Tuesday, August 31, 2010

R.I.C.E. & Risotto

I'm lounging in a position with which I've become quite familiar over the months - laptop in my lap and my foot wrapped with an icepack in an ace bandage elevated in front of me - Rest Ice Compression and Elevation. Still. This weekend marked the three month anniversary since I fell walking down a steep hill and tore multiple ligaments and other soft tissue in my right foot and ankle. When I finally admitted it wasn't healing and went to the doctor ten days later, she told me it would take six-12 weeks from that day to heal. She expected six-eight weeks, and warned I could make it eight-twelve if I didn't "dial it way back" and take good care of it, working R.I.C.E. and my physical therapy.

Well, I'm at 11 weeks today, but not because I screwed up my rehab. Anyone can tell you how thorough I've been with first crutches, now a cane, R.I.C.E., and PT. I am now of the opinion that I had closer to a Level 3 sprain than the Level 2 sprain with which the nurse practitioner originally diagnosed me. And this misdiagnosis is completely and totally my fault. I am finally pulling myself the rest of the way out the denial that kept me from seeing the doctor for so long in the first place. I fully accept responsibility for downplaying the severity of my symptoms with the nurse practitioner. I did not do this knowingly. Looking back, I see that something - be it pride, or a false sense of toughness, or stupidity, or just human nature - kept me from admitting even to myself that I was in far more pain and in much worse shape than I let on. I told her my foot and ankle could support my weight, though not for extended periods. And I thought that was the truth when I said it. But, now that I've been working the PT and am conscientiously aware of everything going on with that area of my body, I know how many weeks it took before I could actually, truly put my full weight on that foot. And I'm still working on keeping it there for an extended period. Heck, I'm still working on standing with my weight distributed evenly between both feet for more than a few minutes.

But this is a positive post. After weeks of a plateaux in healing despite all my hard work and faithfulness to the R.I.C.E., I finally seemed to break through some sort of barrier in my progress today during my PT in a private Pilates apparatus class. Today, I was able to complete exercises I was literally incapable of performing even last week. It was exhilarating, and exhausting. And I'm shocked by how scary it was. For months, my body has instinctively guarded me from worsening the damage by telling me when to stop, what not to do. And I have listened. But that instinct becomes habit fast, and it was terrifying to not just stop listening to it, but to outright defy it, even with a trained professional guiding and spotting me on safe equipment in a safe setting. It's been months since I've put any type of faith in my foot's ability to support me. My nerves were jangled. The rush of emotions drained me as much as, if not more than, the physical work. Fear, trepidation, and anxiety, but also excitement, giddiness, and pride. It takes a lot out of a gal.

I've still got a long, hard road ahead of me before I'm at 100%, but at least now I've regained the faith that I'm closing that distance and not walking in place. I am just so thankful that I was already strong and in good physical shape when I fell. I can't imagine how hard this would have been if I'd been starting from nothing. Thank you, Pilates! I'm now looking forward to the day I can walk a long, hard road in reality instead of just metaphor. That, and a long, hard run on the elliptical with the settings on max. Now that would feel good. For the first time in weeks, I actually believe that I'll get there eventually.

In honor of both the three month anniversary of my fall and the progress in my PT, for lunch I made myself some risotto. Get it? Because of three months of R.I.C.E.? Hehehe. Congratulations to me!

Image from Stonewall Kitchen's website.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Three More Days of Inspiration

I thought it was about time I did another post on a half week of healthy, delicious cooking to keep everyone inspired. Why "3 Days" of cooking? I theorize that I have only ten meals to plan each week. Breakfasts are easy - bowls of cereal or oatmeal, smoothies, bars, fruit, the occasional egg dish. I spend weekends eating with the husband man, usually at restaurants. Even if we eat at home, I consider it a different category of food preparation. Which leaves me five weekdays of lunches and dinners to think about. I assume I will make a "convenient" meal twice, maybe thrice - a sandwich or prepared meal like a Kashi frozen dinner, takeout or delivery once or twice a month, or even the rare weekday meal eaten out at a restaurant. I also assume that one or two of the dishes I make in my "3 Days" will allow for yummy leftovers reheated. So that leaves me with, on average, six meals - three days of lunches and dinners - to think ahead about when I grocery shop and start my prep work. Logically, I could spread these six meals out throughout the five days, intermingled with the convenience meals rather than consecutive. But that would ruin the narrative, now wouldn't it?

Thanks to sales at Safeway, my proteins for this particular three days of lunches and dinners were chicken (six organic breasts for $6!) and beef sirloin (three 5oz. steaks for $6!).

Prep: I wrapped up three breasts and one sirloin and tossed them in the freezer for later use. Then I fired up the George Foreman and grilled up corn leftover from my very successful quinoa experiment, two steaks, and three chicken breasts in batches one after the other. I dusted all the meat with garlic salt prior to grilling - prep doesn't get much easier than that.

Day 1

Sirloin Steak, Corn, & Snap Peas

For the first meal, I kept it simple, since already putting my effort into prep work. Besides, while hot and fresh, it didn't need embellishment. Alongside my 5oz. steak, I added half a cob of corn and a handful of snap peas, both ingredients that made an appearance in my quinoa salad.

Red Curry with Chicken & Vegetables

As anyone who read my guest post over on Gamer Girl Gets Thin knows, I'm sort of obsessed with finding a tasty, easy, and healthy curry to make at home. Therefore, I have been slowly working my way down the shelf of curries at the store, with varying degrees of success. This night, I shredded one of the chicken breasts, sauteed a package of mushrooms (buy 1 get 1 free at Safeway - score!), steamed a quarter head of cauliflower, and added 2/3 cup of frozen peas. I heated all of this with a jar of Thai Kitchen's red curry, then served it over microwaveable brown rice. All in all, a fast and filling one-pot meal that came in at under 300 calories. Definitely healthier and cheaper than ordering take out, and perfectly palatable to boot. Palatable as in I will eat the leftovers. Still not good enough to make me give up my favorite Thai delivery, but I don't expect that from a jar.

Day 2

Sirloin Steak on a Bed of Whole Grains with a Side of Sesame Soy Snap Peas

I heated garlic brown rice with quinoa and topped it with a chopped 5oz. steak and a drizzle of gravy. For the vegetable, I tossed together some of my famous Sesame Soy Snap Peas. Satisfying. Simple.


Chicken Salad Sandwich with Quinoa Salad

I shredded half a chicken breast and tossed it with a little Smart Balance Mayo, a tiny dollop of garlic infused olive oil, lemon juice, chopped tomato and onion, toasted almond slivers, salt and pepper. Threw it on a sandwich thin and spooned some leftover quinoa salad on the side. Crazy yummy and very filling.

Day 3

Curried Chicken & Brown Rice Salad

For those of you taking notes (an image that makes me giggle), you can maybe guess what I would do with leftover brown rice, coconut milk, and chicken. Hmmmm... Maybe some curried rice salad? Yes, please! One cup of the garlic brown rice and quinoa, half a chicken breast shredded, toasted almond slivers, toasted coconut shreds, chopped onion, apple chunks, dried cranberries - all things I already had. For the dressing, the chicken absorbs less than the rice, so by replacing half the rice, I also reduce the amount of liquid. 1/4-1/3 cup light coconut milk, a couple tablespoons of rice vinegar, I left out the garlic since some already flavored the rice and instead grated in some ginger from the freezer, and a lot of curry powder. After I stirred the dressing into the salad, I added a tablespoon of Smart Balance mayo to thicken it a bit and hold everything together to go in a low carb/high fiber wrap rather than a bowl. This made enough for two wraps, so the rest went into the fridge for later yummies. I love the versatility and spontaneity of this salad. I make it a little differently each time, and it's always awesome.

Mushroom Lentil Casserole

I will conquer the Campbell's-less casserole! I've just about perfected this pursuit in my mushroom lentil version. Awhile back, I created a surprisingly delectable casserole using Near East Rice & Lentil Pilaf, Campbell's  Cream of Chicken soup, and chicken broth. Now I'm near cracking the code for making it even better without the soup. I'm still finagling the liquid amounts. This time I had a lot of extra liquid leftover. Not that it affected the outcome, which I think I've about perfected. It just seems silly to write a recipe that tells my readers to dump out extras. I'll post the recipe once I have it fine tuned. I bet I can even work out a vegetarian version. I love my projects! 


This used the last chicken breast, the last of the onion, and the second container of mushrooms. Even with the husband man home for this meal (and seconds were had - better seconds of this nutritional dish than gorging on popcorn at the movie we saw after), I still had a bowl leftover for later. See why I only need to plan three days of meals? That's leftovers of red curry, curried chicken salad, and mushroom lentil casserole to get me through the other days of the week without getting bored or wasting food. And that's the whole point of my 3 Days/6 Meals system.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mosquito Bites: A Stinky Home Remedy

Evil incarnate.
In college, my bio-anthro professor bragged about going on digs to Africa and other mosquito-laden locales and how, though he got bitten just as often as anyone else, something in his genes or body chemistry made it so he never had to feel that evil itch. I wonder if his colleagues ever wanted to punch him in the face for this bragging. I sure did. And I'm sure a percentage of my readers feel the same urge. The same percentage that, while our camping mates complain about six mildly itchy bites, sits stewing and scratching our 23 lumps. The same percentage that, instead of getting small, slightly irritating bumps, develops excruciating, massive welts, or multiple lumps following the path of a vein infected by a single bite, or even bright red squiggly blobs with definite borders. My dad and I liked to find shapes in these blobs on my arms, sort of like cloud watching, "This one looks like a pine tree!" "Really? I think it looks like an garden gnome! See the nose and hat and shoes?"

Well, guess which percentage I fall into. Welts, trails of lumps, funky shapes, and itch itch itch itch itch, all the way home. My reaction to these bites is, in fact, so horrible, the only thing that keeps my crippling arachnophobia in check is the thought that the eight-legged monsters of my nightmares, which I fear irrationally, work continuously to deplete the population of the even more foul mosquito, which I fear with good reason.

A recent (and thankfully rare) heatwave in SF brought out the buzzing little buggers, and I have the wounds to prove it. I see this as an opportunity to share with my fellow sufferers a remedy that changed my life.


Yes, it's that simple. Hydrocortisone, colloidal oatmeal, and other ointments barely take the edge off. But, a few years ago around a campfire at a rodeo when I was near tears with discomfort, someone told me to try chopped onion. Skeptically, I went to the cooler and grabbed a few dices from a large bag I'd chopped up for breakfast burritos the next day. Hopeless, I held them directly on my exacerbating welts. Oh lordie, the itching stopped. Almost instantly. It worked so well, I didn't even really mind that after awhile I started to develop a slight miasma of eau de taxi driver.

So here I sit, typing this post with small pieces of this bulbous vegetable affixed to my arms in a patchwork of Band-Aids, filled with relief instead of distracting annoyance. What kind of pal would I be if I didn't pay forward such worthy advice? Stink it up, my afflicted friends, stink it up.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ultimate Summer Quinoa Salad

Sorry for the lack of recipes of late. I fell victim to the whooping cough epidemic sweeping the Bay area and, as always, being sick affected my appetite rather strangely. Of course, all I wanted was the stuff you're supposed to avoid when you have a cough, and I didn't think my readers would much enjoy pictures of boring wild rice, bread, gravy, refried beans, popcorn, and cheese. Yes, all the starches and dairy I was definitely not supposed to eat. So sue me. Anywho, my normal appetite has finally begun to return. This morning I got it in my head that I just had to make this salad from items crying out to me from my cupboard and fridge. I am so glad I did, because this just might be the best quinoa salad I've ever had, if I do say so myself. Certainly the best I've ever made. I present you with yet another whole grain summer salad. I'm back, baby!

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 cup snap peas, chopped
1 cob corn, grilled*/cooked, kernels removed
1 small (8.75oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 packet (a little less than 1/2 teaspoon) stevia sweetener
1-2 tsp. fresh ground sea salt, more or less to taste
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper, more or less to taste
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 Tbspn. garlic infused olive oil**

1. Toast quinoa in a small dry saucepan over medium heat, stirring often for about 5 minutes until crackly and aromatic - the scent reminds me of stove-popped popcorn. Rinse thoroughly in a mesh collander. Return quinoa to pot and add water. Bring to a simmer; reduce heat and cover. Cook until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain excess water, if any. Cool in fridge while you prepare the rest of the salad.

2. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine all dressing ingredients except oil. Mix until salt has dissolved. Add oil and mix well.

3. Combine vegetables and quinoa in a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad and toss until well mixed. Will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge.

Nutrition info: 
As an entree, serves 2.
Calories: 482. Total fat: 17.8g, sat. fat. 2.2g. Carb: 70.4g, fiber: 9.3, sugars: 11.5g. Protein: 12.8g.
As a side, serves 4.
Calories: 241. Total fat: 8.9g, sat. fat. 1.1g. Carb: 35.2g, fiber: 4.7g, sugars: 5.8g. Protein: 6.4g.

*To grill corn on your George Foreman, first remove leaves and silk from the cob. If you want the cob cut in half, do it now. Cutting it in half gives you a flat edge to work with if cutting off the kernels after cooking. Brine corn in water mixed with salt and sugar for 10-30 minutes. Preheat grill to 375. Close cobs in grill perpendicular to grooves. Cook for 30 minutes, turning partway around every ten so they blacken evenly.

**To infuse olive oil with garlic, heat 1/2 cup of olive oil in a small pan until just bubbling. Add 4-5 medium cloves of sliced garlic. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool and transfer to container. Keeps in fridge up to one week.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Venerated Vancouver Venues

Out of everywhere I've been in the world, however relatively limited that might be, my absolute favorite so far has to be Vancouver, B.C. Stunning vistas of land and sea, friendly people, varied neighborhoods, good shopping, and better eats - I love no place more. In fact, one of the things I miss most about living in Seattle is the regular weekend trips three hours north to this incomparable city. My friends know of this love of mine, and so pretty regularly ask my favorite places to visit when they're in Vancouver. The regularity of this request lead me to write a standard email I'd pass along. When asked recently for recommendations for a friend of a friend, I thought, "Why not post it on my blog and then I, and my friends, can point people to it anytime?" And so I did. I figure I might as well do the same for Seattle favorites, too, so keep an eye out for that post coming soon to a blog near you!

Veronica's Venerated 
Vancouver Venues

Most of my Vancouver recommendations are in the West End, since it's so central to shopping and the water (grab a cocktail and check out the stunning view at the rotating restaurant) or Yaletown (known as Little SoHo, my favorite neighborhood where we usually stay at the Opus Hotelwhich has a great bar/lounge, FYI). Forgive the scarcity of food photos in this post; we had not yet formed the habit of photographing what we eat back when we made these regular trips to B.C.


La Bretagne: For my #1 Vancouver restaurant recommendation, I choose this crepe cafe on Jervis just off Robson in the West End. The husband man & I would make the three hour drive from Seattle to Vancouver just for the duck confit crepe. My friend, Frances, who found and fell in love with Le Bretagne completely independently of me, loves the dessert crepes (I'm not really a sweet tooth and almost always opt for savory, so I definitely take her sweet-tooth word for it).

Also, as I mentioned, I absolutely adore Yaletown and highly recommend two places there:

Boulangerie La Parisienne: Exactly what its name claims. This tiny place has the best coffee (go for the French Roast - trust me) and croissants (I like the spinach or the ham - my savory tooth kicking in again). It's a great place to stop for a quick breakfast or snack. Plus, you can drool over the pastry/dessert cooler - you've never seen such cakes! 

Provence: You'll find this wonderful French seafood restaurant just a few blocks from Boulangerie. Another of my top Vancouver restaurants, it has some of the best seafood I've ever had (think mussels in creamy broths, bouillabaisse, crab & sweet pea risotto, and lobster ravioli in wine sauce.) They'll also pack you a to-go picnic basket, perfect for an outdoor lunch in Stanley Park!


Kirin: Our favorite of a number of great Chinese restaurants, right across the street from La BretagneDim Sum to die for. I love the steamed dumplings with spinach and scallops. They explode in your mouth with juicy flavor. Even Walter, a Chinese snob of the San Francisco variety, claims they have the best rice dough he's ever had.

Sun Sui Wah: On Main Street, less central than most of my other recommendations. The place to go with a group to order king crab and whole fish to share.

Yours truly posing a few years ago with a giant king crab just waiting
to find a home in a Sun Sui Wah patron's belly.


Villa del Lupo: Again in Yaletown, this has long been a favorite. It's cozy with killer food (think osso bucco and duck "streudel" rolls). 

Duck "Streudel" - phyllo dough egg rolls stuffed with duck confit; a dish we still discuss longingly so many years later.

Side Note: Villa del Lupo has changed hands since we last ate there, so it could be completely different than the place we loved for so many years. If anyone makes it there, please please let me know if they've maintained their previous quality. Just in case, I offer a couple alternates:  

Caffe de Medici: This classic Italian restaurant on Robson has since become a wholesale establishment. As much a grocery store/market aficionado as I am a restaurant nut, I'm dying to hear how their products match up.

CinCin: For an upscale (i.e. quite pricey but wonderful) Italian experience. This is the type of place you go for special occasions.

Our 3rd anniversary dessert platter at CinCin.



Yoshi: Hands down A-mazing experience. Nowhere outside Japan will you find better sushi than Seattle and Vancouver, and places like Yoshi are why I will stand by that comment.

Lobster with miso mayonnaise, one of many memorable dishes at Yoshi.


I also have to plug to my favorite touristy things, while I'm at it. Everyone knows about Whistler for skiing and gondola rides, but there are a couple other sightseeing activities I recommend. 

Capilano Suspension Bridge: I love this suspension bridge treehouse wonderland just outside of Vancouver. Beautiful, amazing, and so uniquely BC - a tourist trap that's worth it. The fudge they sell is pretty darn great, too.

The treetop adventure begins by traversing this impossibly long bridge suspended over a canyon and the river that carved it, allowing those who cross to take in a spectacular view of forest and waterfall.

Vancouver Aquarium: I'm  a sucker for Aquariums, and this aquarium in Stanley Park is no exception. My favorite inhabitant is the arapaima - prehistoric giants I delight in catching in Animal Crossing and which are rare to see in captivity because of their proclivity to swim crazy fast right at the glass, cracking it. 

The husband man introduces the ancient arapaima.

 Your turn!

Let me know if any URLs no longer work. Also, I would lovers recommendations of places I need to try next time I'm in the area. It's been awhile, so I'm sure a bunch of great new restaurants have popped up in my absence. I must keep my list up to date. Don't let this epicurean miss out on great cuisine!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My First Guest Post

My buddy Jenn has honored me by posting my ramblings on her adorable blog Gamer Girl Gets Thin. Thanks, Jenn!

On a side note, the title of this post reminds me of an old idea I'd had with someone or other for a line of "My Second" toys. Everything's "My First Bike" and "My First Radio." I want to sell "My Second Xylophone" and "My Second Rollerskates." See, I ramble.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Greatest of Grilled Cheeses

While we're on the topic, which we sort of were here and here, I thought I'd share some spectacular grilled cheese experiences outside the home.

First, there's my dear old Seattle favorite grilled cheese at the home of the world's richest mac & cheese and the best darn cheese curds I've ever had, Beecher's Handmade Cheese at the famous Pike Place Market. Their flagship cheese best resembles a sharp white cheddar, but deeper and more complex. It makes for a fabulous grilled sandwich, especially with tomato.

A little closer to home (at least my current home), my previous favorite was the fragrant grilled cheese sandwich at Hog Island Oyster Co. in the Ferry Building. Just the fact that I order this in lieu of my beloved shellfish at a quality seafood restaurant serves as a testimony to the greatness of this Mezzo Secco, cave-aged gruyere, and Fromage Blanc masterpiece. But I dare you to stand in line smelling all that rich, salty, cheesy goodness and NOT order it.

Just yesterday a friend introduced me to my new favorite - and I can have more than one favorite if I darn well please, thank you very much. SOMA's new American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, as the name so subtly suggests, specializes in these artery clogging sandwiches. We split the classic Mousetrap - Tillamook sharp cheddar, creamy havarti, and monterey jack on sourdough, with tomato added, of course. This full-flavored traditional sandwich truly lives up to expectations. Nothing blah or bland here!

And we split the Mushroom Gruyere - fontina, gruyere, roasted wild mushrooms, gold potatoes, melted leeks, caramelized onions, and thyme butter. This was an earthier, heartier experience, each bite full of new and increasingly complex surprises. 

This friend and I are quite the Chatty Cathies together, but, the instant these arrived at our table, silence fell. There's almost no better test for good food. These passed that test with flying colors. I can't wait to go back and try the Moscone with fresh mozzarella, fontina, roasted tomatoes, basil-lavender pesto, and kalamata olive tapenade. Also the bread pudding (sweet & savory options) and, of course, the tomato soup, especially with the classic Mousetrap. They also have meaty sandwiches, but that just defeats the whole purpose of a grilled cheese in a way other toppings don't, in my humble opinion. At that point, it's just a hot sandwich. And few things are as worth tarnishing my cholesterol count for as a good grilled cheese.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Prop 8 Ruling and Raspberries

Today the ruling for Prop 8 came down from Judge Vaughn Walker. And we won. WE WON!!! Prop 8 has been found unconstitutional for violating the due process law of the 14th amendment.

I've already seen people comment on my friends' status updates about the Prop 8 ruling with sentiments like, "That's disgusting."

Well, I just read 138 pages in which the prejudices against same-sex couples were systematically debunked as false ideas based solely on morality bias with no actual evidence to support them and as not holding up to intellectual rigor.

These people are still free to continue to think and say it's icky or wrong or whatever, but their morality no longer dictates this law in my state.


So get grossed out all you want; your opinion no longer governs us. (in my state at least)

*insert tongue between lips and blow a raspberry in their general directions* 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Uh-Oh, SpaghettiOs - You've Got Competition!

No, that is not a bowl of SpaghettiOs A to Z with Meatballs. Alas, I couldn't find a can of one of the three meatball varietals recalled by SpaghettiOs if I tried. And, if I'm honest, maybe I have tried a little bit. SpaghettiOs with meatballs is one of my guilty pleasures. When I get the craving, I sometimes grab for Annie's somewhat less malnutritious (hey! I just invented a new word!) Pasghetti Loops with Soyballs. But there's just something about SpaghettiOs with meatballs; they're right up there with a good box of mac & cheese in their ability to tap into some deep childhood joy. And, in the past, I admit I've even attempted making a homemade version after discovering anellini, tiny ring shaped pasta, at the market. But, whether I made the sauce and meatballs from scratch or used store bought, my experiments always fell short. Until this weekend.

Even after having friends help initially with the potful of Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup, and having a bowl with a grilled cheese for lunch, I still had more leftover than I could eat myself without losing interest and enjoyment in this wonderful dish.

Lunching on leftovers.

So, it was time to experiment with the rest rather than throw it out. I used a couple small ladlefuls of leftover tomato soup to turn my usual clam pasta into a creamy tomato clam pasta, a variation I often make using marinara sauce. A couple steps in, I realized it tasted vaguely like SpaghettiO's sauce. An idea started to blossom.

Creamy Tomato Clam Pasta

At Andronico's, I found a large bag of mini-meatballs and my mind was made up. Heading to the pasta aisle, I was delighted to find a bag of alfabeto pasta. These not only seemed like a fun alternative, the anellini I'd used in the past always seemed to come out kind of chewy, like it never completely cooked all the way through. I'm a huge proponent of al dente, but when trying to mimic a beloved canned pasta, underdone noodles kind of defeat the purpose.

That night I baked up the meatballs, boiled the pasta, and started in on my new attempt at homemade SpaghettiO's. First, I warmed about 1/2 cup leftover tomato soup in a skillet on medium heat, then added 1 tablespoon low fat cream cheese. I stirred gently until the cream cheese melted and incorporated entirely into the soup. I slowly added another cup and a half or so of soup - all I had left - until entirely incorporated. Next, I melted in a couple of tablespoons of shredded parmesan and salted to taste. With the pasta and meatballs fully cooked (unlike the ones in the can have been the last couple of years, apparently), I stirred it all together.

Voila! My best homemade SpaghettiOs, yet! The husband man even said it was his new favorite of everything I cook, which of course warmed me right to the core. I myself can't stop thinking about them and wishing I had more soup to make them again. If the soup itself wasn't good enough to make again, which it was, the greatness of the SpaghettiOs delivered by the leftovers would keep me coming back.

I already have an idea in mind of how to streamline the process to make this dish without having to make the soup from scratch first. If it works out, I'll let you know about it.

As it was, I'd had just enough soup left to make two servings of VerosiOs. (V-RoniOs? Hmmm... I need to work on a name for this one...) That left me with two extra servings of alphabet pasta. I used one in a quick bowl of homemade mac with a microwave sauce of leftover cheese from the grilled sandwiches that went with the soup. It was actually pretty tasty once I added a couple of spoonfuls of Casa Chica salsa.

But neither this cheesy concoction, nor any experiment with leftovers in recent memory, has come close to the success of VeronicOs. No? Still not the right name? Hrmph. Maybe my readers can pick something better...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

What's the "B" for again?

Something very uncommon happened today in my flat. The whole place wafted with the scent of bacon. Honestly, I don't remember the last time we had bacon in the fridge. It's been years, I'm sure. I've used pancetta a couple of times, in lentil soup or a pasta sauce, but I never cook bacon for some reason. Not that I don't like it, we just never have it around.

But the stars have been aligning for me to make something I have never made before. It started in Seattle awhile back, at a cute and wacky restaurant in Capitol Hill called Bleu Bistro. My friend Dana allowed me to share her veggie BLT - and I became instantly hooked. I honestly have no idea what vegetarian bacon actually is, but man that sandwich was goooooood. I failed miserably at getting this sandwich out of my mind. So when I took my friends Alan & Mel to Angelina's Deli & Cafe to pick up a picnic spread, imagine my delight when I saw on Yelp that their BLT stands as one of their most popular sandwiches. I chose it as one of the three sandwiches, two salads, and three cupcakes we shared at our Baker Beach picnic that day. And it was scrumptious. Again, I could not stop thinking about BLTs. Very peculiar for me.

Then, just a few days later, I made Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup which called for white sandwich bread, another item that we practically never have in the house. Even after the accompanying grilled cheeses, I still had a substantial portion of the loaf leftover. A fairly loyal double fiber/sandwich thin/low carb wrap gal, thoughts of what to do with this extra bread kept gnawing at me.

And then the final star slid into place at Andronico's market last night. The husband man pointed into the butcher case exclaiming, "Wow! Look at that bacon! That looks amazing!" And my plan solidified. BLTs we would have. It all seemed kismet when he then chose live butterleaf when I asked him to pick out a lettuce (I adore butterleaf and so know the rest of the head will get used) and then when I found the usually quite pricey organic heirloom tomatoes on sale for less than the regular hothouse variety. Plus, I had a use for the rendered bacon fat in mind for another recipe, but I'll save that tale for another day...

And so, today, I made my first BLT. Of course, I had to give it my own little twist in some way, so I trolled America's Test Kitchen website and found a priceless little tip. Per their recommendation, I sliced the tomato thin and lay the slices out on paper towel before sprinkling them with a little salt to draw out the moisture.

Ten minutes later, during which time I busied myself with frying the bacon, I patted them dry with paper towel. The flavor of the tomatoes concentrated and they held their juices when you bit into them, but didn't make the sandwich soggy or slippery. Perfect! I called the Mr. to lunch and we chowed down my first BLTs.

 With my usual new recipe post-mortem, we thought they would have been great as BLATs (added "A" for avocado), which I'd thought about adding already, but decided to keep my first attempt pure and traditional. We also thought a turkey bacon sandwich (also with avocado) would've been great like this. Though it was fun and turned out delicious, our post-mortem revealed what I'd really known all along: we're just not really BLT people. I'll probably get a craving again sometime, thanks to Bleu and Angelina's, but there's a reason I've never made one before. But, all in all, it was a delicious success and I came out of it somewhat less intimidated by the bacon frying process, which went quite well today, though I do remember screwing it up colossally in the past.

So that whole grain white sandwich bread leftover from the tomato soup ended up coming in quite handy, and I got my usual high from reusing ingredients in multiple ways. Earlier in the weekend, I also got pretty creative with how to use the rest of the soup leftovers, too... But I'll tell you about that next time.