Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rainy Season

It's time for me to be honest.  I haven't seen the inside of the gym in more than a month: the in-laws came for a visit, then I had to go to the Liberation Day Parade, and as the days rolled by I had missed so many classes, that  I forgot what day they were on (on a morning when there was class,  we'd just be sitting around in our pjs  and at 9:15, I'd be like, "damn, Mommy & Me started 15 minutes ago"). Then when I made a mental note of when class was and a conscious decision to start going again, Price got sick and we couldn't go.  And then it was like when you start skipping a class in college (or so I've been told) and you miss so many you're afraid to go back, so you drop it ... That's kind of where I am now. And it doesn't help that legitimate things really keep popping up on class days, so I keep NOT going.  I'm pretty sure that my face is up on a missing person poster at the gym.   I really miss going.  I miss how I was feeling, how my arms were starting to get some definition and how the abs that have been hiding were slowly starting to emerge from a case into a 12 pack.  And I miss the structure that getting out of the house at a regularly scheduled time brought to my day.

I'm trying to get back into the routine I had in June, the one where I went to the gym no less than twice a week and walking on days I wasn't at the gym.  Of course, I still haven't crossed the threshold of the gym, but I figure it's time for me to stop doing arm curls with chocolate chip cookies, donut muffins and tortillas filled with melted chocolate chips and peanut butter.  And maybe soon, I'll start back with the weights and the sit ups and the lunges- oh Lord, the lunges!

But I have started walking with Price almost daily. The problem with walking is that the rainy season is upon us.  I know I have mentioned this about a million times, but unlike much of the rest of the world, Guam does not have four seasons.  We have two- rainy and dry.  The difference between the two seasons- in the rainy season we have what feels like 6-8 hours of (thankfully, non-consecutive) rain a day.  Luckily, the rain usually blows in (you can often see it coming), does its thing and moves on.  Most showers last no more than 15 minutes, often with the sun shining and sometimes literally pouring so hard you can't see two feet in front of you, yet across the street it's barely sprinkling.  However, even though you can often see the rain coming, it comes up fast.

Like today, when I was out for a walk with Price.  We were about a mile into our walk and had about a half mile left, when the sun disappeared and the wind started blowing, and I knew it was coming.  But we were at a point in our walk where we really couldn't stop and take shelter, so I picked up my pace and hoped that I could get to a shelter before the bottom dropped out.  Unfortunately, that was not to be the case.  And even more unfortunate, I left the house in a shirt that I often wear a cami under because it's borderline see through when dry, but of course was sans cami today.  So I was pretty sure that I might be thrown into the brig for conduct unbecoming an officer's wife for gallivanting all over the neighborhood in a now completely see through shirt that was stuck to every curve my upper body had to offer- a true sight to behold.  The construction workers in the neighborhood got an eyeful for sure!  

I came to a realization though as I walked home, looking like I went swimming with my clothes on (not that I would have really bragged about how I looked before I left the house, but post-rain it was so bad I took a picture, which I ended up not being able to post here because, I looked so awful and let's face it, I may be a tad bit vain).  I realized how far I have come in the almost year that we have lived here.  

We arrived here in the midst of the rainy season.  And it seemed like every time I would make any attempt to go somewhere or made an effort to get dressed and put on make up or do my hair, I would get caught in a down pour and end up looking like a drowned rat.  I felt like I could never get ahead and always felt demoralized by this and would more often than not, end up sitting in my car drenched, with stringy hair, and crying.  And now I just roll with it.  Getting caught in the rain no longer sends me into a fit of tears, but usually into a fit of laughter.  It's just part of life on our little island.  

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Second Time Around

I'm a BIG fan of leftovers.  I love that I don't waste uneaten food, but what I love even more is that cooking leftovers usually means there's less mess in my kitchen.  Less mess means less cleaning, which means more time to spend with any show on Bravo Don and Price.

I also love when I get to re-purpose leftovers (do you like how I'm using trendy HGTV terms on a more Food Network type post?) and turn them into an entirely different meal than what they originally started out as.  This is actually pretty easy to do when you make something like pulled pork or a brisket (not as easy when you are working with leftover lasagna).  And in my house, being able to disguise leftovers is a GREAT thing because I may be married to someone who likes and appreciates my cooking, but who can only handle the same meal for so long (maybe twice if I'm lucky and he LOVED it the first time).

I was very happy last week when the planets aligned and I was able to turn a crock pot meal (hardly any clean up on the original meal) into a Mexican delight (with very little prep/clean up) the second night! As Price would say, "Awesome Pants!"

I think I'll call this dinner,  Play It Again Pile Up

Up til now, every paragraph I have written begins with I.  I am feeling very self-centered I suppose, maybe all the fame has gone to my head.  Sorry, I will get back on track now....

On Wednesday, we had Bacon Chesseburger Chicken for dinner.  It was pretty good (as soon as I put everything in the crockpot, I was like, "you TOTALLY should have made it this way", but it was too late, so I'm planning on making it MY way very soon.  If it turns out like I think it may, I'll share the recipe).  There was a lot left over, even after Price and I had it for lunch on Thursday.  Friday night, I didn't feel like cooking, but we didn't really want to go out, so I busted out the leftover chicken and stared at it for a while. And then I opened the fridge and stared at its contents for a while.  And then I went to the pantry and stared at it for a while.  And then as if someone waved a magic wand, items began floating into focus...

Leftover shredded chicken
Whole wheat tortillas
Black beans
Sour Cream

Almost all of my favorite foods stacked on one plate.  So easy!  Here's all you have to do

Start a pot of rice (or use leftover rice, or omit it altogether).  Place leftover meat (this recipe works great with ANY meat- chicken, pork, beef or leave meatless if you prefer) in a skillet or small sauce pan to reheat.  Heat 1 tortilla per person in the oven until warmed (or if you're like me forget they're in the oven and don't remove until puffed up like a balloon...).  Heat one can of black beans.

Once everything is heated and rice is cooked, start piling everything on a tortilla...
 I placed spinach on the bottom to sneak in a vegetable that Don doesn't care for.

Next, rice and beans.

Then chicken and cheese.

Finally top off with any condiments, you could even use plain yogurt instead of sour cream to cut out some fat.

If you ignore how the chicken was made, you could lead yourself to believe this is a low cal, low fat meal.  This meal that came together at the last minute was the perfect Friday night dinner- quick, easy, not much to clean up- and nothing was leftover!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Boys

The other day, as I was walking into the Commissary, eyes starting to glaze over as they typically do right before I cross the threshold into the world of "who knows what waits for me on the shelves today,"  a poster grabbed my attention.  The Men of My Boys Comedy Tour was headed here, to Guam, to our very own Air Force Base.  I was so excited by this news that I almost didn't even care that I ended up standing on line for almost an hour waiting to check out...  I digress...

Don and I have watched My Boys since it debuted in 2006.  It is one of a handful of shows that we actually agree on. The writing is good, the humor is smart, the cast has good chemistry.  So, when I told him that two of the guys from the show were coming here, to Guam, he was as excited as I was and we made plans to go.

The show was last night and it was great!!  Michael Bunin, who plays Kenny, and Jamie Kaler, who plays Mike, each did a set.  Each of their routines touched on aging, being single and drinking.  And since I'm not a comedic writer, I won't try to retell any of their jokes- plus they weren't really of the knock-knock, who's there variety, but let me tell you- there were tears, lots of tears from laughing so hard.

After last night, we are going to be even bigger fans of My Boys.  You know, now that we're friends with two of the stars.  Friends?  Oh yeah, did I not mention that after the show, we got to meet the guys?  They were so nice to stick around and visit with everyone.  We got autographs (ok, I got the autographs, I forgot to tell them Don's name, so they only signed for me.  They had fun trying to figure out how to spell my name and gave me a hard time about it)

Then, they were kind enough to take a picture with us (from left to right- Michael Bunin, Don, me and my extra chin, and Jamie Kaler).

Ok, so I have known this about myself FOREVER , I am REALLY, REALLY bad at making small talk, (in fact, when I am asked, "If you could have any super power, what would it be? I always reply, "small talk").  Apparently, I become even more tongue tied and less amusing when I am around someone who is slightly famous and stars on a tv show.  Even with a a few drinks in my system, I can't make witty repartee (although of course the minute I walk away, I am cracking myself up with all the witty dialogue I could have just exchanged).   I don't think I completely made an ass out of myself (too much, except for when I went into tooo much detail about my name- I just have DORK stamped on my forehead), but boy am I envious of people who have the ability to talk to anyone about anything at anytime and make it look so effortless!

Thanks to the guys for coming to Guam and thanks to the USO for bringing them here!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Facts of Rice

Mom- this post is for you!!

Growing up in Louisiana, we had rice at almost every meal, be it our family standard of red beans & rice or a special treat of crawfish etouffee.  And now that we live in Guam, there is rice at EVERY meal (even breakfast- and if you haven't had an egg over rice, you really, really must try it).

Although rice is a common and basic grain, many people are intimidated by cooking it.  They don't  know how to cook it without contraptions like steamers or rice makers.  The thing is, you can make it quickly and easily (and nope, I'm not talking about insta-rice from a box) on your very own stove top as long as you have a saucepan with lid.

22 Minute Rice (makes about six 1/2 cup servings, if you need more just remember that for every amount of uncooked rice you use, you need to add twice as much liquid)

2 C hot water (you can also use stock or broth or a combination)
1/8 tsp salt (add more salt if using unsalted butter)
1 C Long Grain Rice (not parboiled)
2 tbsp butter

Step 1:  Set kitchen timer to 22 minutes.

Step 2: Pour hot water into sauce pan, make sure burner is set to highest heat setting.  Add salt.

Step 3:  Add rice

Step 4:  Add butter.

Step 5:  Bring to a boil.  The water should be boiling when the timer has 16 minutes left.

Step 6:  Once water is boiling, give a quick stir, making sure there is no rice sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Turn heat to lowest setting and cover pan.

Step 7:  When timer goes off, voila!  Perfect rice (it may be a little moist on the bottom, just fluff with a fork).  If you don't like sticky rice, cover and let sit on stove until ready to serve.

Tonight, to spice it up, I put a small dab of butter, a little bit of garlic powder, freshly ground black pepper and Parmesan cheese.  Sometimes I add peas and cheese, a lot of times I just serve it straight out of the pot.  And tonight, I set some aside to serve with milk and sugar tomorrow morning.

While we're on the subject of rice and so many of us are fortunate to have all the rice we want, many people around the world do not.  There's a website, where you can play an entertaining vocabulary game and for every answer you get correct, rice is donated to a country in need.  Snopes has verified that this site is true to its word.  I am NOT being compensated in any way for mentioning this site, I just found it when I googled something about rice.

Oh and Mom, since you inspired this post, by teaching me how to cook rice this way and then telling me you forgot how to do it since you only use Minute Rice these days, I thought you'd like to see the little monkey who was helping me cook the rice...  And by helping, I mean climbing up my legs and onto the counter and savaging cookie crumbs from every surface he could find!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Comfort Food

I am a bit of an emotional eater.   I think celebrations are made better (and sometimes even more memorable) by good food.  I think pity parties can be turned around by no less than a pint of decadent ice cream or a pan of homemade brownies.  Basically, I eat when I'm happy, I eat when I'm sad, I eat when I'm lonely or bored (are you sensing a pattern here?).  The only time I don't eat is when I am nervous about something (like right before I fly, or about to go into a social situation where I don't know many people).  So it should come as no surprise that I really dig comfort food.

This weekend, I was struck with a major desire for one of my favorite comfort meals, grilled cheese and tomato soup.  I'm not sure if it was the grey weather we were having or my premonition that Price's teething illness would be striking shortly (and yes, I am quite the toothsayer- hahaha- we are currently in the midst of upper molaritis) or just the fact that my body was longing for soup since it's summer ALL.THE.TIME and I just needed to feel a season change, even if it was only temporary.

Of course, once my taste buds were sending signals to my brain that I had to have grilled cheese and tomato soup and I looked outside and saw mybasil plant begging me to pull some leaves, I also knew I wasn't gonna be ok with a can of Campbell's or a slice of American cheese slapped between a couple slices of bread.  Nope, I knew it was time to pull out two of my quickest, easiest and most impressive and wholly crave satisfying recipes in my arsenal.  I'll share them with you, but while your lips will thank you, your hips may not!  This is not a low-cal, low-fat meal (although it could be slightly better with one some modifications that I'll share with you)-  don't say I didn't warn you!!

Chunky Tomato Basil Soup (think La Madeleine)  & The MOST AMAZING GRILLED CHEESE.EVER

 For the Tomato Basil Soup you will need: salt, black pepper, red pepper, cream (or for a lighter version half and half or for a seriously lighter version, low-fat milk- but really how comforting is low-fat milk?), and

1/2 stick of butter

1 small onion chopped

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 large can of tomatoes (diced are ok, these are what I had on hand)

about 1/3 cup of fresh basil, chopped (for all of you herb enthusiasts out there, this is Thai basil because that is what I have growing in abundance right now. I prefer a sweet basil for this recipe, but the Thai basil wasn't bad)

To make the soup, sauté butter, onion and garlic until onions are soft and translucent.

Add the tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper to taste (more pepper than salt and less than a tsp of each to start with, you can add more at the end if needed) and about 3 shakes of crushed red pepper flakes.

Cook on medium-low heat until gently boiling. (This is a great time to start the grilled cheese sandwiches).   Stir often (if using whole tomatoes, when stirring, smoosh the tomatoes a little to get the juices out).  Once the soup is boiling, transfer to a blender or food processor (my blender broke before we left Ohio, on account of crushing ice one too many times for margaritas  smoothies so I had to use my food processor, the blender worked better!!)

Puree soup so that all tomatoes are broken down.  Then add about 1/3 cup of cream (if you're not into dairy, you probably quit reading a long time ago since this recipe called for cream, but you could use a veggie stock, but the cream- ohhh the cream- it's what makes this so much better than canned soup)  And puree to your desired consistency.  (I leave mine a little chunky, slightly less chunky than salsa)

Return to pot and simmer on low heat until you are finished making your AMAZING Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (adapted from Taste of Home's Ultimate Grilled Cheese)- Thank you Kalina for describing these sandwiches so well several years ago that I was able to find the recipe on-line and have been making them ever since!  These sandwiches are actually a great make ahead food.  You can make the cheese spread and refrigerate until you are ready to grill the sandwiches.

For the sandwiches you will need:
About 10 pieces of bread (a thick bread like Italian or French is better than regular sandwich bread, trust me, I know from recent experience), 1/4 tsp season salt (I used Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb spice blend), 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, and because I wanted a teeny, tiny little zip- 1/8 Tony's Creole Seasoning.  You'll also need

the other half of the butter left over from the soup, softened

one block of cream cheese and one green onion

1/3 cup of mayo (if you don't like mayo- Shauna- use 1/4 cup.  You probably won't taste it even using  1/3 of a cup, but you need it to bind everything together.  Don't let the mayo stop you from making this sandwich!!)

2 cups of grated cheese- it doesn't matter what kind or how many types you use.  I did a sharp cheddar and monterey jack.  It's also great with a pepper jack or swiss, what ever you like!

Combine all of the above ingredients (except bread and butter) in large bowl. (If you are not going to make sandwiches immediately, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  Definitely keeps well over night).

Once everything is combined, spread on 5 pieces of bread and top with remaining pieces of bread (there will be some cheese spread left over, stick it in the fridge and use it as a cheese dip with crackers the next day).  Butter the outside of the bread and cook on griddle or in frying pan or however you usually cook grilled cheese...

I did not have good bread!!!  I made them again the next day using my leftover spread and put them on hamburger buns, open-faced under the broiler and the bread really does make a difference.  They are too rich without a thick bread or soup to dip them in.

Ooey, gooey!  Yum, yum.  

Nothing like dunking grilled cheese in tomato soup.  I felt like I had just put on my favorite sweater (which I haven't worn in almost a year since living in the tropics really doesn't allow for much sweater wearing).  It soothed my soul until I thought about the fat content, which is probably why I volunteered to mow our lawn today.

What's your favorite comfort food?
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