Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Using up Food in the Pantry

not sparse
One of my New Year's Resolutions (more on those later) is to start using the ingredients in my pantry vs just going out and buying whatever I feel like.  My pantry is, um, not sparse, and is full of almost-ready meals (e.g. dry soup mixes) or sauces/spices/mixes that I used for one meal and then forgot about (e.g. the entire box of Bisquick minus the 3 Tbsp I needed for a recipe) .  That's gotta change.  The goal here is several-fold:

  1. Waste less food (obviously some stuff has been there too long ... like the completely rotten onions I found 2 months ago when I cleaned it out to find out what the smell was)
  2. Spend less money (by using stuff I already have vs buying more, duh)
  3. Become more creative as a cook and expand my palette (by forcing myself to use specific ingredients that I don't normally use and designing my meals around those ingredients)
So how's it going?  Well ... the first endeavor isn't using anything from the pantry and is actually something I've made plenty of times before.  So not entirely keeping with the spirit of the resolution.  BUT a) it isn't New Years yet and b) it DOES use leftover ingredients from the holidays that will go bad if I don't use them, so all-in-all I'm declaring that kinda-sort keeping with the spirit of the resolution.  Win!

Anyway, the leftover ingredients were some good extra cheeses (boursin, gruyere, and fontina) from my birthday dinner mac-n-cheese.  There's not really much you can do with all of that except make more mac-n-cheese, so that's what I did.  I also bought a chuck roast and four packages of mushrooms to put into the crock pot, which is cooking away as I type and smells ever-so-delicious.  I'll add some steamed broccoli for some green, and that should give me 8 good meals!

There's beef in there somewhere, I swear

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Vaca - Day 1 - Kitty Beasts & Old Friends

We're all still in "get ready" mode for tomorrow, so today was pretty uneventful, but still a couple of things to share:

Mom's house is practically crawling with critters right now.  She has her own cat Gideon, an adorable little spud-muffin who still has enough kitten left in him to always be on the move.  Unfortunately, this makes the little bugger rather difficult to photograph, but the photos you do get end up describing him pretty well:



Then there's Brandon's cat, Sullivan "Kitty Beast".  He's a handsome boy, very sociable, dumb as bricks, and also not overly fond of me.  He used to be, but then one day he figured out that I'm Lucy's human, and now I am definitely not on his happy-human-list.  (Lucy is the one cat in our family menagerie who won't submit to him and will bat him across him the nose when he tries to force the issue ... that's my girl :) )  So he doesn't like me, but is also too dumb to remember that when he decides to be affectionate.  So we get spectacles like last night, when he decided he wanted to sleep in my bed, spent 10 minutes arranging himself, gave himself a quick bath, yawned, then looked at me and hissed, jumped off the bed, and ran out of the room.  Then this morning while I was sitting in the kitchen having breakfast, he started rubbing against my legs, then hissed at me, then back to rubbing my legs, then hissed again, then ... well, you get the idea.  Anyway, here he is in his natural state, which is basically "I will tolerate your presence for exactly 8 seconds longer"

There is a third critter in the house - Katie's cat Cosmo, who stays curled up under the bed all day, except when she comes out to walk past Kitty Beast and Gideon with her nose in the air to remind them that she's far too good to join in their fun and games.  No pictures of her.

Last but not least, and certainly not of the critter variety, Mom & I met one of my old high school friends & her family for dinner at the BBQ place that her dad just opened up a few weeks ago.  Valerie & I were best friends back in high school and I got to know her family really well, but we slowly lost touch as college and life took us in different directions.  We kept track of each other through Facebook, basically.  Anyway, earlier this year, her dad Scott decided to try something new and open up a Dickey's BBQ franchise.  Like any business there's a learning curve (as of tonight they'd been open slightly more than 3 weeks), and Scott & Valerie certainly weren't short of stories about everything that they've learned, but all-in-all it's going really well for him.  The shop is in one of the busiest tourist areas of Lancaster, so it gets TONS of business, and they're right next to a Chic-fil-a, which means they do a KILLER Sunday business :)  Super happy for him.

Vaca - Day 0 - to Lancaster

Vacation has officially begun!  Yesterday I drove up from Virginia to my mom's house in Lancaster and tomorrow we're going to kick of the "real" vacation part of the trip by leaving early AM and driving our way up to Maine. I'm gonna see if I can keep up a daily blogging schedule, and hopefully put up pictures each day.

This year is going to be ... different.  Some parts are definitely familiar - we are retracing the first leg of our old annual Maine vacation and will spend the weekend in Kennebunkport.  But after that we veer off into new territory pretty quickly.  For starters, we're only retracing the first leg of the trip; we aren't spending a week at the cabin with old family friends, and will be coming home on Tuesday after a short stop-over in Boston.  Then there's the fact that I'm not 16 anymore, and I'm honestly not sure what Kennebunkport will offer for a more mature me.   Katie is bringing Brandon, Will is bringing Kyle (and as I write this I realize that could be some very cunning planning on their parts ... they will have each other to keep themselves occupied for a weekend, I will have my phone ... hmmm).  But the most obvious difference will be who's not along - this will be the first family vacation since Dad passed away last year, a fact that all of us are acutely aware of.  There are going to be some tough moments, and while I can usually keep my emotions in check, this trip is going to offer some challenges.  Anyway ...

In true-nerd fashion, we're going to go ahead and call yesterday "Day 0", since it was more of a vacation-instantiation* than a vacation-instance.  It actually started at work, where I had a half-day of meetings and reviews and side-by-sides and generic be-the-person-in-charge stuff.  Let's just say I pretty much phoned it in ... not only was I single-digit hours away from starting vacation, but I had a few drinks the night before and wasn't exactly, um, in the clearest of minds.

Anyway, after work I drove home, finished packing (which I'd planned to do the night before but, for obvious reasons, didn't finish) and then started the drive up to Lancaster.  I left Richmond about 2:30, which I knew was perilously close to hitting rush hour on the DC beltway, but I was betting that 2.5 hours would be enough to get up, around, and through.  I did not win that bet.  About 10 miles south of the beltway on I-95 there were a couple of accidents that slowed traffic almost to a standstill, and it took an hour to get through them, so by the time I got onto the Beltway itself it was 5:15.  Whoops.

And actually, it wasn't that bad.  Crowded to be sure, but traffic kept moving at some speed the entire time, and it only took 45 minutes to make the 30-mile loop and continue north.  Undeniably better than the backup from the accident, and orders-of-magnitude better than some of the jams I've been in during the holiday travel season.  Having the windows wide open with the Grease soundtrack playing didn't hurt either ;)  So, mark that one off the life-accomplishment list!

The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful.  After the DC beltway I switched over to the soundtrack from Rent and sung along to that, stopped off at Katie & Brandon's house for about an hour and shared a beer with them, then grabbed a sandwich and finished the drive to Lancaster.  Had another beer with Mom and talked for a bit, then to bed.  All-in-all, Day 0 turned out pretty well!

* If you know CS, you'll get that.  If you don't know CS, you probably don't care enough to want to know;)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

I will always get dates and times wrong

This morning was something of a bittersweet victory for me.  I've been pushing myself lately to make some real changes to my lifestyle, and one of them is going to Body Pump class at American Family Fitness.  I went to 3 classes in 10 days during mid-July, but had to take a break when life got in the way.  I've been feeling not-great about not going, so yesterday I resolved I WAS going to go to class on Saturday morning.

So, in a Herculean feat of willpower, this morning I dragged myself out of bed early (well, early for a weekend), put on my workout clothes, and then drove out to Short Pump thinking "this is NOT going to be fun, but by 10:30 it'll be DONE and then I can be proud of myself for the rest of the day :)".  So I get to the gym in time to start class at 9:30am sharp ... only to discover that I had the freakin times wrong and Body Pump starts at 9:15am.  And Body Pump isn't the kind of class you can just sneak into 15-20 minutes late: there's a good bit of setup, the warm-up sections are actually kind of key, and people naturally spread themselves out in a way that takes up the whole floor and makes it difficult to fit yourself in after its started.

So after forcing myself out of bed and into the car and to the gym ... I missed the damn thing.  GRAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!  For a moment I seriously considered just leaving and going grocery shopping instead (which was on my list for this morning anyway), but then my "make some REAL lifestyle changes" motto kicked in, and so I stayed for about 45 minutes, did mostly cardio plus a few basic weight exercises.  It wasn't Body Pump, but at least I left feeling like I accomplished something.

Speaking of making real lifestyle changes and accomplishing something, I'm really very proud of what I've done so far this year.  Numbers don't lie:


Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sunday Garden Blogging!

Window Garden Blogging, that is.  Much as I'd like to plant a real garden in the ground, living in a multi-unit apartment building where the downstairs neighbors have a dog who likes to pee on plants makes that a little untenable.  So, container gardening in my windows it is!

This year there are 3 main containers:

Box #1 is the flower container in the dining room.  This one is purely for decoration.  Last year I started with an eclectic mix of indoor plants that looked spectacular, but was kind of high maintenance and didn't survive the month that I was away in Pennsylvania helping to take care of my dad during his final months.  I replanted with begonias, which worked well enough, but I didn't really like the red flowers on the red covering, so this year I knew I wanted more contrast and lower maintenance.  I settled on something called "Supertunia Priscilla", which is some kind of Petunia hybrid with a royal violet flower (you can see the first one blooming in the pic) and some Creeping Jenny with very vibrant light green leaves.  Both are great container plants and so far I really like the way the colors match against the container and the red radiator covering.
 

Box #2 is the basil box in the kitchen nook, which as you might expect, is for eating, not looking.  In the past I've tried a couple different herbs in the same container, but could never keep anything (especially parsley or cilantro) alive except for the basil.  Basil is fresh herb that I use most during the summer anyway, so I took the hint and switched to a dedicated box.  There's a natural foods grocery store just a block from my place that sells really great local tomatoes during the summer, and tomatoes with mozzarella, basil and a balsamic reduction became a pretty regular meal last summer.  These basil plants were just seedlings a few days ago, but with the full afternoon sun and lots of water they're already perking up quite nicely.

Box #3 is the mint box on the back porch, which is also for eating ... or rather for drinking if you want to be precise.  I am absolutely OBSESSED with sweet minty drinks during the summer.  There's just something about them that suits the hot humid Virginia summers (I guess those old southern gentlemen with their mint juleps were onto something) and this will be the 3rd summer I've had a dedicated box for mint.  Super yummy.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Yep - Still Rotund

So, the new-found willpower of my previous posts not-withstanding, I remain rotund.  Harumph.


I could make excuses.  Lots of travel.  The regulators are coming and I need to work late.  It was NFL playoff month and I had people over.  Excuses are not good enough, and more to the point, they will not get me down 30 pounds by summer.

So today I went back on Weight Watchers.  I stopped it a few months ago (for a variety of reasons), but I think I'm slowly coming to the realization that, if left to my own devices, I just don't do a good job balancing my intake with my exercise.  And however annoying it is to have to input all the exact details of what you eat, one thing it certainly does is hold you accountable.

And since tracking points is a LOT easier if you know exactly how much of exactly what foods went into what you're eating, that means Sunday meal prep!

This time around, it was a Mexican theme.  Brown rice with black beans, salsa, and a chopped up onion, plus some adobo seasoning to give it some flavor.  Homemade chips that started as corn tortillas cut into wedges, brushed with some olive oil and lightly salted, then baked at 375 for 20 minutes.  An avocado to go with the chips.  And then a thinly sliced chicken breast with some chipotle sauce brushed on and cooked on dry heat using the same pot I cooked the rice in.  I tallied it up, and it totals at a hefty 23 points.  Ugh, that's about 50% higher than the 15 or so it should be for lunch.  Which means cutting some of the portion sizes and then loading up on other veggies.

Anywho - pictures!