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?

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.

50/50 Friday – Week 34

Its Friday and another week has passed since I started my list of 50 Things I want to Do Before my 50th Birthday. I am beginning to worry that I won’t be able to check off more from my list before my next birthday, in a little over four months. Yikes! I better get moving. Considering that I am a mother of 4 kids, it’s no surprise that I have to cook and I want to drink. (Numbers 19 and 20 on my list.) I guess it stands to reason then that I am not making much progress on number 18 on my list, lose and keep off 15 pounds, and number 26, drop a dress size.

So, I am glad that with the New Year, came new eating resolutions. I have done this before. “This year I will lose 10/15/20 pounds.” But, this year I have taken a different approach to losing weight. In the past, I have weighed myself on a weekly basis. I am a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, which means that at one time I reached my goal weight with their program. You notice I said, “at one time?” That was about 20 years ago, when my metabolism was burning fuel like a furnace. Now, that furnace can barely keep me warm on a cold California winter’s night. Recently, I went to my doctor for a physical. When I complained about the hard time I was having losing weight, she told me that it was normal for a woman my age. Ahem. She said that after 40 a woman typically gains about 5 pounds a year. Glad to know that I am right on target. But I digress. As I was saying, in an effort to lose the dress size, and not obsess about the number on the scale, I have decided not to weigh myself. Instead, I am writing down my food using the Lose It App on my iPhone, and I am exercising. I feel better. My clothes are less snug and my energy level has increased. I will weigh myself when I go back for a follow-up doctor’s visit, but at home I won’t step on the scale so as not to get discouraged seeing the number on the scale.

Another item I did some work on was number 21, visit a local landmark once a month. In December I celebrated my friend Julie’s own milestone birthday. She wanted a low key celebration so we went to the spa, had a nice dinner together and stayed overnight at the Hotel Shangri-La, a renovated art deco hotel in Santa Monica.

Cool bathroom in the art deco style.

I love Santa Monica, but I live on the other side of Los Angeles, closer to the foothills, so crossing two freeways to get to this part of town, makes it feel like a foreign place to me. Consequently, I don’t get out here too often, and when I do, I wonder why I don’t visit this Southern California gem more often.  After our night of celebration, where we were in bed by 10:00 p.m., Juan joined us for breakfast. He brought Diego, and Julie’s daughter Ty with him. We had a great time walking around the 3rd Street Promenade, playing on the beach with the kids, and taking in the Southern California sunshine in December.

Beach Babies

Santa Monica wasn’t the only local landmark I visited lately. I have been able to check off more landmarks from my list. Since I participated in the Amazing Los Angeles Race, I got to visit Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

I also made a little progress on cleaning out my attic, number 2 on my list. A couple of weeks ago we had an estate sale at my grandmother’s house. We had quite a few items for sale, and I decided to add a few items from my attic. But it was like two steps forward, and one step backwards, because I brought home two pieces of furniture from my grandmother’s house, and stored them in my attic. Sigh.

Estate Sale

Now that the holidays are all wrapped up and I am settling into the New Year, I hope to make more steps forward and knock out some more items on my bucket list.

What’s on your bucket list? How’s your progress?

 

 

 

50/50 Friday Weeks 10-15

It’s been several weeks since I have updated my list of 50 Things to Do Before I am 50.  My progress has slowed to a near grinding halt, since I have been preoccupied with getting everyone back to school, including me. Well, I am not actually in “school,” but I am studying for a big exam, and it leaves me little time to do anything else, including working my 50/50 list.  When I am not working my glamourus full-tim job as a high-powered government attorney, driving carpool, or helping with homework, I am reviewing criminal law and procedure. Bleh.  But, the family still needs to eat, and I still need to have my ocassional glass of wine, so here’s some minor progress on my list:

Iced Coffee.

It was really hot recently. My Colombian husband practically grew up on cafe con leche.  Iced coffee sounded like the best way to satisfy my  husband on a hot end-of summer day, without having to take my clothes off.  Plus, I was tired and needed a jolt of caffeine. I found this recipe on this website. It looked so good and very simple. The problem was that I didn’t have a  container big enough, so I had to cut the recipe in half. That involved some simple fractions. Yuck. Hey, if I was good at math, I would have gone to medical school, not law school. The end result was that I made some really strong iced coffee. Even my coffee addict husband thought it was too strong. After we diluted it a bit, poured in some half and half, it was as good as any baristas’ iced coffee and a fraction of the price.

Cedar Plank Salmon

Over the Labor Day weekend we hosted both sides of the family for a family dinner. When both sides of our local immediate families get together we number 22! Naturally, our celebrations involve pot luck and I assigned myself one of the main dishes, Cedar Plank Salmon.  I have tried cooking salmon wrapped in cedar paper, but it didn’t seem to have enough flavor. This time, I bought some cedar planks at the grocery store and soaked them in water.  I bought the fish at Costco, seasoned it and sprinkled it with brown sugar. I was inspired by this recipe, but, I didn’t have all the ingredients, so I kind of improvised. The fish was a hit, as evidenced by this photo. We couldn’t take the photo fast enough. The crowd was hungry!

Cedar Plank Salmon

Smothered Pork Chops

The next thing I made was Smothered Pork Chops. Last Sunday I was feeling like I wanted some comfort food. I had some pork chops in the refrigerator so I looked on my favorite online cooking resource and found this recipe.  Just what I wanted, and even better because I only had to wash one pot.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

As a side dish I roasted brussel sprouts. I didn’t really need a recipe for this since I have made brussel sprouts before, but I still consulted with a few sources to find a different way to prepare them. I have boiled them and sauteed them before, but never roasted them. First  I cut them in half, then I drizzled some olive oil on them and seasoned them with salt and pepper. I placed them flat side down on a cookie sheet and roasted them in the oven for about 40 minutes at a temperature of 425 degrees. When they were done I sprinkled a little parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes on them.  I thought they came out great, and I will probably always make them this way.  Here’s what the dinner looked like:

Smothered Pork Chops and Roasted Brussel Sprouts

September Wine

During our family gathering we served this wonderful pinto gris. Juan scored this wine for a great price at our local grocery store. It was crisp, light and if I really knew anything about wine I would say it had tones of citrus and vanilla. What I do know is that it was really refreshing, and our guests enjoyed it too. It seems like we weren’t the only ones who liked it, and I am not the only one to blog about it. Check this mom’s post about her review of the same wine.

50/50 Friday – Weeks 7 thru 9

I can’t believe I am still checking off my list of 50 Things I Want to Do Before 50. Lately,  Summer is keeping me busier than school days, so it is no surprise to me that the only thing I can seem to get done these days is cook. Actually, not really cooking, more like heating things up. It’s been so warm lately I haven’t felt much like cooking. But, I still want to stay on track with my “bucket list” and complete Number 37, “Make one new recipe a week.” So, that’s what I am doing, even if I am three four weeks behind. Hot weather or not,  I am using a new recipe a week, although the recipes don’t always involve food. For instance, one of my new recipes came from my trusted web site, The Food Network, and it involved this.

When life gives your neighbor’s lemon tree a lot of lemons, make lemonade. And when life gives you a garden full of fresh mint, and a hot day with cranky kids bored on a summer day, what do you do? Make Minted Lemonade, of course.  Actually, it was sticky, sweet and delicious fun!  Nevermind that the recipe called for a lot of sugar, and all I had was raw Turbinado Sugar.  The raw sugar turned my Mint Lemonade, a gross  brownish color, but it was still tasty.  I tried not to mind too much when the kid next door,  who had designated himself the lemonade stand hawker, was shouting, “ICE COLD MINT LEMONADE! DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE COLOR! IT TASTES GREAT!”

My second recipe was from a favorite blogger’s website. And sticking to the beverages and kids formula, I thought a recipe that involved Nico and Erica’s favorite soda, Dr. Pepper, would be sure to please.  I guess it would have been a kid pleaser too,  if I had not overcooked it. What did I say about it being a busy summer?  I asked my babysitter to put it in the oven to cook for me while I was at work. She did, but unfortunately, I did not come straight home after work and by the time I made it home, the dish was in the oven for over 6 hours. The meat was still tender, but there was no juicy Dr. Pepper sauciness. (Is that even a word?) Ah well. When life gives you a pork roast without sauce, make carnitas. That’s what it tasted like to me. So I made a little taco bar and we had “carnitas” for dinner.

The last catch up recipe on my list, involved no recipe. That’s right, I had planned on making my old stand-by meal, the-late-from-work-no-time-to-cook-dinner-ground -turkey-with-pasta-and-sauce-from-a-jar, when I learned about a recent ground turkey recall.  Instead of making dinner as planned,  I enlisted my girls to help in the kitchen, and we improvised.  They are both surprisingly good cooks. We inventoried what we had in the pantry: 1/2 a box of penne rigate, and 1/2 a box of angel hair pasta, and garlic.  We inventoried what we had in the refrigerator: a bag of frozen shrimp,  leftover roasted red bell peppers from last night’s barbecue, fresh parmesan cheese, and artichokes. We also took stock of the wonderful bounty of fresh pear tomatoes that a friend had grown in her yard.  Since there is no recipe, I’ll tell you what we did.

We chopped about 6 garlic cloves. I steamed the artichokes and then took out the hearts. Olivia made a dip with mayo, butter, lemon and dill and we noshed on the leaves while we finished the rest of dinner. Erica sautéed the shrimp in most of the garlic, with olive and a bit of butter. We squeezed lemon over the shrimp in final minute of cooking. We then removed the shrimp from the pan and Olivia began to work her sauce magic. She deglazed the pan using white wine, while I supervised, drinking white wine and nibbling on artichoke leaves, of course. She threw in some butter, more garlic, added some lemon juice and seasoned it with salt and red pepper chili flakes. Then,  we kept it warm while we sautéed the already cooked peppers, chopped artichoke hearts, and the fresh pear tomatoes. We tossed everything in a big pasta bowl,  added the sauce, and tossed in some fresh basil and parmesan cheese. It tasted as good as it looked.

The last thing I was able to accomplish these past few weeks was Number 20 on my list, Try a New Wine. On a trip to Napa Valley one year, Juan and I were persuaded to join a cellar club at Jessup Winery. We loved the wines there and so it really wasn’t a hard sell for us. We no longer are members of the cellar club, but that has more to do with economics than it does with the wine. Unfortunately, we have made quite a dent in our wine inventory and we only have a few bottles left. We have had this one lying around for a while, so we decided to open it.

Juan had never really had a lot of port before, and me, being the wine connoisseur that I am, told him it is usually poured with a dessert. Since I am also an epicurean, I told him that this port would go wonderfully with Smores. Yes, Smores. Because we are such wine snobs. Can’t you tell?

We lit a fire outside, roasted marshmallows and brought out the graham crackers. And because the port we were drinking had wonderful cherry flavors, and  smokey undertones, I brought out the dark chocolate. Can you say, “food and wine pairings?” I think I have created a new classic pairing.

So, nine weeks in and I still have two recipes to catch up on,  among other things. The kids go back to school in a couple of weeks, and my real job is becoming busier, so I’ll  have to see how much cooking and checking things off my list I can accomplish.