Tag Archive: Food

What’s in my Fridge? Food as a Writing Prompt

I am 12 days into National Blog Posting Month, where I write a blog post every day in November.  So far, even though I have had long, busy days,  I have been able to post daily without stretching too much for ideas.  Unless you call yesterday’s post a stretch.  Until today.  Today, I got nothing.  I turned to the writing prompts provided at the NaBloPoMo site for some inspiration.  Today’s prompt:

Write about 5 things in your refrigerator and how you feel about them.

Huh?

Well, I guess it’s a good thing that I have a pretty well-stocked refrigerator.  That would ironic if the writing prompt asked me to write about what’s in my refrigerator and there wasn’t anything in it.  Here it goes:

  1. Overripe bananas:  I frequently buy bananas even though only Juan and Erica eat them.  They want the bananas to be perfect, without a single blemish and they prefer them to be slightly green.  Once the bananas start to ripen Erica and Juan will not touch them.  That means they are left for me to eat since Diego doesn’t really like then and Nico would rather walk over a bed of hot coals than go near a banana, or any fruit for that matter.  I will eat slightly ripe bananas but once they become too ripe the only useful purpose they serve is to become banana bread. Wouldn’t you know it that everyone around here will eat the banana bread, as long as I make it.  Except,  of course, Nico.
  2. Fresh cut pineapple:  One of my many responsibilities,  in addition to making banana bread from overripe bananas, is to cut pineapple.  Unlike bananas, nearly everyone in our house likes fresh pineapple.  Except of course, Nico.  It is a fruit, after all. Even though everyone likes fresh cut pineapple, it seems no one around here likes to cut it. Once I cut the pineapple, I put it into a container and it is eaten within hours of it being placed in the refrigerator. After several years of complaining that no one else cut the pineapple I finally got Juan to cut it, once.  He told me he didn’t want to outsource my job so he would not be making a habit of cutting the pineapple. I guess I’m okay with being the sole pineapple cutter in the house, as long as someone else learns to make banana bread.
  3. Yogurt: I buy the yogurt with the best of intentions to eat it.  Occasionally the kids will eat it as long as it is a flavor they like.  I buy it for myself because I need the calcium and since I can no longer drink milk, I figure yogurt is s good substitute.  The truth is though, I don’t really like yogurt.  It took me  a long time to learn to tolerate it. I think it’s the texture of yogurt that I find so distasteful. I used to feel like I would gag when I ate it.  When I see how Nico curls his nose whenever he gets too close to a banana, I am reminded how I used to feel whenever I tried to choke down a cup of yogurt.  Now, I can eat it without gagging but I can’t say I really like it.
  4. Cheese: What can I say? I love cheese. I think it’s the perfect food. Plus, I am fascinated by the mystery of how cheese is made. Unlike yogurt, which has its own mystery behind making it, I think the end result in making this fermented food is delicious.  I have all kinds of cheese in my refrigerator right now. Aged cheddar, fresh mozzarella, havarti, goat cheese, blue cheese, and parmesan. Once my son asked why I had so many different cheeses in the refrigerator. I told him that cheese to me was like ice cream to him.  There are so many “flavors” that you can’t have just one.
  5. Wine: I almost always have an opened bottle in the refrigerator. As much as I enjoy a good glass of wine, I can only drink one glass, unless it’s the weekend.  The opened bottle with the rest of the wine goes into the refrigerator. Hopefully, it doesn’t stay there too long. Sometimes, instead of dinner on a weekend evening, I will make up a cheese platter (see above) and pour myself some wine.  Enough said.
What's in your fridge?

What’s in your fridge?

Foodie Friday: Nicks Cafe

Today is Friday, and that means it’s time for another post in my series of restaurant reviews which I call Foodie Friday, where I get to eat out with my husband using a discount voucher.  Today’s meal was brought to us by Groupon.  A few weeks ago I bought a voucher for Nick’s cafe. The voucher was $10 and allowed Juan and I to buy $20 worth of food. $20 for lunch may not seem like enough for two people to eat lunch in a cafe, but once we arrived at Nick’s we knew we’d be just fine.

Blast from the past at Nick's Cafe

Blast from the past at Nick’s Cafe

Nick’s cafe is not located in a high rent district.  It’s situated outside Chinatown and across from a large park, in an industrial area north of the civic center where I work.  The place has been there since the 1930’s, and it looks like it hasn’t been updated in about as long. The place is kind of an institution but aside from that, the food also garners some pretty good reviews on Yelp.

Diner atmosphere and counter seating.

Diner atmosphere and counter seating.

The small cafe has only counter seating indoors, but it was so stuffy inside that we opted to sit outside at one of the few tables. The outdoor tables are opposite the park, and along Spring Street, a major street with a lot of traffic. It was an interesting view. At one point during our lunch a movie crew passed by with a camera aboard a flat bed truck, hauling a train car with passengers. Only in LA.

The service and the food were not trendy LA at all. The waitress took her time to take our order and when she spoke with us she kept calling us, “Baby,” and not in a LA kind of way. More like a familial way.  The food was classic diner food. I ordered the turkey melt and Juan had the club sandwich. The sandwiches were really good. Both our sandwiches had thick homestyle bacon slices, which was a delicious addition to an otherwise ordinary selection.  The portions were not huge and came with only a pickle and a teeny tiny taste of coleslaw. I don’t like coleslaw so it’s okay with me that the portion was so small.  We paid extra and I ordered sweet potato fries while Juan ordered regular fries.

Club Sandwich with a slab of bacon.

Club Sandwich with a slab of bacon.

Turkey Melt and Sweet Potato Fries.

Turkey Melt and Sweet Potato Fries.

I would like to come back to this place for breakfast sometime. Yelp has some good reviews for the ham and eggs and other old school breakfast items. Speaking of “old school, Nick’s doesn’t take credit cards.  It’s a good thing we had some cash because even with the $20 Groupon, Juan and I had to pay an additional $7.00. It may not be in a high rent district, but the food prices sure aren’t low.

Foodie Friday: The Lazy Ox Canteen

I am introducing a new feature on my blog. It is my husband Juan’s idea to help me get blogging again, and it’s my idea to help us out of our “same old, same old” lunch rut. This routine involves brown bagging it everyday and eating at our desk or on a nice day, eating outside in the park. I am going to call this new feature “Foodie Friday.”

Foodie Friday will be my review of a local restaurant that Juan and I will enjoy once a week. And because we are parents of 4 kids and don’t have a lot of extra cash to throw around, I will review those places where we can eat at a discount. I mean discounts like Groupon, Living Social, Travel Zoo—any number of the sites which send me offers and I impulsively buy. (I can’t tell you the number of offers I’ve bought, only to have them expire). I figure a lunch out with my husband that doesn’t involve leftovers, or a turkey sandwich, and ends with a blog post, means that everyone wins! So, I give you my first installment of Foodie Friday.

The Lazy Ox Canteen

Juan and I work in the same building in downtown Los Angeles. It’s kind of nice to be in the civic center, but as far as restaurants go in this area, they are pretty scarce. Don’t get me wrong, Downtown LA is undergoing a huge revitalization, several blocks away. Grand Avenue is beautiful with its high rise apartments and office towers, Disney Concert Hall and what will be a stunning new museum, the Broad.  East of Grand, the area is crawling with Hipsters. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a young urbanite walking their dogs, or lounging outside coffee houses. Little Tokyo is another area which is experiencing some growth, perhaps due to the encroaching loft conversions and growing hipster population. This is great for those of us who work in the Civic Center because Little Tokyo probably has the most accessible restaurants, especially if you want Japanese food.

Not long ago a new restaurant (well, new to us anyway) appeared on the fringe of Little Tokyo, The Lazy Ox Canteen. Even more recently, I learned that Travel Zoo was offering a voucher, $29.00 for lunch for two, including two of their gourmet burgers and a flight of beer. I hesitated at first because after all, a flight of beer? On a work day? But then I remembered it was Friday, and how much work could I really expect to accomplish on a Friday afternoon! So I bought it and I’m glad I did.

We arrived after a short walk, made longer because it was blazing hot. It took awhile for my eyes to adjust to the dimly lit space, but once they did I could see that the place had a modern, upscale, tavern feel, and the majority of the diners appeared to be businessmen enjoying a cold one with their monolithic burgers. There was a chalkboard on the wall displaying the day’s beer offerings. We were seated immediately, but with only one waitress for the entire restaurant, it took awhile for her to take our order.

We ordered our burgers that were included with the Travel Zoo voucher and the waitress told us which beers we would be served. Not long after, she presented us with a “plank” of 4 glasses of 5 ounce pours of beer. They ranged in color and flavor, and maybe if I hadn’t enjoyed ALL 4 glasses and taken notes, I would be able to tell you what they were. Suffice to say, I liked them all.

Undaunted by the task ahead of me.

Undaunted by the task ahead of me.

The food was really tasty too. I love a good burger and The Lazy Ox’s was flavorful and cooked the way I like, even though the texture of the meat felt a little…crumbly? The best part of the plate though was the French fries. They were crispy but full of flavor. They came with a delicious aioli for dipping.

The fries and the aioli upstaged the burger.

The fries and the aioli upstaged the burger.

Between the fancy dipping sauce and the deliciously seasoned fries, it was a good thing Juan ate all his fries too because I could have reached over and finished his, even after eating my huge burger.

The walk back to my office took even longer, in part because of the heat, but more likely because of all the carbs I just ingested. Good thing there was a Starbucks on the way, and in keeping with my discount theme, I was able to use a gift card to buy us much needed caffeinated drinks. After a good lunch, a full flight of beer and a walk in the heat, I really needed it!

The finish to my carb loaded lunch.

The finish to my carb loaded lunch.

Avocado Inspiration

Recently I was selected to participate in an Avocados from Mexico promotion. I was happy to be included in this campaign because I love avocados. It wasn’t always like this for me. I can remember being a little girl and not liking avocados, even though I had never actually tasted one. Then, one day my parents encouraged me to actually taste an avocado, and I was hooked from that day forward.

Luckily, I don’t have to force my family to eat avocados, because everyone in my family loves them. In fact, I have a hard time keeping avocados in the house. One of my co-worker’s knows this about me, so every time she has an avocado, which in her opinion is too ripe, she will give it to me. There have been many mornings when I walk into my office and see an avocado waiting for me on my desk. (Thanks Ann!)

So, you can see that blogging about avocados is not a real dilemma for me. But what is more challenging is blogging about a recipe I use with avocados. Honestly, we eat avocados very simply, with a squeeze of lime and salt. Diego is a purist though, and enjoys his avocados sans lime or salt. Even though we love avocados, as I considered what recipe to share with you all, I was stuck. I decided to look through my pantry to inspire me to come up with an avocado recipe. Nothing. Then, I opened my freezer and I came across this.

Bags and bags of tuna.

Yellow fin tuna that Juan and the boys caught on a fishing excursion while we were on our family vacation in Cabo San Lucas. The guys caught a total of 18 beautiful tuna. The fishing crew cleaned, filleted, packed and froze it for us. The day we were scheduled to leave we went to WalMart, bought a cooler, packed it all in and brought it all home. We’ve been enjoying it ever since. Last week, while at a family barbecue my brother asked to use some to add to some guacamole he was making. Hmmm….

I was inspired. Now, not only did I have the two major ingredients–avocado and tuna, as it happened, I also had an occasion to cook something. All summer my next-door neighbors had talked about getting together on our porch for a happy hour. The summer was nearly over but we finally managed it. They planned to bring the mojitos, and I would bring the appetizer. I looked on-line for some guidance on what ingredients to include in my avocado tuna ceviche dip. I was missing some ingredients, but fortunately I had found suitable substitutions. I decided to improvise and this is what I came up with:

Avocado and Tuna Ceviche Dip. 

It was a hit. So easy, so good! I was so glad I could use the tuna that the boys caught. Then next day, I had unexpected company so I whipped up another batch. It was gone in a flash, but not before Olivia tried it and raved. She asked if I could make it for her to take to school. Unfortunately, it’s not the kind of recipe you make and pack for lunch. Something about taking raw fish and avocado and storing it in your school locker until lunchtime, doesn’t sound like a good idea. Still, I was happy the kids tried it and liked it too. Even Diego, the avocado purist, loved it. But, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised because the main ingredient was avocados!

Happy hour on the porch.

Here are the details:

1-2 ripe Avocados

1/2 pound raw good quality yellow fin tuna

2 tablespoons chinese chili paste

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Juice of 1 lime

Chop the avocado and tuna into bite-sized pieces, equal size. Finely chop onion and cilantro. Add the onion, soy sauce and chili paste to a bowl. Squeeze in some of the lime juice. Stir to combine. Add in the avocado and tuna. Stir gently to coat with chili paste mixture. Squeeze in additional lime juice and continue to stir gently to coat. Toss in cilantro. Add additional soy sauce or salt if needed. Serve immediately with chips, or crackers. Eat and enjoy. Repeat.

Do you want to try out an avocado recipe?  Go here for recipes. Or if you’re a purist like Diego then just use the coupon on the sidebar, buy the avocados and enjoy!

50/50 Friday – Week 49

I can’t believe in a little over two weeks I will be one year into my project of 50 Things to Do Before My 50th Birthday. One year down, and one to go. I have accomplished quite a bit, but honestly I thought I would be further along by this time. It hasn’t been easy to do much this month, since May is the month with Too Many Occasions. In this month alone, I will have 5 birthdays, 2 graduations, 3 recitals, Mother’s Day, prom, and the usual assortment of baseball games, scout events and church obligations. The impending one year anniversary of my project inspired me to get back on my cooking bandwagon–that and the purchase of the Pioneer Woman’s new cookbook.

The first new recipe I tried was Spicy Lemon Garlic Shrimp. There is one thing everyone in my family agrees on–we all love shrimp! I knew this was going to be a real crowd pleaser, and this recipe did not disappoint. I also loved the fact that it was easy and quick. The recipe said to serve it with bread for dunking into the juices, but I didn’t like the idea of greasy hands and dripping bread all over the table. Besides, there’s one more thing everyone in my family agrees on–we all love pasta! I put the shrimp over angel hair pasta. Yum!

Spicy Lemon Garlic Shriimp

The next recipe up was Peach-Whiskey Chicken. Once upon a time someone brought me a bottle of whiskey. I don’t drink whiskey. I don’t know anyone in my family who drinks whiskey except maybe my dad. The whiskey bottle sat in my pantry until the night I decided to stink up my house and cook with it. Unfortunately, it was also the night when Olivia invited her boyfriend over for dinner. Olivia, who has the nose of a bloodhound, was mortified when she walked into the kitchen. I reassured her that the smell would evaporate and her boyfriend would be able to drive home without risking a DUI. Then, I opened all the windows and tried to fan away the fumes. By the time her boyfriend arrived the odor had faded and the chicken was stewing in the oven. I thought the dish was pretty good, but it was not rave worthy. Fortunately, Olivia’s boyfriend is much too polite to say anything negative. The recipe called for chicken legs and I obliged. The chicken legs cooked until the skin was falling off so it was pretty messy to eat. Diego did not like it at all. He said, “I really don’t like naked chicken.” Well, I guess no more naked, drunken chicken for my family.

Almost naked, drunken chicken on a bed of noodles.

I have also been doing my part to check off two more wines from my list. My sister-in-law brought this one to a family birthday celebration dinner this month and I really enjoyed it. Robust but not spicy or tannic. On the extra positive side, it’s really inexpensive. It’s only $4 at Trader Joes. I picked up a couple of bottles.

Good, drinkable, any occasion wine with a good price point.

I also tried this one. I picked it up at Cost Plus for about $10. I like big buttery chardonnay and this one fits the bill. It’s a little bit of a splurge for me, but I loved the name of the winery and since I had been shopping for everyone else’s birthday presents I thought I would pick me up a little something too.

This one is better than any cupcake I've ever had.

The last thing I did recently was to take on a cause, number 27 on my list. I have been looking around for a cause I could add to my blog. A cause which really interested me. I have seen this organization before, but when I came across this campaign about giving up your birthday for charity water, I knew I found my cause. Clean water is something that most of us have available and something we probably take for granted. I know that when I have to bang on the bathroom door and tell my kids that 20 minutes is WAY too long of a shower, they are taking this resource for granted. I know that when I see several half-filled water bottles around the house and in my car, my kids don’t realize the value of a clean, constant water source. For this birthday and the next big one, I am asking for donations to this cause. I want everyone to have clean water. I want to impart this message to my kids. Besides, if I can pass up gifts for my 50th birthday, while doing some positive modeling for my kids, and contributing to clean water somewhere else, it almost makes turning a half-century bearable.

Two more weeks to go until my 49th birthday….One year and 19 days until the big one.

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