My first stir-fry (with steak too!)

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Well, I destroyed my kitchen and have decided in the future I will a) just buy the vegetable stir-fry kit and b) just buy the fresh ginger already grated and peeled at Public next time too. I fear peeling and then grating fresh ginger was not a success for me…But, it’s super tasty and delicious! I got this recipe out of a book (Good Housekeeping Light & Healthy Cooking, pg. 188) a while back because it was one of the easier sounding stir-fry recipes I’d seen and this was about as basic as it gets and fairly healthy. I tweaked the recipe here and there (I’ll be honest mostly out of laziness [so. much. chopping] and/or being thwarted by ginger root) but for the most part, I did OK and it was worth the clean-up!

I served it over brown rice per the instructions and it’s delicious. The servings are also huge which is a major bonus in my book! Enjoy!

Stir-Fried Steak and Vegetables
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 beef top round steak (1 pound) [Note: I actually just got a pound of whatever steak was on sale at Publix this week and it worked just fine!]
1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 large garlic cloves, crushed with garlic press
1 medium yellow onion
1 medium red pepper
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 pkg (8 oz.) sliced cremini mushrooms
2 cups broccoli florets
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
3 oz. snow peas, trimmed and cut into thirds
2 Tbsp grated, peeled fresh ginger
3/4 cups water
1 pouch (8 1/2 oz.) precooked brown rice, heated as directed

Directions

1. With knife blade held in slated position, almost parallel to cutting surface, cut steak crosswise into 1/8-inch thick slices [Tip: put steak into freezer 15 minutes before cutting so that it’s firm to slice but will “thaw” by time you’re ready to cook].
2. In medium bowl, toss steak slices with 1 Tbsp soy sauce and 1 crashed garlic clove. Let stand for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cut onion in half then cut crosswise into thin slices. Cut red pepper into 1/4-inch thick slices. Set aside.
4. In deep nonstick 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tsp. oil over medium heat until very hot but not smoking. Add half the beef and stir frequently (stir-fry) just until beef is no longer pink (30-45 seconds). Transfer beef to plate. Without adding additional oil to skillet, repeat with remaining beef.
5. In same skillet, heat remaining 1 tsp oil until hot. Add mushrooms and onion; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are browned, 3-4 minutes.
6. Add broccoli, carrots, snow peas, red pepper, ginger, water and remaining soy sauce and garlic to skillet. Stir-fry until vegetables are tender-crisp, 5-6 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; stir in beef with its juices.
7. Serve over rice.

Mom’s Beef Stew

There are some smells that will automatically take you back to childhood. Comfy nights after school when you’ve made it through the snow and wind to change into comfy pajama pants and watch a cheesy Christmas movie in the family room on a blissful night when everyone else is out (Mondays could give me this delicious alone time in high school). The smell of my mom’s beef stew always takes me back to nights like that. Also, good family times too. There is nothing like opening your apartment door and smelling home and this stew never fails me there.

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Leftovers on Monday; still looks delicious!

This recipe can be made in a crock pot or in a dutch oven. I had planned to try the oven for the first time this week but remembered I had to be out of my apartment for two hours on Sunday morning volunteering so the crock pot it was. That turned out to be a very good thing as later on Sunday, Tallahassee got hit by wicked thunderstorms that took out power all over the city (some only just got it back Tuesday afternoon/evening). If I’d been using my stove, the stew would not have been done yet and that would have been tragic. Luckily, it was pretty much finished in the crock pot and my biscuits were just done enough to eat when the power went out on me. I also managed to save all the leftovers in a cooler until the power was back on 4 hours later and the fridge could handle them. Win-win all around! Also a win, following the storm, we went back to much more seasonal weather around here so the stew (which makes for awesome, and lots of, leftovers) has been fabulous to come home to every night this week.

[Note: this is one of those recipes that Mom could really only give me the ingredients and cooking instructions, not how much of most things to put in. I have a smallish Crock Pot and these amounts for the ingredients fit perfectly (i.e. just barely and if I shove the top down hard). A more normal sized crock pot or a dutch oven would take more ingredients]

Mom’s Beef Stew
Serves: 6-7

Ingredients:
1.5 -2 lbs. Russet potatoes, skinned and cut into large pieces
1 lb. Carrots, skinned and cut into large pieces
1 med. Yellow Onion
1 lb. stew beef
1 can tomato soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup

Directions

  1. Chop and add all the vegetables to the crock pot
  2. Add meat over the vegetables
  3. Empty the soup cans over the meat. Do not mix!
  4. Place the Crock Pot on high for the first hour and then on low for the rest of the cooking time. Should take 7-8 hours of cooking for stew to be ready. [In the oven, Mom says she cooks it 8-9 hours at 200F]
  5. Serve over Bisquick Biscuits (follow recipe on Bisquick box, will take 9-10 minutes to bake)

A partial retreat from paperless

It seems there is nothing more satisfying that putting a line through a task on a piece of paper. I have tried.

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I got this last Tuesday so clearly my first week with it was productive.

Six years ago, I decided not to buy a paper planner. I had technology! So started a paperless experiment. I am calling it a partial failure.

For the most part, all my mail comes to me through email. I pay my bills online. I keep track of my finances online or in spreadsheets on my computer. My calendar is in iCal and Outlook (personal and professional respectively). My grocery lists and recipes are all in Evernote as is almost everything else of informational importance to me.

However, at the end of the day, I still just wanted a list of things to cross out. A place to jot notes to myself to look something up, add something to Evernote, actually bring check to this event or, heaven forbid, cash to that one. I am a major “jotter” of notes. I often have an array of post-its and index cards littering my desk, reminding me to do something, follow up on that thing, email this person about that. I have a digital counterpart (a much more organized and intense project mgt software that I also keep a work to-do list on) but that is for tracking the big things. I’ve never gotten over feeling slightly silly taking the time to type up “Call home” and setting an iCloud Reminder for it. I’ll write it down on paper no problem though.

So, I am trying a paper experiment now. I heard about a fabulous planner idea last year. I was too late for the Kickstarter at the time so I am joining the bandwagon now and I am adoring my VOLT planner so far. It lets me keep lists! Lists everywhere! A list for the year, a list for the month, a list for the week. It has a built in way for me to take on a month-long “challenge” which I’m hoping will help me knock off some multi-step projects this year (February is to finally finish all the metadata creation for my own digital photos. It is a personal digital archive fail at the moment).

So, may the trees forgive me and we’ll see how this goes!

Happy (belated) 65th Anniversary to a Personal Fave

On Sunday of last weekend, I headed to the movie theater. Not for a new release (though have you all seen Hidden Figures yet? If you haven’t, what it wrong with you!? Get you to the movie theater!) but for an old classic.

It was the 65th anniversary of the release of one of my all time favorite films. I can remember my dad calling me out to watch it many years ago, saying with a casual, “I think you’ll like this.” I was already taking ballet lessons but I am pretty sure Singin’ in the Rain ensured that tap would get added to my lineup really fast. In fact, tap would remain my favorite and I think in no small part because I wanted to be Debbie Reynolds in this film.

This movie makes me grin like an idiot from start to finish. I know all the words, I know all the tap sounds (to the point that while listening to the soundtrack, I can tap out the dancing correctly – just the sounds mind you. My aspirations to be a tapping great did not go well). While people will wax poetic, correctly, over the title number or the Broadway Melody segment, for me, it’s always got to be “Moses Supposes” segment. It remains to this day my all time favorite dance number in any film or stage show I’ve ever seen. And I like to think I’ve seen a lot by this time. So, toast a belated happy anniversary to Singin’ in the Rain and enjoy the following:

First Recipe of 2017

I am slowly working my way into 2017. For some reason, my brain is having a hard time leaving vacation mode and returning to adulting mode. I’ll get there; it just slow going.

However, one place I needed to get back on track was cooking. I think because I felt blah most of the end of 2017 between sinus infections and traveling and just plain ennui with the year, I got away from cooking healthy meals. My scale is now reflecting that and that is not good. So, back to meal planning I go! I started with a recipe I saved forever ago from one of my favorite go-to healthy recipe sites, Hungry Girl.

I should also note Tallahassee is having its winter this week so this recipe was the perfect sort of winter treat. The cheese in the apple-onion mixture makes the filling actually stay put in the rolled chicken and cook up nice and juicy. I will admit mine did not roll as nicely as the picture on the website but my food never looks that good. As long as it tastes good, I am happy! I also doubled the recipe to make enough leftovers for dinner the next three nights. I paired it with a side of vegetables and found it a very filling meal and perfect for chillier weather!

Stuffed Apple-Onion Chicken

Ingredients:

1/3 cup finely chopped Fuji apple
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
1 wedge The Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss cheese
Two 5-oz. raw boneless skinless chicken breast cutlets, pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. onion powder [Note: I thought I had this in my spice rack and found I did not…I like the taste of what I made so leaving this out does not take away from the dish]

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8″ X 8″ baking pan with nonstick spray. [Note: As I doubled the recipe, I used a 7″ x 11″ baking pan]
  2. Bring a skillet sprayed with nonstick spray to medium heat. Add apple, onion, and garlic. Cook and stir until softened, about 4 minutes.
  3. Transfer apple mixture to a medium bowl. Add cheese wedge, breaking it into pieces, and stir until it has melted and coated the apple mixture.
  4. Season chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.
  5. Evenly divide onion-apple mixture between the centers of the chicken cutlets. Roll up each chicken cutlet over the mixture. If needed, secure with toothpicks. Place in the baking pan.
  6. Cover pan with foil, and bake for 20 minutes.
  7. Remove foil. Bake until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. [Note: Mine took about 20-25 minutes to cook through but I am pretty sure I didn’t pound them flat enough and I doubled the recipe so that is probably why…]

Reading Goals 2017

http://images.clipartpanda.com/reading-clipart-owl-reading-clip-art-830x1191.pngI am trying to be realistic about my reading goals for next year. In general, I don’t think in terms of numbers here. I try to pick a way to structure or guide my reading for the year. Nothing rigid (I’ll go off plan pretty quick so might as well be flexible) but something to help me select books from my ever growing to-read list.

So, I had a grand theme in mind for 2017 but I’m putting it off for the moment for some smaller reading projects:

  1. Finish my 2016 theme. I have around 25-ish books that would complete a series or get the one-off book from my list. I’d like to finish this up first.
  2. Re-read the Harry Potter series. This has been a long time coming. It is time for me to re-visit the whole series in order and take more than one long feverish night to read them. I’ve re-read them piecemeal over the years but not as one complete set.
  3. Empty out the to-read drawer. I’ve actually already started this because I went to put a new book in and couldn’t fit it…So clearly it is time to read the books I already own and decide if I’m keeping them or sending them on their way.

Which will hopefully bring me to my grand scheme for 2017…reading the books that have been on my to-read list the longest. This is going to be tough. Some of the oldest books are those classics, those books you think you should read, not the ones you’re necessarily most excited to read. My list takes me back to 2009 and the first book up will be The Count of Monte Cristo (clearly this will be a marathon, not a sprint since that clocks in at over 1200 pages). I may take some liberties in what order I read the oldest books on my list. I imagine I’ll also be taking a hard look at whether I actually want to read these books or really just think I should. After all, I’ve seen the movie! [I just made myself cringe so no, I have not lost my mind]

Soul searching ahead!

Last Minute Drive-By Reviews

I am feeling like I usually did right before winter break in school. Anxious to get things done, excited for what is coming and really unmotivated to do the before said work. It’ll get done but I’m not moving very fast on it. I’ve done my yearly round-up of reading on Goodreads already and I did pretty good on my goal to finish series this year. I started with a pretty hefty list and I have only 24 books I didn’t get to. Considering I deviated periodically and also added books onto the list for a series I wanted to continue, I did pretty well for myself! I’ve also knocked two more out since I last did reviews so onwards:

Silent in the Sanctuary (Lady Julia Grey #2): I liked this book better than the first in the series. You get a really good look at Julia’s kooky family in all their glory here and it is hilarious. I laughed out loud quite a few times which isn’t something you expect to do in a murder mystery. I also liked the ambiguity of right and wrong in this book which again, is not something I usually like. I prefer when my fiction is uncomplicated however here, one of the culprits gets away free as a bird and commits another murder we learn much later. Yet somehow we’re OK with that within the framework of the narrative; those people could technically have deserved to die because of information we have. I think the name Grey is a good moniker for more than one reason for Julia and her series. Also, Brisbane, the series’ reluctant hero, continues to be annoying and delightful at the same time.

Charmed (Fairy Tale Reform School #2): As my Goodreads review put it “Gilly hon, that was a bit rough at times but believable. Just glad you remembered your friends in the end!” This suffered a bit, as series do, from some growing pains. However, a more delightful cast of misfits you’d be hard pressed to fit in middle grade/YA lit right now in my opinion. Our (mostly) reformed students all earn their freedom from school in the end of the story but the epilogue assures us that is really only temporary as they’re so easily bored…

An Inquiry into Love and Death: the author Simone St. James is very good at evoking a ghostly atmosphere in her books. I liked this one a bit better than The Haunting of Maddy Clare. Jillian is the sort of heroine I enjoy; smart but human. She puts together the pieces just as fast as the reader and is as scared as the reader is when the ghosts are present as well as the very human villain. What I enjoyed and found ironic is the reasons behind the villain’s actions are villainous to some extent because he believes World War II is inevitable and the heroine thinks that is impossible. That the world would never go to war again. It is both charming and sad to know what is headed for Jillian. Oh, and she has a pretty fabulous hero (but only in fiction; in real life, he would be as big a jerk as he says he is).

Delicious!: This book was a delightful read, and I read it fast. It has so much good food! I was so hungry reading it! That said, it wasn’t perfect. It’s, quite rightly, separated into 3 “books” inside it and maybe was trying to juggle a lot of plot, a lot more that it could handle at times. It also had a borderline annoying heroine. You know, one those absolutely perfect, talented beautiful heroines who thinks she isn’t even though everyone is constantly telling her she is. They get worrisome after a while. But the story is good enough to work through that in my opinion.