Sunday, July 31, 2011

under pressure! and an awesome recipe.

We are going to NEW YORK in a few weeks, and I am feeling some pressure to pick JUST THE RIGHT PLACES for us to eat. For, like, 24 hours. I get pretty stressed out about these things, especially when there are a lot of options, because I live for fun, quality culinary experiences. I really, really do not fancy myself a foodie, nor do I think I have any kind of talent. But, I enjoy the heck out of it and it seems like food experiences are always so memorable and special to me. Whether traveling, entertaining, or just hanging with my man, I want everything to be Wonderful. And really, I know... first-world problems. Honestly, I enjoy this kind of "stress," except for the effect it has on my waistline. Tight pants are the pits.

Sigh, anyway, I've been slacking on writing and even taking pictures of my dinners because D is on vacation and we've been having too much fun. However, I did make an awesome recipe the other night that was a huge hit with both my brother, who came over for dinner, and D. No leftovers! Everything was devoured. I'm calling it Turkey Gyros, for lack of a better name.

I was craving gyros the other day, but they always make my stomach so upset, and I wanted a healthier alternative to the greasy, rotating meat you get in little storefronts. I was also craving falafel, but I wanted to avoid any kind of greasy frying. This came to mind, and it was spectacular. The gyro-esque flavors were spot-on, and fresh summer produce made it even better. Plus, no stove cooking! Everything went on the grill.

I can't wait to make it again! I used Greektown Billygoat seasoning from the Spice House, which is a family favorite for everything from kebabs to burgers to dips, but any spice blend should do.

Turkey Gyros (serves 4-6, depending on appetites)

1.25 pounds of ground turkey (I prefer the white and dark meat)
2 T. plain breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon good Greek seasoning
Ground pepper
6 pitas, flatbreads, tortillas, pocket bread, etc.

Tomatoes, sliced
Cucumbers, sliced
Onions, sliced
Fresh parsley, chopped
Tzatziki sauce (here is a great recipe - I prefer to use Greek yogurt)
Feta or goat cheese (optional)
Hot sauce (optional)

Mix the turkey through the pepper and form into two-inch patties. Make an indention in the middle with your thumb to keep the shape. Grill or pan-fry patties until cooked, remove from heat and cover with foil. Grill pita/bread as needed. Have diners fill pita with the patties and toppings. Eat hot!

EDIT: I should note that if your spice blend doesn't contain salt, you may want to add some to the burger mix. I'm trying to cut back on the salt, so I didn't add any extra, but that spice blend does contain it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

dinner, 7/22/11.

I've said before that I "like" "Food & Wine" magazine on Facebook, and I get some of the best menu ideas from them. They just do it right. Great tone, great posts and recipes, great photos. I love it all.

Friday night, at the suggestion of F&W, I made David Burke's Grilled Skirt Steak with Peaches, only I used flank steak. The butcher we frequent usually only has frozen skirt steak, and I didn't want to deal with it, so I got the flank. I really enjoy cooking flank steak. It marinates quickly and is easy to cook, and as long as you cut it right, it's delicious.

The peaches were an awesome touch and even the husband commented how much he liked them. I was pleased, especially considering that grilled fruit is not really his jam. This recipe paired wonderfully with the Arbor Brook Pinot Noir we enjoyed before/with/after dinner. 

Also on the plate was some grilled corn and a spinach salad. I've discovered an interesting method for making an almost-wilted spinach salad without the hot bacon dressing. I toast some sliced almonds in a pan and in the meanwhile toss the spinach with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and some soft goat cheese. Then, when the almonds are hot, I throw them in the bowl and mix everything together. It almost melts the cheese and softens the spinach, and it is soooooooo tasty. Don't forget salt and pepper!

Last night, we used the leftover steak for some tacos. That marinade pulls some serious double duty. Two perfect summer dinners!

Friday, July 22, 2011

dinner, 7/21/11.

Dinner was great last night! I made an awesome grilled veggie quinoa salad and just grilled some simply marinated chicken breasts. The night before, I had grilled a ton of red pepper and zucchini, so I just diced up the leftovers and tossed them into this salad. Elegant, easy, tasty, and any veggies you like would work! I'm just going to grill extra vegetables all the time now to have around for this recipe.

Grilled Veggie Quinoa
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups leftover grilled veggies, diced (zucchini, eggplant, pepper, onion, anything really!)
3 green onions, chopped
Handful parsley, chopped (or any herbs would work)
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1 T. white balsamic vinegar
1/2 T. lemon juice (more to taste, I like mine pretty acidic)
1 T. olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Cook quinoa and cool thoroughly. I find it's best to cool it in a bowl rather than the pan or it can get mushy. Add remaining ingredients and toss until well combined. Chill thoroughly and serve. Can be made the night before and leave the dressing off to avoid sogginess. Yum!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

hey ladies, vol. 1.

Women, why are we so hard on ourselves? Why are we so hard on each other? Look, I'm guilty as charged for being judgy toward other women, but what is it in my brain that makes me think mean things? I certainly don't think I'm better than many people (except for criminals, litterers, and generally rude folks), but I can't help having negative thoughts at times. In Chicago, where I just spent six boiling hot days, apparently shorts so short that they are not even really pants at all are in, and I couldn't help but think how inappropriate they looked on some (fine, most) women. However, I don't have the confidence to wear something like that myself, because my body isn't perfect. Am I jealous of other women's confidence, or are they inappropriate?

I can also say that, without question, being in a bathing suit is my idea of hell. If I DO go to hell someday, I will be wearing a string bikini and stuck behind a triple-wide stroller on Michigan Avenue. What makes me so insecure about putting on an outfit that millions of women don't even think about, regardless of their shape or age? Why do I and other women pick on ourselves so much and want to be perfect? I have seen so many friends who are disappointed in post-pregnancy bodies and upset that they aren't flawless, and it makes me so sad because I know at the end of the day, most of us are really doing the best that we can. Why isn't it enough to be healthy, happy, and imperfect?

This is such an age-old issue that has been hashed and rehashed for years. It's just on my mind today. I know everyone is quick to blame the media and "society's pressure" of what is acceptable, but I think it's more than that. I think somehow we are hard-wired to compete, I guess, with those around us. And in order to make ourselves feel better, we can't help but pick others apart, even if it's in silence.

So, what do you think? Are you confident? Are you self-conscious? Do you fake it 'til you make it? And how do you shake yourself out of a self-hating funk?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

warning: a conversation about makeup containing adult language.

I always say I don't wear much makeup, but I LOVE LOVE playing with it, smelling it, touching it, trying it on, and then washing it all off. There are products that we've all heard about as "the makeup artist's favorite" or "must-have items." I've found success with some, and others were a bust. Like Maybelline Great Lash Mascara. People love it, swear by it, have for years. For me, it makes my already-decent lashes too spiky and spidery. Or as I've mentioned previously Philosophy's Hope in a Jar was a no-go for me.

If you've ever read any kind of women's fashion, fitness, or lifestyle magazine, you've probably heard of NARS Orgasm blush. And very clever there, NARS, giving a product a sexy name to draw interest. Anyway, this summer brings a special compact with the Orgasm and a bronzer side-by-side. I totally splurged and purchased the Orgasm/Laguna combo, and I have to say it's one of the nicest, most fool-proof products I've ever used. I look... beachy, and glowy, and refreshed with the combo. If I had a nice enough picture of myself, I'd post it!

So, dear trio of regular readers, next time you need some blush and a pick-me-up, I'd recommend checking it out!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

summer must eats, vol. 1.

Summer is finally here, which I have to say is one of the most magical things to happen to all of Oregon. The thermometer may read only 80 degrees, but the sun is HOT, and there is no such thing as air conditioning. The second floor of my house is definitely toasty, and it kills my appetite doing all of the housewife junk that I accomplish each day. Hahaha, kidding. I barely know how to vacuum.

Anyway, one of my very favorite things to eat when it is HOT is cucumber anything. Salad, soup, in gazpacho (this is coming later when the tomatoes are decent), with hummus, and pretty much any way you can imagine. It's like chewing water. But my most favorite way to eat cucumbers is an old family favorite I'll share: sour cream cucumbers.

Basically, you peel two cucumbers if they are the thick-skinned garden variety. English cucumbers you can leave the skin on if you want. Then you slice them thinly. Wash and chop three green onions. In a big bowl, whisk a cup of sour cream or even plain Greek yogurt would be great, two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and a tablespoon of sugar. Toss the cucumbers and onions in the dressing and I like to refrigerate for at least an hour. I also prefer to salt and pepper upon serving because the salt leaches liquid from the cucumbers as they sit, and the dressing becomes too watery.

I could eat a whole bowl of this. Actually, I DID eat a whole bowl of this for dinner last night. And there's no picture because, hey, peeled cucumbers in sour cream has to be the least exciting picture ever. So go, now, to the farmers market and store, and make it!