Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tempeh Shepherd's Pie

Tonight was my first opportunity to try out a recipe from The Craft of Stone Brewing Co., which I received as a Christmas gift from the boys and Tee.

In fact I was able to try out two recipes, because the recipe for Stone's Tempeh Shepherd's Pie calls for topping with a batch of Stone IPA Garlicky Mashed Potatoes.

I deviated from both recipes a bit out of necessity; no ground pasilla chiles to be had in my cupboard, so substituted ground New Mexico Chiles in the pie filling and no Stone IPA for the potatoes so I used my home brewed IPA instead.  I also used a mix of mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and mashed celery root to lower the carbs a wee bit.  Not that it mattered since I ingested other carbs in the form of the remaining IPA not required for the recipe.  Couldn't let it go to waste.

It could certainly have been spicier and there's little doubt that all potatoes and Stone IPA would have been better than half potatoes and home IPA, but all-in-all it was not a bad effort.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Weeds and Oscars

Nicholas rolled his truck on the I-5 last week, so I took Friday off work to help him tow the thing to Temecula.  It's more than a little beat up, but it still runs, so we're trying to rehabilitate it.  Nick stuck around through most of Saturday for some amateur body work.

We've been pretty much neglecting all our household chores, what with four weekends in a row spent in Santa Barbara renovating the Wilkins house.  As a consequence, weeds have taken over most of the yard.  Nick took the opportunity to harvest a bunch of wild dandelion greens from the front yard.  Sauteed for breakfast along side some ombled eggs, they were delicious.  So much so that Sunday morning I harvested more.  I may just let the whole yard go to the weeds.

Since Sunday evening was likely to be spent, at least by Denise, in front of the Oscar broadcast I decided to make what I thought would be good movie food.  For dinner, a thin crust pizza topped with olive oil, pancetta, roasted garlic, sauteed dandelion greens, crimini mushrooms, red onion and a bunch of mozzarella.  Delicious if I do say so myself.

For dessert, true movie food.  Popcorn!  Actually, bourbon infused caramel popcorn, or at least a variation thereon.  

Months ago, at Thanksgiving I think, Jackie and Mike showed up with a host (or hostess) gift of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey.  Not to look a gift horse in the mouth or anything, but this is the longest any Jack Daniel's product has lasted in my house, and that very nearly includes my Jack Daniel's poker chips.  It is way, WAY too sweet for my tastes.  Consequently it's been mostly untouched while I've tried to come up with some recipes where it can work.  I think it would be tasty in a Tom & Jerry, but those are a lot of work.

Anyway, the Tennessee Honey has now found a home in the caramel corn.  I basically followed the recipe from Foodie Reflections, except I skipped the chocolate, added some chopped almonds and substituted the Honey Jack for traditional bourbon.  It is very good.

Reason enough to watch more movies.

Next up maybe a Tennessee Honey Pecan Pie.  Or maybe Bread Pudding.  This may not last all that long after all.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bad Habit

So, took a day off to get a head start on weekend projects.

Denise and I were on the road and, this being a vacation day, I decided to invoke the Gumbitarianess of my diet and get some sort of tasty fast food.  I was leaning toward The Hat and a Pastrami Dip with a side of Chili Cheese Fries.  OK, that was maybe a little too flexible for the diet,.  The Hat does not post their nutritional information on their web site (really, if you have to ask...)  So, it was back to the comestibles drawing board.

I should take a short aside for a brief discussion on the Gumbitarian philosophy of dieting.  Under Gumbitarianism, flexibility is key.  Anything goes, everything in moderation, especially moderation.  Thanks to Gumbitarianism, when I was trying eat more vegetarian foods I found that it was easier to maintain a vegetarian diet knowing that I could eat meat anytime I wanted.  Being able to made it less necessary to.  Dieting, same thing.  Since I let myself eat anything I want, I'm less likely to want stuff that's REALLY bad for me.  Or so the theory goes.  This could be a bunch of crap.

Anyway, a little more web search and I talked myself (and Denise) into The Habit in Chino Hills.  After all, I love The Habit in Goleta and they post their nutritional information on their web site AND you can get the Charburgers with a lettuce wrap instead of those highly caloric buns.  Less than half the calories of a pastrami dip and darned tasty, or so I anticipated.

Sadly, the Habit was a bad choice, not for the food though.  As Denise was meandering aimlessly through the parking lot she stopped for some pedestrians and a woman backed out of her car into the left front bumper of Denise's beautiful new Prius.  Only 5,000 miles old and already dinged

Denise saw the woman backing out and laid on the horn.  Pedestrians were waving at her, but she was clueless.  Didn't even know she had hit us.  I had to jump out and run her down as she was pulling out of the parking lot.

She was apologetic and all, but it's still a pain-in-the-butt.  It did give me something to do on the drive, first 30 minutes on the phone with our insurance (where I received kudos from the agent for knowing, off the top of my head, my wife's date of birth  - "Most guys don't") then another 30 with the other driver's insurance, where the agent correctly guessed the color of our car based solely on make/model ("Let me guess - white right?")

So, the moral of the story is that even if you skip the bun in favor of the lettuce wrap, fast food is still bad for you.

Oh well, it was tasty.

P.S., to be extra good I fed Leo the croutons off my side salad.  Now that's dieting.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Happy Holidays!

By which I mean Happy Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year and MLK Jr. Day. 

Yes, it has once again been a very long time between posts, but I just can't help it.  I have been boring the crap out of myself for some time now.  All work and no play has made Jim a dull boy.

What's more, a fat boy!  I'll spare you the photo, but suffice it to say that about a year's worth of stress eating has packed on more than the usual amount of beef. 

So for now, the Gumbitarian diet will be a diet diet.  And I HATE diets!  I can't hang with any of that Atkins, South Beach, grapefruit and hard-boiled egg, Weight Watcher, Jenny Craig, etc. sort of stuff.  I like food too much.

My plan involves simple portion control.  "If you can't lift it, don't eat it!  It's too much."

Oh, and I'm cutting out alcohol.   Along with my will to live.

I have also enlisted technology in the form of a smart phone app, Lose-It!  It's supposed to facilitate weight loss by letting you set goals, track calorie consumption and exercise.  I think it actually works on the basis of all the calories I burn trying to correctly spell food names with the touchscreen keyboard.

So now I'm working with our CSA greens to come up with some halfway appetizing and at least marginally healthy choices.  (Oh, Healthy Choice; there's another one I can't stand.) 

I had moderate success the other evening.  One of my XMAS presents was a book, Greens Glorious Greens!  Kind of a chick title, but then, Denise bought it.  Anyway, the book has some 140-ish recipes for greens, which is handy given that we get about 140 bunches of greens in every semi-weekly CSA pickup.

The recipe in question was Polenta Topped with Dandelion Greens.  The recipe calls for your basic polenta, topped with dandelion greens that have been washed, chopped, boiled, drained and then sauteed in olive oil with garlic, salt & pepper and the whole mess topped with Parmesan cheese.  I took liberties.

To make it more of a meal, I chopped up a small quantity of tasso (if you haven't had it you should try it - hard to come by in southern CA without the aid of the Internet) and sauteed it along with the greens and then added a sort of arrabiata sauce.  Actually not arrabiata, it was just spicy sauce with about a 4-to-1 ratio of tomatoes to red Serrano chiles.

Spread that sort of hammie, greenie, arrabiata-ie sauce onto the polenta, sprinkled with a diet-like portion of parmesan and enjoyed.  Tasty!  Would have been better with a glass of Chianti, but alas, no alcohol.

BTW, spellchecking does not recognize polenta, suggests polecat instead.  Ummm, Polecat Topped with Dandelion Greens!  Sounds promising.