfying flavor….
Somehow, somewhere along the line we started eating Asian food in our house. I’m not really sure when it occurred, but it intersects with an interest in The Big Bang Theory. For those of you unaware of the show, it’s about a bunch of exceptionally gifted, geeky scientists who one-up each other with sciency facts while eating Asian takeout in their living room. A cute blond moves in across the hall and she brilliantly challenges their world with a complete lack of science understanding, a disruption to their status quo, and pop culture references.
There’s a lot more to the show than my watered down description. It’s great – very binge worthy – and suddenly I craved Asian food with every 22 minute episode. But here’s the thing: I detest Chinese takeout, which is all we can get in Chicagoland Suburbia. It tastes processed, is full of MSG, and just does nothing for me. When I worked in the city, I became forever spoiled by a lovely little joint called Tamarind down from one of my client’s buildings. We went there at least twice a month, and I forever more cannot eat bad Asian food despite the fact that the restaurant is now closed.
Anyway, since I can add “Asian takeout” to my lists of snobbery (they also include wine, spirits, and coffee), it’s now on the Missing Mom Formation Rotation. Meaning, when I leave town or am not home for dinner, the rest of the family orders Chinese because they know I won’t order it, most certainly won’t eat it, and can barely stand to look at the little white boxes in the refrigerator the next day. Maybe if we had a truly authentic Asian takeout restaurant made from scratch ingredients in the neighborhood I’d change my tune, but until that happens I’m an official snob.
I recently started following Seonkyoung Longest at Asian at Home. If you want to cook authentic, fresh, delicious Asian food as it’s meant to be created, then check her out. Her creations are OUTSTANDING. My Chicken Fried Rice recipe is adapted from her chinese fried rice, but I made a several changes to it after trying it out on my people a few times.
I mentioned my rice cooker awhile back and the fact that it steams vegetables and cooks eggs to perfection. Well let me tell you…it makes cooking rice an absolute joy. Along the way we’ve learned a few tips though…primarily, rinse your rice. That gets any dust and extra starch off the rice so it cooks up fluffier and less sticky. Also – spray the nonstick container with a little cooking spray before you begin.
Apologies for my unintended hiatus, sweet readers. I took some time away from blogging to enjoy some much needed down time over Spring Break with The Princess. We both unwound from life by attending hot yoga, relaxing, sipping wine in the evenings, and watching Gilmore Girls together. I’ve never seen that series, and am thinking since I’m all caught up on Shameless I might have to juxtapose the debauchery with some Lorelai and Rory wholesomeness. I always thought the Gilmore Girl story revolved around sisters. Needless to say, with my girl curled up next to me on my bed, I thrilled in the fact that it’s actually about a single mother and her daughter as I ran my fingers through her silky hair – one of the things I miss most about her being gone.
I know – for those of you GG lovers out there it appears as though I live under a rock. I’m trying to emerge. You can read more about my girl’s first year in college over at Genuinely Speaking, if you’re interested.
Meanwhile, although we’re in the throes of a mercurial weather day, we truly are nearing the end of hearty soup season in the Midwest. While propping open the windows at night and waking to chirping birds in the morning is indubitably good for the soul, so are heartwarming soups made with homemade bone broth – especially on days when the precipitation can’t decide if it should fall in a liquid or solid state.
The work is done before you even begin with this one, if you seek out the best ingredients possible. I’d argue that the homemade broth is a non-starter. If you don’t have some in the freezer, then make that first and plan on this goodness on another day. There’s simply no substitute for bone broth, in my opinion, for the best soups and stews. The people in my house agree, even if they don’t even know it.
On Saturday I attended a sleepover with these lovelies.
Yeah yeah – I’m in my 40s. But in my teenage years, sleepovers were a weekly ritual – pick a friend, ask them over, sing “Jesse’s Girl” at the top of our lungs into our curling irons and hair brushes, make Chef-boy-ar-dee pizzas and devour an entire slice in one bite, drool over Bo and Luke Duke, then see what evil, calculating plan J.R. Ewing hatched for the week. Good times.
So why are we limited to them in our teen years? I’ve waxed on before about Girls Weekends, but turns out that a grownup girl sleepover is easier to pull off and just as fun. We chatted, ate great food, played some hilarious games, hot tubbed, and drank adult beverages. Well, I actually stuck to water because I’m midway through an annual detox. Believe me, I would have L.O.V.E.D. to join in with the apéritifs, particularly the Old Fashioned. Another time.
A few days before the event I learned the host is Vegan. Challenge on to create something yummy and original! I had so much fun coming up with a treat that would meet her dietary needs, that I could still enjoy with a fairly restricted food list myself, yet would also win the rest of the group over.
Enter: Lentil and Vegetable Curry.
Sincere apologies for neglecting all the apéritif-ers lately. It’s not that I’m on some kind of crazy detox plan and have abandoned all alcohol – wait. I actually have. Last year at the advice of my new doctor I embarked upon an elimination / detox plan for 30 days, and it felt so great after consuming abnormal amounts of alcohol, heavy cream, cheese and sugar in December that I decided to do it again this year. It was the jump start of a much healthier approach to life last year, and many of the habits I formed in those 30 days stuck. So I started it again the day after this happened last week:
Yes. That’s a knee brace you see, and underneath said brace are three tiny incisions created to fix a torn meniscus, which happened about a year ago while galavanting around the woods with some girlfriends. Proof that one can live on a torn meniscus for quite some time, but I eventually checked it out because I knew that things were radically off behind my kneecap, even though it only hurt occasionally. Turns out it was torn in two places, the second piece flapped into a space where it doesn’t belong, so it was a good thing I got it fixed so as to avoid future issues.
The lessons in all this? 1. Don’t climb upon Thirsty Whales after imbibing in a few adult day beverages. 2. The day after an outpatient surgery is the perfect time to clean up your diet and rid the body of toxin buildup.
The night of the surgery I walked around the kitchen unassisted, and the following day I traipsed through a local high school searching for my boy’s Scholastic Bowl team so I could deliver him some dinner. I felt so great that last Sunday I set out to make this recipe, but ended up altering it significantly based on the ingredients in my kitchen. Also, it was January 15th, which means I still make a concerted effort to include as many vegetables as humanly possible in every dish I make. My people are none the wiser; in fact, they appreciate the detoxification efforts underway as we march forward to the next day of debauchery…
…The Super Bowl.
For the non-Polish, non-Eastern European reading contingent of this blog, let’s start with a definition today.
“Pierogi, (pronounced /pɪˈroʊgi/ pi-roh-ghee), also known as varenyky, are filled dumplings of Eastern European origin. They are made by wrapping pockets of unleavened dough around a savory or sweet filling and cooking them in boiling water.
These dumplings are popular in Slavic (Polish, Slovak, Ukrainian, Russian), Baltic (Latvian, Lithuanian) and other Eastern European cuisines (such as Romanian), where they are known under local names. Pierogi are especially associated with Poland, Ukraine, and Slovakia, where they are considered national dishes.
Pierogi are often semicircular, but triangular and rectangular ones are also found. Typical fillings include potato, sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese, and fruits. The dumplings may be served with a topping, such as melted butter, sour cream, or fried onion, or combinations of those ingredients.”
Thank you, Wikipedia.
Now let me add to this definition: In the Rusin/Liss household of South Holland, IL, these unleavened filled dough pockets were also fried in butter after being boiled in water, were never (to my knowledge) filled with fruit, and since they are primarily consumed on Christmas Eve, they were also never filled with meat.
Last summer, while overlooking the lake and cooking some yummy fish on the grill, I asked Mr. Musky to first cook a spaghetti squash.
“On the grill?” he asked, skeptically.
“Yes. Why not? Let’s try it out.”
After it was done cooking, I mixed the squash with some jarred marinara sauce and goat cheese. Oh, Mama. It burst with flavor and surprised both of us, so I vowed to share it here.
Fast forward, I’m in a post Thanksgiving food rut, and I looked back through my notebook of ideas, scorned and ashamed that I never shared with you my grilled spaghetti squash phenomenon. And while we do sometimes still grill in the winter around here, I decided that 15 degrees beckons me to stay inside, in fuzzy warm socks, while pushing two buttons to fire up my oven.
If you’re feeling a December food baby growing inside of you thanks to extra holiday parties, goodies, and twice as nice apéritifs, then this is the midweek reset button you need. Made with just seven simple ingredients (not counting EVOO and S&P), you’ll create a substantial lunch, light dinner, or decadent side dish in about an hour.
Start with a spaghetti squash. Cutting into hard squashes can be tricky, so if it’s giving you trouble just stab it a few times with the tines of a fork and pop it into the microwave for 3-4 minutes. Then it’ll be much easier to slice.
Several weeks ago the boys and I packed it up, packed it in, let me begin, I came to win, battle me thats a sin…
Never mind. We headed north to Madison to see our darling princess. Turns out the Kollege Klub is right up my alley.
A pack of angry Badgers obliterated my alma mater.
My sister- and brother-in-law joined us for their first night away together from the new baby. I’m sure she’s all they talked about on the drive up and back. We loved hanging out with them for the day. So did Bucky!
Big Sister immersed Little Brother fully in the college experience. They went out on Friday night, and I’ll spare you the details lest you realize the derelict parent I really am. I do know that the evening (ahem: early morning) found them at the infamous Ian’s, where Little Brother devoured none other than their world famous BBQ chicken pizza that wise Big Sister and her roommate insisted he try.