Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I am not a food blogger

But I do cook, a lot actually, and I enjoy the heck out of it.. it's like therapy or yoga or what happy hour used to be before Baby E was on the way.  I'd probably cook every night if I had the organizational skills to plan more than a day or two ahead, but alas, for now I'll get the urge to make something, hit the grocery store after work, and sometime between then and midnight, dinner hits the table. I tend to draw on a few cookbook standbys that I've mastered and can pull together on the quick, but every once in a while inspiration strikes and something marvelous happens.  Sunday night was one such evening, and as I sit here munching on the last scraps of the leftovers, I feel the need to share this flavor explosion with you.

And since I am not a food blogger (to my deep chagrin), I must preface...

I didn't take pictures.

I can't recall exact measurements.

Temperatures and cook times...?  Ehhhh.... 

But it was easy, it was pretty, and it was something simple that didn't look like something simple so you could do this to impress your friends one night with a bottle of whatever or to triumphantly circumnavigate the always welcome surprise in-law visit or because you may have spent the equivalent of next month's rent on baby clothes (that never happens here, never...) and you need a buffer meal to put you back in your significant other's good graces. This is the Belgium chocolate of easy meals. Or the Italian shoe. Or the vegan falafel waffle... I don't know, whatever works for you.

I call it... Italian Wedding Salad.

And lemme tell you why... no, it does not have delightful little meatballs, or italian seasoning of any kind (unless you count scads and scads of garlic), and no little noodle balls or equivalent substitute. I call it Italian Wedding Salad because it has lettuce and baby spinach (the green!), and potatoes (which kinda look like the noodles... sort of... before you cook and season them), and balsamic vinaigrette (which could be broth! maybe! especially if you're a liberal dressing-dressinger like I am!).. and... gah... don't ask, it was delicious. 

Italian Wedding Salad
(Served two ravenously hungry people, who tend to ignore appropriate serving sizes altogether, generous portions plus sliiiightly more reasonable seconds one night, one person a yummy lunch and dinner the next night, and then the two people from the first night bickered over portion size the 3rd day until the person who made the original mass quantity pulled the "growing a human" card and got all the rest of it to herself... so whatever that serving size would mean in your household, so be it)

From what I can recall:

1.79lb package of chicken tenders (I only remember the weight because it's the last thing I saw before I dumped the trash, and the exact number of tenders alludes me, but it doesn't really matter, as you will see...)
2 large lemons
1 red onion (I would say mine was small-mediumish, but again, most of this is to taste and who cares what size your onion is anyway?)
2-3 cloves of garlic (I love garlic like I love thin thighs so I used 3 elephant-sized cloves and probably could have added a 4th)
Salt & Pepper
Lettuce mix of Red Lettuce, Arugula, and Baby Spinach (enough to fill a big 'ole mixing bowl, it's gonna "melt down" when you add the rest of the innards)
Red potatoes (I used 2 medium-large guys)
1 package of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
Balsamic Vinaigrette (I use Newman's because he's my boyfriend, but fancy people make their own I hear.. pssht...)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I used some store brand that's about 100 years old and somewhere Mario Batali was weeping I'm sure)
Feta, crumbled 

And here's what I did:

Throw the chicken tenders in a bowl, squeeze the juice of both lemons over the chicken. Thin slice the onion,  set aside half, rough chop the garlic, and throw that in with the chicken as well. Combine, cover with plastic wrap (or a plate, if you never have plastic wrap, ahem...) and put that mess in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour while you gather your strength and eat some girl scout cookies.

In the meantime, fill a medium sauce pan halfway with water, add a dash or so of salt, and bring that to a boil. Chop your potatoes into "quarter crescents"... basically slice the potato down the middle, cut 1/4 inch slices from each half, and then halve those - make sense? Or chop them however you please, just make sure they're not too thin and you can fork them with ease. Throw your chopped potatoes in the boiling water for about five minutes or so, enough to soften but not to turn to mush... or.. er.. mash.

While that's going, heat a big skillet over medium heat and add a little olive oil to the pan. Rinse your mushrooms if need be and give them a rough chop, set aside. Drain the potatoes and set those aside. Get your chicken mess out of the fridge, add salt & pepper to taste, toss to distribute, and add a few tenders to the pan (I cooked mine in three batches, but do what you will, it all comes out in the end). Don't stress if a few chopped onion or garlic pieces are stuck to your chicken when you throw them in the pan. I stressed, but it's all part of the magic.

Tenders don't need long to cook at all, so after 2-3 minutes I flipped over my first batch, saw golden brown perfection and knew today was the day I brought world peace to all. I added about a third of the potatoes and mushrooms to the skillet, around the chicken Roman wreath style, and then added a splashola of the balsamic dressing. Stir that all together and prepare for nosy people to start making their way in to your kitchen. When the chicken was cooked through (2-3 min per side), I moved the tenders to a plate to rest, gave the whole skillet a stir, let it sit for a few seconds, and then moved each batch of potato-mushroom-balsamic-plus whatever was stuck on the chicken to a separate bowl.  I repeated this in three batches... add chicken, add potatoes and mushrooms with some balsamic, flip chicken, remove chicken, stir the rest, move the rest.  I added the last bits of onion-garlic-lemon marinade, along with with the rest of the red onion set aside earlier, to last batch so as to not burn the bennies out of the garlic and onion, and to give a fancy flourish to the end since by this point people were watching.

Somewhere in the middle of all your batch-ing, rinse and chop your lettuce mix and throw that in the biggest mixing or dedicated salad/serving bowl you have.

Once all is cooked and fragrant and lovely, start adding your potato-mushroom mix to your greens, using some sort of tong-tossing-sand shovel device to combine. I did try to do this with some semblance of grace and agility so the greens would stay fluffy and not ripped to shreds under the weight of the cooked elements, and honestly, it may have been the hardest part of the whole endeavor. Once that was done, I layered the chicken on top, sprinkled with a generous helping of feta, and voila... Italian Wedding Salad was born.

The chicken was absurdly tender, the lemon flavor was there enough to add some early spring citrusy goodness, but not overpowering. The arugla was peppery, the spinach was healthy, and the red leaf lettuce just makes me feel normal. We both added some extra balsamic to our helpings, but since no one likes a soggy day old salad I opted not to add it to the whole bowl.  Smart.

And the feta... oh sweet, tangy, delicious Greek feta... there are no words for what we share.

So there it is folks.  Next time I'll have the foresight to also grab a fat loaf of crusty, yummy bread.  As it was, he who has been previously mentioned in the bickering over who got the last helping was so inspired and enamored with my culinary prowess that he decided to whisk me off to the end of the street for after dinner frozen yogurt, Japanese-style.  Chopped strawberry and rice crispie treats on top of some original tart fro-yo on a 75-degree March evening?  And I didn't even have to suggest it???

You're welcome.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A little weekend goodness

At 4AM Monday morning.  Nothing like waking up twenty times to pee, catching a leg cramp, finally getting comfortable, and then being interrupted yet again by a cacophony of snoring from your manz and two furry beasts.

I'M UP!  

Made myself some oatmeal pancakes, grabbed my fuzzy blanket, and figured I'd catch you up on nothing major - just a few things I happened upon this weekend that made me a happy bunny. 

Since the weather is continuing on this trend of out of season amazing, I had the motivation to do some much overdue closet purging and reorganizing. This left me with several bags of clothing to donate and also the realization that if I intend to go outside this spring and summer, I need to get some mama clothes. I love my bumparoo more every day, but dressing around it and staying true to myself is a challenge. True to me revolves around two basic fundamentals - I love a classic and I love a bargain, so plunking down change on clothes I may only wear for a few more months hurts a little...er, a lot, actually.  For this reason, I've been staying away from maternity stores and trying to shop silhouettes that will be flexible now and still work postpartum. It takes some patience and an open mind, but what shopping trip doesn't, eh?

Surprising source of maternity wear #1 - Forever 21.  I know.  But every time I write them off as way below my age threshold, here they come with some crazy affordable, on trend clothing that could have just easily been hanging on the rack at J.Crew.

I submit to the jury... 

Pretty much everything I love about shorts now that I'm a grown up.  Slouchy, but still flattering fit, long enough to cover my bum without reaching my knees, and on-trend with all the yummy pastels I'm seeing everywhere for spring.  I sized up one to make room for the baby hips, let them sit right under the belly, and boom. Mama shorts.

I got them in the minty green, lavender, peach, and khaki. Four pair of shorts for $54.

I resisted the maxi trend when it came around last spring/summer.  I'm shortish, 5'4" and a half, so I didn't think I had the height to pull this off.  Turns out, it doesn't really matter how tall (or not) you are, maxis are freakin comfortable, and especially so when you're pregnant. This dress is soft, has a nice weight for warm spring and not too sweltering summer, and has an adorable cap sleeve that gives much appreciated coverage and bra concealment for those of us plagued with unruly baby boobs. Strapless is great if you can do it, but I need a serious bra every day to get the support I need.  I hate when straps show but I still want something breezy and comfortable.  This is it.  Works with flats, works with a wedge, no jewelry, chunky jewelry, with my favorite knit pullover for cool nights, with nothing. Stayed true to size. Love.

This is just perfectly pretty. The cotton is soft, the lace is smooth and not scratchy. With a long cami underneath, any pair of my new shorts, cute sandals, and a bracelet or a necklace this will probably be my weekend "I want to look dressed" uniform.  Sized up one to drape nicely over the belly, and will still work as a slouchy weekend tee when baby makes her debut.

I also have some product love to share. It's not a weekend without a trip to Target, obviously.

Have you heard of BB cream yet? It's all over the blogosphere as of late, and I've started seeing commercials for various department store and specialty brands. It's touted as a cure-all, cover-all, tinted moisturizer plus.

Target had all the Garnier products on sale so I picked up the Garnier Miracle Skin Perfector in Light/Medium and the Garnier Skin Renew Anti-Dark Circle Roller.

These two products could be my makeup regime from now through the end of summer. The Skin Perfector is lightweight, non-greasy, not too much pink or yellow in the pigment, and lets my natural skin tones and variances come through while also evening out and brightening my complexion. May sound contradictory, but it truly does what it says, giving you glowy, hydrated, balanced skin with sun protection.

I had a BOGO coupon so I also picked up the under eye roller. I usually have a disdain for concealers, but this one is really more of a brightener. I gave it two swipes under each eye and felt immediate refreshment. The formula is cool but not tingly or irritating. I noticed an immediate reduction in puffiness, the whites of my eyes looked brighter, and the effect lasted the rest of the day. Very much enjoy these products in tandem. If I can manage to smear these across my face, maybe sneak in a dollop of lip gloss, I will consider myself a new mom success.

And last but not least, it's self tanner time.  I used to be a Neutrogena addict, but I've noticed that the after application self tanner smell is gawd awful strong on their products, and no matter how natural the color my new spidey senses just can't handle it. I've had good luck in the past with the Jergens Natural Glow products, so I decided to give the foaming self tanner formula a go.

I like that the Natural Glow products take longer to fully develop so you can mitigate your level of fauxness. I applied the tanner in Fair to Medium Saturday night and again Sunday evening immediately after showering and buffing my skin dry with a towel.  The foam is rich and smooth and goes on like a sheer lotion. Spreads evenly and easily - much easier to spread than a lotion. You can feel the moisturizing properties, which is a nice change of pace from most self tanners that tend to dry up your skin. Since application is half the battle, this product had already won me over. I woke up Sunday morning with a nice, even glow - my skin plus. Now, about 12 hours after application #2 I have an even warmth with no streaks or dark patches that I think I can live on for a few days before needing to apply again.  

And the best part of all - no nasty self tanner smell. NONE. I kid you not. Buy some.

So that's it kids, not a bad weekend.  Did I mention I even mopped the floor? Nesting instinct is no joke.

**Also want to sneak in a mention for another giveaway courtesy of The Art of Making a Baby. This is for a Dear Johnnies hospital gown, something cute and comfortable to wear postpartum in the hospital when you're still being checked every couple of hours, nursing and caring for your new little one, and not wanting anything to come too close to touching your superhero parts. I know not everyone cares, but I love that fun extras like this exist. It's important to feel good and whatever does that for you, I'm all for it.

Alright loves, it's pushing 6AM and I'm going to bravely attempt the shove over and be silent technique on Old Man Wood Saw upstairs.

Thank goodness for the under eye roller, all I'm sayin.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Blog Nod (and a giveaway I'm excited about and am mentioning to get extra entries to win, but kinda hoping you don't enter so I have a better chance.. but read her blog! Ok?)

Hey Party People!

Just a quick shout out for a blog I've been very recently turned on to... The Art of Making a Baby. A friend emailed me the link after we had a three, maaaybeee four or five hour long conversation about natural childbirth and I've been both humbled and inspired by this mom's committment to go natural, both throughout her pregnancy and during her labor and delivery.  And she also looks supermodel gorgeous doing all of it, so you know the words, sing it with me now... We've got hiiiiigh hopes, we've got hiiiiigh hopes! 

Anyhoooo, take a gander at that.. and while we're at it.. very quietly and without much fanfare I also have to mention the giveaway she's got going on for a Pretty Pushers Labor Gown. Laugh, joke, raise your eyebrows, but lemmetellyawhat... those gowns are cute y'all.. and they're sleeveless and there's room for the baby monitor and an open, easy un-do halter neckline.. and since, God willing, I'm delivering sometime this summer I'm all about it.  Besides, if you knew me in real life you wouldn't think twice about me posting this (Hey April!) oh, and the whole kit-n-kaboodle is meant to be disposable after your little one is in the world.. so wrap me up one, would ya?

Now, if you simply must dash my hopes of winning one of these gowns myself, take your good old time checking out the sidebar in her blog to enter.  Unless you're gonna try to win one for me, then by all means, rush right over and tell your friends!