It WILL hot dog #20170727

Internetainers Rhett and Link joined Jimmy Fallon, looking to answer the age old question: Will it Hot Dog? These guys are hilarious, and they bring joy to the world by coming up with ridiculous hot-dog-replacement items.  It’s a bit of frivolity that I greatly enjoy, but they pretty much design the show so that the answer “will it” is often likely to be “NO.” I’d prefer to make all the answers “YES” and I think the first step is to keep the hot dog, and just add different toppings. To start, I’m going to reimagine Rhett and Link’s “Will it” segment, but with intentionally tasty sounding toppings instead of weird-hot-dog-replacements. Here we go!

Sushi Dog Start with a sweet Hawaiian roll, add a grilled hot dog,  and then top it with avocado, diced cucumbers, ribbons of pickled ginger, spicy mayo, tobiko, and toasted sesame seeds. Sounds good to me!

Soup Dog-e-dog Well, they said it tasted like gazpacho, so we’ll take inspiration from that. The bun will be toasted on inside the split, then slathered with garlic butter, and will once again feature a plain hot-grilled-hot-dog.  Dice up a few tablespoons of onions, and take the edge off by adding salt and the juice of a lemon. Let that sit (and pickle just a bit) while you prep chopped tomatoes,  chopped red bell pepper, and seeded/peeled/chopped cucumber. Mix all that business together, then use a fork to “drain” out the onion, and add it to the mix with some from tarragon, thyme and parsley. Add a dash of cayenne pepper to the mix and sprinkle with a little more salt. This is a long, drawn out way to describe making a type of gazpacho-flavored-fresh-salsa. Add the hot-hot-dog into the garlic-buttered-bun, give it a squirt of ketchup and spicy mustard, then sprinkle the top with your gazpacho-salsa-thing.

Under Dog Well, strawberry flavored edible underwear was the flavor of this one, so we’ll keep the “adult” theme. Start with a brioche bun is buttered and then toasted (again on the inside, where the dog will go), then add a piping-hot bacon wrapped hot dog. Top it with grated Gruyère cheese, and broil til the cheese is just melted. Mix 1/2 cup strawberry jam with 2 tablespoons of Pinot Noir like they do in this recipe from Food & Wine, and then drizzle that over the melty cheese. Garnish with some julienned fresh basil if you’re feeling fancy.

Kibbles-and-I-don’t-think-I-want-to-eat-this With a name like that, why would you try? Also, dogs aren’t supposed to have a lot of salt so that ends up making things a lot less delicious. My dog goes NUTS for nut butters, so we’ll toast a bun and then spread some peanut butter on there. Add a freshly grilled hot dog, then top with some diced apples, which my dog also weirdly loves. I would also add few caramelized onions if they weren’t super toxic to pups. Honestly, this one is still pretty weird and I don’t really want to try it, but I would bet $5 that it’s more enjoyable than straight up dog food.

That’s it, that’s all the dogs they “made” with Jimmy. I’m pretty sure my versions are more delicious, but I’m also not willing to buy and eat strawberry edible underwear to make an informed comparison.

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Writing about writing, and also about food #20170724

Hello there. I’m never sure about how to start these things, but I wanted to check in and say that I *have* in fact been writing. I still haven’t been publishing much, because the writing that I’ve been doing has only been to help me wrestle with some private issues. I have yet to actually get into a formal writing practice, in spite of the fact that I’ve written out many rules and lofty goals about said practice. Here are some quotes, courtesy of GoodReads.com, to get us started:

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
― Anton Chekhov

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
― Louis L’Amour

With that being said, here’s what is coming out of my writing-faucet today.

I’ve been thinking a lot about nutrition, life style, and food as fuel lately. I’m right at the top of the healthy weight range for my age and height, and I’ve been actively working on my general health for some time. What most recently refocused my attention on this subject was my 8-year-old son eating three cheeseburgers in one meal. Three. Cheeseburgers. This would have been an enormous meal for a fully grown adult. I would like it noted that he received permission from a relative (who was not me) to eat this much because he claimed to still be hungry. I personally doubt that he was eating too quickly to feel how full he was, he is a young man who both enjoys the taste of food and enjoys showing off how much he can put away. The showing off part is what I believe got us into trouble on this particular occasion.

What I’m now calling The Cheeseburger Incident started a family conversation about food as fuel. I spoke with my son about why three cheeseburgers is not a healthy amount of fuel for your body, what your body does with that extra fuel, and what would be a better approach. I told him he would have to check in with a parent about his portions until he showed us that he was making good decisions for himself. We started having the food as fuel discussion more regularly, and I now encourage him almost daily to listen to what his body is telling him about being full. Promising dessert “when you have room again” after listening to your body about being full has been very helpful.

I’m not sure my son will be ready to make his own portion decisions any time soon, but I’m ok with that for the time being. What I realized during that conversation is that I haven’t been doing a great job of taking my own advice on the subject. I’m guilty of over eating, and I’m probably setting the example of showing-off-eating. I’m guilty of throwing together a meal that’s quick and easy, but not necessarily healthy. I am the primary food supplier to a small group of young-and-impressionable humans, and the Cheeseburger Incident has me focused again on all our eating, activity, and health.

I should note here that I really enjoy this focus on health, and while I still have a ways to go, I enjoy making better food choices for our family. Please share your preferred diet choice, recipes, etc with me here, or on whatever social platform you desire.

Recipe smoosh: Keto Friendly Crockpot Zucchini Meatloaf #20170718

I seem to be unable to follow just *one* recipe.

Yesterday, it was my night to host our weekly friends-dinner. The weather forecast was hot n’ humid, and since I was going to have zero time after work I pre-made the mashed taters, cut up a bunch of veggies, and made a couple of crockpots full of meatloaf. The first meatloaf was this basic recipe but with about 1/3 cup of ketchup in the meat mix, and topped with even more ketchup. The other meatloaf was a recipe smoosh, described below.

Here’s a little background: A few of my friends have been following a ketogenic diet, and after doing much research and being *really* dedicated they have had great results. The rest of us do not have that kind of dedication, but we all generally find keto recipes tasty, and I enjoy cooking challenges so I hit the interwebs. I started just researching ketogenic meatloaf recipes, but didn’t want to buy or make almond meal in place of breadcrumbs. I considered just making meatballs instead of a loaf, and found a recipe that used zucchini instead of breadcrumbs or almond meal. It was a lightbulb moment, and it set me off on a whole new Google search.

The first recipe I found was ok, but called for lean ground beef (a keto no-no, they want the fat calories), and had tomato sauce on top (which is high in carbs, even if they are from a fruit). The second recipe I found was tailored to a ketogenic diet, but I didn’t want chunks of zucchini in my meatloaf and I didn’t want to use the oven. Without further ado, here’s the recipe!

 


Keto Friendly Crockpot Zucchini Meatloaf

Here’s the master list of all ingredients for this recipe:

  • 1 small-to-medium yellow onion
  • 3 TBS Olive Oil
  • 1 medium zucchini, mine was about 5 oz
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 TBS crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp whole fennel seeds
  • 2 lbs of 80/20 ground beef
  • 2 large eggs
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Now with more detail!

I prepped these ingredients the night before, but it doesn’t need to sit overnight. That’s just what I did to get a jump-start on my prep.

  • 1 small-to-medium yellow onion, chopped to yield about 3/4 cup
  • 3 TBS of Olive Oil
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini (started as one 5 oz zucchini, which I shredded, salted lightly to draw out moisture, then it sat for 15 minutes while I did other things, and I squeezed it dry)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed to remove the skin then chopped up (size between a mince and a chop)
  • 1 TBS crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp whole fennel seeds that I ground in my mortar and pestle. If you have pre-ground fennel seeds I’d say use a scant 1/4 tsp.
  • Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 oz low moisture, part skim mozzarella (Grated freshly to avoid the anti-caking agent found in pre-shredded cheese. It makes a difference! I used the “normal” size grater, not the “fine” grater)
  • 3 oz Parmesan cheese (I used the “fine” size grater for this one, not the “normal” grater. Once again, grated freshly to avoid the anti-caking agent found in pre-shredded cheese)

Chop up the onion and saute it over low heat in the 3 TBS of oil, stirring occasionally while you shred your zucchini, then grate all the cheeses and chop up the garlic. Set the cheeses aside in a big bowl (larger than a standard cereal bowl, you’ll need the space). When the onions are translucent, add in the garlic, crushed pepper, black pepper, and salt. Stir for a while, then decide to go squeeze the extra water out of your shredded zucchini. Panic after squeezing out two handfuls of zucchini, and go stir your garlic/onion mixture before the garlic goes past golden. Turn off the heat, breathe a sigh of relief that you caught it in time, stir a bit more til it’s done sizzling, and go squeeze out the rest of your zucchini. Dump all the squeezed-dry zucchini into the glorious smelling onion/garlic/spice mixture, turn the burner back on medium low, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is just starting to turn a bit clear but is not fully cooked. Turn off the heat and let cool to room temperature while you go chop up veggies for other things. After the veggie mix is all the way cool, combine it with the cheeses in the bigger-than-a-cereal-bowl, toss to combine, cover with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge. Make sure you have two pounds of 80/20 ground beef defrosted and ready to go tomorrow.

To assemble your meatloaf:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Veggie mix from yesterday/whenever you made it
  • 2 lbs of 80/20 ground beef

In a large mixing bowl, crack in and whisk up the eggs, then throw in the veggie mix and the tsp of salt. Stir that all together with your hands (after you wash them, please), then regret not taking out your meat and go wash your hands again to get it out of the fridge. Add the meat into the egg/veggie/cheese mixture, and mix thoroughly.

At this point, you could bake it at 350F for as long as you would bake any other meatloaf, or you can be like me and cook it in the crockpot, lined with foil, on high for 3 hours. After it beeps, use a large spatula and pair of tongs to maneuver it into a baking dish, spoon some of the juices and fat over the top, then cover it with foil to let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.


Alfredo-ish Sauce

I served the meatloaf with a quick “alfredo” type gravy, whisked together in a sauce pan:

  • 1 and 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parm (another three ounces or so)
  • 1 finely grated garlic clove
  • Two dashes of nutmeg
  • More black pepper
  • 2 TBS of salted butter

I whisked all of that together til the cheese was melted and let it bubble away for a bit. Even after whisking it was a bit chunky, so I blitzed it with my immersion blender before serving in a gravy boat alongside the meatloaf. It was a delicious addition!


Since my friends are truly dedicated to their Ketogenic diet, I plugged the ingredients into MyFitnessPal as a recipe so that they could see some basic nutrition facts. I’m not sure how accurate the fat grams are for the meatloaf, since it gave off quite a bit of fat and liquid during cooking, but I wanted to be sure to respect their need to avoid carbs. Here are the results:

  • Zucchini Cheese Meatloaf
    8 servings per recipe
    Simplified nutrition facts per serving
    Calories: 408
    Fat (g): 28.9
    Carbs (g): 2.3
    Protein (g): 34.1
  • Alfredo
    10 servings per recipe
    Simplified nutrition facts per serving
    Calories: 71
    Fat (g): 6.4
    Carbs (g): 1.1
    Protein (g): 2.6

So there you have it. A very long, drawn out, oddly written, but original-ish recipe. I hope you’ll try it!

Lunch menus #20170313

Here’s the deal: dinner menus used to be easy. I would cook big batches for fun on the weekends, eat dinner with friends on Mondays, and really only end up cooking a full meal from scratch on Thursday nights when I alternated pasta and stirfry. Fridays the guys went snowboarding, and I’d pack them a bag-lunch-for-dinner and eat avocado toast at home with the pup. Viola. Dinner was done.

Here’s the second deal: bag lunches are big in my house. The eight-year-old will happily eat butter sandwiches, meat and cheese on the side, and apple slices daily. The thirty-eight-year-old and I both demand more variety.

The sad truth is that now that snowboarding season is over, I actually have to plan and cook more once again. Back to menu planning, double time! Lunches noted are for the adults of our household.

  • Monday: Lunch is curried chicken salad wraps, an apple (nature’s mouthwash), and crackers. It’s not my night to host our weekly friends-dinner, so I’m off the hook for cooking tonight. Woo hoo!
  • Tuesday: Lunch will be beef stew and a side salad. NOTE— the best thing I’ve done in a while is cube up a chuck roast, season, sear and cook a generic batch of stew meat. Half was already seasoned up and used for shredded beef burritos over the weekend. The other half will go into the beef stew for this day. Dinner will be pork chops, rice pilaf, and asparagus.
  • Wednesday: Lunch will be leftovers. Dinner will either be veggie Pad Thai OR veggie fettucini alfredo, depending on my mood and the input of other eaters.
  • Thursday: Lunch will be a creamy potato broccoli soup, with fruit on the side. Dinner will be Balsamic glazed chicken, green beans, skillet red potatoes with rosemary, and biscuits.
  • Friday: Lunch will be tuna salad wraps with either a side salad or fruit depending on the contents of my fridge at this point. Dinner will be semi-homemade-takeout. Beef & broccoli stir fry, rice, broccoli, and dumplings.
  • Weekend cooking
    • I want to make something with lamb! Braised or stewed, I’ll do some research, track down a lamb shank or shoulder.
    • I want to make some enriched bread! Maybe Challah! More research is needed! As you can tell, I’m very excited by my weekend cooking projects.
    • Some kind of cake will be made. I have a number of recipes I desperately want to make, so rather than try to choose I will put the decision to a household vote.
    • Cookies! Chocolate with peanut butter chip cookies, to be exact.
    • Three pounds of chicken breast. It’s not glamorous, but it has replaced lunch meat in our house and therefore must be cooked weekly. Perhaps I’ll get fancy and marinate some of it, but probably not.

That’s all for now- in my spare time I’m sifting through 4,389 lunch ideas on Pinterest, and will report back next week with any revelations.

Darian’s turning 8! | Birthday menu

My son Darian is turning 8 and has denied my request to stop getting older. He thought I was kidding, but I really really want to squish 8-month-old-Darian again, and I don’t think the laws of the universe should prevent that.

Back to business. The soon-to-be-8-year-old-Darian originally wanted to go to Golden Corral for his birthday dinner, but last night he changed his mind and decided on a semi-homemade menu instead.

  • Teriyaki chicken I use chicken thighs, and make a sauce with Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki, sweet chili sauce, and peanut butter.
  • White rice I always keep a supply of Kokuho Rose rice, it’s my very favorite.
  • “Dry” ramen Darian’s favorite is Sapporo Ichiban original ramen, but mostly drained (1 or 2 tsp water left in) with about half of a seasoning packet.
  • Broccoli steamed, seasoned with butter, salt, and pepper. He didn’t actually request this, but I’m making him eat vegetables on his birthday.
  • Dumplings from Trader Joe’s- specifically their chicken gyoza potstickers, with dipping sauce on the side.
  • Reed’s extra ginger brew will be the beverage. Probably served in wine glasses because Darian thinks that makes it fancy 🙂
  • Oreo cake, barely homemade using this recipe, Breyers oreo ice cream on the side.

That’s it! This will come together pretty dang easily since the cake benefits from being made a day in advance. The timing won’t even be an issue, the only foreseeable hiccup is if Darian eats too much of his dinner and doesn’t want any cake. I’ll attempt to give him little portions, but if all else fails we’ll just sing to him and have him blow out candles before storing his cake in the fridge again.

I was trying to decide what I would want my birthday dinner to be, and I think we got it right last year by going out to Zen Box Izakaya. Previous years, I’ve gone to Salut on Grand (steak, calamari, all the drinks) and been ridiculously happy. I think since I make so many meals at home, the key to birthday happiness is going to a restaurant that I love. I don’t really want to meet a restaurant for the first time on my birthday, but I’m happy to make a few outings in the name of research.

Ground Beef Recipe Roundup | Not a menu plan #20140215

This week, I have general ideas and plans, but I’m not doing a *real* menu plan. I still wanted to ramble on the internet a bit, so here we go! Note: Grammarly tells me that I use too many unnecessary commas.  If it really knew me, it would tell me that I use an excessive amount of hyperlinks, but you already knew that.

This week, being Valentine’s week, there were many wonderful sales at the grocery store. Fresh strawberries, steaks, chocolate cakes, and all the other foods-of-love. Ground beef was also on sale. It is not a food of love. It is something that I buy when it gets to a certain price (2.99/lb for ground chuck), and then squeeze into my meal rotation for variety. Everyone other than my youngest son is tired of burgers. No one wants ground beef in their tacos, they’d rather have a burrito with sliced-meat-of-some-sort. They still maintain they are not picky.

Everyone other than my youngest son is tired of burgers. No one wants ground beef in their tacos, they’d rather have a burrito with sliced-meat-of-some-sort. They still maintain they are not picky. Here, you can imagine that I am rolling my eyes, or more likely, that I am making a face that looks like something smells bad. We call in a stink face.

So, what do I do with ground beef that is actually well received? Here is a handy dandy list:

  1. Most of the time I just make burgers and tell people to get over it. I occasionally add extra topics to try and amp up the tasty factor, but most often it’s just served with some salad and called dinner.
  2. When I’m feeling really fancy and plan in advance, I make pie crust and then make pasties. This is rare, and happens at most about every three months.
  3. Lasagna! I have yet to settle on a “real” recipe, usually, I just adapt whatever is on the back of the Creamette noodle box. This only happens if I can make it on a weekend day, and then reheat during the week.
  4. More often than lasagna, stuffed shells with meatballs happen, but I add cooked/seasoned spinach to the stuffing mix. For the meatballs, I often get frozen and am less than satisfied with the result, but sometimes I’ll actually make them with this recipe, subbing in Panko breadcrumbs and Italian herbs. I’m not sure that this method is actually any easier than Lasagna, but it easily makes a double recipe so I can freeze a pan for later.
  5. Meatloaf. I always add ketchup to the mix and on top, and I should really make this more. It’s probably happening this week.

The list of things I wish the rest of my household would enjoy is quite a bit longer. I generally try to not dwell on this too much, but I think it would be helpful to have a list of “stuff I should make just for my lunches, because I’m worth it” so here it is:

  1. Stuffed peppers! I think these are rejected because of the watery-ness of the peppers, but I think they’d be great. Here’s one recipe I’d like to try, or maybe I could find some kind of stuffed poblano recipe with a bit more research.
  2. Chili. The medium one loves it too, the big one gets heartburn, and it’s always too spicy for the little one. I really just need to make myself a smaller batch, and then freeze portions for later. My problem is that I can rarely make something that I prefer to Wendy’s chili, so maybe it’s time to start testing out knockoff recipes.
  3. I would also make some kind of “taco pie” but that usually ends up giving me indigestion 😦
  4. Cabbage roll casserole, but with the rice cooked on the side. I have a handwritten recipe that calls for ground beef, chopped onion, chopped cabbage, and Campbell’s tomato soup. It’s mighty tasty right out of the oven to me, but the texture bothers others and it doesn’t reheat particularly well.
  5. Salsbury steak, Swedish meatballs, and beef stroganoff. I haven’t ever really attempted a recipe for these, but end up really really enjoying them when I happen to have them at Ikea, some hole-in-the-wall-diner, or if I splurge on a frozen dinner. The problem with making them is that I am resonably sure that I would be the only person eating it, and I don’t prefer these as leftovers.

Welp, that’s all for now. If you have a favorite ground beef recipe please share it with me!

Cooking lately #20170202

Some things have been going *veryright in my kitchen lately. So, I decided I’d share a few of these tidbits. I don’t do affiliate links, these ones are just for your reference or for my reference.

  • Stuffed shells with meatballs
    • Cook the shells in heavily salted water per package cooking time, then rinse under cool water to stop the cooking.
    • Make the filling: mix together two eggs, two 15 oz containers of ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan, 8 oz freshly grated part-skim mozzarella, and one 10 oz package of frozen chopped spinach (thawed, all the water squeezed out).
    • Assemble the night before splitting into two pans, one for the freezer and one for the next day.
    • Top each pan with one jar of pasta sauce and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. When ready to bake or freeze, add in some premade meatballs and add extra sauce to cover them.
    • Bake at 375 F, covered in tin foil, til hot and bubbly (about an hour for the fridge version, longer from the freezer).
    • Wait at least 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven to serve, then top with parmesan cheese and enjoy.
    • Easier to throw together than Lasagna, and easier to reheat. Plus, you get two dinners for the work of one. Do it.
  • Lettuce cup “sushi”
    • What do you do when you want to make sushi but realized half way through that you don’t have any nori? Well, if your local store is closed for the night, you serve it up in a romaine lettuce leaf instead!
    • Make this sushi rice recipe, and after it’s all prepared/cooled chop up some carrots into matchsticks, seed, peel, and slice up a cucumber, chop up some pickled ginger, top with toasted sesame seeds, then either top with a drizzle of soy sauce or go wild.
    • Ways to go wild: add avocado, add thinly sliced jalapeno, add some cooked salmon, add some teriyaki chicken, get some sushi grade fish and add it raw (I have yet to do this one), make a peanut/soy/rice vinegar dipping sauce and then drizzle because dipping is stressful.
    • Ways to cheat even more: make it with regular rice and top it with “Asian” salad dressing. Still delicious. Leave out rice completely for some low-carb deliciousness.
    • Not necessarily food safe idea: put leftover sushi rice in a Ziploc bag, leave it on the counter, and add chopped up lettuce and all the ingredients to a bowl for a “salad” the next day. Try it at your own peril, but I found it delicious and didn’t get sick.
  • Oreo pudding poke cake
    • It’s a recipe that’s not really a recipe, but more a method for putting together boxed stuff. It tastes REALLY good.
    • This “recipe” inspired me to try other combinations. So far, my favorite is to use the same method with this triple chocolate cake mix, top it with Hershey’s Special Dark pudding (follow directions for pie filling, two containers mix with 3 cups cold milk), top with crumbled oreos that have most of their filling removed. Better than the original, and the pudding is less sweet than regular frosting.
  • Oatmeal, made with milk instead of water. Perfect for any cold morning.
  • Jalapeno poppers, but coat the outside with BBQ sauce before baking and eat them for breakfast, or any time you want to be happy.
  • Spinach artichoke dip
    • Make sure to top it with some cracked red pepper and extra parmesan.
    • After you make it, use the leftovers on top of some (cooked) meat, and stick it under the broiler to heat up the dip/topping/goodness. Thank me later.
    • This blogger is a genius who has also adapted it for the slow cooker.
  • Pot roast
    • I have some in the slow cooker *right now* because it was on sale at my regular grocery store for $3.99/lb and that price means I make pot roast.
    • Serve it with rice, egg noodles, or some potato product. Today we’re having mashed potatoes, crusty-store-bought-rosemary-bread, and green beans.

That’s all, folks! Cooking has become a bit of “me time” that I am very happy to have. I hope you’re all finding ways to relax, get creative, and get away from your cares if only for a little while.