Sunday, February 27, 2011

Caveats & Confessions ...

I like to cook.  I can't say that I love it ... I pretty much see it as a means to an end, the end which is eating.  I do love to eat.

That said, I'll have to admit that while I get lots of compliments on my cooking (mostly from my husband, sweetheart that he is) I don't really consider myself to be a good cook.  I usually get home from work about 6 or so with two cranky children in tow, then open the refrigerator and try to figure out what I can whip together quickly that they will eat.  Or I give them a snack (fruit if I've got some, oftentimes *gasp* it's fruit snacks or crackers, sometimes raisins ... anything quick and satisfying) and then do a quick web search for recipes that include ingredients that I've got on hand.  Nine times out of ten whatever I come up with is some sort of cobbled together creation loosely based on 2-3 recipes I've googled.

These impromptu web searches were how I discovered Cut Out and Keep.  I love, love LOVE this web site!  It has a little bit of everything I am interested in!  The best part is that there are pictures of EVERYTHING.  Not professional photos like the ones I love in cook books, but REAL photos of REAL food that REAL people made, and are proud enough to share with the international community on the internet.  I recently registered and became One of Them.  I want to start posting my recipes and art projects and sharing them just like the rest of these people!  I just need to find ...

... time for it.  Sigh.  So many cool ideas!  So little time!

I do have time for cooking, though (mostly out of necessity, but so what?).  So as long as I'm on the subject ... well, back on the subject ... I'm going to share a "secret" recipe that I came up with recently.  I think I'm the only person who really likes it ... but hey, I'm cooking for me, too, right?  Since it's the springboard for me FINALLY starting something (this blog) and possibly a turning point in my life (now, aren't I dramatic?  YEP) I'll share the Saga of the Brown Rice and Curry (it's not a recipe, it's a story).

One Sunday I had some chicken and a vague idea of doing something with my crock pot.  I wasted so much time dithering that I ran out of time for the crock pot.  In a panic because it was getting close to supper time, I dug out my pressure cooker instead (a wedding gift from my wonderful cousin, Jessica, who at the time was in Germany so she ordered it online from Target and had it shipped to me ... how great is THAT?!?) and made Pressure Cooker Chicken Curry with Rice, but with a few small tweaks (typical).  I used frozen green pepper (I like to buy it when it's cheap and then freeze it to have on hand all winter) and since I didn't have any curry sauce I used some coconut milk and a couple of tablespoons of curry powder.  It turned out AWESOME.  So good, in fact, that I wanted it again the next night, but I only had a fraction of the time to prepare it and I was out of chicken.  SOOOO .... that's when I made up my new Brown Rice and Curry recipe.


2 cups brown rice
3 cups chicken broth
1 small can coconut milk
2 Tbsp. curry powder
1 small onion, diced
fresh minced garlic to taste (2-3 cloves)
1/4 cup or so of diced green pepper (I mixed some jalapeno in, too)
dry white wine
1/2 can diced tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
fresh cilantro

Prepare the rice in your rice cooker using chicken broth instead of water.  I love my rice cooker.  While this is going prepare the rest of your ingredients.  Start by frying the onion in a tablespoon or so of either olive oil or grapeseed oil.  After about a minute add the garlic and continue to saute until you get bored (about a minute), then add the green pepper and continue to cook.  Add the curry powder and mix it up.  A dash of coriander at this point is also a good idea, and if you've got some a dash of hot chili oil works well, too.  Still bored?  Me too.  Wander over to the computer and do a quick google search for curry recipes, and make sure your children aren't hurting each other.  Sometimes it helps to put the toddler in his high chair and give him some raisins.

If you've timed it right (I never do) then the rice should be done right about now.  Scratch your head and try to remember where you left off.  Oh yes, add some white wine (or dry sherry ... that works, too) to the pan.  Oh, a cup or so should do ... then add a bit (just a bit, mind you ... the children are awake and alert, and only one of them is in his high chair eating raisins.  Give him a sippy cup of milk and some more raisins) to the cook.  Ah, yes.  That's just right.  Now stopper that thing up and put it away for later (after they are in bed).

Now add the tomatoes and bring it to a nice simmer.  Mix in the rice and the coconut milk.  Add some more curry powder if it doesn't look yellow enough.  Serve garnished with fresh cilantro, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Mine turned out pretty darned yummy, if I do say so myself.  The kids ate it okay ... my 4-year-old smothered hers in soy sauce and then asked for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  The baby was full of raisins, but he ate some, too, then started throwing it.  Since he doesn't talk yet, that's usually how he tells me that he's full.

Sigh.  Lucky for him he's the cutest darned baby EVER.

Sooo ... that's my Brown Rice and Curry recipe.  I think.  See what I mean?  It's not really a recipe, it's just a guide with some suggestions on how to come up with a fairly quick and easy dish for supper.  To be perfectly honest, I'm not even sure that I remembered everything that I put in it OR in what order, except that the rice was near the end because originally I was going to leave it separate and ladle the sauce over the top, but then I decided to just mix it all together and keep it in one dish.  I ended up taking it to work with me at least three times because nobody else liked it.  My husband likes MEAT in everything and my teenager hates rice, curry, chicken, onions, peppers and hugging his mom in public.

Sigh.  I've got to start taking pictures of this stuff as I cook.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Things that inspire me

My boss recently suggested that I write a blog for our company web site.  We're trying to attract more retail customers an in order to do that we need to promote our products, and the way we're hoping to do this is via the Web.   Welcome to the 21st Century, right?  He would like ME to write the blog because ... ???

Maybe because I have so much free time?  Ha ha!  I've got three kids (a toddler, a 4-year-old and a teenager) what in the world is free time?

Perhaps because I already have a cult following on the Web?  NOT!

Could it be because he knows I spend entirely too much time on the Internet, anyway, and as long as I'm there I might as well do something useful?

Hmmm ...

I like to think it's because he has faith in me.

Okay, so my boss (bless his heart) has expressed enough faith in me to request that I write a blog that will not only pertain to our business, but be witty and engaging enough to attract more business.  Okay, no pressure there ... all I have to do is ...


There's a problem with this.  When I was a little girl I LOVED to write.  I would write fanciful stories involving super heroes, princesses and fantastic pet dogs.  I wrote poetry, dabbled in haiku, composed Broadway-Worthy (in my mind) musicals and illustrated everything myself.  I dreamed of one day sitting in front of my typewriter in my apartment in New York City and writing world-renowned screenplays while I ate cream of mushroom soup straight out of the can.  Okay, that part is kind of nasty but you get the gist of what I'm saying.  I was a writer as a child but at some point, for some unknown reason ... I stopped.  As I got older and realized that there are OTHER writers out there and that it's not easy to get published I somehow became incapacitated by my fears of rejection, criticism and developing a big, fat butt from sitting around doing writing all of the time.

Twenty years later, I am NOT a world-renowned playwright.  Nor am I even a world-renowned novelist.  Heck, I'm not even a blogger yet!

Yet.  All I need is inspiration.

So I've been mulling over my boss's request.  It's perfectly reasonable, of course.  As the office manager I get to observe our business (which, by the way, is primarily installing closet organizational systems ~ aka shelving) from many angles, and as the primary person answering phones (Director of First Impressions) I talk to many, many of our customers about their particular concerns regarding their closets.  All I need to do is figure out what people want to know about and start a discussion.

Inspiration.  So ... I need to get inspired by shelving?  No, I just need to get inspired by SOMETHING and then use it as a springboard to TALK ABOUT shelving.  Not just shelving, either.  We also install bath hardware, vanity mirrors, shower doors and other specialty building products such as wine cellar materials.  The blogging possibilities are endless!  Shelving, bath hardware, shower doors, wine cellars ... organization & inspiration.  That's where I'm going to start.  I'll start in the front entry closet and work my way through the whole house.

Next time.  This time, I'm just happy that I've started to write ... my first blog, and my first step toward mastering the art of Shameless Self-Promotion.  My inspiration?  Well, tonight it was brown rice with curry.  What's more inspiring than food?