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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Israeli Couscous with Chicken and Peas

So I've been absent from the old bloggy blog for awhile now, thanks to a long overdue and much needed vacation. We stayed with Todd's uncle and aunt in San Diego for just over a week, and my God, it was heaven.

I drank hot tea each morning, whilst wearing a sweater and slippers, but by the afternoons we were enjoying the beach, swimming in the surf one at a time while the other stayed and played with Alex in the sand. We visited Old Town, OB, had a bonfire dinner on Shelter Island, and not once did we get mired in horrible traffic (miraculous, let me tell you).

We went to restaurants, Balboa park, and only had one miserable day thanks to the horrors of a busy day at San Diego Zoo. Remember my plantar fasciitis? Yeah, well, it's going to remember San Diego Zoo for the rest of its life (which I hope isn't long). We sat outside every night, where the temperature + wind chill made it feel more deliciously chilly than anything Tucson has to offer, even in the dead of "winter." Sweaters were worn again, people. In August. It was... perfect.

Anyways, now we're home and sneezing and achy with allergies, and I wake up with bloody noses every morning. Hurray, desert! Well Jil, what the fuck does this have to do with couscous? Well, I'll tell you, faithful reader, I'll tell you. Having enjoyed all that cool weather, it made me crave a cool weather dish. I didn't realize it, either, until I tasted dinner last night.

This meal sounds light and summery thanks to the lemon and the scallions, but the richness of the broth that soaks into the couscous, and the heartiness of the chopped chicken and peas makes it extremely comforting, filling and is somewhat reminiscent of a chicken pot pie, or a chicken noodle soup. Even better, it rained last night, which washed away some of the heat and reminded us, ever so slightly, of those cold nights in San Diego.

Enough already! I got this recipe from A Family Feast but made a few changes here and there.

Israeli Couscous with Chicken and Peas
serves two

5 chicken tenders
EVOO (I feel sort of sleazy typing that out)
Salt and pepper to taste
Garlic powder to taste
2 cup chicken broth (I use no sodium bouillon powder)
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1.5 cup Israeli (also known as pearl) couscous
2 scallions, thinly sliced, both white and green parts
1 cup frozen peas, thawed under hot water
1/2 cup shredded parmesan, plus extra

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Season your chicken with the garlic powder and salt and pepper. Cook chicken until just done, dice it up and add it back to the skillet, setting it aside. I did this about thirty minutes before cooking the rest thanks to Alex refusing to go to bed.

Combine the broth, zest and lemon juice, plus the salt and pepper and set aside. In a large saucepan, heat another drizzle of the olive oil over medium high and add the couscous, toasting lightly for 2-3 as you stir frequently so it won't burn. Next, add the broth combo and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cover, simmering for about 8-10 minutes until couscous is al dente.

You'll want remaining liquid in the pan, so use that as your guide, too. Now, add your scallions, peas and chicken, plus the 1/2 cup parmesan and stir until it's all mixed up (I have a 311 song stuck in my head now). Sprinkle with extra parmesan, if you so desire (you will) and enjoy!

I do want to add that I usually love to absolutely cover my dish in parmesan. But I will say to those who avoid dairy (I'm looking at you, Kat), the creaminess of the couscous and broth, the richness of everything, is divine. The cheese is just a little bonus, but by no means will this dish lack in flavor if you skip it.

Now, if it were only 65 degrees with a whipsmart wind coming off the sea right outside my window.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rack of Lamb with Greek Salad

Well hidey-ho! This past Sunday we had a truly delightful family dinner. Alex sat with us and ate what we did aside from the lamb. She's eaten lamb before, I think twice. The first time she cried. The second time was all indifference due to her running around the house like a wild animal, me stopping her mid-sprint, making her take a bite and sending her on her way.

That's also how I'll get her to sign up for cotillion classes!

Anyways, we had what you see in the photo above: delicious, succulent rack of lamb with a wonderfully brirght and summery Greek salad that my darling friend Kendra came up with after tweaking several recipes she'd come across. I too made a few tweaks, depending on what I had available and due to my healthy addiction to garlic.

So here it is folks, a BFF fusion meal.

Rack of Lamb with Greek Salad
serves two because who gives up two of their chops for a couple of friends?  ***

2 large sprigs rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped fine (I snipped them to smithereens in a ramekin)
2 large cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1lb rack of lamb, some fat trimmed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cucumber, sliced and diced (I diced the larger slices into nine pieces, for reference)
12oz +/- cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tbsp fresh chives, snipped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dill
Drizzle olive oil
Drizzle pinot grigio vinegar
1/2 cup feta crumbles
2 pieces naan flatbread (optional)

Set the oven to 375. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and while it warms up, mix your rosemary, garlic and olive oil, muddling them in that selfsame ramekin used for the rosemary. Using your hands, rub the mixture into the lamb. Nay, massage it! Really let it know that you care but draw the line at buying it flowers. You don't want it thinking you're already picking out china patterns, do you?

Add salt and pepper.
When the skillet is nice and hot, toss in your lamb and sear it on all sides. Then pop it in the oven and set your timer for 15 minutes.

Wait, would you send the flowers to the lamb or to the herb mixture? I don't know, man. Ask Dear Abby. Or Julia Child.

So, while your lamb cooks, and to keep you from excitedly pacing around your kitchen wiping anticipatory drool off your chin (I did that anyway), assemble your salad. Mix everything together in a big bowl, save for the feta. Put the bowl in the fridge to keep cool, and I don't know, man, set the table or yell at your kids or something. Anything to keep yourself distracted.

Here, this will distract you. Why on earth in the first Harry Potter movie does Hagrid go all "That is VERY important, Harry, you STICK TO YOUR TICKET." Like, why Hagrid? Nobody collects the tickets at platform 9 3/4. Not that I recall. I've read the books about five times through, Hagrid. I mean, if you can figure out how to walk though a damn wall, then I think that trumps holding a damn ticket. Amiright?

After the timer goes off, remove your lamb and, sigh of all sighs, let it rest at least five minutes and if you're really brave, about ten. This is important, as the meat is still cooking and there's the whole thing of letting the juices, that had accumulated in the center, escape onto your cutting board.

Remove your salad from the fridge and add your feta, tossing to evenly distribute. Plate the salad and carve the lamb. As that is happening, quickly warm up your flatbread in the microwave and cover with another plate to keep warm.

And... you're done. YOU GET TO EAT THE LAMB.

If you don't, I will.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

My Ghosts in this Town.

For fifteen years of my life, I grew up in Nashville, TN. I loved it, and when it was time to pack everything up and move to Tucson for college, I was very sad. It took a long period of adjustment, and some flunking out of stuff, but eventually the growing (moving?) pains subsided and I found myself enamoured of my new home.

I've now lived here for as long as I've lived in Nashville, but there is a mighty big difference; I really only explored Nashville for, say, my high school career. Cars, downtown streets, concerts, jumping into a lazy river off an old rope swing. So, you know, four years at the max. But here... Here I see ghosts of myself.

I moved here at 18, got married at 27, had a kid at 30, and am currently feasting on my slice of The American Dream. That's a lot of history compared to my life in Nashvegas. For example, when I go on my bike rides as my 33 year old self, I pass by the apartment building I lived in with my dad for the first few years of my life here in Tucson. I ride half of the same route I'd take to go buy CDs at Zia Records.

I drive downtown to take my child to the children's museum and drive by the nightclubs I used to dance in until 2am. I work in a building that is across the street from the high rise in which I did temp work, wondering if I would ever land a job here after quitting my previous job in order to take a month-long honeymoon.

There's a scene in one of the world's best movies ever, A Muppet Christmas Carol, in which old Ebenezer Scrooge watches shadows of his younger self move about and study in his old schoolhouse. One comes to life only to fade out as an older version of himself comes into the picture, to fade out again, etc.

I feel that way a lot, biking through these streets, or sitting in traffic and seeing a house I partied at before a bunch of punk wannabes crashed it and ruined everything, as they are wont to do. That's the crazy part, I think. Seeing houses of some semblence of importance to my younger self, my 22 year old self, that are no longer anything in my life as a 30 something wife and mother.

I like it. I can see the appeal now for people who want to, and plan on, living in the same city or town their whole lives. Tucson feels rich with history, my history, and as I pass by my old haunts it's like waving at my past self. Here is the corner of 4th Avenue and 5th Street where I met the love of my life, father of my child(ren - one day). I used to live in that duplex where our friend Pete threw up on a cactus after too many drinks on his birthday. The place on the U of A campus where I used to romp with my old dog, Beauregard. There, on that corner, used to be the laundromat where I once helped an intoxicated homeless person shave his face, as he was too drunk to do it himself.

There's a saying that if you shiver or something, someone is walking over your grave. Now, along those lines but way less morbid, I wonder if I ever had a shiver, or felt someone was looking at me as I sauntered down Congress Street, walking my dog and feeling good in the skin of a 25 year old. Maybe I looked back over my shoulder, glimpsing for a moment a silvery SUV with a slightly wistful mom gazing at me, a shadow of a smile on her face, a fleeting moment of connection between past, present, and future.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Workout Monday!

Poor Wednesday, it got robbed of its fitness posts by other days of the weeks. It's a full on HIIT pillaging!

I literally just did this and am still shaky and typing is quite difficult.

50 seconds on, 10 seconds rest.

1 Plank and walk out. Get in plank position with your feet on an exercise ball. Pull ball towards body using legs. 
2 Goblet squats
3 Pushups
4 Burpees
5 Ball crunches
6 Tricep dips
7 Supermans
8 Jumping Lunges
9 Plank
10 Bicep curls
11 Ball crunches
12 Supermans


Friday, August 2, 2013

Spring Rolls Sprung Up All In Here

So yesterday I had to go get some pad thai sauce at the store, and while there in the Asian section (thanks, Fry's), my eye caught a package of spring roll skins. I had never before made spring rolls and was instantly intrigued. Since Alex saw them too and decided to put one in the basket, I was like fuck it:

Now, if you ask my bestie Kendra, last night you would have thought that I was attempting something truly difficult like performing open heart surgery or beating a level of Candy Crush, I texted her for help so many times.

Turns out though, after a quick hop onto You Tube for a tutorial on softening and folding said spring roll skins, it is so ridiculously easy that I think I owe Kendra another apology. SORRY KENDRA. I didn't even buy any extra ingredients for the filling, as I had everything already in my fridge and freezer.

So here is my recipe, but I'm going to make more tonight and want to really explore all the tasty alternatives. Seriously though, you can stuff these puppies with anything and still enjoy them. PLUS there are like six skins to a 200 calorie serving, so an appetizer of two rolls is like, chump change, man. CHUMP CHANGE.

Now, I was frazzled last night because it was something I'd not done before, and I was sort of scattered in my food prep. I hope this doesn't come through in how I list my ingredients (I like to list them in order of appearance like fancy smart people cookbooks do), but if it does, I apologize.

Mahi Mahi Spring Rolls
makes four rolls

1 cup (give or take) of finely chopped cabbage
2 scallions sliced, both white and green parts
4 large sprigs cilantro
1 4oz. portion of mahi mahi. I get mine frozen and individually wrapped at Costco.
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
4 spring roll skins
peanut sauce (you can make your own or mince down the lazy man trail like I did and use peanut satay sauce that you've had in your pantry for about a year because you made satays like just that once and decided "I will make these forever" and then promptly forget about)

Okay, SO. Mix up your cabbage and scallions and set aside in a small bowl. Prepare your work station with a large cutting board. I can't believe I made that a step. Sorry. What's wrong with me?

In a small skillet over medium high heat, add some oil and once it's heated through, add your fish. Once you flip it over, add the hoisin sauce for flavor. Why else would I add some goddamn sauce, Jil? For its accounting skills? You're right, I apologize. I am apparently in an extremely self-deprecating mood today. I should start telling French jokes next!

Remove the fish and cut it into four strips, lengthwise. Set aside.

Fill a large skillet (or something similarly shaped) with hot water and one at a time, slide the spring roll skins in and rotate until they soften. The first one I let linger awhile and it was extremely gooey and difficult to work with. So you know, stop before that point. I am so helpful!
Now, transfer the skin to the cutting board, smooth side down, and put a small heap of cabbage/scallion mix towards the bottom. Top with a slice of the fish and a sprig of cilantro, and fold the bottom part of the skin up and over the filling. Next, fold the sides over and then simply roll the stuff upwards.

This guy was a big help:

And then, presto! That's all! Finish up with the last three and then chill before serving. Dunk those bad boys in your sauce and devour while standing around in the kitchen while you wait for your skillet to heat up in order to cook pad thai. You didn't buy that sauce packet for nothing!