January 12, 2016

Rosemary Beef Stew

1 1/2 lbs. stew-cut beef
1/4 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 sprigs fresh/2 tbs. dried rosemary
3 c. unsalted beef stock
1 c .water
3 red potatoes, washed & diced
3 carrots, peeled & chopped
2 tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. thyme
1 sage leaf, crumbled

This is a great, simple and hearty stew that you can start and forget about while it cooks.  By using fresh rosemary, more of the leaves may be able to be removed before serving; the dried rosemary won't ruin the texture if that's what's on hand.

Use a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat to brown the beef in olive oil, 2 minutes on each side. Lower the temperature to medium and add onion. When the onion  is translucent and fragrant add garlic, sage, thyme, pepper, salt and balsamic.  Pour in some beef broth and scrape the pot in order to de-glaze it (a.k.a. get all the good stuff off the pot and into the soup), then add the remainder of the ingredients and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat, cover and let simmer for an hour and a half.  Check on the stew and add more water or stock if the liquid level is too low, then simmer another half hour. Remove any rosemary stalks before serving.

January 6, 2016

Tomato Soup

2 rashers bacon

1/2 c. diced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

dash balsamic vinegar

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1/4 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. dried basil

28 oz. can crushed tomato

2 c. chicken stock

1 c. water

1 bay leaf

3 tbs. parmesan

2 tbs. cream

2 tbs. whole plain yogurt

sea salt & black pepper

I've been trying to boost my arsenal of go-to recipes. While that was the intent of this blog all along, it turns out that in the real world cooking is less of a daily fun experiment that gives me an excuse not to be studying and more of a do-or-die chore. The grocery store is not a fun playground and more of a nightmare (Northern Virginians drive their shopping carts like they drive their cars, which is to say not well); and all I want after biking home is to cuddle with the various creatures I love, take my customer service smile off, and not do a thing. So my definition of 'go-to' has altered somewhat since starting this blog.

My new mission is to perfect--and preferably memorize--dishes that are gluten-free, nut-free, egg-free and shellfish-free (lots of allergies in our house); preferably both quick and replicable; preferably at least 4 servings to last a couple nights for two people; and most preferably of all, tasty. You might notice a couple recipes being updated and re-posted, which will hopefully be more of a good thing than an annoyance. I present the first update: my new favorite, picky-eater-pleasing Tomato Soup.

Because winter decided to turn up after all, apparently.

Cook the two pieces of bacon in a large soup pot--I prefer my cast-iron dutch oven--over medium-low heat. Set the bacon aside and add the onions to the hot pan. When they begin to brown and turn fragrant, add the garlic, balsamic vinegar, thyme, oregano, and basil. Continue to cook over medium-low heat until the herbs become fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Before the garlic burns (careful, it will burn fairly quickly), add the crushed tomato, chicken stock, water, and bay leaf. Finely chop the cooked bacon and add back to the soup. Cover and turn to high to bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes.

Add the parmesan, cream and yogurt, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and, if possible, take out the bay leaf. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup in the pot until smooth. Serve warm.

December 30, 2015

Minimalist Beauty Arsenal: Skin

Note: Why write about products in a finance series?
Because I have wasted way, way too much money buying unnecessary crap; and prefer the necessities to be of good quality and value. I figure some of you share the same experience and goals when selecting what to spend hard-earned green on.

Things you won't find here: face cleanser, eye cream, serums, oils, heavy scents, exfoliates, etc. Based on observation, experience and research, skin does better without being scrubbed; assuming that you also have a minimalist makeup routine, a simple rinse morning and night should do the trick. Anything formulated for face skin can be used on eye skin as long as it's not thick and doesn't necessitate tugging on the thinner eye area while applying. On the whole, there's not much added benefit of various face elixirs if you have a decent lotion--unless, perhaps, you're at the age of retinol and other intense ingredients.

This is it. The sum total of my trial-and-error of Things that you Smear on your Face (and Body). The whole list.

Follow the common wisdom of eating well, exercising, limiting alcohol and not smoking. Keep some coconut oil on hand in case you do have dry skin. Finally, never buy things in tubs. It is a waste of money, as exposure to air will quickly render anything that may have been helpful ineffective. For info from actual experts (of which I am definitely not), Beautypedia and Paula's Choice are both excellent sources. 

Unscented Bar Soap
Stick to the smelly areas only and you can avoid a good amount of
dry, breakout-prone skin. No loofahs or rough washcloths either; just
lather up your hands.
Dry Idea Roll-On Advanced Dry Antiperspirant & Deodorant, 72 HR, Unscented 3.25 FL Oz (Pack of 6)
Extra-Strength Unscented Deodorant
I've tried all of them on the drugstore shelves and a few only available
online, and Dry Idea is the only one I've found to be truly effective. I feel
strongly about few products on this page, but this one I really recommend.
Tinted Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
Look for zinc oxide or similar ingredients, and be sure to apply around the
eye area and exposed decolletage too. Every. Day.
Night Cream; a.k.a. Vitamins for your Face
You can (and should!) do your own research, but I spent waaay too long reading
up on science-based guidelines for mid-twenties skin care and my summary is:
find a moisturizer loaded with antioxidants, skin-repairing and lightening
ingredients, anti-inflammatory goodies, and emollients.

May 13, 2015

Ginger Honey Chicken Marinade & Citrus Balsamic Vegetable Glaze

For the marinade:
2 tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 tbs. honey
1/3 c. (1 small root) peeled, diced ginger root
2 tsp. chopped Hatch green chile
heavy dash turmeric
small dash nutmeg
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. red chile powder
1 tbs. salt
dash garlic salt
1 tsp. cracked black pepper
dash lime juice
4 tbs. butter
1-2 tbs. chicken drumsticks, wings or thighs
For the glaze:
balsamic vinegar
red wine (for cooking)
orange juice
orange zest
black pepper
1 sprig fresh thyme
roasted beets, carrots, or other root vegetables

I am not good at cooking meat, generally speaking. I blame it on spending a brief number of my formative cooking years being vegetarian, but in all honesty meat is just HARD TO COOK. The idea that anyone with a flame and a hunk of beef can cook meat is just baffling to me--I mean, if you overcook it you wind up with a tasteless rubbery block or a charred brick, and if you undercook it you risk serious poisoning. Meat is no joking matter.


After being shy about learning to cook chicken, pork, and beef in any way that isn't simmered into oblivion in the crock pot, I've finally found it. THE marinade. THE cook times and temperature.  THE go-to standard that I've already made repeatedly and intend to continue doing so (a big deal, because usually I cook to see if I can nail a recipe and then forget about said recipe). And here I'm sharing it with you.

Preheat oven to 400°.  If cooking vegetables now is a good time to chop them, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and put in the oven. Mix all marinade ingredients but the butter together and thoroughly coat the chicken (I also highly recommend putting everything in a ziploc and letting it marinate overnight).

Bring a cast-iron skillet up to medium heat and melt half of the butter. Add the chicken and let sizzle for about 5 minutes, flipping halfway through. Take the skillet off the stove and put in the oven to roast for 25 minutes.  While the chicken is roasting, pour some balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan--you'll have to eyeball this, depending on the amount of vegetables. Bring the balsamic to a simmer on low, until steam begins and the vinegar starts to reduce. When it starts to thicken, Just when it thickens, add a dash of wine, squeeze of orange juice, black pepper, and thyme and let reduce further. Turn the heat off and add the orange zest. Remove the sprig of thyme.

After taking the chicken out of the oven, melt the remainder of the butter in the still-hot skillet to make sure you coat the meat with all the best parts of the marinade remnants.  Coat the roasted veggies in the glaze and serve over fresh greens alongside the chicken.