Musings of a Chicago-Born New Yorker

Posts tagged “cooking/baking

On Making A Bucket List… Sort Of

God willing, I’m not going anywhere any time soon, so I don’t have a bucket list in the traditional sense. However, I am turning 30 this year, and when one of my best friends suggested we do a 30th Birthday Bucket List, I immediately loved the idea.

This was at the end of last summer, around August-ish. There are a number of folks we know who are turning 30 this year or who have already turned 30 this year. So we put together some fun categories that we could each pick something from to embrace and bid farewell to our 20s.

I won’t bore you with all the categories now– there are 10– but I will talk about them as I cross them off the list. Even though we set this up over 6 months ago, it’s been slow going for me to really start crossing things off.

I enjoyed my 20s tremendously, and I’m really looking forward to my 30th birthday. Even though I chose bucket list items that pushed my comfort zone, I still had to dig to find the motivation to just make it happen.

But enough about my 20-something hesitancy, let’s talk about what I’ve actually done (or rather, tried to do).

One of the categories is Culinary Exploration. This category came out of the idea that we all have some food item we were afraid to try. Your 20s is a time where you embrace new experiences and expand your horizons. It’s kind of hard to expand your horizons when there are things you won’t even try.

For me, culinary exploration only had one option: tofu/soy. I decided to find one tofu/soy item that I could truly enjoy and maybe even love.

I have tried tofu on many occasions, with several cuisines, in multiple countries. My mouth just no likey.

One or two (or five) had experiences with it, and I had given up. I lived in a world where soy sauce was the only soy product to cross my lips. I’ve never tried soy milk, I can barely swallow tofu of any kind.

I hated feeling defeated by food. I’ll eat pretty much anything. Except white sweet potatoes from Asia or the Caribbean. I just don’t like that grainy texture, yuck. I’m a texture person, and there’s no saving that awful veggie.

But tofu was a different story. People who eat it talk about its ability to take on whatever you want to give it. Grilling, frying, baking, etc. it supposedly has a lot of options.

In my experience tofu just always tasted like flavorless powdered scrambled eggs. No matter how they cooked it. But upon further review, I realized the majority of the way I’ve tried it is sautéed in Asian food.

Since tofu/soy ended up on my 30th Birthday Bucket list, I’ve tried. I ordered a tofu roti, which is a delicious dish from Trinidad at this amazing West Indian restaurant. I mentioned it in a previous post. I got the tofu on the side, and while I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, which is a huge step forward.

I’m thinking if I could get it cut into even tinier pieces, kind of like how I get Easy to eat tomatoes and onions, I could maybe make it work.

I’m not giving up on soy yet though. I think my next attempt is soy milk. Maybe I’ll love it and then I’ll be done with this bucket list item.

I’m not holding my breath, but I”m also not giving up.

You hear that soy? I’m not giving up.

At some point soon, I’ll talk about the second 30th Birthday Bucket List item I tackled, which is reality TV. I never watch reality TV that’s not a competition (i.e., American Idol and Dancing with the Stars), but I went there.

Three words. Bad. Girls. Club.

Screenshot from one of many fights. Image via fanpop


On Attending Wine School in March: Bordeaux

2014-03-23 21.38.08

Last month, I started talking about the series of articles in the New York Times they are calling Wine School. I was pretty excited about participating, and so far it’s been amazing.

Last month was Bordeaux. This month is Beaujolais, which is currently en route to my house for much more than I wanted to pay in shipping. I’m hoping next month’s wine is found locally. Cross your fingers for me.

Before I even get to April’s wine, I have to talk about what an experience March was.

Bordeaux is tannin-ful wine. A quick trip to Wikipedia will tell you about tannins. The short version is drinking something with tannins in it feels like your mouth is dry.

Then they pour sand into your dry mouth.

Then swallowing feels difficult.

Then they add more sand.

Then they let your tongue bake in the sun until it feel like a raisin. Not a juicy raisin though.

Then they add more sand.

At least that’s how I felt with my very first sip of the wine.

But Eric Asimov is a genius and thought to warn lesser-than wine drinkers such as myself to prepare for that reaction.

So I let it happen, and leaned into the feeling. After the sandy moment passed, I felt thirsty, so I took another sip. And another, and another.

At this point, I felt like a character in The Phantom Tollbooth, you know, the one eating subtraction soup, so I stopped drinking and started eating.

I prepared pretty much the exact meal I wanted to prepare to go with this wine. Delicious and mouth-watering red meat really is the perfect accompaniment to this wine.

I used a recipe, also found in the New York Times, for a great skirt steak recipe. I’ve used it again since that first night, and the steak is always flavored perfectly.

Image via nytimes.com

Easy and I had a delicious dinner that night, but honestly, I only liked the wine, I didn’t love it.

When I got home from work the next night, I poured myself another glass.

Things had improved. I went from feeling only dry and nothing else to feeling good.

The wine was now fruity, though I couldn’t tell you which fruit I tasted. It was still dry, but now enjoyably so. I suddenly wanted a hunk of cheese to enjoy with it.

I’m not sure how much wine you should pour into one glass while drinking at home, but we never get more than 4 glasses of wine out of a bottle. That meant with dinner the first night, and my glass the second night, there was one left.

I decided to leave it for the third day.

It was even better the third day. The tannins I was cursing on day one were now good friends. They encouraged me to eat mouth-watering foods that were rich and full of flavor.

And when I finally finished the bottle, it was with regret. I missed it already. There was no way I was buying another bottle of this same wine, the cost was prohibitive for me.

So instead, I dreamed about the wine like a summer-only boyfriend from camp. Wondering if he’d think of me like I would think of him once we were forcibly parted.

I went the next day to my Midtown Manhattan wine guy and had him select another Bordeaux for me to try. I had to try to move on. I was hoping recommended Bordeaux wines were as interchangeable as summer flings

Luckily, the second Bordeaux was also good. Actually it was great. And it confirmed for me that I’m now a Bordeaux drinker, like officially.

So now I’m a Bordeaux drinker. I think it is my favorite red wine for now.

But April is almost over, and I will have to see if this month’s Beaujolais can take the place of Bordeaux. It’s low in tannins though, so the frenemy-turned-best-friend wine ingredient that I have come to love won’t get to play a role in this month’s food drama. I guess we’ll see what happens.


Giving, Receiving, And Leaving Town

Because we live in a sitcom, the plan the husband and I had for our Super Bowl party didn’t go so well, but it turned out alright in the end.

Our first mistake was not going grocery shopping ahead of time. We waited until Sunday after church.

Saturday night, I went to bed early-ish, which was nice. I got ten whole hours of sleep, which basically made up for the extreme lack of sleep from the week.

The husband was out super late Saturday night. He’s so friendly that he was hanging out with his old friends as well as making some new ones. He came home with this.

dollars

Where do you think he was? Strip club? Chuck E. Cheese? Playing for tips in Times Square? The options are humorous and endless.

So we get to church for morning service. It turns out there are two meetings scheduled after church. One for new members and one for the young adult ministry. Both are meeting the husband and I were to attend.

I didn’t want to go to either meeting. Because seriously, who calls a meeting on Super Bowl Sunday? Seriously?

But to the meetings we went. We didn’t leave church until after 3pm. We didn’t get home from the grocery store until after 4:30pm.

Did I mention the store had run out of chicken wings? I don’t just buy a bag of frozen wings and throw it in the oven. I cook fresh wings and make sauce to go with it. I get fancy, y’all.

So I sent the husband out in search of fresh wings and started on my sauces.

The guests started arriving and there was no food ready to eat. I felt badly, but there wasn’t much I could do. Luckily one of his friend made home-made humus and flatbread chips to go with it. And they were delicious!

I’m sure you all know how the game went down. All I’m going to say about the game is that I enjoyed watching the team I wanted to win whoop ass up and down the field. Oh, and the commercials were great too.

As the food started trickling out of the kitchen, everyone dug in. I was pretty satisfied with the final products: taco salad with sweet pepper sour cream topping; tortilla chips with ground turkey queso dip; loaded fresh-cut french fries with bacon and cheese; and chicken wings with a choice of spicy BBQ, honey mustard, or ranch sauce.

And of course I made my everything punch. When I say this is everything punch, I mean it. It has everything in it.

Don’t tell me you can’t mix certain types of alcohol. Don’t tell me dark & light liquors get into a fight in your stomach. I don’t wanna hear it!

I make this punch at most big parties we throw. I know the night is a success when people who I’ve seen drink several glasses of straight whiskey out at jazz clubs can only drink 2-3 cups of my punch before they’re really tipsy.

After the game ended, people still stayed to hang out a bit. We ended up playing a few hilarious rounds of cell-phone based Taboo. It was nice to not have to clean up all the cards and game pieces after we’re done playing.

Trying to guess the name of Oscar-nominated actors when you’re on your fifth cup of everything punch is no joke y’all. I tried to remember to take a picture of it, but I kinda forgot, so this is the best I have, a punch bowl only filled a third of the way with poor lighting.

everything punch

Looks harmless, doesn’t it? All a part of my master plan, mwah ha ha.

The good use I put my chemistry degree to is making a strong yet tasty drink that won’t leave you hung over. As long as you have a good electrolyte balance going before you start drinking, you can drink a half-gallon of this stuff and be fine.

You’re welcome.

Anyway, the husband gets on a plane later today to head to Chicago, assuming his flight isn’t delayed because of all the Monday travel issues. He’s gone for a whole month. I won’t see him until I meet him in Chicago for a wedding on March 1st. When he’s gone, we’re both so busy that we have to work hard to make time to talk. I’m sure we’ll manage though.

I’m going to miss him, but I do have something to distract me for a bit. I wrote a post recently about how I was looking forward to eventually getting my birthday gifts. I figured it would help jumpstart my efforts to stay healthy.

Guess what I got in the mail?

fitbit

A lovely lady I met in Chicago bought it for me. I met her while out with the husband at a jazz club, which makes sense because she’s a singer.

I was so excited about it, I forgot how sleepy I was and immediately got it setup. It’s as cool as advertised. I didn’t even have to take it off to have one of my marathon baths.

This is my first ever gift received purely because of something I wrote in my blog. It’s a moment for me, and I promise I’ll put it to good use girl!

I’d say I had a pretty amazing weekend. I’ll probably be a bit more low-key in the coming days. I’ll need to make time to workout so I can stay on track with my new healthy plan.

I think I may have someone to go rock climbing with. It’s one of the random cool people I’ve met while out at a jazz club with the husband. We shall see.

And I think this couple I met another time out is going to join me at the soup kitchen next weekend when I go to volunteer.

At this rate, I may actually have friends in NYC, but I won’t get my hopes up too soon.


As It Turns Out, You Can Cut Yourself With A Plastic Picnic Knife

Can I just say, things have been so crazy at work that I’ve been trying to write this post for a month? I never have time to finish it and just click publish. If only I had more time to post at home.

I know I’m overdue to post my pictures of my progress. To be honest, I just don’t see much progress. Maybe it’s because my eating habits haven’t improved as much as they should. I’ve cut out carbs that come from flour and white potatoes, but that’s about it.

I’ve been doing a pretty good job of eating mostly home cooked food. It’s when I don’t have time to cook that things go awry. Vending machine food is the enemy!

Sometimes, I run to Wal-Mart and grab some groceries to make myself some easy lunch or breakfast. This usually means salad fixings. And that leads to the point of this post.

After doing Tracy Anderson cardio one day, I was starving. I felt weak and knew I needed to eat something, like NOW. I rushed to put together a good salad, with bacon of course. Because I purchased all the good salad fixings, I needed a good salad.

That involved heating up the bacon slices and making my own fresh bacon bits, getting shredded cheese, shredded carrots, and dried cranberries. And it also involved cutting up an apple for which I neglected to bring an appropriate knife. So I grabbed one in the employee lounge.

Next thing I know, I slipped and cut myself.

With a plastic knife.

I didn’t even know they were sharp enough to do that. I guess it was because I was eating a Fiji apple. those things are quite firm and required a lot of applied pressure to cut. As I watched my finger begin to bleed, I contemplated stopping the salad preparation.

But I was just so damn hungry.

So I grabbed a napkin to press against the cut and kept slicing the apple. I have to tell you, it was so worth it because that salad was delicious. And I had the whole time I was eating to contemplate how in the hell I managed to cut myself with a plastic knife.

Eventually, my hunger subsided enough so that I could properly clean and bandage my finger. The problem is that I do a ton of typing at work, and not just my never-ending attempts to put out a new blog post.

Imagine trying to type with a hurt and bandaged finger, feeling all the worse because your dumb ass cut yourself with a plastic knife.

Because I like to learn from my mistakes, this led to better meal planning so I’m not so ravenous when I finish working out. I’m still super hungry, but not so much that I will literally let myself bleed just so I can eat some food.

It’s different working out at work compared to at home. At home, I can just turn on the shower, throw off my clothes, go grab some food. I can do all that in any order. At work it’s a very clear order. I can’t exactly walk around the building in my workout gear so I can grab a pre-shower snack.

So now I try to eat and apple or banana 30 min before I work out. And I have something for lunch that I can start to munch on while whatever else I’m preparing the rest of my food. And so far, I haven’t cut myself again yet.

With a plastic knife.