Wednesday, April 20, 2016

My favorite arroz con pollo

I can't believe I've never shared this recipe before. It's one of my all time comfort foods.

arroz con pollo in progress

Arroz con pollo is just chicken and rice, but the sum is so much more than the parts. It has a pile of sauteed onions and green peppers, the rice is fragrant with saffron and rich with tomatoes and I could just eat it forever.

I don't actually make it very often, because the process takes much longer than I can usually spend on a weeknight, so this is more of a weekend dish but I'll also break it out for company if I can get out of work early enough. We were having friends over a couple weeks ago and I had such a strong craving for this that I rearranged our meal plan for the week so that I could make it.

The recipe is right here (I trust Epicurious to keep their recipe links functional, so I think it's safe just to post the link but let me know if it goes dead).

My comments -

There is no universe in which this makes four servings, unless all four people are starving teenage boys who like enormous amounts of rice. When I make this recipe as written we have enough for four people plus generous leftovers. So maybe 6 - 7 servings is more accurate?

I don't like to bother with a whole chicken, so I just get bone-in thighs and drumsticks (or whole legs). Never, ever skinless.

This is much heavier on the rice than the chicken, so if you want a higher protein to carb ratio, you might want to increase the amount of chicken. Obviously you could decrease the rice, but that will be a bit trickier because you'll have to figure out the liquid ratios. Also, the rice is delicious.

I don't have a saucepan large enough for this recipe. It calls for a 6-7 qt pan that is 12" wide and 4" deep. My beloved stainless steel saute pan (I posted about it here ages ago and I'm still in love and use it almost every day) is 4 quarts, which is perfect for almost everything, but a bit too small for this. My workaround is a little annoying. I use my saute pan right up until the point where you are supposed to add the rice. Then I move the chicken over to one of my Dansk pans, which are larger and still oven-safe. I add the rice to the saute pan and bring it to a simmer, then transfer everything to the Dansk pan with the chicken. Yes, this is a little frustrating, but I'm not willing to invest in a slightly larger pan just for this one recipe. I have considered trying to scale the recipe down a bit so I can just use my normal pan, but I love the leftovers so much that I haven't attempted that yet.

Sorry for the lack of finished product photos, but did I mention that this recipe is time consuming? I've never managed to get it on the table while it's still light enough to take pictures.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Abundance

It's that time of the year - Southern California is exploding with roses. I took home an entire bucket of them from my mom's garden over the weekend and stuck them in every room of the house.

california garden roses

When they're this close to blown, I don't do much "arranging" per se, it's more just a matter of plopping them in vases and trying not to get too scratched up by the thorns.

buds

You only get a few days out of them, but they're pretty lovely days.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Reading, lately

I got some good ones in this batch! Now I'm in a lull again, re-reading some Sue Grafton while waiting for the library to tell me that my holds are coming in.

Fates and Furies - A really beautiful and intimate exploration of a marriage. The first half of the book is focused on the husband and the second half on the wife, although that makes it sound much more pat and boring than it really is. This book is so well written and reading it was a delight.

H is for Hawk - I'd been hearing praise for this book everywhere, but I guess I hadn't absorbed enough of it to know what the book was about. It's a memoir that deals with the crippling grief the author experiences after losing her father, and how she attempts to cope with it (by adopting an enormous hawk and spending all her time training it to hunt, naturally). I have to admit that after the first few chapters I wasn't sure I would go on. The subject matter (losing a father, not falconry) hit pretty close to home and made this more difficult for me to read. I pushed through and the book is powerful, although I hadn't realized falconry was still a thing and to be honest, I have no interest in it. The descriptions of loss will lay you flat, though, and the author's deep interest in and devotion to falconry makes even the long passages regarding bird training beautiful.

Mislaid - This book grabbed me so hard. I'm not really sure how to sum it up in a short description. It's a novel about a highly unusual family and it plays with gender, sexuality, and race. There's a lot of dry humor and I was so attached to all the characters by the end that I wasn't quite ready to let it go.

Home - I loved this quiet, beautiful novel. There is so much sorrow in it and yet it feels calming somehow. Again, I managed to unwittingly pick out a book about loss, but the grief in this book is more tender and less searing than it is in H is for Hawk.  The plot premise is that the youngest daughter in the family comes home to take care of the dying father and is joined by her black sheep brother, with whom she's always wanted a relationship. It's a deeply felt examination of family and self and I almost felt like I was absorbing it rather than reading it.

Before I Go To Sleep - Always on the hunt for a good thriller (thanks, Megan!) and this one was pretty good. It's very reminiscent of Memento (anyone else super into that movie when it came out?) in that it revolves around a woman with a very specific (and highly unlikely) form of memory loss who is trying to piece her life together. It holds together pretty well and the ending is good.

Between the World and Me - Part memoir, part manifesto, Ta-Nehisi Coates' letter to his teenage son on his experience of being a black man in America is a powerful piece of writing. I felt uncomfortable reading it and I feel even more uncomfortable trying to write about it. Seriously, I have written and deleted more sentences here than I can count. The bottom line is that I think it's an important book and so beautifully (and painfully) articulated.

Young Skins - A short story collection from Irish author Colin Barrett. This is a really strong debut and I tore right through it. All the stories are set in a small Irish town and feature young people in some pretty unpleasant situations, and yet somehow the writing energizes you instead of bumming you out. Nicely done. (Thanks for the rec, Lydia!)

The Passenger - I'm a huge fan of Lisa Lutz's Spellman series, which are comedic mysteries. This book is a bit of a departure for her, as it's more thriller than mystery, but her distinctive (and humorous) voice still comes through and lends a bit of levity to an otherwise fairly intense book. If you're looking for the next Gone Girl, I won't say this is it. It's a little less twisty and the reveal isn't quite as big, but it is a really enjoyable book that will keep you rooting for the protagonist, a woman caught in a situation that is constantly spinning just out of her control.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Once a month meal planning - April

And April!

monthly meal planning - april

As you can see, I started messing around with this month before it was even properly off the ground. We had friends coming over for dinner and I felt like making something a little more special than our usual weeknight meals so I shifted things around a bit.

Recipes for this month: 

Sweet potato noodles and bolognese - again, no real recipe. It's just 1/2 lb ground beef, 1/2 lb hot sausage, 1 jar marinara and 2 large sweet potatoes that have been spiralized. (spiralizer post is here)

Vegetable bowls with brown rice noodles - I gave up on the recipe for this one. I'm just winging it by stir frying some vegetables and using TJ's Soyaki sauce. It works out great.

Enchilada chicken soup - we never seem to get tired of this one.

Sweet potato dirty rice - got a nice Andouille sausage from WF for this month.

Black lentils with caramelized onions - a perennial favorite. I only make a half batch if I just want four servings. Otherwise we'll be eating it for days (which is sometimes good).

Sweet potato, kale and sausage soup - using homemade broth, which makes it a million times better. We tend to get a WF rotisserie chicken a couple times a month for weekend meals, and I'll save the bones in the freezer and use them to make broth. This recipe takes a ton of broth, so having homemade really helps.

Spiced butternut squash salad with lentils and goat cheese - love this salad and you can easily do most of the prep on Sunday if you need a super quick weeknight option.

Cashew nut chicken and saag - I made a triple batch of sauce last time and then froze it with the chicken broth, so this will be super easy this month. I didn't love the saag recipe that I used last month, so I'm thinking about trying this one (minus the tofu, since I just need a side dish).

Salmon kabayaki (+ broccoli) - new recipe. I tend to shy away from cooking fish because it's expensive and I'm always nervous that I'll mess it up and waste it. And it goes bad so quickly in the fridge that it doesn't work well when I only grocery shop on the weekends. But I impulse purchased a bag of frozen salmon fillets from Costco, so I need to get over it.

Sweet potato and black bean chili - a very reliable way to use up all the odds and ends from spiralizing sweet potatoes.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Once a month meal planning - March revisited

Still enjoying our monthly meal planning system, even if this particular month was a little long.

monthly meal planning - march wrap up

Despite our short trip up north we managed to keep it together pretty well.

New recipes I tried this month (Original plan with all the recipes listed is posted here):

Brown rice noodle and vegetable bowls - I ended up not really following this recipe, so I can't review it properly, sorry! I just stir fried a bunch of vegetables and then tossed them with some brown rice noodles and some Trader Joe's Soyaki sauce. Worked well, though, and super easy. Some variation of this will probably become part of our standard repertoire.

Crockpot chicken tikka masala + saag (using that recipe minus the paneer) + cauliflower rice from TJ's. The crockpot chicken tikka masala recipe was pretty great and I'll move it into regular rotation. I was not in love with the saag recipe, so I think I need to keep searching.

Dal nirvana - delicious! I make the black lentils with caramelized onions a lot, and while we love them, it was a nice change of pace to make a different black lentil dish. The cream makes this dish feel decadent and the cayenne gives it some good heat.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lately

So I owe you a March meal planning wrap up, plus an April meal planning post but what I have is a couple of photos of absolutely nothing important, so I guess we're going with that instead.

Sunday stock up

ceramics display

oatmeal cookies again

I'm behind on being an adult right now.

Things I need to do (rather urgently): 
Our taxes (we still have a few days - !!!)
Changing our car registration (I remember we need to do this every day as I drive home, but forget by the time I'm in the house - fail)
Take Circe to the vet so she doesn't get rabies (meaning, we're a month overdue for her vaccine and I feel worse about this one than the others, although it's less likely to have legal consequences)

Things I needed to do that I actually did: 
Meal planning (post soon)
Grocery shopping
House cleaning

Things I have done instead of the things I need to be doing: 
Baked a lot of those oatmeal cookies
Ate a lot of oatmeal cookies
Went a week without eating oatmeal cookies (or sugar) so I could prove it was possible
Read a lot of books (post soon)
Spent untold amounts of time trying to convince* the pigeons that are roosting in the eaves above our kitchen window to roost somewhere else so I can open my kitchen windows again, goddamnit

And that's where I'm at.



* I was putting up with it for a few weeks because they had a nest and I was worried there were babies in there, but this weekend they decided they were done with their nest and dumped it all over the driveway (no babies, thank god) and I decided that it was time for them to pack up and poop somewhere else, preferably away from the area in which I cook since I'm tired of having to keep my windows closed all the time. I read that pigeons are trainable and so I'm trying to train them by keeping a water gun outside and squirting them with water every time I catch them roosting up there. So far, results are mixed but my gun arm is getting very sore.


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Yosemite!

I haven't been to Yosemite in over a decade and D has never been, so when our good friends mentioned that they had reserved a couple of camping spaces we were eager to tag along. It goes without saying that two nights is not enough time, but it was so beautiful that I'm glad we made the detour.

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{mist trail}

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{breakfast prep}

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{morning light}

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{buckley and circe waiting patiently}

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{baby + dog in puffers}

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{completely unfazed by her first introduction to snow}

We were staying in Upper Pines campground, which is in Yosemite Valley. All the campsites are close together but I have to admit that having running water definitely made up for it! The last few times we've camped we haven't had it and it's a luxury for sure.

Another great thing about the campground is that you have good access to trails with no driving required. We hiked the mist trail to Vernal Fall, which was stunning (and aptly named - we were glad we had our rain shells), and then continued on the John Muir trail a bit further to loop around rather than coming right back down.

It rained in the afternoon, so we holed up by the fireplace in the Ahwahnee for a few hours to dry out and have some drinks.

It was a good reminder that even a short camping trip is better than none at all. And to get our butts in gear to block out some weekend trips and make reservations for the rest of the year.