Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Improvised Cooking

Last week our gas was turned off. We first noticed that something was wrong when our central air stopped working. The next night I attempted to cook dinner, only to find that the sweet potatoes I put in the oven for 45 minutes were still hard and not hot to the touch. I then tried to turn on the stove, but the burner's wouldn't light. I started screaming (because that is a good way to make the stove work) and at that point AJ figured out that our gas was not working.

For the last two months we sent a check for the gas bill to our landlord because initially she was unable to close her account and we were unable to open a new one because her name is not on the account and her husband is deployed. Well apparently the gas company finally closed it, but no one informed us. Awesome.

Luckily the weather has cooled down quite a bit and not having central air isn't a big deal. The cooking aspect, however, initially resulted in a lot of eating out. The night we figured out the gas was off we ordered pizza, the next night we ate at Zaytinya (which was absolutely delicious, BTW...and we got to see Mike Isabella from Top Chef!) with my parents, and Saturday night we ate a Mexican restaurant. I guess Friday doesn't count since we were with my parents and we would have gone out anyway...but, still. We rarely eat out three nights in row and I wasn't about to make the streak longer.

So I improvised....

Sunday: I pulled out the crock pot and made salsa chicken tacos. This is the easiest crock pot recipe known to (wo)man. Put a few chicken breasts in with enough salsa to cover the chicken, add a few dashes of chili powder or taco seasoning, and cook it on high for 4-6 hours. As the chicken starts to cook you break it down into shreds with a fork. We used the leftover tortillas from our Chipotle night and added some cheese for an easy meal.

Monday: We made burgers on the grill and paired it with rice pilaf cooked in the microwave. I was also going to steam some asparagus with balsamic vinegar in a Ziploc Zip 'n Steam bag, but the Asparagus was bad.

Tuesday: Thanks to a suggestion from Sara I made Greek salads (lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, onions, feta, and olives) with pre-cooked chicken that I heated in the microwave. Last night I also cooked ground turkey in a frying pan on the grill in preparation for today's meal. It took a lot longer to cook the turkey than it normally does on the stove, but it worked...and that is all that matters!

Tonight: Using the ground turkey I cooked last night, AJ is making crock pot chili. I merged a few recipes and decided to use two cans of diced tomatoes, one can of tomato sauce, one can of kidney beans, one can of chili beans, and 2 tablespoons of chili powder. Nom nom nom. This will be our first chili of the fall/winter season!

Our gas is supposed to be turned on this morning, so hopefully I can get back to normal cooking in the coming days!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Homemade Chipotle

After moving to DC last spring and discovering the amazingness that is Chipotle, I have been hooked. I would eat it every day if I could. Unfortunately, there is not one within walking distance of our new home and there is not one within driving distance of my school. This makes me very sad. Today I seriously considered getting on the beltway at lunch time to drive the 10 miles there and back on my 30 minute lunch break. Unfortunately, that is NOT possible.

So what is a good problem solver to do? Find a way to make my own Chipotle, of course!

I found this recipe for the special Chipotle rice on RecipeZaar.com:

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil or butter
  • 2 teaspoons fresh cilantro
  • 2/3 cup white basmati rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lime

Directions

  1. In a 2-quart heavy saucepan, heat oil or butter over low heat, stirring occasionally until melted.
  2. Add rice and lime juice, stir for 1 minute.
  3. Add water and salt, bring to a full rolling boil. (Some people have had success with 1 cup of water, but when I've made it with 2 it worked for me).
  4. At boiling, cover, turn down to simmer over low heat until rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 25 minutes.
  5. Add in the cilantro and fluff rice with a fork.
I used a little more than 2 tablespoons of lime juice because I wanted to really be able to taste the lime. I also used 1 cup of long grain rice and 2 cups of water because that is what the directions on the back of the rice said. The rice was still a little undone, so I am guessing that can be fixed by adding a tad more water next time? Not sure....this is the first time I made rice that wasn't instant.

Doesn't it look just like the real stuff? It tasted exactly like it too!

(Excuse my dirty stove)

As for the rest of the burrito ingredients....

I made black beans for me and chicken for AJ. The black beans were easy. I opened a can and dumped them into the pan. Voila!

For the chicken I used Perdue Short Cuts. I heated the chicken strips in a pan for a few minutes, chopped them in my handy Slap Chop wannabe, returned it to the pan, and added a dash or ten of chipotle powder and cayenne pepper. AJ likes his food SPICY.
To top off the burritos I bought the traditional fare....pre-made of course. Wholly Guacamole might be my favorite guac ever because it tastes homemade. I like Sarah's Salsa because it is chunky and more similar to pico de gallo than traditional salsa. And the cheese....well, it is just Harris Teeter Mexican blend cheese. Sometimes a girl has got to be frugal! I bought tortillas as well, but apparently I didn't take a picture of them. The tortilla was the one thing that was noticeably different than what you get at Chipotle. It was much thicker and I couldn't figure out a way to steam it like they do in Chipotle. Oh well.
The whole process was kind of time consuming and way more expensive than buying two burritos at Chipotle since I had to buy normal size packages of all the ingredients. However, it was totally worth it. The burritos tasted very similar to the real thing. Also, we are big Mexican cuisine lovers in this house so I will surely use up the leftover ingredients.

Here is my finished product! If only I knew how to roll the burrito....

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hello, Strangers!

I always forget how crazy the first couple weeks of school can be. I am finally starting to settle into a schedule (although I am pretty sure I will never get used to work starting at 7:15) so I am planning to be back and in action later this week.

To be honest though, I am in a new school this year and am apprehensive about accessing my blog on the school's network. This is actually quite silly, because I have accessed my google reader a few times, which is kind of tied to my blog, and I have even pulled up a few of your blogs and commented with my blogger account. Also, I accessed my blog all the time last year, and technically it is the same network even though I am in a different school. So I guess it is just me being crazy, but still...I only want to dip in one toe at a time. Bear with me, please!

I hope you are all doing well and I look forward to getting back into the swing of things soon! I am going to hit the dreaded "Mark All as Read" button because I just don't see myself catching up with all your lovely blogs in the next couple of days. Let me know if I have missed something noteworthy!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

California Vacay

Here are the rest of the highlights from our trip to California!

Friday morning we were jet lagged so we woke up at 5:45 and watched the sunrise on the beach. It was so pretty and was a perfect way to start the day.


The plan for the rest of the day was to hitch a ride down to Long Beach with AJ's parents. They ended up needing take his grandparents, so we decided to rent a car and take a fun little road trip. And that is exactly what we did....we drove from Pismo Beach to Long Beach with just a map. We were so tired the night before that we didn't charge either of our cell phones so we had no phones, no internet, no GPS. It was such an adventure!


We decided to go inland and stop at a winery we found somewhere in Santa Barbara county (I think near you, Chiada) and while we were there Alson got a call from one of the law firms in my hometown and was offered a summer associate position for next summer!! So then we hit up four more wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley to celebrate! Don't worry, we shared tastings to avoid a DUI. How happy does my husband look?!


We also ate lunch at one of the wineries that doubles as a culinary school. We shared a wood fired pizza and it was delicious.


Once we hit the coast again we took the Pacific Coast Highway down through Malibu and Santa Monica. So beautiful!


Saturday morning we woke up and went to a bar at 9 am so that we could watch the ECU game. We're hardcore like that! Luckily the bar caters to the east coast football crowd and had mimosa specials all morning. It was a lot of fun. I'm so excited for football season!

Sunday we went to the beach and did a lot of walking. We also had some fun playing in the sand.


In the afternoon we went to the harbor area for lunch.










That night was the "reception" which was more like a beach party. It was very casual, but it was very close to the ocean so it made for an amazing atmosphere.


So that concludes my California trip recap. It was definitely nice to get away!

SIL's Wedding

And we're back! The trip that I had been dreading for months (I don't really enjoy traveling....I don't like flying, I don't like sleeping in unfamiliar places, and I don't like uncertainty) is now over and it actually was a lot of fun and almost everything went smoothly!

I was mostly stressed about flying out Thursday morning and arriving on time for the wedding festivities Thursday night. Props to United! Our flight into San Francisco arrived 40 minutes early and our flight into San Luis Obispo arrived 10 minutes early. It was only a 15 minute ride from the airport to Pismo Beach, so we had plenty of time to get ready and take pictures with the rest of the wedding party. Phew!

The wedding was very small; only 19 people, including the bride and groom, were in attendance. It took place in a gazebo on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Very beautiful!




My MIL was born and raised in Hawaii and their family still adopts a lot of Hawaiian traditions, as you can probably tell from the pictures. Instead of carrying flowers, we all wore leis that were shipped fresh from Hawaii.


Flashback: My MIL had us wear traditional leis at our rehearsal and dinner too.

Okay, back to the current wedding....

We also took pictures down on the beach. I love this one of my SIL and her MOH.

After the ceremony we had dinner with the wedding party and guests.


By the time we ate it was almost midnight on the East Coast, so we snuck back to our room shortly after eating to get some sleep. We were exhausted!

I was planning to do my entire California recap in one post, but I didn't realize how many pictures I wanted to post. Stay tuned for more recaps and some exciting news!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I'm a Puppymom...and I'm Crazy

We leave for California bright and early Thursday morning. Our flight isn't actually until 9, but we have to drop Kona off at Dogtopia of Dulles before we embark on our first major trip since our honeymoon. We chose DoD because it is close to the airport, we received great recommendations, they have web cams in the playrooms, it was very clean and the people were super friendly when we visited, and the CEO is on twitter. Okay, that last one was just a nice surprise, but seriously, it does increase their coolness.

This is only the second time we have left her for an extended period of time and I am really freaking out. Will she be okay? Will she eat her food in an unfamiliar place? Will she sleep? Will she forget us? Will the other dogs play nice? And on and on and on.....

I know deep down that she will be okay, but how can I not miss this sweet face!?