Home In Disarray

July 26, 2013

Pulled Pork Lettuce Tacos

Pulled Pork Lettuce Tacos
This was another last-minute tasty quick lunch.  I just crisped my pork and packed it up with the pico at home, then heated it in a microwave before assembling tacos.

Pulled pork (this was crockpotted – smoked would be WAY better)  – about 1.5 cups
Pico de gallo – a few tablespoons
Avocado – about 1/2
Crema or sour cream (I cultured my own from grass-fed cream) – 4 tablespoons
Bibb or butter lettuce – 4 decently sized leafs

Paleo pulled pork lettuce tacos

*Saute your pork in a little lard or bacon grease in a nonstick pan to crisp it up (like carnitas), mix with pico
*Divide into 1/4s and put into lettuce
*Dice avocado in skin, and spoon out 1/4 of avocado into each “taco”
*Spoon about 1 tablespoon of crema over each “taco.”
*if you have a hot sauce you’d like to use, that’d be good here too.

Posted in: Clean Eating, Cooking, Food, Paleo
July 25, 2013

BLT(ish) Salad

BLT(ish) Salad
This is my new favorite dish.  It’s quick, easy, fairly cheap, and fresh.  So tasty!  And best of all, you can totally use scraps that you have around the kitchen. It’s modeled on a BLT sammich, with some additional tasties to make it a full meal.

Ingredients Makeup:
Bleu cheese dressing

blt salad

This version was bits of leftover romaine heart, and some spinach, a few slices of bacon, 1/2 an avocado, a few cherry tomatoes from the garden (omfg they are so damn good!), and a chicken breast. Then I mixed up some homemade mayo with some grass-fed cream, a little white vinegar, a grated clove of garlic, and a healthy few crumbles of grass-fed bleu cheese.  That made up my bleu cheese dressing.  It was runny, but magnificent.

It’s pretty close to paleo.  I’m not quite ready to give up dairy yet, so we’re allowing some grass-fed creams. I’m aware the photo is not particularly appetizing.  I don’t give a shit.  The salad was epic.  I intend to make more, next time I’ll throw in some sauteed zucchini, maybe use kale instead.  It would be great with a really rare steak. And as always, enjoy with a nice full glass of wine.

Posted in: Clean Eating, Cooking, Food, Paleo
July 25, 2013

How to keep your pets off the furniture…kind of

x-mats on sofa

After we got Helo, Boris went from a great dog to a terror.  His obsessive traits got worse, and he started marking all over, including inside the house.  It was awesome.  After trying EVERYTHING I could read about online to no avail, we finally broke down and paid to have a behaviorist come out and work with us.  And it was cheap too.  $150.  That might seem a little steep for someone to come to your house, sit down, watch your dogs be total snots, then fill a sheet of legal paper front and back with instructions for you.  It’s way cheaper than spending $8,000 putting tile in your house because your dogs pissed all over your carpet and your house reeks.  The best part of it was that there was nothing surprising, and it was all stuff that I knew we should be doing, but I was either not interested in doing so, or couldn’t get Craig on board with on my own.  The general gist of what the behaviorist had to say was that the dogs didn’t respect us or our things, and didn’t get enough exercise.  Bingo!  Her recommendations have been to make them work for everything, including pets, going outside, inside, meals, etc; going for long walks every day (I was initially pretty good with this and have slowly scaled back, I should really increase these… the dogs love them); and keeping them off the furniture.  The furniture thing has been a point of contention between Craig and I.  He liked having them on the sofa and bed.  I hated cleaning their fur off the sofa and bed.  But with the new rules (we were willing to try anything to get the marking to stop!), no doggies allowed on the furniture.

That’s all well and good to enforce when you’re at home, but a lot more difficult when you’re gone.  My mother in law kept their old dog off the furniture by piling chairs on the sofas when they were gone for the day.  It was a huge pain in the ass, and something neither Craig nor I had any interest in participating in at our own house.  The behaviorist suggested something called X-Mats.  I researched it.  They were reviewed fairly highly on Amazon, but I didn’t expect that they’d be particularly effective against dogs with thick undercoats and high pain tolerances.  I was wrong.
x-mats on sofa

They’re basically just a rolling chair mats that go under desks, but smaller, with taller, denser spikes.  I was initially concerned about the price and spent several hours trying to devise something similar to save a little money, but it turns out that they’re cheaper per square foot than chair pads.  After buying these, I did read about someone going to Home Depot and buying vinyl carpet protector rolls and using those on her sofa.  Seems smart, though when I looked at them at a store later, the spikes do not appear to have the density or the height that the X-Mats have, and I suspect that’s what makes them effective in my particular situation.  They’ve worked wonders.  They cost us around $11 each, but the price varies between $10 and $20 on Amazon, so keep your eye out.  When I’m writing this, they’re about $14.50.  5 does a good job of protecting our sectional sofa, but if we didn’t have a huge pile of pillows in the corner all the time, it would take 6.  It only took one try for the dogs to realize they hurt.

x-mats on sofa

When you want them gone, they’re easy to grab, stack up, and slide under the sofa.  If we want to keep the dogs away from the front window, we will just throw a mat on the floor in front of the window.  We have even used them to keep the dogs from bothering Craig’s 94 year old grandmother by making a moat of X-Mats around her on the floor in front of the sofa.  We haven’t spent the money to do something about the bed yet, but Boris stays off of it, and Helo generally has the decency to pretend like he doesn’t get on the bed when we’re not around. We have been sure to put dog beds all over around the house so they have soft comfortable places to lay now that the sofa and carpet are gone through most of the house.  We have 2 fancy bolstered memory foam beds in the bedroom (they were Costco returns that I bought at Habitat for Humanity ReStore for $20 ea), and 2 fluffy round beds from Costco in the living room, although Perry the cat tends to take over one of them and the dogs don’t dare challenge him.

So.. Much less dog hair all over the sofa!


July 24, 2013

The time I ate all of the corned beef

The time I ate all of the corned beef
This is a story from the past. It’s kind of an inside (not so much anymore!) joke between Craig and I.  “Remember the time you ate all the corned beef?”The first place that Craig I lived together was in a house with 3 roommates, plus one of the roommate’s girlfriends.  Living conditions were cramped, and everyone was lazy.  After nearly a year of spending most of our time in our room, the stars aligned and everyone but us was gone for the weekend.  We were thrilled, and decided to celebrate by cleaning up the kitchen, making dinner, having some drinks, and watching a movie.  Did I mention we were both broke and in college?  That’s a fancy night in.  So we cleared most of the filth out of the kitchen that 4 guys shared (gross) and went to the grocery store around 5:30 to figure out what we were going to eat for dinner.  We picked corned beef and cabbage.  I’m not sure if you have ever tried making corned beef and cabbage.  It’s very simple, but time consuming.  The arbitrary number we came up with was 3 hours boiling.  So we got the cabbage, new potatoes, and a big hunk of corned beef brisket.  Then we hit the liquor store and bought a bottle of Belvedere Vodka, because we were too good for Grey Goose.  We had all of the stuff we needed for a traditional Irish feast of corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and cosmopolitans.   So the night began


When we returned to the house, we got some water boiling on the stove, got the beef in, quartered the cabbage, and got everything going.  Then Craig started mixing up cocktails.  And we each had a few.  And we didn’t have snacks.  We were waiting for the corned beef.  So we started our movie.  And had a couple more drinks.  Around this point, Craig decides to just go to sleep.  So I finish his drink and make myself another.  The last thing I remember is taking the beef out of the water to cool before nagging Craig to go upstairs to bed with me.

corned beef

The next thing I remember is waking up that morning with a horrific headache (if I only knew what hangovers had in store for me as I aged) and an overall feeling of having survived torture.  I knew that I needed to eat something nice and fatty and that would help me feel better.  I knew just what that was going to be… the corned beef from last night!  I sent Craig downstairs to grab me some while I stayed in bed.  He returned moments later empty handed.
“Where’s the corned beef?”
“On the counter, I’d imagine.”
“It’s not there.”
“Did you check the fridge?”
“Not there either”
I got up to look for it myself.  Imagine my surprise to find greasy corned beef boiling water splashed all over the stove, a pot of more of it, with the spices from the enclosed packet floating in the water, and a cutting board, strewn with flacid cabbage and dried out potatoes.  Atop the pile of destroyed vegetables was a knife.  A knife with dried scraps of corned beef, and a slick of fat coating it.  Maybe I buried the corned beef somewhere deep in the fridge in my drunken stupor.  Nope.  Not there either. Was it in the trash?  Why would I have thrown it out?  No, not in the garbage either. Did my roommate come home and eat it after we went to bed?  Nope, no cars in the driveway.  How about his dog.  Did he bring his dog home?  Empty crate.  Shit.  Where the fuck is the 4lb brisket?
“Maybe you ate it.”
“There’s no way I could have eaten 4lbs of beef.”
“Well then were is it?”
“Are you hungry?”
“Not really.”
“I can’t believe that happened.”
In fact, I didn’t believe that it happened until a few hours later I threw up a bunch of corned beef.  We’ve had a tenuous relationship ever since.

Posted in: Funny, Misc
July 17, 2013

Knives of Steel – Octopus Edition

Knives of Steel – Octopus Edition

I am blessed in that my coworkers are into food.  One of them, Ivana, is a very adventurous eater and has a much more interesting background with food than I do.  She was raised with traditional Jewish cuisine… something that I have no experience in.  Anyway, Ivana is an amazing cook. She is also kind of competitive, and always looking to broaden her horizons and try new things.  It’s great, because she pushes me out of my comfort zone sometimes in terms of things she brings in for me to try, like chicken liver knish.  Last week we arbitrarily decided that we should try cooking stuff we’ve never tried.  The agreement is that we both pick an ingredient that we’ve never cooked before, agree on them, and then make them.  For the first foray into our uncharted waters of cuisine, we agreed upon octopus, and chayote squash.

frozen octopus

Where to buy stuff like octopus and chayote squash you might ask?  Uwajimaya, our local Asian supermarket!  So off I went to Uwajimaya for some octopus.  They had freshly steamed octopus for $20/lb, but I am supremely cheap, and opted for the frozen, smaller, and less intimidating. I was feeling very intimidated.

defrosted octopus
Is it just me or does the opening between the tentacles look like a cat butt?

I did a little bit of web searching on how to cook octopus, to find that the general consensus on the internet is “cook it 3 minutes or 3 hours,” otherwise octopus has a tendency to develop a tire-like consistency.  I also read that it’s not really worth cleaning out the head as it’s pretty much just filled with gross goo.  So I didn’t.  I just cut that M-Fer right off.  Then I was left with what appeared to be the decapitated head of an alien?

alien octopus head
Its eye follows you, regardless of which way you step.  Go ahead and try it.  I’ll wait.

So I simmered it.  It was totally slimy and gross to touch, and smelled a little fishy.  I did not have high hopes for this dish.

cooking octopus

I put it in a pot with salted water, some black peppercorns, and a bay leaf.  I figured they might help mask the fishy smell of the beast.

cooking octopus

Also, do you know what’s worse than pasta water boiling over all over your stove?  OCTOPUS WATER BOILING OVER ALL OVER YOUR STOVE! Blech.  As soon as the octopus hit the water, I got to furiously searching just exactly how to cook it.  Some places said to put a cork in the water with no real explanation as to why.  So I added one.  One person said her Japanese friend told her that it just needs to cool to room temp as slowly as possible.

In case you’re wondering, yes.  I obsess about EVERYTHING.  So while the octopus was simmering away, I quick pickled some red onions.  Did I tell you what I was making?  Of course not.  I decided to make a spicy octopus salad with the chayote squash as well.  So there.  So I heated up some honey, a little apple cider vinegar, and salt with a little water in the microwave, then added the onions to it to sit for a couple hours while I figured everything else out.

quick pickling onions

Then after a mere 45 minutes, I was able to poke the octopus and have it yield fairly easily.  So I turned off the heat and let it cool for an hour or so before removing it to a bowl to cool all the way to room temp so it could be handled and sliced easily. Oh, and by the way… NO fishy smell.  It smelled of nothing.  I was very pleasantly surprised by that.

cooked octopus

While our fishy friend was cooling, I got to my sauce.  I kind of just started pulling things out of the fridge and pantry and adding them to the bowl until it all came together, but the approximate ingredients list was:

1 stalk lemongrass, quartered and smashed with a hammer
1 red chinese chile, thinly sliced
juice of 2 sad old limes
2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp chile oil
1″ of ginger, grated on microplane
2 large cloves garlic, grated on microplane

spicy chile dressing

I let the lemongrass steep in the liquid for 45 minutes or so, then pulled it out and put the dressing in a jar to bring to work the next day.

spicy chile dressing

I also prepped the rest of my ingredients.  They included black mushrooms (that I soaked in warm water to soften), the pickled onion, 1 chayote squash, peeled and thinly sliced, and a few radishes, thinly sliced.

salad mixins

So there I was….trying to figure out what the fuck to do with this octopus.  I had imagined much thicker tentacles, and slicing them thinly on a bias, almost as you’d cut up zucchini coins.  It would be the perfect way to showcase the deep purple skin and the creamy white meat.  Unfortunately, I wimped out and bought teeny octopi (I never thought I’d ever use that sentence… ever).  So I did the best I could, making sure I got the maximum creepy effect out of the suckers.  In the end, I only ended up with like… 1.5 cups of octopus max.  We were both surprised at how much the octopus cooks down.  Everything got packed up and taken with me to work the next morning… except the cilantro that I was planning on using to give the dish a bit more green.  C’est la vie.

octopus on a cutting board
octopus on a cutting board

At work, around lunch time, we got our dishes put together.  For me, this just meant assembling my salad, a layer at a time on a pretty platter.  I totally chose a platter that looked vaguely like a clam shell on purpose.    The salad ended up being actually quite pretty.  It woulda been nice if the dressing had been a hair thicker, thus giving the salad a redder vibe, and I had actually remembered my cilantro, but overall, I’d say it wasn’t a bad plating for something that I wholly expected to be horrific.

octopus chile salad

Guess what?!?!?!?  It was actually pretty good!  It was damn spicy!  Well… I mean.. I am kind of a wimp, but it had some serious heat to it.  You could have easily omitted the chili oil (which was mostly soy oil!?) and been fine.  In fact, I intend to make this dressing again for chicken and veggies, and will not be using the chili oil again.  The “Chinese red chiles,” whatever the heck they are were PLENTY warm.

octopus spread

And Ivana’s dishes?  They were amazing.  I didn’t have the guts to try two separate dishes and have them both fail… My self esteem just can’t handle that.  Ivana knows that whatever she touches will turn to gold… like Midas.  So she went Portuguese and made a tortilla with the chayote and an octopus thingy to put on bread with a bunch of garlic and paprika and whatnot.  They were both fabulous.  So get out there and try something new!

Next challenges nominees so far are:
Beef or Pork Cheek
Frog’s Legs

Posted in: Clean Eating, Cooking, Food, Paleo
July 16, 2013

I think I can die happy now

I think I can die happy now
I own the greatest t-shirt in human history.

His name is Federico.

Posted in: Misc